World’s Worst Ghost [Short Story]

  • This short story was first published in Calverton’s ‘Village Gazette’ in March 2019. Any resemblance to persons alive, dead (or undead) is entirely coincidental. Obviously.
Gary, in 1973, before the tractor hit him

‘I’M NOT asking for much,’ complained Gary. ‘I just want to terrify people. I want to see gut-wrenching dread in their eyes. Pure, undiluted, cardiac-inducing fear.’

Richard studied the figure sitting opposite him with weary indifference. In fairness, Richard held himself to high ethical standards. His professional integrity would never allow him to contravene the code of practice in ordinary circumstances, but it was obvious here that no amount of counselling from any seasoned psychologist could help with a case as hopeless as Gary’s. Placating him would just prolong the inevitable. Gary needed some home truths, and he needed them now.

‘I have something to say, Gary,’ said Richard.

He paused, realising just how much his temple was throbbing.

‘Just a moment, Gary. Would you mind?’ he mumbled.

‘By all means,’ replied Gary.

‘Thank you.’

Richard carefully removed his own head from his shoulders and placed it neatly on the couch next to him. The relief was instant. Richard didn’t know how he’d ever managed to walk around each day with his head permanently attached. Doing that just gave you migraines. He recalled the severe headache he’d had on the day he’d ceased to be employed as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth the First, the same day he’d also ceased breathing. Lizzie could be very unforgiving when the inner circle let her down, the mardy cow.

Gary watched Richard enviously from behind the silly-looking white sheet he wore over his head.

Not to be confused with ‘Actually Headless Rick’

Just look at him, thought Gary. He’s a proper ghost. Genuinely, effortlessly, frightening. By comparison, I’m

‘The world’s worst ghost,’ said Richard. ‘That’s you, that is, Gary. You need to know that you’re terrible. Not ‘terrifying’ terrible, heavens no. You’re about as terrifying as your average fluffy hamster. I mean ‘complete and total pants’ terrible. But we need to deal with it, Gary, so there can be healing. As ghosts come, Gary, there are brilliant and amazing ghosts, and there are utterly rubbish ghosts. Rubbish ghosts like you, Gary. You’re an embarrassment to the afterlife.’

There was a stunned silence as Gary tried, and failed, to process this. Richard had never spoken to him this way before. The words had been calculated, cutting, hurtful.

His views finally out in the open, Richard sighed with relief. It was rare, as a counsellor, for him to find his own words therapeutic. He wondered if he should start paying himself by the hour.

Oh no! Gary had started blustering again. More denial. Richard could feel his hackles rising.

‘But I can do it, Richard,’ Gary retorted. ‘All I need is a different costume …’

‘For pity’s sake, Gary!’ Richard snapped, jerking so violently he almost knocked his bonce into a dustbin. ‘We know that’s not possible! When a dead person becomes a ghost, they’re destined to always wear the clothes they died in. You were killed by a moving tractor, while running across the road, pretending to be a ghost. You were wearing that sheet over your head at the time, so now you’re spending eternity as a real ghost who looks like a pretend ghost. These are the facts, Gary.’

Gary wasn’t going down without a fight.

‘But that’s not fair!’ he gibbered. ‘Maybe I can do other things to make me scarier, like wail a bit, or rattle some chains. I’m already brilliant at climbing into the back of taxis at night-times. They proper brick it when they see me. The drivers are that scared, they won’t drive down Georges Lane after dark. All because of me.’

Richard’s head raised a quizzical eyebrow, then threw a sideways glance at Richard’s hand as it quickly scribbled down three words on a parchment.

Transferable. Behaviour. Traits.

The White Lady (quite a bit scarier than Gary)

‘George’s Lane, you say?’ enquired Richard, suspiciously. ‘George’s Lane in Calverton, Nottinghamshire?’

There was something about Gary’s story that didn’t ring true. The figure in the white sheet shifted uncomfortably in his chair, sensing the game was up.

‘Er. Yes, that’s the one,’ murmured Gary.

‘It’s just that I’ve heard, Gary,’ continued Richard, ‘that the taxi cab hauntings are the work of a restless spirit called The White Lady. They are emphatically not the work of the figure known colloquially by the residents of the village as The Prat In The Sheet.’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ sulked Gary, avoiding Richard’s gaze.

‘I’m saying, Gary, that you have just taken the credit for something that all the available evidence clearly shows … somebody else did.’

Gary stared at Richard, annoyed that he’d been rumbled. Richard carried on. The new plan was in full swing now.

‘Could I show you these, Gary? I’d welcome your views.’

Gary studied the two photographs Richard had passed to him.

‘Who are these people?’ Gary asked, warily.

‘Were you buried or cremated?’ enquired Richard. ‘Just before we go any further.’

‘Buried. As far as I’m aware.’

‘Mm. Good,’ pondered Richard. ‘I mean, it’s not a straightforward ritual, Gary. We’d probably need a goat, a banana and some Morris dancers. But we should be able to reanimate you. You’d be a zombie and not a ghost, obviously, but then you would be rid of the sheet.’

‘I’m listening,’ said Gary. This actually sounded rather promising.

A deluded toff in a silly hat, 200 years ago

‘I have to say it worked rather splendidly with these two,’ said Richard. ‘Person in the first photo’s a former Chancellor of Balliol College, Oxford. Died at the turn of the nineteenth century. He’s never really shaken off those stuffy old Victorian values, has our Jacob.’

‘Oh,’ said Gary, still none-the-wiser.

‘As for the second photo, that’s Theresa. Hanged in Salem in 1693 on suspicion of witchcraft. These days she’s wishing they’d given her job to Boris.’

‘Who’s Boris?’ asked Gary.

‘The point I’m trying to make, Gary, is that you’d be ideally suited.’

‘Suited? To what, for goodness sake?’ cried Gary. He was quite beyond confused now.

‘Several ghosts have made the transition,’ Richard went on. ‘They walk freely, in plain sight, among the living every day. Gary, before you decide, let me ask you three simple questions. Do you have a soul?’

‘No. I’m a ghost.’

‘Do you have any real grip on reality?’

‘None whatsoever.’

‘Are you keen on hardship and suffering?’

‘Only other people’s.’

‘Then bingo!’ declared Richard. ‘There’s a future for you in British politics.’

Richard didn’t need to wait long for this penny to drop.

‘Oh! Oh … get in!’ howled Gary, excitedly, jumping to his feet and punching the air in triumph. Of course! How had he not seen this all along?

‘Where … where do I start?’ Gary ventured, barely able to contain himself. ‘A job in the cabinet, perhaps?’

‘Not straight away,’ said Richard, with a wink. ‘But if you’re passing off other people’s successes as your own, let’s start you off as a Parliamentary candidate for the Tories.’

copyright (c) carterbloke 2019

Photo credits

The following photo (with effects added) used under Creative Commons licence.

Other photos:

Twinkles [Short Story]

  • WARNING: NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED. ‘Tinkerbell’ meets ‘Tales Of The Unexpected.’ I don’t think ‘Writing Magazine’ wants me to enter any more adult fairy story competitions.

IT WAS, indeed, a sign of the times that even the fairies had resorted to theft.

Jan had collapsed at the first sniff of the magic dust, but Twinkles had reckoned without him falling across the doorway. The big oak door wouldn’t budge with three hundred pounds of bodybuilding Dutchman lying unconscious in front of it.

Jan, despite his fluttering assailant’s best efforts, wasn’t moving. Brute strength was never going to work. Twinkles was just two inches tall and Jan was a mountain. Also, Twinkles didn’t really know any proper magic, certainly nothing she could use in a situation like this. Twinkles had skipped fairy school far too often to learn anything more than the basics.

In fairness, she made a spectacular blend of fairy dust which had won her prizes at the Great Summer Fete, an event organised in her home town every year. Very popular the Fete had been too, right up to its ill-fated final year when it had been tragically razed to the ground by an inebriated dragon.

Now, thoughts of the Fete took Twinkles back to a dark place, a place where a hopeful young fairy’s life had been destroyed forever. Twinkles’ mother had been cruelly taken from her whilst innocently exhibiting chutney. Twinkles remembered hovering there, wings beating uselessly in the breeze, watching as the marquee went up like a firework in the savage, all-consuming furnace of a dragon’s burp.

As well as the fairy dust Twinkles could also, by twitching her nostrils, turn almost any potato into a hamster.

Twinkles bitterly regretted her magical limitations now. Her friend Dingle Dangle could have made Jan disappear with a flick of her wand. Piff Paff could have levitated him. Geoff could have passed straight through the door like a ghost.

Geoff didn’t have a fairy-sounding name like the other fairies.

But her friends weren’t there to help Twinkles now, and weeks of meticulous planning had ended in failure. She wouldn’t be able to pay Lamulax the Demon King his rent when he came calling, and he’d unleash his hounds on her.

Jan, regaining consciousness, interrupted Twinkles’ train of thought with a sudden grunt. Jan saw Twinkles spinning before his eyes, recoiled in terror and confusion, and lashed out clumsily in self-defence. It was futile. She was too fast. Jan took a desperate swing at his tiny, shiny nemesis, missed her completely, and tripped over his own feet, falling headlong down a nearby staircase.

Indifferent to the fate of the once more poleaxed Jan, Twinkles turned the door handle and entered the study.

Moonlight from the window behind Twinkles flooded the room. The diamonds spread across the antique mahogany desk reflected the moonbeams back at her. The gems sparkled seductively. Twinkles knew that her victim had planned to work into the night. She had timed it so well.

Markus Grunhild was slumped across his desk, fingers still touching the tumbler of brandy poured from the decanter Twinkles had drugged that morning. Presuming Grunhild had passed out during his first drink, which he would have poured – creature of habit as he was – at eight pm, he would have swallowed enough tranquiliser to keep him out for maybe an hour. The grandfather clock in the study was striking nine. Twinkles didn’t have long.

Oh no. Grunhild had fallen, head down, over the diamonds. Twinkles saw his fingers twitch. He was waking up and she’d have to act quickly.

Twinkles had first noticed Grunhild on a sunny morning two months ago when he’d flashed a smile outside one of Amsterdam’s most exclusive banks. Twinkles had seen the words ‘M. Grunhild’ stencilled in golden calligraphy on the expensive attaché case, eavesdropped on Grunhild telling a giant companion called Jan about a ‘consignment from Dubai’ and plans for a ‘secure inspection.’

Grunhild had stepped into an armoured vehicle with a silver briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. It was easy for the tiny fairy to follow the vehicle unobserved to its destination, a mansion cum fortress in the suburbs. No expense had been spared in equipping the premises with the latest high-tech security features. For any intruder to break in unnoticed they would need to be invisible or extremely small.


Like Twinkles.

Twinkles had learned more online at one of Amsterdam’s internet cafes, hopping from key to key, googling Grunhild. The man was a world-renowned authority on diamonds. The bank regularly brought him in from his office in Bremen, Germany, to value gems. This latest set was from Nigeria with an estimated value of more than five hundred and seventy million Euros.

Back in the present, Grunhild woke to find his arms and legs bound tightly to a chair. As he moved his head and upper body from the desk, Twinkles tugged hard on the cord she’d secured around his shoulders, snapping Grunhild upright.

As ghastly a surprise as this was for Grunhild, it was little compared to the sight of a firefly of strangely human appearance dancing malevolently in front of him. It was time for Twinkles to claim her loot. The back-up anaesthetic she’d already deployed into Grunhild was doing its work.

‘What … what are you doing?’ he managed before all feeling was lost and speech became impossible.

Twinkles may, for half a second, have wondered to herself how everything had come to this, but there was little conscience left in her now. She had crossed a line and was on a path which would lead her, kicking and screaming, into Tinkerhell.

The diamonds meant nothing, for they were as worthless as apple pips in Fairyland. What did pay the bills, however, was teeth. Gold-capped ones in particular. It was Grunhild’s own set of these, shining in the sun when he’d smiled, which had caught Twinkles’ eye outside the bank.

The CCTV camera in the study whirred on, but no-one was watching. The guards in the control room had long since been fairy-dusted.

Twinkles rummaged in her sack for an appropriate tool. She knew that Lamulax wouldn’t care if the rent was in less than pristine condition.

And so, with there being no real need for finesse, Twinkles the tooth fairy swung down the claw hammer.

copyright (c) carterbloke 2019

Photo credits

The following photos (with formatting effects added) used under Creative Commons licence.

  • Mordred Fairy c/o *Death Essence* (

Eye On The Road [Short Story]

  • This short story was first published in Calverton’s ‘Village Gazette’ in February 2019. 
Trevor the Cyclops

TREVOR HAD known about the eyesight test but hadn’t prepared for the unicorn’s buttocks. Trevor had begged his unicorn, Keith, to stay still, but the horn-headed blighter, highly-strung at the best of times, was having none of it. The registration number, stencilled on Keith’s gluteus maximus, swayed elusively from side to side as the wretched creature munched contentedly on the patch of magic toadstools on the grass in front of him.

‘I can’t see the number. I’m sorry,’ muttered Trevor, feebly. He quietly prayed for the earth to open up and swallow him. Literally. This had happened to his friend Andy last week, a demon from a hell dimension.

‘Are you sure, Mr Chuckles?’ asked the werewolf in the high-vis jacket. ‘I’d have expected this from a vampire bat, ‘cos they’re short-sighted, but not from something like you.’

It’s not the unicorn, thought Trevor. It’s my eyesight. The first cyclops in two millennia to be clinically diagnosed with blurred vision and I’m too humiliated to disclose it when booking my driving test.

‘I need to pass this test,’ Trevor whimpered. ‘Please. It’s important. I start my new job tomorrow at Trent Barton.’

A hairy Driving Examiner

‘If the new job involves passenger transport, Mr Chuckles,’ said the driving examiner werewolf ruefully, ‘I think we have a problem.’

The werewolf, momentarily distracted, gazed upwards, wrinkling his long, hairy snout. The full moon hung there in the night sky but morning was coming quickly. In an hour or two it would be dawn and he’d likely wake up naked in a skip with memory loss again. He needed for this shift to be over, and for a savage bloodthirsty rampage in the forest, in that order. He’d need to hurry this test along. He dipped a claw in an ink pot and began to fill out the paperwork.

‘A paper-based form?’ enquired Trevor, surprised.

‘And use the mobile IT solution with these claws?’ retorted the werewolf, unhappily. His union was still arguing with Driving Standards because they’d not considered werewolf needs in the Equality Impact Assessment for examiner tech. The griffins and wookies had similar concerns and the banshees were out on strike over it.

‘The registration number! It’s … it’s … KV99 B47!’ shrieked Trevor triumphantly. He’d put on his monocle this time. Also, Keith had temporarily stopped jiggling his tush, which was nice.

The werewolf peered across the vehicle park. A careful check of Keith’s erratically undulating fundament confirmed that Trevor had read the number correctly. The werewolf flipped through the handbook to check next steps.

Keith, a unicorn

‘A paper-based procedures manual?’ enquired Trevor, surprised.

‘And look it up online with these claws?’ retorted the werewolf, scanning the page in front of him.

Standards of vision for driving …’ said the manual.

You must be able to read with glasses or contact lenses (or with a monocle in the case of a visually-impaired cyclops) a vehicle registration number from 20 metres.

You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, using that eye, or, if you are a cyclops, using the only eye you have.

You must also have an adequate field of vision – your optician can tell you about this.

‘Do you have an optician?’ asked the werewolf.

‘I ate him,’ replied Trevor.

Oh. Then we might as well proceed, Mr Chuckles. Now, your vehicle. Could I ask you about emissions?’

‘Keith never eats sprouts.’

‘A manual unicorn or an automatic?’

The werewolf needed to be sure. A manual unicorn came with a gear stick between its eyes, but an automatic unicorn (otherwise known as a ‘horse’) didn’t. There were different driving test rules for automatic unicorns as any total prat could tell you.

‘It’s a manual unicorn,’ replied Trevor. ‘But it’s not mine – it’s a friend’s.’

Steve, a dragon

The cyclops extended an enormous arm and pointed a gnarled finger at a feisty looking dual-controlled dragon, battling to the death with some beardy men with knobbly sticks, at the far end of the vehicle park. The beardy men weren’t wizards, they just did Plough Plays.

‘That’s my ride over there. Steve! Come here!’

Trevor whistled for Steve. The dragon pricked up its ears obediently and, as a parting shot, incinerated a warlock called Nigel with a perfunctory belch. Steve the dragon came over to Trevor at a trot, viciously butting Keith out of the way en route. The unicorn whinnied and scarpered, leaving a large deposit on the grass.

As Steve came fully into view, the werewolf trembled in horror. Oh surely not. Not now. Not today. He’d almost made it to the end of his shift and everything. With creeping dread, and in terrifying certainty of what would happen, the werewolf scanned the disc suspended from the chain round the dragon’s neck …


‘I can’t start tomorrow,’ said Trevor, tearfully, down the telephone.

His new boss wasn’t impressed. Trevor could sense it.

‘It isn’t that I failed my driving test, Marjorie,’ he mumbled, choking back the tears. ‘It’s more that my test … didn’t happen.’

Marjorie the Harpy

‘And why exactly is that, Mr Chuckles?’ scowled the harpy (she was quite literally one of those).

Trevor struggled to find the words. It had all become too much to bear. In utter despair and submission, he broke down. Enormous, fat tears poured from his eye.

‘My vehicle … my vehicle ate the examiner,’ sobbed Trevor. ‘Gobbled him down in two big mouthfuls. And he was such a lovely werewolf, too. It must have been like snacking on a loo brush.’

There was silence at the other end of the telephone.

‘But … but I’ve got rid of Steve now,’ Trevor continued. ‘I’ve promised Driving Standards he’ll never devour a member of frontline operational staff again. It’s hard enough recruiting new people as it is, apparently. I feel so guilty. Like it’s all my fault. I should have known Steve would take it personally.’

‘Take what personally?’ asked Marjorie.

‘Well,’ sniffed Trevor. ‘It started when the werewolf told Steve his MOT had expired and his gear stick was crooked.’

copyright (c) carterbloke 2019

Photo credits

The following photo used under Creative Commons licence.

All other photos c/o Wikimedia Commons.