This evening I have a spooky guest article from one of my favorite gothic, scary writers who has also become a good friend, Cat Cavendish. She writes some of the favorite articles I feature here on this site. I always appreciate her dropping by. Yesterday was the release of her latest work, The Devil’s Serenade. Stay around after the post and spend a few bucks to enjoy the book yourself. You won’t be sorry!
by Catherine Cavendish, Author of The Devil’s Serenade
When you were growing up, did you have an imaginary friend? Did they seem real to you? Maybe sort-of-real. You could talk to them, imagine their responses, play with them but you probably kept the ‘relationship’ within certain boundaries – however young you were. In my case, I invented an entire family of siblings – three sisters (two older, one a few years younger) and an older brother who looked out for us girls. Being an only child, I found them comforting, and fun, but I never imagined them to be real. They, in turn, kept themselves firmly lodged in my own mind and never attempted to cross any boundary into the real world.
In my new novel, The Devil’s Serenade, my central character also had an imaginary family when she was a child. Scarily for her, they now start to appear in her real adult world.
Of course, my story is fiction, but there have been a number of accounts of small children making ‘friends’ with most unsuitable imaginary friends – who then cross the line. They can do this, of course, because they are not really imaginary at all – just invisible, at least to all except the child itself.
Take the case of a couple called Mark and Sarah. They had a young pre-school age daughter – Sophia – and, in order to give her a better life, moved from London to a sizeable country house dating back a couple of hundred years. At first, they were delighted with their new home and the peace and tranquility of an English village really appealed to them. But that was before things started to go badly wrong.
It all started one day in summer when Sophia went missing. She had been playing in her room but, when her mother went up to check on her, she wasn’t there. Mark had gone out, taking the family dog – Daisy – for a walk. Suddenly there was a mighty crash from the floor above and Sarah raced up the stairs. She threw open the door of a room that had formerly been a nursery and still contained Victorian and Edwardian children’s toys. There was no sign either of the cause of the crash or of Sophia and, puzzled, Sarah turned to leave the room. She jumped when she saw Sophia in the doorway.
The two went downstairs to the kitchen and Sarah poured her daughter a glass of milk. Sophia looked thoughtful for a few moments and then spoke. “Mummy, I want to play with the dolls’ house upstairs but Evangeline told me it was her sister’s and I can’t.”
“Who’s Evangeline?” her mother asked.
“My new friend.”
Sarah remembered that she too had had an imaginary friend when she was around Sophia’s age and thought no more of it. Then Mark returned with Daisy. Sophia had gone back to her room to play with her new ‘friend’. As soon as Mark opened the front door, Daisy bounded up the stairs, barking her head off. She raced into Sophia’s room and the little girl screamed.
“Evangeline’s scared of dogs! Get Daisy away!”
The little girl’s eyes were wide, her face blanched. Sarah felt a chill of fear race through her body. Something wasn’t right. This imaginary friend seemed far more real to her than her own had been. Mark pulled Daisy out of the room and Sarah comforted her sobbing child.
“I’m sorry, Mummy, but dogs really scare Evangeline.”
The next few days were fairly uneventful. Sophia constantly chattered about her new friend. “Evangeline let me play with the dolls’ house. She’s very nice.”
“Good,” her mother replied, going along with what she believed to be her child’s fantasy, but still unable to reconcile the trepidation she felt.
Then, over the next few days, Evangeline seemed to misbehave. Sophia complained that she wouldn’t share her toys anymore.
One evening, when Mark was away on business, Sarah’s fears became a terrifying encounter.
Sophia had fallen asleep on the sofa in the living room and her mother hadn’t the heart to wake her. The grandfather clock began to chime midnight when the lights flickered and then went out. Sarah stumbled out of the kitchen with a flashlight in her hand and opened the living room door. A scream caught in her throat at the sight that greeted her in the beam from her torch.
A young girl, no more than thirteen or fourteen, wearing a long, frilly white dress in late Victorian style, was kneeling on the floor next to Sophia, stroking the child’s hair and softly singing a lullaby. Evangeline. It had to be. But why was she here?
“Get away from her!” Sarah yelled. Suddenly Daisy bounded past her and started barking. Clearly the dog was seeing what she was. Sophia woke and burst into tears.
The apparition was on her feet and backing away from Daisy, a look of frozen terror on her face.
“Who are you? What do you want from my daughter?” Sarah cried.
But Evangeline ignored her. It seemed her only concern was to get away from the dog. She dashed across the room, turned, screamed and disappeared. The lights instantly came back on.
Sarah called Mark who came home straightaway. The couple called in the local priest, who knew something of the history of the house. He listened to their story, his expression increasingly amazed at what they told him. It transpired that a family with a young daughter had lived in the house a hundred or more years earlier and there had been a terrible tragedy. The family dog, normally placid and good with children, inexplicably turned on the girl and savaged her. She died from her injuries.
The girl’s name was Evangeline.
The priest blessed the house and the family never saw or heard the ghost girl again. They have never been able to find a rational explanation for their experience and it seems Sophia has forgotten she ever had a friend who couldn’t be there.
Now, to give you a taste of The Devil’s Serenade, here’s the blurb:
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…
“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen.
She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room.
As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.
Here’s an extract:
A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer.
The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.
I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.
I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner. Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.
I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.
You can find The Devil’s Serenade here:
And other online retailers
About the author:
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories.
She was the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits in the Shadows.
Other titles include: The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.
You can connect with Cat here: