A spectre has haunted Netherton for generations.
Everyone has a theory, no one has an answer.
The woods that frame the housing estate uncover a series of heinous acts, drawing onlookers into a space of clandestine, queer sexuality: a liminal space of abject and uncanny experience.
A question echoes in the odd borderlands of being, of fear-fascination, attraction-repulsion, of sex and death…
Who put Bella down the Wych-Elm?
Buri Nazar. We all ‘ave one. Summat that whispers to you. Meks you do stuff. Thought that warr’ever was out in Saltwells was a Qarin. They attach themselves to people, places. I thought it was attached to Shahid and Sheena, all of us. Each one of us has his own Qarin. They try to turn you against Allah.
So I went back to Saltwells an’ back to the Wych-Elm. Stayed theya all night, sat by the tree, praying. Nothin’ ‘appened. It was a bit bloody weird, yeah, but there wasn’t anything like bloody last time, yeah, just dark and lonely and bloody cold. Nothin’ ‘appened until I got up to leave. It was almost mornin’ so I could start to see all the shadows of the woods a bit clearer. I got up and started to walk off but summat med me turn around.
I’d been bloody sat there all bloody night, and nothing had happened. It was dark and cold and your eyes play tricks on you, but that was all. Nothing bloody happened. But when it was almost light, when I could just start to make out things and I got up to go – bloody hell! Something bloody made me turn around. I’d sat there all night praying – ’A ‘oothu billaahi minash-Shaytaanir-rajeem – in the dark, I was frightened, but I prayed – Allaahummak-fineehim bimaa shi’ta. Just when it was almost safe, when it was almost light and I was walking out, something made me turn around. And there she was – Qarin. Filthy clothes, cuts on her skin. Pale. Skinny. Dark eyes. Evil eyes. She bloody stared without blinking. Straight bloody through me. I only looked at her for a second. I’ve never ran so bloody fast.
Thank you, R.M. Francis and Love Books Tours
About the author
M. Francis is a writer from Dudley. He completed his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton for a project titled Queering the Black Country and graduated from Teesside University for his Creative Writing MA.
He’s the author of four poetry chapbooks, Transitions (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2015), Orpheus (Lapwing Publications, 2016), Corvus’ Burnt-Wing Love Balm and Cure-All (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2018) and Lamella, (Original Plus, 2019).