I created this place for some of Lady Euphoria Deathwatch’s stories to reside. In August of 2008 I started to go to a writer’s workshop. I had been writing stories for my own amusement for years and I’d been blogging since the May before. I was ready to take the next step. I wanted feed back for my fiction. As the classes progressed I challenged myself to write using different styles of writing and using different types of story categories I hadn‘t really used before. When I wrote a piece in the Horror group my life changed. Kissed by this muse I have been writing short stories in this vein since then. If you are looking for blood and gore just for shock value, please look elsewhere. You’ll not find it here. That said, they are not all devoid of blood completely. Blood, death, ghosts, and odd happenings do have a place here.

Feel free to add your two cents, inform me of needed corrections, or let me know what you thought about any of my stories. Any comment is appreciated.

Did you feel a Shiver or a Thrill?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Gravedigger

By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch

The grave digger was a large, strong man. His name was Jonathan Arnold, and despite the families prestige and standing in the community he was an odd sort. Because of his strength, even as a boy, the family had him apprenticed to the blacksmith. Jonathan didn’t like the heat of the furnace. He would run away from the forge and later would be found in the cemetery. He would be clearing the weeds away from the base of the headstones of the people that had no one to look after their care.

When someone died in town, young Jonathan could always be found helping the old gravedigger make the large squared off hole in the earth. When the old man died, Jonathan was given the job, even though he was only fourteen years old. His family, although they still acted kindly towards him, wouldn’t acknowledge him in public. He moved into the old shack that had been the old man’s house on the edge of the cemetery grounds. His family made it comfortably livable for him and hired the Widow Henderson to provide him his daily meals. She was chosen mostly because she lived the closest to the gravedigger’s small house, but the meals were hardy and hot.

Although Jonathan dug ditches and wells at times, mostly he dug graves and maintained the cemetery grounds. His health was good, better then most, and when a plague came through town he was hired to collect the bodies for Mr. Hanson, the coffin maker.

People in town had their wakes at home. They would clear the end of a room and put the coffin on a table or saw horses. The house would be filled with flowers in the warmer weather to help hide the odor. If the deceased didn’t rise again in a few days, the family would bury the body in the cemetery and all was done until the headstone was made ready. But if there was no family to sit the wake with the body, or they were afraid of becoming ill and dieing themselves, the coffin went straight into the ground with a bell string. A watcher, usually a family member, would sit in the cemetery for the next few days and nights to listen for the bell. This bell was strung through a ‘Y’ shaped stick set upright in the ground at the foot of the grave. The other end of this string had been wrapped around the dead person’s hand before the lid was nailed shut.

Only once was Jonathan woken to save the ringer. The son of a woman buried that day was there to listen for the bell. He woke Jonathan with a shout when he heard the bell ringing, but it was only the wind playing with the bell that had scared the young watcher. After quickly uncovering the casket and finding her still dead, Jonathan went back to sleep. By the time he woke up the next day, the tale was all over town that a bell had been rung in the night, but sadly not in time to save the ringer. No one in town would sit as the bell watcher any longer and that job also was given to Jonathan.

Years later, Jonathan was sitting the bell watch in the night. The widow that had been making his meals these past years had died and been buried that afternoon. Since she was the third to die that week from the latest deadly illness, she was buried with the bell string wrapped around her hand.

Jonathan wrapped a woolen blanket around his shoulders and moved the pebble out from under his rump. He was tired from digging graves all day but he didn’t want to fall asleep on his watch.

The next thing he knew, his head was coming up and he was waking to the sound of a bell. He shook his head to try to clear his thoughts. He looked at the bell in front of him but it wasn’t moving, yet he could still hear a bell ringing.

Jonathan rose up on his feet to hear better. He checked the bells on the other new graves but all were still, yet he could clearly hear a bell in the cemetery. Before he could track it down, the ringing stopped.

He made his way back to the widow’s grave and sat under the tree again after finding another pebble to sit on to keep him alert. He fought harder to stay awake this time, but found himself nodding off.

After a short time the ringing started again. He jumped up to search in the dark. He looked in every direction for the sound, but before he had gone a few steps it stopped. Now he suspected that some of the boys in town were playing a bad joke on him. He walked around the edge of the cemetery for the rest of the night, but the bell was silent. Jonathan was not going to let some young ruffians disrespect the dead.

The next day two others died from the same illness. Jonathan, exhausted from digging graves, tried to find someone in town to do the night watch for him. No one wanted the job.

After dinner, he napped because he didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Once it was dark he went out to the center of the cemetery under the tree by the widow’s grave to start his watch. Jonathan was not going to let the bell ringer get away if they returned to the cemetery that night. He left one lantern at the tree and took the other on his circuit around the outskirts of the cemetery. Most of the night passed without any unusual noises. He heard a fox cry out around midnight, but then it was quiet for hours. Not even a breeze ruffled the leaves.

Jonathan was coming back to the other lantern at the tree when the sound of a bell could clearly be heard. He took a quick look at the nearest bell, but it hung still and quiet from it’s string along with all with the other bells he was watching. During the day he had made a clear path around the cemetery. Jonathan began to run around the outskirts, only to find that the ringing kept pace on the other side of the graveyard from him. Did some boys tie the bell to a dog and let it loose in the cemetery for the night? The ringing stopped by the time he was almost back around, so he sat panting under the tree.

In the morning light he hatched a plan to trap the bell ringer. He spent most of the day digging graves, but found the time and energy to dig some holes here and there in the cemetery to trip up the someone or something running with a bell. He marked the holes with a stake at the side and covered the holes with branches from a nearby bush. Tonight he was going to put a stop to this foolery.

After napping, as the preacher oversaw the most recent internments, Jonathan was ready for a long night. He closed the graves of the latest residents, hoping to find someone skulking about in the lowering light. No one came.

The night moved on like the two before when the brass bell tinkling woke him, taunting him, but no culprit was caught. Jonathan made a vow not to let another night go by without catching the miscreant. He rested all he could during the day and was as fresh as could be expected when the night watch started in the cemetery.

He brought no blanket to comfort against the chill, for this night would be the bell ringers last.

When the bell began to ring, the fury in Jonathan’s eyes would have stopped hardened generals in their tracks. The ringing brought him back time and again to the center of the cemetery and to his starting place under the tree. Now all he could think of was that a ghost bell now inhabited the grave yard.

In all these long years he had never seen or heard a specter, but there were first times for everything one encountered. The bell must have an unseen hand ringing it. He checked all the bells still hanging by their strings from the graves and not one was in movement while the ringing could be heard. Jonathan slept fitfully against the tree. He wasn’t going to shirk his duty to those recently buried and their families. He would wake himself time and again to check the bells for movement until morning.

The sickness left the town with little more then a dozen dead. Things quieted down and Jonathan was back to his business as before. But a month later his mother died and even though she had a wake, he had insisted that she also had a bell, just in case the wake wasn’t long enough for her to revive. He walked the grave yard nightly to check the bell at her feet. The phantom bell still rang out at times in the night air.

This greatly angered him that the ringer would disturb him in his own grief over his mother‘s death. With no one to be caught, he grabbed one of the lower tree branches of the tree above his head and shook it violently. The bell peeled out it’s ringing with a vengeance.

He looked up and saw by the light of his lantern a small brass bell. It was dangling from a birds nest by a string. He gave a hearty laugh for the first time in many weeks. Climbing the tree, Jonathan tried to remover this bell from hell. The string was entangled tightly around the branch along with the nest. He reached further out to remove the whole nest and the branch broke, plunging him to the ground.

As soon as he hit the ground, the bell in the church started to ring out in the night air. Then all the bells in the whole of the town began to ring. People rushed from their beds out into the streets. When the church bell could not be quieted, the town was then searched and by the morning light Jonathan was found with a broken neck under the tree in the grave yard at his post.

He was buried that day without a bell and string, for no one would watch his grave. So when Jonathan awoke in his coffin minutes after being lowered into the ground, he was left to die there all alone as the dirt was shoveled onto the box. He had no bell to save him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Playroom

By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch

Mrs. Hillary Wiggins could hear the children cheerfully playing in the playroom upstairs. Their four distinct voices were giggling and cooing.

Six year old Benny fancied himself a soldier, but was playing the father to Gracie’s Momma part. Freddie and Lilly were crawling about on the floor. In her minds eye, Mrs. Wiggins could see all the dolls, stuffed animals, and kitchen playthings set about the room with the children intent in their games.

Freddie will be crying for a late morning nap soon, with Lilly fussing not far after. Benny will defect from his father part since the babies will then be gone and Grace will want to eat. Yes, best to enjoy the peace now. The older two should go outside to play while the little ones slept if the rain stayed away. They would all play again together later in the afternoon. Yes, after lunch they will do just that. While the children are out of the playroom Hillary would go up and straighten in there, then choose a book to read to them in the evening before bed.

All the children liked to be read to in the evening. In fact they won’t sleep well at night without it so a book must be chosen. On the nights Mrs. Wiggins had forgotten to read to the children, they didn’t sleep well at all. They would fuss in the night until a book was read a few times over and they had all fallen back to sleep. She tried to keep them on a schedule, because it was better that way.

Mrs. Wiggins thought about the difference in the house since the children had arrived. Before they came the days ran together, quiet and still. Now there was laughter and many things to do. Lilly was her child, born three years ago this past spring. She never learned to walk but that didn’t stop her from getting around by crawling everywhere. The others were the children of relatives. The country house had been in the family for generations and was where the children in the family were sent for their health when the summers grew too hot in the city.

Mrs. Wiggins liked children, so it didn’t bother her to care for so many that were not her own. Children needed care and she didn’t have anything else to do. They didn’t cause much fuss so she took care of them all. She made them clothing when their play clothes wore out and darned their little socks.

The Wiggins’ housekeeper Mary came to the door of the sitting room and announced that luncheon was served. Mrs. Wiggins went to the dining room and sat at the head of the table and ate her meal all alone. She listened to the children eating their own lunch upstairs. When she heard the older two on the stairs and heading out the door to the back garden, she folded her napkin.

Mrs. Wiggins went up to the playroom to pick up the toys. There was milk spilled on the floor and a puddle in the corner. Someone needed to learn how to use the potty again. She peeked out the window to see the tree swaying with the motion of the swing. It looked like rain again so she returned to her work in case they came back inside earlier then they usually did, she wanted it tidy for them when they returned.

Once all the toys were back on their shelves, she stood before the bookshelf on the wall that was too high for the children to reach. ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ was chosen again for tonight. The children all enjoyed that story and by now Hillary knew it by heart. She placed a snack of cookies for them on the play table and left the room. She put the book on the night stand in their bedroom for later and listened to the babies sleep, breathing and cooing in that baby way. She tiptoed out and went back downstairs to work on the mending.

When she heard the children come in, she put away her sewing and went into the hall. Muddy footprints were left behind on the polished wooden floor. Hillary cleared them away. She could hear the children playing again upstairs and she went to the kitchen to see when dinner was to be served.

Mary told her that ‘The Mister’ would be late again. He worked long hours to keep them fed in these hard times. Hillary asked for her meal to be served at seven. From upstairs there came a scream. Mrs. Wiggins rushed up to find blood droplets on the floor. Benny had picked at his scabby knees to make Gracie cry when he bled. Mrs. Wiggins wiped up the blood and told them that if they didn’t behave she would not read to them before bed. She went back down the stairs, taking the now empty cookie plate to the kitchen.

“Are they trying your patience, Miss?” Mary asked.

“No, not really, boys will be boys.” Mrs. Wiggins replied.

“Benny then?”

“Yes, Benny picking at his scabs.” Mrs. Wiggins sighed. “Since I have the time, I think I will go shopping and see if I can find some yarn to make more socks for my tribe. I’m re-darning the same holes again and again.”

“Yes Miss.”

Mrs. Wiggins put on her coat and hat, not forgetting to pick up her umbrella in case it showered again. On this cool, damp autumn day, she walked down the lane the few minutes it took to get to the shops.

There wasn’t much of a selection. She was hoping for something bright but only found un-dyed ‘seconds’ wool yarn, so she bought the whitest yarn she could find. Hillary made plans to save onion skins to make it a sunny yellow when she had enough of them. She had dyed yarn before when she had to. It was not a pleasant job but was worth the effort. Lilly liked yellow and some of her socks had gone missing again. “How do babies lose socks in the house that were never found again?” She thought to herself. Mrs. Wiggins planned on getting better yarn in the spring, after the sheep were sheared.

When she returned home she asked Mary to save the onion skins so she could later dye the yarn. Mary told Mrs. Wiggins that there was already a bag of them hanging in the basement stairway.

Hillary checked the bag and found more then enough onion skins to dye the yarn that she had just bought. She listened from the hallway and could hear the children playing quietly. Benny and Gracie had awakened from their nap while she was gone. She got out the copper dye pot and filled it with water, placing it on the back of the stove. When the water was hot she added the onion skins and boiled the color out of them. She carefully skimmed out the spent skins and added the vinegar and the pre-wetted yarn. After a while some dull yellow yarn was drying on a screen in the pantry by the open window.

After Mrs. Wiggins had finished with her work, Mary opened the other windows in the kitchen to air out the pungent odors before preparing dinner.

Hillary was tired but happy as she climbed the stairs to change for dinner. As she passed, she listened at the playroom door. Benny was telling the others a story. It was a war story in which he was saving the day again but the others didn’t seem to mind.

She went to her room and changed her now yellow stained house dress. She put on her dusty pink, the one her husband liked, forgetting he would be late. After eating dinner by herself, she waited for him by reading a book in the sitting room. She quickly looked up at the clock when she heard the key in the lock. The children must have fallen asleep long ago. She came out into the hall and walked with her husband up to their bedroom. The children were quiet so she didn’t even look in on them.

They dressed for bed and went to sleep for the night.

In the middle of the night, the door of the bedroom opened, and the light from the hall came in. A book, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ floated across the room a foot off the floor and landed on the night stand with a bang. Mr. Wiggins shook his wife’s shoulder. “Your children are back and they need you. You’re the only one that can settle them down.” He pulled the covers up over his head as she got up, finding her slippers and the flash light.

She put on her heaviest robe and collected the book from the night stand, pulling the door closed to shut out the hall light as she left the room.

Out in the yard on the cold stone bench, she read the book aloud twice by her flashlight beam before the children stopped their crying and fussing. She straightened the flowers and brushed off the leaves of the four little graves huddled there. She kissed the headstones of Benny, Gracie, Freddie, and baby Lilly.

This had been her whole world for the last year and a half since the fire took their small lives as they slept in their beds. They hadn’t moved on, so she continued to care for them, as she would to the last day of her long lonely life.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ghost of a Dream

By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch

I woke up with a ghost in my bedroom… or at least that is what it felt like. I knew I was still dreaming because I had been trying to wake myself up in my dream. And besides that, there is no such thing as a ghost. So If I wasn’t going to wake up, I was going to go with the dream just to see where it went.

This ghost in my dream told me that he was named Henry and that he was looking for a person that used to live here at my apartment. A woman named Deidra. I couldn’t help him much but I tried. It was the middle of the night after all.

In my dream I went to the library still dressed in my pajamas. I went to look up the old town records for him. As we approached the building the doors just unlocked and opened up, you know how dreams can be.

After what felt like hours of looking in big old books with yellowed pages that smelled of dust and age, I found what he was looking for. I told him that she had gotten married a year after he had died. During her lifetime she had three children. Forty years later she was buried in the church cemetery. Her death had happened fifty years ago from the present year.

What you need to know about me is that I’m not the helpful type. I don’t open doors for people, pick things up that others have dropped, or give to the poor. So I’m feeling quite silly in the library of all places looking up information for a ghost in the dead of night. I haven’t been inside a library since I got my first computer. There are people there and I’m rather antisocial.

Henry asked me to read Deidra’s headstone to him because he had never learned to read, so we walked over to the church yard together. Well, he kind of floated along and I walked.

This was where it started to get creepy. We were standing, or I should say I was standing, and he was floating in the middle of the church cemetery. Another place that I don’t frequent. I had my small pocket flash light that I had for some reason picked up from the night stand by my bed to read the headstones with, when some of the other occupant’s ghosts came up out of their graves to see what we were doing.

As dreams often are surreal, it didn’t bother me in the least that I was now surrounded by ghosts who were chatting and catching up on history while I was reading headstones out loud for this Henry.

I won’t pretend that I wasn’t surprised when some of the specters rose soon after I read their names out loud to Henry. If I was standing too close they would go right through me with a cold shivery feeling.

I was ready to give up when I spotted her grave. I mean how many Deidra’s do you know? I read it out to him and he sighed. We waited for her to come to him and when she didn’t he started to weep so much I called to her on his behalf.

She finally rose up after the whole group started calling to her name. Deidra admonished all of us for disturbing her. The other ghosts, after being reprimanded, headed back to their graves. She told Henry that she was not and never had been in love with him, that he must move on and stop coming to her grave each year on the anniversary night of his death to talk to her. She said that she was not going to talk to him ever again, so he must stop bothering the living and the dead with all this hubbub.

As she sank back into the earth, Henry tried to pull her back up to be with him. I told him to cut it out or I would make it my personal mission to haunt him when I died if he didn’t leave her alone.

He was so distraught that I would have worried about him killing himself if he was alive. So I walked him back to his grave in the public cemetery a few blocks away. I wanted to make sure he was down under again and not about to follow me around. But I didn’t tell him that.

The next day was Saturday and I was at my local coffee shop reading my emails when the police came up to me and asked me to come to the police station with them.

They had an odd tale to tell me. It was about me walking around town in my pajamas with a ghost and breaking into the library and church yard in the middle of the night. They had me on various security cameras around town with a nondescript glowy thing floating along beside me. Since I didn’t harm or take anything, no one was going to press charges, this was just a warning. They showed me the tapes or I wouldn’t have believed it myself.

I moved right out of that apartment. Didn’t stay there another night, in fact. But to this day I am helpful to others and I even give to the poor. I’m not taking any chances ever again. I never want to see another ghost. And I always whistle past the graveyard.