Archive for category paranormal
One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new town is take the ghost tour. Recently, we visited St. Petersburg, where I promptly fell in love with the city and set my new sekrit mystery series there. So, since I’ve been hard at work on the novels instead of friday flash stories, thought I’d share some ghost pics with you in lieu of actual writing.
This is one of lots of photos I snapped inside an old hotel on the St. Pete tour. Just a regular picture, right?:
Upon close inspection, it seems like something or someone was watching us in the window:
How creepy is THAT face??? And, although I’m not a big believer in orbs, this one seems particularly out of place:
As a bonus, here’s a photo snapped in Nemacolin Castle in Brownsville, PA by my mom during a ghost tour a few years back:
And a close up of the mirror in that photo:
Hard to be a skeptic, right? Or do you see something different?
Celeste pushed her silver Mercedes through the fog, her lights baring only a light spray of mist and a few feet of red clay road.
They had tried everything, she and William, and now the desperation had pushed her over the edge…all the way to Blunt County, Georgia. Blunt was a speck of a town at the end of a thin dirt road with four sheriff cars, two funeral homes and one dark secret.
Checking her iPhone GPS once more, Celeste mashed the gas pedal up a hill and pulled into Hammish Park. The fog thinned. The sun was retiring. The pine needles on the trees surrounding the lake were on fire with the sunset. Celeste stepped one black heel on the gravel lot and then the other, shut the door and walked to the lake. Water soothed her. She had always preferred the surreal effect of the sky’s reflection in water over the stark real thing.
Suddenly a large black shadow swept over the lake, startling her. She reached for the gold and diamond cross tucked in the soft indent at her throat. Celeste glanced up quickly. Peach hues of emptiness and silence greeted her. Confused, she moved her gaze back to the lake. The shadow swept by again, a black form with a wing span as large as a bus. She fell back as she once again quickly looked up. Nothing. Scrambling to get back to her feet, she couldn’t help but look forward. Now hoards of shadows moved on silent wings, riding on the surface of the lake, circling, crossing paths. Still nothing above to cause such a display.
Celeste threw the car in reverse, kicking up gravel as she backed up and tried to breathe through the panic. There was no way she was waiting for her contact there.
A mile down the road, she hit the town. Charming white houses with peeling paint and sagging porches were planted in neat rows. She parked under a tree and killed the engine. She could find the house herself. As she searched the net, the sidewalks began to come alive. Tiny witches, cats, superheroes, fairies, big and little kids began to appear from the fog with glow stick necklaces and loud, palpable excitement.
She couldn’t help but smile.
Her resolve stiffened and after another few minutes of searching, she found the story and address she needed. Only two blocks away. She decided to walk, the fog was too thick and she didn’t want to take the chance of running over any kids.
By the time she reached 617 Banyan Drive, her feet ached and her heart beat in her ears. She knocked with a shaking fist, stood up straight and stepped back.
Footsteps. A sliver of yellow light escaping as the door creaked open. A hand pushed a basket of candy through the opening.
“Take just one, please.”
“Oh.” Celeste leaned to peer inside. “I’m not trick or treating. I,” she paused as the door opened a bit more and pale eyes peered at her from beneath cottony gray hair. “I came for your help.”
“I see,” the words delivered on a sigh. “Come in, then.”
The sound of distant laughing and taunting ceased as Celeste stepped inside and shut the door.
“Have a seat in the living room. Chester is harmless.” Celeste glanced around the quiet, one room home, lit only by candles flickering on every surface. Didn’t the woman need to know anything about her? “Well, go on. I’ve got some baking to do.”
Shrugging, Celeste removed her heels and left them by the door. She suddenly felt overdressed.
She swept her hands under her gray pencil skirt as she took a seat next to an elderly gentleman reading the paper on the sofa.
He smelled musty and looked at her with large, watery brown eyes. Was that pity she saw?
“Lovely of your wife to help people the way she does.” Her voice sounded too shrill. She cleared her throat. “It’s an amazing gift.” Was she trying to convince herself it was real and not just tabloid fodder?
The doorbell rang and Celeste startled, then laughed at herself. “Trick or treaters. How fun.”
Was that a black shadow sliding across the wall? She blinked hard but that only made it slip into the kitchen. She rubbed her eyes hard. The stress was really getting to her.
* * * *
An hour later, her eyes flew open and she sat up, unable to remember where she was.
“Oh!” She cried, embarrassed as the woman sat patiently in a rocking chair across from her, holding something in her lap. “I fell asleep? I’m so sorry. How rude of me.” She stood and then sat back down, feeling the room spin. “I don’t feel very good, actually.”
“You need to eat something.” The woman pulled a red cotton scarf from the plate in her hand and Celeste stared at the tiny golden pastry.
“It smells delicious.” Indeed it did. Scents of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg. “What is it?”
“Soul cake.” She stood slowly, balancing the plate carefully as she closed the gap and held it in front of Celeste like an offering. Celeste picked it up carefully with a thumb and forefinger and placed it in her palm. It was still so warm. “It is very important you don’t chew it.”
“Don’t chew it?” Celeste felt it swell in the palm of her hand, like a rising breath. “What’s inside?”
“Put it on your tongue and let it melt. Keep your mouth closed.”
Celeste did as she was told. The outer pastry melted like sugar. She was expecting something like pudding or maybe lemon filling, but there was…just heat. Fire that moved down her throat, her stomach, filled her lungs…her womb expanded, fluttered, pulsated with new and unfamiliar warmth.
“I can…feel something,” she whispered, laying her palm against the flatness of her belly. She rose, feeling stronger and full of energy. “It worked? Just like that? I don’t know how to thank you.” She reached up and felt the gold and diamond cross. She slipped it from her neck and tried to give it to the woman.
The woman’s eyes darkened, swirled like oily smoke as she grinned.
“No, you keep it, my dear.” Chester chuckled, opening the door to reveal a toddler in a red devil costume holding out his candy bag. “You’re going to need it.”
Death is inescapable. Or so Bruin Bailey thought.
Heavy breathing, the scent of wild mushrooms, being dragged over roots.
Being buried alive.
These things he remembers.
Or was he alive?
You’d think it was so easy to tell, right? You’re either breathing or you’re not breathing. But, no.
When you hear things like “Shit, you killed him” while someone is stuffing you in a cold dirt hole and you can’t move or scream, but you can hear and feel, well, then the line is a bit blurred.
So, here’s what happened. We smoked a little weed, we rolled a few houses. It was Halloween. We were high off the prospect of being seniors, graduation and all the freedom that comes from not needing to get up at six in the morning and spend every day in the same smelly rooms with worn out teachers that forgot how to smile.
Freedom. In a few months it would be ours.
Oh, another important point. Anise Foster was a witch.
What? I’m not calling names. She was proud of it.
When we’d get bored at lunch, we’d invite her over and pretend to be interested in all the shit she’d spout off about the cycles of the seasons and oh, yeah, especially around Halloween how she’d get all excited about the “veil” between the physical and spiritual world being thin so you could communicate with the dead. She even told us her mother left a place at the table for her dead dad. Ashley snickered too loud at that and Anise got up and left.
I saw her later at the lockers and felt bad. She looked sad.
“Hey,” I said. “You believe all that stuff that you told us, or is that just your mom’s religion?”
She looked at me then. Really looked at me for the first time and I realized how amazing her eyes were. Perfect gray circles in milky skin. I don’t think anyone has ever really looked at me before her because it was so intense I had to look away.
“This is the time things go beneath the ground. They wait to be resurrected. Winter is about death, about dying. It is not about religion.”
“Okay, all right,” I tried to be cool, even though her words had sent a chill from the tip of my tail bone to my hairline. It didn’t help when she added the words, “I’m sorry, Bruin.”
So, getting back to Halloween. Graveyards are seriously not the place to get high on Halloween and try to contact the dead because “the veil is thin”.
The ground was hard, freezing. I was feeling too good to care as I stared up at a fat, glowing moon with one star to keep it company. Lots of clouds around the sky bowl. Noises that I didn’t even care to try and figure out.
The bunch of morons that I hung out with chanting and calling out things like, “Hey, we want to see a ghost tonight.”
Someone pulled out a knife and drew a pentagram on a tree. This is where things went totally wrong.
Not because a demon showed up or anything. Just because I got pissed. Irrationally, drug induced kind of pissed. What did the tree ever do to Evan Martinez?
“Dude, you can’t just cut up a tree. What’s wrong with you? It’s alive.” Upon reflection, I realize this was Anise Foster’s influence on me.
His girlfriend called me some names and everyone laughed.
“You’re an idiot,” were my last words before a wicked, sharp, hot sensation filled my stomach.
Fast forward to: “Dude, you killed him.”
Lots of panic. The morons dragging my body through the woods to softer ground. The moon really was fat.
Dirt flew at me from all directions. It covered me slowly at first, building up until the organic smell became smothering. Until darkness blocked out the moonlight and I realized I wasn’t breathing. But I was something because I could still think.
I heard her words again, “Winter is about death. This is the time things go below ground and wait to be resurrected.” I silently wished she would put a place at her table for me.
And I knew that come spring, I would push up through the dirt like some giant freak crocus and Evan Martinez was going to pay.
What if you don’t stop? What if you just keep going? Crash right in the back of that unsuspecting car?
This was the first incident, the first time Nona realized something else occupied her head. She broke free from the Voice at the last minute and slammed on the brakes, sending out a loud screech and cloud of road dust. Wide eyed fear greeted her from the rear view mirror of her intended victim. Her body trembled. The Voice chuckled softly.
Nona went home and stared at herself in the mirror. Tiny flecks of gold muddled the grey. She pressed in closer to the mirror. The flecks turned red and sparked. Nona jumped back and ran out of the bathroom.
The second time happened in her best friend’s kitchen. Nona stood, pouring olive oil over steaming noodles in the sink. Linda was stirring her famous sauce.
Nona suddenly wheeled around and said, “What do you mean?”
“Didn’t say anything,” Linda answered, her lips just leaving a wooden spoon full of sauce.
Nona stared into that steaming bowl, briefly unhinged, watching a smile materialize in the steam as it rose, the moist warmth touching her face. The large butcher knife on Linda’s cutting board suddenly took on an otherworldly glow, shimmering like moonlight reflected on a lake. Nona blinked, reached out and rested a finger on the blade. Wrapped a palm around the handle.
The Voice whispered one word, ‘flesh’, and in that instant she needed to know what it would feel like to sink the blade deep into flesh. Nona glanced at Linda’s back, partially exposed by her tank top and the hunger grew. If only Linda knew the battle, the violent war Nona raged with the Voice in those moments, Linda would’ve known real fear. Nona won by rushing out of the house, carrying the Voice far from her.
She went home, threw all her kitchen knifes in a shoebox and duct taped it shut.
The Voice began to taunt her with a sweet little sing-song of, “Where ever you go, there I am”. She tried meditation to calm her nerves. She was greeted there, in the solitude, by a humming darkness. It had no form, but it had a presence that was separate from her own mind.
Am I possessed?
You are shared.
What are you?
Sometimes paths cross accidently. Things get stuck.
Nona came out of meditation two hours later holding a paring knife and bleeding from a dozen wounds on her left arm. Meditation was out.
I’ve gone mad, Nona thought, like the dad in The Shining.
Halloween evening, dusk fell and the doorbell started ringing. She could see the little ones peeking in the window as she cowered in the dark, afraid of herself, afraid of what the Voice would try to make her do.
She couldn’t take it, finally screaming, “Why don’t you just get out of my head!”
And It obliged.
A soft swooshing noise tickled her right ear, then all hell broke loose in her house. Plants flew against the wall, the impact spraying dirt everywhere, kitchen chairs fell over, drawers spit out their contents, drapes ripped from the windows. She screamed and screamed until someone began pounding on the door. Shaking, she managed to stumble and get it opened.
“Are you alright, Ma’am?” The father of a tiny witch asked, trying to see behind Nona into the house. “We heard you screaming.”
“Oh, thank heavens,” As she was trying to figure out what kind of help to ask for… the police? An exorcist? The voice whispered in her ear. She could feel heat radiating behind her but didn’t dare turn around.
“Pretty little thing,” It said. Nona looked down at the blue-eyed, blond haired toddler with green face paint and a sagging black hat. “Mmm…bite sized human.”
Nona knew at that moment, the Voice was hers to bear. She couldn’t let it out in the world. She was its prisoner, but she was also its jailer.
“I’m sorry. I must have had my Halloween CD up too loud.” Nona said, her heart sinking. “Here you go. Happy Halloween.” She reached over and grabbed a handful of candy from the full bowl, putting on her best non-crazy woman smile.
“You stay safe tonight.”
The soft, throaty laugh of my new bride, the steady beat of a tropical October rain on our rented beach bungalow walls, the gurgling of champagne being poured in the candle-lit room…these are the things I heard before the noise in the closet.
A muffled thump, like a sack being dropped on the floor, startled us. Both of us held our breath. I could feel her heart flutter against my arm.
“Did you hear that?” Sarah whispered.
“Shh.” I strained to listen. The candle flickered wildly. A musky scent filled the room, like wet fur.
“What’s that smell?” I turned to her just as a flash of lighting illuminated the fear in her dark green eyes.
“Smells like an animal. Do you think the owner of this place has a cat or something?”
Bump. Thump. The noise taunted me.
She was now trembling. I had to act. There was definitely something moving in the closet.
“Where are you going?” She grabbed my arm as I carefully shifted the sheets off my legs. “Let’s just wait until morning to open it.” Her lip quivered, her eyes shone in the candlelight.
She made me want to be brave. Beauty does that. Probably some damn trick of evolution, keeping the child-bearing women out of danger and sending the replaceable males out to face the beast.
But, this was just a closet on a very populated island in a very populated strip of beach houses. No beasts here, right?
“It’s probably just the wind shifting the house. It’s blowing pretty good out there.”
A low growl and loud bang on the door answered me. I jumped back in bed and reached for the cell phone. The candle blew out and we both screamed.
“Sh, sh, it’s okay.” I pressed the buttons, hitting ‘back’ numerous times as my shaking hand refused to cooperate. The deep rumble of thunder and crack of lighting close by made Sarah jump and slide deeper under the sheets.
Relief at finally hearing the landlord’s voice quelled some of my fear, made it almost seem silly.
“Mr. Crawford? Hi, I don’t mean to bother you in the middle of the night, but we’re in Bungalow number six and heard a strange noise in the closet. We’re wondering if someone might have possibly left a cat here? Oh, okay. Yes, that’s probably it, thank you.” I hung up and relit the candle.”He says there are strays around and one could have gotten in. It’s happened before.”
“I did notice the cats hanging around when we first got here,” she said. “But still, in the closet?”
We both stared at the closet. I thought seriously about just leaving the thing in there until morning but what if it was hurt or hungry?
With a sigh, I slid my arm from Sarah’s death grip and picked up one of the shiny black rental shoes that came with the tux. Really, this was just to make me feel braver. I’ve had spiders laugh at me when I swatted them with a shoe, I knew it would be no match for a scared, trapped cat.
I grabbed the door knob and pressed an ear to the door.
I held my breath. Still nothing. Hm. Maybe I could just wait until morning. What would we do with a cat tonight anyway? Put it out in the rain? Better to just let it sleep in the dry closet.
“I think it’s settled in for the night, now,” I said, sliding back into bed.
“Oh, no,” Sarah said, climbing out of bed. “There’s no way I’m falling asleep without knowing what’s in that closet.”
* * * *
Harold Crawford let himself into Bungalow number six.
“Here kitty kitty,” he called, moving into the bedroom. The candle had burned itself out and he stared at the items strewn about the room; a wedding gown thrown over the back of one chair, a tux jacket hanging on another, shoes, open suitcases. He slowly moved to the closet, where a woman’s nightgown lay by the door. Shoving it aside with his foot, he carefully opened the closet door and peered in.
“Ah,” he chuckled, throwing it open wide. The morning light shone on two trembling black cats. The one with green eyes hissed and howled, pushing itself closer to the body of the other one.
“Well, that’s an awful noise, my pet.”
The cats pushed their way passed him and out the opened door.
Harold Crawford watched them go and then began to gather up the abandoned things in the room. “Well,” he sighed, lifting the wedding gown from the chair. “At least you will be keeping your vows. ‘Til death do you part.” This is the one thing he told himself to feel better.
Only four more couples and his debt would be paid.
Shaw Martin sat in his stuffy college Calc 101 class, staring in horror at the inside of his wrist. He traced the spidery, indigo lines that ran up his pasty arm. Why hadn’t he noticed them before? God, they were terrifying. Well, not the veins themselves, but the thought of them. Carrying blood round and round our body, through our heart, pumping it back out. Jesus, what a chore, huh? How does the whole thing not go terribly wrong?
Terribly wrong. Shaw suddenly felt trapped. His sandy curls grew dark with sweat. People began to glance at him as he tried, unsuccessfully, to quietly gather his belongings and make his way to the door.
“Sorry,” he whispered to the gawkers. “So sorry.”
Four days later, he had almost gotten used to ignoring the veins when the bones started making themselves known. He went and got his eyes checked. Something had to be terribly wrong.
* * * *
“You’ve got 20/25 vision.”
“Yeah, but I’m not seeing things right.” Shaw tried to look the doctor in the eye, but kept getting distracted by the sight of his bones.
“No. Too clear.”
Shaw watched, fascinated as the bones gripped a pen and notepad.
He left with a reference to a psychiatrist.
It rained that evening which only made the air thicker. Footsteps followed him as he trudged to Scales & Suds on campus. He could hear shoes squeak on the wet concrete right behind him but he didn’t dare turn around. Slipping inside, he pressed himself against the wall and glanced back out the door. Thankfully, they were gone.
What’s going on? He tried to think but the others were so loud, trying to talk over the music. It beat in rhythm with his pulse. Distraction.
Shaw stood at the bar waiting for his order, feeling the crush and bump of the crowd and beginning to shake. Something had to be terribly wrong. A stiff shoulder pressed up against him. He glanced. Stared. The human body really was fascinating. Humerus. Clavical. Shaw squinted. Hmm.
“How’d you break your collar bone?” Shaw asked, trying to start a conversation.
The guy stared hard at Shaw. “What the fuck, man?” he finally said. “How do you know that?”
Luckily, the waitress came out and handed Shaw his Styrofoam box of greasy fried cod and fries with a smile.
“Freak,” the guy threw at him.
He thanked her and hurried back outside. It was drizzling again.
Two days later, he was still at the park, soaked and sipping cold coffee someone had left beside their car. He had tried to go back to the little cracker box house his parents left him, but the squeaky shoes had followed him. He heard them on the kitchen linoleum and ducked out without locking the door. Why bother? They were already inside.
His gift. To see inside human bodies. Inside was a tree with branches and organs growing on the branches. There were two kidneys, like giant lima beans , two lungs like overgrown fish gills-filling and deflating, filling and deflating, intestines and the heart. Pump pump squish pump pump squish.
“Your heart is beautiful,” he said to a lady pushing her toddler on a swing.
The police came and he finally got to see a doctor that understood him.
“So, you have x-ray vision,” Dr. Mulligan said. She didn’t laugh. In fact, she nodded and looked very serious, a wrinkle forming between her brows, like Shaw’s mother used to do.
“Yes, exactly. I can’t see inside the skull though. Why do you think that is?”
“Shaw, let’s talk about your parents.”
“They died fourteen months ago. Both of them on Highway 65. It was an accident.”
“Yes. I know, Shaw. And that’s a very difficult thing, to lose your parents. You’ve been doing very well, though.” She flipped through her notes. “Attending college. I’m sure they would be very proud of you.”
“They wanted me to be a doctor.”
“And what do you want to do?”
“Well, I do want to help people.” He glanced at her to see if he could trust her with his secret. She nodded, her chin resting on the bones of her hand. “Okay. I want to be a super hero. I’ve wanted to be a super hero since I was nine. I’ve designed a cape and everything.”
“I see,” she said and stared at Shaw for a moment longer. “Okay then. I’m going to write you a prescription, Shaw, for a medicine called Haldol. It is very important that you take it every day.”
“Will it help me to become more of a super hero?”
“Well,” she said, seeming to weigh something and then sighed. “No, Shaw. It will help you to stay in society, to be a part of it and to have a more normal life.”
Did it ever stop raining in this town? Shaw came to a corner, where a homeless guy was sitting under a garbage bag, a brown cardboard mush of a sign clutched in the bones of his hand. The sky groaned and lit up.
“You all right, Kid?”
“I don’t know,” Shaw answered. “I’m not sure. I think something must be terribly wrong.”
“Ha,” he groaned like the sky. “You’re the smartest person I’ve met yet. Have a seat, Kid.”
“All right.” Shaw said, lowering himself onto the wet sidewalk. Water rushed by in the gutter, fell from the sky, cleansed the world.
He reached a wet hand in his jacket and took the first pill.
She was dangling at the end of carrot leaves clutched in Jane’s fist, a tiny dirt baby. On her knees in the garden, Jane stared at the doll-like face covered in dark soil; halfway expecting it to inhale and start crying, while knowing this would be impossible. However, when wet bubbles began to form on the bottom lip, it rattled Jane to the core and she almost dropped the creature. She fell back in the damp soil, still keeping tight grip on those carrot leaves. Opening her eyes, she confirmed she hadn’t gone insane. The baby was there, still swinging in the air.
“Impossible.” Jane lowered her into the basket, on top of the three or four carrots she had already plucked from the soil. Removing her gloves, she wiped the soil from its eyelids. They fluttered at her touch. Then she brushed the dirt from its neck and chest. Its skin was almost translucent, tinged yellow in the sunlight; thin fibers on its arms and legs glistened as it became animated, opening and closing tiny fists, kicking tiny toes. Jane brushed back the leaves from its forehead, in awe.
Then, in a flurry of fear she crawled, plucking out row after row of carrots, imagining other root babies entombed in fertilized soil. But, thankfully, this was the only one. When Jane peeked back into the basket, the eyes were open. It was staring at her quietly with eyes the color of the sun.
“Marge? Hi, this is Jane. Listen, I have a problem.”
Jane sat at the kitchen table, the root baby still in the basket of carrots, staring quietly back at her. The smell of damp soil permeated the air.
“You know how I was telling you this spring I couldn’t afford Pureorganics seeds?”
“Oh no, Jane, you didn’t buy that genetically modified crap did you?”
“Well…yes. I figured, well how bad could it be, really. Right?”
“So,” Marge sighed, “how bad is it?”
“It’s…it’s alive,” Jane whispered. “And staring at me. I don’t know what to do with her.”
There was a long silence.
“Do you need a recipe?”
“What!” Jane sat up in her chair. “No! I can’t…can’t eat her. She looks human!”
“So, what are you going to do? Raise her and send her off to college? Jane, listen, you grew her in your garden, for food. You plucked her out of the dirt, she…it, is obviously not human. So, what’s the problem?”
Jane was feeling frantic. “What’s the problem? She has eyes, tiny clear eyelashes, toes…”
“So do cows, so what?”
Jane had no answer.
“Look, you know Evan Rogers at Knoll Hill Market? If you really can’t eat it, he’ll buy it from you. Sylvia was telling me her brother got some bad GM seeds, ended up with some kind of fish turnips. They smelled awful, but Evan bought ‘em. He specializes in exotic meats.”
Jane felt bile rising in her throat. “I have to go.” She barely made it to the bathroom.
When she returned, the rootbaby had lost her glow, her skin was graying. Was she dying?
Jane frantically offered her milk, the last of her pureed potatoes, water. She refused everything silently.
“What do you eat?”
She turned to the internet for answers. The few hits she got only gave cooking advice, not feeding advice.
Jane rushed her back out into the sunlight. Maybe her energy system was more plant like, she seemed to come alive when exposed to the sun before. In the sunlight, she could see tiny flakes and fissures on the rootbaby’s skin. So dry. She unwound the hose and trickled cool water across her belly and legs.
Her tiny mouth twitched. Was that a smile? The sunlight faded from her eyes and they closed. The animation left her.
Jane turned off the water, the rootbaby now bathed in her tears.
Jane knew she was supposed to call a disposal unit, but she also knew what they would do, the dissection, the tests. That would be worse than being eaten.
She scooped up the tiny body in her palm and held it gently to her chest as she walked back to the garden.
(photo credit: Jonathan Boeke)