Bill Davidson

The July Selected Writer is Bill Davidson

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by Bill Davidson

Late afternoon found Joseph May at home and developing a fair to middling hangover. His thought on the matter was that it wasn’t good to be hungover in the afternoon, but it was easily sorted. Although that would only put matters off.

Joseph had been putting matters off since Jessica died.

It’s a wonderful thing, though, the way a healthy dose of what got you there in the first place smooths out a person’s frayed edges. Joseph walked into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of Glenmorangie, drinking as usual from the nice crystal glass that Jess had given him for his fiftieth, three years ago. It couldn’t surely be a bad thing, when you were drinking decent whisky from such a nice piece of crystal.

Wandering back into the front room, he picked up his mobile and flicked the screen, doing the rounds; WhatsApp, Outlook, Facebook, his news feed. He threw it down, and irritated with himself for picking the damn thing up agan, he sipped the whisky and felt a little better.

Joseph paced the house. It was the place he had shared with Jessica for more than twenty years and he still couldn’t bring himself to think of as really his. Everything was clean and tidy and in order. Cleaner than a year ago, when Jessica was still here and coming back every day with bags full of something.

He laughed one of those laughs that had nothing to do with funny.

“See. You thought it was me that messed the place up. All the crap you brought in here, Jesus. What a girl you are.”

Then, “Come on! Look at it. I’m tidy.”

It wasn’t even five o’clock and here he was, drinking off a hangover. Joseph had taken early retirement when Jessica passed, but now he couldn’t put himself back there; to figure out why he’d done that. “My heart just wasn’t in my work, Jess.”

It wasn’t like he needed the money. The house had been mortgage-free for years, there was a decent pot in the bank and Jessica’s life insurance had been a surprise. He hadn’t even known she was insured, never mind for a quarter million. They don’t pay insurance to suicides but that didn’t matter, because she did not commit suicide. It was a car accident, plain and simple.

He found himself back in the living room where he stood briefly at the big picture window, the same spot Jessica used to stand, staring out into the street. He used to say to her, what you looking at now then? A drug deal going down in Primrose Street? The Cuthbertsons shooting it out with Mrs. Kent?

She would say, “I just like to, that’s all. It’s a nice little street.”

Not even turning to answer him.

He’d made a joke of it, although sometimes it made him uncomfortable, her standing there, just staring out at a street where absolutely nothing ever happened. She was right, though, it was a nice, comfortable little street. Full of nice, comfortable little houses.

They’d left Glasgow, a young couple full of ambition, and come right here to the South of England. To Primrose Street, and this house. Its first owners.

Now, that wasn’t entirely true, was it? It was Joseph’s ambitions that had brought them here. Jessica’s had set hers aside to follow him. The chance of a good job, ground floor of an exciting new business- it seemed exciting at the time. She settled for a nice house and a nice husband and hardly got on a bicycle again. She might never have made the national squad anyway, and it was all so long ago.

Even if she’d made the damned Olympics, which was a stretch, all that would be ancient history now.

Joseph picked up his phone. WhatsApp, Outlook…threw it down and flicked on his laptop as though the Outlook on there might be any different. Finished his whisky and poured another.
Wandered to the window to look out into the street, where a whole lot of nothing was happening.

Why did Jess stand here for so many hours? Oh, wait, here comes a car. Brilliant. A car with a robot on top, something like a Dalek from Dr. Who.

Joseph leaned closer, frowning, then his face cleared. “Google maps! You’re a Streetview photograph car.”

As it drove slowly past, he grinned and held up his glass. Watched as it disappeared, wondering how long the new photographs would take to be uploaded, update the old. He’d be able to see his own red face, grinning like a fool and holding up a glass of whisky.

Moving with a bit more purpose, he sat and opened his laptop again. Fired up Google maps and searched for the first flat he and Jessica had lived in, a real dump on the second floor of a red sandstone tenement in Dumbarton Road. Guffawing when it came up. The paper shop on the ground floor was a liquor store now, with steel shutters, but otherwise the old building looked remarkably the same.

“We were happy there, Love. Maybe the happiest of our lives. You were still cycling like crazy, not an ounce of fat on you. Not one.”

Fiddling with zoom, he managed to focus on the second-floor window that had been their bedroom.

“We didn’t half shag in those days, eh?”

The window had blue curtains, not dissimilar to his memory of what he and Jess had hung on there, and there was a profile view of a young woman, who must have been walking past when the image was taken. Light blonde hair, shoulder length.

Joseph looked at it for a long time, smiling, unaware that his eyes were leaking.

Finally, he rubbed his thumb over the screen. “That could easily have been you, Love. If they had Streetview in the eighties.”

Their next home was over the other side of the Glasgow, and a surprise. It was gone, replaced by another tall apartment block. Joseph tutted. “Then we moved here.”

When he picked up the little yellow man to place him into Primrose Street, he made a mess of it, dropping him a hundred meters away. Still, it was fun, navigating up this street, a series of snapshots of how it looked a few years ago.

He laughed out loud and pointed, seeing the bright pink shade of Jeff Cuthbertson’s garage door, an unfortunate choice that lasted only months. The Hill boy’s VW camper van, with Todd Hill frozen in the act of putting a cool box into the rear.

And look, his Alfa Romeo, parked on the street. He shook his head. “I loved that car. Went like shit off a shovel.”

The car sitting outside now was a more sedate Volvo. Joseph frowned at it before coming back to the screen. Another click and he was adjacent to the red Alpha. Jessica’s Ford Escort sat in the drive. He had said to her so many times, why hold onto that old thing? Get yourself a new car.
She kept it, though, right up until the end. The one she put straight into a tree, doing eighty. Jessica, who never went over seventy, even on a motorway.

Another click and he was looking straight at the house on Primose Street. Jessica right there in the picture window, staring out, in that pose she had.

Joseph froze, his jaw hanging slack. Then he zoomed in, zoomed again. She was staring out, her expression flat. Not smiling. He tried to zoom in further, but that’s as far as it would go, so he leaned closer, as if that would help.

He had many photographs of his wife, of course he did, hundreds of them, all much clearer and closer than this accidental snap. But this one snagged somewhere in his head, like it was caught in a net. That was Jessica, right there, the real Jessica, standing in that window like she would so often do.

Jesus, she was glaring. As though she was angry.

Joseph squinted, trying to see if he was in there as well—he liked to think he was—in the house he shared with his wife. The two of them together. Maybe she had even smiled in the second after the image was taken, turned to say, look at that, Joe. I think that might be one of those machines takes all the google photos. Maybe I’ll even be on it.

And he would say, “You’ll be the best thing on there.”

No, he wouldn’t say any such thing, not his way. He leaned in once more, focusing on the expression in her eyes, and shivered again, as though he was cold.


Joseph parked the Volvo in the drive and took out his little bag of shopping, trying to avoid the clink of bottles, what with those nosy Cuthbertsons listening next door. Twenty minutes later, he was finishing a microwaved carbonara and sipping his first whisky of the day. He hadn’t had an afternoon hangover since that one time, over a week ago.

He slipped his phone out and did the rounds, WhatsApp, Outlook. Threw it away, thinking he had to stop checking every twenty minutes. What did he expect would happen?

Flicking his laptop, he messed about online in a random fashion, coming eventually to google maps. He had been thinking about searching for his own childhood home, but now found himself googling this address again, not wanting to see Jessica’s flat, hard stare again, not at all, but it had been on his mind almost non-stop since he had seen it. It had snagged alright, and he couldn’t shake it loose.

The view from the street was different. His Alpha and Jessica’s Ford were gone. Joseph frowned, wondering had they already updated it. But that couldn’t be, because his Volvo wasn’t there, and anyway the flower beds were how Jess had them.

He clicked on the pad, moving the view until it was right outside his house and, sure enough, Jessica wasn’t there. Joseph sat for a long time, trying to figure it. The only thing he could come up with was that Google must have different images for the same street.

He messed with the pad, turning the view back so he could see down the street, stopping when he came to Todd Hill, frozen in the act of putting a cool box into that VW camper van.


Then, the thought occurred, if his car wasn’t there, where was it? Where was Jessica?

He really didn’t want to go looking at Celeste’s house. That was over and done with, and he wanted no part of it now. Hated to even think about it. He could have walked the little man there, it was only about a mile away, but it was much faster to punch her street in and let google maps do its thing, zooming out so you felt sea-sick for an instant, then zooming back in.

He moved into Streetview, coming in, not outside Celeste’s house, but maybe fifty meters back. All the houses in this street were big Victorians, set behind tall sandstone walls and fir trees. He had been able to drive into her shingled driveway and his car would be out of sight, unless somebody looked right in there. How many times had he visited over that year?

Too many. She was like a drug.

This despite Jessica’s flat warning, repeated probably only three or four times over the whole time they were together. Each time she had knelt right in front of him, her eyes on his, voice low, but a threat in there.

“If I ever found out you’d cheated on me, I’d never forgive you.”

 His finger hovered over the pad, about to skip onwards, but instead he froze. There, right there in the street, her back to him and walking away, was Jessica. Jessica in her green belted raincoat, a bright scarf around her neck. Her hair still golden, but now needing a little help to stay that way.

What would Jessica be doing on this street? So far as he knew, she didn’t know anybody who lived there.

He flicked the view on and lurched forwards maybe ten meters. So did Jessica, staying the same distance from the camera. Meaning, he supposed, the car was crawling along at walking pace, hadn’t passed her yet. He flicked again and the same thing happened, which seemed strange.
The road ahead was empty, so there was nothing stopping the Streetview car moving along at a normal speed, yet it seemed to be following hard on Jessica’s heels. Joseph clicked again, chewing his lip. How weird to follow in his wife’s footsteps, after her death.

In the next shot, they arrived at Celeste’s house, the image showing Jess stopped and turned, as though standing at the open gate. Looking into the drive.

Joseph stalled for a long time, looking at Jessica. The set of her shoulders and the way her upper body leaned forwards. Then, he moved the view on so that he was effectively looking over her shoulder. At a red Alfa Romeo, parked in the drive.

He hovered there, feeling sick, then had to get out of there flick the viewpoint onwards, turning to look at what was now behind him. Jessica was no longer looking through the gate. Instead, it felt as though she was staring right at him, her expression grim.

Not wanting to be in the line of that flat, hard stare, Joseph flicked the pad, leaving her behind. But he didn’t leave her behind. She was moving again, coming after the Streetview car.

Two further flicks and she was closer. It didn’t look like Jessica was running, but she was catching the Streetview car and she looked furious. Joseph’s heartbeat picked up as he flicked the pad again, but now she was almost on the car, teeth bared and hands coming up as if to grab it. As if to bite it.

Joseph fumbled, jumping right up into outer space, satellite view. Where it was safe. He sat on the sofa Jessica had bought from Laura Ashley, the green one, with the laptop on his knees and shook, as though he had just run away from something.

He closed the computer and got himself another whisky, gulping it down, then had another. He turned the television on but couldn’t settle. The expression on Jessica’s face seemed to say, I’m coming for you. Remember, I told you I would never forgive.

He couldn’t settle to anything. He went for a walk, and wandered randomly, not exactly surprised when he found himself on Celeste’s street. He followed in Jessica’s footsteps, not moving as fast as she had appeared to.

She’d gone even faster when she was coming for the Streetview car, hands reaching, teeth bared. In his memory, that image was getting worse, like it had its own corrosive life.

He passed Celeste’s drive, where she still lived, and, for a terrible moment, thought his red Alfa was parked in there. Where Jessica saw it.

But this was no Alfa, it was a Mazda sports. Joseph had paused but now he hurried on, almost running, wanting to fly along like Jessica had. In only half dozen steps he ran out of steam, coming to a full stop.

Jessica must have driven here in her car, the little Ford that she wrapped around a tree. That’s why it wasn’t parked in their drive in Primrose Street.


Joseph managed to stay away from the laptop for the past week, but its pull never went away. Flicking it on, he was all too soon dangling the little Streetview man outside the house. He dropped him.

And sighed with relief. The Alfa was right where it ought to be, Jessica’s Ford as well. Todd was bent over, putting a cool box into his camper van. Everything just like the first time.

Joseph had a glass of whisky beside him, but he pushed it away. What he had seen that last time, none of that was possible. It was a warning, crazy shit. If he kept drinking like he had been, he would go all the way mad, no question.

He stepped one click further, smiling as Jessica came into view, standing in the window in that typical pose. He was still smiling when he zoomed in to get a better look at her, but it started to slide when he noticed the telephone she was holding to her ear, the house landline, he saw. His eyes flicked automatically towards where it sat now, on top of the little table she had bought for just that purpose.

He frowned, trying to remember if she had been holding the phone that first time. That was a detail he could have missed, easy. He told himself that, even when his mobile began to vibrate. Joseph didn’t shift his eyes to look at the mobile’s screen, though, check the caller ID. He didn’t need to.

He knew who was calling.

Bill Davidson is a Scottish writer of mainly horror and fantasy. In the last three years, he has placed stories with around thirty publications around the world, including Elllen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Flame Tree, Left Hand Publishers, Dark Lane Books, Storyteller, Nthanda Review, Under the Bed, Hello Horror, Horror Addicts, Horla, Cloaked Press, Fantasia Divinity, Emerging Worlds, Metamorphose, Enchanted Conversation, Electric Spec, Ash Tales, Tigershark Publishing, Transmundane Press, Switchblade, Prole, Cwtch, Hell Bound Books and Storgy Magazine.

Find him on billdavidsonwriting.com 
or twitter @bill_davidson57