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?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Halloween Pizza

I had been a young guy delivering pizza’s for Papa Vince after class for almost two years. The job was hard and people occasionally stiffed me, leaving me to pay their bill. But for the most part it was interesting enough for a college student to paid the bills that were more then my student loans covered.

My car took a beating I had to get it fixed more then I would have, but all in all I was happy with the situation. Tips were real good around the holidays and that made up for the rest.

I had my favorite customers, regulars that got a pie or two every week end or the Tuesday night meetings of the local sport enthusiast club in the church basement. They collectively tipped with the extra from the food fund each week after the pizza was paid for. Those guys always asked me when I was gonna’ join and I’d always cross my eyes and say, “Do you really want me shooting around you guys?” And they’d laugh.

I didn’t want to deliver pizza’s for the rest of my life, but until I finished college and went onto my doctorate this was the best gig I could find.

Halloween was always fun because we got to wear costumes on the job and got lots of candy along with a tip. Juvenile I know, but what did you expect from a college kid? We had a good group at the pizza place and we all tried hard to out do the others in the costume department.

Despite the fact that the boss, Vince, didn’t want me to wear it on deliveries I got the biggest tips the year I wore my costume of ‘The Fly.’ You know the old movie about the scientist that was caught with a fly in the booth for an experiment and he and the fly got their heads switched. I wore a research coat and made a giant fly, with a dolls head on it for its head, that I attached to the shoulder of the coat, and I had a full head mask of a fly on my head. I added a little squeaky voice saying, “Help me, help me!” sounding like it was coming from the doll head. It got a lot of laughs even from the people that didn’t know the movie.

But the worst Halloween was the one where I had to deliver to the cemetery.

The mayor was having a famous local dead people party there. For some reason the caterer didn’t have enough food for everyone that showed up so I was sent back and fourth with pizza’s as fast as Vince could make the extra ones.

I had Zombies and Ghosts, Witches all over me trying to be the first to get at the last order of pies. They had backed me up to a knee high headstone by the time they grabbed the last pie and didn’t see me trip backwards over the stone.

On the other side was an open grave roped off so no one got hurt, but I fell into it from the top, over the headstone of it‘s head to head neighbor. Right away I knew my arm was broken and I yelled and called for help, but the music was much too loud. No one heard me and if they did they must have thought it was sound effects for the party.

So there I was stuck in a hole, six feet down, with a broken arm, and there were people in every direction. Not one of them coming to help me. I managed to get myself into a sitting position in one of the corners and after waiting for the pain to subside I opened my eyes to see a small boy in the hole with me.

“You afraid?” he asked me.

“No, just hurt.” I told him. “Wait a minute. How did you get down here too? Did you get hurt when you fell in?”

“No. Just found myself down in a hole looking at you.”

I asked him what his name was and he told me Jimmy. I asked his age and he said, “Six.”

“Well your parents should be looking for you soon I guess, and they will find us and get us out.”

The party music played on and no one came looking for the boy. I tried to get up and help him to the top so he could get help, but I just couldn’t do it. My ankle was hurting too much and I couldn’t let go of my arm with my other hand. So I sat in the hole with this kid getting tired and wanting his mama for the rest of Halloween night.

The bandages from my undead costume were thinner then I thought and I was getting cold. Jimmy crawled up to my good side, he sang little rhyming songs to me and his toy dog that was the way we helped keep each other stay warm while we waited. There was nothing else we could do.

We woke to find it morning and we could hear the workers sent to clean up after the party. They were milling about waiting for the truck with the dumpster. I called and after some startled noises from the group I explained where we were and that we needed help getting out.

They gathered around the edge and looked down at me kind of funny, but I thought it was my costume. When I was done looking up and talking with my rescuers I looked back in the hole for Jimmy so they could get him out first while we waited for the rescue truck to come and haul me up in a basket, but he was gone.

I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I just dreamt about the kid?’ But when the nurse came in with my clothing so I could go home she gave me the little toy dog that she said was in my shirt pocket when I got there.

Jimmy was the name on the headstone I had tripped over that night. I stopped by the cemetery on the way home. I left his toy dog at the base of his headstone and thanked him for keeping me company that night. And his name appeared on my cast in a childish scrawl.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn Afternoon, Part 1

My name is Alice Ridges. Alice isn’t a popular name any longer, but the book ‘Alice in Wonderland’ had been one of my mother’s favorite stories when she was a child, so I was named Alice. But I don’t want to tell you about that story. The story I wanted to tell you about happened in the Autumn you see. And every time I smell the aroma of the leaves turning color, like they are right now, I think about what happened then, like it was happening all over again.

I had a job transfer from where I had been living since college, to the town my mother had grown up in. I had often visited my grandparents there as I grew up. A nice town with tree lined streets and children on most every block. The children were a little harder to come by when I was a kid. That generational skip as the kids moved away and the grandkids came back to stay and raise their children. In a word ‘suburbia.’

My grandmother taught me how to knit on the front porch there, while my granddad tossed a ball around with my brother Theo in the front yard. Grandma taught my mom how to knit there too, as my uncle played ball with granddad when they were young. History repeating itself in a way.

Well anyway, my grandparents had died about six years before I moved here. My parents still owned the house and they had a neighbor looking after it. This arrangement was supposed to be a temporary situation, just like when they bought the vacation house in Florida when my brother and I were both in college. But, as you can guess, after that they only came back up north for weddings and funerals.

When I called and told my mother about the job transfer she wrote to the neighbor and sent me the key along with the deed papers saying that I was now the new and sole owner of my grandparents estate. What this really meant that I was given the job of cleaning out and keeping up the old place. Mom wasn’t coming back to do it and didn’t care to. Some memories she didn‘t want to relive I guess. They had given Theo our childhood home when he got married.

I kept the neighbor, an old man named Mr. Wickens, on as a sort of gardener. The boy across the street mowed the lawn, but Mr. Wickens took care of the bushes and flowers. He liked doing it and didn’t have a yard of his own now that he lived in an apartment down the street. I didn’t know a thing about plants and I was busy with the house itself.

I was all moved in by the end of July and spent August working as the new manager of the department store from Friday to Tuesday each week. My weekends consisted of Wednesdays and Thursdays, but I didn’t mind that at all. I worked at cleaning out and repairing the house on the inside as the house painters made repairs and painted the outside. I wasn’t doing too many upgrades yet. I just had the wires and plumbing checked and they were sound. Plenty comfortable for just one person. And I was enjoying a period of reliving my childhood. I made it look as close to how my grandparents had it when I was a kid and just basked in the love and comfort I felt there.

Once September came around I was settled in on the first floor and the one bedroom I had been using upstairs. I was taking a much needed break from working on the house itself. The weather was still warm, but you could feel the difference in the air. There was a coolness to it in the evenings and the smell of the leaves getting ready to change colors.

On this first Wednesday weekend of September I had worked hard cleaning out the last of the old stuff in a closet in the front bedroom all morning and I was knitting in the afternoon shade on the front porch with a pot of tea on the table beside me. I daydreamed of the past as the purple sweater I was knitting grew in my hands.

I don’t know why I looked up… but I think it was the quiet. The kids were now in school and the afternoons to this point had been kid noisy. Jump rope chants, roller skates and bicycles, stick ball games on the corner, squeals from the swimming pools in the back yards.

I looked up to find a small boy at the head of my front walk way to the house. He was just looking at the house in a lonely sort of way as he held onto a teddy bear. I said hello, but he didn’t move or answer at first. This gave me time to look at him. He was about four I guessed. Not old enough to be in school but old enough to walk to a friends house down the block by himself.

He was dressed in shorts and a sweater. The sweater looked hand made, probably from a grandmother or aunt, the pattern was an older style. But he also had on knee socks and brown leather shoes, with a white button down shirt under the sweater like a kid in a story book from the nineteen thirty’s through fifty’s. His teddy bear was old and threadbare, but loved, because it was patched in places.

“Is there children here?” He asked in a small, but not weak voice.

“No. No children, only me.” I answered and then added, “But you can sit here and keep me company until the children get out of school if you like. It won’t take as long to wait that way. Or do you have to ask your mommy first?”

“Mommy has a headache and told me to go out to play, but Sissy is in school and I don’t have anyone to play with until she comes home.”

“Well you can sit here and we can wait for Sissy together. Want a drink of juice?”

“No, I’m not to have food from others. Allergies.” He said with a sorrowful shake of his head.

“My name is Miss Alice Ridges, and you are?”

“I can’t say. But this is Teddy… Teddy Heenmee.” He showed me his bear.

“Glad to meet you Mr. Heenmee Bear.” I said, and the boy laughed as he climbed onto the porch swing.

As I knitted we talked about what school was like for his sister and knitting sweaters and days off from work and headaches and bears until the children came down the sidewalk in groups from school. I poured another cup of tea and when I looked up again he was gone. His sister must have been in the last group of kids, their backs disappearing behind the front hedges of the next door neighbors property.

I went into the house to start dinner feeling that I had at least made one friend since I had moved to town. Not that the neighbors weren’t friendly. I was just too busy up to this point to get to know them for more then a wave across the lawn. I ask Mr. Wickens who the boy was the next time I saw him, but he didn‘t know any of the children by name.

The weather was so beautiful that I repeated the afternoon porch knitting and tea on Thursday and the little boy with the teddy bear showed up once more.

This time he was wearing jeans with the legs rolled up to fit him and a pull over sweater. The bear was still in tow, but his tongue was coming loose… The bear not the boy. I stitched it back in place for him and replaced the one worn eye with an extra purple button from the ones I had bought for the sweater I was knitting, and he thanked me.

I moved to the porch swing to see when the children were coming from the school and he was using my wicker chair with the pillow seat. He had the seat up like it was a car hood and he was pretending to be fixing my car for me while he taught the bear the different car parts that his daddy had showed him.

When I asked him if Mr. Teddy Heenmee Bear like to fix cars too, he looked at me funny and laughed. Then he asked me, “Why do you call my bear Mr. Heenmee?

“Because that is what you told me his name was yesterday. Teddy Heenmee.”

He giggled and rolled on my freshly painted porch floor. “Not Teddy Heenmee. Teddy. He is Teddy and me is Teddy.” He gave the bear a hug and then scrambled up onto the chair and started to give the newly fixed motor a test drive, saying between motor noises, “My mommy said I was okay here, because she knows who you are.”

The phone rang and I went in to answer it, we didn‘t have cell pones back then. By the time I was done talking to my brother about his twins graduating to middle school by the end of this school year, teddy and Teddy were gone.

Autumn Afternoons, Part 2

These Wednesday and Thursday teddy bear visits went on rain or shine through September. By the time it was turning October I had written my phone number on a piece of paper and told him to give it to his mother. I was uncomfortable with not meeting her after so many weeks of her son spending time at my house. But she still hadn’t called me. And his sister never came up the walk to get him, he just seemed to disappear as he dashed away when the children walked past from school.

Teddy was a well behaved boy and he never asked for anything. Not a drink of water or a bathroom break. He just played in a constructive imaginative way, while I knitted away, and we would talk about whatever came to mind as we watched the leaves change color up and down the street.

The day before Halloween he told me he wouldn’t be able to come back to visit because it was getting colder outside and his mother didn’t want him to play outside anymore. But, he would come in costume to ‘Trick or ‘Treat’ the next evening and I would have to guess what costume he would be wearing. I didn’t guess the right answer and he left without me knowing which kid he was at my door the next night. I suspect it was a ghost because, when I thought about it later that night, it was the one thing I didn’t ask him and the most obvious.

I missed his visits in the afternoons, but his mother was right. The weather had turned colder and I didn’t sit on the porch any longer myself. I’d try to get a look at the kids through the window as they past from school, but they were so bundled up and wind blown it was impossible to tell them apart.

In no time at all it was time to get ready for Christmas. I was done with the cleaning out of the second floor and some of the Attic. I wanted to dress the house for the holidays before it got much colder. My brother and his family were coming for Christmas because I was going to their house for Thanksgiving day. This early November Wednesday, I had climbed the ladder to the attic and I was looking for the outdoor decorations. The wooden Santa and Sled for the porch roof had been found in the potters shed out back, and I found someone at work to hire to give them a new coat of paint. But, I was looking for the candy canes and fake candy garland that granddad used to have on the porch rail and steps. And if I didn’t get it set out soon the weather would turn too cold and I only had so many Autumn days left to get the job done in.

I knew that the things I was looking for were probably gone by now, but I kept on looking through the boxes, trunks and dressers up there in the attic just in case there was enough remnants left, or maybe a picture, so that I could have it replaced. I went through boxes and boxes of my mother and uncle’s things from when they were kids. Grandma kept it all from school work to drawings, broken toys to used up clothes. There were many boxes of junk I had to just throw away each week as I was cleaning the place out.

I was dusty and dirty as I came to the last corner to look into. I had found many memories and trinkets from the past up there, but like I said, most of it was junk. I had found the old Christmas tree ornaments and lights. The lights were too old to trust, but I brought the decorations down stairs and it gave me back some hope. I had a pile of shoe boxes of some love letters between Gram and Gramps to be saved and there were some journals from the early years of their marriage that I had spent some time reading instead of finishing the job and the morning was long gone.

I had learned that the uncle my brother was named for, Theodore, had gone missing on Halloween as a kid and was never found again. My brother and I had though he had died from a childhood illness all these years. I couldn’t wait to show Theo these journals when he got here and ask him how to talk to mom about it.

Back in the attic, I moved to the last trunk tucked away deep in the corner. It had been draped in an old sheet that had been made into a child sized ghost costume long ago. The only trouble was that this trunk was locked. I put the ghost costume on the save pile and I brought the boxes of journals down stairs. I found a screwdriver in the ‘catch all’ draw in the kitchen and went right back up to work at the ring with the lock hanging on it.

I pinched my fingers only once. I was working hard and sweating so much by the time I had broken it open, I had muddy sweat running into my eyes.

When I lifted the lid I was thinking about Christmas, but my thoughts quickly turned to Teddy as I saw what the trunk held safe from harm all these years.

The first thing I saw in the trunk as I wiped the muddy sweat from my eyes was an old well loved teddy bear with a new purple button eye. It was wrapped in the mummified arms of a small boy dressed in the same clothing I had seen on Teddy that first day of my Autumn knitting afternoons. It seems my late Uncle Theodor was finally found.

The End

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Good Girl

Jenny Smith took one last look in the mirror before going out the door into the fresh spring air. There was nothing she could find out of place in her reflection, so she left the house and walked to the car.

She hated these yearly reviews at the family court house. The building was meant to look cheery with the flowers and bright colored banners out in front, but she never saw it as cheery in all the years she had been coming there. This was where all her sins were laid bare year after year. Would she never out live that day so long ago?

Her therapist met her on the stairs and walked in with her. This was an informal hearing or more of a review, but it was still going to make decisions for her life none the less. She sat by her lawyer and waited for the judge to come into the room and take his seat at the head of the large conference table. Her husband Jeff was sitting across from her on the other side.

The judge came in and the proceedings began. One side spoke and then the other. Her therapist gave her a glowing recommendation. This wasn’t a custody hearing as they lived together with the children fairly happily through the rest of the year. This had to do with the past. A past from before they were married. From before she was old enough to read or go to school. But it would not go away. The court system wouldn’t let it. So they were back again this year also. Each year it was discussed and gone over until someone always said that it shouldn’t have come this far in the first place, but that never changed a thing.

Jeff knew the whole story before they were married. They both thought that the reviews would stop when she turned twenty one. But they only got more complicated once she became a full fledged adult and worse still after she had the children. What a way to have an anniversary. She wanted to go to the cemetery with flowers for the families graves on this twenty-fifth year since their deaths. There was no one else to remember who they were. Only Jenny was left.

As the hearing slowly moved on, they were up to the part where they were listing her school grades and accomplishments along with her mistakes as she grew up, she let her mind wander. She let her thoughts go back to her childhood when she was just four years old.

The family had been sick with very bad spring colds and I was the first to get well enough to get out of bed. My little baby brother had kept my parents up all night with his coughing and Mommy and Daddy just wanted to sleep the day away. I got up and dressed myself as best as I could. Shorts with pink flowers in the print, orange sweater, snow boots with no socks.

I was hungry and was only allowed to make cereal. When mommy asked me what I was doing from the bedroom I answered, “Getting breakfast.”

“Will you bring some in for us too Janie Sweetheart?” Mommy asked.

“Oakie dokie.” I answered feeling all grown up because mommy needed my help. I wanted to make the breakfast good. Just like mommy did. There was no fruit like on the picture on the box in the refrigerator, so I ran out to the backyard and picked the berries growing on the fence. I washed them in the sink from the chair I had pushed over so I could reach. I used the bubbly stuff from under the sink. Then I put them in the bowls. I poured in the cereal and milk over that and I brought it bowl by bowl to my mom and dad.

Mommy and Daddy told me how I was their special Good Girl. They had eaten theirs down by the time I had made some for the baby, but I did good and smushed his with the back of the spoon like mommy did and I fed him his breakfast so mommy could go back to sleep. By the time I was ready to eat my own I was tired again and I spilled my bowl on the floor trying to bring it into the living room so I could watch TV.

There were no berries left or milk either, all the bowls were used, so I ate my cereal dry from the box on the couch in front of the TV. Then I fell asleep.

When I woke up I was cold, so I went to get into bed with my folks. But when I got to their door I knew something was wrong there was bloody throw up on the floor. My baby brother’s room looked the same. So I called ‘nine, one, one’ just like Mommy taught me and the policeman came to the door.

That was the last day Jenny had a family for a long time. She didn’t go to the funeral because she was in the hospital having tests, and the people taking care of her thought a four year old was too young to go to such an event.

From that day on, everyone that knew what she had done had watched to see if she would try to poison someone else again. Janie told them she was just trying to be a good girl, but it didn’t do any good. She was not allowed to play with the other kids, or touch anyone’s food again for a long time. She was never fostered out, but kept in the home and never given a job in the kitchen. She couldn’t get a job when she turned eighteen and was out on the streets when Jeff took her in and they took care of each other.

He taught Janie to cook and how to do a whole lot of other things. She was even able to get her much needed high school equivalency diploma and then went on to the community collage.

When they got married Janie changed her first name too. She is Jenny Smith now, no longer Janie Hunter. She colors her hair and takes care of her children like any other mother in the PTA. But some people at this table, from the prosecutors office, who couldn’t believe that what had happened so long ago hadn’t twisted Jenny through to the heart and soul. They always threw in the possibility that they thought she had done it on purpose. So, here they where back again this year.

With her oldest child approaching the age Janie was when it happened, coupled with the fact that it was twenty-five years, made a few of them nervous. She could see it in their eyes just before they looked away.

Didn’t they believe in all that counseling they made Janie endure for all those years. Janie always had to come back next week, and the week after that, because she hadn’t forgotten what had happened yet. But, how was she suppose to forget when ‘that’ was the reason she was there each week.

The inspections of Jenny’s children were being discussed now. Colds to diaper rash, growth charts and development were reviewed. Had she damaged them in any way as of yet?

Not in any way that could be measured by their tests and suppositions.

Jenny was free to return to her home and children, but never to forget what she did while trying to be a good girl when she was only four.

On the way home Jenny asked Jeff if they could go by the cemetery to have a small visit even though she didn’t have any flower for them. He obliged her even though he wanted to get back home. The reviews got longer each year and the sitter would be getting tired by now.

They stopped for a few minutes and she went to the grave sides of her family. Jenny placed a kiss on the top of each cold gray grave stone and pulled a few blades of grass that had grown too long, from in front of their names and the one stone meant for herself someday. The one on the empty grave that said “The Good Girl” across the front of it.

On her tenth birthday long ago. That day was the first time she was brought to see the graves. The words weren’t there when the case worker and Janie arrived. Mrs. Johnson read out the inscriptions on each one to her and pointed out that the last blank one would be hers some day.

Janie laid the flower carefully on her families headstones. And those words had appeared like magic, carved into that stone, they were there when she was done.

Jenny smiled again today when she read those words set in the stone. Somebody, somewhere knew that she had meant no harm and was only trying to be a good girl like her mommy and daddy wanted.

Seeing those words each year, carved into that stone was enough to get her through the next year until the reviews came again. She smiled and said, “Good-bye until next year. Your ‘Good Girl’ still loves you.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Gravedigger - Rewrite

The Grave digger was a large and strong man. Jonathan Andrews, despite his family’s prestigious name and high standing in the community, was an odd sort. Even as a boy he was known for his unusual strength and apparent need to be out of doors and alone.

Mr. Andrews felt that his son’s strength should be put to some good use so he had young Jonathan apprenticed to the towns blacksmith. But when Jonathan would run away from the close, consuming feeling of the heat of the furnace fires, the family felt the embarrassment of his ill behavior and turned their backs on him. It didn’t help that Jonathan could always be found, at these times, in the cemetery clearing weeds away from the base of the headstones of the people that had no family to look after their plots.

When a person in town died, young Jonathan was there in the cemetery, helping the old gravedigger create the large, rectangular hole in the earth. Jonathan was only fourteen when the old man died, and having done the job before, he took over the duty. Jonathan moved into the small hut at the cemetery’s edge and even though, or maybe in because of, his new profession the Andrews family declined to acknowledge him in public any longer.

Mrs. Andrews did arrange for a meeting with the Widow Henderson.

“As you know Mrs. Henderson.” she straightened up and leaned in. “My son, thou large, is still a boy and in need of some little provision. Good hearty meals, served hot?”

“I believe I understand you, Mrs. Andrews. I do live closest to the grave keeper’s shack... And it would not seem amiss for me to bring him his meals. Twice a day, let us say, and a loaf of bread?”

“There will be money on your account at the grocers, enough for two, and meat will be provided weekly. Will that be satisfactory, Mrs. Henderson?”

“I should say so Ma'am. I thank you for your concern in my welfare. I will be silent as the grave as to our arrangement, Mrs. Andrews.”

Sometimes, Jonathan was hired to dig ditches and wells, but mostly he dug graves and maintained the cemetery grounds. His health was robust, better than most, and when a plague came through the town, Mr. Hanson, the carpenter and coffin maker, hired Jonathan to collect the bodies.

There was no funeral parlor in town and wakes were held at home. One end of a room would be cleared and the coffin would be placed on a table or saw horses. The house would be filled with flowers in warmer weather, to help mask the odor. Family and friends would sit and mourn, and wait to see if the deceased would rise. After three days wait the family would have the body buried in the sweet earth of the cemetery.

If the deceased had no family to sit the wake, or the people were afraid of disease, the coffin was interred at the cemetery straight away and the body had a bell string. 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 corpse’s hand before the lid was nailed shut. A watcher, usually a family member, would sit in the cemetery for the next few days and nights to listen for the bell.

Only once was Jonathan awakened by a bell watcher in the night. The young son of a woman buried that day was there to listen for the bell. He woke Jonathan, in his hut, with a shout when he heard the bell ringing. It was only the wind playing with the bell that scared the young watcher, for the string was not moving.

Jonathan uncovered the casket to settle the boys mind, then 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 was also given to Jonathan.

Three years later, Jonathan was sitting the bell watch in the night. Widow Henderson, who had made him such good meals for so long, had died and been buried that afternoon. She was the third to die that week of the plague, so she had been buried quickly with the bell string tied around her right hand.

Jonathan wrapped a woolen blanket around his shoulders and moved the pebbles 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 snapped up in shock at the sound of a bell. He shook his head to try to clear his thoughts. He looked again at the bell in front of him, but it wasn’t moving. Still he could hear a bell ringing.

Jonathan lumbered to his feet, in order to better hear from whence the sound came. He checked all the bells on the other new graves, but all were still. Yet he could clearly hear a bell somewhere in the cemetery, but before he could track the tinkling down the ringing ceased.

He returned, shaken, to the widow’s grave determined to stay awake. He found a small sharp stone to sit upon hoping the discomfort would keep him awake and alert. He even talked to the widow, “I should have told you before, but I only have now. Your cooking was very good.” There was no reply in the quiet night air, but he hadn’t expected any.

Listening for noise in the quite dark of night is hard work. In spite of his effort, Jonathon found himself drifting off to sleep again.

Suddenly, a bell was ringing. Despite his size Jonathan jumped up to search the darkness in every direction. He listened for where it could be coming from, but before he could take a few steps - it stopped. Now Jonathan suspected that some boys were playing a cruel joke on him. He was not going to let some ruffians disrespect the dead. He walked around the edge of the cemetery for the rest of the night, satisfied that the bell rang no more.

The following day, two others took their last breaths because of the illness. Jonathan, exhausted from the labor of digging graves and nights spent alert, tried to find someone, anyone, in town to do the night watch for him. No one was willing to do the job.

After a long day of struggling through his digging and collecting bodies, Jonathan took a nap. He could do nothing else. After it was already dark he dragged his large tired frame out to the center of the cemetery to the tree by the widow’s grave to begin his watch.

Most of the night passed without any unusual happenings. The night was quiet, save for a fox’s bark around midnight; not even a rustle of leaves could be heard.

On what he hoped would be his last circuit until morning, Jonathan approached the tree when the sound of a bell could clearly be heard. After glancing at the bells in his care and finding them still, he ran to the side of the cemetery between the graveyard and the town in hopes of cutting off the hooligan’s escape. When the sound of the bell didn’t move the gravedigger began to run around to the other side of the graves. The sound of the ringing kept pace with him, always from why seemed to be the other side of the cemetery. Did some boys tie the bell to a dog and let it loose in the graveyard for the night? As suddenly as it had started, the ringing stopped.

Before the day dawned, Jonathan was hatching a plan to trap the anonymous bell ringer. He was not going to let the bell ringer get away if they returned tonight.

Jonathan had spent some of his time that day making a clear path around the outskirts of the cemetery. As he did this, he dug some holes to catch the foot of anyone or anything creeping around in the dark. Jonathan covered these holes with small branches and he put a stake in the ground near by marking the spots so he didn’t trip in them himself.

He napped as the preacher presided over the latest internments. Jonathan prepared for a long night. He closed the graves of the newest residents, hoping to observe someone skulking about in the lowering light, but he saw no one.

Now that the gravedigger’s watch had started, Jonathan put down the lantern and laid his blanket against the tree so it would look as if he was sitting there.

The moon was almost full and only thin high clouds graced the sky. There wasn’t a whisper of a breeze. Jonathan could see well enough to walk his circuit without a light, but anyone not familiar with the graveyard would have trouble getting around the headstones.

The night moved on just like the two before, and the tinkling brass bell woke him tauntingly, but as in previous nights, no culprit was to be found. Jonathan had made a vow not to let another night go by without catching the miscreant. He had rested all he could during the day and was as fresh as could be expected when his night watch had started in the cemetery. He had brought no extra blanket to comfort his shoulders against the chill as he walked, for this night would be the bell ringers last.

So when the bell began to ring, the fury in Jonathan’s eyes would have stopped hardened generals in their tracks. The sound of the ringing brought him back to the tree in the center of the cemetery time and time again. All he could think of was that a ghost bell now inhabited the grave yard.

In all these long years Jonathan had never seen or heard a spook or specter, but he knew there was a first time for everything a person encountered. This bell had an unseen hand ringing it, he was sure. He checked every graveside bell and string and not one was in motion, yet the ghostly ringing could still be heard. He was not going to shirk his duty to the recently buried and their families. Jonathan was tired, but he stayed and he woke himself hourly to check the bells for movement until morning arrived.

The plague at last left town, leaving a dozen dead. All was quite and peaceful again, and Jonathan’s work load was back to only day work. There were no more nights of watching bells. He tried to convince himself that the business of the bells was just his imagination. He even asked the town doctor to check his ears and was found in good health.

A month after the ordeal of the bell, Jonathan’s mother died. She had not been sick for very long. Her wake was well attended. Jonathan buried his mother under the shade of the tree, and he felt that she should have a bell and a proper watch that he himself would do, out of respect. He was, after all, the gravedigger and the caretaker.

The son walked the graveyard nightly to check the bell at his mother’s feet. Suddenly the phantom bell chimed in the night air.

Jonathan was greatly angered that the ringer would disturb his grief. His own Mother! Was there no sanctity? When, as usual, no one could be found, he grabbed the tree’s lower branches and shook them violently. The bell’s ring pealed with a vengeance.

By the light of his lantern, Jonathan saw a small brass bell tangled in a bird’s nest above him. He gave a hearty laugh for the first time in many weeks. The large man climbed into the tree and tried to remove the bell from hell, but the string was tangled tightly around the nest and branch. As he reached his hand out further to remover the whole nest, the branch broke and Jonathan was plunged to the ground.

As his body hit the hard ground, strewn with twisted roots, the bell in the local church began to ring out in the night air. Then, all of the bells in the entire town rang. Everyone rushed from their beds into the streets. What could this be?

The church bell could not be quieted, and so the town was searched from one end to the other. By the weak morning light Jonathan was found with a broken neck under the only tree in the cemetery. He was lying near his mother’s grave.

He was buried that very day with no bell or string. After such a scare of bells, no one would watch the watcher’s grave. So when Jonathan awoke in his coffin only minutes after his coffin was lowered into the ground, the gravedigger was left to die there all alone as the dirt was shoveled onto the box.

He had no bell to save him.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Guillotine (Part 1)

By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch

There was a guillotine in the town of Fairview. It was left over from another era and resurrected from a local junkyard as a way to bring more tourists into town. The only easily accessible place that wasn’t already in use was a small empty lot on third street next to Sadie-Ann’s Bed and Breakfast. Sadie-Ann Miller was not pleased about this turn of events at all. She featured a country craft and cooking theme for families, and having a guillotine standing on the other side of her superbly manicured garden hedge made her ill. She had been on a crusade to have it torn down and junked once again.

She petitioned the mayor’s office, but the Chamber of Commerce of Fairview out voted her. After that she ran a series of fund raisers to have the thing encased in a building of some kind so it couldn’t be seen from the street or her property because her guests walked past it regularly to get to the ice cream shop across the street. This plan did go over well with the other merchants because the guillotine wouldn’t need as much money in the way of repair from the weather, it was less prone to being vandalized and a small ticket fee could be charged at the door to help pay for a caretaker and any needed upkeep thus practically eliminating a tax hike for the expense.

After months of planning and haggling by the town council a small, simple, yet old fashioned looking wooden building was built around The Patmore Guillotine and the town started to advertise that it could be seen in comfort year round. There was a picture of the one and a half story tall, one room building in the newspaper and on the website under ‘Interesting Attractions.’ Inside the building was large enough that the whole guillotine and its chest high platform, with its small flight of stairs, to fit nicely inside with room to walk around the base. On the outside there was an awning over a few benches to helped keep those waiting for the next tour, out of the sun or rain.

Mr. Dante Rancho, one of the retired town maintenance workers was hired to sell the tickets and give a talk on the known history of the Patmore Guillotine. This information was gathered together by the historical society headed, none other then Sadie-Ann Miller herself. After she had worked tirelessly to gather the information against the guillotine the town used the information to make an accurate historical presentation for the tours and printed it up in booklet form to sell at the souvenir stand inside. Sadie-Ann Miller was fit to be tied and threatened to sue. The information was the property of the historical society, but she did manage to have them stop using her name as author when the next printing came about.

This information along with a list of the names of the people known to have been executed by the guillotine was also posted on the inner walls. There were illustrations of it’s construction under framed plastic sheeting to make it last longer, for viewing. The same information was available on posters or postcards for sale as souvenirs along with mini guillotine pencil sharpeners. This netted more income for the small community as the visitors increased with the services at the guillotine and this pleased the tax payers.

Mr. Rancho would start the tour by tell the story of how the various men of the Patmore family took turns being the executioner with a hood over their head and a shapeless robe so no one in the town or surrounding countryside would really know who had been the person to execute the guilt party, and in that way the family of the executed had no one person to make their retaliations on should they feel the need. After Mr. Rancho imparted this information, he talked about the mechanics of the guillotine and how it had been made to work best for a left handed executioner. Then he would pull the rope and let loose the latch of the guillotine blade. He did this once an hour to punctuate the end of the tour.

The town went back to it’s peaceful existence well pleased with the amount of extra traffic and income from the sightseers. Well, it was almost peaceful.

In the mornings the lock on the door of the guillotine building was always found to be unlocked. The lock itself was changed and the new one was found unlocked in the mornings also. The mayor asked if the owner of the ice cream parlor across the street from the guillotine could have his outside camera moved to watch the guillotine building for a night or two until the culprit could be caught. The camera never saw anyone by the building much less the door itself even though it had a good view, yet the lock was still opened in the morning.

The police were of course involved and after no evidence was found they added a guillotine lock check to their nightly rounds. When they checked the door they found it locked throughout the night, but the door was found to be unlocked when checked again soon after dawn. A high tech firm was hired to install a lock with a timer that could be programmed to relock the door after sunrise each day. This worked for about a week until the sunrise time came after the door was to relock itself. The company who had installed the lock was unwilling to send anyone out weekly to change the settings as the time of sunrise changed through the seasons or give out the code to change it themselves, for as they said, ‘The policy didn’t cover maintenance against a ghost.’ and they had a hardy laugh before they hung up.

For a while the council had the school bus driver relock the door, but that didn’t work out after day light savings time was over and he was out on the road as the sun came up and busy with his route for the next few hours.

In the end they had to hire someone to come just before dawn to listen for the door to unlock and then they would relock the door. This someone had to be unafraid of ghosts and an early riser. A person hard to come by, so it came with a price. The mayor was getting frantic because this was costing more then the guillotine was bringing in as funds. The town merchants didn’t want the ticket fee to go up because they thought that no one would come to town to see it at all if they did. They also didn’t want it to get out that the door was being left unlocked in the mornings because they didn’t want ghost hunters, or anyone else, coming to town and get into the building causing possible damage to the town’s leading tourist attraction.

After a few days of relocking the door as soon as it was unlocked, the door was found unlocked again shortly after the relocking and at odd times through the night. Feeling undone by it all the out going mayor threw up his hands and said, “Let your next mayor take care of it. I‘m not running for reelection again.” and he walked out of the town hall meeting.

Sadie-Ann Miller was back to suggesting that the whole thing should be taken down lock, stock and barrel, but the word had gotten out about the ghost and business in town had never been so good. Everyone who came to town seemed to want to stay at the Sadie-Ann’s Bed and Breakfast so she didn’t try as hard as she had been to have it demolished, but mostly this was because she was just too busy to get to the town merchant meetings.

Ghost hunters came from all over the world setting up their equipment to try to capture evidence of the guillotine ghost. The media followed suit. Was it an executioner or a beheaded specter? The ghost hunters found that they got some readings, but nothing conclusive. All that happened was that the door would unlock itself night after night, while cameras, people and machines watched quietly on.

After a few months of testing by one group and then another, the outsiders left town and things started to settle down to what they had been before. Only a slight increase in out of town traffic from those looking to see if they could commune with the ghost and find out what it wanted was left of the ghost hunter craze.

The new mayor let it be known that some cameras would be installed and two would be facing the door at all times and a split screen of all the shots inside and out would be shown on a local TV channel and the internet at all hours of the day and night that the Guillotine was not open for business, so anyone at any time would be seen taking advantage of the situation and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This meant that the anyone could see the guillotine on their computer thus reducing the revenue some what, but the mayor thought it a good compromise.

With the ghost left alone by human interference, dawn was reestablished as the unlocking time and the years marched on with the ghost never missing a day.

After Mr. Rancho decided he was getting too old for the job and wanted to move closer to his grandkids, someone else needed to be found to run the tours. The new trouble to Fairview’s Guillotine Association became that no one in town wanted to take the position. The job eventually went to a group of college students from a near by city, that between them all the hours and dates were covered. It worked out well until the one night when there was some mischief going on and the group lost their jobs for getting into the building and having a midnight séance without permission.

It wasn’t really the break in as much as the fact that they were drunk when they did it that was the issue. Drunk or not they all insisted that they had seen a small left handed person in black executioners cloak and hood with their black eyes glinting with what looked like tears through their mask standing with a gloved left hand on the blade latch pulley robe. The video showed none of the students were on the platform when the blade came down by itself. The students didn’t seem to care about being fired because none of them wanted to come back to work after that anyway.

Part 2 to Follow.

The Guillotine (Part 2)

By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch

Sadie-Ann begged for a vote to have the guillotine torn down instead of finding a new tour guide, but in the end little old Miss Marston the retired librarian took the job. It was a joke around town, still she didn’t seem to mind. Some of the people in town took the time to come and see the show as she slowly climbed the steps and pulled the rope back with all her strength and throwing her slight weight behind her small strength she was able to pull the rope hard enough to move the latch. She grinned while breathing hard after each pull, but she had to get one of the guys working at the ice cream parlor across the street to reset it for her each hour. The joke was that the blade of the guillotine weighed more then she did.

After some months of this, Randy, one of the guys from the ice cream parlor, was talked into taking over the job, but that didn’t last either. He was doing the weekly cleaning of the guillotine and the blade came down by itself and cut off his arm. The latch was checked for wear and fit with a safety. Randy’s arm was able to be reattached resulting in good movement. The towns insurance premium when through the roof and Sadie-Ann was on the war path against the guillotine again. But the blood stains were cleaned off and the job was posted on the internet and Mr. Higgins, a historian from Tacoma, came to Fairview to do the job.

All this time, years in fact, Sadie-Ann Miller never once set a foot on the lot with the guillotine. She wouldn’t even walk passed it. She went all the way around the block to get to the ice cream parlor for her weekly order of ice cream for her guests. Some nights she just knew she could hear the guillotine slide in it’s track to the bottom with a heavy thud, but she never told a anyone what she heard, not even her husband.

What bothered Sadie-Ann Corbin-Miller was the secret she kept so closely. Her family name had once been Patmore. The family lineage went from Sadie-Ann, to her father Ernest Corbin, her grandmother Ann Patmore-Corbin, and her great grandmother Sadie Patmore.

It was only by chance that Sadie-Ann’s husband, Barry Miller, wanted to move to Fairview to start the Bed and Breakfast. Years later she found out that the empty lot next to the Bed and Breakfast was the exact spot where the guillotine had once stood and was standing once again.

Sadie-Ann had never told her husband Barry the story of how her great-grandmother Sadie Patmore, was actually the last executioner to use the guillotine. Her grandmother had to execute her own beloved brother for murdering a man. Driven to insanity, this led to Sadie-Ann’s great grandmother’s incarceration in an insane asylum, where she was later raped. Sadie died giving birth to her daughter Ann in the asylum.

Disgraced because their son was a murderer, the Patmore family had moved from the town and the guillotine was left to rust and crumble. What happened so long ago in Fairview was forgotten by all alive but Sadie-Ann herself. She was told the story only when she repeatedly asked her father how she got the name of Sadie-Ann and he told her the sordid tale. Sadie-Ann Miller was determined that the secret would die with her.

Sadie-Ann remembered that all the Patmore’s were left-handed, just like she was. That and her name from her long dead relatives were the only clues left to her lineage and she didn’t want to have to change the her name and the name of the Bed and Breakfast after years of building a clientele.

Mr. Higgins was allowed to go through the old records stored in the basement of the Public Library. Sadie-Ann was concerned that he might find something she hadn’t, but she felt that there was probably wasn’t anything left after she had gone through all of those same records years ago when the guillotine was first put back up. Sadie-Ann burned anything she could find that tied her to the guillotine. But Mr. Higgins was good at his job. He found enough to make the connection and after a trip to Sadie-Ann’s town of birth, he asked her to meet him at the Guillotine the next week on Friday night, after business hours to talk about her family tree.

Sadie-Ann was so upset she couldn’t eat for days. She hadn’t been sleeping well either. She would pace back and fourth on the widows walk at the top of her Victorian Bed and Breakfast for hours looking at the small building down below.

Barry tried to get her to go to the doctor, but she would just point to the guillotine building and say, “The doctor doesn’t have a little white pill for that now does he?” He stopped booking rooms for the next month and started making plans for a vacation far away.

Sadie-Ann was making herself sick with worry by the time Friday morning came around. The doctor had come to her house and given her something to help her sleep and settle her stomach. She woke in the late afternoon to find a note from Barry telling her that he was out picking up a surprise for her.

Dressed in the first thing she could find she didn‘t even pull a comb through her graying hair. Looking a bit like a wild old crone Sadie-Ann walked over to the Guillotine for the very first time in her life as the sun went down. She told herself that she was a reasonable person and that most people were quite reasonable also. That Mr. Higgins would see just how much the information would hurt her business and she would pay him whatever it took to bury and forget about the information he had found.

The interview didn’t start off very well. Sadie-Ann couldn’t keep her eyes off of the guillotine and hardly even heard what it was that Mr. Higgins had to say to her. She was shaking violently by the time she demanded he keep his mouth closed or else.

She was uncontrollable when Mr. Higgins told Sadie-Ann he wouldn’t keep his information quite. Something inside her just snapped and she had the power of three men. After knocking the man out with one punch to the face, she wrestled the unconscious Mr. Higgins up the steps and into the guillotine. All the while the cameras were broadcasting everything. But just as Sadie-Ann was about pull the latch rope the ghost appeared and the camera caught a flair of white and when the picture returned to focus, Mr. Higgins had been pulled out from under the blade and Sadie’s body was collapsing against the side of the guillotine.

Old yellowed papers with the edges singed and burned were falling from the ceiling slowly like snow which obscured the view from the cameras for a second here and there. They fluttered down from the ceiling then landed on the floor and both bodies as the papers scattered themselves around the room.

As the police got there Mr. Higgins was just coming to consciousness and Sadie-Ann’s body with the pull rope still in her left hand was slumped against the side of the guillotine‘s uprights, but her head was now in the guillotine’s basket.

From that day on the door of the guillotine building was never found unlocked again, but the town now had a new story to go with the guillotine. The one where Sadie-Ann Patmore/Miller was driven crazy by the ghost of her great-grandmother and when Sadie-Ann tried to keep the story from coming out about her relative being the last executioner and the enraged ghost killed her.

The video is there for viewing along with the stolen papers Sadie-Ann had once burned. The burnt edged documents confirmed the facts of the story. You can go to Fairview and see the guillotine for yourself and see that the blood stain from her severed head still there in the basket, if you want to take a peek inside of it. They’ve never been able to get the stains out.

The End

Blogging Information

I am putting the next story in the blog in two parts. It is a longer story then the others so far, and I have decided to but it in ‘second part first’ so that it can be read through in order from the top to the bottom of the page.

Sorry for any confusion when it shows up on the follower lists in the wrong order.
Lady Euphoria

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mack’s Room

Mack. It sounded like something you called a person that you didn’t know, but that was his name. Not that I ever used it. He was in the nursing home that I use to volunteer in. I was rarely in his room and he was never out of it that I knew of.

His room was the same as all the others, but it just felt different. Dark and menacing, the air felt thick even when the windows were open and the breeze came through the doorway.

Mack was a violent man. The story was that he had an accident and his brain was damaged leaving him in a constant angry state. The only way to take care of his needs was to sedate him first even though he was tied down all the time.

I don’t know the why’s or how’s, all I did know was he couldn’t be trusted not to hurt you if you got too close. The only reason I was ever in his room at all was that the Home’s policy stated that no one went into his room alone. The last person who had, left with a broken arm. He would grab holed of you in a tight crushing grip and not let go. Even with his restraints he was dangerous. So when the staff had to take care of his daily needs sometimes they would ask for me to stand by the door to call for help if it was needed.

Now there are all different types of people in the world and if you live long enough at one time or another you’re going to need help taking care of yourself. So, knowing that I might someday need nursing home care, I was paying it forward and volunteering.

I would go around and talk to the different people who lived there or read to them in the day room. I’d even play cards with the ones that could. You know, I’d just let them know that they were not forgotten.

But like I said, I stayed clear of Mack’s room most of the time. I did have my favorites of course. Though I tried not to play favorites when there was such need for companionship all around. One day a week, that was where you could find me, in the only nursing home in town. I didn’t know everyone there, but I did know a few of them from before they came here to stay.

Anyway, after I had been volunteering at the place for about a year strange things started to happen about once a week or so. Things were moved that couldn’t be moved without help. Full heavy dressers were found away from the wall and up against beds. Maintenance was called in to bolt them to the walls before anyone got hurt. After that it was other heavy things in the kitchen, housekeeping or maintenance. But before it got too out of hand it all stopped and the only thing that had changed was that Mack had died.

His room was cleaned out and made ready for the next person needing care and about a month later the room was filled again.

But every person that was put into that room was harmed in some way when no one was there to do it. Bloody scratches raked down someone’s face. Cuts and bruises were found on others. Surveillance cameras were installed to find the one who was doing it. No one was seen in the room at the time of the incidents, yet the assaults kept on happening to anyone that was given the room that Mack had once lived in.

It didn’t take long for the room to be changed into a storage area. The home was libel for any injury to their residents and if they didn’t want to be shut down, there was nothing else that they could do. From then on that room held only broken wheelchairs, bed frames and things left for parts.

I retired and moved away around the same time the nursing home was bought by a larger company who didn’t see the need to waste the space of a room that could be turned into revenue. But I saw on the news the other day that an elderly resident was mysteriously killed in their room in that nursing home I used to volunteer in. Crushed by the bed and impaled through the heart by a wheel chair spoke. I knew how and where it must have happened. It was the ghost of Mack or the evil that lived in his room with him and had never left that did it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Moonlight Walking

By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch

My mother called them my nighttime rambling but my father called them my moonlight walking. I’m talking about getting up in the middle of the night and going to the out house.

I never got out of the habit since I was a child like everyone else I knew had. Grandpa, Papa’s father came to live with us, and he got up a few times in the night too when he was older before he died, but being infirmed made him get that way. I had never stopped.

Other people felt a fear of the night that I didn’t share. Grandpa knew about that also. He had grown up on a farm and they often did work by the moon light, and he would tell me that there was nothing that beat putting on a shingle roof in the night. “The shingles lasted longer and didn’t warp as fast.” he’d say. Papa worked in the saw mill. You needed good eyes and day light to see by for a job like that. I had what they called weak eyes. I had glasses to read by. I could see a rabbit at a good distance though, and was a fare shot so the other school children didn’t give me too much ribbing about it, but that was all when I was a child. I usually didn’t wear my glasses outside in the night until I needed to wear them most of the time.

I have a healthy respect of the dark. There are things that use the dark to hide in and do their mischief and I’m not leaving some people out of that group. But I always wondered why others found the night so very strange and frightening. If you were careful just like in the daylight there was nothing to be scared of.

I think that part of my love of that time of day was the difference of the world at night. It was so very different. It had sounds and things to see that just weren’t about in the daylight. As a kid one of the first thing I remember being different was the moon flower. It only bloomed at night. Like the morning glory only bloom in the mornings. Different things just have their own time and the night time was my time to explore.

Me, I liked the dead of night. It has a stillness that has nothing to do with the wind in the trees. On a still night you can hear for miles further then in the day. It has a rhythm and cadence unlike anything I’ve found in the daylight.

In the day there were cycles too. With the arch of the sun in the sky marking time and the seasons also. But at night there was a different meter, the moon. The sun didn’t have a new, quarter or full adding to the changes of the night. It got so I could tell the waxing and waning of the moon even when the weather got between the moon and me.

I had the habit of going to bed early with the younger children so I could have a bit of time to myself in the middle of the night. There wasn’t a place to call my own back then. I even had to share the bed I slept in with a big family in a small house. The house had been in my mother side of the family for generations so there was no moving to a larger one even if we had the money.

We all got up before the sun each day to be ready for work or school. Even before it was time to leave for school we needed time to get our morning chores done before we left. But the night of predawn was different. Critters and birds were on the move either finishing or starting their day and it was noisy by comparison to the middle of the night. I liked to practice being as quite as the night creatures as often as I could. I liked most everything I learned about the night.

But there was nothing so glorious as a full winter moon on a snow covered clear night. It has its own kind of lighting. Magical. I could stay up for hours and never tire of it despite the cold. I didn’t do it often. It left the next day on the poor side of working and the older I got the more I had to do in the daytime. Grandpa understood I think. He would ask me about talking to the creatures of the night. But I never talked to them. I only listened.

When I was a twelve years old, there had been a new snow and everything was blanketed in white. The wind had blown away the clouds and the deep bitter cold left everything frozen and still in a quick freeze. It was just as I liked it. You could hear so far that you could almost hear the Angles sigh in heaven. I was ready and raring to go. I had laid out my outerwear all ready. I didn’t even care that the snow had been disturbed by my brothers in an impromptu snowball fight while doing their evening chores.

When I woke in the middle of the night it was so very cold, even inside the house. The cold was pressing in and stealing the warmth that the furnace and daylight had collected inside. I used the privy pot so I didn’t have to get undressed in the out house to do my business in such cold. I had to add a layer or two before leaving the house. I had on three pairs of socks in my older brothers boots, long johns and two layers of clothing, a sweater, a long coat, two pairs of gloves with mittens over that and my wooly earflap hat with a shawl over my hatted head and neck with a scarf to hold it all down and cover my lower face. It was hard to move well, but I wasn’t going to miss this.

I took one last look out of the frosty window and the chimney smoke of the house across the street was still going straight up. I’d have to be careful not to stay out for too long. But it would be worth every second to be able to hear the sound of the snow squeak and crunch under foot.

The cold made it hard to breath. Not too much on the lungs. It was the frost collecting on the scarf over my mouth and nose that made breathing hard. I had to knock it off on a regular bases to keep on being able to breath at all. I was glad I didn’t have to wear my glasses or I’d have been blinded from the frost that would have coated them too.

I had walked out to the center of the back yard, but the snow didn’t sound right with it all tamped down already from my brothers, so I headed to the front yard. The crunch and squeak was so satisfying after some warmer winters of little sloshy snows. I remembered a story my grandfather told me about tiny, little, man like creatures making tunnels under the snow and screaming in anger as all their work was collapsed by our gigantic feet. I laughed out loud letting out a large puff of steam through my scarf.

It obscured my view for a few moments and I took the time to break up the fast forming frost layer on the outside of my scarf, but when I could finally breathe and see again what I did see confused me.

There was a cloud of steam moving slowly toward me coming up the street. The steam I had released was still hanging in the air in front of me and just off to my left now. Whoever let it out must have been panting hard. It was more solid looking then what I had expelled and it was moving faster and in a different direction then my steam was.

I watched this cloud barely blinking with the cold air making my eyes sting and the frost layer thickened on my scarf once again. When I could take another breath the cloud was close enough for me to see it more clearly. It took shape and became a woman in a long skirted dress with flowers in her hair and her parasol held high against the nonexistent sun. The moonlight made her glow and the brightness made it all clear as day.

For once I was glad for my far sightedness. I could see it all in detail. The buttons and lace, the print of the gown and the shine of her shoes as they peeked out from under the hem of her skirt with each step she took. She was plain and wore pair of glasses on a chain around her neck. She was squinting to see where she was going and stumbling a bit as she went. The woman’s vanity and fashion kept her from putting them on and seeing where she was going. She started to cross the street just before she got to me and was hit by something unseen and tossed out on the road back in the direction she had come from. She was killed by the impact and her parasol floated to the ground behind me.

I needed to breathe again and broke the frost once more. She was gone when I looked back, the snow undisturbed where she had landed. None of her footsteps had left tracks. Turning to go back inside I tripped on the parasol and fell to my knees in the snow. I scrambled back away from it and I ran into the house.

In the morning Mama asked me why I had taken Great Aunt Ellie’s parasol out of the trunk in the attic and left it out in the snow on such a cold night. She held it out in her hands, bent the ribs back into shape and Mama closed it. She wrapped it up in a clean cloth and tied up with string, but it was unmistakably the parasol I‘d seen last night. I didn’t want to touch it, but she said handed it to me and said, “Put it back in the trunk in the attic with Ellie’s glasses and sewing things. And please, don‘t take the family things out again if you are not going to care for them once you do.”

I didn’t tell her I hadn’t even remembered that they were up there or what I had seen in the night. I just asked her how Great Aunt Ellie had died and she said she didn’t remember ever knowing. “The family Bible only said she died young.” Mama told me.

On Saturday morning Mama and I checked the old records in the town hall basement and found out that Aunt Ellie was killed by a runaway horse and cart in the street out front of our house. She was coming home one summer day from a sewing circle meeting. There was a picture of her from a yellowed old newspaper article in the same dress. It was taken the day she died. It was of all the women at the sewing circle meeting and the only things missing from the woman in the picture and the one I saw that night, were her glasses, her basket of sewing on her arm and her parasol.