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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.


 

A Short Story for the Weekend

Steps of a Killer by Karen J Mossman

Hampstead Heath is beautiful in the early morning sunlight. The dew sparkled on the grass giving it a magical appeal. Where I stood, the ground was elevated and I could see the city. People were waking or heading off to work. It was just a normal day for them.
For a moment, I looked over at the trees and breathed deeply. I could feel her. Exhaling, I took another breath and my feet moved in her footsteps. Briefly, my eyes closed as I advanced. This was where she was, where she walked, stumbled and broke into a run. Her feet became mine as I moved with her towards the trees.
I entered a pathway surrounded by trees and knew beyond a doubt this is where she was killed.
My heart is thumped. My breath was jagged and the adrenaline is surged through my veins as I entered a pathway surrounded by trees. Beyond doubt I knew this was where she was killed.
I become her as a sob escaped me. I felt him following behind. Moving quickly, I stumbled, my head whipped around and his shadow attacked me. Crying out, I threw my arms forward hoping to knock him away. Instead we rolled together on the ground. Me and a shadow from the past.
We came to a stop having hit an obstacle. A shaft of sunlight hits the trees and a beam of light illuminated his face.
Later, I sit alone in the Dandelion café sipping my drink and staring out of the window. The high street is full of shoppers. They carry their bulging bags and have no idea a killer could be amongst them. He probably looked like an average man on his way to do his business, to the pub for a drink, or to meet friends. They don’t know what he did. Or the life he took for his personal gratification.
My fingers worked the fabric in my hand, a bit of cloth that came from an evidence bag.
I felt the girl in my core. Her hopes and dreams for a future she will never have. Poor girl. Poor, poor girl.
Coldness enveloped me and for a second everything went silent. I took a sharp intake of breath – he was here! I felt him strongly.
My mind returned to the café and the surrounding people come back into focus. “Excuse me? Is anyone using this chair?” My blood runs cold. It’s the face of the man I grappled with in the forest.
I shook my head, too stunned to speak. He moved the chair to a different table and joins an older man. They chat and I stared at his profile.
His forehead jutted out a little and his hair is side parted, his nose was sharp and long, and he had a slight double chin.
How can he sit there looking like any normal guy?
Pulling out my phone, I selected Seb’s name and listened to it ring. Seb was my brother and a police detective.
“Cassie,” he answered.
“I’ve got him,” I state.
“What? Where?”
“Right here. I’m looking at him.” I was staring at the side of his head, unable to take my eyes from him, unable to fathom how normal he looked when he carries such a terrible secret. I suppose I expected him to look the monster he is.
“Where Cassie? Where are you?”
“The Dandelion café.”
“Okay, I’m on my way.” The phone went dead.
The man’s companion got up and I heard him say, “Thanks for the coffee.” My eyes burned into the side of the killer’s head. He glanced around as he raised the cup to his mouth.
My blood boiled. How dare he just sit there and act normally! He thinks no one knows what he had done but he is wrong. I know! I couldn’t help myself as I stood and moved over to his table to sat in the empty seat. He looked surprised as I said nothing.
“Can I help you?” he asked sounding like a regular guy. Normal voice open expression, friendly even.
Seb was going to be annoyed. He says I’m a loose cannon and unable to contain my feelings. He’s right. I shouldn’t be taking risks like this.
“I know,” I said quietly.
He stared at me and says, “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
I wish I could throw the fabric I still have clutched in my fist at him, asking if he remembers it, but because of where it came from, I can’t.
“Yes, you do. I can see it in your eyes.”
He continued to stare, and I could hear the sound of him breathing. “I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”
“No, I haven’t. I know who you are, or rather what you are.”
His Adam’s apple bobs. “And what’s that?”
I looked around. “Do you want me to say it out loud?”
He leaned forward and I flinched as my back pressed into the chair. In a whisper, he said, “You’re crazy, I don’t know you.”
As his breath washed over me, I realised she wasn’t the first one he’s killed.
The shock of his evil breath made me rise to my feet. I shouldn’t have confronted him. He stood up too, scraping his chair on the floor.
Glancing out of the window I urged Seb to hurry. The man gives me a hard stare and strides out the door.
Damn! I rushed after him while putting the phone to my ear and pressed redial.
Seb’s voice comes through and I heard he is on hands-free. His blues and twos echoed down the phone and in the distance, as he approached.
“Can you still see him?” he asked after I explained.
“No, he’s gone. Where are you?”
“Two minutes. I’ll be two minutes. Stay there,” he said urgently, and hung up.
Moving away from the doorway, I looked up and down the high street, stopping sideways to look at the reflections in the shop windows hoping to spot him.
I felt his presence.
Spinning around, he was right behind me. Something sharp pressed against my skin.
“Keep walking,” he commanded. His touch consumed me. My psyche flooded and I saw everything he had done. How those poor girls suffered! I couldn’t do anything except walk with him. I knew beyond a doubt he would plunge the knife without conscience and disappear into the crowd before I even hit the floor.
Where the hell was Seb?
He walked me into an alleyway, and out of sight behind a large dustbin.
Seb! The sirens approached.
The blade was against my throat and his other hand was pulling at my skirt and underwear.
“How did you know?” His fetid breath covered my face.
“I know everything,” I told him as the blade broke the skin and I panicked.
“You know nothing!” he hissed.
“I know if you don’t let go, that man over there will kill you.”
He laughed, but still checked as Seb came skidding over. Grabbing him by the neck of his jacket, he threw him to the floor. With a knee in his back, Seb cuffed him.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
I pushed my clothes back into position and wiped the trickle of blood from my neck, Seb yelled at me again. “Yes!” I retorted, and he talked into his radio.
People gathered, wondering what was going on. They shouted in our direction, aiming phones. I tried to keep my face hidden. Seb yelled at them to stay back.
The man, the killer, is struggling on the ground trying to break loose. Seb was having trouble holding on to him. I couldn’t do anything to help as the guy swung round and pulled Seb with him. More sirens got louder as Seb fought to keep a hold on him.
Relief flooded through me as cops spilled into the alleyway. They relieved Seb of his prisoner and he strode towards me.
“You bloody fool!” he said moving my hand from my neck, shaking his head. “Get that looked at. God, Cass, what the hell were you thinking?”
“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling shaken.
The killer threw us a strange look as they carted him off. My brother, Seb, and I are used to those looks. People often look at us strangely because we look so alike
“At least you’ve got him,” I said as we walked back up to the road.
“Have to link him with the crime yet.”
“Him attacking me will give you time to do that.”
“Don’t tell me my job,” he snapped, and I knew I’m wasn’t off the hook yet, although, he rarely stays mad for long.
An ambulance pulled up and I was glad to get inside, away from the curious eyes and stares. It is just a scratch and a plaster was all that is needed.
Seb drove me home and I took the tongue-lashing, as is par for the course. You see, Seb and I are twins, identical, and it’s unusual for a girl and a boy to be as much alike as we are.
He was a seeker, he always finds what he’s looking for, especially when it’s me. He can zone in on where I am, so I never get lost. Seb has no psychic power, but we work well as a team.
Want to read more?
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A Good Son

by Karen J Mossman

 

I was at Pedro’s house and we were making out on the sofa. My head was back, my neck stretched in pleasure, my eyes flicked open and there was his mother looking through the window.

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I don’t think any of us recovered from that as I made a quick exit. Now as I lie in my bed, I feared I was drowning. My eyes wouldn’t open, not that I want them to. Carefully I poked out my tongue, jiggled it about and was rewarded with the strong taste of chocolate. Hmmm! My senses came alive as it rose up my neck until it covered my entire head. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth, I would drown. But how could I resist chocolate? Easter my favourite time of year. As my tongue ventured out again, I expected to feel the luxurious velvety creaminess, but instead, my eyes snapped open and it was all a dream. I was nose-to-nose in bed with Pedro and his brown eyes were looking at me.

“Good morning, Cassie!” he said. “Happy Easter!”

He brought his hand up and perched on his finger was a fluffy yellow chick. Not a real one, of course. Its wired feet were wrapped around his finger. He bobbed it a couple of times.

As I focused on it and then him, his eyes flicked sideways. There on the dressing table was a huge chocolate egg with a big red bow.

I shrieked and leapt out of bed, pulling down my short nightdress as I went. Grabbing the egg, I kissed it. I loved Easter! Pedro was now sitting up bare-chested with an amused expression on his handsome face. Remembering my manners, I skipped back and sat on him, thanking him personally for my special gift.

Just as we were getting into it, his phone rang and sighing I fell back against the pillow. “I have to take this,” he said, stabbing the button with his finger. “Hello, Mother.”

Once more she had come between us, she was constantly ringing, usually at the most inopportune moments. Actually, she didn’t even need inopportune moments to do that. She just rang.

“Can you bring home some milk?” “What are you doing? “When will you be back?” It was always the same. I was sick of his mum. Apart from that day, where I did a quick hop, skip and jump out of the front door, I hadn’t met her, and I already didn’t like her.

-o-

I am a clairvoyant, and there are some aspects of my gift I don’t like. One of them is suicide. So, when the mum of a victim wanted me to accompany her to the place where her daughter died, I already had misgivings. That’s another problem, I find it hard to say no especially when someone is distressed.

The circumstances of this were not pleasant, not that any suicide is. Jess Turner, a girl who seemed to have a lot to live for had ended her life horrifically. It had been in all the papers, I remember sitting in the Dandelion Café reading about it over a cup of coffee.

Jess, whose pretty face had stared up at me from the photograph, wasn’t much older than I was. She had one child, a husband, and loving family – and a dark secret. One day she took herself off to the local park, sat on a bench, doused herself in petrol, and lit a match.

Calling it a tragedy doesn’t do it justice. I wasn’t sure I wanted to communicate with such a troubled and demented soul. You had to be demented to do something like that. I’m sure there were easier ways to die.

So why her mum wanted to come to this place, was beyond me. I met her after work at the park gates; it was already dusk, and the sky was a dark leaden colour. I didn’t know her but guessed she was the lady clutching a flower.

“Cassie?” She came forward to meet me.

“Hello, you must be Sandra.”

“Yes. Thank you for agreeing to come.”

“What would you like me to do? You know I can’t promise anything, don’t you?”

She nodded as we walked together down the path. “I know, but I have to try. I’ve brought this along.” She dug into her pocket and pulled out a hair bobble. “This is hers and she wore it the last time I saw her.”

I looked at it but didn’t take it. “Okay, let’s wait till we get there. Do you know where it is?”

“Not really,” she said putting the bobble back in her pocket. I had a vision of us wandering around in the park after dark trying to find this bench.

-o-.

Back with Pedro, our relationship had taken took a worrying turn. “My mother wants to meet you,” he announced one day while we were making ourselves a drink in my kitchen.

My stomach did a flip. “Why?”

“Why not? You’re my girlfriend, and you can’t hide from her forever.”

“I can,” I said filling two cups with tea and taking them to the sofa. My flat, above a shop, was small, with a lounge and a kitchen to one side. Another door led to the bedroom, and a small bathroom.

“She wants to meet you properly.” He slurped his drink and then placed it on the table before sitting on the sofa. “Cassie, we’ve been seeing each other for over a month. I’ve met your brother, so it’s only fair you meet her.”

“I have met her,” I said sitting next to him.

“I mean properly, not just a wave of your hand as you disappear.”

“Pedro, darling, I don’t think I could look her in the eye,” I said staring at him.

He laughed, “Do you think she’s never had sex? How do you think me and my sister were born?”

I slapped his thigh. “That’s not what I meant. You’re a mummy’s boy, Pedro, and I’m just competition.”

He looked indignant. “I am not!”

“Yes, you are. How many other twenty-eight-year-olds do you know still living with their mums?”

“A lot. It’s practical. Especially since Chantelle disappeared. Anyway, she wants you to come for dinner and I said yes.”

“Oh, Pedro! You didn’t! Why didn’t you ask me first?” I folded my arms as if protecting myself from his words.

“I just did.”

“Except that you’ve already committed me.”

“Oh, stop being a grump!”

I stuck my bottom lip out childishly. I had every reason to be a grump because I didn’t have a choice.

Chantelle was his twin sister who had disappeared. That’s how we linked up in the first place. He wanted me to help find her but I couldn’t.

-o-

It wasn’t difficult to find the place of Jess’s suicide as they’d cordoned off the area with police tape. The actual bench had been removed, but the blackened tarmac remained. There were a lot of flowers, with a variety of messages.

‘Miss you so much.’ ‘I’m sorry this happened.’ ‘You’ll be forever in my heart.’ Every one of them heart-breaking. I tried to keep my eyes averted and not read too many of them. I didn’t want to feel their grief.

Sandra lay down her flower and then dug into her pocket for the hair bobble. I took it and as soon as it touched my skin, I was consumed with feelings of guilt. Not only did the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, goose bumps flooded my arms and shoulders. I felt a piercing heat burn my bones. So much so, I almost lost balance. Sandra’s hand touched my arm, and I grabbed her wrist to steady myself.

Unable to speak, I nodded as the spirit of Jess filled me. Her last seconds of life were horrific. The moment she lit the flame, she panicked as the scorching heat became unbearable. She tried to beat it out, but it spread quickly. Her screaming filled the air, and I tightened my grip on Sandra’s wrist trying to endure it. Her pain became mine, and the terrible secret she’d tried to keep came pouring out. The secret itself was not so bad, at least not bad enough to kill herself for.

In the last few moments of life she had felt a deep sense of regret, not for what she’d done, but for this dreadful end she’d assumed would be was her only way out.

There was no time for tears or escape, one moment she was Jess and the next she was burned embers and bone fragments.

I opened my eyes and was crying as Sandra looked at me with alarm.

“What did you see? What happened?” She asked worriedly.

I couldn’t tell her how I watched her daughter burn in agony. “She was so ashamed,” I said, wiping my face and bringing myself back under control.

“Did she say anything?”

“I picked up on her addiction to other men,” I said tactfully.

Sandra’s face paled. “I know about that. She didn’t have to kill herself for it,” she said in a voice that sounded like a grumble. “What else did she say?”

“At the last minute, she regretted her action.”

“Yes?” she said expecting more.

I looked back at the charcoal-coloured ground and at the trees behind. The birds sang their goodnight melody, and I sighed. “Such a beautiful place to have witnessed such a sad ending.”

“But…but, did she say anything else? Mention anything at all?” Sandra persisted.

I turned to look at her, the hair bobble still twirling around my fingers. “What were you expecting?”

“I wanted her to tell me where she hid the rest of her Grandfather’s money. He left it all to her in his will, but we don’t know what she did with it. I was hoping…” She trailed off, seeing the look on my face.

I handed her back the bobble. “I think we’re done here,” I told her, as the night air turned chilly. There were no ghosts here.

-o-

Pedro’s mum held out her hand. “Hello, my dear, nice to meet you at last. Do come in.” Her red hair was back-combed, and she wore a lot of makeup with dark red lipstick, red nails and a pair of twisted gold hooped earrings. I wondered if she was trying to recapture her youth, or if she was making a statement to prove she wasn’t old yet.

I could feel the blush rising up my neck at the thought of her seeing me in the throes of an orgasm.

“Pedro, mijito,” she greeted, a Spanish word of endearment meaning my little son. “There is wine in the kitchen, go and fetch it while Cassie and I get to know one another. Oh, and turn down the oven while you’re there.”

She took my hand and led me into a back room. It was decorated with Spanish culture in mind. “You will have an apéritif before dinner, won’t you?” She said it in such a way it was difficult to refuse.

“Now, tell me all about you and what you can see.”

Really? “W-what would you like to know?” I asked not wishing to tell her anything. Where was Pedro?

“Well, you see ghosts, don’t you? Pedro has told me about it, and I want to hear it from you. I’m so fascinated.”

“Erm, well, only when they want me to, the ghosts I mean.”

“Ah yes, perhaps if I give you something of Chantelle’s?”

Here we go. “Mrs. Parslow-”

“Please, call me Amia.”

“I can’t tell you if Chantelle is still alive if that’s what you are asking.”

Just then Pedro came back. “Mother leave her alone. You promised you wouldn’t.”

“Well,” she said, taking the bottle of wine as he put three glasses on the table. “It seemed like a good opportunity.” Then she looked at the third glass. “Aren’t you driving later?” she asked him.

“Yes, I’m just having the one.”

“No, put it back. We’ll have no drunk drivers here.”

Amazingly Pedro returned the glass to the kitchen. Just like a good mummy’s boy.

Dinner wasn’t much better as Mrs. Parslow continued issuing instructions or contradicting whatever he said. After we finished eating, Pedro gave an appreciative burp.

“Manners,” she scolded.

“Sorry, Mother.”

“Pour Cassie some more wine,” she told him, and he rose to his feet.

“No, it’s fine, I don’t want any more.”

“Coffee then, anyone?”

I didn’t want coffee either; I wanted out of there. I’d had enough. I don’t know who was worse, him or his bloody mother!

“Could I just have some water?” I asked. “I have the beginnings of a headache.”

“Oh no,” Mrs. Parslow said dramatically. “Get her some tablets while you’re up, Pedro.”

“No, it’s okay,” I blurted. “I’ve got some special ones at home, I’ll take those.” Pedro was staring at me.

“What kind are those, love?” Mrs. Parslow asked. Before I could reply she glared at Pedro. “Stop gawping and get the girl some water.” He turned and left the room.

“Oh, just some the doctor gave me,” I said shaking my head and getting up. “I really should go.”

“Have your water first,” she reminded me.

“I will, thank you. Is the kitchen this way?” Pedro could get my coat at the same time.

I entered the room just as he turned holding the glass of water. “Oh! Are you going?”

“Yes, thank you for a nice meal,” I said taking it and drinking half in one gulp.

“I’ll get your coat then,” he said as I ignored the puzzled glance he gave me.

As I turned to leave, I caught sight of something familiar on the sideboard. It was a huge chocolate Easter egg with a big red bow. Exactly the same as mine.

The end

This story is taken from a collection of short stories featuring Cassie.

The Adventures of Cassidy Newbold

Or a full length story in The Ghost on the Stairs

 

 

 

Churches and Ouija Boards

Dad was a religious man and enjoyed going to church, he also loved the social aspect of it. As a child we as a family went to church every Sunday. Beibng with everyone there made it feel like a family or a community that we fitted into and enjoyed the company of.

In the church hall we went to barn dances, attended shows, and musicals, in which we starred in. There were jumble sales to organise and attend, and I went to the youth club and guides in the hall.

Mum and Dad went to social evenings at different people’s houses. They even went to Benidorm with the minister and his wife. I used to baby sit their children.

The Rose Queen was a great annual event. My sister was Rosebud Queen at one time, and I was a lady in waiting to the Rose Queen hersef. Happy days.

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That’s me in the black and white photo on the far right. I recall having a boyfriend who was a biker and and I bit of a bad boy. I adored him but was hugely embarrassed to be doing this. I think my parents volunteered me. He never found out about it and at that time it was never the person I wanted to be.

We eventually moved away and although Mum and Dad went to other churches, they never quite got the same friendship and social events they had there.

I went to see The Exorcist when it first came out and it terrified me, so much so it put me off horror films for life.

In 2000 Dad got septicaemia and almost died. When he recovered he said he saw a tunnel and he was being urged through it by his mum who was waiting for him. Later he retracted that saying it was the drugs that made him say it. I think he experienced something but it went against what he believed in, so he denied it.

He lived for another ten years, and when he was told he only had a few days left to live, he was so brave. He accepted it was his time to go and to this day I wonder where he is, where he thinks he is, as its hard to accept him not being a conscious mind somewhere.

I’ve never forgotten him telling me about Ouija boards and although I don’t recall the full conversation, it inspired a story called They Came For Him.

There is an interesting article about Ouija boards here if you would like to read it. Meanwhile, They Came for Him is about a girl who goes back to a friends house to play with a Ouija board. What she experiences is will affect her for the rest of her life.

Here is a small extract from the story. If you want to share your experiences, I would be interested to here them.


‘Dad was now running in my direction. His face filled with fear. For one horrible, horrible second, our eyes met before he passed right through me. For that brief moment, I felt his core and spirit. It was part of me again. When he was gone, I felt bereft, like something had been torn away.

Immediately my skin turned ice cold. A raw blackness filled me. For a second, I couldn’t breathe, and then it was gone. I spun around and saw the spectre sweep dad into the road and under the wheels of a passing truck.’

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I don’t like creepy things, do you?

Horror and paranormal is not something I read or watch. I get spooked easily and have a very active imagination. As I teenager I would be plagued by nightmares for weeks. As I grew up I knew to stay away from anything like that.

These two subjects are very big in the book world and there are plenty of people who love a good horror film. Personally I can’t understand why a perfectly sensible and normal person would enjoy being scared or frightened. If that’s you, perhaps you could explain what drives you, I’d really like to know.

I wrote a story called Embers of Webster Street and it was about a girl dealing with her mum who suffers from dementia. It’s a difficult subject seeing someone you love forgetting things, and ultimately not always recognising you.

My Nana showed signed of it for years before it was recognised. We thought she was just a bit batty. She was a joker, liked to have a laugh, and I remember the day she was trying to get out of the car, stumbling or struggling and we laughed. She asked if we were laughing at her, we stopped when we realised it was a serious question. Normally, she would have laughed too, and it was at that point I knew something had changed.

My auntie, her daughter, took her in when she could no longer care for herself. Eventually she was admitted to hospital and my sister and I went to visit. By this time she was no longer our Nana, just a shell of a person who couldn’t even speak. It was the strangest thing because she looked like Nana, she had the same eyes, nose, and mouth, we knew so well. She was a funny lady, always talking, always joking and yet the woman in front of us stared at us with blank eyes. It was heart-breaking.

So when I wrote Embers of Webster Street, this was my main topic, only my pen took on a life of its own. It was supposed to tell the story of Jen, who felt tremendous guilt over having to put her mum in a home. But my pen introduced the ghosts of all the people who had lived in the family home. How her twin sister didn’t see them and  and how her mum couldn’t accept it.

It turned out to be my first paranormal story.

It’s just one of the stories in my book The Magic of stories.

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Introduction to The Magic of Stories book

MagicofStoriesCoverThis week I’m re-launching The Magic of Stories eBook under the Electric Eclectic banner. It’s been tweaked from the original, with additional stories and new formating, and a brand new super-duper cover, which I love. Paul White of P J Designs has done a lovely job in designing it for me.

Stories are wonderful, they weave magically threads that draw you into a world that is different to your own. We all need escapism and many, like me, like to do this with a good book.

I’ve always said stories are not just fictional.  True life tales, can be just as fascinating. I love hearing about people’s passions, what they love, what they believe, their families and their memories. Stories are all around us every day.

In The Magic of Stories, I have collected material together written over the years, which include poetry, shorts, and flash fiction, each telling a tale.

Screen Shot 2019-09-25 at 17.43.03Last year, I read a book called Undressed by Karina Kantas. It’s a collection of poetry, prose, flash and short fiction. Although I loved reading all the stories, there was something else that made it special. For most of them, she explained her reasons for writing it, or how it came to be, or some other fascinating snippit.

I’ve never seen this done before and found they added another dimension to the book. So, this is what I’ve done with mine. Knowing how a story orginated makes it a a more interesting read.

Karina has kindly offered to give my readers a copy for free. I highly recommend you grab it and add it to your reading list. All details of how to get it are in The Magic of Stories book.

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Every day this week I’ll be sharing articles to accompany the stories in the book. As I publish them, I will add the link here, so you’ll be able to come back and follow them anytime.

Coping with Bereavement
Can you Control Your Dreams?
Playground Games
Finding Humour
Do You Believe in Love at First Sight?
Do you keep a diary?
Memories of my dog Ricky
I don’t like creepy things, do you?
My Sister Far Away
Don’t tell a writer your secrets!
Hidden Stories in Family Tree
Train Journeys
Churches and Ouiji Boards

 

 

 

 

Stories Based on a Song

A while ago I read a book called Riddle by Elizabeth Horton Newton. I really enjoyed it and reviewed it on my blog.

It was only recently I found that it was based on the Richard Marx’s song Hazard. This was really cool because my own book Down by River was also based on the ninties song.

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Both books are very different from each other. For a start Riddle is a full blown novel, whereas Down by the River is a novella, a smaller read.

Apart from the actual stories, I thought it would be interesting to put my own thoughts down as to why I wrote it, and how the inspiration came to be. I asked the same of Elizabeth Horton Newton.

So, here for your delectation are two books, their descriptions, and an excerpt which should delight you, as much as they delighted me.


Riddle by Elizabeth Horton Newton

Screen Shot 2019-08-31 at 12.02.24From the first time I heard the song “Hazard” by Richard Marx, I knew there was a story to be told. Although I grew up in a big city I was well aware of how small-town gossip can ruin a person’s life. I wanted to tell the story of how a young man was viewed as an outsider by some of the townspeople and how those who believed him innocent of any crime remained silent, afraid of getting involved or being harassed because they defended him.

Around the same time, I was learning about discrimination against Native Americans or Indigenous People in both the US and Canada. Something just clicked and several years later I put together my book Riddle.

It seems in small towns there is always an outsider. It may be someone of a different color or nationality or religion. Sometimes it is because the individual dresses differently, holds different beliefs, or some obscure reason. I created Kort Eriksen as both an indigenous man who may have been railroaded as a teen for murdering a popular teenaged girl.

Returning to the town where the crime was committed he faces both people who believe he got off too easily and others who feel he was a scapegoat. Even the stranger, a young woman with problems of her own, arrives in town and develops a friendship with Kort can’t be sure of his innocence or guilt. This book remains close to my heart as it incorporates romance, injustice, and revenge in a suspenseful thriller.

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Excerpt

“Look, there’s a fun house,” Norma pointed out. Knowing it would be dark and probably crowded inside she realized it might be a good opportunity to ditch the rest of the group and once again have Kort to herself.

Grace hesitated. Mandy laughing, called over her shoulder, “Come on! It will be fun!”

As they all headed inside Kort maneuvered until he and Norma were near Grace. They made their way through a rolling barrel, and a maze of mirrors where everyone posed seeing their reflections as fat and skinny, short, and stretched.

Tony stayed close to Grace but Mandy and the other women rushed ahead. Then they entered a room that was totally dark except for dim glow in the dark wall decorations. Occasionally something would brush across Grace’s face and she lost track of where everyone was. She brushed at the spidery web like strings that seemed to grab at her.

Holding her hands out before her she tried to find a wall so she could follow it to the exit. All around her people were laughing or squealing. Once in a while a girl would yelp obviously startled by someone.

A body moved quickly past her and she jumped slightly to one side. Someone else bumped into her and a giggling female voice apologized before continuing on. Feeling disoriented, Grace was tempted to call out for help but didn’t want to appear silly.

Suddenly someone slammed hard into her knocking her off her feet. A boot connected with her cheek and she fell sideways covering her head with her arms and rolled to one side. There was no apology and Grace sensed whoever it was continued to look for her. She had no doubt it was deliberate and she kept quiet hoping he would not find her in the blackness of the room. As noiselessly as she could she began to crawl toward what she hoped would be an exit.

Then out of nowhere she heard a male voice softly call her name.

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IMG_6264.JPG When I first heard the haunting melody of Hazzard, I was hooked. On Top of the Pops they played a video to accompany the song and I was mesmerised. Apart from Richard Marx being really good looking, I loved the atmospheric storyline.It was so clever being shot in black and white that added to the mood.

I was intrigued about what happened to Mary and many of my questions were not answered. It always left me wondering. Although the song was released in 1991, it was played regularly for many years afterwards. Each time I heard it, I was blown away, absorbed once again in the story.

Being a writer, I had to do something about it, and felt the need to write about what could have happened that night.

It started as a very short story and included a character named Ricky, based entirely on Richard Marx as he was a key feature in the story.

My main character was called Shelby, because I felt it sounded American. Shelby had visions and could never understand why she could see many things, but could not see what happened to Mary-Jo.

I tried very hard to create an atmosphere similar to the one in the Richard Marx’s video. I wanted intrigue and mystery, with just a hint of something dark.

Shelby always had a hard time dealing with her father’s alcoholism, it was one of the reasons she left town. This time when she returns home, something is different; something has changed and it takes a while for her to put the pieces together.

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Excerpt

It was growing dark when she arrived home. Pa was banging around upstairs. Shelby took off her jacket and straightened her pale blue sweater. Mary-Jo had had one just like it. They’d laughed and joked that they were twins. It seemed very apt that she was wearing it today.

The coffee-pot was still warm. She was pouring a cup when something came crashing down the stairs. Rushing through from the kitchen, she found Pa lying at the bottom muttering a string of obscenities. He was drunk, very drunk.

“You!” he accused shaking off her offer of help. “What are you doing here?”

“Pa! What’s the matter?”

“You should never have come back, you little whore! Did you think I didn’t know about you and the sheriff? Get out!” He struggled to his feet and staggered through to the kitchen.

Shelby stared at him in shock and disbelief. “W-what do you mean?”

He laughed as he poured himself another whisky. “The whole town knows you were screwing Rawden. I’m a laughingstock!” He staggered through to the living room and slumped into the chair.

“You don’t need me to make you a laughingstock!” she cried, feeling the humiliation burning inside her. “Anyway, it ain’t true!”

He pointed his finger at her face. “Did you think it was easy for me after Annie-Clare died? I brung you up.”

“You didn’t bring me up!” she shouted back. “I brought myself up! You were always too goddamned drunk!”

“Enough!” he roared, rising from the chair. Shelby stepped back, frightened. He poked two fingers into her shoulder. “You wanna get out of here before the same thing that happened to Mary-Jo happens to you.”

“Pa…” Hot tears ran down her face.

“Get the hell out!” He roared. Shelby turned and fled.

Darkness was descending as she walked back towards town. She kept to the road and away from the embankment, feeling the chill of the night air. A car drew up beside her. Rawden got out.

“Can I give you a lift somewhere?” he asked.

“No, leave me alone.” She wasn’t in the mood to deal with him and his sarcastic undertones.

“Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you, Shelb.”

She lost her footing then and slipped down the embankment. Rawden came down as she got to her feet. “Now, that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t of run. I’m just offering you a lift, that’s all.”

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