Our son had never been good at sleeping alone.

Night after night we found him in our doorway, begging to be allowed to sleep in our bed. My husband became increasingly frustrated as his sleep was disturbed. He swore he couldn’t sleep with that many people in one bed. He tried locking the door, but couldn’t ignore the crying in the hallway for long.

I decided to take things into my own hands. After reading my son his usual bedtime stories, I looked into his wide-awake eyes and decided to tell him about something new.

There’s someone else in this house that you’re old enough to meet now. He’s hard to describe. You can only see him in the corner of your eye if you try really hard. That’s why you wake up with sleep in your eyes in the morning: it’s because he was here and your eyes tried to hide him. But if he catches you out of bed after lights off, it doesn’t matter if you close your eyes and hide. He’ll skit-skit-skitter across the ceiling and snatch you. He’ll drag you under the carpet or into the crack in the wall. And he’ll keep you in his castle where you get tired but never ever sleep, so that you can’t break the rules again”

My son looked terrified, his eyes wide and teary. More importantly, I was certain that he wouldn’t come to our room for a while. My husband stood in the door, smiling and nodding.

We had one week of peaceful sleep. Our son looked tired in the morning, but I didn’t care. For the first time in years, we could sleep the night through.

Perhaps that’s why the sound of my husband shuffling out of bed was enough to wake me. As I tried to fall back asleep, I assumed he was going to the bathroom but realised that his footsteps stopped too early to reach that far.

My husband’s scream was interrupted. First, I heard something skittering on the ceiling. Then, I heard the carpet tear up off the floor. Finally, I listened for hours to the sounds of wet tearing and snapping.

Once it was dawn and I was brave enough, I found blood dripping from a crack in the wall.

My son never has to sleep alone any more.

Little Brother

My little brother has the biggest bedroom
Which I do not think is fair
He takes up the entire basement
and Mum says I’m not to go alone downstairs

I sneak down some nights
After my parents go to bed
He cries until I visit him
And stroke his soft forehead

Other nights he waits quietly
His joy barely restrained
He rushes to hug me when I visit
But I tell him not to pull at his chains

He is not in the family photos
Hung upon the walls
and when I ask my parents why
they say visitors would not understand at all

For a little brother, he’s very large
Taller than mum and dad
But he’s gentle and he’s happy
Unless something makes him mad

Mum is trying to show him
How to brush his teeth
But he has far too many
For any brush to reach

Dad still tries to teach him
How to read and speak
But it’s hard to form words
With hard lips, like a beak

I tell my brother I have a surprise
As I turn the key, the chains unlocked
I hold what I think is his hand
Tonight, for the first time, we will go for a walk

The Birdhouse

There is something living in the birdhouse. I am very certain it is not a bird.

I did see a bird land there once, in the dappled sunlight. I watched it poke its head hesitantly through the hole. I saw it suddenly pulled inside. I saw the coins thrown out and onto the ground. The lack of birdsong in the Summer months made sense to me after that.

I kept the coins as recompense for losing the birdsong. My parents did not care much for wildlife. The birdhouse had been there when we moved in and they only did the bare minimum to take care of the garden, not bothering to inspect it. My older brother said the birds annoyed him. Everything annoyed him, actually. Especially me. That was his excuse to wear noise-cancelling headphones all the time and never talk to me.

I took food to the birdhouse. I tried birdseed, at first. It did not drop any money, but the next morning there were coins and feathers covered in blood on the grass. It wanted meat.

I took it bits of dinner and lunchmeat picked from sandwiches. I was careful to use tongs to put the food inside. Whatever was inside had a vice-like grip. It would grab at the tongs, tearing the morsels from them and only relinquishing the metal after gnawing them to test for further food. The teeth must have been sharp, to leave gouges in the metal.

My brother started getting suspicious. He asked why a brat with no job had so much money. He took my money box and said he would tell my parents about it if I complained.

I told him I found a stash of money in the old birdhouse out back. I told him it was right at the back and that he would have to reach all the way inside.

At the Bottom of the Well

There is something living in the bottom of the well
If you drop in just the right gift, it will offer a spell
Teeth, coins, oddities and various bric-a-brac
Once a gift is dropped it is well-paid back

A girl dropped in her doll, a gift from mother to daughter
Her childhood favourite now sunken underwater
She asked for beauty, something for which she had prayed
Each morning she awakes, shining hair in a perfect braid

One lad dropped the blanket his grandma had knitted
Long outgrown but still beloved, his tears admitted
He asked for his muscles to swell without effort
He often wakes sore, like his limbs were subject to violent sport

Most people wish for fortune and small blessings
Careful to offer enough and to be polite in addressing
But some call for darker acts to be committed
But with the right payment, this is also permitted

Enemies disappear quietly into the dark
Nail scratches on floorboards their only remaining mark
But those who ask for this and offer less than their best
Will find themselves facing their own request

There is something living in the bottom of the well
And if not paid its fees, it will take you there as well
But its greatest gift is that it lets everyone believe
That it lives only in the well, and does not leave

Midnight Feeding

She knew it was a risk to let the cat sleep in the baby’s room. Her mother had warned her about cats stealing the breath of babies, but the cat’s presence was the only thing that seemed to soothe her newborn.

Melanie had tried everything – singing, extra feeds, co-sleeping. All she had earned were a sore throat, bleeding nipples and sleepless nights filled with nightmares of her rolling onto the baby.

After three weeks of nonstop bawling, she had opened the door and let the pacing ginger cat into the room. He had jumped into the crib immediately and the baby had quietened.

Melanie took a shower, carefully washing her breasts. She had switched to formula feeding a week ago, after the baby had bitten her too many times to endure. She still had marks from the teeth.

The next morning, Melanie found that the baby’s window was opened and there was a trail of feathers on the ground. With a grimace, she realised that the cat must have caught a bird and carried it, bleeding and dying, into the nursery. There was no sign of the bird’s body. The trail lead to the crib, where a purring ginger cat nestled against a peaceful baby, blood upon both of their mouths. The bird was nowhere to be seen, apart from some errant feathers and viscera around the mattress.

As she tidied up the mess, Melanie scratched behind the cat’s ears. She heard the front door close and knew her husband had returned from his nightly wanderings, wondering what sort of bloody laundry he would leave for her this time.

Well, she thought as she listened to the cat’s purr, at least someone is helping out around here.


Alan’s parents measured his height every week.

Standing against the doorframe he often tried to shrink down and away from the pencil. Despite one of his parents holding his shoulders and pulling him to his full height while the other marked the wood, he still tried his old trick. It had stopped working months ago, when they noticed his lack of progress towards the carved line in the wood.

The line was carved deeply into the wooden frame. Despite being covered in layers of paint, it was still visible when he was marched towards it. It was carved at the exact height of Alan’s parents. The two of them had the exact same height, the same weight, and there were days that Alan could have sworn that features and marks on one parent would be on the other hours later.

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What Lies Atop the Hill

Children, now be quiet and still
Do not wake what lies atop the hill
You are safe and warm and home
Do not go up the hill alone

What lies atop the hill does not sleep
Hungrily watching, counting sheep
If one less stands in the field today
Be glad he did not look your way

Children, do not make a sound
Do not wake what waits within the clouds
Stay under covers with curtains closed
Do not draw eyes down to below

Children, hide from the sound of rain
Lest you never see home again
Do not let anyone in from the downpour
It is not your loved ones knocking at the door

Children, now be quiet and still
Do not wake what lies atop the hill
You are safe and warm and home
Do not go up the hill alone


Drawn on the train or in bed late at night

I was practising drawing hands and got sick of just stopping at the wrist

An exercise in etching

He collects lost shoes. They keep his horns warm.


This was part of a series of monsters I drew. I asked my friends if anyone wanted themselves drawn as a monster. Becca got in first with “EVIL MERMAID SIREN THING”. I think it turned out pretty well

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Progress from sketch, to ink, to very light colouring