Author Archives: eflshorts

Fight with a Ghost (Ch10)

‘Whatever it is, it is up there,’ I said. ‘The question is, who is going up?’

George put his candle on the floor and stepped onto the ladder. It cracked beneath his weight. He stopped.

‘Come down,’ I said, ‘it will not hold you. I shall have to go.’

I had never been so frightened. I slowly climbed the ladder and pushed open the trap door. No sooner than I had opened the trap door than something fell – literally fell – on me from the darkness above. It kicked and spat and tore at me as I stood clinging onto the ladder. It lasted only a moment, but in that moment I lived a lifetime of terror. The ladder cracked and swayed below me and I fell with the thing gripping my throat like a vice. In the next instant, George had stunned it with a blow from the poker and dragged it off me. It lay upon its back on the floor – a ragged, hideous shape. And the mystery was solved.’

‘But you haven’t really told us what it was,’ said one of the listeners.

The doctor smiled.

‘It was the owner of the house,’ he replied. ‘He had not gone abroad. He had gone to a private lunatic asylum. A fortnight after this, he had escaped. After making his way to his former home, he had hid himself in the loft. It is only surprising that he did not kill someone before he was caught.’

Our adaptation of A Fight with a Ghost (Chapter 9)

I took George by the arm and led him out of the room.

‘George,’ I said to him. ‘We must find out the reason for this at once. I am certain that I felt someone go past me on the stairs. Do those stairs lead to another place, apart from our rooms?’

George thought for a moment.

‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘There is a door at the end of the passageway. It leads up to another room.’

‘Then we must explore it,’ I said. ‘I can’t go back to sleep until I get to the bottom of this. Get the butler to bring a light.’

Soon the butler arrived with a lantern. He looked as nervous as I felt. We began, the three of us. First, we searched the rooms above, where George and I slept. We found nothing unusual. Then we went down to the door at the end of the corridor. I pushed it open. A crazy looking staircase led up into the darkness. Slowly, we climbed the stairs. I went first, with the candle; then George, and last of all, the butler with the lantern. At the top of the stairs, we stepped into a large, low room. Our lights threw strange shadows but there was nothing to find: just a few large boxes, a roll of carpet, and some broken chairs. But in the far corner of the room, we saw an old ladder that led up to a trap door. Just then, I heard the half-groan, half-sigh again. We stood and looked at each other. We all heard the sound.

Our adaptation of A Fight with a Ghost (Ch 8)

I tore the curtains apart and rushed into the next room. It was empty. The lamp was on and the door was open, just as George had left it. In the corridor outside, all was quiet. I came back into the study and found George was running his fingers through his hair with anxiety.

‘There is one person too many in the house. I think we should search the house and find out who it is,’ I said.

‘Alright,’ said George picking up the poker from the fireplace. ‘If it is anything made from flesh and blood then we will need this…’

Suddenly, an awful scream filled the house. I had never heard anything like it before and never want to hear anything like it again. For a moment, we stood staring at each other. Then George Carson ran out the room and down the corridor to the stairs. I followed him.

In the darkness, we ran down the stairs. But before I reached the landing below, where Miss Stonor’s room was, something brushed past me, just like the night before. I turned and made a grab for it as I ran. But my hand only gripped empty air. I was about to turn back and follow it when a cry from George stopped me. I looked down and saw him standing over the body of Miss Stonor. She was lying on the floor. I could see from the moonlight from her room window that she lay in her nightdress. The whole house was woken by her scream. We picked her up and got her into her bed. All the while, she was whispering the same words, over and over: ‘Oh, the face, the face!’

Our adaptation of A Fight with a Ghost (Ch 7)

I turned the handle gently and opened my bedroom door. There was nothing to see in the corridor. But across the corridor, a door was open and I could see George’s head peeping out from behind it.

‘Hello,’ he said.

‘Hello,’ I replied.

‘Were you walking in the corridor just now?’ he asked.

‘No,’ I answered. ‘I thought it was you.’

‘Then who was it?’ he said. ‘I am sure I heard someone.’

We were silent for a moment; then he spoke again. ‘Come over here for a minute, I want to speak to you.’ I walked across the corridor and into the little study that joined his bedroom.

Inside George’s study, George poked the fire. ‘Do you think something strange is happening here in this house?’ he asked.

I said nothing.

George continued. ‘Every night, I hear footsteps out on the stairs…You have heard them, haven’t you?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I have.’

George’s voice shook when he spoke. ‘A couple of nights ago, I saw a horrible face staring at me from between those curtains behind you. It was gone in a second, but I definitely saw it.’

‘Did you look in your bedroom or in the corridor?’

`Yes – right away,’ he replied. ‘There was nothing there, but twice later I heard footsteps…’ He suddenly stopped talking and sat up straight in his chair, staring straight over my shoulder. His face was bloodless.

‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘What’s the matter?’ I turned around in my chair to look at the curtains just as they dropped back into place.

‘I saw it again – the same face – staring at me from between the curtains!’ George stammered.

 

 

 

 

Our adaptation of A Fight with a Ghost (Ch6)

I gave Mrs Carson the same prescription as Mrs Stonor. However, I decided not to tell George about the matter. I did not want to go back on my word to Mrs Carson or Miss Stonor. And my own experience on the stairs the night before had made me wary. But I was determined and I promised myself that the next day – which was Sunday – that I would not go to church. With the rest of them away, I would stay at home and explore the house. There was obviously a mystery and I wanted to try and clear it up.

We all sat up late that night. Everyone was reluctant to go to bed. But at last Mrs Carson got up and said ‘Goodnight’. She gave me a nod. Miss Stonor got out of her chair and both the ladies went upstairs. George and I parted company in the corridor above. Our rooms were opposite each other.

I did not get ready for bed at once but sat down and tried to come up with a theory about what was happening. But the more I thought about it the more confused I became. I was sure that I had put my hand on something very alive and extremely unpleasant the night before. The thought of it made me shudder. What living thing could possibly be creeping around the house at night? It was a man’s hand. Because of its size, I was sure of that. It wasn’t George Carson’s hand. That was out of the question because he was in his room all the time. Nor was old Mr Carson sneaking about his own house and refusing to answer. I did not feel comfortable at all and looked in all the cupboards and even under my own bed before I started to undress for bed. Then I went to my door to lock it. Just as I put my hand on the key I heard a soft step in the corridor outside. It was then followed by a sigh and a groan.

 

Our adaptation of A Fight With A Ghost (Ch5)

I put down my billiard cue and went over to Miss Stonor.

`Look, Miss Stonor,’ I said taking her hand, which was hot and feverish. `I am a doctor and a friend of George. Now tell me all about it, and I will do my best to sort it out.’

She was crying as she spoke. But she managed to tell me that every night since arriving at Woodcote she had been awakened in some mysterious way. She had seen a horrible face looking at her. As soon as she moved, the face would disappear. She believed the apparition only existed in her imagination, and this frightened her even more: she feared she was going mad.

I told her that she had a nervous disorder, and I promised that I would get her a prescription from the village. She told me not to tell anyone, especially George and she went away relieved. But I was not certain that I had made the correct diagnosis of her. You see I had been rather upset myself just hours before. George was away longer than I thought and I was going to go away and find him when I met Mrs Carson.

`Can you spare me a moment?’ she asked. `I want to speak to you, alone.’

`With pleasure, Mrs Carson,’ I replied. `Let’s speak an hour from now.’

`It is good to have a doctor in the house,’ she said with a nervous laugh. `Now I want you to prescribe me a sleeping pill. My nerves are out of order and I am not sleeping well.’

‘Do you see faces…and such things when you wake?’ I asked.

“How do you know?’ she asked quickly.

`We doctors notice and observe these things.’ I said.

‘I know you might think that I am mad but it is making me quite ill. It seems rather real to me. I didn’t want to mention it to Mr Carson or George in case they thought I was mad too.’

 

A Fight with a Ghost (Ch4)

I must admit, I was in a bit of a panic. It must have shown in my face.

‘What’s the matter?’ George asked, as I almost fell into his study.

‘Oh, nothing,’ I answered. ‘I dropped my candle and lost my way.’

‘But who were you talking to? ’

‘I was only cursing out loud because I dropped my candle, ‘ I lied.

‘Oh, I thought perhaps you had seen…somebody,’ replied George.

For some reason, I didn’t want to tell him the truth. I did not want him to laugh me. But I was determined to stay and have a complete rest.

That night, I woke up several times with the feeling of that cold hand under my own – a clammy hand which writhed its fingers under my own as my fingers closed upon it.

The next morning after breakfast, I was in the billiard room again practicing some shots and George Carson was over at the stables. The door opened and Miss Stonor looked in.

‘Come in,’ I said. ‘George will be back from the stables in a few minutes.’

‘I wanted to speak to you, ‘ she said.

She was looking very tired and ill and began to think I should not have had this holiday at all.

‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ she asked, closing the door and coming towards the billiard table. She stood leaning with both her hands upon it.

‘No,’ I replied, missing an easy shot as I remembered my experience on the stairs last night.

‘And, supposing that a person did believe in them and saw them, ‘ Miss Stonor paused, ‘Is there any cure?’

‘What do you mean, Miss Stonor?’ I asked, looking at her with some surprise. `Do you mean that you… ‘ I stopped because Miss Stonor turned away, sat down in one of the chairs, and burst into tears.

‘Oh, please help me,’ she cried. `I believe I am going mad!’

Our adaptation of ‘A Fight with a Ghost’ Chapter 3

The second night after my arrival – I remember, the rest of the family had all gone to bed – George and I retired to the study for a drink and a chat before bed. The study was upstairs and next to his bedroom. We sat down and I remembered that I had left my pipe in the billiard room. The house was now in darkness, so I lit a candle and made my way down through the house. The house looked weird in the flickering light of the candle and the stairs creaked in an awful way as I made my way down them. It sounded like someone was following me down them. I found my pipe where I had left it in the billiard room. I returned upstairs in more of a hurry than was needed and I stumbled on the stairs and dropped my candle. It went out. After a few moments, I found it, but I had no matches and I had to make my way along by feeling the cold wooden banister of the stair. It was so dark that I could not see my own hand. As I made my way slowly up the stairs, with my hand sliding along the cold smooth wood, it suddenly slid over something cold and clammy. I stopped dead and closed my fingers around it. It was another hand, a thin, bony hand that pulled itself slowly away from the grip of my own. And although I could see and hear nothing, I could feel something going past me on the stairs.

‘What’s that? Who are you?’ I called.

There was no answer.

Our adaptation of A Fight with a Ghost (Ch2)

“The house was called ‘Woodcote’ and it was a nice place to look at. It was out in the country but not too far from the train station. It was quiet but not remote. The Carsons had been lucky. It was a very good house, bought at a good price. George had told me that the owner had taken unwell and he had moved abroad because of his poor health.

Over the years, the house had been repaired and other rooms had been added. A billiard room had been built out at the back of the house. This was very handy when the weather was bad and you could not go out. Attending that New Year at the house was George, his mum and dad, young Ms Carson and Miss Stonor, who now, of course, is Mrs Carson, and lastly, myself.

Now Miss Stonor should have been happy. George Carson was, apart from being a very nice fellow, wealthy and ambitious. But, it appeared to me that there was something on her mind because she looked nervous and restless. I saw that George had noticed this. He looked puzzled, and a couple of times I caught him watching Miss Stonor anxiously. But, there was no doctor there and I was not a doctor, so it was no business of mine. But I was to discover the reason for Miss Stonor’s anxiety before I left Woodcote. “

Our adaptation of A Fight with a Ghost (Chapter 1) by Q.E.D

‘No, I have never believed in ghosts,’ said the doctor, `but I have always been afraid of them.’

‘Have you ever seen one?’ asked one of the other men.

The doctor took the cigar from his mouth and looked at it for a moment before replying. `I have had some rather strange and surprising experiences,’ he said. `Do you want to hear about one of them? It gives me the shivers just speaking about it.’

We all nodded. The doctor took a sip of his drink, shook his shoulders, and began:

`Do you remember George Carson who played for the University some years ago; a big chap with a light moustache? Well, I saw a lot of him before he got married. It was just after he got engaged to Miss Stonor, who is now Miss Carson, and he asked me to go down to a place that his people owned in the country. Miss Stonor was going to be there and I was to meet her. I could not go down on Christmas day because I wanted to be with my own family that day. However, I wanted a bit of a rest, and some time in the country sounded good, so I decided to go and see George for a couple of days around New Year.’

Final chapter of The Purple Pileus by H.G. Wells

‘Well one day, Jennie and her boyfriend came to my home,’ Mr Coombes told Tom. `We had a terrible row and after that, I came out here for a walk – it was a day just like this. I thought about what to do. Then I went back to the house and had another row!’

`Really?’ asked his brother Tom.

`Yes. I threw Jennie’s boyfriend out the house and smashed things about.’

`What did Mrs Coombes do?’

`Well, she ran up the stairs and locked herself in the bedroom.’

`And?’

`Well, I just told her. Now you know what I am like when I’m angry. And I never had to say one word more again.’

`And you have been happy ever after, eh?’

Mr Coombes thought for a second. `Yes,’ he said. ‘It has been better. If it hadn’t been for that afternoon…I’d be walking the roads right now. There’s nothing like putting your foot down. Now we’re alright and the business is doing well.’

`Good,’ said Tom. ‘I’m glad.’

They walked on together. But then Tom stopped. `What a lot of strange fungi there are here!’ he said, looking at the ground.

Mr Coombes looked down too. `I think they must be for some wise purpose,’ he said.

And that was the only thanks that the Purple Pileus ever got for waking up this absurd little man and changing his life forever.

Our adaptation of the Purple Pileus by H.G. Wells (Ch9)

Five years passed. Again it was a Sunday afternoon in October and again Mr Coombes was out walking by the canal. He was still the same man as before, and yet there was something different about him. He was thinner and he walked straighter, his overcoat was new as was his hat and gloves. He looked like a man who was happy with himself. Beside him, walked his brother Tom, just back from Australia.

`You have a very nice little business, Jim,’ said brother Tom. `In these hard days you have done well. And you are lucky to have a wife who is so happy to help you.’

`Between you and me,’ said Mr Coombes, `it wasn’t always like this. To begin with, she was not keen to help at all.’

`Really?’

Mr Coombes continued. `You would not think it, but at first she was very extravagant and always angry at me. I was a bit too loving, too gentle. She did what she wanted, always having her relations over and her girlfriends and their chaps. Comic songs on a Sunday, too. It was all getting too much and driving business away. I tell you Tom, the place wasn’t my own.’

`Dear, oh dear,’ said Tom, `I’m surprised.’

‘I tried to bargain with her. But she wouldn’t listen to me…She wouldn’t listen to my warnings.’

`So what happened?’ asked brother Tom.

Our adaptation of The Purple Plieus (Chapter 8)

The young man, Clarence, was a coward. He would not meet the fury in Mr Coombes’s eyes. Coombes rushed at him, fungi in hand. Jennie gave a shriek like a ghost and ran for the door, trying to escape. Mr Coombes followed her, but Clarence got in the way. With a crash, the tea table fell over as Coombes grabbed Clarence by the collar and tried to push the fungus into Clarence’s mouth. Clarence struggled free, happy to leave his collar in Mr Coombes’s hand as he escaped into the hall.

‘Run!’ Mrs Coombes cried. She wanted to shut the living room door, but her legs would not move. Jennie saw the shop door open at the back of the house. She ran in there and locked the door behind her. At the same time, Clarence ran into the kitchen, and Mrs Coombes ran upstairs and locked herself in the spare bedroom.

Standing in the hall, Mr Coombes hesitated. With a hat full of fungus under his arm, he considered where to go first. He decided on the kitchen. Clarence was still trying to lock the door. He heard Mr Coombes coming and ran for the back door. Mr Coombes caught Clarence before he could open the door to the yard. Mr Coombes told him that his face was a mess and dragged him to the kitchen sink and scrubbed his head under the tap with a hard black brush. After this, he gave Clarence his coat and Clarence was allowed to leave. Jennie was still locked in the shop, and she stayed there the rest of the evening.

Mr Coombes returned to the kitchen and drank the five bottles of beer that Mrs Coombes kept for ‘medical’ purposes. Then Mr Coombes ended that Sunday evening by having a long and peaceful sleep in the coal shed.

Our adaptation of the Purple Pileus by H. G. Wells (Ch7)

Something fell over in the shop; it sounded like a chair. Then there was the noise of steps, careful and deliberate, outside in the hall. A moment later, the living room door opened, and Mr Coombes appeared. But he looked different. His usually neat collar was undone, his velvet hat was upside down and was filled with strange fungi, and his coat was inside out and marked with grass. But it was his face that had changed the most. It was white as a sheet, his eyes were wild, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

‘A merry hello!’ Mr Coombes said, danced three steps into the room, and bowed.

‘Jim!’ cried Mrs Coombes, her mouth open wide in surprise.

`Tea!’ said Mr Coombes, `and toadstools too. A jolly thing!’

‘He’s drunk,’ said Jennie.

Mr Coombes held out a handful of the fungi to Mr Clarence, `Have some,’ he said. ‘It’s jolly good stuff,’ Mr Coombes said, sounding happy and relaxed. But a moment later, when he saw their shocked faces, his mood changed completely. `It is my house!’ he yelled furiously, ‘I am master here and you will eat what I give you!’

He stood in the middle of the room and stared at them. In his outstretched hand, the red and yellow fungi lay.

Our adaptation of The Purple Pileus by H.G. Wells (Ch6)

Mr Coombes laughed at the sudden happiness he felt. Was he dull? If so, he would not be dull any longer! Unsteadily, he stood up and looked at the world around him with a smile on his face. He began to remember. He had been disagreeable at home earlier because they wanted to be happy. But they were right and I was wrong; life should be as happy as possible. I’ll go home and be less grumpy, he thought. And I’ll take some of this fungus. In fact, I’ll fill my hat with it! So he did. And when his hat was full, he walked off, singing and looking forward to a happy evening…

 

*

The three of them – Mr Clarence, Mrs Coombes, and Jenny – were sitting around the fire, looking miserable.

‘You see what I have to put up with, Mr Clarence,’ said Mrs Coombes angrily.

‘He is a bit hasty,’ replied Mr Clarence.

‘All he cares about is his old shop. And if I buy myself something to make myself look nice or spend some of the housekeeping money or have a bit of company, there is an argument. He lies awake at night worrying about money and how to make me do without.’

‘If a man appreciates a woman,’ Mr Clarence said, ‘he must make sacrifices for her.’

‘I agree,’ said Jennie.

‘I should not have married him,’ said Mrs Coombes. A silence fell. Eventually Mrs Coombes got up and made some tea. When she came back, she heard a key turn in the door. Mr Coombes had returned.

‘Here is my Lord and master,’ said Mrs Coombes, sarcastically. ‘He went out like a lion but comes back like a lamb. Just you wait and see.’

Our adaptation of H. G. Wells’s Purple Pileus (Ch5)

The odour was strong – but not disgusting. He broke off a piece of the fungus. The smooth surface was creamy white. It changed like magic in about ten seconds to a yellowish–green colour. He broke off another two pieces and the same thing happened. They were wonderful things these fungi, thought Mr Coombes and all of them the deadliest of poisons. His father had told him this often. Deadly poison!

Why not try a little, here and now? thought Mr Coombes. He put a little piece, a very little piece – a crumb – in his mouth. It tasted so strong that he nearly spat it out. It tasted hot and full-flavoured, like hot mustard with a touch of horseradish and…mushroom. In the excitement of the moment, he swallowed it. Did he like it, or did he not? He tried another bit. It really wasn’t bad. In that moment, he forgot all his troubles. He was playing with death. He took another bite, deliberately taking a mouthful. A strange feeling, a tingling, started in his finger tips and his toes. His pulse began to beat faster. The blood in his ears pounded. He turned around and looked about himself. He struggled towards a little patch of purple fungi about twelve feet away. “Jolly good stuff,” he said out loud and fell on his face, his hands outstretched towards the fungi. But he did not eat any more of it. He just lay there, in the grass.

After a while, he sat up with a look of astonishment. He brushed off his silk hat. He put his hand to his forehead. Something had happened. He was no longer feeling dull – quite the opposite. Now, he was feeling bright and cheerful!

 

Our adaptation of H.G.Wells’s The Purple Pileus (Ch4)

His money was all in his business. ‘If I leave my wife,’ he thought, ‘I will lose all my money. She can make me homeless!’ No. He could not afford a divorce. He thought about the marriage vows. He was married – ‘for better, or worse.’

But sometimes, tragic things happened. Sometimes, marriages ended very badly indeed. Bricklayers kicked their wives to death and small clerks and shopkeepers cut their wives’ throats….

Mr Coombes thought about such terrible things for a long time. He thought about razors and breadknives and pistols; he thought about going to jail and praying for forgiveness. But eventually he grew bored. His anger lessened, and he became sad. He looked down at himself, at his overcoat. When he married his wife, he had worn it. He looked at the path. In the early days of their marriage, they had walked along it, hand in hand. What had happened? Why had it all worked out so badly?

He looked at the canal’s water. Should he just stand in the middle of it with his arms out stretched and…?

While he was thinking of drowning himself, he saw the purple pileus for the first time. At first, he thought it was a leather purse. Then he saw it was a strange, poisonous-looking purple fungus. He touched it. It was slimy. It smelt bad too. He stared at the purple fungus as the thought of poisoning crossed his mind.

Our adaptation of the Purple Pileus (Ch3)

They all started to talk at once. The guest said he was going to marry Jenny and would protect her. Mr Coombes told him he could protect her anywhere, but not in his house. Mrs Coombes told him he should be ashamed for insulting her guests. She told him he really was an annoying little grub.

It all ended with Mr Coombes telling the guests to leave his house. But they wouldn’t go. In the end, Mr Coombes left. With his face burning red and tears in his eyes with anger, he went into the hall, put on his overcoat, and brushed his silk hat. Jenny began to play the piano again, over and over again: the same little, silly tune. Mr Coombes slammed the door shut and walked away, angry and frustrated.

He walked along the muddy path among the fir trees. It was October; the ground was soft with pine needles and lots of fungi were growing. Mr Coombes thought about his marriage and its history. He now saw that his wife had married him because she had had an uncertain, hard life and wanted a better one with him.

She was supposed to help him with his business, but she was too stupid. And they argued about money all the time. ‘You spend too much,’ he would say. She didn’t like to hear that. ‘Why can’t you be nice to me?’ she would ask. She also had a family that annoyed him. They caused trouble for his business and helped his wife to spend his money. It was not the first time he had run from his house in anger and frustration. But never before had he felt like this, so sick of life. So he walked along the path, his head down, breathing in the thick-smelling air. The evil-smelling fungi grew to his left and to his right.

A wife that did not really love him and a business that was in trouble. Perhaps that was his destiny, perhaps it was meant to be this way.

Our adaptation of The Purple Pileus by H. G. Wells (Ch2)

Jenny had kept on playing. His wife sat behind the piano and watched him. `What’s wrong now?’ she asked. `Can’t people enjoy themselves?’

`I don’t mind people enjoying themselves,’ said an angry Mr Coombes, `but I am not going to accept such noise on a Sunday!’

`What is wrong with my playing now?’ asked Jenny, stopping and twirling around on the music stool.

Mr Coombes couldn’t stop himself; he was angry and he opened his mouth without thinking. `Be careful with that music stool,’ he said. ‘It isn’t made for heavy-weights.’

`Never you mind about my weight,’ said Jenny angrily. ‘What did you say about my playing?’

`Surely you don’t mind a bit of music on a Sunday, Mr Coombes?’ asked Jenny’s male guest, leaning back in Mr Coombes’s armchair and smiling.

‘Never mind him,’ said Mrs Coombes, addressing Jenny but staring at her husband. ‘Just you keep on playing.’

`I do mind,’ said Mr Coombes to Jenny’s guest.

`May I ask why?’ asked the guest. He was enjoying himself and Mr Coombes saw that he wanted an argument. He was a thin young man, dressed in a bright clothes and a white cravat with a silver pin.

`Because,’ began Mr Coombes, `it doesn’t suit me. I am a businessman; I have to consider my connections.’

`His connections,’ said Mrs Coombes with scorn. `He is always saying that.’

`Then why did you marry me?’ Mr Coombes asked.

Jenny started to play the piano. The same little tune over and over again.

‘STOP IT,’ cried Mr Coombes and stood up.

`No violence now,’ said the guest.