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 36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Liz?”

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

“I’m okay. Really.” Lizzie said.

“No, your not.”

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

“You look like shit.”

“Thank you.”

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

“I told you, I’m fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Liz, you can’t blame yourself.”

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

“Can’t I?’

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

“You should go.”

“No.”

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

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

“You’ll die. They all do.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Here.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Something like that. Just read it.”

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

Jessica followed her, the book unread in her hands.

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

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

“Ew, really?”

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

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

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

“At least wipe your mouth.”

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

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

“It’s about Sarah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, please.”

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

“Jess, you can’t do this.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Where did you get that idea?”

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

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

“Did he hit you?”

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

“Your eyes.”

“What about my eyes?”

“Um, I don’t know. It’s just..”

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

“You sure?”

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

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

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

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

“I watched Roland die.”

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

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

“Liz, what are you talking about?”

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

“When did you get so poetic.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Lizz…”

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

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

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

Dead Friends: Chapter 35

“Hey, so what you up to?” Sarah asked. She was smiling that broad smile she often wore, especially when they were out of school. Lizzie looked over to her, as she just finished hefting the last of the suitcases into her parents car. Her parents were going on a weekend get away, which was frustrating as Lizzie had just turned eighteen last week and wanted to go somewhere herself. Now she was stuck staying home and watching her brother.

“Nothing. I’m stuck on nurse duty.”

“Eww, that sucks. Just for the night?”

Lizzie pointed to the suitcases. She never knew why her parents had to pack so much shit when they were only going away for a couple of days. It was like they were running off somewhere and would never return. She swore her mother had most of her clothes spread out into two bags.

“For the weekend.”

“And they packed that much?”

“I know right? I swear they’re running off and leaving us here.”

“Maybe. You can be a handful.” Lizzie looked at her friend and gave her a playful shove.

“And your not? They’re running to get away from you most likely.”

Sarah started looking more closely at how many bags were in the car and what kind of stuff they were taking with them.

“You know, your mom packs almost as much stuff as you do for a one night stay over at your aunts.”

Lizzie glared back at Sarah but couldn’t hold the expression as she broke out laughing.

“Hey, you try going to her house and not packing everything. She has no internet. Really? Who today lives with no internet. It’s like, going to visit the stone ages. I have to bring some kinds of entertainment and I pack extra incase she decided she also didn’t need electricity.”

“Who are you girls talking about?” Lizzie’s dad came out of the house and he smiled at them. Did the look linger on Sarah just a little bit longer than when he smiled at his own daughter? Lizzie couldn’t tell, and why did that matter. Lizzie smiled back, looking at his pale face. She knew he had been upset lately. Something was going on, and as much as both her parents tried to hide it, she could tell. They hadn’t been fighting in front of her, but there had been a lot of hushed words and then silence when she entered a room.

“Aunt Rhonda,” Lizzie said as she reached up to close the back on the SUV.

“Hold up, let me put these in there,” her dad said. She stopped and he tossed in his laptop bag as well as her mom’s IPad case. “There’s nothing wrong with your mom’s sister. She just has her own…quirks and doesn’t trust the outside world.”

“Much like Uncle <Insert name>.” Lizzie added as she closed the door.

“I hope not. He’s got his own problems.”

“Oh really?” Sarah asked. “You know, I think you’re the only family on the planet that can claim not only one hermitted relative, but two. It’s like you two were made for each other.” 

Was that a dig? Lizzie looked at Sarah who was studying her father. Lizzie didn’t know why, but she had a thought trying to break free from the back of her mind. A little voice was trying to speak up and tell her that something was off between these two.

But that was crazy, and Sarah was right. It was like her only two extended family were both trying to hide themselves from the rest of the world. It really was strange. She barely thought of her aunt as she hadn’t visited her in over a year and was often only sent there while her parents went on long trips. 

“Yeah, well, we can’t pick our family.” Lizzie’s dad said as he was double checking his pockets. Lizzie knew the ritual as he was checking to see what he might be forgetting. He was still talking to them, but mentally he was checking off a list in his head going over everything he thought they might need. Sometimes he would mumble it aloud, and other times he would even say it aloud mid conversation. 

This time was different though, as she watched him from having that unfocused look, to completely dazing out. He drifted away from them, his words growing distant as he looked off into the distance. Then he snapped back and looked at them as though he was surprised they were still there.

“Maybe you should go to your aunts this weekend. The both of you, take your brother with.”

Lizzie had looked at him, her mouth dropping open.

“No way, you know I got that thing tomorrow and Sarah and I plan on going to the movies later.” Lizzie didn’t want to mention that she had planned on going to a book reading on Saturday as her thing. Sarah was her best friend, but she still would tease her about her going to see her favorite author read a chapter from his latest book. Books weren’t Sarah’s thing as she was more about clothes and make up. 

“I’m just thinking it might be better…”

“Dad, I’m eighteen now. I’m a big girl.”

“What’s going on?” Liz’s mother asked as she came out. She handed her husband his cell phone and he smiled, the mental light coming on that the object he had been trying to find had been realized and found.

“Dad thinks I should go to Aunt Rhonda’s when I have stuff planned this weekend.” Lizzie said, her lower lip already extending in a pout. She knew it was childish, but also that her mom would often cave to it. That pout was why she had the complete Harry Potter collectors edition books as well as the hardcovers that came out individually. She knew how to get her way.

“Don’t worry hun. I’m sure he’s just kidding.”

“I don’t know, it would be a bad idea, and it’d make sure someone was watching out for (insert name).”

“They’ll he fine.”

“Besides, Lizzie’s got me to take care of her.” Sarah said, nearly bouncing with the giddiness of teenage girl trying to emulate a toddler in a candy store. 

“I guess,” her father exasperated as he walked around to the drivers side of the car. Lizzie’s mother usually drove when they were going on trips, but Lizzie had over heard her complaining of a headache earlier. She’d asked her dad drive, and grumbling, he’d said okay. 

Now he was looking like he’d eaten something that hadn’t agreed with him, his face pale and grave. He let out a burp that looked painful and after opening the car door, he paused to place his hand gently over his stomach.

“Dad, you okay?”

“You okay to drive hun?”

“Mr. Rogers, your not looking to good.”

“I’m fine,” he said, forcing a smile as he looked at each of them to reassure them.

Lizzie gave her mom a hug, but kept looking at her dad. He seemed to be holding the car door for support with his one hand and had pulled his other away from his stomach to play with the car keys.

“Have a good weekend.” Her mother said, her smile tight as she kept following her daughters glances with a concerned look of her own.

“You too. I love you and I’ll keep a good eye on (Name)”

“Promise? Your not just going to leave him with the nurses all weekend, you’ll actually hang out.”

“Sure.”

Lizzie hurried around the car and gave her dad a big hug. He smiled down at her and that was when she saw the red rim around the center of his eye. She knew what it meant. They were going to die. She knew it and she tried desperately to grab her father, to stop him from going. She tried to turn to her mom and tell her not to get into the car. She wanted to steal the keys and throw them into the bushes in the neighbors yard.

She didn’t do any of it, and it was then that she realized she’d become a passenger in her own body. The events progressed without her able to change any of it. She was screaming, but her mouth never moved. Her father gave her that little peck on her cheek as he often did, and then he looked over to Sarah, jokingly telling her to keep an eye on his little girl.

“Sure thing,” she’d said, while flashing that half smile she’d use whenever she was playing at being mischievous.

Then he got in the car, his mom already in the passenger seat and fighting with the seat belt lock as it refused to fasten.

Lizzie could see that same woman, the incredible person who gave birth to her, hanging impaled on a tree, the seat belt having not held her when the semi slammed into the driver’s side of the car. The force of the sudden collision had thrown her and she had gone high into the nearby woods, a limb spearing her. She didn’t die immediately, but suffered in agony, calling out for Lizzie as she struggle to pull herself free.

Lizzie smiled and waved, “You guys have a good trip,” her mouth said while tried to plead with her parents, her mind begging them not to go.

Her dad climbed into the driver’s seat and she saw with complete clearing, his legs trapped under the steering wheel while his torso, severed by force alone as he had forgotten to wear his seatbelt, was through the windshield and in the front grill of the semi. His head was crushed into metal, eyes liquified by force and drizzled down his face like white cream, and mingled with red blood and green antifreeze. 

Lizzie was gagging in her mind, watching helplessly as the car backed down the driveway. Sarah at some point had come up behind her and wrapped her arm over Lizzie’s shoulders.

“Don’t ya worry. I’ll take good care of you.” Sarah had accentuated the word ‘good’ and Lizzie looked over her shoulder to see that grin growing as she looked at Lizzie. No longer was it the Sarah of her childhood standing there. This was the new one, the one Lizzie had only recently come to know, and Lizzie no longer trusted that smile as Sarah hated her teeth.

“We’ll have all kinds of fun…”

****

That smug smile. It had always been Sarah’s thing, to flash that smile that always said she was a little smarter than everyone else in the room. She would just walk into someplace and cock her hip to the side, smile, and Lizzie had felt the air as everyone waited for her next move. Sarah, who she had always though was her…

She’d been putting off dealing with the revelation that Sarah had something to do with her parents death. Even as she remembered it, she still could only partially believe it. It had been a week since Sarah had told her and Lizzie had been in shock, not able to believe it.

That was over. As Sarah walked around from the side of the house, she was flashing that same annoying smile. Lizzie was done not dealing with it. 

It didn’t matter if the Englishman was out there walking around the house. Let him have her. Let him have the clock, the house, every damned thing he wanted. Right now, she only wanted one thing and that was to put that bitch down into her place.

Where had this anger come from? A tiny voice in the back of her head tried to challenge her, but she pushed it away as she stepped out of the barn, her eyes locked on Sarah. For a brief moment, when their eyes met, she saw the fear come into Sarah’s eyes, and then it was gone as well as the smile.

“So you killed my parents?” Lizzie growled as she rushed across the snow covered grass. Sarah was already backpedaling. Lizzie sped up as she saw the other girl getting nervous. “You killed them? You!?”

It was as much of an accusation as it was a question. She reached to were her friend was and went to slap her. Sarah was quick and she ducked the blow, spinning around out of reach of Lizzie. Lizzie had been overextended putting her weight into it and now stumbled into the side of the house which she hit with a solid thump.

“Look who finally grew herself some balls.” Sarah said, regaining some of her composure. “Now to chop them off.” 

Lizzie didn’t get to turn around. She was still trying to get her balance, using the house to guide her when she felt a force from behind her slam her into the wall. Then her hair was pulled back. She couldn’t see what had her, but heard Sarah laughing as she was getting tugged forward, her face being pressed against the siding.

“Yeah, you still harping on it. Yes. I killed them. I’ll kill you too.” 

Lizzie felt her scalp alight on fire as her hair was pulled back and then she was falling. Nothing held her up and so her ass landed on the ground, hard, a few feet back from where she had been being grounded into the house.

Sarah was standing over her, smiling as she looked down at her.

When Sarah touched her, could grab her, Lizzie wasn’t sure how to describe it. It wasn’t like a hand had grabbed her, where she could feel the texture and solidness of it. If someone off the street came up to her and slammed her or choked her with their hands, she would feel the warmth, the hardness of their touch, the roughness of the callouses on their skin. It would be something tangible and, if someone did that to her, she could fight back, bite the hand and dig her nails into it.

When Sarah attacked her, it never felt that way. It had to be because Sarah and the rest of them were dead because when they attacked, all she felt was force and pull. She saw, when she was facing them, the hands they used, but she never physically felt them. She didn’t know how else to describe it. It was like some invisible force was being used but it wasn’t them directly.

Lizzie wasn’t sure what she had been thinking when she had ran out there to attack Sarah. 

Because you hadn’t been thinking. That’s what you get when you let your rage do that for you. You end up on a snow covered ground, cold and wet and getting your ass kicked.

The voice was right, and now Lizzie realized she had to actually be scared. Sarah had her trapped. She was on the side of the house now. The front and back door were both out of view. She had no where to go and Sarah must have known it as well as she was lauding it over Lizzie with that pretentious smile.

“Now what are you going to do?” 

Lizzie wasn’t sure what she could do, but she twisted herself in a roll so she could quickly get her knee under her. This got her standing in a run, and she was going to run away. Then there was a tug around her midsection and she could feel herself turning, being redirected toward the wall again. She kept running, an immeasurable weight wrapped around her, but she continued to fight. Each step was a tremendous amount of effort. I bet you miss those work out sessions Jessica always tried to get you too. Her teeth were clenched and she felt the sweat beading on her forehead.

“Where do you think your going?” Sarah grunted from behind her. Somehow Sarah was managing to hold her. With how small Sarah’s frame was, there had to be more to it to slow Liz down. It felt like she was tied to an anvil as the harder she tried, her breath now coming in short gasps, the little ground she gained. 

So Lizzie did the opposite. She switched momentum, pushing herself back and pitching her elbow high. It was something she’d seen Jessica do on the few occasions she’d seen her friend training and knew that it was what self defense coaches would teach in this situation. 

The blow never connected to anything solid, but she did feel the grip on her let loose. This resulted in her again off balance and losing her footing. She fell only inches from the siding, but hey, at least you didn’t hit the wall this time. She barely had time to process the thought as she was already moving, crawling towards the front of the house, working to get on her feet.

“You fucking bitch.” Sarah said behind her and Lizzie knew she was close. Before she was all the way up, she twisted and lunged at where she’d heard he voice. Sarah was right where she thought she’d be, but she was quick, sure footed, and had the agility of someone who had danced nearly all her life. She was out of Lizzie’s way, and once again Lizzie fell to the ground. 

Lizzie was beginning to feel like a bull. She was being toyed with. She could tell that Sarah was just having fun playing with her while she waited to take her kill shot.

…Or was she waiting for something else?

The snow continued to fall around her and she felt the chill as the little flakes melted on her arm. Was it just her imagination or was it getting darker around her. The trees shadows grew longer, stretching forwards her.

Why would the trees have shadows? It’s snowing, the days overcast, where was the light coming from. There wasn’t anything she could see.

He was coming…

She felt it in her stomach, a growing anticipation, expecting him to appear at any time. 

She had to get back into the house. It would be safe there. She’d be warm, and it would all just go away.

Lizzie turned to see that Sarah was watching her, her hip cocked to the side and her hand resting on her side.

“What? Finally figured it out?”

Lizzie didn’t know what Sarah was talking about, but didn’t car. Lizzie had to go through her to get to the house. 

Lizzie dashed for her. This time she went in like a linebacker going for the tackle. She kept her body low, her arms wide, and moved quickly to go in for the hit. She had fire that burned in her eyes and she kept sight on Sarah as she moved. So, when Sarah didn’t move but was somehow gone when Lizzie ran through where she should have been, that she knew this was a fight she could not win.

Lizzie kept running. She hadn’t overextended this time, or stopped when Sarah had disappeared. She kept her footing and put on the speed. She was aiming towards the back of the house, having started in that direction and refusing to take the time to turn around.

“Get back here you bitch!” Sarah called after her.

“Not.. on.. your..life..” Lizzie panted from exertion, the fight having worn her out more than she’d realized. 

“I’m going to get you.” Sarah yelled.

Lizzie didn’t turn around, though she could feel that Sarah was catching up to her. She couldn’t stop. She made it to the corner and then neared the back door of the house. She knew she hadn’t locked it. 

The closer she got, she put on another burst of speed to reach it. She could feel something brushing against her shoulder, like someone reaching out to pull her back, but wasn’t quite able to reach her. She might have been imagining it, but she wasn’t going to take that chance. Once she reached the door, she would lose all speed as she had to stop to open it. She would fight the bitch then.

So when the door opened in front of her, a dark shape she couldn’t make out standing just inside the threshold, Lizzie didn’t take the time to worry about it. She just felt a strong tug against her shoulder when she launched herself in the open doorway, and quickly scrambled to get her feet past the unseen barrier.

“Close it. Close the door close it!” She screamed.

The door slammed shut behind her, and Lizzie turned to see who had been in her house.

Dead Friends: Chapter 34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why? How?”

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

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

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

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

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

“He?”

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

“Why?”

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

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

The old woman smiled as she took another long sip.

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

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

“But how do I find you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone else was there…

Dead Friends: Chapter 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is only part of it-

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

None of them do.

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

I want so bad to hold her.

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

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

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

So alone.

Oh God, why have you so cursed me?

Dead Friends: Chapter 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh God, I don’t know what to do.

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least I’m not going to starve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.