Once again we’ve been inundated with entries for our Christmas ghost story competition. In the run-up to Christmas we’ve been publishing the winners and runners-up of the 15-and-under and 16-and-over categories. Today we feature the final story and the WINNER of the 16-and-over category. Her Blue Eyes is by Bryan Woods from Petersfield. Check out the interview with Bryan at the end of the story.
Why should he not murder his wife on Christmas Eve? Harry considered the question a year after he had done just that.
The irony was not lost on him. After all, it was supposed to be the season of goodwill to all men – and women.
But for Harry it was as good a time as any to kill Angela. He was not a religious man nor did he have any real conscience about what he had done. It was fairly easy too. Angela had medical problems including a heart condition, and so Harry had withheld her medication at a vital moment.
Before she collapsed, Angela had looked at Harry, her vivid blue eyes accusing him. She had even managed a faint, slightly lopsided smile and whispered in his ear ‘I will never leave you Harry – not ever’.
He shivered at the thought – trust Angela to be melodramatic. But all was now well in Harry’s world. He had been busy during the past six months selling the company he and Angela had built up together – at a good price too, he noted with satisfaction. The house would also soon be sold. Then Harry could start a new life with Susan.
Their affair had started 18 months ago, soon after Susan had started to work for the company. Harry sometimes felt insecure about the difference in their ages – he was 15 years older – and worried that she might eventually leave him for a younger man.
The thought occurred to him again now and he tried to dismiss it from his mind. Pulling a curtain back, Harry looked out at the garden. It was snowing heavily, as it had been for the past few hours. Multitudes of snowflakes fell from the night sky and a biting wind blew.
Susan had gone to deliver Christmas presents to her parents. It was a round journey of nearly 150 miles and Harry had tried to persuade her not to go. He knew he was not really welcome there, so he could not accompany her either. But she had been adamant that she would visit her parents – bad weather or not.
But at least Harry was reassured by the fact that Susan was a good driver. If anybody could cope with these conditions, she could. Harry had also made sure that there was an emergency kit in the car.
The phone rang, it was Susan. ‘Hi Honey, I got here ok – no problem.’ Harry relaxed his grip on the phone, ‘Thank God for that. You’re staying there I guess?’
‘No way. I want to be with you on Christmas Day.’ Harry thought of her hazel brown eyes, her soft auburn hair and her wide, welcoming smile.
‘Ok, but please take care.’
‘I will, don’t worry. I’m leaving now – don’t bother to wait up for me. I love you.’
‘Love you too. See you soon.’ Harry put the phone down and poured himself a large whisky. He felt the burn of the spirit on his throat and then the warm glow of well-being. That was one of the things that Angela had not approved of – she had often nagged him about his drinking.
Then there were his sharper business practices and even his dress sense, which Angela had also started to criticise. Worst of all, she had refused to divorce him. No wonder he had killed her, Harry thought.
He decided to wait up for Susan, despite what she had said. Pouring himself another drink, he sat down and put the television on. Flicking through the channels, he eventually settled on the film A Christmas Carol. At least it would pass the time until Susan returned. After a few more whiskies, Harry was feeling drowsy. He shut his eyes just as Scrooge was fearfully waiting for the third ghost.
Harry dreamt of Susan. She was running through a blizzard, stopping only to look backwards at somebody – or something – which was chasing her. The pursuer was a hooded figure that also seemed to be female. It was closing in on Susan.
Harry caught a glimpse under the hood of the figure – of a scant covering of hair on bone. Of empty eye sockets. The figure reached out to Susan, extending an almost fleshless hand.
Wwaking with a start, Harry found he was cold and his neck ached. He became aware of the television and an item on the local early morning news. The body of a young woman had been found some 10 miles away. She had died of hypothermia. Police were at the scene, investigating a trail of footprints that had been found near those of the woman. Her name was being withheld until next-of-kin had been informed. Meanwhile anyone with any information...
Feeling that his stomach was turning to ice, Harry turned the television off. His mind was racing – surely it couldn’t be Susan? Please don’t let it be her...
No of course it wasn’t, he reasoned. She must have come in and decided not to disturb him. Calling her name, Harry ran up the stairs and went from room to room. Nothing. Catching his breath, he looked out of the window – it had stopped snowing.
Then with a gush of relief he heard the familiar sound of the Jaguar car, its tyres crunching on the gravel driveway. Then Susan opening the front door. Harry rushed down to greet her. She held her arms out to hug him and he felt tears well up in his eyes, ‘Oh Susan, I thought...’
He was suddenly aware of how cold Susan was.
And there was something wrong – but what?
Looking at her, Harry then knew what it was. Susan’s eyes were now a vivid blue colour instead of hazel brown. While on her lips there was a slightly lopsided, malignant smile.
Holding Harry in an ever tighter grip, she whispered in his ear, ‘You see darling, I told you I would never leave you.’
Bryan’s story was inspired by wanting to write about revenge and the need for a good plot twist at the end.
He has been reading ghost stories since he was 12 years old and his favourite is The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
Bryan says: ‘I wanted to put a twist at the end of the story because that’s what I like reading.
‘Where I’ve been reading ghost stories for more than 40 years now, I have a good idea of how to plot them out – but I still didn’t expect to win.’
The 58-year-old has entered another ghost story competition in the past and has written some non-fiction magazine articles for publications such as Astronomy Now and This England.
Bryan, who has won a £50 voucher for the The Hayling Island Bookshop, says: ‘I am absoloutely delighted to have won. When I entered I didn’t think anything would happen, it’s definitely out of the blue.’
When asked what he thinks a good ghost story needs, Bryan said: ‘I think they should be quite realistic. I set mine in the present day – ghosts and situations should be believable and you should give the readers little clues throughout the stories.’