When Sam Murphy's seven-year-old daughter Janey starts to suffer night terrors, he does his best to assure her that Mr Stix - a voice from the shadows who says "mean things" to her - can't hurt her.
Sam later finds the grotesque Mr Stix in the family bathroom and then his terrified wife tells him the story of her own childhood night-time fears.
I wrote Mr Stix in January 2013 at the request of Ross Warren, who asked me to contribute to his anthology For The Night Is Dark. The brief, basically, involved being scared of the dark and I spent ages trying to come up with something, getting slightly panicked as the deadline approached. Then, one night, I woke up to find Dude standing beside our bed and that was it - a kid, waking up and getting into the parents bed and the dad hearing/seeing something.
Whenever I wrote horror stories about fathers and children, it was usually me and Dude but since I didn’t have a firm idea of who was going to walk away from this, I made it father-daughter. I used our house layout for the story (except the bathroom is, in reality, our study/spare room) and didn't quite know who or what Mr Stix would be until I wrote him/it.
The story was published in the anthology and seemed to go down very well, so much so that I included it in the line-up for my second collection, Things We Leave Behind.
"Went straight to Mark West's MR STIX to see what all the fuss was about. The fuss is warranted, it's a very good, creepy story. Maybe his best yet."
- Johnny Mains, author, editor and horror aficionado
I hope, if you decide to take a chance on it, that Mr Stix scares you too...
Sam Murphy opened his eyes. The figure in white was standing in front of him, arms outstretched and he was so surprised he yelled out. Emily, his wife, murmured sleepily.
Sam rubbed his eyes and looked at his seven-year-old daughter, wearing her white Disney Princess nightie, with Apple the brown bear clutched tight in her hand. “Janey? What’s wrong?”
“Mr Stix is saying horrible things, Daddy, I want you to make him stop.”
“Mr Stix?” Sam sat up, blinking away the sleep. “Who’s… I don’t know who Mr Stix is, love.”
“He’s the man that came to live with us today, he’s in my bedroom and he’s been talking all night and now he’s saying mean things.”
“Today? Are you alright?”
“Yes, can you come?”
Sam got out of bed and followed his daughter along the landing. His and Emily’s bedroom covered the width of the house at the front and the landing led to the back, where the bathroom stood at the top of the stairs. Janey’s room ran parallel to the landing, with her door at the end. The bathroom light was on, as it always was, since both Janey and Emily were afraid of the dark.
At the doorway to her room, Janey waited and Sam stood next to her. “Close your eyes,” he said, “I’ll turn on the light.”
He squinted against the glare and looked around the room. Nothing seemed to be out of place. A desk, covered with papers, a drawer unit, a wardrobe and a bookcase filled to overflowing with books and comics and the cuddly toys that didn’t fit in the treasure chest under the window. Her bed, with its pink princess duvet cover, was against the far wall away from the door and the pillow still showed the slightest indentation from her head.
“Looks okay,” said Sam. “So where’s Mr Stix?”
“On the drawers,” Janey said.
Sam looked at them. A few things were on the top of the unit - a clock, a calendar, a tub of Lego, some toys that had been positioned to watch over her during the night and various treasures that only she understood the importance of - but nothing out of the ordinary.
“I don’t know what I’m looking for, love, can you show me?”
Janey walked over but didn’t stand in front of her drawers, preferring to stop slightly behind Sam as if he was her shield. She looked at the top of the drawers and frowned. “He’s not there.”
Sam stroked the back of her head. “Problem solved then, kitten, come on, back to bed with you.”
“Can I sleep with you and Mummy tonight?”
Sam glanced at her clock, it was a little after four. “No, you stay here, Apple and the rest of the gang will look after you.”
“But what if Mr Stix comes back?”
“How do you know?”
“I just do, I’m a dad, it’s what I do, you know.”
“And you’re a munchkin, now get back to sleep.”
She snuggled down and smiled as Sam adjusted the duvet under her chin. He kissed her forehead gently. “Sleep tight love,” he said.
Sam walked out of her room, switching the light off as he went. He could hear Emily’s heavy breathing from the bedroom and the faintest of drips from the bathroom but nothing else. He got into bed and laid on his side, staring at the clock. The glowing red numbers glared at him and he watched it mark off five minutes.
He rolled onto his back. Emily turned, made a snuffling noise and cuddled into him. Her added body heat made him feel drowsy. He looked at the ceiling and heard the lightest of clicks, as if someone was tapping a ruler on the edge of a desk and then he was asleep.
If you're not in the UK, you can use this link - http://viewbook.at/Markwestmrstix