I was very honoured to attend the Dracula Society's Bram Stoker Dinner on 6 November and pick up my Children of the Night Award for Tales of Terror from the Tunnels Mouth.
The dinner took place in The Russell Hotel in London, where I had been not too long ago for the Bloomsbury Sales Conference. The first person I saw was Gail-Nina Anderson whom I'd met at the Halifax Ghost Story Festival and who reviews for the Fortean Times - among many other things.
She introduced me to various members of the society and it soon became clear that they were a fascinatingly diverse bunch, all coming to Bram Stoker from different directions. The Society was co-founded by Bernard Davies who very sadly passed away in September of this year. He was clearly much missed.
Toby Whithouse accepted the Hamilton Deane award on behalf of Aidan Turner, the vampire in the BBC's Being Human. Christopher Frayling made a lighthearted speech about how Dracula would cope in 2010. I was given my award and said a few words and then read them a very, very short story.
A while back, Bloomsbury instigated a competition called 247tales. Basically, they asked their authors to write a story of no more than 247 words and then young writers could try their hand in response. This was mine. . .
Emma Weston had never believed in ghosts, but standing there in the cold moonlight there could be no doubt. She had the evidence of her own eyes.
It was all Mary Haver’s fault. Mary had dared her to sneak out of the dorm after an argument about whether or not there was a ghost in the kitchen garden.
‘If you are so sure there’s no ghost, you shouldn’t be afraid should you?’ And so the dare was set.
A full moon had illuminated Emma’s way across the lawn. The garden door creaked open and she stepped in. But immediately, thick cloud obscured the moon and impenetrable darkness descended.
Emma did not panic. She knew that the girls could not see her behind the wall. All she had to do was stand there and wait. Twenty minutes ought to do it.
But something scuttled across her feet. She jumped. She stumbled. She put out a hand to stop herself falling, but her hand met the glass pane of the greenhouse and it shattered under her weight. Her head hit the frame and knocked her senseless. She did not feel the glass shard slice the artery in her neck. She died within minutes.
Emma had stood in confusion looking back at her own body. She knew in that instant that she had been wrong. Ghosts certainly did exist. Now there really would be a spectre haunting the kitchen garden.
But first she would pay a visit to Mary Havers.