A little flash fiction addition I did for a spooky campfire for The Holding Pond.
|I was working with my group on a campfire. The premise or beginning was as follows:
All those traveling on the cross-country train felt the jar of brakes and heard the squeal of metal wheels on tracks. The conductor visited each carriage, apologizing for the disruption to the journey and informing them of delay. There was no use for it: all passengers must disembark and make their way to the old, dilapidated station to wait until the train could set off again.
What was for them to do out here in a ghost town, full of creeping shadows and desolation? It wasn't long until oil lamps cast an eerie glow upon the faces of the lost and the first echo of a ghost story passed the lips of one of those souls present...
Here is my addition:
Everyone laughed listening to Tom tell his story. It was a nice light-hearted moment for a change. A few glances were exchanged wondering who would speak up next. A small-framed woman sitting on one of the benches cleared her throat. All eyes turned to her and she looked back expressionless as if contemplating if she should share her story or not...
Finally, she stood and walked toward the flames, not looking at anyone. "I have a story, a true story..." Her voice was a soft, an almost hushed tone. "It happened over twenty years ago and I've never spoken of it, but when I hear people laughing at ghosts... well, I used to be like that too... then I changed my mind." The group grew silent in the old station. Aside from a few shuffling boots, you could have heard a pin drop.
"I was pregnant with my first son back in 1984. My husband and I had moved to a new town due to a job transfer and we were waiting for our house to be completed. We had three weeks and decided to rent a small trailer on the outskirts of town for a month to wait it out. It was cheap and partially furnished so we could just keep our other things in storage until our house was ready."
The group listened intently, watching the woman's story unfold. What really made an impression on them was the stark look on her face. She hadn't even started talking and her face seemed to be growing pale just thinking about what she was about to say.
"We moved in and unpacked the few things we had brought to survive the few short weeks. Being 7 months pregnant, I grew tired very easily and told my husband I was going to take a nap. He decided to complete unpacking, and I retired to the bedroom. "
A few of the passengers fidgeted as they listened, visibly uncomfortable at the thought of what may be coming next. Others sat intently listening to her voice as she continued.
"It didn't take me long to fall asleep, it seemed I could never get enough sleep back then. However, a short time later, I awoke drenched in sweat hearing in my mind – a blood-curdling screeeeeam."
She intentionally dragged out the last word, watching everyone's reaction around her. Some seemed to feel an invisible chill as she watched them shudder. Seeing their interest, she quickly continued so as not to let the moment pass.
"I never sweat when I sleep and my heart was going a hundred miles an hour. I opened my eyes and before me, I saw a woman... and I again heard her scream... Her long dark hair looked matted and dirty, her eyes hollow and clearly full of terror. I sat there utterly terrified for a moment then began to scream myself."
Her voice grew louder, angrier, more insistent.
"I wanted to know who this woman was in my bedroom and what was wrong with my eyes – she seemed so blurry to me. Finally, in what took place in a matter of seconds I'm sure although it felt like much longer... I got up running from the bedroom and ran smack into my husband in the hall."
Her face was literally flushed at the memory. If this didn't really happen, she sure wasn't giving any clues by her reactions. She was giving one heck of a performance. She looked downright spooked herself.
"I started crying, telling my husband about the woman I saw and the screams I swore I heard. He held me, trying to calm me down as he stroked my hair repeatedly telling me, 'it's just a bad dream babe... just a very bad dream...' I calmed down and tried to my best to believe him. It just felt so real.
He suggested I go outside, get some fresh air.
I wandered around the tiny side yard trying to cool down and clear my head when someone popped up beside me, startling me."
Everyone had pretty much calmed and relaxed a little after she said she went outside, thinking the worst of the story was over. They were wrong.
"Beside me stood a gangly, skeleton of a woman, cigarette hanging from her bright red lips. She looked as if she could be the poster-child for a bad country song. She welcomed me to the neighborhood and said plainly without hesitation – 'I was really surprised they rented this joint out so fast.' She said pointing to the trailer I was now living in. I looked at her confused. Why... did the last tenants really tear it up? She took a drag on her cigarette, her chipped nail polish shining in the sunlight. 'Well I guess you could say that, a woman was stabbed to death in that back bedroom just three nights ago.' She actually chuckled under her breath. I was stunned."
The mouths of every single person surrounding her dropped open. Their eyes wide with surprise and shock, a couple of them even visibly shuddered trying to shake off the creepy feeling now covering them like an old dirty cloak.
"We moved out that day and the landlord never even contacted us to ask why. Obviously, he knew."
A chill went through her at the memory of that day. She looked around at her fellow travelers and slowly stepped back to her bench without saying another word.