The Secret of Blossom Rise by @libraryoferana is a Trick or Treat Bonanza pick #paranormal #giveaway
Title: The Secret of Blossom Rise – A Ghost Story
Author: A.L. Butcher
Genre: Short Stories/Ghosts/Paranormal/Dark Fantasy
When a young nurse accepts a job at a former military hospital, she unearths a family secret and finds the spectral occupants a little too familiar.
A short ghost story.
The thirtieth consecutive day of rain pelted onto paving which had seen better days two decades ago and was now a patchwork of cracks, half-hearted repairs and, here and there, slippery boards. There was a war on, and money for repairs was scarce. The sky was iron-grey and desolate, as though rain was all there was, and the sun was mere legend. Many believed it this was true, or at least grumbled as much. The sky had always held Mother Nature’s power, more recently it held death on screaming wings made by the hand of man.
Figures hurried by beneath sodden umbrellas, if they were lucky, and ran for cover if they were not. A uniformed man limped as briskly as he could manage, one hand clutched a walking cane, the other wrapped around a large umbrella. Beside him strode a smaller, female figure, also in uniform, and sheltering beneath the arms of the umbrella. They were close but trying to appear not to be.
“Will this ever end? It seems like there is nothing but rain, rain and war,” the smaller figure said, turning her face to his, and searching, for answers no one really knew.
“It must end, one way or the other, Mabel. The world cannot endure this unrelenting horror. We will win this awful conflict or be destroyed. As for the rain – it will end, and the sun will rise,” her companion said, but the eyes which stared at the sky were not filled with hope. The man was in his mid-thirties, but his haggard face looked ten years older, such was the burden of loss he carried, and the responsibility for other men’s lives. War aged a man. She looked younger and had once been wide-eyed and innocent, but the world had seen that innocence stripped away, like skin beneath a knife.
He pulled her close, glancing around in case any onlookers should see them, but everyone was preoccupied in staying dray and their own business. “The world has gone mad, and politics with it, but we have each other. Even in the rain, you are beautiful.”
The woman held herself in his embrace for just a moment, then pulled away, “Not here, Leo. We must keep it professional.”
Reluctantly he nodded and said louder, “I am healing well enough. The doctor tells me the limp will be permanent and I’ll never be strong again, but I’ll keep my leg and live to fight another day. Men like me are needed, and there are few enough of us these days. I can serve my country in other ways.”
`With that, he looked at something distant – perhaps a foreign land. “Living another day is all we have these awful times. Each one is precious, for tomorrow the Nazis may be at our door. And I can’t say I am keen to return to the field of war.”
He touched her arm, “I love you, Mabel, for what love in war is worth. Now be a good girl and fetch my case. I’ll meet you inside, we are early anyway.” He handed her the umbrella and hiding in the shelter of the doorway lit a cigarette and looked out towards the wards filled with the damaged, the insane and the dying. Ghosts of men, some said, and it was true. Leo felt hollow, incomplete. Something other than blood and flesh had been lost in that foreign theatre of war. In the horror he’d asked God to help him, to stop this awful mess, but all he’d heard was the scream of his comrades, the thunder of bombs and silence from the Man Upstairs. Once a Catholic – he’d cursed God’s holy name when another of his men tumbled lifelessly beside him. How could a loving God allow such slaughter? Leo knew his faith was gone, shot away piece by piece, and his soul with it.
Thinking of all the friends he’d lost, all the wickedness of man, made real in a war that had shaken the world to its iron core the man called Leo limped towards the bunker, his second home now his wounds were healing. Strategy was needed, and Leo had been behind the lines, laying mines and infiltrating where he could. He was, so he’d learned, one of the last survivors of his unit.
“She’ll be the death of me if those bombs don’t get us first.” Mabel was the only thing of beauty he’d seen in far too long. Too many years living on the edge of a knife where fear was one’s constant companion and loss one’s daily brethren changed a person, and not for the better. Especially a man like Leo Campbell, who could not admit to his fear, and was honoured for his perseverance and bravery under fire and his cunning.
It was all a sham. All of it – civilisation, decency, morality - had been tested, and found wanting. His own father had been killed in Ypres and his mother forced to raise five children on a widow’s pension. He’d gained extra money and food poaching – knew how to use a gun. Eyes closed, he saw his mother’s face as he went to war – the fear, the regrets, and the sadness. Such emotions mirrored in his wife’s younger face.
“It’s my duty,” he’d said. “We cannot let the likes of Herr Hitler control Europe. It will be over soon enough.” He’d believed that then.
Leo laughed. But there was no mirth. Four long and terrifying years of war had proven Hitler was not a man who would give up his wicked machinations easily, and Britain would stand against him, alone if she had to. Neither side would capitulate until the enemy was in the streets and at the door.
The world had gone mad with slaughter in the War to End All Wars a generation past – but that had been a lie as well. Politics, death and lies entwined as the casualties grew. Freedom exacted a terrible price. Leo knew that as the bodies had piled up around him in that small French town – now little more than a shell. He’d led what was left of his men into battle, when their captain had been slain and pushed back the enemy, gaining some useful intelligence for his pains. But it had all been futile when the next regiment of panzers rolled in and he and his men found the landmines as they’d tried to retreat. The blood still flowed when he closed his eyes.
Leo dreamt of the faces of the men he’d shot or bayonetted behind the fluctuating German lines. Men like him. Simple men who had been sent to war or signed up unknowing of the horror. Politicians made war, but soldiers died in it far removed from the seat of their government. In this war, civilians lived in fear of the blitz from the sky. Even the clouds were not safe in a world of madness and blood. Was this the end of days? The final judgement for Man’s sins? Leo did not know, and his faith in a good divinity had bled away on the fields of war.
He longed to be far away, on a picnic blanket in the Cotswolds with Mabel. Home with his wife, Audrey, and his daughters, his conscience said. He’d lost much of that conscience in this war. What was adultery, when man sinned the ultimate sin for his country, for freedom, every single day?
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If you could dress up as anything or anyone this Halloween, what or who would it be and why?
Phantom of the Opera – which I have done before – as it’s a great story. There is mystery, love and unrequited love, horror and tragedy. Oh and then there’s the Phantom, Erik….
Explain why your featured book is a treat to read:
The Secret of Blossom Rise is a tale of war and the terrible price it exacts – not just whilst it’s being fought but for years after. It’s a tale of a woman’s curiosity about her family secret; there’s a bit of romance, and a bit of paranormal. Although it’s short there’s a lot going on and the ending is a bit of a surprise.
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Runs October 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on November 1.
British-born A. L. Butcher is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as ‘evocative’. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.
Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror, including the Legacy of the Mask series. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.
She also curates speculative fiction themed book bundles on BundleRabbit - for the most part the Here Be Series
Alex is also proud to be a writer for Perseid Press where her work features in Heroika: Dragon Eaters, Heroika Skirmishers – where she was editor and cover designer as well as writer; and Lovers in Hell – part of the acclaimed Heroes in Hell series. http://www.theperseidpress.com/
Awards: Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.
NN Light Book Heaven awards:
The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales won best fantasy for 2018
Echoes of a Song - one of her Phantom tales - won best fantasy in 2019
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