In which a dead twelfth century monarch inexplicably goes street

A funny thing happened to me this afternoon. I was drafting a short story for 42-Worcester, a local spoken word event focusing on the ghoulish and the speculative end of fiction. It’s an event I go along to quite often but very rarely perform at, because I tend to write novel length frothy romance, which wouldn’t quite be ideal to read aloud in a ten minute slot at a sci-fi and horror night.

Anyhoo, next month I’m down to perform and I was whipping together a little ghostly delight to share with the group; I alighted on the idea of writing about the ghosts of Worcester Cathedral focusing on Prince Arthur, the elder brother of Henry VIII, who is buried in Worcester. All was going swimmingly until the ghostly Arthur struck up a conversation with the even more longevitously deceased King John, and the dead twelfth century monarch starting talking like a 1990s rap wannabe.

“Wassup bro?” he said. This startled me somewhat, not simply because that’s a teeny bit anachronistic for a man of regal birth who died in 1216, but also because I had no idea he was going to say it, and still have absolutely no clue why he did. That is very very wrong. Ghost King John is fictional. He exists only inside my head. He should not say things if I don’t know why he’s saying them.

There is with writing, as with pretty much all creative endeavours, a sweet spot, where you get into a groove and the words just flow without very much conscious thought. It’s a beautiful and liberating thing. It happens, for me at least, for about five thousand words of an eighty thousand word book. The rest is sheer effort, but you stick with it in hope of alighting upon another few hundred words of magic carefree writing bliss.

King John going all street was beyond that though. This was a line that I typed with my own typing fingers which are attached to my typing arms which are attached to my shoulders which are attached to my neck which is attached to my head, which puports to contain my brain, and as soon as I’d typed them my brain yelled, “What?”

Ghost King John had properly gone rogue, beyond the control of his author. There are reasons history remembers him as Bad King John, and I’m increasingly convinced that an unwillingness to conform to his designated character arc is probably one of them. Bad Bad Fictional Ghost King John.

So that was weird. I mean, it’s totally fine. I can just go back and delete him. That’ll show him who’s in charge around here, but it leads me to a question for the writers out there – what do you do when a character goes rogue? Go along with it for the ride, or briskly reign them back onto the plan?

A rare Friday blogpost. It’s crazy, crazy behaviour, I tell you.

A rare Friday blogpost for you. And a rare posting of a short story rather than a random rant.

This is the story I wrote for last week’s 42 event in Worcester. 42 is a spoken word event focused on gothic, fantasy, sci-fi and horror writing, so I described this story as “what happens when you get a chick lit writer very drunk and insist that she writes horror.” The piece was written as a monologue to perform, rather than as a story to be read quietly to oneself, so in that spirit I do expect you to read it aloud to yourself (and to any adjacent people or animals) putting on your best The Only Way is Essex voice. Off you go…


<<Space where title would go, if I’d thought of one, which I haven’t>>

1st January. Weight 12 stone (12 whole stone, which must be 95% sage and onion stuffing. I like totes don’t even like sage and onion stuffing).

New Year’s Resolutions.

This year I will:

Number 1: lose 2 stone.

Number 2: only drink responsibly and in moderation.

Number 3: open a savings account to facilitate the buying of Manolo Blahnik heels (I’m realistic – last season’s off of Ebay is like fine).

Number 4: find Carrot. I feel a bit guilts about not looking for him last night but it was like New Year’s Eve and he’s a cat so it’s totally not major. Cats are all right outside for a like a few nights, aren’t they?

Number 5: And I will totally do something about my neighbour, cos the noises are like freaking me right out. Yeah. Totally. Like tomorrow. Yeah. Tomorrow I will totally do something about my neighbour.

Number 6: I will spend less time on facebook.

I go to update my facebook status about my resolutions. There seems to be some new joke going round about brains. Like whatever.



17th January. Savings £6.74 Weight 12 stone 3, but everyone bloats a bit in winter. Don’t they?

So I didn’t have to do anything about my neighbour in the end. They came, like someone came, with an ambulance and they knocked on the door and then it sounded like they maybe broke the door. And he’s gone now, so that’s fine. It’s good. I don’t think I could have put up with the moaning noises very much longer.

I put the news on when I got in from work. It had gone all weird though, so I put it on Hollyoaks and opened a bottle of Pinot instead. I read through facebook on my phone. Loads of people have got this “Brains. Brains. Brains” thing on their status. It’s totes annoying. I hate not knowing what the joke is.

There’s still no sign of Carrot.



19th January Savings 74p (due to unexpectedly having to pay overdraft fee from Christmas). Weight 11 stone 12, which is like 5lbs in 2 days cos I’m on this totally incredible detox thing that Amanda Holden does.


Anyway, that’s not even the most exciting thing. The most exciting thing is that there are totally like TV cameras in my street, and the police came back last night and they’ve put like all this tape stuff around my neighbour’s house and all these guys keep going in wearing these like really ugly onesies. It’s like totes fabuloso.

So this afternoon, I put on an extra set of eyelashes, and squeezed into my little black dress, the nice one from Jigsaw, not the skanky New Look one, and I just stuck my head out to have a little look, cos I thought maybe I might get on the telly. They like to interview the neighbours don’t they? You know, like all those weird old women you see saying that the man in the flat downstairs never looked like the sort to do a crazed stalking.

As soon as I got outside though all these police came running and yelling at me to stay indoors, which is like totally unfair, cos if there’s telly in my street I like totally deserve to be on it. And I’d already texted Andrea to tell her I was going to be on the news, and she’s all going to think I was making it up.

So I then put the telly on, to see what they’re talking about that’s better than interviewing me. You could like see my house but they weren’t even talking about my neighbour though. They were all wittering on about some dude called Patient zero. Boring!

Still no sign of Carrot.



20th January Savings – still 74p. Weight 12 stone, which is totally not really my fault.


There’s still police next door, and now there’s one outside my house too. He’s called Anthony. He’s actually kind of cute. I totally friended him. Would going out with a policeman be cool? Uniforms are hot, but it’s not like he’s a fireman. Maybe, I could persuade him to become a detective. That’s definitely cooler, isn’t it? And I bet they like earn more.

Anyway, it’s totally Anthony’s fault that I put 2lbs back on. I was happily doing my detox, and then he was all standing outside my door saying I couldn’t go out, but that they could bring me some food. And I meant to say, “No thanks, babe. I’m detoxing,” but then I saw that one of the tv cameramen had a bacon sandwich. So like yeah.

Oh yeah, that’s the thing. No-one in the street’s allowed to go out. Apparently my neighbour was this Patient Zero dude, which sounds weird. Patient Zero sounds like something out of Doctor Who. I say that to Anthony, and ask if my neighbour was plotting to take over the universe. He just looks at me and shakes his head. Not much sense of humour, Anthony. He’ll have to work on that if we’re going to be together.

I put the telly on for a bit, cos I’m not allowed to go anywhere. It’s some Jeremy Kyle thing with a woman saying her ex-boyfriend “turned” and ate her bull terrier’s brains. Like how gross is that?

Still no sign of Carrot.



22nd January 2am.

It’s gone quiet now, which is good I think. I take a tiny peek out of my bedroom window, but there’s no-one in the street. Not even Anthony. He’s probably gone on a break, or maybe he’s gone altogether. Maybe it’s all over now, and he’s been allowed to go home.

I think that might not be it though, because before it went quiet it went really really loud, and there was shouting. Not shouting. Screaming. And it sounded like it might be Anthony screaming. But it probably wasn’t. I think that probably he’s just gone on a break, and that if I pull the duvet up over my head and go back to sleep, everything will be all right again in the morning.


That didn’t work though. I kept thinking about the man who came to see me yesterday. The man – he said he wasn’t police, and he wasn’t from the council and he wasn’t a doctor, but he wouldn’t say what he was – just that he was here to make sure everything was safe. And that seemed good. Like safe is good. Right. And he asked me all about my neighbour, and I gave him my best performance, even though it wasn’t on the telly. He seemed a bit cross when I told him about the noises, and then he asked if I had any pets and I told him about Carrot being missing, and he just rolled his eyes. And then he asked me if I even watched the news, and I said I didn’t really see what that had to do with anything, and I asked him when I’d be allowed to go out and go back to work, cos I need to get on with saving for my Manolos, but I don’t think he even knew what Manolos were. Some people are just like totes ignorant.

I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went on facebook, but people’s statuses are weird. Half of them are still doing this “Brains, brains, brains” thing and the other half are all about how someone’s coming or about how France has got it too and it’s not safe on the continent. I don’t know what that’s about. Probably something to do with the euro. See. I totally know about the news.

In the end I put the TV on, but that was just some spoof documentary thing about zombies. It was actually really well done, like it’d been filmed in real streets and stuff. The zombies looked a bit crap though, like they’d just stuck some bits of flakey skin onto regular people.


There’s someone at the door. It’s half past two in the morning. Why the fuck would there be someone at the door? They’re clattering the letterbox and shouting through. “Brains. Brains. Brains.” Great. That again. It sounds like Anthony though. It’s like totes unprofessional for him to be pissing about when he’s on duty. I pick up my phone and update my status. “Brains through the letterbox. Lol.” And I go to answer the door.