Purple Girl

(Based on Jem Wakefield's "Eating Our Hearts Out" and "The Ghost Experts")

*FINALIST in Fanfic of the Year 2017!*


1. Purple Girl


The sky behind the blackened silhouette of Lansfield Hall was blindingly blue, and the autumn leaves that skirted the old oak tree were beaded with raindrops. The air was heavy with the smell of rain and freshly cut grass. The birds were singing and the bees were humming and the flowers were in bloom and it was, he supposed, what the romantically-minded fools in his wife’s books might have called a ‘nice day’.

As Henry Lansfield crossed the emerald-green lawn that grew in the shadow of his monstrous family home, he was careful to step on the path, because he didn’t want the water that clung to the green stalks at his feet to touch his shoes. They were new- soft black leather with neat broguing, made to measure. They were his best shoes. Not that any shoe in his possession, he conceded, deserved to be tarnished by the cheap chaos of the outside world. He, like any respectable man, took pride in the things he owned; everything in his home that could be polished was polished to a gleam, and his garden looked like an oil painting, with every single flower, he fancied, terrified to put a leaf out of line. He had such an immaculately boring taste in clothes that people on the street would often look at one another as he passed, joking that he must be going to a funeral. Another funeral, they would whisper, ironing their smirks flat. He’d been to a fair few in his time, and- of course- he had been the most distinguished man at each and every one, upstaging the guests in terms of dress sense and the deceased in terms of lifelessness. In fact, the only thing blacker and deader inside than the man himself was the shadowy behemoth of a home in which he sequestered himself and his family. Lansfield Hall was, quite frankly, an eyesore, and this was a good thing, because it let people know that he could afford to build his houses bigger and darker and uglier than a family home for three had any right to be. He could afford to hire the best help and wear the best clothes and sneer at the second-best of everything. He could afford, to his great personal satisfaction, to be a snob.

The gardener, whose hands were impaled wrist-deep in the black mud of a flowerbed, got to his feet and nodded at Henry as he passed. Henry didn’t bother to give him so much as a glance. The man worked for six shillings a day, no more, no less, and politeness had nothing to do with it. Instead, Henry followed the path as it curved to the left and pushed open the gate.

This little corner of the garden was walled off from the rest by high hedges, and there was nothing here aside from the life-sized statue nestled in the middle. An angel, carved from soft white marble, standing on a square pedestal with words and numbers etched into the stone at her feet. Mary-Ann Lansfield, the inscription proclaimed, perhaps a little too proudly. 31 Oct 1799 – 15 Jan 1817. Daughter to Henry and Alice. Sister to John. May God rest her soul. The rest of the garden was planted thick with flowers in a hundred hues of purple- heather brighter than a butterfly’s wing, violets darker than a winter sunset. Henry hated purple. In fact, he had fired the gardener who had planted this little memorial garden as soon as the first buds had appeared. That gardener had been a stupid, sentimental man- he’d prattled on about his wife and children constantly, Henry remembered, and in the end, his only excuse for the hateful colour had been that Mary-Ann had always loved purple. The gardener had certainly seen enough of her, skulking around the purple shadows of the orchard in her favourite purple dress, dark thoughts shining in her violet eyes. How ironic, Henry thought, that the image he had placed in his garden to remember his daughter by should be that of an angel. An angel, with white fingers stretched out towards the heavens, to remember a girl who had spent her whole life reaching for an entirely opposite breed of bliss. Henry had harboured no love for his daughter, and he certainly had none to spare for the garden her naïve mother had commissioned in her memory. Although now he thought about it, he did like the way those purple weeds had grown into a chokehold over the stone that bore his daughter’s name, like they were trying to drag it down through the earth, down to hell with the rest of her.

His wife still saw Mary-Ann sometimes. She’d wake up in a cold sweat next to him, clutching the blankets to her mouth like a child afraid of the dark, sobbing and screaming about seeing a pair of luminous purple eyes staring in through their bedroom window. That, Henry knew as he turned on the heel of his expensive left shoe and began to make his way towards the gate, was impossible, because Mary-Ann was dead. The little wretch was so dead, in fact, that there hadn’t even been a body left to bury. And as long as she was dead, as long as she stayed down in the pit where she belonged, Henry’s world would remain exactly the way he liked it. Neat. Ordered. Immaculate. Still.


His fingertips had barely brushed against the rusted metal of the gate-latch when he heard the scream.

Instantly, he knew whose scream it was. Of course he did. After all, a man couldn’t be married to a hysterical milksop like Alice Lansfield for twenty-one years without becoming well-acquainted with the sound of her scream. Henry flung the gate open and broke into a run, feeling the dull thud of his expensive shoes against the rain-soaked grass shuddering through his body with every step, and as breath after breath of cold October air dissolved and burned in his throat, he found himself wondering how long it had been since he had last run. The gardener watched with bewildered eyes as he sprinted by, and his mind began to fill itself with images of his childhood self running after hoops in the street, and he leapt up all three porch steps in one go and flung the back door wide open. “Alice?” As he hurried up the stairs, dragging his hands along both bannisters at once, his voice echoed upstairs ahead of him. It bounced off the gleaming wooden walls and danced along the landing towards the master bedroom. “Alice?” This time, he sounded scared. He didn’t feel scared yet, though. In fact, the fear only came when he heard something drifting along the hallway to meet him. Laughter. Loud, breathless, mad. Familiar. His heart rose into his throat to choke him as he threw himself through the door of his bedroom and stopped dead in his tracks.

The master bedroom in Lansfield Hall wasn’t shaped like a square or a rectangle; instead, it was shaped like the letter L, with the door at one end, the bed nestled in the crook of the L and a big bay window around the corner. That window had always been Alice’s favourite thing about the house. A while back, she had asked the maid to bring up one of the long cushions from the sofa downstairs and put it on the wide windowsill, and she herself had selected the brightest pillows from around the house and brought them upstairs to scatter across her window-seat. She liked to sit there to read her insipid novels, and three hours before sunset every night, the angular panes of that window would drape neat parallelograms of light across the starched white bedsheets, sketch them gently onto the wall. Now, as Henry stood panting in the doorframe, the time was five o’ clock, and the shape of the window was painted in translucent white across the walls, and that neat pattern of light and dark revealed a shadowy mass denting the side of one bright rectangle. A woman’s silhouette, huddled in the corner of the leftmost pane. She wasn’t moving.

Henry caught his breath as a second silhouette stepped in front of the light. Female. Tall. Thin. Frizzy hair. She was clutching something in her right hand, and as Henry heard that blood-curdling, stomach-churning, heart-stopping laugh again, he felt sure that the object she was holding had no right whatsoever to be in a woman’s grasp. The intruder raised her free hand and waved.

“I know you can see me, dad.”

Dad. Henry felt his face turn from white to grey.

“Come on in,” the girl said. She was speaking, Henry realised, with his dead daughter’s voice; that horribly familiar laugh was woven into her lilting, flowery tones. “C’mon, dad! Don’t tell me you didn’t miss me,” she said. “Don’t you wanna see me again? Your beloved daughter, alive again?” She laughed again. Henry didn’t want to see her; in the end, it was curiosity, not longing, that pushed him to walk forwards. His footsteps were silent against the thick carpet as he rounded the corner and gazed, eyes full of a dull kind of horror, at the multicoloured mess that had been laid out in the sunlight.

Alice was sitting on the windowsill, knees drawn up to her chin, forehead rested against the glass, staring with sightless eyes at the rainbow-coloured blur of the gardens outside. Somewhat oddly, the blood on the sun-soaked glass looked pink instead of red with the white light shining through. Strings of the stuff wriggled up the window away from the girl’s body, forming stalks and shoots and rose-coloured flowers that bloomed on the glass and blossomed on her pale-pink dress. Pink was Alice’s favourite colour, and that had been her favourite dress, but it wouldn’t be her favourite anymore, because there was a huge rip in the front of it. The tear went deeper than the thin fabric of her clothes, though, and there was more than just blood spilling from its red depths.

The girl standing next to Alice was, unsurprisingly, holding a massive axe in her right hand, and she was, even less surprisingly, dressed all in purple. Henry even remembered the dress she was wearing- it had been long when he had bought it for her, but now, the hem hung raggedly three inches above her knees. The blood on the bodice looked black against its background of violet velvet, and her skin was pale and her hair was wild and her purple eyes shone with indigo malice. She grinned her snaggle-toothed grin and said, “Hey, Dad! Goddamn, it’s been a long time, huh? When did we last…” She drew circles in the air with one finger, letting her voice arch upwards into a question. She wasn’t a ghost- Henry had never believed in ghosts, and anyway, she was much too real. Her shadow fell across the floor just as convincingly as anyone else’s. She was definitely there. But then…

“How-” Henry’s words tangled and knotted together in his throat. Mary-Ann laughed, hefting the axe in her hand like it weighed nothing.

“How am I alive? Well, it’s kinda simple, actually,” she said. “Tell me, Dad. What did you think I was, huh? When I was…” She laughed. “Alive, so to speak?”

Henry dragged his gaze away from the hunched-over corpse in the window and fixed it to the wall. “I know you were…” He choked on his words. “You were no longer my daughter. Near the end. I know that much.”

“Not your daughter, huh? Then whose was I?” Mary-Ann sniggered. “Oh, no, wait. I get it. I was a ‘child of Satan,’ right? Seduced by evil? That’s actually kind of true. But I meant more specifically, what did you think I was?” She laughed again and took a step towards him. “This is a rhetorical question, by the way. I know what you thought. You were screaming it really loudly as you chained me to the wall and set the room on fire. Though it was kinda hard to hear. Fire tends to be pretty lou-

“You’re a witch,” Henry spat. “A servant of Satan. You deserved everything I gave you and more. You deserved to burn to ashes in that room and then have Satan take those ashes and burn them until they were less. You…”

“Y’know, I’ve been thinking about that,” Mary-Ann said, “and it doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense. The whole hell thing. I mean, if Satan is evil, and he gets all the evil people coming down to his big evil kingdom after they die, why would he want to make them all suffer for being evil? Surely he’d just, like, have a massive evil party down in Hell with all his evil buddies.” She grinned. “You can tell I didn’t pay attention in Sunday school, right? Also, I’m not a witch.”

Henry frowned. “Then what-”

“Witches don’t come back from the dead, you moron. They’re mortal. Hell- I don’t even know if they exist.” She let the blade of her axe fall towards the floor as she took a step towards him, dragging the sharpened edge along the polished floor with a horrible scraping sound, and Henry wanted to run, but he couldn’t. “Bet you wish I was just a wussy witch, right? Nah, dad. I’m way worse.” As she drew nearer, baring her teeth in a childlike grin, Henry’s gaze fell on the gaps where her canines should have been. She’d come back from a walk one day with them missing, blood running in a thin stripe down to her chin, claiming that she had slipped on a frozen puddle and knocked them out, but now, she was opening her mouth wide in a laugh, and Henry’s eyes widened as something slid down from her gums in a jagged white blur. The new teeth were about an inch long, serrated along the back edge like a carving-knife, and as Henry watched her with an idle kind of horror, one word flashed irresistibly through his darkened head.


“Pretty cool, huh?” Her tongue flicked out as fast as a snake’s, rubbing against the end of one fang. “Oh, sorry. I forgot- you’re too scared to talk. So I guess now would be a good time for my villainous monologue, right? Sadly, I was so eager to get here and inflict my violent revenge upon you guys that I didn’t have time to come up with anything, so I’ll make it quick.” Mary-Ann’s hands slid lovingly up the wooden handle of the axe as she lifted the thing from the ground, swinging it back and forth above the glossy floorboards. “In fact, I reckon I might be able to do it in about three sentences.” She raised a hand, flicked her index finger carelessly towards the corpse in the window-seat, and said, “I’m going to make it look like you did that. A murder-suicide. And then…”

She rested her axe on her shoulder and leaned forwards, and as she brought her monstrous mouth, with its monstrous teeth, to Henry’s ear, the only sound was that of velvet rubbing against velvet.

“I am going to live forever.

He jumped as she dropped the axe onto the floor with a deafening thud and crack. He closed his eyes in shock, and the darkness lasted three full seconds, and that was all the time she needed.

One. Mary-Ann’s childish giggle punched him in the gut one last time.

Two. Strong hands seized him around the shoulders.

Three. A sharp, hot pain in his throat forced his eyes to open, and the last thing Henry Lansfield saw before his immaculate world faded to black was his dead daughter, silhouetted in black against the dusty sheets of sunlight between the window-panes, smiling her monstrous smile.

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