Not Alone!

candle-in-darkA solitary figure walked through the deserted streets. With every turn plunged he was plunged into deeper, darker shadows as he walked into the bowels of the city, but he wasn’t alone.

“Where are you leading me?” he said to no one.

He came to a dead-end, a courtyard.

“What now?” he asked.

Looking around him he felt hopeless, lost, but he didn’t feel alone. A candle burned in a small grimy window. The only light in the gloom. No wait, there was a door. A slither of light escaped beneath it.

The hinges creaked as he pushed it open and entered a tiny room. He stood for a while as his eyes accustomed to the darkness. The room was empty, but he heard whispers, was someone praying? Following the sound he walked carefully through a darkened archway. A woman sat in the far corner, next to a bed. She turned as he entered.

“Father, how did you know?”

She was holding the hand of an old man. His breath was uneven ragged.

“He’s ready to leave us.” she said. “Bless him Father, help him move on.”

The good father crouched down beside them and held their hands. Eyes closed, they prayed together.

Father Rafferty stood up, his old knees crackling as he did so. The ragged breathing had stopped. He turned to the old lady to offer her comfort, but she was gone. Was she ever there?

The smell of roses tantalized the air and Father Rafferty looked around. A beautiful young woman stood behind him. Her eyes sparkled with life and happiness. She held her hand out, not to him, but to the old man in the bed beyond. A cool breeze passed by him as a young man rose from the old body on the bed.

The young couple embraced and faded into the night.

All that was left was candle light and the smell of roses.

EYES ON ME!

one-sunday-morning

She tossed and turned, but sleep wouldn’t come. The bedroom was cold! She could see her breath, the bed was cold too!

The furnace must have broken!

Pulling the covers tightly around her, Lou burrowed into them. They felt damp and icy!

Dammit whats wrong. 

Reluctantly she got out of bed and grabbed her robe. Her fingers touched something gelatinous. She screamed and recoiled! Fumbling in the dark, she looked for the light switch.

Found it. 

Frantically she switched it on. Nothing. She reached for the bedside lamp, it didn’t work either. Pulling back the drapes, she looked out of the window. The world was engulfed in fog. Heavy, dark and thick. Swirling like clouds.

I feel eyes on me!

Carefully, slowly and trying not to panic, Lou made her way downstairs and into the kitchen. Pitch black, hard to move, hard to breath.

She found the flashlight in the cupboard next to the sink.

Thank god!

She switched it on, it worked. Shining it into the darkness of her home gave her some relief, there was nothing to see.

I need to get some heat in here.

Lou made her way down to the basement and the furnace.

Somethings wrong!

She opened the basement door, letting out a cold stench. It came from something unfamiliar, something terrifying. She didn’t want to look, but couldn’t help it. A dozen distorted, decaying faces looked back at her, their mouths open in a silent scream.

Oh dear God in Heaven!

She fainted!

Ghostly Guidance

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Larry and his wayward friends left, pleased and excited with the way the night had turned out leaving Jack, Janie and I at the kitchen table, where we talked long into the night. Photos from the old tin were spread out in front of us. The faces on them were now familiar to me. Everything made sense now, well sort of.

“My mom and dad were killed in a car accident when I was twelve years old. I was home alone when the police knocked on the door. They took me with them and arranged for me to go into foster care.”

“Why? Did you have no more family?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t even have a birth certificate.”

“Where was your home?” Jack asked.

“Colorado Springs, it turns out my parents weren’t my birth parents, but took me in when I was a baby. There was no legal documentation. No way of knowing where I’d come from.”

“How do you know they weren’t your parents?”

“A neighbor told the police when they were trying to track down family. She’s known my mom a long time, knew she couldn’t have kids.”

Jack shook his head, “You were so close, less than an hour away from me for all of these years. How did you end up on here? How did you get involved with the scumbags on Colfax?”

“I ran away when I was fifteen. My foster parents were awful, I was nothing more than an unpaid child minder to their spoilt kids. The man tried to abuse me several times, he’d hit me and threaten me. It was a nightmare. His wife didn’t believe me, she hated me for telling her.”

“How did you come by the photos, the ones you’ve just showed to us?” I asked.

Janie’s eyes filled with tears. “I found them in my mom’s room when the cops took me back there to collect my belongings, I’d never seen them before so I snatched them, hoping they’d help me find my real parents.”

“You know the girl in the photos is my daughter Janie, don’t you!”

“Yes, thats why I’m here, I recognized you when I saw you walking down the road one day. You were younger in the photos, but I knew it was you. I figured out you were my grandad. I was happy, but scared to talk to you because I’m a no good drifter!”

Jack covered his face with his hands, rubbed his bleary eyes and then spoke in a weak trembling voice, “Don’t ever say that about yourself. I can see you mother in you. I knew the first moment I laid eyes on you. I don’t care about your past, what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. I want to make your future better, I want to make up for everything you’ve missed. Your mother died giving birth to you. I let her down, I miss her and I can never fix that, but you are going to have the life she never got chance to live!”

I could see it was time for me to leave.

“I’m going to let you two talk and figure out your future, I’ll see myself out.”

Jack looked up at me. “Thank you for everything!”

“Hey, don’t thank me, thank Alice Hobson, she’s my grandma and the one who pushed me to help. I suspect your wife and daughter conspired with her to draw Janie to the barn, and close to you. Its got to be more than coincidence”

I felt my gran smile inside my head, she liked it when I talked about her.

“You’re different that for sure,” Jack responded, “but in a good way I guess.”

I looked back towards the kitchen before I opened the front door. Jack and his new-found grand child sat opposite each other, holding hands across the table. Behind Jack, and probably only visible to me, stood his wife, she smiled across at her daughter Janie, who stood behind her namesake. They were there for a few seconds and then they were no more.

The kitchen was filled with the smell of fresh bread.

 

Just an old fashioned brothel!

BrotherlThe creep who’s propositioned me made himself comfortable on a chair next to Janie. Without taking his eyes off me he draped his arm around her and pulled her close. Tears streamed down her face. Push him off Janie, push him away. I knew she couldn’t. He kissed her on her neck, then her lips. He stood her up and pinning her against the wall with his body, he slid down and nuzzled his head between her breasts. She was terrified. I looked at Jack’s face, worried about his reaction. Larry spoke!

“Hey man, leave her alone, I can’t concentrate on the cards while you’re doing that.”

Tom turned around and faced him. “Can’t have that can we!”

He took hold of Janie’s arm and dragged her across the floor. She fell to her knees but he didn’t stop, he continued to walk, dragging her behind him. She managed to get to her feet again when they reached the door, her knees were scraped and her blouse torn.

“You want to come too darling? I can handle two of you.”

Go Sheila go, it’ll be OK! He’s strong, but drunk. Go help her. The voices in my head belonged to someone I’d come to know. It was Jacks daughter. Go, we’re here with you. This time it was my gran.

“Sure, let’s have a party.”

The look on Janie’s face was horrific. “No, leave her alone, leave her out of this.”

“Shhh, honey, you can’t keep a mal like this all to yourself” I said, trying to take on the role.

I didn’t look behind me, daren’t see the look on Jack’s face.

The bedroom that Tom led us into wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It was clean and sumptuous, reminded me of a saloon brothel from some Western, where the madame would be called Kitty and her girls would wear frilly bloomers and basques. He saw the look on my face. “Like what you see, you’re gonna like what you get too.” He unbuckled his belt and started to unzip his jeans. “Lets play around a little first shall we?”He walked toward me, his belt hanging loose, the top button of his jeans undone and his zipper halfway down. Janie stepped in front of me, trembling, but trying to protect me. She moved towards Tom and draped her arms around his neck. He put his hands on her shoulders, dropped his head and kissed her breasts, then he pushed her to one side and laughed.

“I’ve had you before, its her I want. She’s new, fresh and I don’t think she’s done this before.”

Oh dear god please help me. 

I looked across at the speckled mirror in the old-fashioned dresser and saw four faces looking back at me. My own terrified face was in the forefront, but the faded, determined faces of my gran, and the two souls she’d befriended hovered behind, like fading holograms.

Everything moved very fast. Janie lurched forward and grabbed Tom’s jeans, she yanked them down to his knees and pushed as hard as she could. His legs tangled in his jeans and he went down hard, banging his head on the corner of the dresser as he fell. It knocked him out cold.

Run, run, run, run, run, run, ruuuuuuunnnnnnn! Get away, flee!

The faces in the mirror had disappeared, but the room echoed with their words. I grabbed Janie’s hand and we ran for the door. It opened as we approached and on of Larry’s boys appeared. He looked behind us and saw Tom on the floor, a pool of blood spreading around him.

“This way!”

We fled down the hallway and out of the back door. The old van stood outside, its engine running. We fell inside and the van took off, even before the door was closed.

“You girls OK?”

Janie and I didn’t speak, we just hugged each other!

“What about Jack,” Janie said, “What if they hurt him?”

I put my arm around her, feeling her wet tears on my shoulder. “He’s in good company, I think he’ll be OK!” I replied and hoped I was right.

 

Ghost Whisperer?

“Jack, how long has this been happening?” I asked.

“Since New Years Eve! Since I saw you in the Saloon. You seem to be the connection. My wife and daughter are with me again. I think they’ve come to take me home”

“No, I don’t think that’s it. If they’d come to take you home, why would they need me? Something else is going on here.”

He looked at me, his tired eyes were moist with tears. “You talk as though this is an everyday occurrence. Are you some sort of Ghost Whisperer or Medium or something?”

I smiled, “Not exactly, but I do seem to attract the dead. Well those who have unfinished business anyway.”

“There’s no unfinished business here! My wife and child have come to take me with them. I have no use for this life anymore.”

“But you’re still alive aren’t you! Life hasn’t finished with you yet.”

Jack looked back at the locket on the table. “Tell me where you got this again!”

He sat in silence as I told him about the young girl in the Stagecoach. He shook his head, “None of this makes any sense, we need to find her and find out where she got it.”

“I agree with you, everything happens for a reason and I know she must be a part of this.”

“Tell me your story from start to finish again. I need to make sense of why you came into my life.”

I started with my night-time walk in the snow, my dreams, messages through my mam and my Gran. I talked slowly, thinking about every word before I spoke, being careful not to embellish any of the events. The words coming out of my mouth did sound like an episode of the Ghost Whisperer and I wondered what he’d think. If he’d believe me.

We sat in silence for a while after I’d finished.

“Fancy a walk?” It was Jack that broke the silence.

“Sure, I’ve called in a PTO day at work, I’ve nothing better to do. Anywhere in particular?”

I think its time we went back to the barn!

Isn’t it Ironic!

The garage door closed slowly but I watched it go all the way down, still sitting in my car, headlights shining. I wanted to make sure nothing had followed me home.

The air in my house was alive with whispers.

Maybe I should go and grab dinner at the Stagecoach! It seemed like a great idea, but I’d still have to come home afterwards. The phone rang and I almost screamed. OK, pull yourself together!

“Hello”

Nothing, just static. “Hello, who’s there?”

“Its me, whats wrong? You sound on edge.” It was Les. I must have sounded bad because my husband lived in his little high-tech bubble and didn’t usually notice what was going on around him.

“Bad day at work.” I replied. “I’ll be OK after a glass of wine.” I didn’t want to tell him what was really wrong. We’d already been down that road.

“Well I hope I’m not going to make it worse. Looks like I’m not going to be home this weekend. Things aren’t going smoothly here and we can’t hand off the project Friday as planned. Its going to be next week instead.”

To be honest I wasn’t really listening. Although there was nothing to see, I knew I wasn’t alone.

“Hey, are you listening to me? There’s nothing I can do about it.”

“Yea, I know, it never is.” I answered, not even thinking about the words that came out of my mouth. I don’t remember hanging up the phone, or how long I stood by the door. The phone rang again. What just happened?

“Hello!”

It was Les again. “Do you want to fly out here for the weekend? I’d be working, but you could shop during the day and we could have dinner together.”

“A weekend in Columbus, Ohio in January doesn’t really appeal to me. I’ve got stuff to do at home, a weekend alone will help me take care of it.”

“What stuff?”

“Les, I have to go, I’ll call you back later.”

The air had become electric, literally, small sparks were igniting, lighting up the darkness.

“Show yourself! I know you’re here, just show yourself.”

I head musicWhere was it coming from.

“Isn’t it Ironic, like rain on your wedding day……”

Was it outside? I walked towards the patio door, but before I even reached it, it slid open. How could that be? It was locked. The music came from outside, maybe the Stagecoach? I only heard their music in the summer when live bands on the patio.

Maybe I will go for a drink after all. “Hey I’m leaving, want to come for a drink with me?” I shouted into the darkness.

The house remained silent!

Haunted House!

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photo from davidstillman.blogspot.com

All I could think about was the sad face that haunted my dreams at night, and my thoughts all day. The face that was taking over my life. Why? I didn’t know her. If it was the old man’s daughter, she was long since dead. My day at work was painfully slow. Finally, eager to talk to the old man, I made and excuse to leave early.

January dusk soon fell, cold and uninviting. I was grateful for my heated car seat after being chilled to the bone walking across the parking lot. It was dark when I pulled onto the drive way of the ranch. There wasn’t a light to be seen in anywhere in the house either. Wishing I’d brought a flashlight I opened the car door. The breeze was no longer gentle.

Watching my step I walked in the direction of the huge shadow which loomed ahead of me. It’s all I could see of the house. I approached the front door and tapped on it nervously, feeling like an intruder smothered in a blanket of darkness.

The door swung open slowly, creaking as it did so. Doors always creaked in these situations.

“Hello, is anyone home?”

No answer, no movement. The air was deadly still. I took a step forward into the house. The temperature dropped several degrees when I did so. How could it be colder inside than out. My breath formed a cloud in front of my face.

“Hello.” I said softly.

A floorboard creaked. The sound came from above. I looked in the direction of the stairs, but thought the better of going up there.

What if he’s dead? 

Standing just inside the doorway I wondered what to do next. I had no business walking around the house uninvited. People did that in movies and it always ended badly. Turning around I pulled the door shut and walked back to the car. Should I leave a note?

Footsteps crunched on the gravel drive way and I looked up expecting to see the old man. The steps continued, but there was no one to be seen. Instinctively I locked the car door. Footsteps crunched past me, stepping onto the porch. Looking in my rearview mirror, I watched the front door open and close on its own.

Time to get out of Dodge! 

I started the car and floored the accelerator, pebble dashing the front of the house with gravel as I left.

Thank God I didn’t go upstairs! 

That was No Dream!

Nightmare

Image from ‘The Nightmare” http://www.theguardian.com

“Les, that was more than a dream”

Les looked at me quizzically, “what do you mean? You’re in bed and you’re screaming and thrashing like you’re fighting with someone. What else could it be?”

“Something’s wrong, the girl from the barn is calling me.” I told him.

“What girl?

“The dead girl. The girl who had the baby”

“What baby?” I could tell Les was getting annoyed. He wasn’t really interested, just going through the motions and thinking here we go again.

“She had a baby in that old barn up the road. It was a long time ago, she died giving birth. The old guy in the pub on New Years Eve is her dad. When he brushed by me I felt a connection. She needs my help.”

“What old guy? What the hell are you talking about? I’ve had enough of this, I’m getting a shower.”

“Les, you know I see things sometimes, it’s why I write. She’s reaching out to me and I have to find out why.”

“You write because you have an overactive imagination. Stop confusing reality with your imagination. People are going to think you’re crazy.”

“Remember the blood on my face that day, you helped me clean it off?”

Les rolled his eyes, “yes, you said you fell in the snow and scratched yourself on the bushes.”

“I lied, I was in the old barn. I saw a girl and a baby. Something in the barn scratched me. It could have been a stray cat, but I was in the barn that night. I went out walking and I was drawn to the barn. Now I know why, it’s the girl, she’s reaching out to me.”

“How do you know she died, where did you get the rest of the story from? Or did you just make it up?”

“Bonnie in the pub told me the rest.”

“Oh great! Another place we have to avoid now.”

“Don’t worry, I didn’t tell her about what I’d seen in the barn”

“There was nothing to see, get it into your head, this is a figment of your imagination, another plot for a book. Write a story and then forget about it for gods sake.” Les wasn’t shouting, but he was using that cruel cold voice that made me want to cry.

“I just asked Bonnie why the old guy was sitting alone drinking heavily. She told me his teenage daughter died giving birth to an illegitimate child in the barn. She’d kept it secret from them. She died. He’s never recovered.”

Les wasn’t listening anymore. He switched the shower on a closed the door.

Thanks a lot!  

I grabbed my robe and went downstairs to make some coffee. I wanted to cry. I felt scared and alone. We’d been married for fifteen years but Les still didn’t accept I was able to talk to the dead. He’d seen it first hand sometimes, but chose to erase it from his memory. Couldn’t he see I needed him? I gazed out of the kitchen window while the coffee machine heated up. A couple of tears trickled down my cheek. Gran I wish you were here. 

Then I remembered her voice, she was here, she’d helped me last night in my dream. 

At least someone was on my side.

 

Who’s out there?

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He looked into my eyes, waiting for an answer. What do I tell him? 

“Come on we need to clean these scratches. Are you going to tell me how you got them?”

I daren’t

I followed him to the sink and stood silently while he dabbed my wounds with warm water. “So what happened, I saw you out there in the snow. Not exactly the kind of day to go for a walk. Did you fall?”

“Yes, at the end of the driveway. I heard a noise behind me and it made me jump. Lost my balance!” I said, relieved he’d put the idea of falling in my head. It wasn’t a lie. I did fall.

“What startled you?”

“It was snow falling off a tree branch, silly really, but I was lost in my thoughts.”

“You need to start paying attention or you’re going to hurt yourself.”

“I know, I have another book on my brain though. I was working out the plot in my head, walking helps me think.”

Les laughed. “Your mind is always somewhere else. Did you check the mail?”

“No, I didn’t”

“OK, I’ll do it now.”

I watched him walk along the driveway, wishing I dare tell him what really happened, but I couldn’t. He’d think I was imagining it, getting lost in one of my own plots. Sometimes I wondered if I was! 

Standing on the porch I breathed deeply, inhaling the cold crisp air. Snow fell from the roof, hitting the ground in front of me, I didn’t jump this time. 

Les walked back along the driveway, engrossed in the letters he was carrying, not noticing the snow whipping up behind him even though there was no wind. I held my breath as I watched the glistening mass take shape. It looked like a child, but disappeared before he reached the porch.

“Whats up? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Les said as he kicked the snow off his boots. 

If only he knew!