by Bob'n Around
Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|wc 1864 SCREAMS entry
Although raised in faith, I broke with the practice when the natural horrors of adulthood burned and cut at belief. Things changed after Mary Bell, my younger sister died. It was as quiet, an unassuming death as was her life. Accidental death only draws attention because of the rich and famous, like Ivana Trump, who died the same way, by falling down a set of stairs.
“How long you going stay?” Mom asked me. “I can still feel her presence in every room.” She crossed herself, “Smell her horrid lilac perfume she insisted on buying.” Dad, tears baked into crusts at the edges of his eyes, fumbled his hands at them, trying to wipe the memory away of what had caused them. He had never been the talker of the two, motioned at me to take the power of attorney, and led mom outside.
I followed outside Mary’s simple little bungalow. “Grass needs cutting. Realtor will be posting the for sale sign on Monday. I’ll stay here until a sale goes through.” My voice didn’t sound like my own. Mary and I had always been close. I envied mom sensing her in the house.
The realtor would call, arrange for a showing, ask if the price was still firm, and bring interested parties to Mary’s door. I am pretty much a loner and let Jake handle taking them through the house.
“Same guy,” I said, saying it hopefully. “Keeps coming back. Isn’t this the fourth time?”
“He likes the place, but keeps making impossibly low offers.” Jake dug a shoe into the soil where I was thinning out Mary’s Iris. “He heard somewhere about Mary dying. I’ve got him staying around talking to prospective buyers.” Jake sounded disgusted. “He’s trying to convince them the place is haunted.”
It made me mad, hearing that. I wanted Mary's home sold. The high school, where I was teaching science, wanted to know when I’d sign the contract for the coming year. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll keep my eyes out.”
That is about when strange things started happening at night. Lights would come on and blink off. Doors would open and close. I’d hear footsteps walking around. I told Jake about it. “It’s probably that jerk wanting to buy the place. He stopped coming around after you warned him off the place, right?”
I’d thought the same thing and had begun laying traps. Changing the locks on the doors and windows hadn’t helped. I hated the idea he might be getting inside and at his mercy while I slept. “Can you get me this Harry Spangler’s address, Jake?” The dreams I’d been having weren’t of Mary, they were of this guy’s face hanging over me as I slept.
“That’s not his real name. I checked,” Jake said. “The guy’s a spook. Hey, shit happens. No use getting paranoid, Paul. You afraid that stranger is going to trash the place or something?"
Mom and pop were just as bad. “You don’t have to stay there, son. Let the realtor handle it. You’ve done enough,” mom implored. “The place is insured. If something happens to it, we’ll get enough money out of it that way.”
“Love you, dad. I think Mary would want me to see this through. She loved her home.” Dad grunted and hung up.
September came and went. I got a job subbing at the local high school. Mary’s bungalow no longer smelled of lilac perfume. I’d taken up smoking again, mostly outside. When nervous, I’d find myself puffing away at the bottom of the steps where Mary had fallen and have to walk myself towards the front door. “I’m haunting myself.”
“Ready to sell? Cash offer.” It was a newbie I’d never seen before. When I asked him questions he quickly shut up, refusing to tell me who he represented. I knew it wasn’t him. When he was talking he didn’t know the lingo, even I knew about real estate. His offer was ridiculous as well.
“Tell Harry Spangler, or whoever put you up to this, if he doesn’t stop I’m coming after him.” That night Mary’s home did the unexpected. Oh, the dream with the guy’s face hanging above me was the usual, what happened next, wasn’t.
I was being strangled. It popped my eyes wide open. The face was still there. So were my bed sheets wrapped tight around my throat. I barely managed to tug them loose. “Accidental death,” I rasped, choking and rubbing my raw throat. It was the first time I wondered if Mary might have been murdered. Had she been dating anyone? I called mom to find out.
“No one she talked about, dear. Maybe you should see a psychiatrist, get some pills,” Mom sounded concerned when I called and explained what had happened. “Or a priest,” dad added during his turn, sounding concerned, as well.
That night, the face appeared, leaving when my bedroom door knocked itself off its hinges. I woke to the fact that I had to do something about this craziness or turn crazy myself.
Mary’s bungalow seemed intent on destroying itself and perhaps me with it. In following nights, drawers violently spilled their contents, windows cracked, and water pipes burst. Always, the face was there before, staring down from dream turned nightmare. No psychiatrist I contacted could see me for another month, nor would they prescribe med's beforehand for my nerves. The priest I made a connection with laughed off what I told him, suggesting I should start praying if I hadn't been and things would right themselves. "God moves in mysterious ways."
Mom and dad had finally had enough. They drove over, refusing to leave without me. "Your phone calls have gotten increasingly weird." Mom said.
“Reinforcements. I can't go just yet, but what a relief, seeing you, dad. Thanks for coming over.”
“I’ve been worried, son. I want you to pack what you need and leave with me.”
The front door he’d just entered slammed shut, startling us both. It wasn’t windy, but a low moan moved outside from one end of the porch to the other. “Here. Take this.” Dad handed me a rosary and a small bottle of holy water. He opened a bible and began to read. The moan shrieked and subsided.
“The place is haunted, all right. This is the limit of my spiritual power. Let’s get out of here while we can.” The front door seemed frozen in place. Dad took a look at a cracked window, threw his bible at it, shards of glass away, and followed.
“What are you waiting for?” He yelled at me, beckoning towards him. “Mother is in the car. You can stay with us for now.”
My feet wouldn’t move. They didn’t seem to be my own. The face blinked into existence before my eyes. “Dad? Do you see it?”
We heard mom scream at us. “Go away.”
The man who’d been harassing me about Mary’s bungalow was pounding on the car window, hitting so hard his hands were bloody fists. Mom’s hand was in the glove compartment where dad kept his gun. She shot without aiming, taking out the window. “Go Away.”
Dad went into a full run, tossing his rosary aside. Bullets hummed,hammering into the side of Mary’s house. “Watch where you’re shooting,” dad yelled, turning to see if I was OK. I looked down to see a new hole in the arm of my shirt.
Mom kept shooting until the gun clicked on empty. The last bullet got the guy in the back of the head, smashing open his face into pulp.
The face floated back into existence in front of Dad and I. It hung there staring us. “Your holy water. Throw it,” Dad’s voice was hoarse as he beckoned.
Mom was sobbing into her closed hands. “I killed him. I’m going to prison.” She was getting hysterical. The holy water hissed, eating the face where I'd thrown at it, like it was acid, before disappearing.
Dad nodded, “Good. Settle her down as only you can. I’ll handle this once and for all.”
Mom let me pull her out, hold her shaking figure, and wrap my arms around her. “It’s O.K. He attacked you. He was going to attack dad next. It is self defense.” Sirens sounded nearby. It wouldn’t be long before the police would be there.
Tires were screeching to a stop when he poured his vial of holy water over the reappearing head above the dead man making it go away again.
It was a long exhausting day for the three of us before we were let go without charges. I headed home with mom and dad, totally worn out, so tired, I couldn’t get to sleep that night. Nothing helped. “At least the face is gone.”
Or was it? I had to find out. I took dad’s car keys, ending up parked outside Mary’s bungalow in the dead of night. My feet no longer seemed my own. The front door was still jammed. My shoes knew the way to the broken window. “Sorry, Mary. I don’t know why, but your home is haunted by a madman.”
It was the face, all right. As real as it was in my nightmares, staring at me from the moonlit inside. I knew what to do. I’d brought the mower gas can from dad’s house with me, along with matches from mom’s ‘everything’ kitchen drawer. “Haunt this,” I said.
From the dark interior Mary’s ghostly figure appeared behind the face. “It’s all right, brother mine. I’ve been waiting for this. Only another ghost can haunt a ghost. During his existence he was a serial killer. I am dead because of him. My friends and I will haunt him to the end of time.”
A chorus of female voices sang into a growing storm of wind, turning into a maelstrom engulfing the face, tearing it apart only to have it reform to be ripped apart again. The howling wind reached out and grasped the gas can, opening the spout. I nodded, struck a match and threw it in. Flames erupted, licking at me then Mary’s house.
Dad’s car had the ignition key on and the engine running when my feet took me inside to the driver’s seat. I drove back to dad and mom’s home. Not an hour had passed. I lay awake, Mary’s ghostly explanation and results of the evening unable to leave my mind.
“I’ll get it,” Dad was up with the first knock at his door.
“What? Completely burned up? No. We’ve been asleep all night. What caused it?” Dad looked at me as if I should know. Mom came in, wrapping her bathrobe around her. It was an accident. It must have been. Either that, or.” She left it at that, unable to come up with an answer.
The insurance adjuster accepted the firemen’s report of an accidental cause when nothing else appeared to be out of order. We used the money to upgrade dad and mom’s house. I live in the new addition. We attend church every Sunday, keeping to ourselves, studying scripture and praying for peace and rest for the spirit of Mary and her kind.
Sometimes, I drive by Mary’s old property, pausing to look at the home built there, wondering how easy the new family sleeps. I no longer am visited by my recurring nightmare.
|My shoes I put beside my bed
All night long that’s where they rest
Come morning tide that’s not where they are
On their own, they’ve traveled far
Where my toes wake and search the familiar ground
No longer where I left them are my shoes found
While I dreamed they schemed and played
Did cartwheels, rolled, and on their own strayed
One pointed tip snuck under my bed
The other shoe dosed there on its side instead
How could they have walked and wandered so far
Without toes in them guiding away such lost jars
What’s this? My heel detects, a wet nose to inspect
The culprit, my dog’s tongue, one shoe collects
His puppy teeth chew and reshape
My toes no longer hesitate
A waggly tail decides for me I can walk free
Far away from socks and shoes, for barefoot I will be.
18 line poem for the "Writing 4 Kids Contest/CLOSED till Sept" prompt: shoes
|1000 WC for the "Writing 4 Kids Contest/CLOSED till Sept" prompt: Graphic of a tree and cabin in a water-filled snow globe.
“It is mine.”
“You stole it.”
“You sneak. You heard mom tell me she wanted it for Christmas. You bought it so I couldn’t.”
“Did not. You stole mom’s Christmas globe from me. You hid it so I couldn’t give it to her. It is not fair.” Dad’s gift didn’t matter. He was happy if mom was. Mom’s gift meant everything.
I am getting ahead of myself. Jimmy is my older brother. We have what dad said was sibling rivalry. Those are big words for saying we liked to fight to get mom’s attention. Dad always won, but we were both in close second place.
“Give it to me. I paid money.” I made a grab but Jimmy is bigger.
“I’ll pay you back. Double. You don’t want me to break it, do you?” He held it above his head out of reach.
“You wouldn’t break it. That would break mom’s heart.” Being the youngest, I had the edge of being mom’s favorite kid, but I was growing up and losing it fast. Giving her what she most wanted for Christmas would seal the deal. We’d both saved up a year’s worth of money, had presents for everyone else.
At the last possible moment, we’d both seen her eyes light up like stars in the sky. They twinkled like those on our Christmas tree. “How lovely. What memories of my childhood home that little cabin and tree bring back with holiday snow falling all around.”
How sad she looked when the storekeeper pulled it from the window. Mom knocked on the door wanting to buy it herself. “Sorry. It is for display only. It is an antique I put in the window every year.”
Jimmy and I heard mom talking to dad about it the night before Christmas eve. Dad tried paying top dollar for it as soon as the store opened. He called mom to say it was no deal. “How’d you get it, anyway, Bob? I bet you stole it.”
I blurted out the truth. “You know when mom wanted us to do errands and she had a headache and laid down for a rest?”
“Yeah, and you got in trouble for not finishing yours.” Jimmy grinned, delighted, holding the Christmas globe high like he’d won it as a trophy.
“I went down to the store. I told the man how much the Christmas globe meant to my mom. How she had tears in eyes and a runny nose.” Once started, I couldn’t stop. “He wouldn’t sell it but he said he would loan it to me.”
Jimmy’s eyes grew big. “No way. You are lying. You can’t give Christmas presents back.”
I thought I had him when I said, “The storekeeper promised to think it over. I promised to come and work for him every day it was gone. He nodded, talked to himself, and said he wanted to see what kind of home it would be in. He’ll be here Christmas day.”
There it was. Who had really bought the gift had a witness.
“Boy’s are you fighting again?” It was mom’s voice, tired, after just coming home from work. Jimmy and I hear her feet plodding up the stairs to our bedroom. “What are you fighting about?”
To this day, I don’t know for sure what decided me. There was some kind of a heart tug in my chest as Jimmy closed his eyes, and lowered the Christmas globe, snowflakes swirling about so I could reach it. “Take it.” I paused.
There she was standing in our bedroom doorway. “Merry Christmas, mom,” I said.
“Oh, Jimmy.” I’d never heard such love expressed in a name. She lifted my brother up off his feet, swung him around, and kissed both his cheeks. “How did you convince the store to sell it?”
“Uh. I didn’t. It is only on loan. The man is coming today to see how good a home it will be for it.” Jimmy couldn’t look at me when mom set him down.
Sibling rivalry means fighting as dirty as it can get. “That’s right, mom. Here’s his telephone number. Can we invite him over for Christmas dinner?”
Before Jimmy or I could explain, Mom rushed off with her Christmas globe to call on her cell phone. When Jimmy hid the Christmas globe I was really in a hot sweat. I hunted everywhere. Jimmy denied ever seeing it. “Hey, Dad, welcome home.”
Mom showed off the Christmas globe. His present, roses and perfume, for the first time in forever, came in second place. “Where’s your gift to mom, Bob?” He asked. I’d taken one of mom’s scented handkerchiefs from the bottom of her drawer, thinking she might not recognize it.
“How nice. I must have lost it. Thanks for finding it for me.” Mom stared at me hard. That look knocked me down into definite third place with a different sad glint in her eye that meant we’d be having ‘a talk’ later.
A strange thing happened inside me. I felt something tear-free. For the first time in my life, I knew who I was. I was just me. I wasn’t what mom expected. Dad looked at me like I was a stranger. Jimmy looked at me in disbelief.
I liked the feeling. I pushed it, breaking more family ties. “Sorry, mom. Jimmy knew how much you liked it. He sent me to get it so you wouldn’t guess it was him. He covered for me when I didn’t do my chores.”
Being mom’s favorite meant Jimmy became mom’s model kid. I was free to become me. Jimmy became the doctor she wanted him to be.
“I’d like to buy the Christmas globe.”
“Sorry, it is just on display.” I love owning an antique store. Jimmy gave me the globe when mom and dad passed away. “It might be on loan to the right home. Maybe we can work something out.”
|841 WC for the "Chapter One/CLOSED till September"
Jack's face was the shape of a pumpkin. He got kidded about his orange-colored straw-like hair. "You don't need a costume for Halloween. You wear one every day," his friend Cynthia kidded him.
"And your eyes light up in the moonlight. Your teeth flash when you grin." Cynthia liked having a special weird friend like Jack. No one else did.
"Your other friends at school have stopped talking to you," Jack said. He felt bad about that. He knew what it felt like to be alone. He'd been adopted into his new family from an orphanage. No one knew who his real parents were. They'd dropped him off in a basket when he was a baby.
"I don't mind," Cynthia said, but she did. "You are the new kid at school. It will just take time for them to get to know you." That is what she had thought at first when Jack moved in. She wasn't so sure now.
Things had gotten so bad. There were rumored whispers lurking around the hallways at school. Jack was more than strange. He was bewitched by a curse. Anyone might get cursed who tried being his friend. "I'm going to be a witch this Halloween," Cynthia said to distract herself from worrying. "See? I'm ready except for one thing."
"You should see the scarecrow in Potter's Field," whispered Jack, nudging Cynthia's side.
"I have. I want to steal what it is wearing. Just for Halloween night. That shawl floating in the wind hanging around the scarecrow's shoulders is just what I need." Cynthia bit her lip. Her chin jutted out. She could be stubborn.
"Old man Potter is spooky. He couldn't make an ordinary-looking scarecrow's. It creeps everyone out." Jack's eyes gleamed in the moonlight, knowing where Cynthia was taking them.
"That's why I want it. It won't be really stealing if I give the shawl back tomorrow night." Cynthia slowed to walk close to Jack's side. Being scared wasn't so bad with her new friend nearby.
"I'll be what I always am. A Jack-O-Lantern head on a scarecrow body." Jack laughed at himself. Halloween was the one night a year when he could be himself and no one made fun of him.
"Come on. We are almost there." Cynthia spoke in a shivery whisper although they were alone, except for the scarecrow highlighted at the top of Potter's Field's one lonely hill.
"He looks so dark and dejected," Cynthia said as they walked up close.
It took both of them tugging and pulling to take the shawl the scarecrow was wearing away from him. "I promise to bring it right back," explained Cynthia. "I need it for the school Halloween party. I have to hurry. We are already late."
She wrapped the shawl about her, feeling a sudden chill shake her from head to toe. "I feel so cold and lonely, Jack. Please stay close."
The wind picked up, howling a sad tale. Behind them, the skeleton limbs of the scarecrow screeched they fell apart. "Don't fall, Cynthia. Here. I'll help you."
Charlie's scarecrow gloved hands reached out. They met what felt like sticks instead of Cynthia's arms. "Are you O.K.?"
"You'll have to carry me. I can't walk." Cynthia fell against Charlie. "I feel so strange."
"Hang on, Cynthia." Jack felt his friend was as light enough to carry as the moonlight reflected from his eyes. I see a shortcut through Potter's Field. We'll be at the school Halloween party in no time at all."
Shadows danced around the couple as they weaved their way among the pumpkins large and small. The moonlight winked and hid among growing clouds. "I think it is this way," Jack mumbled to himself.
"I think we are quite lost," Cynthia's voice sounded like nails being pulled out of old wood. "Put me down. Stand me up. Stay right by me. There is something wrong here. We should be out of the pumpkin patch by now."
The moonlight dimmed in Jack's eyes as he leaned Cynthia next to him. "I'm scared."
The scuttling sound of dead leaves walking around them grew louder. They piled up at Cynthia's feed hiding where they might be. "Sit down next to me. Hide among the nearby pumpkins." Cynthia's voice grated, struggling to say the words. "I'll scare away whatever is happening. I was made for this."
The command was easy to obey. Jack's own legs trembled, gave out from under him. He looked up to see two crows land on Cynthia's stick-like arms. They cawed a warning at Cynthia and Jack. They took sudden wing and flew away.
"What is it? What do you see?" Jack tugged on the bottom of Cynthia's shawl. His gloved hands felt a tingling shock of static electricity dance from her to him.
"The Dark One hunts us tonight. It is out Trick or treating. We have disturbed it. It is sniffing us out. Quiet. I must think." Cynthia lapsed into wooden silence. Jack waited beneath her, wondering what this Dark One was she was talking about but too afraid to ask.
|3rd place win, 1001 WC. For the "Writing 4 Kids Contest/CLOSED till Sept"
"What's this, grandma?" Charlie asked.
"I lost that old thing long ago. One Halloween I was a princess. This was my magic wand." Thelma Parker cackled with glee. She looked more like an old witch, these days. "Where did you find it?"
"I didn't find it. It found me." Charlie was staying with her for the weekend. His parents were divorced. His mom was hunting for a new home near her new job in the city.
"Can I have it?" Charlie asked. He rubbed the new bump on his head where the magic wand had hit him when it fell off some boxes in the attic.
"You don't own a magic wand. It goes to and where it wants." Thelma Parker's eyes glinted with humor. She snorted and cackled again. "Be careful. That one likes to play tricks on you."
She pointed a boney finger at Charlie's chest. "Do you want me to tell you the trick it pulled with me on Halloween?"
Her long nose with the big wart on it sniffed the air. One eye closed. One eye opened wider. "I smell trouble in the air. Hide that thing. Hide it quick."
Charlie liked playing these imaginary games with grandma. His mom never had time for play. This time there was the snap of grown-up authority to her voice. It made Charlie feel important like he was grown-up too.
It was night. He was in his pajamas. Without a moment's pause, Charlie stuck the magic wand down inside his pants. It made his leg tingle. What would happen next?
Earlier that day they'd played together, walking on a nature path. Grandma pointed out the trees with their limbs raised ready to grab at people's hair, face, and limbs. "An evil magician used his magic wand to turn little boys and girl pranksters on Halloween into young trees to teach them a lesson. Look how tall they are now. They've grown up but haven't changed their ways."
Her one wide-open eye reflected the glint of the full moon. "I wonder which magic wand you've got, Charlie? The evil magicians or mine? I know of no others."
"How do I tell which one it is?" Charlie's leg itched where the magic wand moved with his every step.
And just like that, a shadow in the corner of the room darted into a beam of moonlight. "I'll take that. It is mine." It was the evil magician. He wore a black cloak that made shadows flow around him like snakes. He smelled of musty old evil thoughts and desires.
Grandma's nose twitched. She sneezed out her next words. "Run, Charlie. Run while you can." In her hand, she balled up a handful of Moonglow. She tossed it right into the eyes of the man invading her home.
It was hard to run with a magic wand stuck to his leg. He wanted to stay and help his grandma. He stood still a moment too long. A cold wind reached out invisible fingers. They froze Charlie in his tracks. "That is mine. Give it to me and I will let your grandma go."
Charlie felt a shiver shake him from head to toe. He pulled the magic wand free. "Here. Keep it. I wish it were stuck to you and turned you into a tree."
Charlie threw the magic wand. The evil magician caught it. He snarled. "Now you two will pay the price."
He raised the magic wandand pointed it at Charlie.
A strange thing happened. The shadow snakes writhing around him stopped moving. So did the evil magician. He had turned into the shape of a man-sized tree.
One limb looked suspiciously like the black magic wand. "Are you all right, Charlie?" asked his grandma, rubbing her nose. "I think I will keep your great uncle Albert right next to the front door until he learns to behave himself."
"I'm glad I don't have to make friends with magic wand," Charlie said. I was scared (but excited, too.)
"You see, playing prepares you for the real thing, Charlie." Grandma tapped her nose. She winked her one good eye. "You didn't have to think. You knew just the right thing to do."
"Nice. A new young tree," Charlie's mother said when she came to pick him up. "Grandma likes growing them. Did she show you the ones she planted for many years that are outside?"
It made Charlie wonder. He and his mom were too busy getting settled in the city to visit grandma. It was a surprise when they heard she was gone. She seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
Papers came giving grandma's home to Charlie. "It is creepy," said his mom. "Let's sell it, O.K.?"
They did. Charlie went back with his mom to see the old place one last time. Bulldozers had cleared the land of all the trees. Neighbors said the trees had screamed as they fell. Shadows had flung themselves free. They shivered and danced and ran away pushed by a cold wind.
A year later, Charlie got a call on his new cell phone. "Grandma. Where were you?"
"I took a vacation. Your mom is such a silly thing letting those pranksters loose. My magic wand found me. It took a long time chasing down the shadows and turning them back into trees by my new home. Would you like to come and see?"
"I am glad you are back. Talk to my mom."
It was arranged. Charlie grew up helping his grandma and his mom with their well-behaved orchard of fruit trees. It was much more fun living outside the city and growing things the way they should be grown. His granda said they were safer here than anywhere they could be. His mom agreed. "Living in the city was dangerous. You could never go out and play on your own."
Only the man-sized tree by grandma's door failed to grow straight and true. Grandma said it was because the limb holding the black magic wand refused to let it go.
At such a personal price.
Talent reigned worldwide
With each roll of the dice.
A game of sanctified sacrifice.
Michael Jackson's satisfaction
Lived unmasked on the stage
The action an artistic abstraction
Internally, he stayed disengaged
A make-believe life
building existential strife
made from a house of cards
some called it a royal flush
It was never enough
|9 line minimalist poem Prompt#1 "Dark Dreamscapes Poetry Contest"
12 line free verse for Prompt #2
Left standing in haunted darkness
surrounded by wooden figures waiting
Stillness bewitched my shallow breath.
I hover, my insides a flutter of moth wings.
Sight dancing among weaving iridescent patterns
caught in fog tongues of Moon-glow
Life is a mystery of magical whispers
echoing each step of time's passing.
My faulty divination is a toss at passing fate.
Each incantation a hope withering
on lips once kissed by love's owning
A life rooted, entangled in despair.
|918 WC. Win from "Weekly SCREAMS!!! " Prompt: Eternity, Infinity
“Only you understand.”
“Pardon?” Professor Hinckley looked at the eye blinking from the opening crack at his office door. “Office hours are listed right in front of you, young man.”
“I am not one of your students, sir.” The voice connected to the eye became a sibilant demand. The crack widened.
“Then even less of an excuse to disturb me. I’m calling campus security.” Hinkley’s roller chair squeaked as he rose, hand fumbling for his cell phone. The test papers on metaphysical philosophy crawled around on his desk.
“No, professor. I must insist.” It was a middle aged man, nondescript, thinning hair and nervous twitch growing in the muscles of the fellow’s face. The figure stepped in, closing the door behind him, shoulders shrugging away a shiver of fear or was it anger?
Hinckley reconsidered. Campus security was notoriously late. He’d have to talk the man down. At the moment he was pinned against his back wall. There was barely room for the two of them. “All right. Spill it. What do you want?”
“Prove it,” Hinckley said, intent on getting the man talking. There was something insane flashing in those eyes. Hair rose in tufts trying to escape the long thin skull. Where was his goddamn phone? He wanted to be one finger away from dialing 911 to get the city police if things went south.
“That’s why I’m here, though you won’t like the evidence.”
“Why did you choose me for your judge and jury?”
“My name is Steven Markel. Please sit back down and I’ll explain.” There was no room for pacing. The man leaned back against the office door, arms folding, containing the nervousness within.
“All right, God, or Steven, if you prefer, I’ll take my chances. Lay it on me.” Hinckley kept a heavy stapler in one office drawer. He sat. Opened it. Felt the reassuring weapon caress his palm.
“I chose you, because of who you are, a solitary man, married to your work. Lonely, much like myself. God has plenty of heavenly sycophants, devilish enemies, but no friends.”
The voice held a distinct self pitying whine. It did not sound Godlike, at all to Hinckley’s ears. “This is hardly the way to make a friend.”
“I made you in my own image to keep me entertained. Gave you volition to choose right from wrong, out of curiosity. Made Satan to tempt and eat unworthy souls.” It was said as if to remind God, or Steven, of where things stood.
“That’s the popular but fading dominant religious theory, from what I can tell.” Hinckley prodded. It felt like he was back teaching Philosophy 101. Maybe all this Steven wanted to do was talk. “And your proof?” Hinckley asked. God seemed to be walking on flimsy ground, but then faith never did ask for scientific facts.
“Yes. The proof. I did promise, didn’t I? You’ve no idea how good it feels to have someone to talk to about this. Someone not asking for anything. Oh, those greedy, sanctimonious prayers. They’re never real unless they come from fox holes, you know.” There grew a certain resolute blankness across the fellow’s features. “Sorry. I am afraid I got quite carried away.”
“I’m listening. So far, you may have laid the groundwork. I’m waiting, but I really have better things to do.” Hinckley’s frustration had risen from the background to confront his unwelcome guest.
“From your own philosophy 101 class, professor, what if I am all that exists and I fantasize everything else into being?”
“Ah, the ultimate solipsism taken to its extreme form. if the world exists only in your mind then you and the world are one and the same; there can be no real 'me'.
“I beg to differ and here’s the proof.” A gun appeared from the back of Steven’s waistband. A thumb clicked the safety off.
Hinckley was as prepared as he was ever going to be. “Shooting me won’t solve anything.” He had his phone, fingers already dialing 911. At the same time, he pulled his heavy stapler into position as the gun went off.
The pain felt like he was having a heart attack. He didn’t want to die. Reality changed. Blood painted the head of the man at Hinckley's door. “God just committed suicide.” Steven had put the gun to his own temple and fired. “I’m going to be alright.”
Hinckley watched the man who called himself God, waver on his feet and begin to fall, blood streaming from his wound. “Heal thyself,” Hinckley cried out. Is that your proof?”
The cop on the other end of the 911 call was asking questions. Hinckley took in great gulps of air as he watched the light in Steven’s eyes dull. “He’s dying. God is dead.” A last glitter of consciousness emanated from the man’s eyes.
First, the stapler in Hinckley’s hand disappeared, then the papers along with his office desk. When he tried sitting down, there was no chair to fall into. “No. It’s me.” Hinckley rubbed his eyes. “A reaction to what just happened.” His stomach tied itself into knots.
“God’s proof.” Hinckley realized as he spiraled into an endless universal whirlpool where all the lights were going out. He and every other soul meshed with each other, pulled into blank nothingness.
“So. That’s what caused the big bang.”
A gunshot to the head. Healing began. God woke up in a flash of inspiration. Eternity lightened up and got rolling again. He spoke to himself, rubbing his headache. “I feel spacey. I forgot and repressed what it feels like going through rebirth. I feel better. Time to get started, giving infinite eternity a fresh start.”
|“Who would have thought?” Avery Thomas, ghostwriter before he’d kicked the bucket, now was the real thing. It was easy to get used to since that had been his career when alive.
“Who to visit tonight? His ethereal presence floated around, invading what horror writers were dreaming up, turning them into real nightmares.
“Someone new. Established authors refuse to give me any credit.” They wake up screaming, gnashing their teeth, and shivering while scribbling down the details of their soon to be next bestseller. “Don’t even mention my name. Never did. Things are going to have to change around here.”
He didn’t want to scare writers to death just because they refused to admit where the inspiration came from. Being a muse should mean something, though. “It’s not the money. What would I do with that? It is the recognition of who I was and who I still am.”
Avery tried everything he could think of to bring that to mind through their thick skulls. He’d strangled bad ideas, killing them off with writer’s block, then offering the flavor of his own special blend. “Surely I’d be recognized but they paid me no mind as if the miracle created itself.”
Tonight, Avery decided to implant his ghostly self as the main character in the lucky new horror writer’s dream sphere. “Now.” He’d waited for the right moment, watching the young lady toss, turn and wrestle with her bedding, tying herself up in knots.
“That was easy. She sucked me right in.” Avery went on to create his best triumph, so powerful it gave the girl’s black hair a wave of a pure white widow’s peak. “Close call, that one. I’m really part of her blood.”
Sherry Evans’ scream waking her up, tore her loose and up out of bed. Her hand began writing as if it had a life of its own, transcribing her nightmare in words as if possessed. “What a spirited muse.”
“Yes, and I’ll make you rich. Just add my name as co-author and I’ll leave your thoughts alone until you want to dream up something new to publish.” Avery finished the automatic handwriting by signing his name in plain sight.
Sherry always gave her muse, Avery Thomas, credit and acknowledgment on the front page of her best-selling ghost horror series. It was a quizzical detail adding to her allure. When asked how her muse helped her come up with such novel ideas, she would smile and close her eyes. “He dreams them up for me. He’s taught me all that I know.”
The two worked so well together, they became inseparable. Sherry haunting Avery and vice versa, day and night. She became thin to the point of emaciation, a ghost of herself. “I’m fine. Once we finish our opus, we’ll go on vacation. I’m intoxicated with you and can’t let this novel go.”
Avery was drawn into her feverish activity, for the first time, living his nightmares, realizing they were rushing towards some tragic end. “Writer’s Block.” He tried, but Sherry would have nothing of it. So bonded were they, she controlled her writing hand. He just guided it.
“Yes, Avery? Let’s just finish this next page.”
“Read what you’ve just written. You’ve grown as a writer.”
“Why. I’m writing myself into the plot.” Sherry was amazed.
“Yes. You’re turning this into some kind of twisted love story, giving it your own slant. You need to rest. You’re killing yourself.” Sherry felt her hand cramp. Felt her other hand reach over on its own and begin a massage.
“Keep up this rush and you’ll never live to finish it. Give me your hand, let me give it a masculine touch.” Avery, enabled by her weakened condition, took over, writing like a madman until dawn.
The two took on a new phase, pacing, dancing with each other in words, stirring emotion so deep it left Sherry gasping. It seemed like no time at all.
The days and nights flew into months. “We’re almost done.”
The novel, their love child, needed only the ending. Neither wanted to stop. Sherry’s editor, enthralled by the chapters sent to him, hounded her about why this had become a horror/love story. “Avery? What do you think of the art cover?”
“So sensual, dark and haunting, just like us,” Avery whispered. “I’m worried about your health my darling. Let’s finish tonight.”
The climax and resolution created in Sherry’s bed with Avery felt so frighteningly real. “My heart,” She cried out, feeling it break in two.
There she floated, separate and equal to Avery’s ghost at her side. “I felt you enter me, Avery, in a way you never had before. I thought I would die of ecstasy. I guess that I did, didn’t I? Who will write down our ending to this masterpiece?”
“If your editor does the job, he is so close-minded, he’ll ruin the whole plot.” Avery sighed. He stared down at the wasted body of Sherry, We were so close.”
“We are, you and I.” Sherry floated into Avery’s arms, mingling her ghostly self with his own. She reassured her lover, “The publisher will still put your name on the book, Avery. You can count on that.”
It was not to be. Sherry’s editor slashed and changed enough of the unfinished novel, to have his name put in, instead. Sherry and Avery gave the man enough nightmares to almost drive the man insane.
“So close-minded,” Sherry sobbed. Our child has been turned into a monster, no-one will want to get to know.”
Avery floated the thought, “We work too well together to give up now. Let’s find a new writer, open-minded enough to be willing to work with two muses.”
We won’t tell you which dying unknown writer’s hand we used to write down this draft, or how we got it into your hands. Are they trembling, yet, to begin, guided by your muse?
If not, dream on. We’ll be in touch.
999 WC. Awardacon received for this August entry into "Only Short Stories" Prompt: Write a story about a ghost writer.
|2339 WC. "Weekly SCREAMS!!! " pop#2 contest: Prompt: anything new.
"Son of a gun." Harry Turner's horrorscope was unusually complex and hard to understand today. He called them that because deciphering them always gave him a headache, trying to figure out if his luck would be good or bad that day.
He liked his daily morning egg drop soup along with his free fortune cookie's second opinion. Today's meaning was obscure. It meant he'd have to be careful, playing the odds, taking his chances. Things could go either way. "Oh. Oh."
The black cat crossing his path stopped Harry Turner’s feet. The rest of him joined a moment later. That fact made him fumble his keys he was freeing to open up his car. “Oops.”
Of course, there had to be a storm drain where the keys tinkled, winking up at him, disappearing between the iron grates. “Darn. One of those days.”
On his way down to see if he could fish them out, Harry’s spine shivered at the haunting scream shouted above his head. “What now?” Bad luck always comes in threes, according to what he’d heard since a child.
“Hmm. A lucky penny. Thank my lucky stars.” He knew better than to pick it up if it showed tails up, but this one was heads. “Who knows, might change my day.”
The blare of horns and yells of excitement brought his head back up. “Wow.”
The third piece of bad luck would have killed him, if he’d stepped over the curb out into the street. He watched the mangled body of a man about his size slide down the ruptured windshield of a still honking SUV. “If I’d stepped out, that run away car would have hit me. Saved by my lucky penny.”
He needed his keys. Instead of further gawking at the accident, he returned to the task at hand while rubbing his lucky penny pinched between thumb and forefinger. “Better than a genie.”
His shoe had stubbed against the grate as he adjusted his balance. One edge of the heavy iron hardware was up. Harry’s smile turned into a grimace as he lifted the thing to get to his key ring. It made his back crack lifting the weight. “Ouch. I wonder if I’ll be able to stand up.”
His hand swung back and forth inside the storm drain, hovering. Fingers curled and latched onto the keys. They’d caught on something else down there that wouldn’t let them go. He tugged. Pain like he’d never felt before shot through him from his waist down his legs. “What?”
One of the people who had been checking out the carnage at the accident was at his side. “I noticed you bent over unnatural like. Are you having a heart attack?”
In a manner of speaking he was. The female figure from the legs on up was fabulous. “No. It’s my back. Must have twisted wrong when I dropped my keys.” Harry used his free hand to point down at his other one.
“Let me help you.” The scent of jasmine perfume and tickle of long blonde hair merged into the warmth of her body caressing his side. “Hold onto me while I get your keys. I don’t want you falling head first into that muck.”
Her fingers met his against the key ring. Off balance, he clung to her with both hands. Good luck and bad luck were fighting it out today. He felt more alive than ever. At any other time he would have enjoyed the way he was being allowed to explore soft female curves. Right now, pain was taking the upper hand.
“Got them. Is this yours, too?” She slid up into his hasty embrace.
It was a wallet stuffed with wet cash. She dangled it before his eyes, watching his pained reaction. “No? If not, let’s split the proceeds.”
All Harry could do is nod.
“Great. Sure you’ll be alright?” The female bombshell slipped out of his clutches, fingers dancing with the cash. “Nice. Five hundred for me, five for you. See ya’.” She left him a toothy smile and was gone.
“Wait,” Harry groaned. “You dropped your purse.” It was a glittery sequined thing not much larger than the wet wallet stuck to his palm.
It came open as he raised it to wave in her direction. “Geez Louise. Seven years of bad luck.” Her compact mirror had come open, cracked when it bounced off the sidewalk cement.
“Where’s my lucky penny? There it is.” In his pocket, where he stuffed the bills and key ring. The stitch crawling up and down his back made him twitch. The penny rolled out of his pocket, bounced on the sidewalk. It came tails up. Worthless. Worse if he picked it up.
“Still got the cash and keys.” Harry was careful with his cell phone. No way could he drive feeling like this. “Best call an Uber and get checked out at a hospital.”
Things had settled down over where the accident had taken place. Public servants were quick where dead bodies were concerned. An ambulance was preparing to haul it away, a wrecker taking care of the car. Harry had the Uber driver on the phone. “Where am I?”
With the pain pulsing inside him, he had to crane his neck, releasing a white hot eruption of writhing muscle where his pain had been. Sweat drenched Harry’s brow. Thank God, he’d been able to hang onto the phone. The street sign swam before his eyes. “Wait a sec. My eyes are blurry. I’m at 666 . . . “
That’s as far as he got before the demon appeared. “Your lucky day. I wasn’t busy. You called?”
Harry tried crossing himself but it hurt too much. “666, the sign of the beast.”
“No, joke. You better not be wasting my time.” The demon side stepped the open storm drain. “What’s wrong with your back? Does that hurt?” The creature’s claws curled, bunched up and nudged Harry, levitating him an inch above the ground.
The sound Harry made gargled in his throat, almost making him swallow his tongue. “Gaa. Don’t do that.”
His body didn’t twitch now. It went into a full seizure, dancing back against a store front. “Watch out.”
It wasn’t the demon talking. It sniggered, spitting fire. It was the sign changer wobbling on top of a ladder giving the unheeded warning. Harry, doing the moon walk backwards, went under the ladder, kicking the ladder’s legs out, taking the sign changer down with him.
“Too much bad luck for me. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” The demon disappeared into a puff of smoke.
“Did you see that?” The sign changer had the number thirteen caught in his hands. He pushed it at Harry while staggering to his feet. “Hold this.” The man began searching for other pieces of his sign. “Or was I hallucinating? Got to stop drinking before coming to work.”
“Thirteen. Just my luck.” Harry grimaced, as a wave of relief hit him. “Hey, my back feels better. Does one stroke of bad luck striking another cancel the first one out? Must be so.” So many things had happened in such a short time, it was hard for him to keep track. Who knew what might happen next?
“Sorry about the trouble.” The sign changer ignored him, busy putting his remaining pieces together. Harry brushed himself off, surprisingly not much worse for wear. “Don’t forget this.”
He handed the number thirteen back just as the swinging sign above the man’s head broke free. “Oops. Bad luck coming. Break a leg.”
Which is just what the sign changer did when the sign slammed into him, whipping him off his feet. “Today is some kind of horror show and I’m the lead in the cast.” Harry knew it was time to take stage right when the worker’s slavering foamed up mouth sprouted signs of wanting to sue Harry.
He needed a rest. Across the street was a restaurant. Harry checked traffic, darted across, and successfully found his way to table and chair. “I’ll have your special.” He spoke to the arriving waiter. Harry didn’t care what it was, as long as it didn’t try to bite him with more bad luck.
“Lot of action out there,” The waiter pointed to the window. “You got in here just in time. Give me a big tip and I won’t tell those noses out of joint you are in here.”
Harry leafed extra green out of his stash of cash, depositing it next to his newly arriving plate. It smelled good. He turned away from the window, trying to ignore the commotion outside. One ear took in the waiter talking at the doorway, denying seeing anyone looking like Harry. “Luck must be about even. That was close.”
All the action had made him hungry. He took a big bite of steaming hot mashed potatoes done just right. “Hmm. Needs salt.” Which is when he found out whomever sat at the table before him had unscrewed the cap as a practical joke.
Harry’s heart sank, as he tipped over the salt shaker, watching the contents spill out. “When will my bad luck ever end?”
Outside, a murder of crows flew past Harry on his left instead of his right. “Whew. Two bad lucks. I’m even.” He nodded to the waiter in thanks on his way out.
“Hey, darlin’.” It was the ravishing blonde he’d met before he bumped into. “Have you seen my purse? There’s a reward.” She licked her lips slowly, tantalizing him with her tongue.
“I saw it but couldn’t get it. My back.” Harry explained, taking her elbow. “It’s back there. I think I kicked it into the storm drain. It should be safe, if a little gunky.”
“Thank God.” The blonde leaned into a kiss. “You’re my lucky day. I’ll be right back.”
Harry’s face split a wide grin. “I’ll be waiting.”
A twinge in his heel made him look down as his cell phone rang. “Mom?”
He noticed he was standing on a sidewalk crack. His mother sang out, “I think I just broke my back.”
“Figures,” Harry’s eyes darted at two emerging shadows coming from the shop where the sign had been. The sign changer waved a hammer at him from the wheelchair he was riding in. “Lucky dude. Someone splinted his leg.”
Before today he hadn’t been much of a superstitious man. “Gotta’ go, mom. Be there when I can.”
The store with it’s number 777 next door beckoned him. He shot out at it, taking off like a rabbit. His heart was in his throat as he pushed open the door, closed his eyes and prayed, hearing the words inside, “May I help you?”
Help is what he needed. Harry’s eyes opened in disbelief. “I’ll take one of these.” A lucky rabbit’s foot seemed caught with its chain mixed with the others. “And one of those.” A four-leaf clover embedded in plastic lay in the next bin. His hand tugged unsuccessfully at prying the last one up stuck to the case bottom.
The wheelchair and its excited occupant were bouncing up and down at the door. The bruiser who had been pushing him beckoned with his third finger. Harry could see the blonde babe walking by searching for him. His cell phone was ringing again. “That be all?” the proprietor said.
The bruiser locked the wheelchair in place, pointed at Harry and rattled the store’s doorknob. “Please. Yes. Hurry.” Harry dropped his wad of cash.
The blonde stopped, looked at the bruiser, then where the guy pointed, and waved at Harry.
Harry picked up and slammed the bills on the counter top. The good luck charms weren’t his yet. “Take it all. The rest is a tip.”
He reached for his purchases, smiling at himself, then back at the bruiser and the blonde. “Finally. My lucky day.”
Except maybe it wasn’t. It was the shop owner. “Wait. Those aren’t yours yet. These bills could be bogus. I got to check.”
"Stop him right there." Wyla poked a long gnarly fingernail into the bubble of reality they were throwing back and forth. It didn't pop. It shivered a moment as if in fear.
"Our wager? You give in?" Therma asked. This was getting boring. The man hadn't learned anything, yet. He acted like a puppet dangling on a string, getting jerked around without a mind of his own.
The Witches, Wyla and Therma, had tweaked Harry's day into high gear to prove a point. Wyla bet that no matter what chance encounter, a superstitious man would find a reason to give it meaning so that he could keep order in his world view.
"You win," Therma agreed, getting ready to finish Harry off in his bubble reality with a fickle twist of a fingernail's sharp fate.
"Come on," Wyla flung her black cape over her shoulder and was already picking up her broom. "Let's fly over and see what the rest of the coven is doing. It's got to be more interesting than this."
Therma's hand stayed, jerked back from its final poke and reached for her own broom, instead.
Lost to their fading sight, Harry's bubble of reality settled unscathed. With no-one to interfere, his luck changed through his shear willpower. "If I can't buy this rabbit's foot, I'll steal it. I'm short on time."
The next second, he watched the bruiser trip over the entrance to the magic shop. He hadn't been watching his next step. Harry had to walk over the unconscious figure. "Hey. There you are," he ducked the sign changer's hammer with a lucky move to greet the blonde bombshell in a welcoming hug.
Men never learn. Beauty on the outside is only skin deep. Making the blonde's last name his own would become the worst bad luck he'd ever know. It would lead to him finally realizing, no matter the good luck superstitious behavior he tried, cruel fate was the final arbitator.
That really popped his bubble.