Deadwood Diner – part 6 final

Deadwood 6 image

Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush

Mary Jane – ending scene

Keria begins to read us an article… “Deadwood Daily Press, Friday, May 4th, 1990. Tragedy struck late Thursday evening on Highway 13 just west of the Ma and Pa’s Diner. Two people died in an accident involving a pedestrian and the driver of the vehicle. It was reported that sixty-six year old, retired farmer, Raymond Thomson, left the diner approximately 8:41 p.m. driving westbound. Moments later he allegedly struck and killed twenty-three year old, Mary Jane Leland.  Mary Jane was struck from behind and was pronounced dead at the scene.

It is believed at this time that neither victim has a next of kin. Mr. Thompson is a widower with no known children and Ms. Leland was a local resident and had been a former patient at the Reidhaven Retreat.

It was not determined why Ms. Mary Jane Leland was on the road. She had been officially listed with the Deadwood Police Department as a missing persons, according to Sheriff Fletcher.”

Keria abruptly stops reading and inhales in a deep sadden breath. Leaving Rich and I on pins and needles.

“Keria? You still there?” Rich asks impatiently, worry creases his brows with each passing second. “Keria? Where did you find the article?”

Her breath breaks free like she held it for far too long, finally what seems like long exaggerated ear-ringing minutes stretch by, when in reality it’s probably no more than a few seconds she answers, “In the Heckman Horror’s file, Rich. She was one of the missing girls… and she was only two miles from Heckman’s house. Do you think…?”

“She was trying to make a run for it and this Raymond guy came out of nowhere and their paths incidentally collided? Yeah, I do Keria.”

“So… You and Jason just witnessed their death?”

He bobs his head lightly and glances at me. “Yeah,” he says it so quietly that I’m not sure Keria even heard him.

But her own softened voice drifts out of the diminutive speaker from his cell phone. “Well… are you guys going to sit all night at that abandoned diner or are you going to come home?”

“We’re on our way… see ya in a few,” he replies and grabs his cell from the dash. He presses end as he drives us closer to the discolored run-down diner, the closer we get to it, the more haunting it feels. Cold, arid, and unforgettably barren. The only thing that may out last this mystifying creepy town is the foundation, and the lost souls that exist here.

We drive back out onto the dank and misty highway and as we head home a silhouette of a woman emerges on the road. Her pale body contorted, shielding herself from the rain and sways with the wind. Her ghostly white face turns and stares right through us just we drive passed her, her eyes connect with mine and the radio suddenly serenades out a song by Tom Petty and the Heart breakers, ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’.

The End… for now.

My plan is to have an entire story about Mary Jane and her life living in the town of Deadwood, hopefully, sometime this Fall. I hope you enjoyed this short and feel free anytime to ask about any other stories I have available. I’m crawling back to my writer’s cave to continue writing Let Your Heart Drive – I hope everyone has a wonderfully wicked week! ❤

Advertisements

Deadwood Diner – part 4

diner pic

 

Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Please note this short story is a small link in a chain, so to speak. A sequel to another short story titled – The House.

Mary Jane – part 4 

I adjust my cap back on my head and feel that eerie prickly sensation as soon as I step out into the night. Thunder shakes the ground like a Cobra Gunship. I harness my nerves and scout around for Mary Jane through the pitch-dark parking lot. I wait a beat, hoping for that millisecond bolt of lightning to briefly brighten my view. But I’m shit out of luck.

My feet trudge through the pouring down rain and my eyes roam the area. “Mary Jane!” I holler out while passing by a white 1970 Cadillac, it’s the only thing that shows any prominent color. I carry myself on over to the next vehicle and catch a glimpse of her scampering between two more cars. Her drenched form is hunched over and staggering to stand upright in the hammering steel cold rain. “Mary Jane!”

I chase after her, listening to her muffled down whimpers and cries. She’s terrified and I can’t seem to get close enough to her. The punishing rain blinds most of my sight, it doesn’t matter how much I shield my hands over my cap to help, it’s relentless. Thunder slams against the woeful dark sky making my body shake. I grasp a blotchy tall figure lurking behind a truck and I follow it, the shape is too misshapen to really tell if it’s Mary Jane. My gut twists and buckles with uncertainty, but I have to make sure she’s okay.

I slosh my rain slicked boots through a crater-like puddle and terminate my next step. Rain falls thickly along the passenger’s side window of a late-model red pickup, it looks no different from any of the other cars I’d just passed. Apart from the fact that an orange hazy glow pulsates inside, pulsating with a beat. In precise time and cadence to a song by Simon and Garfunkel, “Sail on silver girl… sail on by… your time has come… to shine…” I jerk my head to the right of me, searching for the cause. No one’s inside, the engine from the weather-beaten clunker doesn’t rattle with life, but the old-fashioned chrome radio recites the song from my past.

I slow my movements and strengthen my grip on my duffel bag. My heart pounds like someone called in an air strike, the hairs on the back of my neck stands on end and I breathe in the icy air. I let out a warm humid breath from within me and it reminds me of winter, the dead of winter. My body involuntarily shudders like I’m standing in my skivvies, aggravated and unnerved I sling my soaked cap off and swipe the rain away. Stubbornly I set my cap back on and glare over the truck. “Mary Jane… is that you?

The radio keeps warbling out but when it hits the last track from the song, it carries that unreal static noise that can only come from a record player back in the day. Each time the static is louder, more hair-raising and then the song begins to play…again. I flicker my glances back and forth tensely. I’m lost at what could be the source, how could anyone around here know that song from my childhood? The disheartening thunder drums the shade of the scenery, bleak and wrong. Regardless, I stick with my mission and force my feet to move.

I dog the footsteps of every shadow, every movement, and unnatural sound. The faded cracked pavement becomes nothing but a river of rain, and eventually I find myself on the opposite side of the diner. I cup my hand around my wet soaked mouth, and call out her name. The muttering and detached cries stop and turn into breathless words, stammering and wandering words that I can’t grasp. Words that sound like a thousand voices, crawling over each other, trying to be heard in the deranged storm.

Distant lights fray out along the slickened dark highway and I see her, the small angular shape of her. Cradling her body, with her head swaying low. It takes a breath for me to unfold the grappling iron lodged inside my throat. My boots race soundlessly across the stretch between her and I until I’m standing on the skirt of the highway. The rain showers us both as I ask, “Mary Jane?”

I raise my left hand outward, prayin’ she’ll accept it. Her long dripping wet hair screens her face and I can’t make heads or tails if she even knows where she’s standing. “…It’s not safe here, just take my hand, Mary Jane…take my hand,” I plead, but the only reaction I get is her gripping her arms closer to herself withdrawing from me. I glance up and along the unnerving long road is a curve guarded by trees.

And through the timber I see a beam of headlights quivering between them.

I drown my reserve and stride out to her, meeting her stance I grip her haggard, threadbare arms and command her to look at me. Her down-casted green grieving eyes drag upward, fear infiltrates every ounce of her blanched face. Tangled unavailing words drop from her stark lips so fast that it takes me a moment to catch her trembling chin and ask, “I… I don’t understand—”

“I’m afraid…I’m so afraid…”

I release her chin and wrap my arm around her and try to shield her from whatever she fears. I lower my head and mouth against her damp hair, “It’s okay, I’m not going to let anything harm you.” I brace myself closer, hoping she’ll have enough faith in me to get her off the highway, to get both of us to safety. “It’s too dangerous to be out here, in this rain and in the middle of the…

“But it’s too late… ”

A loud screeching sound erupts through the darkened night and all I can see a blinding light.

To be continued…

Deadwood Diner – part 3

Jukebox1

Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush

Mary Jane – Part 3

I offer to shake her hand but she flinches back and mouths warily, “I’m… I’m Mary Jane.” Her words aren’t broadcasted without forethought, she whispers it out like she’s exposing something highly classified. Her troubled green eyes dodge madly around the diner, watching, scouting for whatever danger that’s supposedly stalking her. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s all a made-up creation inside her mind, because either way her fear is real. Real enough that I see it as plain as a nose on a man’s face. Maybe it’s my gut instincts or it’s imbedded so deeply in me, but I just want to make sure she’s safe and unafraid for a moment.

“Well… it’s nice to meet you, Mary Jane,” I respond and motion at the waitress to hold on a second. She calmly sits my heated coffee back on its small saucer and waits patiently while I tip my head toward Mary Jane and ask, “Want some coffee or something to eat—?”

“No…” she abruptly answers wringing her hands tightly together, she’s rubbing them so tightly that the tips of her knuckles turn as white as bone and she jerks her head toward the diner door. It dawns on me that she isn’t really answering me directly but rather a silent plea for help. She coils her mud covered legs up to her chest and nearly perches herself like a wounded bird on top of the barstool, she winces once as her eyes squeeze together. Her bizarre reaction makes me think of someone huddling up and bracing themselves for a twister ready to take whatever it wants in it’s deadly path.

“No…  no… no…” she whispers over and over covering her ears and rocking her fragile paling body. I start to ramble out a line of growing, concerned questions, but then I hear a spineless tick hit the glass door. A light metallic sound and then another, a trickling rhythmic tapping slowly one after another until it sounds like the heartbeat of a furious thunderstorm. I strain my eyes harder to see, to see the proof of what my ears are hearing. I watch as angry massive drops of rain sheet and distort the diner windows. Beating and pounding so insanely I bet you couldn’t even see your own hand right in front of your face.

No one inside seems perturbed by the onslaught except for Mary Jane, unexpectedly she whirls herself from the counter and jumps off the barstool and runs out of the diner and into the hell storm outside. I throw a quick glance toward Ray but he doesn’t offer a word other than a ‘I told you she’s crazy’ kinda dubious shake from his head. The jukebox rattles out, ‘I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part, so hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart, so hello Mary Lou goodbye heart…” 

        An uncomfortable pang inside me strips my dispassion away and I can’t ignore the fact that someone, crazy or not, just ran out of here like a bat out of hell. I pull out my wallet, slap a twenty down on the counter and swing my duffel bag over my shoulder.

And hastily head for the door.

Deadwood Diner – part 2

Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush diner snippet

Mary Jane

The young woman is as thin as a rake, but holds an unfading beauty to her. Her shadowed eyes skate nervously around the sudden quiet diner, her hair streaked with proof she’d seen her days of the summer sun pelt throughout. Half sticking straight up, the other half tangled in hellish twisted knots. Skittishly, she tiptoes up to the empty barstool on the right side of me. Ray, on my left, mumbles something under his breath but his mutters go mute.

The woman clings her skeletal-like hands against the metal edge of counter and whispers, “It’s out there…” Her hushed words are so voiceless that I’m not even sure I heard her, but as I bite into my burger, leaning farther forward I hear her say it again. “It’s out there…”

I sway a look over my shoulder, wondering what’s got her so spooked. The diner’s speckled with fewer customers, only a handful sit in booths near the glass door. The darkness outside creeps up starving off most of the light that once shined from the aging street lights. The highway wasn’t much to see unless a Greyhound or a truck shined their daring headlights along the shrouded lifeless road. But I can’t pin point what has her clutching the molding of the counter so desperately. I jump my eyes back over to her and see terror bathed deeply inside the green-eyed girl. It takes me a second to swallow down the bite of my cheeseburger I had just taken, simply because I had never seen someone so damn attractive, yet so damn terror-stricken at the same time.

Her unkempt loose-fitting clothes are not enough protection from the bite of the chilling late night breeze outside. She keeps her head tilted slightly downward so that I can’t see the complete view of her pale face. Her frightened eyes shift anxiously through her disheveled hair, and I try not to stare. She uses the counter as her anchor as she eases herself timidly on the barstool. The nostalgic waitress never delivers herself over to the young woman, never even gives her a welcoming comment like – ‘Be right with you, sugar’. Instead, she wanders off to the opposite side of the diner as if to give a pronounced space between them.

“Don’t listen to nothin’ she says,” Ray rumbles in a low grouchy tone. I catch his subtle head gesture toward the girl. She looks lost and afraid like a doe standin’ smack dab in middle of a hectic highway. A light sound of silverware clanks against a plate and she practically jumps ten feet out of her seat. She curls her skinny body forward and chews on her short frail fingernails feverishly.

I narrow my brown-eyed glare over to Ray and ask with the same low restrained tone, “Is she from around here?”

He grunts and blows out a cynical snort through his nose as he leans on the counter. Keeping his head, his unreadable whiskered expression forward, he replies, “She’s crazier than shithouse rat and it’s best you’d stay far, far away from her.”

I’m not sure what to make of what he just said, so, I steal another curious glance her way. There’s no way someone like her could be ‘crazy’ maybe she lacked good common sense and a decent pair of clothes but then I drop my gaze down to her feet and realize they’re bare and covered in mud. I stop my mind from overrunning with assumptions and judgment but Ray bounces his meaty elbow against mine and mumbles, “She’s gotta a few screws loose up in the head, they had her admitted to Reidhaven when she was young.”

I whisper back quietly and tactfully as I possibly can, “Reidhaven?”

His bushy camouflaged eyes dart my way incredulously. “You know, the hospital they kept sick people in, but…” he shrugs his broad overalled shoulders and says, “…they closed it down. Said they’d run out of funding or something to that effect. I just think it’s a damn shame really, but whatever you do… don’t let her get to ya.”

I’d only eaten three-quarters of my food when I finally had to stop and wipe off my mouth and force myself not to look over to her as she sputters, “They’re everywherein-in the darkwa-waiting…” She cradles her shivering bony hands like a child that’s been hiding from the boogie man all night. Has she been living in this fearful state all her life? The question floats to my mouth, wanting to ask, wanting to interrogate Ray how could some so young lookin’ as her, someone so uncommonly pretty be so distraught?

“I know what you’re thinkin’, Sgt. Knight,” Ray announces as he cranes his head closer to me. Still keeping his voice as low as possible he swallows slowly and informs me. “She hears voices, they say she never could tell which ones were real. So, nothin’ coming out of her makes sense.”

I mentally chew around on his words for a moment, nodding lightly to him so that he knows I hear him. The outdated waitress eventually saunters around and angles a flashy red nail toward my barely touched coffee. “You wanna have me reheat that up for you, honey?”

I idly scratch the side of my jaw and start to answer ‘no’ to her when the woman beside me says, “He wants it heated… it’s cold, isn’t it cold?” My weary eyes connect with her sober green and for the life of me if it wasn’t for her strange, out of the ordinary appearance, I’d never claim her crazy. Her voice as she spoke was clear and concise. And just as soft and polite as anyone else here in the diner.

“Yeah, it is kinda cold,” I evenly reply never taking my eyes away and the waitress quietly hustles herself back to the kitchen, coffee cup in hand. I study her features now that I can, and I find that she bares no trace of someone once locked inside a psychiatric hospital. But something, whatever it is has it’s claws sunk so deep inside her that I can plainly see she’s truly afraid. She tucks her bottom lip beneath her teeth, nervously she looks over me, searching my own features, tryin’ to decipher whether or not I’m someone trustworthy.

“I’m Jason Knight…” I mention and point at my last name stitched across my Army jacket.

To be continued…

Another tale from the Deadwood town…

Mary Jane part two of the house pic

Copyright © 2015 Karli Rush

If you haven’t had the chance to read The House  then, here’s your chance… book 1 is free this weekend only!  Amazon link

Deadwood Diner –  part 1 

Words have no power to impress the mind

Without the exquisite horror of their reality.

 

– Edgar Allen Poe

I step off the Greyhound bus and the moment my black military issued boots hit the ground, I breathe in the late autumn air. I roll my stiff shoulders back and rub out the cramped soreness from my aching neck, fifteen months in Iraq and I’m finally just an hour and a half away from home. Back, from my extensive journey, my latest military stint and it’s almost hard to believe. It’s too good to be true that I can actually feel the good ol’ country like I did back when I was younger, before I enlisted and now, I need this break. I’ve dedicated everything to my one ambitious goal, and raised my rank to Sergeant first class with ten years of hard ballbusting work. Deployed more times than I can even count and now, it’s time to relax.

Joining the Army was something I’d set my ever-lovin’ sights on since I was a boy. My grandfather and my father were both die-hard U.S. Army soldiers, and they both strictly ingrained in me ‘Be All You Can Be’ from day one. Living in a town like Waynesville, there’s not a whole lot of options, for anyone really, nearest college is, here, in Deadwood. Random managed gas stations and remodeled churches sprout up more or less on every block. I never saw myself growin’ up to be someone wiping windshields and pumping gas as a lifelong career, and I certainly never thought I’d walk a saintly path to wear the fine untarnished shoes of a preacher. At one point in my high school years I had thought long and hard about going to college here, like so many others, but like I said, to serve my country was deep-seated in me, in my soul well before I could even utter the words ‘Affirmative’.

I swing my Army green duffel bag over my right shoulder and take in the old timey diner. A few cars scatter here and there along the dimly lit parking lot. A bright neon green sign hangs bravely and boldly outside –Open— inviting anyone and everyone inside. I’m expecting a buddy of mine to meet me here tonight. I’ll hitch a ride with him to Waynesville. Funny how a hometown can give you the comforts of family, friends, and familiarity. But, in this small town there is no familiarity, it’s always felt like that song by the Eagles, ‘You can check out any time you like—but, you can never leave…’  My eyes graze over the red faded pickup and unfamiliar cars I realize my buddy is not here. Not yet, anyway.

Traveling down here on the back of the bus, I watched and took note of the town signs that would pass by, reading the population stats on each one. But this town, Deadwood, didn’t have a population status. I glance around and straighten the cap on my head debating. I sure could use a bite to eat, maybe, just maybe, the food here doesn’t taste anything like Army grub. I find myself striding quickly toward the diner, my stomach grumbling, knowing soon, it’s fixin to sample some good ol’ home-cooking. A homey robust smell of deep-fried foods and handmade pies breathes about as I near the doors. Above the brilliant neon green sign flickers eerily the name of the diner. The words Ma and Pa’s looks burnt out and shadowed by the rustic metal overhang. Almost like someone wanted to hide it.

An elderly man carrying a red and white checkered take-out bag hums by me, he throws a wordless nod my way and I return the gesture. I hold the door making sure no one else is accompanying him. His demeanor has me at ease with the place, light on his feet and grinning like he’s carrying the next winning lottery ticket. Makes me want to tell the waitress ‘I’ll have whatever he’s having’ and motion toward him. I take a seat at a vintage styled barstool.

“What will it be, sugar?” the waitress asks shoving a pair of black horned rimmed glasses along the bridge of her narrow nose. She matches the theme of the diner with her pinned up hairdo and old-school bold red lips.

“I’ll take a cup of coffee, ma’am,” I reply receiving the one page menu from her.

“Comin’ right up,” she spouts with a flirty smile and spins off in the other direction. The rise of lively chatter hovers in the midst of the late-night patrons, it isn’t bothersome, a laugh or a turn from a newspaper now and again. The sun has been down for hours now, and I get the feeling that most of these people in here are regulars. A weighty middle-aged man sits at the far end of the counter his judging eyes meet mine, he shifts his view to his plate like I would walk over and abduct his nightly addiction. I drift my own eyes easily away when I hear the jukebox on the other side start to play.

“You like Creedence Clearwater Revival?” a man, in a pair of dingy overalls sitting beside me asks. He scratches at the graying whiskers camouflaging his thin mouth, the fork drops from his hand as he pushes his empty plate away.

“I’ve heard a few of their songs,” I reply mildly, withholding my own childhood memories for my dad’s love of CCR. Listening to their songs repetitively one learns a few songs by heart naturally. But one song I knew to leave him alone was ‘Bridge Over Trouble Water’ by Simon and Garfunkel, never knew what stirred the multitude of emotions in him whenever that particular song played because he wasn’t the type of man to show emotions. I drift off to the memory peering around the corner of the crinkly wallpapered dining room, a bottle of booze sitting on the table as the vinyl seventy-eight record spins on the turntable. Being so young at the time I had no grasp on the lyrics, what they meant, why he listened to it, or what meaning behind it had held for him. I snap out of my past and glance over to the guy in the overalls as he taps the counter with his calloused large hands.

“This song here…” He thumbs toward the old jukebox and says, “…was her song, my wife’s name was Mary Lou. She could cook the best daggum pecan pies, I swear!” He slaps the palm of his hand down and grins the biggest grin.

“It’s a good one,” I respond, watching amused with the look on his aging face. His bushy eyebrows scrunch together as his grin gets even bigger. He reminds me of the actor John Goodman, just older. And I catch the reference in tenses when he spoke of his wife. I don’t ask, it’s none of my business but it tells me why he’s here, eating at a late night diner, alone.

“So… what’s the special?” I ask pointing at the substandard budget menu. The perky waitress flips the coffee cup around and sits it upright on the tiny saucer and begins to pour my coffee.

“All of it’s good,” the man in overalls sitting next to me offers. He quirks his head to the side and adds, “Maybe not my Mary Lou’s but it’s worth its while.”

“All right then, I’ll have the cheeseburger, fries and a glass of ice water too.”

“You want the fixin’s?” the waitress quizzes while she jots down my order.

“Yeah.”

“You better save some room for our house special, Lemon meringue pie, ya hear?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I hand her the tissue thin menu back and pick up my coffee cup. Testing it before I take a sip. It’s not scalding hot, but it’s damn sure strong. I cough a little, tryin’ to soothe the harsh stale taste down. I edge the coffee back to its saucer as she struts toward the kitchen area hollering out my order.

“Walk a cow through the garden, on a rail, and one on the city.” She clamps her ticket on the order wheel and winks back at me. And then she busies herself setting up another table across from us on the side of the counter.

“So, you home on leave or somethin’?” the man asks and drags his fingers around the wiry whiskers along his beardy mouth. He pulls his large sizeable hand out from underneath his other stout arm and extends it toward me. “Name’s Raymond Thomson, but everyone around here calls me, Ray.”

I grip his hand firmly with my right hand and find myself surprised when I realize his grip isn’t like steel. It’s a considerate handshake, not tryin’ to prove anything.

“Nice to meet you, Ray. I’m Jason Knight,” I give him a small salute and add, “I guess you could say I’m between duty stations right now.”

A noticeable twinkle in his mousy eyes shimmer like a new dawn’s day as he says, “How long you been in the Army?”

“I joined as soon as I graduated high school, so… it’s been about ten years. You know what they say, stick with what you love doing,” I explain as the gum-smackin’ waitress plops my plate of food in front of me.

“You needing anything else, sugar?”

I scratch the side of my temple and glance over the palatable food and shake my head. “No, ma’am, I think that’s it.” I peer up and inadvertently meet hers. They’re soft, but kinda drained like she’s had a few hard years workin’ over-time. With her out-of-date specs it conceals somewhat the heavy lines underneath her whiskey colored eyes. Matter of fact, no one in this diner looks inexperienced in life by any means.

“You have family here or close by?” Ray wrangles out as he fumbles with some change in the center of his oversize palm.

“I do, some cousins and an aunt up in Waynesville. I grew up there, so, it’s still home to me,” I remark adding a shake of salt to the home fries and dump a hefty glob of Heinz ketchup on them. He slides a dull simple quarter across the space between us and nods toward the silent jukebox.

“On me, it’s my small way of sayin’ thanks for you putting your life out there for the sake of our beautiful country.” He pats my upper arm like a gentle giant and the second I move my perplexed gaze from the coin, he shoves it inside my hand. Urging me to accept his offer. I hop off the barstool without a fuss and leave my plate, my stomach complaining with each boot pounding step. I reach the marbelized plastic jukebox and stand, reading the list of songs. I stare back over my shoulder strangely, he wasn’t kidding about likin’ CCR because there wasn’t one song listed that wasn’t sung by Creedence. I shrug and slip the quarter in and press the button for ‘Bad Moon Rising’.

I’m not sure why I picked it, I liked it well enough, and it was listed at the top. I guess I just wanted to appease the man so I could hurry the hell up and eat. He taps his brown clad foot in time with the beat and grins approvingly. The song only lasts for a couple of minutes and then two more songs roll out, two that I didn’t pick. ‘Run through the Jungle’ belts out right after ‘Hello Mary Lou’, I keep my eyes downward and focus on my burger.

“I bet you’ve seen your fair share of…” Ray starts to grumble out but his prying words drop away as soon as a young woman stumbles inside the diner.

To be continued…

The House Part 1 by Karli Rush

The House

© 2013  Karli Rush

My short story – free right here on my blog- I will publish as I write this, hope you enjoy! 

As promised here is part one from The House. 

The only thing stronger than love is insanity.

 

–    MichaelXavier

The House

One more step and the skin-crawling, creaking sound echoes throughout the hall. “Richard! Don’t, I—I really don’t feel good about this anymore,” I practically bark at him as we edge closer to the last door. We’ve investigated the lower floor, all the old, decrepit rooms, and the chancy stairs were my worst fear but we managed to sneak past the precarious areas. Now, we are standing at the last room down the unlit hall. The door is wide open like it’s welcoming us inside. The hot humid air has dropped significantly in temperature. It’s been well over a hundred degrees all summer long and now, I can see my breath. I can see his.

            “Rich, please. Let’s just head back, it’s getting late. We can start fresh tomorrow,” I plead but he shakes his head in refusal.

            “Naw, we got this, Keria.” He tugs on his lucky baseball cap, easing it over his eyes a bit and quirks a smirky grin at me.  My eyebrows bolt up and I wave the flashlight purposely in-between us.

            “Do you not see this?” My breath expels out a cold mist and the hair on the back on my neck rises.

            He taps on the device in his hand and explains, “Yeah, it means we’re not alone.” The meter looking ghost detector is completely lit up green. It doesn’t flash nor flicker, just a steady, solid color. Which makes me grimace even more, I’m not a paranormal investigator like Rich is. This is my very first time exploring a haunted house. I suck in a nervous breath as he motions for us to move forward. The house goes perfectly still as if it’s waiting for something, hanging onto an eerie anticipation. Five more steps and we’re at the threshold of the pitch-black room. 

            “Rich, you’re sure about this? I mean we don’t know how long this place has been abandoned or how secure this structure is,” I probe as I flash the light around us and then shine it inside the room. My hand goes sweaty and I grip the flashlight tighter, there’s nothing in the room. It’s not like the others, it’s entirely bare, empty, as if someone sterilized it from the ceiling to the floor. You know how they always say rooms like this smell moldy or musty? Well, this one smells like it’s tainted with blossoms, it’s so over-powering even Rich glances back at me. We both distinctly smell it and he reaches out, giving my hand a gentle squeeze.

            “You know, for being a Rookie, I’m impressed. Come on, it’s the last room.” I attempt to send him a quick confident smile but something breathes down the right side of my neck. I grasp at my throat and stare at Rich. How do I tell him I can’t do this? How can I step one foot in front of the other when all I want to do is run the other way? My answer comes when he steps through the time-worn doorway.

            “Come on Keria, give me some light. It’s dark as shit in here!” I raise my shaking hand holding the flashlight and watch him walk to the middle of the room. An icy cold touch lands on my shoulder and I drop the light to the floor.

            “Keria! Get it together girl!” he shouts but I’ve already snagged the flashlight from the ground and twirl around to see if I’m still the only one standing in the darkened cold hall. Whirling back to Rich I shake off the feeling of being observed.

            “Got it, sorry.” I start to take a step into the room when I hear the house breathe, literally every board and nail within the room screeches together. And in the center, where Richard stands, the floor bows and bends upward and then breaks away. He plummets with the pollution of rotten wood and rusted, eroded fumes. My light illuminates a nothingness as he disappears from my sight.

            “Richard!” The cracking and splintering shards of wood resound with a deafening residual. My ears ring and my heart pounds as I scream out again, “Richard!”

            Nothing…

            But

            My

            Cold

            Breath…it’s the only sound within the room.

            I readjust my hand on the Maglite and run toward the stairs. I’m shaking, everything in me wants to lock up but I’m so terrified I bolt without another reasonable thought. The worn wooden steps hold my weight as I race downstairs. It’s hauntingly dark and vacant. Nothing appears in my sight as I shine my light through the bleak hallway. Pace after wary pace I enter the room where Richard fell through. I clamp my hand fiercely over the only thing which guides me. Not a breath escapes from my lips when I approach the doorway, the lambent luster grazes slowly across the flooring. But I see only the hardwood surface. Untouched, no clouds of dust or debris, no broken shards of rustic wood. No Richard. As if nothing at all had happened. I take a step closer, suck in a hearty breath and whisper, “Richard!” 

            I cling to my shirt as I ease in, I can feel my heart pounding, trembling through the fabric. The fractional light threads outward offering me nothing but the barren baseboards and lifeless walls. A smell drifts by just as the cool air bristles the hair down my neck. The scent is intertwined with sunflowers and blood. And that same panicky feeling surges a rush in me, a dire urgency to get the hell out of here. But I grit my teeth together and raise my voice a bit louder than before and yell, “Richard, please! Where are you?!”

            The house is abnormally quiet as I drag my light downward, searching the floor where I thought Rich would be. Chairs, aged books, and raged, dusty curtains are all over creation in here. It’s exactly how we first saw it before, not a thing out-of-place. And I raise my flashlight upward, to the ceiling, half expecting the hole that he fell through. But I know from seeing the room there will be no evidence to what I just witnessed on the floor above. The ceiling is still committedly intact. Am I losing my mind? I know I’m not, I know what I saw and he has to be in here. I take another step further inside the room, and just as my hand slips off the door frame, a cold unpleasant shiver weaves through my spine. A deep, detached voice growls right next to my ear, “Get out!

            I nearly drop my light as I spin around and run for the front door. Ambling faster down the broken cement steps I charge for my car. Never looking back, never losing my balance because I feel the vileness, the immorality breathing inside that house. I’ve, we’ve trespassed into something I can’t even begin to explain and Rich is somewhere still inside. I fumble with my keys to get them into the ignition. Once my headlights glare at the house not forty feet away, I lock the doors and debate. He’s in there and I can’t just drive the hell off. I rub my hands over my face and in-between my shaking fingertips I look up. In the window I see a shape, a silhouette of a tall man and it’s not Rich. My foot slams heavily on the gas pedal and I drive like a maniac on the rough, isolated dirt road.    

            The entire time my eyes flicker nervously back and forth from the road to my rearview mirror. The sensation of being followed keeps prickling my frayed nerves. I even feel like the woods have eyes and are watching me speed pass the trees. Something malicious lives inside that abandoned house, it’s real, just as real as the tears that swell inside my eyes. And I never want to go back there, but I have to find out what happened to Richard. Worry, fear, and guilt consumes me. What happened to him? Is he still alive… alive inside that cursed house?    

 

 

To be continued…