Broken Mirror and Other Morbid Tales, by Carmilla Voiez
Thirteen tales of the macabre from horror author Carmilla Voiez. Meet a confused ghost, a vampire, searching for love, and a woman bent on revenge; visit a gateway to hell, a hotel in faery and an abandoned asylum, in this unique collection of stories.
Includes the novella Basement Beauty.
Excerpt from Basement Beauty
Amalthea stood outside the unlit entrance to “The Pit” and breathed in the cool, pre-dawn air. One hand brushed wild curls from her mouth and tucked them behind her ear. They sprang back across her cheek immediately, untameable.
As her skin acclimatised she drew jacket sleeves over her arms. It was her post-work ritual: the time when she metamorphosed from a human doing into a human being.
A movement at the edge of her vision attracted her attention and she turned towards the shadowy alley where the night club bins were stored. Her direct gaze didn’t reveal any ghoul, goblin, animal or person skulking in the darkness, watching and waiting for her to leave, but her mind created a sinister shape anyway. For the past six weeks the evening news had continually hinted at unnatural deaths city-wide and rumours of a modern day Jack the Ripper were rife. Now every alleyway had become hostile territory and every shadow a killer, preparing to strike.
With her meditative moments, of simply being, stolen by fear of the impenetrable darkness, Amalthea decided to button her coat and get moving. Home wasn’t far away, a mere ten minute walk and at four am most of the drunks were already home, sleeping it off, or standing, unsteadily in taxi queues, waiting for chariots to return them safely to their beds. In fact, that was one thing that could be said about fear of the dark - it was good for the economy.
Gentle but pervasive drizzle bejewelled her eyelashes and vainly attempted to flatten her hair. Street lights mutated into dancing constellations and pavements were dotted with quicksilver puddles. Amalthea’s boots leaked and the liquid made her toes squelch. Sucking and dripping sounds masked the noise of her footsteps and the perfectly matched slapping of shoe leather behind her. Of course, when she glanced back, the street was empty, but the moment she faced forwards she could feel his presence behind her, as always, matching her stride. He was the shadow from which she fled, unseen but perceived through all her other senses, making her hairline tingle - the man who wasn’t there.
She had tried to tell Lynsey of this consuming fear, but her friend hadn’t understood, dismissing her fears as paranoia. She decided in the future to only mention this deep, primal knowledge to her diary and wondered for one terrifying moment whether his other victims had known they were being hunted, but had kept silent or were disbelieved until the moment their vacated shells were discovered. She considered why she had dogmatically given this disembodied threat a male gender then shook her head. It was perfectly natural; serial killers were almost always male, weren’t they? The one who kills me will probably be male too, she reasoned.
Her scalp itched. Realising the utter pointlessness of another backwards glance, she balled her fists and marched onwards. Just five more minutes and she could lock the darkness outside, for what that was worth.
A shriek broke through the pittering-pattering shroud of raindrops. It echoed between tall Victorian town houses, converted into flats and bedsits - a cat or a baby waking from a nightmare? She waited for a repeat of the noise until she became aware that she had stopped moving and was standing as still as a statue as the rain continued to fall around and upon her. The sound didn’t return. Shivering, she willed her right foot to make its journey, one step forwards and asked her hip to tilt and her knee to bend. Movement didn’t follow her commands so she concentrated on her left foot instead - still nothing. Swallowing hard, she wiggled the toes of her left foot. Water moved between skin and cotton; the sensation made her nauseous and she felt her stomach fight to keep its nutrients safe within its fleshy walls.
‘Just walk, Tay,’ she whispered.
Rain hissed in her ears. Beneath her chin a waterfall tumbled onto her chest. Her face was hidden behind a veil of aqua.
‘Just walk… five minutes!’
Ahead of her a tree that overhung the path shook water from its leaves like a huge dog. Large drops splattered as they hit the ground. She wondered what waited beyond the tree, hidden behind the trunk and considered taking a longer route home, where the streets were less shadowy and the traffic more regular.
Shivering from cold and fear, she watched as the heavy branches bent and purged until the urge to vomit returned. One hand stretched out to a rough red-brick wall beside her, knees bent and hips angled yet her feet remained bolted to the spot.
How many had been killed already this year - ten, no twelve, would she be the thirteenth? She shook her head; this fear was not rational. She wasn’t being hunted and her home was a mere five minute walk from this spot. Five minutes… she could walk for five minutes. Five minutes… no distance at all, yet one step forwards felt beyond her reach.
‘Tay, get a grip!’ Her mind used her mother’s voice, dominant, matriarchal and full of a rich, musical patois. She nodded, fighting her foolishness and the paralysing fear of what - a tree, a shadow and a lone shriek? She wondered what set her off this time. ‘You is fierce, a powerful woman. This shit is beneath you, Amalthea. You shame me.’
Amalthea pushed against the wall, straightening her hips and knees. Raising her head, she blinked diamonds from her eyes. The raindrops altered their route and formed puddles within the cradles of her earlobes. With Herculean effort, she stepped forward. Once freed from their traps her legs adopted their natural rhythm. Swift and sure she passed beneath the branches as a single sphere fell and trickled between her neck and jacket collar. In less than five minutes she reached home, pushing bolts into place and turning keys in locks.