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Friday, October 31, 2014

TELL MAMA wep entry



Denise Covey has the prompt GHOST STORY.  I already posted my entry:

But I couldn't resist another:


TELL MAMA


"May it be when darkness falls,
Your heart will be true."
-Enya

Darkness falls in all manner of ways. Disaster. Death. Disease. 

They play no favorites. Is any shoulder strong enough when the clouds cry?

I blend historic fact in with supernatural shivers, focusing on a battered man trying hard not to buckle under the darkness in FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.

{Samuel McCord is heading to the Covention Center to help threatened women and children}

As I made my way down the flooded street towards the Convention Center, I looked up at the full moon. 

It seemed closer than civilization or any semblance of rescue. If there was to be any help for those suffering at the center, it would have to come from me.

As I waded along into the night, the black mists curled and creamed in the humid darkness like an unspoken fear trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness. 

A trick of the thick air, the moon of blood leered down upon its reflection on the dark waters of the flooded street.

Ripples of its long bloody image flowed from the floating dead body of a cat, looking like fingers caressing its kill. 

The cat’s death apparently hadn't been pretty nor was its corpse. The night became colder than it should have been. Much, much colder.

Rind, the Angelus of Death whose blood had mingled with mine ,whispered in words only I could hear. “At night the dead come back to drink from the living.”

I didn’t need Rind to tell me that the night was not my friend. Too much death had happened too recently. 

Spirits, lost and angry, were walking beside me. Torn clothing. Hollow eyes of shadows. Sharp, white teeth. Long, writhing fingers slowly closing and unclosing.

Because of Rind's blood in my veins, I could see them slowly circling, hear their trailing, splashing steps behind me, feel the heat of their sunken, hungry eyes upon my back.

Were they soul-echoes, mere refracted memory of a will? Or were there such things as literal ghosts? Just because I could see them didn't mean that I understood what they were.

I turned the corner and came upon the startled, fragile grace of a too-white egret standing alert in the middle of the flooded street, staring back at me. Its long sleek neck slowly cocked its sloping head at me. 

Then, gathering its huge wings, it launched itself into the air with its long black legs. I saw the spirits of the dead around me longingly stare after its curved flight of grace and freedom into the dark sky. I watched with them.

I felt a tug on my left jacket sleeve. I looked down. My chest grew cold. The dead face of a little girl was looking up at me. 

Or rather the face of her lost, wandering spirit, her full black eyes glistening like twin pools of oil. 

Her face was a wrenching mix of fear and longing. She tried to speak. Nothing came out of her moving lips. 

Looking like she was on the verge of tears, she tugged on my sleeve again and pointed to the end of the block. I followed her broken-nailed finger. I shivered.

She was pointing to her own corpse.

I took in a ragged breath I didn’t need to compose myself. The Convention Center would have to wait. I had sworn a long time ago that no child would ever ask my help without getting it.

A haunted singing was faint on the breeze. Somewhere the dead had found their voices. 

I nodded to the girl’s spirit and waded to her corpse, the force of the rushing flood waters having washed it up onto the sidewalk and against a store front where it slowly bobbed in place. 

I saw the girl’s spirit out of the corner of my eye, studying the shell of flesh she had once worn.

Her head was turned slightly to one side. The expression to her face was sorrowful and wistful at the same time. She pointed again.

I followed the misty finger. A rosary all wrapped up in the balled fingers of her left hand. 

She gestured sharply, then looked at me with eyes echoing things I did not want to see. 

I nodded again and kneeled down beside the girl’s swollen corpse. I pried the rosary loose, wrapping it around the fingers of my own gloved left hand.

I looked up at the girl’s spirit. She just stood there frowning as if in concentration. Her brow furrowed, and her jaws clenched. I could swear beads of sweat appeared on her ghostly forehead.

I jerked as suddenly guttural words were forced from the long-dead throat of the corpse at my boots. “T-Tell M-Mama ... peaceful now.”

And with that, she looked up into the night. I followed her eyes. She was looking at the retreating body of the egret slowly flying into a filmy, billowing cloud. I looked back to her spirit.

She was gone.

“I promise,” I said to the empty night.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A HALLOWEEN LOVE STORY

There are no round trips across the Rubicon ...

   Yet sometimes there are moments that break loose from their moorings in the past and drift into the present.

    Does lost love ever truly die or remain in yesteryear?



Recovering from cancer surgery on my forehead, lonely midnight calls to me from the empty depths between cold & distant stars.

All of us fall in love. Some with danger. Many with lust. Fewer with romance.

A mad few with death itself. 


Samuel McCord does it with all of them -- and all with one woman.

Meilori Shinseen, empress of a people exiled from another plane of existence.

Samuel's love for his wife, Meilori Shinseen, is as undying and epic as a Greek tragedy. It is known all throughout the Shadowlands.

As it is also known that his great love for Meilori will be the end of him. 


And if Sam could hold her just one more time in his arms, he would face that end with a smile.

And here is that ghostly encounter from my novel, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.


CHAPTER TEN

A REMEMBRANCE OF SHADOWS

 

The head of FEMA had sent for me. He picked an odd meeting place: the Tulane campus. It was a mess but relatively dry considering Katrina.

Renfield insisted on going with me. He was worried that I was pressing myself too hard and my senses were dulled by fatigue. 


But in an odd way, it was the exact opposite. Weariness over-rode the unconscious filter I put on what Rind's blood mingled with mine showed me.

With the soft voice of twilight, ghost music sang in my memory. It was accompanied by the chorus of the whispers of the wind from the listening sky. I closed my eyes.

New Orleans was timeless, especially to me with the blood of Death in my veins. 


My transformed eyes only told me the truth, and the truth was not what I wanted to see. So I closed my eyes, and for a moment the truth was what I wanted it to be.

Meilori was back in my arms, supple and vibrant, the peach velvet of her cheek nestled against mine. She pulled back to murmur "Beloved."

Slanted eyes looked up into mine, seeming like jade quarter moons waiting to rise. 


Her smile was a promise of wicked delights to come in the evening hours before us. And my heart quickened.

Her hand lightly squeezed my gloved one. Her head bent forward, and soft lips tickled my ear. And we were dancing, dancing as if our bodies were the wind given life. 


We slipped through the air in an Argentine Tango, her right foot teasingly running up my left leg.

It had taken me a hundred years, mind you, but I had learned to be a damn fine dancer. The firm body in my arms had been ample incentive.

Some moments lose their way and grope blindly back from the past into the present. Such a moment swept me up now. Meilori and I were dancing across this very grass.
 

I had paid a prince's ransom to pry King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band out of Tulane's old gymnasium to play out here under the stars. 

In my mind, I could hear young Louis Armstrong on cornet, see the pleased faces of the other dancers stepping lightly all around us, and hear Meilori's low laughter.

How amused she had been at being flirted with on the front porches of Jelly Roll Morten, Buddy Bolden, and Papa Jack Laine earlier that day. Those same houses had somehow survived Katrina, though not without damage. I made myself a promise I would see those places repaired.

Renfield rasped beside me, "Sam, are you doing this?"

"What?"

I opened my eyes and went very still. The speechless shades of a long-gone night whirled and wheeled all around us. That long-ago evening was replaying itself before our eyes.

Renfield and Magda were laughing as they danced beside Meilori and me. Outraged dowagers bent heads together, their silent tongues wagging at the sight of a priest and nun openly dancing under the watching stars.


Renfield sighed, "I'd forgotten how your face looked happy."

I looked at my ghostly double, envying him the sheer delight in his eyes. "I'd forgotten how it felt."

The sound of my words settled an old score with truth, and the evening shades slowly faded from sight. I shivered.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Renfield look wistfully at the disappearing Magda in his own double's arms. I sighed. Some truths were best seen only by starlight.

Renfield shook his head. "Remember the last dance of the night, Sam?"

I nodded. "Yes, I remember. Don't understand it. But I remember it."

"Why did Meilori shush you off like that to dance by herself -- as if someone invisible was dancing with her?"

I sighed. "Haven't a clue. But it was a sight. She was so graceful, so full of sad love."

Renfield frowned, then nodded. "Sad love? Bloody Hell, you're right. I could never pin down the expression on her face until now. But sad love says it all."

"All. And nothing. I still don't understand the why of it. Just that she was so hauntingly beautiful as she danced."

Renfield made a face. "She could have been washing clothes on a rock, and you would have found her beautiful."

"I may have many sorrows, Padre, but the memory of Meilori is not one of them."

Renfield was about to say something, then looked off to our left. 



The head of FEMA who was smiling for once.

The smile dropped off his face as if too heavy for the moment. "Next time, McCord, you see me about to be killed, let me die. 


I do not want to go through something like this ever again. Dealing with bureaucrats is like being nibbled to death by ducks."

{He tells Samuel that he will be leaving FEMA and New Orleans in two weeks, not being able to follow orders given him by President Bush. 


Sam tells him not to worry, that his jazz club will be open by then.}
 

He raised an eyebrow. “Hardly a priority, McCord, with all the hurting people in this city.”

“You misunderstand, General. I’ll be able to start my pay-per-view internet concert of the jazz greats. The profits from that non-stop concert will funnel into a Katrina Relief Fund.”
 

The General seemed doubtful. “I don’t know how much money that will pull in.”

I smiled wide. “Worldwide? Quite a bit. When you factor in that most of the jazz greats playing will be dead ones.”

I called upon Elu’s and Rind’s blood within me and misty shapes began to form all around us. Young Louis Armstrong, cornet under his arm, slapped my shoulder.

“Be glad to be there, Sam.”

Dizzy Gillespie shimmered beside him, his trumpet sparkling in the starlight, his beret set at a rakish angle. 


Jelly Roll Morten, his eyes dancing with “Spanish Tinge,” laughed at the general’s startled jump. Charlie “Bird” Parker winked at me, holding his saxophone tight.

Cigarette hanging from his lips, Duke Ellington drawled, “You provide the piano. I’ll provide this old body. New Orleans is our mother. And we aim to be good sons.”
 


The general looked a haunted question at me. He wanted to know who these spectral visitors were. And the hell of it was that I didn’t rightly know.

Just because I had summoned them, didn’t mean I knew.

Were they my friends drawn from my heart’s memory when they were young, or could I reach out into the night and bring them to a remembrance of shadows? 


Think you know the shape of death? I did once. I was wrong.

I thought it a dark tunnel at the end of life, whose end was blazing light. I found it to be a cloud that filled the horizon with flickers of black light and scarlet winds. 


Thickly it spills over ocean and land, sweeping up all in its billowing path. And even that glimpse is misty, flawed with things my mind cannot contain.

I spoke softly to them. “Give me two weeks, and we’ll put on a show like none has ever seen before.”

Louis mopped at his forehead with a white handkerchief. “Time ain’t what you think, Sam. Nor is the reason we’re here. You open those doors. We be there. Now, you owe someone a last dance.”

He turned to the others. “C'mon, Boys, we’ve got us an empress to play for.”

There was a movement of shadows to my left, and my heart hollowed out as Renfield breathed, “Dear Lord above.”

Meilori’s shade danced open-armed in front of me.

What does love look like? What is its color? A white flash of fright. A billowing wave of warmth, its reach beyond the microscope and further than the length of hope. 


Is it a jewel sparkling in the night? Or a whisper murmuring within the corridors of the heart?

Once more Meilori danced across the velvet grass, her empty arms beckoning to me. Her soft voice carried like a specter in the dark. Her words brushed by me and into my soul.

“Beloved, one last dance.”

And I finally understood her dancing empty-armed that magic evening so long ago. She had seen me, as now I saw her. 


Perhaps she thought me the ghost of a future me, dead and searching for her. And not understanding completely, still she took me in her arms.

As I, not understanding completely, now took her in mine. She smiled, brushing soft lips against mine. And my jazz friends began to play in a heart-clasp of sound.

Love is not a shy beast to be caught but a rare moment to be treasured. It burns within each cell, a living seed of hope. Its rays invisible to most, seen only by the searching heart.
 

Meilori was in my arms, and her love was a sheath that kept me whole. She lightly kissed me. I almost felt it. We danced through the embrace of shadows. And for a very short moment, I was home. 

Home.

WHY HAS HALLOWEEN STAYED SO POPULAR?



13% of Americans ages 18-44 say Halloween is their favorite holiday, reports DDB Worldwide.

Many companies allow, and even encourage employees to wear costumes.

Six million adults plan to dress as a witch this year, and 3.2 million will dress as vampires, say NRF and BIGInsight. 


One million will dress as some type of athlete, and 767,000 will wear a politically-inspired costume.

Remember when it used to be THE kid holiday?


No more.

There are several reasons for its adult popularity.

There’s no stress to it. You don’t have to travel or deal with relatives.

There’s not the holiday pressure to find a date if you are single.

You can wear whatever you want and not be judged.

There’s the fantasy, role-play element. 

If you think about it, it’s surprising that 90% of people don’t feel it’s their favorite holiday.


Adult Halloween lovers also possess supernatural beliefs not shared by those who don’t enjoy dressing up as Honey Boo Boo. 


Two in three of those who love Halloween believe in ghosts, 33% claim to have actually seen a ghost, 

and 28% believe people can really put a curse on someone that works. 


Who can tell if it’s the chicken or the egg,

That those who believe in ghosts are more likely to love Halloween or vice versa. 

There’s just a certain kind of person who thinks that anything is possible.

Millennials, in particular, seem to embrace this willy-nilly anything goes mindset.

Halloween’s influence also extends to pets, who may not quite love the holiday as much as their owners because they don’t get a say about dressing up. 


Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas which seems to spread over more and more weeks, 

Halloween still remains firmly limited in its season ... and so valued for the short time it lasts.

Thankfully pumpkins don’t start to ripen until late September.

Unless they can figure out how to change that, I think we’re spared from seeing Halloween become a summer holiday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

NaNoWriMo and THE DEAD



As Emma Shapplin sang "De Me Non Venni,"


the ghost of Ernest Hemingway glared at the pair playing chess in the far corner and gruffed at me, "McCord runs one strange establishment."



 The ghost of Mark Twain chortled, "Ain't that the truth?" and promptly dealt off the bottom.


None of us minded because he played poker so badly, even cheating he lost.  But we never played pool with him ... 

unless we wanted a heaping plate of humility.

Now, Hemingway played the game like the hunter he was, waiting for an opportunity and then moving in for the kill when he thought no one was looking.

He was too confident, and he bluffed too much.  A lover of risk, he loved the action more than the result.





 The ghost of F. Scott Fitzgerald looked glumly at his dealt hand.  He seemed to expect to lose, and because of that he often did.  But even he couldn't mess up a Royal Flush.

Yet his heart was warm, and his wit sparkling, so he always added to the night.


The ghost of Oscar Wilde winked at the bronzed skinned man at the next table with torn shirt and corded muscles.  "Doc," as his table-mates called him, ignored my friend.

Oscar hardly looked at the hand dealt him.  He loved the quality of the conversation, not the cards, and so he often won.

And me?

I played the faces of my friends and not the cards they might be holding.

It was a system that had me winning as often as I lost.  And since, like Oscar, I was in it for the conversation -- I always won.

"Roland," said Hemingway, shaking his head.  "The month of Lemmings looms before us."

Fitz, as I called him, sighed, "Hem, we all know how you feel.  Just let the poor women have their fun."

Twain snorted, "If they want fun, they should take up knitting, right, boxer?"

"Right," nodded Hemingway.

Twain put down his cards and pulled out a small notebook from his jacket.  "Wait.  I have to write this date down!"

Hemingway ignored him and said, "Writing is one of the hardest things I have ever attempted.  It is NOT fun.  I bleed each word."

He growled, "Perkins could never understand why I worked so hard for so few words.  I re-wrote the last page to A FAREWELL TO ARMS 39 times.  Why?  Because I had to get the damn words right!"

Oscar smiled, "Oh, you must not fault these American word slingers.  Their books are the only relaxation of the intellectually unemployed."

Fitz shook his head at Wilde, "But, Hem, you kept a daily word count on your wall."

"Yes.  And I usually wrote 500 words daily, though sometimes I wrote 1200."

Oscar said, "Limiting, and not mushrooming, your daily words makes a kind of sense actually.  Write your own name a hundred times, and you will be bored."

He took a sip of his whiskey and soda. 
" Seven hundred times and you will be exasperated; seven thousand times, and your brains will be reeling in your head. 

Then you realize that you have only written one-tenth of a new novel ... and you have come to loathe writing."

Twain nodded.  
"It is the bane of this danged culture: impatience.  

If those November writers took up Hem's daily 500 words, they would write a finely crafted novel within 4 months." 

He chewed the end of his cigar.  "But, oh, no!  They must hurl words together to make a novel in one month.

They simply cannot sustain writing 500 words daily for 4 months."

Oscar sighed, "The aim of our modern novelists seems to be, not to write good novels , but to write novels that will do good.

Why I recently read an electronic journal by Kristen Lamb that advocated writing, not what the author wanted, but what readers wanted in order to sell more books."

Hemingway grunted, "If you are not true to yourself in your writing, your novel will not be worth the money the publisher asks for it."

I asked, "How do you write, sir, for I know you still do."

Hemingway down his whiskey in one gulp.  "There is no one way, Roland.   

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. 

There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. 

You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. 

You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next

 and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again."

Twain smiled crooked at me.  "Son, what do you think of these NaNoNanettes?"

I smiled back.  "I think they are aiming at the wrong target."

Fitz frowned, "How so?"

I sighed, "They are focusing on words, on writing a book."

Oscar said, "You have lost me, Roland."

"Go to Amazon, and you will find no end of books, a literal cyber ocean of books."

I rubbed my face.  "We don't need more BOOKS.  We need more READERS."

I sipped my ice tea.  "If they want to make November mean something useful, they should make a month long event of reading a new book a week.

But not just any book.  Each week they should select a book from a field they seldom, if ever read.  

Then, the first day of the following week, they should write what they learned or gained from the reading."

Twain laughed, "I see.  Say those pilgrims would rather eat dirt than read a memoir, why they could read the first volume of my autobiography."

"Or a volume of my personal letters," added Hemingway, never one to let the spotlight stray from him too long.

"Or," I said, " try the autobiography of the poet, Stephen Spender, WORLD WITHIN WORLDS, or his journal started on the eve of WWII."

Fitz's eyes lit up.  "I read a delightful book on economics, a subject I have never been drawn to."

Hemingway snapped, "Which is why you died a pauper."

Fitz flinched, and Twain glowered, "Sucker punching a friend is shabby there, boxer."

Fitz waved a hand and sighed, "It is tradition with Hem.  But the book's title was THE PHYSICS OF WALL STREET."

He looked at Hemingway, "And I read another fascinating book: YOU MIGHT BE A ZOMBIE & OTHER BAD NEWS."

Fitz smiled, "I immediately thought of you."

Oscar smiled impishly at Fitz and nodded, 

"Yes, if such a movement grew, I can see people discovering subjects they never knew they would enjoy: poetry, science, philosophy, history, perhaps even plays.  

More books would be bought.  It is a wonderful idea, Roland."


What do you out there, think?

Monday, October 27, 2014

THE 13TH FLOOR


"The great banana peel of Fate is always on the floor somewhere."
- Victor Standish


"Hey, that was my floor!"

The Jock, who I mentally called 'Biff,' was comforted by a cheerleader type I thought of as Barbie. 

"Oh, we'll just catch it on the way down."

"There's 12 damn floors to this hospital."

13 actually, but no reason to tell them the top floor was long abandoned.  It was where they performed lobotomies,

  
electro-shock, forced feedings (through the nose yet!), and those other procedures that had gotten the mental hospital closed.


It had just been re-opened as a general hospital. 

But 4 years on the streets had shown me why cats yowl at midnight and



why dogs sometimes whimper at the darkness.

So I knew that terrible acts leave a mark on a place

and that some evil does not die with the body.

To get my mind off this uplifting train of thought, I started my mental elevator game:

I add up the combined weight of my fellow passengers, subtract it from what Otis said was the Max Load, and see if I am in any danger.  

Once I had gotten on with a football team and thought my goose was cooked.

Wedged in the back right corner, I had a good spot to size them up:

 The plain-clothed detective with murder in his eye, booze on his breath, and a gun on his hip: a sucky combo if there ever was one.

The nun with a face that could have belonged to the Mother Superior for Satan's Little Convent for Sociopaths.

The harried nurse trying to avoid being groped by Dr. Long Fingers.

The middle-aged Chinese businessman who I could picture saying: "Kill him ... slowly."

His expressionless aide whose flat eyes were windows into a cold nothing.

Then, there was ten year old me

Victor Standish, looking for a way to that 13th floor and a corner to hole up on this cold All Hallows' Eve.

The detective pounded on the floor panel.  "Damn it!  It's passed up my floor, too."

The nurse clutched the doctor's arm.  "It's never done this before, Mitchell."

The businessman snapped at his aide.  The pale man turned to the doctor.

"Sir, my employer wishes to know ..."

Mitchell smirked, "Damn it, Jim. I'm a doctor not a mechanic."

The Star Trek allusion flew at warp speed over the aide's head, so I cleared my throat to speak, 

but the businessman snapped, "Izo needs no words from gutter trash."

I snapped back, "Oh, go climb your thumb!"

Turning target red, he glowered, "You speak Mandarin? (Actually he said Pu tong hua.)"

"I speak any language spoken to me, Tough Guy."

He turned to Izo.  "Hurt him ... badly."

Before Izo could move, Mitchell exploded.  "Hell, it passed my floor, too!"

"This is ridiculous," growled the doctor and opened the small door marked TELEPHONE.

No phone was inside - only a blood smeared skull still covered in wet sinews.  Its bulging eyes rolled to us.


Barbie and the nurse tried to out-scream one another.  

I wanted to join them.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sister Blair Witch softly smile.

Crap.  

Every Halloween weird shit sought me out. 

I had tried to load the dice in my favor this time by going where ghosts would be and came prepared.  

But I hadn't factored in Sister Satan.

I jumped a foot when the skull screamed in Mandarin and then English.  "Murderers!  Murderers all!"

As one, the others turned their heads towards me.  I shrugged.  "Hey, you had to have been there."

Sister Satan smiled wider, and then, I noticed the wooden cross hanging from her rope belt was upside down.

The elevator abruptly jolted to a stop.  The floor button marked "13" was glowing.  

There had been no button for Floor 13 before.

The doors hissed open.  All was dark beyond the opening.  Oh, yeah, like I was going out there now.

Then, the lights inside the elevator began to flicker.  Double crap.  The strobe light from Hell effect went on as the two girls went from screaming to whimpering.

The metal walls of the elevator changed to padding.  A bloody skeletal figure clung impossibly above Izo.


One flashing grasping hand lashed out, and Izo was minus his head.  Blood jutted from his severed neck in high spurts.  

I could take a hint.

I did a Parkour roll out the doors, jerking the flashlight from under my belt.  I flicked it on.  Jeez.  

Withhold my compliments to the clean-up crew.



The elevator began to rock and the other passengers ran out -- minus Sister Blair Witch.  Metal sang as thick cables snapped.  The elevator shot down like it couldn't get away from floor 13 fast enough.

"We're trapped," whined Barbie.  "Ted, we're being punished for ...."
   
Ted shook her.  "Shut up, Bitch!"

My shivers got goose bumps when I seemed to see flickers of blurred bodies moving within the very stone of the walls.

I strained my eyes, but I couldn't make out any details.

And there were faint sounds of sobbing coming from all around us.

The ceiling tile got an imprint of the top of my head as the nurse decided to take up the screaming again.  

I flicked the light to her.  Aw, jeez.  The Tong businessman lay choking at her feet.

His mouth was filled with yellow bills.  His neck was three times its normal size so many bills had been shoved down his throat.

I bent down and studied the bills.  There was no way to save the man.  He gurgled as if his larynx had been crushed. 

He wiggled on the floor like a worm on a hook.

The bills were Hell Bank Notes.  They were a form of joss paper printed to resemble legal tender bank notes. 


Their sole purpose was to serve as burnt offerings to the deceased.  

Maybe the ghosts here were saying the Tong leader's whole life was as false as the money that had killed him.

The detective growled, "Give me the light, kid."

"Yeah, right."

He went for the gun I held up before him.  "Looking for this?  It wouldn't do you any good against what's in the dark."

He looked about to jump me; I spun the gun to point at him.  "You heard the skull.  I've killed before."

The squirt gun filled with Holy Water in the small of my back would be more help against the supernatural.  

But I didn't trust that cop to have his gun. Hell, with my frazzeled nerves, I didn't trust me with his gun.

I edged along the wall, looking for some corner to pour the salt I had swiped from the cafeteria and now bulged out my left front jeans pocket.

My Baptized ball bearings bulged my right jeans pocket.

The flashlight flickered.  I frowned.  I had new batteries in this thing.  

Maybe ghosts drew power from batteries?

As the light dimmed more and more, we made our way slowly down the hallway.  We passed an open surgical bay.

The doctor stammered, "Gr-Grandfather?"



The patient was screaming.  The ghostly nurses were taking moving pictures of the terrible scene.  The surgeon looked up.



The doctor smiled, his teeth bloody, his eyes bulging.  He motioned to Mitchell and his nurse with a dripping scalpel.  

The ghostly nurses were feet away one second.  

The next, one had absorbed Mitchell's nurse.  The other was dragging Mitchell to the operating table.  

Grandfather pushed his former "patient" to the dirty tiles.

Mitchell was strapped screaming to the thing.  Barbie yelled, "Shoot them, kid!"

I shook my head.  Hating to waste the salt, I reached into my left pocket and flung a fistful of it over the surgery team from Hell.

With real and ghostly screams, both doctors and the three nurses disappeared, leaving only bloody stains on the dusty tiles.

"That ain't possible," whispered the detective.

I threw him his gun.  "Save the last bullet for yourself."

He frowned, "Where's the jock?"

Barbie screamed so shrill I thought my gums would bleed.  I started regretting giving the cop his gun.  

I could have shot the cheerleader.

The hallway behind us was receding like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.  

And cinched up in a straitjacket was Ted, shooting away from us screaming silently.


In nightmare moments, he was gone, and the hallway was back to "normal."

Barbie grew silent.  She started to walk in the direction Ted had zoomed to.  I walked after her to pull her back.  That could not be a  good way to go.

The detective took my arm.  "Forget it, kid.  Her mind's toast."

Despite what I had thought earlier about shooting her, I couldn't let her just walk to her doom.  

I shook my head and started after her.

The detective swore and walked beside me.  We walked for maybe a half hour.

"Damn, kid.  She was just stumbling along.  We should have come across her by now."

I made a face.  "Considering this floor shouldn't be this long, I don't think physics works here, sir."

"Oh, it's 'Sir' now."

I flashed a smile.  "You've got the gun now."

Turning the corner cautiously, he gave me back my wolf smile.  "Yeah ...."

 My skin almost jumped off my bones and hugged them in fright as Barbie seemed to scream in my right ear.  

The gun dropped from the detective's fingers.

Mitchell, his face gone all crazy Cyrano, 

was carving up the poor cheerleader as she sat struggling against her bloody bonds.


 I jerked out my squirt gun and sprayed a steady stream of Holy Water in the face of the deformed Mitchell.  

He howled, clutching his steaming face.  I hit his whole body with Holy Water.  

He went up in smoke that stank of burnt flesh.

The detective felt for a neck pulse on the now silent Barbie.  He slowly, grimly shook his head.

"Just us now, kid."

"The original Odd Couple," I tried to joke, but it came out all thin.

I nodded to the corner to our left.  "There.  I can ward us off with what salt I have left."

He looked hard at me.  "You came prepared for this nightmare?"

I shook my head.  "Halloween has always been a fun time for me, sir."

I just had enough to box us in that corner.  The detective looked gloomily at his gun.

"This is pretty much useless here, isn't it, kid?"

"Pretty much."

"I put a lot of punks in the morgue here with this."

And no sooner had he said that than a dozen skeletal hands grabbed him from the wall behind us.  

I twisted about in fear and fell on my butt, wiping out the salt circle.

I looked back to the wall and went sick cold.


The detective was sprawled against the wall in a cocoon of plaster.  No mummy ever looked deader than he did.

My scalp seemed to shrink as a low mutter rasped from the mummified head:

"kill me.  oh, god, kill me!"

I tried to swallow but couldn't.

I picked up his gun with trembling fingers,  drew in a deep breath to steel myself, and shot him once in the forehead.

Behind me came a voice of razors: "Mercy for a murderer?"

I turned and sighed.  Why the hell not?

Sister Blair Witch.

To say she hadn't improved with age would have been an understatement.

"Sister, leave me alone, and I will leave you alone."

"You dare?"

All right.  I had warned her.  She had dealt herself into a hard game.  As she rushed impossibly fast towards me, 

I reached into my right pocket and grabbed a fistful of ball bearings that I had baptized in Holy Water while I had filled the squirt gun.

I flung two of the biggest into the empty sockets of her black eye holes.  She jerked up straight, clutching her face.  

Her screams didn't bring back the dead, but it was something.

I looked down at the meager remains of the scattered salt, and a voice behind me laughed coldly.

"There just is no give to you, is there, Victor Standish?"

I turned.  An evil looking young man in a black Armani suit.


"I could kill you now, of course, Standish.  But where would be the fun in that?  You have nothing now.  Soon you will have all of which you dreamed."

He smiled a thing of nightmares.  "Then, I shall come for you."

"Pride goes before the fall, Smart Guy."

"It is not the Fall which hurts, Standish.  But the having survived it."

And with that, he was gone.

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