Today, as a special Halloween treat, I am pleased to bring you a short story from The Asylum for Fairy Tale Creatures by Sebastian Gregory. His latestt book The Boy in The Cemetery is out now. So sit back, make sure the door is locked and enjoy this supernatural tale.
The Thread Bear
From the moment the midwife pulled Eleanor into the world, the little brown bear had been there. When Eleanor arrived, the bear could not contain his excitement, so much so that as baby took her first breaths bear drew the first gasps of thought. They lived in a home, with a father and a mother, although the bear rarely paid attention to what or where; he belonged to Eleanor and that was all. Her first word was “burr”, her first steps encouraged by the bear being held temptingly out of reach. There was a day and there was every day, where the bear knew nothing but happiness. It radiated from Eleanor and the bear felt the warmth of all the love given to him.
They would watch the grey and fog world from Eleanor’s window; carts and sacks were pulled across the cobbled streets with a clack, clack, and clack of hooves.
Eleanor gave the bear the gift of a voice.
“What are they?” gasped the bear from Eleanor’s mouth.
“They are horses; we use them to go places.”
“They are big; they will not hurt me, will they?”
“Oh, silly bear, I would not let anything ever hurt you.” She poured the bear another cup of invisible tea and they watched the world some more.
The kitchen was Eleanor’s favorite place to be. From the center table, little girl and brown bear watched the maids busily do their work. Eleanor was always given smiles, milk, jam and bread.
“He’s such a handsome bear, and you such a pretty young lady” Mrs. Brown the cook remarked between stirs.
“Thank you “, said the bear in the little girl’s voice. Eleanor smiled and gulped milk.
The bear worried; there was boiling and sharp chopping and fires sizzling. Enough to turn a bear into black leather tatter. Luckily before long the Mother arrived. She would make her way to the kitchen, calling and pretending to be cross
“Is Eleanor being bothersome?” The Mother would ask,
“Terrible”, replied Mrs. Brown
Eleanor rolled her eyes and the mother couldn’t help but laugh covering the child in love.
As life passed by, time moving through the house found itself trapped by the Old Grandfather. The bear had observed it now and again. The Grandfather had a wooden body as tall as the ceiling. A face blank and white except for twelve eyes and two spindly, pointed arms. The bear could only watch as the Grandfather devoured seconds, fed on minutes, gorged on hours, days, weeks, months and years. It took them all with a tick, tick, tick. Then Eleanor, taller than she had ever been, placed the bear on the high shelf next to the pot-doll sisters (Milly, Maisy) and the tatty giraffe. Eleanor gave him a little grin, straightened his faded red bow, and then left him there. The bear had been prepared for this—that Eleanor would no longer need him; however the bear was not prepared for how cruel this would be. The Grandfather went tick tick tick.
On occasion Eleanor would pass by, of course—the shelf was above her bed—but they no longer took trips around the house for play and invisible tea. They never watched the world. Eleanor took her schooling; the bear remained trapped on the high shelf. The Grandfather went tick tick tick. How long had the bear been on the shelf? His brown fur speckled white with dust. Strange sounds filled his ears. Whispering, terrible whispering, speaking Eleanor’s name; it floated, sailing the air, fading when Eleanor was near. Had she heard it? Was there anything to hear? The bear presumed that a bear without a human was not bear at all and doomed to madness. No, not madness, there was more.
Eleanor’s smile grew infrequent and faded. She carried a weight and she walked with an invisible heavy burden. There were echoes that travelled along the walls in the day, and nights were a wet cough and the source of Eleanor’s misery. Through the windows from the world of cobbles and fog came the shouts of “cholera” and worry. It was this that brought Eleanor back to the bear.
She pulled the bear from his shelf prison and squeezed him into her so hard, the bear thought his sides sure to split. Tears soaked his fur, so happy Eleanor was to be with the bear—had she missed him as much as he had her?
“Oh, bear,” Eleanor cried, “Mother has been taken from me. The cholera has sent her to heaven.”
The bear did not know what heaven was or for whatever reason the mother had gone there. All the bear knew was Eleanor needed to hold him again and that was all.
The bear watched from the window sill to the street below. There was his Eleanor surrounded by others but very much alone. She was garbed in black—it was as if his Eleanor were among a flock of ravens. She held onto the father. He did not seem to notice, only looking up as a wooden box was removed from the house and placed on a horse cart of flowers. There was a crack in the air and the sky wept; it poured down the window pane. The bear pushed his face to the cold window; however, something else caught the bear’s curiosity. Across the way on the rooftops, hidden behind the rain and perched directly above Eleanor, was an amiss, an ominous, a creature made of nothing but menace. It turned and caught the bear in its twisted gaze, and somewhere amongst what was almost a face there was a smile. The rain made it impossible to see more and then the procession moved on and Eleanor was lost to the bear, as was the creature.
The absent mother was replaced by a melancholy. Eleanor moved as a half-child, pale skin and, within her once-happy face, sunken red eyes. The father was rarely to be seen, except when he came stumbling into the home with the stench of foul liquid about him. The bear watched Eleanor when she slept; she was fretful. She would whimper as nightmares plagued her. The bear had never felt so helpless. There had been several occasions where he heard noises coming from where there should be none, making Eleanor shudder and take refuge in her bed. Then there was Maisy, one of the pot-doll sisters—with a creeping screech the doll had turned her head to stare directly at the bear. The bear, knowing that he was the only one with life thread, could not understand how the doll managed to move. So he pushed her from the high shelf where she shattered on the wood below. Eleanor, who woke up with a start, for a moment was frightful at the noise of the shattering doll. But it was the bear she took from the shelf to hug. Maisy had lain in shatters ever since.
Night and nights Eleanor slept with shallow breath; she murmured worried words. The bear felt it also; his fur stood on end at some tangible discomfort. Here it was: the miasma that had entered Eleanor’s fears. The bear could not see it, but was aware of the presence. It was a tingle of spine, a creak on the stair, a curtain that moved without breeze and danced like a ballerina ghost.
The bear stood on the shelf. “I know you are there.”
A voice like a scurrying of spiders. “I have come for the child—her sadness called me.”
Eleanor stirred; the bear whispered, “Are you cholera? I will not let you have her.”
The air thought thoughts, then suddenly the shadows lurched horribly, the bear was lifted and sent spinning across the room with a sickening growl. Eleanor sat upright; she screamed a silence, and the sound had been stolen.
Morning brought the sun but no comfort. The bear sat where he had landed the night before, and waited and waited until the sunlight seeped high through the break in the window shutters. Eleanor did not move; a rasping sound, a horrible gasping, floated from Eleanor’s bed. The bear, with little choice and so much fear for his Eleanor, dared to do what he was never to do: he moved in her presence. He crawled slowly at first, moving past the broken pot-doll sister, the tatty giraffe; he climbed onto the bed and stood next to the sleeping Eleanor’s face. She was pale and damp; the bear stroked her cheek, his paw instantly soaked with the sweat on her brow and pale skin. Gently the bear leaned and pushed her; he was ready to freeze the moment her eyes opened, and the moment never arrived.
He needed help so the bear went to find the father. He crept across hall, making his way to where the father slept. Except not now—even in the gloom the bear could see the father was absent. Instead there were empty bottles and overturned furniture. By the bear’s feet lay a spider web of glass picture frame. It held a grey picture of the mother, and she was smiling and shared the smile Eleanor once had. The bear would never let Eleanor become splinters, and he would never let the haunting take her. The bear made his way back to the room and there was his Eleanor, as beautiful as ever, waiting for him. Her eyes were closed and as deep as ever. Droplets covered her brow like tiny blisters. She was perfect. So engrossed was the bear he did not see the wretchedness that held Eleanor aloft in thick black tendrils of shadow and harm. He did not see as darkness drowned the world, pouring and suffocating, twisting, tightening, squeezing the bear.
“Bear,” it whispered, “you can see her one last time, then her sadness is mine and you will be tatters.”
“You cannot have her. Just go away,” the bear demanded , in the tiniest and strongest of voices ever spoken.
“You dare defy my want? Even now as you face oblivion?”
“No,” cried the bear, “she is mine and will forever be.”
Eleanor opened her eyes. Her mouth opened to shriek but confusion formed instead.
“Bear?” Her first and last word ever spoken to him.
The bear smiled, from shadow and was the shadow. The darkness rose from it and spread like creeping vines around the room, completely engulfing Eleanor. The bear spoke with a voice like the scurrying of spiders, its true voice, the voice of a creature and the bear in one.
“You will always be mine. You will never leave me. I will take your sadness away.”
However in that moment the bear caught the reflection in her terrified eyes and saw the truth of the matter. In those eyes the bear saw his own memories. Of being a boy running across the cobbles, running excitedly to his mother, who called for him from the other side of the street. He saw his mother’s face smiling but quickly turning to horror. The boy, confused, turned to see too late the horse and carriage and he was crushed into the stones. Lonely in the never , the afterlife, the boy’s spirit cried for his mother. He stayed alone until the birth of a beautiful baby girl called to him. Life was good until time stolen and jealousy and loneliness replaced love once again.
The corrupted bear, lost in the revelation, didn’t notice as the father, arriving home and hearing the commotion, forced his way into the room, and without pause scooped up his only daughter into his arms as the bear, empty, fell to the floor. Eleanor told her story to the father. How her toy bear had been a presence of its own. How objects had been moved in her room of their own accord. She said she would dream of the bear, but it wasn’t her bear, it was a boy who died long ago who, feeling her sadness on the breeze, floated into her bear, giving it a voice of its own. Of course the father did not understand her story and Eleanor was sent to a place where doctors were. The bear found itself discarded on the street, lost to turmoil as the world passed it by. It was kicked and stood upon, neglected and left to fester in the gutter, That was until it was found again and taken to a place that welcomed bears with no human.
ABOUT SEBASTIAN GREGORY
Sebastian Gregory (Pronounced Gre-gory) writes from a cabin in the middle of a haunted wood. His inspiration comes from the strange and sorrowful whispers amongst the ghastly- looking trees. From the shadowy candle light of the cabin Sebastian is only permitted to leave once a story is complete, where it is unleashed upon the world of the living. Sebastian writes for the younger readers as they are easier to terrify than adults whose imaginations died long ago. When not writing in a cabin in the middle of a haunted wood, Sebastian lives in Manchester with his family and various animals.
WEBSITE | TWITTER
OTHER WORKS BY SEBASTIAN GREGORY
THE ASYLUM OF FAIRY TALE CREATURES
(FREE for a limited time)
AMAZON UK | AMAZON US | APPLE
THE BOY IN THE CEMETERY
(On Sale for £0.99)
AMAZON UK | AMAZON US | APPLE
THE GRUESOME ADVENTURES OF ALICE IN UNDEADLAND
(On Sale £0.99)
AMAZON UK | AMAZON US | APPLE
A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (Coming in December 2014.)