Dead Friends: Chapter 49

Lizzie knew it was a bad idea, but she she woke up the next day, she felt like she had to go outside and talk to Jessica. There were some things she needed to get off of her chest. It was that ever present idea, that was there just as soon as she opened her eyes. Like a seed had been planted in her thoughts, and when she nearly jumped out of bed, the idea had grown to dominate her thinking.

She was stopped from it though, because after her feet touched the cold floor and she turned to go towards the door, still not even dressed, Sarah stood in the doorway.

Lizzie’s breath caught in her throat and she took an immediate step back, knocking into the coffee table behind her.

Sarah looked just like she had the day she died, if not a little worse. Unlike what Lizzie was used to seeing, Sarah looks like her eye was still hanging from its socket, it the orb was now gray and withered. She was withered, like the life was getting sucked out from her. Her lips were dry and split in areas. Her skin was ash, and her eye remaining eye was sunken and dull.

“How are you in here?” Lizzie asked, pushing past her initial shock and standing tall to stair down this thing that wore her friends face. It was still hard to place that the shadow thing was doing something, trying to trick her with Sarah.Who knew how long it had been doing it?

“Liz” It tried to say, but the jaw was dislocated and Lizzie could hear the grinding of bone as it forced out her name. It was trying to say more, but seemed frustrated with how hard it was to form the words.

“I said, how the hell are you in here?” Lizzie shouted, and rushed across the room. She reached the thing that looked like her friend and didn’t stop to think about what she was doing. She got there, and pushed, only as she was too late into the motion that she realized she was going to push at nothing and that she would be sprawling forward. She was already bracing for impact with the ground when she actually reached her friend.

To her surprise, she didn’t go through Sarah, but it was Sarah who was forced backward to land roughly to the ground. The dangling eye, snapped off the decaying strand and rolled away on the floor, Lizzie watched it for a second and then turned back to Sarah who wasn’t getting up. She had turned on the floor and was leaning on her side, her hair covering her face.

After a moment, Lizzie continuing to stand over her, her fists clenched ready to start swinging, Lizzie realized that Sarah’s back was heaving up and down and she sounded like… Was she crying? Yes, Lizzie could hear her. Sarah was sobbing, not trying to get up and fight back.

“How are you in here?” Lizzie demanded through gritted teeth. She felt her own chest burning and wetness formed at the corner of her eyes. The more she wanted to cry watching what looked like her friend on the ground, the more the anger was internally seething, preparing to blow up inside her.

It was a conflict of emotions inside her, if it was clear who the winner would be. The pain of her grinding her teeth, wanting to smash things out of per frustration was such a rampaging desire, that it was hard for her not to just walk over, grab a chair, and slam it on the back of the imposter.

“Lizzie, stop, please.” Sarah said, the words sounded course, grating out like nails on a chalk board.

“Why, so you can try to kill me in here too?” Lizzie yelled. “You never stopped when you were about kill me and Jessica.”

Lizzie kicked her foot out and pushed Sarah so that she lost her balance and landed on her back.

“You haven’t stopped killing my friends, or anyone else.” Lizzie growled as she stepped over Sarah. She was looking around, trying to find something to smash down onto this thing on the floor. At first, she wasn’t going to get violent, it wasn’t in her nature… But this thing was in here, her safe place. Not only that, it was weakened, probably by breaking through the protections. This was her chance. This was finally going to be her way of ending it.

When her fist slammed down into the chest of the thing below her, it felt like she was hitting brittle candy. Dust erupted from where she hit, and she heard the popping sounds as bones shattered under the impact. The rotting clothes her dead friend wore caved in to the dents she created, and yet she brought her fists down in another strike. The room was filling with the sounds of children’s cereal, the snap, crackle, and pop of bones breaking.

“Please-” it gasped as though it struggled for breath. Lizzie had to fight back a giggle, seeing it try and plead with her. “Liz- Liz stop. Tinker b- bell.”

Lizzie pulled her hand away, revealing the carnage of the chest beneath her. There wasn’t much left of the shirt it wore and the bones were mostly dust allowing Lizzie to stare into the beating heart and lungs of what had once been her friend. It was her friend. I’m or maybe it wasn’t. The shadow man had done an excellent job of fooling her in the past.

“Tinker- bell.” It hissed as it quit struggling beneath her, not that it ever really put up much of a fight.

Tinkerbell…

Sarah only called her that when she was really trying to get under her skin. It had started as a childhood name, one that Lizzie hated when her parents would call her it, yet they still would. When Sarah heard it, she had done so too for a brief time, until Lizzie had once gotten so angry that she pushed her down. It had been the one time that Lizzie had really done something so out of character as to push Sarah. It had shocked them both, and Sarah had laughed it off, saying “All right, I’ll never call you Tinkerbell.”

And Sarah hadn’t…

But was she now calling her that or was the shadow thing getting into her head again. It had been years since the incident, but this was eerily similar. Lizzie hadn’t consciously been thinking about it, but she didn’t know how the shadow man did its thing. She would never know as the voodoo lady was right, and it always changed things up. You never knew what its limitations were.

Was..It..Getting..In..Her..Head..Right..Now!

How would she know?

“Liz, please…it’s…me.” Sarah rasped below her, fighting through struggled breaths.

Lizzie looked down and saw the pain twisted onto what was left of her friends face. This Sarah did look different to what she was used to seeing outside. The dead outside had all been healing since their deaths. It was weird to see that each day they looked better, but the Sarah beneath her looked worse. Kinda of like a zombie that had been left out to rot, how it decayed as it walked around. Sarah was not looking any better. Hell, her eye popped off, who knows where it had gone too.

Oh God, I’m going to have to try and find that later before it starts stinking up the house…

Lizzie stood and backed away from Sarah, taking a quick glance around the room, trying to see where it might have rolled. It wasn’t directly visible. It must have rolled under something.

“A..little..help” her dead friend rasped, and Lizzie looked down to see that Sarah was trying to get up, but was having a hard time moving with her chest mostly caved in.

Lizzie reached down, and started to lift her, pulling her towards the recliner. As soon as she put the slightest of pressure on Sarah’s shoulder blades, she heard the popping sound and knew that more bones were breaking.

“I can’t lift you.”

“Get.. Chair”

Lizzie wasn’t sure if she meant to get Sarah over to the chair or to bring the chair to her. She decided the latter would probably be easier and lowered Sarah back to the floor.

The chair was a large recliner, and would probably slide no problem on the hardwood floor, had there not been piles of books still spread throughout the room. Lizzie had been doing as much as she could in the weeks that she had been in the cabin, but there were just so many books and she was always afraid that the one book she through out would be the one that she needed.

Of course, now there were so many of them in the way, that she had to push piles into other piles and listening as they all toppled over. They fell like dominoes so as soon as one pile went, more followed as they went into each other. Two of the piles fell into the path she was trying to clear, and she cursed as she reached forward trying to brush those books off to the side as well. It was near impossible. There was just no place to push them all.

“Come on!” Lizzie grunted trying to force her way through the unmovable piles of books. She still had Sarah, working to drag her, but Lizzie could hear more popping sounds and could hear the wheezing from behind her.

“Liz- stop… tinker.”

Lizzie stopped, feeling the wetness she had denied herself earlier start to form again and the first tear streaking to its downfall.

Lizzie sat there for a moment, sitting back on her knees, before turning herself around to face Sarah. Both shoulders were now crushed the arm Lizzie had wrapped around her when she tried to drag her to the chair. The corpse looked so small now, her width almost no wider than her head as there were no longer any upper torso bones to widen her out.

“Tinker… ease me down.” Sarah said, and Lizzie let out a sudden, tear filled giggle as she did.

“I told you not to call me that.”

“Then.. listen.. next time.”

Lizzie had a hard time looking at her friend. It was too much like watch an old corpse that was still breathing. There was almost nothing of her friend that was recognizable and it was hard to believe considering her friend had only been dead a few weeks. Surely corpses didn’t rot this quickly…

“I.. I’m not..here.” Sarah said.

“What do you mean your not here? I don’t know how, but you are definitely in the cabin. You know, where the dead things can’t get inside. Or is it just evil…” Lizzie said, taking glances at her friend, but each time, she would quickly look back to the living room window. The curtain was drawn, but she could tell through the lack of light that it must still be night outside.

“You’re.. not.. here..” Sarah rasped. Lizzie was about to respond, but the words were trapped in her throat and before she could say anything, Sarah was able to get another breath and finish. “I.. don’t.. know..”

Lizzie looked at Sarah and then around at the house around her. She started to notice that things weren’t right. When she looked at the books around her, they were all generalized. There were no titles on any of them and they all looked like they could have been the same old couple of books taken out of some ancient archive somewhere. Which wasn’t right. She hadn’t had time to look through all the piles in her uncle’s house…her house, but she had been around them enough to know they all didn’t look like that. As much as her uncle loved to steal old library books about demons and witchcraft, there were also plenty of other trade paperbacks, but Lizzie couldn’t see any of those.

They weren’t in her uncles house…

Then where?

“Sarah. You’re … are you real?” Lizzie looked back at the faded lifeless eye of her friend and the empty socket. She tried, and it was hard, to focus on the one good eye. Sarah, the eye of her friend did seem to be looking at her. Her friend, not the creature that used her shape as it tormented her outside, but her friend, the one she saw die, was staring up at her. This was her. It had to be her.

Sarah didn’t speak, and Lizzie could see why. Her breathing was getting weaker. Could the dead die? Was that what was happening? Lizzie didn’t think she could handle losing her friend again.

“Are you dying? What is happening?”

Sarah shook her head.

“Al- dead…”

“You know what I mean. What is this? Where have you been? You can’t leave me all over again. I don’t know what’s happened to you. You were here and then you were gone. All those other dead bastards came back, why can’t you.”

“Not.. back. Trapped.” Sarah wheezes.

“Where? How are you trapped? You’re right here? You can’t be trapped.”

Sarah shakes her head and looks up. Lizzie follows her gaze and sees that now they’re not in the cabin, but Lizzie quickly recognizes it. It was hard not too. They were in the back half of the barn. She could see the well, the darkness floating at the top like vapor over boiling water. Small tendril shapes occasionally rose up, but fell back into the mist.

Lizzie didn’t have to look, as she knew she would see the busted out back half of the barn. Just like she knew if she looked to the sky there would be no light. It was all darkness around them, but yet she could see. This was the dark place. The one where the original cursed had been taken. This was a very bad place.

“Are we really here?” Lizzie yelled as she looked back at Sarah.

“I… am.” She said.

“How did we get here? I need to get us out of here. We can’t stay.”

Lizzie was near shouting. She had only read about it, but that was t what terrified her. There was a sense of wrongness to the place. A feeling that she needed to get out of there before she was noticed. If it found her here, then it would have her, and she could feel it’s hunger.

What was it? What do you feel?

She felt the foulness of it. She could smell it in the air. It was how there was no wind, there was no smell. There was a complete blandness to everything around her and it felt like a vast nothingness that had her and was pulling her deeper in. It was a void…

What had it been like when she saw inside the shadow man. She had seen.. she tried to forget about that moment but it had burned into her soul. She had seen the darkness before and what would be again…the time before. This wasn’t like that, but there was something about this other world that reminded her of that place. She wasn’t sure what it was.

“You…need to go…” Sarah warped a wheezing breath. Lizzie feared it was her last as she wasn’t making any more sound. She wished she could see her faux sister with her eyes instead of whatever this mind vision was. Even in her decaying state, Lizzie wanted that one last chance.

Instead, Lizzie bent over and gently kissed the forehead. The brittle bones cracked on just the slightest of touches, and Sarah’s eye shot open. She let out a blood curdling scream and Lizzie couldn’t help but drop her and back away. More bones shattered as what was left of Sarah’s body landed in a whimpering corpse, her sobs of pain suffocating Lizzie as she watched.

“I thought you were dead.”

“Am-” Sarah wheezes.

“But, really gone.”

“Ca-t” Sarah said, barely able to form the words as her face contorted in pain.

Lizzie felt her skin crawl with a tingling. It wasn’t that there was a breeze but a change in the presence around them. Lizzie could feel something getting closer, and she struggled to keep her focus on her friend.

“Can’t? What do you mean you can’t? You can’t die yourself out of existence? I don’t understand.”

Sarah couldn’t move. She was immobilized by pain and each breath it was apparent that it was another lesson in agonizing torture.

What could she do? She wasn’t a doctor. She wasn’t even a good friend. She could have been better, done more for her. Now she couldn’t even touch her without shattering another bone.

Sarah was looking at her in terror. Her lips were moving but no sound escaped them.

It took Lizzie a moment to realized that Sarah wasn’t looking at her… She was looking past her. Something was behind Lizzie, she could feel it. That electricity that was building up was now a fire upon her skin. Her hair was alive, and she felt that voice inside her screaming at her to get out of there.

But this was a dream. It had to be a dream. That was the only thing that made sense. The realities shifting around her, her lost friend coming back to replace the thing outside. All of this wasn’t real. She was just dreaming it.

No… The fear was real. That pain she felt in her chest as her heart beat so passionately that it wan’t to leap up out of her throat, was real. Her inability to breath because of the terror she felt forming from whatever was behind her, all of that was real.

“Sarah.. what have you done? Where are we, where have you pulled me into?” Lizzie asked.

Sarah didn’t answer, her eyes never pulled away from whatever was behind Lizzie. Lizzie wasn’t sure Sarah could answer, but knew that her inability wasn’t what keeping her quiet. Lizzie could feel the sensation of immobilizing fear as the waves of it washed over it.

“Elizabeth…” The voice wasn’t around her, but inside her head. The shear massiveness of it shook the very foundations of her skull and she thought her head was going to explode with the volume it smashed through her thoughts. It shook the reality around her, and blurred even the darkness to the point that even it could not be seen.

Lizzie feared what came with that voice. She knew it was behind her, and that it had set its sights on her. It was coming, and it was coming for her.

She didn’t want to turn to look. Her sanity would be gone the moment her eyes fell upon it, snapping like a twig under foot of a giant. She was but an ant to whatever it was, and soon she would know just how it felt to be at the insect end of the magnifying glass. It was coming…

She didn’t want to turn and look, but she was in the other place. She wasn’t seeing things with her eyes. Her mind controlled what she was seeing. She didn’t have to turn her head, or gaze upon it with her physical body, her mind could do it all without so much as a twitch. It was already starting to do that, turning, seeing the woods and clearing around her as her mind gaze slowly spun around.

She knew she would see it soon, and then all sanity would be lost. She saw the shadow man hovering near the woods, but this other thing, it wasn’t him. This was something more, something larger, and it was about to let loose her grip on her reality. Just a little more and she would see it…

“LIZZIE!” Screamed another voice inside her mind. This one she clearly recognized. This one, was Jessica, and with it, Lizzie felt herself ripped out of where she was, losing her grip on the other world, in she was…somewhere else.

Dead Friends: Chapter 47

The new pastor in town refuses to make the trip out to see me, though much of his congregation had come. Many of them are now permanent residents. I don’t know what started when Margaret fell into the well, but it has been spreading and getting more aggressive.

The barn was finished. I hoped that it would help protect against the evil getting worse. I was such a fool. What evil have I unleashed upon this world? Oh God, forgive me for what I have done.

****

Lizzie read those words again, looking the wrinkles at the end of the page. The man had obviously been crying when he wrote them, and the last word had a long stroke off of the ‘e’ like he had dragged the pen on the page. He had obviously been upset, and how could he not have have been, he had been the first. Yet, he knew so much more about this than anyone else.

His entry had seemed so final, like that had been the end of it, but Lizzie was surprised as she turned the page over, that there was quite a few more pages. These were not as nicely written, the ink splotchy in many places and the handwriting barely recognizable as it was written in a rush scrawl.

She was finally able to work out the first sentence, and gasped, nearly dropping the page in her hand.

****

Today, I fucked a shadow woman, and my soul will now no longer be my own. My family is now and forever cursed. Hell is all we have to look forward to, and it was all because of me and what I have done. My soul be damned.

I hate such foul language, but it seems apt for the world I am now cursed too.

When I finished the barn, I thought that by locking away the darkness of the well, that I would find peace. Instead I have created a place for the darkness to rise. Within days of the completion of the barn, the darkness was no longer deep in the depths of the accursed object. It was now brimming at the top.

The moment I entered the barn, the last board having been hammered home not five minutes, I saw the well. It looked like water had risen up, but I knew better than to get near it. That well was older than this house, and not once had it ever had water that high.

Even still, I could see that the dark liquid moved, and it was not clear. From the door to the barn, I could see the pitch black of night in that surface. There was no light there. There was very little light in the barn itself, but nothing penetrated that surface. It didn’t even reflect the little bit of light that was present. It was like a black nothing, and I could feel the cold presence that pushed out from it.

I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t know how long I stood there, just watching the gentle lapping of the water. It could have been hours or days lost in just what was a few seconds of me standing there. Time was gone, and I could feel the distance receding between me and it.

I might have been lost then had what sounded like a large bear came crashing through the woods nearby. I never found out what made the sound, but it had pulled me back, and I was able to blink myself out of whatever trance I had been in.

I wasn’t any closer to the well, but it had changed. I saw them now. There were little strands of black that had emerged. They were moving through the air like strands of web from a spider. They seemed like they were floating on the breeze, but that couldn’t be right. The little bit of wind was flowing into the barn, and these strands were not. They were moving throughout the barn, and towards me. The closest one was only a foot away.

I was getting pulled into another trance. I realized it the moment that closest strand nearly touched my cheek and I still hadn’t moved back. Just feeling it get near me, I could feel how cold it was. It was like ice had just touched me, and the strand was still inches away.

I stepped away from the barn, afraid of it and what I might have just done. The evil was spreading, had I just given it a home to grow? Was I fostering it like a weed? I have never been much of a gardener, but was I nurturing this thing like you would a tomato? Tomatoes need sunlight so you plant them where they will get it. Whatever this is, it needs darkness. Did I really just build a place where it could grow and become whatever it was to become?

I needed help. Those who were dead around me, they were all telling me I was going to hell. Once a new person arrived, Margaret was quick to tell them about how the evil had been awakened. It didn’t take long for an army to hate me, spouting vile and obscene threats.

Much of that changed when I backed away from the entrance to the barn and the first strand tried to leave. It burst into smoke when it touched the sun’s light and around me, the God fearing residents of the town watched in horror as it recoiled back into the confines of the barn.

“You need Patrick.” A quiet voice said near me. I turned and saw that it was Margaret herself, her crushed face looking in horror as the darkness writhed. “You need him here now before it gets dark.”

She was right, and the moment she said it, I knew what she meant. The sun would only be overhead for so long, then that creature would be free, and I slept only yards away. Who knew what it would do to me once I found myself wrapped by that cold darkness.

I knew I had to go into town and find Pastor Patrick.

****

However, I did go into town, and I had found the pastor. I’d already spoken to him before. He knew my situation. I pleaded with him, telling him there was no other way. He was bringing forth the end of the world if he didn’t home back with me. I told him everything, confessing everything to God and priest. I did all of that, and it was for nothing. He would not come back with me to this cursed place. I can’t even say I really blame him. I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t have no where else to go.

I must admit, if I’m being truly honest with myself, that I’m surprised he didn’t throw me out of the church. He told me that just that morning, Miss Maisel had passed away in the night. He has now lost nearly half of his congregation, and he himself was not sure what must be done. More and more of them are dying from some disease that has been sweeping through the perish. Some in town have started calling it the sleeping sickness. Others have called it the Roger’s curse. I don’t know which is true. Is it my curse? Have I started this? What was there that I could do about it? It was obvious by the fear I saw in that young pastor’s face, that he would not be of any help.

I had thanked him, and prepared to leave, when he did offer me one thing, and at this point as useless as I felt it was, he offered to pray with me.

I don’t remember much of the prayer. I think I’ve already established that while I go to church occasionally, I am not much of a praying man. Something about that prayer did strike me though. I don’t remember the exact words, but the pastor had said something. It was a passage I could tell that he was reading from the Bible. Something about bringing light to the darkness, or casting out the darkness with light. I don’t know why, but something about him saying that, as I kneeled there with him, well it got me to thinking about ways of possibly doing just that.

How do you get rid of darkness, you bring light to it. The barn didn’t have electricity, not yet at least, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t set fire to it. Fire. Set the whole thing on fire, burn it all down…

Or, that was my first thought.

As I made my way home, I thought about why I had built the barn. Or tried to. It was hard, as I couldn’t recall to much of what had possessed me to do such a terrible idea. There were safety concerns, worried that others might fall into the well, but seriously, how often did that happen? There had to be other reasons, and I didn’t think it was all wrong. It does trap the evil during the day. I just needed to find a way to make whatever barrier is in place stronger.

Still, I was stuck on the idea of fire. I couldn’t get the picture out of my head, this huge blaze burning away, burning it all away. In my head, starting the fire turned into this monstrous beacon of light that lit the whole area and rose up high into the sky. It was glorious, this halo that would surround the world and push away the darkness.

It was foolhearty of course, and I knew I would never do it. That didn’t mean there wasn’t some merit to the idea. I didn’t have much time left before dusk would turn into night, and while I had an idea of what to do, I wasn’t sure of how I was going to do it. However, something was in my favor.

I don’t remember doing it. I don’t remember going to the store or purchasing any of the supplies, but as I neared the house, I smelled kerosene. On the floor board was a jug of the stuff. In the back seat, I saw long sticks and a pile of rags. I don’t know where it came from. Even if I had gone to the general store in town, I doubted they would have had the cloth, not in the dirty disheveled state of what was in my back seat. The poles were also dirty. So none of it was new.

Were had I gone after I left the church? As much as I tried to remember, it was like there was a dark patch in my memory. It wasn’t even that something had guided me, this was flat out, I had no clue where I was or had been.

Something was wrong, and it would have troubled me more had I not just put the car in park, and was looking at the haggard cabin I was now calling a home.

I could still burn it all down…

I knew as much as I wanted to as I got out of that car and walked my way around back, listening to the angry screams from the dead as I did so. Burning the barn would be a mistake. If I did, what was in there would be free. Whatever had kept it trapped before was withered away now since Margarets murder. My only chance was the barn. It was the only way I could contain it.

I stopped when I reached the back corner of the cabin to look at the barn. The shadows had grown long and I had forgotten to bring the torch making supplies with me. So what I saw there, the long shadows stretched out from the front of the barn, filled with the dark flailing tendrils of evil… There was not a chance in hell I was taking another step towards any of that without fire leading the way.

Maybe it was a good thing I hadn’t brought the supplies the first time. Before, I hadn’t had a plan, but as I watched the things shifting through that darkness, I got an idea. I would need my hammer, and it was only going to be a temporary solution. Probably would work only for tonight, I couldn’t know for sure. It might not work at all.

I grabbed the supplies and brought them to the back, and then went to grab my hammer. I thought it would be in my tool box, and when I went into the cabin for it, thought it would be on the kitchen counter where my box sat open.

It wasn’t there…

Had I really only finished the barn this afternoon?

I had, and all of this had started when I had gone into the barn, my hammer still in hand. What had I done with the hammer then? I knew the answer, but didn’t want to acknowledge the truth.

Of course, when I stepped outside and looked at the barn, I could see my hammer. Not at first, but as the dark tendrils flicked back and forth, I could see it there at the threshold of the barn. I had dropped it…

There was already not enough time to get this done, how could I ever do this… And now I had no hammer. I needed it if my plan was to work.

The thought of going back into town for a new hammer was appealing, but I knew there was less time for that, and I would never be able to contain this thing if I did that. I had to get my hammer back.

“And hey, look on the bright side, at least I’ll be able to see if this whole torch idea was even going to work.” I had said it out loud, but had meant it as a thought to myself. Kathryn and Margaret were both near me when I said and they both snickered.

“Serves you right. You’re going to die.” Margaret said.

“You need to do this. If you don’t, everyone else will die.” Kathryn said. I could see the pain in her eyes, and knew she was worried. Both of them were, which surprised me without much Margaret would love to see my die horribly.

I felt the wetness at the corner of my eye, but brushed away. I didn’t have any time for that. I quickly went to work on making my first torch.

Dead Friends: Chapter 45

“Is there more?” Lizzie asked. She’d been watching Lizzie as she read the pages of journal entry they had found, while making glances towards the kitchen in the direction of the barn. She wasn’t sure how, but she was sure she felt the darkness throbbing out there, aching to get to them.

“Yeah, I just need to get a drink. Reading this. It’s disturbing and really worries me. What is out there? Have you been in the barn?” Jessica said, setting down the pages and moving into the Kitchen. Lizzie followed her as she got herself a glass of tap water.

“Well, yeah, it was where the clock had been. Didn’t I tell you about the creepy guy who came out here? The old Englishman-” Lizzie shuddered at the memory of him. “He just gave off this really uncomfortable vibe. I can’t even say why, but he also wanted inside the barn, but I think feared it as well. He wouldn’t come in there, not once the lights were turned on, and he wouldn’t step foot inside the house.”

“Things of evil can’t enter here.” Jessica said, taking a sip of her water while looking out the kitchen window towards the old barn. “I wonder why he couldn’t enter the barn though. It sounds like that’s where the evil is contained.”

“It doesn’t really feel contained.”

Jessica nodded her head in agreement.

“Jes, what am I going to do?”

Jessica turned to look at her. Lizzie could see that Jessica was wanting to say something, as she kept opening her mouth, but then closing it. Finally she stopped trying and looked back to the barn.

“We need to get a priest involved.”

“Really? God is the answer? When has he ever done anything for me?” Lizzie scoffed as she reached to pull down her own glass and ran the water.

“You just heard what he’s done for you. This house was blessed by a priest. God is what keeps you safe.”

“Yeah, just as safe as the voodoo woman’s charm. I’m still trapped in here with my dead friends outside wanting to kill me, and some kind of shadow thing who wants to do only God knows what.”

“But he is here, his presence is in this house.” Jessica waved at the room around them.

“So God is holding me prisoner here?”

“That’s not what I said.”

“Yes it is. Your telling me that there is some great almighty and that because of him, there is this evil thing out there. Why because of him? Because the big man upstairs wont smite it down, or cast it away, whatever he does with this stuff, I have to hide here in some remote cabin, not really even away that I can leave because if I do, people will either die or I will be attacked. Oh, and guess what. Your trapped here too, because in case you haven’t noticed, your the only friend of mine that hasn’t died, and the only reason why I can think that is, is because you are trapped in here with me. So there you go. There’s your God, and you know what, fuck him.”

Jessica looked stricken at Lizzie. Lizzie could see the color that had risen to her friend’s face and knew that she was angry. Surprisingly enough and to Lizzie’s amazement, she was mad enough to not immediately yell back at Lizzie. Which in a way, it was worse, because she calmly set down her glass of water and walked out of the room not even looking at Lizzie.

Lizzie stood there for a minute, looking at the door her friend had just walked through. She could hear Jessica moving around in the other room, but expected her to come back. After she didn’t, Lizzie grew nervous.

“Jess?”

“Yeah?” Something was wrong. Lizzie could hear it in her tone.

“Hey.” Lizzie followed Jessica into the other room, getting ready to apologize to Jessica, not really sure what she had said to upset her, but obviously something was going on. Lizzie stopped when she saw that Lizzie was going through the diaries, looking at a few pages in each on then moving on to the next.

“I’m going to find that crazy voodoo woman and show you that she is not the answer.”

“What do you mean?”

Jessica stands up. She’s glares are Lizzie.

“You have this in your head that God can’t help you. You have all this evil around you and your only thought is this voodoo woman has some kind of answer for you. She doesn’t. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be able to pull yourself out of this mess.”

“Jess, I’m cursed. My family is cursed. You read the pages. That guy, some distant relative, who the hell knows, he had a priest out there and guess what, the priest was also killed. Everyone who tries to help is killed.”

“There is a way out, and God will be the answer.”

“You can’t honestly believe that.”

“I do.”

“Then your an idiot. When did you get all Jesus freak on me.”

“What did you just say?”

“I said, when did you go all religious? Is this Denny? Did he get you into all this?”

“I met him through my church, which I’ve gone to since I was a little girl. You would have known that, but you and Sarah were always so involved in yourselves, that you really never got to know me did you. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve always been good friends, but you never asked what I was doing Sunday mornings, or why I would never meet up with you guys on Wednesday nights.”

“Well no, you said you were busy. It was your thang.”

“Yeah, well God is more than just a ‘thang’.”

“I get it. Your ultra religious. I’m not. Jesus isn’t just going to come swooping in here to save me.”

“No, but he might help you save yourself.”

“Its not going to work that way. God doesn’t work here.”

“Then why can’t they get in this house.”

“One of them did, and Sarah is dead because of it.”

“What do you mean?”

“This all started here, when Sarah and I came here. Remember? That guy attacked her. He killed her. He was naked when he did so, which is something I will never get out of my head, that penis over me, the maggot swiveling out of its head. God, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have sex again. But that happened there, in that kitchen, and you now what, God didn’t come save me, and that thing was able to get in despite your ‘God’s protection.” Lizzie said as she air quoted about God’s protection.

“Yeah, but he was just a man. Men can be corrupted. That won’t stop them from coming onto blessed earth.”

“No Jessica, he was dead. That’s what the sheriff said. He had been a freshly buried corpse, and had somehow dug himself out of his grave to be in here when we got here, and he killed her.”

Lizzie was trying to hold it together, but the tears were streaming down her cheek as much as she tried to fight it. The more she did, the stronger the sobs became, the memories coming back to her as she had watched the life fade out of Sarah’s eyes. She had watched her friend take her last breath just yards away from where she was standing now, and over the last week had been able to block those images out. Whatever mental barrier she had put up to protect her from those had withered away, and now all those emotions she had been bottled up were rushing at her.

She couldn’t handle them. She collapsed into the closest chair, letting the waves of emotion slam into her.

Before Lizzie could see through the tears, she could feel Jessica’s arms wrap around her, but they weren’t just enveloping her. Jessica pulled Lizzie up into a long hug. It was long and soothing and Lizzie could feel some of the tension trapped in her shoulders release, but with it, a new torrent of tears.

“Come here.” Jessica stepper away, but had slipped her hand into Lizzie’s so she could pull her. Jessica was leading her into the other room, but Lizzie could t stop herself from asking.

“Where?”

She saw where. Jessica was taking her into the bedroom.

“Come on. You need to lie down.”

Lizzie followed her, and once in what was now ‘her’ bedroom, she rested onto the mattress. She hadn’t noticed how it had smelled before, but she thought she could now almost taste the generations that had slept there, all tortured by this affliction. It was trapping her, and she felt herself balling up, pulling herself inwards. She was never going to be able to leave this place ever again. This was her prison now, but her only crime was one someone in her blood line had done a long time ago.

New tears wet the brown stained pillow, she could feel them streaming down her cheeks. Behind her she felt the bed shift and then warmth. Jessica was behind her and wrapped her arms around her.

“Your not going to try and make out with me, are you?” Lizzie said. She knew she was trying to be funny, but could hear how bad the off the cuff joke came out even to herself. “Because I never took you as swinging both ways.”

“Shh. Just relax. We’ll figure this out okay.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because I have faith, and for the record, I’ve always thought of you and Sarah as my sisters, and sisters can lie with one another when one needs it. There is nothing sexual about this.”

“If you say so, and thanks.” Lizzie said. She could feel that fear and worry that we plagued her, fade. She also felt herself slipping off to sleep and hadn’t realized how tired she’d been. “I’m going to die here.”

“Liz- Do you know where this voodoo woman even lives?”

“Wha?”

“Where does she live?”

“How do you know about her?” Lizzie asked. Her voice was just above the whisper and she knew she was saying the words but wasn’t connected to them. Part of her had already slipped away, losing herself to sleep, and what was still awake seemed like it was talking out from a dream.

“You told me about her. Remember, the talisman. I’m going to go see her. You think she has some kind of answer for you. I’m going to go see her.”

“Please don’t. I can’t lose you too.”

“You are not going to lose me. Your not going to lose anyone else. We’re going to stop this.”

“She’s at-“ And that was the last Lizzie could remember as she drifted off into sleep. As she did, she thought she could hear the old voodoo woman laughing at, her, but then the sound faded, and the darkness enveloped her into unconsciousness.

****

Lizzie wasn’t sure, but didn’t think she had slept too long. It was still the light outside, though the clouds made it hard to know for sure where the sun was. It didn’t matter, the little bit of sleep that she had did reset her, calm her nerves. After all, maybe Jessica was right. Maybe they could find a way out of this.

Lizzie released the blind and let it slip back into place, trying to ease it closed without making too much noise. Jessica must have called asleep behind her as she could feel her still pressed up against her back. It was more comforting that she’d like to admit having her there. Lizzie wasn’t sure if she could handle being alone anymore. She needed someone to help her through this. She didn’t know what she had done to deserve a friend as good as her.

Lizzie worked on continuing to move silently as she slid from the bed and out of the small bedroom. The house seemed so quiet, quieter than it had since she first arrived at the house.

It made sense. Since she’d been there, whenever it had been silent like this, she had found it oppressing and creepy. The stillness drove her to the point that she thought her own mind was buzzing inside her head. So since she’d lived there, her laptop had been playing some form of music, always playing quietly in the background.

The music had stopped at some point during her nap, and for the first time, Lizzie actually found the lack of noise comforting. She quickly made her way through the room to the kitchen. Her mind kept wondering as she walked.

How were they going to break the curse? Jessica was so confident that they would, but how? She believed her god would. Did Lizzie?

There was something that happened with the birds. She could t quite remember what, but there had been something out there. Just there was no way Lizzie was ready to call it Devine intervention. If it was, God had waited his sweat time before he had stepped in. There were quite a number of very good people whose essence was outside that could still be alive if God was going to step into things. They could all still be alive.

Lizzie wasn’t sure she could put her faith in a God who let that happen.

She stepped into the small room, listening as the squeal from the door hinges broke through the silence. It was much like the first time she had entered into this room, and for a heartbeat of a second, Lizzie was the naked man standing there. He was again standing over her dead friend, Sarah on the ground with her eyes bulging, nearly exploding from their sockets.

Lizzie closed her eyes and count back from five. He wasn’t there. There was no way he could be. He was dead.

He’d been dead the first time. That hadn’t stopped him then and it might not have stopped him now. Though I can’t smell him…

Before he had that terrible odor to him. She remembered it as that sweat and rotting meat. It had been gut wrenching had he not already disgusted her with his naked appearance.

She opened her eyes and he was gone, not that he had ever really been there. Well, she’d had a few moments of peace. The tension was already starting to tighten her back and she could really use another back massage. Her chest was burning, the stress slamming back into her.

Her water was near the sink and she was thankful that it was still mostly full. It was even slightly chilled, and she enjoyed it as she let the clear fluid rush down her throat into her empty stomach.

“That’s the stuff.” She said to the empty kitchen and was already starting to look around for something to eat. The cabinets weren’t bare of food, but there wasn’t a plethora of it either. Most the snack food was gone because come on, she was still of college age, of course she at that first. There was so frozen vegetables in the freezer, and some sandwich meat in the fridge.

Lizzie continued to think through, taking a virtual inventory of her food situation, but there was movement outside. There was someone arguing. She turned and she could see two men out there fighting. They were in the shadow of the barn, so she couldn’t really see them and just barely hear there voices. They weren’t yelling at one another, but Lizzie felt it was only a matter of time. First the shouting would come, and then the hitting. Wasn’t that how men always chose to solve things. A bunch of men, always trying to fix problems with their fists and not their head.

She moved to the door, getting ready to go outside when she remembered earlier. This… this was all probably just another trap, trying to lure her out there. She still hurt from the last time they did that, and the time before that. She kept falling for it, when was she ever going to learn not to rush out there?

It was in her nature. If she heard someone in trouble, she… no, that wasn’t right. Jessica was the one who would run out there and fight. What is wrong with her? Lizzie was the mouse, she always hung back. Why did she keep running out in the midst of these things.

Could it be because it was your friends out there, and you don’t want to see them hurt? She supposed that could be a part of it. That didn’t stop it from being stupid.

She let her hand fall away from the back door knob and retreated back to near the kitchen sing. Just because she wasn’t rushing out there, it didn’t mean she still wasn’t concerned for her friends. Most of them were her friends. They were dead, but that didn’t mean she didn’t worry about them.

Lizzie wanted to see what was happening out there, she wanted to know who it was that was fighting, but instead, even going against how much it nagged at her to know, she focused purely on getting herself another glass of water. Maybe the cool water would wash away from of that pulling sensation that was trying to force her to look outside. If it felt just as refreshing as before, maybe then she wouldn’t look out the window, or worse, actually go back to opening the door and taking that step outside.

The water was bitter, almost sour in her mouth and she set it aside, frowning at it for disappointing her. She couldn’t ignore it anymore. There was more noise out there, now voices were shouting. She could hear someone yelling her name. Then to her surprise, someone was yelling Jessica’s name and it was a voice she recognized but knew it shouldn’t be here.

“Dennis?” Lizzie said to herself quietly as she rushed to the back door, this time pulling hard on it, flinging it open so that it slammed against the counter and shaking the glass above. She didn’t pay it any attention, but she did keep a careful eye on the threshold of the door as she reached it, making sure not to cross it.

She didn’t have to go any farther to see him. He was right there. He had been near the barn and was rushing away from it, hurrying to get to the cabin. Roland and Josh were close behind it. They all stopped when they saw her at the door. Roland, those sad eyes of his, looked at her. He already knew the truth of how Dennis was here, but Dennis was oblivious and obviously confused as his wide eyes tried to look at her and everything around him at the same time. They were always moving, looking all over, trying to take everything in at once without missing anything.

“Lizzie, I’m not sure how I got here, but I need to see Jess. She said she was coming to check on you, but then I never heard anything, and- is she hear? I need to see her.”

Lizzie opened out mouth to say something, but just closed it right away, not able to form the words. Already the moisture was forming at the edge of her eyes, though she promised herself she was not going to cry this time. She was not going to let the emotions get the better of her. Why should she. Wasn’t this becoming an every day thing? Of course another one of her best friends was dead. Of course they were there to be with her.

She looked at the large wound at his neck. As he had been speaking the words had whistled out of him, some of the air escaping from where someone had cut his throat. It was jut another one of the many ways that her friends were dying.

Nope. She couldn’t deal with it. She shook her head and closed the door.

“Lizzie!” Dennis yelled, the anger obvious as his voice grew harsh. Well, he can be mad at her. He was going to be out there for awhile, he would eventually get over it. She just wasn’t ready to deal with him yet, and he would have to wait until she was.

For now she had another issue. Jessica. Lizzie had to tell her, but how? This was going to shatter so much of her beliefs. Lizzie knew that her friend felt safe by all of this just due to her own reliance on her god, but Dennis shared those beliefs. His loyalty hadn’t done anything to protect him?

It was going to ruin Jessica.

You could always not tell her?

That was true, but how long would that last? Eventually it would slip out and then what, tell her he had just gotten there? That might work, but Lizzie didn’t trust herself to lie that well. Not only that, but Jessica was risking a lot to be there with her. Jessica deserved to know.

Lizzie just wasn’t sure how she was going to tell her.

She’s going to blame you, you know that right?

“Yeah, well she should. It is my fault. Neither of them should have died. None of them should have. They should all be alive. I should have just killed myself when this whole thing started.”

She thought about that for a moment as she entered into the living room. She wasn’t really looking for anything as she looked around the quiet house. If anything, she was looking but not seeing. She didn’t pay attention to any of the mess that was cluttered around her. She had cleaned up much of it, but there was still so much stuff. Now they took their time as they cleaned, hoping that her uncle had found some clues as to this existence.

I should have killed my brother and then myself. Then this damn curse would have just ended.

Lizzie shuttered at the thought, but couldn’t stop herself. What would have happened if the curse didn’t have anyone in the blood line to continue on? What happened then? Was that the solution? For all this to end, she had to become a murderer like the first cursed? What if she was wrong? Look at where his murder got him? Look at what it done to the rest of his descendants. Killing her brother was not any kind of a solution.

She needed to tell Jessica and the longer she put it off, the more she would think about it. In truth, Lizzie was starting to feel like she had had enough of thinking. Her thoughts were starting to have their own thoughts. She wanted to be be done with it.

Jessica still hadn’t left the bedroom, and Lizzie went to wake her.

“Jess-” Lizzie started as she stepped into the small, dark room. She stopped, her mouth hanging open as she entered, the rest of her friends name caught on her tongue as she stood there. Then something must of snapped and Lizzie found herself on the floor. The tears were already flooding from her and she shook her head, not accepting the truth.

“Jessica. How could you.” Lizzie said to herself as she pulled her knees to her chest and crept into the corner. For now, she wasn’t ready to accept anymore. First Dennis was dead and now… now Jessica…

Dead Friends: Chapter 44

My wife was killed by darkness today. It had been this thing. It wasn’t a man that kilted her, and as I’m sure others will suspect me of her disappearance, it wasn’t me either. I had seen it though, and if I tell them to look at the bottom of the well, I don’t think they will find her body there either.

My wife is gone. No, I’m not sorry the old witch is dead. Hell, if I wasn’t a God fearing Christian then I might have actually done it years ago. Damn that woman could yell, and she was never happy when I moved us out here into the woods. She never understood, and now she never will.

****

I wrote those words years ago in another journal. It had been lost recently. I had burned it as well as the lies they contained.

I did kill my wife. I couldn’t take her anymore, so when she fought with me while pulling water from the well, I pushed her and she fell over the cement blocks. I could hear here screams as she fell into that darkness.

It was after she had fallen that I had seen the evil that lie in waiting in that well. When she fell, it must have awoken as dark appendages emerged and chased after me. It was only when I was out of the shadows of the trees that they stopped and I was able to stand there, out of breath, watching as they struggled to get me.

These cursed things are of the dark place, and as such, these things of evil can not enter the light.

I had stayed there much of that day, watching the well, studying it, seeing what it would do next. As the day wore on, and the shadows stretched, those tentacles reached farther. I feared that eventually, once night came, they could reach the house, and then I too would succumb to the darkness.

I did not sleep in the cabin that night. Instead I went to the closest town with an inn. I stayed there, telling anyone who asked that Margaret and I were quarreling and that I needed a break. Word got back to Kathryn, her sister, and she found me to ask if she needed to go out there and console her sister.

I hadn’t thought yet what story I would tell about Margaret, and had floundered at first when asked. I was never good at lying, or thinking quickly when it came to this. How could I be. Kathryn must have seen my distress, as she took pity on me. She in turn, asked if I was the one who needed consoling.

I consider myself to be a man. I my father never raised me to cry on some woman’s shoulder even if she was kin. Men buried their tears as well as their pain. Showing anything else, then you were being less than a man. That’s how it was, and while I still had no child of my own, that was how it would continue to be.

So, I am ashamed to admit that when her hand touched my shoulder and I looked into her eyes, something broke inside of me and I could not stop myself. The tears came, and I found myself burying my face into her large bosom.

I did not take comfort in her bed that night, though I could feel we both wanted it. I have never cheated on my wedding vows, and even in Margaret’s death, I was not going to put my soul in that immortal damnation. Especially not when I now knew that evil truly did exist.

She left me there, and I was thankful, but filled with longing as I watched her go. I thought she would have been going home. She lived nearby, her with all her animals. She was often taking in strays, and had I gone with her, I would have been just another lost soul living there.

That night though, as I tried to sleep in that uncomfortable plywood board they called a bed, my wife appeared to me. She wasn’t alone. Her sister was with her, and after the initial shock that they found themselves together in my room, they were both curious. It didn’t take me long to realize that they were apparitions and that my soul was already damned. It also meant that Kathryn had traveled out to the cabin to check on her sister after she’d left me there, and she too was now no longer with the living.

As the two of them squabbled, I knew sleep was ever going to be a phantom for if I was to be haunted, these two were going to be a pair to drive me quickly into insanity.

I did fear however, that if they had both been killed by the well, the evil trapped there may not be content with just these two. I might be next. Once I was taken, who then? I have a large family, eventually someone would come visit. My brother would make the trip next year as were celebrated the New Year. What would stop him from falling victim?

As I lied their awake, I thought of a plan. I did not know if it would work, but by the holy ghost, I prayed that it would.

After hours of drifting in and out of consciousness, I finally rose and dressed. Since I hadn’t planned on the day trip to the inn, I was forced to wear my yesterday’s clothes. They were wrinkled and smelled of dirt and fear. I could smell her still on them, but I refused to say as much as she stood there, staring at my from across the room.

It was one thing that I killed her, but to have her now haunt me with those accusing eyes made each breath a tearful painful one. Somehow though, I was able to steel myself and do what needed to be done.

My first stop was to the parish. Father Thomas was an early riser and I knew him to often take a stroll around town, stopping only when he was back at the church. There he kept a table in chairs out front of the building where he would sip his coffee and watching the early morning rise to wake. When he finished his walk, I was waiting, already seated at his table. I stood and greeted him, realizing by his stern look upon seeing me that it had been very rude of me to just be sitting there.

I didn’t tell him everything, but I told him that I felt there was an evil spirit that has come to reside in my home. To my surprise, he was aware of the darkness that lurked in the well. I had not been the first to approach him. It was a blight on the township and the area in general, and everyone knew what was there without saying what was there.

How did they let me buy the place? How did they let me take my young bride there? The answer was simple, though the priest did show some remorse as he said simply that someone had to. Someone had to live there or the evil would spread.

He then explained to me that I am the gatekeeper. I live in this house, and that the house is protected from such evil, It has long ago been blessed by his predecessor, and he has also said his vows there and will to do so again if it would make me feel better. I told him it would.

Feeling encouraged, or it might just be because of knowing that I am not alone, I bought an axe and returned to my cursed home.

See, having my house blessed protected me, but that wasn’t my whole issue. I still had a place of evil in the clearing near the trees. I had fallen victim to it and I now knew I wasn’t the first. The pastor said that there were a number of disappearances in these woods and we both knew where those bodies could be found. The well was a source and it would continue to feed.

I do not know why other options hadn’t occurred to me. I only thought of one solution. It involved an axe, my sweat, and doing something I had not done before and was unsure how to do it. Yet I was somehow able to, and know what piece I would need to craft when I needed to craft it.

It felt like my hands were being guided. I liked to think it was the lord guiding them though the sickness in my gut told me there was darkness at its root. One way or another, by the time it grew cold for winter, I had completed the barn, trapping the cursed well deep within.

By the time it was done, the pastor and two thirds of his congregation were with me as well as the local constable. A few others as well, including a few traveling salesmen. All of them had died while I worked, none of natural means. The constable had been investigating the deaths and questioned me. Next day he had been trampled on by horses to join the legion of the dead that night.

Only a few held ill will against me at first, though it didn’t take Margaret long before she had all of them looking at me with venom. Her vileness blamed me, that it was my evil act of pushing her into the well that started this.

My memory grows hazy of this to know for sure if I pushed her into the well, or if the tentacles reached out and took her. The pastor has tried to come to my defense, but I can see the doubt in what is left of his face. He had died while visiting my home, blessing it. A tree I had been cutting down had fallen awkwardly and with still much of the truck still needing to be chopped.

The new pastor in town refuses to make the trip out to see me, though much of his congregation had come. Many of them are now permanent residents. I don’t know what started when Margaret fell into the well, but it has been spreading and getting more aggressive.

The barn is nearly finished. I hope that it would help protect against the evil getting worse. I was such a fool. What evil have I unleashed upon this world? Oh God, forgive me for what I have done.

Dead Friends: Chapter 42

Brian sat at the window watching the birds. He was always there, in his room, watching birds. It was his life. What else did he have to do? He was trapped and alone not just in this place but in his own mind. He was a prisoner his own body, constantly screaming to be free.

“Scream as I scream, but no one listens to me.” He would have said to the empty room, but to talk would have meant he would have to have typed it out using the one finger tip that he did have enough control over to use. It would have been typed, not spoken, and then the room would have heard the computer generated voice that was now what he thought of as his own.

How much of him was even presented to the world? How did the world see him, just the crippled in the chair or did any of them ever see what he was in side.

What did they matter, he was an outcast inside and out…

A new bird chirped as it landed close to other and the two caught over some unseen worm. The fight drew him out of his thoughts though he knew it would only be temporary. He had woken up again in a foul mood. He couldn’t place why he had been waking up in such temperaments, but felt the blame had something to do with his dreams lately. He couldn’t remember them, but would wake up shivering and sweating.

“And how is my young athlete doing this morning?” A booming, chipper voice called out behind him. Brian didn’t turn around to look. He couldn’t, not without moving his whole chair, but he also didn’t have to, to know that the voice belonged to Jerome. “We ready to get up and take on the day.”

Jerome wasn’t this insensitive to all the patients he cared for. He was a good guy, and his jokes were often tailored to his audience. Brian could take the joke and most days the barbs would be returned in a jousting match of insults and sarcasm, all good natured. However today wasn’t a good day. Instead there was an anger that was building, that dark feeling that was following him out from his dreams. It made him want to snarl and lash out at the world, and for right now, the world was Jerome.

“You shouldn’t say that,” Came the computer generated voice from the speaker attached to his chair. It was followed by a single tear that ran down his cheek.

Jerome had continued into the room as he had talked and had gone to the sheet next to the bed, writing in some information into the log sheet there. At the sound of the voice box, Brian watched through the reflected glass as the man looked up in shock at the boy sitting in the wheelchair. Jeromes mouth had opened in shock, and Brian could see how much pain now spread on his face.

“Bro, I’m sorry. You know I was just kidding.” Jerome set down the clipboard and walked over to Brian, coming around and lowering himself so he could look into the boy’s eyes. “You know I don’t mean stuff like that right. We just always kid. Something getting you this morning.”

Brian could feel like more tears threatening to stream out of him in a flood of emotions he himself didn’t even understand. He could feel them right below the surface, but not the cause of why they were there. They were bottling up, just like the anger he was feeling. All of it, fighting as to which emotion was going to break free, and at the same time he didn’t want to release any of it. Not now, not in front of Jerome when it had been Jerome’s own words that had brought all of this to the surface.

“What is wrong with you lately” the little voice inside him asked as he looked back at Jerome. No he glared at him, the anger taking the forefront of the storm. He refused to even reply as he just stared into those dark ember eyes that looked at him with compassion.

The moment lingered and doubt creased along Jerome’s face until he stood and backed away. Brian could tell the big guy was thinking, which wouldn’t surprise Brian as Jerome was a pretty smart guy. He was normally fun and geeky, full of comic book knowledge and always up on the latest movies coming out. Not only that but he knew about stuff and was a deep thinker. Jerome had once told him that he was minoring in philosophy in college before he decided to dedicate himself full time to helping people, and sure while much of that could have been bullshit, Brian didn’t think so. He believed him, because Jerome was also very earnest.

So as Jerome stood up and looked outside, at the grass that was covered in fall colored leaves, Brian knew he was deep into his thoughts about something.

“When was the last time your sister came by to see you?” Jerome asked, looking back to Brian. Brian wanted to scoff. He tried too, and he even typed in “ha, ha” into his little keyboard, but all that came out was the digital laugh that sounded eerily creepy.

“That’s what I thought. Don’t seem right. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know her, she’s not my sister, but sure seems selfish how she stays away. Just doesn’t seem right.” Jerome was again looking out the window and his voice had grown distant as he kept his gaze locked on the trees.

Brian looked in that direction and was struck by the shadows. They were dancing. He could first see how the ones that stretched out from the woods into the grass swayed back and forth and gyrated like people in a seductive rhythm. Bodies of darkness were intertwined, wrapping around one another as though moving to their own song. They were beckoning, reaching out to him, he could see it. He could even feel it inside his chest, burning inside his soul. He felt something inside him shift, and though while knowing it was impossible, he could feel his penis growing stiff.

The shadows pulled him in, and he found himself looking at the trees. Was that a man he saw there? It was far enough away he couldn’t be sure. The man was hidden, but somehow Brian knew that if he did see him, he would still not be able to make out any details.

There were other patients, members of the long term care society just like himself. Many of them would be walking along the paths, escorted by one of the many orderlies. They were out there, mulling around like cows out to pasture. Though as they all walked, everyone avoided the shadows. He even watched as Nelson, a zombie of a person so out of touch on med’s that he never responded to anyone, shocked the orderly he suddenly sidestepped out of the path of a dancing shadow that had stretched towards him.

They all were avoiding them and avoiding the woods. What was out there?

Brian adjust his wheelchair so he could see Jerome who was still looking off to the woods.

“Jay.” The digital voice called out for Brian. “J-man, come on.”

Jerome looked at him, the jolly smile Jerome normally had was spread wider into an unnatural tooth filled grin, and there were so many teeth. Brian was sure there were more teeth than what was right and that there might have been another set of teeth buried deeper within. Jerome’s kind eyes were gone, burned away by a purple flame that burned in his eyes.

Brian’s friend was disappearing before him and something else was replacing him. It wasn’t the thing in the woods, as Brian was convinced that he would never see the things features had the shadow man been in there.

Why are you so sure of that? He didn’t know, he just was. This was something else, and it was wrong to this world.

“Hey B-dawg, what’s wrong.” The thing said, its voice stretched and broken, somehow rattling as it spoke. It was like the voice was formed as wind blowing through broken glass, shaking then shards as sound stretched into words.

It sent a shiver through Brian. He knew he should run, and he did want to get away, but he also knew how pointless that would be. Even now as terrified as he was and shook in terror, none of it was visible as his body trapped him. He had nowhere to go. He was more a prisoner in his own body than he was to the room around him. He had been trapped long before this creature appeared.

“You see me…” the thing spoke, but Brian noted the surprise when it struggled with the words. Each syllable was slow and paused. It reminded Brian of how his older speaker system had been, when the system spoke each word as he typed rather than waiting for him to finish what he had typed. It had made for long stretched out sentences all because the machine kept saying a word, pause, then say another word.

“You see him too.” The creature who had once been Jerome looked towards the trees much as Jerome had before this thing took his body. “It thinks it is master just because it found it first and has been here longer.”

The creature looked back to Brian and Brian knew Jerome was lost. The burning eyes were melting away the skin around the sockets and the mouth that had torn wide to accommodate the new set of growing, sharpening teeth was continuing to bleed. Blood was dripping from its gums and now the lower jaw was red as it spat out when the thing spoke. There was no returning from this.

Brian knew he should be scared, and for the skip of a heart beat, he had been. Then he hadn’t died. The thing was there and it wasn’t attacking him. So the fear slipped to the back of his mind, still there, but lulled as he watch the thing talking to him. Maybe it was part of his condition, or it was because he was used to being trapped within himself and that was worse than whatever this thing could do. It could just be that logic had won out and he realized that if he was alive and this thing was still talking to him, then it needed him. Whatever was the case, he found himself not the terrified mouse looking back at the predator, but as the grizzled vet, staring at the end of his life.

It knelt down close and Brian could smell the blood on its breath as it spoke.

“It does not control me. It wants you.” Blood spattering Brian’s face as it spoke. “It wants you to its collection. Some think it be a trickster, but I’ve known it too long. It be a collector. It wants you for its collection.” Brian felt the chill from the thing’s eyes and wished he could turn his face away. He couldn’t. He was locked in and his eyes were fixed on staring into the cold flames.

How could cold burn into him? He wasn’t sure, but he felt it. There was no getting away from what he felt. As much as he wanted to, there was no escape.

“I’m not going to kill you. If I kill you, then you become a part of it’s collection.” It said as it backed away from Brian. Brian tried to take in a quick gasp of air in relief, but found that his body was fighting him. Instead, his breathing was still quick, struggling to keep up with his racing heart. He was more terrified than he realized, but it was all alien to him. His body reacted, but his mind felt detached. Like it could watch this thing as it moved and transformed, while still being able to study it and think rationally. The thing had just told him it was there to kill him. Then why was it there?

“What then? If you are not going to kill me?” Brian asked. He did. It took him a couple seconds to comprehend it, but he had said the words, not the speaker. He had not taken the time to type the message out, but instead had just blurted it out. Something he hadn’t been able to do for over three years, but yet the words had come to him, and they had left his own lips.

He felt the tear as it stung his cheek, and knew there would be a tidal wave behind it. He had spoke. That was a miracle, and one he had given up on long ago. He had moved more than just a few muscles. If he could do that, then what else could he do?

The thing was looking back at him, and that wide, tooth filled smile stretched wider, tearing more skin.

“I want you to get something for me.”

“I can’t.”

“You can. What would you do to have your body back? Would you kill?”

Brian shook his head ‘no,’ before he realized he was doing it. Then his eyes opened wide in disbelief and suddenly he wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t kill to have his body back.

“You would. I can see the doubt. You think you wouldn’t, but you would.”

“No.” Something about hearing his own thoughts come from the thing’s mouth gave Brian a new found resolve. Having his body back would be great, but he realized he would never be able to live with himself if it meant taking another’s life.

The thing just nodded and went back to walking around the room. Brian hadn’t noticed before, but even when it had been close to the window, it still moved to stay away from any direct source of light. It always moved around them, working to stay in the shadows, even if the shadows were faint in the well lit room.

It went to the door and closed it.

“No? Well, we’ll see, but I don’t need you to kill. I just need you to get some things. Things that it can’t get. Things that we want. Things that we need. Things that a few people have…including your sister.”

Dead Friends: Chapter 41

Chapter 41

I am so damned tired of this curse. So God Damned, mother fucking tired of it. It is unrelenting and I know no longer know where reality ends and my life begins because I no longer feel like I’m a part of what is real. Everything is lost to me. The dead are all around me but even my wife has lost her patience in continuing on this way.

I struggle to find reasons of some damned way to stopp this madness. I had cable installed and now the cable man is dead and joined the masses outside. He was a husband and a father of two kids whom he’ll never see again. Then there is the one who installed internet. Things that I wanted to try and keep me from slipping further into the depths of despair and guess what… now he’s dead too. He was a kid, working at the cable company during the summer. His boss was his father who now mourns a son. Ben is his name, or was, and is, who the hell knows, but now his life is over. He wanted to go into business, he will never get that chance. It was all taken away from him because he got too close to me.

And what defines closeness. Sometimes it feels like the shadow woman will take anyone who is just close to me, other times they are at a distance but yet I knew them and had spoken to them recently. The rules to this crazy game are always changing and I was never told how to play.

It’s trying just to make me crazy. I swear it feeds off my misery just as much as the dead around me. It wants me insane. Sometimes I think I already am. What sane man would live alone out in the woods talking to the dead?

And now I’ve had these strange dreams. A woman, I keep showing up in her apartment. I tell her to get away from me, she isn’t safe, but she knows the shadow thing. She says she has something for me and that it’ll help me.

Nothing is going to help me.

If it wasn’t for this curse I’d kill myself but it is because of the curse that I want to die. If I die, who’ll inherit I’m them? Tommy? One of his kids? How do I do that to them?

****

Jessica put down the journal. Tears were streaming down her cheek and she tried to wipe them away, but there were too many. She gave up and reached for the tissues nearby. Already there were spots of moisture on the page she had been reading were tears had fallen.

She sniffed more time before blowing her nose, then looked across the room at Lizzie who was still reading.

“How many years did your uncle live like this?”

“I don’t know. 15 years or so” Lizzie didn’t look up right away, but when she did Jessica could see the streaks of moisture streaking the dirt on her face. Neither of them had showered after the attack, they hadn’t wanted to be away from one another. Instead, they had started reading, looking for answer to what that was outside.

That had been how long ago? Neither of them were sure as time slipped by them in the cabin. One hour could feel like seconds, but Jessica knew it had to be more like five hours of her time had been lost. She could see the orange glow from the kitchen as the sun made its lumbering journey below the trees. The light in the dining room was on, Lizzie must have flipped the switch while Jessica’s nose had been in the handwritten pages, and now the light grew stronger as the radiance outside faded.

Night was falling, and Jessica feared what that might bring. This thing was stronger in darkness and it nearly killed them earlier. What would happen now?

“Have the lights ever gone out in here?” Jessica said. She couldn’t help but look between the different light bulbs that were already casting their illumination throughout the room.

“Not that I’ve seen. I don’t know.”

“You got spares right?” Was that one in the living flickering? She couldn’t tell. It could just be her imagination, but she swore it was dimmer than a few seconds ago.

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Well, what if the lights went out. Then couldn’t it get in?”

“I don’t think it works that way.”

“But how do you know for sure?”

“Well for starters, I don’t make a habit of sleeping with the lights on.”

“You don’t?”

“No. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I’ve never gotten the sense that it was light keeping it out. There’s something else about this cabin.”

“Has he mentioned it in any of these?” Jessica asked as she held up one of the new journals. Her uncle had upgraded his writing books in the newer ones and this one looked like was made out of faux leather.

“Maybe. There are so many of them and much of it is just him talking about long trips in the woods talking to his wife who had been the first one killed by the curse.”

“I wonder what happened to his dead. You would think that they would still be here torturing you. I mean-” Jessica has stopped falling and Lizzie looked over to her friend. It was almost like she could see the wheels turning as Jessica looked at the table and then as though she was scanning it for something. Lizzie didn’t think she was though. Her eyes were moving quickly as she was running through whatever had occurred to her, but Lizzie didn’t think she actually saw the table. She was lost to her own thoughts.

Lizzie has known Jessica a long time and while some would assume that with her bubbly mature and long blond hair, that there wasn’t much going on upstairs. The more you knew her, you’d learn that she was a very aggressive person who was one hell of a fighter. If you knew her long enough, you’d learn the airhead was mostly an act, and that she was smart. It wasn’t book smart, Jessica was not one who enjoyed being sitting down for long periods of time, but she could figure her way out of things pretty well.

“How could your uncle walk through the woods?”

“What do you mean?”

“You just said he was always taking long walks with his wife. How? You walk outside and your getting attacked. First by Sarah, who I couldn’t see, and then by possessed birds killing themselves to kill us. Why was none of this happening to your uncle?”

Lizzie wasn’t sure. She looked at the books around her and then back towards the door which they had slammed shut after being chased inside. There was a chair leaning against it now and a pile of books in front of them. On a conscious level, Lizzie knew no one was getting in that door, but that didn’t stop her from letting her friend block them in. It made her feel safer too, but now as she looked at it, she realized her friend was right. Why was it being more aggressive for her.

“I don’t know.”

“Something’s changed, but what?”

“Maybe because I’m a woman?”

“You really think the things gone all crazy because you’re a woman?”

“No, but it’s the only thing I can think of.”

“There’s got to be something else.”

“Why? I mean, it doesn’t play by any rules I can follow. The voodoo woman told me it was a trickster, playing by one set of rules only to change them on you later. I don’t know, maybe it’s jealous. It went after you-know-who with a vengeance.”

“No, I can’t believe it. This is the 21st century.”

“And we’re dealing with an ancient being. Maybe some kind of sexism worked its way in through the years.”

“Well that’s bullshit.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s bullshit!” Jessica yelled again, this time projecting her voice loud towards the ceiling. Lizzie thought she could be imagining it, but she swore she heard laughter from outside.

“It was my uncle before me and his uncle before him. My uncle always referred to it as a shadow woman, but I always see a shadow man. There’s definitely some kind of kind of game going on with the gender, but I don’t believe that that alone is why it is being more aggressive with me.”

Jessica looked at Lizzie for a minute, then the door and now back to Lizzie. It was like she was studying her, having some kind of internal debate in her head. Lizzie was getting frustrated as the music had paused, the quiet was getting loud around them, and that gaze was getting unsettling. She was just about to scream at her friend, heading to interrupt the stillness when Jessica took in a large breath.

“Sarah.”

“O-kay.” Lizzie said, stretching out the word with her confusion apparent on her face with a cocked eyebrow.

“It played the male for you, but now you said it yourself, that it’s using Sarah to get to you. You said there was no way that was Sarah right? That Sarah must not be out there like the others. It is using her to try and get to you because you showed no interest in the guy version.”

“I still don’t think it’s about gender.”

“Liz, I don’t care how old this thing is, but everything is about sex.”

“I doubt an evil curse, or thing, or darkness from beyond time is after me because it wants sex.”

“I don’t know. If I’ve been around for a few centuries, I’d be horny.”

Lizzie rolled her eyes and tossed one of the diaries at Jessica. It felt good to giggle at her best friends. It was almost like a weight had lifted slightly from her chest and she was able to breathe a little easier. Some of the weariness she hadn’t realized had been bogging her down, slipped away. She actually laughed as Jess swatted the book away.

It fell to the floor. It was one of the older ones and the binding had already been loose. The pages ripped from the glue and spilled out across the room. One of them floated to the center of the threshold between the living room and dining room and rested there.

Lizzie looked at the page, and her laughter stopped.

Dead Friends: Chapter 36

“What was that all about?” The voice was familiar and Lizzie didn’t have to wait for her eyes to adjust to the dark to know who her savior had been.

“Jess…? What are you doing here?” Lizzie said as she reached to the counter to help her up. As the adrenaline was wearing off, the pain in her knees made throbbed and she could felt little burning cups along her arms and in her palms.

“Really?” Jessica said and there was a bite to her question. That is, seconds before she was attacked by Lizzie who wrapped her arms around her in what was the fiercest hug she could manage.

“I thought you were dead.” Lizzie felt the wetness on her cheeks as it soaked into the sweater her friend was wearing.

“What the hell? You have some serious explaining to do.” Her friend was barely returning the hug, her hands just barely resting on Lizzie’s back as she remained buried in her friend’s chest.

“You’re not dead. Oh thank God you’re not dead. I was so worried about you. Is Dennis okay?”

“What? Of course Dennis is okay. Why wouldn’t he be?”

That’s when Lizzie felt herself being pushed away, and she allowed it, standing up and taking a step back to lean against the counter. She wiped away the tears from her cheeks, and looked at her friend. She couldn’t stop smiling. Jessica was there. She was standing in Lizzie’s kitchen, and she was alive.

That dream Lizzie had, it had been so real. She had been in Jessica’s head and been a part of her while her friend had tried to kick as. She sure as shit had done better than what Lizzie had just done. How had Jessica ever survived that?

Because it hadn’t actually happened. It had just been a dream. Her whole life had drifted away to feel like one long nightmare, just what was real anymore?

“He controls the dark spaces, and dreams lie in those places to live. Beware your dreams.” Lizzie heard the old woman’s voice in her head, reminding her of something Lizzie had forgotten.

“Are you okay?” Jessica said, but she didn’t reach forward and she hadn’t really returned Liz’s hug.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Really? Because I just heard you yelling at someone and then I saw you jumping in the back door as though you were being chased.”

“Thank you for that.” Lizzie couldn’t take the way they were both awkwardly standing there and so she stepped around the island and grabbed a glass by the sink. She filled it with water, already dreading the foul taste of the tap water, but she was doing something and keeping so that Jessica couldn’t see her face.

“For what? I didn’t see anyone. No one was out there.”

“Hey, did you see a large, dark colored car when you pulled in?”

“What? No? Driveway was empty other than Roland’s car. OMG, why did you take his car!?”

Lizzie finished filling the glass and took a drink, keeping herself turned away from Jessica. She didn’t feel like she was ready to face her friend. Inside her was a war of emotions with no clear winner as to how she felt. So instead she was feeling them all, at once and in turns. She wanted to throw the glass against the wall, while crying a river of blood drenched tears and hugging her friend. She wanted to call the floor and ball herself into a corner, and she wanted to stand there hiding her face in her hands.

She wanted to do so much, so instead she did nothing. She stood there and looked at the water as little air bubbles floated in her glass. The water was sour, tasting of both rotten eggs and lead. The pipes were bad, and she’d run out of bottled water days ago.

“Liz?”

Lizzie looked over her shoulder to see that she wasn’t the only one who was having a hard time talking. Jessica stood there, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water, but no sound escaped them. Her eyes were pleading like she wanted an answer but wasn’t even sure what question she should ask first.

“I’m okay. Really.” Lizzie said.

“No, your not.”

“I am,” but even as she said it she knew her friend was right. She wasn’t alright and hadn’t so since the first time she’d entered this house.

“You look like shit.”

“Thank you.”

“No, really. You smell like you have showered in weeks, your still wearing the pants and jeans you wore when I last saw you and you skin is baggy and pale. Have you left this house since Roland died?”

“I told you, I’m fine.”

“Liz, stop it!” The volume and command in Jessica’s voice brought Lizzie up short. “You’re not fine. Don’t lie to me.”

Lizzie was now the one lost for words and stung by her friend’s words. She left the room, no longer able to stay in the kitchen. The house itself now felt small and stuffy and even as she stepped into the dining room it felt like there wasn’t enough room for them. It was making it hard for her to breathe.

“Liz, don’t just walk into the other room. Talk to me.” Jessica followed her into the dining room, but wasn’t as quick to go any further into the room. Lizzie had been trying to clean up the mess she had found in there when she had inherited it, but it was still a mess. There was just so much to go through. She’d read a few of her uncle’s journals, and had read a few of his books on witchcraft.

Those had been harder to follow and she would often find herself looking back at title page wondering why her uncle had gotten the book from the Hammond Public Library in Illinois and just how much of late fees did he owe. The book had been checked out three years ago, did libraries still charge late fees for that long or at some point did they just right the book off? She could just imagine her uncle and now her, owing a thousand dollar late fee for a single book.

Needless to say, there were still piles and piles of books and clutter that made walking through the small rooms difficult. Lizzie had become home to making it through the mess, but Jessica had to work her way through to where she’d gone. It wasn’t far, and with Jessica’s grace, she was standing next to Lizzie as she was looking down at one of the journals. It was bookmarked with a picture of Lizzie’s parents.

“Liz, I know you’ve been through a lot, but you need to talk to someone.”

“Last person I talked to died. Everyones dead. Everyone but you.”

“Liz, you can’t blame yourself.”

Liz refused to look at her friend, but kept her eyes locked on her parents picture. How old were they? It looked like the picture had to have been from before her brother was born as none of the grey had started in her father’s goatee. She’d never seen this picture before and everyone looked so happy. She hadn’t read this journal yet and opened it to the page it marked.

“Can’t I?’

“No, you can’t.” Jessica tried to twist Lizzie around to face her, but Lizzie pulled herself free from Jessica’s grasp.

“You should go.”

“No.”

“I said, you should go. Go, or you’ll be like the rest of them.” Lizzie nodded as she looked over her shoulder towards the window.

“And I said no.” Jessica watched where she was stepping and moved to stand in front of the window Lizzie had turned to. Briefly their eyes met, and Lizzie quickly turned away, fighting to hold back more tears. She cried a lot, and she felt like she needed to stop doing it so much.

“You’ll die. They all do.”

“Liz, come on. Do you know how crazy that sounds.”

Liz just laughed. If only her friend knew the realms of crazy Lizzie had started to call home. Her life was nothing but crazy.

She looked around her, knowing that what she was looking for would be nearby. Jessica watched her, though Liz knew she was growing impatient. Why wouldn’t she just leave? Liz had told her to go, and it would be for her own safety. She needed to get Jessica out of there, but maybe she could explain some of it to her. Maybe her friend would even understand.

Lizzie remembered why she hadn’t told Jessica everything the last time they had seen each other. Lizzie had still thought she could live a normal life then. Well, normal as she could with dead people constantly with her, yelling in her ear when she tried to have conversations with people.

Lizzie found the diary she was looking for. It was the first one, the oldest of them all. She briefly turned the pages until she found where her uncle was talking about losing his wife and her coming back to him. She quickly skimmed through the pages, running her fingers across the tear stained paper before she handed it over to Jessica.

“Here.”

“What’s this?” Jessica took the book and just briefly looked at it before looking back to Liz.

“It’s my uncle’s diary. It talks about his introduction to all this craziness.”

“What does your uncle have to do with anything? You just inherited his house and money, not his insanity.”

“Sometimes crazy isn’t so crazy when your on the inside.”

“What? Is that like, if your crazy, you don’t know your crazy?”

“Something like that. Just read it.”

Lizzie left her friend there and went back into the kitchen. She wasn’t sure she could eat anything. There wasn’t much too eat, she was down to the last few can goods that had been there when she’d moved into the house, but her stomach was hurting. She vaguely remembered eating last night and it had been a long day since then. She needed to eat before she passed out. It would be hard, it was twisted in knots and the last thing she felt was hungry.

Jessica followed her, the book unread in her hands.

“Liz, I don’t care what happened to your uncle. I’m worried about you. You can’t stay out here. It’s not healthy, I mean just look at you.” Jessica held up her free hand as if indicating that Lizzie’s appearance was proof of some point, and maybe it was. When was the last time she’d showered?

She opened the cabinets and found the two remaining cans. One was for Spaghetti O’s and the other was canned soup. She ignored the soup and grabbed the fake pasta.

“Ew, really?”

Lizzie popped the top and tossed it into the sink while grabbing a spoon off the counter. It looked clean. Well, clean enough…

She forced a bite, still not enjoying the rolling around in her stomach and looked up at her friend.

“What? I’m hungry. Read the damn passage.”

“At least wipe your mouth.”

Lizzie had felt the dribble on the corner of her mouth but had been talking. What would it take to get Jessica to read it. So of course Lizzie didn’t care if a little had hit her cheek, she wanted Jessica to read the damned thing, and motioned so using the spoon.

“What’s so damned important in this?” Jessica held up the book, her finger marking the page Lizzie had opened it to, so at least she was curious.

“It’s about Sarah.”

“Really?” Jessica looked at the pages. “This book has to over be five years old. How is this about Sarah?”

“It’s about what happened to his wife. It happened to Sarah.”

“So what? You have to let it go. There was nothing you could have done. My God Liz, do you really think your responsible for what that bastard did? Is that why your hiding out here?” Jessica put down the book and stepped over to Liz, her arms wide for a hug. “You didn’t do anything. You’re not the reason Sarah or Roland died.”

“You’re wrong.” Lizzie said, fighting to hold back the tears. It was getting easier as less tears threatened. Maybe she didn’t care anymore, or maybe she was just past the point where tears came at every time she thought about their deaths. Maybe she could even tell Jessie what’s been going on without becoming a complete wreck.

Lizzie knew she was being silly about it. As soon as she opened her mouth, she knew it would be a mistake. Jessica would never believe her, and she would either think she was nuts or… No, there wasn’t anything else she would think, but maybe then she would leave and be safe. That’s what Jessica needed to do. She needed to get out of there before the shadow man did his voodoo, heebie jeebie, killing thing.

“Jess, you’re in danger and the longer your here, something could happen. Please, just go.”

Jessica dropped her arms, giving up on the hug that Lizzie never stepped into, and they both stood there studying one another.

“No.” Jessica said. Lizzie was taken aback by Jessica’s stern look.

“Yes, please.”

“No. I’m not going. You need me. I brought my bag with me. I’m not leaving you out here all alone.”

“Jess, you can’t do this.”

“Yes I can. I’m taking a break from school and I’d already quit my job, so yeah, I’m staying.”

Lizzie looked at Jessica and noticed that Jessica was wearing more make up than usual. It seemed especially heavy under her eyes, like where a woman would cake it on if she was hiding a black eye, or something else. Had Dennis been beating on her? Did she need a place to hide out?

Oh my God, if he has been hitting her, I’m going to kill him. It flashed through her mind so quickly she wasn’t even sure the thought was hers. Even as she thought it though, she couldn’t believe it and had that feeling that something else was going on.

“Jess, is everything alright?” Lizzie set down the can of Spagetti O’s, untouched since that first spoonful and stepped forward, taking Jessica into a hug. Jessica resisted, her back straight for a briefest of moments before she put her arms around Liz.

“I’m fine. I’m just worried about you.”

“Dennis hasn’t hit you, has he?” The hug was gone and Jessica nearly jumped back out of Lizzies arms, her eyes wide.

“What? Where did you get that idea?”

“Well, Your, Um? Why would you quit your job.”

“I quit because that asshole, Tony, tried to feel me up.”

“Did he hit you?”

“No, but I nearly dropped his ass there in the center of the store. No, no, where in the hell did you get the idea that someone hit me.”

“Your eyes.”

“What about my eyes?”

“Um, I don’t know. It’s just..”

“I’ve been having trouble sleeping. That okay with you?”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I think I’d notice if someone had hit me. I don’t regularly go out looking for fights and I don’t let people hit me.”

“Okay. You’d tell me if someone had right?”

“Liz, this isn’t about me. I’m here because you just disappeared. How could you just run off like that.”

Lizzie let Jessica go and step back to collapse into the counter, her legs weak and her chin dropping to her chest.

“I watched Roland die.”

“What, did he have a seizure or something? Did you call the paramedics? Wait, why were you in the same room with him? Did you guys..?”

“I watched it kill him. Most the others he didn’t do it directly, but he seemed to be telling me something when he killed him. It smiled at me. I could feel it. It wanted me to see it.”

“Liz, what are you talking about?”

“The shadow man, or sometimes I think of it as the Tic-Toc man. He’s not a man though. It is death, and it surrounds me.”

“When did you get so poetic.”

Lizzie looks to Jessica, their eyes locking on one another. Lizzie has an expression Jessica isn’t sure she’s ever seen on her friend. She’d seen her intense, so focused when working on a project that she would tune out the world around her, and that was the closed Jessica could relate this look too. No, there was something more to it than that. There was a hatred burning with intensity and focus that twisted with obsession, and all of that made her look fierce.

“Poetry is dead as life is around me. The shadow man is real, it is a monster hell bent on spreading darkness, and it is using me to try and do it.”

“Maybe I should leave. I think I need to get you some help. You know the police are looking for you. Your brother too. Maybe they can get you what you need.”

“I’m not crazy. I thought that at first. I thought I was losing my mind. I’m not though. There’s this thing, and no one seems to know how to stop it. I don’t, but I need to find out. It wants us all. Just somehow, it is trapped here, and I seem to be it’s anchor and food source. It started long before Sarah and even my uncle.”

Lizzie nodded towards the book. She hadn’t noticed when Jessica had set it down on the counter.

“Lizz…”

“It started for me the day Sarah and I came here. Sarah was killed by a dead man who had dug himself out of his own grave. I thought that would be the last time I seen her. Later that night, she came back to me, and has been here ever since.”

“Wait, your saying you’ve been seeing her ghost?”

Lizzie shook her head, and then went on to tell her friend everything. It would be the second time she’d told anyone. Maybe this time Jessica would live long enough to help her.

Dead Friends: Chapter 32

I wish I knew what was happening to me? Why? How come I can’t even talk with someone without them turning up dead, their spirits brought back to torture me? What have I done to deserve this? Why do I even write about it.

Maybe just to preserve my sanity? Maybe these will be found one day once I’ve succumbed to the madness. Does me no good, so fuck these books, this writing and fuck my life.

I can’t even have one friend. I truly am alone in this world.

Okay, While I don’t think I’ll feel any better anytime soon, I have taken a minute, made myself a shot or two of some Jack, the one friend who won’t die on me, and have sat back into my chair. The bottle is next to me, ready to toast myself into oblivion.

I try not to drink it obsessively, but today, I earned it. No, not earned, I didn’t do anything to deserve this, but I need this. I need the stupor tonight. Tonight is when I’m sure Bobby will be joining the group outside.

Yep, Bobby, the one friend I fool heartedly allowed myself to have. Knew better. I know anyone who befriends me dies, but it was an accident. I’d talk to him a little on my trips into town. Everyone needs to get supplies and well, everyone needs a little interaction with other living people as well. You can’t just live off of talking to the dead, even if they do talk back.

Bobby had become a friend. I hadn’t realized it. Every time I went into town he was there. Of course he was, he owned the convenience store, not that it was much of a store. It looked like it had once been an old farm house, and I had missed it. Spent what seemed like an hour trying to find it before I stopped off and actually asked someone at the post office. Once I came back, I’d seen the little sign on the porch.

It was a place that didn’t want to be found, much like the town it belonged to. A small town deep in the woods, off from any major highways and only a little road leading to and from. Had that main street that held everything, all the residents and the businesses. At the end of the street had a small school with a parking lot just large enough to turn around in. There wasn’t room for anything else. Any more houses to build, the surrounding forest would have to be cut away, and no one seemed interested in doing that.

It was an interesting place. I don’t know why I ramble on about it. I had grown up with my brother in the a small town, but it had been nothing like this. It had been an actually town, this store, the houses that were around it, it was like a community that didn’t like or want outsiders. Still they were nice. It was obvious I wasn’t from there when I entered the store.

“Hey stranger. Lost or getting lost? I can tell you how to get back to the highway or farther into the woods, which ever you prefer. I prefer the woods myself. Got lost here thirty years ago, and still not sure I ever want to get found. Though I wish my wife couldn’t find me.”

“I heard that.” Came a female voice from the other room and I couldn’t help but smile as I took the whole place on. The scents, the decor, all of it overwhelming me.

“Damn, she found me again. Hey listen fella, help me out. Run the store, I need to flee to Mexico.”

“You’re not going anywhere you senile ol’ coot.”

It was then that I realized just how amazing these two were and knew that I had just walked into meeting some very special and dear people.

Who else would have taken an old house, knocked down most the walls so that the first floor could be used for a general store. It was wood floors and walls. Wood was everywhere. The shelves that were lined with grocery items as well as anything else you might need in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, were also made from wood. The cooler in the back wasn’t, but next to them was a wood sculpture of an old Indian standing there looking out disapproving at the rest of the store.

The store was quant, rustic and everything I never realized I’d wanted in a small country store. It smelled like her. There was always cookies or something sweet baking in the kitchen and that was her smell.

I’d forgotten what I’d gone in there for, so lost in the sweet northern charm of the place. It wasn’t until Bobby called out to me the third or fourth time that I pulled myself from whatever stupor I’d slipped into.

“You okay?” He said after I’d been staring lost in space for who knew how long.

“Yeah, just blanked on why I came in here.”

“Couldn’t tell ya. That is unless your planning to buy me out of house and home so we can finally get a day off from this prison.”

Every time I came there, he always asked me if I was ready to buy him out. Damn fool. Damned damned fool, should have never said a word to me. Now he wouldn’t be dead. If the old man had just shut up and took my money, not been someone I could talk to over the last few months while I came to town, he would still be alive.

According to his wife, that kind elderly woman who would call out from the kitchen while making another batch of those wonderful cookies or her special homemade bread, her husband had died just this morning. The store was closed when I had pulled up. She was sitting on the front porch, rocking in the bench swing that was mounted there. She had been crying most the morning, evident by the streaks of wetness that traced down her cheek and the puffiness of her eyes.

She didn’t talk about what had happened. She told me so, and I didn’t press it. I did ask her if I could join her for a minute. It wasn’t a smart idea, as I was putting her life at risk by talking to her, but I didn’t trust my legs to get me back to my car. They felt rubbery and I just needed to sit down for a few minutes.

She nodded and I sat. Both of us rocked there for a few minutes in silence, staring off at nothing. Not a single car passed by, and I thought it was strange that no one had been here or come to visit her.

That was when she said something that had nearly dropped me, even from the bench swing.

“He always knew his life was at risk, talking to you. Everyone knows those living out where you do are on borrowed time. Theres a darkness about you. Some evil that comes from that cabin. You ever notice how the birds don’t fly near you, or that you never see a bear out by your place? Probably not. You don’t realize how common it is to see bear on your property, and especially not out there. Animals know to stay away. My Bobby knew to stay away, but he just couldn’t help himself. He was too nice an old man. Said he’d lived a long enough life. If something happened to him for it, he was willing to take that chance.”

Not once did she look at me, and I know I don’t have all her words right. She said more than that, but that’s how much I can remember and its close enough. It was what she said next that killed me, and I quickly tried to escape after that.

“Do me a favor. Whatever voodoo whodoo that surrounds you and that place, make sure it takes me next, please. I want to be with my Bobby.”

That was when she turned those intense blue eyes on me and I felt my chest heave with a heavy breath, my insides burning. My throat went dry, but I tried to respond.

“I know. You don’t have no control over it, but I know talking to me helps. Will you do that? Will you come back to me here, and talk to me?”

Bobby hadn’t joined the dead that followed me everywhere I went yet, and he’s not with me now either. I’m sure he’ll come tonight as they normally do. For now there was only the army of regular gruesome faces I had come to know as my regulars, and then there was my own wife. I looked up at her, saw her moist eyes, and she shook her head at me. I agreed with her that there was no way I could come back there. As much as she wanted to be with her husband, I could not be the cause of this woman’s death. There was enough death that followed me.

“Sure.”

“Thank you.” She nodded and a small smile curved at the corner of her lips. “He wanted you to have something. You better take it now before the vultures get here later.”

She stood and walked me to the front door. I tried to open it for her and she slapped it away.

“No don’t be doing that. I’ve opened my own doors for all my life, don’t need some youngin’ opening them for me now. I’m not that old.”

I followed her in, and at first I was afraid she was walking me back to that old Indian stature. I really didn’t want to turn down whatever she was giving me, but the last thing I needed out at the cabin was this old Indian constantly watching me. Besides, with the weird shit going on, I couldn’t help it, I was afraid the damn thing might come to life. It wasn’t too lifelike, but enough so that I could see it happening. My life had become too much of a horror movie for me not to expect the crazy.

Behind the statue though, was an old clock that hung on the wall. It was beautiful and made of wood. I guessed that it was hand carved with engravings of a man and a woman. The woman stood with her hands back and her cheek turned towards the man, while the man leaned forward giving her a kiss on the cheek. The outer corners were gold, and the large face, each hand was crafted gold arms. Hanging from below it was two rods that ended in weight balls, probably to tick away the time. The clock itself hung there motionless.

“He called it the lovers. Someone had given it to us shortly after we got married, but don’t go thinking it was a wedding present. It doesn’t have any kind of emotional sentimentality to it. No, he wanted you to have it as he said the damn thing hadn’t worked in nearly fifteen years. He said to give it to you and tell you that time doesn’t always drag on. Sometimes it will stop so you can enjoy a little peace of happiness.”

I didn’t know what to say to her, and she must have seen my discomfort. I was saved though as we both heard another car pull up out front.

“Go ahead and take it. Sounds like the well wishers are starting their arrival. You’ll want to be out of here before more show. Some of the more idiotic of the fools might try to blame you and do something stupid. People don’t seem to have the sense that God gave a dog anymore, and people turn mean when they get that dumb.”

I grabbed the clock not yet sure why I was taking it.

“I just hope when my time comes, it comes easier than Bobby’s. Maybe, if I’m lucky I’ll die in my sleep.”

I wanted to ask her how did he did, but couldn’t bring myself. I’d find out soon enough.

I left the small store as a family was walking up to the front steps. The mother saw me and quickly pulled her child back, all of them giving me a wide berth as I walked to my car. I set the clock down on the back seat and left.

So the friend I had made, the one I had let myself get to know had died. I should have known better.

I guess I am meant to always be here, alone.

I don’t know what this existence is. Each day, I join my dead wife, and we walk among the trees, down some of the paths that are around the cabin. Each day, I have those few moments that I forget that she is dead. Then I try to hold her hand, and we never embrace. She is trapped somewhere between life and death, and I feel like I am as well. How else do you describe me hiding from life out here in the boony’s with no way of surviving back in the real world?

This is no way to live. I don’t know how I’m going to survive. I haven’t been back to town since that day. It’s been a week now, and when we return from our walks, Bobby is there. He cries so much. He knows how he died, and that his wife is hoping to join him. He wants me to return to town as talk to her, hoping that whatever curse took him would take her as well. He doesn’t understand that I just can’t do that. I’m already the cause to so much death.

That is only part of it-

Bobby had died viciously, a random bear attack. His face hangs in tatters to his mutilated body. If I went back and talked to her, kept talking to her until the shadow woman takes her, she would see Bobby as he was now when she got there. And how would she look? What kind of gruesome death would the shadow woman dream up for her. He doesn’t understand.

None of them do.

They all look at me with those haunted eyes. They all hate me, all except my Claire.

I want so bad to hold her.

How can I be surrounded by so many, yet feel so alone.

I dread even going outside of this cabin. When I finish the walks, sometimes I’ll venture into the barn. I’ve started to clean it up a little, using one corner of it to create a little work area. I haven’t done too much with it, don’t really know what to do. So far I’ve just been tinkering with that old clock. It is such an amazing piece of old technology that it is fascinating. I think I may have even found what is wrong with it.

It is so quiet here, without any nature sounds to make the place feel natural. I think the only way to preserve my sanity is to find some kind of project to work on. Maybe the clock will be my salvation?

So alone.

Oh God, why have you so cursed me?

Dead Friends: Chapter 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh God, I don’t know what to do.

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least I’m not going to starve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Friends: Chapter 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry Dan. She just took off.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I got her, I’ll walk her in.”

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

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

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

“Mr. Rogers?”

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

“Yes?” Dan asked.

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

“That’d be me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sure he did. He was nuts.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh really?” Dan said.

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

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

“What’s this?” Tammy asked.

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

“Fine.” Tom said in resignation.

“On a Saturday?” Tammy said.

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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