The Figures In The Fog (Part 4)

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I felt frozen and I knew I wasn’t alone. Things were moving in the fog and it had nothing to do with the wind. I stayed still, listening but not hearing anything else. Suddenly, I felt angry and frustrated, I was tried of being the source of a joke.

‘I’ve had enough,’ I uttered and strolled forward.

The dog trailed after me, tail behind her legs and head down.

‘Rufina,’ came from the whisper from behind me.

‘No, I won’t turn around,’ I spoke, ‘I won’t let you scare me.’

I stomped my boots for a few steps and then tried to calm down. Perhaps, they were trying to make me more angry then scared? That had always been a part of my brothers’ fun. The twins had been the worse, taking my toys and books, trying to get me into play fights, pulling out my red hair and also blaming me for many of their naughty doings.

The dog growled and tried to twist around me. I walked into her and stumbled over, unable to stop myself, I landed spread across the road. I tasted blood and felt bruises blooming.

I turned my head and pressed my cheek to the icy road. Blinking, I looked across and saw a figure leaning against the tree. It looked like a man smoking a pipe.

Turning my head the other way, my eyes picked out another figure. The man with the riding hat. He was standing on the edge of the road, the fog curled like white smoke around him, distorting his features.

I got to my knees and wiped my face then noticed my hands were dirty. Pushing up, I got to my feet and reached back down for the dog. She pushed her nose into my hand then growled a warning.

Looking over my shoulder, I saw the tall man behind me coming out of the fog. I couldn’t make out much of him but I saw his mouth open and heard my name whispered.

Fear rushed through me, I turned and ran. The dog was at my heels, chasing after me and my chest hurt with the cold air. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I knew it wasn’t real men out here nor was it my imagination, it was something else. Something no one living could explain.

A few times, I tripped and fell over a stick or my skirts or the dog but I didn’t care. Each time I got up and ran on because that voice started whispering my name in my ear again. I hated the way the letters sounded, long and curling like a never ending song note.

I tasted blood, felt wetness on my legs and arms. My feet, hips and chest ached. The house felt so far away and the idea that I wouldn’t reach it before the men grabbed me pushed me further on.

I broke through the trees, the road widen and I knew home wasn’t far away now. Stopping, I felt tugging on my cloak and thought it only the dog. I looked down and saw she wasn’t at my heels but ahead of me.

The tugging grew harder, I felt the collar and ribbon against my throat. I twisted, thinking maybe a branch had snagged me. There was nothing there. The cloak was pulled tight out as if someone was holding it.

My next breath chocked. I strained against the force but only felt the pressure more on my throat. I undid the ribbon and clasp, letting the cloak fall behind me. I walked quickly away, trying to run again but my energy was gone.

‘Rufina,’ the voice whispered, ‘Rufina.’

‘Go away!’ I screamed back at the forest.

I saw my cloak fluttering in mid-air, the fog filling it like a living form.

I couldn’t scream, my voice was gone. I turned again and broke into a run, my only thought to make it to the safety of my home.

Yellow glowing lights broke the fog and it seemed less dense along the driveway. The dog barked and another dog answered back. Gasping, I pressed on, trying to get the imagine of my floating cloak out of my mind.

A man’s screamed shocked through me. I twisted around, expecting to see someone behind me but my boots hit something hard and I tumbled down. I landed heavily on something solid, the scream still in my ears.

Dazed, it took me a few moments to figure out I had fallen into the fountain. The water was turned off for winter and damp leaves had gathered into the bottom. I reached for the stone edge and pulled myself up.

Ahead of me the house rose, lights blazing out of the windows.

Standing, I climbed out and wobbled up the front steps. I reached the double wooden doors and struggled to turn one of the heavy iron door knobs. I pushed the door open but couldn’t stop myself from falling into the hallway.

‘Rufina! What happened?’

I looked up at my eldest brother, Thomas, and groaned. He and someone else picked me up, their questions washing over me. I was sat in a chair where I looked around and realised my family, guests and some of the servants had prepared themselves into a search party.

‘Cook told us you had come out to find us,’ Thomas picked up.

‘When Melody came back without you, I knew something must have happened,’ my father said.

‘Did you fall off and hit a tree?’ one of the twins asked with a hint of laughter in his voice.

‘Then stumble into a fox hole?’ the other one added.

I shook my head and dragged in breath enough to speak, ‘there are three men out there and they chased me. They stole my cloak and they tried to…take me too!’

‘Men? But we are all here. There should be no one out there, ‘ my father explained.

‘Been here all the time?’ I questioned.

‘We’ve all stayed together. When the fog fell we came back. We were waiting for you but when you didn’t arrive we were about to go and find you.’

I looked at the floor, fighting myself. Could I have imagined the figures and what happened?

‘Do you want us to go and look for these men?’ Thomas inquired.

I bunched up my damp and mud covered skirts in my fists before responding, ‘no. It’s too dangerous out there.’

‘But if there are trespassers!’

I stood up and grab Thomas’ arm, ‘please, stay here.’

Arguments broke out and it took a lot of convincing to make them all stay inside. I don’t know how I knew but I couldn’t let any of them go out. Whatever those men were it wasn’t good and I knew entering the fog meant no return.

We sat down for lunch begrudgingly but there was no more talk of it again.

As for my black cloak, it was never found.

The End

The Figures In The Fog (Part 3)

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A wet pink tongue slobbered my face and heavy paws tangled in my skirts. I pushed the warm, soft, furry body away from me then brushed away the tears that clouded my eyes.

In my lap was one of this spring’s pups. A small bitch with white and tan coat, long ears and lean body. She licked my hands and whined.

I sighed and lay down on the road. The pup jumped about me, sticking her black wet nose into me and tongue licking bare skin. She pawed at me and nipped me when I didn’t move.

‘Did you get lost too?’ I finally asked.

I pulled myself up and climbed to my feet. I petted the dog, feeling relieved.

‘As everyone else still out here? Do you think you can find them for me?’

The pup licked my fingers and bounced around me.

‘You are better then nothing,’ I uttered.

I set off again, muddy paw prints on my skirts and my boots scuffed up. The dog followed me, tail held high and nose sniffing the air. I thought once or twice she was tracking the rest of the pack but actually she was chasing rabbit in the undergrowth.

Giving up on her, I followed my feet and soon felt the dip in the track. At least I knew where I was but I was far from home now.

On a normal day, walking here was a joy but in this thick fog, strong wind and cold air it was unpleasant. I wished for a horse or for my father’s car.

Somewhere to my left was a fallen tree that made a good seat to rest on. Without thinking much about it, I headed over there and felt the rough bark under my fingers. I sat for a few minutes and the dog joined me. She lay down, panting heavily at my feet.

The wind shifted the trees and stirred up the leaves. I looked up at the path and saw the fog seeming to part. A figure emerged dressed in dark clothes and a black riding hat.

‘Hello?’ I called out.

The dog growled and stood up defensively in front of me.

The figure shifted, moving between the trees slowly, staying just out of clear sight and using the fog as a mask.

‘Stop playing games!’ I snapped, ‘it’s not funny.’

My brothers had always teased me and played tricks on me. Was this them doing so again? It would have been easy enough for them to scare me in this fog.

‘Go and get him,’ I said to the dog and give her little shove forward.

The dog didn’t move. She stood her ground and carried on growling at the figure.

If it had been one of my brothers she wouldn’t be reacting that way. She knew all the family and servants well, like any of the hunting pack dogs. One of the guests then? but why would they want to scare me? They were all old men from my father’s army days, they had fought together in The Great War.

The figure vanished behind a thick tree, the fog rolling back around to claim the space.

‘I didn’t imagine that,’ I muttered, ‘you saw it too, girl.’

I called the dog back to me and she sat on my feet, staring around as if waiting for the figure to come back.

We had no choice but to continue. Hoping there were no more figures and we arrived home quickly, I sort out the road again and carried on. The dog padded at my side and I felt better for my companion.

We hadn’t gone far when the wind picked up and forcefully swept around us. Leaves flew up and scratched against me. The dog jumped and chased them as they went by. The trees rubbed together, creaking and cracking threateningly. A voice spoke something, a single word which I didn’t catch.

‘Hello!’ I screamed.

The wind snatched my voice away and wrapped my skirts and cloak around my legs. I struggled for breath, feeling like I had ice in my lungs. The dog started barking sharply then switched to growling.

The voice came again, it sounded like a whisper of my name.

The dog backed away and pressed against my boots. She curled around me, cowering and starting to shake.

‘I’m not afraid,’ I called out.

‘Rufina,’ a voice breathed in my ear.

 To Be Continued…

The Figures In the Fog (Part 2)

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I stumbled around on the track, calling and calling Melody back to me. The mare was long gone, lost somewhere in the bank of fog.  I gathered myself and checked for injures, just a few cuts and bruises. My skirts, red velvet jacket and black cloak were damp and covered with mud, leaves and grass.

Breathing the frozen air, I got my bearings and decided it would be faster to continue walking forward then try to go back. My father had planned the road out so that it circled to the house no matter which way you went.

Wrapping my cloak tightly around me and putting the hood up, I set off. The fog parted as I went into it then rolled back behind me. The toes of my boots tapped against fallen branches and I crunched over brittle leaves.

I shouldn’t have bothered to come out here to find my father, brothers and guests. I should have stayed in the warm kitchen overseeing lunch being made and listening to the gossip of the servants. I should have brought my dog with me. Jess could have sniffed out my father faster then my eyes could have spotted him.

It had been, I don’t know, instinct? A whispering voice at the back of my head? That had brought me out here telling me something bad was going to happen. I trusted that voice and my mother had always encouraged me to do so.

I heard footsteps ahead. I stopped and called out, ‘Hello?’

No voice replied but the footsteps continued. Had someone else been thrown off their horse and were lost like myself in the forest?

‘Hello! It’s Rufina. I came to find you,’ I spoke.

The footsteps stopped.

My breathing was harsh in my ears and I thought I heard a rustle in the distance but it could have been anything as the fog muffled all sounds. Then, had it really been footsteps I had heard?

Unsure, I walked on, feeling my way more then anything. When the path didn’t feel solid under my feet, I stepped about till I found it again. It felt like being in a dim light, like it was evening time instead of late morning. Branches and leaves brushed me, heightening my senses.

I spotted movement ahead and thought a figure was coming out of the fog. Was it my father? One of my brothers? Or one of the guests? It was hard to tell but it looked like a tall man.

‘Hello? Who’s there?’ I shouted., ‘It’s me, Rufina!’

No reply came.

I picked up my pace and approached the figure but as the fog parted, there was no one there.

I turned around, peering as if I could see the figure somewhere else but there was only the fog and the shape of the close by trees.

‘Is there anybody there?’ I shouted, ‘please come to me! No playing games, it’s too dangerous out here for that!’

The wind shook the trees, there was a rattle of dry leaves and I felt a few brush against my legs as my skirts was whipped up. I pushed things down and straightened my cloak out. I tied the ribbon of my hood tighter and ordinate myself.

I did have a big imagination thanks to all the books I read but I couldn’t have really conjured someone just being there on the road?

Shaking the thoughts out of my head, I carried on and tried to work out how far away I was from home. I knew the road looped down to the edge of the forest before going back up. I must be close to that dip now.

A howling echoed through the forest. My all ready cold skin chilled further and I tripped a step. I held my breath and tried to listen. Where had the howl come from and what creature had made it?

No wolves roamed here. Was it a wild dog? Perhaps, it was the gardener’s pet dog? Or one of the hunting pack hounds?

‘I’m over here!’ I cried then realised how silly that was surrounded by this fog.

The howl sounded again. It was just a single one and it wasn’t answered by another. Not a good sign as the hounds would have been making a lot of noise. There must have been fifteen to twenty dogs all together, so there was no way they could be quiet.

I fretted, unsure what to do. Should I call the dog to me and risk it being a stray or wild dog that could bite me? Or it could be a friendly dog who would guide me back home?

Before I could decided there was a ruckus close by and something jumped out. I screamed and tried to run but something hit into me and I fell.

To Be Continued….

Postcard Story

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Dear B,

I know it’s been while but a lot has happened at the ‘haunted hotel’. Everything is ready for open day which should have been days ago but set backs.

I have experienced a few things; doors closing, cold spots, lights flickering and once a moving shadow!

More ‘sensitive’ people have seen the ghost of a child and a skinny man. I hope one day to see them too.

Looking forward to your visit. I will give you our best room where everyone says they’ve see a ghost in. I just know that’ll thrill you!

From X.

St. Mary’s Retreat

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St. Mary’s Retreat was miles away from the tiny town of Brogan, hidden in the mountains and the forest that surrounded them. No one went up there anymore, there was no need, expect for the brave teenagers who wanted a scare.

I was walking around the old stomping ground, having been away from Brogan for almost ten years. I had grown up here, an orphan kid angry at everything and the memories were painful.

Somehow, my feet took me to St. Mary’s whilst my thoughts went back into the past. A crow startled from a tree, brought me back and I stopped and looked around. Through the thick foliage, I could see a complex of abandoned buildings and a small church.

Smiling, I walked towards them. The buildings looked intact but rotting away. Windows and doors were smashed in. There was graffiti on the walls and remains of furniture about. I toed bits and pieces, turning things over, it was mostly building material. Everything could have been salvaged had been removed and the rest broken by teens.

I found a wooden cross still attached to a paint peeling wall. A sharp memory came back to me. When I was seven, St. Mary’s had recently been vacated by the nuns who had lived here for forty-odd years. They had been using the place as a retreat for old and ill nuns who couldn’t do they duties anymore.

Before then and originally, the area had been a holiday retreat. Which explained why there there was a bar, tennis court and a swimming pool. The nuns had the church built which is why it looked more newer then the other buildings.

I walked outside and found myself at the pool side. It was drained of water, expect for the rain which had gathered at the deep end. There was so much scum on the surface it was hard to tell how deep it was.

A story came into my mind, one of those scary ghost tales that children love to tell. I had forgotten about it but seeing the pool reminded me;

One day, a new nun came to St. Mary’s Retreat. She was young and sad. She was kept in isolation from the others. The head nun claimed ‘the child, had an infectiousness disease.’ but this was far from the truth.

Somehow and unbeknown to the young nun she had become pregnant. A lot of people had tried to find out what had happened but the nun stuck by her words and started claiming like Mary in the bible, an angel had come and told her she was to carry the next Christ. No one believed her and she was cast out to the retreat to have the baby in secret.

The nun give birth to a boy all alone in the middle of the night. She looked at him and realised he was the Antichrist. Wrapping him in a Holy sheet, she took him outside and walked into the swimming pool which then was still full.

In the morning, the nuns found her and the baby dead, floating in the water.

From then on every night at the pool side, the crying of a baby could be heard and the ghost of the nun was seen.

And that’s why the nuns had to leave because the ghosts were haunting them and no blessing or anything else they tried would get the spirits to move on.

Of course, we had all believed it then but now, I wasn’t sure it could have happened. Walking down into the pool itself, I want to edge of the collected water and looked into it. There was a rotten vegetation smell from the dead leaves and other decay. There was a stillness too, that I didn’t like.

I found a large fallen branch and began to poke about in the water. I was bored.

What was I doing here? What was I looking for?

Clearly, a part of me was still looking for answers. I had been abandoned here as a day old baby, left on the doorstep in a box. The nuns had taken me in but a year later, I went into foster care then was adopted by a childless couple in Brogan. They had been good parents whilst I had been a difficult child.

I had come to the the retreat many times as a teenager, I had always known this was where my life had began. Perhaps, then the story of a pregnant nun had been true? Maybe, she hadn’t tried to drown me but had dead some other way and the nuns had always planned to get me adopted anyway?

Was I the Antichrist? How would I know? Frowning, I tried to wonder if I felt any different and if anything in my past could give me an answer to that. But I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t religious, didn’t believe in such things nor did I believe in the supernatural. Surely, if I was evil, I would know about it.

I signed, threw the branch into the water and got out of the swimming pool. Walking back through the buildings and towards the road that brought me here, I knew I’d never find out who had given birth to me and what had happened to them. I turned back, seeing the edge of the swimming pool from a broken window.

But what if that childhood ghost story had been true? All stories had to come from somewhere and what if mine had really began here?

The Grave Digger’s Cottage

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Alice said goodbye to her friends and started to run home. Now eleven, her parents let her walk alone but she was only allowed a certain distance. To school a few streets away, the park next door and the corner shop.

She laughed loudly, excitement spilling out as she went. School was over for another day but also for summer. There was a whole two months of playtime and adventures waiting for her.

Alice lived behind the village church and across the graveyard. Her house sat on the back edge of the cemetery, over shadowed by a massive weeping willow tree. It was a small cottage with a yellow thatched roof, red brick chimney, small frosty windows and set apart from all the others in the village. It was called the Grave Digger’s Cottage.

There many routes she could have taken home, but Alice took the quickest. Cutting across church grounds and the straight path that ran down the centre of the graveyard. Opening the gate of her front garden, she skipped up the gravel path, lined with bright summer flowers then opened the front door.

‘Hello, grandpa!’ she shouted.

‘Hello, Al!’ the distant echoing voice of her grandpa called back.

Giggling, Alice took off her shoes and left them with her schoolbag in the hallway. Downstairs there were only three rooms; the front parlour, living room and kitchen/dinner. Upstairs there were also three rooms; a small bathroom, her parents bedroom and her grandpa’s room. Another staircase led to the attic which was Alice’s bedroom.

Alice went down the hallway, through the kitchen to the back door and stepped out into blazing sunshine once again.

Her grandpa was in the back garden, sitting on a stool next to a low table and he was putting together flower bunches. His skin was tanned a deep brown from days spent outside and his figure was stooped from years of being bent over digging. He had a thin cloud of white wispy hair and rough outline of a white beard. His eyes were blue like the colour of the sea lit by the sun.

Alice had been told she looked like him but she had never been able to see it. Yes, they had the same colour eyes and once grandpa’s hair had been chestnut brown like her’s was now. Alice’s skin though was paler and definitely not wrinkly!

‘School is finally over!’ Alice cried.

‘Is it really?’ grandpa questioned.

Alice nodded, ‘are mum and dad home yet?’

Grandpa shook his head, ‘your dad’s watching over an evening exam at the university and your mum had a late meeting to go to in the city. It’s just you and me till bedtime.’

Alice smiled, spending time alone with grandpa was the best. He told awesome stories, let her do want she wanted and allowed her to stay up late.

‘Would you like a hand, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘I’m almost done,’ he replied.

Alice sat down on another stool and watched him wrapping green garden twine around the bunches of mixed flowers. Alice knew he had grown them himself and when the flowers were ready, grandpa would cut them and put them together.

‘There we go. Right, would you like to come with me, Al?’ Grandpa asked.

‘Yes, please!’ Alice said.

Grandpa give her some of the flowers to carry and he took the rest. Together they went out into the cemetery. At a handful of headstones, they placed the flowers into the vases and grandpa did some cleaning and weeding if needed.

Countless times they had done this and Alice knew the stories of all of the headstones they visited plus many of the other ones in the graveyard. Grandpa had known a lot of people buried here because they had come from the village and the graves they visited were of family and friends. Grandpa had also buried some of them.

Alice looked back their cottage, the roof could just be seen through the trees and wild growth. Alice sat down on one of the tombs, the stone was cold against her bare legs but she didn’t mind.

‘Grandpa, tell me the story of our house again.’

He looked up from pulling weeds out from around a Second World war grave of his uncle.

He smiled and began chatting away, ‘when the new church was built in the eighteen hundreds after the old one burnt down, they also built a cottage for a grounds keeper to leave in. The man and his son who first lived there were also grave diggers and that’s how the cottage got it’s name.’

Alice nodded.

‘From that day on, every man who lived in the cottage – expect your father- was a grave digger and also church grounds keeper. We had to make sure that nature didn’t take over and the paths clear for visiting people. We had to help plot out the cemetery, decided where to bury people and dig those graves. Then when the headstones arrived we had to plant them in the ground over the right grave.’

‘And what else, grandpa?’ Alice demanded.

‘And we were night watchmen too! Back in time, grave robbers would come and dig up fresh bodies to sell to doctors for science. People would also try to do cheap burials by doing it themselves and we had to stop them! Then there’s tramps and teenagers who muck around and make place untidy. We had to get them out by dawn so visitors wouldn’t see ’em and get a scare!’

Grandpa clawed his hands and made swatting movements in the air. He growled low like a bear before coming over and tickling Alice, who broke into giggles. Then he sat on the tomb next to her and they looked out over the cemetery.

‘Did you ever see a ghost, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘Plenty!’ grandpa cried, ‘I saw the ghost of little girl once, way younger then you, and she was running along the path just there. There’s the woman in blue who walks around the church, crying for her lost lover. A black dog with red eyes that’s spotted in the bushes and shadows of the trees. He’s said to guide souls away.’

‘And there’s also the headless man!’ Alice shouted.

Grandpa laughed and spoke, ‘that’s one of your favourites, Al.’

Spots of rain began to fall.

Grandpa pointed out a large bank of grey cloud coming over to them and declared it time to go home.

‘But you will tell me, won’t you, grandpa? The story of the headless man,’ Alice questioned.

Grandpa helped her down from the tomb. Hand in hand they walked back towards The Grave Digger’s Cottage.

‘Of course, I will! As long as you promise not to lose your head with fright!’ Grandpa replied.

Alice laughed and shadows grew long on the ground.

Ghost Lights #AetherPrompt

He followed the lights and they led him into the woods. The lights were a green-yellow, small in size and with a halo of fuzz around them. He had been seeing them for a year, since they had moved into the old country house and he’d spent a lot of time wondering what the lights were.

Deeper into the woods, into further darkness, the way lit only by the lights. He stumbled on something and looked down as the lights began to fade. There was a small grave stone at his feet marking the entrance to a forgotten graveyard.

 

(Insipred by; https://aetherealengineer.com/2019/05/01/01may19/ with thanks).

 

The Cowboy Ghost #SundayWritingPrompt

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I couldn’t sleep, my operation was tomorrow and my head was all over the place. I slipped from the hard hospital bed and drew the thin curtains around so I wouldn’t disturb anyone. Turning on the lamp which blinded me, I dug around for my Ipod and headphones.

Music might not help me sleep but it might calm me. Putting the headphones on, I scanned through the Ipod till I found natural sounds music. Relaxing waves of the ocean filled my ears. I lay back and let them carry me away.

I pictured a white sand beach, hot sun, palm trees, ice cold coconut and pineapple juice drinks. The sea was a dazing bright blue with just a touch of white on top of the waves. I was sitting on a chair basking in the sun, next walking along the shore, feet getting wet.  then I was swimming in gently tumbling waves.

I smiled, feeling all drifty-dreamy.

The song changed to the rattling of something….the neighing of a horse? Oh, was I riding a horse on the beach? How nice!

The creaking of a wooden sign blowing in the wind, a crow cawing and the beach scene changed to being in a desert.

I reached, keeping my eyes closed, to stop the track and re-play the ocean one but then a handsome, rugged man floated to my mind and my finger stopped.

The man, a stereotypical wild west cowboy, was riding a brown horse into a wooden built town. A strong wind was blowing, stirring up the top layer of desert sand. A storm was to be coming. The cowboy got off his horse and looked around, the town seemed to be abandoned.

I decided that whatever was happening here I didn’t want to know. I tried opening my eyes but they felt too heavy to do so. I fumbled my fingers across the Ipod but I couldn’t find the right button to press. I sighed, give up and carried on listening to the track with scenes playing out in my head like a movie.

The cowboy was stood in the wild west town, listening for signs of life. He heard tinkling piano music coming from the saloon. Walking over, his spurs clicking, boot steps heavy, the music grew stronger and he started to hear laughter. There where people here after all! He stepped up onto the porch, it creaked under his weight then he opened the saloon doors which screamed on disused hinges.

The music and laughter stopped. The place was empty!

The cowboy looked around and saw a thick layer of dust everywhere. He went over to the piano, boots and spurs loud in the silence and pressed down a few keys, out of tune wheezing notes sounded. That wasn’t the music he had heard before.

The cowboy walked out, confused. A rumble of thunder sounded, the wind was getting stronger, sweeping the desert sand about. Next door, was a motel. He walked in, wondering if he could get a room for the night. He went up to the counter and ring the bell once then repeatedly. Nobody appeared and dust lay here too.

He headed back, collected his horse and wandered through the town. It started raining and the sky was growing dark. The cowboy didn’t really want to spend a night here but he felt there was no choice now.

A church bell rang out, he stopped and counted, ‘one, two…three, four…five, six…seven, eight…’

He went to the wooden church and tried the door but was locked tight.

The rain started falling heavily, the thunder rumbled again and in the distance, the now black sky was light up by a fork of lightening.

The cowboy’s horse stamped her feet and neighed nervously.

‘It’s all right, girl,’ the cowboy said as he rubbed her muzzle, ‘Looks like we got to stay the night. Let’s go back to the saloon.’

Hurrying through the rain which was fast turning the dry sand to mud, the cowboy turned behind the saloon and found a stable. It was rotting like the rest of the buildings but still standing for the moment. They went inside and found dry but moldy hay.

The cowboy lit a lantern, casting light to see by. He made his horse as comfortable as he could then sat for a few minutes. He fell into deciding if to stay the night in the stable with his horse or not. Would the beds in the saloon be more comfortable?

He decided to go and see. The cowboy got up, taking his bed roll, the lantern and whatever else he needed. He headed outside, braving the storm to get back into the saloon.

The cowboy pushed open the door and went in with rain dripping off his leather hat, coat and pants, sandy mud clumping his boots and smell of the storm thick in his nose. The saloon was as empty as before.

He went behind the bar, found some bottles of whisky and took them upstairs. His boots stomping as the wooden steps squeaked. He pushed open the door of the first room with his foot and looked in. There was just a single bed, side table and a curtained window.

He went in, placing the lantern down on the side table and got himself comfy. Boots came off, jacket too. He uncorked one of the bottles with his teeth and took a few swings. It wasn’t great whisky but it tasted okay.

He made the bed, settled in and pulled a book out of his belongings. Drink in one hand, Bible in the other, he listened to the storm raging outside. The wind was doing it’s best to bring down the wooden buildings, there was so much creaking and snapping. The rain was like a whip, lashing about. The thunder was rumbling like the empty belly of a beast and sometimes lightening would flash up the curtain covered window.

The cowboy began to doze off. Warm, comfy, whisky hazy.

A pearly piano note broke through the storm, quickly followed by more as someone played fast across the keys.

The cowboy stirred. The Bible slipped to the floor with a slap. He awoke and listened, frowning at the piano notes he was hearing but knew he couldn’t possible be.

A woman’s laughter echoed, wood creaked, long skirts swishing.

The cowboy smelt hints of perfume.

Voices rose and fell, chairs scrapped the floor, metal cups clanked and the piano music came impossibly fast.

The stairs creaked once more, lighter this time as if the person upon them was bare foot and weighed little. A gentle girly laugh and ruffle of skirts outside the cowboy’s chosen room made him believe he was no longer alone.

The cowboy snatched up the lantern and got to his feet, drawing one of his guns, he went to the door but it squeaked open before he could touch it.

All the noises stopped, silence hit him painfully but the cowboy stood his ground.

The door swing then was thrown against the wall with a loud bang.

The cowboy just had time to make out the woman – tall, fair haired, huge blood red dress- before she launched herself at him and sent them both tumbling to the floor. The cowboy shot his gun, the bullets hitting the ceiling and causing wood and dust to rain down on them.

The woman’s hands wrapped around his throat. He felt ice cold, dead fingers choking the life out of him. He struggled but her grip was too powerful. She bashed his head against the floor, he felt waves of dizziness and nausea. The cowboy tried to smash her with the gun but he lost his grip and the weapon skidded away. He grabbed her with his hands, fingers fisting the silky dress and slipping through the material.

The cowboy’s head smashed into the floor and he heard a deafening crack,  blackness washed over him.

Outside, the rain poured off the roofs of the wooden buildings, the wind howled through empty rooms, the thunder echoed as lightening flashed over the church tower and set the wooden cross ablaze.

 

My eye lids fluttered and I came back awake. The glaring lamp above me stung my eyes. I pulled my headphones off and rested a few minutes. My mind felt strangely blank but then bits of pieces came back to me.

I couldn’t hear any weather. There were the sounds of other hospital patients’ sleeping and shifting on scratchy sheets. Nurses’ hushed footsteps and whispered voices reached me.

Heavy footsteps with a slight metal jingle crossed the floor. The curtain around my bed fluttered and I got ready to explain to the nurse why I was awake.

The curtain carried on moving as if someone was running their hands over it looking for the gap to part them. It got faster, a huge rippling all over which was more like the wind then a person.

A spike of fear hit my stomach, what was going on?

Hands appeared, reaching through then the fingers bending to find the edge of the curtain.

‘Thank, God,’ I whispered, ‘I’m sorry for being awake, I’m having trouble sleeping.’

The curtain was violently yanked back, I jumped, almost tumbling from the bed, ‘there’s no need for that!’ I cried, scrambling in the blanket.

Then I saw him.

The cowboy from my dream! I heard his boots and spurs hitting the floor, the cracking of his leather jacket and pants. His hat was down, half covering his face, I could make out a strong jaw line covered in black stubble. His throat was badly bruised, some of which were outlined like finger marks. He smelt of stormy air, burning wood and old whisky.

‘He’s not real. You’re still dreaming,’ I whimpered, clutching the sheet to my chin like a scared child.

I heard a rumble of thunder, a clash of lightening, rain hitting the window like stones and a desert wind howling down the ward. I wanted to turn to the window to look but something held my gaze fixed on the cowboy.

There was a plop, plop sound and despite myself, I looked over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. Black blood was pooling around the cowboy’s boots, it was falling from the edge of his coat.

‘What do you want?’ I demanded.

He took his hat off and put it to his chest as if in an old fashioned greeting. I saw his face fully but it was just a skull! Deep hollowed, black eye sockets, no nose, high cheek bones, wide jaw and two rows of clenched together gold teeth.

I fought for breath but couldn’t get any in. My body went numb and I so badly wanted to tear my eyes away but I couldn’t!

The cowboy turned slowly, spurs scrapping the floor. He showed the back of his skull which had been totally smashed in. There were chunks missing and cracks running along like crazy paving.

I screamed and screamed.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/sunday-writing-prompt-campfire-ghost-stories/ and also, Sound Effects: Night In A Ghost Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sch7HyYANiI with thanks).

Siblings #3LineTales

three line tales, week 154: people skipping over stones in the water

Ghosts have been a normal part of my life since I was born but it’s a secret as no one else can understand and they’d think me crazy.

Sometimes, I try to help the ghosts to move on and other times I leave them be, as in the case of the brother and sister on the beach, who I think drowned, they refused to believe they were dead or needed help.

I felt sad leaving them as the setting sun turned the sea golden but there wasn’t much else I could do when they didn’t want to go.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/01/10/three-line-tales-week-154/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Foundations #WeekendWritingPrompt

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The monastery remains were haunted. By day, it was a nice walk around the foundations in the middle of the park but come night a sinister feeling fell. Nothing living, not even teenagers, hung about the crumbling walls, they belonged to the dead.

I had seen the shadow monks whilst at the bus stop, waiting for the last bus of the night. I ignored them and they ignored me. The story was; if the ghost monks saw you, they would kidnap you. I didn’t believe but at night anything was possible.

 

(Inspired by; https://sammiscribbles.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/weekend-writing-prompt-88-foundations/ with thanks).