Not long after I started writing this I realised it was not going to be a traditional horror story. But on the plus side, it’s quite short.
Nobody ever had anything nice to say about Batty McShay. But there again, Batty McShay didn’t have anything nice to say about anyone either, and they do say that you ought to lead by example.
The example Batty set was not a great one. She ate her food in an obnoxious sort of a way, chewing with her mouth wide open and never cleaning her teeth after. She sat and pleated her leg hair when you were trying to tell her something, or sometimes she just fell asleep then and there and would claim later on it was your fault for having such a monotonous voice. She had a necklace made out of garlic and onions which she wore only when visiting quiet places full of people too polite to tell her to go away – mainly libraries and monasteries. And she always took a pad of post-it notes wherever she went so that she could make ‘kick me’ signs to plant on people’s backs.
There were several reasons why Batty was the way she was, but the main one was probably the fact that her dead father lived in the attic and sang her jingoistic songs of the old times at the top of his voice. That sort of thing will drive anyone to distraction if it goes on for long enough, and the old duffer had been dead for twenty years.
He had left a will instructing Batty to have him stuffed by a taxidermist by the name of Gerald the Magnificent, owing to his peculiar ability to keep his subjects in a state of not-quite-death. Batty wasn’t sure why her father wanted to continue in this way, but she suspected it was mainly to annoy her.
When he was alive, Captain McShay had taken great delight in tormenting his daughter, whom he had never forgiven for not being a son. He was quite convinced she had done it on purpose, not being a particularly learned man in the ways of biology or astrophysics, and he decided to dedicate his life to punishing her for this transgression.
So it was that Batty grew up feeling ugly, put upon and generally disenfranchised – because she was all of those things. When her nasty old dad died that should have been the end of that, but as you have already heard it was really just the beginning of another, even nastier chapter. In almost-death, Captain McShay was more horrible to his only child than he had been in life. And now he didn’t even need to sleep; so he sang his tuneless ditties morning noon and night until Batty’s head ached with tales of war and nationalism.
On the particular day you enter this story, Dear Reader, Batty was contemplating throwing her father off a bridge so she might be rid of him forever. He couldn’t move his limbs by himself on account of being stuffed, so he’d probably just float down the river and end up in the sea where he could sing his songs to passing marine life. He might even enjoy it.
Unfortunately this plan was fraught with problems of various sizes, perfect though it initially appeared. How to get him to the bridge in the first place was one issue. How to push him off without being seen was another. How to get him to stop singing “we’re Britons true” at the top of his lungs whilst she transported him, thus alerting witnesses or the authorities and getting her into a whole lot of trouble was a third. There were also the moral repercussions involved in throwing a not-quite-dead cadaver off a bridge, although to be honest she wasn’t overly worried about those. Still, you get the idea. She was going to have to think of something a little bit more cunning.
Her master plan came upon her all a quiver when she was in the supermarket, mindlessly poking holes in the fruit with a chewed up old biro and making faces at babies to frighten them when mummy’s back was turned.
“I know,” she said to herself in her best plan hatching whisper, “I know exactly what I shall do to get rid of the old geezer.”
Now Batty’s old dad had always been terrified of ghosts, as right thinking people almost always are. Ghosts, as you are doubtless aware, are the type of characters who go out of their way to frighten you for no good reason (other than they are irked at being dead, which comes to us all eventually so there’s no point taking it out on the living). They’re all clanking chains and unearthly moans that keep a person up at night in an inconvenient sort of way. It was no wonder Captain McShay thought them a pest. Furthermore he had killed all manner of people in times of war, and several of them had haunted him before he got them exorcised.
However, you can’t order exorcisms when you are a stuffed body in an attic.
Batty cackled her way home from the supermarket, exciting herself about the plan to dress up as a ghost and frighten her papa so much that he died all over again. You might think you cannot kill someone who is already basically dead, but you must bear in mind that Captain McShay had been partially reanimated by the strange and terrible skills of Gerald the Magnificent Taxidermist and there was no telling whether he would be subject to the genre tropes of zombies and the like.
Donning her mankiest off-white sheet, Batty climbed the rickety ladder to her dead father’s lair. Her heart was in her mouth as she imagined her house in a state of peace and tranquility. She would be able to sleep the night through for the first time since 1872.
“Oooooh,” she said in the most unearthly manner she could muster (which wasn’t a bad effort, given she was alive), “wooOoOOOooooOOoooo!”
It was only then she realised that her father’s constant spiel of imperialist propaganda was silent. She thought perhaps he was quiet out of fear, so she climbed right up through the trap door and shrieked “WOOOOooOOOoooOOOoo!” again, this time sounding more like a teenage girl on the waltzers than a ghost.
Captain McShay failed to respond, so Batty whipped off the sheet and looked around the gloomy loft to see what damage she had inflicted. To be honest she had tried to get rid of her father every week for the last decade and none of her plans had ever worked, so she hadn’t expected this one to be any different.
Her father was lying face down on the floor, silent and unmoving; although he couldn’t move so this wasn’t particularly traumatic. More alarming was the large tear along his side, where his stuffing was all falling out over the floor.
“Captain McShay?” said Batty, who never called her father ‘dad’ or ‘pappy’ or anything like that because he hated the implication of intimacy and she was conditioned to feel the same.
There was a soft cough from behind her, then a clatter as the trap door fell shut, blocking her only escape. Batty turned to see a man with a face a lot like hers looming out of the darkness, but she didn’t have time to ask him who he might be because his the carving knife he carried in his left hand came gleaming down to slice the stuffing out of her.
Nobody ever had anything nice to say about Batty McShay, but there again Batty McShay didn’t have anything nice to say about anyone herself. Perhaps she might have learned to lead by example, but we’ll never know, because she is dead.
And the moral of the story? Never get your father stuffed by an occult-enthusiast taxidermist.