Scale Hall, by Simon Kurt Unsworth

(Download the audio version of this story: part onepart two -read by Morgan Scorpion.  Story illustration by Robert Elrod.)

Scale Hall – illustration by Robert Elrod – click image to enlarge

DAD,

I’m sorry for writing to you like this, that I couldn’t ring, but I don’t know what else to do. You’re not any more likely to believe me than anyone else, I don’t suppose, but you’re my dad and I love you and I want you to know what’s happening and I know I can trust you. Christ, it seems like madness, now I come to write it. Sitting here in the bright sunlight, in my garden, watching my son play in his paddling pool, it seems beyond madness, not even an insanity but a preposterousness, a thing of fantasy, but it is not. I only have to watch Ben to understand that, to watch the way that, every few minutes, he stops playing and looks towards the garden gate, looks beyond it at something I cannot see, and I am reminded of the truth of these words.

There is another world below this one, a world inhabited by ghosts and demons and all the things that we have lost that we should not find again. I have heard it described as Hell, this other place, and I used to think that this was nothing more than a metaphor for human frailty, a kind of poetry to make sense of the world, but I know now that it is not. That world beneath us exists, is real, and we are protected from it by a skin that we walk upon every moment, unknowingly stepping over things we cannot hope to understand, intelligences and lusts and desires that are as alien to us as the emotions of bees or the love of snakes. When we walk across the surface of this other world, we are protected from falling through to it by luck and the lightness of our step and the strength of the skin where we step; most of the time, it is strong, stretching and reshaping itself to accommodate our footfalls. I think that, sometimes, it wears thin, and in these worn places, we might get brief visions of the things that exist below us, see ghosts and monsters peering up from their sunless caverns, hear frantic breath echoing from that other place. We may even feel their touch in the prickle of our own skin and the clench of our bellies, but they are harmless, these things that appear, mere nightmares and dreams and pictures.

In other places, though, the skin can rupture.

Where there are ruptures, the things that live below can escape upwards, can send questing tendrils into this world and draw back what they catch. These ruptures never truly heal, they merely scab over, crusted and dark and weeping; around these open wounds the nightmares can become real, the dreams grow flesh, and pieces of our world be caught and taken into the lost places beneath our feet. People can be caught, can be lost. It has happened here in Scale Hall. It will happen again.

There is nothing special about Scale Hall, you know that. You’ve been here. It’s a small suburb, located roughly half way between Lancaster and Morecambe. It was originally little more than a collection of industrial sites serving nearby factories, a tiny part of the industrial and rail chains that stretched across the country in the period between the wars, and until the second quarter of the twentieth century it had its own rail station (operated by the London and Midland company, I’m told – find the details, you once told me, and I’ve never forgotten that. Details, details, each one important, none to be lost). It had an air strip, you know, mostly used by the RAF for training flights, right on the site of the Grosvenor Park school – I keep wondering if there’s any of it left beneath the school buildings. Probably not. It’s funny, the things you think about when you’re trying to avoid something, isn’t it?

In recent years, the industrial landscape has changed, has declined and Scale Hall has changed with it, becoming a commuter town serving Lancaster as well as the larger towns of the northwest. The biggest employers in Scale Hall now are the health service and Lancaster University, and it experiences the same problems with alcohol and anti-social behaviour as any other satellite suburb of an English town. It is anonymous, bordered by other anonymously identical conurbations, a place of boredom and domesticity, and its population rarely gets above two thousand people.

Since the 1960s, 14 young children have disappeared from Scale Hall.

I have only been in the Merry House once.

Although the police didn’t call for volunteers in the search, I don’t imagine that anyone in Scale Hall didn’t look for Sandra Cahill. On that first day, with the helicopter swooping overhead and its repeated announcement about the missing little girl wearing a Torrisholme School uniform drifting down from above us like spring blossom, I suspect all of us checked the verges as we walked, looked at unaccompanied children with suspicion in our eyes, looked at accompanied children suspiciously, and the adults with them warily, and hoped to find her;I know I did. By lunchtime, ranks of black-clad police officers were walking the extended mudflats that the river exposed at low tide, whilst more of their number searched the college grounds and the Broadoak Garden Centre. By the second day, Scale Hall and the surrounding areas had been invaded by a silent, sombre army, methodically sweeping its way through the gardens and checking the outbuildings.

When she hadn’t been found after a week, it was assumed that Sandra had been kidnapped; early hopes that she had wandered off and become trapped in one of the Broadoak Garden Centre’s many sheds, or fallen and injured herself, would be found weak but alive, were fading. The police checked the entire length of the stream that runs down from the hills, sending remote cameras through the sections where it passes under roads before emptying to the Lune, and dragged the Lune estuary itself. Platoons of searchers crawled over the Salt Ayre landfill, opening bags and sending sniffer dogs across the mounds of detritus, but they found nothing.

Scale Hall doesn’t have much CCTV, but one camera in the Lancaster and Morecambe College grounds was found to have caught, in the far distance, a blurry image of a small child who might have been Sandra walking along the Torrisholme Road. She was unaccompanied, although at the edge of the image, ahead of her, a dark shape bobbed and jigged. No one who watched the film on the news seemed to be able to agree what the shape was; it was only visible for a few moments as the camera panned around, shifting and dark. Some people said it was a person dressed as a clown or a teddy bear, yet others that it didn’t resemble a person at all but a balloon on a string, or a kite. If the police had ideas about the shape, they kept them to themselves. You probably remember it, it wasn;t that long ago. What did you see, Dad? What did anyone see?

Sandra’s parents made tearful appearances on the nightly news, begging for the return of the daughter that the police were convinced had been enticed away somehow, groomed into leaving the safety of her home. They revealed that, over the days prior to her disappearance, Sandra’s parents had found her on a number of occasions staring out through the slatted bars of her garden gate, an expression of rapt attention on her face, looking along the alleyway. What, or who, she was looking at wasn’t known.

I knew Sandra, if only vaguely. She attended the same school as Ben, although she was three years older than him. Her mother was one of the women I would say hello to in the playground, her daughter a little blond thing whose hair tended to be tied in pigtails and who carried a Hello Kitty lunchbox and who always said hello to Ben and me if she was stood near us. She seemed a sweet kid, one who apparently fell off the face of the world and left few traces of her passage behind. She had simply gone into the back garden of her home after her breakfast, where her mother watched her playing before going to get organised for the day ahead. Five minutes later, when she came back, Sandra was gone and the garden gate was swinging open. Those five minutes are, I imagine, terrible and endless in her mother’s mind.

I don’t know about everyone else, but it didn’t take long before I stopped looking for Sandra as I walked Ben to school, or walked the dogs, and began to think of her as dead, rotting somewhere out of sight and smell. If I thought about her at all, it was as a poster, a flat, smiling image, and of two distraught adults who looked lost and hopeless even as they cried and said their child’s name over and over. Scale Hall and all the places around had been searched thoroughly, and she was not here; she was somewhere else, dead or as good as, in the possession of someone whose damaged personality and desires had turned them to evil, and if she was ever found it would be because that person had finished with her and discarded her. I wish I had been right; I wish that it had been a man, or death alone, that had found her.

I can’t remember who told me it was called the Merry House, or when; possibly Andy or Lynda, our neighbours, during one of our Saturday barbeques that first summer after Wendy and I moved here. I don’t suppose it matters, really. It was simply the Merry House, an abandoned bungalow I passed every time I took the dogs down the ginnel that passed between the college and a row of houses and which connected the Morecambe and Torrisholme Roads. If it stood out all, it was only because of its abandonment; the bungalows around it were neatly tended and brightly lit homes, but from behind a warping wooden panel fence, the rear of the Merry House peered out at the alleyway in solitary decay.

The Merry House stands alone, the narrow gaps between it and the homes either side shadowed and thick. There are tiles missing from the roof, although not many; just enough to create an irregular patchwork of blackness against the slate angularity. Its windows and door are covered with perforated metal sheets, bolted to the brickwork to prevent entry, and the garden, long and thin, is overgrown. A narrow path stretches between the garden gate and the rear door, the concrete slabs discoloured and stained. There are three steps up from the garden to the door, their paintwork chipped and fading. An old greenhouse sits at the bottom of the garden, most of the panes broken and the plants inside it growing wild and furious, erupting out of the gaps where missing panes should be in a riot of green and brown and stems and thorns and leaves. The dogs don’t like the Merry House, and will not walk close to its bowing fence.

The night I saw the light from inside the Merry House, Sandra Cahill had been missing just over a week.

It was only a flickering glimmer, something pale behind the punctured metal cataracts of one of the two windows. It was late, almost midnight, and I was taking the dogs on their pre-sleep walk when I saw the light, and my first instinct was to think that someone had broken into the house. As I watched, the light passed behind one window and vanished, appearing a moment later in the other, and then vanished again. I tried to go closer to the fence but the dogs resisted, pulling back and digging their feet into the muddy ground. The light reappeared behind the sheet covering the first window and seemed paler, almost translucent. I could hear nothing.

All the bungalows whose rears that look out into the alley belong to Norwood Drive, and at that time of night, the road was dark apart from the street lights. The council had recently replaced the old orange sodium lights with new LED lamps, and as I tried to find the front of the Merry House, I passed through patches of light that were like the moon’s glow made hard, but the strangest thing was, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. When I got to the point on Norwood where I judged the building’s front should be, I couldn’t see it. Instead, I saw set after set of paired bungalows, partnered and content; nowhere could I find a lone building, and none looked abandoned. Every one I passed was neat, well-tended, loved. Inhabited.

Back in the alley, I found the abandoned house easily. The light was still flickering behind the screened windows, as though a cluster of fireflies was drifting around inside the old property. I wondered about calling the police, but to tell them what? That I had seen a light? Not even a light, but a glow? No. After everything that had happened this last week, I needed more than that, proof before calling down that army of patient, searching men and women. I tied the dogs to the college fence and walked over to the rotting gate, which was sagging out into the alley, the top hinge still holding it to the frame but the bottom long rusted away to nothing. I pulled at it, the wood damp and old against my skin, and it came open with a noise like teeth pulling from rotting gums. I managed to drag it open far enough so that I could squeeze through the gap and then I was, unknowing, stepping into a place where the skin of the world was torn, was raw and exposed and throbbing.

Light from the road and the college’s security lamps seemed distant, lay across the garden in irregular patterns. The building was larger than it looked from outside, as though peering over the fence at it had induced some odd foreshortening effect, and it was quiet, quieter even than the Scale Hall night. What sounds did reach me were muffled, as though I was hearing them through layers of cloth or from underwater. I peered back over the fence, calling a word to the dogs to calm them, and then started towards the house.

Hunched to my left, the greenhouse was a skeletal thing given tendon and muscle by the whorls and twists of plant growth within it. Green stems, fibrous and inky dark in the half light, twisted around the rusting metal struts and curled up towards the night sky. Deep inside the greenhouse itself, lost in the tangle of plants, unrecognisable shapes hung like the stilled hearts of long-dead creatures. The grass around my feet hadn’t been cut in years and was creeping in from the scabbed lawn to lie over the concrete flags that formed a path from gate to door. It was up to my knees, twisted around itself and dotted with the bobbing heads of dandelions. Here and there, taller weeds emerged from the mess, raising themselves on leaves that were large and veiny. The lawn whispered to itself as I went along the path, secretive, moving in a breeze I could not feel.

Behind the greenhouse, leaning against the side fence, were four or five old bicycles and what looked like a child’s scooter, dirty and rusting; it was impossible to tell exactly how many bikes there were, as plants and grass had grown up through the spokes and around the frames and seats, tying each of the machines to the others in a chaos of tubular metal and peeling stickers and corroding rubber. None of the bikes were large.

When I came close enough to the building to see it clearly, I realised that someone had tried to burn it in the past. Along the base of the wall there were a series of misshapen black flowers growing, smears of soot and scorch marks stretching up the brickwork. There was a bundle of partly incinerated twigs and branches against one of the marks, the pale bones of unburned wood showing though the charcoal darkness.

The light was still hovering behind the window, but closer too, it was less regular and I wondered if someone had broken in and was searching the place using a candle for illumination. Even candle-light wouldn’t account for the way the light wavered, though, not flickering so much as fading to almost nothing before struggling back up to a pale, anaemic yellow. I tried to stand on tiptoe to look through the holes in the sheet covering the window, but it was too high for me to reach, so I had to mount the steps to the door. The metal barrier was, I saw, not as solidly attached to the stonework as it appeared, and it took very little pressure to shift it along, tilting it at the bottom so that a space into the house opened up. More of the smell emerged, like opening an oven door on fish that has baked too long and yet, underneath, was something else, a smell of marshmallows; my favourite scent, and my mouth watered slightly as it tickled at my nose. The space filled briefly with the waning light, and I peered in, hoping to see something. All I needed was something concrete, I told myself, something I could ring the police about, and I could leave the Merry House and never enter its grounds again. I could go back to my dogs, my Wendy, to Ben and to my life.

There was nothing there.

Without putting my head into the hole, I could see only part of the hallway, a section of the kitchen and a little of the room that opened off the hallway opposite the kitchen. The floors were uncarpeted, the boards bare and uneven, and the far end of the hallway lost to thick shadows. The kitchen was unfurnished, the cupboards lining the walls stained with splashes of something dark, and its stylings were older, dated. From overhead, a wooden clothes airing rail hung down unevenly, the ropes that held it frayed and knotted. Cobwebs hung from the walls and dust lay across the floors, although there were streaks through it that exposed the knotholed wood below. In the corner of the kitchen, I saw another small burned patch; one cupboard door was charred across its bottom edge and warped so that it hung awkwardly, not quite fitting in the frame. In the further room, I could see a sliver of something that looked like an old sofa, brown and mottled with mould. I wondered just how long it was since someone had lived in the bungalow.

There was no light, and no noise. If the building was empty, what had I seen? Water, somewhere in one of the rooms and reflecting the light from the streetlamps? My imagination? With a last look into the house, at the sagging and grimy interior, I stood and made to leave. There was nothing here, I told myself, save darkness and night and I should go home. I began to manhandle the metal sheet back over the doorway, wincing as it cried out, the anguished wail of metal kissing stone, and then realised that under the shriek I could hear singing.

At first I thought it was a distant drunk, but it wasn’t; the voice was coming from within the house. I yanked the sheet back from the doorway, dropping to my knees in front of the gap and listening. Whoever was singing, they were crying as they sang, making the words incomprehensible. The glow increased, filling the air with that diseased yellow glimmer. I leaned my head into the hole slightly, hoping to see something, to hear more clearly, and jumped back, startled.

There was a little girl standing in the doorway of the room opposite the kitchen.

The light was coming from somewhere behind her, was surrounding her in a corona of muzzy yellow that distorted her edges, making her seem not quite there. That it was a girl was obvious; silhouette pigtails with bows tied at their ends were visible and she was singing and crying, her voice high and sweet and brittle.

“Hello,” I said, keeping my voice calm, “are you okay?” Such a stupid question, so infantile, but what else could I say? What else was there to ask? She didn’t respond except for to carry on singing, a song I knew from Ben and from my own childhood: the wheels on the bus, going round and round and round. You used to sing it to me, making those stupid swishing noises when we did the verse about the wipers, do you remember?

“Sandra?” I asked. “Sandra Cahill? Is that you? Come here, sweetie, and we’ll get you home.”

At the sound of her name, Sandra took a step forward, moving into the hallway. She was only two or three feet from the back door, from me, but I still couldn’t see her properly; the light was swallowing her, distorting her. She was singing on, crying.

“Sandra,” I said again. “Come here, and we’ll get you back to your mum and dad.” I started to squeeze in through the narrow gap, pushing against the edges of the metal sheet with my shoulders, widening the hole as best I could. The smell in the house was terrible, a kind of overheated, baking sourness, the smell of feverish sweat and sex and dampness and old saliva. I reached out a hand to Sandra, the edge of the metal digging into my side and catching on my belt, and said again, “Come here, sweetie, and we’ll get you home.” She took another step, finally moving out of the grasp of the light that came from behind her, and her face emerged into the pale shadows, and I screamed.

Sandra’s mouth was almost sealed, strings of peeling skin that looked like parchment stretching between her lips, and her eyes were milky and wide, blind. Something had spilled from her nose and dried to a crusted, cracking black and her hair was matted and limp across her forehead. More blackness spilled from her mouth as she sang, rivulets dribbling down her chin and onto her chest and folded arms; it stank, and I realised that the smell in the house was coming, at least in part, from her. She was bathed in the odour, as though she had rolled in loose and watery bowel movements and then let it dry against her skin. “Sandra,” I managed to say, reaching out with one hand to her, encouraging her to keep moving. Whatever had happened to her, whoever had done it, we had to get away from this place now.

She took another step, stumbled, looked towards me with pallid, dried-milk eyes, and then stopped singing. “It was such a pretty thing, and I just wanted to see it,” she whispered, “and now it won’t let me go. Why won’t it let me go?” Her voice was thick, gluey with barely repressed pain and misery. “I want my mummy,” she said and took another step, was almost within reach, and then she jerked violently. I lunged, grasped at her and missed as she jerked again, fell and was dragged backwards across the hallways and through the door. The glow brightened, drew her in, and from behind me I heard my dogs bark frenziedly.  I think I may have screamed again then; I’m not sure. Somewhere nearby, as if in descant to the dogs, a cat began to howl.

Sandra cried out, shrieked, and then began singing again, the wheels on the bus still going round and round and round like a mantra set against an awfulness I could only imagine. I thrashed, dragging my belt loose from the metal sheet and pulling myself into the Merry House, scrambling across the floor. The dust felt greasy on my hands, the boards rough under it, and splinters worked their way into my palms and fingers. I pulled out my mobile phone, but there was no signal and I cursed it and tried dialling the police anyway, cursing again when it didn’t work. I wanted to stop, to go back and call from outside, but I couldn’t. The memory of Sandra’s face, of the black liquid spattering from her mouth amid the stink of corruption, and the miserable singing from somewhere in the house drew me on.

Where the yellow light fell against my skin, it burned, as though I had been exposed for too long to sunlight that was stained and dirty. Its source was not in the first room, which contained just the old sofa, but in the room beyond, through a second doorway in the far wall. I moved towards it, trying to shield my face and skin against the light, hating the way it felt against me and the way my eyes watered despite its apparent weakness. Something dark moved in the heart of the light, thrashing against that weak glare, writhing. Sandra made a choking sound and said, “Mummy,” and then fell silent, and I could do nothing but run to her, crying her name.

The next room wasn’t a room at all, but something else. I can’t explain what, exactly, but it was vast, cavernous, somewhere that glowed and raged with flames and stank of loss. The space dropped away from the doorway, falling an impossible distance from me and rising an impossible distance above me. It wasn’t an open space, however, but was divided, honeycombed by what looked like torn and hanging curtains of flesh, muscles and fat bunching and clenching and making the room contract and loosen around me.

Here and there, dangling from those shifting, weeping walls were cables that looked like writhing ganglia, and at the end of them were the husks of children. They were crumpled, their hair strawlike and lank, their skin roughened and dry, their limbs withered and white, and there were seemingly hundreds, thousands, more than I could count. Some still moved, twisting and thrashing weakly, their hands held out in front of them, shivering or punching at the air. Sounds filled the place, airless, hollow moans, weeping, occasional cries. All the children were naked.

Sandra was held in the air above me.

She was caught, I saw, by one of those black, weaving tendrils that snaked up from the place below. It pulsed and moved as it held her, bucking her back and forth, shaking her in a savage palsy. Something was being drawn out of her; I could see it, surging back along that black tube, making it bulge rhythmically. Even as I watched, Sandra’s arms seemed to shrivel, her legs to pull up like drying paper, her skin to wrinkle and peel. Her shoes fell from her feet as they curled up, and another one of the tendrils tore her dress away, leaving her clad only in socks and white panties, before punching into the skin of her chest. The pants had the word Tuesday and a picture of a princess printed on the front, and when I saw that I sobbed. In a voice that was weak and dustlike, Sandra said, “It was so pretty, and I only wanted to see it and hold it. I’m sorry, Mummy, I didn’t mean to be naughty. I’ll be good, I promise. I promise” She began singing again as her belly folded in on itself, gasping and jerking even as the wheels went around and around and around and as her moistness and life were finally sucked out. More of the tendrils rose up and pierced into her, tearing away first her socks and then her pants, Tuesday fluttering down into the fleshy catacombs below.

When she was little more than folded, crumpled caricature of the neat blond girl who had greeted Ben and me occasionally in the playground in the mornings, the tendrils relaxed, and Sandra dropped away to join the other dangling, desiccated corpses.

Another tendril rose in front of me, this one without a child at its end; instead, it held a shifting, blackly glinting mass that smelled of marshmallows and Wendy after a shower and Ben in the morning when he had just woken up, of comfort and safety and excitement and pleasure. In the centre of the mass I saw a swirling mess of all the fabulous things I had seen in my life; here was my wife, naked on a bed on our wedding night, there Benjamin asleep, here the curve of my first girlfriend’s neck, there the sun reflecting on water that I just knew was warm and inviting, and I felt myself take a step towards it. It darted closer to me, snakelike, now shaping itself into an image of our first dog when she was a puppy and smelling like newly baked biscuits, and now back to my wife, dressed this time but smiling at me and loving me, to Ben holding out his arms for a hug, so trusting, and then I remembered Sandra collapsing in on herself and I saw the jagged teeth that chattered at the edge of the mass, and I turned and ran.

I didn’t tell anyone. How could I? What could I say? That I had seen Sandra, seen the thing that had fished her out of Scale Hall with a lure made of …what? All the things she loved, wanted to see and hold and experience again? What would it be for her, I wondered? Teddies or dolls, Christmas presents, her parents? What else could I say? That the fishing thing had been doing it for years, had fished all those lost children from this place, all of them vanished and gone, sucked dry and left to dangle like insects caught on flypaper? No. People would think me mad.

I remember little about my dash home except that when I got out of the Merry House, clambering through the hole in the doorway and then pushing at the gate, the dogs wouldn’t let me near them. Although I managed to unclip the leads from the college fence, they strained to escape from me all the way home, their hackles high and their lips drawn back from teeth that were only slightly whiter than the gums in which they sat. It took them days to be comfortable with me, because I smelled; I could almost taste the stench of that place on myself, smell it on my skin and in my sweat. I ended burning all the clothes I had been wearing because, even after washing, they were sour with its smell. I haven’t walked past the Merry House since then, have stayed as far from it as I can, and it has sat in my nightmares each night.

It has followed me, and has set its lure towards Benjamin. I have no idea if it is a deliberate thing, an attempt to silence me, or simply the blind appetite of a thing I cannot hope to understand and that has smelled or tasted my son somehow, but I am know that he is being hooked by it. Even as I write this, he is watching something that I cannot see, standing at the garden gate and looking along the road in the direction of the Merry House. If I tell him to stop, I know that it will take me several attempts to gain his attention, and that even if he does, it won’t be long before he is back at the gate. How long before he waits until my back is turned and tries to go to it? How long? Minutes? Hours? How long can I keep my eyes on him? How long before my son becomes one of the dry, crumpled things hanging from clawing, sucking tubes that have drained the vitality out of him?

How long?

I keep thinking about fire, about the lichen patterns of soot and burning on the outside of the Merry House, about the patch inside. About other adults, perhaps, who saw something of the things that I saw and tried to take action. Perhaps the fire needs to be deeper, though, set into the heart of the fishing thing so that it cannot escape the flames. Whatever it is, however it has managed to break through the skin between worlds, it is sending out its lines and catching things, catching children, and it needs stopping. It should beware; sometimes, those who fish may catch sharks.

I shall go to it tonight, carrying matches and fluid that flames easily. I do not have the luxury of hoping I will return, but what choice do I have? I love Wendy and love the life we have made, and don’t want to lose it, but I love Ben, and cannot risk him coming to harm. I cannot let him be fished. If I am to be the sacrifice that allows them to live on, then so be it. What else can I do? What? I love you, Dad, and Mum as well.

Pray for me; pray for Ben.

Pray for Scale Hall.

(I very rarely publish reprints.  But when Simon Kurt Unsworth offered me this quietly powerful horror story, I couldn’t resist.  Scale Hall is from his short story collection, Quiet Houses. — editor)

Simon Kurt Unsworth was born in Manchester in 1972 on a night when, despite extensive research, he can find no evidence of mysterious signs or portents. He currently lives on a hill in the north of England with his wife and child awaiting the coming flood, where he writes essentially grumpy fiction (for which pursuit he was nominated for a 2008 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story). He is tall, grouchier than he should be and the owner of a selection of really rather garish shirts. His work has been published in a number of critically acclaimed anthologies, including the critically acclaimed At Ease with the Dead, Shades of Darkness, Exotic Gothic 3, Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes, Never Again and Lovecraft Unbound. He has also appeared in three of Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies (19, 21 and 22) and is due to appear in 23 due out later this year, and also The Very Best of Best New Horror. His first collection of short stories, Lost Places, was released by the Ash Tree Press in 2010 and his second, Quiet Houses, from Dark Continents Publishing in 2011. He has a further collection, Strange Gateways, due out from PS Publishing in 2012 and his as-yet-unnamed collection will launch the Spectral Press Spectral Signature Editions imprint in 2013, so at some point he needs to write those stories.

Buy Simon’s short story collections: Lost Places, Quiet Houses, and Strange Gateways.

Story illustration by Robert Elrod.

If you enjoyed this story, let Simon know by commenting — and please use the Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus buttons below to spread the word.

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15 responses to “Scale Hall, by Simon Kurt Unsworth

  1. Holy !@#$!! Oh my $%^& God this is an amazing story. Seriously, @#*^$! This story made made me too happy for words. Thanks to Mike for reprinting it!

    Seriously. “There is another world below this one, a world inhabited by ghosts and demons and all the things that we have lost that we should not find again.” That’s, like, the best line in a story. Ever.

  2. My god, this is brilliant work. I’ve been a follower of Mr. Unsworth since reading “The Church on the Island” some years ago, but I must say this is his most impressive piece yet. Lost Places just jumped up to the top of my to-buy list.

    • Simon, it would be my pleasure. I’m so very glad to hear you approve of the artwork. Please let me know if you have a preferred size (screen resolution) that you’d like it saved to and I’ll get it created for you.

      All the best!
      Robert

  3. Hi, Simon. I’ve just sent you a high-resolution jpeg that’s 1440 pixels tall to your gmail account. That’s the highest my 27″ iMac uses (for image height). Please let me know if you’d prefer something else (or if you don’t receive the message).

    All the best!
    Robert

  4. That was a scary and creepy story. I think the protagonist is getting ready to do something rash. I think there are maybe a couple of other things he could try first.

  5. A month late but an excellent tale with the vivid descriptions of the smells make it one that will be remembered. I am checking out your work on Amazon and Mikey D. did a great job of reprinting it.

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