Tag Archives: ghost

The Other Side of The Wall

“Do you think I’m pretty? Do you think that you could ever love me? Would you ever look upon me as something to be desired? Even someone like me?”

And just like that, Martin started hearing her. It wasn’t right away, but it wasn’t long after moving in either. And it was with such clarity that it was like he could reach out and touch her: the ghost, the girl that was just a voice, the girl that lived in the walls.

It terrified him at first. Because Martin –just like anyone, really– was not accustomed to the unknown or something so…ghostly. Even spiders scared him, a lot. But the girl was not a frightening apparition. She did not seem to mean anybody harm. Even more so, she seemed to take no notice that Martin was even there.

Except who was the girl talking to? It was rather puzzling. That was why Martin started to listen, to really listen. While doing so, he couldn’t help but wonder what she looked like or if the girl was as lovely as she sounded when she laughed.

At first, she was disrupting Martin’s daily routine, and Martin was all about his daily routine. After a short time, however, she became part his daily routine.

After work, as Martin began to spend more time with a chair close to the kitchen wall where he could best hear her, the unseen spirit began taking shape in his mind. He began to picture her face, her oval wandering eyes, her lips lifting into a smile. Some sunny afternoons Martin could even hear her sing.

What is this? Where are you? Martin would wonder. Occasionally, he would even go outside and around the corner to the place alongside the house by the driveway where she should have been –but there were only shrubs, if you could even call them that. Martin did not consider that the voice came from the shrubs. He doubted that shrubs could sing.

This was a strange predicament. Martin was alone and even sometimes lonely. He had always felt as much, especially when in a crowd. It was like he was looking for something that was never there. So, these days even a voice in the wall became good company even if they couldn’t respond when Martin asked questions aloud in the kitchen and felt like the crazy old woman at the grocery store that always counted her pennies and then slipped and started over again when Martin was behind her needing to get to work.

Despite that Martin needed to know what was happening here in his kitchen, it gave him a fresh perspective, a new light. It made things exciting. It made days seem more than just an endless parade of eating frozen dinners in front of the television and trying to avoid the mailman’s incessantly dull conversations about the weather.

“Every time I walk in the sunlight, I am glad to be alive. Just feeling the sun, its glow, its warmth –it’s like unconditional love on my skin and on my soul.” The ghost girl had said out of nowhere one day as Martin was putting the kettle on, and it felt as though she was speaking directly to him as it was a gloriously clear and warm Spring morning filled with birds fresh with song. “Even when it hurts, even when things are so bad that all I want to do is cry, seeing the blue sky and the white glow of our perfect star makes me take a deep breath instead because every day is a blessing.”

“I feel the same way,” Martin returned, but heard nothing more. Still, he smiled and went about his day with renewed vigor. Ah, this voice, this spirit, this girl –whatever she was, it was apparent that she was not malevolent at all but soft like the summer rain that drummed upon the awnings and the dawns that followed when the morning light was just a whisper along the horizon.

But then there was her father:
“Cassandra, why are you so useless? I swear to God, girl…”
He was malevolent.

Now there were more of them in the walls to Martin’s dismay. He could even hear the dog barking and the TV muffled in the background. It was like they were coming alive on the other side of the old plaster.

“Turn up the TV and go get the paper, Cassandra.” And so the television was turned up as requested in Martin’s world as well but faintly –a flicker, a shadow.

Who were they, really? They weren’t neighbours; Martin didn’t have any. He lived in a fully detached house on a barren lot with nothing around but the old railroad station where decommissioned engines and carts, stacks of old rails and railroad ties, and a broad array of other abandoned equipment lay haphazardly around –all cobbled into something reminiscent of a giant child’s forgotten toy set.

It wasn’t a haunting either. According to everything that Martin was ever told, ghosts did not travel in packs. They did not bring their dogs or television sets back with them either. It was rather that the house remembered. The voices, the people, and the time that they had lived here was etched into the walls and the house had decided that it wanted to relive what had happened here. It kept what it had heard and now it was playing it.

It was playing it all back for Martin.

“Cassandra, you’re as worthless as they come. Look at you! Who’s going to love you? Can’t even do the dishes right.”

Worst of all was that this was so familiar to Martin. He thought that he could understand Cassandra. He knew what it was like to feel that you didn’t deserve to exist at all and always be reminded of it. And things got worse over time. Fights became physical. Things would get broken. It would go on for hours, and all Martin could do was listen.

“Cassandra, get me a beer. Then clean up the kitchen and sweep the house.”
“You said I could go outside today. It’s such a nice day.”
“You talking back to me? Come here!”

It soon become apparent that her father was a drunk that liked to berate and beat on Cassandra day and night, and for whatever reason he could find. And Martin couldn’t do anything about it. It just wasn’t possible for him to interfere so there was no way to help her, to save her. Martin was irrevocably destined to helplessly sit there and listen to it play out from some distant memory that the house freely regurgitated like some asshole record player.

But what if it wasn’t? Martin began to ponder things that were in his mind best left to scientists and people on reality television. What if Cassandra lived in the past but also somewhere alongside of him somehow? Somewhere reachable perhaps. The possibilities nagged at Martin because Cassandra was there, wherever and whenever that was. There was nothing tangible, nothing concrete. But sometimes possibilities were enough, and in them he dwelled. Otherwise, what was the point of all this? Was there one?

Days became nights that became days again as weeks led into months and everything had remained as it was. When Martin wasn’t working, he was in the kitchen seated on a chair listening to Cassandra’s sweet, disembodied voice lost somewhere on the other side of the wall -maybe across the whole universe. It could have been another dimension for all he knew. The result was the same: as time dragged on, the hope that he would ever cast eyes upon Cassandra had greatly diminished. Martin felt hopeless in that he couldn’t help himself from falling for someone that was no longer there –just a ghost, an echo; just a breath and a million miles away. Somebody without a face. Somebody without a time.

Still, just to close his eyes and envision her in a summer dress staring out the same window he was as she spoke to no one in particular was something that Martin reveled in, breathed in deeply, obsessed over endlessly. It made everything else seem so distant, just a parade of senseless activities.

“I feel that you are out there, listening,” Cassandra had said. “So, I don’t feel alone, even when I am. Does that make sense? Are you out there, somewhere that I cannot see or touch, but feel?”

Was there a connection somehow, in space and time? It sounded crazy, Martin thought. Maybe it was. But what wasn’t when you really thought about it? Martin pondered what he did every day and how insane that would look to an outsider that did not understand how society worked.

“I can hear you, Cassandra. It’s me, Martin.” Martin sighed, but at least he did not feel so ridiculous anymore. “I know that you’re long gone or somewhere very far away, but I still can’t let go. I won’t. I don’t know how to. I also don’t know what to do or why I’m really here or even why this is really happening, but one thing is certain: I will not give up on you, even if it’s a lost cause. It’s all I have.”

Yet ever-present was her father like the shadow of a hammer upon a nail. And the torture of hearing their daily routine reminded Martin that the universe just was. It did not bend this way or that to follow some fantastical predetermined destiny. Martin was feeding his own delusion like coals into a fire. This was all for naught and he was going to make himself sick or worse from obsessing over what the house was doing.

But then the hammer fell.

It began as all the other fights did: Cassandra’s father yelling, words angry and slurred. He was drunker than usual and punching the walls. Next would be her. The dog was barking. Cassandra was sobbing, begging for him to stop. But he was only gaining momentum. This was the worse that Martin had ever heard him: Cassandra was lazy; Cassandra had let him down; Cassandra wasn’t the daughter he wanted. As furniture was being overturned Martin seethed and gripped his chair white-knuckled wishing for anything just to make it stop. But then it did…

Martin heard a bottle smash followed by a heavy thud, almost loud even through the wall. A body fell…Cassandra’s? His mind struggled at what else it could be. Something was very wrong. Martin had a fairly good idea of exactly what had transpired but still…he might have just knocked her unconscious. Then came a long, drawn-out silence. Not good. Martin could hear weeping, barely audible.

Finally, “Cassandra? CASSANDRA?!” Her father shouted. “Oh no, no…my baby girl…”

When the drunken man started wailing, Martin’s stomach dropped like a lead weight to the bottom of a dark ocean. The man had trapped himself in the cycle of his own violence and now he was sorry, now he was the victim. Martin couldn’t even be angry anymore; his heart knew what had happened before his mind could accept the finality of it. Whatever the case had been the result was the same: Cassandra was gone. For a long time after, Martin sat in the dark kitchen listening to the father’s sobs and the rain falling outside, softly.

And then everything just stopped. There was no father, no television, no dog, and no Cassandra. It was as though it had never happened. Martin was shocked to numbness but eventually the numbness wore off and that’s when things got bad. Martin had never had his heart broken before and would have felt better if it was gone completely. If only he could have felt nothing instead. And so Martin let himself go into that dark place alone until he was fully immersed, finally breaking down beneath the weight of his sadness, but that’s not all he did.

Martin stopped sleeping. And he never left that kitchen chair. He stopped eating and was withering away and didn’t care. His work stopped calling. Envelopes piled up in the mailbox. Food went bad. He was completely lost, barely conscious anymore, slipping away as there was nothing to hold on to. This was the end. Martin’s sorrow had become a creature, had become his best friend. Hello, Old Chapo! And this was the end…the end…the end…

Everything was over. Nothing was ever over.

“Martin…”

That voice. Martin had heard it so many times through the walls. But this wasn’t through the walls. Martin lifted his head from the kitchen table, slowly sat up in the chair, turned around and there she was: Cassandra. Standing there. So terribly beautiful. Not a ghost in the wall. She was there. Not a crying, singing, or sobbing invisible entity in the never ether. She was right there in the kitchen staring back at him. There was something in the way that she looked at him. Martin melted. Reality shifted. Something strange and new and everlasting was here. Right there. With her. As alive as the sky. As real as his breath.

“Martin.” She was smiling. Cassandra ran her hand along the wall as she turned around the corner and was gone but for the sound of her feet on the floor echoing down the hall.

Martin had finally cracked. Had to have been. It was just too much for him in the end. No other explanation but…

Martin knew…he knew that this place was special. And that he was special. And that maybe the house had been calling to him all along. And maybe he didn’t have to love her from afar.

Martin scrambled out of his chair, heart beating in his ears. This can’t be real. It can’t be….

Please let this be real…

It’s Back

Sonya was out back gathering dead leaves when she saw it standing in the schoolyard watching her, hands clenched at its sides, still and silent as a tomb, staring.

Sonya went into the kitchen where Frances was washing dishes.
“It’s back,” she said.
“What? Really?” Frances dried his hands and went to the window. He knew exactly where to look. “Shit. What do we do?” Frances started pacing like he did last time. It was happening all over again as though someone pulled up the needle on a record and dropped it back to the beginning of the track.
“Fuck…fuck…fuck…” He muttered like a broken robot.

“They did say it was possible,” Sonya interjected.
Frances stopped and gave her a look that could dry paint. “I know what they said, okay?”
He walked over to the counter and picked up his phone.
Sonya planted her hands on her hips. “Who are you texting?”
“Ellis.” Frances thumbs were working overtime when a simple ‘It’s back’ would have sufficed, but that wasn’t Frances.

Sonya laughed, “yeah, cause he’s a big help.”
Frances finished up and gave her the look again. “Why do you have to be like that? Honestly, like…fucking why?”
It really didn’t take much time for things to fall back to the way they were the last time they had to deal with that…thing.

And sure enough, when Sonya went back to the window, it was still there, staring. The thing was that it was stuck. It couldn’t move right now. She didn’t know how it had made it that far into the field except through sheer will; it was probably that pissed off.

But tonight, once the sun set and the stars came out -then it would be free to go where it wanted. And guess where it was heading? They needed a plan. Fast. It was only a couple of hours before the standing silent figure in the schoolyard would become mobile and therefore a major fucking problem.

“Come on, Ellis. He’s not answering.” Frances seemed to say it more to himself than to her.
“I have an idea,” said Sonya, trying once again to be the problem-solver. She held this conviction that if she started to say something the rest would just come out, would fall in line organically all on its own -but this time there was nothing.

Sonya didn’t have an idea at all.

And the clock was ticking…

Dream Phone

“I know it’s been a couple years since lockdown…but I heard and I’m so sorry about Beth, Man. I really am.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“You still think about her?”
“Every single minute, Martin. Things like that don’t just go away.”
“Fuck cancer.”
“Yeah, fuck cancer,” I said without conviction, staring down at the table. Still the same Martin then. I never quite understood how someone as empathetic could be so socially tone-deaf. And why was I here? What did he want?

But really, what was I doing other than sitting in a room with the drapes drawn staring at a television that wasn’t turned on?

Someone at the other end of the coffee shop coughed. I looked over to see an old man in a checkered shirt frowning at me.
“Oh, check this out.” Martin reached inside his jacket. “Got this phone on Amazon. It lets you take pictures of your dreams.”
“Bullshit.”
“No, seriously. All you have to do is make a clicking motion with your finger –like this, and it’ll take a photo of what you’re doing right inside your dream. But you have to remember while you’re dreaming to do this. Harder than it sounds. Took me a while to get the hang of it.”

I drummed my fingers on the table.
“Bullshit,” I said again. I mean, believe this guy?

Martin laughed, “Okay, I get it. But tech these days? And this phone? I got it a week ago and you should see some of the shit that it can do. Unreal. I don’t know who made it, and I even looked.” Martin then leaned forward and whispered as though what he was telling me was a grave secret: “Listen, this is so much more than just a phone. It’s like a line to the other side of the universe; a bridge to beyond and back. Something happened soon after I got it…so…I had to show you it.”

“Okay, Martin,” I clasped my hands together and looked over at the old man again. He was still frowning at me. “First off, what the fuck? Why me? And what do you mean ‘other side?’” This was when I started to feel something begin to crawl around the inside of my stomach, something cold and unfriendly.

“Alright, alright…” Martin smiled. He has always been a decent enough guy, but this conversation made a quick right turn and went a little too far down the yellow brick road. Maybe Martin was a few gumdrops short of a gingerbread house. Who knows? Either way, I didn’t like where this was going.

“Don’t freak out. Okay? Promise?” Martin didn’t wait for an answer. He slid the phone over and I found myself staring at a pic.

It was me and Martin leaning back against a beach bar with Chinese lanterns filling the sky behind us. Somewhere tropical. Sailboats and gulls. Even though I was never there, it did look like an actual photo. But the only thing that I really saw was Beth, my dearly beloved and departed, standing on the other side of me in a white flowing dress with her arm around my waist.

“What?” Was all I could muster to say, and I could hear my own voice begin to choke. I didn’t know what I was looking at, at first. But it hit me, hard. My vision began to blur. I wasn’t expecting to see her today. It changed things. Memories came flooding back: watching her live, watching her die.

“You fucking photoshop this?” My hand started to shake, so did the phone. I felt tears begin. Fuck, I thought that I was getting better for a while, but obviously I wasn’t.

“Whoa, Man.” Martin looked around. “Let’s just chill for a sec. You’re not seeing the whole picture.”

I actually began to laugh, “I’m not…whew!” I wiped my eyes with my sleeve and looked at the pic again; brought it closer to my face.

Martin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You need to listen to me, I…”

“You Sick Fuck, you think this is funny?” I said it softly, my voice quivering. I could barely make out Martin sitting across from me. My face felt hot. Holding the phone anymore was no good so I lay it down on the table, gently.

Martin’s eyes widened. “Easy, Man, just give me one second to explain.” He seemed just as unnerved as I was. Maybe he wasn’t a complete asshole, just hopelessly misguided. But by now he had certainly realized that this was a mistake.

That’s when the phone lit up with an incoming call and I stared at it in disbelief.

Back in college, when we were starting off, Beth and I had made a pact. We made it because deep down inside we knew that we were meant to be together. We would always be in love; there was no question. And we would always find each other no matter what. That was the pact. There was a song that was part of that pact. It was playing when we made it. It was forever, just like us. We adopted it. Sang it to each other. Stupid shit. It was a silly, young romantic gesture. One that I had almost forgotten until now.

It was a collection of flat eight-bit tones, but the ringtone the phone was playing –it was mine and Beth’s song.

Nobody else knew that. When the song then began to play over the radio in the coffee shop it felt like somebody had just tapped me on the back in an empty, locked room. It brought back the nights I lay alone in our bed after she was gone, having conversations with her in my head, wishing to God that I could have went as well and not be left here, like this, grown-ass man crying in the dark like a lost little child. What I would have gave to speak to her again, if only for a minute.

What I would have gave.

Martin put both his hands up like he was under arrest –only to show me that he was non-threatening. He then slowly reached over and answered the phone.

“Hey. Yeah. Thank you. Here he is.” Martin handed it over across the table. As though in slow motion and like in a dream itself, I slowly reached out, grabbed the phone, and brought it to my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

FLASH HORROR FICTION #12: NEIGHBOUR’S SHED

“Did you hear something?”

“No,” Sam lied. He did, and it shook him up even though Sam was expecting to hear it: the voice of a little girl singing. It was coming from the neighbour’s shed.

It was mid-January. The garage they were in was just a roof stuck to the side of a house. Sam had a portable lamp hung over the open hood of a car and held a wrench in his hand but had no idea what to do with it. This was all just for show.

Jamie wore only a light jacket and had his hands shoved deep into its pockets as he shivered. He was there to tell Sam that he was screwing his wife and that she was leaving him. Sam knew this because Jamie had told everyone and that was because Jamie could never shut the Hell up once to save his life.

Sam had never been to this garage before and the owners of the house were not his friends. But Jamie wouldn’t know that because he never gave a second thought to anything outside the sphere of his personal interests. Getting Jamie here was easy. The next step? Probably even easier.

“Okay,” Jamie said, “you had to hear it this time. I mean, come on!”

Sam heard it –you bet he did– but he simply shook his head slowly and leaned further into the engine as the girl continued to sing her lullaby.

“I’m going to check it out.” Jamie started walking toward the neighbour’s unfenced yard. “Forgot that it’s always up to me. I’ll be right back.”

“You do that,” Sam said to himself. The girl’s voice became louder and Sam had to laugh a little: a girl singing in a shed on a January night and she needs Jamie to go save her.

He had to hand it to the girl though, even while dead she could still really belt out a tune.

Oh, King Jamie, I’ve been waiting for something like this. I’ve swallowed your shit for ten years, and I’ve listened to you go on about your cars and your girls and your money. Oh, and also about how you’re just better than everybody else. You may have managed to even fool my wife, but not me because I know what you truly are and that’s a goddamn virus that needs to get stamped out and now.

Sam smiled as he heard the shed door open and Jamie’s voice calling out with that authoritative command of his: “is there somebody in here?”

Yes, there is indeed, King Jamie. Twenty years ago today a little girl was murdered by her own father on her birthday and left to rot in that shed and since then each year on this special day she needs a little ‘gift’ or else all Hell breaks loose around this whole neighbourhood because she can be a very, very angry little spirit when she doesn’t get her present.

So, because I knew what you needed to talk to me about in person when you called, well, I called up these good people I knew of and asked if we could do each other a favour because that’s how they chose to deal with this predicament instead of having to move everybody out. When you don’t have all the money and influence in the world you have to do what you need to in order to survive and sometimes it’s ugly like this. So, this year you’re going to be her present, King Jamie, and that in itself will be mine.

Jamie’s sudden harrowing scream sent chill’s down Sam’s spine.

Then there was nothing for a while –no screaming or singing, just a hollow shed with its door left banging in the cold wind.

A woman with striking green eyes came out into the garage from a side door of the house and said, “it’s done.”

Sam nodded, put down the wrench, removed the lamp and shut the hood of the car. He gave her a weak smile then turned and started down the driveway.

HORROR FLASH FICTION #11: ARACHNOPHOBIA

Jesse woke up and looked outside. The sky was filled with spiders lazily floating down as far as the eye could see.

“Daddy!” She cried, “There are spiders falling from the sky!”

“That’s okay, Honey, let them fall.” He replied.

Jesse looked back out. The window itself was now covered with spiders of all sizes shooting across the pane this way and that. And it was not just that one window but all of the windows –all over the house.

“Daddy!” She cried, “There are spiders crawling all over the windows!”

“That’s okay, Honey, let them crawl.” Daddy wasn’t one to become upset apparently over anything. He just sat alone at the kitchen table staring at the wall and sipping on a beer.

In one sweeping movement a multitude of spiders burst into the kitchen from under the front door and came scrambling out, legs clacking loudly against the linoleum.

“Daddy!” She cried, “There are spiders all over the floor!”

“That’s okay, Honey, I’ll sweep them up.”

Just then the front door banged open and the biggest spider Jesse had ever seen came in, plopped down at the kitchen table across from Daddy and opened up a small brown briefcase.

“Thanks for coming, Doc.” Daddy said.

“Is she getting any better?” The spider asked. Its eight billion black, bulging eyes stared at Jesse as multiple facial appendages danced wildly about in anticipation of ingesting her slowly.

Daddy finally turned and looked at her too. There were hordes of small spiders crawling all up his neck and exploding out all over his face.

“No, Doc.” He said, “In fact, I think she’s getting much worse.”

Horror Flash Fiction #10: Looking For Victoria

Johnny Spirit sat beneath the bridge downtown beside the tracks on an old battered mattress placed among train cars splattered with graffiti. He took from his coat pocket the handful of mushroom caps that Evil Jesus had given him, popped them into his mouth and began to chew on what tasted like pliable copper. Unlike most he was loath to do it as they made his mind a train-wreck and the come down was unnecessary but he needed them to get tonight’s job done. They let him get far enough into the thin veil that separated all things to where his own natural abilities would kick in and take it from there. It was very much like jump-starting a vehicle in the dead of winter.

Far across the silent, broad street under the sole streetlamp a fire burned high in a rusted steel barrel. Beyond it on the facade of an abandoned factory a doorway led into darkness. Something bad had happened there not long ago into the past or perhaps into the future. It was hard to tell and it wasn’t his business unless someone paid him which was why Johnny was here to begin with. He needed to eat, pay rent and maybe get a bottle of Jack to help manage his own demons.

After a half-hour had passed in silence the mushrooms started to kick in. Johnny felt nauseous and cold. His thoughts took shapes of their own and took him to places he needed to forget but simply could not and it was all part of the trip:

Her face appeared again like it did every time he closed his eyes. She was laughing as she danced between trees drenched in soft summer’s eve light.

The image faded, replaced by another of her some time later -the same lovely face contorted into a mask of anguish as she screamed for him to leave, followed by the heavy presence of silence and emptiness that had since remained like a long, dark hallway.

No…I’m sorry, Sweetheart. I’m so sorry for what happened to us.

Then came the little apartment room swallowing Johnny up to the moment that he was trapped with the elfish nymphet happily hurling bottles at his face as she laughed at him and at his pain. She was all scars, stitches and rage under a barrage of flower tattoos -a girl that was nothing but damaged and as such had damaged Johnny in return by trying to love him the way that others had taught her.

Some people’s sickness you can’t see until it’s far too late.

Again his world transformed to become the burnt-out husk of their house after the fire where everything was blackened and wet as he wandered through alone in the night still clearly recalling the kaleidoscopic din of sirens and lights. It was a place that he had never really left and Johnny hated himself for it just like he hated the four walls he lived in and despised even more the need to ever leave it and walk out into the brutally confusing world.

Johnny, get a grip. You’ve got work to do.

Johnny jerked his head up, opened his eyes and forced himself into the present. He had to own this trip or it wouldn’t work. The nausea dissipated and he couldn’t feel the cold or anything else now as he experienced the weightlessness that was the dominion of dreams. It was how Johnny knew that it was time. He needed to find the girl in blue by the station as it was Johnny’s ticket to where he wanted to go tonight.

Johnny began to walk in the direction his mind told him to go and it wasn’t long before he heard steps falling, skipping along beside him. He turned to face a girl of about twelve whose light-blue dress and dancing shoes spoke of how long she had been residing here unseen except for when she needed or wanted to be.

“Do you think I’m pretty?” She asked.

“I’m bad, but not like that.” Johnny replied as he lit a cigarette. The act of it taking more of his concentration then it had a right to. “I’m not interested in that or in you in general, not really anyway.”

Johnny felt sorry for the girl as he took in her dead visage, her pale dead legs beneath her tattered dress, her pale dead everything. He wondered how many of the missing have fallen to her in these parts in this town.

“You sure know how to talk to a lady.” She crossed her arms.

“I’m looking for Victoria.”

“Oh? And what do you know about Victoria?”

“She’s been hurting some of my friends and I want her to stop. I thought that things might be better off if her and I had a conversation in private.”

The girl’s laughter was humorless and beyond her years. “What makes you think that I would help you?”

Johnny reached into his pocket. “Because she takes possibilities away from you. Help me, and I’ll help you. All I want is some information and in return I’ll give you this.”

Johnny pulled out a small black key and handed it to her. The girl knew what it really was and smiled. She nodded over to where Johnny came from, to the barrel fire and the door behind that led into a very bad place judging from the feel of it.

“I think you already know where to find her.”

Johnny looked over to see that the fire was still burning like a beacon. There was still nobody tending it. And the door was still open like an unanswered invitation. “Fuck.” He said.

“Not for you. Not tonight. Not if you go in there.” The girl cupped her mouth and giggled.

“A grand says I do.” Johnny turned and started walking.

“Oh, poor Johnny.” He heard from somewhere behind him. “She’s not really the one your looking for, is she?”

Games The Dead Play

Jackson with the long blonde hair
Hollywood smile
badass black leather jacket and slim frame
gracing the kitchen at a party

I was watching him
from the living room
making some beautiful girl laugh
playing it all up smooth as
silk rippling in a fine french wind
but that was Jackson
last I remember
the thing about this was
that he’s been dead
for fourteen years

Don’t tell me that I’m
crazy or mistaken
it was him all right
the way he moved and tilted his head
when he laughed and looked away

Hell, I could see the scar on his right cheek
from here
I gave it to him when we were sixteen
with a bowie knife
that was supposed to hit a tree

Best days of my youth were
spent that last summer
before his funeral when
we were all seventeen and
all we did was skateboard
drink whiskey
get high

He got all the girls’ numbers
every single one of them
you had to hate a guy like that
if you didn’t like him so much
because Jackson had all the charisma
that the rest of us didn’t he was as pleasing
as a Beatles melody
with his laughter his calm eyes his lack of caring

He was one of those guys that would never die
but then one day he did

I remember well
the way his mother cried at his
open casket
his ashen gray face with the
lips sewn together

When you see someone you know
in such a manner
with all the light gone
their dormant body
just looks like a
cheap rubber suit

Now here we are and
there he is
glancing at me all nonchalant

This even isn’t the first time
I’ve seen him
yeah, he’s been here and there at
parties, festivals, bake sales

I put it all together a while back
that he’s been watching me
following me
but for what?

It appeared there was a game afoot
which rules I did not fully understand

Well, having had enough of this
it was finally time to find out
and get some answers from the
dead man himself
so I set my glass down
and made my way towards the kitchen

Jackson lit a smoke as I approached
now that he was alone
leaning up against the fridge

For a moment he just looked at me
and I felt that I must be losing
all my marbles and that
it wasn’t him at all
but then

flashing that signature Hollywood smile

“What took you so long?” He said.

Dad, Have You Seen My Scooter?

Life at times can unrelentingly kick your ass
without ever offering an explanation for it and
then brutally punish you for being desperate
until the world flips over gravity undoes itself and all of
the universe unravels in your lap

and this all occurs when you are
unfocused or not paying attention
like day-dreaming behind the wheel
missing where you were supposed to turn
and ending up in a ravine
or it occurs while performing a simple task
such as, let’s say
unpacking a box of used tools.

This was just after the divorce
it was rather messy
the entrails of our marriage
was still a burning trash heap of
screaming unsettled emotions
wailing sirens and tears

and so there was the new (but somebody’s old) house
seems like somebody left in a hurry
it was messy neglected and needed some care
but that would all be done

It was old but large and on a corner lot
not far from the school
not that far from work

Sometimes in bed
I would hear things at night
but you just had to get used to
how the house settled

And what a deal it was
when I had so little to put down
instead of asking questions I
counted my blessings

whatever was wrong with it I could fix
the only thing that mattered now was
that I had custody of Brian
as long as I had that and
we had a place to live and to call home
then it would all be okay
eventually

This was a fresh start
a new coat of paint over everything
and I was just starting to embrace it
on a overcast Saturday afternoon
in our long open basement
aimlessly sorting through a box of tools
when gliding into the room like a newborn superhero
came my son draped head to toe in last year’s
black hooded reaper Halloween costume upon his silver
adjustable kid’s pro stunt scooter

I smiled a little remembering his face
when he opened it last Christmas
until I realized that he was going too fast
and was sure to speed right into the
darkened backroom that was little more than a
closet that housed the water heater

He paid no attention to where he was going being
too busy looking at me bending down on his knees
swinging himself around and
off to the side showing off
laughing like he was super high on chocolate
having the time of his life

only when he was
halfway across the long room
did I realize how unsettling
his way-past giddy laughter was
and how strange his movements were

As I opened my mouth to say something to
the little rock star like ‘calm down!’
the body beneath the black reaper robe
swung down like a pendulum
so low that it was almost even with the leg board
much further then could be possible
having a spine or bones or even skin but as quickly
it stood back up to become the form of Brian again

nothing came out of my mouth
it was rather dry
my mind was busy trying to piece together
a logical explanation but
was not doing a very good job

The laughter continued –louder and higher
the scooter passed right in front of me now
closer to the darkness of the doorway

The cloak swooped down again
now inches from the ground
rippling like a water serpent then
viciously whipping about as though it were caught in the
maw of an over-excited alligator

the laughter came faster and faster
-a tea kettle pitching higher
and higher until ‘POP!’

the robe suddenly swooshed up and away
into mid-air floating dreamily before falling flat
revealing that there was nothing
but the scooter underneath which then
riding solo
sped up straight into the back room
where I heard it crash into the concrete wall

I cannot express enough that, as a parent
it is probably the most terrifying thing
to watch as your child suddenly loses
all of their bones and turns into a
a gelatinous pile of goo
or a rippling flag of black that disappears altogether
in complete daylight

There was something stuck in my throat
pretty sure that it was a scream
and it would not come out because there
was no air there was nothing but the
dropping of my stomach as my mind raced
to try and find something that would
make sense out of what I had just seen

after a full minute of not breathing
I finally managed to gasp
as my son rushed into the room
red-faced flushed from running

“Dad, have you seen my scooter?”

The Disappearing Factory Across The Street

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”
Good ol’ Eddie always banging on my door
with a cold beer on a Saturday afternoon.

He was here to talk about the humming again
the strange sound of machinery in the air
where there was no manufacturing plant for miles
we all heard it increasingly over the summer months
and of course Eddie was the expert on what it was.

The field across the street from our house
at the center of our neighborhood
that has been barren since we moved in
five years ago
was once an old factory
that had burned down decades ago
nobody survived
not even the foundation remains
every project to reclaim the space had
simply failed.

The humming came from the factory that once was there
according to Eddie who had chatrooms
about it on his phone
forums, blogs and other obscure articles.

According to town legend
every so often a great storm would come
to tear down the veil between the known
and the unknown and during this time
the whole entire factory appeared
to take over the field once again
like a ghost ship but with
an employee committee.

“That makes no sense at all, Eddie.” I’d say,
“Things like that don’t happen in real life.
it’s just a ghost story meant to attract tourists.”

But it was real enough to Eddie; he’s dreamt about it
his wife was concerned and the cats avoided him
he was becoming increasingly obsessed
as the humming became louder.

“Can’t you hear it? It’s every day now. It’s coming back. Soon. I can feel it in my bones.”
“I think that might be the beer…or maybe cancer.” I replied.

The only live witness that Eddie could muster
to having actually ever seen the factory was Bayou Billy
who lived on the corner but that his dog had died
of a Methamphetamine overdose
three weeks ago and the fact that the
thing was still lying dead on his front lawn
chained to a tree like it
was in any condition to escape
did not make him the most reliable witness
and also he was blind.

I had decided that Eddie was delusional
but on certain nights when we all could hear
the low rumbling sound of machinery
coming out from everywhere
it did kind of have me spooked.

Then the day came when he finally did prove me wrong and man
it was like the end of the world
during the World Series
a huge strangely intense storm was in full force
the cat got blown off the porch hours ago and

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”
I opened the door and there was Eddie
soaking wet screaming -I could barely hear him
because towering behind him
where the field always was
there loomed a gigantic menacing brick building
that took up the entire wall of my vision
an utter monstrosity
and I could hear it so loud
producing God knows what
from God knows where.

“I TOLD YOU! I KNEW IT WOULD COME! COME ON LET’S GO INSIDE!”
Eddie practically dragged me from my porch and across the street
I had no words but his face lit up like a crackhead at Crack Christmas
I tried to pull him back
something was wrong with this place
other than that it was actually there to begin with
Eddie didn’t see what I saw
the way the factory looked like a yawning death trap
from a terrible nightmare or a thousand-year Reich
the jagged surfaces jutting out in impossible angles
that sole figure looking down at me
how it waved at me
it would always give me nightmares.

But Eddie would hear none of it
“I NEED TO GO IN! I NEED TO SEE IT!” was all he shouted
he broke my grip and
ran into one of the many doors
it seemed that at that moment the storm stopped
and the factory disappeared
and so did Eddie.

I never told anyone about that night not even my wife
because I wasn’t stupid enough to sound that crazy.

Eventually his wife stopped looking for him
a couple years later the family moved away
my kids grew a little taller and my wife and I
more than a little distant the room was always
full of unspoken words and maybe
it was me maybe I blamed myself for what happened
to Eddie I should have stopped him somehow and now not a night
went by where I didn’t see his stupid grinning face shouting:
“I NEED TO SEE IT!”

A year later my wife and I were divorcing
and we had put the house up for sale
she was no longer living there it was just me and
I could hear the humming those nights
but what it really felt like was some kind of PTSD
from long before reminding me of the things
I should of done.

Once again during the world series
I had just switched the TV and all the lights off when
a storm had swept in and was raging terror all across the sky.

Suddenly my bedroom was flooded with light
and outside I could see the many levels and windows
of the factory as it was once again now standing in full force
right across the street right in front of my window and it
took me by such surprise
that I almost didn’t hear the front door:

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”

Jenny Says Hi

Johnny got drunk
behind the wheel again and
smashed his car into a tree.

Jenny wasn’t wearing a seatbelt
and died on the way to the hospital.

That was twenty years ago
and the only reason Johnny
had recalled it right there and then
as he left the party that night
was that across the road
parked right under the
lone streetlight
was a 1983 mustang GT
5-litre V8
blue finish with cobra rims.

Johnny froze
and dropped his keys.
Jesus.

It wasn’t just any mustang GT
sitting there as though shipped in fresh
from outer space
It wasn’t just any car
It was the car
the one Jenny had died in
the one with the rear left panel replaced
by a slightly deeper shade
the one with long yellow scuff marks
all across the front bumper
and worn dark tints
missing patches here and there

and of course the
silly smiley-face sticker on the side bumper
where Jenny had put it.

Johnny couldn’t breathe
as he approached the car as
inside the shifter sported a chrome skull
on a center console painted black and white.

He did that
twenty years ago
when Jenny was still alive.

Oh God.
This wasn’t happening to Johnny
There must have been some answer to this.
Some strange coincidence.

He decided to wait across the street
on the curb
sobering up –half falling asleep
until when near dusk some kid came
strolling along
cigarette in his hand.

Weird-looking kid
-strange eyes
nobody walked like that.

Kid went up to the car
and stuck his keys in.

“Hey!” Johnny approached.
“Where’d you get the car?”
“What’s it to you?” The kid asked.
“Where’d you get it?” Johnny’s voice grew louder.
“Piss off, man. I don’t answer to you.”

Johnny went to grab him but
the slippery bugger dodged it
shouting:
“Get off me! I’ll charge you!
You can’t just run around grabbing at people!”

Johnny managed to catch him by the shoulder and
spun him around against the car
the kid grinned
his breath smelled like rotten eggs.

“WHERE DID YOU GET THE CAR!?” Johnny slammed his
hand down on the roof
right next to the bastard kid’s head.

The kid shrugged. “Alright. Uncle gave it to me, man.
Some old trash job he touched up. He’s a
mechanic. We good?”

Johnny turned away. Was it possible?
Johnny supposed it was. It had to be.
“Alright, never mind.” He said.

The kid picked up his cigarette.
“You need help, man. Cut down on the booze or something.”

Johnny walked away and heard
the car door slam behind him
and the engine started with that familiar
deep rumbling that he had always loved.

The car started off…
but stopped.

Johnny turned around to face the
red tail lights loudly flashing.

The kid leaned out the window
and looked back.
“Oh, Mister -and one more thing…

With a calm smile he said:
“Jenny says Hi.”