#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 That chocolate syrup must have been seriously out of date, I decided as I tossed the contents of my bowl in the sink and rinsed everything down the drain.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 – Guidance from the Gamayan

Silhouette of birds on sunrise

According to Wikipedia, the gamayan is a prophetic bird of Russian folklore. It is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge and is usually depicted as a bird with a woman’s head. And according to Epika, it is a talking bird who foretells the future and reads fortunes.

Interesting… Although, I couldn’t get a grasp on how or why this bird may appear, I’ve used my own imagination to come up with the following little story.

Gillian kicked off her shoes and stretched out in the chaise lawn chair. Sunglasses in place, she sipped the fresh lemonade and yawned as a light breeze caressed her body and dried away the late afternoon sweat. It had been a long day and she was more than happy to close her eyes and put it behind her.

The cell phone next to her chair started to buzz but she snatched it from the table and turned it off without even looking at the caller ID. Whoever it was could leave a message and she’d deal with it later but as far as she was concerned, it was five o’clock on a Friday afternoon and the problems at the office no longer concerned her.

Of course, it could have been Darren. She picked up the phone again and considered the possibility. It felt cool in her palm despite the day’s heat. Finally, she tossed the phone back on the table and leaned back in her chair. She hadn’t been dating Darren for very long and although he was very good looking and knew all the right things to say, there was still something about him that put her a little on edge. Her friends encouraged the match, insisting that he was one of the better guys Gillian had gone out with, and maybe that was true, but there was still something about him that made her uneasy. She’d blamed it on the stress from work affecting her personal life for far too long.

She sighed and adjusted the straps on her tank top which had fallen down off one shoulder. This moment of peace was exactly what she needed. Her job had started to consume her life and shadow everything else she cared about.

She watched a group of birds gathering in a nearby tree as they chirped and played before stretching wings and taking off into the sky. She wondered what it would feel like to have that much freedom.

Before she could get too deep in her thoughts, a rustling from behind her chair caught her attention. At first she paid no attention. There was a fair bit of wildlife around her home but as the noise persisted, she became wary. She pulled off her glasses as she sat upright and swiveled around to get some idea of what was going on behind her, grabbing the phone, just in case. A strange sensation came over her, like she was being watched.

“Is someone there?” she called out as she powered on her phone. She waited for a response that didn’t come. Finally, she shook her head and sat back down, realizing that she was so unaccustomed to spending time alone that she let imagination get the better of her.

Glancing down at the screen, she noticed the missed call had been from Darren. He also sent a text message asking if she was available to get together for a drink later this evening. Although she’d made a promise to herself to spend the evening alone until she finally made the decision she’d been putting off too long, she hit reply and let him know she could be at the bar in an hour.

Maybe she was going about it all wrong.

As she opened the sliding glass door to go inside to shower, the rustling sound behind her caught her attention again. She turned around, dropped her glass and shrieked. The glass shattered and lemonade soaked her clothes but she barely registered it. Her focus was on the over sized bird perched on the deck railing. Not only was it unlike any bird she’d seen before but it had the head of a woman. She blinked a few times to try to clear her eyes but it was still there.

“Gillian, don’t be afraid.”

Gillian grasped the door handle behind her and gave it a tug but it wouldn’t open. She reached into her pocket for the cell phone she’d just put there. The bird creature stretched out her wings.

“You seek a glimpse into the future,” she said as she settled back down, “And I am here to offer you that.”

“Wh… wh… what are you talking about?”

“Come, sit, enjoy the warmth of the dying sun on your face with me as we have a little chat.”

Gillian didn’t move.

“Come on, don’t be silly. I won’t hurt you.”

Skirting the mess of broken glass on the deck, Gillian’s feet advanced toward the lawn chair where only moments ago she’d been absorbed in her own silent awe. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought human-birds were a part of that though.

“What are you?” she managed to say as she attempted to get comfortable, finding this would be an impossible task under the circumstances.

“I’m a gamayan,” she said as she perched on the table next to the chair. She was almost too big for it. The little table threatened to topple as she fought to get her balance. Eventually, she managed to settle and Gillian found it difficult to take her eyes off this strange creature. Beautiful and majestic, but how could she be real?

“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Gillian said, as though this asserted that the creature couldn’t possibly exist, despite the fact that she sat right beside her.

“Few meet us.”

“Why are you here now?”

“Because you are caught at impasse, unable to choose the road that will lead to your true happiness in life. Even worse, you are likely to make a mistake that will take away your future entirely.”

“How?” Gillian said. Her mind was racing in a million different directions and she struggled to form coherent thoughts in the presence of this unusual creature.

“That man,” the gamayan said indicating the phone that Gillian hadn’t realized she’d been clutching in her right hand, “is not who you think he is.”

“Darren? I’ve only gone out with him a couple of times.”

“You are planning to meet him tonight. If you go, your life will end.”

“That’s a bit melodramatic,” Gillian said feeling her blood turn cold. She’d always thought there was something a little off about Darren, despite her friends insistence that he was perfect. Maybe she’d been right all along?

“You sense it, too,” the bird observed.

Gillian nodded slightly but her body had gone numb. She’d felt it from the first moment she met him. It was part of the reason she’d been so reluctant to answer his call.

“And tomorrow you shall receive an important notice about your career, one that may be easy to overlook. I suggest you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open, however, because your life is about to change.”

Gillian blinked out the sun that seemed to sink low enough in the sky that it was coming straight at her face. She reached up to her head for her sunglasses but they weren’t there. When she turned back to the bird to ask for more details, it was gone.

She sank into the chair and closed her eyes. Why did it seem late afternoon always made her feel so sleepy?

When she opened her eyes again, darkness had fallen and the cell phone sat on the table next to her buzzing for her attention. She reached over to grab it, noticing that it was Darren calling.

“Damn it!” she said before answering. She’d completely forgotten that she’d agreed to meet him for drinks. Judging by the time on her phone, she was thirty minutes late and he was probably wondering what happened to her. “Darren, I’m so sorry. I – uh – must have fallen asleep.”

She looked around, suddenly remembering the visitor she had had and the warnings not to go out with Darren.

“I was worried something maybe happened. I could come over to your place if you like?”

“Oh, actually, I just remembered something I needed to finish. Can I take a rain check on that?”

“Of course,” Darren said, but she didn’t miss the disappointment in his voice.

“Great, I will call you tomorrow and Darren, I’m so sorry again to leave you waiting.”

She disconnected the call and sat staring at the glass of lemonade on the table next to her chair, the same one she’d shattered earlier. She sniffed at her clothes which had the slightly sticky feel of spilled drink and lemon scent.

Had her conversation with the gamayan been only a dream?

**

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 Visitors from Beyond – Alice and the Alien

Flying ufo in the night

Wheels crunched against gravel as the car rolled to an abrupt stop. Brett and I exchanged glances but neither of us said a word. He slammed the car into park and leaned back in the seat.

“Now what?” I whispered.

What was there to say? I concentrated on the wisps of fog curling in the light of the high beams. In the darkness surrounding us, I couldn’t see anything else. An almost eerie silence fell over us.

Brett cursed under his breath. “I left my phone at Kara’s house.”

My heart thundered in my chest and I fought to control the rise and fall of my breathing. I didn’t want to think about what happened at Kara’s house and I’m pretty sure Brett didn’t want to either. We had no way to call for help and now the car had stalled.

“We should walk,” I said.

“Are you crazy? With that… thing out there?”

“Well, we can’t stay here.”

Brett sat forward and started playing with the key in the ignition while I said a silent prayer the car would roar back to life. Maybe this once luck would be on our side?

“It’s no use,” he said. He punched the steering wheel and muttered a string of expletives under his breath. In the eerie glow of light, I could see the perspiration bead along his forehead even though it was so cold I could see my own breath.

“We can’t stay here.”

He looked at me. The raspy sound of his breathing filled my ears while I waited for his response and wondered if the bleeding had stopped.

“Fine,” he said at last, “We’ll walk.”

He didn’t wait for me before killing the headlights and opening the door and stepping out. For a moment, I couldn’t move. I was frozen between knowing we had no other choice and wishing I could stay hidden in the darkness. As I stepped out of the car, I glanced behind me, trying to get some sense of what lay beyond. Our surroundings were beginning to take the forms as my eyes adjusted to the night. The fog hung in the trees and reflected the shimmering moonlight. Any other night I might have thought it was pretty, romantic even.

Tonight, I couldn’t think of anything at all except those eyes staring back at me and the way Kara had screamed.

“I think there is a house not too far from here,” I said, hoping we were on the road I thought we were. Brett grunted in response and began moving forward. I followed, not wanting to be left behind, but my legs felt as though I trudged through molasses.

“What was that thing?” I asked. I didn’t expect him to have any answers but I could hardly stand the silence that had fallen between us either. When I’d agreed to go on a date with Brett Parker, this wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind. I didn’t know him well enough to guess the thoughts that occupied his mind but I was pretty sure he felt as scared as I did.

“I don’t know,” he muttered.

I tried to take his hand but he quickly pulled away.

“What happened to Kara wasn’t my fault,” I said.

“How could it be?”

I kicked at the stones as we walked and tried to think of something to say. If we got out of this alive, there wouldn’t be a second date. Of that much, I was certain. Just then I caught sight of a glimmer of light in the distance. I squinted, trying to determine if it was the old farm house I’d remembered. I didn’t think anyone lived there. I could tell Brett saw it too because his pace picked up. He was moving so fast now I had to sprint to keep up with him.

“Brett, wait, what if it something is there?”

This thought slowed him down a little, but not enough. By the time we’d reached the bend in the road, we could tell the light hadn’t come from a house. I put my hands over my mouth to keep from screaming. Brett tried to grab my arm but seemed to think better of it. Instead, he put distance between him and that thing while I stood there with wide eyes trying to take in the small spacecraft partly buried in the corn field.

I rubbed my eyes slowly, trying to clear my vision. It couldn’t be real. I heard Brett urging me to get away from it but my feet were already carrying me forward. When I was close enough, I put out my hand to touch the smooth surface and ran my fingers gently along the side. To my surprise, the craft rumbled to life and where I hadn’t anticipated a door, the sides gave way and parted like the automatic doors at Walmart. Goosebumps traveled up the length of my arm and for a moment I couldn’t catch my breath. I stepped inside.

There was no doubt in my mind I’d just boarded an alien spacecraft. After all, I’d seen one of the creatures with my own eyes not more than hour ago at Kara’s party. That alone should have been enough to stop me from doing entering the ship, but somehow my curiosity overtook my better senses. I needed to see it, even if it was likely the last thing I would ever do.

A sound ahead made me halt and rethink my crazy decision. I wasn’t alone. I almost turned to run but I couldn’t. I’d come this far and I was pretty sure I’d heard the sound of the doors closing behind me as I moved along the quiet tunnel toward the belly of the ship. It was too late for second thoughts.

The alien rounded the bend and stopped. I wasn’t sure which of us was more afraid but I could tell he hadn’t been expecting to see me. I braced myself for his attack but it didn’t come. Slowly, he lowered a clipboard he was holding and I realized in that moment he could have almost been mistaken for any human aside from an elongated forehead, larger eyes, and a greenish tint to his skin. I cleared my throat, trying to form words, to make excuses for my trespassing. It felt like forever that we stood there awkwardly staring at one another.

“My name is Alice,” I said at last.

There wasn’t something about him that didn’t seem nearly as threatening as it had when his friend crashed our party. I moved closer and put out my hand to touch his outstretched fingertips and a spark of electricity shot through me.

“Welcome home, Alice. We have missed you.”

**

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 by clicking HERE.

High Five! The First Round Results Are In

High five joyful businessmanWhat do you get when an immigration officer attends a séance?

A big boost of confidence, apparently!

Remember my short story, Point of Entry, that I mentioned entering into the short story challenge back in January? Well, the results from Round One are out and my story made it to the top five for my group!!!

Oh my goodness!

I didn’t actually think it would, but you have no idea how excited I am right now. Out of over 2,000 original participants, I am one of 300 advancing to Round Two.

Oh boy!

I’m terrified about advancing, but it doesn’t even matter what happens in Round Two because all I really wanted was to make it this far – and I did it! I consider this a huge success and it came at a time when I really needed it. I was letting myself get buried in too much self doubt and even though writing is what I love to do, I had convinced myself I wasn’t good at it.

Well… okay, one round of one contest. It doesn’t make me Shakespeare or anything. But it does make me feel like I have something in me worth hanging onto.

So, yay for the small victories in life!

Sometimes they  mean the difference between quitting and hanging on a little longer.

I’ll post my short story soon! Point of Entry – An immigration officer mourning the death of his wife gets a taste of his own medicine when he confronts an illegal alien during a séance.

And stay tuned for details about my Round Two assignment….