Read Jeremy de Quidt’s spooky Halloween story Little Blue-Eyed Boy

When you push your little brother down a 200 foot pit, you don’t expect to see him again…do you?

Read an exclusive spooky short story by Jeremy de Quidt, author of The Toymaker and The Feathered Man, a thrilling gothic tale full of suspense and macabre twists

‘He looked right at me, but he didn’t say a word.’ Photograph: Pixland/Corbis

It was an accident.

I didn’t mean it. I just meant to push him and grab his jacket, catch him again – give him a scare – but I missed. I missed, and he went straight down the shaft of the old mine.

It’s all boarded up, but we got in anyway – pulled a bit away and ducked under the wire – and I dared him to go right up to the edge and look down. And he did. And that’s when I pushed him. He was standing right at the edge, and I just went ‘wa!’ to frighten him. That’s all I meant to do – catch his coat dead quick, frighten the daylights out of my little brother. Mum’s blue-eyed little boy.

Only I missed his coat.

He didn’t make a sound. He just went over. I heard him hit the bottom. I heard that alright. It’s two hundred foot straight down that old shaft. Our Dad used to work it.

I didn’t know what to do. I shouted after him, down into the dark but there wasn’t a sound.

I ran all the way home. I couldn’t say I’d pushed him – not mum’s blue-eyed little boy. And I couldn’t say I’d taken him up the old mines either. So, I said he’d met some of his friends and he’d wanted to get the bus home with them. I said I’d given him the money and told him to be in for tea. And Mum believed that.

Only he wasn’t in for tea.

She set it all out like usual – two plates, bread and butter, egg and chips. Made a big pot. Put the cosy on it. But he didn’t come home, and his egg and chips got cold. So, she put it all back in the oven for him, and looked at the clock.

“You did give him enough fare?” She said.

And I frowned like I was thinking about it, and I said I thought I had. The driver won’t let you on if you haven’t the right money, and you have to walk then. So, I said that maybe that’s what had happened. Or, that he’d stopped off somewhere for tea at one of his mates.

But, I knew he hadn’t done either of those.

It got dark. Dad came home, and he still wasn’t in. They started to get really worried then. Wanted to know why I’d let him go off on his own, their little blue-eyed boy. I couldn’t tell them what I’d done. If I hadn’t told it when I’d come in, how could I tell it then?

So I didn’t.

I just shook my head and said he’d got the bus.

I went upstairs to our room and sat on my bed, looked at all his things – his football boots and comics, stupid ‘catbear’ that he stuffs inside his pillow. But all I could think of was him lying dead and cold in the dark at the bottom of the old shaft.

Then, I heard the alley gate and the back door go, and Mum’s voice wanting to know where on earth he’d been. And I knew I was hearing things, so I went back down the stairs.

Only I wasn’t. I wasn’t hearing things.

He was sat at the table, Mum holding his egg and chips from the oven with a teacloth, and Dad looking all stern, but you could see they were really relieved.

He said the bus hadn’t come, not the next one neither and when one did it was the 156 not the 157, so he’d had to walk anyway. Dad said he should have been back before then, and he said he was sorry and he put the unspent bus money on the table.

Bus money I’d never given him.

And then he looked right at me, but he didn’t say a word.

There wasn’t a mark on him – not his face, not his hands, not his clothes. Not even his coat – and he’d torn that ducking under the wire. I knew it, because I’d said he’d get a licking from Mum when she saw what he’d done. Not that he would have, not him. Not her blue-eyed little boy.

Mum had a jigsaw on the go. When she’d cleared away and done the washing up, he sat with her at the table and they did it together, the two of them, their heads close together. Then, he said he was tired from the walk, and she ran him a bath. Put her bubbles in it.

And still he said nothing to me.

Why couldn’t they see what I could see?

When it was bed, Mum came up to say ‘goodnight’ and then Dad as well, and he turned the light out. And I lay in my bed holding tight on to the sheet and looking in the dark at where his bed was – I could just see the shadow of it against the wall. I could smell Mum’s bubbles on him.

“You’re not Billy,” I said.

There was a long silence. The boy in Billy’s bed said nothing. And then, very quietly – and in a voice not like Billy’s at all – he began to laugh.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween