“Tales From Hawthorne: An Anthology” is a collection of five short stories all taken place in Hawthorne, a fictional town located in Scotland. Each story is individual, and specifically set in a different place in Hawthorne and at a different point of time, surrounding from 1970s to 2010s, with different storylines and characters.


HAWTHORNE /haw-thawrn/: A small town located in the Northeast of Scotland. It situates near the city of Aberdeen to the north, and borders the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean. Its population is approximately 20000.



Surrounded by total blackness, the shoes clapped as he walked along the tunnel, to the glimmer of light at the end.

Reaching halfway, he found a car which resembled his, its doors from both sides left open, while the motor was roaring.

He bent down his knees and looked at the interior. Vacant.


Someone cried his name, he turned around. Only darkness. He resumed his course, and concentrated on the light.


The shouting gained his attention one more time, his face whirled. Only darkness. All at once, the tunnel was vastly illuminated, out of the dark.

“Someone cried his name, he turned around. Only darkness…”

As he swung his head back, inches away from his nose, stood a tall, slim girl, wearing a purple jacket.

Her entire face was half shadowed by the hood, only her lips and cheeks left in the open.

Diane? He took a step forward and she made a step backward

Then she dashed away, increasing the distance between two individuals.

He ran after the girl, pursuing her image.

He slipped and stumbled, and the girl escaped his vision in a matter of seconds.

The moment he stood up, a high-pitched scream spread all across the cramped space.


The repulsive tone had his heart racing outrageously, as if it was about stab through his rib cage… And it did.

“He ran after the girl, pursuing her image…”

Next thing he knew, the pillow was full of sweat, and the blanket was wrapped in a layer of lukewarm steam. The hour of the wolf had passed, and the dream of terror just settled another score on his nerve. He felt an unspeakable pain down his lungs, and left the bed to have a roll of cigarette. He glanced behind to read the ticking clock. 3 a.m

 The purple of her jacket, the locket below her neck.

The last things I saw her wearing before God took her away.

 He was tormented by the vivid description of the girl, notwithstanding William’s words about a woman. Four years, and that made her 21 now, if his calculation was accurate. A woman, exactly, a woman is the appropriate word to describe that age. He pondered how much her look could have grown older, her eyes could have been anymore bluer and her hair could have been anymore gingerer. The repetitive stream of speculation greatly overwhelmed his fragile state of mentality, making the man somehow tiresome and yet restless.

He glanced behind to read the ticking clock. 3 a.m

– “You should take a day off today. You’ve already worked 9 to 5 a whole week.”

– “I can’t, sweetheart, I need to get the pieces and put them all together. Resting has to be for later.”

– “It can be pretty much a coincidence, darling. Life is a tricker, you know what I mean?”

– “I have to do it, on my own, sweetie. That burden of guilt is crushing my shoulder, and I have to pursue my own redemption I should have had long ago.”

– “Why are you redeeming yourself?”

– “I left her. I abandoned her. In that dark tunnel. I knew I shouldn’t go away, but I did. I didn’t stand to our promise, and so I paid the price, which is never enough. The price of a broken promise.”

– “We are human, it’s what we do, we make mistakes, unbearable flaws, incurable errors. What happens tomorrow is a destined fortune or misfortune. Don’t blame yourself for karma, because a minute of fault doesn’t represent your true self. The August Sylvester I know is never going to be that way, and he hasn’t transformed into anyone else but totally himself. Now you’re telling me you paid the price of broken promise? You haven’t broken anything, you’ve done your best to stay with the commitment, you know why? It’s because you’re capable of feeling profound remorse, you’re still lingering on that vow, not a single day you forget about it; and that makes you an innocent. You haven’t destroyed it, your promise. You haven’t. It’s just that you’re killing yourself slowly by exceeding your own limit. You’ve got to know when to stop.”

– “I can’t do that right now, sweetie, I have an opportunity right here. You see, the locket is the most obvious evidence, that means something, a physical proof. Not many people know about this stuff, just within the family.”

– “The owls are not what they seem.”

– “What do you mean by that?”

– “Things can go sideways if you don’t push the brakes at the right moment. I know the path forward seems brighter than before. But please, be careful. This locket can be a replica, a tool that is used by others. You’ve been down this road many times, remember, August? They took advantage of your desperation and you ended up facing dead-end, remember that?”

– “It is different, this time, I know it is…”

– “How can you know, darling?” “Because I’m already on the edge. If I don’t hold on to something, a fall will be inescapable.”

– “August…”

He took out a new cigarette and switched the light to make it on fire. It was 3 hours after midnight and the sofa was very heated by the warmth of his body and the nicotine smoke.

If I don’t hold on to something, a fall will be what puts a stop to my lifetime.

If I listen to you and turn my head around, death will only be a matter of time. Oh, Sara, Sara, if you were here, the rivers would unite themselves in the sea.

I wish you were here, Sara…

His mailbox was in usual condition, so he kicked the pedal and the wheels started rolling, getting him on the road. August decided to drive to some of the places Diane and he used to visit together and some of the places she frequently sneaked out of the house to hang with her friends at night.

First stop was Paul’s Diner, but the small restaurant was no longer in its materialistic form, now it was just a pile of demolished bricks and sands created by an orange hydraulic excavator. He took a left turn at the next junction, and faced the McGann’s storefront. He entered the clothing shop and had a quick interaction with a middle-aged lady, and left the house in frowning expression, indicating a no-go.

Next destinations were a sport shop at the 14/21 intersection where he bought his daughter a pair of roller skates when she was ten and a mountain bicycle when she was 12, a store specializing in fishing gears he and Diane usually went to for a pack of lures and hooks during her recovery days from a bike accident, a familiar bar where Diane was in company with other girls and probably shared a few alcohol drinks. August consumed another portion of gasoline for the last stop as soon as the sky darkened and the stars unveiled its twinkling light: the church.

He spent a whole day chasing after invisible leads, he knew it. He also comprehended that the chance was narrowing itself with each location he gave up on after hours of worthless observation. Still, he let time test his patience, and stared at the deserted space in front of the religious building while listening to the unstable audio program coming from the radio.








The solemn speech from the new mayor reminded August of the old Cairstine back in the days when he used to train at the academy. The former mayor was known for his reputation of nobleness, whose public image had been famous all across the northeast of Scotland. A second-to-none man as they described Cairstine, so certainly there will be people trying to match his influence. And this time, after two months of search for the man in Lachlan Forest, the police at last pulled a disintegrated corpse out of the lake and found a wallet with his driver license and a family photo. Mrs. Cairstine followed her husband two days later, due to a sudden cardiac arrest occurring seconds before the police brought her the news. That was the end of the Cairstine family as their only child was drowned long before the tragedy.

What if I never had Diane, would the course of history be navigated to another route?

They may compare us to the Cairstine…

…but they took the fall first, and our turn is still on hold

The street lamps were blinking its light source, the clock arm was about to strike 11, and the dark church maintained its chilling desolation of the night. August widened his brown eyes and glared at the crucifix positioned above the dome entrance, whispered a silent prayer.

“The street lamps were blinking its light source, the clock arm was about to strike 11, and the dark church maintained its chilling desolation of the night…”

– “It’s late, darling. Let’s just go home.”

– “No, not now. I want to stay for a little while.”

– “Even knowing that it is pointless to stay?”

– “The day hasn’t ended yet, so there’s a reason to hope.”

– “Reason to hope for what, August?”

– “Why don’t you just read my mind? Is that what you’re good at? Reading people’s minds and point out their problems? You know what I think and yet you’re still asking me the questions, so I am sort of confused here.”

– “How many times do I have to remind you that I don’t read people’s mind? Come on, August, I simply see their expressions and make simple deductions. And I keep asking because I want people to recognize the problems on their own, that’s a way of provoking their inner conscience, their feeling of importance. That’s what a psychiatrist has to do, darling. Please bear this in mind this time, alright?”

– “Oh dear, you went all the psychology tricks on me again, sweetie…”

His lips curved to form a pleasant smile at the end of the conversation.

A beam of flashlight reflected swiftly on the rear mirror, catching August’s attention. He spun his head around, and witnessed a car approaching his direction. He lowered his entire body so as not to be detected by the coming headlights, and when it bypassed, his eyes slightly raised until they met the scene.

A definite, classic AC painted in cyan color. Under the gloomy light, a shadowy figure emerged from the car and took hasty steps straightforward the church.

August endured on his seat, hands clenched into a fist, and sighed wearily. The mysterious person became invisible for half an hour, and when August was not shifting his vision anywhere, the figure reappeared and paced to the car with a paper bag in her left palm.

The distant engine once again revved to life and sped down the road backwards. When the length was far enough, August switched the lever and tracked the moving target.

“A shadowy figure emerged from the car and took hasty steps straightforward the church…”

Heading down the Main Street, the atmosphere was precisely hollow. August, guided by the silvery light of the crescent moon, directed his Ford through several intersections and turns, to where the AC was advancing to. His ears received the messages of night breezes and radio statics spreading in the cold air. Suspicion grew larger inside him once he passed the Town Hall, for the unknown suspect was bringing him to the back of the town, and yonder.

I never taught her how to drive a car

I never showed her the northern tip

The judgement scale of his mind was weighing on the skepticism plate, whereas the plate of faith was delicate.

I’ve been warned by you, and now, I am at a loss.

If you’re here, help me clear the mist of doubt.

Towers of forests welcomed August to its terrain. He inhaled the minty smell from the giant trees that stood like statues and no leafs dared to fall from their branches. The refreshing-turned-icy wind flowing through the window gave the man goosebumps and a feeling of insecureness. The lane kept getting tighter, duskier and bumpier as luminescence and shadow intertwined in a dance of splendor and vulnerability on his skin. August’s eyes inspected the range of trees and caught the perplexing look of an owl.

“The owls are not what they seem, darling.”

“Then what are they?”

“They watch you, they listen to you. They never move, they never make a sound. A symbol of serenity they are. The silent guards of the night, the keepers of secrets, they are. They know things that we don’t, they contain secrets that only they have the code to decipher. And the definition of secrets is chaotic, unbalanced, painful. It’s a different thing when you look at their stillness and their round eyes. It may be a good sign or a warning one.”

The red taillights up ahead were withering gradually. August tried to increase the momentum but the road was very restricted to keep such a high level of velocity. And soon, he realized he was chasing after ghosts, for the road had been split into two and his inability to oversee which direction the AC had taken. The dark night was retreating to the horizon, the sun was about to rise, and dawn shall touch his shoulder once more in the next couple of hours.

His perception was blocked by the unforeseen stalemate. Left or right? He analyzed the possibilities of each option, because one of them would lead him to a blank wall, so he had to be thoughtful. The ground was a disorganization of debris and little rock chips, an advantage that helped abolish the wheel traces, which unfortunately, was the only usefulness August could think of. The last drop of gasoline was wasted, and now the machine was made incapable of bursting out energy. Exhaling hopelessly, he waited for nothingness to come while staring at the swinging car keys.

Another dead-end

Another day gone by

What am I waiting for?

The cockpit was humid, occupied by a sense of vacancy. He relaxed his muscles, and let his hair fall back, his body straightened. His mind was fixed to the desire of the tune of silence and peace. His ears re-concentrated on the bigger world outside, sweeping through dry leafs and the burbling sound of water flowing beneath the soil.


Stepping out of his seat, his instinct sought for the watery source echoing across his right ear. His legs lifted themselves, and approached the way he was told to take.

Looking up, the sunrise sky was stretched out to infinity, and fresh smoking clouds just improved its borderless blue shade of beauty, as if the gate to paradise had opened.


Hydraulic Excavator: máy đào đất

Desolation: sự hoang vắng, sự cô đơn

Crucifix: cây thánh giá

Psychiatrist: bác sĩ tâm lý

Skepticism: sự hoài nghi

Luminescence: ánh trăng

Serenity: sự hài hòa, yên bình

Stalemate: sự bế tắc


Cramped: chật hẹp

Lukewarm: ấm áp


Whirl: xoay vòng

Darken: làm sẫm tối đi

Rev: tăng tốc, gia tốc

Corrode: gặm, ăn mòn

Intertwine: quấn lại, đan vào nhau

author: hoàng phan anh tuấn

author: hoàng phan anh tuấn

From Specialists

Spelling and Grammar Checker: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
Vocabulary Editor(s): Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn 
Executive Supervisor: Nguyễn Dương Trung Tín

The Anthology created by: Võ Thường Hằng, Đào Thanh Ngân, Danh Nhật Sang, Đặng Tiểu Bảo, Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn from Specialists

Posted by Phương Vy from Communications