Point of Entry – A Short #Suspense Story for #Halloween

stormy night

I woke up to a crisp, cold autumn morning and wondered how the seasons changed without my noticing. Annie had been gone a year already. I wiped away the condensation on the bathroom mirror so that I could see my tired reflection as I shaved. Over the course of one year I had aged at least ten.

The universe mourned with me. I barely skirted a dead bird on the side of the road as I walked my dog that morning beneath skeleton trees that reached up to scrape a dark, overcast sky. Now, at work, I lined my pencils on the desk while I tried to come to grips with reality and study the case before me. Veronique Fournier may as well have been a ghost except that last check, she’d overstayed her visa in the US and had managed to upset the wrong people. Now it was my job to send her back to France where she belonged.

A few quick clicks and the computer screen brought up the image of an attractive woman in her mid-thirties. No husband, no kids, no family as far as I’d been able to determine, but otherwise ordinary enough if it weren’t for the haunting look in her eyes that held me spellbound.

“Ben?”

I jumped at the sound of my name and turned sharply, hoping that my face did not reflect the strange horror that lived inside me.

Mary looked me over with sharp eyes before handing me a folder, presumably the paperwork I’d requested on Veronique.

“She’s an odd one, isn’t she? Knee-deep in the occult from what I can tell. She makes a living ripping off people who come to her to speak to their dead relatives.”

“Shit” I said snatching the folder from her hands. Why did I always end up with the psychotic weird-o’s of the world?

Mary glanced nervously at her feet and I could see there was something else on her mind, speaking of the deceased. I decided to cut her off before she could wade into territory we’d both regret.

“I’m fine, Mary, really. I’ll be even better when I get this Fournier woman on her way back to France where she belongs.”

“Of course,” she said with a sigh. I watched her turn and leave the room, my gaze lingering briefly over the way her pencil line business skirt hugged her hips. Then I shook my head and took another sip of my coffee. Mary had made it clear on more than one occasion that she wouldn’t mind making our business relationship a little more personal but I still couldn’t bring myself to be with another woman after losing Annie.

**

I arrived at the small house positioned at the end of a cul-de-sac on Marker Street. A large purple sign tucked in the bay window advertised Mademoiselle Fournier’s questionable services. Behind the sign, thick black drapes offered no peek inside and probably darkness inside with which to conduct her shady business. I knocked three times and waited. The door opened and my breath caught in my throat. For a moment I would have sworn it was Annie. I shook my head slightly and refocused on the slender, dark-haired woman staring back at me.

“Veronique Fournier? My name is Benjamin Miller.”

“You are here for the seance, oui?” she said to me in a thick accent.

Dumbly, I nodded, forgetting my professional obligations as visions of Annie swarmed my mind. I allowed Veronique to lead me into the dimly lit entryway where we paused so she could take my coat. The air inside the house was thick and hazy and I quickly recognized the source as patchouli incense. It had been one of Annie’s favorites. My head swam with memories. I cleared my throat and reached into my breast pocket to find my badge but something stopped me.

Veronique took me by the arm and led me to the main room where a round table covered in a dark blue cloth took up most of the space. On top of the table three lit candles offered the room its only source of light and around the table sat seven guests, each shifting in their chairs to look back at me with hope and expectation as if they knew something amazing was about to happen.

“Veronique,” I said clearing my throat, “I am here on official business.”

“Have a seat, Mr. Miller. We are grateful to have you with us. We have been waiting for you.”

I found myself being pulled toward the table by some magnetic force. Her eyes beckoned me so I acquiesced and took a seat directly across from Ms. Fournier, determined to keep my attention on her so that she could not easily escape the room.

An elderly woman seated to my left wept softly into a handkerchief and then dotted at her puffy red eyes. I avoided eye contact, knowing all too well the feelings of grief that consumed her. Anger flared in me suddenly, hot and bright, at the cruelty of nature and the fragility of life. I squeezed my eyes closed as Veronique instructed that we all take hands and bow our heads. Quiet music filled our senses as Veronique addressed the spirits, welcoming the deceased to communicate. The old lady next to me wept openly now and I suppressed the urge to make this foolish seance stop. Instead, I shifted in my chair and dared one eye open to happen a glance on my beloved Annie even though I knew it was impossible.

“There is one among us who does not believe,” Veronique said catching my gaze, her pointed stare daring me to say otherwise.

“Forgive me, Mademoiselle, but as I’ve said, I am here on business. If you are finished with your show, may I ask to speak to you privately?”

“I know very well why you are here, Mr. Miller, and so does she.”

“She?”

I let go of the hands I’d been holding and leaned back in my chair with a heavy sigh. I didn’t want to encourage Veronique to take matters any further but I waited, letting the silence fill the room heavy in its wake. My heart thumped heavy in my chest, the incense seeming to drown me.

“Annie is here.”

I made a sound in my throat caught somewhere between a gasp and a hiss as I bent forward. “Stop this charade, Veronique.”

A vague smile played on Veronique’s dark red lips as the candles flickered wildly between us. With a gesture of her hands she indicated the dark space around us. “She has come, just as you hoped she would. She has a message for you.”

“No,” I whispered, “It isn’t possible.”

Veronique’s eyes rolled into the back of her head. “Benny, darling,” she cooed, losing the French accent, “I have missed you.”

I shifted in my seat and glanced at the others. All eyes were transfixed on Veronique as though they were lost in a trance. I, myself, felt as if I’d stepped into a nightmare. Any other day I might have been grateful for a connection to my lost Annie, even if only imagination, but tonight, on the anniversary of her death, my heart was filled with too much sorrow and despair to take it. I pushed back from the table, the chair tumbling onto the floor behind me, as I stood.

“How dare you prey on the innocence of these people in their time of grief. Veronique Fournier, I am with Immigration and Border Control and I am here to take you into custody. You are scheduled to be deported back to France at the earliest convenience. It is my only hope that the authorities there deal with you in a manner that is appropriate to the crimes you have committed abroad.”

“I watch you while you’re sleeping,” Veronique continued as if she hadn’t heard a word I’d said, “Sometimes I slip into bed next to you wishing I could wrap my arms around you one last time. It shouldn’t have been goodbye so soon.”

I tried to make my way to Veronique but the others were suddenly blocking my path, even though I hadn’t noticed them get up from the table, and no matter how I tried to shove them out of my way, no one moved.

Thousands of tiny icicles blew through me then. Someone screamed as a vase from one of the end tables flew into the air and crashed into the opposite wall.

“You’re making her angry,” the old woman said in a hushed, reverent tone. I wanted to lash out at Veronique, to beat the life out of her for choosing to prey on my emotions. How she could have known what I was going through, or have details of my dear Annie, I didn’t know but the hurt it caused deep inside needed to be sated and I wouldn’t find comfort until my fist hit something to silence the raging storm.

“Let me pass,” I said in a desperate attempt to shrug off the hands that held me back.

“Death is cold and lonely,” Veronique said, “Why did you let me go?”

“Annie,” I whispered as fear locked around my heart and held me firm in its cold grasp. I tried to shake off the foreboding that filled my senses but all I could do was look into Veronique’s eyes and see my beloved Annie stare back at me.

“What’s happening?” I heard someone say but his voice sounded too distant to comprehend. I managed to break free at last and grab hold of Veronique. Her black dress swayed around her as she swirled almost weightlessly at my feet. What was wrong with this woman? I shook her slightly, making her moan.

“You killed me,” Veronique said. My face flushed warm with anger and I squeezed her wrist tightly. “Stop this madness at once. Someone, turn on the lights! I have had enough of this game.”

“Oh my,” the old woman said. She came up behind Veronique and I could see the panic in her face, “She’s been taken by the spirit. If you turn on the lights now, I don’t know what it will do to her.”

“Turn on the lights now!” I demanded, louder this time. Around me shapes in the darkness, haunted faces reflecting the candles murmured and chanted but not one listened to my desperate pleas. I began dragging Veronique toward the doorway but she planted her feet into the ground and began singing a song I thought I recognized from my wedding day. I resisted the urge to reach out and slap her.

“Why did you kill her?” the old woman asked. Her face was so close to me now as though she were trying to see into the depths of my soul to determine if it was true. I shook my head, refusing to listen to any of them. The murmurs amongst them grew louder.

“It was an accident,” I said, “I never wanted to see my Annie die. I have regretted the choices I made that night every day since.”

A collective gasp from the others as they circled me made me realize what I’d admitted for the first time since the accident. I blamed myself. The thought that Annie blamed me too didn’t make me calmer. I loosened my grip on Veronique’s wrist. This time I saw her clearly, my Annie with her sun drenched hair standing before me in her wedding gown, so radiant that she appeared to outshine the sun. My heart ached with guilt and grief as I reached out to stroke her cheek with the back of my hand. She held it.

“What do you want with me?” I said, feeling the trembling through my limbs as I fought to stay upright.

“Why do you get to live while I die?”

“Oh, Annie,” I said, my voice broken with emotion as I looked at the shining of her eyes, the sadness that I put there with my careless actions. I’d had one too many drinks that night and lost control of the car on our way home. It rolled several times before breaking through the barrier and smashing into a tree crushing the passenger side. She was right. It should have been me.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. I would have given anything to trade places with her now.

The group moved in closer, circling, and closing in on me as Annie seemed to drift soundlessly outside the perimeter. I held out my hand to touch her but she was beyond my grasp. Angry screams broke through the mob. Annie’s head split open and blood poured down the side of her body while her eyes lulled into the back of her head. I screamed but the people around me pushed closer until their collective weight crushed me. I tried to break free and catch my breath but I couldn’t form the words to speak.

“Annie,” I whispered as the scene faded. I closed my eyes and willed the pain to stop until finally there was only stillness.

When I dared to open my eyes, I saw a sky filled with stars that stretched into forever. I lay on the cold ground unable to take my eyes away from the wondrous sight. I heard footsteps tread softly on the grass until eventually a face peered down over me.

“Passport, please,” the man said to me.

I looked up at him in confusion. It must have been a dream I told myself as I struggled to sit up and get my bearings. “Where am I?”

“You have reached the border between heaven and earth.”

“I am dead,” I said with a gasp.

“Seems so,” he said, unimpressed by my revelation. I looked around frantically searching for some trace of Annie but I couldn’t see her.

“She’s up there,” the man said as if he understood. I looked up at the infinite heavens where he pointed. It was a place fitting for a woman as lovely as Annie.

“How do I get up there?”

“Let me stamp your passport and you’ll be on your way.”

“I don’t have a passport,” I said, confusion and anger mingling in my despair.

“That’s a shame. No passport, no entry.”

“But… that doesn’t make sense. I’m dead. Why do I need a passport?”

The man stood up straight and shrugged. “I’m afraid that’s the way it’s done. Have to keep the borders safe, after all. You can appreciate that, right, Mr. Miller?”

I watched in disbelief as he walked away.

I thought of the seance and Veronique and realized I’d been tricked, beaten by a taste of my own medicine. Somewhere in the distance I could almost hear Veronique laugh as the old woman leaned over to say, “I knew there was something shady about that one.”

Weekend Writing Warriors #8Sunday – She is Gone

spooky bedroom

Happy Sunday! Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where several authors join together to share 8 to 10 sentences of a current work-in-progress or recently published book.

My snippet today comes from my WIP currently titled Love Spell.

**

A noise in the house caught his attention. He stopped and listened but all he heard was the sound of the wind whistling against the windows. He took a deep breath and tried to concentrate but his only focus was the prickling of his skin. That strange sensation of electricity in the air was back again. Feeling a little spooked, he decided to check on Abigail to make sure she was okay.

The wind seemed unusually loud, howling around him and filling his ears. Something wasn’t right. The sensation overwhelmed him and hurried his footsteps toward Abigail’s bedroom. When he opened the door, his fears were confirmed.

“Abigail?” he whispered into the eerie glow of the night light.

**

For a list of participating authors, be sure to visit http://www.wewriwa.com

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share your thoughts and visit again next week.🙂

Weekend Writing Warriors #8Sunday – The Storm

stormy night

It’s been a long time! Finally, I am back to participating in the Weekend Writing Warriors where many awesome authors come together to share 8 to 10 sentences of a current work-in-progress, or recently published story. I’ve missed being a part of this and plan to make it a regular habit in the coming weeks.🙂

Today’s selection comes from my WIP paranormal romance currently titled Love Spell. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments because I love to read them and it helps me make decisions on the course of the story.

**

The rain poured down harder, filling their ears with its fury and soaking them almost instantly. Somehow, with persistence, Mari slipped from Juniper’s grasp and began running toward Sarah’s house.

“Mari!”

She didn’t stop until she was at the door, pounding on it with all her strength. As Sarah’s father, Jacob, opened the door the smell of death poured out around her so foul that she covered her mouth, struggling to catch her breath.

“What are you doing out in the storm, Child? You’re soaked.”

Jacob ushered her inside. Mari glanced over her shoulder to see Juniper standing alongside a tree in a flash of lightning, her wet hair plastered against her face. Chills racked Mari’s body with a desperate sense of foreboding.

**

Look for more next week! In the meantime, head over to http://www.wewriwa.com to sample stories from the other participating authors.

Thanks for stopping by!

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Nettle the Nymph

Nymph woman in a magical forest

Morning sunlight glistened off the cool water as Nettle frolicked and played more than she bathed. This was her favorite time of day when swimming with the fish and jumping with the frogs was more important than duty and responsibility. She floated on her back letting her long, dark hair cascade around her as she squinted up into the bright blue sky.

A doe and her fawns leaped into the brush, bringing Nettle’s attention back to the forest around her. She looked around, sensing the presence but not seeing him right away. Finally, her gaze settled on the tall, lean form in the distance walking casually along the path as he whistled a tune she’d never heard before. Curious, she swam to the water’s edge and quickly dressed.

The birds chirped their warnings but Nettle paid no heed. It was rare she came so close to a human and she wouldn’t let this opportunity slip from her grasp. When she wanted, she could move amongst the trees unnoticed. It was certainly one of the more advantageous perks of being a woodland nymph.

As she moved closer, she got a better look at him. The sunlight highlighted his short golden brown hair. He couldn’t have been older than seventeen. There was still youth in his features which looked almost unnatural with the hints of a beard attempting to grow. She smiled as she watched him pause and admire a pair of birds singing in a nearby tree.

“Nnneeeetttttllleeee,” whispered the wind, “Your father is looking for you.”

Nettle sighed. Father had returned much sooner than she’d hoped. That meant the arrangements had gone well and in two weeks time her hand would be promised to a god, a fact that should have excited her but actually left her with an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“Nnneeettttlllleeee,” whispered the wind, “Leave the boy and return to your father.”

Nettle jumped down from the branch in which she’d been perched and gave the human one last look. She tipped her head from one side to the next trying to decide what it was she found so compelling about him. Just as she was about to run back to her father, the boy turned his head and looked straight at her. His bright blue eyes reminded her of the water in which she’d splashed and for a moment, she felt as though she were drowning. Neither of them moved.

“I thought humans couldn’t see me?” Nettle whispered to a group of rabbits grazing nearby. The rabbits looked up and twitched their noses but offered no speculation. Nettle was caught between wanting to interact with the human and the need to flee. As if fate had decided for her, the boy began walking toward her but stumbled, twisted his ankle, and fell to the forest floor. He cried out in pain sending a flurry of birds skyward.

Nettle heard the wind’s warning caressing her cheeks as it wrapped around her. “Let the boy be and return to your father.”

But he was hurt and she couldn’t turn her back on him now. She approached him slowly. He sat massaging his ankle, looking up at her with a mixture of anticipation and fear in his eyes.

“Is it bad?” Nettle asked, sitting down beside him and pulling her legs underneath her.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Let me see.” She put her hand over his ankle and closed her eyes, concentrating a moment on the feel of muscle and bone beneath his skin. The boy didn’t flinch. After a moment, she was done.

He looked at her with wide eyes. “How did you do that?”

She shrugged. “My name is Nettle. What’s yours?”

“Adam.”

“You must be far from home, Adam.”

He looked away and she could feel the flush of heat through him. She understood. He had meant to get as far away from home as he could.

“It isn’t safe here after dark,” she told him.

“I’m only passing through.”

“No matter,” she said jumping to her feet and stretching out a hand to help him up, “Tag. You’re it!”

He blinked his eyes and looked dumbfounded for a moment. She half expected him to protest at playing kid games but even if he thought it, he pushed those beliefs aside and took off running after her.

Nettle ran fast but she’d underestimated the speed at which the human would catch her. She squealed as his arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her close. They spun around and fell into a bed of leaves giggling.

When finally they’d come to a rest, Nettle looked up into his eyes. She only had a fraction of a second to process his intentions before it happened. His lips covered hers and she closed her eyes, knowing she should push him away, but feeling so hopelessly pulled into him that she knew it would take more strength than she had to do so.

Adam sat up and looked out over the expanse of trees that surrounded them. Slowly, she gathered her senses as she joined him, taking his hand in hers.

“Nnnneeetttllleeee…” the wind whispered, “Your father grows impatient.”

“I must go,” she told Adam.

“Wait. Will I see you again?”

She shook her head. “In two weeks I will marry.”

His face twisted into a frown. They’d only just met but somehow she felt as though she’d known him forever and without words she felt his pain, a different sort that she couldn’t make go away with a touch.

“Come,” she said putting out her hand, “And I will make sure you pass safely through the forest.”

**

Maybe Nettle will choose to run away with her new friend?😉

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me.🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Mesmerized by the Mermaid

 

mermaid

As a kid, I’d been enamored by mermaids so much (thanks, in part to the movie Splash starring Tom Hanks, and in part due to my love of swimming) that I’d used every birthday wish to become one. It’s only fitting, having just celebrated another birthday earlier this week that I let M stand for Mermaid! Incidentally, I have yet to sprout fins but if I do, you can bet I’ll be blogging about it!

“I thought I might find you here.” Adam handed his brother a cup so hot that steamed poured into the chilly morning air. Mark took it and mumbled his thanks. He held the cup close for warmth. He couldn’t remember how long he’d been sitting on the pier overlooking the ocean but the fact that the sun had broken into the sky was a pretty good indication that it was longer than he’d intended.

“I was hoping maybe you’d snuck off with that blond you were talking to last night,” Adam continued as he settled in next to his brother, “But I guess I should have known better.”

“What are you doing here, Adam?”

“I thought you could use something to warm you up.”

Mark shifted, feeling the stiffness in his back and legs from sitting so long. He was getting too old for this but he refused to admit it, least of all to Adam.

“We came to the beach to have a good time,” Adam said.

“You seemed to accomplish that last night.”

Mark could feel the tension from his brother. There was silence while Adam searched for an explanation but they both knew there was no point. Mark had liked Renee. She’d been good for Adam. Seeing him with someone else broke him in inexplicable ways.

“Renee and I broke up a week ago,” Adam said softly.

“I know.”

“Anyway, that isn’t what I came out here for.”

“I know why you’re here and you can save your breath. I’m still going through with it.”

“Mark, it was fun when we were kids but we’re too old for that shit now. Come on. One of these days you’re going to get yourself hurt. Stop playing pretend and join the rest of us. Have a good time for once.”

“It isn’t pretend. You remember the stories Dad told us when we were kids?”

“Stories,” Adam said, “That’s all they were, told by a drunk.”

“I saw it. And so did you. Why do you waste so much energy denying it?”

Adam let out a slow breath and looked out over the rolling waves. Mark studied his brother’s face, looking for some sign of the boy who used to believe as passionately as he did. Where did that boy go? What happened to summers by the beach when they’d devise plans and expeditions to track down the creatures of the sea?

“Doing this isn’t going to bring back Mom,” Adam said finally. He pushed up to stand a moment longer, teetering at the edge of the pier as if he might jump in.

“Go back to your new girlfriend or play thing, whatever she is,” Mark said, “and go back to your parties and your drinks. Become the man you hated for so long.”

“Mark…”

“Save it, Adam. It’s done.”

“The others are asking about you. What am I supposed to tell them?”

“Tell them whatever you want.”

“And the blond?”

Mark said nothing because they both already knew the answer. As far as Mark was concerned, the blond didn’t exist.

Adam shook his head as he shoved his hands deep in the pockets of his leather jacket and walked away, leaving Mark alone with the coffee he’d never drink, and the fantasies about what lay beneath the water’s surface. In the distance Mark watched dolphins jumping and playing and envied their freedom.

Maybe Adam was right? Maybe he was getting too old to hang on to stories told by a drunken old fisherman about alluring creatures who were half human and half fish?

Except he couldn’t shake the image from his mind of the girl in the water who had once saved his life when he wasn’t more than five. Adam had seen it too even if he refused to admit it. And ever since that day, Mark had been plagued by dreams of her calling to him, begging him to return. It made sense to no one, not even himself, but he couldn’t escape the pull of the tide as he sat on the pier and waited.

Too many years had passed. He wasn’t a boy any longer. Slowly, he stretched his legs and placed the coffee cup to one side before getting up and splashing down into the calf deep water and wading over to the small boat.

His hands shook with anticipation as he made his way out into the depths of the ocean. If things went as planned, he would not return.

As he squinted toward the shoreline he thought he saw Adam waving but he brushed it off as imagination. There were some rifts that could never be repaired, even between brothers. The coffee cup sat abandoned on the edge of the pier and for a moment, he wished he’d taken it with him as a reminder of the life he couldn’t live.

He cut the engine and dove into the ocean before second thoughts took over. The icy cold water cut through his flesh and stole his breath away. He dove down again, forcing his limbs to carry him deeper, ignoring the burning in his chest when he ran out of air. His ears threatened to explode and his body resisted his movements.

But finally, he saw her. She smiled and waved to him, beckoning him closer, long dark hair swirling around her head.

Her arms pulled him into an embrace and dreams blurred into reality.

They were together, at last.

**

I can’t tell you what this year’s  birthday wish was because if I did, it might not come true… Yes, I still believe in wishes! Rest assured it has more to do with getting my stories into the hands of readers who will love them than condemning myself to an aquatic life. More realistic? Maybe.😉

**

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me.🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Lured by La Sayona

beautiful girl ghost, witch bride in a white dress holding a bla

According to Wikipedia, La Sayona is a legend from Venezuela, represented by the vengeful spirit of a woman who shows up only to men who have love affairs outside their marriage.

Technically, perhaps it should have been filed under S but I’m using creative license once again, this time with the alphabet.

** Warning ** This story contains adult themes. If you are under 18 or sensitive to stories of this nature, please don’t continue. Thanks!

Craig replaced the phone in the receiver and glanced at his watch.

“Shit,” he mumbled under his breath. He’d been so busy, he completely forgot to pick up a gift for his wife, Lea’s birthday. He was trying to decide how he could make a quick stop and still make it to the bakery to pick up the cake when Jenny walked in and handed him a stack of files.

“You feeling okay?” she said.

Craig sat back in his chair and took in the sight of her. She was wearing his favorite skirt again, the one that almost showed a hint of the lacy garter he knew he’d find underneath it. He tugged at his tie and wondered if she was wearing the matching black panties.

“I’m fine,” he said, “Just feeling a bit tired.”

“Oh, I almost forgot,” she said. She disappeared a moment and came back holding a small box wrapped in elegant silver paper with matching bow, “You’ll need this.”

He reached over the desk but instead of taking the gift, he grabbed her wrist and held it tight. He watched the look in her eyes darken and he wondered if he had enough time to lean her over his desk and do all the things he knew she liked. The scent of her perfume was making him heady with lust.

“You’re my lifesaver, Jenny.”

“I do what I can, Mr. Larson. You asked me to pick this up a week ago, remember?”

He’d completely forgotten, of course. When it came to Lea’s birthday, nothing stuck. When it came to the feel of Jenny’s smooth skin under his fingertips, however, he remembered every little detail. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

“Craig,” he corrected. He hated it when she called him Mr. Larson.

“I hope she likes it.” Jenny tugged her arm free and smoothed her palms over her thighs. She looked a little shaken, like he’d had an effect on her and wanted to hide it. His fingertips itched with the need to tangle his hands in her hair as he kissed her breathless. He pushed up from his chair and crossed the short distance to reach her. She looked up at him with wide, brown eyes.

“Mr. Larson, I don’t think we should…”

He didn’t give her the chance to finish. He needed the taste of her on his tongue, his hands filled with her shapely bottom. She didn’t resist as he nudged her back until her legs hit the desk. As she sat on the edge, he was already freeing buttons on his shirt with one hand and gliding his palm over her thigh with the other, determined to find out what lay out of his sight.

“Mr. Larson, your wife is expecting you…”

“She won’t mind if I’m a couple minutes late.”

“But it’s her birthday.”

He pushed her hair over to expose her neck as he kissed and nibbled his way from her ear to her shoulder. When it came to Jenny, he had a hunger that would never be sated. She made little sounds as he reached around and unclasped her bra, eager to taste her nipple. He was so drunk on her that at first, he couldn’t understand why her palms were pressing against his chest. Finally, he stepped back, acknowledging her desire to stop.

“What’s wrong?”

“This isn’t very romantic.”

“That’s not what you said last time.”

“I’m sorry, I should have never…”

“Never what?”

“That weekend you took me on the business trip, you told me you were leaving your wife.”

“I am.”

“When, Craig? That was six months ago. We can’t keep screwing in the supply closet like animals. It isn’t right.”

“Well, I can’t leave her tonight,” he said feeling the irritation rise. Why were woman so damned demanding? “It’s her god damned birthday.”

Jenny had a look on her face like he’d slapped her but she pulled it together and started readjusting her clothes. So that was it then? He thought she would last a little longer than the last one before getting all needy on him. He’d given her a generous raise, enough that she’d gone and bought herself a brand new car. What more did she want?

He snatched the gift off his desk and his jacket from the back of his chair.

“Craig, wait. We need to talk.”

“There is nothing to talk about, Jenny. You made your feelings clear enough. I need to get home to my wife.”

“Craig… I’m pregnant.”

He stopped. He could feel the weight of her stare on his back. How could she even be sure it was his? He had a pretty good idea he wasn’t the only man in her life. Typical bitch resorting to manipulation to get what she wanted.

“Clear out your desk, Jenny. You’re fired.”

He heard her gasp but he didn’t stand there long enough to listen to her cry. He hurried out to the elevator, punching the buttons until the doors finally opened, welcoming him into their serenity. He tried to calm his breathing as he hit the button for the lobby. He didn’t even notice he wasn’t alone until the sound of her voice caught him off guard.

“Tough day?”

He turned around to the most stunning woman he’d ever seen. She could have stepped right off the runway of a New York fashion show. His gaze traveled the length of her body, reveling at her low cut blouse and long, lean legs. He was pretty sure he’d never seen her in the building before and he’d worked here long enough to catalog all the women worth knowing.

“You could say that. I fired my secretary.”

“So hard to find good help these days,” she said with a smile. The sound of her voice and the look in her eyes drew him in. He found himself smiling at her despite his earlier agitation.

“I don’t suppose you’re in the market for a new job?” he teased.

“You can’t afford me.”

“I could probably make a few cuts in the budget to accomodate your, um, high demands.”

She laughed and the sound of it filled his ears and made him hard. He hoped he wasn’t reading her wrong. She reached forward and hit the emergency stop button before the elevator had a chance to settle on the main floor.

“My employer makes certain I am well compensated for my special skills,” she said plucking the gift from his hand and holding it up, “You look like you have somewhere you need to be.”

“Nowhere special. It can wait.” He inhaled sharply as she stepped so close their noses nearly touched.

“Do you like to play?” she whispered in his ear.

“Baby, I’ll play with you any day.”

His cell phone vibrated in his pocket. Much to his dismay, the woman reached to grab and answer it before he could stop her.

“What the hell?” he said, trying to get his phone back. It was probably Lea wondering when he’d be home from work. She was having her parents over for dinner and probably felt the need to remind him to pick up the cake because she knew he’d forget.

He heard Lea’s on the other hand asking who was speaking and wondering where was Craig?

“I’m so sorry,” the woman said, “but your husband has been in an accident.”

“Shit. Give me the damn phone,” Craig yelled. “I am okay, Lea. I’ll be home soon, Honey.”

Whether she’d heard him or not, he wasn’t sure. The stranger disconnected the call, never taking her eyes off Craig.

“What the hell is wrong with you? That was my wife.” He snatched the phone and the gift and hit the elevator buttons, trying to make it start moving again. The elevator wouldn’t budge.

“She will miss you. As will your pregnant mistress. Those two will have a lot to talk about at your funeral.”

“How do you know…?”

The woman smiled before nudging him aside to activate the elevator again. At her touch, it came to life instantly except, instead of going down, it started moving up.

“I’m getting the hell out of this elevator,” Craig said poised at the door to leap at the first chance.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like my games, Mr. Larson?”

“Psychotic bitch.”

“That isn’t very nice.”

The elevator came to an abrupt stop and Craig readied himself to exit. He couldn’t stand another moment being next to her. But instead of the doors opening, the elevator began freefalling. He grabbed the side.

“Goodbye, Mr. Larson. It’s been a pleasure.”

She smiled and gave him a little wave as he looked at her in terror, unable to form the words to speak.

Just before the elevator crashed, she vanished.

**

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me.🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Kidnapped by the Kasha

Demonic eyes
According to Wikipedia, the Kasha is a Japanese yokai that steals the corpses of those who have died as a result of accumulating evil deeds. According to a site dedicated to yokai, they are a type of monster cat and live among humans disguised as ordinary house cats or strays.

Think of that next time you pet your cat!

Karen juggled three heavy shopping bags as she settled on a shortcut between two buildings as a faster route home. She cursed under her breath as she looked up at the darkening sky. The weather man hadn’t said anything about the possibility of rain in the forecast but it would be just her luck to get caught in a downpour while she was forced to carry groceries home on foot.

The car would have been fixed by now if it weren’t for the fact that her sister had fallen ill. Having no one else to turn to, she’d ended up on Karen’s doorstep and although she hadn’t seen her sister in years, she didn’t have the heart to turn her away. What little extra money Karen had was currently being poured into an endless stream of medical costs for a woman who she felt she barely knew.

“How do I get myself into these situations?” Karen mumbled as she hurried along the cobbled path, glancing warily at the sky as she moved. One of the bags threatened to topple but she managed to get it back under control. She should have turned Kiera away. If the roles had been reversed, she had no doubt Kiera would have done exactly that for her.

The first thick drops of rain began hitting the top of her head and splashing the brown paper bags in her arms. She groaned and broke into a run. She was so close to home. Couldn’t the rain hold out just another five minutes?

Karen tripped and stumbled, sending one of the bags to the ground scattering its contents. Apples rolled down the alleyway. She put down the other bags as she tried to gather her groceries together although it was a hopeless cause because the bag had torn down the center and the other two were already overly packed. Rain poured harder.

Something small and black stepped out from behind a garbage bin. Its green eyes glowed in the dim light.

“What are you doing out in the rain?” Karen said as she stooped down to pet the cat. It was so thin she could feel its bones as she stroked the wet, matted fur. “You must be a stray.”

The cat meowed and Karen looked back at her bags.

“I think I might have something for you,” she said. She dug through one of the bags searching for the deli cheese and opened it to give a couple of slices to the cat. It ate the offered food gratefully and rubbed against her legs and she stood up to gather what she could and make it the rest of the way home. She shouldn’t have been surprised when she reached her house and turned around to find the cat waiting expectantly.

“You followed me home? Oh no, Kitty, you can’t live here. My sister isn’t much of a cat person.”

The cat meowed but didn’t budge. Thankfully the rain had eased up a bit but Karen’s clothes had already soaked through and her groceries were in a dreadful state. She unlocked the door and sighed as the cat bolted past her legs and rushed into the house.

“Well, it is my house,” she mumbled under her breath, “If Kiera doesn’t like it, she can go somewhere else.”

“Is that you, sister?” Kiera called out.

“Yes, I am back.”

“You were gone so long,” Kiera whined.

“I could barely manage the groceries as it was and then it started to rain.”

“I’m so hungry,” Kiera complained, ignoring the fact that Karen would have much preferred to change out of wet clothes and maybe soak in a hot bath before being forced to play nurse again.

“I’ll make you a sandwich,” Karen said with a sigh.

In the kitchen, she found the cat on the window sill licking its fur. It looked up at her as she walked in the room and jumped down, meowing.

“You’re going to have be quieter than that if you expect to live here without that sister of mine making a fuss about it. Hush. I will give you some milk and tuna.”

Karen gave the cat its meal before putting together a sandwich for Kiera. The cat paused from eating to follow her as she took the plate to her sister’s bedroom.

“Oh no, Kitty. You stay here.”

Karen pushed open the door and made sure it closed behind her before the cat could sneak into Kiera’s room. She helped prop up her sister and offered her the tray of food.

“Who were you talking to?” Kiera asked.

“No one.”

“Don’t lie to me, sister. I may be sick but I am not stupid and you were never a very good liar. Remember when we were kids?”

“Barely.”

“It does seem quite a long while ago, doesn’t it?”

“So many years I’d convinced myself you were merely a figment of my imagination.”

“You choose now to be cruel?”

“I have taken you in, haven’t I? Very few would in my position.”

Kiera made a sound but chose not to comment. Perhaps in her frail state, she finally saw her own actions for what they were? Karen didn’t want to ruminate on the reasons for too long. It would mean drudging up a lot of emotions she’d long buried. Instead, she went over to the window to allow some air into the room.

“Karen, when I’ve passed, you will see to it that I have a proper burial, won’t you?”

“Of course,” Karen said feeling the heat rise to her face. Kiera was right, she’d never been a very good liar. It wasn’t bitterness for the past that kept her from granting Kiera’s last wishes, but rather her dwindling savings account that would hinder how much she could do.

When she turned back to her sister, her eyes had closed. Her chest rose and fell in ragged breaths. Karen was not a doctor but she knew her sister’s condition was getting worse at a rapid rate. She considered calling a friend to help transport her sister to the hospital but she knew Kiera would refuse. They’d already had that argument.

Her sister’s health continued to deteriorate over the course of the night while the cat paced outside the bedroom. A couple of times, Karen tried to shoo it outside as she frantically called for help but the cat refused to move. The doctor, who was kind enough to make a house visit in the middle of the night, told Karen there was nothing left to do for her and she would likely not make it through the night.

Karen sat her sister’s bedside, rocking back and forth in the old rocking chair she’d inherited from their mother and tried to come to terms with the end. Before long, her eyes had grown heavy and she’d drifted into sleep, dreaming of the time when they were children, before adulthood stool their innocence and Kiera stole the man who should have been her husband. At some point, the cat managed to creep into the room and rested in Karen’s lap as she gently petted it. Karen considered scooping him up and throwing him out but he offered comfort she was reluctant to give up.

When Karen opened her eyes to sunshine and birds singing in the trees outside, at first she’d forgotten why she’d fallen asleep in the rocking chair in her guest room. Then it came to her and she bolted upright, guilty that she’d fallen asleep instead of staying at her sister’s side to her last breath. She stopped short when she realized the bed was empty.

“Kiera?”

Frantically, she searched through the house, moving from room to room looking for her sister. There was no sign of her anywhere. And there was no sign of the cat who had occupied the room with her.

Dumbfounded, she tried to come up with an explanation for the strange turn of events but nothing made sense or explained the trail of blood from the bedroom out the front door. Her sister had simply vanished.

**

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me.🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Jengu

Water fairy walking into the moon

According to Wikipedia, the Jengu is a water spirit in the traditional beliefs of the Sawa ethnic groups of Cameroon, particularly the Duala, Bakwei, and related Sawa peoples.

Obviously, I’ve taken huge liberties for the sake of my fictional piece.

The rowboat slid to a rest in the middle of the lake. Ben balanced the oars to one side and leaned back to reach the cooler and pull out a beer. He opened it but didn’t take a sip right away. Instead, he absorbed the sounds of nature as he watched the sun drip lower toward the horizon.

This was exactly what he needed. Taking a deep breath, he crossed his ankles and let the smooth cold beverage go down.

Today marked the anniversary of one month since his life had changed. One day everything had been normal and the next, he had come home from work to find a note from Sarah. She didn’t have the decency to tell him to his face that she didn’t want to be with him. She’d simply packed her bags and disappeared, scribbling a halfhearted note in her wake. It wasn’t until two days later when speaking with a mutual friend that Ben found out she had already shacked up with some guy from work. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together.

Maybe he should have seen the signs but he’d been too busy planning their future to notice their present slipping through his fingers. He searched his memory for hints or clues. Had she been spending more late nights at the office? He didn’t think so. Did she sneak away in the evening when she’d claimed to be getting her hair done or going to the gym? If she did, she was damn good at fooling him. How could she have fallen out of love with him and in love with someone else so easily?

He dropped the empty beer can in the boat and dug his hand in his pocket, pulling out the diamond ring he’d picked out for her. The ring sparkled as it caught the late afternoon sun while he turned it between his fingers.

In only four weeks, he felt as though he’d aged a decade. Numbness filled him to the core and he walked as a shadow in his own life. Every once in a while, he encountered someone who would ask how Sarah was doing. At first, he told people they were no longer together but he had grown tired of feeling sorry for himself. Losing her had become an affliction he suffered. Now on the rare occasion when someone asked, he simply said she was doing fine and left it at that.

As Ben brooded over the broken fragments of his life and finished off another beer, the sun disappeared below the horizon. He didn’t even notice the dark clouds that gathered to the north. He didn’t acknowledge how much his boat had silently drifted on the smooth water’s edge. Occasionally he noticed a fish rise to the surface to snatch one of the insects skidding across the top. He closed his eyes and relaxed to the song of wind rustling the expanse of trees that surrounded the lake.

He was alone and that’s all that mattered. His body shook. The tears caught him off guard and he wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands before reaching around to grab another beer. Rain splattered down but he didn’t feel it. He opened his palm to the ring he’d been holding so tightly it left an indentation in his skin. With a deep breath, he pulled back his arm and tossed it as far out into the water as he could manage, hardly distinguishing the impact now that the rain poured down harder. He ran his fingers through his wet hair.

He could have sold the ring and got back some of what he’d paid for it but it wouldn’t have given him the same emotional satisfaction. Sarah had taken his heart and ripped it pieces. Money would never put it back together again.

But he’d outstayed his time on the lake. He grabbed the oars, suddenly seized by panic as he realized how far off shore he had drifted. The wind had picked up and the sun had given way to darkness. He had to strain to see through the driving rain. Which way had he come? Suddenly, he wasn’t certain. Although he’d spent so many summers on this lake, he felt disoriented.

Clutching the side of the boat, he tried to get his bearings. His thoughts scattered and for a moment he wondered if he hadn’t been brought to this junction in life by fate. Shaking off the chill that settled deep inside, he grabbed the oars and began rowing furiously, simply hoping that luck would bring him to land.

Lightning struck down, hitting him as he rowed. He collapsed, closing his eyes as he fell overboard and hit the water with a splash. Defeated by fate, he gave in and allowed his heavy body to sink. He thought of Sarah and the way she would laugh when he told her a joke and then he thought of nothing at all.

He felt fingers wrap around his waist pulling him and when he opened his eyes, he caught sight of the twinkle of diamond on the river floor. He thought he saw the face of a woman with long dark hair floating around her face. “Jengu”, he thought, “spirit of the lake come to claim me”. He gave in to darkness.

When he opened his eyes, he gasped for air. The storm had passed and in the east the first hint of dawn stretched over the horizon in brilliant oranges and yellows. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been unconscious or how he’d gone from sinking to the bottom of the river to waking on the shore but he had the unnerving sensation of not being alone. He rolled over to his side and caught sight of the ring partly buried in the grass a few feet from where he lay.

A soft breeze stroked his hair as he sat up. It seemed to wrap around him in an embrace, whispering his name, encouraging him to grasp life. He reached for the ring and sat watching as the sun emerged. A new day had dawned.

“Are you alright?”

He turned to see a young woman with auburn hair walking toward him walking a dog. The dog reached him first, covering him with kisses. When he looked up to see her worried face peering down at him with the backdrop of sunlight illuminating the world behind her, he felt a strange sensation fill him.

Hope.

**

Last year, I only made it up to letter I in the challenge. Yay, as of this post, I have exceeded my 2015 accomplishment. If I make it halfway through the alphabet, I will feel successful!

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me.🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Isabelle’s Imp

Gargoyle Statue

“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call.” Mr. and Mrs. Henderson exchanged a wary glance before giving me a wave and hurrying to their car. I shrugged my shoulders and closed the heavy oak door, being certain to slide the dead bolt in place as they had instructed me to do. I took a deep breath and checked my phone. No texts from Evan. Annoyed, I tossed the phone onto the kitchen table and decided to raid the fridge.

Babysitting had its perks, especially when the parents insisted on going out after the kids were already tucked into bed for the night. I hadn’t worked for the Henderson’s before but I’d heard rumors that their kids were a handful and I should be prepared for the worst.

I shrugged my shoulders and grabbed a tub of rocky road ice cream and searched the cupboards until I found a bowl. How hard could it be to watch kids who were already sleeping? I laughed a little to myself before scooping out a more than generous portion of ice cream and putting the tub back in the freezer. I went back to the fridge hoping the Henderson’s had the decency to stock chocolate fudge, or at the very least butterscotch syrup. After the argument I’d had with Evan, I needed an indulgence to take my mind off things.

Kicking the fridge door closed, I stuck the spoon in my mouth which was covered in more chocolate syrup than ice cream. I grimaced, coughed and ran to the sink to spit.

“What the …”

Giggling interrupted my thoughts and I spun around expecting to see one of the Henderson children but there was no one there.

“Jason? Jenna?”

I sighed and looked back at the mess I’d made. That chocolate syrup must have been seriously out of date, I decided as I tossed the contents of my bowl in the sink and rinsed everything down the drain. So much for my ice cream indulgence.

I grabbed a packet of potato chips and headed off to the living room to see if the Henderson’s had any good cable stations. If I couldn’t drown my sorrows in ice cream then I might as well get lost in something sappy on the television for the next couple hours instead. I stopped at the table to grab my phone but it wasn’t there.

“I could have sworn I’d left it there,” I mumbled to myself, now completely confused.

Giggling.

I spun around to catch them but again, no one was there. Enough was enough. It was time to pay these little rugrats a visit and let them know who was in charge tonight. I had never been one for practical jokes and I sure wasn’t going to stand for it from two kids under ten who were supposed to be sleeping.

I opened Jenna’s bedroom door first and peeked inside. The nightlight illuminated the room enough that I could see the little girl curled up in her toddler bed with one thumb in her mouth. I stood over her debating whether I should call her out on the pretend sleeping act but if it was an act, she was so good at it, she had me fooled.

Fine, I decided, it must have been Jason so I headed over to his room next and opened his door quickly, hoping to catch him off guard. But to my confusion, I found the same scenario in his room. He looked much too peaceful to be pretending.

Putting aside the strangeness of this place, I headed back downstairs. That’s when I caught sight of something scrambling across the hall at the bottom of the steps making its way from the kitchen area to the living room leaving a trail of potato chip crumbs in its wake.

“Hey!” I shouted, probably a little louder than I needed to.

I didn’t remember the Henderson’s telling me they had a pet, but then why would they? I was only here to watch the kids. I skipped down the steps and turned the corner to the living room, not sure what I would find there. The TV was on, the sound blasting, the empty potato chip bag discarded in the corner, but there was no sign of whatever I’d seen hustling to get in there.

Clicking the off button on the remote, I felt goosebumps cover my arms. I know I hadn’t turned on the TV and since I’d just confirmed both of the kids were sleeping, then who did that leave? What kind of pet used the TV remote?

If that weren’t creepy enough, I then spotted my cell phone as the screen flashed with an incoming text message on the other side of the living room window. I looked all around me.

“Who is there?” I said in barely more than a whisper.

The only sound was the tick tock of the grandfather clock in the entry way and a faint giggling that seemed to come from the coat closet. I swallowed hard and walked over to the window, unlocked it and retrieved my phone. Apparently, I’d been having a conversation with Evan, unbeknownst to me, while I’d been checking on the children. Scanning our messages history, I was going to have a heck of a lot of explaining to do. My skin crawled as I scrolled through my contacts for Kate’s number. I remembered her once talking about babysitting for the Henderson’s.

“Hey, Isabelle, what’s going on?”

“Kate,” I said trying not to let my voice come out as shaky as I felt.

“Is everything okay?”

“I’m babysitting for the Henderson’s.”

“Oh,” she said and then there was only silence.

“Do the Henderson’s have a pet or something?”

I heard Kate take a deep breath, which was only making me feel more nervous about the whole situation. I wanted to bail but I couldn’t just get up and leave with two children alone upstairs, no matter how crazy this house seemed.

“Not so much a pet,” Kate said at last, “More like an imp.”

“An imp?”

“Yeah, I mean, maybe not. I never really saw it myself but Mary said she did once when she was sitting for the Henderson’s. It’s why they only ever go out at night after the kids are tucked in bed. They say it’s safer that way. I’ve been told if you think the imp is bad, you should see the kids.”

“I see,” I said, but I really didn’t see at all. I’d read a couple stories with imps but never thought such a thing actually existed “Am I in danger?”

“Probably not.”

“That is not very reassuring.”

“Stay on his good side and you’ll be fine.”

“Right…” Hopefully all those potato chips went some ways toward appeasing him.

I hung up the phone feeling more uneasy than I’d started. I heard the giggling from the coat closet again. With a deep breath, I moved toward it, not sure I had the guts to face this thing but if this babysitting gig was going to work out, we were going to have to come to some sort of understanding.

**

Writing this story has inspired a new book! Currently brainstorming and outlining. Eager to start writing!

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me.🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Headless Horseman

 

Illustration of a headless horseman with moon in background

Branches raked her arms and shins and hair flew around her face in disheveled strands, a far contrast to the neatly pulled back ponytail she’d started with. Hayley gasped for breath, pausing a moment to get a sense of where she was. She’d run much deeper into the woods than she’d ever gone before and around her skeleton trees pierced the dark, cloudy sky. The soft crunch of leaves reminded her that her pursuer was not far behind. She searched frantically but there were no obvious hiding places. How much more could she run before ultimately she succumbed to fate?

The horse snorted. An owl screeched, searching for prey. Hayley fought to get her breathing under control as she watched the full moon appear from behind its shield of thick clouds to momentarily illuminate the path before it was again swallowed into darkness. Fearing she’d already hesitated too long, she began running again.

She tripped and stumbled but managed to put out her hands to catch herself just before she hit the ground. The earth shook with the gallop of the horse which, no doubt, knew exactly where to find her. No matter how far or how fast she fled, she couldn’t escape it. The rain began to fall in thick sheets, soaking through her clothes almost immediately.

There was nowhere left to turn. Hayley covered her head with her arms as she braced for the impact as her body shook and her teeth chattered. When she dared to look up from the ground to gauge the horseman’s distance, he had vanished.

Trembling, she managed to stand on legs exhausted by running. She wrapped her arms around herself as much for comfort as warmth as she began walking as she sobbed with the rain. How could she have been so stupid?

As a child, she’d heard about the Legend of Sleepy Hollow but she’d never thought of it as much more than a children’s story meant to entertain or scare. Nathan had warned her not to go out that night but he’d also pulled her hair and hid behind drapes to jump out and scare her, too. Even though she’d looked in his eyes and saw fear, she’d brushed it off as little more than foolish play. It was simply another trick to scare her which had only made her want to prove even more that she couldn’t be scared.

Eventually someone would notice she had been gone too long and they would come looking for her but would it be too late? She glanced nervously over her shoulder, thinking she had heard the breaking of a branch over the deafening sound of the pouring rain. The horseman had vanished for now but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t return. Thunder punctuated her fear.

Hayley picked up her pace as panic filled her. In a flash of lightning, over her shoulder she’d glimpsed the horse in the distance as it rose up on hind legs while its rider held a sword pointed toward the sky.

She started running again but the path had turned to mud which slowed her steps even more. She didn’t have to look behind her again to know she’d been spotted. The sound of horse hooves hitting the ground filled her ears as her legs threatened to give out.

It isn’t possible.

A headless horseman is just a story.

She kept repeating the words in her head but believing them didn’t make the larger than life image fade away. He was on her in an instant. She screamed in defeat.

“Hayley!”

The voice cut through the rain and the pounding of the blood in her ears and at first she thought it only her imagination. Then she cleared the water from her eyes, unable to comprehend what she was seeing.

“Nathan?” she said sinking down to her knees and gasping for air.

**

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me.🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.