13 Tales of Terror: Dearest Son

“Hi Dad!”

“Hey kiddo! How’s your day been?”

“It was ok. Kinda boring.”

“Yeah? How come?”

“Well, Mike left today.”

“He did?”

“Yeah. His parents came to see him. They talked about some stuff. Then Mike was really happy. I’ve never seen him laugh so much before. Then he left.”

“Oh…I’m sorry, buddy.”

“It’s ok. I heard something about a new kid coming in.”

“New kid?”

“Yeah, he’s s’posed to come in the afternoon, I think. His parents aren’t around so his uncle’s bringing him.”

“Well, that’s not so bad then. At least you’ll have someone to play with again.”

“Yeah. I hope he’s nice.”

“I’m sure he will be, buddy.”

“How was your day?”

“Oh, you know. The usual. Work. Got some new projects coming up so I’ll be working late for a while.”

“You won’t come visit?”

“Sure I will! I’ll always make time for you, son.”

“Daddy? When are you gonna take me home?”

“I..uhh..well, don’t you like it here? You’re meeting so many new people, and you’ve got so much place to play.”

“It’s nice. But I’d like to go home again. I wanna see Mom. Why doesn’t she visit?”

“Your mom just…has a lot going on. She’ll visit soon, I promise.”

“Ok.”

“Hey. you know we both love you a lot, right?”

“I know.”

“Things are going to be difficult for a little while. But it’ll all be okay soon. We’ll spend a whole day together as a family. I promise, son.”

“Ok, Daddy.

Hey, I think that’s the new kid! He’s coming! He’s coming! Can I go say hi?”

“Sure thing, son. Just don’t disturb anyone else, ok?”

“I won’t! I’ll just say hi and see if he wants to play right now!”

“Alright, have fun!”

“Bye, Dad!”

“Bye, son.

I love you.”

He sprints across the grass, bursting with excitement. You’d think he was getting ready to open Christmas presents. A hearse pulls up near the gates. Soon the mourners and the pall bearers will be coming in. I wonder how old the new boy was, and how he died.

Poor kid. At least he’ll have company here.

 

 

 

 

13 Tales of Terror: Bound

A striped blue sweater.

That was Ben’s first memory of Anna.

A striped blue sweater, alternating between dark and light shades, with a turquoise collar. It was a couple of sizes too big for her, making her look like a little girl in her sister’s old hand-me-downs. But Anna loved it.

All these years later, the colors had faded. The fabric, which Ben remembered as soft and fuzzy, was rough in his hands. He worried it might crumble if he held it too long, but he couldn’t put it down. Not just yet. It was the only connection he had left to her.

Ben and Anna had met in college. He was a freshman with dreams of becoming an English teacher and she was a junior with a passion for chemistry. Their classes were on opposite ends of the campus and they didn’t have any friends in common. The one place where their paths did cross was the library. It was there that he had seen the girl in the blue striped sweater hurrying off, her library card still sitting on the checkout desk. He returned the card and she thanked him. That one exchange turned into a conversation. That one conversation turned into several, and before they knew it, they were going out for dinner.

Ben remembered that night well, including the stunning purple dress Anna had worn. She had torn one of the shoulder straps a couple of years ago, but she still kept the dress around. It was somewhere near the bottom of the pile, still as vibrant as the first time she’d worn it.

Many more dinners followed, along with other outings. The picnic where she’d worn the polka dot dress, the beach trip with the yellow sarong and blue swimsuit, the graduation dinner with the gray gown. Ben picked up each in turn, feeling the fabric knot itself around his fingers, twist around his limbs. He fought the encroaching numbness in his extremities and picked up the box. Inside was Anna’s wedding dress.

They were married on a crisp autumn day, when the leaves were turning but the air was still warm. Anna looked resplendent, shimmering in the late afternoon sun. Ben could still feel the warmth on the dress. He half expected to find his hand circling Anna’s waist, for her to turn and smile at him as he whispered his love to her. Instead, the dress wrapped around him, squeezing his ribcage.

Two years later, Anna gave birth to a son. Daniel was so beautiful, swaddled in a blanket the color of the summer sky. As Daniel grew, there were birthday parties, school functions and family vacations. Gray streaks crept their way through Anna’s hair, but her clothes were as vivid as ever.

Ben remembered the indigo shirt Anna was wearing, in stark contrast to her silver mane, when she collapsed. From that point, she was reduced to lifeless hospital gowns until the end. Dark blue veins climbed along Ben’s neck, bleeding out of the shirt in his hands.

It had been six months since Anna’s passing. Everyone urged him to move on with his life, to keep Anna alive as a memory rather than dying alongside her. Finally, after many discussions with Daniel, Ben decided he was ready. He put all of Anna’s clothes out in the living room, to be donated or sold off. But each article of clothing was a memory, and memories weren’t so easy to erase. Ben was struggling to breathe as the clothes tightened their grip on him; his lungs were collapsing. The sleeves of Anna’s sweater wrapped themselves tightly around his face, and Ben closed his eyes.

***

“Dad?”

Daniel’s voice floated through the hallway.

“Dad? Are you there?”

“Danny…”

He walked into the living room and looked around.

“Dad?”

There was no response, but he noticed someone sitting in the armchair facing the window.

“Oh, Dad, there you are! I’ve been looking for – ”

Daniel stopped as he reached the chair. His father wasn’t sitting in it. There was just a pile of his mother’s clothes, stacked all the way up to the headrest.

 

It’s Alive!

In the spirit of the season, it seemed appropriate to resurrect this dead blog of mine. Alas, most of my writing of late has been confined to a professional environment, with barely any time for the more creative side of it.

However, Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year, and I would be remiss if I didn’t pen a scary story or two for the occasion. And why stop at two when you can shoot for a baker’s dozen?

That’s right, I’ve got 13 spooky tales coming up that are brimming with chills, thrills and more than a few kills.

The first day of my 13 Tales of Terror series will coincide with the October challenge on Write, Edit, Publish (hosted by the lovely Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey) and thus I’ll begin with my entry for that challenge.

So have a seat (you’ll only need the edge of it) and prepare yourself for some tricky treats. The 13 Tales of Terror are almost here!

20 Tales of Terror – Day 15: Haunted

  
She haunts me.

I see her face, jade eyes framed by raven locks, and I yearn for her.

The sight of her ruby lips curving into a smile would make the most arid desert blossom with life.

I remember the touch of her pale skin, like velvet. I can never forget the way she laughed when my fingers caressed her face. I would give anything to touch her again.

But I cannot.

Our love will only live on as a memory now.

All I can do is watch from afar as she walks by. She has a new life ahead of her, while I am doomed to wander the world, forever restless.

Forever haunted by memories of my life.

WEP Halloween Challenge – Childhood Fears

I had a lot of fun participating in my first WEP Challenge a few months ago, and I was eagerly looking forward to their Halloween Challenge, which is here at last! As with the previous challenge, this one is split into two parts. The first part asks us to describe a childhood fear or phobia that haunts us to this day. For the second part, we have to write an original piece of horror fiction in 1,000 words or less. That fits perfectly into my own horror-themed plan for the month!

When talking about childhood fears, I don’t even know where to begin. I was scared of a lot of things as a child. There were, of course, the ghosts, ghouls and other assorted monsters that make the hearts of children go thump in the night. For example, after watching The Witches (based on the Roald Dahl book) for the first time, I was worried that my mother might actually be a witch in disguise. For a few short weeks, I got nervous whenever I was left alone with my mother, expecting her to transform into her true self and turn me into a rat. And catching even a glimpse of a horror film would leave me convinced that our house was haunted and whatever spirit inhabited it would only make its presence known to me.

But there were also the slightly more abstract fears. I’ve always been a bit afraid of the ocean. It’s a bit odd, because I like swimming and beaches just fine, and I’ve always wanted to live in a coastal town. But the ocean as a whole, a vast fathomless body whose depths we haven’t fully explored, frightens me. The idea of being in the middle of it, with no land in sight, is horrifying. Just an unending, infinite stretch of water, teeming with life that’s fairly alien. Add some sharks or other aquatic predators into the mix, and it’s a perfect recipe for a sleepless night.

In fact, the ocean was the subject of a short story I wrote a couple of days ago, as part of my 20 Tales of Terror series.

And now for my WEP submission, a variation on a classic ghost story.

The Stranger on the Path

Jeremy raised his lantern a bit higher and quickened his pace. He hated the idea of walking home in the dark, but it couldn’t be helped. Kara would be waiting and he didn’t want to worry her. Jeremy was the village school teacher, occasionally tutoring some of the boys in the neighboring villages. His tutoring session had longer than expected this evening, and it was well past sundown when he left.

The path between the villages was straight, with open fields on either side. On this night, the moon chose to lay hidden behind a thick curtain of clouds, and Jeremy’s lantern was the sole beacon of light in the darkness. Forbidding silhouettes loomed in the distance, but Jeremy knew they were just the trees and the hills. His heart still thudded in his chest. He had never walked the path so late before, and he didn’t know who or what he might encounter. He found himself thinking about the stories he’d heard as a child. Stories of spirits that terrorized unsuspecting travelers, leaving only petrified corpses behind.

His eyes darted around, searching for movement in the shadows. He was bathed in sweat in spite of the chill in the night air and was breathing in short gasps. He took a few moments to calm himself, swinging his lantern around as he did so. All he had to do was get home. There was no point worrying himself to death.

Presently, he approached the river that ran halfway between both villages. He didn’t have much further to go. As he stepped onto the wooden bridge that spanned the river, a voice rang out from the darkness.

“Hello, friend!”

Every muscle in Jeremy’s body froze. Outlined against the indigo sky was the silhouette of a man standing on the bridge. He stepped forward into the halo of light created by the lantern, smiling. He had a gaunt face, his hair was streaked with gray, and he carried a small trunk.

“Sorry if I startled you, friend. It’s just that I was headed to Felheim and I appear to have gotten a bit lost. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?”

Jeremy stayed rooted in place, unsure of what to say or do. Almost instinctively, he looked down.

“I..uhh…”

The man held out his hands in a placating gesture.

“I understand.  It’s late at night and no doubt, you’re wary of meeting a stranger on the road. Forgive my intrusion.”

With that, he stepped aside to let Jeremy pass. Feeling like a fool for letting childish fears overtake him, Jeremy stammered out an apology.

“I, uh, I was actually going to Felheim myself,” he said, his voice growing stronger. “And I suppose I could use some company. I must warn you, I have no money, though.”

He added the last sentence clumsily, still feeling cautious.

“No worries, friend,” the man smiled. “I will to my utmost to not rob you.”

Jeremy couldn’t help laughing, and resumed his journey.

“So what is it that takes you to Felheim at this hour?” he asked.

“I was to meet Dr. Fallon tomorrow”. Jeremy nodded in recognition of the name. “He and I were to discuss some business regarding his clinic. As it happened, I was able to come a bit earlier. But not quite early enough, it seems.”

The man indicated the blackness around them with a broad sweep of his hand.

“And yourself?”

“Well, I’m the local school teacher. I was tutoring at one of the neighboring villages and ran a bit late.”

“Ah, we are both victims of time, it seems.”

Jeremy smiled. As they walked on, he felt all the more foolish than ever for his previous doubts.

“This seems an unsafe place to be walking alone,” the man said, peering ahead.

“It’s safe enough I suppose, if you don’t let your imagination get carried away by ghost stories.”

The man laughed. “And what stories preyed on your mind?”

Jeremy cleared his throat loudly. “When I was a boy, I had heard tales of spirits that haunted the pathways. How people would often meet strangers on the road, who would request their help or pose a question. As the poor travelers stopped to talk to them, they would notice that the strangers’ feet were backwards. That’s when the strangers would shed their human disguise and reveal their true forms.”

“A gruesome tale indeed. Well, as you can see, my feet are quite normal.”

Jeremy smiled sheepishly. “Yes, it would appear so.”

At length, they approached the village, which was shrouded in darkness. It couldn’t possibly be that late. Surely someone had to be awake. Jeremy walked up to his house. Not a single light was on. He took out his key and started opening the door.

“How odd. It seems everyone’s gone to bed early tonight. Alas, I cannot introduce you to my wife, but I don’t think she would mind you staying the night. You can meet Dr. Fallon tomorrow. “

“Don’t worry about it, friend.”

Jeremy continued to fumble with the door, which refused to open.

“I can’t understand it. What’s going on here?”

“You really shouldn’t believe every story you hear, friend,” the man said, his voice seeming to blend with the wind. “Not all of us have our feet backwards.”

Jeremy turned around with a start. There was no one behind him. He raised his lantern high and looked around but there was no trace of the stranger. He also realized, on closer inspection, that not a single building around him looked familiar. He turned back to the house, which also looked alien, and which seemed to be disappearing into the darkness. The whole village was being consumed by the night.

Jeremy screamed for help, but it was no use. He was no longer in the world he knew. He had fallen into the realm of stories and legends, just another petrified corpse for parents to tell their children about on cold, moonless nights.

Word Count: 1,000 even! FCA

20 Tales of Terror – Day 10: False Friend

  
While walking to my house last night,

I was greeted by a chilling sight.

There was a girl in a bloody dress,

Who smiled through the scarlet mess.

As I approached the lane’s end,

She asked me, “Will you be my friend?”

This morning I walked down the lane,

And the girl was standing there again.

“Will you be my friend?” she said.

Without a word, I turned and fled.

For if I desired to be her friend,

I wouldn’t have brought about her end.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 18: The Lord of Richardson Manor

Marjorie lifted the ring that dangled from the brass wolf’s head knocker and tapped it firmly against the door twice. The wolf regarded her with suspicion, then retreated as the door yawned open.

A tall ghost of a man stood before her in a crisply pressed ash-colored suit and a matching complexion. She seemed almost like a child by comparison, in a long powder-blue dress and a white hat, the top of which was just level with the tall man’s chest. He looked down at her with a morose expression that might have been the only one he had.

“Yes?” he said curtly, in a voice that rumbled within the depths of the manor.

“Good afternoon. My name is Marjorie Haversham. I’m the – ”

Before she could finish, the tall man intoned “Come in,” and stepped aside, motioning for her to enter.

Marjorie stepped into Richardson Manor, looking around in awe. She was greeted by a large atrium, from which cavernous hallways stretched to the left and right. It was a tapestry of scratched dark wood and faded red velvet. At one time, the interior of Richardson Manor would have looked very majestic. After the many misfortunes the family had suffered, it was little more than a ruin.

“I will inform Master Richardson of your arrival,” the tall man said in the same even tone he had employed since opening the door, and promptly ascended the stairs.

Marjorie gazed upon the portraits and other assorted paintings that adorned the walls. Rich, lush colors struggled to be seen under layers of dust. The same could be said of the disused furniture; Marjorie was certain that any attempt to sit down would only result in acquainting her with the floor rather quickly. Almost as quickly as the Richardson family had fallen from grace.

Family patriarch William Richardson had built himself a vast fortune off his father’s meager savings, also garnering plenty of respect along the way. His wife Fiona was of wealthy blood herself, and bore him three children. Alexander, the oldest, went on to join his father’s business after finishing his studies. Beatrice married one of Alexander’s friends and did little else of note. And young Malcolm was not yet of an age where he could do much. They lived a life of prosperity and power until Alexander got too ambitious and ended up losing more than he could afford.

Struggling with mounting debts, Alexander became a drunk. Beatrice suffered a miscarriage and her husband’s subsequent infidelity, and Fiona took ill, seemingly never to recover. The downward trajectory of the Richardson family ultimately ended in flames. Fires blazed in the upper rooms of the manor one night, like a beacon signaling the end of their dynasty. Nobody knew who had set it. Was it an irate creditor whose anger outweighed his financial desires, or had one of the Richardsons reached the end of their tether? All that remained were questions.

“Good evening, Miss Haversham.”

Marjorie turned to see William Richardson descending the broad staircase that led down to the atrium, looking as dapper as he did at the height of his good fortunes. She realized that the other members of the Richardson family had also populated the hall while she was lost in thought, and were all looking at her with a mixture of anxiety and annoyance.

“I hear you’ve come to evict me from my home,” William Richardson boomed, in a voice that was pleasant but didn’t quite hide the aggression bubbling behind it. “I am afraid we have no intention of moving.”

Marjorie let out a small sigh and started to open her bag. This would not be an easy exorcism.