AN OLD FORGOTTEN SCREAM is the first story in CHRISTMAS DINNER OF SOULS, told by Lady Arabella Dogspit. It’s the story of the Baron, a cruel and greedy man whose desire for land leads him to marry and murder his new wife, the Lady, one Christmas Eve. However, it turns out that the Lady’s spirit isn’t quite dead: and she has other plans for him…
The first thing I came up with when I wrote AN OLD FORGOTTEN SCREAM was the title! I have no idea exactly where it came from – sometimes a certain run of words will come to me that I like, and I’ll scribble them down for later. I loved the idea of a character being haunted by a dying scream that he’d hoped was gone forever, and eventually being driven mad by it – maybe a little like THE TELLTALE HEART by Edgar Allen Poe!
Rather oddly, the biggest influence of this story was the song “Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell The Trees)” by the Ink Spots, who were my grandfather’s favourite band (Disclaimer: ALL THEIR SONG INTRODUCTIONS ARE IDENTICAL). My parent’s generation will probably remember the weird version sung by two characters from a 70s sitcom called “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”, which was astonishingly popular and is yet another gentle reminder that everyone made bad decisions in the 70s. Here’s a video to give you a taste:
The song is supposed to be a love song, about someone not wanting everyone to find out about a romantic encounter they’ve had. The lyrics are haunting:
Why do you whisper, green grass?
Why tell the trees what they know?
Whispering grass, the trees don’t need to know, no no.
Why tell them all the old things,
They’re buried under the snow,
Whispering grass, the trees don’t need to know.
Don’t you tell it to the breeze
Or she will tell the birds and birds
And everyone will know because you told the blabbering trees.
Yes, you told them once before;
It’s no secret anymore.
I used to misunderstand the song: I thought it said “Why tell them all the whole thing / Who’s buried under the snow?” I imagined it was a song about a person trying to hide the fact they killed their lover! Which shows just how romantic I am.
I thought the song was based on an old folk tale I’d heard once, about a servant who saw the King commit a murder and, rather than tell anyone, whispered it to some bullreeds in a nearvy lake. However the bullreeds were so shocked that they all started talking to each other about it, and then the trees heard, who told the birds, who flew around the kingdom telling everyone, and soon the whole kingdom knew that the King was a murderer. However, I’ve searched and searched, and can’t find any evidence of this folk tale ANYWHERE – in fact, I may have made it all up! And to be honest, it wouldn’t be the first time…
So that’s how I came up with my scary fairytale – by stumbling upon a title, getting confused about an old song, and misremembering a folk tale! As long as it works…
To finish, I’ll leave you with the original version of “Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell The Trees)” by the Ink Spots, which thankfully doesn’t contain Windsor Davies barking orders and staring at the camera like he’s going to garrote you. Merry Christmas!