The Horror Zine
Tim Jeffreys

The September Second Selected Story is by Tim Jeffreys

Please feel free to email Tim at:


Tim Jeffreys

by Tim Jeffreys

The sun set above the town, obscured by cloud. Shafts of light, cutting through gaps in the cloud, pointed toward the landscape below. To Jim, as he gazed from the train window, it seemed as if his eyes were being drawn to the place he was leaving, to the shops, the townhouses, the factories; all that he had known for the fourteen years of his life, all that was familiar. He was exited to be going away for a while, but mixed with this was an element of dread. He glanced at Ste and Kelvin, his two friends and traveling companions, who were busy settling themselves in their seats.  Out the window, the horizon turned murky orange and yellow. The onset of night was drawing the colour from the day, turning all first to gray shadow, then slowly darkening. The train pulled forward into the shifting landscape, the gathering dusk.

He fell asleep before Crewe. He woke once when the train was stopped outside a station.  Another train flashed by, shaking the carriage in it’s wake, rousing sleepy passengers, making Jim think of a loosed wild animal, roaring and maniacal, a beast thundering into the night in pursuit of some pray. Dark thoughts.  He pressed his head into his seat and slept again.

The sun had risen again by the time Jim was roused from sleep. A glance out of the window told him little. The landscape was lost to fog. There was nothing to see except the beginnings of fields, specters of trees.  Jim straightened himself, staring out of the window, blinking.  The train crawled along.  He saw a calf emerge out of the fog, wandering the path at the edge of the tracks.

“Where are we?”

Ste answered him, grinning and exited.  “Almost at the station.  You better get ready.  It’s our stop.”

Jim continued looking out of the window.  “I can’t see anything.”

Kelvin was pulling the rucksacks from the rack above.  Ste was busy reaching up to another rack, where they had stashed the tent.  “This will clear.  It’s not even six yet.”

Crookhaven station was small and deserted, an island in the fog.  The train was soon gone from sight, but its departing clackity-clacks  took longer to fade.  Jim bemusedly followed after his friends, who appeared to have decided which way they were headed.  He had the tent poles jammed under one arm and a box of fishing equipment in his other hand.

“Guys!” he called, seeing his friends hurrying on ahead.  He glanced down at the road. 

“Guys, I think the town is that way.”

“Town!” said Ste with a laugh. “We’re not going to town, Jim.  We came here to get away from everything, didn’t we?  We came here to get lost.”

“Where are you going then?”

Ste had crossed the road and mounted a fence that lined the edge of some grassland.  In the fog, it was impossible to see what was beyond.  Ste pointed into the field nonetheless.
“That way!”


His first kiss.

He opened his eyes.

A girl was crouched above him.  She was smiling.  Eyes like the sea at dusk.  Hair long and flowing.  A child’s mouth.  A child’s laughter.  A gauzy dress that had slipped from one shoulder.

He felt…fear.

Something in the way she was looking at him, like he was her treasure – a found object, a plaything.

He gasped, sitting half upright.  Then he blinked, baffled.  He was alone.  The flaps of the tent were open, but it was impossible anyone could have slipped away so quickly.

A dream, then?

His first kiss had been a dream.

He felt relief.

“Shit,” he murmured, falling flat.  He lay dozing for a few moments inside his sleeping bag, recalling the dream, remembering the girl and her soft kiss before it vanished with the day.  Besides his anxiety there were other arousals: vague, pleasant electrical currents that settled in his loins.  His heart was beating in his ears, but he let his mind drift awhile.  Perhaps, he thought idly, if he fell asleep again the dream would restart, it would set to rolling again in his mind.  Now he knew it was only a dream, he was willing to go along with it.

Then:  “Morning, Jim!  Wakey-wakey!  Hands off cocks and on socks!”

Jim looked down to see Kelvin’s round face pocking through the tent flaps.

“Get lost.”

“Charming!  I’m getting breakfast ready.  I’m starving.  You better get up or you’ll miss out.”

“Kel,” Jim said.  He struggled to free his arms from the sleeping bag and sit up.  “Who’s out there?  Is there…anyone out there?”

Kelvin frowned at him. “Ste’s gone for a walk down to that river we passed yesterday.  He couldn’t wait.  He wants to see how the land lies.  I told him we’d have breakfast ready by the time he gets back, so get up.  Come on, get to it.”

“Get out then.  I need to get dressed.  Or have you come to watch?”

Kelvin huffed as he withdrew from the tent.  As Jim groped around for his clothes, he heard Kelvin muttering to himself outside, probably collecting sticks for the fire.  He was soon dressed and out of the tent, blinking in the early sun.

“Clear,” he said to himself, recalling the previous day when they had walked and walked into the fog, on the instructions of Ste – who kept promising it would clear – until Kelvin said he could walk no more. They had pitched their tent in the place they’d been standing, which Jim now saw was the middle of a meadow.  To one side, there were the beginnings of a wood, to the other only dips and slopes of grass.  He could see no buildings.

“Get the tin opener!” Kelvin called to him from a short distance away where he was sat trying to build a fire.  Turning back to the tent, Jim noticed a trodden circle in the grass.
He followed the circle around the tent.  It was so neat and precise he doubted Ste or Kelvin had made it.  Looking about the field for similar markings, he immediately found two more nearby.

Kelvin called again:  “Tin opener!  Please!”

“There’s circles in the grass.  Have you seen them?  Did you notice them last night?”

“Jim,” Kelvin said, out of patience.  “Just get the tin opener, will you?  I’m about to starve to death.”

“Sure you are,” Jim muttered.

Kelvin had the fire smoldering.  When Jim joined him, the two of them picked through the selection of packets and tins they had brought in their backpacks.

“You realise we have no idea where we are?” Jim said.

Kelvin grinned.  “I know!  Isn’t it amazing?”  Then when he saw that Jim wasn’t smiling; he pointed toward the trees at the edge of the field.  “Don’t worry, Jim.  Town’s that way.”

“How do you know that?  I can’t see anything.”

“It’s behind those trees.  Relax.  Enjoy yourself.”

“Ste’s been a while.”

“Yeah, well…you know what he’s like.  Fancy a smoke?”

Jim glared at the cigarette pack Kelvin offered him.  “Where did you get those?”

“Found them.  In my mum’s apron pocket.  She’ll kill me if she finds out. Which is why I did it. Want one?”

“No thanks.”

Kelvin shrugged, lighting one cigarette in the fire.  Jim heard a shout from across the field.

“Here’s Ste now.”

Jim frowned at Kelvin. “What’s he yelling about?”

And then Jim turned to watch Ste dashing toward them.  Every now and then Ste would spring into the air, making whooping noises as he did.  He was out of breath by the time he reached the fire.  Immediately, he ditched something into the grass before Kelvin. 

“Christ, Ste!” Kelvin sprang to his feet and reared away.

Ste stood stooped forward, his hands propped on his knees, gathering his breath but grinning.  Jim looked at what had been thrown to the ground.

“Where did you find that?” Jim felt a shiver of revulsion.

“In the next field.  It was just sitting there.”

Jim looked closer at the object.  “That’s human.  I know it is.  It’s part of a human skull.  That a jaw bone!  You better get rid of it, Ste.”

“Don’t be daft.  It’s a souvenir.”

“It’s a human bone!  And do you realise we have no idea where we are?”

“Cool it, Jim.  It’s an animal bone.  A sheep or a dog or something.”

Kelvin was gingerly turning the skull with his foot.  “He might be right, Ste.  It does look human.”

“Okay, well – if it bothers you that much.”  Ste picked the bone up and tossed it far from them.  “Happy now?”

“You’re sick,” Kelvin muttered, returning his attention to the saucepan smoking on the fire.

Jim stood quite still for a few moments.  He felt a slight chill, though the sun was climbing higher overhead.  He was thinking of his dream, though now he felt more disturbed by it than thrilled.  Now the idea of waking up to find a stranger in the tent with him did not seem so appealing.  Shaking off the memory, he sat down in the grass with the others, thinking how it looked like being a nice day, and about how they could always rely on Ste to spoil a perfectly nice day by dragging something nasty out into the open.

“Hey, guys!  Hey, guys! How about some help?”

Ste and Kelvin were walking ahead of Jim.  Kelvin had brought something from his backpack, which the two poured over.  They had their backs to Jim, who had been left to carry all the fishing equipment.

“Come on,” Jim protested.  “This isn’t fair.”

“Just a second.  We’re busy.”

“What’re you doing?  What’re you looking at?”

Ste and Kelvin laughed together.

“Nothing for your eyes, Jim.  You’d get embarrassed.”

“What is it?”

“Nothing.  Just a magazine.”

They passed into a small wooded area, then out again into another field. Leaving the dappled shade of the trees, Jim stopped in his tracks.  The sun filled the whole of the next meadow.  The grass was high and spotted with colour: daisies, dandelions and other  flowers Jim couldn’t name grew in abundance.  The meadow was a wide area of grass with the sky blue above.  Jim was so struck by the place that he could have happily forgotten about fishing and spent the day on his back in the middle of that meadow.  It looked to him the most peaceful, enticing place he had ever set foot in.

Ste glanced over his shoulder.  “Come on, Jim.  Keep moving.”

“Can’t we have a rest?”

“Jim – here!”  Kelvin raised the magazine.  He roared with laughter when Jim diverted his eyes.  “I wouldn’t mind seeing Zoë Oswald lying down like that, eh?”

“Zoë Oswald!” Ste barked, punching Kelvin on the shoulder.  “She’s way beyond your league!”

“No she’s not.  I was thinking of asking her out next year.”

“What!”  Now Ste was laughing, bent forward clutching his stomach.  The full act.
Kelvin looked off to one side.  “She wouldn’t go out with you in a million years!  She’s a model, you goon.  I’ve seen her in the Littlewoods  catalogue.  She wouldn’t look twice at you.”

“Guys,” Jim interrupted, “can somebody besides me carry something?  These boxes are heavy.”

Kelvin stamped toward Jim, muttered:  “Give me something then.”

Ste was standing apart, untroubled by the shift in Kelvin’s mood.  He glanced about the field.

“This is where I found the bone, jawbone, or whatever.  It was right over there.”

Jim winced.  “You’re kidding, Ste?”

“No.  The river's over on that side.  Past those trees. The bone probably washed up. Whatever. Hey, let's swim.” 

Ste began striding off in the direction he had indicated.  Jim and Kelvin exchanged a look that said ‘here we go again’ before wading across the field in pursuit.

The river was wide, but not deep.  Standing on the bank, Jim could see the rocks and pebbles at the bottom of the water.  He searched for movement.  Could there be any fish in this river?  He was turning around to tell Ste that maybe they should follow the river to see if they could find a deeper stretch, when Ste came hurtling past him, stripped down to his underwear and hollering at the top of his voice.  He hit that water with a loud splash.
Jim dropped the fishing equipment down in the grass.

Ste shrieked.  “Cold!  Cold!  It’s freezing!”

“I’m coming in!” Kelvin said, already peeling off his t-shirt.

Jim sat on the bank, watching his two friends splash each other and frolic in the clear water.

“You not coming in, Jim?  It’s not that bad once you get used to it.”

“Can’t swim,” said Jim with a shrug.

Kelvin laughed.  “But it’s only waist high.  You’re not going to drown.”

“If you go under, I’ll save you, Jim.” Ste said.

Ste and Kelvin began chanting Jim’s name, throwing water up at him until he relented.  He stood and kicked off his sandals.  He took off his shirt, then stood shivering slightly on the bank, looking down at the water where his friends seemed so at home.  It was true it was only waist high, but Jim focused on the slight ripples on the surface, thought about how it pulled and dragged.  He thought about himself submerged.  He might trap his foot in a space between the rocks and go under.  He thought about himself grasping and fighting as he tried to break free, desperate, losing himself.

He took a step back.  “Can’t.”

“Don’t be a chicken.  What’s the matter?”

“I can’t.”

Jim turned his back to his friends and began walking toward the trees, attempting to escape their calls of derision, which had already begun.  He left them too it.  He wondered through to the wide meadow and fell down in the cool grass.  He lay staring at the sky.  Scraps of cloud hung against the blue, barely shifting.  A flock of white butterflies jittered above, then away.  Jim felt calm and relaxed.  He could still hear his friends splashing and shouting, but distant.  He was happy to be alone.  He lay still and let himself doze with the sun warm on his face and chest.  He smiled to himself, remembering what Kelvin had said about Zoe Oswald.  I’m going to ask her out next year. 

No chance, Jim thought.

When school started again, Zoe Oswald would be out of reach of all the boys.  The girls seemed to grow up so much faster.  Every September they seemed further ahead.  Suddenly they had a different shape, and styled hair, and make-up, and a certain maturity in their eyes.  They had become strange and alien.  Their conversations were somehow closed.  They made boys feel foolish for doing the things they had always done, like chasing balls and rolling in the dirt.  That look in their eyes said, “When are you going to grow up?” or even “When are you going to get hair on your balls.”  A girl had actually said that to Jim once, to make her friends laugh.  It was a girl he was fond of.  Her name was Summer.  Jim liked her name, because she was blond and freckled and looked like summer – to him at least.  He had teased her one day and she had turned around and said, “When are you going to get hair on your balls, Jim Stanley?”  Jim knew he was being mocked, but somehow what she had said exited him.  He had thought about it often since.  He thought about taking Summer away from her friends, taking her to a quiet corner of the school yard.  She would not protest.  She would stand there giggling.  And Jim would lean in close and say Wanna see?  Wanna--

There was a sound.

Jim opened his eyes.  He looked a the blue sky. His face felt hot and flushed.

The sound came again.  Abruptly, he sat up.

He looked toward the trees.  He turned his head to one side, listening.

There it was again.  Laughter.  A girl’s laughter.

He thought for a minute that Ste or Kelvin might be playing some trick on him, but he realised he could still hear the two of them down by the water.  This laughter he had heard was closer.  He scanned along the trees with his eyes.  He hitched a breath when he saw a movement.  Something had slipped between two tree trunks.  Again, he heard a low giggle of laughter.

For some reason he felt his heart pounding.  He realised he was frightened. Just as he had felt in his dream.

“Hel-Hello?” he ventured.

The only reply was another titter of laughter.  Again, he saw a form slip again between the trees.  Out of the corner of his eyes he saw movement also to his right.  He looked that way, thought he saw a girl or a young woman standing at the edge of the trees for a moment, looking back at him.  She was wearing some rough white cloth that hung off one shoulder – just like the girl in his dream that morning.  In seconds she had vanished, but as Jim stood gazing he realised that the wooded area was suddenly alive with figures, flitting between the trees, hardly letting themselves be seen at all, the only noise the odd giggle.  They seemed to be dancing, moving together in the cover of the shade.

By now, Jim was paralysed with fear.  He managed to call out to his friends.  He called out over and over again until he saw them stepping from the wood, looking at him baffled.

“What is it, Jim?”

Jim stared at his friends.  He stared at the trees.  Now there was no movement there.  He turned his ear again for the sound of laughter, but heard only the sound of the river running.

His friend’s faces were expectant.

“I think I’ve been in the sun too long.  I thought I saw something.”


“People.  Girls.  Dancing in the trees over there.”

Ste creased up with laughter.  Kelvin only stared at Jim, wide-eyed and incredulous.

“You believe this guy?”

“You were having a wet dream, Jim.”

“No,” Jim said, stunned.  “It wasn’t like that.  It…it was more of a nightmare.”

Of course, this only made Ste laugh even more.

Kelvin shook his head.  He began walking back toward the trees when he stopped and stared at the ground.

“Guys,” he said, in an ominous tone.

Ste patted Jim on the shoulder. “You’re a dork sometimes.  When we heard you shouting like that we thought you were being chased by a bull or something.”

“You see any bulls around?” Jim said, looking Ste directly in the eyes.  “We haven’t seen anything or anyone.  We don’t even know where we are.”

“Guys!” came Kelvin’s voice again.

“Don’t be like that, Jim.  We’re having an adventure.”

Jim was about to respond when Kelvin shouted louder still. “Hey guys! Another bone!”


Kelvin pointed at the ground.  By his feet was a long pale bone.

“That must belong to the bone I found earlier.  This one looks like part of an arm, or leg.”

Jim stared at the bone.  Then he moved off into the field and began searching amongst the grass.  He was alarmed to quickly come across more bones.  He unearthed a skull, horrified.  He turned back to his friends.  “There’s something really wrong here.  We should leave. We need to tell somebody about this.”

“It’s just a few bones,” Ste said.

“I mean it. We need to tell someone.”

Ste might normally have laughed at the idea of a tattletale, but instead he nodded and quietly said, “We need to get our things at the tent.”

“Leave them,” said Jim, glancing toward the trees that separated them from the river.  “Let’s just go.”

“What!  Don’t be daft.  I'm not leaving without my clothes.”

“All right, I’m going back to the tent to get my things,” Jim said. “Are you coming?”

When Ste and Kelvin stood immobile, Jim immediately turned to walk away.  He heard Ste and Kelvin exchange a few mutters, but he was walking fast away from them, leaving them behind.  He glanced once over his shoulder and saw them stepping into the trees, gone to fetch their clothes and the fishing gear they’d left by the river.

Once he got to the tent, he regretted his haste. Now he was alone near a meadow of bones. Why didn't Ste and Kelvin follow him? Jim waited hours by the tent, growing ever more frantic. He was afraid to take off without them, because he wasn't sure of the direction home.

It was possible his friends had stayed by the river, or gone off somewhere else.  As the day drew on, Jim busied himself by packing up his things.  He left the tent standing.  When he had finished, it was already getting late.  He stood looking toward the trees at the edge of the field, waiting for his friends to appear.  But still they didn't come.

Dusk was setting in when he saw a figure standing at the far end of the field, almost lost in the high grass. It wasn't Ste nor Kelvin; it was a girl.  Though she was far away, he could see her long blond hair and white dress.  She moved no closer, but remained near to the trees.  With one arm, she seemed to be beckoning to him.  Over and over again she beckoned to him.  Jim only stared.  He thought about his town, so far away.  He thought about his mother, his father and his little sister, who would be sitting down to dinner.
His hands gripped the straps of his backpack.  He wanted to leave this place.  He started walking away.  The he stopped.  He stared at the girl, far away, but still beckoning.
“You’re scared of your own shadow, Jim,” his father said sometimes.  And his mother would say to Jim, “Don’t listen.  He’s only pulling your leg.”

But he was afraid.  It was only a young girl, but he was so afraid.

Jim watched the girl continued to beckon him from across the field.  His heart beat rapidly.  He let the straps of his backpack slip from his shoulders, wondering at the same time why he was doing so, telling himself that he had to leave, that it would be dark before he knew it.  He set his pack down in the grass.  He gazed at the distant figure, looking for a reaction, wondering if his action had alarmed her.  But no, she only continued waving her arm.

He began to walk forward, slowly at first, tentative, then faster.  The girl smiled when she saw him, a sweet and reassuring smile.  She held out a hand.  Jim breathed heavy.  Terror flashed thorough him.  And something else – something that made him take hold of her hand and let her draw him into the trees.  She looked into his face, smiling.  He found himself smiling back at her; she was radiant, her hair glowing in the sun, her eyes alive and inquisitive, the smile settling at the corners of her mouth.  Through the trees she led him into the wide meadow where the grass lilted and the sun touched everything.

She led him through the meadow, towards a glade of trees.  He could hear the river running.  He glanced back at the sky, now splashed with red as the sun sank behind the distant hills.  Again, he felt a flash of fear, but the girl drew him on by the hand, gentle yet insistent.  She made soft noises that were not words but which soothed and reassured him.  The light beneath the trees was hazy and strange; in this dimness, the girl appeared luminous, still catching rays of sunlight in her hair and on her skin.  She glowed and sparkled with light as she turned to him, laughing.  There were other sounds of girlish laughter from round about, other soft, wordless exclamations.  Jim looked around and saw figures flit between the trees, laughing as though in the midst of some game. 

For a moment the spell broken and he looked back again, looking for the sky.  It was there still, beyond the trees at his back, but it had turned to the colour of blood.  He thought of his friends.  Were they here?  Could he still look for them?  But then the girl tugged at his hand, so he turned to her and was once again lost.  She smiled, spoke something he did not understand and led him into the glade, where the air was moist and damp.  Jim could see a thin mist hanging low to the ground.  He could feel a film of damp on his face and arms.  Now he could hear the river close by.  The light was fading and the girl led him further as night closed around them.  Jim glanced over his shoulder, aware of footsteps behind him. Though he could not see them, he knew there were others following.

Then the trees broke. Everything was outlined, dimly, by moonlight.  They had arrived at a place where the river pooled, and on the surface of the water was a cold phosphorescence.  As Jim turned about in the near darkness, he noticed a long shape on the ground nearby.  A still face, pale in the moonlight, lay in the grass.  He wanted to say: Ste?  But the girl was there, pulling at his hands, turning him away.  As he looked at her he saw that she was lifting up the white dress, off over her head.  She moved to stand at the edge of the pool, her body lithe and wan against the blackness of the night, her young breasts bobbing as she turned towards the water, her hair falling across her bare shoulders with a softness that made him yearn.  He wanted to wrap her hair around him, wrap himself up.  There he would find peace, in a velvety den of her hair.

There was a splash that startled him and he realized she had dropped casually into the pool.  He heard other splashes from the darkness around him; other bodies were landing in the water.  The girl swam to the edge of the pool at his feet and reached her arms up towards him.  She smiled, making cooing noises of enticement. 

Jim thought: no... no... not the water... no!  Then he saw that there were other white forms already in the water as though they were waiting for him. These were the other girls, naked in the moonlight, all crowding at his feet and reaching their arms out to him.  Some of them laughed and splashed each other.  Some floated on their backs, like otters, joyous and at home in the water. 

And he wanted to go to them. 

He crouched, reaching forwards, and at once hands took hold of him.  He felt the shock of cold as he fell forward into the pool.  He righted himself, gasping, finding the riverbed with his feet.  The girls were laughing, and he was laughing with them, shivering but overwhelmed with joy, intoxicated by the bodies crowding around him and the thrill of his own daring. 

The girl he had followed was in front of him.  He reached out for her and felt the touch of her cold skin.  Her face moved close to his and he could see that she was smiling.  Then he realized, with a jolt, that she was pressing down on him and he was sinking down into the water.  He felt her lips against his and her body was forcing him down, and there were other arms, other bodies, all pressing him down. He could hear laughter, and he thought there was a ring of mockery in it. 

Still the girl continued to cling to him; kissing him, locking him in her embrace and forcing him downwards.  His head sank below the water and he wanted to scream but could not, and he knew he had seen Ste, dead, by the side of the pool, and still he felt the many bodies forcing him and holding him down.  And he was under the water and he could not shout or scream or struggle, he could not breathe, and all he could feel was the girls holding him under, holding him under, weighing on him, until all became still and all became silence and all he saw before him was blackness.



Tim Jeffreys grew up in Manchester, England, and from an early age used writing and drawing as a means of escape. His early attemps at storytelling took the form of comic books until he became frustrated by the amount of time this took. So he launched straight into writing and illustrating a novel, a vampire tale entitled The Riders (now, for better or worst, lost). After making it to University and completing a degree in Graphic Arts Tim decided, after much encouragement, to sideline the artwork and make writing his main focus. This would take some explaining in the years to come. By now, though, he had been introduced to the idea of the short story and he started to produce these in tandem with his longer work.

In 2007 Tim published his first collection of short stories The Garden Where Black Flowers Grow, and has since put together a second collection, The Scenery Of Dreams.

Tim now lives in the South West of England, where he likes to keep himself busy by writing short stories, creating artwork, and working on his novels; aswell as holding down an unavoidable dayjob in the health service.  In early 2010, along with some friends, he founded the small press magazine The Dark Lane Quarterly.

You can learn more about Tim Jeffreys HERE.

The Garden Where Black Flowers Grow

The Dark Lane Quarterly
























































































































































































































































The Garden Where Black Flowers Grow Dark Lane Quarterly