Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Short Stories of Suspense and Wonder

The office was hot and stuffy. It was an unusual business. They did reviews of short stories instead of novels, and published them into one volume entitled Short Stories of Suspense and Wonder.

There would be the usual stack of magazines and literary journals on the long table, and the short story reviewers would grab the choice bits to cover until only the newsprint of local human interest stories and obituaries were left. Suzie waited on the outskirts, smiling at her fiance, Geoffrey. He wasn’t feeling ambitious today, and waited for the men in front of him to stop arguing over a short suspense piece.

Geoffrey wanted something local, something nearby, something that would not require too much real work on his part. They had all ready published a few volumes of this, and the next very well might be their last, because people just didn’t buy review magazines of short stories on a regular basis.

Geoffrey was only here because of a friend himself. That and Suzie had talked him into it. Easy cash, only work a little on the weekends, besides his day job, he might be able to save up for her ring, which he kept putting off, and so on. Suzie fancied herself a writer, but she hadn’t written a story in years.

Finally the others went to their cubbyholes, talking excitedly about this author, or that one, Geoffrey wasn’t really listening. He walked up to the table and glanced over the remains. Pieces of magazines lay everywhere, certain stories had been yanked from them, and now they lay there disemboweled. His eye caught one story, on the inside of one magazine that hadn’t been destroyed yet, but instead lay propped open to some ghastly art done in a seventies pulp mag style around the title. Just my luck to get a horror story, he thought, unimpressed.

He picked it up, and looked in the back where they have the “about the author” stuff, he wasn’t going to go out of state, or even over fifteen miles if he could help it. Alexandra Tarpin, Fir street, building 1001. Hmm.

That wasn’t far. That was just downtown. This was her first published story, and she was eighty years old. There might be something here, Geoffrey smiled to himself, and took the scissors lying carelessly on the table, and cut out the article, writing down the author contact info in a small notepad.

He did find it odd she had her address listed in the magazine. They normally just left it at the city, and he usually had to do a little grunt work to get the actual address. But her address was right there; less work for him. He left the table and approached Suzie who was still waiting.

“Well? Where are we going? What town?”

“Suzie my dear, we are going to Fir Street.”  She looked at him a moment, and then grabbed his little notebook to see for herself.

“Well, that is a surprise. Since you waited for everyone to pick first I thought for sure we would be left with Siberia. And, she’s a granny too? Writing horror? This will be interesting.” Maybe to Suzie, as Geoffrey tried to stifle a yawn. “Well, let’s get this over with.”

Geoffrey’s old Chevy truck pulled up and parked at Fir Street, and they both gazed at  number 1001. It was a rundown brick building with moss growing between the gaps and a cracked sidewalk that poured directly into the street. Geoffrey shut the car door with Suzie following and approached the an old door. He looked into the window in the center of the door, and saw a small hallway with two additional doors leading further in.

“Come on, we aren’t here to spy on her,” Suzie said testily. Geoffrey didn’t know why she insisted on coming along anyway. This wasn’t the most exciting work.

Geoffrey tested the outer door, and found it unlocked. “A real trusting granny, ” he quietly said under his breath. They both walked into the small hallway, and were faced with the two doors he had noticed from outside. Which one was the correct one, and what kind of crazy house was this?

“We should have knocked. You don’t just waltz into her house like you own the place.” Geoffrey shrugged. Suzie glared at him and knocked quite loudly on the door to the left. They waited a few minutes, Geoffrey glancing at his watch. “Maybe I should have tried to get her phone number.”

“You think?” Suzie rolled her eyes, annoyed. An elderly lady opened the door, and looked at them in surprise.

“Just in time. I am holding a writing seminar upstairs.” She said calmly her voice sounding like a typical granny.

“Mrs. Tarpin? Actually, I was hoping to review your short story,” he paused to glance at the article to remind him of the title, “Zombies and Ghouls.” Suzie gave him a sharp elbow to the side, when he almost laughed saying the title out loud.

“Well, let’s talk upstairs anyway. I often invite guests into my house. it’s so large and lonely here all alone.”

They followed Mrs. Tarpin upstairs and through a door into a long room filled with old school desks.  At the front of the room was a large chalk board. Normally, a reviewer would have read the material first, but Geoffrey felt like the title explained all he needed to know of her story.

“So, what inspired you to write this?” he asked first, although Mrs. Tarpin looked distracted. There were about five other people in this room all chatting among themselves.

“I should really get back to my discussion. Perhaps you can study the story more, with your friend here, and see what you can come up with.” Mrs. Tarpin gave him a smile, and went back toward the chalk board. Suzie took a seat at one of the desks, and implored with hand gestures that Geoffrey do likewise.

“Okay, okay. I guess we should actually read this thing. Hopefully, it is better than it sounds.” Geoffrey sounded less than confident about this and had to visibly suppress a grimace. Suzie sighed. He knew she hated his dramatics. As Geoffrey began to read the story, he noticed that it didn’t start out like he thought it would.

A man, a Mr. Fenton who was married with a few kids was unhappy. He had been pining in secret for the girl who lived next door. Their houses shared a wall and he would see her going by with a smile. He was convinced she was teasing him. He became so despondent; he started destroying things in his own house.

One day, his wife and kids were gone, and the man could think of nothing else but this girl. He went into his cellar, which he had discovered while trashing the place; a hidden cellar, of course.

He brought a candle with him. ‘Why  not a flashlight?’, thought Geoffrey, annoyed. The man kept going, and it started sloping down, sharply. He kept on until his candle was burning his fingers. He didn’t know where he was going, or why, he was just angry at that girl for teasing him.

Finally, he felt everything was wet around him, and this repulsed him, he groped to find his way back, his candle having gone out, and he found what appeared to be a large round luminous ball of mysterious substance. ‘Oh, come on!, though Geoffrey, incredulous.

This ball was hard for the most part, but when he applied enough pressure, it burst, and showered him with green muck. He had no idea what it could be. He again started to grope the wall, to try and find his way back.

It remained wet and slimy most of the way. He soon felt very tired, and got the strange impression he was dying down here.  His skin appeared to be slipping off, and he was all wet from the walls.

He felt so very tired. He had to rest, yet he couldn’t sit down in the muck. He soon realized that he could no longer feel anything; it was as if he was numb all over.

“Why am I reading this? I know what is going to happen.” Suzie glared at him again.

“Just read it, you might find yourself surprised.” He shrugged.

The man continued upward. Soon he heard giggling and laughing, and it made him think of the girl. Instead of looking forward to seeing her, he felt an intense anger.  He felt like destroying the world. She was laughing at him, he knew it. He went towards the light. Soon, it was everywhere, and he realized he was in the other house. The girl was louder, and very close.

He could smell her tender young skin. He looked down at himself, wondering about the muck covering him, when he saw that his skin was slipping off. His legs were like one of those wrinkled dogs, and his clothes were slimy and torn.

He looked at his hands, and they had a bluish tinge and looked for from healthy. He had to find the girl. She went hopping and skipping, and stopped when she came within his sight.

She looked at him aghast, but said nothing. She had a look of pity on her face, not the look of horror he had been expecting. He grew intensely angry at this. He came up to her reeking of the muck, and yelled at her, “Why have you changed? Why are you not teasing me?”

She said nothing. He passed her and went further into the house where her family lived, leaving her to wonder.

“That was very stupid. See? I did know where it was going,” Geoffrey added with certainty.

“Don’t you find it odd, that he asked her, why she had changed?” Suzie asked. Now that he stopped to think about it, it was an odd thing for him to say.

Mrs. Tarpin came over, finished with her lecture. The other five people talked excitedly. “Out of curiosity, Mrs. Tarpin, what was your lecture on?” Suzie asked, being nosey as usual.

“Why, dear, it was about relating your life events into your story, you know, to make it seem more real.”

“Mrs. Tarpin?”

“You may call me, Alexandra, Mr. ?”

“Mr. Barris.”

“And what is your Christian name?”

“Geoff, Geoffrey Barris.”

“Now, what was it you wished to ask me?”

“Why did you decide to do a story like this, I mean, Zombies and Ghouls?”

“Why do you think, young man, it intrigued me.”

Suzie cut in, “Why does the man after he is changed, ask the girl, why she has changed? It almost seems like something someone might say. But, I am not sure what it means in the story.”

“Well, I did think of it, dear.” She chuckled at this. “He says this, because she no longer mocks him, and he didn’t know why. He had observed that he had changed, but he didn’t know in what way exactly. In fact, to the girl, he looked much the same, except the condition of his clothes, of course.”

“You don’t say that in your story, why not?” Geoffrey suddenly found himself interested in the bizarre old woman.

“Perhaps it was an oversight. Would you like some tea? Or cookies? My other guests are leaving just now, and we can talk more about the story if you wish.” Mrs. Tarpin did seem like a normal granny, other than the fact that most don’t write short stories about zombies.

“Uh…Mrs…Alexandra, where do the Ghouls come in?”

“Well, when he discovers that he doesn’t appear to be rotting, to ordinary people, and has rediscovered his mind, he becomes a ghoul.”

“That’s not in the story either. Do we have a shorter version?”

“No, that is the version that got published. In all truth, I didn’t want that for the name. But the editor thought it sounded catchy for his magazine.” Mrs. Tarpin left the room to get the tea, leaving the kitchen door ajar. They both waited, not saying a word.

The door creaked open all the way, and Suzie turned to address Mrs. Tarpin, when she saw a man in a bathrobe turn toward her and give her an odd grimace. Something made her fearful, and she started to  back away. Geoffrey looked at her like she was insane.

“Is that? Are you?” Suzie stammered.

He came at her, with a look of anger and no longer appeared to be human, but a strange bluish creature whose skin had been rotting. She screamed, and Mrs. Tarpin was there , and with in-explainable super human strength, lifted Suzie up and placed her on top of a tall refrigerator. Geoffrey remained below, with speechless mouth agape.

Mrs. Tarpin quickly made some fried eggs, and bacon, and gave them to the man who seemed to be an old man once again.

“Suzie? Are you crazy? Why did you do that? And, Mrs…Alexandra, how did you lift her like that? You made it look easy.”

“Mr. Barris, are you that stupid?” Mrs. Tarpin said with an odd tone of menace. He watched as the old man shoveled the food into his mouth straight off the frying pan, still sizzling.

“I think we would be going, don’t you dear?” He addressed Suzie who was still cringing on top of the fridge.

“I know why he said, why have you changed.” Suzie exclaimed in a daze. “Oh no, we have to leave now.”

Mrs. Tarpin sighed with regret. “If you must leave, let me show him back to his part of the house. He just thought he smelled food cooking. Come, dear.” She led the man creature to another door at the back of the kitchen, and locked it with a click.

“Come, child. Let me get you down from the fridge. It is safe now.” Suzie backed away from her, shaking her head. Mrs. Tarpin’s arms seemed to elongate, and she grabbed the frightened girl anyway, and hauled her down from the fridge.

“Now, dear, listen to me. You can go out this way, and Geoffrey can go out this door.” They could hear the man creature pounding loudly on the other side of the door, and the sound of wood splintering under the impact.

Suzie nodded, and ran out the door not looking behind her, and into the large school like room and then beyond downstairs into the small hallway.

She reached the front door, and opened it, and wasn’t sure whether to close it and lock it, or wait for Geoffrey. She heard the door on the right open, and Geoffrey entered the small hallway, his eyes appeared tired, and had dark circles under them as if he hadn’t slept in days.

Suzie quickly got out of the house, and locked the knob from the inside and ran. It took only an additional second for the door to be unlocked and for the knob to turn, and for it to open. She saw Geoffrey staring after her with his eyes blankly watching.

***********************************************************************************

Mrs. Tarpin entered her bathroom, and noticed that Mr. Fenton was all ready in the tub, the water a dark grey from his rotting flesh. She got rid of her illusion and went to take care of his wounds. If he didn’t get new flesh soon he would die.

Mr. Barris followed her, his eyes beginning to bulge out of his head, his skin starting to decay. She could use some of his skin in the meantime. Before it was all dead.

Alexandra Tarpin still remembered that day a long time ago, when Mr. Fenton had shouted at her, “Why have you changed?” He had only reached out and held her hand but a moment, and didn’t know why she had started to wither.

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Indecision –A Short Story

She pulled the knife out slowly, wiping the blade on the nearest kitchen towel with gentle, precise strokes. The dead man stared at the ceiling with a look of frozen mock wonder and amazement.

She sighed, carefully carrying the knife and the towel to the back sink, making a futile attempt to rinse the blood out. What would her mother-in-law say when Christmas came without a call from her dear boy? Would she just chalk it up to the growing distance that had been progressing between them? Or would she take it as a sign for an overdue visit?

Either way Carol would have to do something with this corpse on the floor, staring above imploring God to intervene on his behalf. Too late, Darlin,’ she said quietly, still holding the crumpled red rag in one hand, the knife remaining balanced on the sink ledge, forgotten for a moment.

What do do now? She was not a pro at this sort of thing, but she knew from the TV shows that keeping blood soaked items was a no-no. They test for DNA traces in the carpet fibers, hair, and even use bugs. So many things can be traced, and there was always that one guy who never gives up on the case. And the spouse is always the number one suspect. Always.

She started to worry, sweat began to pour slowly from her anxious brow. She knew she couldn’t leave him laying here.  She did know that much. Her stomach started to turn uneasy. She glanced back toward the sink in the backroom. No, she couldn’t bring herself to cut him up. But she had to do something.

She urgently looked around the kitchen. Maybe she could just disappear.  Get a plane ticket to nowhere. Who would think to look for her in some small town in Arizona? Or better yet, she could flee to Canada, or Sri Lanka, or anywhere.

She drew the curtains closed in the small kitchen window, eyeing the outdoors with renewed suspicion. What if a  neighbor had heard him yell? What if someone had called the police all ready? What if they were on their way right now? What if, indeed.

She tried to breathe normally, but found it difficult. She had to make a decision now. But he had always made all the decisions for her. She found herself paralyzed and unable to act. There were too  many details, too many choices. She knelt down next to him, and began to cry.

“Tell me what to do, oh please, do get up, and tell me what I am supposed to do now?” This wasn’t how she pictured it in her head. This whole situation was all wrong and mixed up. She reached for his hand, and held it tenderly despite the fact it was now cold and offered her no comfort or solution. She knew then that she was truly alone.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Timed Write…Like a Mouse

She scribbled fiercely on the scrap of paper while the pounding on the door got louder and more insistent. Bang, bang, bang! She shivered clutching her sweater closer to her tiny frame.

“Come on, Izzy! I just want to talk! I promise I won’t hurt you.” The voice was all too familiar; slurred and stumbling, a half human half drunken snarl. All promises made by such a beast were lies. She had heard this story before. Promises were easy. As soon as she unlocked the door she knew he would be angry and red faced, and he would hurt her.

Her heart beat hard and fast in her chest causing little painful spasms. She found it hard to gulp down air. She was in panic mode, a survival tactic that would not help her now. She called forth the meditation she did in therapy after her parents’ divorce.

The counting to ten breathing. Her mother was also small and meek, and drank enough to become a fish. She drifted away on a magical boat away into the mists never to be seen again. There weren’t enough unicorns in her room to protect her from the were wolf outside the door. She knew her Dad would be back in the morning if she could only hold out that long.

Her handwriting was not the best but she wanted it legible. Her colored pencil broke with a loud snap. The pounding and pleading had stopped. She looked toward the door. This was too simple, too easy. She knew something was wrong. Quiet wasn’t always good. Sometimes quiet meant bad things were about to happen.

She held really still like a mouse. As still as she possibly could, frozen in time and place, light lavender sweater draped around a t shirt and jeans surrounded by friendly stuffed animal faces. Her eyes stayed focused on the door for a minute and then she breathed out.

The window burst into shards of glass forcing her to whirl around.  She left the note on the table, an all too brief note written in red. She ran to the door, tripped over her untied laces and crashed to the floor.

She felt his strong grip on her ankle and he pulled her toward him with a jerk. She reached out an arm toward the door, nails clawing into the wooden floorboards making an eerie screech and leaving tell tale marks. I was here, I existed. I cannot be erased. But I can be snuffed out like a candle flame she thought to herself quietly.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

A belated Birthday post for Edgar Allen Poe and Philip Jose Farmer

philip-jose-farmerBoth gentlemen were born in late January. Poe on the 19th and Farmer on the 26th. Both have influenced the genre of Science Fiction, and both were very interesting individuals.

The real cause of Poe’s death is still unknown, although alcoholism is the one that I hear the most. Still, his short stories along with his contemporary Nathaniel Hawthorne, influenced my own quite a bit. Most of them tended to be “Gothic” a precursor to horror and suspense. But he did write a few that could be called science fiction-like and actually he did influence Jules Verne. Poe was actually more popular in Europe than America. He was a literary critic, so he made some enemies of his fellow American writers. Longfellow was an example of this.

I once edited the science-fiction section of an E zine which no longer exists called Nevermore Magazine, named after the line in his poem The Raven, probably his best known work still. Even “The Simpson’s” covered it in a Halloween special. His contribution to genre fiction extends to the detective genre as he influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I always found his short stories, another thing he popularized in America, to be dark, brooding and a little bit melancholy. “The Fall of the House of Usher” has always been one of my favorites. It is just haunting, and tragic, and it is like all the characters are destined to this final ending, which they can’t avoid. They are all stuck, inexorably drawn into the destruction of the house and the family all in that one moment.

The Raven is also rather sad. Death is a frequent theme in his work. I think the reason I like Hawthorne, is a lot of his short stories in “Twice Told Tales” are a bit more light-hearted, or magical. They aren’t all doom and gloom, although some deal with ghosts and the like, his writing tends to be more hopeful. Less dark. When there is darkness, it is mostly attributed to the Puritans, and their religion interestingly.

Poe seems to have this darkness in the background, this sadness permeating most of his Gothic stories. I have to assume he influenced Lovecraft with the idea of making the setting itself creepy, the family residence of Usher and the town in The Shadow Over Innsmouth both take on a creepiness beyond any action of the characters themselves.

The Masque of the Red Death is another classic, dealing with the plague and how death once let in, chooses its victims at random. Of course the Pit and the Pendulum and The Black Cat deal with suspense. Using the sound of scratching in the wall to reveal the body  buried in the wall was pure genius. Poe often used sounds to further the horror and action.

In Usher, the scratching of the lady of the house on her coffin attempting to get out, causes the suspense. Perhaps his background of reading and writing poetry caused a  preference for sound instead of merely sight being the most important driving force of the action in these works.

Premature burial was a common thing he used to instill horror and suspense and it actually did happen back then as people could be presumed dead and buried and not actually be dead. Sometimes the most horrific fictional things can be inspired by actual events.

Part 2: Farmer, a modernizing influence on Sci-fi.

Philip Jose Farmer wrote in the sixties and seventies and beyond. He died in 2009. I have bought a few of his books in the past but I think they were all lost in my paperback trade in fiasco. He is known for introducing sex to science fiction. He also would deal with religion and would write stories under pseudonyms of fictional characters, most infamously, he used Kilgore Trout for Venus on the Half-Shell.

He had originally got permission from Vonnegut to use his character, but offended him in the end, so he couldn’t use it again. There is a daring in his choosing to write this way, and he also did mash-ups of genres, blending Melville’s Moby Dick into science fiction, using a descendant of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Nothing was sacred. He used Jesus as a character as well.

Heinlein thanks him in the forward to A Stranger in a Strange Land, which deals with sexual themes as well, and that makes sense as I learn more about Farmer. I read Stranger, and when I first read it I wasn’t sure I liked it, when I read it again, and then read Left Hand of Darkness again as well, it all sort of clicked with me. Farmer opened some doors that were closed to sci-fi before. He broke barriers on what was considered off limits or taboo.

Some considered him a great writer in the genre, others just another sci-fi writer among many like Frederick Pohl, Lester Del Rey, and half a dozen others who some may know or not know today.

I think I read part of one of his paperbacks before the great trade in fail, but it has been so many years. I may have to venture to my local library and see what I can find. Or perhaps find one of those awesome anthologies of works that I adore. I feel like learning about Farmer helps fill in some of the many gaps in my science fiction education  between H.G.Wells and Jack Vance. So much to learn, so little time.

We are all just adding our own stories to the human story, and the more we know where we came from, the more we can know where we are going. The pioneers of the past assist the pioneers of the future. I truly believe knowledge is power. We are influenced by the past and we influence the future and I believe additional knowledge and resources into past writers actually inspires us to push the envelope and to keep on creating this tapestry of many ideas and colors and people. I believe speculative fiction is the key to understanding the human psyche.

Speculative fiction is the descendant of philosophy or the step child of literature and philosophy. That infamous red haired step child that causes so much turmoil and activity. Causing people to think and use their brains to further thought to see what we are doing and where we are going. Not peacefully but with all the voice raising and shouting that has to be done in times like these. Keep the ideas flowing and keep writing my fellow writers.

Any of you could be the future Poe, or Farmer, or Heinlein, or Verne, or Le Guin. But best of all, you can be the best version of You, and I would like to think there will be an aspiring writer maybe writing about me and what I accomplished someday, or maybe one of you that is passing this way. I have great hope for the future. For all of us. For humanity.

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Writing Prompt #14 – The Meeting

Day 14

Matchup!

Write a story featuring a Ouija board, a search engine, and a self-help book.

 

I sat in a circle all of us with our Camp Fire Girl vests on sharing ghost stories and gossip, sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor. The meeting was officially over, minutes recorded but there was always that little bit of time at the end before the parents came and picked us up.  This meeting was at Susie’s house and her house was one of those old meandering type of houses.

The kind that were meant for ghost stories like Bloody Mary. There was a spooky old mirror in a quaint hall way that led to this little half bathroom. It was creepy because there just was no reason to have a bathroom there. It made me think of the Winchester house but less cool. No stairways with dead ends and upside down stairs. Just a weird old bathroom and an antique mirror.

“So, guys, what about trying to contact Bloody Mary? I mean, we could say her name like 100 times in front of the mirror. You know the mirror. The one near the end of the hall. Or, we could do something even creepier. We could use a Ouija board.”

“A what board? It isn’t satanic is it? My mom wouldn’t be okay with anything like that.” Isabelle looks worried, feeling her crucifix in her hand absently with one hand.

“I know,” says Becky. “I will look it up on Google with my smart phone. She pushes her glasses up her nose slightly punching keys lightly in her phone. “How do you spell it, Susie?”

“One moment,” Susie runs out of the room excitedly, arriving back a few moments later holding a board game in her hands. She sets it down carefully in the middle of the floor, while we stare at it.

“Wait, it is some kinda board game?” Isabelle sounds disappointed, wrinkling her nose.

“This ain’t no Monopoly. I can tell you that. My parents had a séance once. With lit candles and a bunch of people over. They made us kids go to bed, but I tell you, it was something. You could see the candle light dance and I heard strange voices.” We all leaned in a little, faces going “oooh” in unison.

Becky calmly looks at the board, typing in O-U-I-J-A in her phone.  “Awh, a game put out by Milton Bradley Parker Brothers that is typically used to try and contact spirits on the other side.”

“The other side of what?”

“Isabelle, the other side, where people go after they are dead. Like your dog, Rover. When he got hit by that car last summer?” Susie explained with a malicious glint in her blue eyes.  Susie enjoyed freaking Isabelle out. It was too easy.

Becky rummaged through her bag and pulled out a self help book titled ‘How to Deal with Fear of the Unknown.’  “My motto is always to come prepared.”

“Isn’t that the boy scout motto or something?” Isabelle says uncertainly accepting the book gingerly, looking a bit confused. “I hope my Aunt is here soon, “she eyes the clock uncertainly.

“So, what do you say girls? Wanna try it?”

“Bloody Mary was the daughter of Henry the Eighth and was known for her reign of terror against the Protestants.” Becky added helpfully still looking at her phone typing away.

I had sat quietly this whole time taking it all in.  “Sure, let’s do it.” I say suddenly feeling brazen. All this talk with little action was beginning to bore me. “You got candles and a lighter?”

Susie jumps up and runs into the other room again coming back with some birthday candles and some matches. “Hey, Suse, where’s your mom at?” I ask wondering why the rest of the house was so quiet.

“You know, I don’t know. Probably outside in the garden. Maybe she is watching my baby brother.” She made a disgusted face. “I hate babies.” She added as clarification. “I’ll like him better when he turns five and goes to school.”

Susie lights the candles on a little metal box, melting the bottoms so they stay upright. “ouch,” she sucks in a finger from holding one of them a little too long.  We watch the little flames dance, they won’t last long, these candles were pretty small. Susie carefully sets up a little card table and moves the tin on top of it, putting the board in the middle and we each pull up a chair from the other room, rickety mismatched chairs from random places.  She put the device in the middle and there was the alphabet all too familiar to us written in big letters across the board.

“So we have to spell out a question that gives a yes or no answer.” Susie sits down carefully watching the expressions of the other girls as they fidgeted in their seats. “Shouldn’t we turn the light off too?” I add wanting it to be as scary as possible.  Becky comes back in with some Mountain Dew. “Your mom wouldn’t mind, would she?” She looks toward Susie.

“Naw. “ Susie replies. “Now what should we ask?”

“I’m scared. I want to go home.”  Everyone glares at Isabelle; I roll my eyes, cracking the can of soda open with a loud crack that makes her wince. “Sorry,” I say unapologetic, shrugging my shoulders.

We go silent for a minute looking at each other and the board. Finally Susie says, “Let’s ask the spirit if it is Bloody Mary.”

“Considering we are not in England, any spirit here would be unlikely to be Mary. I suggest we ask a better question.” Susie glares at Becky, sticking her tongue out in annoyance.

“You got a better question, Becky? What do you think we should ask then?”

“We should ask it if it is a friendly or malevolent spirit.”

“What’s malevolent?” Isabelle stammers out, shaking.

We all look at her, and she is rubbing her crucifix in her hand looking nervous. “It means, real bad, real bad, Isabelle. Like mean, only worse.” I add smiling.

“Oh.” She says hiding her head in her hands. “Come on Auntie.”

“Let’s all hold hands.” Susie suggests and we all comply for once.  We then all put a hand on the little pointer device and spell out the question are you bad or not, because it is easier to spell than what Becky said.  We wait a moment that seems like forever with one hand on the pointer. Then it starts to move. I hear Isabelle whimper.  It goes slowly toward the Y. Then an E, then a S. Y-E-S.  “Yes, what? Yes you are bad? Or yes you are not bad? That was a crappy question.” I say annoyed.

“I think it means, yes it is bad. I don’t want to do this anymore.” Isabelle lets go of the pointer abruptly and leaves the table almost tripping on her backpack. “Oh come on, Izzy, it is just a game for Christ’s sake.”  Susie shrugs. “Whatever.”

“Hey she spilled my soda.” Noticing the green fluid all over my things and the floor.  Suddenly a breeze gusts through and all the candles go out at once. “Uh, did someone leave a window open?”  I say, suddenly feeling creeped out, feeling all the little hairs on my arm stand on end.  “Susie?” I say when no one answers me.  “Hey guys, this isn’t funny. I know I was kinda mean to Isabelle. But so were all of you.”  Still silence.  I look around, feeling the sticky soda with my hands.

“Come on. Turn on the light so I can clean this up at least.”  I start to feel a little panicky. I feel sweat on my brow. “Guys? Guys!”  I feel the chair near me as I stand up, I can feel the table in front of me. “Where are you guys? Why don’t you answer?”

I feel the pointer but don’t feel anyone’s hands but my own.  I run into the tin with my hand and the candles are all knocked over and warped from the melted wax. I go away from the table feeling for the wall, looking for the door or the light switch.

I keep my hands on the wall, and eventually realize I am in the hallway.  I can feel the mirror. The old style frame. The cool glass. I went the wrong way. But I knew there was a light switch by the bathroom.  I kept feeling for the switch, and then I heard a noise.  I turned my head. I called out again, “Guys, this isn’t funny.” It was totally dark here.  And then I heard it.

Footsteps. Coming closer.  “Uh, Guys? Susie?” I say, voice trembling. My hands were shaking now. I felt cold. So very cold. I put my hand on the glass again. Still at the mirror. Where was that switch?

The footsteps were getting loud, the person was stomping. “Hey, whose there?” I shout.  No answer.  I feel a cold breeze again only this is more of a gust, it pushes me. My back is now against the mirror. I can feel the cold glass through my clothing.  I felt as though I could go through the wall. Like it was nothing. I suddenly felt trapped and truly afraid. I found myself looking out of the mirror into the dark hallway arms pulling me into the mirror, weird long dark arms. And then I was in the mirror looking out trying to call out to my friends but nothing would come out of my mouth except more darkness.