A ghost story part 3

Yep, Revis and I are back again on this story already. Sometimes the words come easily. Hopefully you continue to enjoy our little tale of fright and intrigue.

…..

The book, a dark purple with silver markings he didn’t recognize running up the spine, sparked as he touched it.  The tiny electric flare seemed to hang in the air far longer than any normal static-electricity and then it disappeared with a loud pop.  Jake flinched at the sound but didn’t stop what he was doing. He had nearly been killed now twice and he needed to know what was going on so he could keep whatever was attacking him from finishing the job. 

Pulling the book completely off the shelf, Jake began to flip through the pages.  There were all kinds of macabre pictures, from headless people riding horses, to unrecognizable horrors under beds, to barely scene phantoms in the shadowy recesses of closets.

A shiver ran up his spine as he flipped through the book.  At the same time, a sense of frustration began to build up.  The pictures were horrifying, yes, but they didn’t give him any information on their own.  Not that he immediately understood anyway.  He didn’t know what he was looking at or why.  And the markings that covered the pages that didn’t have pictures were in a language he didn’t know.

What am I supposed to do with this?

Jake started to put the book back on the shelf when movement from the corner of his eye caused him to stop.  He turned towards the open room but there was nothing there. A week ago he would’ve moved on without thinking any more about it. Today was a new day, however. Just because he didn’t see anything now didn’t mean there wasn’t anything there. After all, he didn’t see what was causing the pressure that cut off the air to his still sore throat. 

The last time he was in trouble he got out of it by waving a book around in front of him. While he wasn’t necessarily in trouble at the moment, the movement was more than enough to make him feel like trouble was coming. With that in mind, he shook the dark purple tome all around. Nothing happened. Not physically, at least. The foreboding feeling he was getting went away after continuing to move the book around for a few moments. He waited for a minute to see if it would come back, but it didn’t. 

Jake kept his hand on the book while his mind went back to trying to figure out a way to read it. Immediately, an idea struck him. He sat down at his desk and turned on his laptop. There were a number of programs online that were designed to translate things. He’d never used any of them on anything more than a word or phrase, and that was after typing the words into a text box on the screen. Using one to translate something written in a book was something new.

He took pictures of the first few pages of text with his webcam and loaded them into the first translation program he found.

The thinking icon spun for longer than it should have, even given the large amount of data he was trying to translate, and Jake began to frown.  He knew it hadn’t worked before the page refreshed with the red letters across the top saying no translation had been found.

I can’t give up though.  There has to be something here.

Setting aside the purple book, Jake picked up Unprepared and flipped through it again.  Nothing jumped out at him so he closed it and turned to the back cover.  The picture looked exactly like the man who had been standing in his room.  Then, for the first time, Jake noticed that under the author’s name were the dates, “June 1st, 1953 – June 7th, 2020.”

“Wait?  He’s dead?”

He felt foolish saying it.  He hadn’t really stopped to consider how the man had been in his room and then disappeared.  The how of what was going on had seemed less important than the what or the why.

Was that his ghost?

He didn’t want to voice that question.  Somehow saying the word “ghost” out loud seemed like a bad idea.  But, he hadn’t gotten a new idea.  Turning to his laptop again, he opened a search engine and typed in “Marten Revulus,” the author’s name.

He had a sense of trepidation that only grew as the search results popped up immediately with one missing person account after another. Jake looked through them until he found the newest link, dated almost a year ago. His trepidation faded as he read. It was replaced by interest. The story of Marten Revulus was not as boring as he first thought it would be. 

Ten years prior to the article’s publication, Marten had been reported missing by his wife, who had come home to find him gone and a pile of glass in his garage where his car should have been. One theory was that Marten had walked in on someone trying to steal his car and the carjacker took care of him in order to keep him quiet. Another was that his wife had paid someone to kill him while she was away. No evidence to support these claims ever surfaced and, by all accounts, Mr. and Mrs. Revulus had a loving and strong relationship. The rest of the theories got crazier from there.

Years passed with no new leads and the story was mostly forgotten until Marten’s wife petitioned to have him declared legally dead, a petition that the judge granted the day before the article. There was no specific reason given for the timing of the wife’s petition. All the article said was that she needed to do it for “legal reasons”. More than likely, Jake thought, it had more to do with finances than legalities. 

How did all of that fit in with what  happened to him? It didn’t, as far as he could tell. What would the ghost of Marten Revulus want with him? He was barely older than a toddler when Revulus disappeared. Plus, there was no way to be sure that the man was even dead. How could there be a ghost of someone who was still alive?

How could there be a ghost of someone who is still alive?  Now that’s a funny thought.  Like something out of one of those space wizard movies…

Jake shook his head, half smiling.  Nope.  Too ridiculous.

He went back to scanning articles, trying to make some sense of who the author was, why he had disappeared and what it all had to do with him here and now.  The sound of the front door opening, his mom getting home from work, startled him from his research and he realized how late it was.  He turned off the computer screen and jumped into bed.  He’d be in for it if she knew he’d spent the night online instead of sleeping.  

Eyes closed and doing his best to slow his breathing, he listened as she came up the stairs, stopped at his doorway for a moment, and then carried on to her room.  He opened his eyes again and stared at the ceiling.  It was useless to try and get to sleep now.  His alarm was going to go off in about an hour and if he dozed it would leave him groggier than if he just stayed up.  Plus, his throat was still sore.  He didn’t exactly feel like he could fall asleep again.

A moment later he was sitting upright in bed.  The front door had just opened again.  A new set of footsteps was coming up the stairs, coming down the hall, nearing his room. Before he could even start to contemplate what this second occurrence was, it happened a third time. Then, a fourth. It was followed quickly by a fifth.

His mind was racing. He wanted to get out of bed, rush to the doorway, and investigate the noises. At the same time, he also wanted to stay in bed. Not only were the sound of the footsteps confusing, but they were ratcheting up the fear he was feeling. Jake was already scared after the two times he almost suffocated in the last half a day, but adding these noises on top of that was beginning to fray his nerves. Each footstep made him wince just a little, especially when they didn’t stop at his doorway like they had been. Whatever was making them was coming into his room.

Jake closed his eyes. When the footsteps sounded like they were next to his bed, he peeked through his eyelids, hoping that whatever was there wouldn’t notice. It didn’t work. His mother stood over him and she didn’t look happy. “Have you been up all night?” she asked angrily. 

“No,” he answered honestly. “I slept.”

She looked him over, trying to decide if he was telling the truth. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, she instructed, “Go back to sleep.”

“But…”

“No buts. Go back to sleep.”

She didn’t give him a chance to argue before she turned around to walk out of the room. Jake had words that he wanted to get out, but they had nothing to do with arguing with her. The words he wanted to get out were a warning to her about the spectral hands that were trailing in her wake, closing in to grab her.

A Ghost Story, part 1

Revis and I are at it once again. We are just starting the story so no promises on frequency or timing of posts. But, hey, at least we are writing again? Hopefully it’s even entertaining. Anyway, we hope you enjoy it because we will have a blast writing it.

……….

The first time he saw a ghost it was nothing like what he’d seen in scary movies or read about in the horror books he owned. The room didn’t suddenly get colder. He couldn’t see his breath. His teeth didn’t start to chatter. The hairs on his neck and arms didn’t stand on end and no strange sensation ran up and down his spine either. There were no shadowy faces or rattling chains, no unexplained thumps in the night or half-glimpsed movements from the corners of his eyes.

All of that would come later. Yes, all of it.

But, that first time, there was nothing sinister or scary about the experience. Perhaps, he should have been scared. It happened so quickly that it was over before he had time to process what he was seeing. Plus, the first ghost he saw, he only saw an empty hand. There really isn’t much scary about that. And he wasn’t the type to scare easily anyway.

He had been sitting on his bed, reading a magazine he liked, when he looked up casusally as he turned pages, to see a hand, as if from another dimension reaching through the thin fabric between the worlds, pluck a book off his shelf, set it on the ground, flip to a specific page, and then withdraw, as if nothing untoward had happened at all. It had happened so fast, too, that he hardly would have believed he had witnessed it if not for the book, one of his favorites, turned to a page with only four words on it, “And so it begins.”

But it didn’t. Not for a while, at least. Weeks passed before the next occurrence. 

That was enough time for him to convince himself that he had been asleep and dreamt the whole thing. The book was back in its customary spot on the shelf the following morning and he didn’t remember putting it back. Therefore, he couldn’t have seen what he had seen. It had to have been a dream.

“Dinner’s ready!”

He jumped at the sound of his mother calling up the stairs to him. Looking down, he saw that his mind had wandered and he’d made no progress on the English paper he’d been working on. It stared up from his desk, mocking him for mentally going back to the night of the book. Cursing himself for not staying focused, he got up from his desk and started walking to the door so he could go downstairs and eat.

His eyes caught movement out of the corner of his eye while he was going through the doorway. With a quick step backwards, he looked around his room until he found what he’d seen moving. It was another book. He stepped back inside and picked it up from where it sat on his pillow. It wasn’t opened to a specific page, but the title caused a chill to pass through him as he read it off the book’s spine: Unprepared. 

“Jake?  Let’s go.”

The slight elevation in his mother’s tone, the pitch that meant he only had a few seconds to make his appearance for dinner or he’d be in for it, kicked him into gear.  Dinner was served at 5 o’clock sharp and any tardiness had to be rigorously explained.  He put the book back on the shelf, ignoring the gooseflesh that suddenly rushed up his arms, and hightailed it to the table.

His mother’s piercing gaze caught him as he took his seat.  “What were you doing?”

“Trying to finish up my English paper.”

The half-smirk, raised eyebrow, look she gave his answer meant she didn’t fully believe him but wasn’t going to push it further.  He would have to give it to her to look over before he went to bed later but that was fine, he really needed to spend time on it anyway.

While eating he tried to bend his thoughts to how he wanted to reword the paper but he found his mind drifting over and over to the questions that had swarmed his mind when he had picked up “Unprepared.”

Had the first incident with a book really not been a dream? If so, what did it mean?  And if this was some sort of message, that he was unprepared, then what was he unprepared for?  What did he need to be doing?

By the time dinner was done, he had no answers. It didn’t help that his mom kept talking to him during the meal, interrupting his thoughts. She always did that when she knew his mind was elsewhere. It was her way of getting the most out of their limited time together. Between his schedule of studying for his final exams and getting ready for graduation, and her working the night shift, they didn’t see each other much outside of their dinners together. Besides, he reminded himself, there was far more annoying parental behavior that she could be engaging in than trying to have a conversation with him.

Once he’d finished dinner, he went back upstairs to his room to finish his paper. With the strangeness happening there earlier, Jake didn’t think he’d be able to concentrate on his work. To his surprise, however, the words came flowing to him when he sat back down Iat his desk. His thoughts became clearer the longer he worked on it and when he was finished, he was surprised by how good he thought it was. English was his worst subject, but he was pretty sure he nailed this assignment. 

“I thought I’d find you up here furiously pounding on your laptop.”

Jake turned to see his mother standing in the doorway in her work clothes. “Mr. Johnson doesn’t want us to type out every assignment,” he explained. “He thinks it’s important for us to know and use cursive.”

She shrugged and walked next to him. His mother looked over his shoulder at what he’d written. Almost immediately, her face turned red and angry. “Is this some kind of joke?” she demanded. 

He was about to ask her what she was talking about when his eyes drifted down to his paper. His face turned to one of confusion. The words on the page weren’t what he’d written. 

“Mom, I… I…,” Jake struggled to understand what he was looking at, let alone come up with a reasonable explanation.  He started to sweat and felt like he couldn’t breathe.  He forced his mouth open to say something, anything, but nothing came.  He sat there with his mouth agape.  He could feel his mother’s wrath swelling.  It was like a physical presence in the room pressing against him.

Suddenly, making him jump a bit, a knock on the front door came to his rescue. 

His mother fixed him with a stern glance and then said as she was leaving the room, “I don’t know what you are playing at young man but, when I get back up here, you better have your real paper ready to show me.”

“My real paper?” Jake whispered glancing down at the jumble of words, doodles, and unrecognizable scientific calculations.  “What happened to what I wrote?”

Jake reached up to scratch at an itch on his head when he realized the physical presence he felt before must not have been coming from his mom.  It was still there in the room with him.  The feeling, the pressure, was growing.

He faced the empty room behind him and stammered, “Hel… hello?”

The ghostly hand appeared directly in front of his face. Jake jerked away from it, burying himself deeper into his desk chair. Helplessly, he watched as the hand drifted down to grab ahold of his wrist. He struggled against it, but the hand was too strong. After he stopped struggling, the ghost hand began to move his wrist. 

Jake’s hand moved over the paper, causing the pen he was holding to write. Had he been holding it the whole time? Where did the new notebook come from? Was there anything else he hadn’t noticed? Why hadn’t he cried out for help? Those questions flew from his mind as he began reading what the ghost hand was forcing him to write.

“You…were…warned,” he read aloud as the words appeared. “You… did… nothing… to… prepare… for… the… beginning. Now… it… is… time… for… your… end.”

While he was still more afraid than he’d ever been in his life, Jake overcame it enough that it was no longer paralyzing him. He hollered for his mother as he got up and ran for the door. Unfortunately for him, the ghost still gripped him by the wrist. He came to an abrupt halt within a few steps. Suddenly, the ghost hand yanked on his arm, sending a wave of pain throughout his body and making him wonder if it popped out of the socket. 

He felt the ghost hand let go of his wrist. His relief was short-lived, however, when he felt it grab onto his throat. Even though it wasn’t squeezing yet, Jake was starting to have trouble taking a breath.

unsolved

He grew up in a haunted house so each new place he moved to he was open-minded to the possibility that it too would be haunted.  He looked for signs.  He watched for movement and listened for unexplainable sounds.  He waited patiently for the ghosts to show themselves but they never did.  Then, one night, nine plus years after having moved into his current home, he heard her voice coming through the shower pipes.

He dismissed it at first.  Ghosts don’t just show up unless something happened to invite them in or to keep them from leaving.  Nothing tragic had happened in the house or nearby.  There was no reason a ghost should have chosen that specific night to reach out.  But, she continued to talk through the pipes when the shower was running and that made it so he couldn’t ignore her.  Besides, he’d waited for so long he didn’t want to.

Her words were garbled.  The water made them impossible to understand but her voice only came through when the water was turned on.  No matter what he tried, he couldn’t understand her.

It was disconcerting to have her chattering away while he showered.  Though, once the initial shock wore off, he tried to engage her in conversation.  She didn’t respond to any of his questions in any discernible way.  It didn’t seem like she cared what he said because her tone and the pacing of her words never changed.  He grew used to having her voice in the background as the days passed, until it no longer seemed strange and he no longer even tried to understand what she was saying.

And then, one morning during his shower, her words turned to screams.

He called out to her, asking fervently how he could help, what was wrong, what she needed.  When there was no change, he turned the water on and off, hoping to get a break from the onslaught.  Hoping the cycling of the water might help or reset the scenario or anything that might break off the noise.  He turned on different taps and called out through them.  But, when the water was on in the shower nothing stopped the screams.  Nothing he tried did anything to diminish her wails.

He had to turn the water off.  Even at a trickle her cries of anguish came through at piercing decibels.  He felt bad about it but he had to go about his life.  He couldn’t leave her screaming while he wasn’t home.  He couldn’t leave her screaming while he was trying to get things done around the house: eating, sleeping, …

He turned off the tap and left it off for several minutes.  The silence was nearly as deafening as her screams had been.  Nearly.  For the first time since her sudden arrival, he was scared.

What would happen when he turned the water back on?  What if she was still screaming?  What if she wasn’t?

The unanswered questions couldn’t wait forever.  He only had one bathroom in his place.  Eventually, and sooner rather than later at that, he would have to turn his shower back on.

He couldn’t face it naked, though.  Though he had mostly dried in the process of running around trying the other taps in his house, trying to get to the women, to help her, to get her to calm down, he still had soap on him.  He didn’t worry about that, though, as he finished toweling off and put some clothes on.  Then he walked back into the bathroom, haltingly, timidly.  And with his heart racing, he pulled the lever that would turn his shower back on.

Water poured forth but nothing else.  No screaming.  No talking.  Just water.

He stared at the drain as the water filled around the edges before being pulled away, forgotten, lost forever.  Where had she gone?  Had he imagined the whole thing?  What was he supposed to do now?

He shut the water off and then immediately turned it back on.  Still, there was no hint of his ghost.  With a frown he turned off the tap and left the bathroom.  He had to get to work.  The mystery would wait until he got home later and could see if she had returned.  Then again, perhaps he would never know why she had come, why she had screamed and why she stopped…

Same Time Next Year

Happy Halloween!

Last Year

He clasped my hand and whispered, “You made it through another Halloween.”

My expression darkened and I growled, “You don’t know how angry I am at you right now!”

He returned my glare with a smile and responded, “You’ll forgive me because I’m irresistible.”

I rolled my eyes and retorted, “Yeah, in your own mind.”

His eyes became serious and he made me promise that we’d do this again the same time next year.

This Year

I didn’t expect one kid, yet I bought a jumbo bag of candy. By 8 PM, with no one stopping by, I wrote “Treat” on the bag and set it on my neighbor’s porch without ringing the doorbell. I had my own business to conduct.

The pink capsules allowed me to sleep. The orange tablets lowered my blood pressure. The white caplets eased my pain. The blue ones were my favorite. They took away my anxiety. A vodka chaser completed the mix.

He and I barely spoke in three months, and as Halloween approached, I assumed he forgot my promise. As I downed the last of my cocktail, his text pinged. It read, “You broke your promise. If you aren’t here in an hour, I’m coming for you.”

I cursed under my breath. Within 40 minutes, I reached his house. A couple was leaving and I snuck through the door. The drugs were taking hold. He thumped my shoulder, smiled, and handed me a martini and a bleu cheese olive. As I finished the olive, a beautiful woman entered the kitchen and introduced herself as his fiancée. My knees almost buckled, partly because of the news and partly because of the pills and drink.

He introduced me as a coworker from out-of-town whose hotel room was cancelled at the last moment. My suitcase made the explanation plausible. He led me upstairs to the spare room. I remembered it from last year. The view from the balcony was gorgeous and peaceful.

I put my clothes on the couch, sat in a lounge on the balcony and closed my eyes.

He knocked and entered the room. I jumped and ran to the door as I heard my name.

“Are you okay?”

“I am.”

He grabbed my hand and as I flinched and pulled away, his fingers slipped through mine as if they were fog. He tried again. We stared at each other, then ran to the balcony. We saw my body slumped on the chair. He tried to revive me, but after a few moments, I begged him to stop.

He clasped my hand and asked me if I felt it. I didn’t, but in order to make him feel better, I nodded my head.

“You didn’t make it through another Halloween.”

I gazed at him.

His expression darkened and he growled, “You don’t know how angry I am at you right now.”

I smiled and blew him a kiss and responded, “You’ll forgive me because I’m irresistible.”

He asked me what would happen next

“I’ll see you the same time next year. I promise.”

blood

It’s probably just the neighbor’s dog, you muse as the howl carries down the street to echo back to you, but that thought doesn’t keep your pace from quickening noticeably.  Nor does it keep you from breaking into a full sprint when the sound of padded feet racing towards you reaches your ears.  Your house is only two doors down, surely you can make it before whatever’s behind you reaches you, right?  Why waste time turning around even though you know the fear tearing at your heart is irrational, that the feet coming to greet you are likely harmless, that the beast is almost certainly one of the friendly ones you’ve petted a thousand times before.

It’s better to laugh at your absurd fear from the safety of your home, you rationalized, than to be wrong.  It wouldn’t have been the first time you’d scoffed at your own cowardice in the face of the unknown.  And continuing to be able to make a fool of yourself like that meant you were still alive.

As the patter of footfalls grows louder, you cut across your lawn to cut the distance to safety.  The wet grass, slick with evening marine layer, sticks to your shoes and will make a mess of your entryway, but it’s a mess that can be cleaned up.

Unlike my blood.

The unmistakable sensation of teeth clenching down on my right calf jars my sense just as I was about to reach for the doorknob.  Instead my hand lashes backwards, trying to ward off my attacker, but it meets only air.  Finally, I turn around to face the threat, but there is nothing there.  A throb of pain forces my eyes downward and a scream is the only response I have left to the trails of blood dripping down my leg.

Ghost-Dog