Dead Friends: Chapter 39

“Sarah!” Lizzie yelled as she felt the sudden rush of air around her, the wind howling through the trees surrounding the clearing. Her tone was pissed, as the emotions raged through her, a torrent that combined her pain and frustration that had been building throughout the last few weeks. Many of her friends were dead and she was hiding because even in death, they weren’t gone but physically trying to hurt her. Everything that she loved and care for was being torn away. She was being stripped of what she had always taken for granted as being their for her, and it was turning her into this mouse who hid and she no longer recognized.

But the mouse was always her, you just never allowed yourself to see your true nature. The voice of insecurity said, again trying to beat her down and pushing her to go back inside. Well, for the second time that day, she was done hiding inside.

“Get your boney was out here! Sarah!”

“She’s dead.” Jessica said. She stood at the bottom of the stairs to the cabin, looking at Lizzie. She looked troubled as she watched her friend twisting around, calling out for their dead friend. She would take a step towards Lizzie, but then stop and pause. It was obvious she was unsure of herself and wether or not she should rush over and comfort her friend.

Lizzie would look at her. She could tell what Jess wanted to do, and damned her for it. She would never be able to get her to see what it was she was going through unless she was given the chance. If Jessica came to her now, it would… It would… Lizzie wasn’t sure what it would do.

Lately every time she went outside, she had been attacked. Could the dead also attack Jessica? If she was near Lizzie would they go after her as well?

“Stay there!” Lizzie said, as she watched her friend come to a decision and had taken a step towards her. “Just give me time.”

“Time for what?”

“To show you.”

“Oh? What are you going to show her?” Sarah said as she walked around from the side of the house.

Lizzie looked at what had once been her best friend as she strutted in her direction. It was the walk of a panther as it approached her prey, knowing it was trapped and had nowhere left to run. Lizzie locked eyes with her, and never looked away, the remaining scars from her death having faded were still hideous to look at. They no longer fazed Lizzie as she grew more hardened, her emotions no longer getting the best of her.

If it doesn’t kill me, it only makes me stronger, she chanted in her mind, telling all her other insecurities they needed to back off.

“This isn’t you.”

“Oh, you still think we’re friends? We were never friends, but if we had been, you really think a friend would have put up with all this and still be your bestie? You sent us to HELL Liz. HELL!”

“I said I’m sorry. Josh even asked for it. You all thought the talisman would somehow cure what was going on. You wanted it as much as I wanted it.”

“I didn’t want that! I’m sure none of us did.”

Lizzie noticed that none of the other’s were coming around with Sarah. It was just her and what had been her best friend. That seemed odd, and she didn’t now quite what to make of it.

“But it was what you asked for. You were hoping for peace, and I needed some quite for my own sanity. I thought it would be like when we traveled. That you would just be gone. That you’d be somewhere else and then just bounce back in. How could I know it would have done that.” Lizzie noticed that the desperation and pleading was gone. She no longer begging for her friends forgiveness. It was simple, this is what happened. She was going to tell her friend the truth, and was at the point that it no longer mattered if Sarah believed her or not.

The Sarah she knew would believe her.

Goose flesh prickled along her arm, and she had a feeling that something was wrong as Sarah approached her and got right up into Lizzie’s face. Lizzie could see the flaps of skin vibrate as Sarah spoke and it looked like there was something there underneath Sarah’s skin.

“Hell, Liz. You sent us to hell.” Lizzie looked at Sarah, keeping her eyes locked onto hers. “Now it’s time for me to send you there.”

Lizzie felt the blow as it slammed into her stomach. It knocked her off the ground, rising into the air before she fell back on the hard earth. The blow had hurt, but the landing felt much worse. She had a moment to think she had just broken her tail bone when she felt that feeling of being grabbed by unseen force and dragged.

“Lizzie! Lizzie, what’s going on!” Jessica called.

Lizzie opened her eyes, not realizing she had closed them when she had landed and looked. Jessica was hurrying towards here. Lizzie held up her arms and shook her head ‘no’ the best she could. Jessica stopped, but she looked pained to do so.

“Looks like blondie has finally caught on. So nice for you to try and protect her.”

The force let her go roughly and Lizzie had no way of stopping herself from having her head slam against the ground. Stars briefly flashed in her vision and lines of colored swirled around her as she tried to ignore the pain now spiking through the back of her skull.

“Why-” Lizzie gasped, struggling to form words, “Why are you doing this?”

“You know why.” Sarah said as Lizzie felt her head again slam down. This time her vision went briefly went black and she swore she heard something snap in her skull.

“But…your lying.” Lizzie said, and with as much effort as she could from being at such an odd angle, she pushed against the force as it rushed her head hard to the ground. It did little to slow the oncoming pain as again her head cracked against the earth.

She didn’t lift her head this time as it hurt too much. Instead it was pulled up by her hair. Sarah was talking, something about Jessica not being safe there, that it could still get her in that house, but Lizzie could barely comprehend the words. Her struggle was more with consciousness than with what was being said.

How often had Sarah ever lied to her?

It was a brief thought that the pain was quick to push away as her mouth filled with a coppery taste.

Some semblance of survival made her move. She could barely feel her body as her mind was numb and felt loose inside her skull. Still she moved. It was slow, her whole body was racked with pain, but she continued to grab handfuls of dirt, pulling herself away from Sarah.

Her vision was blurry, but she saw the shape of a car and continued towards it. She had to reach it. It wasn’t far. If she could get to it, she could escape. It was only ten feet away. She grabbed another handful and then another, willing herself to keep moving forward towards her goal.

“Maybe I should go over there and play with blondie.” Sarah said. It was a hovering voice, somewhere over her. Lizzie couldn’t tell where it was, but felt that that it was close.

“Where…are…the others?” Lizzie said, as red spit darkened the dirt.

“Lizzie, stop this! I believe you. Now get inside.”

“I think blondie would like to have fun under the sun. What do you think. tic-toc, time is running out on the clock.” Lizzie heard Sarah’s voice, but felt the chill. Something that had been nagging at Lizzie clicked into place, a thought from the back of her mind realizing itself about how Sarah had been acting.

“You’re not Sarah.” Lizzie gasped, her breath pushing up a cloud of dust below her. She stopped reaching for more handfuls and turned herself around so she could look up at the dead person standing above her. The sun beat down, so all Lizzie could see was the outline of a person. “You’re not Sarah.”

“Tikkity toc, tickity tit, better just get over it.” The thing above her said. It still sounded like Sarah, but now it echoed with that same voice she’d heard coming from the shadows. It was him. He was inside her.

A chill ran down Lizzie’s back, but she clamped down on the fear that tried to push her. Instead, her mouth tightened and she ground her teeth to where she heard them straining, threatening to shatter under the force. As she did, she twisted the rest of her so she was on her back keeping her glare on it.

“tic-toc, tic-ted, how about your friend.”

The woods erupted around them. Birds that had been quite in the trees took to the air, their cries shrieking through darkening sky. There were so many of them. They created their own breeze and it blasted the trees, shaking the branches as they circled above them. It was like a tornado rising higher until it peaked, closing off the clearing and taking away the light from the sun. It was a swirling cloud of crows that surrounded them.

“Lizzie!” Jessica screamed from where she was by the house.

Lizzie looked at her and the thing above her stepped away from her and was quickly moving in Jessica’s direction. Lizzie knew it wanted her and here she had just set her friend up.

“Run! Get inside.” Lizzie yelled, quickly getting to her feet. She was running, though her head still felt full of cobwebs, she ran as best she could. Every other step she would stagger one way or another, but she fought to chase after what looked like her friend Sarah as she ran towards where Jessica stood.

Jessica had never been a person of inaction, and Lizzie was glad to see that none of this took that away. She had been watching the birds for as they had rose up, but she hadn’t stood still waiting to see what they would do. She had already been backing towards the door. As soon as she had heard Lizzie she had turned and run.

Sarah moved fast, but Jessica was already to the stairs as Lizzie followed her.

Then Jessica stopped and looked back at Lizzie. What the hell is she doing?

“Get inside!” Lizzie yelled again, but Jessica stood there, looking at Lizzie and then to the birds in the sky. Then it dawned on Lizzie why Jessica wasn’t rushing to get back into the house. She didn’t see see Sarah. She looked back to Lizzie and held out her hand to Lizzie.

“Hurry up!”

“She’s coming for you! Get inside!”
“Lizzie hurry!”

“Watch out!”

Lizzie stopped running. Sarah would get to Jessica first. Lizzie was all over the place, her staggering getting worse as she tried to run, the world threatening to spin like a top as it trembled beneath her. Her head felt like an anchor on her neck, and the more she ran, the more she just wanted to lie out there on the ground and pass out.

She couldn’t though. She had to stop it from getting Jessica. Jessica needed to get inside. Damn! But maybe, if Lizzie stopped, Jessica wouldn’t stay outside waiting for her. Maybe she’d realize that she needed to get in where it was safe.

“Lizzie!”

Lizzie looked up. She had stopped without realizing it and had been easing herself down, her body deciding on its own that it needed to sleep. Hearing Jessica call out to her shocked her awake enough to upright herself and look in the direction of her friend who was rushing towards her, afraid to see Shadow Sarah preparing its attack of her.

Sarah was gone, making Lizzie even more confused. She knew she’d been there. Where has she gone?

Jessica reached her and brought her arm around her in a sideways hug that held her up. Quickly with Jessica’s support they were taking steps towards the house when the first bird struck. It came in hard and fast and hit Lizzie’s arm before falling to the ground, dead. Lizzie barely had a chance to look at it when she heard Jessica cry out and the arm around her briefly grow slack to realize she’d been hit.

“It hit me.” She said in disbelief and Lizzie looked at her friends arm to see the red streaming down it. Then she heard a thump ahead of them and saw where one of the birds missed them and hit the ground directly in their path.

Lizzie struggle to push more of the confusion out of her head. She needed to focus and think and they needed to get inside.

“Hurry!” She said, relying less on her friend and trying to walk faster. They weren’t far from the house, only a couple yards, but as more birds fell into their path, she knew it was not going to be easy. Another bird struck her in the middle of her back and had hit with enough force that her legs momentarily buckled beneath her. She was going down.

Jessica pulled her back up and took two steps of her own, keeping Lizzie tight against her side. Then Jessica was hit with another bird and she was launched forward. She hit the wall of the cabin, and Lizzie rushed to catch up, when she was pulled back, the strength of the grip pulling her hair caused sensations of pain along her scalp, setting it ablaze. She fell hard, landing on her butt nearly two yards from where Jessica had fallen to the ground.

That’s when Lizzie realized her friend wasn’t moving. She had hit her head when she had crashed against the house and crumpled to the ground.

Lizzie struggle to pull herself forward towards Jessica when two birds crashed down. One hit a foot in front of her, the other smashed into her hand. She howled in pain and pulled her hand back to her chest. She was sure it was broken. It hurt like a nothing she ever felt and had gone numb.

A shadow washed over her and she felt herself forced to the side, falling flat to the ground. She looked up, and there was Sarah again standing over her, a dark sneer barely able to be seen as much of her was now hidden in darkness.

“Time to watch your friend die. Tic-a-too, tick a tee, oh what will it be. Tic-a-too, tic-a-tat, curiosity killed the cat.”

Sarah turned from Lizzie and looked up to the sky. Light started to burst through the darkness above and for a brief moment, Lizzie thought maybe they would be saved. Then she saw why the darkness was leaving. The birds were rising higher into the air, breaking their dome overhead as they rose out of sight.

Lizzie knew they were not leaving them. Even though they were flying away, it was only to get higher. They were preparing, and soon they were going to be crashing down. They were all coming for them, no long in ones and two’s but now they were coming in mass. It would literally be a murder of crows as they came down to kill.

Jessica was about to die, and there was nothing Lizzie could do

Dead Friends: Chapter 38

Does anyone remember the summers when you were a child? As an adult they are always distant memories when time seemed endless. The summer was filled with years of fun and school was just days between each warm vacation. The pool was a place to ride bikes too and home was where you had tea parties with other girls from the neighborhood who would come to your backyard.

When looking back, do you ever remember the bad times? Sometimes you’ll vaguely remember a squabble you had with your bestie if it was really bad and cause you to go home in a huff, but there was too many good times to think about. Why waste time of thinking about when Sarah had called you a poopy head and stormed off? Why, when you could think about the time you were both at the pool, splashing back and forth, giggling as she had just threatened to tell Tommy Walker that you had a thing for him and thought he was cute.

Lizzie had grown up in Steven’s Point for nearly all her life, though they didn’t live too close to the downtown area, but on the north side near Atwell Park. Their house was on Jordon Lane, not too far from the university so her dad didn’t have too far to go to work. He liked being close enough that he didn’t have a long drive, but far enough away that students wouldn’t be pranking their house. Which they didn’t except for Halloween, and even then who could know for sure if it was students of just random mischief.

Lizzie’s brother hadn’t been sick yet, but they still had never been close. He was just over a year younger than her, and though he was younger, was still the bully of the house. He had learned to pick on her since the moment he had been able to talk, and their mom always took them to play dates where it seemed like she was maybe one of two girls. All the other kids had been boys and <Insert Brother’s Name> had fit right in. It never took him long to make friends, and before she would know what was happening, she would be getting rammed by three to four toy tractors.

And what was the worst part of it? Her mom would just laugh and find it funny. Could she not see how much Lizzie’s brother was a little demon trapped in that body? He was a holy terror and was torturing her and their mom just thought they were playing.

Then there were the times that Lizzie fought back. She would get hit by some Sesame Street doll that had been flung across the room and she would throw it back. Yeah, she would whip it back at him, get him good with it. He would take the hit, and then would wail like a banshee. You would think he was mortally wounded and never going to be recovered as her brother had a set of lungs on him that would make Renee Fleming proud. This would then follow with Lizzie being whisked away into the corner chair where she would face the wall for another time out. The longer she cried, shouting how it just wasn’t fair, the longer she sat there thinking of all the different ways she was going to get her revenge.

She never did though, not while she was alone. Anything she ever tried was always met with failure, her plans aways thwarted by those wailing lungs.

It got to become so frustrating how her parents never saw her side of it, that when Lizzie had turned seven, she had started to explore the neighborhood on her own. She would do whatever it would take to get away from the little beast. Her parents never seemed to care. She was free to roam on her own, just as long as she didn’t get into any trouble. That was kind of the unsaid deal. She didn’t get into any trouble and that she was home before dark. She could work with that.

Well, she also couldn’t ride her bike farther than the end of the street. That was a given as she wasn’t allowed to cross Stanley street or Prais street, so she really only had a couple of blocks to get away, and there were no girls living in any of the houses there. She could ride up and down the street all day and all there were, were boys that ran and played. Sure they were okay, better than her brother, but whose to say that they wouldn’t become just as vicious if she started playing with them.

It was unending, each day the same thing. She would ride her bike, and she would see the same group of boys, some of whom would meet up at the park and throw around balls or play on the playground. She would also be at the park, but she didn’t say much to most of them. Some tried to talk to her, but she would shy away whenever any of them would try to throw around a ball to her or try and chase her.

Some of the older kids teased her and it was unwarranted when they started to call her ‘freak girl.’ She wasn’t a freak. They were just all scary boys, and boys liked to hit and fight. She watched how they played with each other. They were always wrestling around and throwing each other to the ground. How could she trust them not do do that to her.

Then Sarah came to her street. It had been a bad day at the park, and it was really hot outside to make everything worse. At the park, Billy hadn’t accepted it when she had told him ‘no.’ He wanted her to join their game of tag, and no, was not an acceptable answer.

When she had said it to him again, this time louder and stronger, he had pushed her down, then lowered himself to yell in her face, “Tag, you’re it!” Then he ran off and all of his friends ran away from her.

She hadn’t chased them, but stood back up and started to cry. Her butt hurt, she hadn’t known he was going to do that, and falling had stung. So she stood there, watching them all run expecting her to follow, and she didn’t.

That was when it got bad, because all the boys gathered when they realized she wasn’t chasing them. They started pointing at her, laughing and calling her names. Jeremy left the group to walk over to her. He was shorter of the rest and had sometimes even been nice to her, so she didn’t run from him as he approached.

She had a moment to think that maybe, just maybe, this boy was going to be nice to her. He was even holding his hand out to her, so he was going to help her up, and he did right before he pushed her down again.

“Tag, your it!” He laughed and then ran away, the rest of them, some having moved closer to see what Jeremy was going to do, laughed with Jeremy.

“I was already it.” Lizzie cried. She sat there, not even trying to get up. What was the point. There were all mean and just going to make fun of her. Eventually she heard them moving farther away, a new ‘it’ was running around, one boy chasing another until they caught them and pushed them down.

She watched it off and on for a minute or two as here tears dwindled. Finally they stopped when she realized no one was coming to save her, and that she no longer needed saving. Maybe she should just go home and see if Johnny was playing on his Xbox. Her parents would never buy her one as she wasn’t a boy, but when no one was home, she would sneak in there.

It was on her ride home from the park that she stopped and saw one of the coolest things she had ever seen. It was a large pink castle easily as tall as she was. There was no way a boy played with that, and it was being carried out of a large truck to around back of a house she had never paid any attention to before. She didn’t think anyone had lived there, but now there was girl there!

Lizzie stopped her bike and watched as more things came off the truck. She could feel the air in her mouth as it was going dry. It was open and she couldn’t help it as she watched the large girl dining set that was being carried out next by the large men who just kept coming and going out of the back yard.

“Mom, where are they taking them!” yelled a girls voice from behind her.

“Sarah, don’t you dare get out of this car until we have completely stopped. Close that door right now!”

Lizzie turned and saw a large SUV pulling up to the curb. The back door was already partially open and the moment the vehicle came to a complete stop, a little girl roughly the same age as herself came sprinting out. She didn’t even notice Lizzie at first as the girl was in a full sprint towards the back yard where the two men had disappeared with the large castle.

“She’s going to be a handful today.” Lizzie heard the girl’s mother saying.

“Are you up to this? I can watch her and take care of the movers. You can lie in the back, get some rest.”

“I’ll be fine. I’m feeling okay today, and then tomorrow, we’ll go see that specialist and I’ll be all better.”

“I’m not Sarah, you don’t have to talk down to me.”

“I’m going to be fine. It’s all going to be okay.”

Lizzie looked to the girls parents who were so lost in looking at each other that they never noticed she was there. That’s okay, she figured if they didn’t notice her, then they wouldn’t mind it is she followed to where the girl went to.

Lizzie rested her bike in the grass and walked to the back yard. It was larger than hers and fenced in so she had to go through an old wooden gate that needed to be repainted. The paint was brown and peeling, but as Lizzie walked through it, what was there and what she imagined was there became to very different things.

As soon as she saw the castle in the middle of the yard, the two workmen disappeared to her eyes and she saw a lush landscape around her with a meadow of beautiful green grass. Unicorns were grazing in the distance and they nodded to her as she approached the kingdom. The other girl was standing there by the large castle, smiling and twirling around as she sang to the music of Cinderella.

“Hi, I’m Lizzie.” She blurted out and the girl stopped dancing and looked at her like she had suddenly been caught doing something embarrassing. Her cheeks went red and her mouth hung open.

Oh no, Lizzie thought, I just barged in there and now this girl, the only other girl on the area my age is going to hate me for the rest of my life. This was it, I’d ruined it.

“Hello?” The other girl said nervously. She quickly recovered and a smile stretched wide as she started hooping up and down. “Do you want to be a princess?”

“I don’t know… does the castle’s library have any good books?” Lizzie hadn’t really learned to read that well, but she loved stories. If she was a princess, they would need to read stories to her day and night.

“Books? Why would you want books?” The girl scoffed but then looked like she was considering what Lizzie had asked. “But its a large castle, I don’t see why it couldn’t have a library… and unicorns, and cotton candy and … and… and…” Sarah started to name off all the wonderful things it could have and as she did, Lizzie looked around seeing them floating in the air.

It wasn’t long before they were both running around the yard, and when the movers had brought the tea table with the box labeled “tea time (back yard)” on it, that they were preparing for their own tea party.

“Yes Princess Elizabeth, this is a very fine brisket and glass of tea.” Sarah said. Lizzie giggled as Sarah took a bite from her pretend cookie in one hand while holding her tea cup in the other. Her pinky was raised, and she was pouting her lips in what Lizzie guessed was her snooty, queen face.

“It is Princess Humperdink,” Lizzie replied, making her own queen face, “but I do believe they are called biscuits, not briskets.”

Sarah looked at the invisible cookie held between her fingers and then back at Lizzie.

“I thought they’re called briskets. Biscuits are large and fluffy. I want an English cookie,” then dropping back into her faux English accident she continued, “Only the best briskets can be found acceptable for the queen.”

“Yes, my queen.” Lizzie said, but then dropped her own faux accent to continue, “My dad’s a professor at the college. He meets all kinds of cool people and another professor there, she comes over and brings these really cool cookies, but… she calls them biscuits because that’s what they’re called where she’s from. She’s from London I think.”

“Really!” Sarah says, losing her character momentarily.

“Yeah, she’s really cool. She always talks British and she calls things really weird. Like she calls our T.V. a telly.”

“Oh wow.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, should we go inside and watch cartoons on the telly?” Sarah asks, slipping back into using her faux accent.

“Sure.”

They both stood from the short table and started running towards the house. They made it half way when they could hear the yelling from inside.

“Really? We’re not living here for twenty minutes and your already flirting with the neighbors.”

“Flirting! I was just being nice to our neighbors. She was asking if her daughter was hear playing, she’d seen her going into our backyard. I’m not the one running around with my damn tits nearly hanging out. You had one of the movers walking around with an erection.”

“Fuck You!”

The girls had both stopped when they heard something glass fall and break inside the house. Lizzie didn’t know why, but she felt tears forming at the corners of her eyes and she back away from the open door. Sarah looked at her, her eyes were also wet. Neither of them wanted to go inside.

“Maybe we should go to your house and play.” Sarah said. Lizzie nodded her agreement and Sarah rushed to where one of the movers had set her bike. Lizzie’s because bike was still out front and she had a momentary worry that one of the neighborhood boys had hidden it on her when she didn’t see it. They’d done it before, and she turned around frantically looking for it.

“Looking for this?” Sarah asked her and Lizzie stopped to see that her bike was near the front porch. Someone must have moved it, maybe one of the movers. Didn’t matter as she was just happy to see it.

“Aren’t you going to tell your parents where we’re going?”

Sarah looked over her shoulder at the large house. They could still hear her parents but now the voices were muffled and the words indistinguishable.

“They’ll figure it out. We won’t be far.”

“I guess that’s true.” Lizzie said, but she wasn’t comfortable with not telling anyone. She would never have done that to her parents. If she did that to her parents they would freak out and maybe even call the police. It was why she always told them where she was going and who’d she be hanging around with.

They were half way to Lizzie’s house, and Sarah hadn’t said anything since they had left. Every time Lizzie had looked at her, she found her new best friend looking back at her parents house, or looking off into space and wiping away tears Lizzie could tell she wasn’t supposed to see. When Sarah would notice her looking, she would flash a smile and act like nothing was wrong.

Lizzie didn’t know what she should do. She didn’t say anything about it, and after awhile, the smile Sarah gave her lingered on her face.

“Hey, do you think your parents would mind if I stayed the night?” Sarah asked as they were setting their bikes down near the garage.

“I think so. We can always ask.” Lizzie said.

“I hope so. I think I’d really like to stay the night.”

“Then let’s do it.”

Sarah surprised Lizzie as she quickly ran over to her and gave her a huge hug. Lizzie wasn’t sure how she was supposed to react, so she went with it, and returned it. When Sarah pulled away, there were more tears and Lizzie barely heard her whisper, “Thank you.”

“Hey, let me show you my room. My uncle got me this amazing Princess Sofia, and I can show you some of my favorite books.”

“Books?”

“Okay, well, just wait, I’m sure you love it.”

“Sure, let’s go.”

They both rushed off, the sound of giggling laughter echoing through the house as they ran up the stairs to Lizzie’s room.

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 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.

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Dead Friends: Chapter 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry Dan. She just took off.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I got her, I’ll walk her in.”

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

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

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

“Mr. Rogers?”

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

“Yes?” Dan asked.

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

“That’d be me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sure he did. He was nuts.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh really?” Dan said.

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

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

“What’s this?” Tammy asked.

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

“Fine.” Tom said in resignation.

“On a Saturday?” Tammy said.

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Friends: Chapter 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was she going to do about the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

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

“Why not?”

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

“I didn’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Friends: Chapter 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 19

“I think I’m losing my mind. They’re always there, or they were. So much, death… and these things keep happening. I don’t know how much more I can take.” Lizzie said, holding back the fresh wave of tears that lingered on the horizon. If it wasn’t for the hot cup warming her cold hands, she would probably have slipped back into the balling mess Roland had helped off that sidewalk.

It wasn’t much. They were only at the late night coffee shop near the hotel they were about to check into. Since she didn’t let him call the cops on the bum he had chased off, something he still felt was a mistake, she had allowed him to lead her there.

Her hands still shook when they weren’t clutching the hot cop. The tea still steamed though they had been talking for a few minutes. She didn’t know why she should trust him enough to tell him everything, but she had.

This was the guy who cheated on her. That anger still flowed hot and heavy inside her, but he was also the guy she had shared and spent so much time with. Talking to him was easy, she had started telling him some of the story and then all of it just rolled off her tongue.

His hand rested gently on her wrist and she looked up from the steam of the cup to meet his eyes.

“It going to be okay. We’ll get through this. You said they were always with you, but they’re not now?”

“Not since I put on this.” She pulled the talisman out from under her shirt. In the dim light of the coffee shop it had a menacing quality to it as the lights overhead seemed to flow around it bathing it in shadow. Roland reached for it but then pulled his hand back. She could see the hesitation. He was unsureness of what to think or do. His hand rested back on hers.

“Okay. We’ll get through this.”

She wanted to ask about Natalie and where she was in his plans on helping her. Instead she bit back the words and let the anger ebb out of her.

“I’m worried about Jessica. I just have this feeling that it’s after her right now. It’s just a gut feeling, but-”

“Do you even know what ‘it’ is?”

“No, but I’m sure it has something to do with my uncle.”

“Sounds like it.”

Damn he was taking this better than she had, though she did suppose she’d had more information to tell him, more for him to go on when all of this started happening to her. She had the pieces thrown at her and now he could see the whole puzzle. At least as much of the puzzle she already knew.

“I don’t know. It seems like it’s killing my friends or anyone who has anything to do with me. Jessica’s my next closest friend. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost her.”

“Liz, we’ll get through this.” He said to her. Behind them the door jingled and a blast of cool night air brushed against them raising the hairs on her arm. She turned to see two college aged girls coming. They were giggling, talking about someone named Michael. One was dressed nicer than the other and Liz guessed she had just finished what had to have been a bad date if they were together and the girl was not with the boy.

They looked happy. She had been like them once. The weight on her chest made her doubt she would ever be like that again. After all, her uncle had lived alone in the woods for the last eighteen years. He had hidden himself away from everyone he knew or loved.

“I think that might be why he stopped talking to everyone?”

“Who?”

“My uncle. I mean, he just cut himself off, hid himself alone in that cabin. My dad never knew why, he thought it had something to do with a big fight they had and the loss of my aunt. What if there was all this going on?”

“Well, how long was he out there?”

“Eighteen years I think. It started after I was born but long enough that I don’t remember any of it.”

“That’s a long time to be out there alone.”

“What if he had to be? What If it was the only way people would stop dying?”

“But he made you that talisman thingy.”

“Yeah, but it sounded like in the letter that it doesn’t work for too long. I don’t know how any of this works.”

Roland let out a long breath, looking at their hands for a long minute before looking back into her eyes. When he did, she saw the hint of a tear, tucked away on the edge just ready to slip away down his cheek.

“It’ll be okay. Okay. You hear me, it’ll all be okay.” He said it solemnly and she could feel the amount of will he put into his words, like repeating them would somehow make them all true.

“I know.” She looked at her tea, the steam having gone and the lukewarm cup still untouched on the table. “I gotta use the bathroom, then maybe we can get out of here?”

“Sure.”

She rose from the table, only bumping the edge a little, which was better than she thought she’d do. She was always being such a clutch and knocking into tables while standing was pretty much a given for her. She was happy when she didn’t knock over a drink or cause one to spill. It was a win for her and right now she needed as many wins as she could manage.

She found the bathroom in the corner of the small coffee shop, down a narrow dark hallway. The woman’s bathroom was at the end just before the steel door marked “Exit” and right below it a sign proclaiming “Keep Door Closed, Alarm Will Sound.”

The bathroom was just like others she’d been in. It was a large chain and while she hadn’t been all over the country, the ones in Wisconsin seemed to all follow the same layout. She was quick to pee, and felt comfortable doing so in the large clean room.

It was a large room. Larger than it needed to be and larger than bathrooms in other coffee shops, retail stores and restaurants. It offered more privacy as only one person could be in the room at a time. It gave her plenty of space.

She washed her hands and looked in the mirror. The room no longer felt so large. In fact, it was crowded.

They were all there, behind her. Josh, Elisabeth, Chuck, and Sarah all stood behind her and they looked angry. The hatred that burned in Sarah’s eyes was foreign as Lizzie had never seen anything like it. Her eyes, all their eyes were black, and they all bared their teeth in snarls. Nothing of the friendly camaraderie they had shared the past weeks was there. They all looked so angry and all of it was turned on to her.

She turned to look at them directly but they weren’t there. She couldn’t see them without seeing their reflections in the mirror.

She didn’t have time to think anything more of it as she felt something wrap around her and then she was spun around. Her head was slammed against the mirror and she tried to blink away the sudden tears that formed.

“Look at us!” An echo of voices all of them yelling in concert at her. She could hear them as it vibrated through her skull, the sound loud enough to push through any thoughts.

“I…I thought you were gone.”

“Where would we go?” Elisabeth’s voice asked.

The force that had pushed her against the mirror released her and she pulled back to see that it had been Sarah’s hand that had her.

“Yeah, whatever that thing is, it doesn’t release us.” Josh said. Strangely enough he was to the back of the group and looked at her with less hostility than the rest of them. In fact, was he… he looked like he felt sad for her, or was that guilt?

“You sent us to hell.” Sarah snarled at her and then thrusted Lizzie’s head back into the mirror. It slammed with an audible crack and she was sure she would find shards of glass wedges in her skin and hair. She tried to close her eyes to protect them, but the pressure on the back of her head let up as Sarah quickly reached around to hold up her eyelids.

“Oh, no! Keep those peepers open. You wouldn’t want to make me have to cut those off would you?” Sarah said as she leaned in close to Lizzie’s ear. She got really close, looking her in the eye though the mirror, she whispered, “Look at me. See what you did. You did this to us. I should have known it was about you. It is always about you. You did this.”

Sarah did look different. Her skin was much more pale than it had been, which made the red lips vibrant, almost glowing as though they were covered in blood. Her eyes had blood dripping down and joined by blood that dropped from her hair. Parts of her hair were clumped together were red liquid of life still drenched it.

If Lizzie didn’t know any better, she would have thought Sarah had just died and was still in that pool of blood back in her uncle’s kitchen. Well, her kitchen now, but it didn’t matter. Her friend, dead friend, mattered. Before Lizzie had put on the talisman, each of her dead companions had looked better. She wouldn’t say their dead conditions were healing, but they had faded, the image of death not as strong around them. Sarah had almost looked like she had before they had entered the cabin.

Now death permeated from them, their stench filling her nostrils when before she had never been able to smell them. They were… more real, but how when she couldn’t even seen them if not looking through the mirror.

“Say something bitch.” Sarah snapped at her as she slammed Lizzie back into the mirror. This time it was hard enough that darkness swam around her on a river of stars. She felt her body go limp and she crashed to the floor.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Are you alright in there?” A woman’s voice called out from the other side of the door. Lizzie wanted to respond to her. She could hear the woman, but it sounded like they were in a tunnel and she was far on the other side. When she opened her mouth to yell, her air was cut of. Something hard was wrapped around her throat.

She tried to open her eyes, but some kind of fabric was wedged against her face. It smelled like dirt and decay. She didn’t want to imagine what it was, but it kept light from evolving in the world around her.

She tried again to call out but she opened her mouth in vain as she felt something forced into it. She couldn’t keep away the horrific thought of the old man’s penis, the one who had killed Sarah. She remembered the maggot that fell on her, and gagged at the fear that it had now somehow been forced into her. No..he wasn’t there with them, but Chuck and Josh were.

“Miss, I’m going to get the manager. If your having a seizure, don’t worry as we will be calling 911. Are you sure your not okay?”

“Oh no, you’re definitely not okay. How stupid does this bitch have to be? ‘Are you sure your not okay?’ Sarah hissed into her ear. “Like if you are having a seizure, can you please take it somewhere else to die.”

On the last word, Lizzie felt her head being lifted and then slammed back to the floor.

“Sarah.-“ she tried to gasp out the name around whatever had been forced into her mouth. It pulled the cloth further in and she spasmaticly shook against being restrained. Her body shook more vehemently without her having any control. She felt like a blind passenger in her own body as it continued to writhe around on the floor and she couldn’t stop herself or see what was happening around her.

There was the cloth and she felt it touching the back of her throat. She couldn’t breathe, that was enough feeling.

“Your going to die. I’m going to kill you. You sent us to that place. You put us there and you know what?”

“Miss?” A new voice spoke from the other side of the door, the concern evident in his soft spoken tone. Strangers outside the door who were worried about her while her best friend was trying to pound her head through the tile.

“We know why we’re here. Yes, we know.”

Lizzie heard keys jingling on the other side of the door as the pressure on top of her intensified.

“Lizzie!” Roland called out from the other side. “We’re coming in okay?”

Cold struck against her ear in an arctic blast as Sarah hissed the words, “We’re here because of you. You killed us.”

The door to the hall swung open and the pressure on Lizzie disappeared as well as the gagging sensation down her throat. Whatever had been in her mouth and on top of her was gone. She was left only the after affects. Small tremors ran through her as she gasped in mouthfuls of air.

She felt arms around her and saw a shape forming above her as the darkness faded.

“Sir, I don’t think you should be lifting her up like that.” The barista, probably the manager said from behind him. She could feel the smile creasing her lips and she wasn’t sure why but God it felt so good to be held in his arms.

“Lizzie, are you okay?”

“Cindy, call an ambulance.” The manager said to the scared looking girl who stood behind him.

Lizzie shook her head, though it hurt. Marbles seemed to be rattling around in there as the grey matter didn’t quite feel right. She bared it as she pushed herself up to lie back in her elbows.

“No, I’m fine.” She sad to them. Though she knew she wasn’t, she was not going to another hospital. She had enough of them and had no intention to be going back to one tonight, even if it was only for a couple of hours.

After all, who knew when her friends would return.