Wednesday, 3 April 2019

C is for Cathedral - Close Call by Natasha Duncan-Drake Day 3 #AtoZChallenge

C is for Cathedral

Hello and welcome to day 3 of the AtoZChallenge. My theme this year is ghost stories, specifically, flash fiction ghost stories inspired by real life haunting from my neck of the woods in Kent, UK. Every day there will be a new spooky fic on this blog and a dramatic reading of the story on my Patreon.

Today's fic is inspired by Canterbury Cathedral and the haunting of the Dark Passage, which joins the Cathedral grounds to those of the Kings School. This arched stone walkway is haunted by the ghost of Nell Cook, a servant to a previous canon, who, when he had an affair, was so outraged that she poisoned him and his mistress. Her punishment was the be buried under the stones of the Dark Passage, and those who see her are sure to die.
The Dark Passage, care of The Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society
This is not a scary story like yesterday's, but it's not a cheery one either, so be warned.

Close Call 

by Natasha Duncan-Drake

"Want half?" Gabe asked as they walked towards the Dark Passage.

Emily peered at the sandwich her friend was holding out.

"Exactly where did you get that?" she asked.

For someone whose parents had pots of money, Gabe was incredibly tight in the oddest ways. No doubt the sandwich had been a bargain somewhere in the city.

"Still fresh counter in the little corner shop opposite the gate," Gabe said, grinning and biting down into half of his prize.

"Thanks, but I'll wait for supper," Emily said.

She wasn't sure the 'still fresh' part was accurate.

It was Friday afternoon, school was finished, and she was looking forward to some downtime. She was sure Fridays had been designed specifically to torture her with lesson after lesson involving numbers and formulae and everything she hated. She was a historian at heart and the sooner she could dump the subjects that made her brain twist in knots, the happier she would be.

Emily pulled her blazer closer to her body as they stepped out of the spring sunshine and into the shadow of the passage. It was cold in the shade.

"Damn, that's chilly," Gabe said around his mouthful.

"Come on, let's hurry," Emily suggested.

It wasn't just the chill that had her speeding up, there was something about the Dark Passage she had never liked. Her skin always came up in goosebumps every time she walked through it. She knew it was silly, it wasn't even as if it was dark, but she couldn't help herself. Putting her head down she walked as fast as she could without leaving Gabe way behind.

"Great costume," Gabe said and made her turn back.

She had totally missed the woman in the passage in her haste to leave it. Gabe was right, the woman did have a good costume, straight out of a period drama.

"Why thank you, kind sir," the woman said and bobbed Gabe a curtsey.

He laughed and Emily waited as he hurried to catch her up.

"Must be doing some filming or something somewhere," Gabe said as they carried on their way.

It wasn't unusual, given the historical nature of the city. Emily glanced back to have another look at the woman to see if she could work out what it might be, but she was gone.

"Wow, she must walk fast," she said, even as a shiver ran up her spine.

"Faster than me," Gabe agreed, taking a look himself as he popped the last bit of his sandwich half in his mouth.

He should have been looking where he was going, because at that moment, he tripped over a loose stone and banged into the wall.

"Idiot," Emily said, "come on."

She expected a quip comeback, but what she got was a choking sound. Gabe looked at her in panic, waving his hands at his throat. His mouth was open, but he couldn't take in any air.

"Oh shit," Emily all but yelled.

Gabe bent double and made a truly horrible sound. Emily couldn't help it, she panicked and did the only thing she could think of—she hit him square on the back as hard as she could. There was an explosive outflow of air and something flew onto the paving stones. The jagged intake of desperate breath was the most wonderful sound Emily had ever heard.

"Gabe," she said, placing her hand on his back, "are you okay?"

He looked at her, panting.

"Thanks to you, yeah," he said.

"Take smaller bites," she said with a laugh, because she did not want to think how close Gabe had just come to choking to death.

Then something dawned on her. She looked back into the Dark Passage and there was a flicker of shadow where the woman had been.

"Oh my god," she said, mouth falling open in shock.

"What?" Gabe asked, giving another little cough.

"That wasn't an actress," Emily said, looking her friend right in the eye, "that was Nell Cook."


"Nell Cook, the ghost of the Dark Passage," Emily said. "She poisoned her master, the canon, and his mistress, and was condemned to be buried under the flagstones. Her ghost haunts the passage and it's said those who see her are likely to die."

She pointed at the bit of sandwich on the floor and then at Gabe, but he was frowning at her.

"You nearly died, you idiot," she said. "Nell's curse almost got you."

"Yeah right," Gabe said and rolled his eyes. "I just need to watch where I'm walking."

It was just like Gabe to brush off near death. When he shook his head and set off walking, Emily followed. She didn't care what anyone else said, she knew what had just happened. When she went to bed that night, she said a quiet prayer for Nell's soul and her own.

She didn't think about it again until Monday, because she was visiting her parents that weekend for their 20th wedding anniversary celebrations and didn't get back until just before school began. It wasn't until she ran into a group of her friends, that she realised something wasn't right.

"What's up?" she asked.

Abigale, her best friend and roommate looked at her. The girl's eyes were red and a little puffy, as if she had been crying.

"We just heard," Abigale said and failed to explain further because she sobbed.

"It's Gabe," William, one of her other friends said. "They carted him off to the hospital on Saturday night after he'd been in the san all day with food poisoning. He died this morning."

"What?" Emily said, totally taken aback. "People don't die of food poisoning."

"It's a really nasty one," William said. "They quarantined his dorm room."

Emily stopped listening after that and turned her gaze in the direction of the Dark Passage. She couldn't see it from where they were, but she could feel Nell staring on, and the sound of ghostly laughter echoed in her ears.

Dramatic Reading on Patreon

For this month I am also recording dramatic readings of all the ghost stories. These are available on my Patreon. Some are public, some are patrons only (yes it's public today).

Visit Other AtoZers:

AtoZChallenge Master List of Blogs 

Please do let me know what you think of the story and leave me links to your AtoZ entries so I can visit you back. I love to chat.


  1. Poor old Gabe. I thought that sandwich would be the end of him.

    1. Who knows if it was the sandwich, or Nell cursing the sandwich ;) Thank you so much for reading. BTW - the audio for this one is open to the public today - I just managed to set it going public for tomorrow instead of today, but I have fixed it :)

    2. Probably a combo of the two - bad meat and curse. I will go listen to the audio.

  2. Nice tale! Audio, eh? I will check that out later this evening - thanks!

    1. Thank you :) Yep I am recording all my tales and posting them on my Patreon - some are public, some patrons only to try and entice people in. Today's is public as was A.

  3. Lucky Emily didn't have a bite of that sandwich. Nell must have been quite a character.

    1. She has to have been somewhat unbalanced - or possibly a woman scorned.
      Thank you for reading.

  4. Now, Emily also saw Nell, so is there something in store for her as well?

    1. You never can tell, it might be a long game ... ;)

  5. Oooh... great story. Regional ghosts are great, aren't they? I got a book of Norfolk ghost stories when I first moved here... now I can't go some places without thinking of them! Any ghosts in Faversham?

    1. Thank you. They are great, yes - whenever we go and stay somewhere we always look for local books of ghost stories to give to my sister who has a collection of them :)
      I had not looked up Faversham, since I had more than enough with other sources, but I just went to look and there are many! Sailors, headless women, the hauntings in the brewery :) (

  6. Spooky! I would not want to go anywhere near a haunted passage like that...
    Also, great theme this year :)

    The Multicolored Diary

    1. Thank you :) Me either! I prefer nice ghosts who try and help people.

  7. I pop across to Canterbury quite often, but I'll never view the dark passage in the same way again!

    My A-Z of Children's Stories

    1. I had never heard of it even though I only live five miles from Canterbury :) When I read the ghostly legend I know that had to be the one. Thank you so much for dropping by.

  8. Yikes, to die of food - poisoning! This has the perfect blend of the supernatural and silliness. Well done, Tasha.

    Cool Down, Cool Girl

  9. Excellent tale - nothing like a cursing ghost to wreak havoc. Loved hearing your voice reading as well.

    1. Thank you :) Nothing like a good curse to keep everyone on their toes! So pleased you enjoyed the recording, I'm having lots of fun making them, except when the cats insist on interrupting me - loudly :D

  10. Not scary =) I've heard of Dark Passage before - possibly in a Biritish tv show?

    1. I hadn't - it was new to me, but it's a legend that was made popular by a book, so if could have ended up on TV at some point :)

  11. One of Nell's sandwiches? Poisoned? Great and scary.

  12. Well, she had thought the sandwich was dodgy to begin with... Great story :-)

    Ronel visiting from the A-Z Challenge with Music and Writing: There's Only One C...


Thank you so much for reading. I love to hear from people. Please leave your comments below.