The Little Seaside Town
by Daren Carpmail
There wasn’t much to do in this town apart from visit the museum, and I suppose that’s why I became so fascinated by it. I’ve always loved the tawdry and the macabre, and this place definitely ticked those boxes. While I was staying in the seaside town I went there almost every day – it helped that it was only 50p to get in, and even that was a ‘suggested donation’. I was often the only visitor, so God knows how they kept it going.
The town was no Blackpool or Brighton, you could hardly imagine tourists arriving by the bus load, but it was away from Michael, and that’s all I really cared about.
I’d been looking for something, I suppose – aren’t we all? I was just out of uni, doing a crap job and feeling like I was having a midlife crisis at twenty-two.
He’s good looking, I’ll give him that, and I can’t deny being flattered when he started talking to me in the pub.
‘Bit soulless, this place, isn’t it?’ He smiled at me across the bar.
‘It’s cheap, that’s all I’m bothered about.’
‘Hi, I’m Michael, let me buy you a drink.’
I wouldn’t normally let a guy I’d just met buy me a drink, but he was lovely, and I was pissed off with my mate Laura. She’d just texted me to say she couldn’t make it, leaving me in the pub by myself, prey to any dirty old man that might walk in.
I found him fascinating at first. ‘Of course, I reject this kind of materialism,’ he said, indicating the pub, which was hardly palatial. ‘I see myself as a much more spiritual person, although I’m opposed to all forms of organised religion.’
‘Oh, I know what you mean. I think that God is whatever we want him to be.’ I leaned forwards. Yes, I was being flirty. With hindsight, I wondered why people like him always have a downer on organised religion. Should it be disorganised, or what?
‘Most people don’t get it, you see?’ he said. ‘After all, they are brainwashed, they don’t look into the soul and see that ultimately we are all energy. When we pass, our souls live on.’
I agreed. ‘And, of course, everything happens for a reason.’
‘Oh, you’re so right.’ He smiled, and what a smile it was.
We carried on talking bollocks like that for the rest of the evening, and we inevitably exchanged phone numbers.
Over the next few weeks the dates followed thick and fast. We ended up sleeping together on the third one – very unusual for me. I’ll be kind and say it wasn’t exactly Olympic standard, but I’ve had worse, and he was certainly an interesting guy. We’d sit up all night smoking weed and putting the world to rights – usually by talking a load of new age hippy shite.
‘Your aura is looking good today?’ He stroked my hair as I lay with my head on his lap.
‘Your aura. It’s a lovely mauve shade. Usually it’s an angrier red.’
I was a bit puzzled and I told him so, but he was unfazed. ‘You see, love, I have more than the traditional five senses. I can perceive things that those with a closed mind cannot.’
‘Oh,’ I said. I think that was the first time I had any doubts about him. It wouldn’t be the last.
The big row came on the day the new footie season started. Me and my dad are season ticket holders, and nothing and no one gets in the way of that.
‘But, sweetheart,’ he said. ‘I really don’t approve of competitive sports, and I don’t want you taking part in something like this.’
‘I’m not taking part. I’ll be in the stands, munching on an overpriced hot dog and shouting at the ref.’ I laughed, but he just looked pained.
‘I’m sorry I can’t allow it,’ said Michael.
‘What do you mean, allow?’ I was livid. ‘You don’t allow me to do things? What I do or don’t do is nothing to do with you.’
I stormed past him and went to the match.
Afterwards, I went round to his house expecting an apology. His reply was unbelievable: ‘I’m sorry Chloe, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to forbid you from seeing your father in the future. He clearly has a negative influence on you. I can tell by the state of your aura.’
‘Forbid me? Who the hell do you think you are?’ As I left I slammed the door in his stupid, sexist, hippy face.
The phone calls started the next day. He’d withhold his number and then hang up as soon as I answered, but I knew it was him. Then he started driving past my house at funny times. I wasn’t afraid of him, not then, but I was sick and tired of his behaviour.
I returned from work a few days later to find my gate hanging off its post. When I went into the garden I couldn’t stop screaming. My pet guinea pigs had been killed.
I called the police and they warned him off, but there wasn’t much more they could do. He denied all knowledge of course, though he admitted to the phone calls. He promised that he was over me and that he’d leave me alone in future.
I had a few weeks holiday owing, so I decided to take a break all by myself. I’ve always been happy in my own company, so I took the train to this weird little seaside town.
I went into the museum on my first afternoon. As I said, I love anything a bit weird, and this was definitely it. There was a bit about the town’s history, not that there was much to say, really. Apparently The Who played there once, before they were famous, and there was a tour poster signed by Keith Moon. Other than that, there wasn’t a great deal to see, not in the main part of the museum, anyway.
It was the waxworks at the back that really fascinated me. Trust me, it wasn’t Madame Tussauds. For a start, I think their idea of celebrity ended sometime around 1998. Bobby Davro was there, and so was Samantha Fox. That one took plenty of wax, I would imagine. It’s fair to say that they needed the name plaques underneath each one.
The so called Chamber of Horrors was the best part. Not in the best taste perhaps, but I loved it. There was a room full of famous serial killers, ranging from Dr Crippen to Fred and Rose West. Again, they didn’t look much like whoever they were supposed to be, but I was fascinated by them nevertheless. In dodgy wax, Myra Hindley was reunited with Ian Brady, and the Yorkshire Ripper was all set to rip again.
I was staring at the Ripper one day when I noticed something a bit odd. He was carrying a handbag, and not just any handbag either.
It was mine.
I blinked. Surely, I was imagining things. But I wasn’t.
‘Well, I can’t imagine how that got in there, love,’ said the warden as he unlocked the cabinet. He took a bunch of keys from a belt that was feeling the strain from his ample belly.
Sadly, I could imagine it all too well. As I walked back to my B&B I kept looking over my shoulder. A couple of times I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye, but I’m sure I was imagining things.
Things calmed down for a few days until the death threats started. I don’t want to go into detail, but they were vile. The notes were posted through the door, sometimes covered in blood or shit, and found by Greg and Hannah, B&B owners. We told the police of course and they promised to keep an eye on things, but I know they can’t be everywhere.
I was sitting in the dining room one evening, looking out at the dark garden through the net curtains and wondering whether I should call it quits and just head home, when there was a bang in the hallway: he had kicked the door down.
I jumped up as the lights went out. He grabbed me and put a knife to my throat.
‘The old aura’s not looking so good now sweetie, is it?’
‘Better than yours, matey.’ I kicked back, and hit him where it hurts.
As he writhed on the floor, I saw that the street was lit up blue. Someone had called the police.
He was arrested and taken into custody. The coppers assured me he wouldn’t get bail.
The neighbour came over to help board up the door – he had witnessed everything, and Michael kicking the door down had been caught on his garage CCTV. This time I really was free of him. Sitting in the dining room at midnight, Greg and Hannah made me a cup of tea and reassured me that it was all over now. I was sorry they’d been dragging into it; I told them I’d pay for the door.
The next morning I went to the museum to say goodbye. I suppose I wanted to get a sense of familiarity before heading home to start my new, free life.
I noticed that since my last visit, they had put in a figure of Harold Shipman.
I looked closely. He was wearing my necklace.
Daren Carpmail: I’m a fifty one year old writer from the West Midlands. I got into writing several years ago as part of an ongoing midlife crisis.