Halloween 2019 The Flood. The End

8

They found the apartment complex three blocks away. It also had not been repaired, yet not demolished. The front door was open, as if someone was expecting them.

“Sixth floor, right turn at the top of the stairs, we used to race up the stairs trying to beat the elevator, Daddy carrying us both, but Mom always got there way ahead of us,” Ana said.

“I don’t remember that.” Bella said.

“Let’s go find out if Michael does,” Paula suggested, and they entered the building.

The stairway was totally dark and the sisters walked up the steps first, holding hands. Paula walked behind them and said, “Nothing that speaks to you first will harm you. They are weak and can only frighten you. Do not allow them inside your mind!”

The sisters closed their eyes and counted steps. Eight steps, turn, eight steps, turn, eight steps, turn, with a larger flat area at each floor. They heard voices, the voices of children now, screaming at them, “Go away!” the voices yelled, “You abandoned him!” “You left him alone!” but the sisters kept going, and they heard the steps of Paula behind them. There was nothing else but the sound of the voices and the blackness of the steps.

“This is the sixth floor,” Paula whispered as the sisters stopped. Ana put her hand out and pushed the door of the stairwell and it swung open.

The doors to all the apartments were open, allowing light to flood into the building. The women blinked at the brightness. “Which one did you live in, Bella?” Paula asked.

“This way,” Bella whispered. “Something is wrong here. This place. I remember it. But something is wrong.”

“I feel it,” Ana said.

“Here,” Bella said. “This one.”

“Is this the apartment where your parents lived?” asked Paula.

“Yes,” Bella said and she went through the door. Before Paula could move or speak, Bella closed the door behind her, and Paula heard the click of the lock.

“Come, we have to do this,” Ana told her, “we lived next door.”

“Bella?” Paula asked,

“Michael is here,” Ana said. “and this is the way it has to be done. Come, the apartment next door is where we have to be.”

The apartment was stripped bare, to the concrete walls and floors, and there was nothing inside. The only light was from the open space of the balcony where a glass door might have once stood.

“We have to go out on the balcony,” Ana said. “You have to do as I tell you to do.”

They went out on the balcony and saw Bella walk out on the balcony of the apartment next door. There was a gap between the two balconies, maybe two or three feet, and Paula felt her fear of high places taking over.

“That rail,” Paula said, “it’s corrupt, the metal rusted, it will crumple.”

“Stand there, please,” Ana said and she pointed to a point neat the edge of the balcony, close to the rail closest to the other apartment’s balcony.

“I understand now why we have the same memory, Ana,” Bella called out.

“Yes, I see it, too.” Ana replied.

“What?” Paula looked down and saw the drop of seventy or eighty feet. Her head swam.

“The night of the flood,” Ana began, “we came out here on the balconies, Bella was standing right there where she is standing now, and she looked over to this balcony. I was standing where you are standing now, Paula. We were tiny children, no more than three years old. But my memory is of seeing a child, an infant, and Bella’s memory is the same. I always assumed we remembered each other. But Bella’s memory is of me being picked up by Michael, and my memory is of Bella being picked up by Michael. Both of our memories are of Michael, picking a baby up, someone standing where I am right now.”

“I don’t understand,” Paula said.

“Michael was my brother,” Bella called out. “And we both loved Ana. I remember this, but there was something else.”

“Neither Bella nor Michael were born of the same blood as I,” Ana said, “but Michael always loved is both equally.”

“Because he loved someone else, much more,” Michael said as he walked out on the balcony with Ana and Paula.

“I’m surprised you made it this far,” Michael said. “I’ve done terrible things to buy the allegiance of many creatures. They should have gotten to you before you left Georgia.”

“Those who helped us did so out of a need to help others,” Paula told him, “that cannot be bought.”

“You had to be taken,” Michael said, “for the ritual to work. You could not come here freely. And the ritual would be worthless unless you were both adults. It’s Halloween night, and if I cannot bring her back tonight I must wait another year. I am tired of waiting.”

“Who?” Paula asked.

“My sister,” Ana replied. “My twin.”

“Yes,” replied Bella. “I remember now.”

“The night of the flood we were told not to come out on the balcony but we did anyway. The rain had stopped, but the waters were rising ever faster.” Ana said.

“We were afraid,” Bella said, “we children, that we would be separated. Ana and I shared a bond, even then, and we both shared that bond with…”

“Dana,” Michael snarled. “Only Ana refused to share her with me. Ana did things, even as a small child, to keep Dana and I apart.”

“You were six,” Paula said, “and she was three?”

“I felt it,” Michael said, “we were meant to be together, even at birth I waited for her.”

“Dana knew Michael’s jealousy was toxic, even as a small child.” Ana said. “And the night of the flood, as our parents made ready for our escape from the flood, Michael took Dana.”

“I thought I was taking you, she pretended to be you,” Michael screamed. “I threw her off the balcony to get her for myself. But she pretended to be you.”

“You all were little kids,” Paula said, “there’s no way you had these feelings and memories.”

“We were always different,” Bella said, “we were always more in tune with the world around us than other kids, or even other adults.”

“But now, if I kill you both, and of course, you too,” Michael grinned at Paula, I can bring her back. She will live in Ana’s body, and the rest of you can wander or leave this earth, but…”

“I never left, Michael,” Ana said. “It’s me, Dana. I’ve had to stay hidden all this time, I didn’t want anyone to know what you did. The night you accidently murdered me, I took over Ana’s body. You have no idea how hard it’s been to stay hidden from you, but we have to get rid of everyone who knows. Our parents still believe I was simply lost in the flood, but now, even they won’t be able to stop…”  Ana stepped towards Michael and pushed him hard. Michael’s arms windmilled, he reached for Ana and missed.

All three women rushed to where the rail had broken. Michael’s body lay on the ground below, motionless.

“He’s dead,” Ana said.

“Yes,” replied Bella.

“And now, his spirit will pay the price for summoning those he used to hunt us.” Paula added. “I think we better leave.”

 

A little more than three years later, Paula scrolled through her phone, looking at potential renters. The sisters were graduating in a couple of weeks and would be gone. Then again, Paula felt that any other set of tenants might be. . . boring. Perhaps, yes, maybe, it was time. The witch had offered her a place in her house, and the two of them were getting closer to being friends than she had ever hoped.

“You want to move to the river, Dana?” Paula asked the large black cat that she had picked up after Brody died last year. Had Dana, the dead sister,  haunted her sisters, and Michael all these years unnoticed, or had Dana returned to the right place at the right time? Or had Ana been faking it until she could get Michael to let his guard down. She might not ever know. They had never spoken of it again.

“Let’s go down to the river, cat,” Paula said, “and see if we can be of some use to the living there.”

 

end

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Seven

7

It took four long hours to get to New Orleans, but somehow, they lurched and sputtered their way until they reached the city. All three women were slightly seasick from the effort.  They took a very long lunch and decided to keep to the back roads, and out of sight as much as possible.

“Where are we going now?” asked Paula.

“We really don’t know,” replied Ana, “we have to make it back to the apartment building where we once lived. We can sense it, almost smell it, but at the same time, until we are actually standing in front of the place it all began, we won’t know that we’re there.”

“Let’s take a right at the next light,” Bella offered.

“The last time we were there we were infants escaping from a flooded city with our parents, in rubber boats. There were so many people trapped by the water, and so many people who lost their humanity and some who lost their lives.” Ana said.

“Stop!” Bella said loudly. “I remember that building.”

The edifice was a decaying monster at the edge of town. Windblown and battered by storms, it had never been repaired and never been torn down. The windows were boarded up, but the barricade that shuttered the front door had been removed by the homeless people in town.

“We sheltered in the third floor of that building until the Red Cross came. There were many people who were there, and some never left. They thought it was safe, but the water rose.” Ana whispered.

“I remember,” Belle said.

“Then we are close?” asked Paula.

“Very.”

They entered the lobby of the building as rat scurried away and pigeons cooed overhead. The first three floors of the building had collapsed into rubble, and going further meant climbing over the debris.

“Something was wrong,” Ana said. “When we arrived here. Something was wrong. Someone was missing.”

“I remember,” Bella said.

“Our parents where here, Michael was here,” Ana looked around. “We stayed on the fourth floor, it was crowded, people were screaming and crying, and it was dark. Some people had flashlights.”

“Yes,” said Bella.

“You should not have returned to this place,” a man’s voice called from above. “You should have forgotten everything, and stayed away. This is New Orleans. The dead are buried above ground to keep their souls from leaving. Everyone who dies here stays.”

“Lies,” Paula called back. “Lies and more lies. You cannot frighten us. If you had more than your voice you wouldn’t bother to speak.”

“I was shot in the head while trying to get my baby’s clothes out of our apartment. They called me a looter. I was thrown into the water and my family never heard from me again.” The man said, and they could hear him making his way down, jumping from floor to floor. “Now people like you who have lost so little return to find what? Justice in some fashion? The pieces of a puzzle?” the man stepped out into the light and all three women recoiled. The top part of his head was missing.

“Why are so many trying to stop these girls from coming here?” Paula demanded. “Why is it so important for them to stay away? Who is afraid of what they will find? What will they find?”

“’Lies and more lies’” the man laughed. “You know what they’re looking for. They know. Everybody knows why they’re here. The dead don’t leave this city. The drowned don’t drift downstream. You brought them here to find out the truth, but what is the truth? I got shot trying to steal a widescreen, or I got shot trying to help my people. What makes you think the dead are more honest than the living?” He stepped back into the shadows and backed away.

“You girls go on back home now,” he called as he slipped away. “You know the truth. Live with it. I got to live with the idea that my people won’t know what happened to me. You don’t go back to the living once you’re dead, you know better than that, over here. They got to move on, and I know I should too, but there’s something I ain’t done, maybe this is it. But I was helping my people, I was getting clothes for the baby. I was doing right, but after I got all I could there was more just sitting there. I heard the voices of those that didn’t make it telling me I could have it. They knew where the snipers were and led me into the sights of those Army rifles. Yeah, yeah, most people that linger are trying to make things right but how they see the world set right ain’t like it ought to be, and I’m dead proof of that. You don’t belong here. I don’t either. Maybe if you leave I will, too. But you know the truth. You know why this is happening.” The man stopped speaking and they were about to turn and leave when he continued.

“Don’t hold up living because you remember the dead,” he told them, “that’s why we never go back. That’s why you ought’a leave now.”

 

They made their way back to the car but Ana stopped when she got to the door. “I think we should walk from here. It’s a few blocks, but we need to let them know we aren’t afraid. We go into this fearless and it will make them leave us alone. I’m through running. I’m done being scared of what was and what might happen. Let them come. Let’s face them. Let’s go find out why this is happening, and who is behind it all.”

“Okay,” Bella replied. “I’m with you.”

“I think it’s a mistake, but from what I’ve learned today, not going in like this might be worse.” Paula replied. “Let’s roll.”

 

End seven.

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Six

Sadie took a branch from the fire and held it over her head.  The words she spoke were loud, echoing, and harsh. The sisters flinched at the noise, but Paula noticed that Sadie was not done. The witch thrust the stick into the river and steam rose from it, as if the water was boiling. Sadie withdrew the stick and fog issued from the river like blood from a wound. The fog boiled out, thicker, heavier, and Paula saw there were many places in the river now, all of them getting more and more dense.

“I have asked for help,” Sadie whispered, “there are answers to my call.”

The fog totally enveloped the river, and the land surrounding the bank. Neither the sisters nor Paula could see anything.

“Come, it is safe to travel in this now,” Sadie said, and from the stick a low light appeared, glowing red like a coal. The cat lead the way, and the dog followed.

“We’re walking on the river?” Paula asked, and immediately wished she had not spoken.

“The river is carrying us,” Sadie replied. “Do not speak to anyone you see! Do not answer any voice! Do not cringe from any act that is shown!”

They heard screams, of men and of women, and they heard children crying. A man splashed through the water, his eyes wide, his face contorted, but something dragged him back to the bank. There were the sounds of people singing, Gospel music, and they saw the glow of a fire, and a body hanging from a tree near it, they saw a bridge, and watched as a body fell from the bridge but there was no sound of it hitting the water.

“Look!” whispered Bella, “under the water! I see people down there!”

And indeed, when they looked down under their feet they saw a crowd of people, unrecognizable, faceless, blurry, yet still human, as if the people were just a few feet underneath where they stood.

“Those are the lost ones. The souls who refuse to rest. Murdered, abandoned, wronged in their own lives, they seek not revenge, no, why would they do that? They seek to ease your passage, and prevent more wrong. They seek to thwart evil. Will our quest be enough? Will your lives, if saved, offer them solace? Do not ask! Speak no more!”

The fog roiled and swirled in front of them but total blackness followed. Sadie cried aloud, strong and powerful words, and there were many answers from either side of the river, now totally hidden from view. The sisters clasped hands and closed their eyes, and when they opened them again, the fog was totally gone.

 

There were lights, city lights, and there was the smell of salt air. Sadie was gone, as was the river, and the sounds, and the fog. Instead, a young man stood in front of them.

“Welcome to Africatown,” the man said.

“We’re in Africa?” Paula asked.

“No, Mobile Alabama,” the man replied, “you were brought here by many who deemed your lives worthy of saving, for those who oppose you are very evil. It is here that the last slaves to be brought to America settled, and have lived for many generations. But you cannot stay. There is a truck waiting. From here you will be taken to New Orleans. Those who have pursued you now realize they have underestimated, uh, the situation. That mistake will not be granted to you again. You must hurry. At this point, you are far ahead, but there is no guarantee that you will gain the shores of the Mississippi before you are caught.”

The man led them to a truck, old and dilapidated, and helped them get into the back. He pulled a tarp over the back of the truck and tied it down. “There is food and water aplenty,” he told them, “your next stop will be in one hour, after you are safely on the road. After that, there will be little time for rest. Bella pulled the tarp back in time to see the first ray of sunlight come through the clouds, and the man disappeared with the light.

“Mary Turner was black, the man who helped up onto the truck was black, do all black people become ghosts or something?” Bella asked.

“No, Bella,” Paula replied, “those who have died in the cause of injustice may or may not linger. Mostly, those who are treated harshly by those around them are the young, the old, and the poor. The poor are mistreated for most of their lives, and many suffer in silence, and most of those leave this realm as soon as they can. But the voices from the shores of the river, those under the water who carried us, mostly they are the very poor who have lived in this land, and who were abused by those with more power. The last slaves of Mobile clearly heard of us, and reached out to bring us here. Mary might have spoken for us, or they might have had reasons we cannot know yet. But the forces that follow us are powerful, and it is usually the very poor, and the very weakest, who will give the most of what they have to save strangers, while those with power, and those with much, horde their wealth, and will punish any who stray near it. It has always been so, as long as there is money, there will be greed. There will always be someone with the power to hurt others, and they will.”

They rode in silence until the truck stopped and they were allowed to walk around a bit, and stretch their legs. Their driver did not speak to them but as they stood watching, he disappeared as if he were made of smoke. Paula got into the cab of the truck then called out.

“Can either of you drive a stick shift?” Paula asked.

“No,” replied Bella.

“A what?” Ana asked.

 

End six

 

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Four

“That man was drawn to where we were,” Ana told Paula once they returned.

“It wasn’t that he followed us; he was sent, or compelled,” Bella added.

“Michael?” Paula asked.

“No, Michael has always gone out of his way to protect us both, he always has, and he’s sworn to life his life in our defense. When our father split the family up, Michael took it hardest. It was one thing for us to be apart from one another, but it was another issue for Michael to be bereft of fulfilling his oath to us. When we were children he was like a guard dog. Michael’s dedication to us was one of the things that allowed us to draw closer together,” Ana said.

“So there is an outside force trying to keep the three of you apart?” Paula asked as she looked at the deck of cards in front of her. “And you believe your reading in the graveyard triggered some force to be sent after you?”

“Yes,” Ana said, “and the mark on the door might well be some sort of device to let those who will do us harm find the two of us. As long as we aren’t using our energy here to fight back I suspect we cannot be found. This is a very personal thing for someone. My father may now have some ally who is more in tune to the Earth than he ever was before.”

“But is he Michael’s biological father?” Paula asked. “You and Bella both refer to both sets of parents as your own. It’s hard for me to keep up with who is who, if you two are not really blood sisters.”

“It’s sometimes hard for us to sort out ourselves.” Ana replied. “We spent a lot of time in a refugee camp after the flood. All of us lived under the same roof in the same trailer.  But the reality of it is that Michael and Bella share a last name. Mine is different. There’s nothing we know for certain past that fact. We both have suspected that my father actually is the blood father of all three of us, or my mother is the blood mother of all three of us. Or both.  Our memories are the same, as if we were the same person. That’s something that is really hard to explain.”

“The University left me an email,” Ana continued, “as we suspected, there isn’t a crime they can charge us with, but they’re kicking me out of the dorm, which will cut off Dad’s overview of me. He will have to act to regain control, but as long as you allow us sanctuary here, there’s nothing he can do about it. Legally, at seventeen, he can’t force my return.”

“If he’s a part of this,” Bella said seamlessly, “he will try to extort Ana’s return in some way, and if he can coax Michael to return with him then we have to follow. But Michael has been through very much in the last for years. He may not have adapted the power yet, but that does not make our brother defenseless. Michael is known for violence.”

“Would he harm your father?” Paula asked.

“Yes,” both answered as one.

“Michael once hacked into my high school’s computer system to find one of the teachers who was trying to force her religion on me.” Ana said. “We created a police file that implicated her in a child porn ring. None of it was true, and none of the charges stuck, but the woman was suspended for well over a year. I was well on my way of ridding myself of her in a way that would not have required such dramatic action, but the point was made.”

“You think Michael might have hacked into the University’s security system to hide his mark on the door?” Paula asked.

“No,” said Bella, “that would have, I think, been over his head, and it would have eventually led back to us. I think that symbol was not from Michael. I think it has something to do with our father.”

“So, I suspect the two of you have an idea of sorts for resolution to all of this already?” Paula wondered what it might be, and wondered if she had seen only the tip of the iceberg in what might happen.

“We have to return to the site of the flood that happened in 2005. There we’ll be able to tap into some of the original energy that gave us our power. There’s something there that we have to find, and maybe something there will find us. If we go, Michael when sense that we are there,” Ana said.

“Michael will join us, and for once and for all, we three will be at ground zero of our joining. We have to return to New Orleans, to the site where we were all joined as one in the flood.”

 

End part four.

 

 

Halloween 2019 The Flood Part Thee

“Apparently little Miss Cheerleader decided to try Bella’s advice,” Ana began, “and when she took the Black Cohosh, she took about ten times as much as recommended on the label and got sick as a dog. That may or may not have caused the miscarriage, but she was only three weeks in so there’s no way to tell.”

“That’s going to be a difficult charge to get you kicked out of school for, certainly,” Paula said, “so I feel like there’s more. I’ll get tea, this is going to take a while, isn’t it?”

“Yep!” the sisters said in unison.

“Someone burned a symbol into the door my dorm room, Paula,” Ana said as she sipped the tea.

“It’s a symbol that isn’t well known, and only three people know what it means,” Bella said, “four now that we’re telling you.”

“And we have always wondered why Michael choose it.” Ana said.

“Yes, but what is it?” Paula asked.

“It’s the symbol for the Quaternary knot.” Bella told her. “Michael said that when we three were together we began one, which meant there were really four of us, but now we’re wondering if somehow you’ve been pulled into this.”

“You think Michael put the symbol on the door?” Paula asked.

“If he didn’t there wouldn’t be anyone who knew its meaning to us, a random act of vandalism seems unlikely,” Ana replied.

“But there’s nothing on the security feed.” Bella said, “And they’ve got security on 24/7 in that place. Someone smelled smoke and they found the symbol on the door a few minutes after that.”

“You two were here,” Paula said, “and we can prove it!” She announced this with no small amount of authority.  They all laughed, but the idea that someone had burned the symbol into the door without being seen bothered each of them.  Paula headed to bed after tea and left the sisters to themselves.

“You dad will hear about this, and he might decide to come get you.” Bella finally said. “Let’s get the rest of your stuff and leave.”

“And abandon school?” Ana shook her head. “Get jobs waiting tables and scaring the fuck out of the locals until one or both of us winds up in jail? No thanks. We have to stay. No matter what else happens we still have to operate in this world.”

“Do you think your dad might have done it?” Bella asked. “He might have seen Michael use the symbol before.”

“No, dad is more direct,” Ana replied as she got up to pace. “He’d use a hammer not a scalpel.”

Without talking about they rose and left Paula’s house and went to the dorm. There other girls were already whispering about the sisters but they were accustomed to that. No matter where they had lived, who they were or what they were was always the subject of debate. They looked at the symbol on the door; it looks like someone had taken a very hot piece of metal and pushed it deep into the wood, branding it.

“Looks like Michael’s work,” Ana said.

“Still, does he know enough to come and go without being seen?” Bella asked, “he’s always respected power but he’s never used it.”

“He knows we’re here,” Ana said. “He’ll find us. We have to be ready for whatever condition his mind is in.”

“Or not in,” Bella smiled grimly, as she traced the scorched wood with one finger.

“Let’s go,” Ana said.

The walk back to Paula’s led them past a graveyard, so they went in, without a word. Ana pulled her cover out, and spread it over the ground, while Bella lit four small candles. They shuffled the deck of cards, passing the cards back and forth between one another, and finally laying the ten cards out, and waiting. Somewhere in the night, a bird flew, an owl or some other creature that hid from the day.

“The Protector,” Ana said, as she turned over the card, “we’re being watched, but we’re being watched over.”

“Good, very good sign,” Bella added.

They waited, and finally they heard the sound of a branch falling, and Bella turned over the next card.

“Heath passing, from someone near, but not death,” Bella said.

“The card is influenced by the next two,” Ana said, “but we must stop now. Someone is coming.”

Bella blew the candles out and they heard a man’s voice cursing. “Fucking witches!” he called out. “Where are you?’

The man stumbled in the dark and hurt his leg, “I better not lose a scholarship because of you two cunts!” he yelled.

He saw a brief flash of light, and then saw a candle being lit. He charged towards the light.

“Oh there you . . .” he stopped when he saw the candle resting on a tombstone, with an empty glass jar lying next to it.

“Your mind is that jar,” Bella called from darkness. “You will forget things. You will not remember things as you should. “

“Fucking whores,” the man shouting, “I got something for you both. Bev says you told her she was pregnant and gave her poison to kill my kid.” The man laughed. “Maybe I ought to pay you for that one, but I can’t have people saying witches killed my kid.”

“What you hold most dear will now leave you, and it will go slowly, like water evaporating in that jar. When the time comes for you to calm your anger, and accept your role in this, then you will be allowed to apologize to us, and we will lift the curse. I should warn you that if you wait too long, some of it may longer for a very long time.”

“What in the fuck is that supposed to mean?” the man asked, but he sounded less sure of himself.

“Look up the phases of the moon,” Ana said. “when the same phase is active again, in 28 days, return here. You will bring an offering. We may release you.”

“I’m the backup quarterback for the team,” the man shouted, “I’ll find you can I’ll share you with my friends!” But there was no one there to answer him. On his way back to the dorm he forgot where he lived, but it came back to him, eventually.

 

End part three

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brightness

I was in a bar, and the weird thing about the bar was how bright the sun was outside. It was like one of those washout photos where the exposure is so high there’s barely any images left, just outlines and shadows that barely exist. “This is a dream,” I said out loud and the bartender, a really cute young woman who was bored to tears looked up from her phone, as if the idea of conversation was repugnant to her. I finished the Scotch in the glass in front of me and thought, hell if this is a dream, at least I’m drinking the good stuff.

“I was kidnapped, once,” a man sits down beside me at the bar as starts talking, and why would you throw the word “once” in there, as if I might get confused over which time you were kidnapped. He’s shedding light, brilliant pieces of brightness fall off his clothing, like water might drip off someone caught in the rain. I look back towards the window and it’s brighter than it was before.

“There’s a trail in the forest of a national park close to where I live,” the man continues after waiting for me to ask, and I didn’t, “and this guy walks up to me and demands my wallet, and I handed it over. Then he handcuffs me and I knew he was going to kill me, I mean, why else would he take me? But you’d be surprised how much a gun effects your ability to resist. He leads me off the trail about fifteen minutes worth of walking and know it will be a while before anyone misses me, or looks for me.

“I’ll be back in three days, okay?” the man tells me as he handcuffs by hands, with this small tree at my back. With a hatchet and five minutes I could have cut it down, but there I am, sitting in the woods, handcuffed, with this tree there I can’t do a damn thing with.”

The waitress looks over at my empty glass and arches a brow so I nod. The man pays for my drink, gets a beer, and keeps talking.

“The first few hours were pretty bad,” he says, “because I kept thinking that guy would come back and shoot me. Then, after a while, I noticed that I couldn’t hear anything but birds and stuff, and I began to worry about bears, or maybe coyotes. I could stand up, move around the tree, and see that if I could have gotten up the truck about three feet, I might have been able to catch that first sizable with a foot, and pulled the tree over. That gave me something to do, but it wore me out and made me thirsty. I decided to wait a bit, and waiting was something I was going to do a lot of.”

A couple comes into the bar laughing and hanging onto one another, and shedding bits and pieces of light. The pain in the face of the waitress is obvious. She has better things to do than to wait tables in this sort of weather. But she sticks a smile on her face and goes over to the table where the young couple laughs while shaking the light off their clothes.

“Sundown was like watching the Titanic sink from a lifeboat.” The man says while watching the couple order. “I knew if I had a chance to die it would come in the darkness. It was kind of hot that day, and I hoped the coolness of the night would make the mosquitoes go away, but they still drifted in, in pairs and one at a time, just enough to mess with me. It wasn’t bad, not horrible, but still not good at all. The darkness killed my sense of time and not being able to see made me hallucinate things coming at me in the dark. Finally, I fell asleep, for a little while, but that made it worse; I had no idea what time it was at all.”

“Dawn came slow, like watching paint dry, and I listened carefully for the sound of voices. I knew better than to just start screaming my ass off, and thirst was already working on me. I peed on myself because I knew I would have to sooner or later, but it was in the middle of the afternoon before a bowel movement forced itself out. That’s when I started feeling screwed. There was no more water going into my system or food, and after one day, I was already feeling weaker and less sane. I tried to keep still and conserve my strength. There were times I stood up and looked around, but there were trees, and more trees, and I even tried to cut the trees down behind me with the chains of the handcuffs but it was more work than I could manage. Sundown came again with my wrists hurting like hell, my shoulders killing me, and thirst.”

“Glass of water, here,” he said to the waitress who had stopped playing on her phone and was eying the couple. I looked back over at them and they were leaning in, whispering, touching one another on the hands.  The waitress and I grinned.

“Sundown felt like a death sentence,” the man said. “I knew I had a better chance of dying if even a small animal attacked me. I was getting weaker and knew it. Breakfast the day before seemed a long time away, and I wished I had drank more water before the hike than I did. My pack was still were that guy made me drop it, and I hoped someone would find it, but I knew no one would that night. By now, there should be a couple of people missing me, but no one knew where I was. I saw things that night. Bears and cats and a river of dogs flowed out of the total darkness to attack me. Maybe I screamed. Maybe I was just in and out and didn’t know what reality was anymore. I woke up after sunrise and had to fight to stand up. My shoulders were on fire and I felt my hands had swollen. The day was long, terribly long, infinitely long, and I got too weak to stand. I felt bugs crawling on me and couldn’t go anything about it. I hear voices, music, songs, but none of it sounded real. I was dying, and I knew it.”

“You need another?” the waitress asked and I nodded. The man got another beer and paid for it again. I lifted my glass as if in toast and he smiled.

“The third night I saw things,” the man continued, “it was like a Disney movie on acid. I knew this was what dying was like, and the pain didn’t seem as bad. But there were lights, people looking for me, helicopters, and as soon as I yelled it all went away and left me in the darkness. People found me, cut me loose, took me to a hospital, then I would come to and be chained to the tree. It was heartbreaking how real the visions were, and how horrible it was to be back in reality. I knew this was my mind’s way of trying to escape, but it was also a sign I was dying.”

 

I had to go, and almost said so, but it was so incredibly bright outside. The couple was looking out of the window and all I could see was their silhouettes.

“Sunrise came and I could barely see it,” the man said. “I was so incredibly thirsty. I remember looking up at the sky and praying a cloud would drop rain on me, or strike me with lightning, whatever. I just wanted it to end. Then there he was. The guy with the gun. He brought my pack with him, uncuffed me, and propped me up. He gave me a gallon of water and told me my cell phone was in my car. I drank water, puked, drank more water, and ate some energy bars. I couldn’t walk, but I managed to get to my car after about an hour, and called 911. I kept waiting to wake up and discover it was a dream. When the ambulance got there I knew I was going to wake up chained to that damn tree.”

 

I woke up. The man was there, and he uncuffed my hands. “Your cell phone is in your car.” He told me. “Here’s some water. I survived it and now you have, too.”

 

Take Care,

Mike611qUr6copL._SX425_

The Death of Clara Strickland (The End?)

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Clara and Amy watched as Matt looked at the photo through a microscope.  He couldn’t remember where it came from, and both women wondered how in the hell you wind up with something like that and not know you got it. But they exchanged looks and that was all.

“I can’t see anything other than the outline of his face,” Matt said, but I can tell he sees me. I don’t think he knows what’s going on.

“Who does?” sighed Clara, and she realized that Sammy might be trapped forever.

 

They made trips back and forth to the library and tried to find something, anything, even a hint, for some remedy but there was nothing. There wasn’t a scrap of truth to anything they read, and nothing about their everyday lives as ghosts. Finally, towards the end of November, Clara announced, “I’m going to haunt the Thanksgiving Dinner. Anyone wanting to come along can help, but I’m going to fuck with these people.” No one else offered to join her and Clara didn’t blame them. The fear of cameras now was a very real thing.

 

 

As Clara was getting ready to go, she wanted to make sure she looked the part of a murdered wife, Amy walked through the wall and into the room.

“You know how we feel about you doing this,” Amy told her, “you’re going to endanger us all.”

“So?” Clara said, “So what? What you going to do? Hide here until one by one you disappear with no clue as to why? I say we all hit the damn road. We spy, we steal, we get a van and only move around at night, and we go dancing all the damn time. We can visit different places and try to find other ghosts.”

“And get fired by the sun?” Matt asked. He had drifted up from the floor.

“We don’t know that’s a thing.” Clara said, “And yes, I do realize Sammy didn’t believe the camera thing.

“We’re here to help you with the haunting.” Matt said. “Do you have a plan?”

“Yes.”

 

Most of her family had never met many of her party friends, Clara knew that, and so passing Matt and Amy off as close friends that her family didn’t know would be easy. Bridgett, the blonde with the tattoo, didn’t know anyone, so she would be happy to have someone to talk to that was close to her age. The problem was getting them past George. Of course, George was looking to cement Clara’s family accepting his story about her will and life insurance, so he wouldn’t be looking for a fight. If Matt and Amy were old friends from the High School church club, George might think that’s why he never met them. But Matt was the one who suggested they get both George and Bridgett so stoned they couldn’t make it through the meal anyway.

 

 

“This is George’s ‘Medicine Cabinet’”, Clara told Amy as they manifested in the closet of the bedroom of her house. George was pounding away at Bridgett, so they knew they wouldn’t be noticed, even if those two were just a few feet away. “I think these blue pills are LSD,” Clara told Amy.

“They are,” Amy replied, “I’ve tried it before, but I didn’t inhale.”

“Smartass!”

 

Amy and Matt arrived right after Clara’s parents. Bridgett was hopelessly inept when it came to matters in the kitchen, and Barbara, Clara’s mother, waded in to rescue her. Tim, Clara’s father, took the proffered drink and suggested the men retreat to watch football. Having Amy assure everyone she had baked many a turkey helped dispel any misgivings about letting her and Matt in. Clara had to admit Amy looked good in church clothes and Matt cut a handsome figure as well. They looked as if they were alive, and no one questioned why they had come in through the backdoor of the garage. George hated to have the blinds open so they were safe from sunlight  from that source as well.

Clara manifested just long enough to drop the LSD into George’s beer, two hits of the stuff,  and the other doses in Bridgett’s wine. She could be in and out of view in less than a second, and she wished she had more time to get better at being a ghost. The acid would really start kicking in about the time Thanksgiving Dinner was served. Clara was surprised at how well Amy and Matt blended into the religious talk neither of them have ever exhibited before. Clara never believed in a god, or disbelieved in a god, she had never really thought about it that deeply. Did religious people automatically assume she didn’t want to hear it? She didn’t, religious stuff bored her to tears, but if there was some old white guy in a bathrobe and an epic beard, what part did he play in her being a ghost? Clara grinned at the amount of alcohol Bridgett and George was knocking down. She knew they had hit some weed to calm them down, but the acid would be cranking very soon.

“The candles,” Bridgett breathed, “have you ever noticed how the fire seems to be floating above the candle, like a star?” And Clara knew it was on.

Both Amy and Matt were good, really good, at manifesting in and out of reality. More than once Amy would totally disappear while only Bridgett could see her, and Bridgett was beginning to lose control. Matt walked right through George in the kitchen and George just about lost it. He dropped his beer and the glass broke everywhere. He couldn’t very well say anything about what he saw, and Clara laughed at how red his face was getting. Tim was expressing doubts as to if George ought to have another beer but Bridgett was pouring a hefty glass of wine.

 

“Tell them about the insurance policies,” Clara whispered behind George while he was in the bathroom and he peed all over himself. George let out a yelp as he whizzed an arc across the floor. But Clara was gone.

“You’re stealing from them, George,” Clara said from right behind him in the hallway and she let George see her, for just an instant, before she disappeared.

George shrieked. He fairly ran back into the dining room where everyone was staring at him.

“She’s, uh, your, uh, I uh,” George fought against the drug coursing through his veins and knew he was losing it, “I saw a spider.”

But Bridgett laughed hard and everyone turned to look at her. Both Amy and Matt were appearing and disappearing when no one else was looking and Bridgett thought it was hysterical. She finally sat on the floor with her wine and giggled.

“Is your friend okay?” Tim said and everyone heard the term “friend” being used in a way that suggested it was too soon for George to have a girlfriend.

“Why don’t you cut the turkey, George?” Matt suggested, right on cue, and Amy grinned. George took the two pronged fork and gentled entered the turkey’s flesh, as if he were expecting it to explode. That went well, it was a start, and George pointed the knife at the turkey’s breast and pressed down with the tip of the knife.

Clara’s face came out of the turkey as she flowed, seemingly, from the cut, and pointed at George as he fell back screaming at the top of his lungs, “You murdered me, George, you killed me,” Clara stepped up on the table, “and now you’re hiding my will from my family, and trying to steal the life insurance money from them. I will have my vengeance!” Clara yelled the last sentence and George’s bowels released as he ran from the house howling.

 

“So now what?” Amy asked when they finally stopped laughing. George had ran down the street in full panic, with Bridgett on the floor in a puddle of tears. Tim had called the cops while Amy and Matt had said their goodbyes and left before the police got there. They had giggled as George was brought back to the house shouting about ghost and how he had not killed his wife. The ghosts were all hiding in the attic, but Clara had never felt more alive.

“It’s time to go, Amy,” Clara said simply.

 

 

 

 

“Can you hear me, Sammy?” Clara asked.

“Barely, but yeah.” Sammy replied.

“Ready?” Clara took her clothes off and sat in the lounge chair near the edge of the pool.

“Yeah, but barely,” Sammy replied. “Beats the photo life.”

“You know, I know technically speaking, you’re older than I am, but you’re the first person I ever met that made me want to have a kid. I wish I had a son like you.” Clara said and she realized the truth of her own words, and she bit her lip trying not to cry but couldn’t help it. “You’re a good kid,” she added.

“That was unexpected,” Sammy said, “but hey, thanks, that’s the nicest thing anyone ever said to me, living or dead.”

“I wish I had known you when I was alive,” Clara said. She looked at the night sky and it was fading to light.

“So what happened with George?” Sammy asked.

“The plan worked,” Clara said, “he was so freaked out over being accused of murder he confessed to the insurance theft by hiding my will. Bridgett threw him under the bus trying to keep from getting a murder rap. The cops used them both against each other trying to find out if I had been murdered, but they’re convinced I wasn’t now. I wouldn’t want George to do time for killing me. But he’s going to have to share the money with my family. And explain his drug stash. I’m nearly sorry about that.”

“No you aren’t.” Sammy laughed.

 

Clara watched the sky lighten and heard Amy call out, “You don’t have to do this, Clara.” And she nodded. “Sammy deserves better than to be stuck like this, and I’m, well, I want to see if there is anything else. Death has made me much better as a person than I was alive. I owe Sammy this.”

“We’re going to hit the road tomorrow, like you said, get a van and get serious window tint, and travel. We’ll look for other ghosts, and we’ll try to find out what happens, when, when someone does what you’re doing.” Amy was sobbing.

“Come back and haunt us if you can, Clara.” Matt said simply. “Tell Sammy I love him.”

“Did you hear that?” Clara asked.

“Yes,” replied Sammy. “Tell them both.”

“Sammy and I love you both, he wanted you to know, I want you to know.” And Clara stopped speaking. There was nothing left to be said.

The sun brightened the sky and the stars blinked out, one by one. The first ray of sunlight streaked the sky and Clara watched as her left leg began to dissolve and float away like dust. “I’m fading away!” she called but no one spoke. “Sammy?”

“Yeah, I can feel it, too,” Sammy said, “it doesn’t hurt.”

Her legs dissolved into stardust and blew away and Clara felt her last tear streak down her cheek as the sun slipped above the horizon, “Sammy?” she asked but no one was there. Clara felt her last tear fall but she was gone before it hit the ground.

 

End

The Death of Clara Strickland (Parts Three and Four)

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Clara watched George as he chopped a line of coke on a small mirror on the nightstand. She was sitting next to him, but George couldn’t see her or hear her. Sammy sat on the bed, cross-legged, and Ted was sitting next to him. Amy and Matt were standing against the wall making fun of the way George looked. Clara had these same thoughts; George was putting on weight, even at twenty-five, and his hair was thinning. His moustache did resemble a mouse that had crawled under his nose and died. But they had some good time, back when she was alive. He was a damn good dancer, or had been, but… Clara remembered a contest they had won, had it been three years ago already? They had been the very best dancers on the floor and the whole club knew it.

 

“How long you two married, Clare?” Sammy asked.

“Clara,” she corrected him, and instantly regretted her tone, “right out of High School, five years ago. Just short of it. He had a head full of hair, was lean and mean and he was hot.” Clara didn’t mean it sarcastically but everyone laughed.

George picked up the phone off the nightstand and dialed a number, “Yeah, come on over,” he said, “cops got it all cleaned up. No, there isn’t a smell. I’ll change the sheets before you get here.”

Bastard. Clara was seething. This was how much he missed her.

“Let it go, girl,” Amy said. “You do not want to haunt your old life this damn soon.”

“We are still watching aren’t we?” asked Matt. “If it’s the blonde with the tattoo on her ass, I’m watching.”

“You people,” Clara sighed. “Is there anyone here whose hobbies don’t include watching me have sex?”

“Well,” Ted said as he raised his hand, “not since you died.”

 

The woman was the blonde, with the tattoo, and Clara had never realized how awkward sex looked when it wasn’t one of those cheap porn tapes or in the movies. Clothes never came off seamlessly, and George was hopelessly inept when it came to bras. The woman looked around the room, as if she could sense she was being watched, and Clara was sure the woman was faking pleasure just for the cocaine. “You should know,” Clara told herself she walked through the wall and out of the room.

Being dead was a little difficult. During the day, the living had to plan for food, water, bathroom breaks, shopping, and sleep. Time simply passed without interruption for the dead, which sped it up and slowed it down, at the same time. It was dark outside and Clara was tempted to take a walk, but felt a little strange being alone. She went back into the bedroom and found the other four ghosts listening to the after-sex conversation. Amy motioned for her to come closer, and grinned.

“…I knew as soon as they cops called me,” George was saying, “that sneaky bitch had found my stash. She was good for that sort of thing, but it’s her own damn fault. She’s lucky she didn’t kill that moron she was screwing, too.”

“So, Georgie,” the blonde nearly purred, and Clara made puking noises, “did you have any insurance on her?”

“That greedy little bitch!” Amy screamed with laughter.

“You go girl, get that gold!” Sammy laughed, too.

“Yeah, more than she realized,” George said. “Her family knows about one of the policies and I’ll split that with them, but there’s another half a million they don’t know about. She left everything to them, can you believe she had a will? I’ll have to get it out of the box at the bank, but they don’t have to know about that either. I’m going to invite them all over for Thanksgiving and we’re going to have a memorial. Why don’t you come? We can tell them that you and Clara worked together or something like that.”

“And have sex in the bathroom while they’re all watching TV?” the blonde giggled.

“Definitely.”

 

“You’re mad about how George is reacting to your death?” Ted asked. They were in the tub at Matt’s house. Clara wasn’t sure how she felt about sex in her old bed anymore, even though she wasn’t going to move out, if that was what it was called.

“Yeah, I am, but it’s not just that,” Clara replied in almost a whisper. “I feel sorry for him now. I feel bad about the way we lived our lives. I feel a sense of loss now, that I didn’t live when I could have. The first thing I thought when I met Sammy was it would have been great to have a kid like that. George and I partied like there was no end to any of it. He’s going to keep going, and I don’t blame him, really, but it’s still sad.”

“Once you’re free of your body you are also free of the chemicals that you put into it. Your mind becomes more clear. Your heart is unburdened with the anxiety of day to day living. Oddly, when you become a ghost you become more human,” Ted told her. “That’s why sex is so much better. There aren’t any distractions of clothes or morals or anything. You like someone and you’re attracted and you can just go for it.”

They sat in the tub for a while, and Clara wondered why life would be like had she known was death was going to be like. She sat up to ask Ted if he thought he might have lived his life any differently but Ted was gone.

 

“Gone?” Amy asked.

“What do you mean gone?” Matt said as he walked through a wall to join them.

“It really happened?” Sammy stood up and cussed aloud. “Dammit, he was only thirty something, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah, one minute we were in the tub talking and then he was just gone.” Clara felt like crying but didn’t know if she could.

“Were you screwing?” Amy asked.

“Yeah, did he come and go?” Matt said and Amy cut her eyes at him.

“No, we had finished, and he was more exciting than you’d think, but we were sitting there talking and he was just…gone.” Clara let herself drift down to the next floor and hoped no one would join her. But what if she just kept going? Was that the answer? Did all ghosts simply drift too high or sink too low to escape the finality of death? But what happened next? Clara found she wondered about that almost constantly.

 

End three

 

“So where’s the nearest, uh, place with books, what are they called again?” Clara asked.

“Library?” Sammy offered. “You seriously couldn’t remember what a library was called?”

“I went to a private school,” Clara said, and again, she regretted her tone of voice with Sammy, “my parents paid for me to be there and the school wasn’t about to toss me as long as Daddy was donating money to them. I drank, did coke and the quarterback.”

“So what was George?” Sammy asked.

“His parents had money, too.” Clara said. “I’m betting he forged my signature on those insurance policies. His daddy owns a couple of insurance companies.”

“George had money and you two wound up in this neighborhood?” Sammy laughed. “No offense, but this isn’t exactly Beverly Hills, here.”

“Sammy’s right,” Matt said, “it would seem if the two of you had any sort of money this wouldn’t be where you moved into.”

“You dead people don’t read the same newspapers as the living,” Clara said but she laughed to ease it in, “or you would know this neighborhood is a gold mine. You’re just a few blocks from Womack, which is quickly becoming very pricey. George was going to start buying houses here and then tearing them down, and building more expensive places. You’ll notice we tore down that shack behind our place to build the pool.”

“Yeah, my mama used to live there until she couldn’t afford it anymore, and she had to move,” Sammy said.

“Oh God, I am so sorry, Sammy,” Clara was horrified.

“Just kidding,” Sammy laughed with the others, “that place was a dump. I have no idea who lived there.”

“So what do you want with the library?” Amy asked. “You want to research ghosts, don’t you?” and Amy squealed with delight.

“So where is it?” Clara asked and no one knew.

The yellow pages had several listed and Clara was amazed. They all looked like really nice places even if they did have books in them. The closest was over a mile away and Sammy suggested they walk, and slip in after midnight. There would be less of a chance with a camera or a living person.

“Why don’t we just drive?” suggested Clara and everyone just looked at her.

“What?” she asked. “You can use a sex toy but not a stick shift?”

 

Not only had no one driven since their death, no one had ever really left the neighborhood, except Amy, who had to walk, hide in trucks, and even hitchhike back.

“But you did ride in a truck? You did travel inside a vehicle? This isn’t rocket science I’m trying to explain to you is it?” Clara couldn’t believe it. No one had left the neighborhood in years.

“I think it’s in our nature to stay close to where we died,” Amy said.

“You died in Lubbock Texas!” Clara said loudly. “You were in a car wreck a thousand miles from here.”

“I think it’s in our nature to stay close to where we lived.” Matt said. “Most people do that in life.”

“Screw that,” Clara said, “I’m going to the library. Who’s with me?”

 

“Not one book in that damn place that gave us a damn thing,” Sammy was the first to speak when they returned. “It’s like nothing anybody ever wrote ever addressed who we ghosts are or what we do other than scare the living and wear sheets. It’s like we’re the damn Klan.”

“On the upside we know better than to drive again,” Amy said and looked sharply at Clara when she did.

“I wasn’t going that damn fast,” Clara said, “and that late at night who gets a damn ticket for speeding?”

“You!” said the others in unison.

“Okay, Okay, but it’s not like he was going to take me in,” Clara knew that was a lie, and hoped no one  would call her on it.

“We should have known they would run her license if we got pulled over,” Matt said, “but I had no idea they knew she was dead this soon.”

“Well, we’re all lucky I’m quick on my feet!” Clara tried to sound like it was all over and everyone would move on to another subject.

“We’re lucky you’re quick on your knees, girl,” Sammy said, “but I have to admit you did get us out there.”

“Why is there no information on being a ghost?” Matt asked. “I mean, everything we went through for the last six hours was fiction or close to it. No one has ever written anything about us that’s true. Sammy’s right. It’s like we don’t exist.”

“What if no one who is a ghost ever lives long enough to pass any real information on?” Amy said quietly. “What if none of us ever really get enough time to find out anything? You’ve all read the newspapers every day; where is everyone? Why isn’t there more of us? I know half a dozen people from around here who has died, and the most we’ve ever had with us was five, and now four. I went from Texas to SoCal and met two. What if it doesn’t happen often enough for anyone to give a fuck?”

“All we have can cover a page and a half and not one word of any of what we know to be true is in any book that we’ve read.” Matt said.

“How’s this true?” Sammy leaped up. “How is it that we are the only four ghosts and we’re all from this neighborhood. I’m not looking to be hired by NASA anytime soon, but doesn’t that just seem pretty damn remote? All four ghosts in the western US can be found in Shady Acres subdivision off Presidio? Bullshit!”

“I got an idea,” Sammy continued, “go get your Polaroid, Clara, and let’s see if this shit about cameras is true. I’m betting it’s as fake as everything else. If we can’t find out what’s true then let’s weed out what isn’t.”

 

Clara aimed the camera at Sammy, Amy, and Matt, and asked them to smile, she started to push the button and stopped, “What if it is true? Maybe we should just try it on someone first, maybe?”

Sammy stepped away from the group, “You may fire when ready!”

“Aye aye!” said Clare and she pressed the button. The flash exploded in bright white light and Sammy disappeared.

“He’s messing with us,” Amy said and the camera whined as the picture was expelled.

“Sammy!” Matt yelled, “this isn’t funny.” Matt looked around. “Did you hear something?”

“Look!” Clara held the photo out and they could all see a vague image of someone that might have been Sammy, but at the same time they heard a tiny voice screaming.

“Oh no,” Matt said, “that part was true! Tear that photo! Release him!”

Clara tore a tiny piece off of one edge and the screaming got louder. They heard Sammy yell, “Stop! Stop! Don’t tear the photo! IT HURTS!”

 

End of part four

The Halloween Ghost Story. The Death of Clara Strickland (Part One)

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Good evening, and welcome to the Annual Firesmith Halloween Ghost Story. It’s not always about ghosts, but this year, it is, actually. We will do one part every night until Halloween Night, and it will end there. This year, the story is rated R for content, but not necessarily violence or murders, as per usual. Enjoy. I bring you the Death of Clara Strickland.

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George had gotten clever in his attempts to catch her at cheating, Clara had to admit that, and because he was trying to catch her, Clara knew George already suspected. How long he had known, or thought he knew, before he started acting on those thoughts, made Clara think about what she was doing and how she was going to keep doing it, because she certainly wasn’t going to stop. Brad was a much better dancer than George, much better looking, a thousand times better in bed. And George had not given much thought to the new man being more of a man than he. George thought that moving his weight set into the garage meant there wasn’t enough room for another car.  And George knew the nosey neighbors would rat Clara out if there was a strange car parked in the driveway overnight. Clara smiled. Brad had that weight set moved in just a few minutes while George had taken an hour or so. But Brad had incentives that George had lost. Clara smiled. Brad was getting breakfast in bed and… Clara reached for a frying pan and it slipped out of her grasp. No, it was stuck in place, she couldn’t pull it out of its place in the drawer. No, wait. Clara reached for the pan, put her fingers around the handle and they slipped right through the steel handle. Clara looked at her hand. She flexed her fingers and tried again.

“Uh, hate to tell you this girl, but you’re dead,” said a woman standing in the corner of the kitchen.

“What?” Clara was stunned. “What do you mean I’m dead? Who the hell are you? How did you get in my house? Get out or I’ll call…”

“The cops?” The woman laughed. “Excuse me Mr. Po-lease Man but there’s a ghost in my house and I’m a ghost, too.”

“You’re a ghost?” Clara tried to pick up a knife and couldn’t. She couldn’t turn the water on in the sink or pick up a glass. Nothing was working.

“I’m Amy Waterman,” Amy said, “your neighbor, Jackie Watts, I was her lover. I got killed in a car wreck about twenty years ago. Took forty forevers to make it all the way back to SoCal from Texas. But I learned a lot about ghosts on the way. First rule: Direct sunlight will dissolve you. Any hit from the sun and you are gone.”

“I thought that was vampires.” Clara said.

“Yeah, life is funny that way,” Amy said, “but death is funnier. No sunlight.”

“So,” Clara paused, “what happens if I get in the sun? I’m already dead. What happens next?”

“Get used to the idea of a vast wealth of ignorance from your fellow ghosts.” Amy said with a sigh. “The most common answer you’ll get from me is ‘I have no damn idea and no one else does either.’”

“I can’t pick things up but I can stand on the floor,” Clara said, “that doesn’t make sense.”

“You can’t pick things because you haven’t learned to manifest.” Clara said. “Watch!” She reached over and picked up the knife. “You can scare the hell out of the living if you want to, but I’d advise against it. Once they learn there’s a ghost in a house they start telling everybody who will listen. If you ever get caught on camera you’re through. Cameras can trap you inside of them and you’ll be stuck on paper until the sun gets you. Movie cameras are different. I have no damn idea why.”

“Can you teach me how to pick things up and stuff?” Clara asked.

“Yeah, but you have to have sex with me,” Amy said with a leer. “It’s hard as hell to get a date when you’re dead, and sex is one of the few things we can do that’s a hell of a lot better when you’re no longer alive. It’s more spiritual, but damn, the orgasms…”

“I, uh, I’ve never really done it with a woman before.” Clara wondered why she wasn’t blushing. “I mean, yeah, once or twice, okay, more than that, actually, but…”

“You’ve done incredible feats of sex with a half dozen different guys since I’ve been here,” Amy laughed, “and you’ve done two guys at the same time, at least twice. Oh, it’s time you asked.”

“Asked?” Clara stopped and thought. “How did I die?”

“Cocaine overdose,” Amy told her. “That stuff that George thought he hid so well that you found was pure coke, and it was laced with some very strong stuff. I heard George talking to his girlfriend about it. He was going to get her stoned as hell this weekend while you were off banging Brad at the river.”

“Why are you here?” Amy asked.

“One, I like to check on Jackie. I still love her, but I wouldn’t just show up and freak her out. So I hang around. The way I figure it, we ghosts are living on borrowed time, so to speak. Ghosts just disappear after a while, perfectly safe inside, and suddenly they’re gone. I’ve never met anyone older than a century or so.”

“There’s other ghosts?” Clara asked. “Did all of you just sit around my bedroom watching me have sex?”

“You’re the best show, by a long shot,” Amy laughed, “and there’s only four of us now, five counting you. We’re the only two chicks, by the way. Anytime George booked a flight we’d hope you bring something home rather than dining out, if you know what I mean.” And Amy winked at her. “I can’t wait. This is like going on a date with someone you’ve always wanted but never got a chance to speak to.”

Clara had to admit Amy was cute as hell. It had been a while she had been with a woman. And Amy knew a lot of things that were useful. Why the hell not? After all, Clara had to admit, being dead felt a lot freer than she thought it would. Did ghosts get to do cocaine? Clara licked her lips and Amy smiled back at her.

“Well,” Clara ventured, “not that it ever stopped me before, but I guess I’m no longer married, death til we part and all.”

There was a scream from the bedroom as Brad discovered Clara was dead.

“I hope he didn’t roll over on top of you and…” Amy began.

There was more screaming and suddenly Brad ran out of the bedroom, trying to get his clothes on and looking like, well, looking scared.

 

“Oh my god, he did,” Amy said.

“Yep.” Clara replied. “I used to love that about him. He knew how to wake a woman up.”

“But not how to wake the dead!”  Amy laughed.

“You are not funny,” Clara said but she had to smile.

“Follow me, please,” Amy said as she started to leave.

“Wait!” Clara said, “Where are you going?”

“Cops to a death scene, cameras, open windows, open doors, sunlight, flashes going off, I rather not stick around. So very few places to stay safe.” Amy said.

“Okay, take me with you,” Clara replied, “just go slow, I just died.”

“I can do that,” Amy laughed. “We’ve got some time.”

 

End one.

 

Ghost Story

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The idea of ghosts who die natural deaths after being ghosts is one that is new to me. I’m writing a story about a woman who dies of a drug overdose and she becomes a ghost. Once in the world of the dead, she finds herself one of only five ghosts around. Collectively, they try to make some sort of guide for new ghosts but none of them really know anything. They wind up with a very depressing page and a half worth of useful information to anyone who has just died. It’s 1978, Disco and cocaine is all the rage, and Clara Strickland has died at the age of twenty-three. The oldest ghost in her group, a man named Matt Truman, tells her that he’s been dead for thirty-two years and has never felt better. But one day Matt is gone, and none of the other four know what’s happened to him or why.

 

The remaining ghosts question their collectively knowledge. What do they really know about being dead and how did they find out about it? Amy, who died in a car wreck twenty years ago is now the oldest ghost. She confesses that everything she knows was told to her by a ghost, but she has no idea if it is really true. For instance, Amy has always believed that direct sunlight would kill her, and other ghosts, and she’s always hidden from it, and told others to hide from it, but she’s never actually seen direct sunlight and a ghost interact. Amy has always been told that cameras capture a ghost’s spirit, and trap in in the photograph until the photo is destroyed or exposed to direct sunlight, but none of the other ghosts have ever heard of his, except from Amy, and none of them know if anything they have heard is true or not.

 

Sammy, the youngest person who died, at age sixteen, and the next oldest ghost at eleven years, has an idea. Ghost can, once they get the hang of it, physically manifest. They’ll get a camera, one of them will take a photo of another, and then they’ll see if the ghost is trapped or not. They’ll use an instant camera, one that spits out the photo, and tear it up to release the trapped ghost if it goes awry. This seems to be a really great idea, and Sammy volunteers to be the subject of the photograph. Amy takes his photo and sure enough, Sammy is trapped. They can see his photo, vaguely and out of focus, and they can hear him, barely, but as Amy tears a piece of the photo to release Sammy, he screams. They discover that Sammy’s spirit cannot be released by tearing the photo, but it can be destroyed if the photo is damaged. Sammy is trapped!

 

Down to three ghosts, the remaining trio realize there has to be some source of knowledge but now they’re, uh, spooked, by what’s happened. Where did Matt go? How to help Sammy? They’re feel frightened and confused by what’s happened and they wonder if being a ghost is a temporary thing, like being alive, but what comes next?

 

In the meanwhile, Clara discovers her husband, who according to the death do us part clause in the vows, she is no longer married to, doesn’t miss her at all. That’s not unexpected; Clara died while doing cocaine with her boyfriend. But Clara discovers that George took out a lot of insurance on her, and now she wonders if the cocaine that killed her wasn’t hidden in a place she might find it. Of course, as much as Clara haunts George, there’s no real evidence he actively sought to kill her, but still. She’s pissed off. And now she thinks that she might be dead on borrowed time as well.

 

Amy and Ted are against it, but Clara wants to do something to screw up George’s life. He has a new girlfriend but he’s keeping her hid until all the legal wrangling over Clara’s death is over. Clara figures out George is lying to her family about how much insurance money is out there, and he’s hidden her will. She and the other ghosts plot to reveal everything at Thanksgiving, and also reveal that George’s new girlfriend, who he is passing off as one of Clara’s friends, is pregnant. None of it is true, of course, but Clara realizes that the sight of her ghost will be enough to convince everyone to examine Georgie’s claims more closely. Unexpectedly, George is arrested for Clara’s murder after her family demands an investigation.

 

After Thanksgiving, Amy and Clara discover that Ted is gone. He’s left to go find the truth about ghosts, if he can, but he’s done with haunting. Sammy, still trapped in the photo, demands that he be left out in the sunlight. Maybe it will free him, maybe it will kill him, but he has to have some sort of relief. Clara sits down in her old home, watching her husband, out on bail, weep for the girlfriend who has just broken up with him, and she realizes that she not a better person for being dead. Worse, she realizes that she likely won’t get a chance to change who she is or who she was. Clara dislikes the idea of waiting to die, in some mysterious and untimely fashion, and she asks Sammy if he’s serious about leaving.

 

The story end with Clara out beside the pool, with Sammy’s photo propped up beside her. She’s watching the sun come up, and Amy is watching from the attic. This will be the first real proof of whether or not sunlight kills ghosts and if it might also kill a trapped ghost. Sammy is ready, he tells Clara, because he never wanted to be a ghost, and never really liked it. Clara asks him if he believes they’ll both wind up somewhere else and Sammy is hoping for someplace with better weather.

 

Clara watched the first streak of light in the sky and then sees the first sign if orange looking over the horizon. Amy watches from the attic as Clara disappears and Sammy goes silent.

 

End