Dead Friends: Chapter 30

Since then, I’ve seen the shadow woman, and she has come to torment me. Cynthia tries to stop her, but the shadow woman just laughs and chants her little chant at me. She has repeated it over and over, that stupid, tic-a-tac, tic-a-tor, soon there will be more more more. tic-a-toc, tic-a-turs, I will break her from her curse.

I don’t know what I’m doing, why I’m even here. I came back to this cabin because Cynthia.. I love her so much and she has always been the everything in my day, my thoughts have always been how to take care of her and keep her safe. She has meant so much to me, but seeing her walking corpse has sent daggers into my heart and I don’t know how to deal with it. Everywhere I went to grieve, she was there and there would be fresh tears as I died a little each time.

How could I return to work? I tried to go back to the foundry and just couldn’t do it. Whenever I pulled back from a weld or crafting a special piece, there she would be standing next to me. She would be watching me, those dead, sad eyes. Her mouth would be working, she would be trying to say something to me but I could never hear her.

After a day of it, I collapsed. That second day, I looked over and saw her reaching out to me and I swore I could see a tear in her eye as her hands went right through me. I felt her touch, and it made me sick in a way I can not describe. When she saw me gasping, she pulled back, recoiling from me, and I felt like a cold hand had just reached into my chest and ripped out my heart and soul.

I fell to the the cement floor and that cold stone felt hot to my skin. I hadn’t thought that stone could burn. The coworkers who gathered around me, later said that I was convulsing, having some kind of attack. All I knew was that I had saw my beloved reaching out and I couldn’t do anything.

It had been a strange attack and Cynthia never tried to touch me again after it. Later that day my boss had called me into his office and told me he was putting me on leave. He knew I was upset and that I needed time to grieve. Jim and I had gone to high school together. We had never been close, but knew one another enough that he had been at my wedding. He knew I was having a hard time, just he didn’t know all of it. I didn’t know all of it.

But then I had gotten up to leave his office. I thought I was done. I was going to go home and that would be it. It was really, but as he came around the desk to usher me out the door, I saw his eyes. There was a red ring, not the kind of a long nights drink. No, this was about his pupil.

I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t have time. He walked me to his office door, and then out into the shop. Then there was a loud crash. Metal broke, and I could feel something shifting around me. The air had changed, I can’t explain it, but there was some kind of electricity gathering. Then I saw one of the machines, the large ones that the finished metal went into to cool, it exploded and I watched as a metal shard slammed into Jim’s head. Other men around us were screaming as I watched death again take someone I knew.

I can’t remember much else from that day. I don’t know how I got home, who helped me, or if I somehow drove myself. It is all a blur and when I do try to remember I don’t trust if the memories I see are real or just things I want to imagine. With what has happened since then, I want to say that it did happen, as it was when I lied there on the ground, alive but looking into the dead eyes of my former boss, I heard Cynthia, and heard her tell me it would be okay.

God help me, but I must be losing my mind.

Their all here. They all with me now, outside the cabin, unable to come in. Thirteen people died that day, and I had known and grown up with many of them. Now they are dead, but not dead, outside this very cabin.

Oh God, I don’t know what to do.

* * * *

The leather bound book crashed to the floor and Lizzie, who had drifted off, jumped awake. She hadn’t realized she had been that tired but only a few pages into the diary, or maybe it had been just sitting down to read it had brought the exhaustion washing over her.

She hadn’t thought she could ever feel so tired. Even after studying for finals and had been up for a twenty four hour study bing, there had been some kind of a second wind that had allowed her to go take the test. This wasn’t like that, or maybe it was. Maybe she had already had the second and even third or fourth winds and it was all catching up to her.

When was the last time she ate? Anytime after the diner? She remembered stopping off for gas and caffeine drinks, but anything after that was a blur. Hell, she hadn’t had any time for sleep, when would she have had time to eat. Scratch that and reverse it, she hadn’t had any time to eat, how would she have ever had any time to sleep.

Her thoughts, it hurt to think, or even to attempt it. Lifting her head and then herself was a challenge she didn’t think she could handle.

Well then, what do you think your going to do? It’s not like they have delivery out here. But didn’t they? She thought her uncle’s note had said something about grocery delivery. In fact she was sure of it. Would they deliver this late though? It was mid-afternoon already, she would probably have to call in the delivery for tomorrow and how would she pay for it? She didn’t have cash with her, at least she didn’t think she did. Maybe she’d gone to an ATM that morning.

She stood, and felt her legs become rubber under her. She had to reach out and steady herself with the arm of the chair, and even then swayed as she tried to think of what her food options could be. Maybe there would be something in the kitchen? Her uncle had been living out there getting deliveries, maybe when he died there had been a full stock. Though if he killed himself, he might have been letting it all dwindle when he went.

What was that final straw that had pushed him to do it? He had lived out there for so long, losing his wife, his brother and all those closest to him that he had to have been through it all long ago. Why now?

She couldn’t imagine what it could have been, and wasn’t sure she wanted too. It was her fate now…

As she took each step, she kept her hands on or near something wether it be a stack of books or the wall. Her head wasn’t letting up and with each movement a growing pounded echoed through her head like a drummer warming up for a metal concert. The closer she got to the kitchen, the more she was sure the drummer was preparing for a long drum solo as the beating grew stronger. Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick formed in her thoughts and she could imagine the pain in time to it.

Damn you dad for making me ‘get the Led out every damned car ride, she thought as she entered into the kitchen. In sight and sending a wave of relief through her that was short lived, she saw the two bags she had brought from the store.

“Oh God yes,” she cried out and grabbed for the bags. The cell phone was useless for now and she set they aside as she scoured through the rest of it. Of course it was mainly chips, Mountain Dew, and some cans of soup that did not look all that appealing, but at the bottom of the second bag she found what she was looking for. It wasn’t a big container, just a small pouch of generic aspirin which had cost her more at the gas station convenience store than a large bottle at any chain grocery.

She was hungry, thirsty, and needed caffeine, but right then the headache that was screaming it’s presence through all her synapses took priority. She opened the pouch, grabbed the couple of pills and then hurriedly opened the Mountain Dew to wash it down. There was an instant release and she no way of knowing if it was any of the three or all three but she was already feeling better.

She stood there holding the counter occasionally taking drinks from the soda. If she moved, she was sure she would fall. Though eventually she did look at the cans of soup. They were pop tops which was good. She wasn’t sure if she had a can opener or not.

I guess now is as good as a time or any, she thought as she looked across the cabinets and the rest of the kitchen.

The Dew was helping a lot. Her head cleared though not as much as she wanted it too. She remembered that she had gotten some money out of the ATM that morning and that she would be fine in that regard. She wasn’t sure if her uncle’s phone worked, though she saw the old landline phone hanging on the wall like some relic from the 80’s. She worried she would actually have to look up the number for the grocery store but now noticed the sticky note on the wall with various numbers. She was sure one of them would be the one she needed.

You can do this. You really can, she thought as she went around the counter and opened the drawer to the right of the sink. Sure enough, there was silverware, clean and ready to use. There wasn’t much, a couple of spoons, a fork, and two knives, one a butter knife and the other a serrated steak knife, but it would do. She was one person after all, it wasn’t like she would need to feed an army, or the dead that clung outside her door.

Could she do it? Was she really going to live out the rest of her life in the cabin, hiding, keeping away from the world? What other choices did she have? As she looked around the tight confines of the cabin, she didn’t see anything that inspired some great idea. If she went out and made or interacted with her friends they would die? This was all a nightmare.

She opened one of the cans labeled Chicken and Rice. She ate it as she opened cabinets around the room, She was stocked better than she would have thought while again surprised at how clean the room was. She also found the garbage can in a drawer and smiled as she threw away the lid she had been holding.

At least I’m not going to starve.

Not right away. She realized that she still didn’t have much in the way of perishables and while she had plenty of Mountain Dew, she still needed water as she had no way of knowing if the water there was safe to drink.

She started making a list of what she would need. Midway through, she looked up and off into the dining room.

Was it two weeks ago now, that she had walked though that door to see that naked smiling man holding her best friend and biting out chunks of her flesh? She thought that sounded right. She should be much more of an emotional wreck after everything that has happened, yet she found herself constantly adapting. Like all of this was strengthening her. She hadn’t coped well, but now so much of this rolled right off of her. Was she becoming stronger emotionally, or heartless? Either that or she truly was losing her mind.

Maybe she had never cared as much about the world as she thought she had. What does that say about her? Her ex boyfriend died last night, killed right in front of her, and here she was making up shopping lists like nothing had ever happened.

Maybe that was a good thing. If all this had been too much she would have already cracked, killed herself and now all of this would have fallen on her brother. Plus, with how this shadow thing wants to take those she cared about, it would be better if she cared less. If she didn’t care for anyone, than no one else had to die.

So yes, this cabin was her new home, and she would never be able to leave it or venture out and meet new people. Just by saying hi, it could mean that someone else would then die.

She finished the soup, tossing the can in the garbage and the spoon in the sink. It was time she lied down. Sleep was overdue and it wasn’t like the house couldn’t be cleaned later. What’s the rush, it wasn’t like she was ever going anywhere. All she had to do was sleep and sleep and sleep.

Dead Friends: Chapter 28

Lizzie nearly jumped for joy and did a little happy dance when she found her uncle’s laptop. It actually wasn’t even that hard to find as it had been on the dining room table, buried under what looked like a recent stack of bills and paperwork. It wasn’t intentionally hidden, just probably lost in the confusion of financial responsibility. 

The laptop wasn’t even that old. She was really going to work on her misconceptions about her uncle because when she had read in the letter that he had one, she had imagined it would be some relic that was nearly as old as Windows itself. Then the laptop she found didn’t even run on Windows. 

It was a Mac, something she was not familiar with, but new enough that it was so small it could easily be unnoticed under a piece of paper. She still hadn’t found the charger yet, and hadn’t expected to see it light up, but the moment she opened it, the screen came on.

…And of course it was password protected. Come on Unc, why the hell do you need to keep your laptop password protected when you lived out in the middle of nowhere.

She looked at the screen in disbelief, and wanted to hurl the slim object outside into the woods beyond. This couldn’t be happening. She hadn’t realized just how much she had hoped to find the little piece of technology since her uncle had informed her about it until she actually found it. Then finding it, all she wanted was for it to work. 

Come on! I need music! It was too damn quiet out there. She wasn’t creeped out anymore and being out there alone strangely didn’t upset her as much as she thought it would, but it was so damn quiet. All she wanted was to open Pandora, put on a station and have something playing in the background. Sure, she could turn on the television that was so old she wasn’t even sure it was in color, but it wouldn’t be the same. She had to have music to really break the void in the silence.

She needed it because if she didn’t break the silence soon, then she would start to worry. She was already starting to worry, because why was there so much of it. Why were the dead out there not screaming at her anymore? What were they up to? In this growing unsettlement of silence, she heard the buzz of the refrigerator somehow grow louder as it was predominantly the loudest noise in the little cabin, which only added to her discomfort. What were they doing out there?

In a way she was frustrated that all the windows were blacked out. She understood now the reason for it. It would be greatly unsettling if every time she looked up she would see her dead friend looking in at her, but it also made it hard for her to look out at them. What if she wanted to talk to them.

She looked down at the laptop, and pulling herself out of her funk, lifted it from the table. She wasn’t sure what possessed her to do it, but she looked on the bottom of it. Sure enough, there was a little piece of paper taped to the bottom. On one line read a long series of numbers which she assumed was the WiFi key. It was below it that really caught her attention. It just read Password: Cyntha.

She entered in her aunts name and within seconds the computer showed her an empty desktop free of too many icons. It was then that she realized that she really had very little experience with Macs. Her school mostly used Chromebooks, she had always had Windows Pc’s and so now this Mac was completely foreign to her. Where the hell was the internet?

Oh no, if I can’t figure it out, who am I going to call for tech support?

Shit.

She looked at the bar at the bottom of the screen and the row of icons there. There weren’t too many, but they were kinda weird. There was what looked liked a two faced multicolored blue icon which she had no clue what that did. There was a compass, why the hell would I need that on a laptop, a rocket ship, a gear box and what looked like a stamp with an eagle on it. Her uncle must have some weird apps on this thing as none of those really made any sense to her.

She clicked on the icons one by one, and gave out a gleeful shout of excitement when she saw the familiar plain white Google homepage. 

“Yes! Jackpot!” 

She quickly found her way and within minutes music streamed from the little speakers. It wasn’t much, and she wasn’t really sure how to turn up the volume, but for now it was enough. She just needed to find the cord before the battery died. She could see that it was 8% and knew that if her laptop said that, it would be dead within a heartbeat. 

It would do for now, so start looking for the cord. She worked her way around the table, looking at the walls in the room to see if there was anything plugged in to any of the outlets, but there weren’t any outlets. How could a room not have any power outlets? She got down on her hands and knees and looked under the dish cabinet. She wasn’t going to pull it out as she was too afraid of breaking any of the dishes, but what she could see showed nothing.

“Huh,” she said to herself, standing and brushing off the dust from her hands onto her jeans. “Anything in here?” 

She stepped through the archway into the tv room, carefully avoiding the towers of garbage she hadn’t gone through. 

“So what are you plugged into?”

The television was another cord, which lead to a surge protector on the other side of the room that was plugged into another surge protector hidden under a small pile of papers. This place was a fire hazard she realized as she followed this surge protectors cord into her bedroom to another surge protector. This surge protector had the power cord for the laptop plugged into it, and its cord ran back from her bedroom, along the wall and through the dining room into the kitchen where she found one of two outlets in the entire house. 

She looked at all of it, the cords and the lack of wiring in the inner rooms and just kept running the course of the cord back through her head. No outlets in the inner house. Didn’t the letter say that the kitchen was an add-on that her uncle added? If he was renovating it out here, then why not add some outlets to the other rooms? They obviously had power running through them as they had lights, light switches and such. Yet it was only the kitchen and the bathroom it was connected to that had outlets and running water.

She filed the information away, hoping that maybe she would get answers later, but answers from who? There wasn’t anyone she could ask about it.

She had a nagging sense to call her brother. It was a desire to speak to him, hear that computer generated voice and just listen as he comforted her that it was all going to be okay. Of course if she did call him, not only would she be putting his life in danger, but he would not tell her it was all okay. He would first think she was overreacting and that it was all just coincidence that her friends were dying. He would also never believe that they were coming back, haunting and hurting her, and would be concerned that she was losing her mind. Thanks to their uncle, schizophrenia was perceived as running in their family as everyone thought they had gone insane. What else would you think if you uncle ran around saying that his dead wife was talking to him.

She had forgotten that he had said that before he had gone off into the cabin in the woods. It had been so long ago, and her dad never talked about it.

Well, it wasn’t time to be thinking about that. She took the laptop into the bedroom and plugged it in. It was still at 8% and she had to wonder if the battery gauge even worked on the thing as no laptop had that good of battery management.

So now what should I do? She looked around the living room and the dining room. She’d barely made a dent in the mess and knew if she continued at it the way she had been going, she would get frustrated and start throwing things away in mass. She couldn’t allow herself to start doing that. There might be information she would need somewhere in the thick of it, but there was just so much of it to go through.

“What, are you in a hurry for some hot date?” She said to the empty room.

“You date is dead,” yelled Sarah from outside. Lizzie hadn’t realized that she had even spoken out loud, yet she must have and loud enough that they could hear her. She bit her lip as she moved closer to the blacked out window, the one closest to where she had heard her friend. “He’s dead and you killed him.”

“I thought you didn’t like him.”

“You killed him and you killed all of us. You don’t even care. You killed all of us, tortured us, and now you won’t even take your own life and release us. You did this to us.” 

Lizzie heard the tears in Sarah’s voice and felt her chest clench. Even when Sarah had been attacking her the previous night, Lizzie had still seen the pain on her face, the ash to all their skin, and the fresh cuts along her dead arms. Lizzie didn’t know where the talisman sent her dead friends, but it had not been a vacation cruise. Not unless the cruise was through hell, and the attendants were the devil’s minions.

Was Lizzie just going to ignore her now until one of them was gone? From everything they knew so far, Sarah would never fade away. She would always be there, and as it stood, she would always hate her for what Lizzie had done. Lizzie didn’t think she could survive that. They had been like sisters, together forever, until the end. Sarah was dead, but it was not the end.

“Sarah?” Lizzie’s voice was soft, but she knew Sarah had heard her as the sniffling stopped.

“Fuck you, you can just go die you fucking whore! Fucking every man around no matter how much someone else had a crush on them.” 

Lizzie recoiled from the window as though she had been slapped, her hand to her mouth to cover the gasp that escaped her.

“I… no, I didn’t. You know I didn’t.”

“I know. What the hell do I know?” The vitriol dripped from Sarah’s voice as she spat out the words, yelling at Lizzie though the painted glass. “I know you don’t care how long you left us there. You banished us, and let us get tortured. We were in hell. I was raped regularly and when I wasn’t being raped…” Sarah’s voice drifted off and Lizzie could hear the fresh sobbing coming from her friend. 

Lizzie wanted to go out there, reach out to her and pull her into a hug, but she knew that even if she dared to go out there, there was no way she could physically touch her. They had tried at the hospital and it only lead to both of them feeling ill. Though Sarah had been able to attack her last night, Lizzie wasn’t convinced she could return contact. She seemed to be at the disadvantage to the dead, something that didn’t make her too comfortable when interacting with any of them.

“Sarah,” Lizzie said when her friend had let the silence linger. “Sis, you know I would never-”

“They tore me apart. And no, I don’t just mean emotionally. They would pull off a fingernail, slowly, not to hurry themselves as they had all day in whatever a day was in their existence. They would remove a fingernail, and then another. Then they would painstaking with no rush and the dullest blade, slice off my tit. Then they would do it to the other. They would chop off my toes and fingers, but not quickly. They would put the blade to the nub and ease down on it so it sliced through the skin and bone not in one quick motion but with great delight in hearing me scream as it slowly worked its way tearing the tissue. 

“The only thing they didn’t cut away from me was my mouth because they loved to hear me scream, and I screamed. I cursed your name in screams that were meant to awaken the devil. You had done that to us. You had done that to me, your ‘friend’ and had you didn’t do anything about it.

“Then as my body lied there, they would rape me again and again. Not just in the places they should but in every hole they had found and made, and when they were done, and only then, the day would reset and it would all start over again.”

Lizzie stood by the window, listening, and not sure what to say or how to react. The tears kept rolling down her cheek fresh as she tried not to imagine her friend going through that endless torture. She wished she could block out the images, but she saw the horrors in her mind as her friend told her what she had been through. She fought against it, but it was a losing battle. She could see it so clearly and knew it would be another nightmare that would be there to keep her from sleep at night. There was becoming a steady rotation, and this one would be added to the horrifying playlist.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I only wore it for one night.”

“Sorry.” a male voice spat from the other side. It sounded like Chuck.

“One night!” Josh yelled. All of them must have gathered by the window now. It was not just Sarah she was talking too and she could hear how upset they were. She had no idea what they had been through.

“One night! I was there for ten years. I know as I counted the days. Do you know how many days I watched as my son was ripped out of his mother and fed upon by demons. They forced me to watch as they ate his flesh. Each day, the same thing over and over. I had watched it over four thousand times. Yeah, you sent us to that hell for over ten years.” His voice was gravely and she felt the raw emotion that emanated from him. It was harder to hear once he stopped yelling and she knew it was because he was breaking down.

“It’s okay. Your wife is still alive. None of that was real. It was all mind games.” Sarah was telling Josh, working to speak through her own tears.

“I didn’t know.” Lizzie hadn’t realized the words escaped her. “I just put on the talisman for one night. I didn’t know.”

“My wife was pregnant. My wife was pregnant and I didn’t know. How could I have known. She hadn’t told me. She…” Josh had lost much of the previous anger she had heard and seemed distant, like the air had been sucked out of him.

“It was a mind game. It’s all going to be okay.”

“I left her alone to raise our child. The others, they’re nearly grown, but I left her alone to take care of a baby. What kind of father am I?”

“I didn’t know.” Lizzie tripped over a pile on the floor and fell back into the Lazy Boy. It rocked back, but she never took her eyes off the window. The pain that Josh had to be feeling, going through everything they had, she didn’t know how to apologize for that. It was too much, nothing she would say would ever soothe him. He would always hate her, and all she could say and keep saying to him was that she hadn’t know. What kind of answer was that.

It wasn’t one…

“You didn’t know.” Josh said, breaking out of whatever trance he had been in. “My wife was pregnant. I didn’t know, you didn’t know, none of us knew,” Josh said with a burst of maniacal laughter. “It seems like none of us knows anything except you’re a death magnet and that seems like something you sure as hell should have known.” 

She heard something pound against the window and then Josh was howling in pain. 

“Holy shit,” Chuck exclaimed.

  “What happened?” Lizzie said, forcing herself to stand again and approach the window. She made sure not to trip over the pile she had be had before and noticed it was a stack of what looked like leather bound books. They looked odd, but she moved around them, focusing on the window.

“I’m sure he won’t do that again.” Elisabeth hadn’t talked much since they had returned from wherever the talisman had sent them, Lizzie still refused to think of it sending them to hell, but not her voice sounded strained.

“No, he won’t. Well, now we know not to even through anything at the house.” Chuck said.

“How had he even been able to pick up the rock?” Sarah said. She sounded shocked. They all did.

“What happened?” Lizzie asked again, though she was beginning to piece it together that Josh had thrown a rock at the window, but what happened to him after that?

“Guess this means we can’t torch the place,” Chuck said.

“Nope.” Sarah responded.

Had they actually been planning on burning the house down? Lizzie wasn’t sure, but they sounded serious. She didn’t know where they had planned to get the first, but as the house wasn’t burning, they probably hadn’t figured that out as well.

“FUCK!” Josh howled. “You fucking whore of a bitch. I will get my hands on you and then I will personally feed you to them. You understand me you slut. Fuck.”

Lizzie was backing away from the window, back to sit in the chair again. She wrapped her arms around her, shaking her head, refusing to believe the venom that was being hurled her way.

She hadn’t known. How could she have known any of this was going to happen? The letter had been vague and there were barely any instructions in the initial reading of the will. She had no way of knowing. And the talisman? She wouldn’t have even known about it had Josh not insisted she read the letter. It was his fault partially. He told her to do it. How was she ever supposed to know what it would have done to them.

And if he hadn’t been such a jerk, then maybe she wouldn’t have been so quick to put it one when she had left with Roland yesterday. 

The voices outside were quieting, getting farther away. She could still hear the howls coming from Josh. Whatever happened must have really hurt him, but how do you hurt the dead? What was it about the house that did? Was it something she could use? She still wanted to check out the barn and see what was out there, but was afraid to walk the path to get there. She could wear the talisman, but had sworn to herself she would never wear that again.

She could go now, couldn’t she? The voices were moving away in the other direction. She would have a clear shot to run and the letter said she would be safe once she got in there. Now would be the time to do it.

But she wasn’t moving. She wasn’t getting up, and when she admitted it to herself, she had no motivation to actually get up and do it. She didn’t want to do anything. She wanted to sit there and cry, but she wasn’t giving in to that. She was just going to sit there and not cry, to have this moment of doing nothing. 

Around here there was still plenty of the mess, though in the living room there was less of a paper mess and more of a ‘this was were he stayed most of the time and had all the food wrapper garbage mess’ combined with the occult circle and candle mess. Strange, but she was no longer freaked out by the pentagram and circle on the floor anymore. She didn’t want to go near it, but as far as she knew, that was what kept the dead from getting inside, so it wasn’t getting touched.

She did notice the books she had tripped over. She picked one up. It had a leather cover, but did’t look like something store bought or printed. The front had a latch on it, though the latch was old and the catch broken as the strap didn’t close. She opened it, and saw her uncles handwriting, filling the pages.

She went back to the first page and looked at it. It was dated just over fifteen years ago, and written there in a shakily written sentence was her uncle’s first diary entry.

“My wife died a week ago. The night after her death, her spirit came back and has not left me.”

Dead Friends: Chapter 27

She had made it about five steps out of the kitchen and into the mess that was the dining room before realizing she would have to go back. If she was going to have any chance at finding garbage bags, the kitchen was her best hope. With it being the cleanest room in the house, it was her best hope of finding anything.

It hadn’t taken her long and she had been quick, into the room and back out. It had been a stroke of luck to find a couple boxes of garbage bags under the sink. Her uncle had plenty of them, she couldn’t understand why he hadn’t been using them. Though she could think of one reason, he had given up.

Of course he had given up. How many years had he been stuck in this cabin all alone, unable to talk to anyone but the dead. How long do you think you’ll really last? He made it nearly fifteen years, you were just a little girl when he had been struck with the curse. Do you really think you’ll last that long?

She had to push the thoughts from her head, as she knew the answer, and already feared it. She had been in the cabin less than half a day and already it was starting to wear on her. The constant bombardment on insults coming from outside, the silence in, and there was no one she could talk to. If only she had someone she could open up to, but the moment she did that, the moment she gave that creature another target.

Stay focused. The dining room had plenty to occupy her mind. Looking around, she could see the piles of papers and books. There were a lot of them, but there was also just a lot of garbage thrown about. She figured her best bet would be to start from the farthest corner and work her way out from there. That plan was a failure when she realized she couldn’t reach the farthest corner as there was just too much junk in the way.

“Well crap. Fine then,” she said to the empty house. She wished she had her phone. At least then she had some music she could play and the house wouldn’t feel so empty. 

She went to the farthest she could go which was actually near one of the chairs. The chair had scrabbooks piled on it, and well, it was as good of a place to start as anywhere else. Clear off the chair, then she would have a place to sit and work out from there. She could work her way to corner and then work out in all directions from there. It seemed like the best plan that Lizzie could come up with.

“So what do we have here?” Lizzie picked up the binder and opened it. The cover was covered in dust, but opened to reveal photos. It was an old photo album. The pages were yellowed and all the pictures were vintage. They had that look to them like old photos. It reminded her of that filter she used on Instagram a lot, though she couldn’t remember what it was called. Many of the pictures were washed out, but all of them had smiling faces. Some of the photos contained people she even remembered, while most were alien to her.

She came across a picture of her parents with her uncle and his wife. They were all standing there on a cliff, the beautiful skyline behind them and a lake that could be seen much lower than they. Underneath the photo was written on a little label, “Starved Rock Vacation, 2002.”

2002… That would have been shortly before the curse passed down to him. They all looked so happy, young, and oblivious to the hell that was about to crush them and tear them apart. Lizzie ran her finger along the photo. A tear slipped from her and landed on the clear film that protected the page and soon there were more landing there. Her parents so happy, her uncle smiling his big tooth filled grin. Lizzie wasn’t sure where she was or why she wasn’t in the picture. Her mother had just begun to lose her pregnancy weight, but there were still signs of the bump that had been her.

And there was Cynthia. Lizzie had forgotten how beautiful she was and how happy both of them looked together. They were an amazing couple that should never have been torn apart so viciously.

Lizzie turned the page to find more photos. Many of the pages were filled with ones similar to the previous one, all taken while at some national park and so long ago that she wasn’t even able to walk yet. Her parents must have had her grandparents watching her, but couldn’t imagine why they would have left a near newborn alone with them for what looked like a vacation.

As she progressed through the book, it showed other memories. Some of them were with her parents and some were with friends. It seemed like her uncle was so well liked as he always seemed to have large groups around him, and at the center he was always with Cynthia, both of them with wide genuine smiles. Had they ever truly been as happy as their pictures made them look. She remembered him, barely, but when she did, she thought mainly of the big fight her dad had with him.

She turned a page and saw the four of them. Her dad, mom, Cynthia and him as they all stood. Then she saw the little girl in the background and saw as she was running to them. Behind the girl was an agitated woman, and Lizzie immediately remembered Cynthia’s sister who would watch Lizzie as her parents and the two of them would go out to parties. In the background, Theresa was the sister’s name, was chasing after Lizzie as she was supposed to be watching her for the day.

* * * * 

“Daddy! Daddy save me before the monster get’s me” Elizabeth yelled, though she had to fight it as she was also giggling as she ran.

“Elizabeth!” The monster, who was a young woman wearing a black formal dress, called out as she tried to chase the little girl through the crowd of people. It wasn’t hard as she was wearing healed shoes instead of her flats and trying not to bunch up her dress by running too fast. This left her moving slow as she was more mindful of how she continued to look later in the day than the girl she was trying to capture. “Elizabeth get back here!”

The girl darted through the crowd of well dressed people, while the woman chasing her had difficulty getting the other adults to move out of the way. Because of this, the girl was able to seek out her target and rush him long before the monster had any hope of catching her.

“Woah there.” The man groaned and looked down at the girl whose age was around four years old, wrapped around his leg. The man smiled at her bemused and then looked over at the other man next to him. “I think I have something that belongs to you.”

“Oh?” The other man said, looking down at the girl. He made a funny face at her and she giggled as he looked back to the man. “Nah, I don’t think so. I don’t recognize her. She looks like a wild beast. Why don’t you keep her.”

“Daddy!?” The little girl said, releasing the man she had clung to so that she could wrap herself around her dad. 

“Nope. Don’t know her. My daughter is a nice, good little girl who is being good for her aunt. I mean, you kinda look like her, but she would never be running through a church.”

“I’m sorry Dan. She just took off.”

“It’s okay.” Dan said as he looked down at his little girl. She could see that he was trying to give her the ‘hard’ look but she also saw his hints of a smile. She didn’t know it then, but later would discover that he was working hard to bite back the laugh and joy of being around his little girl, his ‘Lizzie.’

“Well, we should probably make our way in to pay our respect.” Tom, her uncle, said as he looked over at Dan and patted his back. 

“I’ll take her over to the other kids so they could play. The church opened up the youth center since there’s so many here.”

“Really? I mean, I don’t even know half these people. I mean, who are these people? Our uncle hadn’t been seen by anyone in our family for what, twenty years?” Her dad said as he lifted Lizzie into his arms.

“As far as I knew, yeah. He’s been a compete recluse hiding away in that cabin of his.”

“I heard someone say that’s it’s all family of his wife.” Theresa, otherwise known as the monster aunt, said as she reached out to take Lizzie from her father.

“I got her, I’ll walk her in.”

“He has a wife? Someone was actually living with him in that run down shack?” Tom said as they walked towards the church entrance.

“I knew he had one, but she had passed away a while back. Dad never said much about it. He didn’t talk about his brother much. It sounded like every time they had talked it had been a big fight.”

“Da- Dang, man.” Tom said, obviously catching himself from cursing in front of Lizzie. She, of course, stuck his tongue out at him and he in return stick his out at her. They both giggled.

“Mr. Rogers?”

Both Tom and Dan turned around to see a short man, bulging out of his suit as it seemed like someone had forced the man to be shorter and now the fat was being forced out. Lizzie had to struggle not to giggle as the man fought to pull his pants back up and keep it from again falling too low.

“Yes?” Dan asked.

“Mr. Tom Rogers?” The man was questioning, obviously not sure which man was his intended person of interest. The brothers looked at one another and then Tom turned back, a raised eyebrow in question.

“That’d be me.”

“Okay. I used to be your uncle’s best friend. He asked me to draft a will, and have you as beneficiary. I’ll need you to swing by sometime later today to go over everything.”

“Today? What kind of lawyer works on a Saturday?”

“He was a friend. He asked me to do this and said it was very important to go over what you inherited right away.”

“Okay. I don’t see what’s so important and I’m busy today and tomorrow. Cynthia and I have plans and I’m not going to break them because I inherited some old shack in the woods. I can meet you at the office on Monday.”

“Your uncle said it was important we did this right away.”

“I’m sure he did. He was nuts.”

“Look, I’m sure our uncle had some crazy idea that his cabin out there in la la land was some big deal,” Lizzie’s father said, stepping up to the shorter man, his agitation clearly getting the better of him. “But this is his funeral. Why are you doing this now?”

Her dad looked from the lawyer to a couple that was entering the funeral home. Lizzie recognized them vaguely but wasn’t sure until they stopped to say something.

“Dan, why didn’t you get a sitter. A funeral is no place for children.”

“Tammy’s sister is going to watch the children during the service.”

“That doesn’t mean they should be here.”

“Yes Ms. Tamarack.” Her father exclaimed with a frustrated sigh that he tried to hide from the older woman. She responded by shaking her head and entering the building.

“Ms. Tamarack? What is she doing here?” Tom said, his mouth slightly agape at the shock.

“I asked her to come.” The lawyer said. The brother’s turned to face him again, Dan having to shift Lizzie as the four year old was getting heavy. “Your uncle has been away for many years but came to me last week. He had me do his will and then asked that I’d get ahold some of his old friends. It wasn’t easy, but I think most of them are here. Of course a number of them had died over the years, but the ones I knew to still be around are here.”

“Why?” Tom said, beating Dan to ask the question.

“He didn’t want his funeral to not have anyone. He said he spent the last twenty years in isolation, he didn’t want his funeral to be…empty.”

“There you two are,” said a very pregnant Tammy as she approached. She had a plastered on smile that anyone close to her knew was for show. She’d been in a lot of pain with this pregnancy and was supposed to be in bed. She had ignored it, saying that if Dan was going to be there to show his respect, he was not allowed to do it without his wife.

He returned her smile as she approached. It was just as forced, neither of them wanting to be there. Lizzie hadn’t realized at the time just how little anyone had wanted to be there. She clung to her father and gave out that annoyed look to them all, quickly bored as there was little to do in the ‘stuffy’ place that was filling with people. Some weren’t even dressed up but had just come in their regular casual wear. Dan noticed it now that the lawyer had said he had to talk many of the attendees into coming.

“Hey Hun,” he replied as he lowered just enough so she could give him a peck on the cheek.

“Want me to take monster?” Tammy said and she didn’t wait for a reply as Lizzie was already holding out her arms to her mom.

“You sure?” Dan looked at the protruding stomach and saw the frustrated grimace that flashed.

“Dang it,” and then she looked to her belly and added, “You better be good looking like your father because your kinda a pain in the butt like him.”

“Oh really?” Dan said.

“Your lucky you’re cute.” She said, flashing her first genuine smile of the day.

“So l’ll see you after the ceremony?” The lawyer asked, bringing everyone’s attention back to him. 

“What’s this?” Tammy asked.

“He needs Tom to stop by his office after the funeral.”

“Fine.” Tom said in resignation.

“On a Saturday?” Tammy said.

“Say’s it’s important.” He said to her then turned to Tom, “see you inside.”

Tom nodded, “Yeah, I’ll be in as soon as Cynthia’s back. She had to run for smokes.”

Lizzie’s father nodded and headed into funeral home, his daughter in one arm and the other one wrapped around his pregnant wife. He was going into a house of death, but right then, he felt like he had everything he could have that would make him happy in life.

* * * *

Lizzie turned the page in the scrapbook, realizing that the picture hadn’t actually been from the funeral. She didn’t know what it was about the picture that had brought back such an odd memory. Maybe it was being in the cabin and remembering her dad and uncle talking about it. She could never be sure. 

It was just another picture, one of many, just like the memories that were pulling at her. There were so many to remember, so many things to think about. That’s all she could really do now, was to remember and think. That’s all that was left being out there in the cabin, alone in the woods.

She turned the page, and then another, studying all the smiling faces looking up at her. Everyone was smiling and happy. She wondered if she would ever be able to see smiles like that again in anything other than a picture.

She already knew the answer as she closed the cover of the book and set it on the floor next to her chair. She’d keep the book, so it would be the first object to go into her ‘keep’ pile. As long as she didn’t confuse the piles like she would sometimes do when she was organizing her apartment bedroom, she should be fine and able to look through the pictures again someday.

She reached forward and pull the next bundle from the pile. This one was a bunch of envelopes with what looked to be unopened spam mail. She wanted to just chuck it and throw it all away, but couldn’t. All it would take would be to do that once and she might just miss that one scrap of information she would need.

With a grown, she opened the first envelope. Yep, there it was, the solution to all her problems. She had just won Publishers Clearing House. She was rich and now she could live that life of luxury.

With a chuckle, she tossed the envelope into the garbage bag and started on the next one.

Dead Friends: Chapter 26

Lizzie looked at the piece of paper in her hand. It had multiple spots across it from dried tears and she realized there were a few spots that held fresh tears. Her own that she hadn’t realized had fallen as she had read the note. She wished there was more written, but as it was, the page was filled front and back with the words spread to the edges. Some were even hard to read as they came so close to where it had been ripped from a spiral notebook and still held the remnants of the binding.

She folded it back the way it had been, trifolded as though it was a letter getting ready to be sent and put the paper back in the envelope addressed to her. Her uncle had never been around, but she scrambled for memories and barely caught them, thinking of times when he had been there. There was something, she barely remembered it, but as she struggled, she thought it was there. A few memories actually. She thought she had one of him and his wife as they had come to dinner and she had ran between his legs, laughing, only to have him chase her through their house.

There was another memory, one of her as a baby. She often had always had this one, but so many times thought it was more of a dream than a memory. Maybe it was, but it was still a fun dream. She was crawling, still a baby. She was in her grandmothers house and crawling as she though newly discovering some mythical ancient land. There was this large object, at the time she barely knew what it was, but in hindsight recognized it as a flowery fabric covered couch that her grandmother used to have that had become her parents couch for awhile. 

She had made it to the edge and was about to go into a forbidden zone, not that she cared as she was an explorer off on adventure. Though when she had reached it, she had sat up for a moment to look back at her mom and dad sitting at the kitchen table, talking to her grandmother. None of them were paying attention to her as her mother held her grandmothers hand and were looking at each other. This was her chance, and she wasn’t sure if she really realized it or not, but in this dream memory, she knew she had to take it. She turned back around and got in the crawl position to make her escape around the corner.

That was when a pair of large hands grabbed her from under her arms and pulled her up. She saw his smiling face, his happy eyes, and heard that deep laugh as he exclaimed, “Caught ya.”

Was the memory real? Were any of them? Memories of her uncle always felt so surreal that she was never sure. So much time had passed since she had seen him.

She put the envelop on the kitchen table and stood there, looking at the rest of the garbage on it. This was her house now, it was her refuge. She was going to have to clean it, and she didn’t have much else to do. There were also things she might find when she did. It didn’t sound like her uncle had many of the answers she was hoping for, but maybe there had been things he had overlooked. He had all those years to research it, and he had found the talisman so he had learned some things.

That table, that damned dining room table, so full of junk. It was as good as a place to start as any, but did she have any garbage bags. When was garbage pick up, she should call the city and find out. He had said all the utilities were paid, which surprised her as she was surprised he was even on city lines. With how remote the house was, she would have expected to have a generator or something, though she supposed there had to be one for the winter. She would have to check the barn for that as well.

She looked over at the kitchen, the door was closed as it always was. That swing back door haunted her and she felt cold every time she looked at it. Just anyone could sneak in there and hide in waiting and she wouldn’t know it until she went in. It was how Sarah had died, next it would be her turn as she was now all alone.

She had to go in there to find garbage bags, mad at  herself for not bringing any with her. That seemed like something she should have thought of at the convenience store. With how much garbage was scattered throughout the house, her uncle may not have any. 

“Hey bitch!” Sarah screamed from outside. Lizzie closed her eyes, took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten. Sarah had been quite for the last hour or so. They all had been, but now as Lizzie looked at the kitchen door, it was like she had been able to read her mind to know Lizzie was thinking about her.

Lizzie walked away from the yelling dead and stepped into the kitchen, taking deep breaths as she did. No one was in there. The house still that disturbing quiet that she didn’t think she would ever be able to get used to. She would have to do something about that, maybe find her uncle’s laptop and stream music or something. 

The kitchen was easily the cleanest room of the house. Part of that was probably from the cleaners, but the little bit she should remember from the last time she was the, it had been pretty clean then too. He had taken care of this room, no papers scattered about, but just a place that was kept well maintained so the food cooked there would be edible and not send anyone to the hospital for food poisoning. Though, thinking of what her uncle was going through, that may have had more to do with it than actually caring for the room itself. A trip to the hospital could spawn countless of new dead surrounding the house.

You had gone to the hospital and no one had died…

But there had been people who had died. They just hadn’t died while they were there. The shadow man had waited. Had waited and like her uncle had said in his note, had toyed with her until the right time to take their lives. How had the shadow man known when that would be? He couldn’t have. He just had to have been very patient. 

She should lock that thought away, as she felt knowing he was extremely patient was good to remember. Though she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what he was patiently waiting for. It involved her, or her bloodline, that was obvious.

She stepped all the way into the little room and noticed for the first time the little slant to the room and how much of it looked newer than the rest of the house. This was an addition. Her uncle had mentioned something about the changes he had done to the house in his note. This room must be added on. She thought about that as she continued to looked around, letting the door go and whoosh shut behind her.

The house felt disturbing and alone again, that feeling of dread she had felt outside returning. It was deep in the pit of her stomach, and she looked back at the door to the rest of the house, wanting deeply to rush back to the otherside.

This was an addition, so maybe what made her feel calm and safe there, didn’t apply to the kitchen. The dead man had been in the kitchen, not the rest of the house. He hadn’t been able to…, but yet the dead outside couldn’t get in there. 

“So whatever protected the house, didn’t protect the kitchen, but something else did.” She said it out loud, letting her thoughts out in the quiet place. They seemed louder than they should have. She definitely needed to start listening to music or something or else she was going to do a lot of talking to herself. 

“What was it they said? It was okay to talk to yourself as long as you don’t talk back?” She said as she walked to the other side of the little island  counter in the center of the room. “Sure that was it.” She said in response to herself, letting out a little cackle at her own inner joke. 

She looked back to the door to the house again. Her eyes always kept coming back to it. With it closed, she would never know if another surprise waited for her out here. She doubted she would ever have issues in the house. The note made it sound very safe and she believed it. The kitchen didn’t feel like the rest of the house. She couldn’t rely on the same protection.

What was she going to do about the door.

She walked over to it and studied its hinges. The door swung both ways, but as she studied the hinges she wasn’t sure how the things worked. She understood how regular hinges did, but these were different and were alien to her. Regular hinges she could take a butter knife to and work the pin free to remove the door. The double hinges weren’t like that and she couldn’t see any access to the pin. 

How could she get the door off? She would probably have to remove the whole hinge, using a screw driver to remove the hinges from the wall. Though, that seemed like it would be a project and she wasn’t ready to start modifying to house just yet. Instead she looked around for something heavy and found a block of kitchen knives, the base being made out of wood. She grabbed it and used it to prop open the door.

“Wa-la!” She said as she stepped back to admire her handy work.

“Proud of yourself in there?” She heard the voice, and turned to see who said it. She recognized it, but hadn’t heard it in a while. He had never been one to say much to her. She didn’t see anyone standing behind her, she was still alone in the room.

Chuck had to be outside, which made sense since he couldn’t come into the warded house, but still felt disconcerting that he would know she was in there. Could he somehow see inside? She was never sure what their deathly abilities were as they always seemed to be able to do more than what they let on.

“I am, a little.” She walked over the back door and opened the interior wooden one. She forgot that the screen door was still broken from its frame. It would probably always be broken as she was afraid to go out there to fix it, and afraid to call a handyman to the house. What if the man came to the house and was killed. She couldn’t call anyone to the house. Any time she did, she would be putting their lives in danger.

Chuck was standing at the door, and she looked down at him, nervous as there was no visible barrier between them. She thought he couldn’t get in to attack her, but it was hard to imagine something unseen keeping him away.

“You okay?” She said to him. They hadn’t really talked much since his death. He had always blamed her for it, and his anger had been obvious. Then when Josh had come along, Chuck’s role seemed to have become the protector for the other dead as Josh had been angry with all of them. What was his role now? As he was the first to talk to her since the talisman, had he become the peacemaker?

The anger she saw that darkened all of them since their time in the other realm was present on him too. No, he would attack her is he could, just like the rest of them. They all blamed her, as they should, but she hadn’t known what the talisman would do. She was sorry, but how do you apologize for sending someone to hell for nothing they had done.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

She looked back at the door she had just propped open and back to Chuck.

“Why not?”

“Not the door. You shouldn’t have done that us.”

“I didn’t know.”

“You shouldn’t have done that to us.” he repeated, his eyes digging into her own.

“I know. I didn’t know what it would do, I just wanted peace.”

“Peace! Peace! How do you get to want peace!” He screamed at her, his anger blazing as he rushed at her. She jumped, slamming her back into the refrigerator and feeling it rock. 

It took a moment to calm her breathing. Any second, she expected to feel his hands on her throat, his teeth tearing into her flesh, and his…

She pushed the thoughts out of her mind as she looked back to where Chuck had been. He wasn’t there, but was on the ground a few yards back. His eyes were wide as he looked around in shock. 

Slowly he stood, looked back to the door, and then ran towards it, again lunging after her. This time she watched, not worried about him getting in to her, and she saw as he hit the threshold, and with a white flash of light, he was thrown back across the yard.

This time when he got up, he kept his eyes locked on her, and she saw that fire burning hotter. He was slower to make his way to the back door, not lunging for it. He walked casually, his hands opening and closing into fists.

He reached the threshold and stopped there, studying the frame before looking back to her. Then he nodded, and stepped away from where she could see him. He didn’t say a word, didn’t make any threats, just studied the house and the frame until he was gone.

She didn’t know why, but that scared her more than if he had made the threats. 

She looked at the path leading back to the barn. The letter had said she’d need to go there. She didn’t feel safe doing it, not yet. Instead she studied it from a distance. It wasn’t anything special. It just looked like a barn, maybe a little smaller than some she’d seen used for farm equipment, and it definitely needed some paint. Still from a distance it looked sturdy enough.

She turned away as she closed the back door and left the kitchen.

Dead Friends: Chapter 25

I’m thinking of shifting the release day for my posting of this story from Tuesday to Wednesday. Tuesday is such a big day with new releases that there is always so much else that you could be reading. I would love to hear what you think. Should I post these bits of story on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?

Getting back to the story, and this week the tone changes somewhat. I hope you like it…

****

Elizabeth,

I.. I really don’t know how to write this or even what to tell you. There’s so much. I’ve written this letter so many times over the years, though not always addressed to you. I figured the curse would fall on to others before you. Then when Tommy died, I knew you would be next.

I’m sure none of this makes any sense. It doesn’t. It never has made any sense for me as well and I’ve lived with it for nearly fifteen years. I think it’s been fifteen. Time is a little hazy when you are isolated and it feels much longer, but when I try to do the math, that’s what I come up with. 

All this, I’m sure I sound like a crazy old hermit and I’m sure that’s how I seem to you. I don’t know what you’ve been through. I know a little about your life, and I have no clue how your life has been since my death to you reading this letter. I was hoping to make everything…

Shit, I’m losing myself and getting ahead of things. I’m sorry. I just don’t know how to get this started, tell you what you need to know and catch you up on the little that I know. I want you to be more prepared than I was.

I know you don’t know too much about me. You think that your dad and I had a huge fight and then I chose to live out here in the woods. Bet you think I’m a really big weirdo, huh. Well part of that is true. Your dad and I got into a fight, but it wasn’t what kept me away. I had already moved out here to the cabin after Cynthia died and your dad was worried about me. The fight was about him wanting me to come stay with you guys and I wouldn’t leave the cabin. He was afraid for me, how I could just leave behind my successful job and all my friends to live alone out here. How could I tell him I was doing it to keep him and everyone I cared about safe. 

Cynthia was dead. It is my fault. That’s not survivor’s guilt, but a fact. You have to understand this curse that is your true inheretence inheritance and I am so sorry that this burden has fallen on your shoulders. I still remember the day you were born. I was at the hospital with your dad. I held you in my arms. Your eyes were closed and boy could you scream. You came out with such a set of lungs on you. 

You were also the most amazing thing I’d seen and I couldn’t wait for Cynthia and I to have one of our own. We were trying. In retrospect it was a good thing that our wishes had never come true as I think that would have broken me when this fell on me. Then this would have been your dad’s burden and we would have lost all of you. Well, I would have already have been gone, but it would have been your dads turn to lose everyone he loved. 

Maybe that would have been a good thing. The blood line would have ended. Yeah, hate me for saying it. I hate myself for writing it, and I really don’t think it was smart. I don’t even think that would have ended it. It might have just made it worse.

I’m still getting ahead of myself. Let me start over.

I don’t know what it is or what it wants. I don’t know if it is a curse on our bloodline or something to do with this house and where it stands. I have a bunch of theories but none of them matter. What does matter is that all those close to you, friends to you, anyone you keep in regular contact with, will die. I wish I could say that was the end of it, but they will die, and then come back and haunt you. (Though I don’t think that haunting is the right word. Most of those who have come back have been very nice. They know I loved them and they have never truly left me.) 

Not all who come back though are people you know. I don’t know why, but those connected with those who die around you, those who are killed by the curse and are affected by it. Damn, I don’t think I’m explaining this well.

Say a man died. He had a girlfriend. She gets depressed because her boyfriend was killed and kills herself. Well, now not only is the boyfriend haunting you but so is his girlfriend.

I don’t know how or why this works this way. I’ve spent years trying to figure all this out and still, it doesn’t make sense. As soon as I think I know all the rules and what they are, things change and I have to learn everything new again. 

Sometimes I think she does it just to mess with me, but I’m not ready to touch on that yet, so Hey, what else do you need to know? Dead come back and haunt you. Check. Anyone you care about and keeps in contact with you is going to die. Check. Oh yes, even if you get to familiar with someone on a regular basis, guess what, they’re going to die.

You’ll end up never wanting to leave this cabin or talk to anyone from the outside world. I almost never left and my only contact with the outside was pretty much through phone and internet. Yes, there is internet here and WiFi. Sorry, but I destroyed my computer tonight. Well, shortly before writing this letter to you. You’ll have to buy your own laptop I guess or bring your own if you thought to do so. Password for the WiFi is a set of numbers on the box in the corner. All the utility bills are paid for in advance for the next ten years.

Yeah, you don’t have to worry about much financially.  I bet your wondering where all the money came from. I sure as hell didn’t inherit it myself. All I had to start out was this cabin and the curse. I didn’t even get a letter to explain any of it, just stories of my crazy uncle who lived by himself out in the woods.

What I found was a niche market that I could use my technical knowledge and craft things to make old objects of immense value, work again. Essentially I fixed old antique clocks. These clocks are each handcrafted so there are no set parts for them so to fix them, I had to handcraft the replacement part to get them running again. On some clocks I made nearly a hundred grand and being the poor boy I was growing up, this blew me away.

The back barn is my tool shop and work area. It’s less cluttered and safe as well. The same incantations that are placed around the house are placed around the barn as well. However the path between the two can be dangerous. It partly has to do with the talisman, which I guess I should explain how that works. Well, I’ll get to that in just a minute. I need to tell you one last bit about the clocks.

I have one that is finished for a Mr. Douglas. I had called and told him the work is complete and should be sending an employee to pick it up. It will probably be Mr. Ketchum. Ketchum is an older man and he’s grown surly in his old age. You won’t like him. No one does. He’s rude and pushy and will criticize everything. Just make sure you get the fifty grand they still owe for the work.

Oh, money. Yes, you got a lot in the inheritance, but there’s more throughout the house. I didn’t do much banking so who knows how much is hidden away in this house. It’s not like I got much of a chance to spend any of it. People came from all over the world for me to work on their clocks and I loved to work on them. 

There’s another clock that is partially done. That is Mr. Barlow’s. His information will be in the barn. You’ll have to look for it and let him know it won’t be done. Be careful. He’s a dangerous man. Very dark. I was always afraid of him. Something about him always felt, I don’t know, they just felt wrong. I don’t know how to say it. It’s like, he could feel her presence and that he enjoyed coming here. Maybe it’s why I never dealt with any middlemen and he came himself. He seemed to relish it and he always had more clocks for me to fix. It was like he was seeking them out. Be careful with him.

So what else to pass on… I’m not really sure. When I started writing this I wanted to pass on what I could. Now that I have started it, I don’t want to quit. I don’t much interaction with people. Writing this letter, telling you what I have truly passed down to you and get it off my chest is refreshing though I am so sorry what it means for you and the rest of my life.

When it was passed down to me, I wasn’t given anything. Our uncle passed away, and I was told that I had inherited his estate which was essentially this cabin. There was no money to live off of, no note, and I had no clue he had even existed. Our parents had died young and Tom and I had grown up not even knowing about him.

Cynthia and I came to the cabin. It wasn’t in any better condition then. It had no interior plumbing, and the kitchen was in what is the dining room now with an old wood stove. It was very different then, but in some ways very much the same. I mean, the layout has changed and I’ve done a lot of work to it. I’m not an architect so much of it I was teaching myself as I went, but I worked my way through it. It gets lonely and boring out here all alone, the only people you can talk to are the ghosts from your past.

Cynthia died in the middle of the night. We had gone back to our apartment and were unsure what we were going to do with the cabin. I woke up in the morning with her cold body lying there, her face turned to me and those scared haunted eyes looking at me sleeping as the last thing she saw. 

I can’t tell you about that morning, of finding her, who I called, or really anything that happened for the next day as it was all a blur. I had turned over to give her a kiss, and had done so without even really looking at her, my eyes still only slits. 

Then, it was the next day and I’m being woken up mid way through the night by the sounds of screaming that quickly fell away to crying. I got out of bed, and saw her there sitting in the corner, her arms wrapped around her legs that she had pulled in. She had her head down and she was crying. It was obviously her, I knew it the moment I had heard the scream. She used to scream at mice many times over the years, and I knew the scream’s owner.

I had called out her name before I approached. She had started when she had heard it. Then she had looked up. 

I’m not going to go into any details. Its hard to remember and so much of that time is confused, but she hadn’t known she was dead. Something had happened, she was sure of that, but where I thought she had died of natural causes, she shook her head vehemently ‘no.’

That was when she told me about the shadow thing. At the time, I thought it was death and that all people who died had some grim reaper that came for them. I can not say how happy I was that your dad was out of town on business at the time and was only working as hard as he could to get home to us, that instead it was my best friend who came to me that day to try and console me through the grief and help me plan the funeral. Otherwise it may have been your dad to have been hit by the bus as he left my apartment instead of Eric.

The next morning, Eric’s dead presence was in my apartment to join Cynthia. The day after that, my sister Sarah joined my dead friends. The city bus had crashed and it hadn’t been just her that was there. My apartment was starting to not feel big enough as there was just too many of them. Now, not only were there the people who had been on the bus, but I now had the family that was in the car that the bus had hit.

All of them were confused. So was I, but I couldn’t help but think how odd it was that my uncle had lived so far away from people. I’ve never been a superstitious person, but I had never heard of anyone having the dead, anyone connected with a person, any of it, coming back like this. It was a fair assessment to say that this was all connected, and I was freaking out. I needed to get away from people, and the cabin seemed like the best place.

Damn, I’m running out of paper. I tore these pages out of my last diary. I knew this day was coming, I hadn’t thought to buy more. You might find past notes in the trash. Hell, maybe theres a note or two I’ve left for others in the past. I’ve outlived most the people I thought I would past this curse onto.

For the last five years, I have been keeping diaries. There will be much of the information in there. 

I’m sorry that I’ve left this onto you. I wish I could have lived longer. If your reading this, then something happened. I don’t know what, but I’ve felt like something was coming for me these last few days. If I’m right… If not, there’s also them. Maybe the dead finally got strong enough to kill me. There’s been an odd thing of late, or maybe I’m just imagining things. I could be wrong, but I think in the last year or so, they’ve been getting stronger. They started as only mere shadows. I could see through them, there wasn’t any substance. Now, I can see them as plain as day, like they were really there.

I wish I had more for you, but this is the best I can do. I want you to know that I have always loved your family and you. Your dad was my best friend, and I hated keeping him at a distance.

Damn. Okay then. I’m sorry.

Dead Friends: Chapter 24

She hadn’t intentionally timed her arrival at the cabin for dawn, but as she pulled into the long driveway with the sun peaking over the horizon she was grateful for the light. The place didn’t look any less intimidating than the other times she had been there but the thought of actually going through the front door in the dark hadn’t been a pleasant one. Still, the sun cast long shadows that stretched from its small frame as though they were ready to grab her and take into its dark confines.

If the shadow man was there, this time, she would demand that he take her with her. She didn’t want to die, but she’d had enough. She was done playing his games. She was there now at the cabin, home to where all this shit started. Maybe she was there for answers, but she knew that she could just as easily die and let it all end.

You know you can’t do that. If you die, then this will go after your brother and he can’t live alone. He wouldn’t be able to survive without his caregivers.

And she did know that. As much as she wanted to give up, it was always that thought that came back to her to keep her alive. 

Damn she was tired, and sick of thinking of all this crap. It had been three hours and a couple different pit stops along the way for more coffee before she had found her way there. The long night had stretched and as it had, different shadow creatures had followed her along the road. The worst part was she didn’t know if any of them were real or just the imaginings of the tired mind. What was worse, her losing her mind with hallucinations or that the monsters she imagined were actually real and chasing her. She wasn’t sure.

Yet here she was, returning to the scene of the nightmare, and she was stalling to get out of the car.

She reached over to the passenger seat and grabbed the plastic bags full of supplies she had bought at a convenience store near town. There were food items, enough to get her through a couple of days she hoped, but she had also take out a few hundred dollars in cash and had bought a prepaid cell phone. She wasn’t sure if the police would be after her, but she wasn’t ready to talk to them. Then she took a deep breath, glancing quickly at the place between her breasts where the talisman was nestled, and got out of the car.

Why are you doing this? You shouldn’t be going in there. Not alone… Call someone, have them meet us here.

Her inner voice was screaming at her to turn around and run. She didn’t blame it. She wanted to. If not to call a friend, then to get a away from there. It wasn’t just that her friend had died there. There was something else, a wrongness that she felt deep in her gut that yelled at her to run.

She had to do this. There were answers in there. Her uncle had told her he had left her something here, something that might explain things. Then there was the shadow man, he had started following her since her first visit here. Maybe there was information about him here? There was those occult symbols in the house, probably books too. Maybe somewhere in there were some answers?

She neared the front door, that voice screaming for her to call one of her friends, get them there to help her, to be there for her…

But they were all dead. She still hadn’t been able to reach Jess and that dream had felt so real. She knew it had to be more. She had probably watched as her best friend had been killed, and it had been because of her. Not only that, but it had been Sarah and the rest of her dead entourage that had somehow done it. The talisman she had worn had darkened them, twisting them so that they turned against her. She wished she had never put it on as it seemed like wherever it sent them, was a place that equaled what she imagined hell to be like. Maybe it even was hell.

What kind of taint would forever darken her soul as she had condemned her friends, those she cared for most in this world, to an unlife of agony and torture.

She opened the door but stayed in the threshold. There was a cool breeze trickling out from the house and on it was carried the stench of death. Her nose wrinkled and her already twisted stomach wretched harder into a knot. Every part of her told her not to go in there, yet she still heard that distant call, somewhere in the back of her thoughts that told her she needed to go inside.

Still, she was stalling again. The door was open, nothing was baring her from entering except for her own thoughts. Her worried mind was on overdrive, thinking of her brother, remembering her friends that were killed, and what she was going to do now once she did go inside. Everything, all trying to consume her at once, her mind spinning in a thousand directions, but none of them grappling on to her attention for long enough to focus. 

A tear ran down her cheek, the motives behind it unclear. She had so many things she could cry over, but wasn’t concentrating on any of them. Her chest was hurting as she heaved in large breaths. That cold breeze from inside was turning her colder and she felt the shiver run through her. It felt alien to her. Her body shook with the motion, but she didn’t really feel like it was her that was shivering. No, it was something deep inside of her and it didn’t want to go in there. 

This is foolish. Just do it. Get your ass in there and start looking for that letter. He said he wrote you one. Maybe there were some answers. Maybe all the answers were in there.

Though she knew that couldn’t be true. If her uncle had the answers, then none of this would be happening to her now. No, there might be answers inside the cabin, but it would answer everything. Maybe there were some things that never had an answer.

She stepped over the threshold into the cabin and felt the breeze die away. Inside was actually warmer than it had been outside. It was comfortable in there, like the heat had been running and had kept the place at a decent temperature as the weather had steadily gotten colder over the last couple of weeks.

That was impossible. There was no way the cabin was warmer inside as it wasn’t hooked to any city grid. The place had to run off its own system. She hadn’t seen any power lines running to the place so there couldn’t be any power to the furnace. It had to be on generator power.

There was a distant clicking sound. A few seconds later, she heard the whooshing of air and saw a couple of pages far away on the other side of the room flicker as a tiny breeze, probably from a vent behind it, sent warm air through the tiny place.

Of course the place had power. She had seen her uncle’s television and knew he also had a land line phone here was well, though where it was in all the piles of junk she had no idea. She had no clue where anything was, the place was still a huge mess just like her previous visit.

Just because the place was hidden out in the boonies didn’t mean it was cut off from the world, and it wasn’t her uncle’s cabin anymore. It was her cabin, and as she was hiding away from the world, it was her cabin.

This… this was her new home. She looked around it, looking at the endless piles of paper and what looked like trash littered about. There was a lot of it, and she didn’t know where to start to look for that letter. To her left was the dining room and the door that lead into the kitchen and to her right was the living room and two doors. One must lead into the bathroom and the other the bedroom. Neither of them were open and they hadn’t been in them when they were there last. Well, she guessed it was time to see the rest of the place.

She went to the farthest door first figuring that one the most likely to lead into the bedroom. Inside, was a small room, her uncle’s, no, her new bedroom inside. The bed was a small twin and to the left of it with barely enough room to open any of the drawers was a short but long dresser. On top of it was empty except for an envelope with her name on it.

She stepped into the tiny room, looking at the bare walls around her and noticed there were no pictures hanging up. She glanced quickly into the living room and then back to the bedroom. There were no pictures anywhere, none of her family, nothing. There were no intimate details about anyone her uncle loved anywhere inside the house.

Except in the display case in the dining room. He had my aunts decorative plates in there. Of course she’s been dead for a while, so there was no harm to keep something that reminded him of her.

He lived without any visual memories of anyone he loved. He had been out there all alone, and couldn’t keep a picture of anyone. He must of been terrified that any visual representation would bring them harm. Did he have a rational fear that it would cause someone to die? Had he seen it happen, had he experienced it, and so hid or destroyed all the pictures? Lizzie knew her dad sent him a picture every year of all of them together. Had he just thrown them out or had he hid them?

She grabbed the envelope, her hands shaking as she tried to rip it open. Her hands seemed to have a mind of their own, not working with her to open and reveal the contents. She was surprised to find that she didn’t want to read it. Somehow not knowing what was going on, suddenly felt better than knowing. What if it was something worse? What if there was more to this and suddenly zombies were going to be breaking down her door?

She looked at the living room. The rest of the house was still. It was very quiet out there. Even the hiss of the heating vents had silence leaving the house eerily quiet, only the slight buzz of power that was hidden in the background of stillness.

“If there’s someone else here, another dead man in the kitchen, I’d here it right?” She said to herself. The sound of her voice did nothing to calm her nerves as she was no longer sure she was alone in the house. She couldn’t hear anyone else, but couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that they were there.

She kept the letter in her hand and walked quietly back through the house, making her way as silent as she could in the already deafening stillness. Each step she took she was worried it would shatter the peace with a creaking floor board, but she was able to make it to the kitchen door. She stopped there, breathing as silently as she could and listened.

She couldn’t hear anything outside the normal sounds of an empty house. The refrigerator clicked and there was that ever present buzz, but nothing that would betray a stranger waiting for her.

She let out the breath she had been holding, still standing there for a moment longer not wanting to step into the kitchen. That was the room. It was where it had happened. That was where Sarah had died. She didn’t think she could ever go into that room and not think of her best friend. 

But she knew she had to go in there.

She gently pushed on the swinging door and entered into the other room. It was empty. She was alone.

As she approached the back door leading out of the kitchen, only barely noticing that the door had had been fixed from her first time there, she realized that she had known the kitchen would be empty. It wasn’t like before. She didn’t know how she had known, but she had. She hadn’t been afraid when she came to the kitchen, worried yes, but not afraid. 

The more she took time to think about it, she hadn’t been afraid of the house ever since she stepped inside. That wrongness that had perpetually plagued her since she had first come to the house had vanished the moment she had crossed the threshold. Strangely she felt more at peace there now… It was like she had come home somehow and now this place was hers and she didn’t ever need to leave this place. It was hers and she was its protector.

That didn’t make any sense. Still, comfortable in this new house or not, she locked the back door and went into the living room. There weren’t many places to sit as papers were everywhere. She figured she would have to fix that, maybe as soon as even today as she didn’t have much else on her agenda.

Yeah, you going to clean off all the chairs and get ready for all the guests your going to have over.

She realized the futility of it, but ignored it. She wasn’t a neat freak, but the level of mess and clutter this place was in would eventually nag at her to the point of near insanity.

You think your actually sane? Your dead friends, the creature you call the shadow man, a dead man killing your friend in this house that you decided to come back and hide in after watching your ex-boyfriend with whom you had just had sex with, killed right in front of you. You really think you are the picture of perfect sanity right now?

She sat in the well worn brown lazy boy. The padding on the arms was flat and there were dark spots on the middle padding. The chair looked second had and well used. Considering the condition of the place her uncle had probably spent majority of his time there.

She looked again, at the interior of the house around her. There was just so much stuff. So many piles of books and old papers. Where would she start going through any of this? How much of it was garbage she could throw out? When did the garbage man come? Where did the mail get delivered and when were the power and utility bills due? There was so many practical things about the house she needed to find out and no clue as to go about doing so.

This really was her place to live now…

She looked at the envelope. Her name had been hastily scrawled on the front and she had been held roughly in the past as it was crinkled as though it had been balled up once or twice. She could see the spots were there was a change in texture and additional wrinkles to the paper and she recognized the signs of tears that had fallen as he had held it or maybe just rain drops. Water had dropped onto it at some point, she didn’t know from what. 

But here it was… She had come there to find answers, and this envelope, inside was the letter that would have some. He had known that this would be happening to her, obviously this had been going on with him.

Was their family cursed? It passed from one to the next, but that wasn’t possible. Curses weren’t real things, just something you read about in cheesy horror novels, but how else could she explain it. She couldn’t.

This envelope held the key, the answers, and found herself suddenly not wanting to open it. 

Instead she set it down on the arm of the chair and looked at the blacked out window. Her chest was sore from the talisman, it’s sharp claws always scraping on her flesh when she moved. He had said in his other note that she only needed to wear it until she got to the house. Could she take it off now? Of course she wouldn’t know for sure until she read this other letter, still she found herself looking down, lifting up the front of her shirt so she could see were it rested among her tiny breasts. It was an ugly thing, so small and yet seemed so powerful.

She lifted the strand that held it up over her head and pulled it off. It fell to the floor as she let it fall, herself resting back into the chair. She closed her eyes as she felt a single tear free itself from her pained insides.

Outside she heard the screaming. Her eyes shot back open and she stood straight as she recognized the voices. They were back.

“Come out here you bitch!”

Lizzie looked at the envelope, trying to ignore them. She ripped open the top.

“What the hell is this? What is happening?” That was Roland.

“I’m going to kill you, you fucking whore!” Chuck screamed. Then she heard the crying. The other voices were farther away, like they were screaming at the house but keeping their distance. The crying one was closer, like she was right at the blacked out window. It was Elisabeth, and Lizzie felt her heart twist as she listened to the woman. She spoke just above a whisper but somehow her voice carried and Lizzie heard what she said.

“You did this to us. I was pregnant. I died and it is still inside me. You killed us, this is all you fault. You killed all of us…and we are going to torture you and kill you. We have to. It’s the only way for this to end. You… you have to die.”

Dead Friends: Chapter 23

We return and continue on with part 3 of our story. Have you been enjoying it so far? Let me know by leaving comments and feedback. It is always appreciated.

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Are we in… the story is about to begin….

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Part 3

Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking as she tried to wrap them around the coffee cup. She couldn’t control her breathing. Like the rest of the her it was erratic and didn’t want to be controlled. She couldn’t calm down and why the held should she want to? She had just seen her ex-boyfriend with whom she had just had sex with, killed by some shadow creature from another plain of existence.

It reminded her of that movie Roland had once made her watch. It was the one with the guy who cut off his hand and replaced it with a chainsaw. He was looking at himself in the mirror, telling himself that everything was fine when his reflection grabbed him and tells him, “you just chopped up your girlfriend with a chainsaw, does that sound ‘fine’ to you?”

Well she had just saw her friend die. In the last few weeks she had seen most of her friends die, many of them coming back and had been nice to her until she put on the damn necklace. Why had she ever put it on, it didn’t matter. Because as she tried to calm herself she couldn’t help but think of all that stuff and then whispered to herself, closing her eyes to let a single tear fall and say “does that sound fine to you?”

No, it sure as hell didn’t. She wasn’t fine and she knew it, but what was she going to do about it? She had no one to talk to and it seemed like anyone I did talk to ended up dead.

Her phone sat on the counter. Jessica still hadn’t called her back. Lizzie had already left her four voicemails since she’d left the room. She had only made it forty five minutes down the interstate before she was starting to drift off behind the wheel and in that time she had kept trying to get ahold of her friend, fearing that her friend was dead too. That dream had been so vivid. It had to be more than just a dream.

She eased the coffee cup to her lips again, holding it tightly to keep it from shaking. It took an effort, but she sipped at the bitter brew. She wasn’t a plain coffee drinker but hadn’t been able to process the ingredients on the counter to sweeten her drink.

“Figured out what you want or do you still need a few minutes.”

Lizzie jumped in her seat and looked up at the woman standing over her. The woman was smiling at her, her teeth yellow from years of coffee and cigarettes. Her eyes were dark, sunken in from what Lizzie guessed was lack of sleep. Her nose had a ring in it and Lizzie realized she couldn’t guess the woman’s age. She looked old, her skin winkled and ashen, but Lizzie wasn’t sure. This woman looked life hardened, and made her age irrelevant. She was ancient in the ways of life and that was all that mattered.

“I’m sorry, you just startled me.” Lizzie noticed, glancing at her coffee, thankful none of it had spilled. Had she really drank three quarters of a cup already? How had that happened?

“It’s okay.” The waitress said as she brought over a fresh pot of the dark liquid. Steam rose from it as she poured. “Is everything okay?”

Lizzie internally chuckled at the question, not able to get that damn movie out of her head.

“Not really.”

“Do I need to call someone for you? Or are you hiding from someone? I can call the sheriff. Pete’s a decent guy. If your boyfriends doing something he shouldn’t, Pete’ll set him straight.”

“No, but thank you. I just-“ she cut off mid-sentence. What was it, did she need? She wasn’t really sure. She wasn’t sure of a lot of things. None of this, nothing in her life and her the course is of the last three weeks made any sense.

So, if she needed anything it was that. To make it all make sense. She needed to think.

No, she needed to figure out where to go. The cops would be looking for her and the last thing she wasn’t was to explain why she had been with her cheating ex-boyfriend when he had died.

“I guess I just need a piece of paper and a pen if you have one?”

“Sure thing.” The waitress said as she ripped off a piece of paper from her order pad and set it on the counter as well as pen. “Did you want to eat anything?”

Lizzie thought about it. Her stomach was in knots and the coffee was only going to make it worse unless she ate something. She just wasn’t sure what. She needed something to soak up all that acid that was burning her insides.

“I’ll just have a waffle with wheat toast on the side.”

There was a ding from the bell over the door to the diner and the waitress looked up. Lizzie followed her gaze to see two men, both looking tired. One of them smelled of diesel, though she wasn’t sure which one. As it was an all night truck stop, they were probably both truck drivers coming in for some middle of the night nourishment.

“Sure thing.-“

“World’s going to hell in a hand basket. Come on, you hear some of the crazy shit they say been going on out there?” One of the truck dr hers was saying. His voice billowed out from him and it was obvious the man had no concept of an ‘inside voice.’

“I’ll be right with you gentlemen.” The waitress said looking up at them as they sat a couple stools down from her. They nodded, but she had already turned her attention back to Lizzie. “And like I said, need anything else, just let me know.”

The woman held her in her gaze and Lizzie was transfixed by her. She could turn to look away, those eyes, the compassion emanating from this stranger as she briefly let her hand rest on Lizzie’s own, all locked her into this woman’s control.

“Thank you,” Lizzie felt herself say the words but it didn’t feel like it came from just her lips. Some where deep within her she felt a weight lift and for a short time felt it would be okay. Maybe she could think on everything that had happened, and she could make some sense of it.

There was a release and Lizzie found herself blinking her eyes, fighting back the tears that threatened. When she looked up again, the waitress was already talking to the two men, both of whom already had their cups turned over and Alice was pouring them the steaming coffee.

Okay, so she had to figure out what was going on.

She looked at the slip of order sheet the woman had given her and flipped it over to the blank back side. There she scribbled at the top, “What I know.”

So what did she know? Well, her friends were dying and then sometime during the night they came back and haunted her. Well they had. Now with the necklace on, they only attacked her in mirrors and somehow had the strength then to attack her and nearly kill her.

This wasn’t working. She had to focus. She needed to figure out the timeline and keep it in order. If she just started writing down random thoughts she would be all over the place.

Sarah had been killed by a dead man who Lizzie hadn’t know. That was strange as it was the only time the shadow man had used someone not associated with her and had somehow dug up the thing from the nearby graveyard. Had the sheriff said the graveyard was nearby? No, he had said it was on the other side of town. The dead man had to have dug himself up to work his way across the small community to end up there for when they arrived. That seemed farfetched so Lizzie had to wonder was someone working with the shadow man or controlled by him like he controlled the dead man?

Something else about that didn’t add up. Her uncle’s note said she would be safe from the dead in his house, but somehow the dead man was able to get in. Sarah hadn’t been able to get in. There had to be something different about the dead man.

“You know that was horse shit right? Another government cover up.”

“Yeah like you know what happened.”

“Hell yeah I know. I know one of the survivors. He’s a trucker. He said that the dead were attacking people.”

Lizzie’s head spun as she turned to look over at the two men. They were completely focused on each other and their coffees, neither seemed to notice her as she watched them intently.

“That’s bullshit.”

“You know, I’d agree. But I know the guy. He’s not the kind of guy who makes this type of shit up.”

“So what, there were zombies and the government just up and nuked the town? Because the idea of home grown terrorists blowing themselves up is more farfetched.”

“Lizzie vaguely recalled what the men were talking about. Something about terrorists blowing up a small town. She only remembered it from Roland talking about it, talking about them dumb flatlanders blowing themselves and everyone around them. It had only been a blip in her radar as her parents had died and she was till reeling with it. The president could have been killed and she’d barely have known as she had lost herself to her own bubble and nothing else mattered.

Kind of like what she was doing now.

She wanted to break into their conversation and ask about the dead killing people, but didn’t get a chance when Alice was back refilling their cups. They had both stopped and watched her, but she had looked to Lizzie with an inquiring raise of her eyebrow.

“You need something, honey?”

It seemed like all the world was trained on her as everyone was watching her now. The two guys had turned to look, and Alice kept her gaze.

“No, I’m fine.”

“Heyya cutie. What’s got you out so late.” The taller or the two men said to her. He was the one whose friend told him about the dead. The other man shook his head, turning away from them both as he took another drink from his coffee.

“Nothing.” She said as she focused her own cup.

“We weren’t disturbing you were we?”

“It’s okay.”

“Just ignore my friend here. He seems to got zombies on the brain.” The shorter man said, looking around his friend so he could look at her.

“Its….it’s okay. I just hadn’t heard anything about-“

“He’s talking about the town that somehow managed to blow itself up. Hayward, or something like that.”

“Hammond.” The taller man cut in. The waitress seemed to already have grown bored with the conversation and stepped back, probably to place the men’s orders with the cook.

“Hammond, that’s right. You remember that right.”

“Not really. My parents had just died. I don’t think I really-“ her voice trailed off and she saw the sympathy in their eyes.

“Sorry about your loss.”

“It’s okay.”

“No, but I get what your saying. Anyways, Hammond had some kind of home grown terrorist living their, no one ever said who, just that there had been a small cell, and they had built a dirty nuke. The fools had screwed up and blew themselves as well as the whole town right off the map.”

“Which doesn’t make no sense. If had been a dirty bomb, there would still be radiation all around there. There’s not.”

“How would you know. Military’s had the area locked down since it happened.”

“Not farther out. There’d still be traces.”

“So but your friend said their was zombies? Reanimated corpses?” She cut in.

“Yeah, this guy Bruce. He’d been my trainer and we stay in touch. Ran into him a few months back shortly after it happened. He was pretty shaken up about it. Frustrated too as they had him quarantined so long afterwards that he nearly lost his wife.”

“Just why in the hell would he be in quarantine.”

“Because they don’t know what caused the shit. He said their was something to do with spiders but he didn’t understand it all. Just said it have been some freaky shit and didn’t know how he survived. Said if it got out that he was talking about it that he’d be a dead man or locked up for life.”

“Then why’d he tell you?”

“Because he was stressed about it and needed to talk to someone. I was someone.”

“Wreaks like bullshit to me.” The shorter man said and looked over to Lizzie, giving her a knowing wink, though what he thought she knew, she wasn’t sure. She had already drifted from the conversation thinking about that day in the house. Had their been any spiders? She hadn’t recalled seeing any. Each time she’d been there, she hadn’t noticed any bugs. Even outside there had been a lack of mosquitoes, which was odd the more she thought about it. When was the last time she’d ever been in the woods and there had been none of the blood-sucking bastards.

“Order up,” called out the chef from the kitchen and Lizzie turned to see her food in the elongated window that separated the kitchen from the dining area. Alice appeared from wherever she had been hiding to avoid being a part of the conversation and made her way to it.

“It may-as-well-be. I’m just telling you what he told me. Something strange about what happened, though I’ll admit it sounds crazy. But you think about it, there’s some crazy shit in nature.”

“Like what?”

Lizzie was only partially following their conversation, no longer participating as she watched Alice pull her food down from the window, put butter on the waffle and then create a small plate of fixings to go with the food. Once done, Alice was able to magically hold it all as she brought it the short distance to where Lizzie sat.

“You ever hear of zombie ants?”

“Your full of it.”

“No, no. I saw it there on Facebook.”

“It’s on Facebook so it’s gotta be true huh.”

“Hey asshole, there’s good stuff on there. Saw some guy post about some article in one of hem science magazines.”

“Uh huh.”

“Here ya go. You need anything else with these?” Alice, the waitress, asked as she set the plate down with all the condiments. Lizzie was surprised to see the little metal pitcher shaped container with warmed milk and wasn’t sure how she was supposed to use it for the waffles. She didn’t ask, instead only shaking her head to Alice as she tried to pay attention to the two men. It seemed interesting, but she wasn’t sure it had anything to do with her situation.

“It’s how this fungus controls these ants you see, and have them doing what they want them to do. The ants are dead and this fungus controls them.”

“No, thank you.” Lizzie said and Alice nodded, giving the men a frustrated looking before turning back to Lizzie with a wink a nod.

“Think I heard about a movie like that. Something about kids being special zombies.”

“What the hell are you talking about. No, this is about this fungus controlling ants.”

“Enjoy. Hopefully these dingleberries will talk about something a little less disgusting and allow you to eat in peace.” Alice said, walking past them on her way into the back area.

“Sorry about that. Derek, shut the hell up.” The shorter man said, looking at the other one.

“Sure thing. Sorry about that. You go ahead and eat up honey. We’ll talk about something more frustrating.”

“Like how much longer the Bears coach has before he’s run out of the city with his head on a- ur, I mean how much longer until he’s fired.”

Lizzie wasn’t paying them too much attention. She had looked over, and she had acknowledged them, evening nodding as they started down into some new argument. She tried to act interested, but her mind was already whirling to somewhere else. She couldn’t stop herself from thinking about what the man had said.

The old man hadn’t been the first time that dead things had come back. While she didn’t think of them as zombies. That made her think of too many bad horror films and there was no room in her thoughts as she tried to focus on the new reality shaping itself around her for those. She had enough nightmares to worry about.

The old man had dug himself out of his own grave to somehow find its way to her uncles house. Why? How? Something was definitely different there. It was like the shadow creature needed some way of starting… this, whatever this was.

She wrote on the paper.

Dead man

-how did he come back to life

-why did he come back

Friends

How is he killing them?

Why?

What does he get from it? He feads feeds off it somehow.

He’s feeding off of her… She had gotten a sense of that when she had merged with him earlier, but she wasn’t sure how that worked. It was like, somehow with how he tormented her, it fed him. That didn’t make sense though, as he would eventually deplete whatever he got from her and they would be done. Also if he had been feeding off her uncle the. Her uncle would probably not survived as long, or the thing would have starved if her uncle hadn’t been nourishing it.

Damn, why didn’t the thing try to find someone else. What was so special about her family?

She wasn’t sure if she did have any answers to any of it, and sitting in the diner wasn’t going to do anything. She came in there for coffee, was she really going to try and eat too? Her stomach twisted and she knew it’s opinion was she would never eat again.

“It ain’t no skin off my back.”

“Hell, you’d never off anyone the shirt off your back either.”

“Asshole.”

“Well, what do you expect. You only roll through here every couple of weeks. It’d be nice if I got to see my brother more often.”

She looked at her piece of paper to avoid looking at the squabbling brothers. There wasn’t anything new written there but she saw what wasn’t written there and began to realize what she needed to do. She had been right to not call her brother. If she had, it might have gotten him. Everyone she loved was in danger.

She had nowhere else to go. The cabin was it. It was far away from everyone hidden out in the woods. That would keep everyone else from dying, and with all the junk her uncle had, maybe there was some answers. Maybe he had found something that would help her.

It wasn’t like she would be like her uncle. She wouldn’t go there and stay hidden. She was just hiding for a little while as she got everything sorted out.

“Not hungry?” Alice, the waitress said as she seemed to appear out of nowhere.

“Not really.” Lizzie said, quickly flipping over her piece of paper she had been writing on.

“Yeah, well, least your hands aren’t shaking as much. Get some things figured out?”

“Maybe.”

“Sometimes to find answers, we just need a respite along the way.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem.”

Lizzie put the piece of paper in her little purse and pulled out her wallet. She didn’t look at the bill but dropped forty dollars on the counter. She knew it was more than enough to cover it, but money wasn’t her concern anymore. She almost relished the time a few weeks ago when it had been.

Lizzie was almost to the door when Alice called after her.

“Remember these dark times you’re going through, you will find a path to the light. ‘For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”

Lizzie gave her a weak smile. She had respected the older woman, but never had appreciated when people quoted the Bible her. She had enough of that growing up, and what did that faith ever do for her parents, her brother, or her. The woman had been nice so she nodded a thanks and then turned to look at the two men sitting there.

“Hey you guys, just so you know, I’ve seen it. Sometimes the dead do come back, and if it was enough of them, then I believe they would have nuked a town.”

She left them there looking at each other, jaws dropped. She had to chuckle a little to herself as she walked to the car. If she ever had a mic drop moment, that had been it.

Dead Friends: Chapter 22

The first thing Lizzie felt when she woke up was an immense pain in her temple and that sense of being pulled out of some other world. The one she was now in still was rich in haze from the fog of slumber and remnants were still fresh in her thoughts from the one she left behind.

Had it been real? Had any of that just happened? It had been so real. It felt more like memories than dream fragments, but if that was the case why had she been Jessica. She had known her thoughts, her past, things that Jessica had never told her about herself. About her friend. She couldn’t have made all that up, could she? She was unsure, but it unsettled her, because if it was real, then her friend was dead.

The rock formed in her stomach. She had wanted to warn her earlier. She had tried to warn Jessica that something was coming after her. She had known they were next, but maybe it was because of that premonition that she had dreamed about it.

The dream had been so real. Too real. She still felt the bone deep cold inside her, and as she opened her eyes and exhaled a puff of mist formed from her lips. Lips that had just hours before been kissed by Roland. How could she have slept with him  after everything that has happened between the two of them. She could never have been that stupid, but yet she had.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

“But honey, that hadn’t been your heart talking, that had been something else. That was you pussy talking and it was hungry for the ‘D’.” A voice said to her in her head. She recognized it as a voice from long ago, though who it belonged to, she couldn’t recall. It was a voice from out of time floating in from some forgotten past.

As she tried to focus on it, more of the dream faded away yet the cold remained. It was very cold, too cold even. A shiver ran through her and that shouldn’t be right. She shouldn’t be shivering from a dream, should she?

Something tapped into her back and she had to remember that she was still in the hotel room. He was there too, asleep behind her in the bed.

How could she have been so stupid?

She wanted desperately to get out of there. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep, but the little of it she had was enough to clear her mind. God! What had she been thinking?

Didn’t matter. The deed was done and tomorrow he would wake up and remind her of it, maybe even try for a repeat as if everything was forgotten and forgiven. Men.

She wished she had driven herself. Then she could sneak out into the night and disappear, letting the miles between them build until maybe this would become another ungodly nightmare.

First she needed to call Jessica, make sure she was okay. It was the middle of the night, the outside light filtering through the hotels curtains confirmed that suspicion, and she would probably wake her friend.

I just need to make sure she’s okay.

But you know she’s not.

I don’t know that, just the dream had been so real.

The conversation played out in her mind and she continued to lie there in indecision. She should wake up Roland and tell him about it. He would calm her down, tell her she was being silly, but hey, here’s my cell phone if you want to call her. He’d do all those things, as he was a good guy who cared for her. So why did he also have to be such a lying cheating bastard?

Last night she had believed all his bullshit. Why couldn’t she believe him now? Because she had come to her senses, that’s why. What had she been thinking?

She could feel him shift in the bed behind her and let out a soft moan.

He probably sensed that she was awake and was waking up too. He had always been good about waking up with her whenever she couldn’t sleep. He was usually a heavy sleeper, but the moment she had a bad dream, he was up and had her in his arms. When her parents died, he had slept over a lot, and there were many of these nights when she would find herself crying on his chest.

She didn’t want him knowing she was awake. Damn. Maybe if she was still and stayed on her side, he wouldn’t know, but she wanted to call Jess. Damn. What if she fell back to sleep waiting for him to fall back to sleep. Damn, damn, damn.

She pulled the blankets tighter around her. It was so cold in the room. They must had forgotten to turn on the heat when they had come in. Considering how they had been with each other, she wasn’t surprised. They had been generating their own heat.

Now the room was an ice box. She could use the temperature of the room as a refrigerator, their bottled water would be nicely chilled for drinking where it sat on the little table across the room. The temp had must of dropped down much lower than forecasted if the room was this cold. She hadn’t brought enough clothes.

Roland moaned louder. Then he moaned even louder. This wasn’t him waking up.

Then he screamed and she turned over to see that she had gone from dreaming one nightmare to be living in another.

“tik-a-too, tik-a-ted, there’s a dead man in your bed.” The hideous voice cackled. She could see the dark shape that was sitting on Roland. It was hovering over him but watching her and smiling at her. Even in the dimly lit room, and his obscured form, she saw the bright whites of a chilling smile as he laughed at her. He was so close. Too close, she couldn’t do anything, but get away. Immediately she jumped out of the bed and twisted to never take her eyes on him. She didn’t stop backing away until she hit the wall, then she pressed herself against it as hard as she could. She would have melted into it if she could find away.

Run. She should just run away, get herself out of there and make her escape, but it had Roland. It had turned away from her, ignoring her because for now it had what it wanted.

Roland. She looked at him, and she could see that the shadow thing had one of its hands deep into Roland’s chest. It hadn’t broken the skin, it was like the shadow man was only part way into this world and because of that, his hand didn’t have any substance. He was was in Roland’s chest, but it had gone through the skin, not breaking it.

That wasn’t true, as Lizzie watched Roland shake violently, the shadow man laughing as he squeezed inside. The shadow was killing him. It was suffocating him from the inside or squeezing his heart. She didn’t know what, but it didn’t matter. This was how it really enjoyed taking lives.

She wasn’t sure how she knew, but as soon as the thought occurred to her, she was certain she was right. It liked death, and took it in any way that it could. When Sarah had been killed, it had no way of killing her directly. Same way with Josh and Elisabeth, it couldn’t touch them directly. She didn’t know why, and there was much of it that didn’t make sense. There must be some set of rules this shadow had to play by, and killing directly was a no-no. It used surrogates and manipulation to take most the lives, so it was less accustomed to the joy of taking life within its own dark grasp.

So what had changed the rules? Why was it there now, killing Roland? Was it getting stronger? She vaguely recalled something Josh and Sarah had been arguing about. There had been many things, but something Sarah had wanted Lizzie to notice.

There had been the picture. Last night, oh God had it really just been last night that Josh had appeared to them? It had and this had easily become one of the longest days in human history or at least she’d ever had because it seemed like so much shit just kept rolling her way.

But the picture. It fell. The two fighting had been able to move it and the picture fell and then it broke. How had she not noticed that before?

She thought back to the hospital room and how Sarah by herself hadn’t been able to move anything no matter how hard she tried. Oh, and then there was the touching each other. They had both made each other sick trying to do it, but at the coffee shop Sarah had no issues with choking her.

You still don’t know if Sarah was even there. It hadn’t been like before. That could have been just you. You know your losing your mind, right?

She wished she could silence her own thoughts, especially with some of the newer thought voices that kept giving her their opinions.

It had been Sarah and she had been choking her. They were getting stronger. He was getting stronger. She was feeding it somehow.

It was all the people around her that was doing it. They kept dying. It fed off the death. It wanted her friends to die, her loved ones. It was killing them, all of them, and was going to keep doing it until she stopped it.

If she could stop it. Her uncle hadn’t been able to.

Her uncle hadn’t been able too. How did she know he had fought it. Because it all made sense. He had hidden himself back in the woods, away from everyone, cutting himself off from the outside world because anyone he cared about was killed.

She couldn’t think about it right now but it all was rushing at her. This thing had killed her parents. It killed her aunt. It had been after all of them and when her uncle couldn’t handle it anymore, he had killed himself and now it was killing everyone she loved.

Tears rolled down her cheek but she paid them no attention. Instead, she looked around the room for something, anything she could use. She heard Roland’s wheezing breath, and knew she had to be quick.

But why even try. Her uncle had years to fight this thing and it had never done any good. How are you going to stop it?

She didn’t know and the thought voice was becoming increasingly annoying. She wished it would just shut up. Shut up and let her think, dammit!

In the dim light she could see Roland, his face was turning grey, dark lines stretching along his cheeks and bulging from around his eyes. She feared those were his veins. His blood was being replaced by the shadows darkness and now his veins were visible through his skin by their black hue.

She wasn’t sure what possessed her to throw it, but she had unplugged the coffee maker by ripping it from the desk. The cable struck her and she grabbed it, quickly wrapping it around the little gadget and them flung it across the room. She didn’t wait to see the thing react as she grabbed more from the desk. She used the tray the coffee maker had been on, a local phone book, and a folder that must have contained local delivery options or the TV guide directory. It didn’t matter because if she could lift it, she had thrown it. She didn’t stop until she tried to lift the large lamp at the end of the desk only to find that it was mounted to the desk. She was pulling at it, trying to shake it back and forth, wrestling it free when she heard the laugh coming from behind her.

She couldn’t get the lamp free and she had nothing else to throw. Slumping her shoulders she turned to look back to the bed wrestling with another idea, one that was crazy and not like her to even think it. Maybe if she ran at the thing, jumped at it, even wrestled with it, it would release its death grip on Roland.

She stopped when she saw the thing was looking at her. It’s eyes burned red with some internal flame, and they burned into her. His smile was wide, and somehow the light that flickered from his eyes never touched his teeth, as they were white to the point that they seemed to glow and they were sharp, each tooth ending in a narrow point.

“Hello.” It said, speaking to her for the first time without that sing-song cadence. Now it was fixated on her, and she was hypnotized as the unseen lips moved, only noticeable for how they blocked the glow of its teeth when it spoke.

“Get away from him.” She said. She could hear the tears in her voice but was surprised at the anger. Where had that come from? At first she wasn’t sure but as she stood there, clenching and unclenching her fists, remembering what this thing has taken from her, her friends that it has killed. She knew the anger, and she embraced it. She wanted to be done with allowing this creature to come into her life and steal everywhere cared for from her.

“Why should I? What is he to you? A lover? A friend? You care about him that much?” The voice grated on her nerves. It was rough, a gravely voice that echoed in her ears as though many voices tried to speak as one.

Lizzie took at deep breath and let it out through her mouth. Her fists unclenched and she shook out her hands before she clenched them again. She could feel her nails digging in, the uneven edges from how she chewed at them threatening to break her skin.

“He’s nobody to me.” She tried to sound convincing. Yesterday she wasn’t sure if she would even have stopped the shadow thing from taking Roland, though she likes to think that deep down she was a good person. Even a good person wouldn’t let a lying, cheating son-of-a-bitch to die when she could stop it.

Today, she found that she still did care about him. Her feelings were still there and that is why she had hated him so much. Because under all that anger she did love him.

She couldn’t tell this thing that. It had some kind of connection to her. It killed those close to her. So she had to find that anger and hate she had for Roland if she was ever going to save him.

She had to find a way to kill the shadow man.

It had been watching her as she stood there and the longer she didn’t say anything more, a sound grew from him. It wasn’t until it developed into a sound she recognized that she realized it was laughing at her.

“You sleep with him. He fucks you, and you say he is nobody to you.” And as it says that, Roland writhes in agony below it.

“Fuck you.” She says to him, the anger now boiling up inside her. She had noticed something. She had just caught the slight glint of metal on the floor and had taken a moment to realize just what it was. The keys to the car had fallen to the floor, probably having dropped out of Roland’s pockets as she had pulled his pants off of him.

“Those you wish about and those you love

From the wings of an morning dove

All those in which you cherish

Will slowly die in agony and perish

They will be mine these dreary few

And once they are gone I will come for you.”

She hadn’t waited for him to finish. She didn’t want to hear any more of his creepy words. Each once made her skin tingle and her back tense. She tuned him out the best she could as she made her plan. It wasn’t a good one, and she knew it wouldn’t work, but it was her doing some thing. She was so tired of not doing anything. She had to try something to stop him.

She rushed forward, grabbing the keys as she moved. Her arm rose high, she had her sites set, aimed for where she wanted to strike while fumbling in her hand to have one key out between her fingers. She was unsure of herself, having never been a fighter, but did all she could to put everything she had when she brought her hand down.

It struck just below the eyes. Or it would have, had the shadow man been anything more than shadow. Her hand slipped through him, and then she was slipping through him, her momentum carrying her into him and landing on top of Roland.

This had been a mistake. She had realized it the moment she had made contact, but as she was flung over the bed, she realized just how much of a mistake it had been.

Her skin had turned to near ice as he was just so cold. She couldn’t breathe. Her breath was frozen in her lungs. All of her was frozen. She was trapped and even worse, she was in his essence and there she could see… something.

She didn’t know what it was. Around her there was so much darkness. It was an ether. She knew she wasn’t on earth. It was an ‘other’ place, one where there was no light to cast the shadows. Shadows were not made, they were things, and hid other things.

She could feel that hate that emanated from that place, from all the creatures that surrounded her there. She couldn’t see them, only feel them, sensing that they were reaching out for her. They wanted her, to take her, torture her how they have been torture. She was a creature of the light and they hated her for it.

How did she know that?

Because she was inside of him. He was from this place and he felt that way towards her. But that didn’t make sense. If he hated her, all of them so much, then why not just kill her. Why kill all of her friends.

Because the shadow man, thing didn’t hate her, it hated man. She was a person, one who lived in night and day. The shadow man, wanted all light to be perished from the world.

She was the lock that kept them at bay. She didn’t know how that worked.

Now she was there in the dark place. The things were moving around her. They had noticed her. She could feel them moving towards her. A wave of fear ran through her but it wasn’t her fear. The shadow man was afraid of these things. It was afraid… of them. It didn’t want it to get her.

She was not sure what to make of that and she didn’t have the time to find out as she found herself ripped out of him, back in her own world and being hurled across the hotel room. She had the briefest of sensations of no control, the weightless as she flew, and then the pain. She hit the wall, and it forced the air out of her lungs. Then she fell to the floor and everything hurt. Her insides felt like they had been squished, her arms and legs were sore. She wasn’t sure if she broke anything. It felt like if she hadn’t then she had definitely sprained something, everything.

Across the room, cutting through the cold and dark was a blood curdling scream that was quickly cut short.

The room grew deathly still. The only thing Lizzie heard was the repetitive sound of her breathing. Even the hum from the electronics in the room was silent. The darkness felt out of time. She was all alone. She feared what she would find when she stood and looked on the bed.

She pulled herself up. Each movement took a concerted effort as she fought against the pain.

When she stood, she turned and saw Roland on the bed, the shadow man was gone and he wasn’t breathing. His skin was ash grey and she knew he wasn’t coming back. She was alone in the room with her dead ex-boyfriend. A man she had made many public threats against his life and bodily harm.

She was quick putting on her clothes, finding her phone and wallet before grabbing the car keys and getting out of there.

Outside, the world was dark, the street lights having burned out in the last half hour. She worked her way through the dark the best she could, got in Roland’s car, and drove away. She knew she should call the police. There would be plenty of questions and they would wonder why she just left. She wasn’t sure if she had any answers for them.

She was empty. Empty of answers, empty of emotions, empty of everything. She was a shell, and even the tears weren’t coming.

She made her way to the interstate. Within a half hour she was speeding down the road, on her way to somewhere unknown.

END OF PART 2

Dead Friends: Chapter 21

The wind had turned cold. There had been a chill earlier, but it hadn’t bothered her so when she left, she hadn’t grabbed her jacket from the counter. It wasn’t winter yet, and the nights had been mild. She was a big girl, she’d grown up in Wisconsin and had lived there all her life, she could handle a little October chill. No one was going to tell her different and even though there was no one around, she would not give in to wearing a jacket this early in the season.

And it hadn’t been that cold when she left. Come on Jess, your tougher than this, she thought as she tripped over another root. She’d been walking through the woods for a while now, stumbling through the dark forest trying to find her damned boyfriend. Dennis had come out there earlier and at this point in her search for him she was sure she was going to kill him if she ever did find him.

Damn! Another root she hadn’t seen, and another stumble. She caught herself, she always had been graced with amazing balance but after the years of boxing and martial arts training, her balance had only improved. Now she was not only a well toned fighting machine that people often overlooked due to her smaller stature, but she was also as graceful as a butterfly on a spring morning. Dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee, she has always loved that and admired the man who had once said it.

She scanned her flashlight around her. She was still on the path that on which Dennis had left. He had told her it was the path to the lake though she thought they were much closer to the lake than this. She’d been walking for twenty minutes and still not even a trace of it.

Had he lied to her? If so, his ass was grass when she got her hands on him.

She had just left hanging out with Lizzie earlier when Dennis had called and said he had made arrangements for them to go to his Dad’s cabin for the weekend. They’d never been up there and Lizzie had never heard of his dad owning a cabin, which she had thought was strange for how long they’ve been together. She would have thought he’d of said something in all that time. He knew how much she loved rustic cabins. They brought back some of her best memories, allowing her to slip away into memories of grandpa and fishing trips as a little girl.

He knew that. She had told him stories about it.

Then when he picked her up, he had explained that his dad had just bought the cabin. He hadn’t discussed it with any of them, even his mom. So now both his parents were fighting, the big D word, divorce, has been thrown around a few times though Jessica couldn’t imagine it coming to that. Those two were such an amazing couple who normally did everything together.

This trip had been as much as a romantic getaway for them as it was an escape from his parents fighting. Though Jessica didn’t know how much his dad paid for it, she thought that whenever his mom did come to give it a chance, she would like it.

The cabin was clean, much cleaner than she expected after hearing the story of his dad buying it on a whim. She had assumed his dad had gotten it especially cheap which lead her to believe it would have been a small shack covered in dust and filled with animal bones. She had expected to walk into a horror film, much like Lizzie had, and was surprised when she had found a well cleaned, nicely furnished rustic cabin home out in the woods.

Dennis had immediately put their bags in the upper bedroom and then had gone outside to start up the wood stove. Okay, maybe it was a charcoal grill… she hadn’t looked it over too closely but knew he had to work to get the fire started and once it warmed up, he had thrown on steaks he had brought with him.

He had done it up, that was sure. He had cooked steaks on the grill, lit the fireplace in the main room of the cabin, and then somehow, he had placed and lit half a dozen candles throughout so that when he brought in dinner, they had cozy firelight, that romantic flicker washing over them as they ate.

If there wasn’t the air hanging over them about his parents fighting, she would have thought he was going to propose to her. He had already asked her to marry him once before, but that had been a shamefully bad attempt and had gone terribly. She knew he felt bad about that and wondered if he was going to do it again now that he had gone all out and created this wonderful setting.

She felt a tingle inside her. No, that tingle was on her arm. She felt something something dancing along the skin, and found herself back in the woods, ripped out of her memory from earlier to look at her arm, shaking it and quickly stepping away from where she had been.

She flashed the flashlight in that direction and couldn’t see anything and she still felt that tingling. She looked, it was getting closer to her body, moving up her arm. She moved the light beam to her arm and…

There was nothing there. She ran her hand along her fingers along her arm, accidentally flashing to light into her own eyes, but couldn’t feel anything where she had felt the tingle. There was nothing there.

Damn she was really starting to hate he woods. What have ever allowed her to think she would like it out there.

This wasn’t anything like when she had gone camping with her parents as a kid. Those places had woods but it was like a controlled wooded area. Small patches of trees easy to walk through and you never got the sense that you were getting lost. She had no clue, wait, she really didn’t know which was she was going. She wasn’t sure which way she had been coming down the path. Both ways looked the same. It was all the same and it was so damned dark out there.

On their drive up she had marveled at how beautiful the moon had been. It had been large in the sky and so bright she was sure that if Dennis had turned off his lights, they’d be able to find their way in that dark brightness.

Yeah, well, where the hell is that moon now, because she couldn’t see a thing. The trees reached so high and all of them joined together to blot out any chance of her seeing the sky above her.

She was lost. She should call out, yell, and maybe Dennis could hear her. She didn’t need to let him know she was freaking out. She was out there looking for him, why not call out his name.

“Dennis!” She yelled, not quite at the top of her lungs, not yet, but she still had a booming voice and in the silence of the woods around her, it was loud to her own ears. “Dennis!”

Why had he even left the damned cabin? He had set the scene, it was perfect, and then he stood up. She thought he was going to come around the table and get down on one knee. They had been sharing a moment, just looking deeply into on another’s eyes.

Then he had stood up, said he needed to take a walk down to the lake and that he’d be right back and that was it. A half hour later and he still hadn’t returned. It had gotten dark and he had left without a flashlight. Jessica didn’t know what to do, afraid that of she left to look for him, he would return to find her the one that has gone missing.

She had started looking through drawers in the kitchen not even realizing she was doing it. She just needed to do something while she waited. It was when she found the flashlight that it occurred to her that she had been searching for it.

What was up with him? This wasn’t like him and it made those knots forming in her stomach twist to think about what it meant. What if he hadn’t brought her up there to propose again? What if he brought her up there to break it off? Could she have done something wrong? Something that might have upset him? She couldn’t think of anything. Nothing. They had been happy, or so she thought.

But he had walked away from her. No real explanation, he just got up and left.

What the hell!? The path ended abruptly to thorn bushes. She hadn’t been paying attention and walked right into them, and they were tearing into her flesh. As she pulled herself back, she could see the scrapes on her hands as well as something else. There was something white and stringy. It stretched out from the bushes and was all over her arms, clinging to her sweater and hands.

It took her far longer than it should have to recognize the strands of the spider web. It probably had something to do with all the shifting black things that had kept her from fully comprehending what she had stepped into.

“Oh God, what the fuck.” She exclaimed as she took another step back, stumbling as she did. Damn another root, they’re frickin’ everywhere, she thought as she bit back another curse.

She lifted her foot higher and took another step backwards, this time slow so as to not put all her weight when she wasn’t sure of the ground. Her arms still had so much of the white crap and she kept shaking them, trying to get it off her. Those couldn’t be spiders, she had to keep telling herself that, but she could feel the tickling sensation moving across her arms. Then she felt them getting under her shirt. They were getting everywhere.

Her foot came down on something raised but it was also soft. She shifted her balance, glad she had kept her calm and had moved slowly. It was easy as she felt the dancing devils getting everywhere.

She turned as she moved and shined the flashlight down, glad she hadn’t dropped it.

Dennis was on the ground. A shape just behind it looked like a person hovering over him. If Jessica had continued back she would have fallen over the person. The person was looking down, close to Dennis as though she was kissing on his chest and neck. She was moving viciously and it almost looked like they were making out if it wasn’t for how still Dennis lied there, his eyes open and lifeless.

Then the face looked up at her, blood dripping from her mouth and Jessica recognized her though it wasn’t easy. The woman’s face was mangled, her skull looking like it had been crushed, one eye having exploded out of its socket and had dripped, now dried on her cheek. Her teeth were white beneath the blood splatter and caught in a haunting smile as she spoke.

“Hey Jess, missed me?” Sarah said, her voice on the verge of a cackling laugh as she spoke.

“Sarah..” The name escaped her own lips, though Jessica didn’t know this alien weak sound.

In the woods behind Sarah, others emerged, all mangled, blood dripping from wounds. None of these people she recognized, and she found herself looking back at what was her former friend as she stood up from where she had been devouring Jess’s fiancé.

Jessica wanted to back away and run. She could feel the tingle all over her body, it was electricity in the air and sent sparks to every part of her telling her to run. The dead were there for her and she needed to escape.

Spiders. That was made herself tingle. Come one Jess, they’re covering your body, you were trying to shake them off when you stumbled upon the dead.

She shown the light back to the bushes behind her, but they were gone.  Behind her was a wide open clearing, inside of which stood the shadow of a man. She flashed the light to where she saw the shadow, but the light went through him. She had to blink to wonder if she actually saw it, but then a twig snapped and it brought her spinning back to face the oncoming horror.

Jess, if you want to run, now you can. You saw where the path went now. Through the clearing the path went on. You can get out of here, escape.

She looked down at her fiancé, the mangled mess of his neck was exposed, his trachea stretched out to the side. She could see now that his eyes were gone, their sockets rough from where someone must have fought to scoop them out.

They had done this. Sarah had done this. Sarah.

Inside her the flame burned and she knew she wasn’t going to run. She knew it from the moment she had seen Dennis on the ground. She wasn’t a runner. She was a fighter.

As Sarah came into range, Jessica took a brief step back and then launched forward, using her weight and all her training to bring the blow perfect to slam into her jaw. It connected and with a satisfying crunch, she thought it t drove Sarah’s face back. Then she realized to late that her fist had broken through Sarah’s jaw, sinking through the brittle bone into her face. It through Jessica’s balance was off and she found herself falling forward.

Within a heart beat she could feel hands on her. Sarah twisted around, and as Jessica fell, she could feel the woman falling with her. Jessica fought to soften her landing but she could feel Sarah’s hands as they pulled at her. She was trapped, all of them were around her and she knew it, soon they would all be tearing into her.

She briefly wondered how Sarah would be munching on her with her mouth now a crunched, smashes in pulp of bone and dead flesh. As she hit ground, she twisted herself and realized her hand was still in Sarah’s face. The resistance of having her hand stuck prevented her from being able to turn with the fall, allowing the blunt force of the drop slam into her shoulder. The air left her. She winced in pain no matter how hard she tried to push it away and stay focused on getting out of there.

She rolled naturally from the fall, but her hand held fast. She could feel something soft and wet suctioning on it, like a muscle around her hand was contracting. She tried to pull away but the feeling intensified, nearly crushing her fingers together.

Jess turned to look, not being able to see to well and not sure where she had dropped the flashlight. When she did, even in the dark like, she saw the shape, what was left of Sarah’s face around Jessica’s hand. What had been her mouth, had gone inward when she had been hit but was was left of it was now around Jessica’s hand and it was like she was trying to maw on it, using the fractured pieces of her jaw to bite down with teeth that were no longer there.

“Ugh,” escaped her and she pulled harder on her hand. As she did, she was the spiders that had been crawling on her moving along her arm and up her legs. They danced in her hair and along her skin. She wanted to brush them away, but already Sarah was reaching out, frantically clawing at her, pulling at her clothes.

Then there the other dead people. They had surrounded her and now we’re dropping down to their knees reaching out their own hands at her. She didn’t know when but she had somehow become a victim in some zombie film as the dead surrounded her, grunted and reached to tear at her flesh. When had zombies become real? Had she missed the email on that one?

“Get the fuck off me you mother fucking fuckers!” She wasn’t just talking about the spiders or zombie things, she was talking about all of it. She kicked out whole twisting. She was thrashing, trying to keep any of them from getting a good grip on her. When she thought she had worked herself into having room to move, she quickly reached down to push herself up.

She was hoping to check the closest zombie and get him or her out of Jessica’s way as she ran back to the cabin. She was stopped when she reached down and felt her hand slip in a puddle of something wet and sticky under her.

Blood.

Dennis’s Blood

Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it.

She didn’t have time to think about it, just work with it. Maybe it was why these things were having a hard time grabbing hold of her. Now that she realized just how much of it had spread on the ground around her, she noticed how much she was covered in it.

They had also fallen in it. His blood was what keeping her alive as their hands were just as slick as hers. Just she was a fighter and used to reacting quickly, and to using her weight, her body as a weapon. Even in the dark she had balance and her inner perception. As she moved she looked inside to find that center and pushed in to find that calm that came to her when the outer rage burned.

She found her balance, twisted and turned, spun as she stood so they couldn’t grab her and then she was up standing. There was a large man on his knees in front of her. She didn’t even slow her momentum as she shifted her weight, accounting for the slippery ground and brought her knee up to connect with his face. It found its home and his head rocked back and the force of the blow propelled him out of her way.

Then she was running and found herself past him. She was on the path, she knew it was the right one and if she continued to run she would find herself back at the cabin, safe and able to call for help. All she had to do was keep running. The flashlight was gone, but the moon had re-emerged. The path was lit in the moonlight bright enough for her to see and she knew if she went back, she wouldn’t trip on a single root.

Yet she stopped in the path and turned back around to face the dead.

Jessica was not a runner. She hadn’t run since she was a child and had runaway that first time. That time when he had hurt her mom. She had run them, and her mom had been put into the hospital. Jessica had ran, and ran, and ran until she found a place to run to.

She had only been a teenager when she had found the gym, the small one that was almost hidden in its neighborhood. It was an old building and looked like the gym had been there for a long time thought Jessica hadn’t remembered ever seeing it before.

She had stepped into the building crying, unsure of why she was going in. She hadn’t ever been in any gym other than the one at her school and that was for P.E. and cheerleading practice.

Inside wreaked of sweat, old and new, and while the building seemed abandoned on the outside, inside was a bustle of activity. Upon walking in the door she attacked with the noise of clattering weights as they crashed down, and the loud thump from the back of the room as people dropped down barbells. To her left was a line of treadmills currently being used by a couple of old woman as they walked, focused on some far destination as though they would ever get there.

She didn’t know what to do, she hadn’t know why she had gone in there. She just stood there in the doorway unsure of what to do. She just kept watching in her mind as her dad struck her mom, throwing her against the wall.

“Can I help you?”

She blinked herself out of her trance and turned to see an older man stand behind the counter. He wasn’t old, old, but she’d guess he was easily over 50. A woman who came in behind her and walked past, tossed down a card on the counter as she addressed the man as “Stone.”

“Hey Rachel,” Stone said to the passerby, still keeping his eyes on this crying teenager who had just appeared from outside. “You competing in Strongman this weekend?”

“Not sure. Might have to work.”

“Okay, just let me know and I’ll need your entry fee by Friday.”

Jessica watched as the woman strode across the gym to where there stood a boxing ring in the back corner. A man already stood in the ring stretching. Without pausing the woman tossed her gym bag aside and climbed into the ring.

“You ready to get your ass kicked?” She asked.

The man in head gear and boxing gloves nodded. She gave him a clap on the back and then jumped down to where her bag had landed and started taking out her own boxing equipment.

“Hey kid! Can I help you.”

With a sniff and a wipe at drying tears, Jessica turned from the spectacle in the back could rise to look at the man.

“Do you teach people how to fight?”

“We do. We offer classes. Boxing, Tai Kwan Do, other forms of self defense. You should have your parents come sign you up.”

“What if it’s my dad I need to defend myself from?”

She saw something cross the man’s face, a cracking of stone she thought as the man had looked as hard as nails. Then he looked down to study the floor and then up to look outside the window. He looked anywhere expect to look back at the kid crying before him.

Jessica knew when she wasn’t wanted. It came from growing up and knowing that you were never wanted around. Stone might have felt this way but was being better than her dad would have been. He would have flat out yelled at her, telling her to get her lazy, ugly ass out of there.

She went to leave. Stone called out to her before she could do more than set her hand on the door.

“Are you a runner or a fighter?”

Jessica turned back to look at him.

“I don’t want him hitting her.”

“Are you a runner or a fighter?”

“I don’t know.” Her tears returned.

“Go out that door and your a runner. You’ll what, runaway in a year or so, end up on the streets. Maybe end up in foster care when they find you if your lucky. If your not lucky, you’ll actually get away, maybe make it to some big city and end up doing what to survive? Have you thought about that.”

Her hand dropped away from the door. She felt sick to her stomach. He couldn’t be right, could he? She wasn’t going to abandon her mom, was she?

She turned back to him, finding a resolve forming inside her that she never knew was there.

“I’m a fighter.”

“Are you sure, because it looks like you ran here.”

“He hurts my mom. I want him to stop.”

“Then call the police.” Stone locked eyes with her and Jessica steps closer to his counter.

“Cops don’t care. They’ve come and never do anything.”

“I can call them. I’ve got friends.”

Jessica looked past him as Rachel was climbs back into the ring. She was in full fighting gear now and she had a dangerous air around her. She was electrified with a grace and moved with a confidence.

“There’s other ways to fight.”

“Yeah, Yeah, there are.” Stone looked back to the ring. “Wait until she’s done with her lesson then talk to her. Tell her I’ll pay for your lessons.”

“What do you mean.”

“I mean your going to become a fighter.”

And she had. Years of boxing, followed by various forms of kickboxing and karate turned her into on hell of a fighter.

It took time but eventually her dad stopped hitting her mom.

She was a fighter. She had made that decision. She didn’t run away. She wasn’t going to run now. If she ran to the cabin what would happen. Dennis was dead, killed by these dead things. If she let them go, who else would die by their hands. What if they didn’t follow her. They could go to town or one of the other neighboring communities. What if they got into these residential areas and went on a feeding frenzy. How would she live with herself if other people died and she would have been able to stop it.

She stood on the path and watched as the dead things worked themselves to where they were standing. Jessica wasn’t sure what they were, if they were zombies or ghouls or whatever the correct term was. She knew they could be fast. They had been lashing at her, viciously grabbing at her before.

She had to be faster. They had to be stopped. They killed Dennis, they could kill others. She changed that, repeating it in her head. Then she came at them.

The big one was closest. She struck him first with a round house kick that was time to keep her moving. Her foot had connected with his already broken face and it crumpled more of his skull. The momentum of the blow sent him into a nearby tree with a satisfying ‘crack.’

Two more had been behind him. These two were smaller and looked like they had been much younger when they died. These two seemed different from Sarah and the larger man. They weren’t moving fast to get to her and they looked more at each other than at her. Their hands held each other’s, had these two been lovers?

Jessica wasn’t going to waste time thinking about it. They were dead, their feelings didn’t matter. They were killers and she was going to put them down.

Her fist flew forward, her weight behind the blow as it slammed into his face. He staggered back and like expected, the girl had reached out for her. Jessica grabbed it and twisted, launching the girl over back and sending her to the ground. Jessica followed it up with a kick down, slamming the girl hard In the chest. Jessica didn’t hold back as she would with a living opponent and brought down her weight and she heard the satisfying crunch as ribs broke.

Then she spun around in time to see that the man, and Sarah were both coming for her. Sarah’s face was a mess, nearly unrecognizable, but Jessica knew those eyes, though the fury in them was foreign.

In most fights, Jessica would have considered the man to be the bigger threat and have attacked him while blocking Sarah. Something screamed to her that if she did that, she was dead. The man had no life left in there we eyes, this wasn’t a fight of passion with him, but Sarah was a beast who had gone rabid. Turning away from her would be a costly mistake.

Her adrenaline was flowing. She could see herself as she moved, and it made her think of an action movie. She wasn’t quiet like Jackie Chan and now fights were always so choreographed with chairs and ladders all around him so he could use them as weapons. No, this was more bare knuckle. This was a classic Van Damme film. She was a master, a brawler, and she saw it all as she was on the attack for her remaining opponents.

Jessica approached them almost with a strut of confidence, and when Sarah reached forward, Jessica grabbed it. She pulled and used the force to twist and spin into the man. The blow knocked him off his feet and freed Jessica to continue to spin and driving a powerful blow again into Sarah’s already weakened head. There was more crunching as the blow connected and the center of Sarah’s face crushed inward.

If she had been in a action film before, she had just crossed over into the absurd, cheesiness of a bad horror film. One of those films that went over the top with the gore, because as she hit Sarah her fist sunk deeper into her face than Jessica thought it should. Her fist going until she felt the thickness of the back of Sarah’s skull.

What had been Sarah’s brain, the grey matter that had made her a walking corpse was all over Jessica’s hand and it was like a jello mold around her fist. It suctioned around her hand as she tried to pull it back, sucking at it. Sarah wasn’t fighting her and re, her body had gone limp, but the head wouldn’t release her. As the body fell to the ground, Jessica was trapped and going with it. She fell, and only had a moment to realize she was going to land next to next to Dennis.

They were going to get married. She had come out there to find her fiancé because he had been asking so weird, but they were supposed to be planning the best day of their lives few together. There was still a lot to do, they hadn’t even been able to lock down a date yet, but she still could see it in her mind.

It was going to be in the church she had gone to while growing up. It was a beautiful church that loomed grandly in her memories. The cathedral rose high, the bell tower rising higher and ringing those wedding bells announcing that it was her day. Their day really as they were joining their lives together.

She would have a purple dress, having already decided that she would never be satisfied with traditional white. Tradition was for those who invited her family, a mother and a father. Her mother would be there, she would be giving Jessica away, but her father…

He would never be allowed within a hundred feet of the ceremony. Jessica had the restraining order, and had taught him more than once what happened when he broke it. He broke it, she broke bones. Not just one, but multiple. She enjoyed hearing him scream.

So no father to ruin the day, It was going to be filled with only things that would make her happy. Dennis. He made her happiest of all, and as her mother walked her down the aisle, he would be there, standing in front of Father Abraham. He would be in a suit, his friends behind him, his older brother standing as his best man behind him. Tony, the brother, would have the rings hidden away, his irresponsible self actually doing something right this time.

She would walk the aisle and once next to him, he would take her hand, and hold that hand until they were married. She would never let him go.

And as she fell, she thought of him, how she loved him, and was never going to let him go. Not in her heart.

She landed hard, no hands available to steady or catch herself. Her balance was off by her hand being stuck so she had no way to prepare, to tuck and roll with the motion. No, all of her weight and the momentum of her punch came down on her and she crashed into the unforgiving earth with the air expelling in a rush from her lungs.

The thing that was Sarah somehow landed on top of her and she immediately felt hands pulling at her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before the things around her pulled themselves close and were biting in to her, and really, what did it matter anymore.

She was looking into the dead eyes of Dennis as he was less than a foot away from her. Those dead eyes that killed her soul and twisted the knife buried in her chest. She wanted tears to flow but the cold had already dried them away.

She felt the stabbing pain as teeth ripped into her leg. Then more as something landed on top of her and tore a chunk out of her back. More hands grabbed at her, they were pulling in all different directions. If she wanted, she could turn over, or try to, she wasn’t sure she could actually do it, and use her hands to fight at them as they made their way onto her. She had done it once, she could probably do it again.

But she didn’t. Instead, she reached out her hand, extending to where Dennis was. His was covered in blood as was hers. Still hers slipped into his like they were meant to always be holding each other.

Blood was filling her lungs. The pain was shooting through her thoughts making everything around her impossible to focus on, but she fought it. As she gasped, wheezing towards her last breath, she coughed out “I love you.”

His hand slipped out of hers. She felt it but had to blink away the tears to see why. The pain had dulled as the world grew colder. Through her blurry vision, she watched as Dennis was moving. He was a shape coming towards her.

She couldn’t help herself, but she smiled as she coughed up another lung full of blood.

“Den-“ she couldn’t get it out as her chest spasmed. It didn’t matter. She used her outstretched arm to pull herself towards him though she could see he was nearly to her. She thought maybe they they would get their one last kiss. She hadn’t realized just how much to yearned to feel those lips again.

His lips neared her own and she could see the blood splattering his own lips. He had a large toothy smile, and she tried to force herself to return it through the pain. His mouth opened wide, and she had a brief second to mentally question why he was opening his mouth so wide when he was going to miss her and why did it look like his mouth was full of spiders.

Then his mouth closed over her own, and her scream was cut short as he bit off her own lips. The little bit that has remained of her mind, that had stayed focused on Dennis was ripped away as insanity took her moments before the eternal night.

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Dead Friends: Chapter 20

Anthropopophobia is the fear of people. Often times it is a social fear or something thought of as an intense shyness. It can manifest itself in being afraid of meeting new people, or even looking them in the eye. It can be an intense awkwardness around a group. There are many ways that people can experience this intense fear.

Lizzie had always been timid, but she was okay with being around people. Parties were her thing, and she’d be there right with her posse, Jessica and Sarah. They were their own clic as none of the fraternities would have them as a group, and they were too much their own sisters to leave one another. So they were their own force to be reckoned with.

Though, when she was alone, she never went up to people. Jessica and Sarah, they were the ones to be the life of the party and when they weren’t around, Lizzie found a corner and watched the world pass her by. Some guys would come up to her, but they would often get bored, not able to pull her from her shell. Then with a sip of their beer, they would make their way to other game who would show more interest. Thankfully Sarah and Jessica would not let her stay alone for too long. When she got in her corner, at parties or in life, one of them would always find her and pull her back into the world around them.

But she had never been afraid of people around her, she just didn’t know what to say. Whenever someone tried talking to her without her friends, her mind would just go blank. It was like, she tried to find something to talk about, and the only thing in the mental file of words that would shake its way out would be, “Hello.” After that, there was just nothing there. It was like the looking at her phone and suddenly it was empty, no contacts, no apps, just nothing.

So when the crowd had swarmed in around her, so many people asking her if she was alright, the anvil hit her like a hammer blow. She couldn’t breathe, her eyes were dry, but tears tried to flood them anyway, Her skin crawled with the sensation that things were crawling all over her, and the slightest touch made her jump. Her eyes tried to look everywhere at once and that just made the feeling of the world twisting around her even worse.

“I need to get out of here.” She heard herself gasping, but didn’t recognize her voice. It sounded strangled and alien to her own ears.

“We should call an ambulance.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

“She looks like she’s on drugs.”

“I have a cousin who does heroin, she looks like that sometimes.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“We really should call someone. We can’t have people collapsing in our bathrooms and not-“

The voices just kept assaulting her. The lights were too bright. Everything was too much.

What was this, why was this happening to her? Why were these things always happening to her?

The weight intensified on her chest, her breathing coming out in shorter gasps. She thought she was going to collapse again, there on the floor as she tried to make her way to the door.

A voice spoke to her softly in her ear. It broke through the noise, tearing through the cacophony and releasing some of the pain in her chest. A different kind of tear, that of relief, escaped her as she heard it.

“It’s going to be okay. Just breathe. I’ve got you. It’s all going to be okay. Let’s just get out of here.” Roland said and now she did collapse. She fell into his arms and let him guide her to the exit.

****

Outside, the cool night air struck her like a physical blow, a hammer that slammed into her and forcing away the fog of what had just happened. Her strength returned and before they had reached the end of the block, she could walk on her own, though she found herself staying in the warmth of his arms.

“We still have that hotel room we paid for. I didn’t want to bring it up earlier, but I don’t think we should be driving back this late.” He said. She felt his words rumble through him, the vibration a comfort to her, continuing to calm her frayed nerves.

“Sure.”

“Yeah?”

She pulled her head away long enough that he looked down at her and they were locked into each other’s eyes. It had been so long since she had lost herself in those eyes. They were the ocean on a clear day, and she could always sink into them when he did this.

Then she pulled his head down to meet hers and her aching lips found his. They kissed, and as she felt the warmth flood through her, emanating from her, she kissed him harder.

From there she didn’t remember getting to the hotel room, the memories lost in a haze of continual lustful kisses. She needed him. He was warmth, and he was her comfort. She needed to wrap herself up in him, and allow him to get inside her. She desired to feel every part of him and for them to become one.

They were in the room. He had his arms around her and pulled her into him. She kissed him again while running her hands under his shirt, down his back. She let her finger nails drag on his skin, knowing how it drove him wild. The reaction was immediate, the lump in his pants expanding. She ran her fingers gently over it, and could feel the rock hard member itching to bust loose from its constraints.

She ran her fingers along his member, following the curvature. Roland tensed against her touch and she looked into his eyes to see them closed, himself lost in a moan of pleasure. It brought a smile to her and awoke a hunger deep inside.

How long had it been since she’d felt him? Too long.

Thoughts of death, the crowd at the coffee shop, all of it faded as she gave in to the desire. Her hands shook with anticipation. She needed him. She needed this.

She carefully eased the zipper down, being careful not do damage the cream filled candy inside. She was a child that craved the sugar rush, and wanted to suck on the hardness until the creamy goodness filled her, it’s warmth burning away the cold inside her.

His member was free, and she eased it out. Then she broke free from their latest kiss, another entanglement of tongues and lowered herself to her knees. He was shaking with excitement, and she had the brief worry she was going to give him a heart attack if she waited to long. He wanted and needed her just as badly as she needed him.

She took him in, tasting the sweat of excitement that trickled from him. The moment she wrapped her lips around it, his body shuddered. She continued, playing with his shaft, running her tongue up and down the different parts, many times lingering on the enlarged head and eye. Then she would take it all in again and viciously stroke with her hands while taking him in and out. He let out another moan, this one much deeper and she could feel his legs shake.

She had to wonder if it had been as long for him as it had been for her? But then what about Natalie. No, she wasn’t going to think about-

“Ah!” He let out a small gasp and she knew she had allowed herself to get distracted. Her teeth… He tried to pull away just a little from her, but she wasn’t going to let him get away that easily. She needed this too badly.

As he was still unsteady, she pushed on him, and he fell back, the bed waiting for him. He thumped down on it, and was already back pedaling to the head, his smile growing as he watched her climb him.

That’s it, those pants are coming off. She reached forward and undid the button and then the belt. Then she viciously tore at pulling off the blue jeans, shaking them back and forth like a dog playing with a toy until they came free. The pants flew across the room as she focused on the next target, his boxer shorts.

It didn’t take long and then she was again working on his shaft, stroking it, sucking on it, sending waves of passion through Roland as he arched his back. He was lost to the passion, concern for her lost in the moment.

Then with one last flick of her tongue across the eye of his member she looked up and him. Then like a stalking cat, purring as she moved she swayed back and forth and she worked her way up the bed. She kept her body low, letting the small swell of her breast rub across his already excited erection. Small kisses ran along his stomach and then to his erect nipples. She took a short moment to suck on each on, giving each a little nibble before moving to his chest and then finally her lips high enough to reach his own.

“Are you sure.” He gasped breaking away from her kiss. His body trembling with excitement and anticipation. His eyes were questioning and it fought with every other part of his body that demanded he have her then and now.

She nodded at him, the hunger in her eyes, demanding that she have him. Every other thought of the last few weeks were gone from her mind and all she was focused on was this moment.

“Then I think your overdressed.”

The corner of her mouth went up as she pulled back until she was sitting on his exposed member, though she made an effort not to put all her weight down. Then she rocked back and forth, gently gyrating as she crossed her arms and pulled her shirt over her head.

The totem hung there between her now exposed breasts and she tried to ignore it as she reached behind her, thrusting out her breasts as she undid the clasps of her bra. As soon as they were released, his hands immediately had them, kneading them, and rubbing her nipples and the flesh beneath. She inhaled deeply, waves of her own pleasure flooding her senses and what had she been thinking about before? His fingers flicked at her nipple and then she felt his fingers rubbing them between. Her breath caught and her back arched.

Something had been happening over the course of the last few weeks, but as she felt his hands and the moisture between her legs intensifying. It was there, nagging at her but she didn’t even have to try to push it out of her mind.

She quickly reached down to fumble with the button on her pants. It released and another pair of hands assisted her in getting the zipper down. Then in a move that was well practiced, she moved herself off of him, pushing down her pants as she did and then kicking them off as she now lied there on the bed. As she had done her part, Roland had done his, moving with her, first out of her way and then guiding on top of her. It was like a dance that had been performed, each working in time with the other and moving in a rhythm. They moved in time to a music of their own making, and they were well rehearsed to make these actions look like a well choreographed sequence.

The dance ended and he was on top of her, now his mouth on her breasts, his tongue sending new sensations of pleasure while his fingers searched below. Then they found their target and she couldn’t restrain the gasp of pleasure that escaped her. He worked magic, both hands and tongue creating their own orchestra of ecstasy.

Then his hands pulled away and his lips found hers. A second later and he found his way inside of her. The rest of the night fell away. She needed this, oh God how she needed this.

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