Dead Friends: Chapter 17

Okay, Lizzie knew she’d enjoy the concert. That much had been a given even with the moment of doubt before hand by the complete and utter ignorance of her companion. She just hadn’t realized how much she would enjoy the concert.

Their tickets had been amazing, right up near the stage. The music had been loud but phenomenal, and Eddie… Eddie had been to die for.

She had watched him as he soulfully sung to the crowd of adoring fans but she could swear it felt like he was singing directly to her. He would look at her and she thought he was looking directly into her eyes. She had nearly melted to the ground leaving a drooling puddle. Roland had caught her and she was sure she saw a smile as he pulled her back up.

It was after the music had died away and they were filing out of the amphitheater that she noticed how close she was to Roland. She could feel her back occasionally brushing against his chest and thought she felt his warm breath on her neck. Their hands occasionally brushed against one another and what was this? No, her heart could not be skipping a beat. Not again and not for him.

Yet here they were walking. They had made it outside the theater and were now making their way down the street. The night was cool, and somehow she had allowed him to take her hand. They weren’t going towards the parking lot, and all she could think about was how natural his hand felt in hers and how wonderful the show had been.

They turned a corner and it was well lit, the streetlights on both sides were decorated with dangling orange lights as the area was prepared for the upcoming holiday. The streetlights themselves were lower than many of the other nearby streets and done in that faux style of classic candle lit elegance. Then she noticed they weren’t walking down a street. It was brick, a fake street not wide enough to be real but perfect for late night walks. She was sure there were kids who would ride their bikes or skateboards down it, but she saw no evidence of it. Maybe it was heavily patrolled to keep them away.

It was nice and peaceful and when had her hand snuck into his? She looked down at it and then felt helpless as her gaze climbed up his arm, up his chest until they fell on his eyes. He smiled at her, and neither of them said anything. They just walked.

Eventually they found themselves walking along the water, as Lake Michigan stretched out before them. The night had drifted into a surreal dream and if they took a step off into the water, she was sure they could walk on it, following the path of the moon that lead the way into some far off land.

“You enjoying yourself?” Roland asked as they stopped beneath one of the streetlights.

“I am.”

“Good.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and flashed her a slight smile as he kept his eyes locked into hers.

“I hate to do this-“

“Oh?”

“I need to go to the bathroom. You going to be okay here for a couple minutes.” He said. She could see his embarrassment as his face turned red.

“Yes, go, I’m a big girl.” She giggled, smiling at him and she could see how relieved he was.

“Okay. Good, I’ll be right back.” He said, and then without thinking, both of them temporarily lost in the moment and forgetting the last month and half, he bent down and kissed her. She returned the kiss until he pulled away and they were both standing there looking at each other, questioning one another with their eyes.

“I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.”

He backed away, not turning from her until he was a few feet. Then he turned, rushing off to one of the open bars along the street. She watched him go, then sat on a bench. She hadn’t noticed it before, but as he was now not there clouding her mind, she could sit and take stock of her situation.

No, that was the last thing she wanted to do. She didn’t want to be with him. That ship had already sailed. He had sunk it.

Then why was she still thinking of him, or why return that kiss. Better question how had had he talked her into going. Obviously she still had feelings for him.

No, she had to get her mind off of him. She was not doing this again. She knew how it would end.

End…

Something about that thought seemed wrong. Did she know how it would end? Sure, he’d cheat on her and then she’d be heartbroken all over again, this time without Sarah to help her get through it.

Something about that was nagging at her. There was a thought just out of reach, but if she could grab it, maybe some of what had happened today, maybe even the last few weeks would start to make sense to her.

If it was a word it would be right there at the tip of her tongue. She knew it was there. Dammit!

She opened her purse, and pulled out her phone. It had been off since the concert and figured now would be as good time as any to check her messages. Maybe there’d be one from Jess that would explain it all, or even better, one from her uncle. At least he seemed to know something would be wrong with her…

Of course he had known she would have things going on in her life, strange things that made no sense. He had written her a letter warning her. He had even left a note on the back of her fathers grave, trying to give her a clue. Of course he had known. How had the letter started, not with a greeting, but with two apologetic words. “I’m sorry.”

Her uncle had known her friends would come back from the grave. It had been happening to him too. It seemed so obvious once she took time to think about it. How else would he have known to leave the talisman for her. He knew she would need it.

He knew but how did he know? How would he know that right away her best friend would die?

Because… Because her dying, the shadow man, they were apart of it. It took her friends.

Her phone came to life as messages rolled in. The first came from Jessica, but then a barrage of messages came from an unknown number. What the hell was going on?

Jessica… The shadow man…

Earlier that day she had seen something. Her friend had that red ring around her irises, she was sure of it and had been acting so weird. She was going to get into a fight with that guy. What would have happened if Lizzie hadn’t hurried up?

Mentally Lizzie could see what would have happened. The man had rushed to get back into his car, afraid of the small woman who was coming at him viciously. He would first back away, putting his car in reverse, but he couldn’t back all the way down the parking garage ramp. He’d have to go forward. Jessica would get back in front of the car to get him to stop, he would try to slow down, but somehow his foot would slip and he would careen Into Jessica and she would roll under his car or slam into his windshield. Either way, her head would get smashed and there would be no way she survived. Her friend would have been dead.

She knew it was true. Lizzie had saved her unlike Sarah where she hadn’t been able to get to her in time. But tonight, Lizzie wasn’t in Stevens Point to protect her friend, and some how from deep in her gut, she sensed that the shadow man was on the prowl seeking his next victim. If she was right, it would be someone she knew and cared for. It would be the one he tried and failed on earlier that day.

Lizzie only glanced at a few of the messages but she found it impossible to focus on any of them. Her head hurt and tears were bubbling up inside her. They hadn’t burst through the dam yet, but painfully waited just behind her eyes.

Screw this, she needed to know.

She called her friends number.

Dead Friends: Chapter 12

Oh Wednesday…how you frustrate me. My eyes are barely open, I can barely function and am wondering how I will stumble to the decaying halls to that we call work… Still, before I wonder off, here is Chapter 12 of Dead Friends. I hope you enjoy the chaos contained within these pages.

Happy Hump day!

****

The phone was ringing. She understood that it was ringing. She had that sensation of being ripped from some shared collective deep in the bowels of sleep to open her eyes to the revelation, and yes, there it was, her phone on the nightstand. The screen was lit up, and she saw the unfamiliar number on her lock screen.

“Probably a telemarketer,” she mumbled under her breath as she crashed back into her pillow. The room was bright. It was obviously some time in the morning, but she wasn’t ready to get up yet… and really, what was the point anymore. She had no job, no school, no life… Why the hell not sleep in until noon. The idea sure as hell appealed to her.

She grabbed a spare pillow and turned over, snuggling into it like it was someone lying there with her. It took some work, a little wriggling back and forth, but finally she had found that spot when everything felt comfortable and soft, perfect to go back to sleep and ignore the rest of the world.

Someone was knocking at the door. She didn’t want to answer it, and the pillow she was snuggling into became ear muffs as she pulled it down over her head.

“Hey Lizzie! Lizzie! Someone’s at the door.”

Sarah was her best friend. She had been since childhood and now after death, but right then Lizzie wanted to scream at her. Didn’t she know that Lizzie just wanted to hide and get back to sleep? It just wasn’t fair. All she wanted to do was go back to sleep. Wouldn’t anyone just let her? The world seemed hellbent on preventing it.

“Lizzie?”

Lizzie felt the groan escape her and it surprised her to find that she was getting up. The long stretch came and then she was reaching out to her cell phone, glancing at the time but more at the displayed list of missed calls. Majority of the missed calls came from a number she vaguely recognized, but couldn’t place it. There were two of them, one with a voicemail.

She tossed the phone on the bed as she stood and went to the closet only to realize that she hadn’t checked the time. Sure, she’d looked at it, but had completely blanked. 

“Lizzie, they’re still knocking.”

“So, let them knock. It’s probably just more Jehovah Witnesses or something.”

“I don’t think so. They’d have given up by now.” 

That was probably true, she thought as she finished pulling on her pants and tossed on a t-shirt that had hung in her closet. She didn’t pay attention to what it said, she didn’t really care yet. It was still too early for her to deal with people. Whoever was at the door was about to get her worst.

“You know, sometimes I wish you were a ghost rather than whatever you.” Lizzie said as she straightened the shirt and looked at herself in the mirror. She was never going to win any beauty pageants, that was for sure. She grimaced, wishing she had Sarah’s body. That girl could make anything look good.

Someone was still knocking on the front door, but Lizzie noticed that outside her room had gone quiet. No, not quiet. She could just barely make out the sound of someone sobbing. 

What had she just said. She wished Sarah was a ghost and not whatever… Had she really just said that about her best friend?

Lizzie opened the door to her room to see Sarah sitting on the floor, her knees pulled up to her chest.

“You know I was just kidding. It was like, so you could float through the door and see who it was. Ya know?” Lizzie said, and Sarah launched into a new torrent of tears. The tears dripping from her cheek to make a wet spot in the carpeting beneath her.

“How would you like to be dead, or told you should be a ghost because it makes your best friends life better? You’d just love that wouldn’t you?”

“Sarah, you know it’s not like that.”

“You know it’s like that. You just said it.”

The knocking on the front door stopped. Thank God for small miracles as whoever it was must have gone away.

Lizzie’s cell phone started ringing again.

“Oh for fucks sake.” She spun and dashed into her room and grabbing the buzzing rectangle. Without looking at the caller ID, she tapped the screen, ready to release the full pulsating rage burning through her.

“Tik-a-tat, tik-a-tuk, I smell a good fuck,” came the familiar raspy voice. Even through the electronics of the phone she could feel his hot breath on her and she dropped the phone.

“Hello! Lizzie, you there?” She heard coming from the phone as it fell. She looked at it, not wanting to touch it when it landed. She recognized the voice but that hadn’t been there before. No, the shadow man had called her. What was going on?

Slowly she bent and reached for it, afraid it was somehow going to reach up and bite her. That was crazy though, right?

“Hey, Lizzie, I heard you answer.”

She picked up the phone, though she refused to bring it to her ear.

“Hey.”

“Liz, hey, I’m at your door. You mind letting me in?”

That voice. It wasn’t the shadow man, but another voice that made her recoil. She’d heard it enough threw the last few years, and one she thought she was done with a month ago when she had dumped his cheating ass. 

“Roland, why the hell are you here?”

“Liz, come on, let’s talk?”

Ugh, she thought all this was over. Sure, she hadn’t caught him with Natalie, but those hadn’t been her panties she had found in his place. When she’d confronted him about it, he stuttered like a floundering fool, then had the gaul to tell that they were hers. Did he really think she wouldn’t recognize her own panties?

Such a creep…

Yet she found herself lowering her phone, hitting disconnect as she tossed in on the bed, and going to the front door. There was no knocking but she knew he was on the other side, like she could feel his presence there. She imagined she could hear his breathing, then felt it when his breath held waiting for her to open the door. Her hand lingered on the knob. Maybe she imagined he was holding his breath because she was holding her own.

“Lizzie, we need to talk.” Chuck said. He had come up behind her, and she hadn’t even realized he had been following her to the door.

“Not now,” she hissed back at him.

“It’s important.”

“Your dead. I don’t think anything’s going to change in the next five minutes.”

“Liz-“

“It can wait,” she said just before she opened the door and saw the tall lanky man in the hallway outside her apartment door. He was standing there, a bouquet of roses in his hands.

“What are you doing here?” She didn’t reach for the flowers but he continued to hold them out for her. It felt like a long minute, stretching into eternity as she held his eyes with her glare. Then he gave in, lowering both his arm and his eyes.

“I heard about Sarah. Guess I just wanted to check in and make sure your doing okay.”

“I’m fine, you can go now.” She didn’t step into the hall, and she didn’t get out of the door frame to let him in. Her arms crossed, her body language screaming ‘pissed off woman who’d been cheated on and was now ready to get payback’ as she stood there.

“Liz, I know that’s bullshit.”

“Yeah, and how do you know that?”

“I know you and I knew Sarah. You two were inseparable.”

Lizzie fought to keep her breathing calm and her anger in check, but her chest burned while she bit back the curses she wanted to spew at him. This piece of bile actually felt like he could console her, that he knew something about her? If he knew anything about her, he’d have known not to cheat on her. Where does he get off at implying that he knew her.

“Liz, can I come in. Maybe you could put these in water?”

“Just toss them in the dumpster.”

“If that’s what you want. I guess I can just toss these away too.”

She hadn’t noticed the envelope that had been in his other hand. She looked at it, and had to think about it. What was the date today… Could those be…?

He brought up the envelope, jostling the flowers as he needed the other hand to open and pull out the contents. He got frustrated and handed the envelope to her. She opened it and there they were.. tickets to see Ed Sheeran, tonight. The event was in Milwaukee, so they’d have a three hour drive. 

She remembered when they bought the tickets, how they had laughed and made plans to make a weekend of it, getting a hotel and maybe while they were in town checking it out and maybe going to a Brewers game. It seemed like forever ago, and in a away it was a lifetime ago as so much in her life had changed now. For one, she was no longer with Roland. Why would he show up now and still want to go? She would have thought he would have sold the tickets or taken whoever he was screwing.

He couldn’t be dumb enough to think she’d go with him, right? She had always thought he’d been smarter than that. He was a sure fired geek/computer nerd. He should have something in that head of his telling him that the idea of them going together would be idiotic. 

He kept looking at the floor, occasionally sneaking a peek up at her. He was probably gauging how she was reacting as she let him fidget.

“What do you think you are doing? What do you expect to happen here?” She returned the tickets to the envelope.

“I’m not expecting anything to happen. I came to say that I’m sorry. I messed up. In addition to that, I’m worried about you, and I wanted to see if you were okay. As to that,” he raised his eyes and nodded to the envelope she was now playing with in her hand, hitting the corner of it into her palms as she continued to study him. “We’d already bought the tickets. I never felt right about selling them, and I had no one else to take. I thought maybe we could go. Not as a couple, but just as two people. No strings.”

“You know how stupid that is right? There’s no way I’m going with you.”

“You don’t have to. You could take yourself. Hell, you can have my ticket. I just thought you could use it as a distraction from, well…”

If she was honest with herself, she really did want to go. She loved Ed Sheeran and the tickets were really good. Roland had spent more than he should have on the tickets. He’d spent all that money, just to go and do something so stupid. Maybe he really was dumb under all that smart exterior.

Lizzie was wavering. She knew she shouldn’t be.

“Shut the door Liz. He’s not a good guy, and we really need to talk to you,” Sarah said into her ear. Of course Sarah was listening in. Hell, they were probably all behind her, watching and listening. She never had moments alone anymore…

Maybe she could use that to her benefit. If she did go to the show with him, it wasn’t like she’d be alone with him. She’d have all her dead friends. Oh, how odd of chaperones they were but they’d keep her from doing something stupid.

Was she really thinking of doing it though? She thought she was done with this loser. She should shut the door and never see him again, let that be the end of it.

But she wasn’t shutting the door.

She could go, but they both go in their own vehicles… No, that wouldn’t work. Milwaukee was what, two hours away, three? She’d never actually been there so she wasn’t really sure. Either way it was too far and made no sense to take separate vehicles. Even if he was a creep that she didn’t want to be around, she still couldn’t bring herself to be that wasteful.

Dammit, she was going to do this. She knew it was a bad idea, stupid really, but she had already said ‘yes’ to herself. It was just a matter of telling the asshole.

Her stomach twisted with the thought of spending at least four hours in the car alone with him. Then she was reminded that she had just gotten up, was standing on the threshold of the hallway and still hadn’t gone to the bathroom. Her bladder was reminding her that it was not going to be patient for much longer.

Then her phone started chirping again from the bedroom and she realized she really needed to get out of the hallway.

“Fine, I’ll go. Give me a call later and we’ll get it figured out when to leave. She started to close the door but then opened it again, ignoring his outstretched hand as he tried to hand her the roses. “Better yet, just text me.”

She closed the door and rushed to her room. The bathroom was calling, but going in there without her phone just wasn’t happening. She grabbed it and glanced at the recent missed call. That same number again.

“Liz, I can’t believe-“ Sarah started, but Elisabeth was talking over her.

“Lizzie we really need to-“ Elisabeth was saying. In the background she could hear Chuck.

“For crying out loud.”

“-you’re going out with him.”

“-talk to you.”

She rushed into her bathroom ignoring the cacophony of voices trying to get her attention. The door slammed behind her.

*

The voicemail had been from the lawyer and had taken away any joy she had about the concert. His words, a nervous stutter as he bumbled through leaving the message, repeatedly saying there wasn’t much he could say over the phone.

“Ms. Rogers, I’m calling to say that there was been a mistake in the, in the reading of the will. You see, your uncle, well there’s not much I can, I can say over the phone. You see, he changed his will right before he died and it had been so recent that our filing records hadn’t rec-recorded it yet. If you can call to set up an appointment, I really need to go over it with you. I’m, I’m sorry for all of this.”

She’d lose all that money. She knew it, and that was why he was so nervous. He had to tell her that she wasn’t getting it. She was going to go back and being broke. All the good fortune of having that money was going to evaporate and she’d never get to know how it felt to be that rich.

“Liz?”

Lizzie looked up to see Sarah looking at her, concern etched on her face. Any signs of the tears from earlier home, leaving only the gory remains of Sarah’s death. It was yet another reminder that her friend was dead, and any tears were shallow to the tragedy she has already endured.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Yeah, you don’t look it.”

Her phone buzzed and she took a quick look at it. It was Roland. She lowered the phone realizing just how late in the morning it really was. It was past ten, she slept in for most the morning. Five minutes ago, that wasn’t a problem, but now with the prospect of finding a new job looming, sleeping in this late felt like such a waste.

What was she going to do? Go back to school? It’d be too late to register for this semester and she hadn’t decided on a new major, having given up on her last one shortly before deciding not to go back.

What the hell!? She thought her life would be getting so much easier, and now she was getting nothing but all these problems. 

“Lizzie, we need to talk.” Elisabeth said. Then a crash came from the other room and Lizzie washed to see what was going on.

Lizzie’s apartment was not that large and similar to most she guessed. There was the front door that opened into a split between the nook that was the kitchen and the open area that most would use for a living room. The little space between she had guessed would be a dining area, and the hallway then lead back to the two bedrooms and the tiny bathroom. It was just like nearly any other apartments she had ever seen, and she looked forward to one day not living there. 

Though with her currently not having a paycheck and no incoming in the near future, it was a bit above what she could afford. Even working, it had been tough for her and Sarah to be able to afford it. 

She hurried into the living room to find Chuck and the stranger standing nose to nose squaring odd again, but the picture that was on the floor broken was on the other side of the room. It had been a picture of her and Roland that has been setting on the corner shelf between the curbside find of a couch and the lazy boy that had been a goodwill special. Sarah was standing near the picture looking down at it in horror.

“What’s going on here?” Lizzie scanned the room. Sarah looked at her apologetically but the other two didn’t turn away from one another.

“Just don’t like being told what I can and can’t do.” The large man said, then sat in the Lazy-boy.

“I get that.”

“Lizzie, something weirds going on.” Elisabeth said, moving to stand next to Sarah. Chuck continued to glare.

“I know I know you two from somewhere. And that ain’t good.” The stranger said to Chuck then point to Elisabeth.

“Really? You do?” Elisabeth said, the shock evident. 

“Let’s start simple. What’s your name?” 

“I told you last night.”

“Yeah well, middle of the night. I just remember you were fighting with Chuck and another picture got broken. So yeah, I wasn’t really focused, or really even awake.”

“Names Josh.”

“Okay Josh, and you know your dead right?”

“Yeah. Just because I blew my brains out doesn’t mean I don’t have any.”

“Nice. Really funny.” Chuck said.

“Give’em a break. It’s not like you were much better when you first got here. Until he came you were Mr. Grumps.” Lizzie turned back to Josh sitting in the chair. “Now the big question, do you know how you got here?”

“Nope. I shot myself in the morning after my wife went off to work and woke up here last night.”

“Really? So you didn’t show up here right after you died?”

“Nope. Not even sure if it’s the same day. What day is it?”

“Lizzie, something else is going on.”

“What?” Lizzie asked, turning slowly, lingering her gaze on Josh.”

“Broken pictures” Sarah said.

“Yeah all our frames are getting ruined. I’m going to have to go to the dollar store later and buy some more.”

“I’m not talking about that.” Sarah went to the next picture on the shelf and then with an intense look of concentration, she reached out and pushed it. “Remember when I first came back and I couldn’t interact with anything. Well, we can’t grab anything as far as I know, but look at this.”

“I know I recognize you two.” Josh grumbled as Lizzie watched Sarah push the picture frame until it fell from the shelf and crashed to the floor.

“Sorry.”

Lizzie’s phone rang, the chirping sound making her jump. Lizzie didn’t look to see who it was, she clicked “answer” as she brought it up.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Rogers.”

“Yes?”

“Hello, I know I’ve called a few times this morning, but I really need you to come to my office. I’ll be able to meet you any time, I’ll reschedule whatever I must, but it really is rather urgent.” The lawyer sounded frazzled. What could be this important? 

“Is everything okay?” She felt the dread creeping up into her voice.

“Yes, Just there’s a new will we just found with some new details we need to go over.”

She remembered the text she had gotten earlier and pulls the phone away from her face so that she could swipe and see it.

“How about we leave at 2?” Roland’s text read.

“I can get there in half an hour.”

She could have Roland pick her up from the office? Maybe she’d get lunch while she waited for him after meeting with the lawyer. That was if she still had any money. 

Damn! She couldn’t believe she had allowed herself to get talked into going with him. Eddie, I hope you know how much I love you to put up with his cheating ass.

“I got it!” Josh exclaims, and he stands quickly. “It’s you two! Your the idiots that pulled out in front of my truck! You fucking idiots ruined my life, I’m going to kill you, you son-of-“ and with that Josh was leaping across the coffee table which was surprising with his large mass, and slammed into Chuck who had stood there frozen with shock. They both fell to the floor, everything on the table clattering to the ground, remotes, books, and magazines flung off without acknowledgement of their existence. 

“Fuck this, I’m out.” Lizzie said, grabbing her keys and purse, then storming out the front door.

Dead Friends: Chapter 11

There was another crash as she entered and this time she saw the glass from the picture frame gliding across the room, stopping just inches of her foot. She looked at it and then the direction it came from to see two dead men, entangled and fighting each other. One she recognized. The other was a complete stranger to her.

Chuck was underneath, but the new guy was on top and looking like he was pinning Chuck down. Chuck was flailing back and forth, fighting. The two of them were kicking out, thrashing the bed, Sarah’s dresser and her dirty clothes hamper and the furniture was moving as they did so. That wasn’t possible but it was happening. The picture that had fallen had been on Sarah’s dresser. These two had knocked it down. The hamper was swaying back and forth ready to topple over at any time. Then with one swift kick, it fell out over and a weeks worth of forgotten dirty clothes spilled out.

Lizzie’s jaw hung open as she watched the fight, but then she heard the gasp come out behind her.

“Stop it!” 

The first yell didn’t come from Lizzie, but from behind her. “I said stop it!” Sarah bellowed and the stranger turned to them in surprise. Chuck took the opportunity to push him off and the stranger rolled with the push and used the momentum 

“Yeah, and who the hell are you?” The stranger’s voice was a raspy gurgle and Lizzie watched as exposed muscle tissue from under his jaw. Half the bottom row of teeth were missing, one dangled there, and flesh from his neck hung strung down in what seemed to only be held together by hair from his overgrown beard. She could almost see through the long hair, the large hole through his chin. It was hard to look away, but she had to as she thought she was going to puke. She had started to get used to the disfiguration of her friends, they weren’t looking good themselves, their own deaths all gruesome leaving them horrified remnants to follow her around. This stranger who was obviously dead was much worse.

“Doesn’t matter. You’re in my fucking room.” Sarah said, quickly passing Lizzie to loom over him.

“Like hell it doesn’t. What the hell’s going on here. Wait.” He was confused, Lizzie watched as he struggled to fight with himself when it came to forming words. “Why can’t I talk right? What’s wrong with my mouth?”

“Half of its missing dumb ass. That’s what happen when you blow your brains out.” Chuck grumbled as he pushed himself up from the floor. He glared at Lizzie and then turned that hate at the rest of them standing by the door.

“Missing? Blown Brains.” The man was confused but getting angrier as he tried to speak.

“Can you tell us who you are? Because we don’t know you. Right?” Lizzie looked at Elisabeth and she nodded. None of them knew who the hell he was so why was he hear? So far Lizzie kind of understood why her friends were coming to her. They all had at least some connection. She didn’t know why they were back from the dead, but she knew why they came to her. She’d been the last one with them, each of them before they died. Unless this man died in the same apartment, it didn’t make sense for this stranger to be there.

“I…” He looked at them strangely, his hostility shifting, transforming as Lizzie could see his eyes getting wet. He looked around the room at them, his gaze lingering on Elisabeth, his brow raised in curiosity. Then that look was gone and he turned back to study Chuck. His hostility returned and with a fire he turned that blazing stare back to Lizzie.

“Josh. My name’s Josh.”

“Any idea what you’re doing here?” Lizzie asked but Sarah was quick to snap herself back into the discussion, and more importantly what she wanted to know.

“And what the hell your doing in my bedroom?” You would think Sarah had found them going through her underwear drawer and had pulled out one of her panties with how indignant she was.

He just glowered at Chuck. If they were dogs they’d be growling at each other, both with their macho ego’s on full display. Lizzie was getting sick of it.

And then she noticed the glass on the floor. She hadn’t thought too much of it before, but there was something odd about that. She couldn’t place her finger on why it bothered her, but it did. 

“So are we done here? No more fighting?” Lizzie said.

“Who the hell are you people?” He barked. Lizzie didn’t know how she understood him, his speech was garbled by the missing parts of his mouth, but she still did. She let it go, but still ignored him, her glare lingering on Chuck.

Chuck shrugged his shoulders, looking from Josh and then back to Elisabeth. A weak smile flashed as he stepped over to her and hugged her. It felt right to see them hold each other and Lizzie realized that since they had died, she hadn’t seen them touch one another. It had been like they had been avoiding it. Now they did, and the hug grew stronger and she barely heard him whisper to her, “It’ll be okay.”

Lizzie hoped so and she turned to Sarah.

“You guys figure all this out. I’m going back to bed.”

Sarah nodded and then to everyone, “Okay everyone, now let’s get out of my room. Out out out!”

“I want to know just what the hell is going on! Who are you people and how did I get here?”

“Josh. Your dead. Face it and live with it. We don’t know who the hell you are or why your here, but there it is. Next time don’t blow your brains out.” 

Lizzie heard her friend giving Josh the low down, but she didn’t wait to watch her get them out of her room. She was too tired and felt like she was going to have a lot of bullshit to deal with in the morning. She walked across the room, closed the door, and crashed down onto her bed.

She knew she’d been tired and after the initial surge of energy after being forcefully awakened waned, she was ready for sleep.

Questions haunted her. There were many of them. Why had people she had known, some friends but Chuck she had barely met, come back from the dead? Why were they hovering around her? What was the connection to the new guy, the one no one knew anything about? Though he did seem like he recognized them. She might be wrong but she thought she had seen it, just a hint of it when he looked at Chuck. And why had they been fighting?

And there was something about the glass, how it had shattered and slid across the floor. There was something odd about that and she couldn’t place what it was? Maybe in the morning she’d figure it out.

A long yawn escaped her, and by the time she’d stretched and settled back into bed, she was drifting off into sleep. This time, the nightmares left her alone.

Dead Friends: Chapter 9

I want to take a minute and thank everyone for the massive amount of support on Thursday. Chapter 8 was one of the most viewed posts on my blog and that while this excites me, it also terrifies me to post Chapter 9.

Thank you…

Just to remind everyone, this is a first draft and I am posting this for Beta Read purposes, so if you have any suggestions or comments, please do not hesitate.

*****

“Oh my God! Liz, you okay?”

Lizzie turned and looked up, having to shield her eyes from the sun that the short woman only barely blocked. She had recognized the voice when she heard it calling out but even now she wasn’t sure she could believe Jessica had been there. Though it did make sense as Jess was just as much one of Sarah’s friends. 

”Here, let me help you up. Did you hit your head when you fell? I’m so sorry I haven’t been by to check in on you. Dennis and I were out of town, but we hurried back as soon as we heard. Why didn’t you call us to tell us. Patty was the one who called. I don’t even know how she heard.” Jessica said as she was pulling Lizzie up. Jessica was known for speaking like that. When she was excited, she would release a torrent of words that often had everyone around her struggling to keep up and no one could get a word in. 

Not that Lizzie had anything she wanted to say. Her mind was still reeling from the gravestone. It had really said to ‘beware the dead.’ Why would it say that? How could her uncle have known.

Lizzie looked at the three dead things that were gathered around her. Elisabeth and Sarah looked concerned but Chuck was glaring again. She was to beware them, why? What could they do? They were dead. They were annoying but they couldn’t touch her or anything else solid. Why did she need to beware?

“Hello? Earth to Lizzie? Did you hit your head? I can-“

“I’m fine. Did you talk to Sarah’s parents? How are they doing?”

“Well, not good. I really didn’t get a chance to talk to them much. I saw you walking off and wanted to catch up.”

“Thanks.”

“Yeah, no problem. Dennis stayed over there. Why didn’t you talk to them? They’re like your second family.”

“They blame me.”

“You’re kidding? Why?”

“Because she fucking got their daughter killed you dumbass.” Chuck screamed in her ear. Lizzie winched, not realizing he had rushed to catch up to them as they were walking back to Sarah’s grave. Jessica hadn’t noticed the brutally deformed man right next to her. Lizzie could barely keep from looking at him. It seemed the more he was there the angrier he became. He blamed her. She hadn’t caused his death, but that didn’t matter. He was there, and he had died when she had not.

“I lived,” Lizzie said, lowering her eyes as she couldn’t keep from staring into his hate. 

“Oh, girl,” and before Lizzie could protest, she was pulled into the shorter woman and had to fight to keep herself from falling farther forward into her. “It’s not your fault. You gotta know that don’t ya. It’s not your fault.”

“Sure.”
“Oh no, your not getting away from me that easily. I’m not letting you go until you say it.”

“I’m okay.”

“Say it.”

“I’m okay.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.”

“Come on, admit to it. You killed us.” Chuck whispered into her ear.

****

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****

“Chuck!” Elisabeth yelled and Lizzie looked up to see that she was working with Sarah to pull him away from Jessica. 

“Liz,” Jessica released her from the hug to hold her out at arms length, studying her. Lizzie was sure her friend could see the tears, both not the that had fallen the ones that were threatening on the horizon. 

“Say it with me. Its…not…your…fault.” She waited each time, watching and making sure Lizzie repeated back to her. “Good.”

It brought more tears, and somehow, even though the larger woman was shorter than her, Lizzie found herself burying her face into Jessica’s shoulder.

“It’s going to be okay.” Sarah was saying behind her.

“We’re here for you,” Now it was Elisabeth near her as well.

“You’re all pathetic.” She could hear the disdain in Chuck’s voice. She wasn’t sure if she preferred him not to be talking to her. The silence had been filled with his hatred but at least he had stayed quiet. She wasn’t sure if this new development was for the better. Maybe he was beginning to cope with what had happened to them.

“Come on, I don’t know who’s all still around, but Dennis will be waiting for us at the car. I know you probably don’t want to go back to the house, so…I don’t know. How have you been? You able to sleep? You know you could stay with us for awhile. It’d be like it used to be when we were roommates.”

It had only been four months since Jessica had moved in with Dennis, but she made this sound like it had been a time long ago and that staying with her would be some trip down nostalgia lane. It wasn’t that long ago, and they hadn’t stopped hanging out together. They had just gone shoe shopping two weeks ago and Lizzie had found herself some really nice flats that she’d been wearing. Jessica had talked about Dennis the whole time, and Sarah had kept trying to bring up Roland, knowing that Lizzie had just separated. Sarah was hungry for all the juicy details and was hoping Jess would help her get her friend to spill the beans.

They had laughed and talked and had spent the whole day together. Why couldn’t things just return to that? That one moment in time, possible the last one that she had been such completely lost in her friends and happiness. She hadn’t been worrying about school and if she was going to change majors again, it would be her third major in two years, and she hadn’t been worried about pleasing anyone else. She had just enjoyed being with people she cared about and was glad to be alive. She had been happy that her friends were alive and were there with her.

“I’m not sure. I don’t want to trouble you and Dennis.”

“Liz, it’s no trouble. You know that.”

“I know.”

“Do you really want to sleep in that apartment alone. With what happened?”

She wouldn’t be alone. She had all her dead hanger-ons who didn’t go away. She would never be alone. She had Chuck to scream all night while Sarah and Elisabeth fought with him to shut up. Lizzie had her crying and of course, there was all the nightmares when she could get to sleep. The shadow man that followed her inside the dreamworld and then lingered into her waking life.

So Lizzie was never alone. They would never allow it. She would always have someone there to make her life miserable. If she took a powder, Sarah or Elisabeth would be there with her. Chuck would be there and he would torture her, watch her even when taking a shower. He had tried that morning, but Sarah prevented it. Eventually she’d get tired of stopping him.

“I’ll be fine.”

“No, you won’t. You can either sleep at our place or I’m staying there. You’re not getting rid of me.”

“I’m fine. I said I was fine.”

“Hey, I’m only trying to help and be here for you.”

“But you act like I need someone to save me, like I can’t handle this or do things on my own. Your not my mother, Dennis isn’t my father and I don’t need to be babied.”

They were getting closer to the cars and Lizzie could see Dennis was giving Sarah’s mom a hug before she got in the car. She didn’t know if they could hear them, but with how Lizzie couldn’t control herself with how loud she was getting, she feared the worse. As the car drove off and Dennis looked at them with a pained look, Lizzie was pretty sure she was right. They’d heard it. She didn’t know how much but they did.

Dennis walked toward them. He was Jessica’s matching set. They were both larger, but shorter and if you only looked at body dimensions, looked like they could be brother and sister. However where as Jessica had dark hair, his was a brilliant red. He kept a well manicured beard that somehow brought out his smile rather than hid it in the hair. As he approached, she saw the smile, but could tell it was for her benefit, while not genuine to how he felt. There was a deep sadness to his eyes as they wore lines at the corners.

Before saying anything, he stepped to Lizzie and wrapped his arms around her in a hug. “We’re here for you.”

As Lizzie pulled back from him, she couldn’t suppress the slight smile and the fresh wave of tears. “Thank you.”

“So, where we off to?” He looked at them both. He was trying so hard not to act upset, and it was odd, but Lizzie felt herself relaxing as he hid his own grief from them.

“What did she say?” Jessica asked, nodding to the car that was leaving the driveway at the edge of the cemetery.

“That she would be okay, she loves us, but that all of us may not be welcomed at their house for drinks. She’s worried it would cause undo drama.”

“That woman was like a second mother to Liz and now their blaming her like she killed her. That’s not right.”

“Yeah, it’s bullshit, but it’ll take awhile. They just need to deal with it in their own way.”

“Hey, I’m right here.” Lizzie said, a little frustrated with them taking like she wasn’t there.

“Oh there you are, thought we’d lost ya.” Dennis said with his smirk, his sarcasm heavy on his tongue and she couldn’t stop herself from giggling and smacking him on the arm.

“So, whose up for lunch?” Dennis said as he stumbled back, playing the part of the injured man as he rubbed where she had hit.

“Don’t know. Haven’t really thought about food much the last couple of days.” Lizzie looked over her shoulder. The others followed, the disfigured trio that walked behind them. Lizzie had no way of telling them, her two living friends about the dead’s ones. How every time she tried to eat, they were there and she found her appetite slip away.

“We don’t need food. We need Belts.” Jessica said with a giggle, pushing Lizzie softly towards their car.

“You just think ice cream is the solution to all.” Dennis laughed.

“And you agree. Remember when we took your dad there. I thought his eyes were going to explode out of his head when he saw the size of the cone. It was bigger than his head.”

Lizzie allowed herself to drift back as they started to tease each other. Her car wasn’t parked too far away, but she’d have to leave them soon to walk to it. She wasn’t sure she was ready to do that. Not yet.

She figured she’d follow them there. She didn’t like the idea of leaving her car in the cemetery and she knew where Belt’s Soft Serve was. 

The last time she followed someone, they ended up dead. She saw the crash, watching as the truck plowed into the car, the sound of crushing metal and breaking glass shouting through her memories.

“So, you just going to follow us there?” Jessica asked “I mean you could ride with us, it’s up to you. Dennis has to move his trombone out from the passenger seat, don’t ask why he brought it, I’m not really sure and he just laughs when I ask him.”

The car. The crashing. The screeching metal.

“I can make it work. I don’t really want to drive myself right now.”

Well, sure. Climb in.” Dennis said with a shrug.

****

“Are you sure we shouldn’t go somewhere with, you know,” Dennis playfully added, “actual food.”

They were along the highway and halfway to Belts but as Lizzie sat in the back seat, she was beginning to sense that while Jessica had suggested it, she wasn’t really in the mood for a massive ice cream cone.

“I’m fine with whatever. I’m not really all that hungry.”

She watched as they shared a glance back and forth. She knew they were talking in ways she couldn’t see. Part of it was probably eye contact, but they were also no doubt, texting each other back and forth even while Dennis was driving. Lizzie noticed that his cell phone was not mounted on the vent magnetic holder where he normally kept it. They were talking, scheming and it had something to do with her.

“Hey, how’s this. We go back to our place and grill up some brats. Dennis can go to the meat market and I can soak up some wood chips while he’s gone. It’ll give us a chance to girl talk, and he can do whatever he needs to do.”

Yep, they were planning on something. They were manipulating her, but did it really matter? They were in a car, and there were no dead people in there with her. It was such a relief that the only other occupants of the back seat was a dinged up old trombone that Dennis played when he performed with his jazz band. It was heaven and she hadn’t thought about just how nice it would be to not have them there. 

“Sure.”

“It’ll be okay.” Dennis said, looking at her through the rearview. “We’re here for you.”

They’re there for her. Everyone was there for her, at least, that was what they said. She wanted to ask them, just how much they would be there for her if they knew she had been talking to the dead for the last week.

“Hey Dennis?” Dennis had turned back to watching the road but turned to look at her, nodding for her to continue. “You have a buddy who gives lessons in self defense right?”

“Kinda,” he turned back to watch the road as they neared a stop. He turned on the signal and she saw that they were taking a right turn. When they stopped he looked back at her. “Ben teaches Karate at a dojo over on Wildwood drive. It’s not really a self defense class, but, well…”

She nods to him and he makes his turn.

“So you want to learn Karate?” Jessica asks. She plays with the word Karate, stretches it out, toying with each syllable making it sound like an eighties school girl. Lizzie winces, already making fun of the idea to herself, let alone hearing it from her friend.

“I don’t know. It was just a thought.”

“Well, Ben’s a good guy. He doesn’t own or run the place, but the guy who does is supposed to be some world renowned champion I guess. I think the first class is free, so you can check it out.”

“Look, Liz, I shouldn’t kid. I know you’ve been through some shit.” Jessica said. Lizzie didn’t know what she looked like, but Jessica had stopped joking with her and now looked concerned. “If you want, I’ll take a class or two with you. Check it out.”

“I’ll be fine. It was just a thought.”

“Okay, well the offer stands.”

“Thanks.”

Dead Friends: Chapter 7

Lizzie didn’t want to go back there. She didn’t want to go back into the house that her friend had died in. She didn’t want to go back inside the small, wooden, decrepit place that some random stranger, old and naked, had come at her and tried to eat her and God only knows what else to her. She didn’t want to go near the place of that shadow man, but even more she didn’t want to go near the maggots.

Why was that troubling her? She didn’t know, and since she’d last been there, she had plenty of nightmares. She’d dreamed about the shadow man and his ticky-tat way of talking. She’d dreamed of the old man as she stared up at him with his member dangling in her face, but the ones she truly feared, the ones that woke her up in a sweat was when she dreamed she was in a bath tub covered in maggots, all of them with their hungry mouths. They were all eating her alive, tearing her apart and laying their eggs inside of her, more maggots bursting out of her.

As she stepped out of the back seat of the car bringing her back there, the image of that single white wormlike creature as it fell on her from the man’s penis kept leaping into her thoughts. Though unlike how it happened, she kept remembering it wrong. In her thoughts, it fell into her open mouth made its way into her stomach and was eating her while lying its eggs. With the butterflies she felt in her stomach, she couldn’t help but think there was some truth to nagging sense.

“Lizzie? You okay?”

Lizzie looked over to her friend who had brought her back there. She didn’t want to be back there, but they needed to get her keys and somewhere in there she had dropped them. The police when they went there hadn’t found them. They’d found her phone, but that was it. Well, the phone, and the bodies. They had found both her friend and the old man, but it was with the old man that things got weird. It was then that the cops questions had turned from helping her to questioning her about what happened because according to them, it couldn’t have been the way she had told them.

She went into the hospital three days ago, had been questioned by the police for the last two days both at the hospital and at the motel room she stayed in upon her release. They didn’t believe her story, and as much as she wanted to run away from all of it, she hadn’t. Something kept her here, pulled her, tied to it by something unseen.

“Are you sure your okay?” Elisabeth asked. Lizzie looked over at her and her boyfriend. She was thankful they had brought her out there, but tepid as she was only beginning to know these people. Elisabeth, it felt like Lizzie was using her to fill the void that Sarah had created, though Sarah, dead or not, was still trying to be her best friend. Her boyfriend though, was just as nice as Elisabeth was, and he had suggested they come out there. Well, he’d suggested coming out by himself so he could get Lizzie’s car and look for her keys.

What had possessed her to say she wanted to come back here? Sure, he’d need someone to come with him as they’d have two vehicles but anyone could have rode with him. She doubted Elisabeth would have come. The girl barely left Lizzie’s side, becoming her protector the more the sheriff dug into her with questions.

The old man…how could he have attacked her and killed her friend? He’d been dead for a week. The sheriff knew the man and had been at his funeral when they put him in the ground. He’d died of bone cancer barely able to lift his own arm, not able to walk for the last three months when the cancer got bad, so how had he attacked them?

Lizzie didn’t know. She had no answers of her own other than what she saw.

Maybe she really was crazy…

“Liz?”

Lizzie looked over at her, blinking away some of the thoughts though many remained. She just had to not get lost in them. Don’t focus on them right? That was easier said than done.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just trying not to remember the last time I was here.”

“I get that.” Elisabeth’s boyfriend said. Lizzie struggled to remember his name and felt she should really remember it by now as they’ve hung out for more than a day.

“Chuck, you mind going in first? I’ll stay out here with Lizzie while you check it out.”

“Sure, let me get killed in the spooky old death house.”

“Chuck!”

The color drained in his face as he realized what he just said. Elisabeth was making jerking motions with her head towards Lizzie and while Lizzie couldn’t see her face, she was sure it was more than just the nod she was using to communicate how insensitive he’d just been.

“Oh my God I can’t believe I just said that.”

It was alright. Lizzie barely even noticed as she had slipped back into her thoughts and looking at the small house in front of her. She hadn’t really looked at it the first time. Sarah had been talking but Lizzie had been on the phone with Richard. Her brother had been having a melt down because his caregiver had a family emergency. Samuel, her brothers normal caregiver had called her and told her what was going on. Samual had called their service and Tommy, the backup, was on his way. She was sure that had been explained to her brother, but he had still called in a frenzy. He had continued on and she had to listen to him rant in that computerized voice as he typed it from his end of the call.

“It’s still a dump.” Sarah said as though she could read Lizzies thoughts. Lizzie looked over, across the car to the other side and there she stood. Of course her dead friend was still with her. No matter where she went, Sarah followed now, though she did have the decency not to follow her into bathroom.

Lizzie tried to pretend she wasn’t there, but it was hard. Closing her eyes never helped. Wishing the nightmare away didn’t do anything. Sarah was there wether she liked it or not.

Sarah was right though, the house was a dump. It looked like it had once been painted a drab yellow, tough not that much of the paint was still visible as much of the original color had long peeled away. The remnants of the paint lied in a bed of debris around the base of the house having been torn away after years of neglect and vicious winters tearing at it..

Outside, you couldn’t really see that the windows were blacked out. With the sun coming down and the boards that looked hastily placed to cover them, the house just looked dark inside. Her uncle really didn’t want anyone seeing in, or he didn’t want to see what was out there. Had her uncle seen the shadow man? Had he been hiding from him?

Maybe there were answers inside? She hadn’t thought about that before, but there could be something in there that explained that thing.

Now your just reaching. You know that. You just don’t want to go back in there and trying to give yourself reasons to go. Nevermind that you’ve come all the way back out there, you need to go in or else you’ll be running the rest of your life afraid to face anything.

And somewhere inside her, she was okay with that. Why not just run away from everything.

“Okay, well, I guess I’ll go in then. It’s unlocked right?” Chuck said as he neared the door. It was obvious he didn’t relish the idea of going in alone.

“Should be. I doubt the sheriff’s department locked up after themselves and I’m not sure where my keys are.” Lizzie said as she finally moved, taking tentative steps around to the front of the car. The dried leaves crackled beneath her, fallen from the trees overhead. There were a lot of them. She was surrounded in trees. The whole area was nothing but trees, and then a clearing with an old house. It was like the house was hiding from modern world, and the only connection to it was that small driveway barely wide enough for one car. “Be careful, the woods all rotted on the stairs.”

She had stopped him just before he had stepped onto the first step. There were only three of them to reach the small landing and the front door overhang. It was odd how it was set up. The overhang was blocked off, walled on three sides so that it didn’t allow for those inside to look out past the person directly at the door. Visitors had to walk up the stairs next to the house. It didn’t allow for someone inside to look out, but outside no one could see in.

Why would he be so worried about someone looking in? It was obvious the overhang was not a part of the original design as the wood was unpainted and it didn’t fit in with the architecture. He had to have built it himself.

“Your uncle was nuts.” She didn’t know who had said it. It was getting hard as Lizzie could no longer tell if it had been Sarah or Elisabeth who said it. They both sounded alike to her.

“I see what you mean. One of the boards collapsed, probably one of the deputies that’d been trampling around out here. I should be okay using the sides.”

“You be careful.” Elisabeth called after him. He disappeared and then there was a door slamming shut, what must have been the screen door as he entered the house.

“I don’t like him going in there alone” Lizzie said.

“This house is a dump. Why did your uncle live out here. It’s in the middle of nowhere, hidden in trees. I’ve heard of getting off the grid but this is going too far.”

“And you live here because?”

“Hey, I live in town. Sure it’s small, but I grew up here and I like it. I know everyone. But this…” Elisabeth holds her hand up motion towards the house and the surrounding clearing, “This wanting to know no one. He was hiding from someone.”

“Well, he did leave me a lot of money.” Lizzie said quietly, biting back what she wanted to say. That dread turning in her stomach. Her gut told her that he wasn’t out there to hide from someone, he was hiding from something and that eventually it got him.

“Yeah, I’d be careful with that money. You got no idea where it came from?”

“None.” Though it was becoming nice having it. The lawyer had somehow found out she was in the hospital and had let her know he had the money already put into her account as of yesterday, a full week sooner than anyone had expected. That allowed her to get ahold of someone, a person that one of the nicer deputies had suggested, that would come out and clean the mess of the kitchen so she wouldn’t have to see the blood.

Once Lizzie had told the lawyer about it, he had taken care of all the details. Lizzie didn’t have to worry about any of it. She guessed with money, none of that stuff was important anymore though the revelation was still mind boggling.

Lizzie started towards the side of the house. She had to see it, to see where it happened but she wasn’t sure she could go in the house. Not yet, but if she went around back…

“Hey! where ya going?” She heard Elisabeth rushing to catch up.

“You can see into the kitchen from the back clearing.”

“I thought you didn’t want to go in there.”

“I don’t. I just want to see in, see where it-“

She didn’t finish saying it as she went around the corner. As she walked along the side of the house she could see more of the back and it was different from what she remembered. When she had left the kitchen through the back door, it had been a small clearing, no buildings just woods, but now she could clearly see a large shed. It was unpainted and old, but definitely used. She saw a well trampled path that ran from the house to it.

What had her uncle been doing in there? It was large enough to fit three cars and something she’d more often find on farms for those large tractors. Back there amongst all the woods, she couldn’t see a way for them to bring in any large vehicles.

But that shed wasn’t why she was back there, and she forced her attention away from it as they came into the back yard.

The kitchen door was open, the screen door twisted at the bottom hinge, the top broken so that the door hung off to the side. The wooden interior door still open as it had been and now as she walked up she could see that the small metal stairs that were supposed to lead up to the door had been pulled away and set to the side where there was nothing but the kitchen wall, looking obscene with their stairway to nowhere. It would have been funny if she wasn’t where her friend had been killed. It did make her wonder about the sickness of the mind that drove her uncle to move them over there, never wanting whoever climbed them to get in.

“Lizzie! Wait up.” Elisabeth called. Lizzie wasn’t sure why she was supposed to wait. She was standing there by the back door. She hadn’t run around the house, so why would it take Elisabeth so long to catch up.

“Hey, what are you doing back here?” Chuck said, looking at her from where he had been standing in the kitchen.

Lizzie barely noticed either of them, her eyes transfixed on the last place she had seen Susan alive. The tile floor was spotless. The cleaners weren’t supposed to clean up more than the mess the bodies had made, but as she looked in, the kitchen was clean. All of it. She was sure the kitchen hadn’t been that clean in over ten years as it actually now looked like a room that food could be prepared in. It was amazing and they had all done this in just one night.

It truly was amazing what mountains money could move. Who ever had come out there had gone the extra mile, that was for sure, and to have been out there on their own. Lizzie didn’t think she’d ever be able to stay out there by herself. It was all just too creepy. Too much nature, all the bugs and animals. Never mind that the last time she’d been out there, there had been a homicidal deadman out to massacre them. How had her uncle been able to do it?

“Lizzie, we should get away from here.” Elisabeth said. She came up to her gently wrapping an arm around her shoulders. It was soothing and Lizzie wanted to melt back into the woman as she guided her away. Lizzie didn’t want to go though, pushing away from those comforting thoughts as she twisted out of Elisabeth’s grip and looked back at where her friend fell.

“I did… I died there.”

Lizzie didn’t have to turn to know that Sarah was also behind her. She could hear the tears in the dead woman’s voice and knew those tears were for her own death. Lizzie wanted to turn to her but what..how do you comfort the dead?

Maybe that was what she needed to do. Maybe Sarah was a ghost and until she came to deal with it, she’d always be there to haunt Lizzie?

As much as it hurt Lizzie to have her there with her, she wasn’t ready to let Sarah go. She couldn’t help Sarah with her grief when she was barely holding on to her own?

“-nothing..” Chuck was saying, though Lizzie hadn’t heard anything else. They were talking around her about her and she tried to shake free from the thoughts that kept tying her down so she once again could to focus. There’d just been so much in such a short time it kept drowning her in randomness.

“What?”

“I’d been through the house. I found your phone and keys but other than that, I couldn’t find anything. You sure you lost your purse in here?”

“I thought I had. I don’t know.”

“Well here’s this.” He said as he held out to her her phone, dead from lack of a charge, and her keys. As she studied the phone, she saw the spiderweb or cracks down the screen. She’d hoped she hadn’t dropped it, but looking at the damage she must have.

At least now she could afford to get a new one.

That didn’t comfort her, but as it dawned on her more and more it felt more like a rock growing in her stomach. Just ‘buy it’ was giving her a sour taste.

“Thanks.” She said, her voice flat as she flipped over the phone and saw the scratches on the back. They made up an odd pattern that tickled the back of her mind. She turned the phone back so she could look at the screen. Looking at that shape in the back hurt her eyes, though she didn’t know why.

“Was there anything else we need out here or should we go?” Chuck said as he jumped down the short distance to the ground.

She wanted to say yes, but found herself reaching up and climbing into the little kitchen. She didn’t know why, she didn’t want to go in, but something inside called out to her. She could feel a thrumming course through the wood as she touched it. The air was different, cooler, and she knew if it was winter and cold outside, that air would be warmer. It wanted her in there, and would accommodate for her. She just had to finish going in.

“Woah.” Chuck said as both Elisabeth and him reached out, both grabbing her and pulling her back. She didn’t fight them. They were right, but as much as she knew it, she still wanted to go in there.

“Lizzie?” Elisabeth moved to face her and look into her eyes.

“I’m fine. We can get out of here.”

“You sure?’

“Yeah, lets just go. I don’t ever want to come back here.”

“Yeah, the place is a dump.” Chuck said as he lead them back to their cars.

“You know you love it out here.” Elisabeth was teasing him, wrapping her arms around him.

“In the woods, yes. This house, no way. I saw inside there. There’s voodoo, or witchcraft shit all over in there. I think I’m cursed for just walking through it.”

“You’re kidding.”

“He’s not. Sarah and I saw some of it when we’d gone through. It’s disgusting and creepy in there. I’d never want to stay the night.”

Elisabeth studied the two of them as they stood to look back at the house. In the woods, something rushed through some of the underbrush, and it was loud in the silence around them. There were no birds chirping and Lizzie didn’t hear any flies buzzing around her. The slight breeze pushed back strands of her hair, but the leaves surrounding her remained still and silent.

Where were the mosquitoes. It was fall, but they shouldn’t all be dead yet. There had been plenty in town, and had even been some really big nasty ones larger than she’d ever seen back home. She was here, out in the woods where they should be attacking and feeding on her like a pack of vampires at a feast.

Into the trees, there was the occasional sound of something scurrying, but even those sounds were few and far between. By the house, it was silent, dead, and that silence grew, pressing more as she had now realized it and listened for it. The open clearing and space around her was closing in, suddenly feeling much smaller, almost on top of her.

“Okay, well, I’m thinking we get out of here unless there was something else you need.” Elisabeth said. Chuck nodded and she turned to Lizzie.

“Sure.”

“So you get what you needed?”

Lizzie nodded, holding up her keys and her phone.

“Okay, so we’re probably going to head back to my house. You can meet us there if you’d like. You remember the way right?”

“I don’t know. I might just head back home. I should check on my brother, see that he’s okay, and see how Jess and Dennis are doing. Sarah was their friend too.”

“Yeah, you don’t have to follow us. I didn’t know if you wanted to drive this late or not.”

“I’m not sure.”

“Okay.”

Lizzie looked back at the house. The sun was lowering on the far side of the house casting the shadow towards them. She just didn’t know how she felt or what she wanted to do. Where should she go? She didn’t know and if left alone, would probably just sit in her car at some parking lot crying. Was that a bad thing? It probably was, but still just felt right. She didn’t want to be around people right now, no matter now nice they’ve been to her.

“So what are you going to do with the house? Sell it?”

“I don’t know.” But she did know. She wasn’t going to do anything with it. She’d be back there again. She didn’t know why, but there was something in there she needed. She should go in and look. Her back muscles wouldn’t relax until she did. That little nestling of a panic attack she’d had all morning, that shortness of breath that never left her wouldn’t go away until she did.

She watched as her friends climbed into their car and she walked over to her own drivers side door. As they pulled away, she opened her door and got in. The world around her feeling like a dream that was fading and for now it was time to leave. She wasn’t going to go back in, not alone.

Sarah was waiting in the car’s passenger seat. She was still crying.

“I’m dead.”

Lizzie nodded.

“I’m dead, and I’m still here. What am I, a ghost?”

Lizzie shrugged. What did she say to her dead friend. Lizzie sure as hell didn’t have any of the answers.

“Can we get out of here please.”

Lizzie nodded again, starting the car and turning around to drive down the driveway. They got to the end of the drive and saw that Elisabeth and Chuck had stopped at the end, waiting to turn on the main road.

Lizzie didn’t feel like she was really there. Everything around her slipping into this unreal around her and she just sat there watching. She saw as the brake lights dimmed on the back of the car in front of her and then creep into the road. Then the truck felt like it came out of nowhere as it struck the car. The car had been a small compact. The semi was a large behemoth of a vehicle in comparison and had been going way to fast at it struck the little car on its broadside.

Lizzie just sat there, not knowing how long for her to comprehend what she had just seen. It had been Sarah tugging at her arm, telling her to call 911 and telling her she needed to rush to help them.

Help who? It couldn’t be? No, not again. But yes, it was all happening again, and more of her friends were probably dead.

Slowly, Lizzie pulled herself out of her seat, getting back out of the car. She knew what she would see, but walked to where the car was positioned against a tree, both sides smashed in by the multiple impacts. There was no rush. Why? She knew what she would find.

Throwback Thursday – Looking back at Hatched…

Here’s the first chapter of “Hatched.” Looking back, I had a lot of fun promoting this book, but my favorite was meeting up with none other than Svengoolie and give him some new reading material.

Free on Kindle Unlimited

****

“This is the Screamin’ Demon heading westbound on I-80. I need a bacon check, come back,” Bruce said into his radio. The road seemed clear ahead of him, but it was a dark night, hard to see past the overpasses where there might be a pig hiding back in its sty waiting to write him up on some paper. The last thing he needed on this last leg would be a damned ticket. He had already been on the road steady for thirteen straight days and was ready to take a hot shower and sleep in his own bed. He had four days off coming up on his return leg and was itching to spend almost all that time in his own bed. His icebox had been acting up for the last couple days, costing him a lot of time with having to make additional stops to check on his load. A couple times, he had to work on the unit to make sure it stayed cool and kept the meat he was hauling from going bad.

His CB crackled to life. “Hey, Demon. This is the Cat Scratch Express just coming from that way. You’re all clear to exit 93. Smooth sailing.”

“10-4, Cat Scratch. Keep an eye out as there is a bear sitting in that rest stop just past 112. He’s perched and ready to pounce.”

“10-4. Put the hammer down and catch you on the flip side.”

“Stay safe.”

“Same. Cat Scratch out.”

Well, at least the road would be clear. That was one less thing to weigh on his mind. He would be able to make his way into that little truck stop outside of Ottawa, fill his tank and bed in for the night. Come morning, he would carry on south toward Bloomington-Normal. By mid-day, he would be home.

Something in the sleeper area started to smell. There was that locker room smell of old gym socks that had been growing stronger throughout the cab, but something else also reeked back there. He would have to clean out the whole truck to find out just what it was. He should have washed his clothes along the way, but he was itching to get home, see his wife, and maybe even have a tea party with his little girl. His wife had told him about how his little girl had thrown a tea party the other day for her and her stuffed animals. He missed it, just like he missed other things, but he hoped he could still get some of that special time.

Maybe over the weekend, he would get the energy to pull himself out of bed and take her to Build-A-Bear. It wasn’t a special occasion, but he wanted to make it special. After all, this was his last long haul. After this run, he was officially done with his contract. He would now be driving only five days a week and be home every night. His truck was now paid for. It was his. That meant his life was back in his hands again. No more big companies pulling his strings.

He let out a yawn and scanned the road ahead of him. Nothing had changed. A long stretch of interstate lay in the glow of the headlights as the road stretched off endlessly into darkness. His eyelids were heavy and his body was growing stiff.

These long hauls, the cross-country runs, were nice at first, got him out to see much of the countryside, allowed him to see places that he otherwise probably would have never seen. He had traveled from the Grand Canyon up to Maine and every mountain road in between. There wasn’t much to the great U.S. that he hadn’t seen, so he decided it was time to hang up the saddle. His ride was over, or at least this part of it. Hell, it had been fun when he was a new driver, but that had been over ten years ago. He wasn’t that young man anymore. He had a family and they missed him as much as he missed them. He needed to get home.

Two weeks after his contract ended, he would start up with another company based out of his hometown. Smaller company, pay wasn’t as much, but he would be home every night and his weekends would be free and clear. He would be with his own truck, and if it didn’t work out, he could always go somewhere else. His contract was over. He was no longer tied by the shackles of a lease. He was free and, as he tried to wipe the sleep out of his eyes, he couldn’t think of anything better. There wasn’t anything he wanted more.

Up ahead, he could see the one-mile warning for exit 98. The Clock Tower… That was it. That was the name of the damned place at the exit. The diner was in a truck stop that was open twenty-four hours. He would be able to pull off, get some chow for his food tank and get some diesel for his fuel tank Then he’d settle in for a nice, long shower in one of their stalls.

Tomorrow, he would deliver the load, then hightail it to freedom. Free to drive the remaining hundred miles to home. He would be able to drop the the load at around two in the afternoon, so he would be pulling into his own driveway in time for supper.

As his blinker shouted in its rhythmic tick-tock tone, he started to ease his rig into the exit lane. He already felt the anticipation of getting home and sleeping in his own damn bed.

He looked over at the parking lot of the Clock Tower. The lot was full, but the little diner looked nearly empty. Most of the trucks were probably just idling, their inhabitants either asleep or occupied with some lot lizards.

Bruce nestled his rig midway to the back. He didn’t want everyone thinking he wanted some action, but he didn’t want too many people around him in the morning, waking him up before he was ready. He always preferred to sleep in, miss the morning traffic, and drive later than most other drivers.

Soon, he would be home. He just needed to drop off the trailer, take a short stint through a couple small towns, then he would pull into his own driveway. Bruce reached for the door. A Grand Slam sampler sounded good, and he was ready to shovel it down.

A small spider started to crawl down the inside of the window. It was just a small little thing, harmless, but Bruce still stopped and backed away. He never did like spiders. As a kid, anytime one would bite him, he would always break out in a rash. On more than one occasion, he had to be rushed to the hospital because of a bad reaction to the venom. His airways would close up and he would nearly pass out.

A small little spider, but he knew that little creature could kill him if he gave it a chance. He didn’t have one of his little pink pills with him to toss down, if needed.

Bruce looked around the cabin. In his passenger seat, there was a case for an audio book he had been listening to earlier. He was sure the person who lent it to him wasn’t going to like spider guts on the back of the case, but he grabbed it anyway.

He slammed the case against the window and slid it down, making sure the spider was thoroughly smashed, its insides making a smeared trail along his window. It was dead, guts splattered over the large name, Stephen King, and smeared across the image of a dome.

Bruce tossed the case back into the passenger seat and climbed out of the cab. “Damn, I hate spiders,” he mumbled under his breath.

* * * *

John didn’t know what woke him. He lay there, the little light from the streetlight outside giving him just enough illumination to make out dark shadows in his room. With the lights off, no one, other than himself, would ever be able to find anything as it was all just heaps of dark shapes at odd angles. In the little light, tree branch fingers danced across the walls. If he didn’t know better, he could imagine large shadow hands reaching across his room, looking through his stuff.

Yeah, like they would ever find anything worth a damn, he thought. All he had of value was his stash, the large bag he had just brought back from little Chicago, which was tucked nicely away in his closet under a pair of soiled undies that would turn anybody away.

The bud was safe. Ah, yes. The bud was safe.

“Precious sweet bud, let you ripen so fine. Precious sweet bud, I’ll make you mine,” John said in the small, dark bedroom of his apartment. A slight smile crept across his lips as he thought about the bag. He had tried to grow his own before, but it never dried right. He wasted a lot of seed and, in the end, taught himself it was just too much damn work when all he had to do was take a small little drive to Little Chi-Town and he would come back happy.

John felt a slight tingle on the hairs of his nose and rubbed at his upper lip. He turned his head, breaking free from his daze, to look at the envelope sitting on his dresser top. He could just see it, slightly hanging over the edge. Damn bitch probably put itching powder in the shit, he thought. When he had opened the envelope, the only thing written inside had been “Enjoy”. Now there were just faint traces of the white powder left.

And he had. He had never been a big fan of the “nose candy”, but was never one to turn away a good high when it came his way. He was just surprised to see it coming from Miss Psycho Queen. He guessed she still wasn’t going to take his “get lost” for an answer. Damn, why did he have to date the crazy ones. The ones who would never go away no matter how hard he tried.

He pushed himself up, sitting, placing his feet on the hardwood floor. It was cool against his skin, which felt good in the warm, stuffy heat of his place. He wished like hell he could afford a damn air conditioner, and thought about possibly stealing one from somebody’s window. He reached over and fumbled to turn on his basketball lamp. He had to fight with the little switch to get it to turn on, grumbling with himself as he fought with it. On his third attempt, the lamp finally clicked on, the light flooding the space.

Out of the corner of his eye, he swore he saw little black things scurrying out of sight. They had been at the corner of his vision, which made it hard for him to be sure. By the time he turned his head, any traces were gone. Probably figments of my imagination, he thought, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He didn’t have the cleanest of places, but at least it had never been one known for roaches. Still, he could have sworn he had seen something, but then it was gone, probably buried deep in one of the different piles of dirty clothes littering the floor of the small room. Well, if they had gone in there, they were surely dead by now.

Ugh, why the hell was he up in the middle of the damn night. He leaned forward and pulled himself up from the mattresses on the floor. His bedroom had the barest of essentials and the mess stretched wide. The mattresses on the floor, his clothes thrown about, trash littering the floor in the general direction of the kitchen area. He had a heavily worn, badly tattered couch that had stuffing coming out at various seems along the back edges. Across from it was his television. The only thing in his apartment worth a damn was his 37” flat-panel television that he was currently renting-to-own.

He looked through the open door of his bedroom, toward the living room. Still on, but in sleep mode, the television cast a soft glow. It was always the centerpiece of the apartment. The only thing that wasn’t old, tattered, and a piece of crap.

John stumbled across the room, walking over the piles of clothes as he made his way to the front hallway. His eyelids were heavy, and as he stumbled, he wondered why the hell he was even trying to make his way to the bathroom. The heavy pain in his stomach and the burning sensation coming from his bowels reminded him why as he stepped into the little bathroom and clicked on the light. It flashed a few times before coming to life.

He barely caught a glimpse of his pale reflection in the mirror as he stepped past it to the toilet. The seat was up—ah, the life of a bachelor—and he didn’t even worry about closing the door behind him. Keeping his eyes closed, he listened to the sound of water on water, feeling the easing release of the pressure that had been building up. Sometimes there was no greater joy.

As he finished and opened his eyes to flush, he noticed the red of the toilet water. It was dark crimson, similar to the life force coursing through his veins. That had better not be coming from him. He looked at it, studied it, trying to see if there were any way it could have come from the water itself. He reached forward and flushed. As the red liquid went spiraling down to unknown locations of the sewer, fresh, clear water replaced it.

“Ah, fuck me,” he said to himself. Last thing he wanted was to be pissing blood again.

John groggily stepped over to the sink to wash his hands. He wasn’t the most sanitary of persons, but he had been taught to do so as a child and it was one habit he had never broken.

However, he was stopped by the pale reflection looking back at him with deep bloodshot eyes and dark circles under them. His hair was greasier and more ruffled than usual. His lips, his face without a glimpse of color to them. He was never one to focus on himself, but he was sure that if he looked that way when he had gone to bed, he would have noticed. He looked like a dead man walking. How the hell could he have missed it?

Then there was the dried blood under his nose. Just a little stream of it coming from his right nostril. It was so tiny, as though he had a start to a nose bleed. However, before it had really progressed, it had stopped and now was scabbed over.

John leaned forward so he could get a better look into his nostril. He had a sudden itch, forcing him to quickly start rubbing his nose. The itching grew stronger, a tickle becoming like fire and nearly bringing tears to his eyes as he rubbed both inside and out of the nostrils. He tried to wipe the sleep from his eyes as he peered through the darkness.

He could barely make out what looked like a hair sticking out of his nose. It was a long, black hair that stuck out at an odd angle. He reached up, readying himself to pluck it out and the sharp pain that would follow.

As he prepared to grip the hair, it twitched and started to move. He pulled his hand away and watched it pull itself back into his nose, disappearing into the darkness of his nostril.

“What the…?” John whispered as he leaned closer to the glass. The itching sensation grew so unbearable, he wished he could just rub it until it bled and the skin was raw, peeling away.

He was tired. He just wanted to get back to his mattress and the model who had been sexually assaulting his dreams.

John let a smile start to spread across his face as he pulled himself back from the mirror. He reached down and flushed the toilet. As he got ready to turn out the light, he glanced in the mirror, seeing the hair had reappeared, longer this time. It moved, shifting, then pulled itself back into his nostril.

Then the owner of the hair emerged. A small spider crawled out of his nose. John stood there, watching, his hand hovering just above the light switch. He was too afraid to move or pull his hand back as the spider perched on his upper lip.

John stopped watching it through the mirror and tried to look down at his upper lip. His eyes burned from the strain of focusing on an object so close, and all he could make out was the large black shape.

How had the thing been in his damn nose? How long was it up there? How had it survived when he had been squeezing and rubbing his nose when it itched? Ugh, even worse, what would have happened had he squashed the damned thing while it was in there? His stomach turned at the thought of it and he had to stifle a gag.

Keeping his eyes focused on the spider, John lowered his hand away from the light switch and moved back to the mirror. He could feel the spider’s legs on his upper lip. It shuddered as he moved, as though it were trying to surf him like a wave.

John looked back at the mirror, the black shape still sitting on his upper lip. A fucking spider. He could barely fathom how it had come out of his nose. He leaned over the sink, figuring it was time to try and knock the thing off and wash it down the drain.

He turned on the faucet and fumbled for the stopper so the sink would slowly fill with water. He didn’t turn the water on too fast because he didn’t want the sound of it to be too loud and scare the spider. With his luck, it would start crawling all over his face. However, so far, it seemed to be content with just sitting there.

John started to raise his hand, getting ready to shake his head and knock it off at the same time. He rocked back and forth briefly to get himself prepared, then swung.

The spider quickly ran back into his nose. It was again on fire with the itching sensation. However, this time, he could actually feel it moving around in his head. It ran deeper into his nose, and he could feel it forcing its way back into his airway.

John coughed, the lump moving up and down his throat. He gagged, trying to get it out. He put his finger down his throat to try and force himself to throw up, but the spider fought against him. It kept running around his throat. Tears came to his eyes as he tried to cough as hard as he could. His throat burned and became raw, but still nothing.

John dropped down to his knees in front of his toilet and reached his arms out, as though he had been drinking and was now praying to the porcelain gods. He tried to heave, but nothing came up. He could barely breathe and couldn’t make himself gag anymore.

Leaning onto the toilet, he wanted to cry. His body felt like it was burning up. He imagined he could feel the heat emanating off him. He was too hot. He looked at his arm, expecting it to be red. It was still pasty and pale.

He thought about the pot he had smoked earlier in the night. Damn, he hoped someone hadn’t laced his shit. The last thing he wanted to worry about was that.

Please, he thought to himself, let it just be one hell of a motherfucking bad trip.

A lump formed under his arm near his elbow. It just seemed to appear from nowhere, but protruded out grotesquely. It was nearly three-quarters of an inch in diameter and a half-inch tall, pulling the skin tight and making it red.

Suddenly, the lump broke through the skin. Another spider appeared, crawling its way out of the skin and onto his arm. Blood dripped from the hole as the spider started to run down his arm. John quickly started to claw at the spider with his other hand, trying to kill it. He nearly got it a couple times, but it was quick and kept dodging his attempts. It turned around and quickly ran back into the hole it had made in his arm.

He clawed at the hole, trying to tear away at the skin and get the spider out. His long, dirty nails pulled at his arm, but the spider continued to run underneath his skin and toward his hand. When it made it to his wrist, John quickly felt around above the sink, trying to find his razor. His arm, blood running down from his efforts to claw out the spider, was draped over the toilet.

He could barely see above the ceramic porcelain of the sink to see where he was reaching, but he heard things falling as he felt around—his toothbrush, the large heavy sound of the shaving cream splashing into the water filling the sink.

John finally felt his hand clench around the plastic handle of the razor. It was a cheap dollar shaver, but he hoped that if he dug enough, he would get the damned spider out. Damn the things. He wanted them out. He hated spiders. More than anything else, he hated spiders.

He brought the razor to his wrist and was about to start tearing away at the flesh when he noticed there were no longer any lumps, anything moving. His skin was clear. An unhealthy pale cast to it, but it was clear of anything hiding beneath it. He still had blood trickling down his arm, but the spider seemed to be gone. Same with the spider in his throat. He didn’t feel as though something was blocking his airway.

He reached out to the sink and used it to help him stand.

He still didn’t feel quite sure of himself and felt like he might still be trapped in a nightmare somehow. That he never truly woke up or he might just be caught on a bad acid trip.

He looked at himself in the mirror. He still looked like death warmed over. He was tired and wanted to go back to bed. It was calling for him, like a siren song reeling him in.

His ear tickled. As he reached up to pick at it, he felt the familiar sensation of the spider’s legs on his skin. He shook his head, trying to get at it as he felt it starting to crawl toward his face, its legs leaving small stinging sensations along the unshaven roughness of his skin. Then, after one big shake, he felt its release and saw it land on the floor.

It just lay there. Before it could regain itself, John quickly stomped down on the cursed thing. Strangely, he expected it to squish between his toes, as he was still barefoot. Instead, he barely felt anything. He pulled his foot away, seeing black dust where the remains of the spider should have been.

“Psychosis, Spiders and Zombies, Oh My!” – 5 Star Review for Hatched

“I was interested in this book based on the cover art and title alone, and they do not disappoint. ‘Hatched’ is a unique take on a parasitic invasion that affects humans in ways that are horrifying and hard to predict. I read a lot of content in this genre and I’m always on the hunt for a unique take on a cliche – this is the one for zombie lore. I’ve consumed an absurd amount of this kind of content and there is nothing out there like this that I’ve found. If you like horror, have a fear spiders and enjoy a thrilling, spine tingling (literally) adventure, then ‘Hatched’ is the story for you! Darren Marlar gives a stellar performance.” -Simone K (audible.com)

Hatched is available in print, audiobook, and on Kindle.

If you live in the Wausau area, please request the book from Jankes’ Book Store.

Dead Friends: Chapter 6

Is there ever a true release from the darkness? Does it not always have some hold on our souls? Even in following Christ there is always still some sliver of doubt nestled away in corners on the mind. These slivers often go ignored, but are allowed to remain. Those who are blind to them are often the ones with the largest nooks and crannies for those thoughts to hide in. It often leads people down paths of corruption. They find ways to justify actions that are unethical an morally disturbing. They allow these dark thoughts to influence them in ways they are unaware.

No one is ever truly free of the dark, but only blind to it.

Even as Lizzie wakes up in a brightly lit room, she still lingers her gaze around focusing on the different shadows that have collected in the corners and to the side of the cabinets. Then when she goes to wipe away the sleep from her eyes, finds that she is once again restrained.

Her glance to her hands resulted in noticing the tray by her bed and the Jello sitting there on a little plate. Then she noticed the woman sitting in the soft chair reserved for guests. The woman had obviously been sleeping, still wearing the nursing scrubs she had worn all night. She was awake now, and already leaning forward to stand.

“I’ll take care of those.” She said as she rose, nodding to Lizzie’s restrained wrists. “I put them back on when you started flailing in your sleep. You had some nasty nightmares and I was afraid you might hurt yourself.”

Lizzie nodded and watched as she undid the straps. Elisabeth finished with them and then without waiting for Lizzie to ask, she brought the cup over from the tray and handing it to her. Lizzie sipped at it, grateful for its cool liquid. She noticed that inside the cup was the remnants of ice, so at some point in the morning Elisabeth had refilled it with ice water long before Lizzie had woken.

The water tasted and felt great and Lizzie had to wonder if the woman was psychic with how she had known just what Lizzie had needed before she herself had. 

That was when she noticed more about the woman as she looked different in true morning light, not as old as Lizzie had originally thought. She did have silver hair, and maybe that was why Lizzie had thought her to be older, but her face was of someone Lizzie’s age. On a second look and in the right morning sun, it was obvious the silver hair was a dye and a really good one. Whoever did her hair did an amazing job.

“Who does your hair? It’s amazing!” 

Elizabeth sparkled with a bright smile warming her face. She took a second to look down embarrassed, probably not used to taking compliments and especially about her hair before she looked up again.

“A girl my mom knows. Her names Rachel and she works out of her living room, but she really knows her stuff. She does some wicked coloring.”

“It looks great,” and she meant it. The silver just caught the light and somehow transformed it so it brightened the room. And it was so different. Who dies their hair silver? Everyone always wants to be the blond or the red head, but no one does silver. It was amazing.

Though seeing it in the morning light reminded her and Lizzie had to ask, “Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be off by now?”

“I am. I kinda stuck around. Long story, but yeah, ended up falling asleep in your chair and then you woke me up.”

“You should go home, get some sleep.”

“I will. I wanted you to know I called the Sheriff’s department. They said they’ll send a deputy here around ten, which should be in an hour or so, so you got some time for breakfast and the kitchen is still open so all you have to do is call down to them.”

“Okay.”
“I did get the Jello for you earlier,” Elisabeth motioned to the glob of gelatin on a plate. “It was awhile ago, not sure I’d eat it.”

“Yeah… so how’s the cafeteria food?”

“Decent. Better when your sick.”

“What?” Lizzie said, not able to suppress the giggle that escaped her. She can’t believe she was giggling. She had just lost her best friend yesterday, a friend she had known for most her life. There wasn’t much her and Sarah didn’t do together. How would she ever go shopping without her? 

But now she was with this stranger, and laughing. Something about being around this woman helped her to forget some of the pain and the grief. She still felt it hiding on the fringes, keeping to the corner of her thoughts, but it stayed there, not pulling her in while Elisabeth was around. And the woman had stayed when she hadn’t needed too. Maybe that unabashed kindness is part of what allowed her to keep those stashes of grief secure or at least at bay until she had a chance to feel them.

“You know…’better when your sick’” She was saying with her hands lifted in air quotes. “Such as being so sick you can’t taste it” Elizabeth said trying unsuccessfully to hide the giggle.

“That bad, huh.”

“Yeah.”

They were interrupted when another nurse entered the room and walked over to the chart.

“Hey Lizzie, good morning. I’m Annie and I’ll be your RN this morning. Elisabeth is keeping you company I see. So how are you doing?” This new nurse seemed much more ‘matter of fact’ as she entered the room with her painted on smile. She was short, thin, had short multicolored hair, but didn’t seem as warm or friendly as Elisabeth was. Lizzie looked to Elisabeth and saw that she was not happy with this newcomer.

“I’m fine.” Lizzie said as Annie picked up her chart and started to finger through it, occasionally jotting down notes before putting it back in the rack by the door. Then she scanned a card she had unclipped from her waste on a pad on the wall before she proceeded to the patient of the room.

“Okay, so I’m just going to take some vitals and get you checked out.” Annie was already pulling a stethoscope from behind the bed and motioning for her to hold out her arm. “Would you like Beth to stay or for her to go?”

Lizzie had no problem with ‘Beth’ staying though she could tell this new nurse would like her gone. Looking back at Elisabeth she could tell the feeling was mutual. Though Annie must be the senior as Elisabeth lowered her glare first and could barely be heard when she mumbled, “I should be getting home anyways.”

Before Lizzie could call out to stop her, she was already out of the room and hurrying down the hallway.

“I got some good news for you. Looks like you’ll probably be released today now that your up. The doctor will be in soon for a final check up and Janice from accounting will be in for your insurance and payment information.”

“Wait, what?” Lizzie’s head was already spinning and she had lost focus on what the nurse had been saying. Her vision had blurred and the nurse had kept talking saying something about “home” and “insurance.” Did she have homeowners insurance? What was the woman talking about.

The room swirled around her, colors elongating as they stretched into odd distortions of their former existence. She couldn’t breathe. What was going on? Money, all this was about money? What, who did that? She wasn’t out of the hospital yet, hadn’t even seen the light of day after seeing her best friend brutally killed and they were already there to take from her? Couldn’t they just bill her, send her something in the mail?

“It’s not a big deal. Janice will just take down your information, and if you want to make a payment you can. Its not required. No one is asking you to pay it all off or anything today.” The nurse was saying. Lizzie wasn’t even sure if the woman could see how she reacted. 

She was all alone to deal with things like this now. 

No, she’d been alone before, just as alone as she had been since her parents were gone. She couldn’t rely on her brother, and her uncle had never been there for her. It was aways her and her alone. That was the way of it and the world she now lived in.

Lizzie found herself nodding in agreement to whatever the nurse was saying. She had stopped listening. It didn’t matter. She was getting out later today so who cared about anything in this place. 

Elisabeth had been nice. Why did all the nice ones have to go? She wished she could have talked to her more, but was that her trying to replace the friend she lost? Could she be so callous to move on from caring about Sarah who’d she had known most her life.

No, but it had been nice to talk to someone. It got her to stop thinking about Sarah, and even if it was only for a short while, it had helped. The pain would be there, who knew for how long though she didn’t think it was going away any time soon. It would be there whenever she had a moment alone or just looked at a piece of lemon cake that Sarah loved so much. It would be there whenever Lizzie went to Penny’s as they had gone there countless times and had wondered the aisles just talking to themselves and trying on whatever they liked.

Sarah would be with her for a long time.

“Okay, well, your vitals are looking good. BP is up, but with what you’ve been through that is understandable. You’ll need to follow up though in a week or two with your regular doctor, but I’m not thinking anything of it.”

Lizzie just nodded. Insurance. Her friend was lost and they were wanting to talk about insurance. Something about that made it all now seem so real. It had been real before, all through the night, but the drugs or the dream of it all had made her find a way to ignore the reality.

Annie must have taken her nodding as if she understood as she was already heading to the chart by the curtain. She grabbed it and was making quick notations when something occurred to her and looked back up at Lizzie.

“I almost forgot. There was a notation about the sheriffs department? They called earlier and I let them know you weren’t awake yet but was expected to be this afternoon. I’m assuming they’ll be stopping by. I don’t need to restrain you until they get here do I?”

“Why would I?”

“Oh, some types of people hear police and they run.” 

Annie never saw the mouth dropped stare she got from Lizzie as she finished her notations and was quick to leave down the hallway. Really? Did she look like a person who regularly hid from the police? 

Actually she had no idea what she looked like. She hadn’t seen a mirror since she had left her apartment in Steven’s Point yesterday. Then they had only been going to the lawyers office as he had things he had wanted to discuss. When he had told her about the money and the house, the two of them hadn’t been able to help themselves and had to go check it out. 

Sarah had started making calls immediately and invited all her friends. They hadn’t even gotten their coffee from the barista at Starbucks when they’d heard back that a few of them had said they’d be there. 

Had any of them actually been there, Sarah may have still been alive. That or someone else might have died and she’d still have her best friend hanging around.

“Damn, what a bitch.” Sarah said. 

At first Lizzie thought she was losing her mind, that the voice had been internal, loud in her head. Thought it was so much louder than her other thought voices that were trapped in there. 

Then Sarah appeared, walking out from behind the elevated bed. She looked just like she had last seen her, the large open area on her neck where the naked man had ripped away her flesh. That perky pink shirt she had been wearing now drenched in blood, most of it on the side that most the blood ran down. Her head had a large gash in it that Lizzie hadn’t noticed before but probably came from when she had crashed to the floor. Her eyes still held that dead, lifeless quality as they fixed on her. 

*****

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*****

“I thought they were never going to leave, but that last one… Did you see that condescending look. She thought you were trailer park, I could see it in her eyes.”

Lizzie hadn’t thought her mouth could widen more, but as she stared up at her dead friend, her jaw was near dislocating and drool dropped from her open lip. She wiped at it but never took her eyes off the apparition.

She wanted to scream, but no. I can’t do that. I can’t scream. Screaming would just bring that nurse back in here as well as anyone else nearby and then I would definitely get restrained again. On top of that, they would find a nice white padded room and put my name on it. It would be saved just for me, as here is Lizzie in the looney bin as she has finally lost it. Her and her books, all those crazy thoughts finally drove her nuts, and it would be true, I would be crazy and everyone would be right. And maybe, just maybe I am crazy. After all, here’s my best friend back from the dead and talking to me just like I was.

Her mouth was going dry. Her tongue felt like a layer of dust was settling, but she couldn’t close her mouth. She tried but the best should do was just to sit there mouth mostly closed, and still not saying anything. What do you say to your dead best friend when she shows up in your hospital room. ‘Hey, how you doing? How’s death? Have you met Elvis?’ 

Okay, maybe the Elvis question was a little off. Though she might have run into David Bowie. He’d been hot in Labyrinth. Maybe she’d seen him somewhere there in the afterlife and they’ve had a few go arounds. That’d be just Sarah’s way of doing things. She always got the hot guys.

Lizzie really was losing it.

“Lizzie. Earth to Lizzie. Anyone home?”

“This isn’t happening.” Lizzie said as she tossed off the thin sheet like blanket and threw her feet off the bed to touch the cold linoleum floor. She hadn’t noticed that the IV’s were gone, but had they still been attached they wouldn’t have stopped her from dashing to the bathroom.

She made it with her stomach already lurching, trying to expel contents that were not there. Her bladder had been screaming at her but she’d been ignoring it. Now as she lowered herself over the bowl of the toilet, it was done holding back. She heaved into the toilet, only stomach juices emerging from her, but she could feel the warmth between her legs and smell the putrid scent of urine. The floor grew wet and warm. Tears streaked her face but she couldn’t stop dry heaving into the open bowl. Maybe it was disgust with what she now sat in, or with how she abandoned her friend, but it sure as shit couldn’t be disgust with how her friend looked because she wasn’t real. It hadn’t really been her standing there in Lizzie’s hospital room.

“Lizzie, it’s going to be okay. I’m here.”

Lizzie turned to see that Sarah stood in the doorway. She looked, pained at seeing Lizzie this way.

No! This isn’t real. This can’t be happening! 

Lizzie kicked out, though as she tried to reach with her foot to close the door, it slipped on shit and urine that coated the floor. Her feet gave out from supporting her and she fell the short distance to the hard tile floor.

“Get out!” Lizzie yelled it, not sure if she was furious that her friend was back from the dead or at herself for the mess she had made. She kept kicking out her feet, trying to get purchase on the door that remained just out of reach. She started to push herself towards it, not taking her eyes off of Sarah who held her hands up and backed away. “Get out! Get out! Get out!”

Lizzie was finally able to reach the door with her foot and pulled on it. The door swung and slammed into its frame with an audible thud that reverberated along the tile. Her stomach was still tight, threatening more heaving in the future but for now it was done. Her breath came in quick heavy gasps and she could feel the energy her flight had given her dissipate. Exhaustion was fighting its way in, but she wasn’t ready for it. She’d slept enough. She was tired, but also tired of this place. She wanted out of there, away from snake nurses and dead friends that came to visit her.

There was a light rapping on the door. Lizzie didn’t look up, her chin stayed resting on her chest. Spittle ran down her cheek, and she felt like she was on the verge of sleep no matter how hard she fought against it.

“Lizzie? You okay in there.” Lizzie recognized the nurses voice. The nurse was persistent as she was already turning the knob as she spoke.

“Go away.” The fight gone from her voice.

“I just want to-“ Annie didn’t get to finish as she saw the mess Lizzie was in, the pile of shit, urine, and teenager all together in one large mess on the floor. Lizzie tried to kick the door closed but couldn’t find the strength to put any force into it. She was a flailing person on the floor, acting like she had one too many beers at the fraternity kegger. 

“We need to get you cleaned up. Sheriff’s department is here.” Annie said as she moved around, behind Lizzie. Then Lizzie felt the woman’s hands under her arms and Lizzie was being lifted.

“Get your hands off of me.” 

She tried to wiggle free but the woman had a really strong grip. The more Lizzie tried to twist out of it, the tighter those hands clamped onto her underarm and it was really beginning to hurt. She tried to push herself up, thinking a change in direction would get her free from the nurse or that the push against her would send both of them backward. Instead her feet slipped out from under her putting her more into the control of the surprisingly strong woman.

She was defeated. This woman had her.

“It’s going to be okay.” Sarah said. Lizzie looked up to see her standing there in the doorway. She looked like she was about to cry, worrying about her friend. Behind her stood a large burly man wearing a dark colored police uniform. He was watching her without any kind of compassion, his face showing the frustration of being called there for someone who was obviously crazy. Lizzie couldn’t give two shits if the man thought she was crazy but her friend, her friend was dead. She shouldn’t be watching her with those eyes, wearing that same expression she had when she told her she’d dumped Roland because the bastard had cheated on her. 

Annie saw where she was looking and called out to the police officer.

“Do you mind. She’s been through a lot. Give me a minute to clean her up and I’ll have her out to you.”

“Sure.” The man said, but made no movement to leave the room. He just stayed there watching them, that bored impatient look pasted on his face.

“Do you mind going out into the hallway?” Nurse Annie said as she helped Lizzie into the chair positioned in the shower. Lizzie hadn’t noticed that she had stopped fighting the nurse and had helped her. She was vaguely aware of anything other than her friend. Annie and the officer didn’t seem to see her. They just talked around her like she wasn’t there. Did they not see this hideously disfigured woman standing between them? You would think the nurse would be rushing to her, calling her a doctor, or that the police officer would be asking her questions.  Such as ‘With you being dead, how did you manage to get to the hospital,’ and ‘do you know who killed you?’

Lizzie’s head was really beginning to hurt as too many thoughts kept trying to come to the forefront and people talking around her. It was all too too much. She just wanted to collapse and pass out. Wait, I’m already sitting… It didn’t help as she still felt too much weight on her.

Lizzie felt the nurses hands leave her and she immediately wanted to slump forward and fall to the floor. Why did she need to stay sitting up anyways. She was already covered in yuck, let her just fall over and die in it.

She watched through the haze of her closing eyes as Annie closed the door so that Sarah and the officer were trapped outside. Then the nurse turned back to Lizzie. Lizzie looked up at her but her face was gone. The snake face had returned. Who had she last seen with a snake face? She vaguely remembered who it was but it had been a nurse. Were they all snake people?

“Lizzie!” She heard a voice try to reach her, and knew it was Sarah. Was it a ghost Sarah or dead girl in the hallway Sarah? She didn’t know and she didn’t care. She didn’t care that the nurse was a snake anymore. She just wanted to sleep. Here, the floor looks nice. I’m just going to lie here for a bit.

“Lizzie, wake up!”

Dead Friends: Chapter 5

The next time she woke up, her head felt heavy, her mouth felt like it was full of cotton and her wrists, she could feel, had something soft and tight fastened around them. Restraints. She vaguely knew why though as she rolled her head trying to lift it and look around. It was from something early, how much she didn’t know. Her mind, her thinking was muddled as she tried to piece it all together.

Her eyes cleared more and more. The room around her was dark, but not completely. She could vaguely make out shapes. As some of the fog swimming in her head cleared she was able to make out that there was a clock on the fall wall. It was hard to focus on the hands and she wished like hell they had a damned digital clock because really, how often did people read from round clocks with minutes and hours spinning around a little dot. It seemed so archaic to have to think about what the time read. It took her longer than she thought it should, really having to concentrate on the numbers and which hand was on the five and which one was on the three.

3:20

  No, that was wrong. The five was twenty-five not twenty. It was twenty five after three. So it was in the middle of the night. Either that or someone had hidden the sun while she was sleeping. With lingering thoughts of that shadow man in the woods, the idea that the sun was gone sent a shiver down her spine and a bone deep chill no heat could warm. 

She looked to the window and realized she hadn’t really looked at any part of her room before. The memories of her last stint with consciousness were becoming less hazy, but there was something keeping her from remembering. It probably had something to do with the IV drip that was running into her arm and the drugs, but she didn’t think she would fully remember everything from before. It was too much like a dream and dreams only faded over time.

Slowly she scanned the room, judging quickly when she turned too fast. She was obviously in a hospital room, and in a bed that kept her head elevated. She thought they were called gurney’s, but not sure if that was just something out of a tv show, or it they were actually called that. To her left there was a C shaped stand that was positioned on wheels and stretched over the top so that she could eat when served. Currently it was positioned behind the tall metal IV stand. Next to that was some kind of a machine that had scraggly lines and numbers that changed every so often. It was past these machines she could look out the window.

She couldn’t see the ground outside, but she did see the top of a street light. It shown bright in the dark sky, but past it she could just make out the lightly clouded sky and the stars. They shined bright and she took comfort in seeing them because if the stars were out, then it wasn’t a sun hidden day. 

Had she really been afraid of that? To her surprise, she actually had been. Though if the sun was gone, wouldn’t she still be able to see the stars during the day. She’d seen a solar eclipse once, and once the sun was darkened, the stars were able to be seen during the day so it was possible.

She pushed the thought down and took her time to study the cabinet that was in the corner, past the window and next to the little bench that was on the far wall. Why was she so drawn to it. It was a standard wooden cabinet, though taller than anything she had ever seen before. This one was tall enough to stand from the floor to the ceiling and she couldn’t help but wonder how they got it into the room as it looked like it extended into the panel tiles. What was in it, what did they need to hide that was so large?

Above the bench and suspended from he wall was the large tv. She debated about turning it on, not really sure what she would watch at three in the morning, but it would be noise in what was too quite of a room. Since she’d been up, she’d not even heard the signs of breathing from outside the room, or much else for that matter. The only thing she heard was the occasional, rhythmic beep from the machine. The television stayed off as she saw that the remote was on the desk across the room, and she wasn’t sure about standing with the IV still attached to her arm.

Not like you could if you wanted to. You know you’re still restrained. You won’t be going anywhere until the doctor comes back and you can get your hands freed. She thought it to herself, that inner voice speaking to her, and it was right. There was no way she could do anything. 

To the right of the desk was another cabinet. This one wasn’t as high, but it was wider. Past it to her right was a light blue curtain that looked like it ran on a track around her bed. It must be there for her privacy when she needed to change, though she would have preferred just to have a door on her room.

Which was what truly frustrated her about the room, or more adequately described as a large cubby hole put off to the side. She had no door. She had no fourth wall. Where the wall on her right side should be was one long curtain. It ran the length of where the fourth wall should be. It didn’t’ stretch fully to the floor, so under it, she could see the slight glow from the hallway beyond.

Behind the bed to her right was more gadgets hooked up to her. I mean, Christ, with how much crap connected to me, you would think they needed to jumpstart me like a car. I’m not on life support, so what the hell is all this garbage.

Her head was clearing. She hadn’t realized it at first, but it felt like forever since she could start to remember things. They were distorted, and none of them made sense. It was like a dream that wasn’t a dream, or something that was real that should have been a dream. That just about summed up her whole day, but in that sense it was a nightmare, one that wouldn’t go away.

Had there been something about one of her nurses being a snake that was going to poison her? Oh god, she hoped she hadn’t actually hit her doctor, though it did explain the restraints.

She slammed her head back into her pillow trying to hide from the empty room, so embarrassed that she never wanted to see another living soul. She had, hadn’t she? She had hit her doctor and who knows who else. She was pretty sure she had been thrashing around for awhile. Anyone could have been caught with a loose fist.

Someone should have gone ahead and hit me back. I deserved it. But of course, none of them had hit her back, not physically. She wasn’t sure what kind of sedative they had given her, but it had done the job.

They had been asking her questions though, before she had freaked out. She was pretty sure she had mentioned Roland, but what else had she said. Another wave of embarrassment hit her. Had they called him? Great, what would he be thinking? He already thought of her as an emotional flake who found any reason to go nuts. What would he think if the doctor had mentioned something about her episode. Of course he would never come visit her, but the story would be all amongst their friends by the time she got home. It would be years before she would ever live it down.

What if she had told them about her brother? That…Now that would be worse. There would be no way he could get there to visit her, and he would be trapped in Madison worrying about her. She would need to call him and let him know she was okay.

She should call him now, just in case they had called.

But it was three in the morning. Well, now it was getting closer to four. Where had the last twenty minutes gone too? Even if they had called him and he had stayed up late fretting about her, he would be asleep. Worry only lasted for so long before exhaustion took its toll.

Where was her phone?

She looked around the little room and didn’t see it. Maybe it was with her clothes, wherever those were… She wasn’t sure. Maybe that was the purpose to one of the cabinets across the room. Probably…though she wished they would have left her phone out and over there by her so she could use it.

She lied back in the bed.

What was she going to do. She was up now and didn’t feel tired at all. The bed was getting uncomfortable and she wished she could at least lower the back portion and turn on her side. The restraints made any movement impossible. She was going to lie on her back wether she liked it or not.

“Hello.” She said into the dark room. Her voice was timid and cracked. She hadn’t realized just how thirsty she was, her cotton mouth getting the better of her. She had to swallow down saliva a few times, though there was not much to work with before she tried again, this time a little louder into the quiet.

“Hello. Anyone out there?”

She waited. She didn’t hear any kind of a response and she had a sudden, scary thought. What if she was alone? What if no one was out there manning the nurses station? What if she wasn’t even near a nurse’s station? Would she just have to lie there until someone finally checked in on her?

The thought of spending the next few hours lying in the bed, waiting for someone to finally pull back the curtain and slip into her little space was torturous. Could she really last that long; no tv, no internet, no phone that could do both.

She continued to listen. The only sounds she heard was her breathing which grew louder the more anxious she became, and the machine that kept a constant beep next to her.

How did they ever expect anyone to sleep in there with that damn machine beeping at her all night? Yeah, well, people didn’t go to hospitals to sleep, they went there to get better. If she wanted to sleep, she should dig herself a grave. Wasn’t that the old adage. She didn’t think she had it right but her mind was still working through the haze of the meds.

The sedatives.

The drugs. They had drugged her. How could they drug her and knock her out like that?

Wasn’t there supposed to be one of those call buttons at the ready? Something she could use to page for the nurses? There was something on the side of her bed. It was a small box connected by a cord that ran below the bed. It had a few buttons on it, but she couldn’t say for sure what any of them were as the pictures on each button had been worn off by use.

Though she could just start pressing buttons at random, if she could reach it. She tried to grab at it, but the restraint was just tight enough that she couldn’t grasp the dangling box.

“Ugh” The cry escaped her in frustration as she slammed herself back onto the bed. “Hello!”

“Hello!” she called again, this time louder as she grew more confident in her voice. She was still so thirsty, but her throat didn’t feel as restricted before. 

Being awake must be helping, she thought as she lifted her head again, cocking it to hear better. She thought she heard the sound of a chair creaking out in the hallway. Was she by the nursing station? Could they hear her after all? Maybe that last time had been loud enough?

There it was again, another creak. Then the definite sound of someone shift their weight as to stand. There was someone out there and they were getting up.

Lizzie listened intently as she heard the release of the chair, recognizing it as the sound of the chair rising to its unseated state. Then came the soft steps and slight squeak of a person wearing well worn tennis shoes, but the person was walking away from her. The footsteps were getting quieter. They were leaving her, were they going to go tell someone she was awake. Why wouldn’t they just call someone, and then come in to check on her?

“Heeellooo!” She said again, this time exaggerating as she spoke, trying to put as much strength as she could, expelling the air from her lungs in force as it formed the word. She reminded herself of Josh Gad when he sung “Hello” in his opening number for the Book of Mormon. She had never seen the musical, but the soundtrack was in heavy rotation on her phone. The off beat humor of it matched her own twisted jokes and found that it more often than not filtered in to her everyday.

The footsteps were returning. She could hear them getting closer, and then saw as the light under the curtains showed them. They reached the edge, and just as Lizzie was expecting a huge pulling back of curtains reveal, a quant woman slipped in and disappeared as the curtain closed again behind her.

“Hello Lizzie, how are you feeling?” The nurse said as she was illuminated with a faint light. Lizzie could see that she was standing by a light switch on the wall and what must have been a dimmer as she brought up the light gradually. Lizzie recognized the woman as one of the ones from earlier, the one who…had Lizzie really thought this woman had turned into a snake?

“I’m okay.” she said, not really sure if she actually was, but didn’t feel herself hurting too much. Other than a slight headache and the fuzziness around her thoughts, she felt fine. She didn’t even feel the soreness she would have expected for all the falling she had gone through, or any of the scrapes she had gotten running through the woods. 

“That’s good. I’m Elisabeth. I’ll be your nurse tonight. Can I get you anything?”

“Water?”

“Sure. I’ll refill your cup.” She spoke softly and if there was any resentment from before, it didn’t show. The woman moved gently, and was smooth as she glided over to the little table next to the bed. Lizzie hadn’t noticed the water bottle next to her bed, but watched as she grabbed it and took it to the sink across the room. She filled it then turned back towards Lizzie, “I bet you’d like some ice.”

“Just the water is fine.” 

Elisabeth had already started towards the hallway but stopped and turned to the bed. She was quick to bring the water, tilting the cup so Lizzie could drink from the straw.

  Lizzie looked at that approaching straw protruding from the water cup and was filled with a strong sense of dread. A deja vu washed over her and a rasping voice whispered in her ear that it was poison. That was impossible but she couldn’t shake the feeling as it mixed with the hazy memory of this woman with a serphant’s face. She had to close her eyes to push away the memory and allowed herself to drink.

The water may not have been ice cold, but it was still cool, soothing her throat as it made its way to her empty stomach. She could feel as it moved inside her, the touch of it on her insides alighting herself. It seemed to flow through and back up, and she could feel as her head felt lighter, her brain waking up a little more and some of that haziness chipping away. 

“No, no, not too much.” Elisabeth said softly as she pulled the cup back. She eased it away and Lizzie felt the little drips that leaked from the corners of her mouth, running down her chin.

She was alive. Why was it that with everything that had happened, it wasn’t until that drink of water that she truly feel like she had survived it. She was safe now, she was in a hospital and everything was going to be okay. 

“Thank you,” and she was grateful as she didn’t think water could ever taste that good. Well, it hadn’t tasted good, as she had cottonmouth, but water had never been so refreshing as it had been now.

“That’s good. You seem to be feeling better.”

“I guess so.”

“Good. Do you know where you are?”

“No, not really.”

“That makes sense. From your chart, you were unconscious when the EMT’s brought you in and you’ve only been awake a few times.”

“I have? I don’t remember too much and it feels more like it was all a dream.”

“Yeah, the sedatives can do that.”

“So where am I?”

“You’re at Aurora Healthcare in Wautoma, the Christmas tree capital of the world.” 

“Okay, and why am I here?.. and why am I in these handcuff thingies?”

“Um, well, you were brought in earlier today sometime in the afternoon. They were originally going to keep in you the ER, but they brought you up here to intensive care when you weren’t waking up. Hope you have good insurance, eh?” The woman said that last part, with the strong “A” that mixed many northern Wisconsin accents with Canadian. It was interesting with how the accent wasn’t always there when the nurse talked, but then it occasionally slipped in. Most the time, Lizzie would have guessed she was from farther south but still in the Midwest. It was hard to tell, as culture became more centered around televisions, accents seemed to fade.

“No, not really. College student.”

“Oh crap. Yeah, well, at least staying in intensive care won’t be as bad as those student loan payments. And if you don’t like your major, you can always take up boxing.”

“Sure. So I did attack the doctor…and you? I had hoped I’d dreamed that.”

“You swung, but it was a swing and a miss.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Part of the job. So is there something I can get for you? There’s no one else on the ward, so you have it all to yourself, but I still need to keep watch in case an emergency comes in.”

“Can you open the curtain and let the some light in. I don’t want to be in the dark right now.”

“Sure.”

The nurse went to one side and grabbed the edge and worked the curtain back. She was halfway when it looked like the curiosity got the better of her as she turned to ask, “Do you mind me asking, what happened to you?”

“I’m not sure. My best friend and I were at a house, my uncle’s house that I inherited…which I guess makes it my house now.”

“I guess so,” Elisabeth said as she finished pulling back the curtain. 

Lizzie could now see the nurse station across the little hallway, though all she could see of it from her angle was the counter and on that a rack holder with a single file in it. That must be her file with who knew what kind of records. Had they pulled her whole history? Was there information about the broken arm she had at the age of fifteen, or the tonsils she had removed when she was ten? 

Elisabeth walked back over to her and to Lizzie’s surprise, pulled up the reclining chair that had been next to her bed. 

“We went there, and then, there was this strange naked man in the kitchen. He attacked us…well, he attacked Sarah.”

“Wow, did she get away okay?”

“No, I think he killed her. I barely got away. I don’t know how, but I ended up here.”

“Yeah, you need to talk to the cops.”

“I know,” though up until just minutes ago she had forgotten why she needed them. How could she have forgotten Sarah? 

Those dead eyes looking at her, watching her as she ran away to leave her there.

“I can call the sheriff’s office. I’m not sure anyone’s there this time of night, but I’d think someone would be available.”

“Thank you. Do you know if they called my brother?”

“I don’t think so. Do you want me to call him?” 

Lizzie hadn’t realized how much that had been worrying her until the sudden release of tears, glad that they hadn’t. The nurse was quickly to scramble for the Kleenex. 

Lizzie tried to wipe them away herself but was stopped by the wrist restraints. She laughed as she looked at them. It was the tired laugh of the frustrated and it brought more crying. She was laughing and crying and in her head rolled a hurricane of emotions. Her parents were dead, her best friend was dead, her other friends were miles away and busy back in Stevens Point and Madison, leaving the only person who really knew her to be her brother. 

There was no way she could unload all this on him. It would only make him worry about something he could do nothing about or even get to her to comfort her. It wouldn’t even do to talk to him over the phone and hear that robotic voice of his machine talking back to her. Was there anything less helpful than to hear a computer generated voice even if it was her brothers words typed by stylus on his keypad?

Elisabeth dabbed at Lizzie’s cheeks and Lizzie looked into her kind eyes. This woman who barely even knew her seemed to genuinely be concerned for her. How could Lizzie have ever thought of this woman as a snake?

“Thank you.”

“No problem. I take it you don’t want to talk to your brother.”

“It’s not that. I do, its just…its complicated.” Lizzie didn’t know what else to say, and the nurse seemed to understand. She stood there, and they both just looked at each other, one knowing the other wanted to say more, and that when she was ready, the nurse would listen.

Lizzie let out a long sigh, and looked down, catching sight again of the ungodly large clasps around her wrists.

“Do you think you can do something about this?” Lizzie asks, looking up again and catching Elisabeth’s eye.

“You promise you’re not going to slug me again?”

“No, but I’ll dance a jig if you do.”

The nurse didn’t know what to make of it, and Lizzie wasn’t sure what she had meant by that as well. She ended up cocking an unsure eyebrow at the nurse in what had to look like a mix between a puppy dog pleading for forgiveness and a an older sister who was ready to drag you into something naughty that would definitely get you in trouble. The look would have probably been more convincing had Lizzie not had the streaks of fresh tears and the red puffy eyes of the recently crying.

“Yeah, forget I said that,” she said, “but I’ll still appreciate it if you’d take these off me.”

“Just, please, no hitting. I’d have to do more paperwork.”

Elisabeth was quick with the straps and like that, Lizzie was free, her arms lifting into the air happy to be loose.

She stretched, then yawned. The early morning was starting to catch up to her and she was beginning to think she might actually be able to get some rest.

“Here,” the nurse said, brining over the plastic cup and Lizzie was grateful to be able to hold it herself as she brought the straw to her mouth. She took a long drink, felt as the cool water hit her stomach, and then realized something else. She was hungry. Very hungry, which was announced to Elisabeth as well as the roar that erupted from Lizzie could have scared an bear to run for safety.

“You know, the cafeteria is closed, but I might be able to have someone bring you up a jello.”

“Yeah,” Lizzie nodded in relief.

“And then I’ll call the sheriff, okay?”

Lizzie nodded as she lied back on the bed. She was spent. By the time Elisabeth had left the room and pulled the curtain closed behind her, Lizzie was already caught in the first nightmare. The cackling voice surrounding her as maggots swarmed over her. She was twisting and turning in her sleep violently shaking the bed, but there was no waking. Not until the nightmares were ready to let her slip back into reality. It would be awhile, as they enjoyed playing with the new toy, and the maggots grew in size and their mouths exposed long vampire like fangs.

She wanted to scream. She wanted to wake up, but she was trapped and the nightmare had only just had been her last month begun. She just wanted it all to end. End it, end it now she pleaded in her mind.

And the cackling voice ended with the shadow man as it chased her all throughout her dreams.

“Tik-a-tee, tik-a-tet… your death does not come yet…”

She slipped further into the darkness.

Dead Friends: Chapter 4

Beep

Beep beep

Beep

Beep beep

tik

tik-a-too

tik

tik-a-tok

Lizzie’s eyes shot open, her breath caught in her chest in mid a scream that never came. She was ready to scream forever into the dark, but something was wrong. She held it in, and it burned her lungs like a fire storming inside her.

There were lights. They weren’t in the room she was in, but it was nearby and illuminated just enough around her that she could see the walls.

Walls in a room that trapped her. They were white, she was trapped back at the house and it was night now. The naked man or the tik-tok man must have dragged her back there and now they were going too…

Was she tied up?

She wasn’t sure. How could she not be sure? She didn’t know but when she tried to move, the room moved more than she did as it tried to spin around her. The world was shaking, was it an earthquake?

There was a loud laugh from somewhere deep in the darkness. It turned into a cackling. The room echoed with it and she could see where pieces of tile started to shatter away and cracks formed running down from the ceiling.

Plaster fell around her and exploded into white powder that lingered in the air. The room was becoming a fog of white as more pieces fell. It was growing thick and she couldn’t breathe. She began to cough, but her throat was raw. It came out as a dry rasp and she had to struggle.

“Calm down. It’s going to be okay.”

She heard a woman’s voice and it was nearby. An angel had come to rescue her. Finally she was saved.

She heard her heart. It was pounding so loudly in her chest that it throbbed through her ears. Still over it she could hear that wonderful voice.

“Just lie back down. Everything’s okay. You’re safe now. You’re safe.” The voice told her and she felt it. The voice reached in to her and relaxed her, pushing her back down on the bed. She had realized how she had arched up her back and had been focused on the ceiling until she melted back onto the bed.

Light flooded the room and she saw where she was. The beeping equipment, the wall mounted tv and the little wooden cabinet on the other side of the room made the hospital room unmistakable. The smell hit her. How had she not noticed that anesthetic odor, mingling with the stench of shit from unchanged bed pans?

Her bed pan… how long had she been out? Had she been in a coma? Her muscles were sore but she didn’t feel like she was weak. She wouldn’t have any energy if she’d been in a coma, right? That’s what she thought but she wasn’t sure.

“Come on girl, just breathe. Deep breaths.”

Lizzie felt something touch her shoulder and she jumped, her scared eyes shooting in the direction of the voice. There was the owner of the voice, and Lizzie looked at her with eyes open wide, another scream at the tip of her tongue.

The large black woman who looked at Lizzie with so much heartwarming compassion and sadness that Lizzie felt like she should be able to trust the woman, but how could she trust anyone? She couldn’t stop her body from reacting and recoiling, kicking herself back trying to get as far away as possible. She felt the bed rocking, and didn’t know if it would tip. She just had to run, to, get away and flee from strangers.

The nurse reached out and grabbed both of her shoulders, keeping her eyes locked on Lizzie. As she did, another woman came into the room and rushed to take Lizzie’s legs and pull them away from her so Lizzie was helpless, falling flat on her back.

No, I am not going to be helpless! Not ever again!

She thrashed around.

“Elizabeth! Its okay. You are okay. You are okay. We need you to relax. Everything is okay.”

The woman’s mouth was moving. Lizzie could hear the words but they just didn’t make sense.  There was a wall inside her and she only heard the cackling. It had stayed in the room after the darkness left and she could hear it in the undercurrent. It reverberated around her. It was a part of her, inside her and it just made…her…want…to…SCREAM!

It finally erupted out from her. The scream echoed through her, billowing out from her, shattering glass around her. She didn’t know where any of it came from but she was now in a rainfall of tiny shards that glistened in the fluorescent light.

A man emerged from behind the curtain. A curtain? She hadn’t noticed that before but one whole wall of her room was just a curtain. Beyond was a lighted hallway she could only catch a glimpse of before the curtain fell back into place.

“What’s going on?” She guessed he was a doctor as he had stepped into her room, is it really your room if it only has three walls, with an air of authority.

“She woke up and immediately went into hysterics.” The woman, a short stout woman wearing flower designed scrubs. She had glasses and silver hair pulled back into a pony tail. She didn’t look old though, and the silver hair was probably died.

“This the woman they found in the woods?”

The silver haired woman nodded.

“Okay, let her go.” The doctor said as he stepped closer to the bed. He held his hands up, showing there was nothing in them. He was moving slow and kept his eyes locked on hers. “You are  going to be okay,” he said soothingly as he approached.

The woman at the end of the bed let Lizzie’s legs go and took a tentative step back. The two of them shared a skeptical glance, neither one trusting the other. Then Lizzie felt the pressure relax on her shoulders and turned as the other woman was straightening.

This one didn’t step back. The nurse stayed there, looking down at her with a deep sadness. Lizzie could see the winkles creasing her face and felt a fond affection for the woman. Something about her was like that of a grandmother. It wasn’t of her own grandma, but there was that quality she always imagined, there in how she looked at her. She pictured Mrs. Brady of that old TV show. The one with all the sisters and brothers. Mrs. Brady hadn’t been a grandmother, but she should have been as she had that kindness. It made Lizzie just want to reach up and give the woman a hug.

“Did we get any identification?” The doctor asked the nurse as he stood next to her, the pair looking down at Lizzie.

“No, there hadn’t been anything when they brought her in and this is the full time she has regained consciousness.”

“Hi, my name is Doctor Everson,” he said as he eased closer to her, bending down. She could see he had something in his hand. It was long and she could see the glint of metal. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

His voice was smooth and hearing it calmed her frayed nerves. He was a doctor. He was a good guy, the white hat from westerns, or her Prince Charming. No, doctors didn’t do the saving, well she guessed they actually did do the saving, but they weren’t the rescuers that pulled you from a burning building.  This man was just going to look her over and make her all okay. She needed to trust him, she knew that.

He still had that metal thing hidden in his hand. What was he hiding from her?

And why were they asking her for her name? The nurse had said her name hadn’t she, when she had first come in.

Lizzie’s head spun and she had to struggle to concentrate as none of this was making sense. She needed to talk, and realized the doctor was waiting for her to answer, hovering over her but not moving any closer. It was like the world was hanging, waiting on her and everyone was watching her.

“Lizzie” she said to break the stillness and it proved harder than she would have thought. Her throat was dry and it came out as a raspy breath. It sent her into a flurry of dry coughing and she would have thought one of them would have come to rub her back or offer her water. Instead they stood their, statues afraid to come any nearer.

“Okay Lizzie, is that a nickname?”

She had to say more, but feared it would send her into another coughing fit. She wished she could write it down, but didn’t see any pens or paper.

“Elizabeth. Elizabeth Rogers.”

“Okay Lizzie, and is there any family I should call?”

“Rolan-“ she didn’t finish as she knew that wasn’t right and it took her a minute before she remembered that she had broken up with Roland. That had been over a month ago. Who could they call? Other than her brother, who did she have now?

She really didn’t want to get Brian upset, and there was nothing he could do for her so why call him? Why should she ever call him. She was pretty good at avoiding him and didn’t want to change that

now. Not for this?

Sarah would have been the one she wanted to call. Her friend until the end, the girl she had grown up with and was like a sister to her. The girl who’s dead glassy eyes kept looking at her every time Lizzie closed her eyes.

She hadn’t realized she had stopped talking just as she had started. The three others in the room were watching her and the doctor was saying something…

“Roland who? Can I get a last name?”

“Never mind him,” she said as she tried to wiggle herself up in the bed. She wanted to sit up but didn’t trust herself yet, the world still threatening to do some more spinning. “Can I get some water?”

“Sure. Nurse?” the doctor looked at the one who was standing at the foot of her bed. The nurse pursed her lips, but she nodded and turned to the first cabinet to the right. She scanned her id card into a panel to the side and it popped open. Lizzie couldn’t see what was inside of it, but she saw the large hospital cup the woman pulled out and then went to a sink to her left that Lizzie hadn’t noticed before.

“Lizzie. Is there anyone we can call tik-a-too?” She heard the doctor say and she quickly turned towards him, her shoulders again tensing.

“Where’s Sarah?”

“Lizzie, I need you to stay calm.” He said in that milk chocolate tone of voice that made her want to melt, but it was too late for melting. She had heard it. He must be one of them.

“Who’s Sarah tik-a-too?” The black nurse said. She had a note pad now and was taking notes.

They were all with him. What were they going to do to her? She thought again about that glint of metal, oh no, they were going to cut her throat. They’re going to kill me!

She tried to see what he had done with it, but he had positioned his hand so it was obscured from her view, hidden behind his body.

“Lizzie, come on Lizzie. I need you to focus and to stay calm. Who can we call. Who should know that you’re here in the hospital?”

I’m not in any hospital. It may look like a hospital, but these people want to cut me open. They’re going to slice me up like they opened up Sarah. They want to know who they can call so I can give them more people to kill.

She shook her head. At first it was a simple back and forth, signaling her refusal, but as she again worked to pull herself back in the bed it grew more furious.

“She’s having a seizure!” someone called out. She wasn’t looking to see who. She clawed at the bed, trying to melt her way into it.

Arms pressed down on her shoulder and someone grabbed her head. She closed her eyes refusing to see the knife coming at her. That had to have been what was in his hand. Though doctor’s didn’t call them knives. They were scalpels and they were even sharper that knives. They were razors that could slice through her flesh with barely any pressure. He was bringing that down on her, she knew it. It was coming for her eyes. It was always about the eyes. They were the windows to her soul, and they wanted to look inside of her.

No, they wanted her soul.

Here it comes.

Light blossomed around her. Everything turned pink as the light was pushing in on her closed eyes. Then her eyes were forced open and she saw the light that pointed straight at her, blinding her as it hovered there.

Then it turned off, and she saw through the circles of light that clouded her vision, the doctor straightening from how he had hovered over her.

“She might have hit her head harder than the EMT’s thought.”

“We don’t know what she’s been through. She had looked pretty beaten up when they brought her in. It looked like she’d been attacked.” The nurse who had gone for the water said. She held the large jug in her hand, presumably with the water and was now standing across from the doctor on the other side of the bed.

“Attacked? Here, in the woods. That’s unlikely.”

“Maybe.”

“Okay, well, get her name to Pinkerton. He’ll want an update, and if she was attacked, he’d need to start investigating, I guess.” This the doctor had said to the black nurse next to him and she took down the notes before nodding to him and heading back out of Lizzie’s room.

This was really getting pretty frustrating. She was right there, and they were talking about her like she wasn’t even there. What was she, some wild animal they needed to tame.

Don’t worry about that right now. She needed to get away from them. They were with him, and while they were talking, she guessed about helping her, they didn’t mean it. As soon as she let her guard down, they were going to strike. So, she couldn’t allow her guard to fall. No matter what, she had to stay alert to what these two were doing.

“Drink this…it’s poison.” She heard the nurse say, though it sounded more like she had hissed out the last part. Lizzie turned to see that the woman’s face had become that of a snake, it’s tongue flicking out as she was holding the large cup out to her. “Drinkssss.”

“Get away from me.” Lizzie said. She reached up and grabbed the cup from the things hand. It wasn’t even a hand, not anymore. It had become a viscous claw, talons extending around the cup and Lizzie could see where they dug into the plastic. Lizzie didn’t stop to think about it or how she got the cup away. She tore off the top and flung its contents. The water hit the serpent nurse in the face and she stumbled back, sputtering from the sudden display.

The nurse took the hint and stayed back, but the hairs on the back of Lizzie’s neck rose. She turned just in time to see that the doctor was moving to hover over her, presumably to push her back down. All he would have to do is get her down flat and then the other one would be back to strap her down.

“No! Get away!”

“Lizzie, calm down.” The doctor was repeating, his smooth voice had now a tinge of sternness. He was getting frustrated. Well, that was too bad, she was not going to make this easy for them. Her friend had died because she had made it too easy. She was done making it easy. If they wanted to hurt her, they were going to have to fight for it.

He reached out to push her down into the bed and she pushed his arms away. She didn’t hold back. As she grabbed to pull his arms away, she dug in her nails and twisted. The nails dug into his flesh.

“Ugh.” the doctor cried out in pain and confusion and stumbled back. “Lizzie, you have to let us help you.”

The room started to shake around her. The cackling was getting stronger and in the back of her mind she heard the dark man chanting. Tik-a-tak, tik-a-too, boo, boo, boo…bounced around her thoughts and grew stronger. It brought tears to her eyes as it pushed its way through anything else and it hurt. Fighting it sent lightening bolts to behind her eyes as she fought.

“Get..sedative…dy” she heard the doctor saying, but it was hard to hear him outside her mind as the voice in her head was getting stronger.

“Li…This wi…ck…you…lit..ile” The doctor said. She only caught pieces of it, but thought again about that metal he had in his hand. She couldn’t see it anymore. He did have something else. It was long. A long tube with a sharp point. A needle. They were going to try and poison her again. They were…

“Okay, its inssss.”

Lizzie spun her head to see that the nurse was standing near an IV drip. She had a needle inserted into a piece of plastic connected to it. She pulled out the needle and looked at her, a smile at the corner of that snake like mouth. The tongue flicked out and in. Then the mouth opened and Lizzie watched as long fangs flicked out as the snake thing prepared to attack.

They truly were going to poison her, but it was going to be snake venom. It would look like a natural death, death by snake.

But why would that matter?

She had no clue, but what did any of it matter anymore? Who cared about any of it?

She did, wait, what was happening to her. This wasn’t right. She was upset, she needed to fight back.

They had done it. They had poisoned her after all. The needle, the IV.

She looked down at her hands. On her left hand she saw now that the IV was running into her. They had slipped it that way. She hadn’t needed to watch for the doctor.

Damn how could I have been so stupid.

She felt herself slipping away. It would be the last time she ever woke up. She knew it. Damn, she was too young for this. She hadn’t traveled enough. She should have traveled more. Gone to England and gotten laid by some hot Englishman, or checked out China and visit the great wall.

She wouldn’t be doing any of that now.

The sedative did its job, and Lizzie faded off to sleep. She barely heard the two talking over her, but caught part of what they were saying.

“…she be okay?”

“…been through a lot, b…be okay.”

The darkness took her and she slipped away.