Ghost Stories #5 part 2

Summer

          It was 4th of July before anything else happened. Angie was with her grandparents and Linda and Shawn decided to throw a little party with a few friends. They spent majority of the evening in the backyard. They drank, they laughed, they enjoyed the fireworks from the park down the road. All in all, it was a good night. They were almost able to forget about the weird things that had been happening.

          Until they went back in the house at the end of the night.

          “Woah, who tracked all this mud in the house?” Jennifer asked. She stepped to the side and revealed the muddy footprints across the wood floor.

          “What? There hasn’t been rain all month, where’d the mud even come from?” Shawn asked.

          Linda followed the prints down the hall. They wrapped in a circle around the kitchen island and went out the other side door. The continued down the hall and ended abruptly as though whoever had made the prints had walked right through the wall. She felt cold all over.

          Back in the kitchen, their friends had already forgotten the prints and were on to talking about other things. But Shawn made eye contact with Linda when she reentered the room and could see her fear. He decided not press the subject. He squeezed her hand and whispered, “Let’s not worry about it tonight.”

          So, they didn’t. Alcohol really helps when you’re attempting to suppress stressful thoughts.

          The next afternoon, Linda scrubbed the floor until it shined. She tried not to think about what she was cleaning. They’d made a mess during the party, that was all. She didn’t bring it up again, and neither did Shawn.

          It was mid-August before anything else disturbed their peace. Linda had allowed herself to forget and Shawn went about his daily business as though nothing had ever interrupted him.

          Angie was in the back yard on the porch swing. Linda sat nearby with a magazine. Shawn was attempting to fix the lawn mower. It was a typical Saturday afternoon. Linda put down her magazine and stretched.

          “I’m going to make some lemonade, you two want some?” She asked.

          “Yes, please,” Shawn said without looking up from his work.

          “Yum!” Angie said with a smile.

          Linda crossed the threshold and froze. Spread out across the kitchen floor were all of the knives from the block. They were laid out from smallest to largest and pointing toward the door where she stood. If that wasn’t startling enough, a small grey cat was fiddling with the handle of the third knife. A small grey cat that Linda had never seen before.

          “Shawn!” She called over her shoulder and she tried to keep the panic out of her voice. She didn’t want to alarm Angie.

          “What is it?” He jumped up from the lawn mower and jogged across the lawn. He saw the fear in her eyes and how pale her face was and grew more concerned the closer he got.

          “Look…” Was all she managed to say.

          Shawn moved around her to see in the house. The cat was still playing with a knife on the floor.

          “What… How did… Where did the cat… What the hell is going on here?”

          “Mommy?” Angie trotted across the sidewalk and peered through their legs. “Ooh! A kitty! Can we keep it?”

          “Oh, honey…” Linda began but Angie had already rushed into the house to pet the cat.

          Shawn darted in behind her to snatch up the knives on the floor before she could hurt herself. “Angie, sweetie…”

          “It’s so cute!”

          Linda and Shawn exchanged a look over their daughter’s head.

          “Let’s just not – “

          “Worry about it. Yeah.” Linda took the knives from Shawn and left the room.  

Ghost Stories #5 part 1

Spring

          Shawn and Linda bought the house on Harper Lane after touring several homes in the area. They thought it was the cutest little house in the neighborhood. They felt no reason to question its vacancy. They signed the papers, and moved in.

          There was a small patio surrounded by a low brick wall that had a flower garden just the right size for Linda’s blossoming green thumb. There were three cozy bedrooms, a spacious kitchen and plenty of storage. The backyard wasn’t anything to turn your nose up at either. It was perfect for their family. A room for their little girl, Angie, and a room for an office.

          It wasn’t until a month later that Linda noticed something odd.

          Linda was a compulsive cleaner. She like to have things neat and clean at all times. Everything had a place. And there wasn’t anything that drove her more nuts than cabinet doors being left open. Shawn knew this. And yet, every morning when Linda would get up to start making breakfast, there would be cabinet doors open.

          At first it was only one. And she ignored it. Then there were two or three, and she would close them and go about her day. And then it was all of them. And she couldn’t take it anymore.

          “Shawn!” Linda’s fists were tightly clenched and she resisted the urge to stomp her foot.

          “What is it?” Shawn appeared from the hallway, buttoning up his shirt. Linda gestured around the kitchen; her lips pursed. “Oh.”

          “Oh? That’s all you have to say?”

          “What? You don’t think I did this?”

          “Who else? Angie’s two! Unless she’s been dragging a chair all around the kitchen while we sleep, I don’t know how you could think – “

          “I’m sorry, dear, but I didn’t do this. You’re the last one to bed and the first one up.”

          “Are you sleepwalking?”

          “Are you?”

          Linda deflated. “I’m sorry. I just don’t understand. It’s been all week. I thought… I don’t know. Thought you were trying to be funny.”

          Shawn went around the kitchen and closed the cabinet doors, then he kissed his wife on the cheek. “I don’t have a cruel sense of humor. It’s probably just the foundation. I’ll have someone come out to check it. Okay?”

          “Yeah, sure.” Linda sighed. “I’m sorry I accused you. It’s just been driving me crazy.”

          Shawn kissed her again. “Don’t worry about it, love.”

          But she did worry about it. Because after Shawn left for work, she had to close the cabinets three more times. Even the dishwasher was hanging open when she went to the kitchen to make lunch. She wasn’t sure she believed it was the foundation. She felt like she was being mocked.

          But she eventually put it from her mind. A man came to check the house and scheduled a day to come and level the foundation. Linda was able to dismiss the cabinet doors now, knowing there was a perfectly sane cause for their opening. If only they’d been able to schedule the leveling sooner than a month away. But she tried to live with it the best she could.

          Shawn, on the other hand, discovered his own worries. He had a workbench in the garage where he liked to build model cars. Nothing special, just a hobby to keep his hands busy. His day job was a little monotonous and he needed a creative outlet. He spent two or three evenings a week in the garage to assemble and paint the little cars. It was on one of these occasions that he began to hear the footsteps. It sounded like someone was pacing right on the other side of the garage door.

          “Linda, is that you?” Shawn said. He didn’t know why she might be outside, unless she was just getting some fresh air while Angie played in her room. But pacing?

          When no one answered and the pacing continued, Shawn rapped on the garage door. The sound stopped for a brief moment, and then continued. There was still no answering voice.

          Shawn set down his miniature tools and went to investigate. Linda was in the kitchen washing dishes and Angie was toddling her dolls back and forth in the living room.

          “Where you going, hun?” Linda asked when she saw Shawn heading for the front door.

          “I think there’s someone outside,” he said. “I hear footsteps in the driveway. I’m just going to check it out.”

          “Be careful,” Linda said, but without any real concern.

          Shawn walked around the house to the driveway and looked around. There wasn’t anyone there. He went out the street and looked both ways, but he didn’t see anyone at all.

          “See anybody?” Linda asked when he reentered the kitchen.

          “No.” Shawn frowned. “But I swear I heard someone out there. They just wouldn’t answer when I said anything though.”

          “Hmm… Should we get some cameras, maybe?” Linda picked up on his tone and felt the beginnings of worry herself.

          “Maybe. I’ll see if I hear anything again. It might have been my imagination.” Even though he knew it wasn’t, he didn’t want to cause any alarm.

          Two days later, though, he heard it again. There was definitely someone walking back and forth in his driveway. Just on the other side of the door. Shawn would swear it to anyone. This time he wasted no time and ran through the house and outside to try and catch the culprit. But again, no one was there. No one in the street. No one hiding behind a fence. Nothing.

          “Shawn?” Linda stood in the doorway; her face pinched with fear.

          “I’m going to look into getting some security cameras.”
          “Are we not safe here?”

          “It’s going to be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

          Shawn found some reasonably priced security cameras a week later. He installed them around the outside of the house and watched the monitors obsessively for three days straight. And he saw nothing. He heard nothing. After the fourth day, he relaxed and went back to working on his model cars in his spare time.

          In late April, after the house had been leveled and the cabinet doors didn’t open on their own anymore, after there hadn’t been any sign of a stranger in their driveway, Linda discovered something different to be frightened of.

          She’d been cleaning all morning. The vacuum scared Angie, so she played in her room with the door shut. It was nearing lunchtime when Linda went to find her. But she wasn’t in her room.

          “Angie?” She called into the hallway.

          Linda heard a splash and a giggle from the bathroom. She sighed and shook her head, but there was a smile on her face.

          “What are you doing in here?” Linda put her head around the doorframe of the bathroom and saw Angie in the bathtub. Angie was fully clothed, but the tub was almost overflowing with water. “Oh, Angie.”

          Angie giggled and splashed the water over the edge.

          “How did you fill up the tub by yourself.”

          “I didn’t.” Angie held up her arms so Linda could lift her out of the tub.

          “You know you aren’t supposed to lie to me.”

          “Not lying. She did it.” Angie pointed back to the bathtub.

          “Angie there isn’t anyone there.”

          “Yeah, huh.”

          Linda peeled off Angie’s wet clothes and wrapped her in a towel. She then reached into the tub to unplug the drain. For a brief moment as she tugged on the chain, she felt a hand wrap around her wrist and squeeze. She screamed and jumped back from the tub, nearly tripping over Angie.

          “She wasn’t done with her bath, mommy.” Angie said.

Vanilla

Exercise:

  1. Think of a scent
  2. Write all words/phrases associated with it
  3. Write a scene with the same emotions

Scent: Vanilla

Words/Phrases: Her, high school, band bus, color guard room, skipping class, taste, cake, frosting, firsts

Scene:

          Jenny was mid-sentence when she caught a whiff of the perfume. She paused and looked around for the source. It was like dessert… Sugary, sweet, frosted cake dessert. But Dianna was nowhere to be seen.

          “You okay?” Sean asked to draw Jenny back to the conversation.

          “Huh? Oh, yeah, fine. I just thought – Never mind. What was I saying?” Jenny flushed. Dianna had this effect on her; even when she wasn’t there.

          “Something about going out with me this weekend?” Sean said, pulling up on the end to make it a question. He wasn’t quite confident enough to pull off just telling her.

          Jenny smiled but she shook her head. “I’m sorry. I started seeing someone.”

          “Oh, sure.” Sean tried to play off his disappointment. Of course. Jenny was seeing someone. “Well, I guess I’ll see you in class later?”

          “Um, I think I’m gonna skip today, actually. I don’t feel like pretending to care about computers.”

          “Oh, okay.”

          Jenny fought the urge to ruffle Sean’s hair as she walked away. He just looked like a defeated little kid. He asked her out at least once a week. This time, though, she’d been able to give him more than just an “I’m busy” response. Even though she had been busy. Busy hanging out with Dianna. They’d been testing the waters. Exploring their depths.

          Jenny stepped into the band hall and cast her eyes around to see who was in the room. No blonde hair stood out to her. She crossed the room and went into the color guard room. And there she was. Sprawled on the floor with a book open in front of her.

          “Hey,” Jenny said. The scent of vanilla perfume filled her nose and she felt a little dizzy.

          “What’s up?” Dianna flashed her brilliant smile up at Jenny and patted the floor next to her.

          “I was hoping to find you here. No math today?”

          “Not for me there isn’t.”

          Jenny laughed as she sat down. “No computer for me either. I’d rather hang out with you.”

          “Don’t be compromising your GPA for little ol’ me.” Dianna teased and pushed against Jenny’s leg, hand lingering on her thigh.

          “You’re more important.” Jenny rested her hand on top of Dianna’s and fought to keep the blush from her cheeks. “Whatcha reading?”

          “Hamlet. For class.” Dianna flipped the book closed. “Wanna make out instead?”

          Jenny giggled.

          Cookies, and cake, and all things sweet filled her mind as Dianna leaned into her for a kiss. The aroma enveloped them and Jenny became intoxicated with it. With Dianna.  

*

Ghost Story #4

          “Which dorm are you in?” Kimmy asked.

          “Um…” I rechecked my move-in paperwork. “Foster Hall.”

          “Oh, damn.”

          “What?”

          “My older brother said that one’s haunted.”

          “Psh, yeah right.”

          “No, really. Apparently a student goes missing every year near the holidays.”

          “Goes missing or drops out during finals?”

          Kimmy rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay, you’re a non-believer.”

          Before I could respond, I heard shouting from behind us.

          “Kimmy! Shawna! Wait up!”

          “Oh great,” I muttered. “I didn’t know pipsqueak got accepted here.”

          “Yeah, she was waitlisted. But she’s here now.” Kimmy faked a smile. “Hey, Dezzy.”

          Dezzy pulled up just short of barreling into us and put her hands on her knees while she caught her breath. Kimmy and I exchanged an eye roll over her head.

          “Hey guys. I’m so glad I found you. This place is huge.”

          “Sure is,” I said. To Dezzy anything was huge, though. She was under five feet tall. But I kept that comment to myself. Even though she’d been kind of the outcast of our grade, I tried not to be openly mean to her. It was just so hard to be nice to her sometimes.

          “I’m so excited to be here. I’m taking so many cool classes. What are you guys majoring in? It’d be awesome if we had a class together.”

          As Dezzy rambled, Kimmy and I resumed walking. She kept pace with us and we added the appropriate “yeah”s and “cool”s. I already couldn’t wait to ditch her.

          “ – and I hear Foster Hall is haunted!” Dezzy gave a squeal and I finally took notice of what she was saying. “I’m on the fourth floor, right below the attic –“

          “Wait, you’re in Foster too?” I interrupted.

          “Too? You’re in Foster? Oh yay! Practically roommates. We should do a séance, try to weed out the spirits.”

          “I’ll pass.” My shoulders slumped as I realized how much harder it was going to be to shake her off now.

          And so, college began. Turns out Dezzy was in the room next to mine. I was thrilled. She’s kind of grown on me, though. In a stalker-y way. She knows my schedule without me telling her, but she brings me coffee before my first class every day. I try not to be annoyed with her; she’s just trying to be nice. If only she’d lay off the ghost thing.

          “Didn’t you hear that?” Dezzy’s eyes were as round as plates as she stared at the ceiling of the common room.

          “Hear what?” I had one headphone in and was trying to stay focused on my research paper.

          “That thud. From up there.”

          “It’s probably just someone getting’ it on,” Kimmy said.

          I looked up in time to see Dezzy turn red. “It’s fall break. We’re like the only people here.”

          Kimmy shrugged. “All the more reason it’s people banging. No one’s here to catch them.”

          “I want to go check it out. Do you guys know how to get into the attic?” Dezzy stood up from the table.

          “No way, girl. Sit your ass down. We’re not dumb kids in a scary movie,” Kimmy said, suddenly serious.

          “I thought you said it was just people doin’ it?” I said with a laugh.

          “Oh, shut up. Doesn’t mean we should take any risks.”

          “What risks? There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

          But then I heard something too. A thud and something like metal clanging together. We all froze and eyed the ceiling.

          “Want to go look now?” Dezzy asked.

          “Hell no. Ghost or no ghost, I’m not going into the attic. Now just get back to work.”

          After that day, I started having nightmares. I don’t want to believe that the two things are connected. It was probably just nerves about finals coming up.

          But it was always the same.

          I would be searching a dark room. I don’t know what I’m looking for until I see Dezzy in a corner. I call out to her but she doesn’t seem to hear me. She’s staring, petrified at whatever’s in front of her. I get closer and reach out to grab her, but then she… this is the worst part… her skin just melts away.

          I scream and wake up.

          But it’s just nerves. It doesn’t mean anything.

“Where’s Dezzy?” Kimmy asked after she bounded up the steps to the patio outside Foster.

          I sat at one of the tables, checking over my notes for my last final. “I dunno. I’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes.”

          “You’ve been waiting out here? It’s freezing!” Kimmy shivered and stomped her feet to keep her toes warm.

          I shrugged. “Layers. Lots of layers.”

          “Why not wait inside, though?”

          I shrugged again. I didn’t want to talk about the weird feeling I’d been getting for the last week. Not to Kimmy, especially. But it had felt like a shadow was over me anytime I walked down the hallway or took the elevator. I’d switched to the stairs on Wednesday, but it had only gotten a little better.

          “Well, come on. Let’s go check her room. She’s supposed to quiz me for my geography final since she took hers yesterday.”

          I hesitated, but gave in at the idea of having to confess my worries to Kimmy.

          The lobby was empty, as were the common areas on each floor as we ascended the stairs. Most students were in the library studying if they weren’t currently taking an exam.

We arrived at the fourth floor and felt the temperature drop.

          “Brr….” Kimmy wrapped her arms around herself and her breath came out in a cloud. “Someone playing with the thermostat up here, or what?”

          I didn’t respond. This was another reason I was prepared with layers of clothing. It’d been like this for three days and no one had figured out why.

          Kimmy jogged down the hall and pounded on Dezzy’s door.

          “Pipsqueak! Come on! We’ve been waiting on you!”

          There was no answer. Kimmy jiggled the doorknob, but it was locked.

          “Ugh, where else could she be?”

          There was a thud and a bang from above us, followed by a muffled scream.

          “Shit,” I said and jumped.

          “You don’t think….” Kimmy trailed off, looking up.

          “What?’

          “Could she have gone up there? She kept trying to get us to investigate the weird noises.”

          “Oh man… she might be…” My dream started to play in my head.

          “We should go get her. She must have tripped and hurt herself.”

          “Maybe we should call for some help first.”

          “Don’t be silly. I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts.” Kimmy tugged on my arm and I let her drag me down the hall.

          A utility closet stood ajar next to the bathrooms. A ladder was visible in the back and a dim light fell on it from an opening in the ceiling.

          “I wonder how she found it.” Kimmy grabbed my arm again. “Come on.”

          Every fiber of my being was telling me to turn back. To get away. To run as fast as I could. But I couldn’t let Kimmy go up there alone. She was already halfway up the ladder, her head poked up into the square of light.

          “Dezzy? Are you up here?”

          I heard a voice say, “help me,” in response. But it was wrong. That wasn’t Dezzy. I tried to reach out to grab Kimmy’s leg, but I couldn’t reach. She was through the hatch, her feet disappearing from view.

          “I’m coming, hang on.”

          I was frozen to the floor. I couldn’t go up there, even if I’d tried. My jaw was clenched shut. I couldn’t make a noise. Something was wrong.

          I heard a growl from above me. Louder than any dog. Deeper. More menacing.

          “Dezzy?” I heard Kimmy say, her voice faltering. She’d realized her mistake now.

          There was a rough giggle in reply. The sound was like broken glass. It grated on my nerves and I felt sickened to my core. “She’s already gone,” the voice said, turning my stomach. “Would you like to join her?”

          I’ll never forget Kimmy shrieking my name. Begging for my help. It’s all I hear at night when I’m alone.

          I couldn’t go to her. I couldn’t move.

          Only once her scream had died away was I unfrozen. Once I could go, I didn’t know where to. Not up the ladder, it was too late for that. But not for help either. I already knew there’d be nothing to find up there. If that were the case, this would have stopped long ago. After the first student was taken.

          All I can do now is try to warn others. Tell them that someone has to feed the beast in the attic…  

Ghost Story #3

                “Where are we?” Mary asked. She peered out the window, but it was too dark to see anything. When Jack didn’t answer, she smacked his arm. “Are we lost?”

                “No.” Jack squinted and leaned over the steering wheel.

                “Then what’s this street called?” He said nothing. “Jack! What the hell?” She pulled out her cell phone to look on the GPS. “Great. There’s no cell service out here.” She pouted and slumped down.

                “Relax.” Jack shifted around in his seat. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel as the car lurched over a hill he hadn’t seen coming in the dark.

                “Jesus! Take it easy, would ya?” Mary’s hand had flown to the handle over her window and she left it there. She attempted to look out again and saw trees, and then a fence. “That’s a cemetery.”

                “Mmm.” Jack mumbled. He switched back and forth between the high and low beams, but it made little difference. “I think I need to turn around.”

                Mary rolled her eyes. “Ya think?”

                “Shut up.” Jack slowed and did a neat three-point turn.

                “I think I see lights out there.” A chill crept over Mary’s skin. “This place is giving me the creeps.” A few moments passed by. “Why haven’t we gone back over that hill yet?”

                “I don’t know.”

                “That’s weird, right? We didn’t go down the road that far, did we?”

                “I don’t know.”

                A rock pinged into Mary’s window and she had to stifle a scream.

                “Shit!” Jack slammed on the brakes and the car slid to a stop.

                A woman stood in the middle of the road with her back to them. She hadn’t moved an inch as the car had approached. Jack beeped the horn, but she still didn’t react. He unbuckled his seat belt and Mary snatched at his arm.

                “What are you doing?”

                “I’m going to see what’s wrong.”

                “Jack, no. That’s stupid. Do not get out of this car.”

                “Don’t be ridicu- “

                Mary cut him off with a scream. The woman now stood at his window; her face covered in shadow from a wide brimmed hat.

                “Get out.”

                They couldn’t see her mouth move, but they heard the words clearly. It was almost like they’d been spoken inside the car.

                “Go, Jack, go!” Tears fell freely from Mary’s eyes.

                “Get out.” Louder this time. The woman began to raise her head.

                “Jack!” Mary did not want to see what was under that hat.

                Jack slammed his foot down and they sped away, dirt kicked up behind them.

                The woman disappeared as the dust settled back into the road.

Retail Life Episode 15

                Here come the holidays.

                We’ve got back to school coming down and Halloween going up. But aside from that, I have the fall décor set up near the back of the store, I have lawn and garden still out for another two weeks, and I’ve begun to get Christmas toys and housewares. And all anyone has to say about it is “Ugh, Christmas already?!” (This, of course, is the polar opposite to the complaint of “This is all you have left?!” that we hear at the end of the season.)

                But yes, Karen, Christmas already.

                It’s shocking that people still get all worked up over this. Year after year, we start setting all the holidays at once after Labor Day. You’d think they’d be used to it by now. Of course, anyone who hasn’t worked retail before doesn’t understand why it’s done this way. Just once I’d like to explain to them just how many boxes of Christmas crap we get throughout the entire season. And I’d really like to know how they think we’d get it all put out and neat in less than a week. Because it takes time and space. If they sent all of the holiday stuff at once, we’d have nowhere to put it in the stockroom; not to mention a place to put it on the salesfloor.

                But that doesn’t matter to the customers, of course. We’re just inconveniencing them by making them look at tree ornaments in October. Because that’s just so awful, I guess. Even though there are several people that start to buy it the second it hits the shelves. I need to introduce the haters to those customers, I think. Get them to understand that some people are ecstatic to see the red and green all around the store.

                I’m not one of those people, by any means, but if it adds a few dollars to a customer’s basket, I’m not complaining.

                So, here’s to an extra 200 cases on each week’s truck and a ton more people crowding the aisles. Merry Hallowthanksmas everyone!