Drawing looking in the window of a concrete block building, revealing a room decorated mostly in pinky purple, with a dark figure in a top hat and cloak. Caption reads: "A figure in a top had and cloak."

Busybody short story by Iris Carden

Settle in, dear reader, while I tell you the strange tale of Agnes, who loved to mind everyone else’s business, but learned not everyone puts up with busybodies.

At sixty-five, Agnes finally retired from her factory job, sold the house she’d inherited from her parents, which was too big for her, and moved to a flat in the city. The block of flats had a courtyard in the middle, so she could look out of her windows to see the windows of other flats in the building.

Being bored, and liking to know everyone else’s business, Agnes spent a great deal of her day looking out of her windows, into whatever neighbours’ windows were within her range of vision and didn’t have heavy curtains.

On the same floor as her, on the opposite side of the courtyard, directly opposite her lounge room, there was a window which was especially interesting. It was the bedroom of a young woman in her twenties. Agnes did not approve of young women living on their own. They ought to be home with their families, she believed.

This particular young woman had her bedroom decorated various shades of a pinky-purple colour. The curtains were gauzy and easy to look right through. Agnes thought it was obvious a young woman who would live in a flat on her own in the city would be an exhibitionist. Beside that window was the girl’s lounge room, which Agnes could easily watch from her own bedroom.

The girl seemed to be a student, at least she seemed to spend a lot of time working on a computer. She frequently had take-away food delivered, too lazy to cook. Young people were lazy these days. Some days, the girl went out for several hours. Agnes noted the days were regular, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The girl spent ages to get ready to go out on these days, pulling several outfits from the wardrobe before choosing one, putting on make-up and doing her hair carefully. Perhaps she had lectures on those days, or she was running around with boys. That was more likely, Agnes concluded. Young girls on their own would run around with boys. Agnes had never seen a boy in the girl’s flat, but she knew what young people were like. That would be why she took so much trouble with her appearance on those days. And where did a girl get money to rent a flat like that anyway? Agnes was sure she was up to something.

Perhaps, dear reader, if Agnes had found something interesting to fill her own life instead of spying on someone else’s she might have avoided what came next.

Agnes had fallen asleep in her recliner in the lounge room, she’d been watching the girl read in bed, trying to make out the book cover. She was certain it was some kind of racy, piece of trash. That was what young girls read if they weren’t supervised.

Agnes woke with a start. She had heard something, something which she could only describe as a whimper. Getting up, Agnes went to the window to look in the neighbour’s windows. There was still a faint light from the reading lamp in the girl’s bedroom. Agnes could see a silhouette or someone wearing a top hat and cloak. What kind of costume was that to be wearing? And why did the girl have someone in her room at this time of night? The girl was lying on the bed, still and silent.

The figure in the top hat turned to look out the window. In moonlight and the light from the room, Agnes could make out a man with sharp features and black eyes. He looked directly at her, his black eyes locked on to her pale blue ones.

Agnes couldn’t believe what happened next, the man jumped out of the window, but instead of falling to the ground, seemed to fold up, the cloak stretching out, becoming the wings of a bat. Agnes was frozen in shock, as the bat flew straight across the courtyard and in through her window. In a moment the bat unfolded into the tall man, who grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her in close, sinking his teeth into her neck.

So, dear reader, we leave Agnes who died because she didn’t mind her own business. Won’t she be surprised when she discovers that death is just the beginning of her problems?

I invite you, dear reader, to look out for more:

Strange Tales

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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