Category Archives: Marcus (12+ only)

Chapter 14: The Ghost of Church Street

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through from the very beginning, simply click on this link

James and Theo headed home. It was late, they knew they’d struggle to sleep, but Marcus insisted that they get some rest. Their next night could be even harder.

With the boy and his dad away the other three had a nasty job on their hands. Nicky and Taz were already nauseous and they hadn’t even started. Taz stared at Marcus as they walked back up the road:

“Are you serious? We have to walk up to that churchyard and dig up a grave?”

Marcus gave a sombre, curt, nod:

“Actually, in that graveyard it’s five graves. The others are buried in different places throughout the town.”

They didn’t speak another word for twenty minutes. Not when they went into Nicky and Scott’s shed. Not when they picked up the spades. Not when Marcus grabbed a sharpening block from a shelf. Not when they walked up the hill, or when they entered the graveyard.

Only when Marcus began sharpening the spades did anyone speak again. Nicky’s voice was lower than a whisper:

“Marcus I don’t think I can do this. This is a graveyard. It doesn’t feel right.”

Marcus placed the sharpening block on the wall beside him:

“You’re right Nicky. This doesn’t feel right. Give me a second.”

Marcus got up and wandered around the church grounds. He slipped round the back of the church just as a police car pulled up beside the wall. The officer inside wound down his window:

“Alright Scott? Nicky? Mind telling me what you’re up to in a graveyard in the middle of the night? And while you’re at it I could do with some details on the shovels you’re holding.”

Taz had nothing, Nicky jumped in:

“Just volunteering with the St Michaels clean up group. Shame to see the place in disrepair. Left our spades. We were just picking them up to take home.”

The policeman frowned:

“If it were anyone else I’d be asking a lot more questions. You do see how weird this is? Look, do you guys want a lift home? It’s really bitter tonight.”

Taz looked back to the church building for Marcus:

“No, thanks Gordon, we’ll be fine. A wee walk won’t do us any harm.”

Gordon shook his head and snorted:

“If you’re sure? OK keep safe, both of you. Been some weird stuff happening tonight. Radio hasn’t stopped for a second. People talking about black-eyed ghost-children. Can you believe that?”

Scott and Nicky feigned surprise at the absurdity. Scott even faked a laugh:

“Ghost-children? Folk have been spending too much time on the ‘dark side’ of YouTube or something. Anyway thanks Gordon, see you around.”

Gordon said goodnight and moved the car off. He pulled over again a few feet further down the hill.

Taz could see him lifting his radio. Gordon had left his window open, they heard everything:

“Gordon that’s the official count at four now. Four kids missing. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious.”

Gordon turned back to look for the couple with spades, in a graveyard, after midnight but they were gone.

Taz and Nicky watched from behind the church as Gordon got out the car to look for them. Marcus tried asking what was going on but was shushed instantly.

After a few minutes Gordon rubbed his arms and got back into the warmth of his police car. Nicky and Taz exhaled at last:

“Marcus, we’re not heroes. They got four other kids while we were running around finding Daniel.”

Marcus slumped on the wall beside them:

“I’m sorry. I had no idea.”

They listened to the sound of distant sirens. Well aware of what they meant. Marcus held his head in his hands:

“That’s not all. I can’t sense their bones. The ghoul children’s bones. They’re not here any more. ”


Taz didn’t see the problem with getting a night off grave-digging. Marcus stood up and looked out towards the east:

“I don’t deny that would have been a horrible task Taz but now we have no idea where those bones are. They were our best hope of taking control back and finding those children. We’re running out of time now.”

Nicky stared at Marcus:

“What do you mean? What will they do with the children?”

Marcus shook his head:

“No, I don’t mean that. I can feel the sun. My powers, and those of the ghoul-children go during the day. We only have a few hours to track them down.”

They left their spades behind and marched away. After an hour of traipsing their way up and down the freezing High Street while Marcus tried to ‘sense’ the bones they realised they needed a new strategy.

Marcus was sure they must be near. Otherwise, why was Daniel dragged up this way?

They sat down on the pavement at the top of Church Street. The sounds of the night had died away to nothing and the sounds of the morning hadn’t yet begun. A chill breeze dragged leaves and rubbish up and down the deserted street.

Then came the faintest crunch of footsteps in the growing frost.

The sound grew closer, still faint. It stopped outside a shop. Something in the window toppled over with a CLANG that made them all gasp.

The echo of the falling object dwindled away and the crunching steps continued on. They grew closer still, stopping in front of them. Only now could they see the faint outline of footprints in the frost. Even Marcus drew his legs back.

A voice floated to them on the wind. It came from a spot six feet above the footprints. Barely as loud as a whisper:

…begging your pardon…

The crunching steps continued past them and off towards the east end of the High Street. Marcus whispered to the others:

“What was that?”

The blood drained out of their faces; if Marcus didn’t know what it was then how were they supposed to?

Faint echoes of the footsteps reflected from shop windows and walls, slowing for just a moment. Scott and Nicky wanted nothing more than to get home but Marcus jumped to his feet and followed the sounds as gently as he could. He had a sense that they were supposed to follow.

The crunching steps drew them out to the very end of the high street and stopped outside the door of a bed and breakfast. It waited for them to catch up. In a voice as cold and lifeless as the wind, it whispered:


Then it was gone.

Marcus didn’t have nerves but that didn’t stop his hands from shaking:

“I didn’t like that.”

The others shook their heads in agreement.

They barely had time to take a breath before Marcus dropped to his knees his face twisting in pain. His words came out in gut wrenched gasps:

“Here…they’re here…the kids…the bones.”

He heaved, if he had eaten anything in the past two-thousand years now would have been the time he’d have thrown it up:

“Too much…I can’t do this…wait an hour…they’ll be drawn back to their bones then…sorry, going home. Going home now.”

Marcus dissolved in front of their eyes, a cloud of black smoke dribbled away back the way they came.

The sign outside read ‘no vacancy’. The dark windows left the place looking toothless. Apparently this was the place. If two ghosts tell you where to find a pile of bones you listen to them.

An hour is a long time in the dead of night. The only positive was that no one was about to ask what they were up to. They had ducked away from Gordon’s police car a few times after they had seen him but he hadn’t been past in over an hour.

Taz held Nicky’s hand. She checked her watch, counting down the minutes.

Frost gathered on everything. Even adding a crispy quality to their eyelashes. Nicky wrapped her arms around her husband for warmth. Out the corner of her eye she saw a curtain twitch in one of the lower rooms. They were being watched.

A fire leapt into both their bellies as they jumped onto alert. Had some of the ghoul-children escaped the sheriff? Every shadow seemed to grow a pair of black eyes, their minds turning everything into lifeless faces.

Imaginations on overdrive, they almost missed the middle-aged man standing in the doorway staring vacantly in their direction. Motionless and silent, his gaze never left them. It seemed to issue a warning (‘I am here. I see you. Don’t come any closer’).

The man was clearly an ordinary flesh-and-blood human being. When they looked closely they recognised him as the owner of the B&B. Had the ghoul-children hypnotised him before they disappeared?

Ten minutes were left on their advised time but neither of them could take another second of the man’s glassy stare. They walked to him hand in hand. They’d had enough waiting.

The man stood aside to let them through. They were not ready for what lay beyond the door.

Keep up with the story

Social media feeds are an oddity. What you say can be seen by millions but it can also slip away and be missed with ease. I always post new chapters on social media (Facebook and Twitter) but there’s no guarantee that we’ll both be on at the same time.

With this in mind, if you’re enjoying ‘Marcus’ and you want to be sure you get a link to the newest chapter as soon as it’s out, you can also get an e-mail reminder by clicking this link. Mailing list members also get access to printable files so you’re not forced to read it all from a screen.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John


Chapter 13: Graveyards and Gardens

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through from the very beginning, simply click on this link

It was probably a mistake to let Marcus ring Nicky’s doorbell. She actually fell over from jumping back so quickly. Her face ashen-white she yelled back into the house behind her:

“Scott! Scott! Come out here quick!”

Marcus slumped and turned to Tash:

“Oh, I thought she’d have ended up marrying Taz.”

‘Scott’ came into the hallway and froze. Marcus beamed:


Taz grabbed his wife and lifted her off the floor pulling her away to the room beyond:

“No no no! Nonononononono! No way!”

He spotted the others behind the ghost boy:

“You brought him here? Him? And you’ve got the kids with you? Are you out of your minds!?”

Tash manhandled Marcus away from the doorway and marched up to her sister and brother-in-law. Muttering as she moved the boy:

“Nice move genius! Think you’d have scared them less if you materialised in their living room.”

Marcus didn’t get a chance to reply. Tash had already taken the shocked couple away into their kitchen. The others heard the kettle bubbling before they got through the front door.

The rest of the group walked into the kitchen half way through a retelling of their night. Taz seemed to have relaxed a little and Nicky was up grabbing herself a cup of coffee.

They all found themselves somewhere to sit as Tash finished their story. Nicky shook her head:

“And Daniel is still out there somewhere?”

Marcus nodded:

“Always looking after people. You haven’t changed Nicky. Yes Daniel is out there somewhere. I expect he’ll be near the first school in Crieff, some of the ghouls I saw used to be pupils there. It’s part of the old graveyard on Church Street now. He might even be in the church hall. We haven’t been able to check because of the ghouls.”

Scott (Taz) jumped in:

“It’s not really a graveyard any more.”

Marcus challenged Scott with a frown:

“How can it stop being a graveyard?”

Scott got worked up pretty fast. Clearly this was a sore point for him:

“A few years ago they lifted the grave stones. I heard that some of them were put in a skip but I’m not sure how much truth there is to that. All the same it’s probably different than you remember it being.”

Marcus wrinkled his face:

“Who would take someone’s gravestone? What use could that serve?”

Taz nodded in agreement:


The room was silent for a moment. Taz went a little red as he realised he was getting along with someone who once dragged him kicking and screaming to his possible end. He turned away from Marcus in disgust.

Louise took the initiative. Grabbed her aunt’s coat from the hallway and threw it to her:

“Come on. There’s a little boy held hostage by a bunch of freaky ghost children (no offence Marcus). They’re somewhere in this town. We think we know where he is and we’ve now got a chance of getting hold of him. Why are we still here?!”

Coffees were left abandoned and jackets pulled on. Not one of them questioned the furious, scrawny, fifteen-year-old girl pointing their way to the exit.

As Taz walked past she grabbed his shoulder:

“And you uncle Scott. You knew Marcus did everything he could to help you back then. You can’t hold that against him. We’re all on the same team now.”

Suitably admonished, Taz held out his hand to Marcus and the ghost-boy shook it. Taz forced a smile on his face as he surreptitiously wiped Marcus’ weird ghost slime on his trousers. He hoped Louise didn’t see that bit.

The walk up to Church Street took no time at all. This wasn’t a good thing. They had all looked forward to some breathing time between the sheriff and another confrontation with the ghoul-children.

The old graveyard came into view as soon as they rounded the corner and headed for St Michaels church. There was no sign of guards but that didn’t mean there weren’t any. Marcus had made his low power level quite clear. Taz wasn’t convinced:

“Bet you could still use that cheat speed thing you do.”

Marcus frowned:

“Cheat speed?”

Taz glared at Marcus:

“That thing you did so you could catch me back then.”

Marcus laughed:

“Taz that’s called running. I was just faster than you.”

Scott turned away, hiding his face. He had always been the fastest at school. He knew Marcus cheated to catch up with him.

James spotted the back and forth between the two:

“Taz, are you seriously angry at Marcus for being faster than you? Not dragging you through the streets? Not endangering your life and your friends? You’re annoyed he beat you at running?”

Scott’s face was scarlet. He hid his inner child back inside and coughed:

“Well when you put it like that…”

The others laughed. It wasn’t that funny but laughter fought the fear back a little.

Their laughter caught in their throats as each of them spotted the children at the gate to the church. Unmoving statues, black eyes full of malice.

Taz didn’t waste time. He was over the churchyard wall before the ghoul-children even noticed:

“Bet I can outrun you now you little pipsqueak!”

Marcus vaulted the wall in pursuit:

“Bet you can’t old man.”

The two of them barrelled through the church doors and were gone from view in seconds.

The ghoul-children glanced back and forth from the crowd in the street to the door of the church, hesitating over their next move.

James grinned:

“Looks like they get a bit less bright without their friends around to help.”

The ghoul-children glared at him, their decision made. James’ face drooped.

“Oops. OK, I know what to do. The sheriff will sort them out.”

He was already running as he said the last part. Theo yelled after his dad:

“Hit the bricks on the west wall. Shout ‘law breakers sheriff’ then get out of there.”

James was half way down the road but his reply carried well enough in the crisp November air:

“Got it!”

The guards were gone and there was no sign of any more ghoul-children. Had they really been the last two?

They slipped in through the old doors to find Taz and Marcus comforting a statue.

Daniel’s skin shone with sweat. He barely breathed. He wouldn’t move an inch. Daniel didn’t even blink. What would they say to his mum?

There wasn’t time to worry about that. Taz lifted the boy up into his arms and a small stuffed donkey fell to the floor. Daniel must have found it in a lost and found box. A tiny thing to comfort him when his only company had been the mindless creatures who had snatched him away.

What had this boy been through?

Marcus picked up the donkey and rested it in Daniel’s arms. Theo and Andrew gulped back tears. The adventure felt less adventurous, and their victory a little more hollow, when they saw what had happened to their friend.


Daniel got a bit of colour back in his cheeks as they approached his house. He even stirred a little when he heard his mum’s voice at the door.

The others made up a story about him wandering off in the cold and getting disorientated but his mum didn’t look entirely convinced.

She was too pleased to see her son safe and well (if a little quieter than usual) to make much of it, and invited them all in for something warm to drink and a bite to eat if anyone needed it.

Tash could see that the woman needed company so she went in with her kids. The others didn’t want to crowd up the place and walked James and Theo back to their car.

Marcus sighed in relief:

“I think we handled that well tonight. We’ll be better prepared for tomorrow night too.”

Taz’s mouth hung open. An expression that was pretty common on the others as well:

“Tomorrow night? What do you mean tomorrow night?”

Marcus held his hands in the air:

“I thought you all understood. This could go on for weeks. I have no idea what they’re doing, and I’ve lost all control of them. We need to stop those ghoul-children from taking anyone else.”

James shook his head:

“What are you talking about. I led the ghoul-children to the sheriff. He’s got them now. Are there more of them?”

Marcus had the good grace to look sorry:

“There probably are more yes, but the problem is the sheriff can only hold them for one night. He doesn’t have their bones there with him. Their bones will draw them back during the day. By tomorrow night they’ll be out in force again.”

James swore and punched the hood of his car. Taz and Nicky leaned on the car in exhaustion. Vomit rose in Theo’s mouth.

Marcus cringed:

“That’s not the only bad news. If we want to stop them, or at least control them, we need their bones ourselves. Taz, Nicky, I was wondering if you could help me…”


In Daniel’s house Tash and her kids were drinking down their second cup of home-made soup. Rich and hearty, and warm. Really warm. Like a big hug from the inside.

Daniel had hoovered up four cupfuls before falling asleep on the couch. His mum was ecstatic to see him eating. As he slept they could even see him smiling. She headed back through to the kitchen.

Daniel sat bolt upright, his eyes open but unfocussed and whistled an odd little melody. It was a song Tash hadn’t heard in twenty-five years.


There was a boy in her garden. Chloe shifted into the little window seat to get a better view. He looked quite handsome too (from what she could see of him). She didn’t recognise him from school, maybe he went to Morrisons. His movements were slow and deliberate. Like he was inspecting the garden for something.

His toe caught her old skipping rope; left in the garden after the summer. It must be rotten and soggy by now. Chloe felt a small pang of guilt at leaving it out there.

The boy reached down and picked it up, gathering the chord around his fingers. He tied it into a neat knot then stopped and sniffed the skipping rope.

Ewww! Why did he sniff it? Chloe could see from here that it was green with mould and rot. The boy nodded. She could only see the back of his head but she could swear he had started to smile.

He placed it slowly, with care, on the picnic table then lifted his head. Sniffing the air. Chloe’s guts started to curl as thought they were sending her brain a message, and then he turned to face her window and the message rang loud and clear. That wasn’t a boy!

Her parents didn’t even hear her leave the house.

Keep up with the story

Click here to read on to Chapter 14: The Ghost of Church Street.

Social media feeds are an oddity. What you say can be seen by millions but it can also slip away and be missed with ease. I always post new chapters on social media (Facebook and Twitter) but there’s no guarantee that we’ll both be on at the same time.

With this in mind, if you’re enjoying ‘Marcus’ and you want to be sure you get a link to the newest chapter as soon as it’s out, you can also get an e-mail reminder by clicking this link. Mailing list members also get access to printable files so you’re not forced to read it all from a screen.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Marcus: Chapter 12: The Sheriff

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through from the very beginning, simply click on this link

Bin lids don’t get enough credit. Buckets are good but when surrounded by a group of clawing ghoul-children there’s nothing quite like a bin lid to help you break through their defences and make an opening.

James ran with the thrill of victory pulsing in his head. If he could divert the ghoul-children down to the Market Park the others might stand a chance of getting to the graveyard unnoticed. If only he could figure out where they’d gone.


Down in the Market park the others were catching their breath. Enjoying the chance to recharge, and make plans. Their first challenge was figuring out what had happened to James.

Was he still at the school? Had Marcus dropped him off somewhere else?

One thing they were all sure of was Marcus’ last instruction before he knocked himself out; meet at the graveyard.

Tash tried phoning James.

He answered almost immediately:

“Tash? What happened? Where are you? Actually don’t tell me, they might hear.”

He was out of breath, clearly running. Tash yelled down the phone:

“James are you OK? Are they chasing you?”

James’ words came back in puffs:

“Yep…Look I’m diverting them. Going to the Market Park. They won’t be near the school. Take your chance and get away. Meet where we agreed if you can.”

The colour drained from Tash’s face. Andrew spotted it first:

“What is it mum?”

Tash tried pleading with James over the phone:

“James?! Don’t do that we’re…”

James jumped in:

“Don’t tell me where you are!”

Tash gritted her teeth:

“But James we’re actually in…”

“I said don’t tell me!”

“…but James!”

James hung up.

Andrew looked at his mum:


Tash shook her head:

“What an idiot. They’re coming here. We need to hide.”

The Market Park was a huge grassy area that had once been used to sell livestock by the thousands but was now used for town events. It was a wide functional green space, empty of features. Aside from a few bushes and trees there really was nowhere to hide. Everything around them was fenced off.


James saw his mistake as he rounded the corner and approached the gates. A woman and four children couldn’t exactly hide for long here. He never listened to others enough. He should have let Tash finish speaking. Too late, always too late for things.

His only hope was if the ghoul-children didn’t see them. In the miniscule head start he had won himself, he motioned the others to lie down on the grass then continued on down the hill and away from the entrance to the park.

The others held their breath as they watched a horde of ghoul-children trail past the gate in pursuit of James. A lot more than eight now.

Theo’s knees hurt from the cold grass. He forced them deeper into the icy soil to stop himself moving. It was better than thinking about what those things might do to his dad.

Marcus squirmed and stretched:

“What happened? Why are we all lying down?”

Every one of the others shushed him and pointed to the gate. The ghoul-children had worked for him for years, obeyed his every command. Watching them chase James past the gate was like watching his hand move outside of his control. He shook the feeling off:

“Is he coming back round?”

Tash sneered at the ghost-boy:

“I would hope not. Why?”

Marcus was silent as still more straggling ghoul-children joined their brethren whistling past the gate. Their light footsteps disappeared into the distance. Marcus jumped up and dusted himself off:

“If he does we could get the Sheriff. He doesn’t like the ghouls. He doesn’t like me either. Actually I don’t think he likes anyone.”

The others asked in unison:

“The Sheriff? Crieff doesn’t have a sheriff!”


“I’ve not seen him in a couple of hundred years. I wonder if he’s still around.”

Marcus marched to the small gates cut into the west wall of the park.

“When he was alive he watched for the sheep and cattle-rustlers that sneaked in when the drovers brought their livestock to the market. He doesn’t like rule breakers. I mean really doesn’t like them. He would have them hanging by the town gates by nightfall”

Theo frowned:

“OK so you’re going to get an angry ghost. An angry murderous ghost to help save my dad from other angry ghosts? Can’t see that going wrong at all.”

Marcus shrugged:

“Oh it could go horribly wrong, I’m not going to deny that, but it’s the best chance he has. Besides it’s the ghosts the sheriff has the most problem with. We break the rules just by still being around after death.”

Louise wasn’t convinced:

“But he’s a ghost.”

Marcus smirked:

“Yep. We don’t mention that bit. He’s a weird guy, but he has his uses. Never noticed those uses till now, but he definitely has his them.”

Marcus grabbed a rock and thumped it on one of the ancient boulders that made up the wall:

“Rule breakers! There are Rule Breakers. Monstrous deviations of nature! We need the sheriff. Help us.”

A wrenching, hollow sound rumbled from below them as the ground tore apart. A red glow pulsing deep inside the ground through a hole barely larger than a fist.

Marcus peered down, his face bathed in blood-red light:

“That should do it.”

They backed away, eyes fixed on the small glowing hole. Marcus continued walking backwards:

“Should have said before; I can’t be here when he comes out. Good luck guys. I’ll see you at the gate when it’s over.”

Their protests dried in their throats as a huge rotten hand heaved the soil downwards forcing its way up and out of the hole. A shoulder packed tight with muscle and sinew followed. Then the sheriff dragged himself out to the world above. The hole gaped in tatters, red light rippling on the walls beside them as though they were on fire.

Marcus was gone so the sheriff turned on them. Eyes glowing red, dressed in a ragged uniform, and carrying a hangman’s noose. He greeted them in a voice that made their innards vibrate:

Who summoned me? Who am I to bring to justice?”

As he uttered the word ‘justice’ his burning eyes flicked towards the hole below them. Did the ghoul children really deserve that?

Theo thought of his dad, running for his life, just a few hundred feet away. They didn’t have a choice, he turned to Tash:

“Call my dad. Tell him to bring them here.”

The stink of the sheriff clawed at the back of Tash’s throat. Fire, rot, and filth. They couldn’t stay here long. Her eyes watered, blurring her view of her phone’s screen. She called James. She didn’t wait for him to say anything:

“Bring them through the west entrance. We have something for them.”

All that came in reply was laboured breathing, the sound of running, followed by a grunt of recognition. James was on board.

The sheriff glared at her as she hung up her call:

What witchcraft is that, that allows you to talk to those who are not here?”

The red glow in his eyes intensified with his rage. The group hurriedly tried to explain how phones worked, pointing out that it was science, not ‘witchcraft’. The glow in his eyes dulled a little but he still looked at them accusingly:

Why have you called upon my services. Why wake me from my slumber?”

They weren’t sure where to start. Fortunately James did the job for them as he emerged screaming through the gate followed by an alarming number of ghoul-children. If this didn’t work they would all be in trouble.

The sheriff’s face distorted into his own monstrous version of a grin. The fire in his eyes glowed deep red and he lifted his noose:

I see now. The dead walk again.”

James raced at them. The group turned from the sheriff and ran alongside the purple faced, middle-aged man. A bit of company gave him a burst of energy and he increased his pace as a ghoul-child began catching up.

The Sheriff began his work.

It wasn’t easy to watch. After the first ghoul-child was noose-dragged to the glowing pit none of them could bring themselves to look back. The cold black eyes didn’t even blink as the sheriff hauled them off to…wherever it was that he took them.

Marcus cheered them on from beyond the gate as their feet thumped on the icy earth. The ghoul-children seemed to have increased their pace as well. Their faces showed no sign of fear but their speed told a different story.

The sheriff materialised in bursts of flames and steam then dragged them back to his hole. The ghoul-children squirmed against the rope, fingers rasping as they clawed the frozen ground. Each of them made a ‘thwump’ noise as they vanished through the glowing red hole.

As they reached Marcus at the gate they realised it had been a while since they had last heard a ‘thwump’. They looked round to find the sheriff charging towards them. The fire in his eyes blazing, he roared:

You side with this abomination? You side with Marcus?! You are all guilty now.”

Marcus screamed at them all to join him on the other side of the gate. They couldn’t see what good that might do them now but followed his instructions.

The sheriff’s feet threw huge lumps of soil up behind him as he thundered towards them. His eyes didn’t leave them for a moment. He grasped his noose tightly and spun it round his head like a lasso, preparing to catch one of them.

They closed their eyes, preparing for the noose to fall. Marcus laughed:

“Wait for it…wait for it…”

BOOM! A fireball erupted before their eyes but they felt no heat. It curved back from the gate as though they were behind a wall of glass.

Marcus grinned at their vacant expressions:

“That was intense!”

As the wall of flames dwindled they could see the Market Park beyond. It was as though nothing had happened. The hole in the ground at the far end was gone. Along with it the Sheriff had vanished. All that remained were the deep-cut welts left behind by his charge through the turf.

James caught his breath:

“So what next?”

Marcus drew breath deeply:

“I don’t know how to tell you but that wasn’t the last of them. We can’t just wander up to the graveyard now. They know we’re coming.”

Tash sagged. They were exhausted. Louise brushed the dirt from her knees:

“I think we need to go to Auntie Nicky’s.”

Keep up with the story

To read on to Chapter 13: Graveyard and Gardens just click here

Social media feeds are an oddity. What you say can be seen by millions but it can also slip away and be missed with ease. I always post new chapters on social media (Facebook and Twitter) but there’s no guarantee that we’ll both be on at the same time.

With this in mind, if you’re enjoying ‘Marcus’ and you want to be sure you get a link to the newest chapter as soon as it’s out, you can also get an e-mail reminder by clicking this link. Mailing list members also get access to printable files so you’re not forced to read it all from a screen.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Marcus Chapter 11 Overcome by Blank Faces

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through from the very beginning, simply click on this link

Theo wanted to help his friend but this was beyond anything he had expected:

“Find their bones? You think Daniel is beside their BONES!? What’s are they planning on doing with him?”

Marcus didn’t have any nice answers. He had some nasty ones but he didn’t want to say them out loud. Instead he focussed on what they could deal with right now:

“Maybe they’re just used to gathering children. I don’t know. Whatever it is, they won’t stop until they have four. It’s always four.”

Marcus looked at Andrew and sighed: “We’ll have to deal with Andrew’s ‘whispers’ later.”

James coughed:

“I wanted to ask you about something. Last time; we all felt something. We all lost a bit of energy. It worked a little didn’t it? It’s how you’re still here. Now it’s all happening again and we’re going to stop them. What happens if there’s no energy this time? Will you run out? Would you…”

Marcus interrupted:

“To be honest James I have no idea. For now lets save Daniel. We can discuss whether this will kill me later.”

That was the end of the discussion. Marcus was on his way to the exit as he spoke. The others followed followed close behind then stopped dead as Marcus shoved the emergency bar on the door and motioned for them to follow:

“Stay low. Keep hidden. I have some power. I can probably ward off two or three ghouls. If any more turn up take my advice; run.”

They rounded the corner. A boy and a girl, silhouetted by distant street lights, blocked their way. Black, lifeless, unblinking eyes took them in. The only sign of recognition; the slightest tilt of their heads. Marcus dissolved into smoke and swirled towards them, flinging them at the walls to either side.

The small group saw their chance and hurried past. Picking up the pace as they looked back to see the ghoul-children dusting themselves off. The school gates were locked, leaving them with a scrabbled climb over the fence. Steps away from the fence Tash stopped and pointed.

From the other side of the bars four blank faces slid into view, unblinking ghoul-children, each with a slight head-tilt of recognition. Each developing the smallest hint of a smile.

Marcus turned on his heel and made for the lane down the side of the school:

“Change of plan. Get out over the front fence. Any way you can. If we get split up, meet at the old graveyard on Church Street. I have an idea.”

They climbed the low fence that led to what Theo and Andrew had known as the ‘junior’ playground; their old playground.

As they set foot on the concrete. Two of the ghoul-children turned from the others and made their way down the hill; that route also led to the front of the school. Marcus saw them:

“OK, guess they’re smarter than I realised. RUN!!!”

James and Tash helped the kids over the locked gate and down the lane to the front. Every person that climbed through the narrow gap gave the ghoul-children more time to get ahead of them.

By the time James had climbed over to join them the other ghoul-children had disappeared too. This plan had flaws. Tash had one question:

“How strong are those things?”

Marcus shrugged:

“Never saw them up against an adult but they are strong. Whatever you do don’t let one grab you. I don’t think you’d get away if it did.”

The first two ghoul-children were there to meet them at the bottom of the lane. Marcus ‘smoked’ them, re-materialising instantly in a pained crouch on the ground:

“Can’t do that again. Like my insides were hanging out. It’s all on you guys now.”

James and Tash raided an old shed that used to contain play equipment for the nursery school. They got an abandoned scooter and a metal bucket. No one wanted to belittle their cache of ‘weapons’ but they all thought it; things could be better.

The other two ghoul-children had placed themselves at the old school gate. The group had no plans of going to the gate though. They laughed at the ghoul-children’s foolishness as they jumped over the low fence.

They heard the giggling before they landed. A group of eight or ten ghoul-children huddled out of sight under the wall. As they jumped down the children grabbed at their clothes, their hair, their ankles.

Tash swung the scooter on it’s axis like some giant, rusty nunchuk. It cracked one of the ghoul-boys right across the head. James whacked one of the ghoul-girls in the hand with the bucket. Her knuckles made an meaty ‘crunch’.

The other ghoul-children closed in. Surrounded by grasping hands on all sides, they were running out of options. Neither adult could swing their weapon without hurting one of their group. Marcus sighed:

“I’m going to try something. It might not work and when I’m done I need one of you to carry me. It’s going to use everything I’ve got.”

The smoke cloud erupted around Marcus again. He vanished from view as black mist closed around their group.

Inside the mist they smelled moss and dampness; clean, natural, and old. Strangely calming in its own way. They felt the sensation of movement and the next thing they knew they were about a half-mile away in Market Park.

The cloud gathered into a pile on the ground. Marcus lay motionless. Louise leaned forward to check on him:

“He’s got no pulse! He isn’t breathing!”

Her mum shushed her:

“He’s a ghost Lou. I don’t think he ever breathes.”

They laughed nervously. Tash crouched down to pick up the boy:

“Oh, he’s heaver than I thought. James could you give me a hand? James?…”

James wasn’t there.


Daniel woke up and wished he hadn’t. He couldn’t move again. There were no ropes, he wasn’t tied up. All the same, the only parts of his body he could move were his eyes. They made him do what they wanted, so long as those four things were there, he had no choice. Daniel could barely see through the tears.

When they left the room he could move around. He had looked for a way out, tried all the doors but only the cupboard was unlocked. Others like them, more black-eyed creatures, watched from outside the barred windows but these others didn’t have the power. He missed even that taste of freedom.

His knees ached. His muscles twitched. He wanted to stretch his legs but he could barely control his own breathing. There wasn’t enough air. They were doing it on purpose. Suffocating him. Knocking him out, again.


When you don’t care who you hurt it’s surprising how much damage you can do with a metal bucket.

James was in a bit of a frenzy now. Most of the ghoul-children were flat on their backs but they didn’t stay that way for long.

One tried to stand up and met the mighty wrath of the bucket right to the temple. James swung round and caught another of them square in the chest. Knocking them directly into the middle of Commissioner Street. It left a gap for him to slip through.

He got a few steps away and stopped. Where should he go next? They were to meet at the graveyard in Church Street but he didn’t want to lead the ghoul-children straight to the others. Instead he went in the opposite direction; towards the Market Park.

James’ pondering had left the ghoul-children enough time to gather around him again. Why hadn’t he just ran? Why did he have to overthink everything? All he needed was enough space to run through. He swung the bucket again. The handle had grown misshapen. This was the last straw.

The twisted handle released the bucket as James arched it towards a ghoul-child. Bucket and handle were parted forever as it flew over the ghoul-child’s head and landed with a ‘clunk’ in the distance.

The handle was not an effective weapon. As the ghouls inched closer James looked around for something, anything, he could use to open that gap.

Keep up with the story

Social media feeds are an oddity. What you say can be seen by millions but it can also slip away and be missed with ease. I always post new chapters on social media (Facebook and Twitter) but there’s no guarantee that we’ll both be on at the same time.

With this in mind, if you’re enjoying ‘Marcus’ and you want to be sure you get a link to the newest chapter as soon as it’s out, you can also get an e-mail reminder by clicking this link. Mailing list members also get access to printable files so you’re not forced to read it all from a screen.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Marcus: Chapter 10: Hiding from Lifeless Eyes

john bray local author nanowrimo national novel writing month scotland perthshire

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through from the very beginning, simply click on this link

“But what about Daniel? He wandered off with that…thing. Shouldn’t we call the police or something?”

Theo called back to the adults as he marched at top speed towards his school. When he looked back he realised they were on the other path. Louise noticed too:

“I thought you said we were going to the school.”

Both adults answered in chorus:

“We are!”

Louise was not impressed:

“Wait! You mean the old school? No way! There’s no one there. How can that help get Andrew better or help us find Daniel? Besides it’s creepy at night.”

Theo had to agree. A visit to an abandoned primary school, at night, was not his first choice after what they’d been through already.

There wasn’t any discussion to be had. Tash and James marched a dazed and confused Andrew onwards and the others had no choice but to keep up.

Theo didn’t even like walking past the old school during the day. It had actually been his school for a few years before it had closed, before they all moved to the new one. It had been really good. A fun place. Somewhere he had met most of his friends.

It was different now. All the classrooms had been gutted. The pictures weren’t stuck on the windows any more. No one had drawn chalk pictures on the playground for years.

It was a sad place to walk past in the daytime. Theo didn’t like to think what it might be like at night.

The old school did not look great at night. What were his dad and Andrew’s mum thinking?

They suggested that it ‘might be easier’ if they went round the back of the school. (What might be easier?)

The gates were locked but it was easy enough to climb the old fence into the back playground. Once they were all in they made their way to the back of the building. Theo’s dad smiled:

“Used to play ‘tig’ over there.”

The smile faded as a whistle echoed around the old playground.

Theo hunted round for the source of the sound. His eyes almost missed the face in a classroom window. Why was someone inside the building. The boy looked familiar but his face was really pale. It was hard to tell.

He pointed the boy out to the others. His dad and Andrew’s mum ran in the direction of the window.

They tried the door nearest them but it was locked. All the doors would be locked. Again, how did that boy get into the school?

The boy waved and pointed towards the fire exit up near the gym hall. They walked towards it (as quickly as Andrew could be dragged along). It burst open just as they got to it. Theo recognised Marcus now. Was the Marcus his dad had mentioned his Marcus? Marcus looked out behind them carefully:

“I can’t see any ghoul-children. We should be safe. Get in and I’ll lock up again.”

The door closed behind them with an almighty slam. Even Andrew jumped.

Marcus looked at the boys and at Louise but seemed to be speaking to the adults:

“Have you told them any of it?”

The adults shook their heads. Tash held Andrew close, turning him to face Marcus:

“Did you do this?”

Marcus leaned in close to Andrew and placed his hand on his head. Tash was shaking:


Marcus jumped at the shout, shook his head and stepped back from the boy:

“No I didn’t do this. I don’t understand.”

The adults breathed deeply and slumped to the ground. Tash held her son close. He hadn’t spoken since they had found him. His eyes darted around, focussing on nothing in particular. Tash looked up from him, her expression strained:

“Marcus please say you can do something for my son.”

Marcus sat down on the floor beside them:

“My power isn’t what it was but I’ll see what I can do.”

He held Andrew’s hand and struggled to make eye contact as Andrew’s eyes darted round in all directions. Marcus persisted until Andrew’s gaze seemed to lock onto him and stay there:

“Marcus? Are we in school? What happened?” He looked around at the others from the floor “Why am I on the floor? Why are you at school mum? Wait this is the old school!”

He didn’t get his answers. At least not straight away. Everyone was too relieved to see him talking again. Marcus was the first to answer his questions:

“Good to see you again Andrew. There’s a lot to explain but we don’t have much time. I’m an old friend of your mum’s…Actually, am I an old friend?”

Marcus turned to the adults with an almost pleading look. Tash and James nodded. Tash put her hand on his arm:

“We know what you were doing for us. How difficult it must have been. Of course you’re a friend.”

Marcus beamed at them:

“I’m so glad. And James, you’ve got grey hair!” James didn’t see this as something worth celebrating. Marcus did “I’ve never had a friend with grey hair before!”

The sounds of the old school creaked around them. No one spoke. Marcus coughed:

“Anyway, I’m not what you think. Maybe your parents could fill you in.”

Tash and James shared everything they knew. Marcus being ‘healed’ by a Druid two-thousand years ago, the Roman (Mr Thomas), the kidnappings every twenty-five years since, ending with what Marcus had done for them when they were kids.

As the story moved along the others moved further from Marcus. Despite his frequent ‘sorry’s at some of the worst bits, the children still kept their distance.

The adults smiled as they finished. Louise threw her arms in the air:

“Was that supposed to make us feel better? You even brought us to the same school. With this ghost kid. This does not seem like the best plan.”

Marcus jumped in:

“I’m not a ghost. Actually I’m not sure what I am.”

Louise’s eyes jumped from Marcus to her mum and back again as though trying to gauge who was the most messed up. She sat down on the floor crossing her arms and legs:

“So what now?”

Marcus stood up slowly, his eyes fixed on something they couldn’t see. Through the open door of a classroom, out the window, to the darkened playground beyond. His voice shook a little:

“Now we all get up. We don’t look round. Then we move away from the windows so those ghouls can’t watch us any more.”

Theo sneaked a glance into the classroom and out the window. A boy and a girl gripped the bars on the windows, their black eyes fixed on Andrew.


Without saying a word they shuffled along the corridor and further into the school building. There were a lot of windows but it was an old building with lots of twists and turns. It didn’t take long to find a hiding place.

Andrew’s breathing came in great bursts. The only words he got out were: “Why me?”

Marcus shrugged:

“I’m sorry Andrew. I wish I knew.”

Marcus looked to his old friends for help:

“What happened after I last saw you? Where did Mr Thomas end up?”

James frowned:

“We never saw him again. The police tried to find him but declared him dead a few years ago.”

Marcus screwed up his face:

“Declared him dead? What does that mean?”

James shrugged:

“They looked for him so long, there was no trace of him. At that point they filled in some forms. He’s gone.”

Marcus’ face lit up:

“He’s really gone? I didn’t think I could have a life without him. Every twenty-five years I’d turn up, he’d use me to get another burst of energy, then I’d disappear and he would have another twenty-five years to use for his own enjoyment.”

James and Tash celebrated along with Marcus. Louise, Andrew, and Theo shook their heads in disbelief. Louise stared at them:

“That’s great. So can any of you explain why a bunch of freaky ghost-kids are sneaking around kidnapping people?”

Marcus frowned:

“No. I can’t connect to them any more. It’s hard to figure out what they’re up to.”

Marcus ignored the blank faces of the others:

“OK lets deal with the easier question; what happened tonight?”

Unedited forest image by Jerald Jackson, titled 'after you.....'

Theo told the story of the face on his trip home from school and his conversation with his friends online. Marcus jumped in as soon as he got to the bit about Daniel and the ghoul:

“You’re going to have to explain all this ‘online’ business to me another time. I have no idea what you’re all talking about. But are you trying to say the ghoul-children got someone?”

Theo seemed to think Marcus already knew about Daniel. He shook his head:

“Of course I didn’t know. Do we know where they took him?”

Everyone gaped. They had hoped Marcus could help with that. Marcus started listing all the likely sites when Andrew ‘shushed’ him:

“What’s that whispering sound? Can anyone else hear that?”

No one else could.

The moment passed with uncomfortable coughs. Tash put her arm round her son, Marcus had got him talking but he clearly wasn’t back to normal yet. She hunted for a change of topic:

“Marcus, you were listing places we might find the ghoul-children.”

Marcus shook his head:

“Actually I was listing empty buildings in town. If we’re trying to track down the ghoul-children themselves there’s one solution that jumps out. You’re not going to like it.”

Theo thought back to the last time he had seen Daniel. A small shape drawn away by one of those things. They couldn’t leave Daniel with them any longer:

“Whatever it is it’ll be worth it. We’ve got to help Daniel.”

Marcus braced himself:

“We need to find their bones.”

Keep up with the story

Social media feeds are an oddity. What you say can be seen by millions but it can also slip away and be missed with ease. I always post new chapters on social media (Facebook and Twitter) but there’s no guarantee that we’ll both be on at the same time.

With this in mind, if you’re enjoying ‘Marcus’ and you want to be sure you get a link to the newest chapter as soon as it’s out, you can also get an e-mail reminder by clicking this link. Mailing list members also get access to printable files so you’re not forced to read it all from a screen.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Marcus: Chapter 9: 25 Years Later

Unedited forest image by Jerald Jackson, titled 'after you.....'

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through from the very beginning, simply click on this link

1st November 2017

Harry and Theo followed their dad out of the school gate. He had gone really quiet since they told him about the new boy.

Theo wandered off ahead leaving his dad to catch up. He moved to catch up with a couple of his friends then he saw it. Halloween had already been and gone, so why was there someone in the trees wearing a mask? Then he realised; masks don’t blink.

His pulse pounded in his ears, swishing like waves. He ran back to get his dad. When he looked back the face was gone. Theo knew his dad would just say it was his imagination, but he didn’t. His face went pale.

Theo wanted to talk about it. His dad didn’t. They were marched away from the school at a pace so fast that little Harry had to run behind in bursts to keep up.


Theo jumped on the computer as soon as he got home. He went to a favourite video and scrolled to the comments. It was one of the easiest ways to keep in touch with his friends, they’d been using this one for weeks.

None of them had a phone yet (despite constant requests) so for now this was their version of messaging one another. He started simply:

“Did anyone see anything weird outside school just now?”

He could be waiting for an answer for a while, there was no way of knowing whether his friends had got his message. He browsed around other web sites for a while then plugged in his headphones and had a go on his newest game. He forgot he had notifications switched on for the notice board.


The notification sound lost him the game. He would have been upset but he had to know what that thing was in the bushes. Was it just his imagination?

A couple of his friends had logged in; Daniel and Andrew. Andrew was football obsessed at school but at home he was never off the computer. Daniel was just happy to chat, he was always happy to chat. It was easier on the ears here actually (at school Daniel didn’t have much of an ‘inside voice’).

They both lived nearer the school than Theo so he hoped they’d been in less of a rush as they went past. Maybe they even knew who was wearing the mask.

Andrew hadn’t seen anything. Daniel remembered seeing something move but it had been too dark to see what it was. He said he could check on his new telescope, messaged them ‘brb’ (be right back).

While they waited, Andrew asked Theo more about the face. He was convinced it was just a high school kid in one of those special custom masks you could get made online.

Their conversation fell into talking about how cool it would be to have one of those masks (some of them could even smile and move their eyebrows). Theo couldn’t help thinking ‘…but I’ve never heard of one that could blink.’

Original by 'Anton' Titled 'The Steel Cage'

Daniel was back. His message was surprisingly short (at least for Daniel): “Saw the face. Need to go see more closely.”

The others messaged back frantically, telling him he was nuts. Even if it was just a high school kid doing a prank it still wasn’t worth sneaking down there. There was no reply. Andrew said he’d go up to his bedroom and watch Daniel from his window. He’d message back on his tablet.

Theo grabbed a glass of water to fight off the dry feeling in his throat.

By the time Andrew had added a quick ‘OK I can see him’, Theo had drank so much water his stomach was making ‘sloshing’ sounds.

Andrew kept adding a progress report in short messages:

“He’s walking towards the trees.”

“He’s standing still, crouching down for a better view.”

“He’s standing back up. Like ‘stand up straight’ the way they get us to do in school.”

“Someone coming.”

“It’s a kid. About our age.”

“That’s not a kid!!! Its face isn’t right. What is that?!”

There wasn’t another message. For a second Theo wondered if this was just a prank. Daniel would definitely do something like this. Then again Andrew hated pranks. Even on April fools day Andrew never joined in. Theo ran out of options. The dry throat was back but he was cold too. Really cold:


He yelled down the stairs.

“DAD!!! Come up and read this! Please!”

His dad ran up the stairs. He read through the comments in moments then held his head in his hands:

“Get your coat now.”


Theo’s dad rocketed down the road and skidded to a halt outside Daniel’s.

Theo wasn’t sure if he was supposed to stay in the car or not. Since his dad hadn’t said one way or the other he opted to follow him to the front door.

Daniel’s mum took a while to answer. Theo tried to tell her about the messages and the faces but his dad interrupted before she thought they were nuts.:

“Is Daniel here? Theo needs to check something with him.”

Daniel’s mum wandered into the house and shouted him. There was no answer. She rolled her eyes:

“Probably has his headphones on. Wait a sec, I’ll go see.”

She ignored Theo and his dad when she came back, she just kept yelling Daniel’s name. Her distress growing and growing.

Andrew’s mum appeared from their house next door:

“Ashleigh, is everything OK? I could hear you shouting from the kitchen.”

Theo’s dad jumped, yelling right at Andrew’s mum:

“Tash! It’s happening again. He’s back.”

Tash looked at her old friend. Her face transformed from confusion to horror:



Andrew’s mum ran back into her house shouting Andrew’s name. His big sister appeared, her eyes never leaving her phone:

“I think he went round the back. Said something about Daniel.”

Theo’s dad and Andrew’s mum ran round the back of the house chanting ‘no no no no no no…”

Theo ran after them. There was a hole in the fence that led to the high school playing fields. Beyond that Theo could see the group of trees and bushes where the face had been.

Andrew was walking towards them, like he was in some sort of trance. Theo searched the trees for signs of Daniel.

Way in the distance he could just make out two dark shapes walking out to the farmland out past Broich road.

He ran to his dad to tell him but when they looked back the shapes were gone.

Tash tackled her son to the ground and gripped him tight as he struggled to crawl off in the direction of the fields.

No one made a sound Andrew’s sister Louise stuck her phone in her jeans and slid through the fence. Somewhere far behind her someone started to whistle a little song. It cut through the cold night air and seemed to carry that ice into Theo’s insides. Both adults froze in place.


Louise interrupted the weirdness:

“What’s going on? Why’s mum holding Andrew on the grass?”

Photo © Basher Eyre (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Theo didn’t really have answers. He didn’t need them though. Andrew’s mum heaved Andrew into a standing position. She’d clearly made a decision:

“We’re going to the school. I won’t let him do all this again.”

Theo’s dad nodded in agreement and helped her to get Andrew moving. Andrew did not look great. Louise could see that much:

“Mum, Andrew doesn’t look right. He looks like he needs a doctor. How’s going to the school going to help?”

Tash didn’t even look back:

“Trust me. It’s the only thing that will.”

Keep up with the story

Click this link for Chapter 10: Hiding from Lifeless Eyes

Social media feeds are an oddity. What you say can be seen by millions but it can also slip away and be missed with ease. I always post new chapters on social media (Facebook and Twitter) but there’s no guarantee that we’ll both be on at the same time.

With this in mind, if you’re enjoying ‘Marcus’ and you want to be sure you get a link to the newest chapter as soon as it’s out, you can also get an e-mail reminder by clicking this link. Mailing list members also get access to printable files so you’re not forced to read it all from a screen.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Marcus: Chapter 8: Borrowed Time

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through from the very beginning, simply click on this link

Tash didn’t make a sound, she didn’t struggle against the cold, iron, grip on her wrists. Inside she was screaming and writhing but she needed Marcus to think she was coming along willingly. Tash desperately hunted for any chance to get away. The slightest release of his hold would do. His grip didn’t relax a bit.

They passed the gates of the golf-course. Grip still tight. They followed the long steep hill all the way back to the square. Grip still tight. They followed the hill down to the school (even passing the police station on the way). Grip still tight.

Tash wondered for a second whether she should yell out at the police station but she would rather be free and silent than loud and risk being dragged away with no hope of escape.

This strategy didn’t pay off. She knew that much as Marcus hauled her through the front door of the school.

The school door was open! That was different. They had passed police cars outside. Could the police be somewhere in the building?

Marcus somehow snuffed out electric lights everywhere they went. There wasn’t a moment of hesitation as he progressed through the front of the building, past the stairs, and into the boiler room.

Marcus was holding Tash’s wrist so tight that her hand was purple. She couldn’t feel her fingers any more. With his free hand Marcus closed the door as quietly as possible and locked it from the inside. The key safely tucked into his pocket.

Next came the descent into the rooms below. Tash was allowed to have use of her hand again but it was so numb that it served little purpose except as a lump of flesh and bone she used to steady herself as she climbed down the ladder.

There was only one positive that Tash could think of; there had been no sign of Mr Thomas. This didn’t seem to slow Marcus down at all:

“Walk faster, you’re going to want to be sitting down when it happens.”

This left Tash cold. What was ‘it’? Why would she need to sit down?

Strands of electric cables lay twisted on the floor in front of them. Tash hadn’t seen her sister tied up but she knew enough to realise they had just passed the spot where she had been earlier:

“Where are you taking me? Where are the others?”

Marcus didn’t even slow down his walking as he hurried her along further:

“They’ll be below by now.”

He heaved a grease-stained oak bookcase to one side with no effort whatsoever and led Tash into a small room behind.

Cut into the floor was a spiral staircase. Tash leaned against the tubular walls as they descended. The rough stone offering the comfort of something solid. Something real.

A surprising number of steps led them into the middle of a tiny room. Tash could just make out the shapes of three children huddled in a corner gathered around a small battery-powered torch.

Marcus stopped on the bottom step:

“Where is he? Did he go upstairs?”

James turned and looked up at them, straining his eyes against the light flowing down from the open stairwell:

“He left ages ago. What are you going to do to us?”

Marcus sat down on the step:

“Nothing. At least that’s what I hope. With any luck he’s been taken by the police and you’ll just need to wait here until 3am. After that I’ll be gone and you can head upstairs for help.”

He took the key and placed it on the floor in front of him. The others didn’t even try to grab it. They knew there was no point. Nicky croaked in the corner:

“Marcus? What do you mean you won’t be here?”

“Every quarter century, for whatever reason, I get to be a kid. A solid, real-looking child. I make friends. I go to school. Then he comes along and takes them, uses them to stay alive for another twenty-five years. After it’s done I disappear. I lose my solid form. I sort of float in and out of existence for the next twenty-five years.”

Marcus was quiet for a long time. He looked up at the four friends with tears in his eyes:

“If he doesn’t come back tonight then this might be the end. I might never have to do that to anyone again. I might get some rest.”

Nicky jumped in:

“…but doesn’t that mean you’ll…”

She didn’t want to say ‘die’ but everyone knew what she meant. Marcus laughed:

“I’ve been dead for two-thousand years. Maybe now I can start acting like it.”

3am watch on stone floor

Among them only Tash had a watch. She took it off and sat it on the floor between them all. Taz pointed the torch at it. It was two minutes till three. In silence they watched for the seconds to tick down.

Taz coughed, making the others jump:

“Marcus, I enjoyed playing tig with you. You’re really fast. It was fun. (You know before you captured us and planned to sacrifice us to keep a janitor’s assistant alive and everything).”

The seconds ticked away to their freedom and Marcus’ destruction. Five…four…three…two…one…

Nothing happened. Marcus was still there and so were they. They grinned among themselves. Then Tash frowned:

“It’s actually set a bit fast. It’s only a few minutes…”

Blue light flashed out of Marcus and a damp cold feeling clawed at the four friends. They had never felt more tired. As they collapsed to the floor Marcus stood up in his luminous glory and screamed:

“No!!!!! This wasn’t supposed to happen. He isn’t here this time. I thought I’d fixed it. I’m so sorry. So, so sorry.”


A few hundred meters away. In a cell in the police station a tiny stream of blue light crept in through the window and disappeared into Mr Thomas. He caught his breath:

“Not as much as usual Marcus. Quite disappointing really, but it’ll have to do.”

He looked in the mirror. A face of brown leather, surrounded by snow white hair, scowled back at him. He was old but he was alive. For now.


James woke up in his bed at home with no memory of getting there. His dad slumped forward, perched on the end of the bed. He jerked awake at the sound of James:

“Finally! We’ve been so worried. The four of you were so ill when they found you. Are you OK? Can you remember anything?”

James’ throat was painfully dry. His dad had to help him take a sip of water before he could speak:

“What about the others? Taz? Nicky? Tasha? Are they OK? Is Marcus?”

His dad sighed and shook his head:

“I’m really sorry to say this but they still haven’t found him. We don’t know what Mr Thomas did with him but it’s not looking promising.”

“The others are the same as you. Been ill and sleeping for weeks. You managed to sleep your way to the Christmas holidays!”

James got up and put his slippers on. His dad helped him down to the living room. Long phone calls told him that his friends were awake too. Everything was going to be OK.


1st November 2017

James hurried towards the school. He was supposed to be picking up the kids right now but he was still five minutes away. Time had never been on his side. For as long as he could remember it felt like someone had set up his internal clock a bit wrong. Like some of his time was missing.

Tash streaked past him on her way to pick up her two. There was nothing quite like seeing a school friend with kids to make you feel old. They exchanged an eye-roll of mutual understanding and she vanished into the crowd of parents.

James was almost at the gate, running past the bushes when he saw something that made his stomach lurch. It couldn’t be…

I altered this picture original here

A pale, green, face gazed out from the bushes to his left. Black eyes reflected the street lights that lit the way into the new school. Then they were gone.

He’d allowed himself to consider it some childish story; something they had made up to explain what had happened to them. Sometimes he’d get flashbacks like this and remember the truth.

He hunted through the thinning crowd for Tash but she had already gone. His boys raced towards him. Theo (his eldest) was jumping around as usual:

“What kept you so long?”

James tried not to think about the face in the bushes. He tried to hide his discomfort by acting as normally as possible. He apologised for being late and asked how their day was. Harry (his youngest) jumped in:

“Theo has a new boy in his class. He’s really fast, hardly anyone can catch him when we play tig.”

James was relieved to be talking about something normal:

“So what’s the new boy’s name.”

Theo and Harry replied in unison:

“He’s called Marcus.”

Keep up with the story

Social media feeds are an oddity. What you say can be seen by millions but it can also slip away and be missed with ease. I always post new chapters on social media (Facebook and Twitter) but there’s no guarantee that we’ll both be on at the same time.

With this in mind, if you’re enjoying ‘Marcus’ and you want to be sure you get a link to the newest chapter as soon as it’s out, you can also get an e-mail reminder by clicking this link. Mailing list members also get access to printable files so you’re not forced to read it all from a screen.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Click here to skip on to Chapter 9