Friday, October 31

Fall Fridays ~ A "Short" Story

Happy Halloween! Thank you to all of you who have followed my Fall Fridays. In honor of Halloween, and the last day of Fall Fridays, I've posted one of my longer stories: I wrote this while I was in high school and have done some edits along the way. Enjoy!

Death’s Playful Kiss
It was a cool clear night. The moon was full and cast a ghostly light across the trees and over the field. The stark contrast of the leafless trees stood out against the bright star filled sky.
I remember that night better than any other of my life. How the crisp cool air filled my lungs, burning them. How when the air entered my nose it sent a sharp pain through my teeth and sinuses. My eyes watered endlessly and my mitten less fingers felt stiff and numb. The trees swayed in the breeze, rustling the remaining leaves. I remembered so vividly how the breeze sounded, like someone whispering, "Watch out!" My skin still crawls when I think of the warning.
That night I had decided to leave my wife and go for a walk through the fields, which surrounded our remote Victorian home. I remember feeling as though I was being watched when I closed the front door behind me. For some reason I suddenly thought of my wife alone, in the big house, sleeping peacefully in our antique four-poster bed. I brushed the thought from my mind, like dismissing an annoying fly.
As I walked further from the house I turned and glanced up at our bedroom window. I could see a faint glow from the window and figured Lara to be up reading, nothing unusual. It struck me how much the house looked like a devilish face. The black shutters against the white siding, and the white picket fence reminded me of a devious grin. I wrapped my arms tighter around me, rubbing my biceps through the thick flannel of my shirt, trying to get rid of my goose bumps.
I ignored the feeling of anxiety that was growling in the pit of my stomach and continued walking. After about fifteen minutes, I reached the top of the hill. Standing there I looked around. Peering through the dark, trying to distinguish one tree from another. Over the flutter of the leaves I recalled having heard a sweet, childlike laughter. I called out "Who's there?" I reproached myself for my immaturity, realizing it was just the wind and my imagination. I remembered the last time Lara and I walked up this hill, we could see the roof of our house over the tops of the trees. I wanted to turn in that direction but something was holding me, preventing me. I heard the laugh again, this time more sadistic though. I forced myself to turn toward the house.
My breath caught in my throat, strangling my scream of horror. I saw the roof of the house engulfed in flames. The blue and orange-yellow "tongues" licked at the roof like a dog drinking from a bowl of water. I stood amazed, gawking at the sight. I began to plod back to the house, my feet feeling as though they were made of lead. With each step I moved quicker, until I was at a full out run. The thin branches of the trees whipped at my face, slicing through the numb skin. I opened my mouth, forcing my wife's name to pass my lips. "Lara!” hoping she would hear me.
As I continued toward the fire, the smell of burning wood filled my nose. I heard the voice again, mockingly whispering, "Run! It won't help!" I ignored the voice. My tears, mixing with the blood that was running from the slashes on my face, blinded me as it ran into my eyes. I stumbled over a root, but caught myself against another tree. I leaped over the low stone fence, which bordered our property. Wondering what I would find when the house finally came into sight again.
As I rounded the corner of the field, I finally caught a second glimpse of the house. The roof was black against the sky, bathed in moonlight. I crumbled to the ground. There before me stood the house, same as it was when I had left. Lara's light was still visible from the window. I began to run.
I crashed through the front door and pounded up the stairs, yelling for Lara. I reached the landing outside our room and reached for the doorknob. I yelped in pain and quickly drew my hand back from the door. The knob was burning hot and had seared the flesh of my palm. I wrapped my shirtsleeve around my hand and tried again to open the door, but it was locked. I banged my cold, clenched hand against the strangely cool wood, but no one opened the door. I rammed my shoulder into the door.

Once, twice, on the third try it budged. Again I smashed the door, and it opened under my weight. I fell into the room and ran for the bed. I called Lara's name again, but she didn't respond. My throat closed and my heart pounded against my chest, slowly I crept toward the bed. I remember pulling the sheets back from Lara's face, retching at the sight of her burned flesh. Her hollow eye sockets stared vacantly back at me, as if blaming me for their current state.
I fell back, continuing to stare at the skull and ashes, which were my wife. I noticed that the sheets, and nightgown were not burned. Neither was the bed nor any thing else. There had been no fire. I stumbled from our room and slumped against the door frame, I was completely confused.
A burst of icy wind swept up the stairs and slammed into me, knocking me to my knees. The sharp feeling of the cold across the back of my neck tightened its grip around my throat. I began to gasp for air, to suppress the burning feeling of suffocation that was growing in my stomach and lungs.
Fear grasped at the edges of my brain. I clawed frantically at my throat, trying to release myself of the increasing pressure there. I began to see spots before my eyes and my brain began to slow. Everything felt as though I was watching it happen to someone else, a movie. Nothing seemed real, as I watched the room begin to spin around me, faster and faster. I slowly began to crawl into the part of my brain where death lives, blackness filling my eyes. Another breath would not and could not be had.
I remembered waking up in the bed, after this had happened. My head pounded and felt as though a thousand nails had been hammered into it. I tried to sit up, but fell back on the pillow in sheer agony. I slowly turned my head, looking around the bedroom. Slowly everything, which had happened, began to trickle into my memory. I softly moaned from the pain. The feeling of it brought something to my mind, but I couldn't quite recall it. I closed my eyes forcing myself to remember. Bits and pieces of what had happened came back to me.
There was a freezing wind that had knocked me to my knees, then blackness, and the pain. God, the pain! I rolled over on my side and noticed a body next to me, in the bed. How had I gotten in the bed? My brain was suddenly flooded with everything that had happened. The fire, the voices, Lara . . . I quickly tore the sheets back from her. The little bit of moonlight, which crept through the curtains, splashed across her face. There she was peacefully asleep, an innocent smile played across her lips.
Calmness crept across me, I leaned over and kissed Lara on her flushed cheek. Her eyes fluttered open, as though they were butterfly wings. Lara smiled at me through the dark and moved closer toward me. I held her in my arms, becoming more frightened, and aware, of the past happenings. Slowly I drifted into a troubled sleep. I inhaled the smell of the sweet floral scent of Lara's hair, haunted by how she was before.
I woke up with a jolt and realized that Lara was not there. I frantically jumped out of the bed, calling her name. I glanced quickly around the room. I heard a soft giggle coming from the bathroom and carefully walked through the door. Another giggle, Lara jumped out at me from behind the door.
I was extremely startled. Lara must have seen it in my face, because she quickly apologized, kissing me good morning. I walked past Lara and looked into the mirror. I remembered that my face was all cut up last night from the branches. There wasn't a scratch on my face. I heard Lara getting dressed and walking down the stairs. I splashed my face with the icy cold water and looked into the mirror again, watching each drop slide down my face and splash quietly into the sink.
Lara was in the kitchen when I finally came downstairs. As I walked out of the bedroom, I noticed that the door was not smashed. I couldn't understand it; I had slammed through it last night breaking it into two different pieces. I rubbed my temples and continued down the stairs. My headache had grown in its intensity.
I walked into the kitchen and headed straight for the cabinet, I grabbed a few ty.lenol and then a glass. I walked to the fridge and opened the door, searching for orange juice. Lara said to me, "The juice is out on the table already.” I remember her looking quizzically at me, as though I was someone else. I poured a half a glass of juice, threw the pills into my mouth and gulped the glass of sweet sticky liquid down in one shot.
I lowered myself into the chair at the table as Lara placed a plate of gooey scrambled eggs and greasy bacon in front of me. She stood watching me pick at my food. I wasn't hungry at all; I was more upset about what had happened the night before. I noticed then that Lara was still watching me, frowning with a scared look of concern on her face. I forced a smile at her.
Lara pulled the seat out across from me and sat, still staring at me. I asked her what was wrong. She said to me, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I am fine. Why do you ask?"
"You seem really distant this morning, and you were murmuring in your sleep last night. Something about a fire. You kept moving all night, kicking out and stuff. You sure you're okay?"
I looked at Lara, took a deep breath, and told her everything that had happened. Well at least everything that I could remember. She just sat there, staring at me blankly. Slowly she stood up, pushing the chair back. She walked around the table and stood behind me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders and holding me. "What a horrible dream!"
I shook off her arms from around me, "It wasn't a dream. It really happened, I know it did.” I sat quietly there, still staring at my food.
Lara moved behind me, toward the sink. "I am so sorry Baby." I could tell from the look in her face that she was having a hard time believing it. I knew I shouldn't have told her; it confused her too much.
I got up from my seat, not having touched any of my now cold food, and walked out the back door. Lara followed me out and to the porch swing. I sat down and she sat beside me.
"Lara, I know you think I am crazy, but it happened. I know it did. Trust me, please."
She pulled her feet up on the swing and rested her head on my shoulder, "I don't think you're crazy, honey. I just don't know what to say, that's all. It just sounds so off the wall. I am sorry."
"I know you are.” I just wish I understood what happened. It's just so freaky, the entire thing," I reached toward Lara and put my arm around her shoulder and held her close. I was so afraid I was going to lose her, to something or someone. I looked down at her, her eyes were closed and I noticed a small tear trailing down her cheek. "It's all right Lara, don't cry. I am here and nothing has happened. We're both okay, right?"
Lara slowly nodded her head and wiped away the single tear. I hugged her close and kissed her on her head, then slowly stood. "Where are you going now, James?"
I told her I was going for a short walk around the property just to see if everything was all right, and I would be back in a little while. Reluctantly Lara nodded her head and walked into the house, probably to clean up from breakfast. I walked around the house and shivered, in spite of the hot air, which surrounded me, remembering how scared I was the night before. As I walked toward the woods I felt as though I was being watched, again. I spun around quickly, looking in every direction, but I didn't see anything peculiar.
All that day the feeling stayed with me. I walked into the house in time for lunch. I walked toward the sink and began to scrub my hands with the slippery bar of pink soap that sat on the counter. I looked out the window toward the field and noticed someone walking along the edge of the woods. I bolted out the back door of the house and ran for the place where I had seen the person. By the time I reached the spot, there was no one there. I looked around frantically, praying that there would be someone there and called out, but no one answered my desperate call.
I slowly walked back toward the house, opened the creaky back door, and sat at the table. I noticed that Lara was looking at me with that same concerned frown. She asked me what I had seen, I told her that it was nothing to worry about and forced a smile to my lips. I could tell from the look on her face that she didn't believe me.
The rest of the day Lara and I puttered around the house. We worked outside, in the garden, and we cleaned the house. By the time it was ready to eat dinner I had all but forgotten about my worries. When I sat to eat, my mind began to wander, I thought about the person whom I had seen standing in the field. Who was it? What did they want? Did they have something to do with my "dream?" I was racking my brain, trying to find answers for all my questions. There was none.
That night, after Lara and I had gone to bed, I dreamed that someone was in the house. I woke out of my sleep; Lara was gone. I heard the laugh again, the same devilish one that I had heard in the woods the night before. I ran down the stairs, just as I turned toward the living room I saw the train of a nightgown slip around the corner. I walked swiftly down the hall toward it, hearing the front door open and close quietly. I bolted for the front door and noticed someone walking across the field carrying someone. I knew that someone was Lara.
I yelled at the top of my lungs, "Lara!” I began to run after the figure, following it across the field. When I finally caught up with it, it was gone. I looked around frantically for some sign of it or of Lara. I noticed that my feeling of being watched was creeping slowly through my veins again. I searched around in the dark, straining my eyes to see.
I noticed a strip of pale blue material blowing in the breeze. I grabbed for it and immediately knew that it was from the nightgown that I had bought Lara for Christmas the year before. I called her name again, nothing. I heard a voice; this time it was that of an older woman. She whispered, "There, look before you. There."
I pleaded with the voice, "Please help me. Where is my wife?"
There, look before you. There."
I began to sob uncontrollably now at the fact that Lara had disappeared, perhaps forever. I looked through the underbrush, when I noticed a hem of a nightgown from behind a tree. I rushed forward and found Lara lying prostrate on the ground. I fell down beside her and rolled her over onto her back, her head in my lap. I noticed a dark line around the base of her neck.
Red blood slowly trickled from the slit along her throat.
Someone, whoever it was who had carried her to the woods, had killed Lara. Her throat was slit from ear to ear. The muscles in her neck were exposed and blood began to gush faster from the wound. Her face was ashen and no emotion or sign of life could be seen in her eyes. Her entire body was cold, grey and clammy. I leaned over her body, sobs wracking my own into convulsions. I gently touched the cut and ran my fingers along her pale cheeks, shedding my own tears onto her skin. I kissed her on the lips and stood. I bent down and picked Lara up, carrying her back to the house. She felt so frail and light in my arms, like a child.
I couldn't believe that Lara was dead.
I walked through the front door and carried her up the stairs to our room. Gently I lowered her onto the bed. I placed her head on the pillows and pulled the sheets up to her chest. I sat next to the bed on the rocking chair, thinking of how our life was over. We had wanted so much and hadn't gotten that far. We were only married for a year and a half. We wanted children, but now we would never have them. It was my fault I had known something was wrong, but I didn't do anything about it.
Tears streamed down my pale cheeks, tracing their path through the dirt that was on them. I began to lose consciousness and finally fell asleep. My dreams that night were so odd. I have never been able to forget them, no matter how much I have tried. I remember now that I had been running through the woods, something was following me and I couldn't elude it. Step for step it matched me. I ran and ran until my legs collapsed beneath me. I lay on the ground waiting for my assailant to swoop upon me, taking my life as it had taken Lara's. No one ever came. I was completely alone, no one in the world knew where I was or cared.
I remember getting up in my dream and beginning to walk. I just wanted to forget everything. As I walked, I heard someone whispering my name, "James, help me please." It was Lara's voice. I called out for her, but all that responded was the wind in the treetops.
Then I woke up. I looked at Lara's deathly face, as peaceful looking as it had been last night. I knew this time that this wasn't a dream and that Lara was not going to come back to me, like the night before. Above my sobbing I heard the bedroom door open. I jumped to my feet and stood before the bed, protecting Lara's body.
A chilling wind filled the room, and someone stood before me. I asked in an extremely defeated voice, "What do you want?" The hulking body just stood there before me, not moving or saying anything. "Haven't you taken enough? You have killed the one thing in my life that I cannot live without. Couldn't you have taken me and spared her?"
became infuriated as the Being still did not respond and begged, "Answer me, please!"
The person was not human, but yet it carried itself in the same manner. I couldn't quite figure out what it was. The Being wore a long cloak of black, which swathed the entire body. The hood of the cloak covered its face, preventing me from seeing it. It began to take measured steps toward me. I backed up until I was next to the bed. I would not let this thing harm Lara's corpse. She was dead and no one would hurt her as long as I was alive. The Creature walked past me to where Lara was lying. A strong hand extended from the sleeve of the cloak and gently traced the line along Lara's throat. I gasped and went to stop the person. He raised his other hand and I my body flew back, my head hitting against the wall. I slid to the floor, unconscious.
I still don't know what really happened after that, I have tried to remember so many times. I remember waking up though and the sunshine pouring through the window. I looked toward the bed and noticed that Lara's body was no longer there. I lay down on the bed, buried my face in her pillow trying to inhale her scent, and began to cry. I knew I would never see her again. She was gone forever from my life; I knew that now. I don't remember how long I lay there, it could have been minutes, or weeks, nothing mattered anyway. Lara was gone. No more would I wake to see her smiling face, or hear her laughing or singing while vacuuming the house. There would never be any children, no grandchildren. No Christmases or Thanksgivings with annoying, yet loved, family members.
As I lay there crying, I felt a hand touch my hair, pushing it out of my face. I looked through my tears trying to perceive what was before me. There was Lara smiling at me. Her hair was the way it had been when she was alive, the most brilliant chestnut color with waves that surrounded her beautiful face. I knew I had to be dreaming, that thing, whatever it was, had carried off Lara’s body. I reached for her face, anticipating that it would disappear just as I would touch it. My hand didn't touch air, but skin, Lara's smooth freckled skin. I began to sob again at the continual cruelty of that creature tormenting me this way.
The mirage of Lara said to me then, "James. James it's me. I'm here, nothing has happened to me. I'm okay." She smiled so sweetly at me and I thought that this wasn't Lara, but an angel.
I begged with it, "Please bring my wife back, please."
"James, it's me. I am here. Oh honey, what has happened?"
I looked at this person before me and realized that it was Lara, she was right in front of me and she wasn't dead. I became frightened by this and drew back from her.
Lara looked at me puzzled, "What is it? What's wrong, Hun?"
I reached for her face, holding it between my hands and rubbed her cheeks with my thumbs. She was really there. I ran my hand down to her throat and noticed there was a faint pink line along where her throat had been slit.
Lara looked at me sadly and whispered quietly, "I know. It was no dream."
I reached again for her and raised myself to my elbows and kissed her gently on her pink lips; they reminded me so much of raised petals. I held her tightly in my arms, holding her close to me. I remembered that I was so afraid to let her go, I thought if I did she would disappear from me. Slowly I began to realize that Lara was really there, she was alive.
I asked her quickly, "But, but how? How are you alive? I found you in the woods and your throat was slit and I carried you back to the house and then the cloaked figure came and, and..."
Lara raised her finger to my lips, silencing me with her touch. "It doesn't matter anymore, I am here. We're both alive and together. Everything that happened wasn't a dream."
I looked at her tears streaming down both our cheeks, and she continued, "I was dead but I didn't die. I was in some place with a horrible thing. It, it wouldn't let me wake up and tell you I was alive. I don't even remember everything that happened. There was a bright light though and someone was standing over me, tracing a line along my throat. I tried to scream but I couldn't. Then the figure disappeared."
I realized that Lara was telling the truth; she had no reason to lie. We knew that there was no explanation. That if we had decided to tell anyone they would think we were insane. Something or someone had disrupted our lives. Both of us had been "touched" by something. Our lives had been altered in their course. Neither one of us knew how, we were only happy that we were alive and together.
Even to this day Lara and I still wonder, what exactly it was that happened in those two days. We will never know, but we do know now that we have been given a precious gift. That of life. We have lived our lives to the fullest. Many Christmases and Thanksgivings, celebrated with our four children and five beautiful grandchildren.
Lara still has a light scar on her throat and my palm is still scared from when I burned my hand on the doorknob that night. Neither one of us mind though, our scars serve as a reminder as to how close we came to losing each other.

The End

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