Kidnapped [Part 10, FINAL]

It wasn’t until then that I realized I must be past the six hour mark. I felt the influence of her memories and will over my own.

She didn’t want me to hurt them. Her body remembers her soul as being far purer than mine and is trying to transform mine to match hers. This usually begins about six hours after the initial transfer and is complete after twelve.

And it could not have started at a worse time.

Her muscles tense and seize as I attempt to thrust the stake into the side of the first silhouette. The resistance slows my movements down almost to a halt.

I couldn’t overcome her.

The tip of the stake hardly touches the mass. A hand shoots out and grabs it, tearing the weapon from my fingers. I try to back away but her ankle makes escaping difficult.

Hands wrap around me in seconds, incapacitating my already limited movements.

Shit.

Hot breath near my ear as a low voice whispers amusedly “Thought you could beat us did you?”

The leader.

The amusement was clearly fake, something he’d been working on since the last time. It was much more convincing and sinister than the first time she’d heard it.

His arms wrapped around her torso, locking her in a frozen, helpless position. Her body went limp, unable to resist as a sense of hopelessness spread through her.

It was heavy, weighing her down as he dragged her body up the stairs. I was forced to fight against both him and Louisa but the most I managed was a few weak kicks and a half-hearted twist.

He carried me back into the main room and sat me down next to the staircase. I shivered as my back touched the cold wood.

His two companions had joined him but they kept their distance. He stood right in front of me and stared at me for a long, strange moment. The mixture of emotions in his eyes was hard to read but I thought I detected a hint of sadness buried beneath everything else.

“Is everything ready to go?” he asked his companions without taking his eyes off me.

“Yes sir.” said the skinnier one. This was the first time I really saw him with my own eyes and nobody could call him eye candy. He had broad shoulders that stood disproportional against a narrow waist and short, stout legs. His arms were obnoxiously beefy from years of steroid abuse. His pock-marked face was complimented by beady black eyes and fat brown lips split in the middle by a scar. His hair was short and almost dripping in grease.

The other one strongly resembled Louisa’s dad; tall and rectangular with an oval face and a receding gray hairline. Stubble covered his oval chin, reaching out to his large elephantine ears.

He spoke next. “Where are we going to…” he looked at me and stopped.

“Not here right boss?” The other piped up.

“Of course no dumbass.” The leader snapped, turning towards him for a brief second. Then, with a forced, malicious grin he turned to me and continued “I know the perfect place, far away from anyone that could hear you.”

I shivered but didn’t say anything.

Louisa struggled to keep back her tears. They sprang into the corners of my eyes and I knew with a sense of resignation that she was growing even stronger.

We must be nearing the seven hour mark.

I had to work faster.

I forced my mind to focus on my peripheral vision so that I could scan the room without them noticing. I saw the illuminated squares that I could only assume to be windows on my right. The front door stood a dozen feet away on my left.

And the stairs sat patiently behind my aching back.

Three possible escape routes.

Reduced to two as one of the henchmen shifted towards the door as if he had read my thoughts somehow.

The two possibilities ran through my mind, fueled by Louisa’s rekindled desperation. For once we were on the same side. She was against fighting and injured the attackers (probably linked to her strong belief in karma) but held no qualms against escaping.

My first thought lingered on the windows, which surely led to a backyard. If I could get out there, I would be as close to civilization as I could be. I could alert the neighbors if I screamed. That way, if I couldn’t escape, at least there was a chance somebody could contact the police. At least I’d have a chance of being rescued.

But that hardly seemed possible. The panes were most certainly thick and would be hard, if not impossible, to break in such a weakened state. And who knows how hard they might be to open? The lock could be rust of the crevices could be painted over.

I could waste precious seconds trying to push the first pane up and ultimately be taken away by one of the men before I get so much as a breath of fresh outside air.

No, the windows were far too risky.

The only chance I had left lay up a flight of stairs.

I waited for one heartbeat. Then two. None of the three men in front of me moved. The leader was still studying me but his eyes had acquired a faraway glaze. The other two were useless puppets waiting for something to pull them into action.

If I was going to do something, I had to move now before it was too late.

Subtly I shifted my weight onto her bad side so that I could shoot out the good leg, quickly shift my weight back over and stand with as much speed as the high dose of adrenaline would offer me.

Then, before the shock could register on their faces, I pivoted around, grabbed the banister and swung myself to the front of the stairs.

The wood protested loudly despite her paltry weight. Arrows of pain shot through her leg and I ignored it adamantly. Nothing would slow me down now.

Surprised cries followed me as I hit the second floor landing a few seconds later. I heard the pounding of their large feet following me. Louisa began imagining the large, beefy hands reaching for her back, surely only centimeters away from the soiled fabric of her shirt.

She spun us around the corner and scrambled down the hallway, nearly losing her balance on the uneven boards. Piles of dust scattered as she sprinted, leaning against the wall and awkwardly stumbling every few steps.

Louisa chose the second room on the right side, ignoring the series of closets and cupboards on the left. There was one larger room but the door was closed.

She slammed her shoulders into the door, only seconds after entering, forcing it shut and leaning her weight into it to keep it from being opened again. Her hands shook so badly I had to take over to lock the door.

And not a moment too soon. The doorknob jiggled violently only a millisecond after the click.

Voices began shouting from the other side but she ignored them, tuning them out to the point where I could not hear them over her resistance. The pounding on the door soon became secondary to her heartbeat.

The room we stood in was almost completely bare. Evidence of furniture was present in patterns and shapes left on the dusty floor. Certain spots were darker and cleaner than the rest, having been protected from sun damage and dirt by whatever stood over it. Deep scratches were etched into the floorboard where something heavy had been dragged around.

Two windows stood on the side opposite of the door. The glass was streaked and dirty but unfortunately intact. Empty curtain rods above them, rusted.

She understood as well as I that there was only one thing left to do. There was only one chance to escape from this prison.

As we approached the windows, I noted the pinkish tinge the sky had adopted as darkness began creeping in from behind this house. I remembered the sun being high noon when I awoke yet now it was setting.

At least seven hours had passed. I only had five hours left to complete my job and be pulled out of her body before it completely overpowered me.

The process is one commonly referred to as “soul corruption.” It happens when the revived corpse recognizes the presence of a soul and assume that soul as its own, rewriting the memories of the dead person into the new vessel. If he doesn’t pull me out in time, I will cease to exist.

I shuuden at the thought of my eternal death.

I must hurry.

Her hands press against the smooth, cool glass. I see her reflection for the first time and feel her repulsion towards it. Truly the sight is not a pleasant one.

Bruises create patterns on her almost gray skin. Her lips are stained crimson with that same blood dried unevenly around the edges. Her left eye droops terribly and the skin around it is nearly black.

She shudders and averts her gaze downwards, focusing her attention on the windowsill instead. The first thing she tries to do was dig her nonexistent fingernails into the space beneath it to try and force the window open.

Knowing instantly that this wouldn’t work, I pressed the palms of her hands against the glass panes, squatted slightly, and pushed upward with the base of her palms. It took a long moment and a low, strained grunt before the window gave way and pushed upward.

The noise it made was enough to awaken half the country.

So much for discretion.

I knew as the pounding and shouting stopped that I had very little time to execute the rest of the plan. I had to somehow escape and hide before they could exit the house and catch me.

The impossibility of the plan astounded me greatly. It watered as tears in her eyes.

I had lifted one knee onto the windowsill and was leaning forward when I saw it.

My escape.

With renewed vigor I pushed my other foot off the ground and gripped the top of the windowsill. Twisted. Butt hanging perilously in the open air; only my hands and feet remained in the room. All my weight rested on her good ankle.

With swift, deft movements I switched my grip from the upper inside windowsill to the outside. Then I reached up and grabbed the edge of the roof.

Pushing with my legs and using my arms to pull, I slowly lifted her body up towards the roof. Her good ankle supported us easily, easily working as a lever to push us upward to the roof.

Within seconds my waist was pressed against the edge of the roof. I pulled one arm up and rested it on the crumbling orange shingles. The jagged edges dug into my weak flesh. I gritted my teeth against the pain.

The rest of my strength disappeared as I finally lifted her legs up and over the edge, rolling myself a couple feet up the roof to stay out of sight.

A loud creak told me they’d opened the door.

Tucking my arms in as best I could, I rolled upwards despite gravity’s best attempts to pull me back down. The shingles dug into my flesh and a few loose ones threatened to fall but somehow everything held.

Their voices followed me to the peak of the roof, threatening my survival.

Leader: Where is she?

Henchman 1: I don’t see her.

Henchman 2: She couldn’t have gotten far. I’ll check the backyard.

Henchman 1: I don’t see any movement in the trees and there’s no one behind the bushes.

Henchman 2: She’s not hiding back there either boss. What do we do?

Leader: Shit. She must have gotten to the main road and been picked up by a car.

His voice had taken a slight vibrato, betraying his fear.

I had just scrambled over the peak of the roof when the slap of footsteps echoed around me.

Leader: Anthony hit the right, Bill go left. Stop any cars you see. Find her.

I rolled down the roof a few more feet to ensure I was truly out of sight.

A multitude of slams. The cacophonous rumble of car engines. The squeal of tires disappearing into the distance.

And with that they were gone. I was alone and safe.

The euphoria of this realization was felt by both of us.

Yet it was short-lived.

Crushed.

I should have been withdrawn right then and there and her body should have returned to being a lifeless corpse. The kidnappers would be caught so my mission should be over.

Only it isn’t. Because I suppose they won’t be.

There is still something I need to do.

I have to lure the police over to rescue me like in the original plan. And for that Louisa needs to stay alive a little longer.

I wait a moment, ensuring that I was truly alone now. Hearing no other sounds, I force her physically exhausted body to sit up.

Below me sits the backyard. Dried yellow grass occupied the small rectangular space. The tallest weeds attempted to climb the unwashed brick wall farthest from me.

Just beyond the sunkissed barrier sat the neighbor’s quaint beige house.

Two small windows faced me but the blinds were drawn on the first one and the room beyond the second appeared vacant.

Any hopes of someone glancing out their window and noticing me quickly deflated.

I had to think of another plan.

There had to be some way to draw public attention to myself.

Above the windows something bright and metallic captured my attention. The neighbor’s satellite dish reflected the sun’s rays straight through my weak eyes.

And gave me an idea.

Three feet diagonally up and to my left stood an identical satellite dish. From here I could see that the edge were thoroughly caked in dark brown rust.

This gave me hope.

I crawled up to it, grabbed the edges of the circular disk with one hand on each side, and pulled, shifting my weight back as far as I dared. The satellite dish groaned and bent towards me. For an agonizing moment it seemed to pause at a slight angle.

Then, with little warning, it snapped away in my hands and I fell back, hitting my head on the roof and dislodging a few shingles.

The metal plate was heavy and covered in thick patches of rust but enough of it had escaped battering from the weather to be useful.

Feeling the small amount of time that remained ticking away, I struggled against her to angle the satellite dish so that the sun reflected off of it and onto the dry grass closest to the back wall of the house.

Her arms ached and she wanted nothing more than to sit down. I feared she may have become sentient enough to be aware of me and the time limit before I would disappear forever.

I forced her to continue holding it up though I could feel myself losing control. Her memories and fears became more prominent and real than my own. When I tried to recall the faces of my parents I saw hers instead. My thoughts followed her line of logic, her desires. Mine were growing smaller and insignificant.

A thin ribbon of pale grey smoke streamed up towards me. I watched it dissipate in the air above my head. Instinctively our head turned around to check for signs of anyone else coming to see it.

I could only pray that, as it grew stronger, the firefighters would be notified before the kidnappers do and rescue me.

I watch the growing flames inch towards the house. The red and orange entity licks the wall, hesitant at first then, as though it likes the taste of plaster, begins to consume it. The plaster darkens and crumbles to the ground.

I hug my knees closer to her chest, hoping that I’ll be safe up here. She whimpers at the thought of burning to death when she had finally found freedom once again. Her heart pounds a mile a minute in her sore, bruised chest.

A nearly inaudible beeping tells me the fire alarm activated. The firefighters must be on their way over here now. They’ve been alerted and will soon arrive and rescue us.

Her ears strain to search for the melodious wail of sirens but she is quickly disappointed.

Instead dread fills her as she hears the rumble of an engine nearly lost in the popping and roaring of the fire. Her breath stops in her throat, as trapped as she is.

Gravel. For a brief second she thought she heard the crunch of tires on gravel.

But all was silent.

She crawled up the roof and peeked over the edge.

Empty.

Time ticked by. I wondered if this would be enough to escape her body. She wondered if she would ever see her family again.

Finally the sirens materialized in the distance, faint and fragile, nearly swallowed by the wind, but definitely there. Help was on the way. She was finally going to be saved.

Yet I remained.

As tears of relief sprouted in the corners of her eyes, I knew something was wrong. There was still a possibility that the kidnappers wouldn’t be caught.

Of course. The firefighters might not find or be able to identify her corpse until long after the kidnappers would have left the area. To ensure their capture and the end of my mission, I’d have to literally drop her into their arms.

With fading strength I made her crawl back over the peak of the roof. Deep inside in a place she couldn’t consciously reach, she protested the action, longing to stay safely hidden out of sight.

She needed to be seen as soon as the firefighters arrive. She needed to be rescued instantly if I want even just a chance of being pulled out in time.

And thankfully, at least this time, my will was strong enough to overpower her.

Or perhaps the word I should have used was “unfortunately.”

Only seconds after I had pulled her body over the top and roller down a few feet, the screech of tires ran up the driveway,

They’re back.

I didn’t have time to think, let alone react. A strangled cry escaped her parched throat.

The leader got out of his car and walked towards the house.

He looked straight up at us and said, “Thought you were pretty clever, didn’t you? Sending us on a wild goose chase.” He shielded his eyes from the sun. “But it’s too late for you Louisa. You’re never going back. My little girl never returned so why should a bitch like you?”

And with that he disappeared, heading into the burning house.

The sirens had come closer. Her eyes scanned the horizon as she pulled herself backwards up the roof. I no longer had the energy to control her.

I could only watch from somewhere far away as the following events unfolded:

The fire truck finally arrived, cutting through the lawn to avoid the car parked in the driveway. At the same time the leader emerged from the house, unscathed.

A few of the firefighters rushed to help him but he pushed them away. He walked straight into the middle of the driveway, standing in front of his car.

One of the firefighters took notice of Louisa, pointing and shouting for a ladder. Most of the others were busy unrolling the hose and turning on the water to douse the flames.

The leader turned around to face the house. Something gleamed in his hand.

The firefighters leaned the ladder against the edge of the roof.

Leader raised a jet black pistol, aimed at Louisa.

Someone shouted.

Louisa rolled downwards.

He pulled the trigger.

A firefighter tackled him.

The bullet lodged itself into the shingles on inches away from the top of Louisa’s head.

She breathed a sigh of relief.

The top of the firefighters head poked up over the edge of the roof. Sunlight bounced off the yellow and white helmet.

And suddenly I knew this was my final mission. I was never meant to return. Louisa’s life was so similar to my own that by giving her a new life and bringing closure to her family, I was concluding my own.

The firefighter took my hand.

I let him lead me away into the darkness of eternal slumber.

[Author’s Note: As I said in my last post, I won’t be posting anything for the next three weeks. I’ll see you guys with a new story when I return to America! 😀 Happy Holidays everyone!]

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Kidnapped [Part 9]

Several hours passed before the leader finally returned, henchmen in tow. From my position in the darkest corner of the room, I saw their shadows before them. The dark, elongated shapes crawling across the walls were disturbing on their own.

I waited until the light creak of the trapdoor cut off the last sliver of outside light before springing into action.

With the meager strength I could muster, I chuck the heaviest piece of wood I could find at what I believed to be the right angle. My mind replayed all the failed attempts as a silent prayer escaped through her chapped lips.

Slow motion. The dark mass inched upward through the air, leaving an invisible trail in the midst. My eyes follow it in a useless attempt to find the angle of its trajectory.

A crash.

Darkness.

Elation.

It worked. My plan worked!

My eyes had already adjusted to the lack of light and watched the confused and somewhat frantic movements. They didn’t understand what had happened until they heart the hollow sound of the chunk smashing into the floor.

But it was too late. I was already on the move.

Ignoring the new pain in my shoulder, I limped over to them as quickly as her body would allow, occasionally wincing at the sharp spasm of pain shooting up her leg. My bare feet made no sounds on the cold ground.

I tightened my grip on the hastily fashioned stake.

As I approached them, ready to stab the inky silhouettes anywhere I could reach when the unthinkable happened.

Louisa fought back.

Kidnapped [Part 8]

Countless thought ran through my mind. I knew from the sound of blockade scraping against the ground that I’d never be able to lift that door. Her memories recounted all the desperate yet futile attempts she’d made to push it. The only result was a bruise on her right shoulder.

No door.

No windows.

No escape.

Shit.

I needed another plan, another way to beat them.

My eyes roamed around the room, mesmerized by the stains on the wall, and quickly found the perfect solution.

Kidnapped [Part 7]

Threatening to kill her now meant that he actually planned to kill her later. He was waiting for something. Something important enough to keep her alive at least a little bit longer. Something that would buy me more time to formulate a plan and escape.

Perhaps I still had a chance.

The rest of the living room passed by me in a dim blur. He pushed me through the crumbling door frame and down a narrow hallway. Bare white walls. Popcorn ceiling.

Led me to a dark room. Through the shadows I could see faint rectangular outlines. Something silver shone against the walls.

Knife.

I shivered.

He had brought me to the kitchen.

Her memories appear intrusively into my mind.

One of his lackeys stood inches from her face. His thick, beefy fingers wrapped around the worn black handle of a rusty steel knife.

She took small, careful steps backwards until her lower back found the edge of the counter top. Her fingers confirmed it was made of marble.

Carefully she let her hands inch backwards. Fingers splayed.

He snatched the knife before she could reach it. The fluorescent lights above his nearly bald head shone off the clean blade, matching the malicious glint in his large grey eyes.

The mole on his cheek shifted upward as his face twisted into a sickeningly evil grimace. “D’ya I wouldn’ see that?” Decade of smoking had taken it’s toll on his breath and coarse, rumbling voice.

Her slurred his words slightly. Drunk off his ass.

A trembling hand aimed for her shoulder. She ducked at the last possible second.

The knife lodged itself deep into the wall and had remained there ever since.

Her face throbs at the residual sting of the slap he’d dealt her for resisting.

My feet found the edge of the trapdoor he’d opened that first night. The crevice in the floor was a thick line, slightly crooked from countless chips over the years. A metallic noise echoed around me as I took another step forward, gently nudging the handle.

“You know the drill,” he said in a thick, irritated voice. “Get down there or I’ll throw you myself.” I could hear the way his lips twitch as he forms the words quickly. Anger laced the syllables.

A creak told me he’d opened the trapdoor. It echoed around the room, slicing through the dry air.

Her bare feet remembered the texture of the moldy boards. They’d been neglected for years, abused by water over time and never properly cleaned.

The basement sat in a similar state of disarray. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light from the single bulb in the middle of the decaying ceiling, I saw the peeling yellow paint on the crumbling plaster walls. In one corner sat the pieces of a wine rack. The thick slabs of wood were thoroughly cracked, a few were snapped in half.

The rest of the room was empty save for cobwebs in the corners and rodent droppings along the walls. It smelled damp and musty.

He closed the trapdoor behind him. Scraping crossed the ceiling above me. A groan as the trapdoor was hunkered down by the weight of something heavy.

One heartbeat. Two.

I limped back to the stairs. On hands and knees I crawled up each of the steps and listened carefully. Her ears could pick up no sounds on the other side.

Alone.

Kidnapped [Part 6]

His smile widens. “Or should I even call you Louisa?” He says, confirming my suspicions. The glimmer in his eyes has transformed into one of malicious amusement.

Darkness lurks beneath the bright, lively scenery beyond the windshield. It swallows the car, me, and the last fragment of hope I’d clung to.

Pushing past the lump in my throat I croak in my best impression of her, “What do you–” before breaking off into a coughing fit. Her body is prone to adverse reactions to any kind of stress.

“Don’t play dumb with me. I’ve heard of your services.” Venom laces his words. His voice is lower and thicker than before. Each word seems like a struggle, as though he is trying to keep himself calm.

My mind whirs frantically but can’t conjure any viable explanations. There is something hidden deep beneath his voice, something weak and emotional that seems to be trying to break out. His struggle is evident in the thick creases of his eyebrows cutting his forehead into strips.

The car slows to a stop as gravel crunches beneath it. I look through the windshield to discover that we have arrived at the house. The cream-colored walls are exactly the same as they’d been only two days ago.

I search the windows for a sign of life but all is still and silent, both upstairs and down. The house must be deserted this time, dashing the last of my hopes.

The solitude closes in on me as he steps out of the car and slams the door shut behind him. He walks over to my side and wrenches me from my seat, holding my hands behind my back as he pushes me towards the porch.

My head snaps upward to look at the blue sky. Usually this is a sight I revel at as it is one I rarely saw in my own life but today is different. Today the blue sky reminds me of my endless solitude, trapped here with nobody to help me.

Once again God has abandoned me.

Her feet stumble clumsily over the gravel as he pushes us forward with a hard shove. The stiffness of his fingers tells me he’s trying hand to contain his anger.

Her dry, chapped lips open to scream but I bite it back, tearing up at the pain in her broken ankle. I refuse to let out a sound, fearful of how he would react.

The sounds of birds chirping disappears as he slams the front doors shut behind us. The freedom of the outside world is lost in this cage, trapped behind thick plaster walls.

The air is dusty and humid, even harder to breathe than before. She breaks into another coughing fit though I can’t tell whether this one is caused by stress or allergies. She doubles over and loses her balance, falling to the hardwood floors with a resounding thud.

The impact gives me a headache that matches tempo to the beat of her heart. The vibrations beneath the floor tell me it’s hollow.

If I was in my previous body, a bodybuilder who died of a steroid overdose one month after his 37th birthday, I’m sure I could easily break through the creaky boards. Oh how I long for his strength; he surely wouldn’t even have been fazed by the ankle injury.

My fists clench but I know how they are useless. There’s no power in them.

He walks in behind me, his shadow cast over mine on the ground. I force myself to turn around and face the real thing, cowering slightly beneath his tall, overpowering frame. Light spills out from behind him, casting his face in the same shadows that haunted her dreams that first night.

“But you’re not going to come back next time, Lou-i-sa.” Agony. There was agony beneath his voice. She felt it as strongly as I did. A sympathetic twinge afflicted her hammering heart.

I could hardly comprehend her desire to understand and comfort the monster that wants nothing more than to kill her.

As if equally disgusted by her naivety, he walked around us, took me by the hair and pulled me to my feet. My instincts reacted before I could counter them and attempted to support all her weight on her bad yet dominant ankle.

She screamed. The sound echoed in the small space.

He threw her back down. He was on top of her before her body could settle on the ground, legs straddling her hips, hands around her throat. “Did you really think screaming would help you?” His voice slithered from his lips, as cold and smooth as ice. “If someone comes I’ll kill you, right here and now.” His hands tightened a moment as if to emphasize his point then released.

The air that poured into her lungs was sweet despite the dust.

He used her arm to pull me to my feet this time. I hardly noticed.

My mind had wandered elsewhere. His words repeated over and over again.

Halloween Week Finale: Mirror

It began as a small pinprick far beyond my reach. Bigger and bigger it grew, getting closer to me though I never moved.

My body froze, utterly paralyzed as the light grew larger, stronger, brighter. The only thing I could do was close my eyes as it washed over me.

Standing, my feet firmly planted on the ground I cannot see. A wall obstructs my vision, the monotony of its plaster walls broken only by a single rectangular window directly in front of my eyes.

The light shines from the other side of it, shimmering and dancing across the unbroken glass. Orange and white mix and meld together seamlessly.

It would have been beautiful if the source of it was not a fatal inferno.

Plaster peeled from the walls, lifted by the intense heat. It melted into an unrecognizable black blob, joining the charred remains of furniture on the lacquered floor.

Somehow there existed a certain serenity to the scene as a whole, as though through the ashes of a cleansed room, a phoenix would ascend.

Only there was no phoenix.

But a girl.

She stood up from the floor, dragging herself to her feet slowly as though each movement required immense effort. Her hands and arms were covered in soot and her blonde hair was charred at the tips yet her face remained unnaturally clean.

She rushed towards me, stopped by the glass. Her features seemed harsh in the ever-changing light that cast shadows across her pale skin. Her hands pounded against the glass, thin and bony and black.

I reached forward to meet it. My hand reflected hers. The vibrations of the glass resonated through my fingers, syncing with my pulse. They were dulled by the thick glass.

I felt the strength of her blows waning. Her mouth opened in a scream expelling smoke but I couldn’t hear a thing over the ringing in my ears.

Smoke began to obscure her face, clouding the desperation shimmering in her irises.

I pounded back against her, praying that the combination of my strength and hers would be enough to shatter the barrier and free her. Adrenaline tingled in my fingers, fighting the numbness that resulted from the repeated hits.

She coughed as I felt a dormant burning in the back of my throat. The sensation almost seemed to have been smothered by something else, repressed by an unseen force. Sweat dripped down my hot back but I ignored it, mesmerized by her eyes. She had me trapped in the room with her, unable to escape the force of her gaze.

Smoke swirled around her, dying her hair silver and adding streaks to her face as if attempting to outline her features.

The harsh, hungry flames had crept up behind her, only mere inches from her flesh. Mustering the last bit of energy in her body she pulled her arm back, ready for a final strike. If this failed, we both knew there was no hope left for her escape. I match her stance, anticipation and fear tugging at my limbs like puppet strings.

Time stopped as we hung in equilibrium. She stood on one side of the glass, I on the other. Neither of us dared to move in the thick heat that enveloped me as well.

Then, in perfect sync we moved, fists speeding towards the smooth, clear surface of the glass. A moment stretched out in which my skin made contact with the hot glass and nothing but silence existed.

Then it broke.

Shattered.

Tumbling to the ground in a myriad of rainbow-colored shards reflecting the sunlight glow.

Except the orange did not belong to the sun.

And the window did not give way to the room but to a white plaster wall. A single fragment remained glued onto the wall, tainted grey.

The lackluster eyes gazing back at me were mine, no longer hers.

I forced my eyes to close as the heat of the fire caught up to me.

 

Author’s Note: That’s the end of Halloween Week for this year! Happy Halloween everyone!

Halloween Week Story 6: Funeral Waltz

 

Turning right onto the small dirt road, the silver Cadillac bumped along on the uneven ground. The high noon sun blinded the passengers, forcing them to shield their eyes from the vibrant rays.

In silence rode the three college juniors, contemplating the task ahead they faced.

“Did you remember the developing fluid Alex?” the driver spouted suddenly, eyes fixated on the curve in the path directly ahead of them. His hands wrapped tightly around the steering wheel, knuckles white and braced to counter even the slightest of jolts.

“Of course,” the short male in the passenger seat retorted, almost insulted by the question. “I also have my camera, in case you don’t trust me to remember that either.” He swept a hand through his wavy black hair, pushing a few strands out of his brown eyes. His other hand continued to clutch his scholarship cancellation letter, running a shaky finger across the worn edge.

“Oh don’t go getting so butthurt up there!” The response came from a skinny girl lying across the back seat, safety neglected. “You know you’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached to your shoulders.” With indignant silence as a response, she threw her arm over her eyes and muttered, “If we don’t stop in the next five minutes, you’re gonna need another carpet cleaning David.”

“Got it,” the driver said, pulling the car over to the side of the road. He knew all too well that was no idle threat. He killed the engine and sat back with a sigh.

Letting her sandle drop carelessly on the floor, Sabrina wrapped her toes around the handle and pushed the door open, sitting up as fresh mountain air blew over her. She slid smoothly out of the vehicle, sighing contentedly as gravel crunched loudly beneath the soles of her grey shoes.

Stretching her arms above her head, she took a deep breath then turned back towards her two companions and asked, “How do you know this isn’t another hoax, like the Glosswell Incidents?” The nausea had already began to subside as the fresh air cleared her grogginess, quickly replaced by a sorrowful nervousness.

It was Alex who answered with, “A friend of my cousin moved here a year and a half ago and he swears by it.” With another disgusted look at the words that threatened to kick him out of school he said, “We’ve got nothing else so we might as well trust him.”

“It’s not like we can afford the risk of ignoring this.” David fiddled with the strap around his neck, repeatedly adjusting the camera in his lap. His reflection in the lens [made him uncomfortable]. He felt as though his late father was gazing back at him, forever disappointed.

Sabrina shrugged, accepting both reasons as she climbed back into the car.

David glanced at her as she lay back down. “Can’t you fasten your seatbelt? I don’t wanna wind up fined if we cross a cop.” His eyes searched the deserted road ahead as he spoke.

She waved a hand above her head, dismissing his request with a “Bah you worry too much. Just drive already.” Her tone was playful yet left no room for argument.

He hesitated, then started the engine again. Of course he couldn’t defy her.

They arrived at the entrance of the small town an hour later, softly greeted by humble homes lining both sides of a smoothly paved road. Sabrina sat up to look out at the scenery, resting her right elbow on the windowsill.

Alex had fallen into a restless sleep, snoring softly with his arms crossed and the abandoned letter lying across his feet. He didn’t see the furtive glances of the town’s sparse population as they hurried about the streets. Tension flooded into the car, saturating the air with the incomprehensible emotions of the townspeople.

Dozens of curious eyes watched the car turn down Main Street, heading towards the town’s only inn. Visitors weren’t uncommon, especially in the fall when people flocked to the rural area to attend nature retreats nearby, yet the residents were filled with a foreboding sense of unease as the car disappeared from sight.

Sabrina grinned at the sight of the Victorian-style inn. With the sun casting thick shadows against the innumerable windows lined by ornate frames, the building had an almost sinister aura surrounding it.

The three student disembarked from the car, Alex rubbing sleep from his eyes, and headed toward the wooden double doors beneath the sign that was too faded to read.

The only person in the bright lit lobby sat behind the counter, leafing through a frayed newspaper. His hooded eyes hardly bothered to glance up at the arrival of the three students.

His immediate reaction manifested itself in the way his upper lip raised slightly, reluctant to acknowledge the delinquents he saw as customers. It didn’t help their case that Alex had dark bags under his brown eyes and Sabrina had a full face of heavy makeup and thin streaks of silver in her naturally blonde hair.

David walked up to the counter, resting one arm on the oak edge. “Two rooms for tonight, please.” he said. His voice had a slight vibrato to it, agitated by his agoraphobia.

“Cash upfront.” The man said, procuring two keys in  a closed fist. “$150.” His eyes widened almost imperceptibly when David pushed the bills across to him. His harsh features softened as he said, “Breakfast is served at eight in the dining hall, checkout is at noon.” With a forced smile he added, “Enjoy your stay.”

The three unpacked their meager belongings in the two small rooms, Alex and David sharing while Sabrina occupied the other one alone. They created a makeshift photo development room in the small bathroom off the side of Sabrina’s room then departed from the inn.

“So where is this funeral parlor?” Sabrina asked as she tucked a stray strand of silver behind her ear. The sun’s golden rays reflected the sheer brilliance of the artificial color.

Alex responded with a yawn followed by “I have no idea. ‘E didn’t say.”

David pulled out his faded map, studied it for a few seconds, then shook his head despondently.

“We’ve got time and a full tank of gas,” Alex said. “We could drive around and ask the locals for directions.” Despite the increasing pallor of Sabrina’s skin, she agreed it was the best plan and reluctantly got back into the car.

They drove down the street slowly, eyes scanning their surroundings for any people. It wasn’t until they turned the corner that they saw the first sign of life since exiting the inn: a women with long brown hair tied up in a tight bun. She wore a black suit and carried a leather briefcase.

David rolled down his window and pulled the car as close to the curb as he dared. With the friendliest smile he could conjure plastered onto his face he called out, “Excuse me miss! I was wondering if you could help us find the funeral parlor around here?”

Her eyes flickered towards the car but instead of stopping she picked up her pace, swinging her briefcase with each hasty step. She disappeared around the corner without a word to them.

“Guess she was in a hurry.” Alex commented, turning to look out his own window.

They repeated their request to a mother carrying a baby with one arm and groceries with the other. Then again to a middle aged man who limped along with a cane. Each time they received the same cold shoulder.

“What’s with everyone?” David muttered, white knuckles shaking against the steering wheel. Sweat gathered on his brow as his breaths became ragged and uncertain.

“This town must not be used to visitors.” Alex shrugged. “Or they’re all just really antisocial.” He punctuated the sentence by glaring out the window at the passing scenery.

Sabrina, who had been quietly seated in the backseat slapped the back of David’s seat and said, “Pull over” as she rolled down her own window.

The two boys cringed simultaneously ad braced for the worst until she muttered under her breath, “I’ll show you how it’s done.” It was then that they noticed the teenager approaching the corner, hands dropped lazily in his pocket and a whistled tune hanging across his pale pink lips. His jet-black hair rode the wind currents, giving him a sloppy appearance.

He~ey!” Sabrina called out, pushing her sunglasses onto her head. A flirtatious smile tugged at her lips as her eyes danced mischievously in the sunlight.

Her attractive features caught his attention immediately. Caution forgotten he made his way over to her, bending down until his eyes were level with hers.

“I’m afraid we’re hopelessly lost,” she said with a slight pout. Her hand reached out and gently caressed his arm. “Would you mind giving us directions?” She cocked her head with a shy smile playing on her painted lips.

All three passengers witnessed the moment his entire body tensed up. They feared the boy would give them the same reactions as the other residents, abandoning them to find the parlor on their own.

“You’re not supposed to go there; especially not tonight. It’s been abandoned and after what happened last year…” His fingers fiddled with a button on his jacket.

“Oh? What happened last year?” Sabrina asked, batting her wide eyes innocently.

“There was an… incident.” His eyes wandered the streets, uncertain of how he should continue. “A few people, strangers, not from around here, went there after sundown and nobody has seen them since.”

The story sent a collective chill down the photographers’ spines. Unlike the boys however, Sabrina didn’t let her fear show, expertly hiding it with a dismissive smile.

“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” she said with more confidence than she felt. “We’ll be eeeeextra careful.”

He conceded with a sigh. “You continue down until the end of this street, then turn left onto the path leading up the hill. It’s always been a rather decrepit building, set apart fromt the rest because nobody wanted to build a shop next to it.” Restrained tears glistened on his waterline, conveying the fear he felt for them.

“Thanks! You’ve been a great help.” Sabrina said as she pulled down her sunglasses. It was all she could do to conceal the fear that was creeping into her irises. She rolled up her window with a fake smile still stretched across her lips.

Silence intruded where words failed. The sputter of the engine belong to a different world. Even the incessant motion of the car had ceased to be significant, unable to trump the concerns that plagued their minds.

David slowed the car almost to a halt at the edge of the turnoff. His fingers twitched and stiffened, unwilling to obey his reluctant commands.

Alex’s eyes wandered to the letter at his feet. Those photographs were his last chance at the life he’d always dreamed of but was it worth risking the life he has?

Sabrina sat up, cold emotionless eyes stationed above a blank expression.

“What are you guys waiting for?” she asked in a monotone voice. “Let’s get going already.”

David glanced up at her in the rearview mirror, alarmed by the shift in personality. Although he’d known her the longest, he’d only witnessed this change twice and it was never positive.

Alex slumped in his seat, relieved that the decision was no longer his yet terrified of the outcome. His eyes wandered over to the horizon beyond the small path, straining to catch a glimpse of the funeral parlor.

David set the car in motion, listening to his father’s last words playing back over and over again in his mind.

“Make me proud, son,” he’d said. David had felt his father’s hand tighten around his for a moment before death had swept him away into the night. He had to fulfill that final request no matter what. He needed the perfect picture to prove his profession worthwhile once and for all.

And for that he knew he needed to go, regardless of the risk. Sabrina’s decision was the final push he needed. And yet, as the road curved and swayed in front of his dusty windshield, he could not refrain from sending a silent prayer up to God.

They arrived at the edge of the property within ten minutes. The area had been fenced off by thick steel wires barbed at the top.

Sabrina unbuckled her seatbelt and pushed open her door before David had pulled the car to a complete stop. She stepped out, walked a few feet, and promptly proceeded to expel the hastily fixed sandwich she’d eaten only a few hours earlier.

David and Alex averted their eyes, instead studying the funeral parlor.

It was the only building in a lot of dead grass and patches of dirt. The building stood one story tall and larger in length than in width. Ornate wooden doors stood wedged beneath two thick white pillars. The half dozen windows stood intact but streaked with dirt from top to bottom, battered by dust, wind and rain.

“You guys coming?” Sabrina asked.

The space she’d occupied stood abandoned to the shadows of a nearby tree. They found her standing with arms crossed and one foot tapping out a fast, incessant rhythm.

“How’d you get over there?” Alex asked as he pushed open the car door.

She pointed behind her at the gap in the barbed wire fence where the top had rusted and fallen to the ground. Pieces of it littered the dirt.

The two struggled significantly more in climbing over than Sabrina had but eventually all three students stood before the infamous building, cameras in hand with tripods slung over their backs.

They walked over to the closest window in unison, steps as hesitant as their heartbeats grew increasingly faster. Sweaty hands and short breaths wandered toward the closest window.

David squinted at the dirt as though doing so would help him see through it. He tried to clean it off but layer after layer had hardened against the porous glass.

“I didn’t think it’s possible to get a good shot from here…” he said, trailing off to avoid voicing the question all three struggled with.

David took the initiative this time, making the few short, shakey strides to the front door. His hand shook around the doorknob. It turned easily despite the thick layer of sweat and dirt coagulating on the surface.

The room was empty other than a small pedestal and a short-legged table on a low stage. The pews that once formed an aisle in the middle of an Oriental carpet had long since been removed. Cobwebs gathered in the corners, draping across the peeling paint like lace curtains.

Alex and Sabrina filed in after him, gazing around the room with eyes wide in a mixture of awe and trepidation. Disturbing the silence seemed inexplicably wrong so all three moved with soft, cautious feet into the middle of the funeral parlor’s main and solitary room.

“I wonder how many people came through here.” Sabrina said in a voice that was hardly more than a whisper. Her finger was positioned atop her camera’s shutter button, ready to capture the slightest movement.

The other two stood similarly poised. Shadows shifted around them as the sun plunged towards the horizon but none dared to move.

“They come out as night falls, right?” David asked.

“That’s what my cousin’s friend said,” Alex replied. His mind briefly flickered back to the letter he’d abandoned on the floor of David’s car. His entire future rested on the words of a stranger.

Sabrina opened her mouth to respond.

And froze.

Lights shimmered in the decaying sun. Small orbs materialized in the air. The flurry of clicks and flashes that followed reverberated off the walls.

The orbs floated towards the center of the room, meandering slowly up and down in the air. The atmosphere grew colder until their breaths plumed before their eyes.

Shimmering figures dressed in fancy, intricate clothes from countless decades materialized in the air, painting the room with a myriad of colors. Entranced the students hardly remembered the cameras weighing down their hands.

Though the room itself was completely silent, a faint, rhythmic tune began playing in their heads, implanted by an invisible hand, The symphony of violins composed a lively waltz.

All three exchanged brief glances, instantly confirming that they were all experiencing the same thing. The jumble of emotions was evident in each of their faces. None knew whether they should feel awed at the beauty of it all or terrified at the existence of the unknown.

Their attention was recaptured by the movement of the specters. Men and women reached out to each other, hands clasping in a gentle embrace as they moved closer together. Feet walked without touching the ground. Graceful and fluid they danced across the floor, giving the cold room a lively sense of warmth.

Twirling and swaying the women were led by handsome male partners. Gowns flowed across the floor, shimmering like stars with each movement.

Every few moments they would switch partners, smoothly melting into the arms of a gentleman always as handsome as the last. They never missed a beat, never crashed into one another. It felt as though the dance had been mastered to perfection, until not a single flaw remained.

Then one of the men came towards Sabrina. She instinctively raised her camera and snapped a picture but before she could take a look at it, his hand reached out towards her. She flinched and stepped back, arms raised to defend against an attack…

That never came.

His hand remained petrified in mid-air, held out with his palm facing the ceiling. His head bowed as he leaned towards her.

Meanwhile his former partner, a lay in a midnight blue gown with golden locks that melter over her slender shoulders, stood before Alex and curtsied. Unsure of how to respond he attempted a shocked half-bow back, much to her delight. Her lips parted in a slight giggle and she reached out to take his hand.

A cold sensation enveloped his hand, not quite real but not fully intangible either. He felt as though he had thrust his arm into a large bowl of pudding without the moisture.

She led him out into the middle of the sea of people before placing her hand on his shoulder and giving him an expectant, rather amused look that made her cyan eyes sparkle. He interpreted that as a cue to put his arm around her waist in the same manner the other gentleman had done with their partners.

He felt embarrassed and underdressed but something in the repetitive tune of the music compelled him to obey.

Sabrina and David watched in awe. The sight of the living interacting with the dead in such a graceful manner was something the could only have dreamt of before this moment. They exchanged brief looks with each other as David tightened his grip around the camera hanging from his neck.

Sabrina nodded to an unspoken agreement then turned her attention to the gentleman still bowed before her. His white gloved hand waited patiently for hers. The fabric almost seemed to glow in the fading light.

She reached out as David raised his camera to his eye, finger posed on the shutter button.

She instantly felt the same cold sensation Alex had experienced. It enveloped her body as her new partner wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close. His eyes met hers, as captivating as they were warm and lively.

In the white light of the camera flashes, his strong, tanned  features became visible. A sharp jawline outlined thin lips while prominent cheekbones drew the attention towards his almond shaped eyes topped by thick brown eyebrows. His dark hair was pulled back sleek over his head, perfectly parted off to the side.

Only that wasn’t what David saw.

He opened his mouth as the sun plunged below the horizon, dimming the room until only a glow as weak as a candle remained to illuminate the horror that would unfold before the three pairs of eyes.

The colors drained from the scene instantly, disappearing along with the music. The dancers dropped to the floor in piles of bones with varying amounts of decomposing flesh and scraps of once-gorgeous gowns and suits.

All but two of them, who still held on to Sabrina and Alex.

Tightly.

Screams burst from each of the students, raw and ragged as they tore from throats trying not to gag. Sabrina twisted and turned as she shrieked obscenities, pushing and kicking against the bones that clung to her.

Alex tore at the hand on his shoulder and tried to wrench his fingers from the ice cold bones laced between them. His wide eyes fixated on the chunks of blonde hair that clung to the grey skull before him.

David dropped his camera so abruptly that the strap dug into the back of his neck as the apparatus bounced painfully against his ribcage.

He rushed toward Sabrina, the closest of the two, intending to barrel through them and break the connection between her and the male skeleton. His feet stumbled over the stray bones littered across the dull carpet.

He tripped.

And fell.

Dust plumed around him, a grey cloud that invaded and coated his lungs until he fell into a violent coughing fit on the ground. Curled into a ball.

He could hardly hear their screams over the raspiness plaguing his burning throat. Tears streamed down his face but he forced himself to stand in the middle of the swirlings storm of dust.

He too a blind step forward and his feet crunched on something — bone? Glass? — but he didn’t let himself trip again.

He tried to call out to them but as he opened his mouth a thick clump of rancid tasting dust crawled between his lips and swallowed his tongue.

Useless.

Desperately he tried to peer through the hazed air but he couldn’t see even a hint of a shadow anywhere around him.

Blinded.

Sabrina felt the same way. She was being led away by the ice encasing her body but her eyes saw nothing but gray everywhere she turned. Her hand felt glued to his shoulder yet, with all her strength and concentration, she somehow managed to separate herself from the skeleton. A chunk of black fabric came with, clinging to her hand for a second before flying away into the storm.

With her hand now free she raised it into the air, curled her fingers tightly into a fist, and brought it smashing down onto the skeleton’s arm, trying to free her other hand. Despite the increased momentum thanks to gravity, the only one affected by the impact was her. Pain and numbness slid from her fingers up her hand and into her wrist. She bit her lip to keep from crying out as the pain quickly faded into an overwhelming numbness.

The skeleton man continued to lead her back step by step as though the dance was still continuing. Her feet responded to his despite her desperate attempts to resist.

The pain in her hand subsided to a dull throb. In the swirling dust of disintegrated bones she caught a glimpse of a vertical white line. Without knowing what it was she instinctively reached out towards it with her free hand.

Her splayed fingers caught hold of a chunk of smooth, almost soft wood. Paint chips lined the edges of her fingers, threatening to tear away from the slightest provocation. She dug her nails into the wood and leaned all her weight on her heels, pulling against the skeleton man.

David walked with his hands out in front of him, searching for anything he could hold on to. His hands yearned for the warmth of another human.

Smooth and cold, glass materialized beneath his hands. He turned in what he hoped was the direction of the door. With on hand following the horizontal edge of the window, he slid his feet across the flood as quickly as he could to avoid tripping. The gray dust that flowed ahead of and all around him had thinned considerably in the passing seconds. He could see the outline of something ahead of him as light permeated from the door only a few feet away.

Several strands of silver and blonde hair floated out towards him, adamantly resisting the current.

Sabrina!

He reached out towards her with his free hand before mustering up the will to call out her name. He barely got through the first two syllables before breaking off into a coughing fit that only further aggravated the burning agony in his throat.

She heard the faint syllable through the roar of the swirling wind in her ears and her heart skipped a beat. She gripped the wooden edge tighter despite the pain in her knuckles, praying she had not imagined it.

The skeleton kept pulling at her with a strength it logically should not possess. His bony fingers never loosened between hers and his arm remained wrapped around her waist. She felt her heels sliding against the ground and knew she wouldn’t last much longer. Within a minute her feet would slip out from underneath her, she’d lose her grip on the doorhinge, and that would be the end.

He’d be able to drag her off into the night, never to be seen again like the previous victims of this wretched funeral parlor.

As the density of the barrier separating them dissipated, she found herself mesmerized by the large black eye sockets. She felt that they weren’t completely empty despite their appearance — something lay just beyond them, shrouded in darkness.

Before she could give it another moment’s contemplation, strong, warm arms wrapped around her shoulders, banishing the chills that had run rampant through her body. She breathed out a relieved sigh that blew a hole through the dust. She was saved.

No longer worried about leverage, she kicked up her feet and smashed her free arm down again, gritting her teeth against the pain.

Release. The bony arms, the tight grip, the cold, the fear, everything separated from her in that single instant. The skull floated in front of her face before it disintegrated into the same dust that flew around them. In the second before the eyes vanished she thought she caught a glimpse of sadness, of disappointment, within the inky black holes.

She fell back into David’s arms, believing in the relief of the moment. Exhausted.

The reprieve was short as the two suddenly recognized the absence of their third companion.

The swirling dust cleared suddenly, evacuating from the room like a stampede of people escaping a fire. Not a single trace remained anywhere in the now empty room.

On frightened, unsteady feet the two ran to keep up with the end of the stream of dust as it fled the funeral parlor.

Fear robbed them of voices, leaving behind only the thunderous pounding of their adrenaline-laced heartbeats. They became blind to everything except the dust they had previously wanted nothing more than to escape from. Thoughts were replaced by a single image of Alex. His face was illuminated by the unnatural glow of the blonde specter.

They stormed carelessly through a row of bushes, the sharp thorns tearing through their clothes and found themselves standing in a small graveyard. Headstones littered the lot, some leaning forward while others lay in pieces on the ground.

The dust settled into the open graves, creating skeletons in their coffins that appeared to never have moved. The scene resembled a mass grave-robbing heist but nothing more sinister.

Dirt smothered their footsteps as the two searched the area frantically, eyes darting from one hole to the other while desperately hoping he wasn’t in any of them. Neither could muter the courage to call out for fear of receiving an answer.

Sabrina stopped short in her tracks, breath catching in her throat. A scream bubbled in her chest but she couldn’t inhale enough air to let it escape. Instead silent tears, tinted black by her eyeliner, rolled down her face, leaving thick streaks across her cheeks.

David’s hand landed gently on her shoulder, a feeble warmth to combat the ice that was spreading through her chest. His eyes darkened at the sight that met them but he forced himself not to turn away.

In the open grave, surrounded by the bare walls of an oak casket, lay Alex, eternally trapped in the embrace of the skeleton woman. His wide, petrified eyes fixated blankly on the sky. His black hair clung to his forehead though a few strands had descended into his wide open mouth.

Sabrina pulled away from David’s hand, ripped off her camera, and let it drop to the ground before running away, sobs finally finding their way out. The apparatus landed in the dirt without making a sound as she tore through the row of bushes.

David remained where he was, ensnared by a mixture of guilt and sorrow. He stood still for a moment, watching shadows shift across the ground as the moon rose to replace the absent sun.

Then, he dropped to his knees beside the opening. With tears streaming down his own face he slowly removed the camera around his neck, taking the film out, and placed it beside Alex’s chest. He hardly noticed the shattered lens.

He did the same with Sabrina’s camera before closing Alex’s eyes and mouth. The task proved difficult as his jaw had begun to stiffed but he succeeded. He stood and cast one last, remorseful look at the pair before turning away. He knew in that moment that he would spend the rest of his life warning others of the funeral parlor’s curse.

Before leaving the graveyard, he turned back once, letting the moonlight wash over his tear-streaked face and whispered, “Goodbye, my friend.”