He’s been gone for almost fifty years, but the hurt never goes away. I still miss Jeffrey, my intrepid biologist. At least that was what Jeffrey’s field of study had been when we’d first met as Yale graduate students. He’d become involved with a few anthropologists who invited him…us, to join them whether to Scythia, in Northern Iran or to the Carpathian foothills. That’s when I discovered they were in search of monsters, instead of simple human biological oddities. I was in love with Jeffrey, had been married to him for five years, by the time we’d made it to Brazil. I shudder now at the horror. I try not to ever think of that night, of how easily we’d been duped by our guides. I still don’t know how I’d managed to make it back to civilization.
I don’t have a grave to visit. I’d watched Jeffrey die. Too many times, I still wish I’d joined him. But no matter, I survived.
Jeffrey’s family was well off. After his death, they bought the high-rise Jeffrey and I had shared, with the implicit understanding that I would be cared for as long as I didn’t visit. I had no family, so the isolation from his loved ones wounded me terribly. But I understand. I remind them of their terrific loss.
I can still see my husband, big hat like a game hunter, dirty khakis and a mild sunburn, beaming at his latest find. “Miriam, we’re going to put truth to fiction!” Oh that handsome man, with that winsome smile. I followed him right to hell.
What would he think of the monster that taunts me now? I shouldn’t be mean. These past fifty years, I’ve watched as the once prosperous neighborhood go to seed. Those who could, fled to the suburbs. I couldn’t. I had lived with Jeffrey in the same apartment and lived now here with his memory. No, moving was not an option.
So the rest of us endured the privileges of a much lower income base…poor supermarkets, decrepit property values and an influx of drugs. Although some of the neighborhood children called me names, most of the people were respectful. Everything would’ve been fine if one of my tenants, Dwayne something or other, had just left me in peace.
He was a real monster. A handsome brute who stood over six feet, spent most of his time lifting weights and exhibiting his disdain for women. I saw how he’d bully his customers, who sought escape from their surroundings, by indulging into drugs. I caught him, in the alley on the side of my building forcing a young woman into an obscene act. I guess I didn’t respond in the way he thought I should and saw my admonishment as a challenge.
After that time, he’d tried to humiliate and scare me. When I didn’t respond to his occasional shove, or his kicking of my grocery cart which caused the contents to spill on the sidewalk, he’d look at me with those soulless eyes and smirk.
All I could say to him was, “You can’t hurt me.”
It appears that my defiance continued to be a challenge because his tactics grew bolder. One time, I’d entered my apartment only to find a young man sitting on my couch. There were tears in his eyes. I was stunned. I knew that I’d locked that door. Still, the young man didn’t seem to offer any threat…and then I heard it. Loud groans coming from my bedroom, and my bed springs crying out in a beastly rhythm. The young man looked at me, and said, “He took my girlfriend. I can’t help her.”
I barged into my bedroom and shouted, “Get out!”
Dwayne stood up, naked and proud. Then he slapped his hands in front of my face as an implied threat, and leered. “One day old lady.”
I couldn’t think of what he meant. I looked him right in the eye, and said, “You can’t hurt me.”
The smirk on his face wavered.
When they were gone, I poured myself a glass of tea and sat on sofa. I was going to have to get the locks changed. In the morning, I was going to call my lawyer to see what I could do to legally rid myself of that menace.
My cat, Jeopardy, leapt into my lap. She’d purred her pleasure at being scratched while my eyes drifted up to the lift-sized portrait of my beloved Jeffrey. What, I wondered, would he think of that Dwayne creature?
Although the locksmith had arrived within hours of my call, I awakened to find my cat beheaded. Someone had cut off her head and placed the bits on my pillow.
I couldn’t move. I just cried. Jeopardy hadn’t deserved such a demise.
I called my lawyer, Theresa, who asked me not to touch anything and arrived with the police in tow. As the crime scene folks took pictures and dusted for prints, I spelled out my harassment to a sympathetic police officer. I knew they didn’t have much, just a silly old woman who lost her cat, but Theresa was spitting out possible charges like a Tommy gun. She was a Pitbull and she wasn’t letting this latest assault disappear without at least questioning the suspect.
As if on cue, Dwayne showed up and feigned concern. His cold eyes were already giving me a silent, “Snitches get stitches” warning.
I approached him and pointed my arthritic finger at his chest, and said, “You can’t hurt me.”
His handsome face turned into a mask of revenge. He gave me the now familiar sneer. It promised future pain.
Theresa pulled me away. She asked the detective, “What are you waiting for? Don’t you have confirmation that his prints are all over this place? Hold him for questioning.”
The detective read Dwayne his rights as he simultaneously clapped on the cuffs. Theresa followed the men out. But she turned around and said, “Stay here until I get back.”
I locked the door and looked at my apartment. I was so angry. Fingerprinting dust was everywhere. And in my bedroom, Jeopardy’s blood. But at least they had carted away her remains. Another loved one I won’t be able to bury, in all likelihood. My anger ratcheted as I leaned over the balcony to get another glimpse of my tormentor. The policemen were bringing Dwayne out of the building. We shared a moment when he looked up at me. Although I was ten stories up, I knew he was sneering.
Without thinking, I leaned further and then over the waist-high wall that surrounded the balcony. My fall seemed to last an eternity as the floors hurried by with mind-numbing speed. I hit the ground hard, but not hard enough to dent the cement pavement. My bones didn’t break. I didn’t bruise. My head ached, but I think it was from all the screaming that erupted around me. Even poor Theresa gasped her surprise. I think she was close to fainting.
I brushed myself and walked over to Dwayne.
There it was…fear. I started to laugh, and I must admit, the sound was shockingly horrific, like the wounded wail of a hyena. Poor Dwayne stumbled back as I advanced closer.
I said, “I told you that you can’t hurt me. I’m already dead.”
Folks think I’m crazy, but I’m not. I tell them he’s not really dead, but no one will believe me. You will believe me, I know you will.
It started when I fell in love. At the time, he was the vice president of his family’s company. Jim is talented and sophisticated and nice. Plus, he has a great sense of humor. He didn’t mind that I was poor. It was one of those moments when I lied my way into a hoity toity galas where we bumped. The truth is I planned the whole bumping thing. Did I say that I fell in love? I did. I fell in love with Jim’s money. After a few months, I had stroked his ego…among other things, to get the invite to meet his family.
Siberia is the tropics compared to the cold reception I got. The worst of the bunch was his stuffy dad. The man shunned me. I overheard the cranky old dude telling his precious son that he could do better. Jim decided that true love was better than family ties, so we eloped. As soon as I said I do, I figured out how to forge Jim’s signature and started draining one of his bank accounts.
I was Mrs. Bigshot, so I quit my job and lived leisurely and spent well. With time on my hands, I joined a gym. The hunky beefcake who worked there knew I was married, so it’s not entirely my fault that we hooked up. One day, we sort of bumped into Jim’s dad at my favorite ritzy hotel. I knew that he was going to tell Jim, so my friend, followed him outside where the old gent had an accident. He survived, but the blows to his head left him paralyzed, and nonverbal.
Jim was frantic to have family members help take care of his dad. I volunteered, since I wasn’t working. The mute vegetable spoke to me all the time…with his eyes. He would stare at me with this cold look. His rheumy eyes would narrow like he was hoping to shoot daggers out of them.
Secretly I worried that one day he would get better and start talking. I decided that I had to shut him up permanently. I would take care of dad first and then Jim would have an accident later. So, I went to a public library and did a search on poisons. I found one that was virtually untraceable after ingestion.
After that, it was my duty as a devoted daughter in law to feed the old gent his soup. He fought me. Whenever he would clamped those lips together, I would just hold his nose and shove the spoon in his mouth. But I was careful around the nosy nurses. Did he know what I was doing? You betcha. Those eyes stabbed me with his silent recriminations like bayonets. It took a while, but the old fart died in his sleep. I cried at the funeral and Jim thanked me for taking such good care of his dad. My lover and I laughed about the whole thing.
So what’s wrong? My plan was to start cooking scrumptious meals for Jim. That afternoon, as I was laying out my recipes, I looked up at the big 52 inch flat screen on the wall. There was something wrong with the picture. I looked at it sideways and couldn’t figure out what was bugging me until I turned off the television. That’s when I saw them for the first time. They were clear as a bell on the black background. I saw a faint pair of eyes. I freaked out. When I told Jim about it, he stood real close to the tube and said, “Oh, yeah. Probably burned into the screen from a scary movie you were looking at.”
I demanded that he replace the set which he did. The next day, a pair of sexy delivery guys took the old one and put up a newer, sleeker and larger flat screen. I was thrilled. No more eyes. After a while, Jim started to get sick. I told him that he’d been pushing himself too hard since he lost his dad. Meanwhile, I upped his dosage to help speed up his reunion with the nosy coot.
A week later, I saw them again. The eyes had reappeared. They were clearer on the new set. I was scared. I couldn’t breathe. Those eyes were his eyes. They were still rheumy and accusatory, under thickly furrowed eyebrows.
He’s found a way back from death to get at me.
I started screaming. Even as I ran, I couldn’t stop screaming. When I tried to hide in the bathroom, I saw those eyes in the mirror. I ran to the front door hoping to escape the house. But the eyes appeared on the fancy etched glass embedded in the door. I backed away and turned to flee through the patio. I was several paces from the door when I saw his shape form on the sliding glass doors. I don’t know how long I knelt on the floor screaming and crying. I only knew that I couldn’t escape. When Jim came home, I confessed everything.
Now I live in a little room with puffy walls. No one believes me. There are bars on the window, but there’s also glass. I can see his eyes in the glass. He’s still watching me.
Which came first? Nightmares, or my love of horror? I haven’t decided yet. But when quite young I used to feed the beast by reading Crypt Tales comic books and watching scary television shows. I remember scooting up to the old tube television set and watching, gasp, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. It was one of my favorites. Today that old series seems pretty tame, or maybe even lame. But I submit, given the non-computer generated special effects (the word cheesy comes to mind) the storylines were pretty funny before some of them just got plain spooky.
For those not in the know, Carl Kolchak was a rumpled intrepid reporter with a nose for supernatural news. To me, Carl was more lovable than say, the popular Columbo. Carl Kolchak wasn’t a Buffy or a Winchester, but if he could send a monster, vampire, or creature back to Hell, then he was going to do it – perhaps while running away and with some skid marks in his dingy briefs!
Each episode began with light theme music…
Poor, rumpled Carl practically skips into the empty newsroom, whistling. He’s got a story in mind, and it might be a juicy one. He plops at his desk and rolls paper into his typewriter (yes, a typewriter). But too soon darkness encroaches. There’s something in that darkness. By now the theme music has turned sinister. Suddenly, Carl has a look on his face that tells us he knows something hideous is creeping up on him. He spins around. His face is frozen with fear.
Fade to commercial.
It’s a great setup for the episode. As a budding horror writer, I appreciated the time it took to build up that sense of horror. Note to writer: don’t flaunt the horror, instead let the reader’s imagination do your work for you. Hopefully, I’ve learned this lesson well. You have to tell me.
My husband travels. I’m always anxious until he comes home. Just this morning he left me alone for another business trip. I’m not afraid, I tell myself. This house is old and creaky, that’s all.
When he showed up a few hours later, I was so glad that his trip was cut short. I don’t think things went well because he wouldn’t talk. He just came inside and sat down in his favorite chair. After trying to coax a conversation out of him, I give up. When he’s ready to tell me what happened, then he will share. So without any more attempts at conversation, we decide to go to bed.
I turn on the television in the bedroom, and set the television’s timer. I just can’t sleep in total darkness. There are things in the darkness. My husband is accustomed to this bit of silliness, but I can’t deny what I feel.
I fall asleep, but it’s fitful. The bedroom is silent and black when I awaken. I feel odd, like there’s something wrong. Then I hear it, our dog, the diva is still in the backyard. My beloved pooch is barking her head off. Our neighbors will burn us in effigy if I don’t let her in, and soon.
I still feel edgy though. I move sluggishly under heavy quilts. My hubby’s arms are wrapped around me, but a little too tightly. I’m surprised Mr. Stoic didn’t wake up first. He’s usually such a light sleeper. The phone on my nightstand rings, and I squint to read the clock on the DVR. Only 9:30? Seems later than that. I pick up the phone.
“Hey, Babe. You asleep? Aw, I didn’t think you’d go to bed this early. My flight got delayed to Boston. I tried to call you on the house phone but the line was dead. Glad I could get you on the cell. I didn’t want you to be worried…"
My heart stops.
Diva is outside pitching a fit. She knows what I now know.
If my husband is in Boston, then what is in the bed with me wearing his face?
Why do we love vampires? Because they promise eternal life (or youth)? Maybe. They're sexy despite (or because of) that whole drinking blood thing, but only if they turn you. Plus, they have some pretty awesome superpowers like getting mortals to submit to their will. Just think how useful that would be at, say, a bank.
I’m a book reviewer who opts to review anything paranormal, but specifically vampire novels. Part of the reason I love to review books is because they are free, and also because it’s so hard for good writers to get reviews (hint).
The vampire books I review are generally quite good. Some are even impressively awesome. Also, there have been a few that weren’t digestible. When I stumble upon a magnificent find, I usually wonder how long those saucy tales have been stewing around in the authors’ brains.
Mine? A few years before I fleshed out my beloved demon.
Which brings me to the reason for this blog. I have a very unscientific observation about these authors. Have you noticed how vampire books written by men tend to create a scenario where mortals are just blood in bags of skin? According to this narrative, people only good for one thing, as a food source. But the contemporary vampire books written by women are different, they tend to be sexually charged. Their narratives tend to have the endearing innocent tossing aside her inhibitions for an ultimate bad-boy and then descending into a lust-fueled relationship.
My unscientific example? How about Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot versus Charlaine Harris’ True Blood. So I ask you. Which do you prefer? Food or lover?
The house sits on the corner of a well-manicured neighborhood. But it is more than a distinctive blight on an otherwise picturesque street that I notice on my weekly jogs. The house’s Gothic style seems so out place among the trendier homes. The sun had leached all pigment out of its paint until the colorless peeling resembles like gray scaly skin. A tree hovers stood near a rotted porch. Its branches were twisted and black.
Each time I run past the house, I feel a shiver. I know something inside beckons. Even as I stand safely on the opposite side of the street, I'm aware that folks are oblivious to the true evil that has settled on the house like a kind of shroud.
How can they not feel it? Well, I do. I’ve learned long ago to trust my instincts. I tried to change my running routes. Sadly, I’ve started to zone out during my runs and find that all my new routes lead me back to that house. Its broken second floor windows resemble eyes and look down at me while the broken shutters bang against walls, propelled by a nonexistent wind. The damn thing is laughing. I’m trapped by my fear.
Even in my dreams, I can’t escape that house. I’ve gone inside, you see. To me the interior is worse than the godawful exterior because I know evilness is hidden inside the darkness. A trace of daylight allows me to see the abandoned furniture covered with dusty white sheets and cobwebs.
Suddenly, I hear footsteps upstairs, and a long drawn out sigh. The sound is soft, but powerful because I can almost feel it. It is that sound, the sigh, which turns me into stone. It is full of an awareness that a hunger will be satisfied.
The it that lives in the house knows that I’m sensitive. I know that it will feed on my gift…and has been guiding me toward it from the very beginning. Since I’m sensitive, I now know that others like me are still in the house, not dead but not alive either.
When I finally see the creature, I try to scream, but it won’t tear from my throat. I beg my limbs to move, to run, and as if sensing my anguish and perhaps feeding off my fear, the gluttonous creature just laughs.
I’m not afraid of ghosts. Yeah, right. That’s the lie I tell myself when my eyelids flutter open at three in the morning. Sleep is elusive and those dark hours before dawn are just plain creepy. A creative mind can make up mind-numbing creatures out of shadows. At least, I think they’re just shadows?
Let’s face it, we all die. So as I “ponder” my mortality, I have one thought. When my body ceases, will I at least know that I’m dead? I mean, I don’t want to linger. How awful it must be to stay behind instead of crossing over. After all, what keeps a soul here? Is it fear or regret? Is there really a Heaven or Hell? The gothic cross around my throat professes my belief in both.
As the moon glides across the sky and causes the night shadows shift closer to my bed, I consider the plight of ghosts. What if spirits are afraid to move on because they failed to tell a beloved, “I love you,” or, “Please forgive me…?”
This is what I believe; that leaving the mortal coil and embracing the unknown is the true leap of faith.
Suppose I died, from a heart-attack in my sleep probably. What if my spirit were to continue because I didn’t know that I’d died? What if I stay behind operating in an infinite loop quite oblivious that the world has moved on while I haven’t? How do I recognize that I’m stuck like a needle caught in the groove an old vinyl record? Not only that, I might possibly end up scaring folks for a millennium in the process?
As the shadows elongate over my quivering body, I pull the covers up to shield my eyes and huddle next to my sleeping babe of a husband. He’s no protection, but I feel safer.
I can’t stop myself. I have to wonder about this, too…is it me, or have you ever noticed that ghosts have expiration dates? I’ve never heard of a caveman ghost or a ghost that existed beyond a few centuries? Have you? What happens when spirits can’t or just plain refuse to “move on”? Do these specters become mad and powerful enough to de-evolve and become demons?
Sometimes these are the thoughts that haunt me at 3 a.m. When my husband and dog are sound asleep, and in the stillness of a very old house, I wonder if we are really alone.
Stephen King is my friend. He just doesn’t know it. Let’s face it, he just doesn’t know me. But he saved me, nonetheless. I grew up in the housing projects. Enough said, right? Want a dream killer? Grow up in an environment that seems to prep you for prison rather than for college.
I was plain and quiet, let me translate that for you, I was bully meat. I earned straight A’s. Need any more translation than that? Even so, I was overwhelmed by hostile surroundings that had me seeking shelter in my bedroom. Reading was my preferred outlet. I guess I needed pretend horror to help me deal with my reality.
Romance stories were nice with all the hugging and kissing and blending of bodies, but it was horror that stuck with me. It was the scary stories that chilled my bones and kept me wide-eyed alert at night. I loved and still love horror stories.
Stephen King offered me the best get out of hell free tickets. Later on I would find other conductors on my horror train. Anne Rice, Peter Straub and Toni Morrison all could deliver the requisite chills, but Stephen King was always my favorite. Indulging in those chapters was like consuming a satisfying meal. I only hope to be able to do the same.
Let me just say this again. It is an honor to be compared to him.
When my husband goes on a business trip, I’m usually all alone in a big and old house. It’s been around for more than a century and I suspect folks have died in it. That’s my suspicion and I’m sticking to it.
Late at night, I hear things. If my dog, Cherie, doesn’t respond to those noises then I know everything’s alright. But there are times when she will look up at me as if I am supposed to investigate. Well, I know then that we have a problem. Because “I’m” not going anywhere.
Her response to fear is to piddle and run. That should be my response too!
Ultimately I will investigate the strange sound, but with a good deal of caution. I’m not looking for anything natural, you understand. I’m seeking out a supernatural source. I’m looking to see if a humanlike shadow will pinch off wall, or if the woman in the mirror will morph into a fiend, or worse will she suddenly stop matching my actions! By the way, was that the wind or a howling scream?
I think I hear someone scratching at the door. Hold on a sec. I will be right back…aaaah!