Elvis awoke in a cold, dank sweat, hungover from bourbon and bad dreams. The nightmares had consisted of him being hunted through a swamp by the murderous spectre of Jesse, his stillborn twin. His pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the mansion. He stumbled into the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face and looked in the mirror, only to be confronted by his own ashen reflection and that of his grinning doppelganger. Jesse tightly wrapped the umbilical cord around Elvis’ throat and pulled it until his brother breathed no more. The king is dead, long live the king, he muttered.
The Return Of The Tingler
As the bright spring afternoon melted into evening, Dr Shearing’s office grew darker. As did Lee Madison’s thoughts.
“13 Ghosts?” said Dr Shearing. He pulled sharply at his shirt cuffs. “I can’t say that I’m familiar with that particular film, or Mr William Castle’s oeuvre as a director, to be honest.”
Lee Madison cringed as Shearing spoke. The psychiatrist whistled when he pronounced the letter‘s’ and the sound almost perforated Lee’s ear drums.
“Oh it was massively popular at the time. There was even a remake a while back,” said Lee. “All flash-trash and CGI, though.”
The egg stain on Dr Shearing’s paisley tie had distracted Lee so much he’d had to turn away to look at the silent television in the corner of the room. Images of corn fields rolled across the screen.
“But The Tingler was his most famous film,” continued Lee. “He set up a gadget in the cinema seats that gave people little electric shocks when The Tingler appeared on the screen,” He turned to Shearing and grinned, beaming.
“A monster that lives on fear, you say? Quite clever actually,” said Dr Shearing, who was sweating even more than usual. “A slightly Freudian shadow cast, eh?”
He took his ballpoint pen and scribbled on a yellow post-it-note that he then stuck inside his worn brown briefcase. He clicked the briefcase closed and looked at Lee.
“So, you said you were about seven when your own particular ‘Tingler’ appeared?”
Lee nodded to himself. Glanced at Shearing.
“I think so. We were on a school day out. I was running down the side of a cliff with a group of other kids when I started to panic. Imagined myself crashing down to the ground below. My head smashed to pieces. And then the panic took control of me. So, I decided to see what would happen if I just let myself fall.”
“Everything went black and red. I came to near a swimming pool and a teacher was shouting at me while she bathed my face in chlorine stinking water. I was off school for weeks. Never really got into the habit of going to school after that, to be honest.”
“And The Tingle returned when?”
“Off and on. When I saw the school bus turn the corner, for example. I just wanted to throw myself under it. Or if I saw a sharp knife, I felt the urge to run it across my tongue.”
Shearing repressed a grimace.
“And when did this stop?”
“Well, it didn’t. It got worse when I was a teenager. The Tingler was like a cowl wrapping itself around my head. Smothering my brain. My thoughts.”
“And nothing could stop it? Ease it?”
“Sex took the edge off for a while. But that didn’t last long.”
“So, that is when you started drinking?”
“Yes, the booze helped. And then the drugs.”
“Their affects wore off pretty quickly. And then, one night, just after Christmas, I was walking down a path, late at night. It was freezing. I saw an old man shuffling in front of me. Almost slipping over on the ice. In a flash, I realised that I could just kill him. And it wouldn’t matter. No one would know. I could get away with it without a problem. The Tingler almost strangled me.”
“And so I picked up a brick, ran up to him and smashed his head to pieces like a soft boiled egg.”
Shearing gulped. His mouth arid.
“And what happened to The Tingler after that,” said Shearing, looking uncomfortable.
“It was gone for quite a long time after that. But, it was always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Of course, it crept further forward. Until eventually it was at the front of my brain.”
“A singular truth, Doctor. There truly are no consequences.”
Lee swept up a pencil and stabbed it into Dr Shearing’s eye. Again and again. Pushing it up toward his brain.
And The Tingler slipped away from his body like a shadow during night time. Only waiting for the break of dawn.
After enduring forty-five years of a marriage that was, at best, like wading through treacle, Oliver Robinson eventually had enough and smothered his wife with the beige corduroy cushion that he’d accidentally burned with a cigarette two fraught days before.
Oliver had been, for most of his life, a temperate man and he had survived the sexless marriage – its colourless cuisine and half-hearted holidays – with a stoicism that bordered on indifference. But his patience had been stretched to the breaking point by Gloria’s constant disapproval of almost everything he did.
And then there was the “tut.”
The tut invariably accompanied Gloria’s scowl whenever Oliver poured himself an evening drink or smoked a cigarette. She would tut loudly if he spilled the salt. Or swore. Or stayed up late to watch the snooker. The tut, tut, tut was like the rattle of a machine gun that seemed to echo through their West London home from dusk till dawn until he reached the end of his tether.
Wrapping his wife’s body in the fluffy white bedroom rug, Oliver supposed that he should have felt guilty, depressed or scared – but he didn’t. Far from it. In fact, he felt as free and as light as a multi-coloured helium balloon that had been set adrift to float above a brightly lit fun fair.
Oliver fastened the rug with gaffer tape and dragged the corpse down the steps to the basement. As the head bounced from every step, it made a sound not unlike a tut and he had to fight the urge to say sorry.
He’d done enough apologising.
Oliver poured himself a whisky – at eight o’clock in the morning! – and it tasted better than any whisky he had ever tasted before. Looking around his antiseptic home, the sofa still wrapped in the plastic coating that it came in, he smiled.
Savouring the silence, he resisted the temptation to clean Gloria’s puke from the scarred cushion that had been the catalyst of her death. Taking a Marlboro full strength from the secret supply that was hidden in a hollowed-out hardback copy of Jaws – Gloria didn’t approve of fiction and would never have found the stash there – he proceeded to burn holes in every cushion in the house.
And then he started on the sofa.
Oliver’s brief burst of pyromania was interrupted when he thought he heard a tut, tut, tut from the hallway. His heart seemed to skip a beat or two, but then he gave a relieved laugh when it was just the sound of the letter box, flapping in the wind.
Disposal of Gloria’s body proved much easier than Oliver would have expected. On a bright Sunday morning in April he hauled Gloria’s corpse into the back of his car, keeping an eye out for nosy neighbours, and drove towards Jed Bramble’s rundown farm, and the village of Innersmouth.
Jed was an old school friend and fellow Territorial Army member whom Oliver occasionally used to meet for a sly drink in the Innersmouth Arms’ smoky, pokey snug. He was also a phenomenal lush. The plan was to get him comatose and then feed Gloria’s body to his pigs. Oliver knew the farm was on its last legs, along with most of the livestock, so he felt sure that the poor emaciated creatures would be more than happy to tuck in to Gloria’s cadaver.
Perched on the passenger seat Oliver had a Sainsbury’s bag stuffed with six bottles of Grant’s Whisky. Just in case, he had a bottle of diazepam in his pocket, which he’d used to drug Gloria.
Just outside Innersmouth it started to rain. Tut, tut went the rain on the windscreen. At first it was only a shower but then it fell down in sheets. Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut.
Oliver switched on the windscreen wipers but every swish seemed to be replaced by a tut. He opened up a bottle of whisky and drank until the rain resumed sounding like rain.
Outside the dilapidated farmhouse, Jed stood with a rifle over his arm, looking more than a little weather-beaten himself. His straggly hair was long and greasy and his red eyes lit up like Xmas tree lights when he saw Oliver’s booze.
The cold Monday morning air tasted like tin to Oliver as, hungover and wheezing, he pulled Gloria’s body from the car and dumped it in the big sty. The starving wretches took to their meal with relish. Watching, Oliver vomited, but he didn’t try to stop the proceedings.
Back at the farmhouse Jed was still slumped over the kitchen table, snoring heavily. Oliver collapsed into a battered armchair and started to sweat and shake. He’d decided to stay with Jed for a few days, keeping him safely inebriated until Gloria’s remains were completely consumed. But as the days grew dark the tut returned.
The tick tock of Jed’s grandfather clock, for instance, was replaced by a tut, tut. The drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap kept him awake at night and became a tut, tut, tut. The postman’s bright and breezy rat-a-tat-tat on the front door seemed to pull the fillings right from his teeth. He turned on the radio but even Bob Dylan was tut, tut, tutting on heaven’s door.
The usually bustling Innersmouth High Street was almost deserted now. The majority of the local people were cowering indoors – in shops, pubs, fast food joints. Oliver walked down the street with Jed’s rifle over his shoulder. No matter how many people he shot he still couldn’t seem to escape the sound of Gloria’s disapprobation.
Tut went the gun when he shot the postman.
Tut, tut when he pressed the trigger and blew Harry the milkman’s brains out.
Tut, tut, tut when he blasted fat PC Thompson to smithereens as he attempted to escape by climbing over the infant school wall.
Oliver heard the sirens of approaching police cars in the distance and realised there was only one thing left to do.
Pushing the gun into his mouth he squeezed the trigger.
The last sound that he heard was a resounding TUT!
(c) Paul D. Brazill
These yarns first appeared online at Flashshots, Shotgun Honey and Beat To A Pulp respectively.Pic (fragment) (c) Kasia Martell.