Dead Friends: Chapter 37

How do you convince your best friend that everyone close to you has been killed because they were close to you? Okay, so maybe it sounded crazy, but it was true. They were dead, and now they were undead and it was all because they were close to you.

Lizzie wanted to scream, as the frustration was growing and it felt like the breath of each word was producing this pressure inside her chest. It was building, and each time that Jessica interrupted her, it wanted to escape in a fierce blast of anger.

Jessica had fought Lizzie through the whole retelling of what has been happening the last few weeks. Lizzie wasn’t sure if it was because she couldn’t believe it or because she refused to believe it. Lizzie would tell her about Sarah’s death, which Jessica understood Lizzie’s hard time to talk about it, but when Lizzie told her about Sarah’s reappearance she had bulked.

“So you really think Sarah’s still alive?”

No, she wasn’t alive. If Jessica would just listen to her. Lizzie had told her she’d undead, still appearing to her and talking to her. Though, telling Jess about her had created a pause in the story. Lizzie couldn’t stop herself. She had to know if any of it was true and if Jessica had known anything about it.

Lizzie had always felt like it had been weird that these two amazing and beautiful people would be friends with someone so shy like herself. Why had Jessica been her friend? She had always thought it was because Sarah was her friend. So if Sarah had been playing her this whole time, had Jessica been in on it?

So Lizzie couldn’t help but ask, “Did Sarah ever talk about my parents? Or say anything about my dad?”

Jessica had been surprised at the sudden turn in conversation, but had recouped quickly enough to not sound like she was making something up.

“Not really?” there was a question Lizzie could tell with how she said it. She stretched out the really and made a face as if to ask why Lizzie was bringing it up. “I mean, I know she was devastated when they passed away. We both loved your parents. Sarah always thought of your mom as her second mom, though I think she’d of rather had your mom over hers. You know there was always rough times for her at home. Well you know, you were always with her.”

And Lizzie had always been with her. It was why she couldn’t believe the things Sarah had been saying lately. It didn’t make sense to her. How did it even work, for Sarah to have done what she said.

Lizzie shook it off, telling Jessica to never mind as she continued then with trying to tell her about Elisabeth and Chuck.

In total it took her nearly forty minutes to get through the story. She hadn’t mentioned anything about the strange Englishman or the clock. She still wasn’t sure what to make of it, or of the barn with the black wall. She had felt different in there. It was like, the house felt safe, magically safe even if she had to put it into words, outside felt like ‘his’ playground and he was waiting out there to play with her. Then there was the barn, and it was cold, dark, and that there was something else in there entirely. Whatever was in there was waiting for something. It wanted something to happen, and when it did, it was ready to emerge. When that happened, she wasn’t sure when that would be, but she knew it was bad.

Whatever he was, and no matter how bad the shadow man was, whatever was in that barn was much worse.

It sounded crazy. So much so that she didn’t tell Jessica sure that it would be the final straw for her friend to be shipping her off to the looney bin with the padded white walls and floors.

“You’re crazy Liz. I love you, but your crazy and I think you need help.” Jessica had said. Lizzie just finished eating the last of her can of fake spaghetti sauce and had tossed it in a garbage bin. Next to it was a garbage bag that was filled with similar cans and other refuse. She hadn’t been sure what to do with the garbage out there, so for now she left it inside.

Lizzie stared down into the darkness at the bottom of the garbage bin. It was a fresh bag, so the can had gone to the bottom and was almost completely lost to the dark plastic.

Her life was beginning to feel like it was lost to darkness. Why had she come all the way out there to the cabin? Was she going to hide out here for the rest of her life like her uncle had? It seemed like a good idea at the time, and she’d hoped that when she got back there that she’d have found some kind of answer. She would walk right into the cabin, open one of his books and “voila” there it was, the answer to what was going on.

She had found an answer at least. The answer was that he had never really known what was going on either, nor had his uncle who passed it down to him.

Though someone must have, as she had the voodoo necklace. Well, she assumed it was voodoo. She kept having dreams of the voodoo woman and she assumed the woman made the necklace.

“I’m not crazy.” Lizzie answered, realizing Jessica was still in the room and watching her.

“I didn’t say you were. I said it sounded crazy. I just think you need to talk to someone and get some help. There has been a lot going on and it would be a lot for anyone to handle alone.”

“But I’m not alone. I haven’t been alone since they died. They’re always out there.”

“They’re outside right now? Why don’t they come in? You said at the apartment they were there with you.”

“I don’t know. There’s something about this cabin. Maybe it’s why my uncle has weird symbols carved into the wood throughout the house. Who knows. I do know that they can’t come into the house and kitchen, and that dead things can only make it into the kitchen but not the rest of the house. I think the kitchen was some kind of add on or something.”

“Either that or it has something to do with the plumbing. If there was some kind of protection spell then it wouldn’t be effective in a room that has pipes of running water running in and out of it.”

Lizzie looked at her friend, her mouth dropping open.

“I’m not saying that I don’t fully believe you. I don’t know what I believe. I’m just saying that if there is some kind of protection on the house, it may not be as effective on rooms with a lot of pipes running in and out of it.”

“And how would you know that?”

“I don’t. Duh. But come on. You’ve seen just as many dumb horror films as I have. There’s like, rules to witchcraft mumbo jumbo. If you have a circle, you can’t have things breaking it or the magic won’t work. Well, it wouldn’t be an actual circle, but it there’s magic and protection, then this room has a lot of pipes I would guess running in and out of it. I’m guess the bathroom would be the same way.”

Lizzie looked at the door that lead into the bathroom. The color drained from her face and the vision she had wasn’t comforting. She could see herself in there, doing her business, when the undead man, huge smile spread across his bloodstained teeth came crashing into the room and grabbing her.

Then there was the shower, and suddenly the theme music played in her head. “Eh, eh, eh, eh” and a knife coming swooping down like out of that Hitchcock movie.

Maybe she wouldn’t be taking a shower anytime soon. She hadn’t felt comfortable enough in the cabin to take one yet, and another few years wouldn’t hurt anything. Well, maybe it would effect her sense of smell, but that’d be worth it.

“I guess that makes sense.”

“You know it does. Come on.” Jessica lead her out of the kitchen, and exhaustion must have been kicking in as Lizzie let her.

“Where are we going?”

“You’re taking a shower.”

“No I’m not.”

Lizzie stopped moving and they both looked at each other. It was obvious that Jess was concerned about her, but Lizzie wasn’t about to go into that room and get naked. There was just no way.

“Liz, I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I know its a lot. I understand what you think you’ve been through and we’ll talk about it more when you get out, but you stink. You stink more than this house does, and as long as you have warm, running water, then the shower will do you some good. I’ll stay with you. Nothing is going to happen, to me, or to you. No one is going to attack you.

Lizzie didn’t believe her, but somehow found the small woman was surprisingly strong as she pushed her through the house to the small room just off the living room.

“I don’t think we have hot water.” Liz said as they neared the door.

“Really? None?”

“I don’t know. Haven’t tried, but theirs no basement and I’ve never seen a hot water heater. I’m not sure.”

“Well, guess what, there’s only one way to find out.”

Lizzie tried to think of another way to stall, but it was too late, they were at the door. Jessica stepped in front of her and pushed it open, and then beckoned Lizzie to enter. She did and Jessica followed, the room suddenly cramped as it was never meant for two people cohabitation.

“I knew it’d be small, but this is like both of us trying to fit into a port-a-potty.” Jessica wasn’t wrong as she was forced to nearly sit over the small, dirt and rust stained toilet that Lizzie had slowly come to trust. Her first couple of days in the cabin she had just hovered over to use, but after Sarah and the rest of them had beat her, she hadn’t had the energy to keep it up and now was used to sitting on it.

Then there was a little sink, and above it there had once been a mirror that in the past had been removed and now was open to the contents. All of it was her uncles. She had no tooth brush and hadn’t done anything about her teeth since she’d gotten there. It was probably a good thing there wasn’t a mirror. The more she was beginning to realize it, the more she felt like she could imagine what Jessica was seeing. She really must have looked like one hell of a mess.

The sink wasn’t what she was in there for, and she turned to study the tub. The room had obviously not been designed for the thing when it had been built and once it had been installed, it allowed just enough room for her to sit on the toilet and her knees just touch the cold porcelain. The curtain was hung on a make shift steel rod that was fastened to the wall, and the shower head hung from a wire dangling from the ceiling. It was one of those loose kind that you could hold while using it and the head was discolored from years of inactivity and age. It was covered in dust as well as the inside of the tub. None of it looked appealing to use.

“Maybe we should just go to a motel? There’s one around here right? Get a room, you can take a shower, maybe even get some sleep in the bed?”

Liz shot Jessica a look.

“You know I can’t-“

“Oh yeah, I know. Sorry. Just look at this. It looks like it hasn’t been used in years and is from a lifetime ago. Shit, I bet this tub is from before you were born.”

“Yeah, it probably is older than that.” Lizzie said as she bent over and started studying the contraption at the back of the room. It was hooked to the shower and she had no idea what it was there for. It looked like some kind of pump. She clicked the little switch on the top and it whirred to life.

“What’s that?”

“No clue.”

“Water pump maybe? I know my great aunt has a cabin and they have one of those hooked up to it. Maybe you do have hot water, I think it’s supposed to work with some kind of specialized hot water heater.”

“I have no idea.”

“Well turn it on.”

Lizzie looked around as the pump continued to run. Eventually she found a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo that was crusted at the top. She grabbed for it, and Jessica shook her head.

“Give me a second. I brought my own.”

Jessica left the room and a second later Lizzie heard the front door slam. Her heart quickened as she just realized that Jessica had gone outside. What the hell was she thinking? Hadn’t she just been told about what was out there?

Lizzie rushed from the room, nearly knocking over one of the piles by the easy chair. It was more books on witchcraft as well as a diary on top. Lizzie barely noticed it as she made her way to the front door and nearly crossed the threshold.

She stopped herself and cursed at the front yawning. It was great to keep people from seeing into the house when they were in the front yard, but made it impossible for her to see where Jessica had gone.

All she could do and listen as she heard what sounded a beep and then car doors being unlocked. There was a scraping, and then a kathunk, kathunk sound as something heavy fell to the gravel.

Lizzie cringed as she could imagine Sarah or Josh, even Chuck if he got back to that raged induced person she had seen when he had first died, attacking her and that was her falling to the ground. They could be swarming over her, tearing her a part. Even the shadow man could be out there or one of his dead lackies like what had killed Sarah. Anything could be happening and Lizzie was trapped in there powerless to stop it.

Why had she gone out there?

Had Jessica the red rings around her eyes? Lizzie hadn’t noticed, but she couldn’t help but think about when they had been in the parking garage. Jessica hadn’t been acting herself, it was almost like something was influencing her to put herself into a dangerous situation. No, just just any something, the shadow man, he was doing it. He had controlled her then, and now her friend was again in danger.

Lizzie inched closer to the door, wanting desperately to poke her head out and peak around. Her pulse was pounding, and she feel her heart trying to pump its way out of her chest. She tried to listen, but it was hard over the loudness of her own breath and silence of the woods.

Then she heard it. Something was being dragged across gravel.

Lizzie grabbed both sides of the door as though she was getting ready to launch herself out there. She was pacing back and forth, her movements growing more frantic as she wanted to propel herself past the threshold.

She knew Jessica was in trouble. What was it going to take for her to run out there and save her? Was she really going to stand by while another of her friends was killed, this time while there might be something she could do?

She gripped the threshold tighter, preparing herself to run out there. Her mouth was clenched, her teeth threatening to grind down to nothing as she tried to will herself to just do it.

The dragging sound, it was getting closer. What were they going to do, drag Jessica over to her and kill her so she could watch.

Come to think of it, most of the deaths had happened with her watching. Maybe that was one of Shadow man’s things, to have her watch. He did love to torture her. It was like he fed off of her pain, enjoying her suffering at watching those around her die.

I can’t take this anymore. I have to do something.

Her foot crossed the threshold, and she felt that foreboding fear slam into her. It didn’t matter what was out there, she had to hurry. Her friends life was in danger.

She was in the entryway created by the little yawning and turned to rush down when a shadow appeared at the bottom. Her momentum paused as her heart leapt into her throat.

Then the shadow became a person, and Jessica stood at the bottom of the stairs. She was dragging her rolling suitcase, the wheels barely any help in the rough gravel. She stopped short when she saw Lizzie at the top of the stairs.

“Woah, you okay?”

Lizzie didn’t wait. She dashed down the stairs, grabbed Jessica’s free hand and pulled her so they were both rushing to get back inside.

Once they made it past the threshold, Lizzie nearly collapsed on the floor. Instead she made it into the chair and finally allowed herself to burst into tears.

“Liz, what the hell? I just went out to get my suitcase.”

“You could have died.”

“I just went out to my car.”

“Elisabeth and Chuck, they died just at the end of the driveway. Sarah died in that kitchen. Being around me, there isn’t any, ‘just went out to my car’ moments anymore. They’re always out there, and the shadow man, he’s everywhere.”

Jessica let go of the suitcase and lowered herself to look into Liz’s eyes. She grabbed her hands and waited until Liz looked up and their eyes met.

“Liz, I’m not going anywhere. You need to calm down. You’re not the cause for these freak accidents. Okay.”

“You still don’t believe me.”

“I believe you need to stop blaming yourself.”

“You still don’t believe me.”

“Not really, but I’m here for you and I’m going to help you.”

“You need to believe me.”

“Okay, fine. Then I believe you.”

“No, you don’t, but you will.”

Lizzie stood quickly, nearly knocking Jessica out of the way. Before Jessica could say or do anything, Lizzie was at the front door. She rushed outside and was gone, down the stairs and past what was visible with the yawning.

“Come on out you bitch!” Jessica heard Lizzie yell. “Sarah, come and get it!”

Jessica’s mouth dropped as she hurried to catch up to her friend.

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 34

She was back in the apartment building, the walls covered in graffiti that changed every time she was there. It was the dream again. The nightmare that always tried to explain something to her that she never quite understood.

Again there was the rustling of the plastic, carried on wind she didn’t feel. It was all the same, and always the same. She didn’t even bother with looking into the plastic room to see the darkness hiding there. It was where the shadow man stayed when he was not tearing apart her life.

She walked right past it, and straight to the apartment door. It was numbered 23. Strange, she didn’t remember the number before. What had been on the door before. She felt like she had looked at it, but thinking about past trips down this hall were blurred into obscurity. She wasn’t sure if she had ever looked at the dark red door or not.

It opened for her when she turned the knob and she walked effortlessly into the room. Inside, the old woman was sitting there in her chair, drinking something that looked like tea. It was steaming, hot and fresh and the old woman was blowing on it before each sip. In the kitchen, Lizzie could hear someone moving around and the clang as though they were putting away pots and pans. Maybe the granddaughter was back there after having just served her grandmother.

The old woman looked up at Lizzie as she entered, a look of shock on her face, but she didn’t spill her tea. No matter how much the old woman’s hands shook either from some illness or the effort of being there, the tea never spilt. Lizzie had a quick thought, wondering if that was the case in the real world, and wasn’t sure if she would ever find out.

“You are here?” She asked and Lizzie didn’t know why she did it, but as she entered the room, she turned and closed the door behind her.

“I guess so.” She said as she turned back to face the woman. There was something different this time and she could feel it. She didn’t have that tension she normally felt when she was there. Sure it was a dream, but even in a dream, your heart can race and you can feel fear. That was how nightmares could kill you, by scaring you to death. This wasn’t like that. This was, calmer, more relaxed. She didn’t feel like she was rushing, and when she closed the door, it wasn’t to keep something from getting to them. It was simply, she realized, out of courtesy.

“You are here, while I believe it is at its weakest. Smart. Maybe now you will come to me…” The woman said, but as she spoke her voice trailed off. Lizzie realized that the woman didn’t mean to say what she had just said. Lizzie didn’t know why, but she suddenly didn’t trust the old woman as much as she had on previous visits. Without all the tension, she could focus on thinking, not being rushed. The woman no longer felt like her savior before being eaten alive. No, now Lizzie felt like she had been running from a bear just to run into a wolf’s den and was standing before the open mouth of the Alpha, staring down its long row of teeth.

Before, she had longed and looked to the old woman as being a way to save her, but why did this old woman care about her. What was she getting out of helping Lizzie?

“You are here, but something is different. You aren’t where you normally are. There is something near you, something just as dark, as dangerous as it is.” The old woman said, squinting as she was studying Lizzie. Lizzie thought about turning around, and running back out of the door. Where would she run? To the darkness down the hall? Where else did she have to go?

“What do you mean?” Lizzie approached the old woman cautiously. The woman in the kitchen was stirring something in a pot. Lizzie didn’t know how she knew it was a woman, but realized that she did and knew who it was. It was the woman she had seen on the street when she had been with Jessica. It had been the one they tried to save. The one who had screamed at her and ran away in terror, but what was she doing there?

That was when Lizzie realized she could smell something too. It was lingering in the room, like that of burnt meat. It didn’t smell right, the meat smelled sour, like it had rotted. It mixed with the fragrance of piss wafting in from the hallway and Lizzie was sure that had this not been a dream, she would be gagging.

The old woman seemed to notice Lizzie’s discomfort, and then somehow all the offending smells were gone.

“Sorry about that. Normally I am prepared for you. I have to be, to fight it as long as I do. You caught me off guard. Wasn’t ready.”

“I’ve taken naps during the day before. Why had you not come then?”

“I don’t know. Something is different this time. This time, you found me.”

“Why? How?”

“Maybe your mind is getting used to the connection. Maybe you are starting to seek me out when you sleep. Could be many things. Some things we may never know.” The old woman said as she took a long drink of her cooling tea. It stained her lips when she drank as when she pulled the cup away, they were red from the thick liquid.

“So why am I here? I remember you. I remember dreaming of you, but why?”

“You are cursed. Your family is cursed. I can not say much more. It is weakened during the day as it is a creature of dark, but It is not sleeping and is not powerless. I still can not say too much. You must come find me.”

“How? Where? I don’t know who are you.” Lizzie couldn’t help but keep glancing at the cup. She assumed it was tea, maybe coffee, but neither stained your lips red. What was in that cup?

“I can not tell you that. He is waiting for me too. He will strike then as he had done before.”

“He?”

“He, It. It is whatever it chooses. For your uncle, it often took the shape of a woman to torture him. For you, it molests you as a he.”

“Why?”

“He is a trickster. I tell you this every time and you must remember it. He plays by only rules he designs. You cannot trust what you know of him. He plays with your mind not because he needs to but because he enjoys it. He feeds off the dead, he does not need you to fear him. That he does for his own pleasure. He is old like myself. He get bored. He entertains himself with your suffering, I think.”

“Okay, so how do I stop this? How do I get my life back?” Lizzie said this and took a step forward towards the old woman. She dropped down to one knee and was about to reach out and grasp the woman’s hands in desperation with her plea, but stopped herself as the smell of copper caught her attention. She again looked at the now half empty cup. There were red stains on the rim of the glass. Dark red. It looked like blood.

The old woman smiled as she took another long sip.

The sounds coming from the other room stopped and Lizzie suddenly had the sense that someone was listening to them. Someone or something. Before she had known that the person in the kitchen was that girl Lizzie had seen, the one she knew of as this woman’s granddaughter though she couldn’t remember how she knew that. Now she wasn’t so sure as she saw the old woman tense at the silence in the room.

“I cannot tell you. Not here. You must seek me out, but for now you must go.”

“But how do I find you?”

“Silly girl, look around you. I’m not hard to find.” The woman was laughing, and the red liquid dripped down from the side of her lips. Maybe Lizzie was wrong and this wasn’t a dream as it sure felt like it was quickly becoming a nightmare. At any time she felt like the old woman would stand up and start chasing after her.

Was everyone in her life evil? How had she fallen into such a world of darkness. She didn’t know who to trust. She had thought this woman would help her.

Lizzie hurried out into the hall, escaping the sudden chill she had felt in the room. The goosebumps from her arm had spread throughout her body and she had to control herself from shivering.

Back in the hallway she had the deja by sensation. It wasn’t the same as when she had gone in. She felt like something should be there, something she was afraid of, something that always chased her down the hall. This was when the darkness would be after her, and she thought she could feel a taint of its presence.

No, it wasn’t there. She felt the pull again to the plastic covered room but she ignored it. She just stood there, looking around. Actually she wasn’t sure where to go. This is where the dream would usually end. She would leave the apartment and get chased. Without the chaser, she wasn’t sure what to do.

On the wall across from the apartment was a myriad of graffiti. Whenever she came there she would read what was scrawled there, usually something dark written in large letters covering much of the wall. It was hard not to notice it, but as she looked closer at it, there was more to the graffiti than she had noticed before. There were other sayings that were smaller, some written under the larger dark sayings and some integrated into it.

As she looked, she saw that much of it was written in a beautiful letters, painted in a bright blue. There were poems of the light and of peaceful dreams. Poems about flowers, green grass fields, and a calm river during the morning dawn. Then she noticed it. Hidden small amongst the lovely writings was an address.

The old woman’s words came back to her, “Silly girl, look around you.”

Lizzie started to chant the address to herself, afraid she would forget it as the world around her slipped away.

****

Lizzie woke up on the floor of the barn and shivered from the chill. She saw her breath as it left her mouth, the mist swirling around her face. She hadn’t remembered it being this cold before, and now it seeped into her. Her jeans felt wet beneath her and she wasn’t sure of them really being moist or if it was due to the cold floor beneath her.

Slowly she stood, using the door behind her to guide her up while she wrapped her arms around her. Her head felt heavy, her thinking slow as the realm of dreams struggled to keep hold.

She was still chanting the address. She realized it, and moved faster, looking around her frantic until she came across the pad of paper on a side workbench near the back of the room. She hurried towards it and wrote down the address.

“Wha la!” She exclaimed, happy with herself that she had finally remembered something important from the dream. Then her happiness evaporated as she remembered the woman, laughing at her, blood covering her teeth and lips as Lizzie had rushed to flee the apartment. Was this really the woman she would hope to have some answers for her? She was relying on her to be her salvation.

What was the woman’s motivation for helping her? Why was so willing to get involved with the darkness. She had to have a reason. Everyone had an angle. She wasn’t going to just, lift this curse from her out of the goodness of her heart.

Could she trust this woman? Lizzie wasn’t sure of the answer.

She looked up from the pad of paper and at the curtain she was now, much closer to, having rushed over to the paper.

It wasn’t a curtain. It wasn’t anything. It was pur darkness. No matter how many lights were in the barn, the back half was lost to it.

She was much closer to it than she now felt comfortable. It was, unsettling. How had she not noticed before that there was nothing. Not nothing in the way that the room was empty, but the room was completely gone. This wasn’t right, and she suddenly worried that she was going to get pulled into it.

It was drawing her closer to it. It wanted her to be a part of it. It was why the paper had been so close to it. The darkness had moved it. She sensed that her uncle would never have been so close to it. All the workbenches were empty this close to it. It had been the one to move to the pad of paper.

Lizzie, that’s insane. Your losing it again. Take a deep breath. It’s just a curtain. You’ll see. But, it might not be a bad idea to go back into the cabin.

Lizzie stepped away from it and back to the door. Her feet felt heavy, her body slow to leave the darkness behind.

“It’s where the shadow man is from” said another voice inside her head. This one different, a stronger voice that felt like it was more than her own thoughts. She didn’t know why, but she trusted it and believed it. This is the darkness she had felt when she had tried to stop it. Somehow this was the darkness from the time before the light was formed in this world.

She opened the door to the barn, wanting to hurry back to the cabin, when she stopped. It was snowing outside. It was the first fall snow but there was already enough of it to coat the ground in a layer of white.

It seemed to early for snow as it hadn’t been that cold before today. Now the temperature had significantly dropped and there was snow.

She looked to the couple of dead people walking around the house. They grew bored, she could tell, and while they hated her for what she had done, they also tried to keep themselves busy. Elisabeth and Josh were currently walking, hand in hand. She noticed that her dead friends didn’t leave footprints in the snow. That was interesting as the undead things had definitely felt real enough to kick her ass.

So the dead didn’t leave foot prints… Well, if they didn’t, then whose footprints did she see walking around her house, up to the back door and then continuing on?

Someone else was there…

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.

Dead Friends: Chapter 23

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

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

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Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not really.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure thing.-“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah like you know what happened.”

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

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

“That’s bullshit.”

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

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

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

Kind of like what she was doing now.

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

“You need something, honey?”

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

“No, I’m fine.”

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

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

“We weren’t disturbing you were we?”

“It’s okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sorry about your loss.”

“It’s okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then why’d he tell you?”

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

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

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

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

“Like what?”

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

“You ever hear of zombie ants?”

“Your full of it.”

“No, no. I saw it there on Facebook.”

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

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

“Uh huh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She wrote on the paper.

Dead man

-how did he come back to life

-why did he come back

Friends

How is he killing them?

Why?

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

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

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

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

“It ain’t no skin off my back.”

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

“Asshole.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe.”

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

“Thank you.”

“No problem.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Friends: Chapter 7

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

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

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

“Lizzie? You okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe she really was crazy…

“Liz?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Chuck!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And you live here because?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I did… I died there.”

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

“I thought I had. I don’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m fine. We can get out of here.”

“You sure?’

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

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

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

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

“You’re kidding.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure.”

“So you get what you needed?”

Lizzie nodded, holding up her keys and her phone.

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

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

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

“I’m not sure.”

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m dead.”

Lizzie nodded.

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

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

“Can we get out of here please.”

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

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

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

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

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

Here There Be Dragons: Prologue

The nightmare was getting worse. Each night it was getting stronger and when he closed his eyes, could feel himself slipping farther into the cold dark depths. There were things there, and each time he slept, he feared they were going to come back with him. That when he would open his eyes upon waking, they would be waiting there waiting for him.

It was silly. He knew that. Everyone knew that nightmares weren’t real. That it was things that were trapped in your head. That if you watch a scary movie or play a game that had monsters, you would see them in your dreams. That’s how the monsters came, they worked they’re way into your nightmares.

But he hadn’t been watching any scary movies, and his mom had grounded him from his Xbox. He was stuck spending time with his younger sister when he got home and wasn’t allowed to even play with his friends. The last two weeks had been nothing but playing dolly’s with Emily, spelled with a ‘y’ as she would say so no one would accidentally misspell it with two ‘ee’s’.

Not that he cared enough to spell out her name. He didn’t want to be wasting his time with her. He should be off having fun doing boy things, not staying there with his spoiled brat of a sister.

So he was stuck with her, not watching anything that would cause these nightmares. Well, not unless the nightmares were of him being covered in dolls each crying for him to hold them. Or of him being chased by a really large one that wants to pick him up, cooing to “hold him and dress him and kiss him all over.” Now that was a disturbing thought and he hoped he never would have that dream.

No, the nightmares he had were filled with darkness and in he dark were creatures. He could always hear them scurrying around him, but he wasn’t afraid of these things. They weren’t the ones that terrified him and had him waking up with a wet bed. They were disgusting but he was a boy, he liked disgusting things. No, there was something else in the dark. It was large, and there were times when he knew he could feel its breath upon his neck. It breathe and then snort, and when it did that he would shiver as though an ice pick was wedged at the base of his spine. No matter how hot and warm that snort was and sometimes it felt like a wave of fire washing over him, he always got the chills from it, the unseen thing.

It was always behind him. No matter how much he turned and it didn’t matter that he couldn’t see, he could feel it there. It was either behind him, or hovering over him. He knew it was there.

He couldn’t stop it, and knew this shouldn’t be happening to him. Not him. He should have been able to resist it. He was a dream chaser, he knew how to control his dreams. He had to of, because to fight the nightmares in other children’s dreams, he had to know how to control his own. It was one of the first rules, one of the first things taught to new dream chasers and he wasn’t knew. He had been fighting nightmares since he was ten. He lived the decree, to fight a children’s nightmare, you had to be a child. This nightmare shouldn’t be getting into his own head, it shouldn’t be happening. He could control these things.

But still the nightmare came, and still it grew stronger.

He didn’t want to close his eyes anymore. He didn’t want to sleep, to slip into the dreamscape as he knew the nightmare was always waiting for him. Each night, feeling more real and pulling him farther down the rabbit hole. Was there a bottom, and could he reach it without losing himself?

Last night he had swore to himself that he wouldn’t sleep and had made it until the middle of the night. Then, even with all the energy drinks could no longer hold back the veil he had slipped into sleep.

It started with him falling. Most dreams do, especially when one is fighting it. It’s that slipping into the dream realm sensation and if your not ready for it, you’ll jerk awake with that sense of slipping away. It’s disorientating and is the hardest element for new dream chasers to overcome. He had taken nearly two months before it had not affected him, and hadn’t felt it since… Until last night.

There had been a few false starts. He was sitting at his desk, the desk lamp on and facing him as he had heard that intense light can cause someone sleep deprivation. In movies they used it as a way to torture, as it wouldn’t allow someone to sleep.

His desk lamp must not have been strong enough as he still dream slipped. First time he had knocked his homework to the floor which had woke up his dog sleeping at his feet. The second time, his forehead had slammed into the desk waking him. Third time he guessed his head had hit the desk again, but that time it hadn’t been enough and he was lost to the nightmare.

It had been dark around him, and wet. Not too far away he could hear dripping and he smelled something like old socks. It wasn’t though, it was more, earthy, like dirt, but damp. He thought maybe he was in a cave, a deep one and around him was large creatures that scampered. Large, but not the largest one. He could hear that one in the distance, feel the ground shake as it moved told him it was larger than what he felt around him. The large ones around him he guessed were large, man shaped rats. He didn’t know how he knew it, but he could see them in his head as they moved around him, gnawing on whatever food they had found and brought back to this cavern.

He knew what the food was and if he looked, he wouldn’t see it with his eyes but somehow would see it with his mind. He refused to look. He refused to confirm what he already knew.

The cavern shook, this time hard enough that he nearly fell to the ground. The big thing was close. It wasn’t in the cavern with him, but he knew it wasn’t far away. He could feel the air around him getting hot and hard to breathe. This time the nightmare felt like it could burn him, and knew that it was real. This time, whatever happened in the dreamscape would happen to him.

Of course it would, your not wearing your protective gear. Your in your own nightmare, not fighting in someone else’s.

Which was true, he wasn’t off on some mission protecting some child from their dreams, this was his own nightmare. So why wasn’t this one getting detected? He was as close to home base as you could get but no one was coming to help him. Why?

Did they know and think he could handle it on his own? Or had they abandoned him to his fate? He still went into the office everyday, but had seen how they looked at him lately. Maybe they had turned on him, and left him to fight, to lost his own battles to this thing.

He wished he could believe this wasn’t true, but was unsure of anything except for that hot air growing more intense. He was having to take shallow breaths as anything deep burned his lungs.

What could he do. He was a fighter. He had to do something. He couldn’t let this continue. He was a fighter, a dream chaser sworn to fighting the nightmares. How could he allow himself to be afraid by it. How could he do that and still call himself worthy.

He had told himself that and knew he had to find a way to manifest his sword. Every dream chaser had their signature weapon and it didn’t matter the shape or what it was as in dreams, it was more about what was projected and the confidence it inspired in him.

His weapon of choice was a large, monstrous sword that he has seen in one of his favorite video games. It was easily as long as him with ornate silver that stretch down around his hands. There were carvings along the center of the blade but as he could never make out the fine details in the game, his own blade blurred this part of the weapon.

There was a loud snort from the other chamber and the air grew hotter yet. He knew it was now or never. He closed his eyes, and concentrated, tuning out everything around him. He could see his sword in his mind and he put in the effort to focus on it, to pull it from inside of himself. He had to do this and he knew he could. It was there, he had found it and could see it, now he just needed to bring it forth into the dream.

He felt it’s solid mass in his hands and knew he had done it. A smile touched his lips as he opened his eyes to see it held in front of him. The tip of the blade rose up in a ready position and he knew he was prepared for whatever was coming. The blade hummed with energy and it glowed in the darkness. The creatures that had all been scurrying around him scurried away, the light too much for their dark adjusted eyes.

He was a warrior and he was ready to fight. His stance, his breathing was all that of one who has seen many karate movies. In the real world he might not be much of a problem against someone as he could never pull off what he could in the dreamscape, but in here, his muscles didn’t need to know kung fu as much as his mind did. In there, all those cheesy movies helped make him a better fighter.

The room around him shook again and everything grew bright. Then the heat surrounded him as a blast of fire cascaded down the cave coming straight towards him.

He held his sword high and put forth the energy as a shield formed around him, the sword billowing out in protection. It was something the sword from the game could never do but he had found that dream modifications were sometimes the best way to survive.

The flame surrounded him, but he was not burned. The shield held though he felt it wobble a few times against the constant roar of heat that pushed against it.

Then the fire faded, the light dimming and his sword sensing the danger had passed, reforming into its original shape. Around him, little fires had continued to burn keeping the cavern flickering with their ominous glow. The fire was green and unnatural. He looked at them, trying to determine how they stayed lit, but didn’t see a source to keep them burning. They burned from the rock beneath them, nothing else.

That was when he heard the growl. It filled the room with its presence and he felt that cold shiver again run its icy fingers down his back.

He looked up and there it was. He didn’t know how it had gotten so close to him, but now he saw it’s large extended nose hovering just a few feet over him. Those large orange reptilian eyes squinted at him and watched him. They were angry eyes, hungry eyes and he knew it was ready to devour him. It wanted him, yearned to taste him, to take him and … do what with him?

This was a dream, a nightmare. This monster wanted something from him but it wasn’t like creatures in the real world was it? Would it eat him like a bear would or a crocodile?

It wanted something else… It was teasing him because it needed him. Why? And what did it matter?

He was not going to allow it to get him. He was a dream chaser, a fighter of nightmares. He had conquered scarier beasts than this one and it was time to put this nightmare down.

He had raised his sword high and jumped, attacking, aiming for the soft spot on a dragon right under their mouth as it merged with their neck. He could see as it rose and fell with each dragon breath. It looked like a loose fabric with how it ripples with the hot air beneath it. It was so thin he could almost see the fire building up beneath it in the dragon’s throat.

His blade struck right where he aimed. The dragon didn’t even try to dodge, it stayed there probably too shocked by his bold move to counter it. It didn’t matter. This stupid dream creature would be another for his wall, like the many before he had taken down many.

But his blade didn’t pierce the creatures skin like it should. Instead it shattered. Pieces of it started falling around him. It was like glitter and he was floating again in the darkness of the dream, not on ground and not falling but just there. There was nothing but black, no dragon to see or even the little creatures that had infested the cavern. He wasn’t even sure he was still in the cavern. Everything had changed, and he no longer knew what to fight.

He tried to look around but there was nothing and he felt nothing. There was silence and there was dark, that was it. He was lost in a void, unsure where his next breath even came from.

He took short gasps unsure if he was really breathing. It didn’t feel real, none of it felt real which made it worse than the nightmare that had been. For the first time felt true terror as he didn’t know if he was stuck there in the nothingness. Time faded and stretched at the same time. How long would he be trapped there as it already felt too long.

Would he ever wake up, return to his home and see his annoying sister. He had never want to play with her so bad in his life. He actually longed to have a tea party and play with her dollys. How messed up was that?

Then in the distance he heard the growl of the beast, and his body went still, every part of him shaking.

He had woken up in a sweat. That had been last night and he knew it was only going to be worse the next time he allowed himself to sleep. He knew it had to happen soon. He knew he would be called in and sent on a dream chase, and didn’t know how to tell his friends, his family that he couldn’t because he was too afraid of his own nightmares. How would he ever be able to face them.

He sat in his room, staring at the clock and realizing for the first time that there were something’s in the dark that couldn’t be beaten like his trainers had taught him. For the first time he realized that sometimes the nightmares win…

****

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Dead Friends: Chapter 11 Or 10.3?

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

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

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

“Stop it!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Josh. My name’s Josh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lizzie hoped so and she turned to Sarah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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