Why Ghosts Are Green – read by the Scottish Storyteller

A collaboration with my partner, The Weirdnet. This is his recording of one of my poems, which will most likely feature in the new book!

Why Ghosts are Green

I feel the anger
and it’s new –
a burning,
I turn it inwards.
We are the nameless,
we watch.
We are the speechless,
the lost.
We skulk in the shadows
and watch you
in the light.
You don’t even know.

You’re muscle, tendon,
bone and skin.
You’re eyeballs,
toenails, breath and sin.
We watch.
We want it.
We need it to be real.
We summon up strength
(can one be strong
with no body?)
We long to touch.
We’d kill
to touch.

We float by,
overlapping in layers
because this world is too small.
There’s too many
dearly departed.
Oh, how quickly
you forget!
How you waste your gift.
How you anger us.
We’d kill
to hurt.

The pleasure of ending
one’s existence
is unknown to us.
We cannot poison,
for we cannot drink.
We cannot stab
for we cannot bleed.
We cannot suffocate
for we need not breathe.
I watch him –
a boy, holding his sister’s hand.
Barely hanging on,
just loosely holding.
I would squeeze tightly
I would squeeze skin
on skin
and cherish it.
You’re wasting it all.

We’d kill
to be you

The Music Box

(I’m working on my new book, officially as of yesterday. Here’s one of the stories that’s admittedly still a work in progress… but it might make its way into the book)


Anthea had been warned, over and over, to never open the music box. Her mother locked it away in the family safe, in case anyone ever felt tempted. The problem Anthea had was that no one had ever told her why. She thought that if someone just explained what the problem was she’d leave it alone. Though, truthfully, it was unlikely that anything could kill her curiosity. Even if someone told her that opening the box would kill her instantly she’d probably do it, partly to spite them but mostly just to find out if it was really true.

Anthea seized her moment when her parents went back home to Greece for a fortnight. She declined the invitation, saying she had coursework to complete. She was only seventeen but had proven her maturity in the sensible life she lived and had earned their trust.

On the first morning she made herself breakfast, put on her favourite radio station and enjoyed the freedom. It wasn’t until lunchtime that she started thinking about the music box. What did they expect, anyway? It was like labeling a great red button ‘do not press’.

Her mother had the key to the safe, of course. Anthea was sure there must be a spare somewhere but had no idea where to start looking. So, she googled the safe’s model code and in a matter of minutes had purchased a new key (£4.99 including postage and packaging) and two days later the padded envelope slid through the letterbox and waited for her to come downstairs.

Now all she had to do was crack the code and she was in. Anthea spent half a day looking through her parents’ box files, finding birth certificates and old bills and refrigerator manuals. Finally, she found the documentation that came with the safe. The code was written in green ink on the back: 16-1-14-4-15-18-1. She was stunned: why on earth would you write that down? Then again, she had also came across a four digit code scrawled on an old bank statement that was almost certainly a PIN number.

Shaking with excitement, she turned the new key in the lock and carefully entered the code, pressing each metal button delicately. With a click, the door swung open. Inside was the family treasure: jewellery, photo albums, love letters and the green music box. She hadn’t seen it in such a long time – maybe ten years.

It felt like it always did: far heavier than it looked, yet comfortable in her hands. She remembered being about seven years old and so desperate to find out what was inside, to hear the music… she had almost opened it when her mother found her and locked it away for good.

Anthea placed the box on the coffee table and stared at it for a long time, savouring the tense drama of the moment. She knew it was going to be the biggest anti-climax of her life, because it was just a wooden box, of course. She couldn’t think of anything at all that could be inside which would really warrant such extreme warnings and live up to her dreams. She dreamed about the box a lot, so much that she felt she was going insane with ignorance. She felt the box calling out to her as she slept, whispering through her dreams and begging her to open it. Now here it was, like a living breathing thing before her. She could feel its heartbeat.

Finally, it was time. Anthea turned the tiny silver catch, for the second time in her life, but this time she opened the lid fully, feeling ridiculous for trembling so much.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the box slammed closed and her hands were clasped in her lap. She couldn’t recall moving them, or closing the box, or seeing what was inside – it was as if she’d blacked out.

Tentatively, she opened the box again. There was nothing inside. Had there ever been? Maybe it was all a cruel joke her parents had been playing her whole life… and yet… she felt an odd sense of hope as she stared at the blank bottom of the box. She couldn’t think where the feeling was coming from, or what it related to, but it was there. She knew with a sudden fierce certainty that no matter what went on in the world there was always hope hidden away somewhere.

If ever you see something frightening out of the corner of your eye, or you feel you are being watched when no one is around, or you find yourself waking from a nightmare and can’t recall what has your heart racing – you have encountered Shades, primal creatures of raw evil imprisoned in a silent music box and handed down and guarded from generation to generation. They were never supposed to be freed, but they always knew they would be. Shades are patient entities, and have always understood the truth about humans: the strange force of curiosity would always overpower humankind. Perhaps one day someone will find a way to shackle them again. But, for now, Anthea put the box back into the safe, locked it and threw away the key.

The Dollmaker

[a preview of what’s to come in my next book… here’s a short story!]

The Dollmaker

So, what you got this time?” Pete asked, looking at the large purple box on the paint-splattered table.

It’s Maria,” said Derek, his face lighting up. “Been working on this lady for months.”

Nice. What’s it look like?”

Oh, you know -”



You need to start diversifying, man,” Pete sighed. “What about blondes? Brunettes?”

Diversifying?” Derek snorted. “Take a look through my books. I’ve had ’em from every corner of the world. Every colour, shape, size…”

Sure. But every one of them’s had red hair. Why?”

I like redheads.”

Why’d you marry a blonde, then?”

You know Eleanor’s not a natural blonde,” Derek replied. “Quit trying to wind me up. D’you want to see her or not?”

Alright, go on then.”

Derek’s gloved hands carefully lifted the lid to reveal a doll around two and a half feet tall, but so perfectly designed it could easily be a real human shrunk down. Her hair was shoulder-length and in ringlets with green velvet ribbons tied through it. She wore a black dress and shiny patent shoes on her tiny feet. Her face was – as always – exquisite. More beautiful than any real person could ever be. Pete wondered how he made the eyes so bright and almost wet looking, how he made such a natural blush appear on her lifelike skin. You got the impression that you’d find her cheek warm and soft, rather than icy cold and hard like porcelain dolls.

Wow. I don’t know how you do it, I really don’t,” Pete grinned. “I take it she’s already sold?”

Eight hundred grand for this beauty,” Derek replied, placing the lid carefully back onto the box. “Going to an old lady in Montmartre.”

Seriously, how do you make them? Why won’t you let me watch?”

A magician never reveals his secrets.”

I’m sick of that answer. I bet you… oh, I don’t know, a hundred quid that you’ll never actually tell me.”

Interesting technique,” Derek said, nodding. “You think I’ll leap at the chance to earn a hundred quid and tell you the secrets of my artistic process? Didn’t you hear how much I’m getting for Maria?”

Pete smiled confidently. “I know you, though. You always need to beat me. It’s not about the money, you can’t stand knowing you’ll lose to me.”

If you say so,” Derek shrugged. “We’ll see.”

I’ll see.”

It was another month before Pete visited again, having been travelling with work. The door to the cellar was locked and the ‘do not disturb’ sign hung on the doorknob. Pete pressed the doorbell next to it and made his way to the kitchen. He was halfway through his second sandwich when Derek finally made an appearance.

What’s that?” he asked.

Peanut butter sandwich. Want some?”

You’re offering me my own food that you stole from me?”

Lighten up, it’s only peanut butter. Speaking of which, you’ve just run out. There almost wasn’t enough for me.”

My heart bleeds. What are you doing here, anyway?”

Come to see if you fancied a break,” Pete said, finishing the sandwich. “I’ll buy you a new jar of peanut butter, come on.”

Derek scoffed. “No-frills fifty pence a jar crap? No chance. Where are we off to?”


There was a new Sci-Fi movie showing, their favourite genre. That’s how they had met to begin with – two friendless teenagers at a deserted stall for some obscure 60’s TV programme at a convention. This one was about time travel, Derek’s favourite topic. He loved to poke holes in the logic, pointing out how it couldn’t work that way in reality.

See, what they don’t realise,” he said over a pint afterwards. “Is that going forwards in time, that’s easy. Anyone could do it. It’s getting back after that that’s hard.”

Uh-huh,” Pete muttered. He had long since stopped trying to debate the issue.

There’s no smoke or flashing lights or any of that,” he went on. “There’s just you vanishing, blip, you’re gone. Then you’re back and no one knows you were actually away.”

They put those things in for dramatic effect,” Pete said tiredly. “No one would get excited over a… ‘blip’. They wouldn’t watch.”

I would.”

Was now the right time? Pete didn’t think he could do it, but Eleanor had said… it had to come from him. What would he think? Would he get violent?

Pete smiled to himself. Derek had never been violent in his life, the idea was comical.

Anyway, he showed so little attention to his wife, he couldn’t possibly be surprised, could he? Would he be angry? Or just miserable? Would he even care?

Eleanor and I are sleeping together,” Pete said after his third drink, the words all running together drunkenly.

Derek, who had been mid-flow about the limitations of time travel, stopped. He laughed a little, then stopped. “What?”

We’ve… fallen in love,” Pete said, almost cringing. “I’m sorry.”

Derek didn’t speak for a long time. The two men stared into their drinks.

Finally, Derek got to his feet. “I’ve got work to do,” he said quietly, and walked away.

Pete sent messages, tried calling again and again, but received no reply. After three weeks he conquered his cowardice and went to Derek’s house. He pressed the doorbell by the cellar door and stood there awkwardly waiting, as though he had entered a stranger’s house. When Derek opened the door, his face positively lit up with joy. He spread out his arms dramatically, apparently delighted, and wrapped them around Pete; who stood stiff and petrified.

I thought you wouldn’t come back,” Derek said when he pulled away from the hug at last. “I’m sorry I walked away like that.”

Pete laughed suddenly – he couldn’t help it. “You’re sorry? Are you insane? I’m sorry. Look, I’ve ended it with Eleanor because… well, your friendship means more to me than being in love. I didn’t want to lose you.”

Derek simply smiled.

Where is Eleanor?” Pete asked nervously.

Oh, she’s gone,” Derek said nonchalantly. “I told her you’d told me, and I asked her to leave. Before she could even pack her bags you called and dumped her. She’d been planning to stay with you, until that. So I’ve no idea where she went in the end.”

Oh,” Pete said, an uneasy feeling gently rising from his stomach.

So, it’s just me and you again, bud,” he said, slapping Pete on the arm. “Come see who I’ve been working on.”

Pete followed the man downstairs, wondering if he was going to suddenly turn and swing for him.

Two boxes!” Pete exclaimed. “How could you have time for that?”

I know, a double casket,” Derek said. “I’ve barely slept or eaten.”

Pete noticed the five o’clock shadow, the black tired eyes. “Big buyer, huh?” he asked, feeling the smoothness of the black boxes.

It’s for a special client, yeah,” Derek replied. “Wanna see?”


It almost felt normal again. The uneasy feeling began to dissipate, like bubbles popping in his stomach. Derek lifted the lid of the first ‘casket’, and Pete laughed with shock. “Not a redhead!”

Gentlemen prefer blondes.”

Seriously, though, why now?” Pete asked, leaning closer. “She kind of looks like… Eleanor, actually.”

It’s an ‘it’, not a ‘she’,” said Derek quietly. “How about the other?”

The second lid was lifted, and revealed a male figure within.

Wow, you really broke out of your comfort zone on this one,” Pete said. “A male doll. They must have a big bank account, this client.”

Derek shrugged. “They’re not paying me a penny.”

What?” Pete asked distractedly, moving closer. “Hey, he kinda looks like me.”

Correct. You were my model.”

Only a little older… greying hair… why’d you make me old?” he laughed, staring with amazement at his tiny clone.

I’ve decided to tell you my secret,” Derek said coldly, his whole manner frosting over. “Like you said, I can’t let you beat me. So here it is. I don’t make ’em.”

Jeez, it’s even got my scar – the one on my forehead,” Pete said, raising a hand to his own head as though to check it was still there – the scar he’d gotten from falling off his bike when he was ten. He’d been nauseated by the sight of blood ever since.

I started by finding people who no one would miss, and getting them clean and smartly dressed,” Derek went on. “That’s how I made my earliest creations – young girls living rough on the streets. I shrunk ’em down. Then I thought of something even better. What if I took someone out of their time and brought them here? No one would ever know, and I’d never be caught – I’d be safely back in the past. Genius!”

Pete looked away from the doll at last. “Very funny,” he said. “Look, I understand if you’re angry. You can tell me – you don’t need to play stupid games like this.”

I’m not.”

Christ, thought Pete, he’s really lost it. He really believes this shit.

He held out a battered old wallet with the initials P.J. Embroidered on the front – a gift Pete had received from Eleanor a month ago.

How did you get my -” he began, but stopped as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the wallet. He stared at it, almost identical to the one in Derek’s hands – only newer looking.

You stop using this wallet when you turn thirty,” said Derek, turning it over in his hands. “So, a few months from now. You keep it, though. For twenty years, you keep it.”

He pulled out the photograph of Eleanor from its hiding place inside the wallet.

Hands trembling, Pete pulled the same photograph from his own wallet and turned I over. Derek did the same. Written on the back, in the exact same place, a message in pink ink… “love you always. Eleanor x”

I don’t know how you did this, but it isn’t funny,” Pete growled. “I’m sorry for what happened. I called it off. There’s not much more I can do now. I’m going home.”

I thought you’d still have trouble believing it, so I took the liberty of asking you to record yourself a little message.”

Derek nodded his head towards his open laptop, where a video was ready to play. Pete wanted to turn around and leave, but at the same time he was curious to see what he’d done now. What could be worse than the wallet?

He clicked the ‘play’ icon.

There he was: himself, but older. Greying. Like the doll.

I didn’t believe him – even when I saw the wallet. I thought it was a trick. You’re thinking it now, I remember. You’re thinking Eleanor’s in on it, she recreated the wallet and the photo. I know because I was you. I left thinking I was safe, that he was mad. But he’s come for me, like he said he would. He made me watch as he did it to Eleanor… he shrunk her down, she screamed… died in agony… I hadn’t seen her in twenty years,” the man’s voice broke and he began to sob. “I never met anyone else. I loved her, only her, and I had to watch her murdered! Please listen to me, change your mind. He’s going to do it to me next. God, I’m scared. You need to hide – do better – go where he can’t find you! Change your name, your face, anything! Please!”


Wait a sec,” Derek said, holding up a finger. “This is when the drugs kicked in and you couldn’t speak. I left the camera running so you could see it. You always wanted to see.”

Pete watched in horror as Derek – the same age as he was now, in the same clothes even – appeared on screen and dragged the stricken older version of Pete to his feet.

Watch this,” said he on-screen Derek, holding out a gun. “It’s really cool.”

He shot, and the video went into slow motion: Pete saw the clear glass-like pellet burst from the gun into the man’s chest.

The liquid inside shrivels your insides,” said Derek behind him. “It’s fast acting – which is good, because apparently it hurts like fuck. Your body constricts to match. So, you see, I don’t make the dolls. I just smooth out the skin, fix up any unpleasant little details… they stay like this for centuries. Like mummification, I guess.”

Pete watched in awe as the on-screen version of himself began to shrink, and he remembered seeing shrunken heads in some documentary. That’s what it looked like. Soon, it lay on the floor – the three-foot tall version of himself – wrinkled and grotesque.

I cleaned it up nicely, huh?” Derek grinned. “Making the clothes and jewellery is the time-consuming part, really. And time’s pretty much irrelevant to me now. I kept telling you I understood time travel, I really did. You never listened.”

I thought that was all just… I don’t know, geeky banter! What am I saying? Of course it was! Jesus, you’ve lost it,” Pete said, flustered. “I don’t know how you did the video but you’re a clever guy. You must’ve animated it. Or found an old guy that looks like me, and manipulated the film -”

This is hilarious!” Derek laughed. “You literally told yourself not to dismiss the warning, and you’re still doing it! And when you’re older, you’ll tell your younger self not to ignore you – and he will. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Pete’s whole body felt cold and worn out. “I’m going home. I’m sorry about everything – I can’t say it enough. I am. But this… this is mental.”

Sure, go home,” Derek said, still smiling. “But aren’t you taking your dolls?”

My dolls?”

Yes. Free of charge, like I said. You’re the client.”

If you truly believe those dolls are mine and Eleanor’s dead corpses, then what makes you think I’d want them?”

I didn’t say you’d want them, Pete. But you might just need them.”

And why’s that?”

As a reminder. I don’t want you to forget that every day you live is another day closer to the day I kill you. And I want you to remember that you’ll never see Eleanor alive again.”

In amongst the lunacy you’ve said a few things I could go to the police about, you know. A death threat.”

They won’t find me. I won’t exist in this time anymore. I’ll go forward, or maybe even back.”

Pete shook his head sadly. “You do that, mate.”

He took the boxes and made his way upstairs for the last time. Feeling a little foolish, he stopped at the police station to tell them he had been threatened – omitting the dolls and time travel from his tale. He reported Eleanor missing, too. The police said not to worry too much – that Derek was most likely just lashing out having lost his wife, and she had probably just gone to a friend’s house. They assured him they would investigate all the same.

When the detective called he had bad news. “He must’ve known you’d come to us,” he said. “His house was totally abandoned. What time did you leave his place?”

About two, two-thirty maybe.”

Hmm. We go there at four and it was empty, apart from furniture. No sign of life at all. We think he had help clearing the place.”

Maybe, thought Pete, or maybe time wasn’t an issue for him.

But don’t worry, we’re still looking,” the officer continued. “His description’s being circulated, and his wife’s. If you hear from him or notice anything suspicious, just give us a call,”

I will. Thanks.”

I won’t have to, Pete thought. He’s not coming for me yet. I’ve got years to go. He looked down at the lifeless dolls and wondered when he’d find his first grey hair.

The story so far…

Lydia Teasedale is my penname, chosen in reference to two different Marx brothers films.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – clichéd as that may sound! I remember making up stories before I even knew how to write, so I could never pinpoint a beginning. However, in 2008 I self-published my first book: Secret Smile. This was a collection of short stories and poetry aimed at a teenage audience.

Next was Little Vampire, a children’s book about Dracula’s half-human niece. This was published in 2009, though it was based on a story I’d written when I was ten. Admittedly it did change quite a lot from the original, but it’s still special to me for being the first novel I’d ever really finished writing.

Writers will always tell you that choosing a favourite book or a favourite character is like choosing a favourite child, but the next book I wrote defies both of those sayings. My personal favourite is Check which I published early in 2011, and it features one of my favourite characters I’ve written (his name is Singe – you’ll have to read it to see why I love him!)

Next was Enlighten, published in June 2013. This is another collection of short stories and poetry, but mainly fantasy/sci fi. In September I published the follow-up, Wishes Granted, Reasonable Fees which is, again, short stories and poetry of a mainly fantasy nature. It started as a project I set myself in August, to write one piece of flash fiction a day, so every piece in this book is 1000 words or less. (Note: I have withdrawn these books temporarily, but I will be publishing a volume of short stories in the near future)

In 2015 I published Starving, which is the fictional story of my character April’s struggle with an eating disorder. While this was a fictional story, I took a lot of inspiration from my own experience with anorexia. Also that year I published The Bone Cage, which is a compilation of poetry.