The Shadow of the Noose

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Playfully, Mark tells Charlotte about a double hanging that happened years before in his university room. That is when their world begins to spin out of control as a sinister spectre plays an
increasingly frightening game of cat and mouse with them.

Submitted: December 31, 2017

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Submitted: December 31, 2017

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Mark looked at her, a mischievous glint in his eye.  He’d waited all evening to reveal his little surprise and now it was time to strike.  “Charlotte,” he asked, enjoying the moment, “did you know two people hung themselves in this room a few years back?”  He sniggered as he saw her scrunch her face up in disgust.

“You’re fucking kidding me.”  She swept corn gold hair out of her green eyes and pouted her full, wet lips.

He shook his head.  “Ron told me.  He said the university doesn’t like anyone talking about it.”

“That four-eyed git.  He’s winding you up, Mark.”  She lunged a small foot at him playfully, which he expertly avoided.

“It’s true.  I looked it up on the internet.”

“Show me then,” she said, her eyes crinkling into a smile.  She leant across the Formica covered table, rested her elbows on its top and cupped her head in her hands.  “Let’s see what you’ve found.”

“OK.”  He turned to the glowing laptop, moved the curser to the bookmark manager and clicked on the web address he wanted.  “See,” he said triumphantly, turning the computer towards her as the site loaded.

“Mmm …” she murmured as her eyes scanned the page, “it doesn’t say which room it happened in.”

“No,” Mark conceded, “but Ron’s certain it’s this room.”  He pointed to the white ceiling.  “See that circular depression, up there in the centre?”  He saw her look up.  “This is the only room I’ve been in with anything like that in the ceiling.”  She squinted slightly as she stared at the indentation.  “That must have been where they fixed the hook.”

“What hook?”

“The one they hanged themselves from.

Charlotte grimaced and turned back to the computer screen.  “Do you know why they did it?”

“Another site said she was having trouble with her family.”

“Yeah, I know that problem.”  He saw her frown and crane forward.  “They look like us, don’t they?” she said, twisting the laptop back towards him.  He leant forward and peered at the victims’ photographs.  They were small, too small to be clear, but yes he had to admit there was a resemblance.  He shrugged his shoulders and gave a non committal grunt.  She tensed and gave him a surly look.  “Well?”

“Well what?”  He felt an ember of irritation glow within him.

“Don’t they look like us?”

“Maybe,” he said, reluctance to concede her point.

He saw her hands clench into tiny fists.  “Why are you being so awkward, Mark?”

“I’m not,” he protested.  “The pictures are too small to be certain, that’s all.”

“Pff!”  She glared at him from beneath her tight knit brows.  “It’s us!”  He felt her spittle hit his face, cold against his flushed skin.  “Why can’t you see it?”  Her frustration ebbed and tears began to trickle down her cheeks.  Instinctively he rose from the grey plastic chair, arms wide, but she pushed him back.  “Don’t touch me,” she snapped, eyes flaring.  With a sigh he sat down again and waited for the storm to pass.  Sulkily she spun the computer back towards herself and began to study the page again, her eyes narrowing as she read.  

He stiffened, sensing that she’d found something else.  “What is it?”

“It’s their names,” she replied thoughtfully.  “They start with the same letters as ours.”  Intrigued, he edged his chair nearer as she turned the computer towards him.  “See.”  She pointed a dainty finger at the sea of type.  

“Christine Edwards, as compared to your name, Charlotte Evans,” he said, nodding.

“And here,” she added, tapping the screen with a glossy nail.

“Matthew Turner, in place of Mark Tunley.”

“Yes.”  She sat back in the armchair and stared at him.  “Don’t you find that a bit creepy, especially as they were both freshers, like us?”

“It’s quite a coincidence,” Mark agreed uneasily.  Troubled, he stood and began to pace the floor.  He was starting to regret ever mentioning the hanging.  

“Ow!”  

He spun round and stared at her.  “What now?”  

She was glaring over her shoulder at the cream coloured wall.  A shiver rippled through her body as she faced him.  “Something touched me,” she gasped.

“What?”

“How the fuck should I know!”  She gave him an angry look.  “I felt something prod the back of my neck.”

Mark ruffled a hand through his hair and sighed.  “It was probably your imagination.  I mean, what else could it have been?”

“Thank’s a bunch, Mr Sensitive!”  She began to tap the floor with her foot, the sound of her shoe sharp and furious against the grey linoleum.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he said, desperately searching his empty brain for a way to redeem himself.  A grin spread across his face.  “I’m parched.  How about we stop arguing and go to the bar for a quick one.”



Mark watched, his mind drifting, as Charlotte rummaged in her wardrobe.  Her room was hot and stuffy, with a cloying bouquet of hairspray lingering in the stale air.  Behind the closed curtains rain pattered against the window pane.  After the events of the previous night she’d vowed never to knock on his door again, let alone step into his room.  From now on, she’d told him firmly, he’d have to come to her.

Without warning Charlotte uttered a piercing scream and spun round, her face a seething cauldron of fury.  “You shit!” she shouted.  “How dare you pinch me.”

“What?”  Startled, Mark stared at her.  “I didn’t do anything,” he spluttered indignantly.  He levered himself off the radiator that nestled under the window and straightened.  “How could I, I’m too far away?”

Charlotte glowered at him from the opposite end of the room.  “Well, somebody pinched me on the bum, and it certainly wasn’t me.”

“It wasn’t me either,” he said defiantly.  As her eyes measured the distance between them, he saw the anger wash out of her face.  “Are you sure there’s nothing in your back pocket that could have done it?”

She patted the tight blue denim of her jeans and shook her head.  “They’re empty.”  He shrugged, not knowing what else to say.  “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

“Of course not,” he said, not sure how convincing he sounded.

“I think this room is haunted.”  She gave a mirthless laugh and shook her head.  “Every time I’m alone in here it feels as if I’m being watched.”

“Who could be watching you?”

“How the fuck should I know!”  She turned and slammed the wardrobe door.

“Have you heard anything about this room?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know.  Stories.”

“What stories?  Tell me.”

“I don’t know,” he said, raising his voice.  “I just wondered if you’d heard anything.  A rumour maybe.”

“Well, I haven’t.”

“You haven’t asked anyone?”

“Asked anyone what?”

“About this room.  If anything happened here, you know, in the past.”  He was feeling the need to gulp down a pint before his head exploded.

“You mean ask if anyone killed themselves in here?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“No.”  She stared at him.  “They’d be like you.  Think I was mad.”

“I’ve never said you’re mad.”

“Maybe not,” she replied bitterly, “but it’s what you think, isn’t it?”

“Look,” he said, “let’s stop fighting and go and find out.”  He blushed.  “About anything happening in this room, I mean,” he stammered awkwardly.

“How?”  In spite of her anger his suggestion had caught her attention.

“Err ...”  He realised he’d got no idea.  A thought entered his mind and he grabbed at it.  “Let’s go and ask the night porter.  He might know something.”



They found the night porter sitting behind the desk in the entrance lobby, reading a newspaper.  A short, red faced man in his fifties, he looked up expectantly as they approached.

“Go on, Mark,” Charlotte hissed in his ear, “ask him.”

“Can I help you?” the porter asked, his face breaking into a jagged smile.

“It’s nothing, really,” Mark said, uncertain how to begin. A sharp jab in his ribs from Charlotte’s elbow emboldened him.  “We were just, err ... wondering if you knew anything about room twenty three?”

“Like what?”

“If anything happened in there.”

“Plenty of things happen in all the rooms.”

“Yes, but, err ... like someone dying?”

“That sounds a bit morbid.  Why do you want to know that?”

“I want to know if my room’s haunted,” Charlotte said, butting in.  She stepped close to the desk, a determined look on her face.

“Ah, I see,” the porter replied.  He shook his head.  “I’ve heard nowt about any hauntings in Farley Hall, but there’s supposed to be a grey lady who pops up from time to time in Kenning.

Charlotte placed her hands firmly on the wooden counter and stared at the porter.  “Did Christine Edwards have my room?” she asked, her voice quivering.

“Who?”

“Christine Edwards.  She and her boyfriend hanged themselves six years ago.”

“Sorry, I can’t tell you,” the porter said, shaking his head.  “I wasn’t here six years ago.”

“Who’d know?”

“There’ll be records, but you won’t get to see them,” the porter said.  “Data protection.  Miss Chubb is very strict about that sort of thing.”

“But I need to know,” Charlotte protested.

“Sorry.”

Scowling, Charlotte opened her mouth to speak but Mark gave her arm a warning tug.  “Do you think anybody else might remember?” he asked hastily.  “My friend here thinks she’s going crazy.”

The porter’s look suggested he thought so too.  “Nobody wants nonsense to start circulating,” he growled.

“I’m occupying the room they hung themselves in,” Mark said.  “But I’m not complaining,” he added hurriedly.  “We don’t want to cause trouble or anything.  We just want to know.”

The porter studied Mark’s face for a few moments.  “Mmm ...” he said finally, a thoughtful look furrowing his brow, “you could try asking Phyllis.  She’s been here the longest.  Cleans on the first floor.”  He looked at them intently with his beady brown eyes.  “Not that you heard that from me.  Understand?”

“Yes,” Mark replied as he pulled Charlotte away, “we understand.  And thank you.”



Mark had agreed, after much badgering, to help find Phyllis, so the next morning he accompanied Charlotte to the first floor.  The cleaning women arrived daily, some time after nine.  They emptied bins, mopped floors and tried, with varying degrees of success, to keep the rising tide of squalor at bay.  It was also their task to make sure the public spaces, including the corridors, were kept habitable.  The first of the cleaning women they approached, a tall dark-skinned African, shook her head when asked if she was Phyllis and pointed towards the fire door.  After thanking her they pushed through the heavy wooden door, with its small rectangle of reinforced glass, and continued down the dark, claustrophobic corridor.  Half way along a small dumpy woman, wearing a blue house coat, was busying herself with a mop.  As they drew near Mark cleared his throat.  “Err, excuse me,” he said awkwardly, “are you Phyllis by any chance?”

The woman straightened her back and looked up at him.  She had a round face topped by grey hair that had been pulled into a tight bun.  Her tired eyes, as grey as her hair, swept over him then darted to Charlotte.  Warily she nodded, her gloved hands holding the mop as if it was a weapon.

Mark tried to smile but his face felt as rigid as a mask.  “Err ... can we ask about a room on the ground floor.  Number twenty three.  Do you know who was in it six years ago?”

“I’ve never worked the ground floor,” the woman replied, her gruff voice barely rising above a whisper.

“We were wondering if the girl who was in it hanged herself,” Mark said.  “My friend here wants to know.”

The woman turned to Charlotte and narrowed her eyes suspiciously.  “Why do you want to know that?” she asked.

Charlotte shrugged.  “I was just curious.”

“Funny thing to be curious about.”

“Actually, it’s a bit more than just curiosity,” Mark said.  The woman turned back to him, a spark of interest animating her face.  “It’s her room and she’s wondering if it’s ...”  His voice tailed off as he searched for a word that wouldn’t cause offence.

The woman seemed to grasp his meaning.  “You asking if it’s haunted?”

“Yes,” Charlotte barked, making the woman flinch.

“Ain’t never been any talk of hauntings here,” the woman replied sharply.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Mark said hastily.  He flashed a boyish grin at the woman. “But do you know which room the hanged girl had?  I’ve been telling Charlotte it’s just her imagination getting the better of her, but she seems to think someone’s watching her.”

“Sounds like too much to drink,” the woman said.

Mark grinned and nodded.  “That’s what I keep saying, but she won’t listen.”  He cast a glance at Charlotte and saw that she was scowling at him.  “Please, can’t you just tell us which room the girl had?”

“Six years is a long time to remember things,” the woman answered.  She rolled her tongue around the cavern of her mouth.  “If I remember correctly it was the room on the left, the one just before the fire door.”

“That would be room twenty three, wouldn’t it?” Mark said.

The woman sucked her lips.  “Aye, I suppose so,” she said grudgingly.

“Thanks,” Mark said, “that’s all we wanted to know.”  He gave the woman a brief smile and grasped Charlotte by the hand.  “We’ll be off out of your way then.”  Quickly he bustled Charlotte towards the fire door.  As they passed through it he glanced back at Phyllis.  She was stood, mop in hand, staring at them intently.  Mark gave her a cheery wave as the door shut and heaved a heartfelt sigh of relief.  

Charlotte stared at him, her face pale.  “It’s her room,” she said, her voice hot and raw.  “I’m in the bitch’s room.  What the fuck am I going to do?”  She started to tremble.  “I have to get out of there.”  Mark winced as she grasped his wrist, her nails digging into his skin.  “How do I get out of there, Mark?”

“Why not go to the front desk and ask about changing your room,” he replied, desperate to break free.  Gently he removed her hand from his wrist and made a pretence of looking at his watch.  “Look,” he said, “I have to dash, otherwise I’ll be late.”  He gave her a swift, self-conscious, peck on the cheek and ran down the stairs before she could object.



Mark was sat at one of the long wooden refectory tables, the din of the dining hall swirling about him, eating without relish the evening meal, when Charlotte crashed her tray down and sat opposite.  He glanced up and gasped.

“What’s wrong?”  she asked, her eyes narrow and defiant.

“Nothing.” he squeaked.

“If you’ve got something to say, say it.”

“I didn’t recognise you, that’s all.”

“Wasn’t that the intention?”

“Yes.”  He felt as though he was drowning.  “It just took me by surprise, that’s all.”

“You hate it, don’t you?”

“No,” he replied, hoping she couldn’t tell he was lying.  “Look, stop jumping down my throat, OK,” he said, desperate to fend off her attacks.  The problem was, the more he tried not to look at her hair the more he found himself staring at it.  She’d virtually scalped herself.  Where once her hair had grazed her shoulders, now it was shorter than his.  Shorter and darker.

“Where’d you get it done?”

“In the town.”  She looked at him sullenly.  “You said I should change my appearance.”  He nodded remembering his words to her at lunchtime, after she’d told him there was no chance of her changing rooms.  “Well, I have.  Now let’s hope that bitch stays away.”  She stabbed her chop with her fork and began to saw away at the soggy meat with her knife.  “And while we’re on the subject, you’re going to be buying me a hat.”

“What!  Why?”

“Because my head’s freezing, and it’s all your fault.”



Two days after Charlotte had cut her hair Mark was in his room, rushing to finish an end of term essay.  It was after eight in the evening and he was feeling jaded.  Suddenly there was a loud banging on his door.  Apprehensively Mark raised his gaze from the computer screen and eyed the shuddering door, knowing who it must be.  With a sigh he pushed his chair back and stood stiffly, his heart beating faster as the pounding grew in intensity.  Anticipating the storm to come, he took a deep breath and stepped to the door.  Turning the knob in the handle he unlocked the door and opened it cautiously.  A furious Charlotte, dressed in tee shirt and jeans, gave him a searing look.  “You bastard!” she shouted, swinging the palm of her hand at his face.  Staggering backwards from the stinging slap, Mark raised his hands for protection.  With a grunt Charlotte stepped forward and delivered a painful punch to his stomach.  “I hate you,” she screamed at him, her face contorted with fury, “you little shit.”

“What the fuck's up with you now?” he yelled back, anger bubbling up within him.

“This!” she roared, holding up a sheet of paper.  She thrust it in his face, so close that he had to lean back to focus.  It was a blurry inkjet print of a couple, arms around each other, surrounded by a crowd of people.  Something about the couple seemed familiar, but in his agitated state he couldn’t think what.

“So?”

Charlotte stabbed furiously at the image of the young woman with her forefinger.  “Don’t you recognise her?”

He shook his head.  “Should I?”

“It’s that bitch.  She cut her hair short and dyed it just before she killed herself.  You’ve made me look exactly like her.”

He peered at the picture with growing dismay.  “I didn’t know,” he said, his eyes pleading for Charlotte’s forgiveness.  “Where did you find it?”

“On the internet.  Somebody took it at a party the night they killed themselves.”  She stepped back and slapped his arm, this time without the venom she’d displayed moments earlier.  “That bitch is going to be the death of me.”

“You said she’d gone, now that you’ve changed your hair.”  She nodded, her eyes focused on his.  “Well,” he said quickly, “that’s a good thing, isn’t it?  It’s what you wanted.”

“I suppose so,” she said sulkily.  She looked down at the floor and started fidgeting, one hand plucking at the pocket of her jeans.  “Look I’m sorry, Mark,” she said, “I didn’t mean to hit you.  It’s just that this business is driving me mad.”

“It’s OK,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, “let’s forget about it.  In a week or so it’ll be the Christmas hols.  Tough it out to then and find yourself somewhere new to stay when you come back.”  He saw her nod and gave her a smile.  “What about you and I go down to the bar for a pint.  I’ve fucking had it with essays.”

The bar, on the ground floor in the Junior Common Room, was its usual heaving self.  Shrieks of laughter, mingling with the excited chatter of swaying couples and the honking of the one-armed bandit, cocooned them in a wall of sound.  They pushed their way to the counter and ordered; a pint of lager for himself and a sickly pink concoction for her.  Then, drinks in hand, they edged towards a quiet spot near the entrance, arms around each other.  As they neared it, someone raised a phone and took a snap.



An insistent rapping on his door dragged Mark awake.  He listened, hoping it would stop.  It didn’t.  Unable to bear it any longer, he flung the bedclothes against the wall and clambered into a sitting position.  Rap, rap, rap.  It was like a pneumatic drill boring into his brain.  Swearing, he pushed himself off the bed and stumbled towards the door.  The room was dark, with only a slim shaft of moonlight lancing through the gap in the curtains.  “Ow!”  The sudden sound of his own voice startled him more than the pain from his injured toes.  With an angry gesture he sent the offending chair crashing against the table.  Reaching the door he fumbled with the lock and yanking it open.  “What!”  Charlotte raised a tear stained face and flung herself at him.  Through the thin cotton of her pink pyjamas he could feel her slender body trembling.  “What the fuck’s wrong?” he asked, grabbing at her.

“That bitch is in my room again,” she gasped.  “She pulled the bedclothes away and pinched me.”

He disentangled himself from her arms and stepped back.  “You sure you didn’t dream it?” he asked wearily.”

“I didn’t dream it!” she shrieked.  “Why won’t you believe me?”

“I do,” he said quickly, “it’s just that it’s late and I’m tired.”

“What am I going to do?”  Tears rolled down her face as she spoke.  “I can’t stand it any more.”

“I don’t know,” he replied truthfully.  He let the sound of her sobbing wash over him as he thought.  “Look,” he said finally, “we’ll change rooms.  You sleep here and I’ll go to your room.”

She shook her head.  “I don’t want to be on my own.”

He closed his eyes and sighed.  “All right then,” he said, “you have my bed and I’ll sleep in the chair.”

She shook her head again.  “You can’t do that.  It’s too cold.”

“What then?”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “We can get in bed together.”

“There’s not enough room.”

“Yes there is.”

“OK,” he said, after a moment’s pause, “you win.  We’ll squeeze in together.”  A question surfaced in his mind.  “Did you lock your door?”

“What?  No.  I just wanted to get out of there.”

“I’d best go and lock it then, otherwise your stuff will go missing.  Have you got your keys?”

“They’re on the desk.”

“All right, hop in bed while I go and lock up.”  He realised he was standing on the cold linoleum in his bare feet.  He needed his slippers.  In the jaundiced light from the corridor he saw them by the bed.  Moving quickly he went and slipped them on, welcoming their comfort.  Then he hurried out the room, patting Charlotte gently on the shoulder as he passed.

When he got to her room he found the door wide open.  With a shudder he stepped inside and switched on the lights.  In the yellow glow from the wall lamps he saw that no spectres were lurking in the shadows.  Releasing his breath, he scanned the room.  Bedclothes were strewn about the floor in an unruly jumble, but happily nothing appeared to be missing.  As he picked up her keyring from where it lay on the table, next to her laptop, a thought crossed his mind.  Maybe it’d be best if he took her slippers and dressing gown with him.  He looked around the room again but the slippers appeared to be missing.  With a growl he flung bedclothes onto the bed until he caught sight of something pink poking out from under a fallen pillow.  A cry of satisfaction escaped his lips.  With a swift movement he scooped the slippers up and swung round.  Now all he had to do was find her blue dressing gown.  It was draped over the back of the red plastic chair.  Grabbing it, he took a final look around the room, switched off the lights and locked the door.

Back in his room he saw that Charlotte was in his bed with the bedclothes pulled over herself.  “Is that you, Mark?” her muffled voice called out sleepily.

“Yes,” he replied, putting her slippers and dressing gown down on the table, “I’m just going to shut the door.”  A few seconds later he was clambering in beside her.

“Will you stop buggering about.”  He heard the bed creak as she shifted sideways to make room for him.  As he wriggled to made himself comfortable he realised that she was on her side, facing him.  “Shuffle arse,” she murmured sleepily as she snuggled up to him.  He stopped moving and listened to her rhythmic breathing, tiny whispers of breath tickling his face.  As her firm young breasts pressed insistently against his chest something began to stir in his loins.

He remembered the thing he’d intended to tell her.  “Do you know what day this is?”

“No.”  There was a moment’s silence.  “Wednesday?  No, wait, Thursday.”

“It’s the day those fools hung themselves.”  As she reared up he knew he’d blundered.

“Are you sure?” she shrieked.

“I might be wrong.”

Charlotte wasn’t listening.  “That’s why she pulled the bedclothes off of me, isn’t it?”  She howled.  “It’s their anniversary.  She wants us here, together, like this.”

“Don’t be silly,” he said, furious at his stupidity.  “You’re letting your imagination run away with you.”

“We’re screwed.”  She sank back next to him.  “We never stood a chance.”

“Let’s get up and go then.  We can sit in the common room.”

“It’s too late.”  He could barely hear her.  “I can’t move.”  She coughed, trying to clear her throat.  “I love you.”

Mark tried to move but his limbs felt like lead.  His mouth wouldn’t open.  Something was biting into his neck, crushing his windpipe.  He tried to breathe, his chest heaving with the strain, but he couldn’t force air into his lungs.  The buzzing in his ears grew louder.  Vaguely he was aware of Charlotte’s feet drumming against his legs as his body jerked in tune to her spasms.  The thump, thump, thump of a piston, pounding in his head, blotted out his thoughts.  He was so tired.  A vortex of deep calm opened up in his mind, swirling as it expanded.  Mesmerised, he stared into its welcoming void.  He knew what he had to do.  Gently, almost imperceptibly, he tipped forward into the rushing darkness and surrendered himself to its warm embrace.


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