Mark Towse

The August Featured Writer is Mark Towse

Feel free to email Mark at:



by Mark Towse

His blanket was up to his nose and he was gripped with fear, his breathing quick and erratic as he stared at the open closet door.

Why didn’t I shut it before?

The boy scanned the rest of the room and his eyes landed on the tiger which sat on top of his shelf, the glass eyes lit, the light from the lava lamp making it appear as a demonic animal.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit …

He knew it was irrational but the fear of what could happen in most circumstances was always greater at night than it was during the day. He turned away and gripped the sheets tighter; they were moist with sweat now.

Nice things, come on Jack, think nice things.


Where did that voice come from, you’re freaking out, keep it together.


Oh shit, oh shit...

He turned back around and saw the red eyes immediately; they belonged to a tall man standing in his room as if he had just come out of the cupboard.  He tried to scream but nothing came out.

The man smiled and held out his hand. In his palm was a small coin and it was lighting up the man’s hand with an array of blue and orange shades.

“Ma … Maaa,” Jack tried to scream.

The guy mimicked the noise, “Ma …,” and maintained the smile throughout. Jack was pinching himself under the sheets, convinced he was having a nightmare and he would wake up soon, alone.

The guy with the red eyes approached the bed, pulled a seat from under Jack’s desk and swirled it around and sat down in one smooth motion. He extended his arm with the coin again and gestured with his eyes for Jack to take it. The boy was frozen, incapable of speech or movement and couldn’t tear away from those eyes. This was no lava lamp trick, and the man’s eyes were like tiny lasers trying to bore their way into his soul.

“Just take it, Jack, it’s a magic coin.”

The boy looked at the coin and then back to the guy. It looked just like any other coin now but if the man said it was a raccoon, he would have nodded.

“There is nothing to be afraid of...this is your lucky day. This is a gift from your Dad, and he asked me to give this to you.”

He looked at the man who nodded and continued, “Your dad is proud of the man you are becoming. He told me he has forgiven you for taking the twenty dollars out of his wallet that time and lying about it. He also said you need to move those magazines from under your bed before your Mum finds out.”

Jack was terrified but at the same time he was growing curious. If this guy did really know his Dad then perhaps he shouldn’t be scared. The man was also right about the tit mags.

“This coin will help guide you between pure souls and malevolence. For the pure of heart, the coin will be cool and turn a shade of blue...but for those who do evil, it will become hot and red in color. Use it to your advantage Jack; this is your sixth sense.”

Jack looked back at the coin again. He let go of the sheets with one of his hands and started to reach out. He grabbed the coin and the man suddenly snapped his hand closed around Jack’s wrist. The pain was so intense that he could feel every single tiny hair on his body stand to attention. His mind exploded with a tornado of blue and orange light, and he felt as though he was on some supersonic fairground ride.

Then the man let go, and Jack fell back into his pillow.


The sun poured through the window. It felt soothing on his cheek and for a minute everything was great with the world.

And then Jack remembered the nightmare.

There was the coin lying on the pillow next to him, just a dull silver emblem of some stranger’s face staring at him.

“Jack, are you up?” His mum shouted through the door.

He grabbed the coin and put it in his wallet next to the picture of his Dad. He got dressed in his school clothes, shut the closet door and went down for breakfast.

“You look tired, Jack. Didn’t you sleep okay?”

“I’m okay, Mum.” He thought about telling her what happened, but the last thing he wanted to do was to upset his mother. She was a strong woman, but to lose Dad must have been hard even for her.

His mother said, “I’ll be back later tonight. We have some new nurses starting and we have to give them the grand tour. You’ll be okay?”

“Sure, Mum.” He downed his orange juice, kissed his Mum goodbye and ran for the bus. His part of the county didn’t have a real school bus; he had to take the public transit.

He went straight up the steps to the top deck and sat halfway down the bus and waited for the pretty girl to get on; the one he crushed over. He wondered if he would have the courage to say hello to her this time, but he doubted it.

He got the coin out and studied it more closely. It felt heavier than it looked and he realized that the stranger’s face was on both sides of the coin. There was no tail side.  He put the coin back in his pocket and nervously tapped his feet.

And then the weird grownup got on the bus.

Oh crap, he’s coming up the stairs; I hate it when he smiles at me.

It was the same every school day. This grownup freaked him out and he had heard the rumors. Today the weird man was carrying a bag of candy and that was a big tell-tale sign in his book. He was always skeptical of adults carrying bags of candy. Was the man one of “those?” Jack knew about those kind.

The man walked towards him and he could feel his leg underneath the pocketed coin burn intensely.

The man smiled and looked down at him. He offered Jack one of the candies. Jack let out a huge yelp; it felt as though someone was holding a red-hot poker to his thigh. He bit his lip and shook his head and looked the other way out the window.

Jack managed to croak out, “Go away and fuck off!”

If the man was shocked that a young boy could say such words, he didn’t show it. The Candy Man went to the back of the bus. The heat started fading from the coin in Jack’s pocket.

It works, he thought. The coin knew that man was bad.

And then, there she was. Stay cool, stay cool.

She boarded the bus and went straight up the stairs and when she realized Jack was watching her, she flicked her red hair across her face and sat directly in front of him. The pain in his leg subsided immediately; she had brought with her a wave of cool relief.

She smells so goddamn good, how can someone smell that good?

She turned around and Jack quickly looked out the window.

She smiled “Your name is Jack isn’t it?”

Oh shit, oh crap

“Yeah, that’s what people call me.”

Douche, that’s generally what a name is!

She smiled, “Well, I’d like to talk to you. Come and sit next to me, Jack.”

He moved to the seat in front and thought to himself this was the most magnificent day he’d had for a while. She actually knew my name!

“I’m Jessica,” she said and smiled and flicked her hair again.

He sat there in silence for a while but finally found the courage to start asking her about school, about what she liked to do, her family and lots of other small talk. He felt happy. He was getting better at this.

Then the weird guy ambled past them, turned and smiled. Jack felt the heat in his leg again.  The Candy Man continued on his way and the coolness returned, not particularly comfortable but better than the heat that had ripped through him previously.

“That man gives me the creeps,” Jack said.

“He’s a kiddy fiddler, you know.”

Jack turned to look at her. “I’ve heard the rumors. So you think it’s true?”

“Someone should do something. We should try and get him to leave town,” she said,

“What can we do? We’re just kids. Nobody listens to kids.”

“We can spread the word.”

“Yeah but I don’t think we know for sure if he does those things or not.”

“Jack, you really do have a lot to learn. That man doesn’t need to actually do anything; rumors will be enough to send him on his way.” She touched his cheek gently.

He thought about it at school all day, he held the coin in the palm of his hand and felt the slight coolness and warmth throughout the day but nothing to the scale he had felt on the bus.

He already knew he was going to do it for Jessica. He would do anything to get her to sit with him again. If she wanted the weird man gone, he’d help her for sure.

On the way home, Jessica was not on the bus. He thought about his dad, the games of basketball they used to play, the fishing, the countless nights playing with Lego and he cried. He could feel the coin perpetually changing temperature as he passed people on the street; he sat down on the bench outside the church, something he had done quite often since losing his Dad and began to cry.

Suddenly the shooting pain was intense and unmistakeably if he had reached for the coin from his pocket it would have been glowing orange at that time.

“Are you okay, son?”

Jack looked up to see the church vicar; he bent down to Jack’s level and rubbed his hair.

“I’m fine, thanks,” Jack replied forcing a smile.

“If you ever need a friend, Champ, come for a chat,” the vicar said and went back to putting his letter on the sign. YOU CAN’T WALK WITH GOD WHEN HOLDING HANDS WITH THE DEVIL.


That night, Jack made sure his closet door was closed. In the morning, he decided the gift he had been given was going to keep him safe. It was his responsibility and what he had to do tomorrow was all part of it.

I’m ready. Anything for Jessica.

He headed to the bus stop. There was the Candy Man, waiting for the bus.

When the bus drove up, Jack looked and saw Jessica inside. He wondered why she had boarded earlier when she normally got on after he did. She was sitting a few seats in front, and she turned around and winked at him through the window.

That told Jack that everything was ready to go.

He steadied himself and slowed his breathing as he climbed the stairs and entered the bus. He’d wrapped the coin in tissue but the pain was still agony and burned into the top of his leg. Jack knew that the Candy Man was behind him. The coin never lied.

Jack stopped suddenly, forcing the weird man to bump into him. Jack screamed at the top of his lungs “Help! This man is trying to touch me!”

Had he overdone it?

The passengers turned around as the Candy Man looked Jack in the eye with disbelief.

The passengers rose up from their seats almost as a single entity. A middle-aged man shouted, “I saw him! I saw that man touch that kid!”

Another passenger yelled, “Let’s get him!”

A woman pulled the emergency cord on the bus and the middle-aged man grabbed the accused and shook him. He shoved the Candy Man to the ground while other men started advancing.

Jack looked across at Jessica. She winked.

The Candy Man was down on the floor and started to blubber like a child.

“Game’s up!” the middle-aged man shouted as he punched the weird man in the face.

Jack watched the police get on the bus. The middle-aged man did most of the talking and the two other passengers backed him up.

“This all true, Sonny?” The policeman asked Jack.

“Yes,” Jack said without hesitation. He sat down next to Jessica.

The police took the Candy Man away with them. Jack and Jessica watched them put him in the back seat of the car and drive off.

She grabbed his hand and put it close to her chest. He felt brave and the coin had given him strength he never knew he had. He knew he was a hero.

His mum greeted him at the door and gave him the biggest hug. He could still feel the burn in his leg from earlier.

She stopped hugging him and held him at arm’s length to study his face. “You’re acting funny. Did anything happen today?”

He told her the story, the made up one, of course. His mum made the frown he hated and looked him straight in the eye.

“Jack, what did this guy look like?”

He sensed a grilling was coming and his confidence was gone.

“I don’t know…he was tall with a bit of a belly. He was bald in some places and he had a bag of candy.”

“Was he wearing sweatpants?”

“Yes, he was, how did…?”

“Jack, that man was Jeff. I have known Jeff for ages. Every day he brings lollies to the kids on the cancer ward. The kids love him. Jeff is a good man who would never do what you said he did.”

His gaze remained fixed on the carpet, “I’ve told you the truth, Mum. Why won’t you believe me?”

“Jack, you won’t even look me in the eye. I know you and there’s something you’re not telling me.”

He could feel he was cracking. In desperation, he said, “Dad would believe me!”

He jerked away from his mum and ran off to his bedroom. He slammed the door behind him and threw the coin against the wall.

His mum followed, opened the door and calmly sat next to him on the bed. “Jeff has learning difficulties. He’s very caring and sweet. I just can’t imagine he would do this.”

“He’s done it before Mum!”

He put his head between his hands and just wished for her to leave him alone. He knew he was doing the right thing and the coin was proof that Jeff was guilty.

“Jack, look at me,”

He couldn’t look her in the eye. Suddenly he was confused. He didn’t know what the truth was anymore. He suddenly remembered that the coin had even glowed for the priest, and he felt heartsick.

“I want Dad back!” he screamed.

“Jack, for the last time, I want you to tell me the truth.”

“You didn’t even like Dad anyway, you were always arguing with him for no reason! I bet you’re glad he’s dead!”

She could feel herself losing it, she saw the photograph of his Dad on the inside of the cupboard door, ripped it out and threw it on the bed. “I’ll go first with the truth then, shall I, Jack? How do you think I got all of those bruises? Do you really believe I was that clumsy?”

She was on her feet now, frenzied. “Your Dad used to beat me! He broke my jaw twice and knocked four of my teeth out. He was an evil bastard!”

He ducked his head under the pillow and started punching the side of his bed. “No, you’re lying!”

She started crying. That changed everything inside him.

He’d never seen her like this before; he wished he was never given the coin. He got off the bed and went to hug her, he touched her cheek and looked into her eyes and saw the goodness behind them.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it,” he said, He could see a faint glimmer of orange in the corner of his room where the coin had fallen.

He folded. He told her everything from his visit that night: the coin, Jessica and the plan. She shook her head and hugged him close and told him everything was going to be okay, he believed her.

She called the police and made him confess over the phone; they would come down and get a full version later on. Jack promised he would apologize to Jeff in the morning.

Exhausted, Jack turned in early, but not before he made sure his closet door was closed. Within minutes, he was asleep.

“Jack,” came the voice.

He turned and mumbled something in his sleep but didn’t wake.


This time he opened his eyes. He was facing away from the cupboard but knew who the voice belonged to.  He turned around and saw the man with the red eyes.

“I’m going to need that coin back now Jack.”

“Take it! It doesn’t work anyway,” Jack said and handed the coin over.

“Oh it does Jack, it does…your Dad says well done by the way, one less for their team.” He laughed and walked back into the darkness of the closet and vanished.


On the bus to school the next day, he looked for the guy called Jeff but he didn’t get on at the usual stop. In fact, Jeff didn’t get on at all.

He had hung himself the night before.

It hadn’t taken long for the news to circulate. It was a small town.

Jessica never sat next to him again. She sat next to a different bunch of kids at the front of the bus.

One day, he saw her turn to look at him and he heard her say to her new friends, “That’s Jack; he’s the creep that made that poor innocent guy kill himself.”

Mark Towse is 44 years of age and resides in Melbourne. He has only recently rediscovered his passion for writing and his pen is smoking, with recent purchased pieces appearing in publications such as Books N Pieces amongst many others.

He currently works in sales and marketing but would sell his soul to the devil to become a full time author.

The first booked he borrowed after receiving his first library card at the age of 13 was Cujo.

Please feel free to email him at 
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