April 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
Chapter One: Gaige
Thick cherry floorboards stretched yards ahead from the backdoor to the front. The longer the door stayed open behind him, the thicker the hall filled with mist. Clouds of water curled in the corners, licked the walls, and hovered at eyesight. Gaige could hear the cool streams of water vapor pour in past him as the hall’s light transformed from the normal yellow to a bluish tint. Thick footfalls echoed above. The intruder’s thunderous steps blocked all other noise. The intensity of their landing on hundred year old wood shook the very walls. Even the mist which dared to creep and crawl ever upward retreated in silence. Gaige looked down at his hands. Those hands which had killed for his city, for his country, were shaking. Vulnerability clung to his spine and fear froze his chest. (Breathe, Gaige.)
Steps on the second floor. A small thud. A groan from up high. The mist and the open door may have made the hallway drop in temperature, but sweat poured from Gaige’s body. His brown hair matted across his temple. His white shirt adhered to his chest. (Breathe.) The treacherous and cowardly mist had shackled his feet to the floor. When Gaige looked down, he could no longer see where he once stood. A silly dread blanketed his mind: maybe he had no feet?
Those footsteps came again. Closer to the top of the stair. If he only had come in the front door, Gaige thought he may have been able to see who was there instead of stuck without any sort of advantage. But soon something dark would descend the stairs. Soon the intruder would have to show his face.
“M-mary,” Gaige would say. He could feel this was the point of no return. The end of the line. The last ditch effort. Every time after in his dreams, he would cry out for his wife, even though he knew she was out. Later, she would use the fact that he was the one home against him—hold it over him like some sort of demented blackmail. “Mary! She needs us. Mary! I can’t move—“
The intruder was on the stairs. He was sure of it. A patch of darkness hovered just a little out of eyesight. The mist freed Gaige’s feet from their supernatural bonds, but as much as he pleaded his mind and body, he could not move. The thing on the stairs filled him with a fear so black he could not blink. Then it moved. It would always move passed Gaige and into the kitchen, and–still!–he could not make out what it was.
For a moment the light reverted to its normal, iridescent yellow and the mist seemed to lessen. Only then would Gaige—Breathe, Gaige. It’s okay—be able to move. The front door which had seemed miles away before had flown open and Mary appeared before him. Her usual neat auburn hair was disheveled hanging in long thick ropes around her face and neck. Mary’s knees were streaming blood through broken hose where she had fallen in her urgency to get inside. Her mouth hung open but her eyes narrowed at Gaige. The spell which had bound him where he stood released. As he darted up the stairs two at a time, he would look over his shoulder searching. A glimmer of survival instinct combined with years of police training told him that the intruder was still there—that it had always been there.
The doors to the top four bedrooms all slammed shut the moment his foot touched the second landing. But it was the door to the immediate right which was his only concern. The only door in the hall painted a light pink and adorned with a small teddy bear which held a sign reading “Emily” in block letters. Only this door was important. He threw himself on the ancient wood expecting it to be held in place and surprised as it easily gave way. As Gaige tumbled on the floor he would always remember his wife’s scream before he looked up at the two small dangling feet in front of him.
“Mr. Walcott, please.”
Lifting from what seemed like a combination of a hangover and unproductive sleep, Gaige’s eyelids drew open enough to search out for the voice which had called to him. A woman with brown hair kept in a tight bun searched him with pensive eyes. He could almost make out his reflection on the lenses of her thick, black glasses. For a piss poor reflection, he could tell he looked haggard, maybe even ten to fifteen years older than his actual age. His body came up with a groan off the sofa he had apparently fell asleep on. A few moments more looking into the woman’s pathetic searching doe eyes before he remembered where he was.
“Dr. Raymond,” Gaige said. He hesitated before probing. His psychiatrist was looming over him as if he had just gotten knocked in the head. Her slightly larger body made her look like a lump when she was sitting down, but the moment she moved he could see the power that lay dormant in her. Dr. Raymond may look innocuously enough, but she had taken care of more than a few rowdy patients in her history. Gaige looked the woman up and down in return of her curious glances and she retreated back to her seat. “Did the, uh, hypnosis go well?”
Raymond only shook her head. “Gaige, can you tell me what you remember from this session?”
“I–,” Gaige stopped. Unwelcomed visions unfolded before him of a monster in a fog. “No, I don’t think I remember.”
The lights in the office flickered like they sometimes did during their weekly appointments. Raymond gave the fluorescent bulbs a swift, nervous glance which Gaige suspected Dr. Raymond hadn’t even known she did. Afraid of the dark? His mom always said psychiatrists always became one because they were either trying to fix themselves or someone they knew. Gaige ran a hand through his already messy light brown hair and glanced around the office. He had been in here so many times he could name all the little meaningless things Dr. Raymond had used to decorate it with: a dying plant, nature photos hung in cheap brass frames, a small statue of a kitten in a boot, and books upon books of nervosas. A small mirror meant for decoration between two artificial plants hung on the wall and confirmed what Gaige had suspected when he looked into the good doctor’s glasses. He looked old. In reality he was only thirty-three and was healthy and fit as ever with the exception of a small amount of fat around his midsection. The muscle he had built up during his time in the army and the police force had been slowly dwindling away as he became more and more complacent in his exercise routine.
“Look, Mr. Walcott, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth,” Dr. Raymond said. She tapped her pencil up and down on her desk while staring at him from across the room. Their eyes only glanced each other’s briefly. “But, I also don’t want to push you. The suicide of your—“
“Murder,” Gaige corrected. “The murder of my daughter.”
Dr. Raymond sighed. “The death of your daughter is still an issue that needs to be discussed. You’ve told me that you don’t sleep more than a few hours, you’re paranoid in your own home, and you don’t think anyone at your job likes you.”
“That’s ‘cause they don’t.”
“These are real issues and you need help to get past them so you can live a healthy, normal life.” Raymond leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. Gaige felt a small twinge of sympathy for her. He could tell she really cared for her patients, even the violent, nasty ones. That was the reason why he had gone to see her despite the fact she was recommended to him by Mary. “You need help. You need my help.”
“Then please, get the prescription filled this time. It isn’t anything hard. It will help with your depression and help you sleep better, I promise.”
Gaige shifted in his seat and for a moment thought to argue. But that night had been almost two years ago and he knew the doctor was right. He nodded.
“Good. I’ll see you hear next week at the same time,” Dr. Raymond said while filling out an appointment card. The act wasn’t necessary as they had had the same standing time for over a year now. “Here’s your card. You can pick up the subscription from the front desk.”
The doctor stood and he followed her lead. The woman stood over him by several inches and offered him a hug. Gaige wrapped his arms awkwardly around her for a moment. That was something he would never get used to and he only gave into the act because Raymond had looked put off when he refused the first few times.
Out in the clinic’s hall Gaige had time to reflect that he didn’t belong here. The facility was run by the state and the wear of the doorknobs and the slight off white paint on the walls spoke volumes of how much money didn’t make it into mental health facilities. Patients with visible maladies strolled passed him. He didn’t think he had more of a grip on the real world than these others, but he also didn’t think he actually had anything wrong. His intuition told him another story. The monster on the stairs had been there that night. It might still be at his house now.
Shaking off his paranoia, Gaige made his way to the reception desk where a very large black woman barely looked at him before handing him his prescription.
The usual spot, an Italian eatery on Broad Street was full by four and empty by eleven. The food had been amazing when it opened in 1987 and over the years had just stopped on the edge of being “okay.” Despite its inadequacies in cuisine, people still poured in day after day. The other cops Gaige had once been partnered with adored the homely atmosphere of the place. The cheap eats he supposed were another big draw, and the attached bar helped. Antonio, a very pleasing looking Italian man, tended the bar. On one wild night, Gaige had seen the man empty his tip jar four times in one hour. But on this night the bar was mellow and the tables just short of full. The usual spot would always belong to Gaige and his last partner Ramirez.
After graduating from traffic cop, a feat that he had nearly cried about in relief, Gaige had taken a position as a junior detective in homicide. Ramirez was senior to Gaige and took him under his wing. After their first case, Gaige had learned Ramirez’s secret: he had no idea what he was doing. The police force and the military worked in similar ways. People who were over trained in a specific area never got the job and those who had no idea what they were doing were put in precarious situations. Regardless, the two men became close friends and learned more from the other’s mistakes as they did their own. At one time Gaige had though there had been nothing that could stop them. That was before.
The waiter refilled the water at the table twice before Ramirez finally showed. Late was something of an understatement but was not entirely out of character.
“Yo,” Ramirez said. He settled down on his side of the booth.
“Where’s Maria?” Gaige asked.
“She couldn’t make it. Benita has the flu, or something. Christ, I’m never home, but that kid is always sick.” Ramirez’s little girl had turned three in spring.
“Sorry to hear,” Gaige offered. His ex-partner shrugged.
“How are you, man? You look like you’ve been beaten up by a truck.”
Gaige laughed. Ramirez prided himself at being brutally honest. He had claimed in the past that it made him more Christian and that other people should try it too. Gaige had not missed the opportunity to inform him that his philosophy would most likely end up with him getting punched.
“Rough day at the doctor’s. She’s made me get more drugs. But I won’t take them.” Gaige tried to hide ineffectually under the menu.
“Maybe you should, you know. You look tired.”
Ramirez was older than Gaige by a few years, but the stress on Gaige made it look like the other way around. “Thanks, buddy.”
“But really, I mean. Maria is worried for you and so am I. Besides, teaching those little shits has to be tough anyway. Might as well take some Xanax or whatever the fuck else the doc prescribes.”
At this Gaige let out a deep laugh which nearly startled himself. “Those little ‘shits’ are my students and I actually love my job, thank you.”
“No way,” Ramirez said. He shook his head before looking back. “There’s no way a good cop like you turns into a high school teacher—a high school English teacher—without going a little crazy.”
“Maybe, at first. But I dunno. I like it well enough.”
The waiter placed two beers down at their table, another standing order. Gaige wondered if everything in his life was predictable nowadays. The men said their cheers and drank deep. Even in his plain clothes, Ramirez still looked like a cop. For a while Gaige supposed he did as well until the grey suits gave way to long sleeve shirts and the occasional vest. The slacks went from grey to khaki and his nice oxfords turned into leather Sketchers. The one time he had worn a tie to class he couldn’t seem to get his students to treat him seriously enough and he had never worn one since.
“Well, you at least need to come down and hit the gym with me. I know you aren’t on the force anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sneak you into the exercise room,” Ramirez winked. The wink usually meant something off the books or even a little illegal.
“Hey now, I didn’t come here to be insulted.”
“Then why the hell did you come?” The two men shared a laugh and another long draught. Two more beers came out before they were done and Gaige turned to give Antonio a friendly nod. Antonio flipped an electric blue shaker and gave him a wink in reply. “Hey man, you be careful. I hear Antonio is not seeing anyone currently.”
“Stuff it,” Gaige replied and started on his next beer. “Would never work out. I think we’re into different things.”
“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.”
Gaige sipped and looked around at the familiar pictures. Just once he would like to go someplace where had not memorized the entirety of the interior design. “The truth is, bud, I don’t think I’m well.”
The genuine comment has Ramirez caught off guard but he doesn’t let it show too much. “What do you mean?”
“Well, and I know you’re going to like this, I don’t think I’m as paranoid as the doctor thinks, but—but I think something is going on.”
Ramirez leaned away from Gaige in a melodramatic reflection before sagely nodding his hand. “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I mean my house. There’s something—someone there. I know it.” The uncomfortableness of being honest made Gaige shift around in his seat. His foot bounced under his seat and he was aware of the cutlery shaking on the table. He finished his second beer and looked up again at Antonio who frowned back. “Don’t give me that look, I need another.”
“Okay, so, do you need me to come check it out? What’s been going on?”
“Look, I know it sounds dramatic, but I’ve noticed things. Like I go from the kitchen into the dining room, realize I’ve left something behind and when I go back to the kitchen…” Gaige felt how stupid it must sound.
“And things have moved?” Ramirez offered.
“Yeah. The cabinets will be open or somethings have shifted. Not just the kitchen, but other rooms. Sometimes upstairs.”
This time it was Ramirez who polished off his beer. Gaige could hear him mutter a pray in Spanish just under his breath. The second floor of his home was not a place Gaige liked to visit. Since Mary moved out after Emily’s death, it had been left largely untouched. “I’d ask you if you were sure you weren’t imagining it, but I know better. There is someone who could look into it for you, but I’m not sure if you’ll like it.”
“Look, bud, I’m open to anything at this point.”
Ramirez took in a deep breath before reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out his wallet. The wallet wasn’t his personal wallet with his credit cards and pictures of Maria and the kids, but his police wallet, the one that he carried for work and nothing else. Thumbing through a myriad of cards he pulled a light green one. It was slightly smudged and had a font too fanciful to take serious. Ramirez planted it on the table in front of Gaige and raised an eyebrow. “This is the guy they call when things get weird.”
“Weird? What do you mean ‘weird’?” Gaige pulled the card close. Noel Baker. Paranormal Investigator. 2982 B Brown Ave. “What is this? ‘Paranormal Investigator’? Shut the fuck up.”
“No, I’m serious. They called him in just a week ago. I’ve never seen the precinct go for outside help but—“ Ramirez shrugged. There it was.
Gaige placed the card in his pocket and looked back a little frustrated towards Antonio again. The lithe Italian man blinked at him and sent the waitress over with a refill. “You really think he can help? Hell, you think it’s that sort of problem?”
“I don’t know, amigo, what do you think?”
April 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
Dagda leaned out over the cliffs of her homeland and looked upon the rushing sea. A storm was coming and she could smell blood on the wind. She grasped a branch of the tree which grew on the ledge near her home and leaned out a little further. Her brother lay at the trunk of the tree with his jaw forced open in a permanent scream. Her necklace was shoved down his eviscerated throat and silver chains hung down like blood from the corners of his mouth.
Her brother’s brutal incestuous actions had brought them to the precipice for their damning finale. Dagda rubbed the lower part of her belly and felt a small flutter of life. The child made her sick and excited at the same time to feel her brother’s brood inside her.
Locks of blonde hair the color of straw swayed in the wind around Dagda’s face and she closed her eyes listening. There were shouts of people, family, off in the distance. They could see her and saw what she had done from their high views of the towers but it would take them too long to get to her. A smile spread over her face. It was all going to be over soon and she was enjoying her last moments. She had finally struck down the one who made her life miserable. Night after night, from when she was no older than thirteen to now at twenty-two did he rape her over and over. If it was her time of the moon or not, it didn’t matter, he came to her room and laid waste to her until she cried and shivered and bled. Their parents turned a blind eye to his deeds and the father of the isle told her to ask for redemption. Now she had taken his life and knew hers was over.
Far off she heard her father yell her name. She heard some malice as well as sadness in his words. His horse’s hooves thundered against the rock and the dirt. No doubt he would have his men riding with him. She wondered if she stayed to let him get to her, would he cut her down? Breathing in she let go of the tree and took a step forward.
It wasn’t the serene glide to the waters below she had expected. Instead her foot had caught a rock which jutted out from the cliff a little further than she had fallen. It had sent her spinning head over feet and her ankle had snapped almost instantly. The pain made her eyes open wide and forced her to face her terror. Another bash against the rocks tore the skin and fat from her chin to her ear and teeth mashed at broken flesh in the cold. Her hands scraped for holds briefly on the wet rock and she left most of her fingernails behind. By the time she hit the water she wasn’t the same girl who had jumped willingly to her death.
Clawing and kicking, broken but alive, Dagda felt the salt water burn her face and enter her mouth through the hole in her head. In an act of not love but the reflex of evolution, she clutched at her belly. The water turned red and it wasn’t long before she finally expired.
That was the end of Dagda the girl. When the icy waters trembled and the eyes of the corpse opened, the monster was born
September 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
Jamie woke with a start on a cold December morning. Her brow was covered in sweat. In a fit of terror and under scorching heat her body had kicked the quilt she had used to the floor. Her naked legs burned as if on fire. Unfortunately for Jamie, this was portent for things to come.
As quickly as dreams come and go, Jamie looked around in bewilderment, shook her head and promptly forgot her nightmare as she went about getting ready for the day. She brushed her teeth and her hair for the last time. She grabbed breakfast and a coffee at the café on the first floor of her apartment complex for the last time. And eventually, she got on the 17 which would have normally dropped her off one block from her office if it hadn’t been taking a turn a little too sharp and fallen to its side.
Apart from Jamie, the only other person who was killed in this wreck was a mother who was having a late breakfast with her college aged son. For the rest of her un-life, the mother didn’t fair too bad. Jamie’s un-life was far more interesting.
Jamie had been wearing a short skirt and wool leggings, a fashion choice she would soon regret. She had been killed by a three inch piece of metal which had lodged itself in her thigh severing her femoral artery. She could feel herself get colder and colder and expected at any minute to lose consciousness and die.
Panic set in.
She started to scream.
People were grabbing at her, pulling her down. No, that wasn’t right. It was the other people from the wreck. They were trying to help her!
Still panicked she looked around outside the toppled bus. Her leg was damp with blood, lots of blood. It poured out of her with a fury and she beat at the fountain with tissue from her purse. An alarmed EMT came over to help and he put a bandage on as they raced Jamie to the hospital. He remarked her temperature was cold. Too cold. The coldest he had ever seen.
The hospital doctors were lining up to examine her now. No one really understood, especially not Jamie. She felt like ice and her normally tan skin was pale. Her eyes were dark. At least the wound on her leg stopped spewing blood. The blood which was coming out at a very slow pace was blue. She was finally getting some help.
Doctor after doctor examined her and they all shook their heads. Behind her back they whispered to one another: “She shouldn’t be alive!” “Doesn’t make sense.” “Can’t get her vitals.” Eventually after not being able to identify anything wrong besides her temperature, they reluctantly discharged her. She gathered her belongings. Since it was almost two hours since her wreck and an hour and twenty minutes since she had become late for work, she decided to call her very married boyfriend Tom and play hooky for the day.
“Jesus—“ Tom stopped short when he came into the reception room of the hospital. His once vibrant girlfriend looked grim. Dead, is the word that first popped in his head but dead things didn’t move. “Are you sure you’re good to go?”
“Yeah, I’m—well, I’m okay to go,” said Jamie. “Can we get something to eat? I’m starving.”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” Tom hesitated before going over to her. He gave her a quick kiss and tried not to grimace at the chill on her lips. They left the hospital and went down the street to a diner.
At first when they entered the small restaurant no one looked up at them, but as people started to notice Jamie’s color and the dark circles under her eyes, they started to whisper and point. Some even shivered from her appearance as if she were something abhorrent.
“She doesn’t look right, you take their table,” said a waitress in a pink uniform. Her coworker who leaned against the counter rolled her eyes and made her way to the couple.
“Welcome, can I get you guys anything to drink?” the waitress asked. She glanced over at Jamie. The poor woman looked so cold. “Maybe coffee? Hot chocolate?” she offered.
“Coffee please. And pancakes. Eggs and bacon too,” said Jamie without looking at the menu. The girl nodded, a little surprised, and shot a look over at Tom.
“I’ll just have a coke,” he said. The waitress, “Daisy” as her nametag read, gave another short nod and quickly departed the couple. There was something not right about that woman and it gave her the chills.
The food was out more speedy than usual and Tom had the faintest notion the diner was trying to get rid of them as soon as possible. It was the normal diner fare for this part of the country. Not necessarily amazing but not too shabby if you just needed something warm to hold you over. This was the kind of carb and fat filled stuff Jamie couldn’t stand to eat normally and so Tom watched with some horror and some amusement as she shoveled bite after bite past her bluing lips.
To Jamie, food had never smelled or tasted so good.
“Oh, my, god…” She murmured between mouthfuls. “Why haven’t we come here before?”
“Uh, because you don’t like calories?” Tom replied. He was glad to not have ordered anything. The way each bite slid slowly down her throat was enough to make him gag.
“Mm, but it’s so—“, She stopped. Jamie’s eyes went wide and she lurched in her booth. The food which she had been previously eating with gusto was threatening to come back up and onto her plate. Her stomach felt like it was churning nails and the food felt like it was fighting back. Soon she was overcome with nausea and the food crawled in a hurry back up her esophagus. What came out, however, wasn’t food.
Coffee grounds, but red, Tom thought as he watched unable to turn away. Suddenly the whole restaurant reeked of whatever it was that gushed out of his girlfriend’s mouth. The grounds came first followed close by with what would give Tom nightmares for the rest of his life: worms.
The vomit continued to pour out along the table and the floor as Jamie watched Tom run out the door. The waitress Daisy ran over just short of the ever growing black-red puddle and asked if Jamie was “okay”. Jamie would have laughed if she could but instead she covered her mouth and tried to stand up. Feeling colder than ever, she lunged for the door.
The street outside was chaos. People knocked into her and away from her. Through blurred vision she heaved and threw her body through the crowds. Jamie couldn’t tell you how long it took her to get to her apartment, but she knew by the time she pushed her key through the keyhole she was nearly done.
Her legs had gone numb and she felt them stiffen with each step she took. She attempted to get a glass of water for her throat, but her fingers wouldn’t work right. They were becoming too stiff, too rigid and wouldn’t do as they were told. Instead she threw her body onto her bed and closed her eyes trying to will the day to an end.
Hours went by and pound by pound Jamie’s body stiffened to an impossible rock. Tetanus, she thought. Maybe. Or maybe some other horrifying disease. Her nightmare from the previous night threatened to resurface in her memory but she pushed it away in order to figure out her condition. Her eyes were the only thing mobile even though her vision was becoming more and more opaque. She would have tensed when she saw the shadow move forward, but her body wouldn’t budge.
“I’m sorry, but are you Jamie? Jamie Miles?” Asked the shadow. “Oh, um, you can’t talk. Just think the answer honey.”
Please! Please! Help me!
”Yes, yes. But are you Jamie? I’m new you see and I really need to know.”
YES! I’m Jamie. Please!
“Okay, yes. Well, you see the other guy is on leave and no one told me. That’s how it goes right?” The shadow chuckled. “Well, anyway. You were supposed to be pulled out of your body when you died but he wasn’t around.”
I’m dead. I died?
“What did you think happened?” The shadow loomed over her and she felt a tingling where he laid his hand. She felt herself start to separate and instead of fear of dying she felt glad to be gone of the torment.
Are you taking me to heaven? She asked her savior.
The shadow chuckled. “It is interesting how the wicked ones always ask that.”
Jamie remembered her nightmare from before and silently screamed.
September 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
When Jessica looked at me in the mall with her wide blue eyes and grabbed my hand with her small 5 year old one, I looked down and smiled. When she started to silently cry, I got worried. And when she couldn’t tell me what was wrong, I was terrified. She didn’t blubber, or stutter, she was just silent. Jessica opened and closed her mouth in helpless bouts of frustration and fear. It was September 26th, the day more than two million children lost their hearing the United States of America.
For months, everyone everywhere looked for the cause and the cure. The US had help from scientist in nearly all of our allying nations and even some from unexpected places. Russia, Iraq, even North Korea. The cure hasn’t been found, the cause was. On the 26th a cellular phone manufacturing company sent out an automatic update to all of their devices. As it turned five o’clock in every time zone the update was sent out to adjust how the phones sent out their signal. Those whose hearing was still in development were affected. In other words, every child from infant to eight became deaf. The new frequency the phones started to transmit after the update was near silent and life changing.
The company quickly found a scapegoat in their own ranks to avoid a heavy lawsuit, even though it was an honest and horrible accident. A whole generation of children changed. Schools had to adapt quickly by bringing in teaching aides who could use sign language in every classroom. Movies came out standard with subtitles in every theater, on every screen. There were tragic incidents reported weekly of children stepping out into streets without hearing the cars blaring their horns. Cell phones came standard with video calls. Parents, like me, spent their nights learning sign language and trying to teach their children how to read lips. Maybe the worst was watching Jessica cry and not be able to be comforted by her mother’s voice.
When unborn children who were exposed to the signal were born without hearing, the nation was in shock. It was something which had been hypothesized but thought to be a very unlikely possibility. Still, children were born and new parents were forced to deal with the frustration of not being able to communicate with them. Using the frequency purposefully was considered an act of terror and war. The United Nations banned the use until further studies could come out on how it worked.
And I patiently sat with my wife and child each night as we studied how to use sign language. Jessica, brilliant little girl, caught on fast and would get frustrated when I or her mom would mess up. Jess could still talk, but she had to know what we were saying as well. After about a year, everyone in our house was a master at signing.
On September 26th around eleven pm, Jess was at the side of our bed shaking me to get up.
What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream? I signed to her while rubbing sleep out from my eyes.
“No, daddy. I heard something,” Jessica said. Her voice was full of a curious delight I had not heard in a long time. I quickly woke her mother and relayed the message. Maybe she was getting better?
“Can you hear Daddy?” I asked. She shook her head “no” and I sighed. It was hard to hide my disappointment from her. What did you hear?
“I heard a woman. She said, ‘Don’t worry.’ And that ‘we’re chosen’.”
My wife looked at me anxiously. Who are chosen?
September 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Grits and spit and collard greens
Waffle chitlins, monkey brains
Refried bones and booger blood
Pickled eggs and flaps of mud.”
Resting easy on his wife’s old rocker, Theodore sat on his dusty front porch located on the front of his dusty farm plucking his guitar with the missing string he kept by the shotgun on the porch. All this dust, which saturated the land, his clothing and his home until it was a dull sepia tone, was a product of nothing being planted out on the farm for the past seven years. The road out front of his home used to connect to the main highway years ago. But since they put in the interstate some time back, his road now connected to a forgotten and unkempt state road. Sure made deliveries a pain in the ass.
Meredith was out in the lawn, five feet underneath the large pear tree they had planted together fifty-two years ago. Her grave stone was hand carved by Theo and he missed her more and more each year. He lived in the present but his dreams recalled their youth when he would have her nightly and his dark, black complexion would make her creamy white skin look that much more delicious. The dust tried to claim her tombstone season by season but he tended to it and kept it legible and beautiful. Most days he wondered who he would get to bury him beside her.
Steam started to billow out from his shed and Theo’s old bones protested with loud cracks as he got up to go check on his stills. Inside his former tool shed he had two large barrel stills brewing a potent corn moonshine. Taking the excess corn from his old pal Baker, he brewed alcohol for damn near the whole town. It was a lost art, seeing how alcohol was legal and regulated, but the older folk loved his grit more than the commercial varieties. His wife, rest her soul, hated and forbid his hobby turned career. She thought it was un-Christian. Decidedly so, he had agreed, but he didn’t bite that those people on Sunday were behaving as well as they said they were.
The two batches of whiskey were coming along nicely. He let out some of the pressure and more steam flooded the chimney. As he stepped back outside, grabbed a milk bottle with some of the last batch and pulled out a rolled cigarette. Theo hadn’t started drinking until he started brewing five years ago. He found the buzzing of the alcohol kept away the sepia tones of the bleak countryside from consuming him completely.
A coyote came out of his neighbor’s hedge line. Its muzzle was painted in chicken’s blood and Theo supposed it had gotten itself a decent lunch. He no longer shot at the coyotes like he had when Meredith was around. Let them run around and do their own thing; it was the least any living being wanted.
A rumbling sound from up the road scared the coyote back towards the prairie and Theo saw dust billowing up from the road. He braced himself for another visit from the Walker brothers. Alcohol was legal, he had a couple of stills, but these boys wanted a cut from his profits. He understood they had control of the illegal drug trades in town. They seemed to think he was rolling in paper.
Theo looked down at his dark and dirty hands. The dust settled in the deep creases making them look like giant scars. They could have walloped those brothers from one side of his property to another when he was younger. Now they weren’t worth much when opening the door.
The truck sided up with the passenger door facing Theo and two of the three brothers hopped out. The oldest Walker brother stayed seated with a hunting rifle over his lap. The youngest, Jeremiah, took a piss on Theo’s lawn as his older brother, Jed, strolled forward.
“Theo, how’s business going?” Jed asked. His grisly stubble was a bronze color and he wore an older style wide brim hat. His cowboy boots were hand me downs from Lincoln, the quiet, angry one in the truck cab. He spit out the side of his mouth.
“You all know,” Theo said. His voice was as feeble sounding as his body really felt. “I ain’t got a new customer since I started.”
“You haven’t sent us a shipment, or a payment, sir.”
Sir! Theo chuckled. “I don’t usually pay customers.”
“We aren’t afraid of telling the sheriff about your little business.”
“Sheriff Johnson is one of my best customers.” Theo laughed again. “Why you all doing this anyway? I don’t make much money anyhow.”
“Times are hard, Theo,” Jeremiah said as he shook off and zipped up. “Every little bit counts, and we’re only talking about a little bit.”
Theo looked up towards the sky. Sure was a hot day with that peaking July son. “You know, there ain’t much you can do to me.”
It was the truth, He was only moving because that was what was required of a living being. And when he stopped moving, he would be free. The funny thing about living things: whether they want to die or not, when threatened, they fought back.
Lincoln was fidgeting in the truck. This was the first time he had brought a rifle. It was also the first time someone other than him was doing all the talking.
Theo eyed the other two boys. They weren’t armed.
“Alright boys, I don’t want any trouble,” said Theo.
“That’s good news, old man.”
“Lemme get my pocket book.” As he turned around he shoved his handkerchief in the bottle of shine he had brought out. Lighting the tip of the rag with his cigarette, he turned and in one fluid motion threw the bottle towards the truck. The boys watched in amusement instead of the fear they should have felt until it arched through the open door and burst in hungry flames along the dash, and along Lincoln.
As expected, Lincoln spent too much time scrambling in the cab. His rifle went off as he toppled out and futilely tried to put himself out. His brothers were yelling his names as they stomped on him. They watched as his normally large mass shrank and blackened. When his screaming turned into the sound of gasses escaping his charred flash, they turned on Theo who was ready with the shotgun he kept next to the guitar.
“You killed our—.”
The shell hit Jeremiah somewhere between his jaw and left ear. Part of his brain was gone and there was a clear view of his remaining teeth. The second shot hit Jed in the chest, exploding a nice size hole where his heart should have been.
Shooting the boys had been easier than shooting the coyotes. They moved slower and didn’t weigh on his consciousness as much. He had their bodies buried and the truck towed before dinner, which he took on the porch. And when the sheriff came to pick up his order, they shared a pint.
September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
The day Zoe asked Claire to watch her dog, Richard, and her house for the weekend was the day Claire Bennet finally got to gloat to all the other neighborhood women. No one, not one single soul had ever stepped foot into Zoe’s house. Not a visiting relative, delivery guy, boyfriend, no one had gone in ever. This tidbit of information had not gone unnoticed. Zoe was young, fairly pretty, obviously successful and the talk of every jealous wife on the block. (Except for maybe Shelly Pears, her wardrobe was to die for and her husband was oblivious of her flaunting affairs.) Claire felt like she had been knighted and placed in a royal position to guard something sacred. Her imagination could get the best of her sometimes.
Little did she know how right she was.
Zoe had given Claire the keys to her house with a flash of a smile and a flirty wink before taking off to wherever she had said she was going. Claire had to stay herself and make sure at least a little time had passed before going over. What if Zoe were to come back because she forgot something and found Claire wondering the halls of her house for no good reason? The instructions had been clear: walk the dog once in the morning and once at night, and place the mail at the small entryway table. Simple. She didn’t even have to feed the dog. Zoe didn’t specify why not, which Claire found odd, but easily dismissed it. The pug must have one of those automatic food dispensers. Spoiled pug.
Waiting patiently as the minutes ticked by, Claire stared out the window as the mailman made his slow rounds to the cul de sac where Zoe’s house rested. As he not too nimbly walked to her mailbox, his thick calves making painful, slow steps which Claire swore she could hear in her front room, she held her breath.
Sighing with much relief she went to fetch the mail.
Richard came bounding out of the house to greet her when she reached the edge of the lawn. His tongue flopped out the side of his mouth and she could clearly see the wet snot dribbling out his nose. Supposing she had to put a leash on him, she decided to only do it once and take it off right before Zoe came back. With the mail in hand she headed to the house.
Zoe’s home was unexpectedly boring from the inside and Claire sighed as she placed the envelopes on the small hand carved bench by the door. There was only one picture on the wall and it was of Richard. The pug followed her in through the doggie entrance despite her best effort to slam the great wooden front door in his face. She didn’t normally dislike dogs, but with his eyes pointing in two different directions, she felt as if she couldn’t quite trust him.
Richard made loud grunting slurps as he proceeded to lick his balls in the foray.
Claire saw the stairs leading to the second story just past the entry way and crinkled her nose. She hated houses who laid their stairs out initially instead of breaking way to finer rooms. The entire space felt wasted and unbecoming. And though she didn’t like the layout, she relished the fact her house at least had better sense than Ms. Zoe’s.
Pushing past the permanent eyesore she found a den turned into a library and study on the left and a small washroom with antique porcelain fixtures on the right. Further down was a wide living area with a couch and chair sets but no TV. Odd. The kitchen and dining area were all the way in the back; she didn’t bother to look in the pantry. With how small Zoe was, she didn’t expect there would be much to look at. She did, however, take a swig of a very nice bottle of rum.
When Claire doubled back to the heinous staircase, Richard the pug started whimpering. His whine was enhanced with snorts and he paced nervously behind her.
“Shh,” Claire said. “I won’t tell if you won’t, Dick.” She winked at the dog and started up the steps.
Upstairs was slightly smaller than the down and consisted of three bedrooms, a bath and a study. The girl must have worked all the time, thought Claire as she snooped about.
The door to the middle room was shut.
She heard the reluctant paws climbing upstairs to her position. She smiled, maybe he wasn’t so bad.
Richard whined at her again and gave a short bark of warning. Claire rolled her eyes and went to open the middle room. A short spark of static electricity arched from brass knob to her fingertip and she jumped. Richard barked again. For a moment she hesitated thinking there wouldn’t be anything interesting up here either, and then pushed on through.
The room was a child’s room. There was a small bed with a brass headboard and an assortment of stuffed animals sat looking up at her from the bed, their plastic eyes passing silent judgments. There was a small wardrobe with girls’ clothes across from the bed. As Claire touched the soft cottons with their delicate patterns, she shivered. Was Zoe hiding a child from everyone? She licked her lips at the succulent piece of gossip. An unwed mother isn’t such a surprise, but never seeing an eight or nine year old child after all the time she had lived her, that was gossip worthy. She had to have gone through great pangs to keep it a secret.
As Claire sifted through the child’s impressive shoe collection, she absently wondered if the child was ugly and deformed or mentally retarded. Whoever she was, Zoe made sure she had the best of the best. Each pair of shoes could cost no less than two hundred dollars. She gave a soft whistle. Her hand touched a vacant spot in the shoe drawer and the thought occurred to her: where was the girl? Zoe had left earlier this morning and she did not see anyone else in the car. Surely, whether she was hiding the girl or not, she wouldn’t just leave her at home.
Behind Claire stuffed animals toppled softly to the floor as a small silhouette crept from its hiding place in the middle of the bed. It went to the edge and crouched with its legs bent at the knees in a deep squat. Three large wet eyes laid out on a small green oval of a face studied Claire from behind. When it blinked, the two outer eyes blinked first with the third coming half a second later. It wore a small white dress which clung to its moist skin and the missing black shoes with silver buckles from the wardrobe. The creature had three long fingers on each hand which ended in sharpened translucent fingernails. The small slit it had for a mouth was twisted in a curious smile.
Richard started to growl and Claire turned around to see why. She screamed.
It stayed quiet and crouched on its bed as Claire backed up slowly to the door. They both heard a noise from downstairs and turned their heads to the door.
“Hey, Gee, I’m back for a little bit,” Zoe called. “Mom just forgot something.”
Claire faced Gee. Mom? She went to yell for Zoe’s help but all that escaped her dry throat was a pitiful whimper before six crystal claws shot deep into her stomach. She watched as dark red blood and chunks of herself spilt and splattered across the floor like pancake batter into the frying pan.
Damn, she thought, it’s pretty fucking fast.
Gee stood over her body baring scissor like teeth in what Claire interpreted to be a smile.
“Gee, did you- Oh shit,” Zoe cursed as she pushed through the door. Claire blinked up at Zoe, the color fading fast from her normally rosy complexion. “Shit. Shit. Shit. Not again! Gee! You’re too young to play with humans!”
Claire was fading fast. Not again…. With…humans?
September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
Turning off the lights and shutting the doors, the fears of an eight year old boy long gone filled Michael with a cold and shaking dread. He gauged the distance from the switch on the wall to his bed, the island of safety. For twenty-four of his twenty-eight of years of life, he had held this ritual. It kept him from slumber parties with other boys as a child. There was no roommate for him in college, and on every out of town business meeting, he was sure to have his own private room. He was not purposefully alone out of embarrassment for his “condition”, but because he knew they were there.
Michael knew without any hesitance the monsters lurking in the closets, under his bed and in the cobweb infested corners of his house were just as real as the people he saw on the street. Once the lights were off, these monsters would bubble forth and manifest themselves in an aggressive attack against him. There was no way he could responsibly let anyone else stay in a room with him over night. They would never follow the rules correctly. They would go to the bathroom without turning on the lights. They would step on the cold floor instead of the safety of his mother’s rug. They would definitely never get away from the bed in time before the cold slimy grip of whatever lurked under there.
The monsters followed him wherever he went. They crept in the shadows, stalking him by day and making up for lost time in the setting sun. Sometimes he could feel their presence hooked to the undercarriages of taxis and buses as he traveled the city. No matter how advanced the camera, he could never catch one on film or in picture. Logic told him he’d never have a girlfriend or a wife so he stuck to himself. All of the goldfish he had ever tried to raise went belly up on the first night in his house. He didn’t dare bring in something like a cat or dog.
It was okay, though. Years of living with the nightmares lurking about didn’t have quite the toll on Michael as it would a normal person. He had been a very successful student in high school and throughout his college career. He was well liked by many people at work and, if a colleague stumbled home drunk with him from the bar, he was able to put them in the guest room. The guest room was the furthest room from his. Every time Michael went in to that section of his apartment to clean the room and change the sheets, he made sure to erase his presence from it top to bottom. He would then bless the room and seal the door, only opening it to allow someone else entry. It all worked out fairly well.
That was, until Julia came.
Julia worked in the office next door to his and when she was promoted she officially became part of his own team. He was happy for her promotion, of course, and was glad to have her company. The men he worked with were nice, but he was the youngest among them and Julia, at just a year older than Michael, was a welcome change of pace. Not to mention she had a great set of legs.
No, the problem with Julia was she had a thing for Mike. When she waltzed by his desk in the morning she would put extra effort in her sway. When Julia talked to him in the break room, she laughed at his jokes and touched his hand, and when she went to the bar with him and the other “boys”, she stayed by his side and let him buy her drinks all night. It was only a matter of time before she requested to stay at his house and only a matter of the right volume of alcohol before he obliged.
When Michael showed her the guest room he could tell she was visibly hurt, perhaps her affections were not returned by him. It was an utter lie. He needed her like crops after a drought needed rain. After a couple more drinks in his parlor and some intimate living room dancing, he led her by the hand to his room. She lay on the bed like a fiery goddess as he went for the lights. Her auburn hair cascading down his pillow was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and, for just a moment, he forgot about the cobweb lurker, under-the-bed snatcher, and closet gremlins. He forgot about the beasts that poor from living shadows, just waiting for him to relax in his regimen.
Michael almost felt normal. Normal, until he turned the light off and twenty-four years of experience turned to habit took over. He ran to his bed and jumped in.
Julia, of course, laughed playfully at his antics and caressed him. Michael scooted in close and cuddled, melting into her. Julia stretched her arms out. One hand behind her head and one dangled off the bed. He kissed her cheek softly and was embarrassed by his lack of experience. They laid together for a long time before Julia jerked upright and clutched Michael’s arm.
“Mike, do you have a dog?”
“Because something just licked my hand.”
September 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
Today’s challenge was to write a romance in exactly 20 words. Here is the result:
“We need a bigger bed,” Jenny purrs in my ear.
“We’ll go shopping tomorrow,” I say.
“Promise?” asks Natalie yawning.
Now I’m not a big fan of romance, but I thought that was fun, didn’t you? 😉
Tomorrow’s story will promise to be a bit longer. Until then, may your pens never run out of ink.
September 18, 2013 § 1 Comment
Charlie licked his thick calloused finger tips and threaded a sewing needle with a flesh colored string before sticking it into the arm he had been working on. He smiled a crooked and rotten smile and licked his bottom lip with a tongue rough from years of pipe tobacco. The top layer of the arm on his table gave easily as he attached it at the shoulder joint. His chuckle filled the small dingy room and, if it had fallen on any live ears, would have sound grating and metallic. The low chuckling caused him to cough and sputter. His hands shook and he put the arm down long enough to cough into a deteriorating, used rag.
Once again his raspy laughter filled the room as he looked down at the seemingly funny black and red mass in his hands. Not too long now. Not very long, indeed. He needed to hurry his work along. He needed this last little gift to be done before time was up. Placing an assortment of eyes, noses and hair on his workbench, Charlie sifted through each like Doctor Frankenstein looking for the right parts to his monster, until he found the perfect matches. Those eyes rolling about on his table captured the very essence of youth. Even detached, they held a charming twinkle in them, like little children delighting in play.
Charlie made retching noises while he scratched at the back of his head. Years of neglect on his part has left his unkempt hair in mats around sores. Sores which have festered and become putrid. Their puss came out with a foul smelling and sour squirt. He was quick to dab at the fluid with yet another used handkerchief. Before getting back to the work at hand, he always used hand sanitizer from a large bottle by his bench. Didn’t want to contaminate them, oh no.
The little red head Charlie was working on was coming together nicely. Her skin was smooth and cold; her eyes were a haunting green; her permanent smile would make anyone want to smile back. Good, good.
These projects of his, these little girls, were the obsession of Charlie. Charlie, the man with the bent back and crooked spine. The man who used to curse the children as they ran past his stoop; who never had one courteous thing to say to anyone in his entire lifetime. Now he was a different Charlie. Changed by many things, but mostly by years of gnawing nastiness which ultimately led him to his… hobby.
The point it all changed for him, he remembered it suddenly and had to place little Sally, once more, back on the bench. He recalled his niece, so young and pure. So perfect. Like a little doll you could just put in your pocket and keep forever. Now she was up drinking tea with God. She was the angel’s doll now. He wondered if they had fun brushing her long golden locks and telling her stories. So sad, so sad.
Not to be distracted by useless thoughts, after taking a swig from a beaten old flask, Charlie leaned over his latest project and got back to work. Yes, yes, there was so much to do. Too much to do. All for the children. The cutting, trimming, sewing and stitching. Hacking and tearing. What didn’t match was torn apart and, what came out looking almost monstrous, was burned in the incinerator. Arms, legs, heads, fingers and toes. If people saw Charlie, with his overgrown beard and stained, ratty old clothes, they’d wonder by what means he got this trove of pieces and parts. They might be disturbed to see this gangly creature, whose gait swayed to and fro from swollen joints and bad memories, tuck small fleshy arms under his own. And then watch him attach the arms to anonymous torsos with mirth and glee, would have sent many men to the door.
No, this was definitely not something just anyone could watch. It was a private practice, here in his basement, Charlie M.D. No one knew he worked on these things with such joy, such passion. If only the children in his neighborhood, the little monsters who would run away scared or yell obscenities at him, could see with what pain staking precision he constructed his children with, then maybe, just maybe, they’d treat old Charlie with a little more respect.
But even if they didn’t appreciate it, he was beginning to see what the rewards of his patience and hard work were. When he crept out late at night with his last batch of prizes and placed them at the doors of an orphanage, well, the papers had found that amusing hadn’t they? A wheeze of delight escaped out of his swollen throat as he looked over the newspaper article pinned to the wall. It was just a little extra motivation to do it again. Having people react as they did made all this hard, dirty work truly worthwhile.
Sally lay out in front of him finally complete with her alabaster skin and perfect grin. He took a handmade overall set and dressed her with care. Sally was only the name he gave her. Whoever found her would probably have another already picked out. He opened the garbage sack and placed her on top. It was full at last; time for another delivery!
The first person to open the door in the morning and find Charlie’s little gift was Sam. She stared at the trash bag with trepidation. It was a clear plastic and she could just make out what was a child’s foot pressing tightly at the bottom of the sack. There was a folded up piece of paper, greasy with stains, tied to the bag. A note. Just behind Sam were eleven orphan girls ready to be walked to school. Trying her best not to alert any of them, she bent down to pick up the note. By the time she was done reading it her face was tear streaked and several little ones were asking her what was wrong.
“Girls, go back into the waiting area, you’re going to be a little late today.”
Ushering all the children inside, she pulled up the bag. It was much lighter than she had expected it to be. Once they were all sitting down and waiting patiently, Sam open the bag as requested by the writer of the note, and proceeded to hand out the homemade dolls, one-by-one.
**So this prompt was to create a character no one likes and then make them likable or redeeming. I think it’s one of my more cute stories. D’awww.**
September 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Do we have to go over to grandma’s house?” Heather complained from the backseat of her parent’s car. At twelve years old her body was just starting to fill out. She had gained a couple of pounds, of which her mother didn’t approve, on her hips and her chest. She stared over at the empty seat next to her and wondered if it would have been the same, or would they have developed at different times.
“You used to love going over to her house. It’s a nice place. Besides,” Heather’s mother coaxed. “It’s her birthday.” She turned around to smile at her daughter and instead found Heather with glazed eyes in the direction of the empty seat next to her. “You know, I miss your sister too.” Her mother said and she put a warm hand on Heather in an attempt to pull her daughter back to reality.
Seven years ago Hanna, Heather’s identical twin, was lost on a family camping trip. The two girls had been playing in a nearby stream when Hanna had vanished. They combed those woods for a month before giving up the girl for lost. Heather had been sure her sister was dead before that month was over; she had seen her sister’s ghost.
Heather absently rubbed the scar on her hand where they had once made their blood pact to always stay together as she looked up at her mom. “I know you do. I know everyone does.”
The rest of the trip was quiet until they reached the large colonial house her grandma had lived in since she was a small girl herself. The place was heated by an old gas furnace and had to have window units installed for air-conditioning. Every plank in it creaked with age and the décor hadn’t been changed since her great-grandmother first bought the place. Back then the family had quite a bit of farm land and while they certainly had had enough children to fill each of the great rooms inside the house, most of the time they had one or two boarders to help subsidize the income.
Heather saw the old yellow Ford pick-up truck in the yard and let out a squeal. Her uncle Robert was at the house. He was her favorite. “Uncle Bob’s here!”
“I thought you said he wasn’t going to be able to make it,” muttered her father. He wasn’t fond of Bob. When Heather had first started her ghost stories, Bob encouraged the girl to go on believing them instead of letting go.
“He said he might not make it. And, well, I guess he did.” Her mom tossed her long brown hair over her shoulder and braced herself for the greetings ahead. Heather found it strange how adults always had to pretend to like each other when she really knew that, deep down, they loved each other.
Bob’s small dog was bouncing and barking on the porch destroying any chance of walking up unannounced. The dog was normally an inside dog but Grandma had decreed a long while back no animal was allowed in the house. Heather raced to the dog, Sky, to give him pets and let him lick all over her face. He was her second favorite. “Don’t worry. I’ll give you treats later,” she promised in a whisper. Sky tilted his head at her in confusion and licked at her hands.
“You’re washing before dinner.”
Heather rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know, Mom.”
Inside the house, Uncle Bob and Grandma were talking over coffee. The family had driven four hours out to the house, so dinner was served promptly and they were ushered to their rooms to get comfortable. Heather snuck down to the large TV room around ten where she knew she’d find Bob rolling cigarettes and watching his late night variety shows.
“Hey rascal, come here!” He said and she jumped on the couch beside him. He covered her up with a knitted afghan and handed her a shallow dish with tobacco and papers. She had been helping him roll his cigarettes since she was seven, another reason her father wasn’t fond of the man. “How’ve you been?”
“Okay, I guess. I just started junior high, ya know?”
Bob leaned back and let his large belly roll forward. He was a big guy and did big work on his own farm just down the road. “Yeah, suppose it’s that time. You, uh, you seen your sister recently?”
“No. You know I only see or hear her here.”
He nodded his head and lit one of his cigarettes. Bob was one of the few who hadn’t given up searching. He had no kids of his own and had always treated the girls as the daughters he never had. It never set right with him. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
They sat together rolling cigarettes and watching TV until late into the night.
Heather tossed in a fit somewhere between dreaming and reality. Her blonde hair was matted in sweat and she could see a thin pale form making its way closer to her sleeping body. The eyes were sunken and dark and the face almost devoid of color. Cobwebs and dust clutched to matted tendrils of hair. It was Hanna, her sister. Still a tiny, flat chested little girl. She wore a torn night gown, one they both had had long ago with bears and stars. From her throat came small gurgles and her chapped lips spread into a pained smile. Her eyes were wild.
Heather’s body was unwilling to move, stuck in a sleep paralysis. She wanted to kick and scream and, when she saw the small pocket knife tucked in the apparition’s left hand, she could feel her heart beat loud in her ears. The lithe form made jerky movements to her side and smiled that pained smile as icy fingers spread open her palms. In a flash of pain, the knife came down and sliced deeply into Heather. It drew across in a fat cut and then she was able to move. She screamed and the form faded back to the far wall.
“Oh my god,” her mother said as she turned on the light to Heather’s room. “Oh my god, what have you done?” She wailed. Soon she was being dragged into the upstairs bathroom with her mother crying and her father bandaging her hand.
“Why? Why did you do this, Heather?” her mother asked.
“It wasn’t me!” She shouted. “It was Hanna’s ghost. She came in and she…” Heather looked down at her bleeding the hand, the one with their blood pact. “She cut me.”
“I remember having to bandage you up like this before,” her dad said. He took a minute to poor peroxide on her wound before continuing. “Back when you and your sister made that secret promise.”
“Honey,” her mom said. She tried to make her voice sound sweet but Heather could see the frustration and disappointment in her eyes. “You were dreaming. You didn’t see Hanna.”
When Heather had her sheets changed and was back in bed she could hear her parents arguing about her. Her mom was afraid she was hallucinating, maybe even going crazy. Her dad assured her it was just a phase. A six year-long phase. Heather thought she would never get back to sleep, but within the hour she was softly snoring.
Her mother was working on Grandma’s cake when she woke up. The house carried noise exceptionally well, she could hear the racket of mixing bowls all the way up in her room. Getting dressed was hard with her hand still tender and bandage but she finally slipped on her jeans and made it down to breakfast.
“It’s almost noon. You’re going to have to wait for lunch,” her mother said without looking up. Heather grabbed an apple from the pantry and went outside to the porch swing.
Rocking back and forth she tried to push the night’s memories away from her and take in the land. It was very beautiful, but the dark woods over the hills reminded her too much of her sister’s disappearance. Closing her eyes she listened to the quietness of the land. The wind rolled over the low hills with a deep hum and the birds cawed from far off trees. She could hear the chains of the swing creak as they slipped back and forth on the beam above. Her beat up sneakers dragged across the porch in light rasps and she could hear the highway far off.
The soft gurgles coming from the wall beside made her stop swing in its tracks and turn slowly to the source of the noise. She scanned the wall and the length of the porch but didn’t see anything. Again she heard what sounded like forced bubbles of noise being muffled by the wall. Heather counted to three and took off for the front door. She kept running until she was in the downstairs bathroom and slammed the door. She was sucking in air and crying, trying to get ahold of herself before anyone noticed there was anything wrong.
From behind her she heard the noise once more. Too afraid to turn around she instead looked into the mirror. Hands covered her mouth as she wept harder. Her sister’s pale visage stared back from where hers should have been. The gurgles got louder and the horrible smile opened up to revel small white teeth on rotten gums. Where Hanna’s tongue should have been was just a nub that flailed about without purpose.
Heather closed her eyes and reached out her hand for the door. The tips of her fingers fell on the crystal door knob. As she clutched it in her hands, someone else’s hand clutched onto her arms. Without ever opening her eyes she threw off whatever it was and went out to the hall. She ran down to the kitchen just in time to see her mother set out the large birthday cake she had made for her grandmother.
Her mother’s eyes narrowed on Hanna’s sleeve and she looked down at her arm for the first time. There was a red hand print. Blood, there was dried blood on her arm.
“Heather,” her grandmother cooed. “What on earth did you do?” Her grandmother got up quickly and raced over to her grandchild.
“I, it wasn’t…” she stammered to get the words out. Her mother’s patience was nearly gone, she could feel it. Bob and her father came in from the back door and she ran over to them. Bob embraced her in his arms and she sobbed. “You got to believe me, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.”
“Shh… it’s okay. It’s okay.” Bob brushed her hair and held her close. He stopped suddenly and she heard it again.
The rumbling, throaty calls coming from the walls. It mimicked Bob’s words: “Uhn Oh kae. Uhn Oh kae.”
“I hear her, oh my god,” Heather cried. “I hear her.”
“Shh!” Her dad touched her shoulder. His eyes searching around the room. “I hear her, too. We all can.”
Heather looked up to her family and saw the astonished and terrified looks. Each one was trying to find the source of the noise. Her grandmother was crossing herself and saying prayers while her mother trembled and cried.
Through a small heating gate on the floor a slender hand came up and locked around Heather’s ankle. She screamed as she looked down on wide, dark eyes. Her uncle threw her into a chair and pulled the gate up off the floor. What he did next was almost incomprehensible to Heather. He reached down and pulled out the spirit from the floor. The little body was then given over to her father as her uncle ran out of the room. Her mother fell to her knees crying and her grandmother kept praying. For the first time, Heather realized the form she was seeing, was real and it was breathing.
Bob raced back in with blankets and warm wet towels and started to wrap Hanna up.
“I’m so sorry.” The quiet apology made heads turn and Heather’s grandmother stood up slow to address them. “I was just trying to keep her young and pure. I didn’t mean for her to become sick like she has.”
No one moved for a moment. The air in the kitchen had stopped moving. There was a weird smell of dust and cake. Hanna was reaching out her hand and giving her father loving noises from her throat.
“What did you do to her? What did you do?!” Uncle Robert exploded. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I cut out her tongue. I was afraid if she called out, you would take my baby from me.”
Heather walked over to Hanna. Her body was smaller and her chest was flat. She looked starved, but she was there. Blood dripped from her hand and Heather turned it upward to see a fresh cut across the palm.
She whispered to her sister: “I’ll never leave you again, I promise.”
**Today’s post challenge was supposed to include twins, a cake and a haunted house that really wasn’t haunted. Hope you all enjoy the story!**