Posts Tagged ‘ghost’

Land of Ghosts

Posted: August 10, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
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Little Round Top

Larry shivered as he walked up Little Round Top. Late October is hit or miss weather in Pennsylvania. Cool air misted the ground with patches of fog. It wasn’t the fog that made him shiver.

His son Greg held out his hand. “Can you make it, dad?”

“I’m fine. I’m fine. Just a little rocky here. Let me take my time.”

Greg rubbed his arms. “Wish we had better weather for you.”

“Don’t you worry about that. I’m just glad to be here.” He swept his arm across the hill. “Can you imagine? Can you see it? Charging up this hill, over and over again, with the 20th Maine up there behind those rocks.”

“A lot of brave people fought here.”

“So many.” Larry imagined gray uniforms around them in the gray mist. His ankles crackled with old age. He imagined the pop of musket fire.

They made a long, slow walk over boulders and slippery grass. Once Larry did take Greg’s help as stumbled on some rocks that came loose under his feet. A shy blot of lemon yellow sun tried to poke through the clouds on the far side of the hill. They made it to the top. Larry made the sign of the cross, touching his hand to his head, belly and shoulders. “My God. You can still feel them.”

“The shadows look like blue uniforms.”

“Are you messing around?”

“No. I was just thinking that.” Greg gestured toward the rocks and trees. “Especially over there, and there.”

Larry nodded. He believed him. Larry realized that he couldn’t hear anything besides their voices. The brush of their feet on the grass and the quiet clatter of rocks sounded like whispers.

Larry thought of his grandson. Timmy was resting back at the hotel. He had an earache. His mother was keeping an eye on him. Larry asked Greg, “Has Timmy learned about the Civil War in school yet?”

“He studied it last year. He drew a map of the battle area for a project.”

“I wish you told me! I’d love to see it.”

“We can ask him if he still has it when we get back.”

“That’d be great. I’d at least like to talk to him about it.”

“He’d like that, too. He had a lot of fun with it. He brought home a foot-tall stack of books from the library. I swear he read all of them.”

Larry smiled. Memories were the best part.

“Looks like the fog is lifting a little bit.”

“Let’s start making our way back. We can make an early lunch.”

Photo credit: “Little Round Top” by rlwelch at en.wikipedia
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

The Pact

Posted: July 2, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
Tags: , , , , , , ,

witch ghostThe bank manager smiled as he shut the door to the privacy room. Marlowe’s smiled vanished as soon as he did. He trembled as he brushed his fingers over the safety deposit box. A little blackmail. A forged driver’s license. A stolen key. Now he stood inches away from the thing he had searched for his entire life.

His breath hissed, the only sound inside the little closet. Marlowe unlocked the box. He swallowed. Inside was a single scroll, bound with a green wax seal, stamped with an hourglass. He picked it up with his fingertips. He tried to avoid touching it at all for fear it would fall apart. It was made of lamb skin and more durable than he gave it credit for, but his fear trumped all that.

Marlowe broke the seal. Nothing happened. He quickly unrolled the scroll. On it were the words, “Christopher, I thank you for your sacrifice. You have saved us both. William.”

The words faded away. A frost wind shook the walls of the room. Marlowe gripped the scroll. The lights in the room—in every room of every building in the block—flickered.

Vaporous forms flew out of the scroll, whipping around the room. “We are free! We are free! Black Marlowe’s magic is undone!” The words of three witches rang in his ears.

“Rest not, foul demons. You are yet bound while I live!” he hissed.

Their screams circled his head. Marlowe wobbled. He fought to keep standing. It had been over five hundred years since he last heard the ear-breaking din of their voices. “Marlowe! Marlowe! Why do you torment us still?” the three of them screeched.

“Release us,” one called.

“Release yourself,” another taunted.

“Silence, wretch! I’ll speak to thee in my own time!” Marlowe replied.

He raised his voice too far. The bank manager knocked on the door. “Mr. Foster? Is everything all right?”

Marlowe pushed his foot against the door in case the manager tried to open it.

“Thy hour has come and gone. As has mine. To the next world with thee,” Marlowe said. He took out a lighter. He held it under the scroll.

“Nay! This was our world!”

“It will be ours again!”

“The fates of kings and thieves are bound in the scroll you burn!”

“I’ll give their fates back, then,” Marlowe said. He flicked the lighter. It took three tries for it to spark.

“No!” all three screamed.

The oily skin caught. A hole burned straight through, where moments before he had seen the signature of his old friend William. Marlowe hunched over. He grabbed his chest. “The hand of time steals my heart,” Marlowe said. He couldn’t feel his heartbeat any more.

The fire spread. The witches spun around him, a cyclone of dark breath. Marlowe smiled. “I’ll see thee anon,” he said. Everything went dark.

The scroll became consumed. Marlowe vanished too, as the sprinklers came on and the fire alarm went off. The bank manager found an empty room and two piles of ashes.

Tonight’s post is based on the prompt “Time Stamp” from Inspiration Monday at Be Kind Rewrite, as well as this prompt from The Amazing Story Generator: “After a failed bank heist / a Shakespearean scholar / is tormented by vengeful spirits.” Five hundred years ago, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare trapped the witches from Macbeth inside a scroll to prevent them from manipulating our lives.

Photo credit: “Ghost Art Doll 1” by Annabel Lee at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

F**king Destiny

Posted: April 2, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
Tags: , , , , , ,

story-generatorCarrie brushed away the ghost that swept over her back. “God damn it, get the hell away from me!” she said. She fell out of half moon pose. Carrie moaned. The ephemeral sheet of silky mist danced around her. She waved at it again. “Bug off.”

“You are the chosen one, Carrie Davis.”

“You are getting on my last nerve, spirit of my ancestors,” Carrie said. She yanked her iPod out of the speakers and started rolling up her yoga mat.

“Your destiny lies before you. You must leave this place,” the air whispered to her.

Carrie finished stuffing her mat into its bag. She threw it over her shoulder. “Is my destiny going to buy me an apartment to live in while I’m saving the world?” she asked. Carrie walked straight through the being. It dissipated. It was still there, coming back together. It seemed to hate when she did that.

She opened the door to leave. Cold, wet air flew past her, clammy and sharp like a November wind. The door slammed. The spirit formed again in front of her.

“You cannot escape your destiny, Carrie Davis.”

“I cannot escape your nagging,” Carrie said.

“Your wit will serve you in the days ahead. Be warned, Carrie. If you do not leave this place, your destiny will find you.”

That one finally got through to her. The spirit had no face, but Carrie felt like it and she were looking at each other, eye to seeing soul, and she had just blinked. Damn it.

The mist vanished. Carrie looked at the door. She had to leave. She had two problem sets to work on and an English paper to write.

She looked at the back of her wrist. A small green tree was tattooed on the inside. The branches pulsed with the veins there. It was hard to tell where the artwork ended and her life’s blood began. Or, as the spirit had told her, if there was a difference at all.

“Fucking destiny,” Carrie said.

Carrie walked through the door. As she walked through, the world seemed to slow down and darken just so. Everyone’s shadow got longer. Faces looked sadder, more sinister, or more longingly hopeful. She saw her breath as she exhaled.

Another step into the spirit world. Carrie looked at the back of her wrist and kept walking. Fading as she looked at it, there really was a gold sheen on the tree this time. She wasn’t imagining it.

Someone in black started following her.

“If they’re evil, at least they’re dumb,” Carrie said.

Something light for tonight. I just joined a local choir — and I’ve never sung before, other than karaoke — and I didn’t have time to work on the other stories.

wrist tattoo

Blessed Bullets

Posted: February 17, 2014 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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WH40K Space MarinesThey didn’t know what the psyker would do when the three days was up. Something about projecting his mind into the warp, and seeing what the Eye of Terror was doing. It was a recon mission, pure and simple. It was important because it was one of only a few ways to know what the Eye was ‘thinking.’

On the first day, nothing happened.

Absolutely nothing.

The troops who were off duty slept inside the old ruins. The sky was lit up like a cross between fireworks and aurora borealis from the battle going on in orbit. Some of the troops listened in with the comms officer. Warden didn’t want to know. He heard that Chaos forces stumbled onto the fleet and engaged it. When they didn’t run or maneuver, they called friends. When the fleet still held its ground, an enemy vanguard was brought in. The friendlies opened up with hell weapons and things really got ugly.

“They don’t know we’re here yet. They don’t know why the fleet’s there or why it won’t leave. So they assume it’s important.”

“It isn’t?”

Warden rolled over, as they sky turned blue, green and red. “I doubt it.”

On the second day, Warden woke to screams and shrieks. The psyker was literally wrestling a ghost. It looked like a skeleton, if you drizzled it with just enough flesh to make it animalistic. It had—

Then they were everywhere. Hooting, shrieking, shrilling ghosts. Troops drew swords and laid into them. A demon swept down at Warden, gurgling a mouthful of blood, and exploded, eyes gaping in shock, when Warden’s blade bit into its smoky flesh and came out the other side. It splattered into a dozen wisps, which fell apart, then it was gone.

That was why they chose to fight here. The blessed spirits of the castle meant that cold steel would bite their supernatural enemies. Even monomolecular blades were still steel.

Two demons came spinning at Warden and Julius like ribbons. Before anyone could train guns on them, the demons were working their ways inside the marines’ armor. Warden and Julius stabbed the ribbons, stabbing themselves in the process.

Two soldiers were possessed. Their armor and their guns were filled up with castle spirits but it wasn’t enough. Blood poured out of their eyes, weeds from their ears and snakes from their mouths. Two psykers hit them with mind blasts to knock them unconscious. The troops were mindless so it didn’t help.

Warden wanted to shoot them, even though they were friends. This time they couldn’t spare killing their own. Four troops pinned them down and chained them. If there was time for an exorcism later, they’d get rid of the demons and bring them back to normal.

More from the scrapbook. I’m dog-wrestling with the last two chapters of the rewrite. It’s lost some weight, a few “darlings” got the axe, and a jaw-dropping moment got added.

Broken Echoes in Danville Hospital

Posted: August 15, 2013 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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Shh...

Shh…

Paint peeled off the walls and flaked off the ceiling. It gathered in layered piles of paint and dust, carpeting over a chipped tile floor. Corroded steel doors dotted the hallway. Each had the little window at eye level to let the nurses look inside. Wind blew down the hall. I had already shivered before it got to me.

We reached the panopticon. Like spokes off a wheel, six corridors ran away from us. Six corridors, 20 cells each, two floors. 240 patients total. Over seven hundred had lived her during its worst days.

I nodded to Karen. She unslung her equipment. She had the first tripod snapped together before I’d started talking. “Set up cameras looking down each hallway, here and at the other end.”

“We only have twelve stationary cameras.”

“Plus one for each team member. We’ll have to be mobile.”

Risky, but it didn’t faze her. Karen had seen me in cowboy mode before. “That’ll make for jumpy footage but we can edit that.”

I set up the second camera over a pitted part of the floor. Water damage. I could see a hole in the ceiling above us, and past that, the sky. The pipe had run dry a long time ago, and the weather should be clear tonight.

The sky was getting darker. We had to hurry. Karen set up camera three while I worked on camera four.

“Don’t you want to put any in the treatment rooms? They said there was a lot of activity in there.”

“I’m going to camp in there.”

Karen was a pro. She gave me a look that she normally gave me when we got a reading. “What?” I asked.

“We never camp in hot spots. It disturbs the readings.”

“One camera. Minimal EMF. It should be fine. This investigation could put us on the map, Karen.”

“Two other teams ran out of this place before they finished their investigations. Weird stuff is going on. We need to be careful.”

“I need to do this on my own. I need to face this. How will it look if I don’t?”

Karen snapped camera five into place so hard that I thought she’d break the mount. “Maybe like we’re a team. You’ve been kissing ass with those network shits all week.”

“It’s not like that.”

“The hell it isn’t! Put us on the map? It’s going to put you on the map.”

Our walkie talkies crackled. I heard our intern’s shaky teenage voice say, “Uh, guys, you know we can all hear you, right?”

Tonight’s post is brought to you by the prompt “Peeling Paint” from Inspiration Monday at Be Kind Rewrite.

Night Work

Posted: August 1, 2013 by writingsprint in Fantasy
Tags: , , , , ,

ghost“I never thought I would be ghost hunting my own house,” Arthur said.

“Shh,” Lance said. “Spirits don’t like conversation above a whisper.”

“I know that.” All the lights were out and all the power was out, to make the ghost feel more comfortable. His wife, that is. Gwen had passed on a few months ago. The house had been haunted ever since. Arthur had also put out some of his old things: her glasses, a china doll, and her favorite blanket.

Arthur and Lance had done this before. They and Gwen had been the three musketeers, until Lance had stopped joining them. He’d gotten more into fishing. Arthur hadn’t seen Lance in years. Getting him to help had taken weeks of badgering.

Softly, Lance said, “Gwen…if you can make your presence known, please do so.” Nothing. “Can you tell us why you’re here? What can we do to help you pass on?”

A door slammed upstairs. “Hello!” Arthur said.

“Why don’t ghosts ever pick a door close by? Gwen, you know I’ve got old bones,” Arthur said. He got to his feet slowly. “Arthritis. Rheumatism. Getting old sucks.”

“We all grow old, but we don’t have to grow up. That’s my motto,” Lance said.

They made their way upstairs. In whispers, Arthur asked, “Are you channeling her?”

“I’m not feeling anything…. what?”

“You usually get something. Are you not telling me something?”

“Like what?”

They reached the second floor. Arthur and Lance walked extra slowly on the hardwood to keep from scaring Gwen off. “You know. Unfinished business. Unresolved problems. You usually start getting feelings now.”

“Sorry. It’s all quiet.”

Arthur looked at Lance. His friend was a good buddy and a crappy poker player. He couldn’t lie to save his life. “All right.”

They reached the door to the bedroom. All the doors in the house had been open, but this one was closed. “Well, that’s no surprise,” Arthur said.

“Why’s that?”

“Because the only other rooms on this floor are the bathroom and a guest bedroom that we only used to store old furniture we were too lazy to get rid of. Not much emotional contact there.” Arthur held up a gadget that measured electromagnetic field strength. It was jumping from red to yellow to green like a ping pong ball. “I’d say that’s abnormal.”

Lance sighed. “Let’s see what happens.” He gestured to the door.

Arthur opened it. The bedroom looked the way it always did, only with no lights on. Queen-sized bed, old furniture, old mirror over the dresser. Gwen’s closet and one of the dressers were empty now. Arthur hadn’t had the heart to use them for storage, yet. The room felt colder than the hall.

“Gwen, are you here?” Arthur asked. The gadget settled over to green.

Lance’s eyes rolled back into his head. He fell back into the wall. Arthur would have been shocked if he hadn’t seen it before. Lance was a medium. He was susceptible to channeling ghosts.

Lance stood up with the same body language Gwen used when she stumbled with her gimpy knee. “Hi honey,” Gwen said. She worked her way over to her favorite chair.

“Hello, dear,” Arthur said. His eyes watered. “I’d kiss you, but, eh…”

“Don’t worry. It wouldn’t feel the same.”

“There isn’t much time. Why are you here?”

“I had to tell you. Lance had a crush on me, years ago.”

Arthur turned cold. “What?”

“Nothing happened. I told him no, but I could never tell you. You two were such good friends.”

“Nothing happened?”

“Ghosts don’t lie, Arthur. You know that.”

He did. Arthur laughed. What did it matter now? But he was still relieved. “What… why now?”

“You’ve been all alone since I left. Lance was your best friend. You need a friend. Lance didn’t have the stomach to tell you, so I’m telling you.”

He’d been awfully lonely since she’d gone. “This is weird. I’m used to the secrets being bigger.”

“We’re not the Tudors, hon.”

Arthur laughed. That sounded just like Gwen, only through Lance’s voice. “All right, then. I’ll… talk to Lance. After.”

“Good. I love you.”

“Love you too.” A few tears fell.

Lance slumped back in the chair. The gadget wavered to a low, background level of radiation. Arthur sighed. He turned on a light, and sat down on the edge of the bed. Lance was starting to regain his senses. He was crying, too.

Arthur said, “Well, I’m too old to hold a grudge, but you do owe me an apology.”

This post was based on the phrase “Night Work Begins,” which I originally saw on a road construction sign. I loved how provocative it sounded.

Waking Up

Posted: November 6, 2011 by writingsprint in Dream Girl, Fantasy, postaday2011, postaweek2011, Writing
Tags: , , ,

Emerging Ghost by Jezebel at DeviantArtBreath is Spirit. The act of breathing is living. (Author unknown)

At first nothing happened. The smoke clouded his eyes. He saw his room through sheer black veils. Black and white veils: he could see Amy, too. She hadn’t even realized what was happening. Tom felt the smoke move through his hair, brushing over his skin. The hair on his arms stood on end. He was in death’s embrace. Mr. B fell over as the tendril that was sucking his life released from around his body. He gasped for breath.

Tom started to say another one of his literary prayers when vertigo came over him. It was like the other night. He tried to breathe but there wasn’t anything there. It didn’t hurt. If anything, it felt like he was breathing backwards, that his life was leaving his body. He had nothing to hold on to, to fight against. This was quicksand, or the gentle irresistible clutch of freezing to death.

He tried to say something about walking in shadow of death and having no fear, but he had no breath, and he couldn’t remember the words. His dizziness played Boggle with them in his head. His ears were ringing.

In his semi-conscious daze, he saw the apparition of Amy flying like a rocket toward him, closer, closer, CLOSER–

Cold air forced itself into his nose, mouth, and the very pores of his skin. He breathed Amy into his body. Tom dreamed and was awake at the same time.

“You’re an idiot, you know that?” he heard her say.

He coughed. He felt like his was two persons at the same time. The white, pure cold seeped into every layer of his body. His chest convulsed. Amy helped it with a snap of his belly muscles that felt like a heimlich maneuver, and kept going. Blood rushed to his eyes. In front of his face, he saw black venom pushing out of his body. His ears popped. They bled. Piercing sound, like slow nails, pushed into his eardrums.

Amy trembled with fear. Something wrong was about to happen. Tom didn’t understand. He couldn’t help what happened next. He gasped for real, good air, and felt himself breathe part of Amy’s life into his body. He heard her groan. Spiritually speaking, it felt like she lost twenty pounds.

The good air brought Tom back to his senses, though he could still feel Amy moving inside him. The piercing sound was Mr. B, belting out the sweetest version of “Amazing Grace” he’d ever heard. The cloud’s texture broke into jagged bits with the sound. That was why it hurt so much when it came out of Tom’s ears. A tentacle of smoke tried to reach for him, but it cowered like a someone who’s afraid to touch a candle flame.

“Oh God,” Amy said. She slumped, listless. “I can’t move.”

The cloud moved on him again. Tom couldn’t think of more words. He screwed his eyes shut and held his breath, but he felt it sneaking in around the squints. It felt like black, bleeding ants were crawling inside his body. The one phrase that jumped into his head was the one from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, about how children need to teach adults to see things clearly. He didn’t understand why.

Amy cringed from the ants. She moved like a tired swimmer, trying to willing her arms and legs to move. The ants crawled on her body first. He felt them moving inside his own lungs, too. He remembered Cinderella being eaten like a cake. She was going to be devoured and he would be eaten from the inside out. If only he could breathe for her, too–

He thought it, and that quickly, he did it. It happened the way things do in dreams. “No,” she said weakly. “I won’t…” Tom breathed himself into her. Amy twisted her head, no, no, no… Tom had been a lifeguard in his teenage years, and had brought two people back to life using mouth to mouth resuscitation. Firmly, he breathed himself into her again. Breathe, he thought. Come on. I can’t do it without you.

His life took hold inside her and her need to live took over. Amy breathed in. Tom saw sparkles in front of his eyes. She breathed again, harder. He was fading fast. Tom held her hand again. It felt like they were back on the window ledge, only they were both holding each other up.

The creature had nothing to feed on. Amy grew stronger. The ants shriveled up and died against the cold of her body. Tom wanted to tell her to stop, but she couldn’t stop drawing him in. Tom’s eyes bugged open. He gasped for breath. In his dream, he slapped her. They taught you to do that in lifeguard school; a panicking swimmer can drown both of you.

Amy shook her head. That was the answer. She wasn’t breathing him in — she was breathing IT in.

Tom’s cheeks hollowed and his eyes rolled back. Like water spilling down a drain, the creature seeped into every bit of his body. Mr. B kept whistling. The creature seemed too weak to fight. Mr. B had said Tom was the bridge, and “bridge” was right. His ears, his eyes, his mouth, everything was a miniature aqueduct. He wanted to throw up at the sensation. In another dream layer, he heard it screaming. The black passed into the cold and vanished.

After what felt like a 60-second inhalation, Tom let his breath out. Amy left his body. He slumped to the floor. “It’s over,” Tom said, and Mr. B did too. He kissed his policeman’s Bible and said something in Gaelic for his mother. Aloud, to Amy, he asked, “Isn’t it?”

Gentle, soft, cold arms wrapped around him. Yes. We did it! He would have hugged her if he could, but his head was clearing, and the image of her was already starting to fade from his conscious mind. Soon she’d be gone. What if this was like that movie with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and he never saw her again?

“Shit. No. This isn’t fair.” He had a flash of inspiration. “Wally, knock me out.”

Mr. B looked at him like he’d just spoken Sanskrit. “What?”

“You’re a cop. Make it quick. I can only talk to her in dreams.”

Wally shrugged. “Ah hell…kids these days…”

Tom felt a short, sudden grab to his neck, then everything went black. It wasn’t comfortable, and there was going to be a bruise.

* * *

In his dream, Amy was still holding him in her arms, and laughing. “That’s the most fucked up idea of romance I’ve ever heard.”

“There’s no way I was going to let you fade away without saying goodbye.” He kissed her. Her lips were soft and cool. She smiled and kissed him back, and pulled him tightly to her. The moment lasted a while. That was the good thing about dreams.

“I have to go,” she said. She rested her forehead against his.

“Yeah, I know. Just my luck.”

“Your luck?” Amy tapped on his chest like she wanted to hit him, but in a loving way. “For about five seconds, while I was inside you, it felt like I was alive again.” She interlaced her fingers, good and tight, around his. “We were closer together than… God, I don’t have the words.” She sighed. Now it’s back to… well…” She shrugged. “Heaven’s got to be better than Limbo.”

Tom caressed her face. What was the point of saving the girl if she had to go away anyway? Amy took his fingers, kissed them, then really kissed him, one last time. She hugged him tight, and whispered in his ear, “Thank you. See you in your dreams, Tommy.”

“How can you see into my eyes like open doors?
Leading you down into my core where I’ve become so numb?
Without a soul, my spirit’s sleeping somewhere cold,
until you find it there and lead it back home.”
“Bring Me to Life,” Evanescence

* * *

Dream Girl” is the first story that I’ve been proud to say that I wrote in a very, very long time. I have to give special thanks to BeKindRewrite for Inspiration Monday, Amy Lee and Evanescence for the song “Bring Me to Life,” which inspired this story, and the Free Library of Philadelphia, for a stack of books on ghosts and things that go bump in the night. For sure there’ll be a rewrite to polish it up, but for now… this just feels really good.

Emerging Ghost” by Jezebel at deviantART

Nightmare

Posted: October 28, 2011 by writingsprint in Dream Girl, Fantasy, postaday2011, postaweek2011, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Evil Skull
Night fell. Tom and Mr. B sat in Tommy’s apartment, with the lights out, waiting. Tom checked his watch. “Midnight,” he said.

“Do you want something to drink?”

“No.” Tom smacked his lips. He rubbed his eyes. “This salt vapor is killing me. I feel like I’ve got crystals forming on the inside of lungs.”

There were four vaporizers running in the room, one in each corner. They sat, humming, blowing out clouds of steam that vanished inches above the machines. Tom and Mr. B had light sheens of water on them as if they were sweating, even though the air was cool tonight.

A little bundle of four-leafed clover peeked out of Tom’s pocket. Mr. B had one just like it, plus his old policeman’s Bible. Tom closed his eyes and repeated the words to the “prayers” he planned to use against the creature.

The temperature dropped in the room. Buster jumped up onto the bed and stretched out his legs. The little mongrel purred. “Hi Amy,” Tom and Mr. B said. Tom sensed fear. Caring and fear. He brushed at a sensation like silk touching the hair on his legs. A sound like little jingling touched the edge of his imagination. Out of the corner of his eye, Tom could see the salt mist swirl in circles. Buster purred and watched them.

“I think she’s dancing.” Smiles. Yes. He watched the mist swirl some more, opened up his imagination, and could almost see her. Tom snapped his fingers. “Belly dancing! That’s where the bells came from.” He had a sharp image of Buster’s claws. “She’s ready to fight, too. It’s like wrapping a knife in a silk scarf.”

Mr. B smiled. “Atta girl. I always knew you had some Mata Hari in you.” He took a sip of water. He warmed up his whistle on the first verse of “Danny Boy.”

Time passed. Mr. B sat in his chair and kept watching the room. He told Tommy it was like any other stakeout. Tom shook his head. The dude was like bedrock, completely calm and still. Tom sometimes paced, other times picked books off the shelves and re-read the words. Nothing helped.

The city never slept, but sometimes there were nights when you knew that bad things were happening somewhere. A little at a time, that dark feeling started to creep into the room. Tom gulped when he noticed it. He checked over his shoulder. Nothing there, but it made Tom rub his arms. He wanted to feel warm, to feel better. “Can you feel it?” he asked.

Mr. B nodded. “Like watching a drug house after dark. It’s moving.” He blessed himself, closed his eyes and said a prayer.

Tom looked around the room. He opened up his heart for a moment and imagined holding Amy’s hand. Nicely, then with that never letting go ferocity that he’d felt that first night. “Just wanted to let you know,” he whispered. He felt her fingers brush his.

The lights in the hall flickered. Mr. B stood up. He pressed his hand over his heart. “My heart beat… feels like…”

“Footsteps,” Tom said. “Is your breath shallow?”

“Like there’s no air.”

Buster ran to his crate again. The three of them faced the door. The flickering hall lights framed the door. Tom imagined a hand pressing against it. A hand from a thing named Hunger. Nothing but hunger. It recoiled from the salt cloud, then felt seething, oily rage.

The air snapped like a bedsheet. Now a curtain of black, living smoke hung and twisted between them and the door. In Tom’s mind’s eye he saw a wet, living skull shape in the middle of the smoke.

“Jesus,” Tom said.

The wind that was Amy’s breath roared. It met the smoke halfway between them and the two turned into a white and black tornado. In Tom’s mind’s eye, he saw Amy dancing a sword dance. Her fingers raked out where a dancer would have been graceful. Her body twisted and wrestled where it would have moved with music. Bells beaded her dress, ankles and wrists, and they all stung the creature where it tried to touch her.

Mr. B shouted in Latin. He splashed holy water at it. Tom smelled a stench, and saw that the smoke actually got smaller. Mr. B kept throwing.

Tom took a deep breath, and uttered, with the voice of an exorcist, the words from Hamlet, “Angels, and ministers of grace, defend us! Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn’d.” The smoke jerked inward like he’d stung it with a whip. Tom kept going. “Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell. Be thy intents wicked or charitable. Thou com’st in such a questionable shape…” and shouting, “…that I… will… SPEAK TO THEE!” He threw a handful of salt at it.

Tom never saw what hit him. He heard a bang. It felt like he’d been punched in the face. Light flashed behind his eyes, and he had the wind knocked out of him from the back. Tom choked. He staggered back to his feet; he didn’t even know he’d been knocked down. He’d been thrown ten feet across the room.

A tentacle of smoke struck at Mr. B. There were two, one for each of them. He saw Amy’s ghost getting snapped at by the horror skull in the center of the smoke. He heard Amy cry out inside his mind. The words spilled out of his mouth: “There is real love just as there are real ghosts; every person speaks of it, few persons have seen it.” Amy seemed to grow stronger again.

Mr. B swung his Bible at the limb, still praying. The silver clasp on the outside shone bright. Tom thought it looked brighter than it normally would have in this light.

Another tendril swung at Tom again. He took the hit, and felt a puff of air ooze out of his lungs. “Bloody thou art,” he snarled, from Richard III. “Bloody will be thy end!”

The smoke tendril got inside Mr. B’s guard. It snaked around him, under his legs, over his back, inside his clothes. Mr. B cried out. He brushed at his body like sweeping off bugs. It was getting worse. More black smoke wept back into the cloud, growing from the fear.

“Mr. B! Wally! Whistle!” Tom shouted. He’d forgotten about it.

Mr. B’s glasses fell off his face. He couldn’t stop staring at it. He started to whistle, weakly, but it wasn’t enough. Tom could actually see black smoke sneaking into his nose. Tom gritted his teeth. He had to give it something else to think about. He ran forward and jumped into the cloud. “Come and get me, you son of a bitch!. I’m the one you want!”

Dream Girl was originally inspired by a prompt from Inspiration Monday at Be Kind Rewrite.

Evil Skull” is a drawing by Kate VerKuilen.

I believe in words

I believe in words

Mr. B shivered. “Did you feel that?”

Tom checked Buster. The cat didn’t look scared. In fact, he looked pretty mellow. “What was it?”

“I just felt cold around my shoulders. Like the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.”

“I think Amy just gave you a hug.”

Mr. B looked around the room. He rubbed his sides. “Hello there, girl. It’s been a long time.” He started to laugh, then he said, “I don’t know why I did that.”

“Yeah, I know. It happens sometimes when she’s around. You can feel her feelings. It’s kind of how she talks to you, if you’re not dreaming.” Tom looked around the room, too. It was weird talking to someone and not knowing where they were. Kind of like having the CIA bugging your room, he thought. “Amy, we’re talking about how to fight the other ghost.”

Tom closed the blinds on the window, then lit candles and set out the mirror like he did last night. Mr. B looked at him like he was a nut. Tom handed him a copy of Tobin’s Guide to the Supernatural, from the library. “It’s supposed to help communicate with a ghost.”

“Does it work?”

“It did last night.”

Mr. B put it down quickly. He didn’t seem to comfortable with the idea, even if he knew who the ghost was. He said, “That’s too spooky for me. I’ll stick with one knock for yes, two knocks for no.”

Amy didn’t knock on anything, so Tom sat down in front of the mirror and tried to clear his head. In broad daylight, it didn’t work nearly as well. The light from outside sliced through the shadows behind him like blades.

“Salt helped, even if it didn’t ward it off,” Mr. B began. “I can go to Target and buy a bunch of vaporizers. We can saturate the air with salt water vapor and see how it likes that.”

Tom’s skin crawled. In the shadows of the mirror, he had an image of ants chewing on his skin. “It might hurt Amy, too. Let’s go ahead with it, but Amy won’t be able to help us as much.”

Tom flipped through where he had flagged one of the books. “There’s no way to kill a ghost. All the stories talk about driving them away, or protecting yourself against them. The main thing is religion. A cross, sign of the cross, a cross made of iron, prayers, hymns, holy water, and mold from a church yard.”

“My mother used to carry a little bottle of holy water with her. When I was a policeman I always called a little Bible blessed by Father Murray from my parish.”

“Those would probably work for you. Probably not for me. I’m an agnostic.”

“Do you have a copy of the Origin of Species?”

Tom smirked. Amy was laughing. “It’s not my Bible. I could try a copy of Fahrenheit 451, but I wouldn’t bet my breath on it.”

“What else?”

Tom flipped pages. “Bells. Church bells, bells worn by cattle, and bells worn by Morris dancers.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s folk dance. Unless either of us can do it right, I wouldn’t count on it.”

A brightening inside his head, like lighting up a room. Amy had an idea. He got embarrassed. The words that jumped into his head were a sexy, interesting idea. The shadows in the mirror swirled in circles. “Amy’s going to use… dancing. Somehow.”

“What else?”

“Bread and salt; they’re sacred. Whistling…”

Mr. B smiled. He did a quick verse of Andy Griffith show theme. Tom was about to roll his eyes and ask if he was serious when Mr. B took a breath and did a shrill version of the 1812 overture. Tom felt his bones vibrate. Amy was blown away, too. “Where the hell did you learn to do that?”

“Mens chorus on the USS Pennsylvania. I could outdo a bosun’s whistle.”

Tom felt an urge to clap his hands. Amy liked that one. “You’re our secret weapon, Wally,” he said. Tom saw how pleased the man was, and hoped this didn’t get him killed.

Tom flipped pages. “The four-leafed clover breaks fairy glamour… which this thing doesn’t seem to use anyway…”

“I don’t know about that. You never saw it. It wasn’t until you were passing out that you even knew it was there. Let’s see if we can get our hands on some.”

“Aren’t they, like, rarer than winning the lottery?”

“I know a lot of retirees who take walks off the path in Central Park. I’ll bet they can find some for us.”

Tom thought it was nuts, but wouldn’t that be the pot calling the kettle black. “Okay. Chains of daisy flowers… that’s really more for children… red verbena, red-berried trees… rowan wood, ash wood… running water.” He looked up. “I hope to God we’re looking up the right mythology. If it’s a Chinese spirit, I’m reading from the wrong damned book.”

“Stick to the basics, then. I’ll get a Bible and some odds and ends for me. Maybe I’ll get lucky with the whistling. What do you believe in?”

“Uh… words.” Mr. B stared at him. “I studied English. I love language. I don’t know how that helps me any.”

Mr B pat him on the shoulder. “We’ll think of something.”

Tom shuddered. He remembered how it felt to get the breath sucked out of his body. “I hope we think of something fast.”

Dream Girl was originally inspired by a prompt from Inspiration Monday at Be Kind Rewrite.

Death is an Evil Cloud

A cloud of death

Tom and Mr. B sat in Tom’s apartment later that morning. Mr. B switched shifts with one of the other watchmen. Tom called his boss to say he was projectile vomiting and needed another day off. Just in case, Mr. B called a doctor friend who owed him a favor from his police days, who said he’d write a note for Tom to back him up. Tom made eggs for Mr. B, and Tom himself was having a bowl of Froot Loops.

First, Mr. B asked Tom to explain what had happened the night before. Then he asked him again, highlighting areas that Tom had expected him to. What did it feel like when the thing attacked? What did it feel like just before the attack? Did he see anything? Hear anything? Smell anything? Then he asked him about things he didn’t expect. What song was he thinking about during the attack? What color was Amy’s dress? What color were her eyes? None of them made sense, but as he tried to think about strange details, it jogged his thoughts and made him think of some details that he’d missed. Mr. B smiled. “You’d be an excellent witness, Tommy,” he said.

They went down each other’s lists of what they knew so far.

“It’s not a ghost like Amy,” Tommy said. “That’s the biggest difference between them. It didn’t need permission to enter the room and it had to come under the door. Like a poison gas.”

“It sounds like an animal, and it usually feeds like an animal, attacking the weak and helpless.” He looked off into space, thinking. “To kill an animal, you either corner it and shoot it, or, you lure it someplace, then kill it. The difference is whether you’re hunting it, or it’s hunting you.”

“The latter,” Tom said. He rubbed his throat.

“Right. The bad news is, you’re the bait, Tommy. You’re also the aberration. You’re connected to Amy. I can’t see her; nobody else can. I hear it all, and no one else ever talked about ghosts or seeing people dancing on the window ledges. It’s not attacking you now because you’re sick. The first time, over a year ago, maybe, but not now. It’s attacking you to get to her.”

“What does that make me?”

“I sat here and listened to you talking to that poor girl, while you were unconscious and you were dreaming.”

Tom just went with it. “Either I have one foot in the afterlife, in the grave, or she’s really not dead.”

Mr. B folded his arms and nodded at him. “Exactly.”

Tommy suddenly remembered something from one of the library books stacked on his desk, next to Mr. B’s elbow. There were legends of people taken away by the faerie. A body was left in their place so people wouldn’t know they were gone. What if she really wasn’t dead? Or did it matter?

“You’re the bridge, Tommy,” Mr. B said. He poked him in the chest. “You love her.”

“I…” Shit. Tom suddenly felt like he was standing in front of a room full of people in his underwear. Mr. B saw right through him. Tom was glad he had never faced Mr. B in a police interrogation room. “Well, I mean, we only just met…” Mr. B was laughing and nodding his head. “What sense does that make? I only talked to her once. We only met, what, two days ago?”

“Tommy, if there’s anything I’ve learned in all my years, it’s that some things are timeless, and some things happen in a place where time has no meaning. Haven’t you ever met somebody and felt like you knew them your whole life?”

Tom just nodded. He was fighting for his life and Amy’s against something he thought only children were afraid of. He kept going with it.

Dream Girl was originally inspired by a prompt from Inspiration Monday at Be Kind Rewrite.