Gary McMahon


This one’s dedicated to my cousin Linda, who told me all about the scary movies she’d seen at the cinema when I was much too young to go and see them for myself.

I never forgot that — it meant a lot to me at the time.

Captain Clickety He’s coming your way Captain Clickety He’ll make you pay Once in the morning Twice in the night Three times Clickety Will give you a fright — Traditional children’s skipping song (origin unknown)


Diary: One

I has been sent to bed by mummy and daddy. they dont want me to hear them fight. my name is jack. I want to keep a dairy and this is it. daddy thinks people who rite are funny in the head. he says I should be playin outside with my football or on my bike. I like my bike. but daddy wont let me play outside when it dark. that the scary time. nasty man mite take me away like that boy in the news before. my sister is daisy like a flower. I think somebody hates us. he is in the house all the time but we cant see him. he makes niose when nowbody else is here. he wants to hurt us. we hide under the bed when mummy and daddy are in the pub. he canit see us there. we inibible. inbisevil. he canit see us. but he is there. in the walls and under the floor. he creeps about and peeps threw the gaps to try and see me and daisy flower. I am scared. I can here him now. he goes clikcety clikcety like when I spilt my marbels on the kichen floor. clikcey clikcety clikc.

— From the diary of Jack Pollack, April 1974


The Gone-Away Girls

“Promise me that you won’t try to save me.”

— Abby Hansen


IT STARTS, FOR him, with an ending…

In fact, it begins with a funeral.

Death is a constant in the Concrete Grove, just as it is everywhere else in the world. People come and they go; they live and they die, blooming and then withering like seasonal flowers on the stem. This natural cycle perpetuates, bringing existence and extinction and joy and sorrow, and everything else in-between, into sharp focus. But in the Grove these fundamental truths are pushed even closer to the surface, like a spiritual hernia; it is a place where the cycles of life and death are played out at an intimate scale across an epic canvas. A million different beginnings and endings, each with their separate details, their intimate little secrets…

But for Marc Price, it begins with an ending…


MARC WATCHED THE short funeral cortege as it made its way off the main road and into the grounds of the Near Grove Crematorium, following the narrow tarmac road past the gravestones and monuments. Most of the cars were old, outdated models, but kept in good shape by their mostly aged owners. None of the old man’s friends had been what anyone might call well off. They were normal people, with normal amounts of cash in their pockets.

He sat in his car outside the front gates, watching through the grimy windscreen. He recognised not one of the cars in the small queue of vehicles. In fact he didn’t know anyone who’d known Harry Rose apart from his uncle, but his uncle was dead too, five years in the grave from cancer of the liver. Uncle Mike had introduced Marc to Harry Rose, but only from beyond the grave — his name had been enough to convince the old man to talk to him. The two men had once drunk together. They’d been long-ago beer buddies.

The stereo was playing softly; the CD was a compilation of Ennio Morricone’s film scores Harry Rose had given him not long after their first meeting. Marc closed his eyes and listened to the music, trying not to think about the immediacy and inevitability of death.

When he opened his eyes again, the final car in the grim little procession was inching its way through the crematorium gates. Bright shards of sunlight broke through the clouds and made patterns on the shiny roof and bonnet, which were a direct contrast to the dirty, dented bodywork of his little Nissan. He stared at the layer of dust on the dashboard, a light scattering of grey. The torn seats, the battered interior… somehow the poor condition of the car represented a facet of his lifestyle that he didn’t like to think about. It had been new once, this vehicle, but now it was old. Not a profound insight, but one that moved him deeply on this particular day at this grim hour.

Marc turned off the engine, removed the ignition key, and opened the car door. He stepped out onto the road, glancing to the side to make sure there were no cars speeding towards him, and locked the door (he used the key; there was no central locking on this old beast). He pulled up his collar against the slight autumnal chill and jogged across the road, towards the iron crematorium fence. He had not been here for a long time — not since they’d cremated Uncle Mike. The place made him feel uncomfortable, exhuming memories that he’d rather stayed buried. Conflicting images and sensations almost overwhelmed him: the smell of booze on his uncle’s breath, the man’s strong arms lifting him off the ground when he was a child, his harsh voice, the way the skin around his eyes

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