Paranormal Underground Special 2009 Fiction Contest Issue
You can purchase paper copies of the magazine via a Publish On Demand option by visiting http://paranormalunderground.magcloud.com/. At Paranormal Underground, our mission is to publish the highest-quality Magazine for our readers. We strive to keep you updated on news from the paranormal world, as well as tackle the topics that most interest paranormal enthusiasts, researchers, and investigators. We hope you’ll find our publication entertaining and informative.
Paranormal Special Fiction Contest Issue Underground December 2009 False Reading Rewind The TURN of a Friendly Card The Ritual The Neighbor’s Kids Flowers on a Grave Whisper . . . “Thank You” James The Escape A Language You Can See A Haunt in Hiding Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 1 2 Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue â€” December 2009 Inside This Issue Paranormal Underground SHORT STORY WINNERS Special Fiction Contest Issue — Dec. 2009 www.ParanormalUnderground.net EDITORIAL Publisher/ Art Director Chad Wilson Publisher@paranormalunderground.net Editor-in-Chief/ Design and Layout Cheryl Knight Editor@paranormalunderground.net 1st Place: “False Reading” by Sandi Kennedy 6 2nd Place: “Rewind” by Ann Smathers 10 3rd Place: “The Turn of a Friendly Card” by Richard T. Tingle 14 Managing Editor/ Promotions/Marketing Karen Frazier KarenFrazier@paranormalunderground.net MySpace Editor’s Choice Selections www.myspace.com/paranormalunderground Twitter http://twitter.com/ParanormalUG YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/ParanormalUG Contributing Authors “The Neighbor’s Kids” by Norcalmonkey67 18 “Whisper . . . ‘Thank You’” by Jon K.C. Kinstley 22 “Flowers on a Grave” by Heidi Ann 24 “The Escape” by Ryan Tackitt 28 “A Haunt in Hiding” by Regan Vacknitz 32 “The Ritual” by Jordan Lee Burnes 36 “James” by Gene Melvin 38 “A Language You Can See” by Nomar Slevik 42 Jordan Lee Burnes Heidi Ann Sandi Kennedy Jon K.C. Kinstley Gene Melvin Norcalmonkey67 Nomar Slevik Ann Smathers Ryan Tackitt Richard T. Tingle Regan Vacknitz Copyright © 2008-2009 — Paranormal Underground™ is a trademark of Ghost Knight Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Paranormal Underground and its contents are the property of Ghost Knight Media, LLC. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. This publication and all content within this publication may not be copied, quoted, distributed, modified, or reprinted without the express written consent of Paranormal Underground magazine. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 3 Contributors Paranormal Underground’s editors would like to congratulate our 2nd Annual Short Story Contest winners, as well as our Editor’s Choice authors! Heidi Ann Sandi Kennedy Heidi Ann has been a paranormal enthusiast since childhood when she had her own encounter. Her personal experience led her to question the world around her. Heidi is a mother of three sons, works as a special education paraprofessional in a middle school, and loves watching television shows and reading books on the paranormal. Sandi was born and raised in Camden, New Jersey, and currently still resides in South Jersey with her husband and two sons. According to Sandi, Paranormal Underground has opened up a world of writing in her that she never knew existed. She has been writing ever since she came upon the Paranormal Underground Website in summer 2008, and someday she hopes to publish a book of short horror stories and poems. She is a true believer in the paranormal, having witnessed ghosts on several occasions throughout her life. Jordan Lee Burnes Jordan lives in Laurel, Mississippi, and is currently a senior attending High School. He works at his local library, which helps him pursue his passion for writing. After completing high school, Jordan plans to continue on to flight school where he will learn to fly with a commercial airline, helping him fulfill his dream of travel. His love of the paranormal started when he saw an episode of Ghost Hunters, and that interest soon led him to the field of cryptozoology, which fascinates him. Jordan dreams of one day freelance writing full time and living in a home in Scotland that overs the sea. 4 Jon K.C. Kinstley Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Jon works abroad for a Texas-based petrochemical storage and refining company on the Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius. Jon and his oldest son, Samuel, ghost hunt on the Dutch Caribbean Islands with an emphasis on historic sites not normally recognized by tourists. He enjoys blogging about everyday life events and occurrences while raising his son. Jon says, “Participat- ing on Paranormal Underground’s Website is one of the most rewarding and fun activities that fills my days. Paranormal Underground’s 2nd Annual Short Story Contest was so much fun that I have already started working on next year’s entry!” Gene Melvin Gene has been interested in the paranormal and horror since an early age. Although he has never had a paranormal experience, he stays open-minded and recognizes the possibilities. Gene is married, the father of a three-year-old girl, and a funeral director in the family run funeral home and operates his own monument company. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, time with his daughter, horror movies, paranormal shows and books, riding his Harley, and competitive shooting. Norcalmonkey67 Currently living in Northern California, The Monk is originally from the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. This piece represents his first attempt at creative writing (outside of English class) for public consumption. He is a cautiously optimistic skep- Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 tic who believes there is something beyond mere coincidence going on. Nomar Slevik Artist, producer, writer, and audio engineer, Nomar has been one of the most active singer/rapper/song writers in the ‘Indieground’ scene to date. Hailing from Southern Maine, he has not only impacted the hearts and minds of the New England scene, but has also charmed the Western U.S., Canadian, Euro, and Japanese fan bases as well. His influences range from Creedence Clearwater Revival to IceT, while his sound falls somewhere between the old school and avant garde. His combination of interesting sounds and unusual subject matter make for a unique experience that defies hiphop convention. Nomar has forged a creatively refreshing masterpiece of abstractions and thoughts with notable and equally eclectic peers and affiliates — most notably jdwalker, Moshe, Mat Young, The Mole, DJ Mayonnaise, Lord Grunge, Bleubird, Brzowski, and more. Ann Smathers Ann earned her bachelor’s degree in history, with a minor in English, and a career diploma in medical transcription. She has been writing ever since she could hold a crayon. Currently, Ann works as an administrative assistant/receptionist/ transcriptionist for a clinical neuropsychologist in New Mexico. In her spare time, she likes arts and crafts, singing, and playing several different musical instruments. Ryan Tackitt Ryan is the founder of Paranormal Investigators of Central Texas (PICT). He is a certified paramedic working in Waco, Texas, and a part-time EMS instructor at the local community college. He created PICT after meeting with coworkers who believed in the paranormal. Together, Ryan and his friends educate, investigate, and help people who have paranormal problems. Ryan has had many personal paranormal experiences over his lifetime and realizes that science can only explain so much. Paranormal Underground Magazine Is Looking for Volunteer Writers, Photographers, or Graphic Artists Richard T. Tingle A real native Floridian for 36 years, Richard loves to write, is a skeptical believer in the paranormal, and works in the insurance field. He is the third-place winner of Paranormal Underground’s 2nd Annual Short Story Contest and says he is thrilled to finally be published and “hopes it won’t be the last time.” His writing ranges from “silly soap operas and romance to fanfic for a few different genres to exaggerated bits of fiction and slice of life.” Regan Vacknitz Regan is a psychic medium, lead investigator, and cofounder of Auburn Paranormal Activities Research Team (A.P.A.R.T.) of Washington. She is an active researcher, investigator, writer, and photographer. For further information, visit www.myspace. com/11thhourphotography. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 5 2nd Annual Short Story Contest False Reading By Sandi Kennedy (1st-Place Winner) S am Ness felt around in the black, silk satchel for a necklace. There were only a few left. He glanced at the stone pendant attached to the end of the long rope. It was green. That meant wealth, or so he told the old housewife at the end of her session. “This will give you financial energy,” he told the woman. “It will bring you good luck in all of your investments.” He handed it to her, and she in return slid a twenty across the tabletop. “Thank you so much,” the woman gushed. “I can’t wait to go home and tell my husband.” Sam’s lips curled up into a sly grin. “Good night Miss, and tell your friends to stop by. Tomorrow’s the last night of the carnival.” “Yes sir, I will. Good night.” People were easy for him to read. He had many good years of practicing. If they wore a big rock on their hand, he told them, “You just got engaged. You’ll have two kids and be very happy.” No one ever came back and said, “You were wrong, I had triplets and am miserable!” They came in for the entertainment. They came in out of curiosity. Could they glimpse the future? The truth? Everyone had common threads . . . love, death, worry about money, hating a job. Nobody wanted to hear that their future was crap. Sam gave them hope for 20 min- 6 utes of their time and 20 bucks. Not too many people came in with high expectations; it was the ones who did that he felt sorry for. Like this lady whose husband just got laid-off. She believed everything he told her. Hey, for 20 bucks she just got a morale boost as he saw it. She could be sitting in a room with a shotgun in her mouth. Now she had hope for the future. ***** Sam peeked out the window of his trailer that doubled as his psychic reading room. It was eleven o’clock, and there were a few people scat- tered around — mostly the clean-up crew. He would be pushing out tomorrow around this time. There wasn’t much to pack up — just the red satin awning staked into the ground outside the entrance of his trailer and a couple of signs advertising his amazingly accurate readings. He had his tarot cards, and he led séances, but he refused to use a crystal ball! That was much too cliché and old Hollywood for him. Most of these yokels would really go for it though. They always fell for the piece of crap necklaces he gave them. Even if they didn’t buy his psychic abilities, they always felt like they got their money’s worth because of a stone on a piece of string. He’d have to give out key chains tomorrow. They didn’t go over as well, but they’d have to do. Just one more night in this hick town and moneyon-wheels would be off to Las Vegas just in time for Halloween, a big money-making time for him. Sam folded the table and slid it behind a small sofa. The red curtain covering his doorway fluttered, and at first he thought it was a breeze, but after a moment, a small, white hand grasped the edge. The curtain parted, and he could see it was a young girl spying him. “Miss, I’m sorry. I must have forgotten to hang my sign. I’ve finished my last reading for the night.” The girl entered further into the room. “No, you didn’t forget. I just Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 wanted to ask you something.” Sam cut her off abruptly. “These readings take a lot out of me. I can’t do any more tonight. Come back tomorrow, please.” He walked toward the girl, but she didn’t move. In the shadows her eyes were still piercing. They were large and beautiful. Sam felt a weakness looking into them. He resigned and inquired, “What do you want to ask?” “How do I make them go away?” He gave her a half-cocked look, and she seemed agitated by it as she continued. “The people . . . the dead people.” Sam let out a long breath of air. “I suggest that you go home and go to sleep. In the morning, whatever drug you’re on should be out of your system.” The beautiful eyes flashed with anger. “I thought you of all people would believe me!” Her anger turned to tears. “I’m not crazy, and I’m not on drugs!” Sam put his hands on the girl’s shoulders. “Calm down. Here, just sit a minute.” He led the girl to the sofa. “Are you telling me that you see dead people?” He tried to sound serious even though it sounded like a line from that movie. “No, I don’t see them. I hear them.” The girl nervously tugged at her long, dark hair. “I want them to stop.” Sam was skeptical, and he figured that one of the carnival crew was pulling his leg, but he played along. “When did you realize that you had the gift dear?” The girl recoiled. “Gift? It’s a nightmare.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I’ve been like this ever since the accident.” “What do they say to you?” He pulled a stool over and sat by the girl. “They tell me all kinds of things, like how they died and they want me to tell their families that they’re okay — that they are still here with them.” Sam rubbed the gray stubble on his chin. “Interesting,” he muttered. “Is that what they do to you too?” the girl asked, looking more intently at him. “No. Well they aren’t around me all the time, only when I call them at a séance.” Sam had his act down pretty good and sometimes even he bought his own bull. “That’s not what the lady says. She says she’s always here.” The girl bit her lower lip, scraping off a patch of pink lip gloss. “Who’s here?” Sam leaned in closer to the girl waiting for the punch line. No one knew him here. He didn’t talk about his family. This girl was a real good actress, but this was about to go nowhere. Taffy says thanks for keeping her in your prayers.” The girl stormed out, and Sam watched her disappear behind the game booths. No one knew that he called his sister Taffy. When he was little, he couldn’t say Kathy; it sounded more like Taffy, and it stuck. The only people that knew were his mom and sister. They’ve been dead for years. You can’t find that on the Internet. He wished that he hadn’t been so quick to dismiss the girl. He felt every nerve in his body jolting. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep, so he grabbed a bottle of vodka from under the sink. He sat and he drank. He thought of the young girl and how he wanted what she had, a true gift. ***** Sam felt every nerve in his body jolting. Now, he wouldn’t be able to sleep . . . “Kathy,” she said as if she hadn’t quite gotten the name right. “Kathy’s here?” Sam asked, still trying to make sense of it. The girl shifted uncomfortably in her seat before speaking. “Who is she?” He let out an airy laugh. “Look, I appreciate all the effort you put into this, but joke’s over. You found my relatives on the Internet. Found an obituary for my sister. I get it, bravo!” The girl sat up rigidly. “Why do you find this so hard to believe? It’s what you do for Christ’s sake!” The girl jumped up and headed for the door. “I can’t believe I came to a fraud for help. I’m sorry I wasted your time and mine.” Sam was dumbfounded. The girl threw open the curtain. “By the way, Sam woke up cramped on the old sofa, with the sour taste of vodka in his mouth. He propped himself up and felt the phlegm shift in his chest, triggering a fit of coughs. He smoked, but he thought he must have a chest cold as much as he’d been coughing lately. Funny how a cigarette made him feel much better. He lit one up and, still wincing from his headache, made his way outside. Sam sat down on the metal steps of the trailer. The morning air smelled like a combination of popcorn, cotton candy, and cheap stuffed animals. There were signs of life other than him, not necessarily intelligent. A couple of guys were poking around the machinery of the Tilt-A-Whirl. He wondered if that would be tonight’s news. “Young Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 7 2nd Annual Short Story Contest couple killed when ride goes wild.” Sam felt like he was surrounded by idiots, and yet he never felt so much at home. Life on the road with the carnival was every boy’s dream. His thoughts soon turned to the girl. He took one last long draw of his smoke and then flicked it into the dirt. It would be a long day. Most people didn’t start showing up until 4:00 p.m. That gave him plenty of time to pick up a new distraction to give to his clientele — just in case he didn’t have enough key chains. He hoped this last night would be a good one so he would have plenty of cash when he got to Vegas. Sam liked to play the tables. He thought about how much money he could make if he could get the girl to tag along. It was a long shot, but he was a gambling man. ***** Sam got back around noon from his shopping excursion. He hadn’t done too badly at the local dollar store. He actually found crystal ball necklaces. Two for a buck. “It’s Anna, and I know you’re the Amazing Ness, but you want me to call you Sam,” Anna said sarcastically. Sam smiled and nodded. “Anna, listen. I’m sorry. I thought it was a joke. You know, let’s go pick on the old freak.” He could see he was softening her up. “Yeah, I guess it sounds pretty crazy,” Anna agreed. “So, it’s the last night of the carnival,” Sam struggled to engage her. “Are you traveling with them to the next city?” She shook her head. “No. It’s just a summer job. I live close-by. You?” “No,” Sam said with an air of haughtiness. “I’m heading to Vegas. Somebody’s got to point all of those sinners in the right direction.” “Those sinners are paying for your retirement,” Anna reminded him. He appreciated her humor. She would be great company on the road. He would have to play hell to convince her that he wasn’t a dirty old man, but he was sure that when she saw the Truth hurts; lies kill. He was walking past the beer garden when he saw her. She was busying herself about the roulette booth, so he decided to go over and strike up a conversation. “Hi.” He dared not say any more until he gauged her reaction. He was certain that she was still pissed off. She looked up only momentarily. “Well, since you’re psychic, I imagine you already know what I’m thinking.” Sam smiled nervously and put his hand to his temple. “Get lost.” She smirked at him and said, “You are as good as they say.” “Well, I’m not that good. I don’t know your name.” 8 money, she would be onboard. “If you’re not working tonight, why don’t you come over and reconnect a few people with their dearly departed?” Sam touched her arm. “Maybe it isn’t the curse that you think it is. You could make a really good living.” She pulled away. “I wouldn’t know what to do. I’m not good with people like you.” “You’ll be fine,” he assured her. Sam reached up and gave the roulette wheel a good spin. “Okay, maybe.” Anna smiled timidly and quickly added, “The last one. I want to watch you first, alright?” “Sure.” Sam agreed with slight reluctance. All he needed was for her to correct one of his readings. “Oh, but Anna. I have to explain that what I see may not be what you see,” Sam could cover his bases pretty well. “I won’t interrupt you,” Anna agreed. “Stop in around 9:00,” he said. The roulette wheel clicked slowly to a stop on the number 13. Sam glanced at it. “Just my luck,” he mumbled as he turned and walked away. ***** That night, Anna was right on time, and it couldn’t have been at a more awkward moment. Sam had a lovely drunk couple, underage no doubt. “I want to know what me and my man are gonna name our baby,” the sloppy drunk girl asked. Her tattooed boyfriend pulled her close. Sam looked up and acknowledged his guest’s arrival, “Anna.” The young couple broke out in hysterical laughter. “Not even close. I’ll give you a hint Amazing Ness. It’s a boy.” Anna seemed annoyed by them and coldly said, “Your boy’s name is going to be James, after his daddy.” The couple seemed unaffected by what she said, so Sam reiterated it, “James. Your son’s name is going to be James.” “James?” The guy lurched forward. “I wouldn’t name my dog James.” The name seemed to resonate with his girlfriend though. “Come on, let’s go. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” The drunk blonde gathered her boyfriend to his feet and looked at Sam as if he better not breathe another word. Sam felt very powerful. He could make or break these people, and given that they came in to make a mockery out of him he opted for the latter. Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 “I think it’s wonderful to name your son after his father.” Sam looked around for Anna. She must have ducked behind the curtain to avoid the impending scene. “Jeannine!” The boyfriend flung the girl’s arm from around him. “You told me it was mine, and it’s Jim’s baby?” “No Markie! He’s wrong. We’re gonna name our baby Mark.” The angry young man stumbled out of the trailer. The girl’s eyes blazed with anger. “Asshole!” She grabbed her necklace from the table and made a hasty retreat. Sam felt a bit of remorse come over him as he heard the girl call after her boyfriend. “Don’t feel bad. They weren’t meant to be together.” Anna poked in from behind the curtain. “Are you sure about that? They seemed like a perfect match to me,” he added. “Very sure. She’s going to marry James and be very happy, and he’s going to open up a tattoo shop.” Anna tucked her hands in her pockets and rocked on the heels of her feet. “The truth just saved them from a miserable life. You could have said they were going to name their boy Mark because you saw the tattoo on her ring finger. A little observation goes a long way. A little lie won’t hurt anyone.” Sam was too embarrassed that he had missed such an easy mark, so he didn’t mention it. He studied Anna hard. “A little lie? I call it as I see it. I always have. What people take away from it is up to them.” His try to rationalize was in vain. “You can’t play with people’s emotions. The truth hurts, but lies kill,” Anna said with an uneasiness in her voice that left Sam feeling quite disturbed. “Look, this is my bread and butter, and it’s been very good to me. Nobody gets hurt. Entertainment purposes only. It’s on the sign. You’re pretty good, and I just thought that if you gave it a try you’d like it, but you got to have thicker skin. You can’t save everyone.” Anna looked as if she was deep in thought. “So do you want to or not? I usually have a few more come in this time of night.” Sam peered out of the side window. “No,” Anna spoke. “No one’s coming.” She sat down in the chair across from him. “Okay, if that’s what you foresee then maybe you could tell me my future,” he teased, trying to lighten the tense moment. “You have no future,” she said blankly. Sam chuckled, “This is a joke. I knew I should have trusted my gut.” “It’s not a joke, but you are.” Anna leaned in and whispered, “Truth hurts; lies kill.” Sam sat up in his seat. “What the hell does that mean? Look girl, fun’s over. I’m too old for this cat and mouse crap. Time for you to leave.” But Anna didn’t leave. “Do you remember a lie you told to a boy at this carnival last year?” Anna asked. “That his girlfriend was cheating on him?” Sam sighed. “Is that what this is about? I’m sorry darling that your boyfriend dumped you. I probably did you a favor. Maybe I saved you from a miserable life,” Sam tried to use her words against her. “The truth would have saved me from my misery. I wasn’t cheating on him,” Anna scorned. “You’re better off without him,” Sam asserted. Anna began to laugh, “I sure didn’t feel better off as he choked the life out of me.” As soon as Anna spoke the words, deep black and blue marks developed around her throat, and her face transformed into a ghostly white. Sam gasped as he sat horrified at the sight in front of him. “What’s the matter Sam? Aren’t you psyched that you’ve finally connected to the spirit world?” Anna stared at him as her eyes became black and lifeless. Sam started coughing and wheezing uncontrollably. “You should’ve really had that checked out, but let me save you the trouble,” Anna said, as a smile emerged from her lips. “It’s cancer, and it’s terminal. You have three months to live, if you can call it living.” Sam sunk into his chair. Anna got up, and Sam instinctively reached for his .45 that had been tucked into the back of his pants. Sam watched in terror as Anna slowly floated toward him. “Rest in peace,” Anna whispered in Sam’s face, as she slowly turned and passed through the side of the trailer. ***** The sound of a single gunshot rang through the carnival, and Sam slumped to the floor — a bullet between the eyes. Anna smiled. She could rest now. Sam didn’t really have cancer. A lie for a lie . . . truth hurts; lies kill. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 9 2nd Annual Short Story Contest Rewind By Ann Smathers (2nd-Place Winner) T he summer sunlight slanted in through the window, providing some light, but most of the cool room stood in shadows. “Mom, I miss you so much!” Rose Miller whispered around the lump in her throat as she stared at the small cardboard box on her dining room table containing her mother’s personal effects. “You left me way too soon!” She resolutely wiped away some tears forming in her eyes and opened the first dusty flap. Rose found odds and ends of sentimental things like the tickets to the Halloween ball where her parents first met, some family photos, and she half smiled when she found her birth announcement on a sheet of bright pink paper. The most curious item, though, was a small, leather bound, untitled book. Rose examined it more carefully, opened it, and was surprised to see the words “Rose’s Log” on the front page in her mother’s handwriting. The first entry was dated 1976, when Rose was three years old. She read: January 11, 1976 Rose is afraid of water, but I don’t know why. She’s had bad dreams for the past few months that seem to be about water, and Norman said it might be a good idea to keep a log to see if there is something Pete and I haven’t noticed yet. Rose wondered what Norman, the child psychologist and old family 10 friend, had to do with it. She couldn’t remember her mother ever keeping a log on her, but she felt sure the answer was somewhere in her fuzzy memory. She read another entry. January 31, 1976 We saw a picture of a river today and Rose screamed. She seems to be afraid of them, and when I asked why, she said it was because she died there. I said it couldn’t be, but she insisted. Rose dug around for the last items in the box, which were several sheets of paper of varying sizes folded in half. She hoped they would give her a clue as to what the log was talking about. When she opened them, she found pictures she drew when she was a child. She skipped them and stared at another page. It looked to be a copy taken from a history book and was a picture of a beautiful woman, possibly with light brown or blonde hair and light-colored eyes, though it was impossible for Rose to tell the exact colors from the faded black and white reprinted photo. The caption read: Catherine Anne Hughes from Ohio, one of three women in the Weatherby caravan that traveled down the Santa Fe Trail in 1865. She was 23 at the time of the photo and had been married for two months to John Hughes, an American trader. “Catherine Anne Hughes,” Rose mused to herself, some sort of familiarity edging in on her. She looked absentmindedly at the green glass vase with fake flowers on her table. “Catherine Anne Hughes . . . Catherine Anne Hughes . . .” The name felt familiar on her tongue as she repeated it. Suddenly, she saw Catherine Anne Hughes’ face overlaid on her own in the vase’s reflective surface and startled, she shoved the vase away. Her phone rang and she looked at the caller ID before she picked up. “Hey, Eileen, what’s up?” Eileen’s slightly husky but very feminine voice came over the line. “Hey, chica, we’ve got a possible paranormal investigation coming up in two weeks. You in?” Rose looked at her calendar. Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 “Yeah. I’m clear. Where is it and what is it?” “Seems like there’s a haunting near the Palisades in Cimarron Canyon. It’s just a few miles west of the town, you know, so maybe we can investigate the old St. James Hotel while we’re at it.” Rose thought about the last time she’d been through Cimarron Canyon. She smiled because although it was overcast, rainy, and reminded her more of the Pacific Northwest, it had been incredibly beautiful. “So what kind of activity do they get there?” Excitement grew in Eileen’s voice. “I don’t know exactly, but it has something to do with one of the wagon trains that came through on the Santa Fe Trail.” Rose’s ears perked up and her intuition ran in high gear since she’d just seen the Santa Fe Trail mentioned in her mother’s book. “Really? Do tell.” “Something happened to somebody near the Palisades, and there are two monuments on the spot it supposedly happened. One is a more recent stone pillar that was donated by one of Cimarron’s residents. I’m going to call someone about that later. The other one is a monument the pioneers in the wagon train put up. It’s a huge heap of scrap iron that’s all rusted, but a good amount of it remains.” “That doesn’t make sense. If you were out on the Trail, you didn’t waste a thing. Even if a wheel broke, you’d keep the wood in case you could use it to make some patch repairs or needed firewood in a place where firewood wasn’t readily available. Same with iron. If anything made with iron broke, you could patch it with other scrap iron or you could melt it down and forge something else.” “Maybe they thought they were close enough to Cimarron or Fort Union that they could make do until they reached those stops?” Eileen offered. She was as much of an American West history buff as Rose. “Or maybe they didn’t have anything else to spare for the memorial?” “They could’ve just piled rocks.” “Yeah,” Eileen conceded. “It doesn’t make sense. I guess it’s just something that particular train did to recognize one of their own.” Rose eyed the mysterious journal and sheaf of papers on her table, wanting to get back to those, but around a little, and interviewing a local witness. Hey, since you know the layout better than I do, wanna come along and be my guide? We could eat at the St. James. My treat.” “Sure, why not? I could use a good bison burger.” ***** After Rose agreed to be picked up at 7 the next morning, she hung up and got a cold glass of lemonade that she brought back to her couch, along with the green leather log book Rose is afraid of water, but I don’t know why. she forced her attention again to the proposed investigation. She contemplated the site. “Hey Rose, you have some family up there, don’t you?” “Used to. My grandma’s sister, Mary. Grandma didn’t get along with her very well so we never visited much. I know where the Palisades are, though, and if there is something there, it would actually be a great place for a haunting. There is running water in the river, 400-foot-tall granite cliffs that form the Palisades, and all the iron that’s supposedly there. Sounds like the perfect setup for a residual haunting if you subscribe to the theory that they’re just playbacks of events or imprints on the environment instead of being actual ghosts or spirits. Cassette tape is made of ferrous material, you know. Maybe that’s what they’re getting.” Eileen paused a moment. “I don’t know. I always believed that residuals were actual ghosts who are suffering from a type of spiritual dementia or something. Anyway, I’m going up this weekend, scouting and the folded drawings. She kicked off her shoes, put her lemonade on the end table, and took out the first drawing to examine it more closely. It was signed with her name and the number 3 next to it, which Rose figured was her age at the time she did the drawing. It was little more than scribbling, but she could make out a brown box that looked like a trunk of some sort with yellow hasps on it. The box had C.A.H. scrawled on it. Her orange, striped cat jumped up on the couch next to her and she looked at him. “C.A.H.? Catherine Anne Hughes?” As soon as she said the words, a shiver telegraphed through her spine, and she knew she was right. Her mind suddenly hit on a childhood dream. It was a big prairie with only one tree that could’ve been upwards of 10 miles away. The sky was huge, and in the east, a thick blanket of nearly black clouds rolled and tumbled over each other, silent lightning flashing in its middle, heading in her direction. The only cover would be underneath the wagon. “Set the brakes!” she heard someone Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 11 2nd Annual Short Story Contest yelling over the wind that kicked up. She dove under the wagon and saw hands throwing blocks of wood under the front wagon wheels and boots wedging them in so the wheels couldn’t turn if the oxen got scared and bolted. Somehow Rose knew for certain that it was Kansas. She stared at her cat. “I’ve never been to Kansas in my life! What the hell’s going on here, Jack?” Jack meowed and Rose looked at another picture. This time, it was a drawing of simple blue squiggles, like a child would draw to represent water, and it had a stick figure lying on it. Or rather, the figure was floating. The stick figure had purple dots covering its shoulders, neck, and head. Rose didn’t quite grasp the meaning of the pictures, so she went back to the log book. lemonade. As she opened the refrigerator, her phone rang. It was Eileen again. “What’s up?” “Mary is a common name, right?” “Yeah.” Rose wondered where Eileen was going with this. She refilled her glass, picked it up, and leaned a hip against the counter as she listened. A hanging polished copper pot reflected her image. “Well, you told me your grandma’s sister was Mary. Was she Mary Brito?” June 9, 1977 Rose keeps having nightmares. She screams, “Can’t breathe!” and “Let me up!” Mostly, though, she yells “Owie!” like she’s in pain. But I keep checking her, and she never has any cuts, bruises, or anything like that. She also keeps burbling about a road to Santa Fe and someone named “Cap’n Webberby.” Weatherly? Webberly? Weverlee? Weatherby? Sometimes I catch her when she’s not awake yet and she’s making gurgling noises in her throat. When she wakes up, she cries about being “under the water” and “can’t touch the sky.” She also keeps mentioning “Katie Ann” or maybe Catherine Anne. The last name made Rose’s heart pound. She looked at her cat, “Weatherby? That’s the name of the guy who led Catherine’s wagon train!” Then, she asked him her more pertinent question, “If all this happened to me, how come I can’t remember much of it?” He only swished his tail against her legs and purred. Rose got up for another glass of 12 “Hey! Are you all right? What’s going on?” Eileen’s voice held a note of concern and guilt, probably assuming that her information about the modern monument shook Rose. “I’m good,” Rose lied, her voice shaking slightly. She didn’t know herself what was going on and didn’t know how to explain to Eileen that her world was turning upside down in one afternoon. “Just dropped some lemonade. Hate to cut this short, but I need to go clean it up and feed Jack. See you tomorrow?” “Bright and early at 7.” “Right.” “Bye.” Rose did her chores and returned to the journal, pieces of the puzzle starting to fit together from it, the drawings, and her own childhood impressions coming back a little at a time. July 14, 1977 “How’d you know?” “Why’d she donate the Palisades memorial?” Rose stopped short and paused. “I didn’t even know she did. When?” “1978.” Rose’s brown-haired, blackeyed reflection in the copper pan turned to honey blonde, gray-eyed, and nothing like her own features, yet they were so familiar. It was Catherine again! Rose’s glass slipped from her hand and shattered on the kitchen floor. Pete and I took Rose to the museum today. They had an exhibit on “The Santa Fe Trail.” Rose knew all the various parts of a wagon and could tell the difference between four or five kinds of wagons! She even knew details about cooking in a Dutch oven. I didn’t even know that until today! How could she possibly know all that? The only television we watch is “Sesame Street!” The more I dig into the cause of Rose’s nightmares, the stranger things get. I talk to Norman regularly, and he keeps advising Pete and myself to continue following where this leads. This is a strange journey that’s nudging me down a road I surely don’t want to go and wouldn’t if it weren’t for Rose. Rose saw the date on the next entry and wondered why there was such a huge time gap in between the entries. April 30, 1978 Pete took Rose to the zoo, and I Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 took the time to go to the Special Collections section of the library, though I didn’t know what I was looking for specifically. I remembered all the things Rose said and thought maybe she was talking about a certain wagon train since she seems fascinated by them and a road to Santa Fe. About noon, I came across a book that included men’s diary entries from the Santa Fe Trail. One was from a man who led a wagon train in 1865 — one Captain W.M.H. Weatherby. On June 6, 1865, he wrote, “We are encamped near the lovely village of Cimarron [New Mexico] and are waiting for our wagon repairs to be done and fresh supplies to be procured so we can make our final push to Santa Fe. It being a glorious day with nary a prospect of rain, a number of our party set out into the canyon to try our hand at fishing for the trout that is said to be plentiful in the waters in this country. Mrs. Hughes, having attended to her own duties already, packed us a superb cold chicken lunch and accompanied us. Unfortunately, fate is rarely kind, as Mrs. Hughes perished today. No one saw what happened. Apparently, she slipped on the riverbank, hit her head on a rock, and drowned. The company decided to erect a memorial on the morrow.” I found a picture of Catherine Anne Hughes in the book. She must be the woman Rose is dreaming of. It was noted that she was sometimes called Katie Anne, and on the picture Rose drew, it has the letters C.A.H. I also found a picture of W.M.H. Weatherby. Rose wondered where Captain Weatherby’s picture was. She turned the journal upside down and flipped the pages rapidly. An old paper folded in quarters fluttered out. She opened it and her heart lurched in some forgotten fear when she saw Captain Weatherby. He was a bear of a middle-aged man. He wore fringed buckskin trousers and boots, a linen shirt, a leather vest, regular belt, and a gun belt that held extra ammunition and two pearl-handled revolvers. He was every bit what Rose imagined a Western man should look like, except for his fancy, funny little top hat with a feather in the side band. Rose finished reading, her guts now completely in knots because she remembered the rest. truck, Eileen rejoined Rose and gave her opinion. “Sounds like a residual haunting to me.” “Yeah.” Rose hadn’t told Eileen anything, though she was going to give Eileen the log book to read that night. “EMF won’t work well here because of the water. EVP?” “River might be too loud. I —” A shriek cut Rose off. Both women turned and froze. A couple dressed in mid-1800s clothing stood on the riverbank. Rose recog- Rose keeps having nightmares. She screams, “Can’t breathe!” May 1, 1978 Pete, Norman, and I talked and it looks like Norman guessed right a long time ago. Rose is the reincarnation of Catherine Anne Hughes. We explained to her that she is now Rose Miller, and it’s okay to let go of Catherine. April 5, 1979 Rose seems to have forgotten almost everything now, but I can’t help feeling we missed something. Sometimes, phantom pain wakes her up, but she’ll roll over and go back to sleep. ***** The last log entry ran through Rose’s mind the next morning as Eileen and the witness climbed back up the bank to the roadside. Rose watched them talk while she focused on her own feelings for a moment. She wasn’t sure how she felt about being at the site where Catherine died, especially since she wasn’t clear at the moment which woman she was, Catherine or Rose. As the witness drove off in her nized them, and she felt like she was face-to-face with her own ghost. It was obvious they had been fighting about something. The man suddenly attacked and beat the woman around her shoulders, neck, and head until she sank to her knees in the river. One more solid smack to her jaw sent her flying across a pile of rocks where she hit her head and lay barely moving. Panic quickly replaced the man’s rage, and he grabbed the stunned woman and forced her head underwater until she stopped thrashing and finally drowned. Rose shook as her soul’s memory absorbed each blow again and recalled the horror of drowning. She shouted at Weatherby, “You son of a bitch!” He didn’t see her. “What?!” Eileen gasped as the violent images neared their end. Rose grabbed the log book from her jacket pocket and thrust it at Eileen without looking away from Weatherby. She screamed at his fading form. “You son of a bitch! You killed me!” Rose fell to her knees and cried. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 13 2nd Annual Short Story Contest The Turn of a Friendly Card By Richard T. Tingle (3rd-Place Winner) T here was silence throughout the convention center’s exhibition hall, despite all the seats being fill by a hundred or so skeptics and a hand full of ‘believers.’ All their eyes were focused on a woman sitting to the side of a table on the main stage. On the other side of the table sat a man in a sports coat, waiting. The woman’s eyes remained closed for several long moments. One hand was over the envelope a few inches, her other arm propped by her elbow on the table, fingers massaging her forehead. Her mouth would open several times, but nothing would come from her lips. She would slightly shake her head, and then nothing again. There was a cough and a soft, “Excuse me.” Then a sneeze. Loudly someone said, this was “a joke.” A murmur started over the 14 crowd, and it was clear they were getting restless. A bald-headed gentleman, the moderator and head of the Skeptic’s Foundation, held his hand out to signal silence. Though his gray bushy eyebrows, hawk-like nose, and piercing blue-eyed gaze would make one think it was a harsh commanded, it was clear it was a kind respect and influence he held over the crowd as they became silent once more with a slow motion of his hand to quiet themselves. The woman was simply dressed with a white blouse and blue slacks; she wore no jewelry of any kind. Modest is how one would best describe her and not as what one would have called a gypsy, despite her long dark hair and dark eyes. She was not what the Skeptic’s Foundation had expected. Of the 30 years the Foundation had presented their challenge to prove the supernatural — of any kind — there had never been one to accept. Until she had come along. To their amazement, they were surprised she had accepted their challenge to all their conditions. She was confident about her abilities, but didn’t brag. She was disappointed the challenge was set several months in advance, but was appreciative they had paid for her airfare and footed the bill for her stay at the hotel hosting the convention. The Foundation had reason to set the challenge several months ahead of time, other than to make it the date of the convention and one of the main selling points — that some- Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 one had finally accepted the challenge, and they would witness it live. They took the time to look into the woman, research and background checks amongst other things. Michael Craig, the foundation’s head, found it hard to believe that they couldn’t find any history on the woman. Nothing out of the ordinary. No arrest record. No work of any type relating to her ‘gifts.’ She seemed to be a woman of no special interest, which made her all the more interesting to the Foundation and Michael himself. “The Mysterious Michael” Craig had entertained for more than 40 years as a magician and spent the last 20 as a skeptic debunking psychics and other scam artists of the ilk. While he had plenty of associates, compatriots, allies, and friends, he had made his fair share of enemies as well. Many had been exposed and embarrassed by him personally. While he was no longer able to do so, a select few followed in his Foundation’s name, some magicians and other critical thinkers. He was sure there was an ‘angle’ somewhere with this woman, but he couldn’t find it. The alternative to what he believed was the truth was inconceivable. Across from the woman sat Bernie Bannock, one of the magicians who had joined Michael in the exposure of those who would pull style magician with a heart — the kind of guy who would pick-pocket your wallet, only to slip it somewhere else on your body. His everpresent smile was gone, however, as he watched over the woman intently, waiting for something, anything, to happen. To the side of the stage and at an angle was a long table, where Michael and the others speaking at the convention sat. A long-standing comedic magician duo sat at the table watching the woman for any funny movements. Next to them sat a critical thinker who had hosted a program from the Science & Discovery Channel. At the end of the table sat an investigative reporter who had been a part of a few staged crackdowns on psychics. He was known as a flim-flam-style magician with a heart. the wool over another’s eyes. He had become Michael’s right-hand man in the foundation and was often seen as the more lighthearted of the two, quick with a joke and some silly trick. He was known as a flim-flam- The woman finally opened her eyes and with great certainty said, “3 of Clubs.” A laughter came across the crowd. “I told you it was a joke,” came a voice from deep in the crowd along with some snickers and a laughter. Looks of confusion were exchanged by the panelists and audience alike. Bernie Bannock looked at the woman as she repeated herself and pointed at the envelope, “3 of Clubs.” A smile came out the side of his face. “OK, if you say so.” He grabbed the three envelopes that were in front of her and started to open the first one. ***** Michael dabbed his bald forehead with a handkerchief. “Well, it’s a good thing the money is safe.” A small chuckle circled amongst the friends gathered in the back dressing room of the convention center. Bernie took off his jacket and hung it on the hanger on the back of the door. On his right forearm was a contraption with an extending appendage. On his left bicep was a black armband with a cord of rubber and a clip attached. From the clip he pulled off three cards and tossed them on the desk. Bernie turned to Michael, “Did you ever really believe she had a chance?” Michael pointed at the contraption on his arm, “Is that a . . .” “A hold out device?” Bernie nodded. “Just like the gambler used back in the day. Well-designed too, to be hidden by the cuffs.” Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 15 2nd Annual Short Story Contest Michael arched an eyebrow, “And?” Bernie pulled the black band off his left arm, “A beanshooter.” “Not one, but two gimmicks. I’m impressed.” Bernie held up his hand and wiggled his ring finger, “Don’t forget this.” On the bottom of the ring’s band was a hook bent to the palm. “3 gimmicks?” Michael laughed, “She honestly didn’t have a chance.” Bernie smiled, “I can palm cards just fine, but this lil’ dandy enables me to use my fingers while palming the card.” “All the same Bernie, you carried out the job flawlessly.” “And what of her now, Michael?” Michael sighed and patted his friend on the back. “Well, she was never in it for the money. We can’t let ourselves feel guilty for denying her the money.” “But . . .” Bernie tried to interrupt. Michael looked Bernie in the eyes and took a moment to put his words together. He wanted to reas- 16 sure Bernie they had done the right thing. There was no doubt they had in Michael’s mind. “Don’t be foolish Bernie; it’s not about the money. Never has been. Never will be. It’s about a secret.” Bernie shook his head, “Is it possible . . .” “It’s not about being possible.” Michael firmly said. “It’s not. It’s very much about protecting people from themselves.” Looking around the room, Michael waved his hand in a circular motion, signaling the rest of the world, and dismissed it all with a flick of his wrist as he fell into a recliner. “Think about it Bernie,” he said as he pointed to a stack of newspapers on a small round table next to him and to a TV that sat on a counter in front of him. “The commercials on TV and ads in the paper for psychic advice. People who claim they can talk to your departed loved ones. It’s even out in the open, on a corner storefront. People are too susceptible to the frauds out there.” As usual, Michael was right, and Bernie saw the point he was going to make before he even was going to make it. “Now that’s the cheats out there.” Michael paused so that Bernie would let it sink in. “Now imagine if those people knew magic was real, the scammers or the marks.” Bernie nodded. “It’s about protecting people from themselves and others.” Michael nodded and pointed to his head. “In all this time, tricks and devices weren’t made to perform magic. They were made to hide the real magic, the secret.” His fingers tapped the cards on the table. Bernie wondered if there ever would be a time when the truth could be told. His fingertips squared the cards all together and he flipped them over and spread them out. They were all the 3 of Clubs. ***** Bernie took the first envelope and sliced it open with an ornate letter opener. With his right hand he held the envelope open. He slowly reached in with his left hand and clipped the card. Without anyone knowing the better, the card slipped out of the envelope and up his sleeve. He shifted his body slightly and straightened out his right arm as he held the envelope in it. Without a sound, the holdout device slid the other card, unseen, partially into the envelope. Bernie took the card out and paused a moment. He laid the card out on top of the envelope. “Ma’am, you predicted this card to be the 3 of Clubs. I’m sorry, this is the 5 of Diamonds.” Two more times he announced her prediction, the 3 of Clubs. He repeated his motions each time as he spirited the selected card up his sleeve, then secreted the other card into the envelope. He would announce the card pulled from the envelope and with a flick of the left wrist and a straightening of the right arm he would keep the secret. Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 HOPE� TO FIND A CURE.� TO FIND A BETTER WAY.� TO HELP ONE VICTIM.� TO NOT FEEL ALONE.� TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE.� TO INSPIRE & HEAL.� DONATE� &� GIVE HOPE!� Stomp Out Cancer, Inc.Đ StompOutCancer.comĐ P.O. Box 117Đ Fairdale, Kentucky 40118Đ Info@stompoutcancer.comĐ www.stompoutcancer.comĐ Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 17 2nd Annual Short Story Contest The Neighbor’s Kids By Norcalmonkey67 (Editor’s Choice) L ike most kids growing up, I dreaded the monthly visits to the grandparents over in Palmyra, especially during the summer. My father’s parents were very sweet people but didn’t have air conditioning. The family had volunteered to help with the expense, but, apparently, the painful bursitis my grandmother suffered was only aggravated by the cold. So instead they had strategically placed oscillating fans, catching almost non-existent breezes, pushing the humid air around the small living room. The torture of the visit was made complete by the consistently ill-fitting ‘nice’ clothes I was forced to wear and being wedged uncomfortably between my Mom and Dad on what could be best described as the smallest clear-plasticencased love seat available from the Marquis de Sade’s town and country collection. The couch had long since been overrun by years of commemorative doll and ornate pillow collecting. Sitting there sweating, as ‘adult talk’ swirled around me, my mind would drift and carry me out those windows to the street to join the neighborhood kids in a heated game of stick ball or kick the can, the sounds of their playing and laughter wafting in, mocking me maliciously. At these times, a slight elbow jab from either of my parents would snap me back to the visit. I would look awkwardly around to see 18 what had happened, and usually the kindly face of my grandmother would ask (clearly again) if I was looking forward to school starting up in the fall. I would apologize for spacing out, shrug, and give my usual “not really” answer. It was the same visit every time we went. ***** Finally, on an especially hot and humid visit day, I got a double reprieve. First, I could wear my normal ‘play’ clothes (cut-offs, chucks, and a tank top) and actually go outside. The only caveat being I had to remain within sight of the house and outdoors. Delighted at this turn of good fortune, I bounded out the front door and promptly scanned the streets looking for some possible cohorts in crime and mischief. Naturally, the one day I received the ‘get out of jail free pass’ and it appeared as if there wasn’t anyone around. Far off in the distance, I heard the faint sounds of splashing. Most, if not all, of the neighborhood kids had gone a few blocks away to the public pool. Sighing heavily, I plopped down on the lush front lawn of my grandparents’ home and watched the massive cars with huge white-walled tires lumbering down the street. I laid back leisurely and closed my eyes in the shade provided by a large maple tree and enjoyed the summer noise reaching my ears. The background sounds of someone preparing Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 food on a wooden cutting board, the hiss of an outdoor grill, the symphonic drone of multiple law mowers, buzzing insects, and a pastiche of music from various artists, including Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Four Seasons and some brand new band from England called the Beatles. The scent of honeysuckle washing over me combined with everything else created such an intoxicating effect that I almost didn’t hear my name being called softly. After what must have been the fourth time, I sat up quickly and turned toward the front door of the house. There was no one there, but I could see my parents seated around the kitchen table speaking in hushed tones and wearing somber expressions. I shrugged and laid back down, only to hear my name called again. I sat up quickly and shielded my eyes against the dappled sunlight penetrating the maple tree and scanned the nearby houses. It was then that I saw some movement coming from a fenced-in yard a couple of properties up from where I was seated. There was a girl about my age, wearing a yellow dress with matching bow in her dark hair. I wandered up the sidewalk toward her, stopping in front of her house. The home was hard to see as there weren’t too many trees and the sunlight was blinding. A tall, iron clothespin fence separated us as we spoke. Her playful eyes searching my own as I asked how she knew my name. She said that she’d overheard my grandparents greeting me at the door one day. She continued by asking if I’d like to come in and check out her new swing set. I looked back at my grandparents’ house and realized it would be okay. I was outdoors and still in view of the house. I opened the gate and followed her to the swings. She told me her name was Melanie and it was her birthday. She and her brother, Francis, were waiting for their father to come home from work so they could have dinner and then begin the party. Her father had promised her a big surprise for her seventh birthday. Lucky 7, she said as she began swinging. I sat on the swing next to her, and when I looked out toward the street, I noticed a boy much younger then us sitting on the ground and staring quietly at us — blankly. When the girl noticed, she piped up happily, “Oh, that’s Francis over there. Do you see him?” I said I could and waved to him. If he noticed, I couldn’t say for sure, but it seemed as if he split his time between staring at us and glancing at the house. We swung for a little while until I noticed Francis rise, dust himself off, and walk into the house. I stopped swinging and said to Melanie, “Is he okay? He seems very quiet for a kid his age. She stopped swinging as well and said that their father often would be upset at night when he came home from work. Francis didn’t speak too much anymore and almost never when their father was around. Long shadows began to creep across the yard toward the swing set, and the sound of a door slamming from the direction of the house prompted Melanie to stand up. I heard a loud metallic clank and was shocked to find myself in a big heap on the ground covered in a length of dirty, old chain. I looked around to see what had happened and noticed that I was sitting on a rusted-out swing, with broken chain links partially attached to the crossbeam overhead. The far side a-frame was bending precariously under my weight, and my name was being yelled by numerous voices. Stunned, I ran to the gate and with some effort opened it and dashed back up the street to my grandparents’ house. ***** My parents and grandparents were in different places calling my name, looking around frantically. Upon spotting me, my mother called, “I got him. Here he is!” She rushed over and grabbed me firmly by my arm and asked where I’d been. “We’ve been calling you for almost an hour.” I pointed over my shoulder and said I’d been hanging around with Melanie and Francis down the street. “It’s her birthday,” I said. My mom looked over my shoulder and then dragged me back to the front lawn. “You stay here and don’t move.” She went over to my father and grandparents and told them what I almost didn’t hear my name being called softly. I sat up quickly. There was no one there. “Edward, I’m going to have to leave now. It’s almost time for things to get started! I hope to see you again soon!” She smiled and waved at me before turning the corner of the house, heading for the front door. As she disappeared from my sight, I’d said. Both grandparents looked visibly shaken, and the adults quickly reconvened in the house. Ten minutes later, we left. When we passed Melanie’s house, I noticed all the windows were boarded up and the yard was wild Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 19 2nd Annual Short Story Contest and unkempt. Not another word was ever spoken about the incident. Anytime I attempted to bring it up to my father, he’d silently mime at me his finger to his lips like shhh, pointed at my mother, and shake his head no. When alone with my Dad, he’d dismiss all talk on the subject immediately and say perhaps when you’re older. ***** I was never exactly sure what happened that day, but it seemed like my grandparents were coming to our house only for holidays and special events from then on. When I was 12, my grandparents passed. Grandpa Paul went first. He was 75, a war veteran, and formerly a heavy smoker. I never knew him when he smoked, but most said it was a miracle he’d lasted as long as he had. Grandma Leona passed not too long after Grandpa. The family said they’d grown up in the same neighborhood and were childhood sweethearts. It made the passing easier to think this life-long love wasn’t going to end here. They had Grandma’s post-burial get together at their old house, and it was the first time I’d been there since meeting Melanie and her brother. I walked up the street to the boarded up and derelict house, still unsure of what had transpired that fateful day almost five years ago. ***** I could hear footsteps approaching me from behind and turned to see my father standing there gazing at the old house. He wore a faraway look, his eyes unfocused, and asked if Melanie had been wearing her yellow dress and bow. Completely thunderstruck, I exclaimed, “Yes, she had . . . how did you . . .” He raised his hand to slow me down/silence me and then asked 20 if Francis spoke to me at all. I told him, “No, he moved his head back and forth like watching a really slow constant tennis volley. He watched me, then the house, back and forth.” My dad nodded knowingly. As he continued looking at the abandoned property, he began to speak so quietly I had to lean forward to catch everything he was saying. He began slowly by saying that he had been about seven when he first met the Turners. Mr. Turner was a giant, quiet man with huge hands, and his wife was a pretty, dark-haired woman with a kindly but detached demeanor. Apparently, they’d moved from Burlington to be closer to Mr. Turner’s job in Philadelphia. There used to be a ferry that would carry people from Palmyra over the Delaware River to the city; it’s how most in the neighborhood got to work in those days. He went on to say that he had been quite friendly with Francis and Melanie Turner, and she often wore the yellow outfit for special occasions. Taking a very deep breath, my father continued to say that Mr. Turner seemed incapable of holding a job for any length of time. Their parents seemed to argue nightly. It appeared that Mrs. Turner hated being separated from her family and familiar surrounding up in Burlington. Mr. Turner had worn out his welcome there and felt it best to move on. Almost 40 years ago, on Melanie’s seventh birthday, her father came home from work in a blind rage after being fired again. When he got home and told his wife what had happened, a huge fight ensued. When the dust had settled, Mr. Turner had killed the entire family with his bare hands, and overcome with guilt, hung himself. He turned, placed his hands gently on my shoulders, and as his eyes pierced my own he said, “Edward, I can still see them.” Astounded by this revelation, I asked my father how long this had been going on, and he said they reappeared about the time of the first anniversary of their death and sort of stayed for good. He said the property had remained vacant all this time. A few people had attempted to move in over the years, but it never lasted long. He said that he never forgot his old friend and missed her sometimes, but was relieved to see she appeared happy. “When we drive past the house, I can see them in the yard, and she always waves to me as I pass by.” “What about Mom? Does she know?” I sputtered. My Dad looked at me with a bemused look on his face but with a hint of a sad smile. “No. She knows the story, of course, but not the extra details. Edward, I’d like to keep it that way. You know how Mom can get. I want you to promise me to keep it our little secret okay?” “I promise Dad.” He put his arm around me and we both looked at the property. In the back of the lot the swing set was awash in brilliant sunlight and seemingly brand new. Upon the swings sat Melanie and Francis. She waved and he nodded before beginning to swing. As we watched, a fluffy cloud obscured the sun, the two children disappeared, and the shadows now cast revealed the dilapidated swing set in its true form — old, rusted, but not forgotten. Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Ghost Knight Media, LLC Are you an author, paranormal group, event planner, or documentary filmmaker looking to promote your book, event, Website, or media project? If so, Ghost Knight Media can help! Our services include: • Editing • Writing • Art Design • Promotion • Production Let us help you tell your story or promote your event, Website, or media project. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground www.ghostknightmedia.com 21 2nd Annual Short Story Contest Whisper . . . “Thank You” By Jon K.C. Kinstley (Editor’s Choice) H ave you ever had a motor talk to you? Have you ever looked at a cold, unused relic of automotive engineering and heard it whisper? I ran across an old 283 small block Chevy motor back in the early part of 2004. The small block was in the corner of a local asphalt track racers shop. I inquired as to its availability and was informed that it was currently for sale. I loaded it in the back of my old Dodge and took it away right then. Over the next few months, I tore it down to see exactly what the roundy racers had changed to obtain the unnaturally high RPMs the little motor was capable of. Little did I know but I was in on the cusp of my first paranormal experience. ***** After reassembling the little motor, plus a few internal personal touches, I ran across an old metric-bodied Oldsmobile for real cheap . . . and it whispered to me . . . “Thank you.” That whisper told me that it weighed too much and needed to be lightened and repowered. I started by removing the engine and every marketable 22 amenity that made it a passenger car worth owning. The AC, instrument cluster, power steering, and any wire not terminated at an outside light or the ignition system. Once the weight had been trimmed to an acceptable level, the little Olds whispered . . . “Thank you.” The fun started the same night the evaporative box under the hood came out. After fabricating a cover plate to fill this huge hole in the firewall, insomnia kicked in as the little 283 was lowered into place. The next few weeks were spent guessing at how fast the little motor would actually push a near stock ’80s Oldsmobile with a metric 200 trans- mission and a stock rear end. Exhaust and finishing touches were even more satisfying after the little motor barked to life one night at 3 a.m. A box full of leftover gauges, tachometer, and speedometer were fitted into the remnants of the dash. A set of old 15-inch full disc covers were fastened to the 15-inch wheels and a test drive was in order. I drove the Olds around the block a few times to set timing and tweak the carburetor to where it needed to be. After the test, it was late and I needed rest; not the car, so I said, “Thank you.” Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 ***** The next few weeks were a blur of family events and honey do’s to make up for the month that I had disappeared for no explainable reason. After an evening in the shop cleaning the mechanical mess from the benches and floor, I looked at the wall clock and it was well after 2 a.m. I was going to shut off the lights when the car whispered to me . . . “Let’s go now.” I pushed the Olds from the garage so as not to wake my pregnant wife. I started the car at the base of the drive, and I headed for an allnight convenience store gas pump. After buying $10 worth of 93 octane fuel, I figured it was time to stretch it out and see if there was a voice to put with the whispers. I found myself outside of town a couple of miles when I edged onto the go pedal. Nothing serious at first, I only wanted to warm the little car up a little. The next lights were a church almost five miles away in the next little town. This is when I had to know. I buried the foot feet to what was left of the old red, stained carpet and watched the needle on the tachometer slowly climb to the 9,000 mark. To my utter amazement the needle on the speedometer climbed as well. It was for sure no Bonneville run that evening, but the ticket would have been jail time and a fine for sure. blurry speed. I was alone on the road, and I could have sworn I heard the car whisper . . . “Thank you!” I never heard the voice of the car, and I don’t really know what I expected the Olds to say for that matter. The reason I think I wasn’t scared of the whispers was the fact that they were so serene and appreciative. The Olds sat in a corner of my shop for years afterward — covered with dust and neglected with excuses. I would stop and stare at the car some days waiting for another whisper. The whispers never happened again. I was going to shut off the lights when the car whispered to me . . . “Let’s go now.” I’ll never forget the sound of that little 283 turning at such a dizzy speed, the feel of the wind roaring into the driver side window, or the sound of the gear drive when I decided to coast back to a less-than- As more time passed, components of the car became useful on other projects or as trading material. Every time I would begin to cleave the Olds closer to its frame, I would strain to hear a whisper or anything that would stop me from vanishing its memories. ***** I never knew the history of the little car or where its last remnants were laid to rest. No piece of machinery has whispered to me either before or since the little Olds. Could it have been my mind? Does an inanimate piece of machinery have a soul? I have created countless, garage-born, mechanized wonders, but to date the only one that whispered to me was the little Olds. I could try to recreate the Olds and reclaim the magic of a whispering machine. My better judgment tells me to enjoy the memory and take comfort in that. Answers aren’t always what we really want in life. The little car taught me that, sometimes, listening is its own reward, and, sometimes, just letting mysteries lie is a good idea. Perhaps someday, though, when I am just listening, I will hear another whisper . . . I wonder what it will say. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 23 2nd Annual Short Story Contest Flowers on a Grave By Heidi Ann (Editor’s Choice) T he tires crunch over the gravel as the car slowly makes its way up the narrow lane of the cemetery. The car pulls to a stop near the back of St. Julian’s. Hannah Day puts the car into park and looks out the passenger window toward the rows of stones. A tear begins to run down her cheek. She shuts the car off, bringing a sudden silence to her ears. Sitting there, she stares off into space until the sound of another car traveling on the adjacent lane brings her back. Slowly opening the car door, Hannah is immediately assaulted by the hot, humid August air, so strong it momentarily takes her breath away. As she climbs out of the car, the sweat is already beading up on her neck. Hannah looks up and watches as the other car heads out onto the main road. She is the only person in the small secluded cemetery. Hannah slowly walks into the rows of stones. Four rows back she finds what she came for. She looks down at the small flat stone engraved with the image of a baby and the name Melissa Day. Hannah’s darling little girl had only lived two days. She would have been 10 today. This pilgrimage never got any easier. The pain and sadness were as strong now as they were the day she passed. 24 Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Lowering down to her knees, Hannah begins pulling the grass and weeds that are overgrowing the stone. She wipes the dirt out of the letters of her precious angel’s name. She wipes her dirt-covered hands on the grass . . . to no avail. She looks across the lot to the water spigot on the other side. Slowly rising, she heads toward the water. The humidity is so oppressive that her shirt is already clinging to her body, and the sweat is rolling down her face, stinging her eyes. Hannah reaches the spigot and tries to turn it on. Her hand is sweaty and it slips as she tries to turn the rusty handle. She dries her hand on the side of her shorts and tries again. It doesn’t turn easily, but finally it moves just enough to get a slow trickle of water. She rubs her hands under the slow trickle and realizes she has nothing to clean them with. With a sigh, Hannah uses the bottom of her shirt to scrub the dirt off her hands. After turning the spigot off, she heads back across the lot to her daughter’s grave. ***** Hannah stopped bringing flowers on Melissa’s birthday a couple years earlier. The thought of the flowers just sitting there in the blazing summer sun, wilting away, always seemed like such a waste. It wasn’t like Melissa cared one way or the other. Hannah wasn’t sure what happened after death, but she was sure that whatever did happen, flowers on a grave made no difference. As Hannah reaches her daughter’s grave, she sees a single, pink rose lying on the stone. She looks around to see who could have left it, but she’s still alone in the cemetery. The only sound she hears comes from a Blue Jay calling from a tree. Hannah’s heart pounds faster, and the sweat running down her back turns ice cold. She scans the cemetery again. Then she looks toward the woods that create the back border of St. Julian’s. Someone must have come out of the woods, left the A sound catches Hannah’s attention. She looks in her rear view mirror as an older sedan comes slowly up the lane behind her. It stops a few feet behind her car. She watches as an old woman with a cane slowly exits the vehicle and hobbles around to the passenger door. Hannah sees a single, pink rose lying on the stone. flower, and then gone back into the woods while she was washing her hands. The Blue Jay suddenly calls out again, causing Hannah to jump. With nerves frazzled and legs shaking, she squats down, kisses her fingers, and rests them on Melissa’s stone. “Happy Birthday sweet baby girl,” she says out loud. The sound of her own voice startles her. It sounds so foreign, so nervous. She stands up and walks quickly back to her car, keeping an eye on the woods. As Hannah closes the car door and settles back into the driver’s seat, she realizes she was holding her breath and let out a long sigh. With her eyes focusing on the treeline, she fumbles for the key still in the ignition. She gets her hand on it and turns. The radio blares to life along with the engine. The air from the AC blasts Hannah’s face, and her heart begins to slow down to a steady pace. She takes a deep, calming breath. “This is stupid. Obviously someone came and laid the flower there. It didn’t just appear out of nowhere.” She glances anxiously back in the direction of Melissa’s stone. ***** Hannah sees her trying to get something out of the car, but she’s struggling. Forgetting her fear, she turns off her car and goes to help the old women. “Excuse me, do you need any help?” Hannah asks, realizing she must be quite a site, drenched in sweat with dirt all over her shirt. The old woman looks up from her car, stares at her for a second or two, and then smiles, “Oh dear, that would be so nice. I’m trying to get this plant out.” Hannah walks over to the woman’s car and sees a lovely potted orchid sitting on the front seat. “It’s for my husband Walter. He died in 1988. Heart attack. I still miss him,” the old woman says sadly. “I’m sorry,” Hannah replies. The woman looks at her for a moment, then replies, “Thank you dear.” Hannah reaches in the car and lifts out the plant. The old woman is already heading into the sea of stones. “This way,” she calls back. Hannah follows quietly as they work their way several rows back until they come to a large stone engraved WILLIAMS. She sees Walter J. May 4, 1924 - January 16, 1988. Next to that is Rosemary I. Kinley November 12, 1926 - . Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 25 2nd Annual Short Story Contest Hannah glances at Rosemary who is talking quietly to herself . . . or to Walter. She suddenly looks over at Hannah startled, as if she had forgotten she was there. “Where would you like me to put the plant?” Hannah asks. “Just set it in front of the stone, would you please.” “Is today your anniversary?” Hannah asks as she sets the plant down. Rosemary looks at Hannah with a peculiar expression before answering. “No, my anniversary is in June. Why do you ask?” “Well, I just noticed that it’s not your husband’s birthday or the date he died, so I figured there must be a reason for the flowers, that’s all.” “Oh, I bring Walter an orchid every month,” Rosemary responds. “He must have really loved orchids,” Hannah says. Rosemary begins to chuckle. “Of 26 course not deary; he hated flowers.” Hannah looks at Rosemary, the confusion written across her face. Rosemary explains, “When we put flowers on a grave, it’s for the living not the deceased. It’s to make us feel better. Orchids are MY favorite flower. Seeing them here makes me smile, even in my sadness, and I know Walter would want me to be happy.” Flowers on a grave are for the living. Hannah smiles at the old women. “Dear, it’s so hot. I have to get back to my car,” Rosemary suddenly announces. “Let me help you,” Hannah says, taking Rosemary’s arm and helping her back through the stones to her car. She watches Rosemary get into her driver’s seat safely. As Hannah shuts the door, the window glides down. “Thank you so much for your help dear. It was very kind of you,” Rosemary says. “You’re welcome, it was my pleasure,” Hannah replies. Rosemary smiles at her, “You are very sweet. So tell me, what is your favorite flower?” “Roses,” Hannah says slowly, as a sudden wave of emotion hits her. “Roses are lovely,” Rosemary responds. “Don’t stay out in this heat too long dear.” The window glides back up, and the car jumps to life. Hannah watches as the car backs out onto the main road and drives off. Rosemary’s voice echoes in Hannah’s head. “Flowers on a grave are for the living . . . to make us feel better.” Hannah glances in the direction of Melissa’s grave. She wills herself to walk in that direction. Heartpoundingly harder with every step, it seems to take an eternity to reach the stone, when in fact it wasn’t even a minute. The pink rose is still lying there. She hadn’t imagined it. Hannah kneels down in front of the stone and reaches out cautiously, afraid to touch the flower. She hesitates for a moment and then picks it up. Hannah brings it to her nose and breaths in. The fragrance is strong and intoxicating, as if the rose was just clipped from the bush. As she glances down to the stone, her whole body freezes, and then she begins to sob. Tears pour down her face as she clutches the rose to her chest. Scrawled in the dirt below Melissa’s stone, in childlike writing, are three simple words — “Be happy mama.” Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 YOUR AD HERE! Advertise in Paranormal Underground 1-714-646-4197 (Karen Frazier) • • • • • • • Affordable Rates Target Audience Long-Term Exposure More than 3,625 readers per issue More than 20,320 Unique Page views per issue Our Website is viewed by 5,200+ visitors per month, with 48% of that being new traffic Our podcasts have an iTunes subscriber and listener base of 3,700+ individuals • Daily dynamic Website content For more information, contact Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 27 KarenFrazier@paranormalunderground.net 2nd Annual Short Story Contest The Escape By Ryan Tackitt (Editor’s Choice) “ Are we there yet?” Richie whined. “I don’t know. We’ll get there when we get there,” Jimmy answered. Bobby chuckled, “Are you getting scared yet, Richie?” “No, just shut up and let’s get this over with,” Richie replied. The three boys quickly trotted up the path. Just on the other side of the break in the trees stood an old abandoned house, an ancient mansion that sat on the property for close to 200 years. It belonged to James McCormick, former owner of McCormick mines, which closed down due to an unexplained explosion in 1923. Now, the derelict mansion was only visited by teenagers looking to prank younger kids. It was a rite of passage for kids to prove how brave they were by staying in the house all night. Most didn’t even make it to the front door before turning around and fleeing in fright. The house had an eerie sense of being haunted. For decades, kids relayed chilling stories of ghosts roaming the hallways looking for victims to drag into the basement. Despite all of this, no one had ever been reported missing from the area. ***** Tonight, dark clouds passed in front of the full moon, adding suspense to the atmosphere. The 28 boys wished the house didn’t look so eerie. Finally, as the house came into full view, the moon’s sharp outline of the house almost made it glow. All three boys stopped and stared for what felt like eternity. Bobby was the one to get the group moving again. Richie trailed behind just a few steps; he didn’t want the others to see the fear on his face. The boys walked up onto the porch and stopped at the door. Each looked at the other to see who would try the door knob. Jimmy finally took the handle in his hand, all the while hoping it was locked. The knob was cold and dusty, but it turned smoothly in Jimmy’s hand. The house seemed to be waiting for them. Pushing the door open was another matter. Jimmy had to thrust his shoulder into the door to get it to move. Leaves rustled from inside as the door swung open, and Jimmy carefully peeked his head inside and took a look around. As the three boys slowly walked into the foyer area, each pulled out their flashlight and clicked them on. A grandfather clock stood to one side; its last chime having been heard decades ago. An old painting hung on the wall above a broken table, but it was hard to make out a face on the dusty canvas. The three adventurers walked Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 on into the main room. The hardwood floor was dusty, and only prints of small rodents could be seen. No other human had stepped foot inside the creepy, old house in a very long time. ***** At the same time, all three sets of eyes fell upon the stairs. The staircase rose up with the majestic glory of days past. The three boys could imagine people dressed up for balls and other celebrations coming down the stairs as awaiting guests stared up at them. The boys began the long climb up, taking one step at a time, waiting for the creaks and moans that didn’t come. And as they came to the second floor, the friends looked around with wide eyes. All the rooms were in shambles and evidence of animal nests from the winter seasons were present. The trio spent little time searching the rooms before they realized they needed to continue upward. Richie inhaled deeply and took the first step. Bobby and Jimmy followed hesitantly. They were ready to start back down the stairs at the first sign of trouble. Reaching the landing of the third floor, the boys began looking around once more. They came to the last door on the east wing; Jimmy took the door handle and tried turning it. The big wooden door remained shut. Bobby looked around and found but managed to open the door about an inch. Bobby picked up the table and threw it again and again. Finally, the door was open enough that they could squeeze through it. Blocking the doorway was a four-poster bed. The boys looked around trying to figure out why it had been blocking the door. The window was still locked from the inside and intact. The other furniture was still in its regular place; a chair by the window and a large chest were by the closet. Bobby opened the closet half expecting a skeleton to pop out at him. Instead, his eyes settled on the chest. “Let’s open this chest so we can get outta here!” a small table that once held a vase. He picked it up and launched it at the door. The table bounced off the door This might contain something worth showing off once they were out of the house, he thought. “Hey, Jimmy, doesn’t this house still belong to your family?” asked Richie. “Yeah, but no one has lived here since the explosion in 1923,” replied Jimmy. “What explosion?” said Bobby? “Back in 1923, there was an explosion and several people died. No cause was ever found. Then more people in town died from horrible burns, but they weren’t near the mine when it exploded. It was like something burned them from the inside out. My great-great grandfather was the last to die here in the house. The deaths stopped after he died. A lot of people thought he had something to do with it since he wasn’t burned,” Jimmy said in a low voice. Jimmy found a place to sit down to finish the tale. He knew the others didn’t know about the story since they weren’t born in town. He had heard it so many times growing up, but he never had the chance to tell anyone until now. ***** Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 29 2nd Annual Short Story Contest “The government came in and did an investigation, but they couldn’t find out what caused the explosion. They finally ruled the cause as unknown. Some of the families sued my great grandparents for the deaths, so they didn’t have any more money to re-open the mine. It’s remained closed ever since then. It’s too dangerous for anyone to enter. “My family left the house as it stands and no one ever moved in. Matter of fact, I don’t think anyone ever come into this room since that day my great-great grandfather died; he was in the hallway outside this room. His grave is still outside in the family plot. He was the last to be buried there.” Jimmy finished his story and took a breath. His asthma was starting to act up, and he didn’t know if it was from the excitement or the dust. He took a puff of his inhaler and waited. The silence became unbearable and Richie was the first to break it. “Come on, then. Let’s open this chest so we can get outta here,” Richie said. “You got the key idiot?” asked Bobby. “No. Look around and see if 30 you can find anything to open it with,” Richie ordered. Bobby looked around the room but didn’t see anything. He quietly shock. He recovered quickly, and the boys looked inside the box. Nestled on a purple velvet pillow sat a small glass bottle with a wooden All three boys huddled around the chest, peeking inside as they slowly opened the lid. walked out of the room and came back a few minutes later with a hammer. Bobby began hitting the old lock with the hammer. After a dozen or so hits, the lock fell off the clasp. ***** All three boys huddled around the chest, peeking inside as they slowly opened the lid. Within the dark chest was a small wooden box with strange carvings and glyphs on it. Jimmy reached inside and picked up the box. It felt light and very cold despite the warm room. He handed it to Bobby. Bobby sat on the chair and placed the box in his lap. He studied it closer with his flashlight. There was no lock or anything on it, but he was still suspicious about opening it. Finally, he lifted the lid; a brief electrical charge hit him like a static cork plugging the opening. Inside the bottle looked like a blue fog swirling about. Bobby reached carefully and picked it up. He was expecting another shock but it never came. The boys sat there staring at it for several minutes when, suddenly, the lid on the chest slammed shut and a loud, booming voice cried out, “Run for your lives!” The boys didn’t have to be asked twice; they bolted out of the room as quickly as their legs would go. Bobby was last out the door with the corked bottle still in his hand. Richie and Jimmy were already down the stairs and out the door just as Bobby reached the last step. In his haste, he missed the step, causing him to stumble to his knees. The bottle flew down to the hard, dirty floor, breaking on impact — the blue fog disappearing into the air. Bobby gasped for a breath and got up to continue running. He remained several yards behind the others as they all ran from the property. Inside Bobby, the demon took residence. It had waited a long time to be free and finish his business that stopped abruptly decades ago. Surely no one would know how to recapture him; that secret died with the last man that tried. But just to be on the safe side, he’d bid his time a little longer. It rested and thought about what it was going to do this time — after all, the mine explosion was not much of a challenge. Something bigger and better would come to mind. Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Join our Forum Debates at Paranormal Underground www.paranormalunderground.net/site/forum/ Discussions include: Haunted Sites Cryptids UFOs Extraterrestrial Life Paranormal Media Special Fiction Contest Issue â€” December 2009 Paranormal Underground Paranormal Investigation 31 2nd Annual Short Story Contest A Haunt in Hiding By Regan Vacknitz (Editor’s Choice) G ator carried a wet grungy towel in her hand, periodically wiping down tables with it as she prepared to wind up her shift at the bar. She was the ripe age of 27, but the job had made her haggard to the point where she felt twice that age. Alli, or Gator as her friends had nicknamed her, had been slinging drinks, cleaning tables, and breaking up fights in The Speak Easy since she turned 21. That was her life, and had been since she arrived in Chicago. ***** Gator had tracked down The Speak Easy through stories she had heard as a child. Gia, Gator’s aunt, had worked as a sultry singer at The Speak Easy, which was once a thriving bar in the late 20s. Although Gator had never met Aunt Gia, she had heard her father tell stories of Gia’s escapades since she was a little girl, including stories and speculations surrounding Gia’s disappearance. Many of her relatives had told Gator she was the spitting image of her aunt; it was then that Gator decided to track down her roots. She always had been dreamy-eyed of being something more than a small town girl. So as soon as she was old enough, she left her mediocre life in podunk Lula, Georgia, for something more exciting. Gator had ample visions of living the life Gia had abandoned so many years ago. So far, the closest she had 32 ever come to living Gia’s life, was slinging drinks at the shambles of a bar called The Speak Easy. ***** With The Speak Easy closed for the night, Gator spent the next 15 minutes shooing out the remaining patrons. She checked the restrooms and then the pool hall (which was rumored to be the old stage area Gia had performed) to make sure no one was left behind passed out in a corner somewhere. She walked past the mirror toward the front door and caught a glimpse of herself. Gator was in awe over how much she really did look like Gia based on the few photos she had seen of her aunt. Gia decided to take a brief break before cleaning up the last of the glasses and bottles. She pulled up one of the old, worn stools and rested her head in the crook of her arm. The unmistakable sound of breaking glass caused Gator to jump up off her stool and onto her feet. Wobbly and unstable, she realized she must have fallen asleep. Gator started to panic, worried there was a break in. Immediately, she spun around to see which window had been shattered. But the place was completely empty and every window intact. Gator’s panic turned into fear. She had heard rumors that the bar was actually haunted by her aunt Gia and her lover Bennie. Both had disappeared amid rumors that Gia’s Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 abusive boyfriend, then The Speak Easy owner Vindictive Vito, was the culprit. In all these years, Gator had assumed the supposed hauntings were tales woven by drunken patrons, as she had never consciously witnessed any supernatural events. Through tired eyes she peered at the clock that hung on the wall above the ornate mirror over the bar. “Four thirty!” she said aloud, rubbing her eyes to verify she had read it correctly. She had been sleeping for two hours. Dawn would be breaching the horizon soon, and Gator needed some well-deserved rest before starting this shift all over again later in the day. She still had the joint to clean, and apparently some shards of glass to pick up as well, so she turned on her internal auto-pilot and went to work. Gator grabbed the broom, dustpan, and garbage can and headed into the poolhall where she had heard the crash originate from. She looked all over the floor, pool tables, chairs, and stools, yet she could not find any glass. Perplexed, she picked up the garbage can and began clearing the bottles from the room. She bent over to pick up some of the debris on the floor when she felt someone press heavily up against her, place a large frigid hand on her lower back, and lean in close to her breathing in her ear. “My dove . . .” he spoke in a quiet, breathless voice. Startled, Gator stumbled over and simultaneously shot a look over her shoulders as she landed flat on her stomach. She flipped over on her back, ready to fight, knowing for sure she had kicked all the drunks out. The least thing she needed in this life was to be raped or murdered. In fight mode, losing flight by every second, Gator visually canvassed the area around her. Absolutely no one, but her, remained in the bar. Certain she felt a hand on her lower back and a voice whisper in her ear, Gator took a few deep, deliberate breaths to calm her heart, assess the situation, and refocus on the job at hand. She came to the conclusion she was overly tired and more than ready for bed. Gator went back to cleaning, trying not to allow her mind to wander further. She quickly finished up, was one item in particular that stood out — a beautiful mahogany vanity with an oval mirror and beautiful marble counter. Within the counter was an ivory shell-shaped wash bowl. She’d begged the owner to let her keep it, but he had insisted on putting it in the bar. Now, years later, having changed with the times again, the bar reflected more of a sports pub décor. “My dove . . .” he spoke in a quiet, breathless voice. gathered all the supplies, and headed back to the supply closet. Over the years of working at The Speak Easy, she had learned the closet used to be Gia’s old dressing room. She also learned that Gia was a well-kept woman, spoiled with art deco and stunning gowns. Gator spent a lot of time in the closet, pondering what Gia’s life must have been like. Occasionally she would nod off while sitting in one of the period chairs, dreaming of a beautiful voice singing popular tunes from the Roaring Twenties. ***** A few years back, the current owner of The Speak Easy had started some remodeling. He’d found this area after tearing down a faux wall that had been erected years earlier. When the wall had been demolished, Gator was beyond words as she looked upon some of the old furniture items entombed like archeological relics. At that time, the owner had incorporated a lot of the items into the bar. In the remodel he had decided to take the bar back to its original décor, and the lost remnants were perfect in achieving that goal. There In the storage room sat the vanity, covered with a dusty canvas drape; Gator ran her fingers over the top of it. It saddened her to see it just sitting there, going to waste. She pulled her fingers back as she caught something sharp through the canvas. Carefully she lifted the canvas, worried something had happened to the vanity beneath. As she raised it, she could see shards of mirror, like jagged memories scattered along the marble counter. Gator discovered where the crashing glass that awoke her earlier had come from; the mirror on the vanity had been destroyed. It looked almost like a bullet shot had punctured and traveled straight through the bottom left corner of the vanity mirror. She bent down closer to the corner to see what kind of damage there was and noticed the fragment of a very faded old photograph behind the glass shards. Just above the photo was a perfect circular hole where a bullet entered the mahogany wood beneath. She lowered and leaned in closer. It was as if the mirror remained intact and Gator was looking at a sepia-faded version of herself. She pulled off a chunk of broken mirror from around the photograph, Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 33 2nd Annual Short Story Contest and sat in wonder. There she was, the woman she had dreamt of her entire life . . . Aunt Gia. ***** Gia was sitting sideways on the lap of a handsome, black man. Her arms were around his neck, her head flung back, mouth agape in a frozen pose of great laughter. The man, assuming he was Bennie, looked at Gia with a protective gaze. He had his arms around her waist, hands on her lower back, balancing her on his lap. The rest of the photograph looked like the very bar Gator was working in, right down to the ornate mirror that hung grandly over the back of the bartender’s nook. Gator reached in and grabbed the photograph, careful not to tear it, and pulled it from its hiding place. She stood with the photograph in her hands, focused on the scenery it held within. She felt light-headed and tingly, as if her entire body was falling asleep. It was like someone had knocked the wind out of her. Gator started to fall backward as the sounds of a trumpet played alongside a beautiful woman’s voice. Just as she was about to hit the floor, someone caught her. He put his arms 34 around her middle, and she fell into his body, with her head landing perfectly upon his right shoulder. Gator thought to herself, I am asleep, I am dreaming. I am going to wake up with a mess of a bar still to clean. But the man whispered in her ear, “My beloved Gia, you are not asleep.” That was the last thing Gator heard before blacking out completely. ***** As Gator awoke, the scenery around her had changed. She was no longer in a 2009 sports bar, but in the early morning hours of a 1920’s Speak Easy. She was in her mind, with her thoughts. She felt foreign, as if something had invaded her body. Her mouth was moving, but she could not comprehend what was coming from her mouth. She was crying, and her body felt battered. Stunned and bewildered, Gator tried to force herself to awaken further, to pull herself out of her dream totally. Her head was pounding, her lip felt swollen, her eyes would not open fully. She realized she was beaten up, her fingers sticky with her own blood. I must be knocked unconscious, she thought. Maybe she had fallen off the stool while she was examining the photograph and broken vanity; she must have hit her head and face. Gator tried to stand, but her battered legs could not hold her weight. She tried to shake the fog from her mind and eyes; she started to panic, wondering if she had a concussion. She caught a glimpse of herself in the vanity . . . the vanity! Not only had her own reflection caused her to gasp, but now the vanity was so pristine it looked new. The Gator looking back at her from the mirror was as beaten down and bruised as she felt. Bright stains of her crimson blood soaked into the delicate strands of her white lace and fringed gown. Around her head was a beaded band, with a blood matted, white feather laying limp; like a small representation of her body as a whole. Gator raised her hands to her mouth and began to close her eyes in disbelief. This has to be a dream, she thought. But it was so real; she could feel the pain from each fractured bone in her body. Her eyes closed, unsure of what was happening. That’s when she felt him approach her. Instinctively, she flinched and cowered as she opened her eyes and watched him come toward her in the mirror. He grabbed her hair with one hand and in the other held a blood-stained, worn letter. “We can leave this joint, leave this town, and you won’t have to worry anymore Bennie,” Vito read from the letter with disdain and anger in his voice. He picked Gator up and held her level with his eyes. “The only way you are leaving this town is in a body bag.” With that, Vito threw Gia against the wall. In an instant it all began to make sense. Gator was living the last moments of her aunt Gia’s life. Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Then Vito kicked her repeatedly until Gia became limp. She looked up as Vito’s goons entered the room with a busted-up Bennie in tow. Through pain, blood, and tears, Bennie’s eyes reunited with Gia’s. The same spark hit them both at the same time, just as it did that first day they met. Not speaking, Bennie’s eyes held Gia’s, telling her to focus on him and keep him in her sight. He let her know that he was with her, through thick and thin. Until the end. He kept her gaze as the goons brought them backstage; they felt it was fitting to do them in where they had begun. They tied the lovers together, back to back and wrist to wrist. Bennie grabbed Gia’s beaten, broken hands and held them. He knew their lives depended on it; he knew he held her life in his hands. He knew that if he let go, he was letting her down just as everyone in her life had done prior to her meeting him. He held her and closed his eyes. Gia heard a sound she was familiar with — Vito loading his pistol. She closed her eyes and focused on the warmth and love emanating from Bennie’s hands. She would rather die in the hands of her only true love than continue on in a life with Vito. Spinning the barrel of the gun, Vito stepped in front of Bennie and fired. Gia screamed as Bennie went ent doll face.” He spun the barrel, aimed, and fired. With a single shot to each of their heads, scorned and angry, Vito had killed them both, earning the name Vindictive Vito that night. ***** The deafening sound of the gun shot physically pulled Gator out of the vision. Simultaneously, air filled her lungs as if she was a newborn taking their first breath of life. Gator felt as if she was still being held in the arms of . . . Bennie. He looked just as he did in the photo she had found in the vanity. She looked over her shoulder, befuddled, and searched her mind for the many words she tried to force her mouth to form. “Do not worry, Dove. You are fine,” Gator heard in a beautiful songstress voice that filled the room around her. The area in front of Bennie and Gator lit up like a spotlight shining on center stage. As if this were a cue for Gia, she stepped into the light as Bennie lifted Gator to her feet, stabilizing her. Gia reached out, brushing her fingers down Gator’s jaw line. “Such a beautiful woman you are. We have been watching you chase my dreams, chase my story, forgetting who you are all the while,” Gia said softly. Spinning the barrel of the gun, Vito stepped forward and . . . fired. limp behind her. Already unable to breathe from the beating, Gia fought for air, coughing and crying. She vowed to herself that she would not plead for her life. Vito stepped in front of Gia, bent down, and kissed her forehead, “Things could have been differ- Gator noticed that both Bennie and Gia were faded, pale, and glowed with a strange iridescence. Gia was dressed in the same bloodstained white gown Gator had envisioned herself wearing just moments before. Unable to fully process exactly what was taking place before her, Gator relaxed and let the rest of whatever this was play out. “My darling niece, all I want as memories of me is for the truth to be told. I loved this man with all my heart. He is my soul, my life, my love. Stop chasing me now, and start your own dreams.” Gia leaned in and kissed her niece on the forehead. Bennie stepped forward, put his arm through Gia’s, and reached for her hand, entwining their fingers for eternity. With his other hand, he reached into his suit jacket pocket and pulled out a small, silver key. He placed the key in Gator’s palm and wrapped her fingers around it. “In the safety deposit box that accompanies this key, you will find everything you need to make your dreams reality. The information of its location is on the back of the photograph.” Then, Gia and Bennie faded away. ***** Still holding the photo, Gator rubbed her thumb over the faces of Bennie and her aunt. She flipped the photo over, and written in elegant print was a faded address uptown near the old, abandoned train station. She slipped the photo into her bra, just over her heart, and opened her hand, revealing the small key. She grabbed her purse, walked to the door, and looked over her shoulder one last time at the bar. Gator distinctly heard the soft, sultry, and subtle sounds of her aunt’s voice singing in the old stage area. The sounds of Gia were accompanied by the tones of a trumpet. Gator closed the door, turned, and noticed dawn had fully broken. The birds were singing, the sky was a deep purplish hue, and dew covered the cars around her. She walked toward her own car replaying the evening over and over in her mind. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 35 2nd Annual Short Story Contest The Ritual By Jordan Lee Burnes (Editor’s Choice) T he children were out there again. In the exact same place as last time — and as before, they would leave in the same way. The farm was giant for its location, covered with trees, with no clear pastures. You would think that since the kids used moonlight instead of fire, they would be hard to find in the 72 acres; but they weren’t. They seemed like they were singing on stage in front of thousands of people, rather than calling on dark spirits, which is why I found them. The first shot was to scare them off (and, thankfully, it was aimed at the earth); the second was just for fun. I liked watching them run. It was . . . amusing. It was also amusing to see what they brought with them. The first time they came, I destroyed all their ‘magical items,’ and it was awhile before they came back. So I went to see what they had brought tonight. Surprisingly, there was a lot of stuff here . . . new stuff, extreme stuff. I sat my shotgun down beside a tree and got closer for a better look. There was a marble bowl filled to the brim with blood. The bowl was very large, so I supposed it was some animal’s blood and not their own. There were also tons of herbs around, but the two that seemed to be in mass quantity was lycanthrope flowers and elephant ear stems. I started to look around a little more when I heard a very distinct noise — ‘ka-cha.’ The little bastards 36 had gone around and stole my gun that I had laid against the tree. ***** “Turn around . . . now.” I did as the voice told me, not wanting to get shot. There were four of them. They were all buck naked, and were surprisingly varied in age. The one that had the gun pointed at me looked at least 60; two of the others looked like teenagers, and the other one looked as if he could be my brother (and I was 43). “Aren’t you a little old to be playing around with magic?” I was cocky at that age, I never figured why. “I don’t play son. If you knew what I was capable of you would be bowing to me right now.” “Right, well why can’t you go gather servants on someone else’s farm?” “Ha-ha-ha. Son, if you knew what you had bought when you signed the deed to this place, it would be in much better shape than it is now.” Personally, I thought my farm looked great. This guy was hurting my feelings. “I knew exactly what I bought when I signed that deed. I am just trying to save your sorry ass from meddling in stuff neither you nor I understand. So don’t go around assuming that you know more than I do, because I swear now as I’m standing here, you don’t.” At this, the old man started to get angry; however, I was enjoying it all. ***** “Sit down.” I did as he told me, for he still held the shotgun in my face. But as soon as he changed the barrel’s direction, I would be on top of him faster than when the snow sand took Buttercup in The Princess Bride. “Blake, Ted, get that rope over there and tie up his hands. I think we have found ourselves the fifth sacrifice.” Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Wait a second. I’ve heard that somewhere before. Then it came to me. I directed my view from the moon to these ‘cultists’ arms, and sure enough, there were long cuts, straight across their forearms, circling all the way around. It was going to be my turn soon, and if they got my blood, stuff would happen that would be bad, very bad. I was going to have to stop this . . . now. “Bring the bowl over there toward him and prepare him for the ceremony.” The one that seemed to be Blake brought the marble bowl over to where I sat on the ground with my hands tied. He set it in front of me and dipped his finger in. It went to my forehead and painted a pentagram upon it. I had to stop this. No more curiosity. No more playing around. This had to stop. So I did what anyone else would do. I started to rub my wrists together. Slowly, the knot that the two cultists had tied started to loosen. “Now, start the verbal offering.” Apparently, what the old man said went. Immediately the three guys that had been this man’s ‘puppets’ started to dance around me and kept blowing through their mouths as if blowing out a candle. The bowl of blood was right in between my legs, and the old man was starting to move toward me (shotgun still in hand) careful to avoid his dancing subjects. “State your name.” I was mad now. I had tried to contain myself earlier, but I was about to crack. I was about to go past were I should. “You don’t want to do this old man. Stop now or there will be no turning back.” “State your name.” Now it was time. I warned him, but he wouldn’t listen. My hands were now unbound, but I kept them behind my back. Instead, I kicked over the bowl of blood in front of me. “No!” The old man dove at the bowl, giving me time to grab my gun back. When I had the gun in my hand, they ran. But no; they weren’t about to get away, I warned them. But they didn’t listen. ***** I kneeled down on my right knee and stuck my left hand on the ground, and then I concentrated. The cultists kept running, but not too far. When they came to a point where two trees were standing beside each other, they would run through them just to fall back, as if there was a wall in the space between the trees. The wall would hold for the length I needed it to hold for. So I stood up, shotgun in hand, and slowly walked toward them. I stopped about 10 feet from them and stood beside a tree, smiling. All four of them stared at the gun in my hand, and one of them was even crying. They were all scared. But I didn’t just want to kill them; I wanted them to suffer. So I dropped the gun. The best part about it all was that they were scared, and they still didn’t know what the hell I was going to do, so I showed them. The tree that stood beside me was an oak . . . It would do perfectly. I laid my fingertips onto the body of the tree and closed my eyes. Out came a splintering ball of wood, and with it came masses of my blood. But it didn’t matter. I was going to do what I had planned to do before. Now none of them were crying; they were begging. Just the way I wanted. “Goodbye now.” I held my right palm with the splintering ball of wood up toward the moon, and I laid my left palm over it. This time, with my eyes open and my power coming from the ground beneath and the moon above, I thrust my hands forward, and watched as splinters of wood flew toward each of these individuals who had invaded my farm. One after another, they all came tumbling down. ***** I walked back toward were the cultist had originally stood at the beginning and waited. I was tired; very tired. I felt as if I could feel everything around me. Then I heard it. Plop . . . plop . . . plop. Shit. The blood from my hand was dripping on the ground, but it didn’t just contact the ground, it also touched the blood of the ones I had just killed. Now their ritual was complete. However, what was about to now happen was far greater than the cultist could have ever imagined. Dim lights started flowing through the woods toward me. What I had tried to stop from happening . . . was now happening. The blood from my hand was dripping on the ground . . . Then with my fingertips on the wood, and my mind at ease, I forced my fingers into the tree all the way up to were they connected to my hand. I balled my hand into a fist and pulled. Hell had been unleashed, and I had to deal with it. I picked up my shotgun and started walking back toward my house. They wanted me to run, but no, I would walk. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 37 2nd Annual Short Story Contest James By Gene Melvin (Editor’s Choice) 4 :00 a.m. Please tell me I am dreaming and that was not the phone ringing. (Ring . . . Ring). I guess not. I answered the phone, already knowing who was on the other end and why they were calling. There is only one reason why my phone rings in the middle of the night; time to go to work. I got out of bed, thankful that I had enough energy the night before to iron a couple of dress shirts and slacks. Ironing clothes at 4 a.m., in the dark, while not trying to wake my wife is quite hard, if not impossible. I finished dressing, making sure my tie at least matched my shirt and pants, grabbed my keys, and headed out the door, ready for another long day. I pulled into work to see my father had already pulled out the van and was loading up the cot. No words were spoken as we both were on auto pilot. This routine had been done a thousand times before, and would be done thousands of times in the future. Ten minutes into our drive to the local hospital, I did manage to mumble the question, “Who are we picking up now?” “James Pickering,” was the reply back. The name did not ring a bell. “How old?” was my next question. “Twenty-two.” ***** 38 As we pulled into the backlot of the hospital, I was hoping the security guard would be nearby and not off napping like last time. Sure enough, it took 15 minutes for the guard to arrive to unlock the back door. Darkness brought total lockdown of the facility. As the guard led us to the morgue, the stale, dank air of the rarely used hallway was an all too familiar smell that didn’t offend me anymore. It was always eerily quiet this early in the morning. None of the usual hospital noises normally encountered on the floors above were present. We heard only the clanking of the security guard’s keys against his pant leg and the shuffling of our feet. Arriving at the morgue, the guard fumbled to find the right key to the door. You would think somewhere along the way, someone would mark the morgue key on the overloaded key ring. There must have been 150 keys on the ring. The guard finally unlocked the door, and we enter the small room that housed the body cooler. And again, routine kicked in. Sign the logbook, check the toe tags of the bodies in the cooler, transfer the deceased onto our stretcher, and chuckle as the guard backs into a corner as if afraid to touch a dead body. As I opened the cooler door, the blast of cold air hit me in the face, taking my breath away for a second. Five bodies lie on separate gurneys — all in white body bags. The way they were arranged side by side reminded me of piano keys, neatly arranged in a row. I checked the tags on each bag until I found James. As I pulled his gurney out of the cooler to alongside my stretcher, the wheels squeaked the entire way. After we transferred him over, I buckled him on my cot and zipped up the cot cover. With the usual, “Have a good Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 day; don’t work too hard,” to the guard, we made our way back to the removal van. And as we pulled into the funeral home, I saw the first rays of light. Another day that I beat the sun up, and I only hoped I made it home before it descended for the day. After unloading James and wheeling him into our prep room, we transferred him yet again onto our embalming table and unzipped his body bag. Removing the bag was not too difficult as James was on the small side — maybe 180 pounds. As I gowned up and put on my latex gloves, Dad excused himself. He decided to go upstairs to the apartment and eat breakfast, which mom had fixed; he worked better on a full stomach and after getting his coffee jolt. I opted to eat later and start embalming James. I needed to get a head-start on my day. ***** Growing up in a small town may seem like the normal upbringing for millions of children, but try growing up in a funeral home. Most people in the industry will elaborate and differentiate between a funeral parlor and funeral home. A funeral parlor is just a building used for funerals, but a funeral home is just that, a business and a home. In my case, it was home. Living upstairs above a funeral home meant that quiet time was between 6 and 9 p.m. when a visitation was taking place downstairs. It meant that playing outside was confined to a corner of the property away from the parking lot and eye sight. It also meant a small group of friends that were not too scared to spend the night for a sleepover and did not judge or ridicule me for living this lifestyle. At a young age, I could see things, strange things. Maybe it was the exposure of being around the deceased. Maybe I was more in tune to spiritual energy. Whatever the case, I got used to seeing entities around the building. Most were confined downstairs away from the living quarters. A few seemed to make it upstairs — mostly in my dreams. But as is the case with most youngsters, the line between reality and imagination was fuzzy. In my dreams, the spirits always seemed eager to tell me something or explain ***** Five minutes into the embalming process I heard what sounded like a muffled moan. Thinking it was from my parents’ TV upstairs, I shrugged it off. Five minutes later, I heard a scream. The word scream does not justify what I heard, as I have never heard a noise quite like it in my life. It sounded like a thousand nails on a Five minutes into the embalming process, I heard . . . a moan. how they died. Almost all of the entities seemed to stay confined within close proximity of their dead bodies. They seemed to just float there in a somber manner, not really moving all that much or noticing that I could see them. The entities would just stand there looking at their mortal shell, head bowed, with their arms folded or placed on their deceased bodies. A few, however, seemed to notice I could see them, and they would try to interact with me. Try as they might to talk with me, I could not hear them. Strange enough, I was not scared to be around them, as most did not seem violent or harmful. Eventually, they would stop trying to communicate and go back to their somber stance. As their body left the funeral home, so did the entities. As time passed, and seeing so many of these entities, I grew numb to them. After a while, I stopped noticing them at all. After high school, I choose to follow the family business and become a mortician. Coming home from college on breaks, I would help out and perfect my skills. No longer seeing these entities, I had all but forgotten my youthful sightings. That is, until James spoke to me. chalkboard along with the explosive sounds of July 4th fireworks. The noise was so loud and I was so startled that I dropped a half gallon of embalming fluid on the floor. Did I imagine that? Did my folks hear that upstairs? Before I could recover my senses, I saw a figure in the corner of my eye. Glancing over, I immediately saw a hazy image, shaped like a human, phasing in and out like a light bulb. For a second time, I heard the scream, but this time it seemed to come from the figure. Slowly, a face seemed to emerge ... and then the shape of a body materialized — not a full shape, as the area where the lower legs should have been were clearly absent. In frozen disbelief, I could only stare. The figure came to within two feet of me, and its right arm extended toward the body of James. All at once, my youthful memories of seeing countless entities came rushing back to me. A warm calm seemed to wash over me, and I focused more intently on the figure. As I concentrated more, the figure seemed to take shape, and it was then that the resemblance was obvi- Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 39 2nd Annual Short Story Contest ous. The entity was James. After staring at its empty shell for what seemed like an eternity, the figure looked up at me. He then reached out with his left hand toward my arm, which immediately became cold and numb. Suddenly, my mind opened up, and like a movie reel, I saw a flutter of images and scenes. In only a matter of seconds, I seemed to know almost every detail of James’ life. ***** It turns out that James was an abused child at the hands of his drunken father. When James turned 12, his mother divorced his father, and they moved two towns away. They struggled for a while, often eating whatever scraps of food the mother could smuggle home from her day job as a waitress at the local greasy spoon. As ‘luck’ would have it, the father died in a drunken stupor, leaving his ex-wife with a $50,000 life insurance payout. It seemed he had forgotten to take her name off as beneficiary when they divorced. 40 With the money, James’ mother was able to put a down payment on a small home, move out of their rented apartment, and set up a college fund for James. High school was no picnic for James. He was an outcast, not really fitting in with any of the cliques. He kept mostly to himself, managed a C average, and eventually graduated high school, though no one seemed to care or notice. He enrolled in college, with his mother’s persistence, and seemed to find his calling. Computer science was his chosen curriculum, and with an uncanny knowledge of the subject, he aced his courses and was on his way to a promising career. Excelling in his courses seemed to boost his self-confidence and pretty soon he was on the upper level of the social hierarchy. Frat parties, girls, and booze all now played a role in the once-introverted youth’s life. James and his girlfriend, Mandy, became serious, so much so that James was thinking of proposing to her after graduation. Unfortunately, Mandy also intro- duced James to hard drugs. It started out innocent enough with marijuana, but soon turned into something much more serious . . . ecstasy, which led to cocaine, and then to heroine. James never got into it as much as Mandy, but he did participate from time to time to appease her. One night on a binge high, Mandy scored some heroine that was laced with rat poison, unbeknownst to her, of course. Before injecting herself, she tried to convince James to shoot up first. Not wanting to do it only infuriated Mandy, and she grabbed the needle and jammed it into his forearm. A few seconds after the injection, James went into cardiac arrest and within a minute, after convulsing numerous times, he was dead. Mandy immediately started to panic, and not wanting to get into trouble, she selfishly arranged James to make it look like he injected himself. She cleaned herself up, quickly went to the café down the street, and ordered a sandwich. She made sure she was seen, establishing an alibi for herself before going back to their shared apartment and calling 911 after ‘discovering’ James’ body. ***** With all this knowledge swimming around in my head, I could only stare back at the apparition. I had seen James’ death certificate, and it was labeled as suicide. As I thought about that, I saw James reach with both hands to his corpse and touch the top of his head. Without warning, the corpse’s eyes, both dull and grey, sprung open and stared right at me. Frozen in terror, I watched as the mouth then flew wide open and words that sounded like an old, rusty door hinge, hissed out at me, “Tell my mother.” Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 As soon as the words were spoken, the mouth snapped tightly shut again, the eyes closed, and the apparition was gone. The second the form disappeared, I immediately felt sick to my stomach and vomited repeatedly into the sink. I was weak and had to sit down for a few minutes, feeling completely drained and unable to stand. After recovering enough to stand again, I finished the embalming, and after cleaning up, I contemplated what I had just seen and heard. I kept the incident to myself and did not tell anyone else, not even my family. I knew that James’ mother and Mandy were coming into the office in a few hours to make arrangements for him, and I was at a loss as to what to do. Should I confront Mandy? What right did I have to make these allegations? Should I pull the mother aside and confide in her? Not knowing what to do, I made preparations for their meeting in a short while. Three hours later, both Mandy and James’ mother were seated in my office. His mother was visibly upset and beside herself with grief. Mandy seemed to play the part as well, but I knew it was an act. They picked out a lovely service with a two-hour visitation the night before James’ mother a quick hug, and with her handkerchief in her hand, she said a faint, “Thank you,” and left. Mandy stayed behind to go over the clothing options she wanted to bring in for James. When we were alone, I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I know what really happened to James.” As the blood seemed to drain from Mandy’s face, small drops of perspiration appeared on her forehead. “What are you talking about,” she managed to squeak out, as her eyes drifted to the floor. I could tell she was eaten up with guilt and she felt remorse and anxiety over James’ death. “Mandy, I can’t tell you what to do, but you need to tell the truth, not only for your sake, but for James and his mother,” I told her. She looked up at me, and without hesitation said, “You don’t know what you are talking about,” and abruptly left without saying another word. The day of the funeral came, and all of James’ friends from college arrived along with his extended family. James’ mother and Mandy sat on the front pew acknowledging everyone that came to pay their respects. James’ favorite CDs played in the background, not the typical dark funeral music that one often I was jolted awake at 3 a.m. by the ringing of the phone. the funeral. A simple blue metal casket was chosen because it was his favorite color. They wanted his picture on the prayer cards, an option that costs a little more, but I ignored the charge. After signing the necessary paperwork and final instructions, I gave hears, but a mix of all of James’ favorite bands. The minister spoke his part, and the service continued at the graveside. After he said his final “Amen,” the crowd quickly dispersed in the July heat and went to their cars. As I escorted James’ mother back to the limo, I noticed Mandy had stayed behind. She was on her knees weeping uncontrollably at the grave with her fists on the ground. I could not hear what she was saying, but it was obvious she was very distraught. Then with a final sob, she quickly got up and ran to her car. Not thinking anymore about it, I left the cemetery after making sure everyone else had left. Back at the funeral home, I finished up my day, glad to see the day come to a close. ***** Feeling exhausted, I arrived home to unwind. Hopefully, James’ spirit could rest in peace, even though I did not tell his mother what happened. I left it up to fate that Mandy would eventually come clean and the truth would prevail. If not, I would reconsider telling James’ mother what I knew. The biggest question for me was how or why was I able to see James’ ghost at all. Not since my youth many years ago was I able to see these spirits, so why now? I was not sure I could survive many more of these encounters. These thoughts and more swirled in my mind as I watched TV that night. After kissing my little girl good night at bed time and saying good night to my wife, I finally laid my head down to recharge my batteries and get a good night’s rest. But my rest didn’t last long. I was jolted awake at 3 a.m. by the ringing of the phone. I lazily turned toward the nightstand to answer the phone, wishing I was on the deserted island I had been dreaming about — an island where phones did not exist. I grabbed the phone, only to drop it as I slowly opened my eyes to see the wispy form of Mandy staring back at me . . . Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 41 2nd Annual Short Story Contest A Language You Can See By Nomar Slevik (Editor’s Choice) I first visited the area in June of 1999. I was asked by a friend to look into some strange happenings in the attic of the old W.L. Blake building on Commercial St. in Portland, Maine. The building was like any other building in the area, not very impressive but had a nice homey feeling to it. That was on the outside. Upon entering the building, I was overcome with a feeling of unease, a macabre sense of stillness. Determined, I went to the reception desk and asked where I could find the attic. A young woman looked up and stared at me for what seemed like minutes, but couldn’t have been more than seconds. I asked if there was a problem, and upon finishing my sentence, she snapped back from a sort of strange state of mild unconsciousness. “Upstairs,” she said, pointing with her right index finger while looking at me. I thanked her and started my ascent. I was almost to the attic when I first heard them, bewildering sounds of woe. My hands reflexively clutched the sides of my head as I sank to the floor. I was awakened moments later by the receptionist. She asked if I wanted 42 a glass of water. I politely asked who she was and inquired about my whereabouts. She proceeded to tell me that the two of us had spoken only a short while ago, and that I was at the W.L. Blake building. Slowly, I remembered, but I didn’t lead on. I got up, grabbed my coat and hat, and ran out onto the street. Having no reason for doing this, I went back inside, thanked her, and quietly left. But I would go back. ***** My next visit to the building was a little more troubling than the first. I managed to slip past the receptionist and went to find the attic once more. I knew that I was getting close when I heard the muffled sounds from before; muffled because I was wearing earmuffs this time around, for obvious reasons. As I drew closer to the door that led to the attic, I put my hand out in an effort to ‘feel’ the room. As I did this, I experienced a strange sense of awareness. I knew the feeling wasn’t supposed to frighten me, but to welcome my arrival. I felt calm, lucid even. I grabbed the handle and proceeded to walk in. When I entered the room, my vision was immediately accosted by white light. Maybe ‘light’ isn’t the right word. It was something that lingered but wasn’t forthright. More like a white shadow. I closed my eyes and wiped my forehead with my forearm. Timidly, I opened my eyes again. Nothing. I shifted my head to the ceiling. Again, nothing. I heard a whisper. I looked over my right shoulder. Paranormal Underground Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 A whisper in my left ear. I turned. Nothing. Something grabbed my arm. Hesitantly, I looked down. Whatever was holding my arm was not visible. Just as I finished realizing that I could feel something holding my arm but couldn’t see it, it was gone. And then, a bright flash. I shielded my eyes, and realized there was something under my feet. Upon investigation, I realized that I had stepped on a cord. A cord with a switch. I had turned on a floodlight. I shut the light off. Darkness. I felt dizzy. Then I saw it. ***** Across the way by the windows — the lighter part of the room. It was hiding. Something that quite possibly hid in the light. I first entered the attic unexpectedly, surprising the enigma. But now . . . now it had fled to lighter areas of the room to hide. I walked briskly to the windows. I searched for some sort of drape, but none existed. For some reason, I was exhausted from my walk across the room, so I sat on the floor. I breathed heavily, and then the whispers started again. They appeared far away at first, then slowly crept closer. I froze. All I could do was listen. When the whispers eventually got louder, I noticed that I was the one speaking. It was my mouth moving involuntarily. I was consciously ***** I awoke in my apartment with a hand holding mine. As my eyes were adjusting, I could make out someone sitting on my bed. It was my wife. Actually, my ex-wife. When she found out that I was in the hospital, she came to my side. She said that they had released me fives days ago. Astonished, I asked how long my stay at the hospital had been. She looked down and did not answer me. I recovered physically just fine, and within a couple months I was al- The whispers eventually got louder . . . I noticed that I was the one speaking. thinking myself to stop, but I could not. I was trying to make out what I was saying; yet again, I failed. Still frozen, I couldn’t even cover my mouth with my hands. My eyes drooped. My head felt heavy. Then sleep. most back to normal . . . physically. My doctor advised that I go back to work, go back to ‘normal’; only if he knew. How can one resume life when life had ceased as I had known it? How can one work when they can’t control their fears? The only thoughts in my head were to document as much as possible. Write, write, write. Write until my head and hand hurt. But I couldn’t. I was scared. Scared to know the truth? I’m wasn’t sure. Then one night, some four months after the incident, it came pouring out of me. Every frightening detail. Some thoughts were coherent, others just scribblings. As I write this, I can still see that white shadow that hides in the light. At times, I remember it as being beautiful. Other times, I get frightened for no apparent reason. I talk of the incident with knowledge, not memory. I don’t think back; I just know. It sounds peculiar I realize, but no matter how it sounds, it’s true. I feel that the entity had shared something with me. We did not talk; we did not share thoughts. It was more like an understanding represented by movement. A kind of language you can see. Special Fiction Contest Issue — December 2009 Paranormal Underground 43