Twist Competition - Runner Up

Matt Biggs

Runner Up
She Came Home
Twist Competition


Matt completed an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University during lockdown. He writes fiction and is currently about to start querying his Middle Grade urban fantasy, The Guardian of The Realms, about two brothers and their stupid dog who discover an ancient relic which holds the soul of a mythical hero from another world. For his MA dissertation he wrote a fictional non-fiction novel with sci-fi, horror, and true crime elements which he is just in the process of editing. He is now studying full-time for a PhD in Creative Writing at NTU where he is researching puzzle box narratives in fiction and writing his own version of a puzzle box novel. When he’s not writing he can be found at home in Nottingham, spending time with his kids, having an occasional bad round of golf and enjoying Premier League football with Nottingham Forest. Twitter: @mattbiggswriter


She Came Home By Matt Biggs

I’m sure my wife wants to kill me.
Something isn’t quite right with her. Sometimes I catch her staring at me and when she sees I’ve noticed, she doesn’t smile or acknowledge me like a normal person. Instead, she licks her lips and just keeps on staring, like I’m a juicy steak. Once, I walked into the kitchen and she was banging her head against a cupboard door. Not hard, but repetitive and insistent, thud… thud… thud… I asked her what was wrong, and she just shrugged and said we were out of milk.
Even our two cats, David Meowi and Elvis Pussley, won’t go anywhere near her. If she comes into the room, they disappear like rats from a flooding drain.
    Perhaps I should explain the situation.
Eight months ago, my wife went to work and disappeared. Just vanished.
I was out at the time but when I got home, she wasn’t there. Her phone went to voicemail. She wasn’t answering texts and her social media hadn’t been updated. That was when I knew something was wrong. She runs…ran a small bakery. She had over a hundred thousand followers on her Insta account alone. People loved her cake designs, and they loved her posts.
The police launched a missing person investigation. The CCTV from her shop showed she’d never turned up to work on the day she went missing. Her car was found in woods at the side of a quiet country lane, halfway between our house and her shop in the neighbouring town. She’d just vanished.
I organised search parties in the woods with family and friends for weeks. Even Jeff from next door came to help and I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year at that point. Her phone was found in the glovebox of her car. She’d not turned it on the morning she’d disappeared. The police launched a campaign and put her face on the local news and in all the national newspapers. Posters went up in shops around town. Nobody came forward with any useful information.
    Then, inevitably, their attention turned to me. The husband is always the first suspect when a woman goes missing, isn’t he? Fortunately for me, when she disappeared I was fifty miles away. I’d been in the Peak District, practicing for a charity walk. On the day she went missing, I’d posted on Facebook – a selfie of me placing a stone on a rock pile. One of those piles that walkers add to as they pass – a way of saying they’d been there. And a way for part of them to stay there.
I posted regularly on social media too – I’d been doing that ever since I accidentally went viral with a video where Elvis Pussley fell into the bath while I was in it. The police took my car in to test for forensic evidence, but they didn’t find anything. Eventually, they were happy with my alibi and the search moved elsewhere. No trace of her was ever found.
We all mourned her and as the months rolled by, her face disappeared from the newspapers, the TV, the shop windows. Life returned to normal. Well, as normal as it can get with the large hole she’d left behind in our lives.
Then, last week, I was upstairs clearing out her wardrobe – I had been putting it off, but after eight months, I felt like it was time to move on – when I heard the front door open. I thought it must have been my in-laws coming round to help me. They’d wanted to go through her stuff and pick some bits out to take home. I went downstairs and there, stood in the hallway, was my wife, like she’d just got back from nipping to the shops.
I didn’t know what to say. I think I almost passed out.
She looked the same as the day she’d left. She even wore the same clothes – the blue dress that I bought her for her thirtieth birthday and that ratty, grey cardigan that used to belong to her grandmother. The one which always smelled of spearmint and disinfectant, no matter how much we washed it. Her auburn hair was tied up in a loose ponytail and her skin had that sun-kissed glow that I found irresistible.
She looked amazing.
And she carried on like nothing had happened. Like she hadn’t disappeared for nearly eight months. When I asked where she’d been, she said she didn’t know. She had no memory of her whereabouts. Didn’t know what she’d done or who she’d been with.
Those eight months were a complete blank.
The national media ran stories about her miraculous return and then after a few days, they moved on. Found other miracles to write about.
Things started out well once she came back, but slowly I started to notice she was different. It was just little things at first.
I made Spaghetti Bolognese and she put parmesan on it. That’s normal, you say.
Except, she always used to hate parmesan – hated it so much it made her retch. She always used to say it smelled of sweaty feet. Now she sprinkled it on her Bolognese like it was crack and she was an addict.
Another time, we sat down to watch Great British Bake Off – her favourite program before she’d disappeared. She changed the channel after ten minutes and put on a real crime documentary. She could never watch those before, said she didn’t like to be reminded how evil humans could be.
Her parents organised a surprise get-together to welcome her back and my sister brought her two kids. We could never have children – she wasn’t able to. Because of that, she’d always treated my sister’s kids like her own, spoiling them as much as she could. She’d been like a second mum to them. At the party, she ignored them.
Blanked them. Like they didn’t exist.
I questioned her about it afterwards and she just shrugged and said she hated kids.
She was different now. Something was wrong, and I’d been catching her doing weird things. Things that made me think whatever had come back wasn’t my wife.
I caught her eating a raw fish from the supermarket. When I walked into the kitchen, she was there with her head tilted back, swallowing the fish whole, like some sort of circus freak. I watched, horrified, as the tail disappeared between her wet lips. Afterwards, she turned and stared at me with her dead fisheyes until I had to leave the room.
Then something woke me in the early hours a few weeks ago, and I found her standing over me in the dark. She stared at me with a wide, rictus grin, her eyes reflecting the blue light of the clock. I asked what was wrong. She didn’t say anything, just turned around and left the bedroom without a word. I didn’t sleep much the rest of that night and from then on I moved into the spare room.
Now, I keep the door locked.
Sometimes, at night, I hear her downstairs, walking around and around. Sometimes I hear her staccato breath on the other side of the door, panting like a dying dog. Sometimes I hear her whispering incomprehensible nonsense, like a lunatic in an asylum. Sometimes, she whispers my name.
Today, Jeff and his wife came round from next door. They brought a bunch of flowers to welcome her back. I smiled through gritted teeth while they wer there and after they’d gone, I said horrible things about him.
I expected her to defend him – after all, they’d been having an affair for two years before she disappeared – so I was surprised when she laughed and agreed with me, calling him names I’d never heard her use before. That was when I knew the thing that had returned was not my wife.
I’m not even sure she’s human anymore.
She’s something else. Something unnatural.
Do you know how I know this for sure though?
It’s her face.
Her beautiful face.
It’s perfect.
Eight months ago, when I caved it in with that stone and buried her under that pile of rocks in the Peak District, there was nothing left of her face but a bloody, pulpy mess. An open, red wound with white shards of teeth sticking out of it, like a horrifying, exotic flower.
I’m tempted to drive back out there in the morning, to see if her body’s still there, but I’m scared.
What if I find she is still there, buried under those rocks? Rotting away with her face still caved in. What would that mean?
If she is still there, then what is the thing living with me? What does it want? Where did it come from?
Even worse – what if the body’s not there anymore? What if it’s missing? What if this thing is her and it’s come back for me?
I don’t know what to do. What can I do? It’s my wife and I love her.
I can hear it breathing on the other side of the door right now. I hear its fingernails scraping on the wood. I hear it whispering my name, asking me to unlock the door. It says it wants me. Wants to hold me. Taste me. Its voice is so persuasive.
I’m hiding under the bed, writing this and I’m scared.
I’m scared it will persuade me to unlock the door.
I’m scared it will find a way into the room. I’m sure it will.
And I’m sure it wants to kill me.

Judges Comments

The ghoulish relish with which Matt Biggs has written 'She Came Home', the runner-up in WM's Twist Story Story competition, definitely set it apart and gave it its winning edge.

'She Came Home' is the cleverly-told revenge ghost tale recounted by the husband of a woman who went missing. He's the victim of the haunting, and, as the reveal shows, also the perpetrator of the event that caused it. But what sets it apart is the glee - the dark, black humour - with which this tale is told. Matt is playing with horror tropes and for all its dark themes the fun is what makes this story glitter. Though there are obvious gags, such as the cats' names, the blend of horror and humour is not overdone, just beautifully odd and perfectly placed, dotted throughout the narrative - the ghost/zombie wife banging her head against the fridge 'cos we're out of milk' is just one example.

The twist is well-placed and well-executed, with all the elements in place to make a reader go, 'ah yes of course!' but another beauty of this story is that it has sufficient layers and ongoing intrigue that doesn't feel as if the whole thing is simply a set-up for the twist ending. The way Matt finishes it goes beyond a neatly wrapped finale to on ongoing situation with possibilities the reader is left to conjure, in their mind.