Haunted Advent Calendar Day 18 – with guest Hannah Kate

To celebrate the release of our second Self Made Hero book of M. R. James adaptations – Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol 2 – we’re going to be counting down to Christmas in true Jamesian style, with a new haunting image and nugget of info every day.

In our Big Cartel shop, between now and the 20th of December, you can get Vol 1 & Vol 2 together for the very special price of £15.

On top of that, we’ll be giving away a copy of the book via Twitter every Sunday in the lead up to Christmas. Check the #MRJ2GIVEAWAY hashtag for details of how to take part.

Hannah Kate is a Manchester-based writer and editor. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies by Fox Spirit, Werewolves Versus, Immanion Press and Hic Dragones, and her poetry has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies. Hannah hosts a weekly literature radio show on North Manchester FM, imaginatively titled Hannah’s Bookshelf.

Website: http://hannahkate.net

Twitter: @HannahKateish

Martin put his plastic cup of lager down on the corner of a nearby desk and gripped the thin red-and-gold parcel in both hands.

“Who’s it from?” he said, holding the gift up and shaking it. It flopped over and drooped against his hand.

“It’s Secret Santa, isn’t it!” Claire laughed.

“Go on,” said Martin. He lowered his voice. “I won’t tell anyone you told me. Promise.”

Martin leant in closer, one hand holding the parcel, the other resting on Claire’s upper-arm. “Go on,” he whispered. “Just for me?”

Claire’s arm tensed, and her smile grew hard around the edges. She turned her body slightly so that the tinsel-decked cardboard box she was holding was between them. “I said I can’t, Martin. Even if I wanted to – I don’t know what names people drew from the hat, do I? It could be from anyone.”

Across the office, one of the women from HR shrieked as she tore the paper off a box of chocolates shaped like naked men. She pointed a finger at someone and shouted, “This is you, isn’t it? This has to be you!”

Martin looked down at the flimsy parcel in his hand. There wasn’t much to it, whatever it was.

He tore at the corner, then ripped away the red-and-gold paper. His stomach tightened as he saw navy blue fabric, striped with diagonal yellow. He dropped the paper to the floor, glancing round the office to see who was watching. But everyone was too busy with their own gifts to notice him.

In his hand, limp and lifeless, was a school tie. Martin closed his eyes, and his ears filled with the sound… tyres on tarmac, a skid, a shout, a thud, bone on metal, a body hitting the ground. A split-second pause… eyes off the road, a shape flying towards him, black hair, a blazer, a school tie, then nothing. Another split-second… his hand reaching for the gearstick, fumbling for reverse, dragging at the steering wheel.

They never found the driver, the office whispered over newspaper reports.

Martin looked at the pathetic piece of fabric in his hand. One end was darkened by a deep stain.

Claire crossed the office, the now-empty box in her hands.

Who was it?” Martin shouted at her. “Who did this?”

A split-second pause… Claire’s gaze held Martin’s. “I already told you, Martin. It’s Secret Santa, isn’t it?”

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