Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Shelley's Nightmare By Alizon Robertson

A constant high pitched ringing pulled Shelley awake. She tried to rise but a malevolent weight squatted on her chest. Ding, ding, ding, the sound trilled again, light as a tin bell hit with a tiny hammer, but nasty in its insistence. Bullying. She dragged herself to sitting and disturbed the heavy laptop lying on her covers. She must have fallen asleep surfing the net, but why would it not shut up, ding after ding? Turning the sound down had no effect. She glanced at the smeared tumbler on her bedside table, a browning lemon floundering like a dead fish in an inch of melted ice. What had she posted in her gin haze last night?

She clicked to her Facebook page and did a double take. There she was standing under the banner of a far right hate group, her face contorted in a snarl, the placard in her hand yelling Close Our Borders Now! Some lookalike or body double. Not her. She had never been on a rally. She clicked on her familiar profile except now her face was framed in a little union flag. Beneath the picture a new message appeared: ‘take a look in the mirror you foul racist cow!’ As her finger hovered over ‘report’, a reply began typing before her eyes. ShelleyLou was answering back with vile threats she herself couldn’t bear to read. She, Shelley was here in her own bed and she was not a racist. No. She was always nice to Aysha in the staffroom and that Polish cleaner Zetla. Another ding. She covered her ears to block it out and a memory slithered in. Last Tuesday she had been boarding the bus and the first available seat was next to a woman in a hijab so she had carried on to the back. You could see more from up there, she told herself. It was the words that had shocked her though, the horrible insult slipping into her head. It had happened a lot recently, that nasty voice. She’d even given it a name: Stanley. Sometimes she had to shout at him. Shut up Stanley. Now he was writing her messages for her. He was hacking into her profile and making that terrible bell ring and ring.

Shelley stabbed her finger on the keyboard. Shut up, she screamed, shut the hell up. The dings kept coming faster, sharper and tinnier. She threw the laptop against the wall cracking the screen and splitting her profile image into slivers of red white and blue.

The laptop lay silent, but now the dinging was coming from outside. She knelt at the window and peered under the curtain and over the edge. A dark shape pushed open the gate and shuffled up her path. Another came and then another. Soon the little front garden was full of shadowy bodies, crushing her winter pansies and trampling the daffs. Ding, ding, ding the gate rang as they swarmed in pressing against her front door, murmuring, murmuring.


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