Cold Fingers

by Suzi Albracht

I have had experiences with ghosts and the paranormal all my life. I have heard voices, seen apparitions, and felt their cold touch on my flesh. This ghost story is one I will never forget because it was the one time a ghost wrapped his cold, gnarled fingers around my throat.

I was seventeen-years-old when my mother decided to divorce my stepfather. They shared five children, so it was decided that my stepfather and my siblings would stay in the family home while my mother and I would move into a house not far away.

The move was exceptionally awkward for me because my mother already had a boyfriend, he was the reason for the divorce. And I suspected, he would be a part of our new household. While I didn’t feel obligated to my stepfather for personal reasons, I really hated my mother’s new boyfriend. Add to that, I had a fear of being discarded by my mother. But I had no other place to go, no one else to take me in. I had to make the best of what I got. My life was about survival.

To make matters worse, the area my mother and I moved to wasn’t in the best part of town. It was on the outskirts of urban downtown Moline, which meant dealing with things like vagrants and rats.

On the plus side, I only had to take three buses to get to school.

The house itself was an older home that still had a coal chute in the basement so when it rained, parts of the basement flooded.

The main living area on the first floor included one bedroom, a bath, and a kitchen. A staircase off the living room led to the second floor with one small bedroom and several closets.

And then there was the attic room. Just off the kitchen, there was a door. When you opened it, there was a set of steep, rickety stairs that led up to a third-floor converted attic. That room had small, floor-level windows. It also had no heat, and ventilation was poor.

It was clear that things were not looking good for a new beginning. To this day, I remember the feeling of doom that came over me when I was told I would sleep in the third-floor attic room.

***

My mother moved us into our new home while I was at school. To be honest, I didn’t even know we were moving or anything about the house ahead of time. And it was the same day I learned of the divorce.

I remember coming out of my school and seeing my mother’s car by the curb. That afternoon, she had come to pick me up, something she never did, and then brought me to our new house. I followed her up the front stairs and inside as she said, “This is it. Help me unpack the kitchen.”

Later, when my mother was busy on the phone, I had walked around the small house, noticing there was only one bedroom on the first floor. I had also seen the staircase in the living room, that led to another bedroom, but my mother had already told me it was off-limits. Mentally, I crossed my fingers, praying that she wouldn’t expect me to sleep in the basement.

“Where am I supposed to sleep?” I asked as I stood at the kitchen sink, getting a drink of water.

When she didn’t respond, I turned to look at her. My mother pointed toward a door that I hadn’t seen earlier.

I frowned and walked over to it. Touching the handle, I felt a black veil of doom creep up my arm. I pulled my hand back.

“Can’t I sleep on the couch?”

My mother went to the sink and busied herself.

“Mom?”

“I told you that I need my privacy. You can’t be downstairs when my friend is here. As a matter of fact, you better head up there now. And take your books with you.”

It was still light outside, but I knew better than to argue with her. My mother didn’t have motherly instincts or nurturing skills. I was a burden to her and knew I was lucky that she let me live with her at all. I had no choice except to do as I was told.

And so, I opened the door to find a steep and narrow staircase. I inched my way up stairs so narrow there was no way to get real furniture up them. Near the top, I had to turn sideways to slip into the room.

It didn’t surprise me to discover that the room was a closed-off section of the attic. The windows were floor level and tiny. I didn’t see any vents so I knew it would be stifling hot in the summer and frigid in the winter. Living in the Midwest, those were our only two seasons if you didn’t count the three days of spring and the five days of fall.

And then when I pulled the chain on the single, hanging light bulb in the middle of the room, I noticed how sparsely my room was furnished. There was an old cot in the middle of the room and a bookcase in the corner. A couple boxes containing all my worldly possessions sat in the corner.

The light bulb was still swaying when my breath caught in my throat. There was a shadowy figure in one corner. For a second, I was frozen, unable to think or move. I forced myself to turn my back on the shape and sprint toward the door. When I got to the door, I turned to look back. The figure was gone.

Maybe it was my imagination.

I took a deep breath and decided I should just stay. I didn’t have any other place to go anyway, and I had lots of homework to do. So, I walked over to the cot and sat down. The mattress was thin and worn, as was the blanket and what passed for a pillow.

Yeah, home sweet home.

***

I may have had a suck home life, but at school, I was aces. Schoolwork was my escape from whatever was troubling me at the time. The one thing that kept me moving forward.

That evening, I was in the middle of my English assignment, when I heard a scratching noise across the room. My eyes flew to look at the mouse skittering across the windowsill.

Oh, great, now I had to worry about mice crawling over me in the middle of the night.

I rummaged through my purse until I found a package of crackers. I had discovered a trick to training mice while living at another house. I found that if I led the mice away from where I didn’t want them to be, in this case, my bedroom and then fed them regularly at the new location, they would relocate to be closer to the source of food. Easy peasy.

So, I made a small trail of crumbs out the window and put a couple whole crackers on the ledge outside. It wasn’t long before the little creep went for it. Relieved, I shut the window behind him. Now I just had to remember to feed him every day.

With the mouse taken care of, I went back to my homework. The next few hours flew by until I heard laughing and the sounds of clinking dishes downstairs. I desperately wanted a snack, but… well, you know.

By then, I was starving. Struggling to ignore my growling stomach, I wished I had kept back some of my crackers. But I had been hungry before, so it wasn’t a new experience for me. I knew all too well that eventually, the pangs would pass. I decided I would make a late-night raid on the fridge once my mom and her friend were occupied.

Later, after I finished my homework, I pulled out my Stephen King paperback to read for an hour or so. Thirty minutes in, I fell fast asleep. I had a very vivid dream, probably because of Stephen King, but other than that, my first night in the attic room was uneventful. I wish that was the end of my story, but it wasn’t.

***

A week later, as I opened the door to the staircase, I heard a strange noise upstairs. This time, I wasn’t concerned since I had already gotten used to various sounds the old house was making. Hurrying up the stairs, I hoped to get a head start on a new English assignment.

The minute, I stepped inside the room, I noticed a small piece of paper on the floor. It was a corner of one of my English papers

Damn mouse. Didn’t you like the crackers I left out?

Snatching the paper up, I noticed that there were no chew marks. It had been torn. I felt myself frowning.

There had to be chew marks, right?

As I stuck the paper inside my books, I heard the noise again, but this time it sounded like a low, menacing growl. Every hair on me, from my head to my toes, stood on end.

I backed up, my eyes scanning every nook and cranny in the room.

If I can get to the stairs, I can get down to the kitchen. And then if I run into my mother or her friend, I’ll just say I was hungry and take whatever heat they hand me.

Turning, I nearly stumbled and fell but I thought I could make it. All I had to do was take two more steps. I heard the growl again. Turning, I saw it.

The shadowy figure was back… in the corner… moving. This time, I was convinced it was real. But I couldn’t move.

Minutes passed, or so it seemed, as I stared at it. I blinked… it was still there. I blinked again, and then time, it changed. I took a step closer. And another. It was then that I realized the thing I had seen was nothing more than a spider web.

Oh, for God’s sake. Your imagination is running wild. Get a grip.

My gut told me that what I had seen was much more than that. It was a ghost who could shift into other shapes. At the same time, my logical brain told me to calm down and do whatever was necessary to get through the night. I kept reminding myself that I had no other options, nowhere to go, no one to help me… no one to believe me.

Suck it up, I told myself.

Yeah, I was still brave.

Mere hours later, I would regret staying.

***

I found myself tossing and turning, unable to sleep. So, I got out my Stephen King book again and buried my nose deep. At some point, I don’t know when, I ended up in a dead sleep. Troubled, but deep.

When I first felt the hands, I thought they were part of a dream that I couldn’t wake up from. Fingertips brushed against my collarbone. I thought it was nothing, so I swatted them away and rolled onto my other side. Then the fingers touched the base of my neck. I rolled my head and buried my head deeper into my pillow.

“Suzi,” A male voice growled my name.

My mind snapped to attention as if ice cold water had been splashed in my face. I threw my covers off and grabbed the sides of the cot to lift myself up. At least I thought I did.

And then my eyes flew open. I tried to move but I couldn’t. I was pinned to the bed. I attempted to raise my arms, but I was paralyzed. From my toes to my head, I felt crippled except my eyes. My gaze moved from left to right. I didn’t see any bindings or anyone.

How could I be pinned if nothing and no one is holding me?

I squeezed my eyes shut, as tight as I could, fearful of what was going to happen.

A second passed… I tried once more to rise up on the cot. This time, I felt a full body against the length of mine. It was hard, sinewy. My eyes flew open. This time, I saw him. It was the ghost from the corner. I could see his wavery outline.

The ghost pressed harder against me. I looked again and realized the ghost had no face. Somehow, he was more threatening because he was missing his face. I wished I had kept my eyes shut.

And then I felt his fingers again. They had been around my throat the entire time. Squeezing and tightening. I felt a scream from deep within me crawl up my throat. It caught and I couldn’t shake it loose.

The man’s fingers felt cold and gnarled as they squeezed even harder. I tried again to cry out, this time, he pressed his thumbs into my flesh. I couldn’t breathe. The pain was excruciating. I felt myself gasping. I yanked my hands from their invisible bindings and reached up, fighting to pry his fingers off my throat. I could feel the sinew in his fingers, the jagged cut of his ragged nails and scaly callouses I knew were filthy. I dug my nails into his flesh.

He squeezed again. I felt them dig deeper into the soft flesh of my throat, tearing and bruising my flesh. There was no ignoring the intent.

My eyes rolled up into my head. I no longer cared about the pain or the ghost.

I was done.

***

I woke around dawn.

My hands immediately went to my throat. I felt raw inside but outside, nothing seemed to be injured. I jumped out of bed and ran to my purse. Retrieving my mirror compact, I tried to open it but couldn’t. My hands shook, I almost dropped it. Finally, I pried it open.

Staring, I could see bruises and scratches all over my throat. There was also a large bruise on my chin. And then my eyes caught my stare. Something was different in my soul. The ghost had changed me… forever.

Grabbing my books and my clothes, I ran from the attic room that an evil ghost called home.

I dressed on the staircase that day. And then I went to school and swore I would never return.

***

When I returned home from school, I found a note from my mother telling me she would not be back for a few days. I was so relieved, I cried. That meant I did not have to go upstairs. I did not have to see the ghost again or feel his hands on me. Instead, I could sleep on the couch, in peace, until my mother came back home.

Unfortunately, my mother returned to our house the next day. Mad as anything because she and her boyfriend had a fight. He told her he was done.

I waited until after dinner to make a pitch I hoped she’d agree to since the boyfriend was out of the picture.

“Do you think I could sleep in the second-floor bedroom? It’s really suffocating upstairs.” I asked as I washed the dishes.

“I don’t know. Reggie might be back.” My mother lit a cigarette and blew smoke at me.

“When he comes back, I’ll go back to my room. No problem,” I said.

Suddenly I felt her eyes on me. She got up from the table and came over to stand next to me.

“What’s that on your neck?”

“Nothing. Isn’t your show on soon?” In my mind, I begged her to just go back to the living room.

She poked the bruise on my neck with her nail.

“Who did that to you?”

“No one. I got my purse caught in the bus doors. I practically strangled myself… if you want to know.”

No way was I telling her about the man upstairs. She wouldn’t understand or believe me.

“Did anyone see it? Did you tell anyone? We can sue you know.”

“Mom, it was an accident. No one else was there.”

She stared at me. I suppose trying to break me. She didn’t understand yet that I was unbreakable.

“Fine but cover it up. Make-up, a scarf, something. I don’t want any social workers coming around.”

She put her cigarette out in the dishwater and left me alone to finish cleaning up.

When I finished, I noticed the door to the upstairs was open. I considered leaving it open but remembered that if I didn’t shut it, my mother might send me up there to sleep. I inched my way over and just as I reached for the doorknob, I heard a voice. Growling. Calling for me.

“I’m waiting for you, Suzi.”

I slammed the door shut. I backed away until I was in the middle of the kitchen. And then I heard footsteps on the staircase. It sounded like the ghost was coming down the stairs. When he reached the door, the ghost pounded on it. Relentlessly.

My mother yelled from the living room.

“What are you doing out there?”

“Nothing, Mom. Just dropped a pan is all.”

The pounding continued until my mother came to see what I was breaking. She walked in, looked around, saw nothing was going on, and went back to her show.

The minute my mother was gone, the growling whispers started again

“I know you are in there. Come upstairs and play with me, Suzi.”

***

Do you believe in Guardian Angels? I do.

The next day, when I came home from school, I found my mother sobbing on the couch. Her boyfriend had dumped her for good. She was devastated. I felt terrible for her, but I was happy for me. In her grief, my mother told me I could stay in the second-floor bedroom because she didn’t want to feel alone.

I never slept in that attic room again. I paid a little neighbor boy to bring down my clothes and I moved into my new bedroom that day.

I still heard the voice taunting me whenever I was in the kitchen alone, but for some unknown reason, the ghost could not go past the attic door.

Not long after, another more affordable house became available that was closer to my school and my mother’s job, so we moved.

I never went back to that house with the haunted attic.

But one day, years later, I happened to drive by on my way somewhere. I was stopped at the light waiting for my turn when I heard a voice… growling my name. I didn’t look around, I didn’t want to know where it came from. I just hightailed it out of there and never looked back.

I’ve been told the house still stands, but it’s been unoccupied for decades now. I know I’ll never go near it again.

I’m a survivor.


Suzi Albracht … The Queen of Scream

I always feel a little naked when asked to talk about myself. So let me put something on first. Ahhhh, that’s better.

I am an author of Supernatural Horror Crime Thrillers and Paranormal Romance/Ghost novels. Currently, I have two series. The Devil’s Due Collection—Supernatural Horror Crime thrillers. And An OBX Ghost Haunting Series—Paranormal Romance/Ghost novels. I am known to my fans as The Queen of Scream.

I currently live near Annapolis, Maryland. That places me halfway between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. My horror books take place in these metro areas so anyone who lives here will recognize some of the locations.

My Paranormal novels take place in the Outer Banks of North Carolina or the OBX as it is known to locals. We vacation there every year. Many of the locals have read every book in my series. I’m especially partial to North Carolina since I will be moving there soon.

I’ve had many fascinating things happen to me along my life’s path. The first President Bush gave me a shoulder/back rub when I was visiting the compound in Maine one hot August in the 80s. I went to church with Princess Diana once (she was stunning, Charles was a lot shorter than I thought he would be). I’ve been to Las Vegas to shoot pool in the APA Championship twice. I won’t share all of my adventures. Where would the mystery be if I expose all?

I would consider myself to be a fair and giving person who loves hard. I am a nice person, but if you do me wrong, I will never forget. I may forgive, just to get past it, but you will never get close to me again. I am loyal to a fault. I’m into shoes and purses, they have their own room here.

I can honestly say my twitter bio describes me to a T – Write, scare myself, turn all the lights on, write some more. Take a break, play pool, kick butt/get butt kicked, go write more horror, double lock door.

You can find my books on my Amazon page here..

And now I am naked again because you know too much.


 

Published by Kazzmoss

Karen loves fiction, reading and especially writing short stories and novels. She is also an avid blogger and book reviewer. Living on the beautiful Isle Anglesey, off the North Wales coast, Karen draws inspiration from the world around her.

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