Excerpt

Below is an excerpt from the beginning of The Septic Circle, to give you a taste.  If you don’t fancy reading it here, then The Septic Circle product page on Amazon has the option for you to ‘look inside’ or download a sample – either to your Kindle, or to Kindle for your PC – and also benefits from having the proper Kindle formatting, rather than whatever our site’s theme styles dictate!

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Copyright © Lorna Reid 2013

All rights reserved.  The right of Lorna Reid to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988.

No part of this publication may be altered, reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, by any means, including, but not limited to, scanning, duplicating, uploading, hosting, distributing, or reselling, without the express prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of reasonable quotations in features such as reviews, interviews, and certain other non-commercial uses currently permitted by copyright law.

Disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. All characters and locations are purely products of the author’s imagination and are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people, living, dead, or somewhere in between, or to businesses, places, or events is completely coincidental.

The Septic Circle – Excerpt

January: 1st Quarter

Jay’s Diary

This has to have been the worst week of my life. Why I ever got myself into this, I don’t know. I am still questioning my sanity – what’s left of it. When some future race eventually unearths this diary, they will at least know the full horror of what happens when you get involved with a so-called psychic circle ‘for a laugh’.

Yes, I have only myself to blame but, fuck me, it doesn’t sugar-coat the pill in the slightest. I was bored. Bored and drunk, after hurting my foot renovating my new place and being ‘strongly advised’ by the doctor to rest. I saw a small ad in Cravenly’s newspaper – among the tedious rabble of items about jumble sales, baking contests, dog-grooming services, and flashing incidents – that called for people to join a newly formed psychic circle.

Having had only a five-year-old bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a stack of frozen pizzas to keep me company since I moved to this town a month ago, I was desperate for human contact. I should have hired a hooker. I should have let myself get eaten by a rabid Alsatian. I should never have read the ad, never have amused myself with thoughts of what a group obsessed with paranormal rubbish would be like. I should not have gone, that blustery Tuesday morning, to a deceptively pretty house on Winward Drive, to the first official meeting of the Cravenly Psychic Circle. I’m damned and I didn’t even have a good time sullying what’s left of my soul.

Frederick’s Diary

I wish I could say that this whole thing was a good idea, but I can’t. When I placed that ad a week ago for people to join a new psychic circle, I had no idea that this would be the result. A passing interest in the paranormal, along with a desire to combat the isolation I’ve felt since my mother went, led to a stupidly impulsive decision. Because of that I’ve had people rumpling my sofa cushions, eating all my Mr Kipling slices, traipsing mud into my (formerly) spotless porch, and scaring Mr Border off his Whiskas (I haven’t seen him since the day of the meeting).

As if thirty-five-plus deluded people using my facilities and blasting through my Andrex quilted toilet paper like there was no tomorrow wasn’t bad enough, the neighbours have threatened to go to the council about the noise from all the possessions and channellings that went on. I don’t blame them. I resorted to earplugs myself, because even hiding in the kitchen wasn’t enough to block out the racket.

By the time I had ushered everyone out at the end of the meeting, I’d missed Home and Nearby and the end of Gerhard and Julie’s Prime Time Sofa Show. I spent the next seven hours scouring my house back to passable condition. I wore out three pairs of Marigolds and had to make a note to replenish my stock during my pointless weekly trek to the Job Centre.

I’m just hoping week two won’t be this devastating. I’m crossing my fingers that numbers will drop off, because I’m already a nervous wreck, I’m a week behind on my soaps, and there is a stain on the hall carpet that is of suspicious origin. It’s keeping me awake at night.

Lysander’s Diary

Ciggies: 17, Possessions: 3, New people met: 35

Just when I thought that Cravenly was duller than a dead trust fund, I finally spied an ad in the local rag that was worth my attention (that and the dishy pic of the local weatherman in a v clingy T-shirt). I’d been looking for an outlet for my burgeoning psychic talents and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to show them off and maybe meet some new (and, hopefully, sexy) faces. I would also get the chance to debut my new Ben Sherman shirt and Italian leather loafers (pinched from the magazine’s style wardrobe during work last week – hopefully my editor won’t notice).

To be honest, my first impressions were disappointing. The young twenty-something guy in the knitted tank-top and plaid shirt who’d organised the thing looked like a deer in headlights (albeit a sweet blonde one), and as more and more folk turned up he began to look pretty shaky, to the point where he was following people around with a bottle of spray disinfectant and a handful of sponges.

Aside from myself and a few others, the psychic ‘talent’ was somewhat lacking. Among other horrors there was a palmist with a nasty skin condition, a pervy guy who claimed to be a phrenologist so he could paw and sniff women’s hair, and three animal-whisperer women who spent the meeting arguing over whether a lion, eagle, or wolf was the most noble spirit guide.

Add to that any number of people flinging themselves around and screeching and you had a zoo atmosphere. A channelling should be a spiritual experience, not something akin to a birth scene from Casualty. I seriously believe that the closest many of them had come to the paranormal was a cursory viewing of The Exorcist and a bad haircut.

Worst of all was some hack with a silvery bouffant that was so big it practically had its own postcode. He turned up half an hour late in a grubby Merc and proceeded to completely monopolise the tea-leaf reading being conducted by a frizzy-haired, bookish type. She packed up her Earl Grey and left in a huff, leaving Mr Windbag to take over.

He spent the next hour banging on about his ‘talents’, his recent successful book tour, and how his spiritual gifts were from a higher plane than everyone else’s. The only redeeming moment was when the hot-looking but otherwise sulky guy in the corner commented that the plane must have run out of fuel, given that Windbag had appeared remarkably inept at predicting the future thus far. Windbag (real name Fenwick Arcana) announced that he wasn’t going to stay where his spiritual gifts weren’t welcome and left – but not before eating the last Mr Kipling slice, to the chagrin of our nervous little host.

Fenwick’s Diary

Sometimes, when the best of us are looking to share our superior talents with the world, an opportunity falls into our laps. After the recent resounding success of my book tour for A Spirited Start, I was looking to give something back to the community and ensure that my aura has the extra sparkle that I will need in order to fully expose myself to the world. The ad in the local paper was obviously a sign, and so I went along to the meeting, prepared to nurture the inferior but no doubt enthusiastic abilities that this little town has to offer.

I should have known that I was on a spiritual level all of my own when I eventually located the small semi in Winward Drive. According to a recent study by PSENSA (Psychic Select Encompassing National Supernatural Association), semi-dwellers suffer from a notable deficiency of psychic energy – just as well that I live in a grand dwelling in the Evercrest Estate. I had to take the chance that my own energies wouldn’t be sapped and nobly plunged in.

The venue left much to be desired, with rose-patterned wallpaper and far too many scatter cushions, which threatened to fragment my psyche. Most of the buffoons hadn’t the slightest idea what they were doing and I was forced to take over the tea-leaf demonstration after being unable to suffer their ineptitude any longer.

Things went fantastically, aside from one surly man who was ensconced in the corner, wallowing in a shadowy puddle of working-class dark energy. I chose to ignore him and, instead, focused on the adoring remarks of a fluffy-haired woman in a shocking-pink dress. It’s good to know that fans can be found in even the most pitiful of places.

With my presence having bolstered the masses, I left early for a meeting with my new agent. He has promised to get me on Gerhard and Julie’s Prime Time Sofa Show and I want to make sure he demands that I have my own hairdresser.

Marnie’s Diary

I can’t believe how wonderful this week has been! To think that I was on the verge of throwing out that lucky heather! As soon as I saw the ad in the paper for a new psychic circle, I dug out my best pink dress and rose-quartz pendant, and located Marlon’s dog-grooming kit in order to get my darling little pawpaw ready for our debut meeting of like-minded souls.

My fairy tarot predicted that the first meeting was going to be a good one and it wasn’t wrong. There was so much psychic talent on display that I was overawed. I got so excited during one of the many channellings of Princess Diana that I nearly let Marlon escape from my handbag; the young man organising everything had refused to let someone else in with their dog, so I had to be sneaky. If Marlon is left alone too long he gets nervous; when he gets nervous he forgets his bladder – that’s why I had to take my bag out of the hall in the end. I’m sure the nice boy who ran the meet won’t notice the stain.

A lovely man who was some kind of celebrity, judging by his important hair, took over the tea-leaf readings and even brought along signed copies of his book, which he sold at a generous two per cent discount. I used some of my gas bill money to buy one, but if I send British Gas one of my knitted cushion covers, perhaps they will accept it as part-payment instead.

January: 2nd Quarter

Jay’s Diary

I have always thought myself a sadist; however, thanks to an emerging penchant for self-punishment, I’m re-evaluating. I should never have gone back, but I was desperate and, in part, morbidly curious. The fact that my TV was broken and my living room smelled of paint decided it, so I hobbled off to try and find some entertainment, even if it was only recording all the inevitable hilarious Princess Diana channellings and uploading them to the internet.

This week’s meeting was so atrocious that it was almost enjoyable. The numbers had thinned out somewhat, but that made for a hyper-concentrated enema of delusion. Groups from the town’s two rival spiritual shops were there again, drawing battle lines between the dining and living rooms. Meanwhile, the dowsers were bickering with the crystal healers about the right way to prime a piece of quartz.

Every corner and crevice was once again packed with misguided flesh, comparing, competing, grandstanding, or self-promoting. Very few were there for the tea and cakes and a nice chat. For people that are supposed to be fluffy and spiritual, there were some unbelievably arrogant shits present, the biggest being the wannabe celeb Fenwick Arcana. This week he was wearing a suit that was shinier than a pound-shop Christmas bauble and he spent most of his time (when he wasn’t plugging his poxy book) making shitty remarks about the host’s food.

I made a bet with the sarky shoe-fetish guy that I could get rid of Fenwick in half an hour. I did it in twenty minutes. I’m now twenty quid up, so the day wasn’t a total loss. Though I did nearly get my eye taken out on the way to the bathroom by a group of maniacs on the first floor; fucking I Ching sticks flying about the landing like shrapnel.

After zero thought, I’ve decided to knock this experiment on the head. It isn’t good for my health. Nothing gives me a headache so fast as being bombarded by a stream of supposedly psychic babble from people who believe that coloured candles can sway temperament. Perhaps that was what went wrong with the Manson family: too little ylang-ylang in their lives.

Frederick’s Diary

It’s 10pm and I’m still sitting in front of my soaps in a vain attempt to catch up after spending all day steam cleaning my carpets and scrubbing walls to remove every trace of the channellers’ rabid spittle. I’m also freezing cold, having had the windows open all afternoon to rid the place of the mingled smell of candles, incense, and oil burners – not to mention the odd-smelling healer.

Today’s meeting was as ghastly as I’d expected, and now the whole thing has turned into a runaway train that I don’t know how to stop.

Fewer people turned up this week, but it was still unbearable. The vain, tall man with the fancy shoes came back, but I didn’t mind him so much as he made a lot of funny remarks about Fenwick Arcana, which helped lift my spirits – especially as Fenwick repeatedly made snide comments about my apple pies.

I could have kissed the grumpy man dressed in black who returned, still hobbling, to resume his place in the corner. He got rid of Fenwick in under half an hour by heckling his pompous aura-reading session. I think, in truth, that the man’s outrageous laughter when Fenwick channelled Napoleon and did a German accent had a lot to do with Fenwick’s huffy exit. Five more people also left after the man emptied his cup in front of them during the tea-leaf reading and told them to read his ‘bloody PG Pyramid’ if they were so much better than everyone else (they had been sneering at everyone and making remarks about my rose-patterned china).

I gave the mystery man an extra Mr Kipling apple pie and made it my mission, along with shoving coasters under drinks and re-plumping cushions, to find out his name. Vain shoe-man – real name Lysander – told me he’d heard that it was Jason. He should know as he spent most of his time gossiping and networking, in between showing off his shoes, Art Nouveau tarot deck, and mobile phone.

By the end of the meeting there were fewer folk than we’d started with, but it was still too many. My carpet is starting to grey with all the foot traffic, my sofa cushions are losing their spring, and I’ve been through so many cleaning supplies that anyone would think I’m hiding evidence of a mass-murder. Chance would be a fine thing. Though I may as well be – I’m already totally unemployable anyway, according to the unpleasant people at the Job Centre.

To top the morning off perfectly, the leaky-nosed woman in the floral dress told me that she had ‘fantastic news’, namely that Fenwick would be coming back next week. At that point I thought I would have a nervous breakdown, but was distracted by the liquid dripping from her large handbag. The bag began barking and she made a hasty exit. I spent the rest of the day ripping up the carpet and burning it. I wonder if it’s possible to move before they all turn up next week?

Lysander’s Diary

Ciggies: 23, Bets: 1, Tarot readings performed: 7

Leave it to me to wow people with some fab tarot skills! Everyone except sulky spiky-haired man was impressed with my spiffy new tarot deck and I certainly put it to good use. It was a great way to get to know everyone and to worm out any good goss, and there was plenty of that. In my experience the spiritual community is a hotbed of drama, scandal, and prime gossip – it’s practically their lifeblood.

Aside from the fact that the Mind Matters shop has declared an end to the shaky ceasefire with the Mind Magic shop on account of a sabotaged wind-chime, I heard that that hack, Fenwick Arcana, might be appearing on Gerhard and Julie’s Prime Time Sofa Show. Will be boycotting that for the next few weeks if it turns out to be true. It’s bad enough putting up with his braying, pompous presence at the meetings.

In other news, the palmist with the suspicious skin condition was a no-show this week – he got huffy when no one wanted a reading from him. It also explains why Frederick burned all of his hand towels last week (the psychic pet-healer told me that – she lives two doors down and saw the fire from her balcony. She said he had on oven mitts, which he then also burned). I was half-tempted to tell Frederick that the palmist also touched Fenwick, to see if he would burn him too. With all that hairspray, Fenwick would have gone up like a firework on a hotplate.

Still, in trying to get to know surly guy – real name Jason – (the only bit of serious eye-candy in the room), I made a bet that ensured Fenwick made a quick and hilarious exit. Watching him trip over a huge handbag in the hallway on the way out was the icing on the French fancy for me.

The odd woman in the floral dress burst into tears when Fenwick left and ran after him, fuck knows why. She then spent the next half an hour cooing into her voluminous, gaudy handbag and shooting sexy-spiky Jason evil looks. Hilarious! Can’t wait until next week.

Marnie’s Diary

It’s lovely that Cravenly has so many gifted psychics and spiritual talents, but a shame that some people attending the meetings don’t seem to appreciate it. One man behaved shockingly during Fenwick’s session; it was hardly surprising though – Fenwick said the man’s aura was blacker than the new Mercedes he had just purchased.

I had hoped that Fenwick’s golden aura might rub off on the man, but it obviously didn’t work, as he burst into hysterics when Fenwick channelled the famous Battle of Trafalgar man, Napoleon. Poor Fenwick took great offence and left, but, luckily, I was able to talk him out of abandoning the circle entirely. He said that he understood that a rising star like himself will always be the victim of jealousy, and agreed to return.

Fenwick’s Diary

After leaving the meeting early, I decided to begin a spiritual plan of action with regards to my hair. The negative energy at the meeting, coupled with the draining so-called talents of all the wannabes has left my follicles feeling frazzled. I don’t know if I can trust Gerhard and Julie’s hairdresser to give it the due care and attention that it needs, so an emergency rescue is in order before next week.

On the way back from the hairdresser, I nearly pranged the Mercedes after swerving to avoid a simpleton with a pram crossing the high street. I was in a hurry and had my hair in a hot wrap that was starting to slip down over my eyes, so it was hardly my fault I didn’t see the red light. I think I’ll hire a chauffeur – it will allow me to focus on important things, rather than avoiding selfish pedestrians.

January: 3rd Quarter

Jay’s Diary

After the last two weeks, I decided I’d witnessed enough madness to last a lifetime, so opted out of the circle permanently and set about sanding down the skirting in my hallway. I can’t get used to not working – perhaps a two-year break from my business was a bad idea. Not that I’m exactly distancing myself from property, given the scale of the personal project I’ve taken on with this place.

I’d barely done a metre when the phone rang. It was Frederick, the young idiot who started all this circle mess, asking whether I was planning to come back. I said fuck no, I’d suffered through enough deluded nonsense. Then his voice started to wobble and he began pleading with me to come back.

Apparently, I was the only sane one there and he couldn’t cope with a houseful of people for another second. It was costing him a fortune in cleaning supplies, he said. He also suspected that someone had smuggled in a dog, that people were using his bedrooms for more than just spiritual massages, and that the scrying group had spilled ink on the dining room carpet. Not only that, but the psychic healer had stolen a tray of stewing steak for ‘suspicious purposes’, and the dowsers had started digging up his garden to expose an ‘energy line’. I told him that it wasn’t my problem and to pray that it was an energy line – fifty thousand volts might shock some sense into the fucking lot of them. He started to cry. I told him I’d be over in ten minutes.

Lysander’s Diary

Ciggies: 14, Fights witnessed: 7, Pics taken: lost count

Honestly, there is so little refinement in Cravenly’s psychic strata that I could weep. My hopes of finding a soulmate who looks like John Barrowman and is hung like a cucumber grow dimmer by the week. However, given this week’s events, I’ve set aside my intention to leave – never mind that it offers a good venue in which to exercise my spiritual side and to harvest gossip, I can’t go after all this. I’m still reeling (while uploading the hilarious videos to the net and making copies for everyone I know).

Frederick seemed particularly on edge this week – more so than usual. He winced every time the doorbell rang, and looked shakier with each person that filtered in. When someone spilled candle wax on his coffee table I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He ended up shutting himself in the kitchen with the phone, but thanks to the chakra-balancing rabble in the dining room I could barely hear anything, even with my ear pressed to the door.

Fifteen minutes later, when I was finishing my first tarot reading of the morning (my Art Nouveau set continues to turn heads), Jason showed up. He emerged through the smog of incense like a hobbling, brooding crime-fighter and headed straight for the kitchen. I excused myself from the tarot group and tagged along – I love drama and wasn’t to be disappointed.

When Frederick realised that it was Jason banging on the door, he practically ripped it off its hinges and fell into his arms (wish I’d thought of that). I managed to slip into the kitchen and listened in while I made our host a cup of tea to calm him down.

Jason could barely prise the sobbing Frederick off him. He forced him to sit down, shoved a handful of kitchen roll into one hand, tea into the other and said, ‘Don’t worry Freddy, I’ll deal with it.’ Then he walked out, taking the kitchen fire extinguisher with him.

Two minutes later there were screams and the sound of thundering feet from upstairs. The phrenologist’s flabby white arse vanished out of the front door, followed by Angel Caller in some tacky-looking Ann Summers knickers (a size too small). They left a trail of foam and clothes in their wake and nearly two dozen stunned looks. It was the first time I’ve ever heard the channellers and chanters go quiet.

I suddenly realised I wasn’t filming it and cursed my stupidity, quickly powering on my phone’s video cam. I never want to forget this day – not that I could. World War Winward will go down in history; also it’s the first time I’ve seen a house cleansed with a fire extinguisher, a few lies, a big handbag, and not a small amount of sarcasm.

Marnie’s Diary

At the end of my shift at the florist’s yesterday afternoon, the manager, Millicent, said she’d remembered my interest in the paranormal and had brought in one of her niece’s DVDs for me to borrow. It was a documentary about a young woman called Buffy who had been tasked to rid her town of evil while wearing various perky outfits. It made me realise that Cravenly must also be suffering from some sort of dark mouth beneath its streets – it is the only way to explain the shocking events at the recent meeting.

Just as I was about to switch the TV on for everyone at the meeting to enjoy Fenwick Arcana’s Gerhard and Julie appearance, two people streaked down the stairs and out of the front door, leaving a terrifying ectoplasmic foam in their wake. I had to console Marlon at the sight of so much flesh, so I missed what went on in the dining room.

The lovely people in there doing the cleansing sessions came tearing out of the room screaming, setting off a woman called Betty, who took a funny turn, claiming she was having a flashback to a past life as Joan of Arc. She started screeching that her feet were on fire. The grumpy man who heckled Fenwick last week appeared from the dining room carrying a fire extinguisher (presumably he had been fighting off whatever demonic influence was trying to gain hold of the house) and, sadly, took her too literally, dousing her from foot to waist in foam. Then he announced that a seam of dark energy had opened up beneath the house and that everyone had better leave. Chaos broke out after that.

People started rushing everywhere, screaming and waving crystals and charms, while others began bickering and fighting amongst themselves, making some shocking accusations. I know that Sandra from the Pet Wellness Centre only accused life-guru Mabel of dabbling in the dark arts because she’s angry that Mabel’s Pekinese pipped hers to the number one spot in last year’s Doggy Debutante show.

Half the people present turned on the dowsers, claiming that they had ‘awakened something bad in the garden’, and made some disgustingly obscene threats involving rods. The dowsers packed up their robes and stick things and made a hasty exit, trampling mud everywhere, but by then it was too late, and whatever dark energy they had revealed had well and truly taken hold.

Two women from the Mind Magic shop started wrestling over an onyx wand of protection, while an elderly man was trampled by the flower-reading lady and the entire I Ching group in the rush for the back door. Meanwhile, the rival crystal cliques took possession of the abandoned I Ching vases and used them as weapons, hurling them across the living room, where they had drawn battle lines, after blaming each other for bringing negative energy into the circle (and for taking the last apple Danish).

In the confusion, and shrouded by the smoke from a broken oil burner, one of the crystal people started trying to loot the ornaments, but the demon-fighter man hosed him down and dragged him out by his ceremonial silk robe (I’ve seen a dressing gown just like it in the local shopping centre).

While the demon-fighter had his back turned, another crystal person tried to attack him with a chunk of tiger’s eye, so I smacked the hooligan in the face with my handbag (Marlon was safely tucked away in the pile of coats in the hallway). The demon-fighter actually gave me a wink! I couldn’t stop blushing after that and the rest was a blur of smoke, screaming, and chaos. No wonder Marlon did his big business among all the coats.

Fenwick’s Diary

A gloriously successful day! That’s what happens when you are a bastion of kindness and humility and spend five hours fully charging your energies before an important occasion. While I was occupied with my energising, I had Simon, my new chauffeur, clean my Mercedes inside and out and drive to the hairdresser’s to purchase hair-rescue packs for my journey to the TV studio, in case of emergencies. I thought I saw him roll his eyes, but it must have been a trick of the light.

The journey was somewhat fraught, with Simon delaying us by waiting at zebra crossings to let selfish pensioners cross the street, but I arrived, energies intact, in time to be whisked into hair and make-up. The artiste they had at the studio put my ham-fisted hairdresser to shame – it made me realise what sort of service stars can truly expect. I had Simon drive all the way back to town to get a refund on my hair-rescue packs while I went on air.

Gerhard and Julie, like most people, were fascinated by my gifts. I was able to talk about them to a truly appreciative audience for the first time in weeks, and included a few discreet mentions of my book.

When we returned from the studio, I had Simon swing by the circle meeting to see what the reaction was to my appearance. After venturing up the path, which was inexplicably strewn with clothes, soggy tarot cards, and shattered crystals, I decided to avoid going in, just in case there had been some bawdy, common fracas over the sub-standard refreshments and who got the prime seats for my TV appearance. Instead, I peeped through the window.

Rather than a house full of people chattering excitedly about my TV interview, the place was almost empty. The host was sprawled out unconscious on the living room floor (probably drunk – typical unemployed working class), while the surly heckler and the jealous magazine hack appeared to be cleaning the house. The enthusiastic but strangely terrifying woman with the cheap handbag was dragging bedding into sacks and handing them to several people in uniforms, who took them outside to their van.

Surly heckler was texting someone while more people descended on the house with an array of cleaning equipment, so I decided to take my leave. Watching menial tasks being performed saps my energy, and the vile smell of cheap incense emanating from the windows threatened to overwhelm me.

When I got back into the car, Simon was reading his phone, so I made a mental note to deduct five pounds from his wage packet for abusing my time, and ordered him to take me home before the odour of cheap candles and incense laid further waste to my follicles.

January: 4th Quarter

Frederick Freddy’s Diary

I haven’t known peace like this in weeks. The house is silent except for Lysander and Jay bickering over whether to watch Bargain Battle or Rab ‘Rabid’ Richison’s Morning Mauling. Lysander is antagonising Jay by using his proper name, Jason. I know how he feels. I’ve decided I like Freddy now; after Jay used it last week it just seemed right, somehow. Anyway, minor aggravation between them I can cope with. Last week? I shudder to think about it all – much of it is still a blur, although some of it still haunts my nightmares.

I mostly hid behind Lysander, who was hiding behind Jay for much of the chaos (largely to protect his fancy designer clothes from getting spoiled, I suspect). I remember feeling the will to live seep from my body with each blob of mud, foam, candle wax, and tea-leaf mulch that hit the floor, walls, and ceiling. I heard a strange wailing at some point during the violent steeplechase over my sofas by the two crystal groups – and realised that it was me.

When the house was empty and the true extent of the carnage became apparent, I saw a scrappy little Yorkshire terrier tottering out of a pile of coats, leaving brown footprints. It vomited on the devastated living room carpet and then my whole world went black.

I woke up sometime later in the airing cupboard, with no memory of how I’d got there. Jay pulled me out with surprising gentleness, belying his usually angry demeanour, and shoved a mug of tea into my hands. It tasted faintly of alcohol, but I barely noticed. My house looked like it did before I started this hellish circle. The bedding was freshly laundered, the carpets were spotless, the sofas clean, and the walls, fixtures, fittings, and furnishings unblemished. I think I cried all over again.

This week, Jay, Marnie, and Lysander have all come back. I’m glad. I still hate that my cushions get rumpled, that Marnie leaves snotty tissues down the side of my sofa, that Lysander won’t shut up about his new phone/shoes/anything, and that Jay’s heavy, scary boots crush the pile of my carpets, but I’m glad.

I’m listening to them bicker over the remote, joke about last week, and get told off by Marnie for drawing on one of the nauseating promo pics that Fenwick left here a few weeks ago; it’s weird to think that they’re holding the loneliness back. They don’t even know it.

Lysander’s Diary

Cups of tea: 5, Migraine patches used: 2, Eye-rolls: off the charts

After last week’s hoo-hah I didn’t expect much drama, but still felt compelled to go to this week’s meeting. Freddy had the door open before I could even ring the bell and seemed almost teary to see me, which I thought was sweet. Marnie was already there (sans vile rat-dog), cooing over a picture of Fenwick in Psychic Monthly, which she then proceeded to shove in my face while Freddy scurried off to make tea.

The house is still immaculate, as it fucking well should be after last week. I’m still seeing soggy tarot cards and tea-leaf mush in my sleep – but then I expect Freddy is having worse nightmares. I was glad he passed out when he did; him screaming in my ear gave me the worst headache imaginable. We cleaned around him as best we could, but when the professional cleaning crew arrived, we stuck him in the airing cupboard out of the way (Jay’s idea).

Jay is in property development (although currently on a break), so he has a ton of contacts that he can call on, including cleaners, and the landscapers who fixed the damage that the stupid dowsers did to Freddy’s garden. I asked Jay how much it was all going to cost, but he pretended not to hear me – people must owe him some serious favours. I don’t know why he went to such an effort – I guess he felt guilty for starting it all. Is Jay capable of guilt? He’s barely capable of smiling.

I couldn’t just bugger off and leave him to it, as much as I wanted to, so I stayed. Freddy doesn’t have a job (such an anxiety-ridden nervous little wreck, I’m not surprised), so he’d have been stuck if we’d all left him. Besides, I felt partly responsible, considering that I smashed an I Ching vase over the head of a rabid woman from Mind Matters who tried to disembowel Jay and me with a hazel wand. It’s stuff like that that brings people together. You don’t really forget that sort of thing. Freddy’s rose carpets may not have been the trenches of Ypres, but they were ours.

Freddy didn’t stop looking at the clock once until Jay arrived (looking utterly edible in a black leather box jacket), and practically crushed him in a hug before he could even set foot inside the house. Bastard got the biggest slice of Victoria sponge, too.

We’d saved Jay his usual chair and he settled in, making a snarky comment over the picture of Fenwick that Marnie showed him. She was annoyed, but forgave Jay anyway – she seems to think he’s some sort of gifted dark slayer and even brought him some flowers from her work.

We spent a pleasant half-morning watching TV, although Jay refused to relinquish the remote for me to watch Bargain Battle, so I wound him up as much as I could without risking him reaching for the fire extinguisher. In the end, I waited until he was rolling his eyes over the review of Fenwick’s book in Psychic Monthly and grabbed it.

Not long after that the world collapsed for the second time this month, only on a more nauseating scale. Fenwick turned up. I heard Freddy whimper as he answered the door; just the sound of Fenwick’s voice was enough to send my apple pie rocketing back up my gullet.

Marnie’s Diary

There are so few of us left now, it’s such a shame! Not even the lovely flower-reading lady came back this week – I was just starting to learn the basics of petal divining, too. I’ll have to track her down, as it was fascinating. I had no idea that flowers could be so complex and I’ve worked with them (part time) for years!

Sadly, I had to leave Marlon at home after last week – Jay insisted. I felt very hurt, but agreed; Marlon’s nerves and digestive system haven’t been the same since the fuss. Luckily, Jay and Lysander convinced Freddy that the brown paw prints were caused by a chocolate bar that Marlon had ferreted out of someone’s coat pocket, or Freddy would probably never have spoken to me again. If they would all just get to know Marlon, they would see that he is a sensitive soul (and likely the reincarnation of a famous hunting hound, or perhaps one of the card-playing dogs in that famous work of art).

When I mentioned that, Jay made a rather rude snorting noise and continued defacing the sweet picture of Fenwick in Psychic Monthly, despite my protestations. Whatever the thing he drew was, I didn’t recognise it. It seemed to be a dripping pole of some sort; perhaps it was symbolic. Lysander commented that Fenwick should be so lucky and Jay actually laughed. I think Freddy nearly spilled his tea in shock. I’ll wait until the others have gone and ask Freddy what Lysander meant.

I suggested that we try a session of tarot reading, as I had brought my fairy cards with me, but then a star guest arrived! I had no idea that Fenwick would be back! Now that he has been on a real-life talk show, I thought he would be too big a star for us, but he sat down next to Lysander with a huge smile. Lysander didn’t seem very happy about it, especially when Jay snorted (he must be coming down with a cold, as he does that a lot when Fenwick is around). Perhaps Lysander is jealous of Fenwick’s swelling celebrity?

It is probably just as well that everyone suddenly went quiet, as Fenwick had so much to say about his appearance. He even brought along a copy of it on DVD! The boys’ faces were an absolute picture. I swear that there were tears of joy in Freddy’s eyes.

Jay’s Diary

Like Prometheus, I’m doomed to suffer the same tortured existence, as my feet take me, without fail, on the weekly journey to Winward Drive. Having my liver torn out by an eagle would be more appealing than having to endure more of that drivel, but to phone Freddy and tell him I wouldn’t be back made me feel like a treacherous bastard – especially as he dropped round a few days ago with a cherry Danish to thank me for last week’s intervention.

He is my first real visitor; even fucking Simon hasn’t been over since he helped me to move in. Still, with his shitty new job as Fenwick’s car-bitch (he gave me a dead arm when I called him that last week), I can forgive his lack of brotherly concern.

The house is still a construction site, and Freddy was obviously afraid of touching anything (he kept his gloves on, even when he drank his tea). I hated noticing how far up his wrists his cuffs rode, and how worn (albeit immaculate) his shirt and jumper were. How do you tell someone you feel sorry for that you’re going to be ditching them?

I think he sensed what I was going to tell him because he changed the subject from the circle and started talking about his mother and how he was now on his own with his cat. Perhaps she upped and left before she was bleached out of existence?

The only real haunting I have ever witnessed was when I looked into Fred’s desperate blue eyes that morning. I think it was the first time he’d ever opened up to anyone, I just don’t know why he chose me. But it gave me some insight into why he would be insane enough to invite Cravenly’s obviously deluded psychic community into his home.

It was partly out of guilt at the carnage I’d kicked off in his house that I told him (against my better judgement) that I’d be back. He raced out so fast that he nearly fell arse over tit on some paint cans – I think he was afraid I would change my mind. He was wiping his eyes as he scurried back up the road, yanking up the hood of his thin windcheater as it started to rain. One more week wouldn’t hurt.

I soon changed my fucking mind when Fenwick Arcana turned up with a bigger grin than a rack full of skulls and a DVD of his chat show appearance, which we were forced to endure. His hair was bigger than usual, the make-up people had painted him orange, for some reason, and he managed to plug his book no less than seventeen times – I know because Lysander and I started a last-minute sweepstake. We were both wrong. We now owe Freddy a meal at Chez Pomp in the town centre (he called it via text, from across the room, at twenty-one). He said we could trade our debt if we turned up next week – Fenwick was threatening to come back and show us ‘how to properly conduct a seance’.

It was a tough call. I remembered the look of gratitude in his eyes that day at my place, and the thin windcheater. Then I looked at the picture of Freddy alongside a thin, stern-looking woman on the mantelpiece, the Pocket Dragon ornaments, the obsessive lines of crockery in the cabinet, and his shaking hands. I told him we’d be back. Then I texted Lysander and told him that he would be back, even if I had to drag him there by his designer heels.