|This is an excerpt from Seb Duncan’s novella Headcase: A Post-truth ghost story.|
The scene was set for the event, as it had now been named by Smutny. Despite its large size, Bowling Celnice’s low ceilings gave it an underground bunker feel that no amount of bright neon lighting or wall colouring could disguise. With 6 lanes and a large canteen, there was enough space for over 300 people at any one time, and the place was already beginning to fill up nicely. Two undercover police, both with discrete earpieces were in place to make sure everything went smoothly. They casually hung about at separate ends of the club, one sipping a giant soft drink from a straw and the other selecting some bowling shoes. As luck would have it, a large coachful of British tourists from the Women’s Institute was booked in for that afternoon. This, Smutny emphasised, would only add to the “authenticity halo” of the event, as the visitors communicated on mass what had happened to friends and relatives directly back home via social media. The discovery of the head was primarily focussed on regional and national media, but any direct international coverage would help to spread the story as far and wide as possible.
The fake head had been carefully placed at the base of one of the centre consoles that spat out new balls to the waiting hands of the players. Poppy Sandringham, adorned with the uniform of The WI (sky blue tennis skirt, matching socks and crisp white polo shirt), strode up to take her next ball. She was going for a heavier 14 and wasn’t going to take any chances on this round, she had already been humiliated by Mary Proudspire and wasn’t going to let her win this time. As she waited for a 14 to appear, Poppy limbered up by rotating her right arm in clockwise and counter-clockwise movements. Poppy was very, very competitive. She looked down, searching for the right ball but the machine began to make a strange groaning sound followed by a loud click and a pop. Noticing that one of the balls had been blocked in the aperture, she gave it a tug. It felt different from the others; strangely soft but still firm at the same time. One final pull with both hands dislodged it and she fell backwards head over heels, the object spinning in the air and arcing into a plate of exploding nachos on a nearby table. A dismembered head with a face like a chubby Yul Brynner was now staring up into the horrified faces of a family from Wisconsin. The whole place erupted, and people were now running in all directions shouting ‘head! head!’ or ‘hlava! hlava!’ In the middle of the chaos, one of the undercover policemen surreptitiously took some snaps of the head, looked around and quickly munched a handful of snacks.
The screaming continued as the contents of the bowling alley emptied out into the streets. Onlookers took out their phones to capture the event. A woman screamed in an American accent to the onlookers as she pointed back to the bowling alley. A Czech family who had been inside to celebrate a 12th birthday party dragged their children up the road in shock. More onlookers stopped and filmed the spectacle. Everyone was either calling on their phones, taking photos or filming. The machine had been switched on, the genie was out of the bottle, and the head was in the nachos.
Headcase: A Post-truth ghost story is available on Amazon KDP