UKArchive ID: 6296THE ASHANTI(REVISED & EDITED) by chrisk
Originally published on May 3, 2004 in Fiction

This story was posted some time ago and though it attracted a few readers most felt that it should be rewritten. This is what I have done for what it is worth! My grateful thanks to all those who commented.


THE ASHANTI (Revised & edited)

BY C R Krishnan

Sean O’Reilly slept uneasily.

He had arrived in London on a cold February night. When he started his journey from County Cork, Ireland, by ferry, it was a fine day. By the time he arrived at Fishguard, Wales, it had started snowing. He took a train from there to Paddington, London. After drinking a few beers in the Railway tavern he walked from the station to his digs, a few yards away and by now the snow was ankle deep on the road.

The room was a small bedsit in Porchester Terrace, Bayswater, in West London, a few hundred yards from the Bayswater and Queensway Tube stations. This was a busy shopping centre and, in 1961, when Sean arrived looking for a job, that area of London was known as “Bedsitterland”. Most of the houses in this rather quiet street were divided into bedsits; accommodation for lowly paid workers and students. The room boasted of a sink, a gas cooker, a single bed and wardrobe. An old noisy gas heater was fixed on to the wall on the floor level and you put your old pennies in the meter. Central heating was not so common in those days. There was usually a bathroom or two positioned near the landing.

Sean woke up shivering, his feet and hands freezing. He reached out to pull up the blankets, but could not find them. He opened his eyes and in the semi darkness, got out of his bed and tiptoed to the other side of the room to switch the light on. The low 40-watt bulb blinded him for a second or two but then he found what he was looking for. The top sheet, the blankets and one of his pillows were laid neatly on the floor near the gas fire, which was off. The pillow had a dent in it, as if a person’s head had recently rested there.

He could not work it out. He had specifically asked for a single occupancy and the landlady had assured him that what he was paying - £2.10 shillings – would more than cover that. It meant he could do what he liked in his own room. All his life he had been sharing his room with his brothers and now for the first time in his life he had a place of his own. He should have a word with the landlady in the morning. He picked the bedding up and went back to sleep.

The landlady shook her head. “No,” she said emphatically, it is a single room for a single person. ‘Were you drinking last night?’

‘Well, I had a pint or two’, Sean admitted sheepishly.

‘Young man that means you had 4 or 5!’

Sean did not argue. It was true; he had drunk a little too much. But this was nothing unusual for him, and that didn’t make him throw the bedding on to the floor and sleep on it! May be he under estimated the strength of the English beer!

The next night the same thing happened again. He changed the position of the bed, pushing it from the middle of the room so that it was against the wall. Still the blankets and the pillows ended up on the floor. No amount of bitter or Guinness helped him to enjoy a good nights sleep.

One night he woke up to find the blankets still over him. “Thank God,” he muttered to himself.

He opened his eyes and he was surprised to see a figure standing at the foot of the bed. In the poor light that came from the street, he could make out that it was a black man and he saw the white of his eyes and his gleaming white teeth. He was pulling the blankets and sheets off the bed from his body. Sean pulled them back. The black man would not let go. Sean pulled it back using such force that he promptly hit his head on the wall and passed out. When he woke up the bedding was missing from the bed and was laid neatly on the floor like every other night.

A Year ago.

Kojo was from the Ashanti tribe. He had been well educated at home in Ghana and had worked briefly with the local village newspaper as their reporter. The editor was his brother-in-law and had sent him to the UK for further training and to improve his English.

The journey by ship had been exhausting. It had taken the best part of a week. And the food was atrocious: he missed his Ashanti food. He tossed and turned in his bed.

He had never slept on a high bed before. Always, in Ghana, he had made his bed on the floor, and he had never been as cold as he felt now. It was freezing! He decided to do the natural thing. He pulled off all the sheets and the blankets, took one of the pillows and laid them neatly on to the floor near the heater that was fully stocked with pennies as his brother-in-law had warned him that during winter one must have heating in the room all the time. He lit the ancient gas heater and went to sleep almost immediately.

The weather was, even for England, unusually severe, and there had been many cases of burst pipes – both water and gas – due to the hard frost. That night a temporary failure of the main gas supply occurred in the Bayswater area. Kojo’s gas heater along with many others went off. It took the gas people an hour or so to fix the broken pipe. By three o’clock the gas supply was back on again.

The unlighted poisonous coal gas from the gas heater filled the room. Kojo never woke up from his sleep.

The landlady discovered the body, a few days later, when she came to collect the over due rent.

© chrisk (chrisk on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 6296
Archived comments for THE ASHANTI(REVISED & EDITED)
ruadh on 2004-05-03 04:54:51
I remember reading this the first time round and enjoyed it then, as I do now. I was wondering, do you think the last line is really necessary? It jarred with me last time and still does. Maybe change the preceding line to;

Kojo slept blissfully on, never to awake from his sleep.

Or something like that, just so it doesn't end abruptly....?


Author's Reply:

chrisk on 2004-05-03 12:32:38
Hi Ailsa
Thank u. You think so? O.K. What I will do is to wait for some more comments and then in a day or two I will try a different ending. Yours is good, really!

Author's Reply:

ruadh on 2004-05-03 14:04:05
You're welcome Chris. It was only a suggestion, yours to take or leave as you choose 🙂


Author's Reply:

Claire on 2004-05-05 16:50:05
Hi, I didn't read it first time round. I like this. As you know I adore anything spooky. This is very spooky, well done.

Sorry, but I do have a problem about it. the first section is brilliant but, when you get to the last para' it changes voice too much. Hope you know what I mean.

A thought for the last para': Instead of having a description about Kojo and his life I would combine it into the story as if a drunk at the bar was telling him the story. I think this section needs to be blended in a bit more. But it's your piece you do what feels best for you.

You have a great story here, keep at it! I'm really enjoying your work.

Author's Reply:

chrisk on 2004-05-06 03:28:32
Thank u for ur constructive comments. I am glad u like my stories and that makes me feel positive.
I will give it a serious thought, O K?(your suggestions)

Author's Reply: