#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Destined to the Dragon

Layla struggled against the binds as the enormous beast loomed over her. She’d nearly managed to free her left hand. If only she had a little more time she might be able to escape, but she feared that it was already too late. The large, red dragon circled overhead once more. There was no doubt that it was aware of her presence. She’d stifled a shriek as a third pass brought it’s long, sharp talons down to snag the blue gown she’d been forced to dress in during the preparation ceremony. The talons had come dangerously close to ripping into her skin and left a gaping hole in her dress for the cold rush of night air to brush up against her pale skin, prickling her skin with the impending storm.

Golden Dragon

Fruitlessly, she pulled and struggled against the rope holding her in place. The men who had brought her here had been thorough in their attempts to keep her in place. At one time in her life, she might have called them neighbors or even friends, but as they’d prepared her for her death, not one had been willing to meet her eye or hear her plea, not even Kyrad.

Hot air washed over her with the putrid stink of the dragon’s breath as it settled just a few feet from where she lay on the platform of the high mountain. She could scream but no one would help her. They had purposely left her here to die, a sacrifice to the hungry dragon in return for peace amongst the village, a scheme which all seemed entirely too convenient in her opinion. She’d seen the way the others looked at her.

“Die gracefully,” they had told her when the calling had been made. “It is, after all, a great honor to be the chosen one.”

Layla sucked in her breath as she watched wide eyed as the dragon paced along the edge of its high perch. Just a few more wriggles and her left hand would be free.

The dragon let out a loud, bellowing roar that shook the mountain and echoed far into the distance. Layla wondered how many people down below in the village looked up, cowering in fear, as they held fast onto each other for comfort. They were waiting for the dragon to claim his meal so that the sacrifice would be complete. Layla closed her eyes and held back the hot tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. No, she wouldn’t face death as a coward. There had to be another way. She continued to strain against the binds as determination filled her. In the name of her parents, she would prove them all wrong.

In the distance, thunder cracked in response to the dragon’s roar, a deep sound that shook their world. Dark clouds swirled above, moving closer at a rapid speed. The first fat drops of rain began to spill down on them as the dragon turned to focus back on Layla. He sniffed tentatively and his arrow tipped tongue tasted the air as he approached her. Even though she had nowhere to go, she sank back into the rock as though she wished the mountain would split wide and swallow her into its depths. The dragon spread his wings wide as he arched his back and shot a plume of smoke and fire into the night almost as if he were thanking the gods in triumph. Rising on his hind legs, he was easily four times the height of a grown man. Nevertheless, Layla held steadfast onto the only thing she had left – hope.

Red bead eyes regarded her with curiosity. She’d managed to free her left hand finally but she didn’t dare to move while she was under such close scrutiny. She held her breath, biding her time, waiting for the dragon to make a move.

The dragon ambled forward until its snout was pressed against her nose. Layla squeezed her eyes shut and said a silent prayer to the gods and then as the dragon lifted its head and opened its jaws wide to snap down over her, she quickly flung her weight to the right where she still dangled helplessly by the hand still tightly bound. She watched in horror as the dragon’s razor sharp teeth clamped down over the brush and rock. It recovered, snorting steam from its nostrils as it took two steps back, preparing for the next attack.

By some miracle, Layla managed to free her right hand. She scrambled into the bushes before the dragon’s teeth could catch her. The dragon roared as flames shot from its jaws and ignited the bushes where Layla sought protection. She squealed and ran, barely escaping the snapping jaws. The two went back and forth this way for a while, the dragon insistent on catching its prey and Layla determined to escape. She needed to get to the other side of the platform where she knew there was a way over the mountain, to the safety of the village below.

But as the dragon nipped at her feet and tore at the bottom of her gown, she realized with a heavy heart, even if she managed to escape, where would she go? The village was no longer her home and her friends were no longer her friends. If she returned from the mountain, she would not be considered a hero, but rather a coward that sacrificed the village for the sake of her own life. This left her with only one option, she couldn’t simply escape from the dragon’s clutches, she needed a way to kill it.

Rather than make a break for the path when she had the opportunity, Layla grabbed a large rock and flung it as hard as she could, aiming for the dragon’s eyes. It hit with a satisfactory thunk right between the eyes. She hunched over, trying to catch her breath, while the dragon, stunned by the retaliation, took off to the sky and began circling overhead again. This gave Layla a moment to try to clear her head and think.

The rain fell faster around them and soaked the dress until it clung uncomfortably to her body. Layla scrambled, desperate to find anything that she could fashion into a weapon before the dragon returned to its perch. Her hand clutched the pendant that still dangled around her neck on a golden chain. It had been a gift from her parents on her eleventh birthday during a time when her life was still filled with so much promise for the future. Angry, she ripped it free allowing the chain to drop in a heap to the ground. She picked it up and used it to fasten a rock quickly to the end of the longest stick that she could find. She’d only just finished her makeshift weapon when the dragon’s talons touched down just a couple of feet from where she worked.

She squealed, sinking back into the shadows and nearly losing the stick in the meantime. The dragon roared, rearing its ugly head and shooting flames in every direction. This time, it meant to have its meal, the initial curiosity replaced with a ferocity that she didn’t believe she had the strength to match. Who was she to slay a dragon, after all? If it were such an easy feat then any of the large men from her village would have surely completed the task by now instead of cowering in fear anytime she proposed such an idea. Layla cowered, her heart hammering wildly in her chest, biding her time until the dragon’s next strike.

The dragon scratched the ground with its sharp talons much like a bull paws the ground before it charges. She watched as tendrils of smoke rose into the air from its nostrils, the heat turning to steam as the rain cooled the fire. Layla shivered as fear and dampness crept along her spine. Every moment stretched into an eternity before finally, the dragon made its move, running at top speed from one end of the landing to the space where Layla laid in wait. It was now or never, she knew, so once again she said a silent prayer to the gods who listened and raised her weapon just as the dragon towered over her. Its large body shook as the beast howled into the night. And then, much to her horror, its full weight sink down over her.

This isn’t how I want to die.

Burning filled her nostrils and made her head throb. Barely able to catch her breath, she heaved again attempting to lighten the burden of the beast that lay over her. Finally, she managed to drag her body out from under the heap of dragon. It’s breathing had ceased but still, Layla looked over it in awe. She had listened to a story once as a child that her father had told her about a knight that slay a dragon with a diamond to the heart but she had never regarded it as anything more than a fictional story, another of the many her father made up to amuse her. But by some grace, it had actually worked.

The rain poured down in a heavy stream but she didn’t notice the chill that soaked her to the core. She only stood and watched the dragon, weary that she had come so close to being its meal and instead, championed over it. Her hands shook by her sides, both proud and devastated to have brought the end of life to a fellow creature of her world, no matter how fierce it had been.

Tears of remorse poured down over her cheeks. Moving slowly to the edge of the mountain, she peered down through the dark to the few lights that burned in the village below. Always someone kept watch. Tonight, they could sleep peaceful, she thought. The dragon would no longer be a concern. Tonight she did not become the sacrifice that the village had hoped for. In her heart, she felt reborn, destined for something greater than she could comprehend. With much effort, she turned the dragon to his side so that she could pull the long stick from its chest and marvel at the blood-soaked pendant. She wiped it with her dress, took a deep breath, and then considered her return to the village.

**

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 – Cacus Chaos

Herkules ttet Cacus Florenz

Hercules battling Cacus

According to Wikipedia, in Roman mythology, Cacus was a fire-breathing giant and the son of Vulcan. He was killed by Hercules after terrorizing the Aventine Hill before the founding of Rome.

For the sake of my blog post, he’s found his way to modern times and terrorizes the residents of a rural community.

Simone examined the bin of peaches, inspecting the fruit one by one. Each was equally as perfect as the next, which should have made her selection simple, but for some reason it only made it harder. Since moving to Hopsville, she’d had to make several adjustments, some harder than others. Fruit shouldn’t have ranked so high on her list of stresses. The quality of life in the small rural community of Hopsville may have been considerably better than the big city from where she’d moved, but it did nothing to soften the empty ache inside.

Without realizing she’d become so absorbed in her own thoughts, she stepped to the side and bumped straight into another shopper.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said, glancing at him momentarily before returning her attention to her shopping list.

“You’re, Simone, aren’t you? Isabelle’s granddaughter?”

“Yes.” She stopped and looked at him a little closer. Did she recognize him? There was a memory scratching just at the surface. As if he could read the confusion in her eyes, he put out his hand.

“Justin. We used to play sometimes back when we were kids.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said as she placed her hand in his, “I mean… again.”

He laughed. “It was a long time ago and I’ve changed a lot. You, on the other hand, are as lovely as you ever were.”

She felt the heat creep across her cheeks and wished she could remember something about him. For some reason, she felt as though it was significant. Maybe later when she was alone and relaxed it would come back to her, but right now Justin may as well have been a stranger.

Then again, she felt that way about most of the town. It was hard to believe she’d lived here for a short time so long ago.

“I heard you were back in town to help out with your grandmother,” he said, “How is she doing?”

She glanced at her shopping cart. How long had she been standing there so indecisive that she’d still barely scratched the surface of her shopping list. She needed to hurry up a bit if she wanted to make it back by lunchtime.

“She is getting stronger, thanks. I’ll let her know you asked about her.”

Simone smiled and worked her way around Justin, deciding to leave the produce for another time. Grandma wouldn’t care if she brought home peaches or not. Most days, she was lucky if Grandma woke up to eat at all. A quick glance over her shoulder before she disappeared into the baking aisle confirmed that Justin was watching her. She gave him a little wave and then turned away. His striking blue eyes sent a flurry of anticipation through her body. She did not have the time to entertain those sort of thoughts so best to keep her distance from Justin from now on, she decided.

It was around the time she reached the canned goods that the first rumble hit. A stack of cans at the end of the aisle shuddered and threatened to topple as Simone gripped the handle on her shopping cart waiting for the tremors to subside. She couldn’t remember Hopsville ever being hit by an earthquake before but that one was unmistakable.

An older couple rushed down the aisle heading toward the checkout area chattering in panicked voices. Simone could have sworn they’d mumbled something about a cacus, but that didn’t make sense.

The ground trembled and shook again, this time accompanied by several items dropping off shelves. The power in the building cut and the emergency back up lights kicked on. Those left in the store screamed and scrambled in different directions. Simone started making her way to the front of the store. Groceries could wait until another day.

Just as she reached the checkouts, another tremor shot through except this time the back of the building crashed down sending a cloud of debris through the store. Simone screamed as she caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a giant reach down to grab a terrified shopper fighting for his life. A blast of fire scorched what remained of the collapsed section of the store.

“Simone.”

She turned around, grateful to see Justin.

“What is happening? What was that thing?” she said trying to keep the panic from taking over.

“It’s the cacus.”

“The what?”

“I know this sounds crazy but it’s a fire-breathing giant. He’s taken up residence in a cave just outside the town and has started feeding on the residents. We need to get out of here. Come with me.”

She shook her head as if doing so would erase all the crazy images like the etch-a-sketch she used to play with as a kid. Putting her hand into his, she let him lead her out a side exit of the building.

“My car is over there,” she said, fighting to catch her breath.

“Stay with me. You’ll be safer.”

They broke into a run, a blast of fire chasing their heels. By the time Simone slipped into the passenger side of Justin’s car, she finally remembered something about Justin. Even worse, she realized it hadn’t been an accident she’d ended up back in Hopsville or in Justin’s car.

“Please take me back to my grandmother,” she said.

He looked at her for a long time before answering. She held her breath as she tried to gauge whether or not he understood.

“You know I can’t do that.”

**

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 – The Bannik in the Bathhouse

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According to Wikipedia, the bannik is the bathhouse spirit in Slavic mythology. It was believed, among other things, they had the ability to predict the future. If they caress you, it means good luck, but if they scratch your back, trouble lay ahead.

“Stop it,” Abigail giggled.

Jeremy had her pinned against the wall and proceeded to cover her in kisses despite her protests.

“I can’t wait any longer,” he complained, caressing the long silk strands of her blond hair and letting it tangle around his fingers as he planted feather light kisses against her neck.

Abigail gave him a gentle push, forcing him to let her go free. He collapsed onto the bed and propped up on one elbow as he looked at her. The look in his eyes was pure lust and fire and she wanted desperately to crawl after him and give in.

“It’s been a long, tiring day and I want to get cleaned up.”

“I’ve missed you.”

“I won’t be long. Promise.”

Abigail dug through her suitcase looking for her toiletries bag and a fresh change of clothes, something that would entice Jeremy when she returned. She wasn’t surprised at all when Jeremy came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He was nothing if not persistent.

“I could come with you.”

“Not this time.”

“Seriously,” he said, “You shouldn’t go alone. It’s dark out there and we’re in a secluded area.”

“I can take care of myself. You know that. You, stay here and keep yourself occupied. Just, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep because I have plans for you when I get back.”

“I’m counting on it,” Jeremy said letting her slip from his grasp.

Abigail gave him a wink and grabbed the key to the bathhouse. When they’d made the reservations for their romantic getaway at the odd bed and breakfast, she had thought the idea of having a separate bathhouse to be quaint, but now that it was dark and she was tired, she was starting to wish they’d settled for the Holiday Inn instead. This place had history, though, and it was close enough to some great hiking spots she and Jeremy wanted to explore, if they ever managed to get out of the room, that was. She also had a pretty good idea this was the weekend Jeremy finally expected to propose.

The bathhouse was much nicer than Abigail had expected. The area was lit almost entirely by scented candles and as soon as she entered the steamy room, she relaxed. Everything about this weekend was going to be perfect. She let the thick terry cotton robe slip from her shoulders and drop to the floor and stepped into the bath. The quiet was such a contrast to the usual noise that surrounded their little apartment in the city. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, already feeling the tightness across her shoulders ease.

The thud of something hitting the floor brought her attention away from her daydreams and back to the bathhouse.

“Is someone there? Jeremy?”

It must have been her imagination, she thought, or perhaps a bottle of moisturizer slipped off a shelf. She let her thoughts trail back to Jeremy waiting for her back at the room and smiled. She would make sure it was a night they would not soon forget. Already her stomach felt jittery as she contemplated it.

Her smile quickly faded when she caught a glimpse of a shadow forming in the steam. She sat up abruptly, holding her arms over her chest.

“Who is there?” she called out. “Jeremy, it isn’t funny to scare me.”

Retracing her steps, she tried to remember locking the bathhouse behind her. She was almost certain she had but would it have been enough to stop someone determined enough from opening it?

“This bathhouse is occupied,” she said.

The form in the steam wavered and returned but didn’t respond. It was close enough now that she could almost reach out and touch it. She leaned forward, convinced that her imagination was getting the better of her and she was seeing something that wasn’t really there.

Abigail reached over and grabbed her robe as she stood up and quickly slipped into it. A strange feeling came over her, a foreboding of the future, as she stepped out of the bath, and in her vision she saw Jeremy standing over her, covered in blood and shouting words she couldn’t comprehend. On shaky legs, she made her way back to the changing area and went for her bag but it wasn’t where she had dropped it.

Frantic, she began searching the small room, convinced now that someone had come in and stolen in while she was preoccupied.

“Of all the things,” she said out loud, “who would want to steal my clothes?”

The figure of a small man with long hair and a long beard materialized out of the steam. Abigail screamed and stepped back, feeling for the doorknob just as the creature’s claws reached out to strike her back.

Danger.

She struggled to unlock the door, flung it open, and ran back toward the room.

“Abigail? What’s wrong?”

Jeremy caught her in his arms before her legs gave way.

“The bathhouse. There was a … man …”

Jeremy sighed and held her tight. “I warned you not to go there alone, Abi. Didn’t you ever hear of the bannik?”

“No,” she said trying to regain composure. She needed to report the incident before another one of the guests suffered the same.

“Trouble lies ahead.”

**

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 Who Are the Ghosts in My Attic? Isabella

Businessman hand holding a Crystal BallLet’s be clear about one thing. Isabella is not a ghost. Well, at least not yet. As far as I know, she just likes to pretend she is. I’m not going to say she is crazy either, but maybe she is just a little bit.

I followed her from one room to the next beginning on the main level of the house and then eventually working our way up the staircase to the bedrooms. She made a lot of sounds as we moved and sometimes she hummed or chanted softly, but none of that really made sense to me.

Finally, we stopped at the foot of the attic steps. She turned and looked at me. Was I supposed to lead?

“That is where they stay,” I said indicating the door, although being a highly recommended psychic, I had sort of expected her to know that already.

“I want to go up and take a look around,” she announced after an awkward silence. I ignored the warnings in my head screaming this was a bad idea and nodded. Slowly she ascended, one step at a time.

I probably should have followed but I couldn’t. My feet kept me firmly rooted where I stood as a wave of nausea struck me fiercely. Isabella opened the door and disappeared into their domain. Too dizzy to stand, I collapsed onto the bottom step to rest my head in my hands. I counted, forcing myself to breath. Inhale. Exhale.

Time barely passed, or at least it felt that way, before I noticed her standing at the bottom of the steps looking down at me. On shaky legs I attempted to stand.

“Well, what happened? What did you sense? What can I do?” I whispered because I was too afraid that they might hear me. I glanced up and felt relief as I realized that Isabella had at least closed the attic door behind her.

“There is definitely an energy here,” she said making no attempts to lower her own raspy voice. I cringed.

“Yes, but what do you think?” I wasn’t paying a psychic to tell me I had ghosts. I knew that much already.  “How do I get rid of them?”

“Not them. I only sense one entity in this house and I really don’t get the feeling you need to fear. It isn’t malevolent.”

“One? That can’t be right. I’ve spoken to at least eight of them already.”

She raised one eyebrow as if she couldn’t believe me or that I dared to question her professional assessment.

“A spirit can make you believe many things but I assure you, there is only one.”

I sighed heavily. Isabella obviously wouldn’t be of any help to me and I’d just spent one hundred dollars to do nothing but potentially anger the ones that didn’t want me to go poking where I didn’t belong.

“Anyway,” she continued, “I will perform a simple cleansing ritual and burn sage in all the rooms, especially the attic. This will send the energy back where it belongs and you will be free to enjoy your home.”

“Does that cost extra?”

Raised eyebrows again. “Ms. Ingram, do you want me to fix this problem or not?”

“Of course. It’s just that –”

That I think she’s clueless. Likely.

“– that I’m a little short on money at the moment.”

“No worries. I’ll give you a special discount. You are a friend of Sylvia’s, after all.”

“Thanks,” I muttered as I followed her back down the staircase and into the living room. She went to her large bag and started rummaging for things. At least she came prepared, I thought.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” I asked.

“That would be nice, thank you.”

She’d pulled out bundles of what I could only assume must be sage as I went to the kitchen, grateful to get away from her and the heavy perfume she wore. Strong scents gave me a headache and this lady was sending me straight to migraine territory. Then again, maybe it had more to do with the fact that I was no better off then where I’d started with the ghosts.

I leaned against the counter waiting for the kettle to boil. Perhaps I was being too hard on her? For all I knew, whether there was one ghost or twenty in my house, this sage thing just might do the trick and I could avoid putting the house up for sale. Being the only one remaining in my family, I had been feeling kind of guilty ever since making that decision. The house belonged to me.

I belonged to the house.

I shivered for no apparent reason at all.

I could hear Isabella humming as she moved through the house doing her work and another strong scent hit my nose, what I could only assume must be the burning sage.

“Geez, watch the crazy lady burn down the house and my luck, I still won’t be rid of the ghosts,” I muttered under my breath as I poured the boiled water over the tea bags.

I thought of Benjamin and my heart ached. This had to be the right decision.

When I returned to the living room, Isabella was humming her way up the main staircase.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” she called back to me.

Just as well I had nothing better to do. I set the two mugs of tea on the end table and made myself comfortable on the couch while I waited. Outside the blue sky promised a lovely day and I decided I should get out and take a walk. The fresh air would do me some good. I smiled watching the birds, hopeful. The sage had to work.

Isabella screamed.

The sound of it sent shivers through me and without a second thought, I raced up the steps to find her wide eyed and pale in the middle of the hallway trembling … like she’d just seen a ghost?

This should be familiar territory for a highly recommended psychic, surely.

A faint smell of burning filled my nose. This time it didn’t have the pleasant aroma of sage.

“What happened?”

“Your house — the g- g- ghost — I can’t —”

“What happened?” I repeated, annoyed that she couldn’t seem to communicate with me but before I could hear her response, I was distracted by a waft of smoke coming down from the attic. The door was wide open and I could see the flames begin to lick around its edges.

“Oh god,” I moaned.

Luckily, I’d kept a fire extinguisher on each floor just as a general safety precaution. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever figure I’d need it for a situation like this. I grabbed the nearest one and ran up the steps. Thankfully, the fire hadn’t spread far and I was able to put it out. I stood for a moment as I tried to catch my breath and assess the damage.

“I take it you didn’t like our new friend, Isabella,” I said to my ghosts. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were listening.

By the time I was sure the fire was out and I went back downstairs, Isabella was gone. She’d taken her bag, her bundles of sage, and disappeared.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be hearing from her again.

**

Click HERE to check out posts from the other A to Z Blogging Challenge participants.

#AtoZChallenge Who Are the Ghosts in My Attic? Harriet and Heaven.

Woman Haunting CemeteryThe week was winding down and I’d worked hard making the house as presentable as possible for the real estate agent on Saturday. As a result, my muscles screamed in protest and although I wanted to finish repairing one of the cabinets in the kitchen, I decided a soak in the tub would be a better reward to end my day.

I’d always wanted a claw foot bathtub so when I first moved in to the house, I’d been excited to finally have one. Before today, I’d never stopped long enough to actually make good use of it but now, especially in light of the fact that my next place wouldn’t be nearly so fancy, I decided to enjoy it. I lit several candles around the perimeter of the room and scented the water with lavender oils.

Slipping into the tub, the steam rose into the air around me. It was a shame I couldn’t stay, I thought. A girl could get used to this. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t think about the ghosts but immediately, my thoughts went to them.

I’d never been a particularly religious person. The times I spent alone with my thoughts like this were probably as close as I’d ever feet to “something bigger” in my life and I’d always been okay with that. But now, it felt a little sad, not just for me, but for all the lost souls roaming the big, old house.

Was there such a place as heaven where we should go after we die? Would my ghosts never pass beyond the physical world to find their own peace in death?

Maybe they didn’t want my help? Maybe I’d have been better off leaving well enough alone? After all, some of them were guilty of horrible crimes. If such a place as heaven existed, then why not hell? Being trapped between living and dying may have been the better alternative. All the same, I felt as if I owed it to those, like Benjamin or George, that didn’t deserve the endless suffering they endured.

When I opened my eyes, I wasn’t surprised to see a shadow of movement from the other side of the room. Even in the privacy of my bath, I couldn’t be alone.

“You want to help us,” she said softly.

There they went again, seeming to know my thoughts and my actions even before I did.

“I feel like I should do something,” I admitted with a sigh. What that was, I had no idea. I tried to get a better sense of her form but this one preferred to stay just out of sight, almost hidden beyond the flickers of the candle flames.

“Do you want my help?” I asked her.

“I — I don’t know.”

“Don’t you want to rest in peace?”

“I’m afraid of no longer existing at all.”

I couldn’t offer reassurances when I didn’t really know what was out there beyond my attic for them. I watched the candles dance around me throwing shadows on the walls and ceiling. The idea felt hopeless. Lost.

Or maybe it was her that I sensed. Harriet.

“You don’t want to stay here trapped for the rest of eternity.”
“Maybe not,” she agreed, “But there will be others that won’t look too kindly on your plans.”

“I don’t doubt that. Not everyone has been quite so friendly.”
“There are others who will try to take your place.”

I closed my eyes again as if I could will away the fear that sank deep into my bones when I thought about the ghosts. It wouldn’t be easy. I was going to need help.

“You’re packing. You were going to move away,” she said.
“Well, it seems I might be here a little longer than I thought. My friend Jennifer and her husband can’t take me in right now. They’re expecting a baby.”

“This makes you sad?”

“No, not sad. Just …”

“Lost.”

“Do you know where you are buried?” I asked her, choosing to steer the conversation away from my ultimate demise.

“Not far from here.”

“Not in my backyard, I hope,” I said, my voice heavy with sarcasm which she clearly missed. She only sat in the corner staring in my direction. I couldn’t see her eyes but I knew she watched me, waiting for something, or simply enjoying the company. I didn’t know.

“I’m going to find a way to help you move on,” I said again, feeling more certain as I considered this possibility.

“You will join us.”

“I’m not going to give up that easily.”

I yanked the plug from the drain and sat as the water started to sink lower. I was so mesmerized by the shimmer of its movement under the candle’s glow that I didn’t move until the tub was empty. I grabbed my towel, wrapped it around me, and stepped carefully out onto the tiled floor.

I didn’t need to look for her to know that Harriet had disappeared. I blew out the candles and headed to bed. Tomorrow would be a busy day.

**

Click HERE to check out posts from the other A to Z Blogging Challenge participants.