The Ghouling of Helen
It’s late, after a
night shift at the library, Helen is walking towards her car, when out
of the corner of her eye, she senses a movement. She half turns;
sees a man standing there. A flash of light sparks off a knife in
his hand. He moves towards her, a half smile on his face. She
hurries toward the car. It’s the last one in the park; he follows
her… When she gets to the car, she sees the front window has been
pushed in; the car is a mess. She contemplates getting in anyway,
but knows she can’t… He gets closer. She starts looking around
for a weapon to swing at
him… there’s nothing…
She backs up against the car and prepares to fight to the last…
Suddenly the man stops. His expression turns to one of horror; his
face blanches, he drops the knife in shock and runs. She turns, wondering
what caused him to do this. What she sees will haunt her for the
rest of her life. Oozing sores, twisted limbs, skin looking like
it’s flaking off as she watches. Then the image is gone, leaving a greying
man with a cane standing outside her personal space, looking at her in
He consoles her, seeming to know exactly what to say. He asks her
if she needs anything, water, a taxi, a towing service. He offers
her his phone to use, always solicitous but not invasive. She begins
to doubt what she saw. She leaves, with thanks…
She reports the crime, and tries to get back to a semblance of normality,
though being overly careful. She sees the man with the cane again
walking past the library, but because no eye contact is made, she will
not speak to him out of embarrassment.
Two days after the attempted crime,
she receives a suspicious card at the library. Thinking it a threat,
she arranges leave, reports this incident, and goes to Adelaide to visit
her parents for a week.
A day after she gets
back, before she was going back to work she finds another card on her door.
A quote from "The Raven" and the words "Welcome Back Helen" on it.
She goes into a panic. This person knows where she works, knows she
has come home, knows where she lives… She goes to stay the night
with a good friend; she can’t face being home. She goes there carefully,
backtracking and going the back ways to throw anyone following off the
Four o’clock that morning, there is a knock at the door. The friend
goes to see who it is. Someone wants to speak to Helen. Helen
goes when she is called - it is the man with the knife. He says he
has been sent to apologise. He looks frightened out of his mind,
nervously looking over his shoulder. Helen doesn’t notice this right
now, however; she too is frightened out of her mind. She has been
followed here, too. She tells him to get out.
She calls the police again. They find another note, complete with
freshly severed finger, at the bottom of the path. The note says
"Apology Not Accepted". The friends do not sleep, instead thrashing
the events through until the dawn.
Helen is totally rattled.
She doesn’t know what to do, where to go, except back to work, which she
throws herself into. What else does she have? If she isn’t safe anywhere,
at least she’ll be in groups of people here. So far, nothing bad
has happened when she is in a group.
However, late night shifts are hard to avoid; eventually she must do one
and has work to finish after. She is more confident this time - she
moved her car up close to the library before dusk, and the work has to
When the library is deserted, however, the terror begins. A disembodied
voice follows her around the library, speaking of fear and how it can end…
Lights go on and off with seemingly no one operating them… She manages
to get to the nearby police station and reports this next incident, seriously
doubting her sanity, feeling she is not being believable anymore.
How could she be? No one was there!
She goes home. Nothing happens
for a while. Security at the library is increased (no sign of outside
technology was found, let alone anything to activate the lights by remote)…
She starts to live
again… until a parcel arrives on her doorstep. It’s an old book; a rare
book. A note is with it. On one side it says "A Taste", on
the other, there is an address and time... Inside is another note, saying
"Please Return". She takes it to the State Library, where they flip
- it’s from the restricted collections no one gets into!
Something not normal is going on here… But inside the terror (Not
even the ultra-protected SLV is safe from this person), there is a curiosity…
She wants to know what is wanted of her… what she has done to warrant the
She decides to go.
The house is abandoned, the street
is well-lit with street lights. She goes in, chocking the door open
after her. A voice says, "There is a torch beside you." Sure enough,
there is, and it works. The man with the cane is sitting quietly
in the darkness. They talk - she wants to know what does he want?
He counters, parries, but he doesn’t mean any
ill (well… comparatively).
He wants her to join him; he needs her, but won’t say what for, telling
her she is a bright girl and can work it out for herself. She insists
she is average, no special qualities; he insists otherwise, but no more.
She starts to guess what he is; he laughs and says he is no god…
He asks if she will take what he offers. What does he offer?
"Life", he says. Time to learn, to know. She can only read
so many books in one puny lifetime; what if that time was extended?
She could learn more…
She accepts his offer, realizing what he is, she offers her neck. "Oh no,"
he laughs, producing the knife from the man that first night to slice his
arm. "Do you accept?" She whispers, "Yes".
The man with the cane disappears. The monster from that momentary
flash the first night is in his place. "Still?" he laughs at her
horror. "Still." she insists, despite her revulsion.
The blood is like fire, burning her throat. She asks what she has
done, what he has done to her. He doesn’t answer. He tells
her to live life as usual, and to meet him here again next Sunday.
For now, it is over.