Tag Archives: ghost

Boys – Part VI

The boys huddled close in the kitchen, surrounded by darkness, save for the dim light pushing out from the small flashlight Taddy held tight in his hand.

Down the hall and in the front sitting room, someone or something apparently crashed through the large bay window.

With their faces softly lit by the glowing bulb, they looked at each other as they listened carefully, closely, trying to discern what might be sounds foreign from the ever-present whistling of the angry winds, the splashing waves of rain and rolling thunder.

“He’s got asthma,” Gunther dared to whisper, almost mouthing the words.

Taddy looked back at him with his face curled in confusion.

“He sounds like my Uncle Rory. He has asthma.” Gunther started to pantomime the heavy, labored breathing of his uncle with the added emphasis of his tongue hanging out. Taddy nudged him with his elbow and mouthed, “Shhh!”

The sound of labored breathing faded into the sound of rain attacking the windows. For a moment, they could almost believe they imagined the sound of what they believed was smashing of the front window. Then another crash from the room reached them. Of course he had no point of reference having never heard it before, still, Taddy knew it was his mother’s coffee table.

“Graww!”

The noise, a growl or moan, or whatever it was that they had yet to name, forced Gunther to grab on to Taddy’s shoulder tight enough to make the Taddy wince.

Their eyes grew wide. A large, pounding step, or what they believed was a step, sounded from down the hall, then another and maybe a third. It was hard to tell through the thunder, but when a definite fourth step moved from the muffled softness of the front room carpet to the hardwood of the foyer, the game changed. Whatever was in the house was coming their way.

Gunther held on tighter as the boys looked at each other. Their expressions were clear. The message, concise – run – but neither of them could move.

Taddy broke the stare first whipping his head side to side. He doused the dimming glow of the flashlight and pulled Gunther across the kitchen floor to the pantry.

“Thud! Thud!”

At the door, Taddy consciously slowed down enough to hold the panic at bay at least long enough to purposefully get his hand on the knob, turn it as quietly as possible, swing the door open enough to push Gunther inside, step in next to him and close the door softly.

“Thud! Thud! Thud!”

The heavy steps that tread the span of the front hallway in only a few steps, moved into the kitchen, and whatever hit the tile was heavy and sounded like metal on stone.

Taddy kept his hands on the handle of the pantry door holding it tight, just in case. Gunther pressed himself back against the shelves loaded up with canned goods and plastic bags of dried noodles and rice.

“Thud! Thud”

The weight of whatever made its way to the kitchen was enough to grind and splinter the tiles beneath it.

“Graww!”

The roar of the thing gave way to a heavy, rasping breath. Each gasp came long and slow, pulling with it a rumble like waves moving pebbles and sand with each pull.

There was a sniff and a snort and then … nothing.

Taddy waited for a long moment and before he dare take a breath. The only sounds that came to him were the winds, the rain and the low rumbles of thunder.  Almost believing he might have let that which was Video Hell get the better of him, He turned back to where Gunther was. Even in the dark, he smiled as he turned.

Long seconds drifted into minutes and in the absence of any noise in the kitchen, Gunther pulled himself from the shelves. He inched forward slowly and deliberately to find Taddy. He reached forward…

The top half of the door exploded into a shower of splinters. Taddy wrapped his tired hand around the door handle with renewed enthusiasm and a full-fledged panic. He screamed.

Above his head and through the hole, a large hand or claw reached into the pantry, wrapped itself around Gunther. Gunther screamed. The arm quickly pulled back, but Gunther was too big to fit through … on the first try. On the second try, one with clearly more force, the rest of the door and most of the jam exploded into splinters. Gunther’s scream ended immediately on impact.

The heavy feet turned on the kitchen floor, the metal sound on tile creating a high-pitched screech. The thudding sound of the foot falls traveled back up the hallway, into the front room and out through the large bay window.

Taddy stood in the dark. The remnants of the door, the handle he held on so tightly to, shook in his hands. The rain outside grew fiercer as the lightning flashed.

In the fleeting seconds of bright light, Taddy saw the debris littered all around him. In the debris, Taddy saw blood.

Boys – Part V

“Taddy?” Gunther said, in a whisper just loud enough to be heard over the rain attacking the attic roof.

“Yeah?”

“How long are you going to hold my hand?”

“Shut up,” Taddy said quickly letting go. “Just shut up and give me your flashlight.”

Gunther felt around him. “Wait,” he said. “”I thought you had a flashlight.”

“Mine’s dead, remember?”

“Well, I don’t have one,” Gunther said, trying to force any sign of a whimper from his voice.

“Then we’ve got to go get the one my mom has in the kitchen,” said Taddy, still whispering as if the darkness demanded it. “And we’re going together.”

“Right,” Gunther said. “I mean you’re not leaving me up here by myself.”

“Let’s go then.”

Taddy started to inch his way toward the hole in the floor and stuck a foot down through to find the ladder. Gunther inched with him, keeping a hand near Taddy’s shoulder so he wouldn’t lose touch as much for the connection to comfort, as it was a way to accidentally fall down the hole.

“Don’t push,” Taddy said.

“I’m not,” Gunther insisted.

Once on the ladder, Taddy’s instincts took over. He made the climb and descent in the dark thousands of times and was able to slip down into his bedroom in seconds. Gunther followed with a little more caution, but made it to the floor safe and sound.

“I can’t see a thing,” said Gunther. “This is crazy! I mean, look how dark it is. Where are you?”

“I’m over here.” Taddy clapped his hands and reached out for his friend. Gunther found him and the two began to slip their feet along the floor, inching their way to the door.

“Gah!”

A large flash of lightning filled the house, trailing off into the flicker of tiny strobes of light. Any progress the boys made toward adjusting their sight to the darkness was dashed in those seconds of brilliance.

“Boom!”

The thunder followed as they were still rubbing the brightness of the flash from their eyes.

“This sucks!” Gunther shouted. “I can’t see. Now I can’t hear. Really … this sucks!”

“Come on,” Taddy said. “There’s a flashlight in the kitchen. We’ll be there in a hot second.”

They continued their careful movements across the floor, to the stairs and down to the foyer. They inched their way to the kitchen, running their fingers lightly across the wall as a way to stay clear on their path.

Taddy reached the cold tile first. He stepped forward and reached out for the chopping block top of the island in the middle of the room. Finding it, he walked himself around to the second drawer where his mom kept the flashlight and any other number of assorted and likely useless odds and ends. He pulled the drawer and pawed around inside until he found it.

Click.

“That’s it?” Gunther asked, still standing on the edge of kitchen.

A pathetic, whimper of a glow lazily forced itself from the small light. Bringing recognition to Taddy’s face. He smirked and shook the light. It went dark. He hit it a couple of times and the light came back a little stronger, but not much.

“This is all we have unless I can find some more batteries,” Taddy said. “Or, until the power comes back.

“What about candles?” Gunther asked. “Do you have any candles?”

“Yeah,” Taddy said. My mom has a bunch in the…”

Any word Taddy might have said was murdered by another glaring flash of light. The boys had just enough time to look at each other before the thunder followed.

BOOM!

“Ahhhh!” The boys screamed.

“I wish it would stop doing that!” Gunther pounded on the wall next to him.

CRASH!

“What was that?” Taddy yelled. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” said Gunther, running into the kitchen. “I … nothing. It sounded like window in the front room. You saw me. I was right there. I swear I didn’t…”

“Shhhh! Shush! Hush! Shut up!” Taddy said, trying to cover Gunther’s mouth.

The boys stood in the faded yellow glow of the sad flashlight, listening hard for whatever it was Taddy thought he heard. After a moment, they turned slowly to face each other.

“Footsteps.”

“Breathing.”

While they spoke at exactly the same time, it was clear, they each heard something different.

Doll – Part VII

The one-time lovers, long-time strangers cried together on the floor in the hallway until they were done. Time had no meaning here. They sobbed together as if they were tearing through every wall and barrier their lives had placed between them. They cried themselves clean. After the tears, they lay in silence, wrapped in each other’s arms, physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and well beyond words.

At some point, one stirred. They quietly helped each other up and lightly stepped into some semblance of an ancient routine. When Margie left long ago, Chalmers barely had the heart to change anything. She stepped into the kitchen to make some fresh coffee and felt her movements become oddly familiar. She watched her hands as she worked. If they had not looked clearly older, she would have thought herself transported back in time, a better time.

Chalmers followed her into the kitchen holding the doll to his chest as he walked as if it were stuck there. He set it gently on the table, but away from where he planned to sit. Margie placed a warm cup of coffee down in front of him, as she used to do, as if she still did it. He took a cautious sip.

“Thank you.”

The corner of Margie’s mouth turned up slightly in an effort to smile, but she looked down, cautiously stirring some milk into her cup.

“How did you get it,” he asked.

“We had a hell of a storm,” she said, slowly shaking her head. “The wind was blowing. Lights were flashing. There was a tremendous thud against my door. When I opened it to make sure everything was O.K. there it was. Originally, it was wrapped in paper and twine. Wrapped poorly, but wrapped just the same.”

Margie sipped her coffee using two hands hoping that would calm her shaking.

“I recognized it the moment I saw it, and I…” Margie’s voice trailed off.

“You were pissed.”

“Enraged,” she said, using what little energy she a left to emphasize her outrage.

“I got it to,” he said. “During this last bitch of a storm, but I didn’t have it long. The doctor’s said I blacked out from all the excitement. When I woke up in the hospital, nobody remembers anything of an old doll.”

He paused. “I didn’t do it. You know that don’t you? I would never…”

“I know,” she said with a slight frustration. “I just. I was just so mad, and hurt. The moment the rain stopped I threw that doll in the car and drove up here.”

Storm or no storm the drive from Millard, where Margie lived in a small apartment, to Cardington was at least an hour.

“Sorry you wasted the trip,” Chalmers said, smiling ever so subtly. Margie reached over and took his hand.

They sat there together drinking coffee and saying very little as old friends might do.

Thump.  Thump. Thump. Thump.

They both froze for a moment and slowly turned to look at the doll. Two dark eyes, one at half-mast, stared back.

They looked at each other.

Together they stood and slowly stepped to the front door.

Doll – Part VI

“I’m sorry, what?” Chalmers stood at the door. Margie Elk stood before him, glaring at him from the stoop. Despite the curled expression of anger and her heavy breaths, he couldn’t help but feel relief that one, it was a human being at the door and two … it was her. A wave of nostalgia and memory, sadness and joy hit him all at once and he grasped the doorknob extra tight for balance. “What are you doing here?”

It had been years since he had seen or spoken to Margie, who was the true love of his life, at least until Paisley came and stole his heart. The vague memory of their last real conversation, which was really him lying on the floor in a drunken stupor and not a conversation at all, brought the heat of embarrassment to his face.

She was four years younger than him and the years had been kind to her. Far kinder to her than he felt for himself and despite the anger, she still held the light in her eyes that he fell in love with the moment they met.

“Is this some kind of a joke?” Margie choked a bit on the last word as she fought between killing him and crying.

She shot her arm out at him and in her hand was a plastic head and body swaddled in a dirty gingham cloth.

As his eyes dropped, Chalmers recoiled a step. Two dark eyes, one at half-mast, stared him over delicate smile. The doll.

Margie surged ahead and pushed the doll hard into his chest, holding it there. “Do you think this is funny?” she said, the anger making her voice rough.

Chalmers felt like a small child being taunted by a schoolyard bully. Margie kept pushing the doll into him, releasing a pent up aggression years in the making. He wanted to turn and run.  The foreign body against him almost felt like it was burning.

“Margie, stop!”

Another step back and the delicate knee, which had served him fairly well throughout a day of cleaning and clearing, whimpered and gave way forcing him to stumble backwards to the floor. Margie moved with a surprising agility as she kept the doll plastered firmly to his chest.

“Why would you do this?” she said, screaming now. “Where did you get this?”

She fell to her knees as her tears began to flow. She lifted the doll from Chalmer’s chest then slammed it back into to him once, then again, then again. Propping himself up on his elbows, he was unable to block the blows, not that it mattered. Margie’s rage lessened with each swing. Each strike came softer and softer until she fell on him exhausted and sobbing.

Chalmers dropped down to his back as the two of them lay in a pile on the floor in the front hall. With a hesitance he had not felt since their second date, he slowly moved his arms to embrace her. She gave a half-hearted shrugged intended to stop him, but for the first time in a long time, this felt good and right. He tightened his arms around her and pulled her as close to him as he could. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and when full and ready, it dripped free releasing a lifetime of tears and regret.

Doll – Part V

Despite his distaste for hospitals, Chalmers admitted to himself that his brief stint in Cardington Memorial did him good. He felt rested and a bit more at ease than when he first got there.

According to the news, the valley flooding was the worst in recorded history. As the water ebbed away, it left a trail of destruction and fallout behind it. Roads and buildings were missing. Mudslides were creating havoc. Bridges were now dangerous until proven otherwise.

In a world that never offered him much in the way of luck or success, Chalmers found a bit a relief in knowing his house sat in one of the few areas that suffered little damage. The water got close, but other than a little wetness in the basement, he was going to be fine.

The authorities opened the road to his part of town two days after the storm ended, conveniently set to his release from the hospital. He had a clean bill of health. No heart attack, no stroke, no ghosts or goblins. When he pulled into his driveway and stepped out of the car, the only thing there to greet him was some glops of mud, quite a few downed limbs and branches and a lightly wet basement.

The doctors told him to take it easy for a few days, but he was eager to get things cleaned up and reset his notion of normal. The mill was still under deep water, so it was like an extra vacation. He always felt motivated to do more when he was on vacation.

Resisting the urge to go inside, he attacked the yard work first. It was hard and heavy work in spots and his knee gave him a constant reminder of how it hated this much activity. Once the bulk of the debris was moved and stacked, he headed inside.

His pause at the front door was brief, but noticeable to him. Silly he thought. Anxiety is what caused his trouble not some child’s …

He brushed the thought away for imagined or not, the memory of the night of the storm materialized faster and with greater detail than he cared for.

Swinging the door wide open, he stood there peering in, half expecting something to jump out at him, but there was nothing. Everything was pretty much as it was. He tied to enter with confidence, but found himself moving slowly. And while we would not admit out loud what he was looking for, he absolutely confirmed that there was no doll lying about the entryway.

The power was back and he made himself a strong cup of coffee, perfect for a cool, calm Fall day. He had a small pump he intended to set up in the basement to get rid of the water, but there was hardly enough for that. He figured a mop, some rags and a bucket would take care of most of it.  He started in and eventually lost himself in the work.

Thump, thump, thump, thump.

The noise made him freeze immediately. His breath caught in his chest and he could feel an uncomfortable heat cover his forehead. His grip tightened on the mop handle.

Thump, thump, thump.

Taking a deep breath to keep his anxiety at bay, he released his death grip on the mop and leaned it up against the wall. He turned and headed slowly upstairs. A tiny voice deep in the back of his head reminded him that a good hard drink is the perfect antidote to fearful knocking. The thought made his mouth seem to go extra dry, extra fast.

He stepped timidly down the hallway to the front door. Deciding to take the direct approach to the situation, he decided against a peek out the window. He took in a very deep breath and swore to himself and to God in heaven that if there was a package on the stoop …

Unable to hold back another moment, he grabbed the doorknob and jerked the door open. Looking down to face his expectation, his fear, directly he saw not a package, but a pair of boots. He traced the boots up to the overcoat and then to the face of its owner. He squinted at the sign of recognition.

“Margie?”

“You sick son-of-a-bitch,” the woman said. “How dare you?”

Doll – Part IV

“Jesus Christ, CJ!”

Chalmers stirred as the sound of her voice rang down upon him. He wasn’t waking up, because he wasn’t really asleep, but he was being drawn out from wherever he was by her sour tone.

He had yet to open his eyes, but he squeezed the lids shut tighter just the same to eliminate the possibility of any light at all getting to his eyes and ultimately his aching, pudding-head brain.

“Oops,” he said, but it sounded more like, “Ooopshhh,” as he forced his words into the floor.

“Have you been there all night?” Margie said. “Again?”

The linoleum felt cool on his face, nice really. A puddle of drool had formed near his mouth. When the unexpected burp erupted from his lips, his acidic breath splashed the fluid and the smell reminded him of his reason for his current position on the floor … scotch.

If his math was right, and even the slightest thought of math made him queasy, this was the seventh time she found him sprawled out on the kitchen floor, incapacitated, incoherent and incapable of meaningful communication.

“I mean …” Margie stood over him one hand across her stomach, one hand rubbing her forehead. Chalmers dared to open his eyes just ever so slightly. She never came into focus. He never moved his head, so the odd angle at which she appeared while being all fuzzy struck him as oddly funny.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she said. He vaguely remembers her saying those exact words around time number four, but that time there was crying and a little pleading. This time…

“I can’t!”

“You,” Chalmers said with great effort. He paused to erupt in another hiccough/burp that made his body jerk. “Don’t … under … stand. You … never…”

“Don’t, CJ!” Margie shouted down at him. “Don’t you dare! I miss her too, every day! Don’t you dare tell me I don’t understand. At least I faced it. I didn’t hide from it and escape up into some bottle of gin!”

“Scotch!” Chalmers sort of yelled. The need to correct her forced his head from the floor. He held it there in a weary delirium for a three count before letting it drop again into his drool.

“It’s been five years,” Margie said. “Five years she’s been gone. And you left shortly after that! I can’t do this. I want to live! I’m not going to watch you drink yourself to death. She … would hate what you’ve become.”

The soft cushion of alcohol gave way to a torrential wave of anger. He swung out at her with his arm with little chance of connecting. “Shhhhuuddup!”

He rolled over onto his back swinging out at her. “Shuddup! You don’t know! You don’t know!” Tears breached his eyes and began to trickle down his face. He began to sob. “You don’t know!” he tried one last time, but it came out as nothing she could understand.

“I know,” she said, the calm in her voice reflecting her resignation. “I know all too well. I lost everything that day. I lost her. I lost you. Everything. I can’t do this. Goodbye.”

His blinding tears prevented him from seeing her leave. His sobs prevented him from hearing her go, but when the door closed and she was gone, the weight of her absence fell upon him, crushing him almost completely.

Doll – Part II

There was the dark, but the silence that came with it faded into a soft beep, regular and steady. The tone seemed to call him, urging him back to the surface. He thought about opening his eyes, but his heavy lids gave him pause, closed proved to be exactly how they wanted to stay. A gentle but firm touch near his wrist startled him ever so slightly from the brink of another dream. His head floated in a dizzy haze as he forced one eye open.

“Well, hello there,” Amanda Pike said with a slight smile. She finished taking his pulse and marked her chart.

“Where?”

“Sh…, Mr. Elk, you’re at Cardington Memorial. You’re a lucky man. You’ve been through quite a lot.”

“What … happened?”

Nurse Pike hung the chart at the end of the bed and stepped to his side. “The storms have caused substantial flooding and power outages all through the valley and the surrounding areas. After the evacuation orders posted, volunteers and authorities went house to house to make sure people were getting out. That’s when they found you. They thought you had a heart attack.”

“Heart …,” Chalmers muttered.

“No,” Pike said. “Like I said, you’re a lucky man. I would let the doctor explain it, but with so many coming in, it would some time before someone got up here. The doctor’s found no evidence of a heart attack. They are running a few more tests to make sure it wasn’t a stroke, but, it looks like with all the excitement of the storm, you had a pretty good anxiety attack.”

Chalmers closed his eyes. His head swam against the medication.

Nurse Pike checked the monitor and adjusted the tube of oxygen under his nose.

“Where …,” he muttered, unable to get the whole thought pulled together.

“Where, what? The flood? Everywhere. The water is just everywhere and still rising. They say it might just breach the hundred-year mark. It’s sad. I’ve never seen so many people displaced. It’s just crazy.”

“No…,” Chalmers said. It was hard to pull the words together when the sedatives urged him back to sleep. ”Where is …”

“Where is what Mr. Elk? The doctors? They are most likely tied up in the ER. Your clothes and belongings, well at least what they brought you in with are there in the closet safe and sound.”

“Doll …”

Nurse Pike turned to him and glared at the connotation.

“No …,” he tried again. His head sagged in frustration. “The doll. Where is the doll?”

“Why, what doll Mr. Elk?”

“Paisley’s doll.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Elk, There was no doll.”

His thoughts swirled back to the storm, the incredible rain, the lightning. He remembered unwrapping the thick brown paper, and the dirty gingham. He remembered the stare of the small, black soulless eyes – one that sat at half-mast. They stared at him. They stared into him. There was a doll, Paisley’s doll.

“No doll?” he whispered.

“No sir. The crew said they found you right by your front door, slumped over clutching your shirt with both hands. That’s why they thought you had a heart attack. There was no doll.”