Cover by Zuzanna Kwiecien Plans for ExpansionThe Drabblecast is molting!

Norm shares some exciting news in the intro this week, Drabblecast has launched a Patreon, and a new quarterly magazine, “The Tentaculum.”  Also, welcome new Managing Editor Cameron Howard!

Finally, we close out HP Lovecraft “Month” with an original story by Aliya Whitely called, “Plans for Expansion.”

Stones contain stories.
The deep and worn stones of this castle have tales within them of such strange and horrible occurrences, events too awful to be spoken of, but I will try, this very night, to tell you, to warn you, of what they have witnessed. Beware what awaits you within. Prepare yourself: your sanity is at risk.


Plans for Expansion

by Aliya Whitely


The Stones contain stories.

The deep and worn stones of this castle have tales within them of such strange and horrible occurrences, events too awful to be spoken of, but I will try, this very night, to tell you, to warn you, of what they have witnessed. Beware what awaits you within. Prepare yourself: your sanity is at risk.

That was the beginning of Willard’s speech. I heard it so often I know it off by heart.

He gave it his best every single night, and the visitors loved that stuff, I mean, they went wild. They really bought it. Last year we even had a fainter. This woman in the front row went out like a light. Willard hadn’t even really got going; he was at the early part of the tour about the walling up of Lady Galforth in 1768 when she fell over backwards and lay there, on the grass by the east portcullis, and I had to call an ambulance.

The flashing blue lights really added something to the atmosphere.

Willard said he might put it on the poster:

A Ghost Tour So Terrifying It’ll Knock You Out!

But it turned out the woman had low blood sugar, and I said that would make it fake advertising, so he decided against it. She was fine after a cookie. She even stayed for the rest of the tour.

The good old days.

It was about that time that Willard began to come up with his big plans for expansion. He began to say things to me like, “Mike, do you think it would work if I got another iron maiden for the far corner of the torture chamber, or would that be too crowded?” or “Mike, how about we wire up speakers in the oubliette so it’ll make screaming noises?” I never took him too seriously. I mean, I was an assistant and that was the way I liked it. I never wanted to make any big decisions. It wasn’t my dream job. I had plans to escape, to get to the city. So when he started saying, “Mike, should we expand this operation? Add another wing to the castle? Or put in a theme park? A haunted garden?” I thought he was crazy, wanting to stay in that creepy old ruin for the rest of his life, but I wasn’t going to say that. All I wanted to do was take my share of the money and run.

So much for that idea.

I wonder where Willard is now.

Maybe he’s right next to me. Touching me. Forced up tight against me, joined to me, never to be moved again.

That might be the worst thought I’ve ever had.


I should be a long way away from here, but I guess at least Willard is where he wants to be.

Galforth Castle has been in his family for hundreds of years. He has a long line of relatives that have done nasty stuff to each other, if you believe his stories. And they weren’t even the first owners, so who knows what happened before they came along? This place is ancient. There are some medieval parts, some Roman, and earlier. They burned witches here, apparently. Hung, drew and quartered people. I think it was an iron age burial mound or something. You name it, they did it here, building a little more every time, until the present day where it can be found just off the motorway to Portsmouth within five minutes of three major supermarket chains.

Epoch upon epoch of suffering written into the walls, each layer revealing horror heaped upon horror…

That was part of Willard’s closing speech. I remember him giving it on that final evening. It was the eleven o’clock show. Not a bad turnout. He really gave it everything, in his black cloak and executioner’s hood, and the malevolent grey fog lifted for a moment to allow a perfect silvery strand of moonlight to fall on the sharp edge of his axe. I thought: it’ll never get better than that. The tourists clapped, and he bowed, and I showed people out with my burning torch, and then began the process of cleaning up.

I’d reached the great hall, where the son of Lord Galforth the seventh was barbecued on a spit and eaten as a warning against disobedience, when Willard came over, back in his normal outfit of grey tweed suit and bow tie. He watched me sweep up for a while.

“You missed a bit,” he said. Then he said, “Mike, are you still living with your parents?”

I said I was. Thinking about it now, so was he, technically speaking, although both his parents were in the family crypt after a horrific car accident a few years ago. He acted like he was older than me, but he wasn’t, really. Not by much. Although I suppose life can date a person.

“Maybe you could learn to give a few of the speeches,” Willard said. “I could train you up. And you could move in here, if you like. I can pay you a bit more. I wouldn’t charge any rent. There are some decent bedrooms in the west wing that aren’t too damp.”

I said I’d think about it. But his offer crystallised my decision for me. I didn’t want to be here. And if I wasn’t careful I’d end up hanging around forever, becoming part of the fabric of this place. I was on the point of telling him so, handing in my notice, when he changed the subject so fast that I thought he must have guessed what I had been about to say.

He said, “Mike, do you want to see something mind-blowing? I’m trying to work out if I should put it in the tour.”


“Wonderful! It’s down here.” He led the way to the old storeroom behind the kitchen. It was a kind of circular cellar with archways, dark and chilly, and part of the floor had subsided months ago. I’d put up a tape across the doorway to make sure visitors didn’t wander in and twist an ankle. The hole in the floor had got a lot worse since I last saw it. The flagstones had cracked, broken apart and raised up as if snapped in two by giant hands. A large metal ring lay in the exposed soil underneath.

“Jesus,” I said.

“I think it’s older than that,” said Willard. “My father once told me this is the heart of the castle. Where the first stones were laid.”

“What’s it for?”

He knelt down and brushed away some of the dust and soil – enough to see a square depression, a few feet across, around the ring. A border.

“It’s a trapdoor,” he said. “Come on.” He put both hands to the ring, and I was about to say – you’ll never lift it, it must weigh a tonne – when there was a smooth sound of stone on stone, and the whole thing swung upwards, as if it had been kept in perfect condition since the day it was made. It felt as if it was eager to open for us. That’s the only way I can describe it.

“I know,” said Willard, in his work voice. “Eerie.”

He took his phone out and switched on the torch. The beam, angled downwards, picked out the first few steps of a cylindrical staircase made of the same stones as the castle, curving back on itself in a tight bend, leading down, and down: there was no way to tell how far it went. He gave me a strange look, fear and excitement and hope all mixed into one, and he didn’t ask. I still don’t know how he could be so sure that I would follow. But follow him I did, one stair at a time, deeper and deeper into darkness with only the weak beam of his torch to guide us.



And down.

And down to the depths of the world, where Hell might begin, and all thoughts of sunlight, air unmarked by fetid mould and madness spawned of clawing dread, were lost, surrendered, forever forgotten.

I think that’s how the tour speech might have gone, anyway.

And then the staircase came to an end.

“This is what I wanted to show you,” said Willard.

We stood, side by side, in a tiny chamber just big enough for both of us. Our shoulders touched; I could hear him breathing fast. His hand was trembling; the torchlight shivered in the intense cold.

“You came down here on your own?” I whispered.

“I did.”

He was braver than I thought.

The stones were regular, laid like brickwork in perfect order. This could have been a modern room. But at the same time it was obvious that this was beyond old – the oldest room in which I had ever stood. I don’t know how I knew that. The stones screamed it, somehow.

“So what do you think?” said Willard. “Should I bring visitors down here? I think it might be a big draw.”

“No,” I said. “No. I don’t think anybody should come down here, ever again.”

He was silent for a long time, and then he said, “You’re probably right.”

He played the beam of the torch over the floor, as perfectly made as the walls, and I felt sick with the swinging movement of the light, round and round. “What was it for?” I asked him.

“I don’t know. Maybe to kill people slowly, do you think? A bit like walling them up.”

“Then wouldn’t there be skeletons down here?”

“Maybe it was someone’s job to tidy up after each one? You know, like you tidy up after each tour. There are always assistants, no matter what time you live in. It’s an indispensable role.”

I didn’t answer that. I was certain that if I’d been an assistant in ancient times I wouldn’t have been queuing up to come down here on a daily basis.

“Here’s the really strange thing about it,” said Willard. “I know this place is awful. I know it’s creepy and horrible and nobody in their right mind would want to come down here. But when I’m here I feel less alone. I have no idea why. That ache inside me, since mum and dad died, it eases a bit. And I want other people, people like me who know what it’s like to be abandoned, to come down here too. To touch the stones and realise none of us are ever really on our own. That’s why I want to expand the business, Mike. Not for more money. But to bring more lonely, desperate people down here, and make them part of something healing. Go on, touch a stone. You’ll understand it, then, I promise you.”

I put out my hand and touched my palm to one of the stones.

There was something there. Something I couldn’t begin to explain. Although the room was freezing the stone was warm. It did make me feel as if it was not only me and Willard, so far under the ground. I could almost hear a soft murmur of other voices, many thousands talking, as if from very far away.

It occurred to me that if I listened really hard, I might be able to hear what they were saying. And, at that moment, I almost wanted to do just that. To listen for as long as it took, until I understood them.

I snatched my hand back.

“Willard,” I said, once I could talk again, “Consider this my verbal notice. Effective immediately. And let’s both try to get out more.”

“Seriously?” he said. “I’ll double your wages. You could write your own script for this bit of the tour. I have a suspicion you’d be good at it.”

“Not in a million years.”

“That’s a shame,” he said. And for a moment I thought he would snap. Attack me. Try to keep me down here forever, or something. But he didn’t. He sighed a long sigh, and said, “I just thought you would understand my plans for expansion. I don’t know why. But that’s fine. Let’s go back up.”

At that exact moment the light went out.

The darkness was absolute.

I heard Willard swearing at the phone: a stream of words that didn’t end. I reached out, felt for the staircase, and only managed to collide with Willard. He stopped talking. The silence was worse than his swearing. I took a step back, expecting to hit the wall behind me, and there was nothing at all. No wall. No stones.

Seconds passed, seconds longer than centuries: the wall had to be there, the staircase had to be there, it was simply a case of –

“I can’t,” said Willard, “I can’t, I can’t, wait…”

Was that… light?

“The phone’s working!” I cried, and Willard said, very softly, “No.”

That’s when I realised that the light was coming from far away.

It was soft, red, a sickly colour. Willard was facing me, and his fine hair and pale features were stained, as if dipped in blood. He held out the dead phone to me, and I reached for it, but it slipped through my fingers to the floor. To where the floor should be. But nothing broke its fall. It dropped into a yawning chasm beneath us, a crevasse too huge for our minds to comprehend, with no end – still it fell, until it was too small to be seen. I wondered if it would fall forever. And why we did not fall – how could that be? We stared at each other, amazed. We were suspended. Nothing held us in place, and the stones that had surrounded us had vanished.

I looked up. Castle Galforth was above us. But it was dwarfed, no more than a miniature, compared to the figure that loomed over it: a terrifying presence, filling the air and my mind, larger than anything I had ever encountered. It was a god, maybe. A vast thing. If the castle was tiny to it, we could only have been specks of dust floating in the boundless field of its vision; I felt certain it had not yet noticed us. We were of no consequence. We were insects that could barely gain its attention.

Willard screamed, one long piercing note.

And then the being’s mind was upon us, the unbearable pressure of its consciousness extinguishing all thought and emotion but agonising fear, and strange wonder.

It looked deep into me, and I saw my past and future in its many hideous eyes. I saw my own birth, that moment of squashy arrival into a clean white room, so far from this place, and I saw my child steps, my first falls, and every moment of learning replayed – all useless knowledge that led nowhere, for this, this was to be the moment of my death. There was to be no escape. I saw it. And the being felt some kind of malicious joy in that. It brought only the smallest iota of its will to bear on me, pressing me, relishing my struggle as I shrank under its gaze. And shrank. And shrank.

I was being squeezed.


Turned into a new form, my neck truncated, my arms and legs retracted, my organs forced to meld together, then rupture, bleed into one pile of mangled flesh as my head and torso flattened to a solid cuboid.

The change complete, the being expressed pleasure.

It reached down with a many-digited appendage and plucked me, lifted me, admired me. The contact gave me a glimpse into its thoughts, and nearly extinguished my sanity in the process, for Galforth Castle really was only a toy to it, and it had many such toys, all connected by winding paths of stones that stretched into infinity. And the chasm over which Willard and I had hung was merely a mock-moat to the being, constructed by it, for it was a child playing with the stones it made, stones in the millions, more stones than stars.

Each stone, once upon a time, had been a soul.

Willard and I had found a room between planes of existence that offered humans to a child god to make its building blocks.

The being lowered me down and placed me somewhere in its plan. It patted me with the tip of one extrusion, and I gibbered under the force of its playful regard. Then it left me, its glow fading, until our connection was cut and there was only darkness.


I think Willard was right about a lot of things. I would have been good at writing my own script for his tour. I could have fitted right into his plans for expansion. After all, I fit in really well right here.

I hope Willard got placed in a good spot. Not that he’d know, I mean, I have no idea where I am. Maybe I’m in Galforth Castle, and visitors still come to hear about the awful things that happened there. I like the idea that someone could be walking around, brushing up against me. I remember what it felt like to touch those old stones and sense all those voices, wanting to be heard. I had the feeling I’d be able to understand of what they were saying if only I’d listened hard enough. So I’ll keep talking to myself, and hoping that someone that might touch me, tune in, and pay attention.

The stones contain stories: that’s what Willard used to say, at the start of every show. He was right about that, too. Every single stone contains a story, all of them screaming to be heard.