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The Babel Frequency by David Wright

It was as if a giant magnet had passed across the earth and erased the collective hard-drive of humanity.

The woman woke from fitful sleep, her hair drenched with sweat, the visions of the dream world still fresh in her consciousness.This was the most important time. Only in sleep could she remember the past.  Only in the dream world did she truly know who she was and what things were.  But there was a danger, for in the dream world, dead men walked. 

“Dead men walking.  Dead men walking.  Dead men walking.”  Her breath came in short gasps, racing in rhythm to the quickening beat of her heart.  She began to shake violently.  She felt as if she were about to die, alone in a dark empty world.  She was about to scream out into the darkness when strong arms wrapped around her from above.  They held her tightly as if to squeeze the fear out of her heart and the breath out of her words.  She remembered the arms.  They were her lover’s arms.  Slowly, her lips stopped moving and the fear ebbed from her like water from the shore.

Three nights ago, she saw the city out her apartment window.  It was alive with the sound, motion and purpose of ten million souls.  It pulsed to the rhythm of their heartbeats.  It breathed with the inhale and exhale of their lungs.  Until, in a moment, in the first moment, the once vibrant city was thrown violently into chaos.  She didn’t know why it happened or how.  In fact, she knew almost nothing at all–not the time of day, not the meaning of a word, not even her own name, only the warm touch of her lover and the unspoken knowledge that they must stay together.  As they huddled in terror, the city died all around them, and dream by dream their memories came back–frightened birds returning to their cages.

“I saw them again,” Lyra began.

“Hush.”  Her lover rocked her slowly.  Darren—that was his name.  She remembered.

“No, Darren.”  She tried the name for the first time in three days.  “I must tell you.  They’re real.  Their skulls are white like…like the moon.  Their eyes sunken in.  No skin, but their hearts are still beating.  They walk, and when they catch you, they drag you down to death, and they burn you with fire, and you can’t get away, no matter how hard you fight.”

“Just a dream.” 
“No.”  Lyra pushed his lover’s hands down and reached into his pocket for the picture box.  It was one of the few things Darren had on him before zero hour and until a few minutes ago Lyra had not known how to use it.  Her fingers paused over the light emitting paper for only a second before touching the icon and bringing the ghoulish apparition to life.  “I saw this.”

Darren looked at the ghoul with distaste.  She knew her lover had not yet dreamed of dead men walking, but she knew others had.  She saw them in the night, huddled under benches or in doorways, shaking and screaming until their hearts stopped and their last breath wheezed out of them.

“Just like before.  Just like the first time.”  She looked into her lover’s black, sunken eyes–blank eyes that seemed to know only fear and confusion.  Over his shoulder, the first rays of sunlight were snaking their way into the bowels of the dead city.  Lyra and her lover stood, viewed the giant green woman over the water as she moved into the light, and once again set off in search of something, anything they could remember.

Hours passed.  Lyra grew hungry like she had yesterday and the day before that, but not knowing what food was, she could not satisfy her hunger.  She became thirsty, but knew nothing of drink.  They came to an intersection where, three days ago, the cars had crashed into one another or slammed into bewildered pedestrians who had wandered into their path.  Dead bodies, some with dried blood caked on their faces and in their hair, sat peacefully in the cars and under them.  The traffic light was still changing from green to amber to red with undaunted precision.  The smell of death choked at Lyra’s lungs and tugged at her empty stomach until she gagged.  She remembered the horror of zero hour and dragged her lover away.

Over the last three days and nights, Lyra had watched without understanding as, depending on their size and condition, people began to die.  The small ones were the first to go as their fathers and mothers wandered aimlessly away forgetting the once familiar sound of their children’s cries and leaving them to starve helplessly.  Lyra was more fortunate than most.  On that first night, she had dreamed of her lover, the burn of his unshaven face and the odor of his unwashed body.  Lyra had awoken from her dream to find her lover nearby, quietly watching the bugs gather around a streetlight.  Since that time, they had never been apart.   

Even now, baffling visions from the dream world were cycling without meaning through her mind.  A woman, her mother, her soft lips, the warm touch of her hand. 

They stopped at the corner before the next intersection.  Large buildings rose on either side of the street blocking all sunlight.  She remembered seeing a woman at this intersection two days ago.  The woman was not her mother.  She was screaming in terror at the sight of a cat or a fallen bird that had forgotten how to fly.  Cat.  Bird.  She remembered these words although she did not know them two days ago, or yesterday.

Her birthday cake.  Ten candles.  The smell of chocolate.  Hot dogs.  Her mother’s quiet, sad voice.  Turkey in the oven on… on Christmas.  Burned meat.  The smell of burned meat.

Lyra was not dreaming now.  She smelled burned meat and remembered.  She remembered the taste.  She remembered cutting the flesh and feeling it warm her tongue.  She remembered chewing and the cold splash of ice cold Coca-Cola as it ignited sparks down her throat. 

Lyra pulled her lover down Park Avenue in the direction of the smell.  She stopped in front of a shop window.  Inside, the blackened flesh of some animal was still turning and smoking over a skillet.  Lyra walked blindly into the window, bruising her forehead.  She banged on the window with her hands.  Her blows grew fierce as the scent of burned meat grew and burned in her nostrils.  The smell of burned meat.  Frantic, now, with memory, she smashed at the window with her hands and knees.  The window shattered.  With bloody hands, Lyra ripped at the blackened carcass.  The taste of ash and flesh.
#
“Dead men walking.  Dead men.  Dead men.” 

Lyra woke from the deep sleep without dreams.  The room was dark but warm.  She heard screaming, her lover’s scream.

“Dead men.  Dead men.”

Lyra fumbled in the darkness until she’d found her lover’s shaking body.  Lyra tried to put her arms around him, tried to squeeze the fear out of him, but she was pushed aside by his strong arms.

“Dead men.  Dead men.”  Darren’s chanting grew louder and more urgent.  Lyra struggled to hold him down.  She pulled on the big man’s arms and legs.  She grabbed her lover’s hair and scratched at his face trying desperately to wake him, only to be thrown down again and again until one final blow knocked her head savagely against the wall.  In the distance, she heard her lover’s frantic screams grow to a crescendo and then stop.  Exhausted and badly beaten, Lyra crawled across the cold pavement in the direction of the last scream until she found Darren’s motionless body.  Lyra was just in time to feel her lover’s heart stop and the last breath wheeze out of him.

     Lyra stayed with her lover’s lifeless body for two days.  There was hardly anything left alive, now, in the city, except flies and maggots.  She awoke on the sixth day to see them feeding on her lover’s eyes.  She tried to brush them away, but they were coming out from the inside.  Lyra couldn’t breath.  The smell.  The pain of hunger gripped her once again.  

Lyra returned to the store with the burned meat, but the meat had been almost completely devoured by bugs.  Lyra smelled burning once again, but this time the smell did not bring to mind memories of food.  It was an unpleasant smell, a repulsive smell.  The narrow streets were filling with smoke.  Lyra’s lips were bleeding. 

She pushed on, falling from time to time but feeling no pain.  She found herself in the trees when the lights went out. 

Lyra was still alive when her picture box began talking.  They were there on her picture box.  The ghouls.

“Unit thirteen, take the next block on Park Avenue to the trees.  Clean it top to bottom.  Should take the rest of the morning.”

There was silence again and the box went dark.  Then another ghoul appeared.

“I hope not.  This place is beginning to stink.” 

The box went black again.  Lyra listened.  Light was cutting a wedge on the grass.  She could not move.  She’d dreamed again–skating in the snow in a place she remembered–two blocks away.  She was only seven or eight.  It was cold.

“Dickie, hold up.”

Another ghoul appeared on Lyra’s picture box.  The ghoul reached his white hands up and took off his white, eyeless, faceless skull.  Lyra was surprised to see another head underneath, a human head.

“Dickie, I know we’re at war, but this is…  I mean, look at all these people, all these bodies.  What did this—a bomb?”  The ghoul spoke.  His voice was deep and his speech slow.

“Well, it’s not actually a bomb.  It’s a virus, a computer virus.”  The second ghoul appeared on the box.  He, too, had a human head under his white skull.

“A computer virus did this?” 

“A special computer virus–the first computer virus to be successfully transmitted from hardware to wetware.  These poor suckers caught the virus from the ultra low frequencies emitted by their digital equipment–their computers, their cell phones, their calculators–and they died.”

“Yeah, but how?”

“The virus counts down in their brains to zero hour, then it savagely attacks the fear centers of the brain with visions of death so terrifying that either their heart stops or their brain, in defense, wipes the slate clean.   It wipes out their memories.  They forget how to eat and walk and talk, and then they just die.  Either way, they die.”

“What if they’re not all dead?  I mean, what if we see some survivors?”

The second man shook his head.  “We can’t take a chance of it spreading.”

“So.  What do we do?”

The second man shrugged.  “Dead men walking.”

The first man put his helmet back on.  “Tough way to go,” he said and flamed another body.

Lyra looked up from the picture box to see smoke rising from the trees.  They were coming closer.
 

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Melissa’s Hobby by Sean Glasheen

When I was in my twenties, recovering from that whole drunk delirium of being a teenager, I joined the army. I was a good soldier; I tied my laces, buckled my helmet, straightened my sheets, and listened to my superiors. And it was all a waste of time; when bullets flew, and blood became a more common sight than friendly faces, I was transformed from a man to a coward to a thing. Just a thing; for they had no name for the gun-wielding robot I’d become.

Nevertheless, I survived those times, and I was known-–for some reason–-as a war hero. But I knew the truth of it all.
I was no hero, just a man who did his best to dodge bullets, and fired back blindly in the direction of people’s brothers, sons and fathers. These poor souls now swim in the depths of the Styx, a line of dead souls splitting the planes of hell; they will have no war stories for the ears of eager grandchildren, and they will never gaze at medals hanging above their mantle. They will have no wounds, because they themselves are the bloody wounds of war. I’ve seen brain escape from its skull prison and decorate walls – it became regular, like I was living in Hannibal’s art gallery; I’ve seen brother kill brother in the depths of battle, a gloved fist pushed through the intestines to pave a jagged tunnel out the back, a viscous spray of family blood onto an awe-struck face-–crimson red on pale white. I’ve seen insides ripped out by bare hands and eaten in the delirium of the desert-heat. I’m a veteran, and I’ve seen everything. The story I’m about to tell you is one I can only write; the words refuse to leave my mouth, and I will not let them seep into the universe. Nothing of war prepared me for it. Nothing will ever be right again.

My wife was a great woman. When all of this mess happened she was two years younger than me, thirty-three. It is twenty years later now, and I can still remember that particular feeling I got every time I looked at her. Her skin was creamy, and smooth to the touch, as if God had mixed silk into the blend at birth. Her hair was like a brunette waterfall; cascading down past her neck in waves to break upon a surface no water ever had the pleasure–-her porcelain shoulders. Any run-away streams escaped and fell loose down her seductively curved back or her perfect chest. To not be able to meet her angelic lips–red like the finest rubies–with my own would be a fate worse than death, a doom more terrifying than any version of hell. Her eyes sparkled like no diamonds known to man; they were a deadly trap, and I could have stayed happily in that blue prison until the end of my days. Each time they closed it was like the sun had set in my world, and each time they opened a new milestone was added to the history of beauty. She was also kind; her spirit was just as bright as those eyes, and she wasn’t afraid to let it shine on those less fortunate–it was one of the reasons she’d become a social worker. Deep at the heart of some lost soul’s drug problem or a family’s torment, she sat and spun her generous webs. She was a good soul, a precious gem humanity was never worthy enough to receive and the divines never had the right to take.

“Push me higher Daddy! Higher!” My son yelled. His pre-pubescent voice soared to such heights I could feel my eardrums pulse beneath it, yet it filled my heart with happiness.

The swing sailed through the air and back again like a Viking ship over tidal waves, and my little boy was the captain. His pointed feet stabbed out into the air, a protest to gravity if there ever was one; they were the mast-head. Marcus had developed a hedge of fine white hair atop his head–not gold, not grey, but beautifully pristine white, and it became lost against the background of clouds behind him. At a first glance he seemed to be dangling from them, like he was one with the sky and the air–above humanity and everything else mundane, simply pure. He was happy to steer his own craft for a daring moment, and in that time I turned to see my wife baking behind the kitchen window. Her shape punctured the escaping wall of light, resembling something angelic, and it blew me a kiss. I made sure to catch it swiftly and plant it on my lips before turning back to my airborne son, for such delights are rare in this world, and when I did turn back it was with a renewed vigour–the kind that only true love can bestow.

“Come on Marcus; it’s bed time. The night-night trip is waiting.” With a sound like an engine shutting down, a heavy whoosh, I slowed my son to a halt and plucked him from the wooden seat.
I’d made the swing-set five years beforehand–when he was still just a toddler–with the hope that one day he could get such happiness from it. Seeing him depart with a smile on his face, his eyelids fluttering to fight the battle against their descent, always gave me a warm feeling. And by the time we’d reached the back door, having crossed the small sea of patio slabs, the descent would have won.

I gently pulled the door shut behind us, passed Melissa with a finger to my lips, and tip-toed the kid to his room. After leaving the kitchen we crossed through a small hallway. It was lit by motion-sensor lights, dotting the walls in uniform rows. There were two oak doors on either side before a stairs at the end; on the left there was the master bedroom and the living room, and on the right there was Marcus’ playroom and my study. The wallpaper was a deep wine red, and the carpet matched perfectly. We had an architect design the house on the basis ‘We don’t really mind how it looks, as long as it’s easy and comfortable.’ And so, he’d given us a present from the basement of his imagination. The stairs–its entrance through an arch, not a door–spanned the entire width of the hallway, and twisted up to the second story, in which rested only three rooms. There was Marcus’ bedroom, accompanied by a big family bathroom and Melissa’s hobby room. The hobby room was always locked, but she’d shared with me what went on in there once–it was a conversation I’ll never forget. Séances, Ouija boards, voodoo dolls; my wife had a fascination with the occult, and she didn’t buy into the danger of it like most do. Whatever she was looking at, whether she knew she was looking at it or not, was either dead or of another world; she figured there was no risk involved. As for me, I’d seen what true evil was–it came in the form of machetes, machine guns and frescoes of blood painted on walls that will forever hold nightmarish memories. My years of service had stained the innocent side of my mind with corrupt memories, and so, I was perfectly fine with Melissa messing about with some wooden boards and straw dolls.

I led Marcus up the stairs quietly–the second step always creaked–and again met an array of motion-sensor lights walking down the hall to his bedroom. When they flicked on the brightness consumed me, swallowed me into its warm embrace. I passed the bathroom on the right, the surface of its door adorned with a drawing from Marcus which read ‘Poop Palace’ and had a small crude shape underneath coloured in with brown Crayola. I just stopped my hand from tearing it down; the army had indeed left hidden in my brain some residue compulsion to have everything respectable and organised, but I wouldn’t take it so far as to ruin my son’s art. Also, war had turned me hostile to all things military; even so much as scolding Marcus reminded me too much of petty drill sergeants–I left that distasteful corner of parenthood to Melissa. I was always perfectly happy being the nice Dad.

When I passed Melissa’s hobby room, I got the strangest feeling. It wasn’t so much like there was somebody watching me, but more like there was something inside me–some kind of frost that I couldn’t thaw off, not for the rest of the night. It was the marrow in my bones and the blood running through my veins; it shadowed my thoughts and observed the gallery of my imagination; it was me, yet it was something devious, some kind of virus. I felt infected, invaded. It would only be later, after a string of events I still can’t fully comprehend, that I would really remember that feeling of an intruder. Cold as a corpse in the ocean, I reached Marcus’ door and put him to bed.

Soon, night had once again turned to day. But darkness had not yet relinquished its reign on the house; there was a different kind approaching, and in its ranks marched an inevitable doom.

“Love you kiddo. Be good in school, okay?” Melissa patted Marcus on the head, and he took off towards the gate where a big yellow bus waited. I’d been bullied in school, which was one of the reasons I’d ventured into the military. For me, that bus looked like a reptilian monster, hopefully crawling off to die as it tore down the road with my son. Its wheels, throwing dirt into the country air in waves, screeching against their years of use, made the promise of my head being pushed into a whirlpool of green tissue. And those kinds of promises were always kept.

That morning came painfully after a night spent with Melissa. It was a reminder that no matter how strong a love can be, time is obsolete; you can always count on a tomorrow, but the butterflies in your stomach may yet turn to stone. They are, as simply as you and I are, victims to the passing of years–something from which we shall never be freed. Somehow my wife’s shining face ignored this law. It burrowed into my head and my heart like a drill, twisting and spinning through my being, littering my sense with romance. I didn’t mind; love never blinded me, for it had nothing to hide. Time has left me with more wrinkles than teeth, more sorrow than happiness and more memories than friends. But when I think about the roses blooming in her cheeks and delicious lips, it all means nothing.

This thought ran through my head as I watched her dress. She put her clothes on so casually and care-free that I had to lean back in bed and smile; it wasn’t how I would act when dealing with such a masterpiece–I would move each finger only with her permission, and even then slowly; I was a slave to her power. The graceful curve of her buttocks as it became her lower-back; the pictures her hair painted as it spilled across her naked chest and shoulders; her movements so like those of angels dancing, fluid and beautiful. She was the physical embodiment of my love and my lust, and I knew I could be one with her for an eternity–even longer; we would travel past the reaches of time and become ethereal, a constellation in the skies of Aphrodite. She always was my shining star.

The walls were grey and dreary, but they were adorned with an array of mysterious items. Between Ouija boards, pictures of seemingly ‘possessed’ people and ghost sightings, shelves lined with somehow cursed items and demonic books, and a display of satanic symbols reminiscent of the devil’s bedroom, the place was a throbbing tribute to the occult. In the bird’s eye view of three-eyed crows, it lit up like an evil Christmas tree. Melissa always had taken an interest to anything strange; in school she was the girl who shadowed the bullied kids, waiting for an opportunity to snatch up a friendship with an outsider; in work she sometimes followed people merely to see what a day in their life was like; she was always in search of something barely ahead of her, chasing something that always matched her speed–normality, she figured, was a stop on the train of life too many people departed at; she refused to take that exit. She was riding that train into the fog of the unknown, and any risks were like the conductor’s voice over the intercom; nobody payed attention.

She took her usual seat like she would sit down to a Sunday lunch as opposed to a demonic gathering; there was a very limited amount of furniture–two hardback wooden chairs with a glass coffee-table in between them–but with Satan’s arsenal painting the walls the room was far from empty. The white Ouija board sat in front of her, and the air around it seemed to pulse with some kind of aura. Nothing could be seen or heard, but she felt it as much as she could feel her finger move to straighten the pointer. She didn’t need to ask if it was there this time–she knew it was there. She knew that it was sitting across the table, looking at her, envying each breath like it was a treasure. She knew that it was there. And she knew that it was watching her.

Hands planted on the pointer like an architect over blueprints, so precise with her delicate fingers, she glided the tool around the field of letters. It sometimes reminded her of childhood board-games, ways they would pass the time in the abyss of pre-technology, but she somehow didn’t see the line between ‘entertainment’ and ‘too far’. Letter to letter, word to word, she was paving the path to something otherworldly. The problem was that as she paved that path, and opened that tunnel, she created two lanes. And something was smiling at her.

Melissa, unbeknownst to her husband, her mother in England, even her son Marcus, was bored with the repetition of life. She was stuck on a rollercoaster that never left the ground, doomed to watch more impressive ones paint the horizon. Her hatred for normality, the hatred that pillared the construct of her personality, surpassed even the love she held for her family. She had come upon something very dangerous indeed–realization of her own insignificance. One thought–one idea–had plagued her every day since the first communication. One important decision left unmade in her head. One line was given to the spirits that day.

“I’m ready for you; take me.” And along with Melissa’s consciousness, light abandoned. The room was hurled into a world of malevolent black – a black where evil gave birth.
In that black, it lived.

#

It was eight o’clock that evening when I heard the door slam shut, and the slow footsteps follow. I didn’t realize it then, but thinking back on it those footsteps held an echo with them. It still rings in my ears; when I hear the Angeles from the church bells, or the cuckoo of the bird in my clock, I can hear those footsteps caressing some fear deep inside, stoking a flame that should have turned to dead embers long ago. I was downstairs failing to bake a cake–it was Marcus’ birthday the following day–and my hands were deep into the jam-layered turmoil they’d created when the noise came. Marcus was outside, managing for the first time to push himself on the swings without fear, and he looked happier than ever. In between the heaves of his Viking ship back and forth, he would take moments to smile and wave at me, his white air trailing after him as he flew. It was in the middle of one of these waves that the noise came. It was just as the sun retreated from its post and nestled down beneath a bank of trees on the horizon, just as the world descended into a sea of darkness and I called for Marcus to come in, that the noise came.

Marcus ran in at the exact moment I’d resorted to my combat knife and stabbed the heap of ingredients that was his cake right down the middle. The blade split through the mass of crumbs, jam and blue icing and buried its tip into the chopping board beneath. I grimaced noticeably–I’d seen too many of those same steel tips find homes in flesh, and the memory of wielding such a thing forced the butt of my palm to my temple. I soothed the pain, huddled against the counter-top like an elder, and my son pointed out immediately the resemblance between my hurt state and my bill-paying state. I began to chuckle at his wit, a merry intrusion upon my frustration; he was a young boy, and for him to be able to think in such ways sometimes astounded me. I was just about to offer him an early plate of my self-labelled ‘cake surprise’–before his mother came down to see and I fell victim to embarrassment–when the breathing stopped me. It stopped us both. That deathly silence took my chuckling hostage, and to this day I have never retrieved it.

From the left of us, right down the pitch-black hallway which led to the stairs, came what seemed like the noise of a broken vent. I would have thought it too struggled to be human breathing, but I could make out the inhalation and exhalation. It was ragged, like that of a dying man, a dagger twisted deep in his lungs. The noise was like the winds of war travelling across a battlefield, carrying with them cries of eminent despair, wails of death so vicious I covered my ears. It was the noise of true evil. The cake fell to the floor, and the paintings it created were reminiscent of devil worship. It was like Melissa’s hobby room had somehow manifested itself into the foundation of the house, like the roots of our home had engaged in a lover’s embrace with the branches of the trees of hell. And it was right then, tuning to that horrible sound, that I got the same chilled feeling of an invader in my body. I could feel it crawling along my bones, burrowing through to rot the marrow. I could feel it twisting around my spine and grabbing hold. I could feel it call to something deep down inside my soul, and I was rejecting that call. My whole being seemed to be violated by some incessant plague, and it began to shiver out of my control. My skin felt like there was an army of freezing spiders surging across it in waves; my thoughts were contaminated, for they now projected a reel of torturous images: slaughter, rape, war, famine, hunger–all manners of cruelty were flashing before my eyes; I was witnessing the history of everything wrong with the world. And what scared me more than absolutely anything, was that in between each image was a momentary flicker of my wife’s face–changed.

Finally, it stopped.

I lay breathless on the kitchen floor, my son’s hand curled into my own as he wept beside me. I could feel his tears on my skin, cold and wet and filled with innocence. The breathing had quietened to a halt, but it was like the hush of the wind in the depths of a storm; I knew it would not last. My head creaked sideways on the floor and once again, I dared a glance at that dark hallway. The motion sensors had not come on; I figured whatever it was that had made the noise hadn’t left the stairs yet. Giving my son the instructions to stay where he was, no matter what he saw, I stood on trembling legs. Each step from then on took me closer to that wall of blackness; each step was a step towards hell; each step was one of the last steps not carrying haunted memories that I’ve ever taken. Sweat gathered in rolling beads down along my forehead and cheeks like rain on a window, and it sunk–almost cowering–into the embrace of my upper lip.
The darkness was overwhelming as I entered the hallway; I could feel the other world hiding behind our own generous facade. Like a visor had been taken from my eyes, all was revealed at once. The untainted malice punctuated the story-line of every horror movie I have ever seen, made it real. I could feel my soul shrouded in a satanic residue, one that has not since lifted. My eyes began to dart left and right, panicking beneath the weight of that unyielding blackness. It was no longer a simple absence of light; it was something physical, the embodiment of the deepest recesses of imagination, a force that nothing of heaven would ever reckon with.

My courage had taken me halfway through that insidious tunnel when the workings of hell punctured my normal life. My face was a puddle of sweat from which protruded my petrified eyes; my tongue felt like a weighted slug in my mouth; my feet could carry me no more into the sea of shadow. The second step on the stairs creaked.
It happened in the space of a second; there was the creak, the break in the silence coming like the first spill of paint on an evil canvas, and then there were the lights. They had returned like an old friend coming to strip me of fear, and for a moment I was standing in the yard pushing Marcus on the swings; I was lying in bed with the woman I loved; I was attempting to bake a cake. I was back in my own world, rescued from the evils of this new apocalyptic plane. Then my eyes moved–like fish darting beneath the surface of a shallow river, such was my sweaty face–and settled upon her, now hovering above that creaking second step.

She was garbed in her white night-gown, coming down to her knees, frayed and torn; hair still fell upon her shoulders, but it was burned a dark shade, and the shoulders were no longer porcelain–they were blackened to match the rest of her skin, as if she had rolled through carpets of ash. Her whole body was cobwebbed in deep cracks, a road-map of hell, cut-out rivers flowing in deep crevasses around her flesh. Large pores marked their devious sources like tiny volcanoes, oozing thick blood into them. Her fingers–the flesh of most ripped to shreds and glistening red beneath the black, curled into gnarled talons; they looked fit to tear still-beating hearts from chests, ending in dirty elliptical claws, plastered in layers of grime. Her feet were the same–dirty, clawed, and bloody–and they hung in the air six inches above the step. I took it all in, and then my eyes travelled to her face–once a mirror upon which beauty gazed. Now nothing of beauty remained.

Fangs hung where teeth used to be, a jagged horizon cresting black infected gums. Her lips were thin and cracked, drained of life by whatever presence dwelled within. Saliva nestled into those cracks, and from there it flowed down her chin and departed. Her tongue was a livid black mess behind that wall of spikes, throbbing with each beat of the diseased heart inside her chest. Her nose ran dark blood down her face to rest on her lips, before intruding upon the rotting cave of her mouth. The flesh of her left cheek was decaying into a nightmarish hole, and even as I watched it grew larger.

From where my wife used to wield the most beautiful set of eyes that ever held hostage a hopeless romantic, peered two unyielding white orbs. Manic lines flitted across their pale surface like dancers, and thin red protrusions bordered them where eyelids were nowhere to be seen. No pupils rested at their centre, but in the emptiness the promise of eternal doom was made. And when I stared into it, my soul sealed a binding contract with whatever now presided over her body. I knew, just like I’d known my love for Melissa and Marcus, that even if I survived my mind would be poisoned, and my life rendered worthless.

As I stood, awestruck and dumb, her head snapped upward with a violent creak, the bones of her once-smooth neck jutting out in lumps. Her mouth opened wide, spewing blood and other vile liquids, and something inside her let out a deep, rasping laugh. It was a sound so truly malevolent that I shall never rid it from the annals of my mind. It bore a hole through my soul and rested there, echoing endlessly, battering down any innocence I may have possessed. Her hateful eyes burned a tunnel in me, and in a split-second the demon made its move.
Before I knew I was flying through the air, I’d smashed against the kitchen counter on which rested Marcus’ cake surprise, my vertebrae crunching in a deathly chorus on impact. Pain flowed outward from my spine and sung a satanic hymn through my entire body, its voice rising with every passing second. And even as thoughts of getting to my feet first appeared, her bloody scarred form had descended upon me–from the ceiling.

The weight was unnatural, and it pressed down on me like amplified gravity; there was no hope of resistance. The smell was putrid; it was a bitter concoction of rotting meat, eggs and sulphur, and I gagged relentlessly as it invaded my nostrils. Her eyes were, for but a single moment, an inch away from mine, and I could feel hell’s contents seeping out of them, aching to break through and contaminate me as it had my wife. I searched for Melissa somewhere in those eyes, somewhere in the deep white recesses, and I saw nothing but death. Then they were pulled back, and a tornado of claws and fangs savaged my face.

As my screams and the rasping cackle of the demon filled the room and danced a cursed waltz together, my skin and flesh were torn off like wrapping paper, and they flew through the air to leave rainbows of blood in their wake. I could feel my body drain of energy, my nightmares take hold of my consciousness and pollute all sanity, my life shift into a land of turmoil and destruction; beneath that terrible laugh and the glistening of blood-coated fangs, I could feel death encroaching. Its hold was tight on my grief-stricken soul, ready to pull me away to the underworld. Then it simply left.

The claws subsided. The cackle ceased to a wheezing hiss, accompanied by short spurts of blood, spraying my face and chest. The presence of frost and evil still shadowed my aching bones, but its source was no longer there. I could feel it give way; I could hear its whimper and its breaths run silent. Something devious had passed from this world, a world in which it never belonged. It had faded into the currents of the Styx, just another streak of black flowing through the depths. My ruined angel simply slumped against my shredded body, and through my one good eye I made out the glint of steel protruding from her back. The blade was buried up to the hilt in flesh I once held so precious; the woman who had dominated my hopes and dreams, made true my every wish, now had my knife jutting from her spine.

My son stood behind the dead thing; his hand was splashed with a small bloody pattern and his face suggested a horror too unseen to describe. Tears ran from his eyes with no end in sight, tears Melissa would once have wiped off. For long seconds we remained there, frozen, crying, my body a raked mess of blood and ripped clothes, his hands shaking with the guilt of killing the person he loved more than anybody. We were trapped in a cocoon of shock, our thoughts too infected to be put to words and our expressions saying everything that need be said. Then my son did something I shall never forget. It was an after-taste of the horror, something I never could have expected, and something to this day I pray I never could have stopped.

Marcus–his thoughts muddled with confusion and guilt–ripped the combat knife from his mother’s back, that same back on which he’d gotten endless piggy backs, and without a second thought he plunged it into the soft flesh of his neck. Gargle upon gargle, little hands plunging into the air for some invisible comfort, and breath turn to wheeze beside the remains of his loving mother, Marcus had gone to join her. And all the while, his cake surprise remained on the floor, waiting for a birthday that never came.

END

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Self-identity and Fiction

The vampire. A creature of the night that embodies charisma, strength, and control. Attributes that most either aspire for, or long to be the subject of. The curse of being abandoned, exiled, and forgotten may even seem trivial when fear and power are weighted in.

In short, the vampire is characterized in such a way to bring out admiration, desire, and fantasy. So, is it any surprise that some people wish to role play as a vampire? Dress, tslk, sleep, and eat as if the creature described in in various vampire folklore.

But what happens when fantasy becomes reality? When role play shifts from a hobby to a full lifestyle change? Or even when people dedicate their whole being, and the rearing of their children to the fantasy?

Apparently, this happens more often than you might think. Therapists have helped people through identification troubles. Situations that some may even say are much more important because they’re real and effect a bigger population such as gender identification. Vampire identification, and other fantasy based identification, is very real though, and requires a similar delicate approach.

How do you convince someone that believes, truly believes they are a vampire that they’re not? Should it even matter? Well, raising children on artifical blood is a major alarm for me. A grown ass adult to do whatever as long as they don’t hurt anybody as far as in concerned.

Would you say that they’re delusional and need help? To me, it seems like they’re trying to avoid something from personal experience. They take on what they desire as to not be their undesired self. In that case, is it therapeutic? If it helps to cope with a tragedy to believe you’re something, even fantasy based, then what is the problem? Is there a problem?

But what do you think?

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Kiss Me Like You Love Me Review

Do remember those moments, when you’re reading through your favorite book, and the author goes on and on about the details of a coat? Looking at you Anne Rice.

What would it be like to read a gripping, engrossing story that doesn’t pussy-foot around the point? What about a story that doesn’t have all that cumbersome filler and delivers an entertaining experience from cover to cover?

It would be Kiss Me Like You Love Me by Wednesday Lee Friday.

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A horrific yet humorous tale that delves deep into the mind of a serial killer with mommy issues. Sounds familiar, and may even sound a bit tired for the genre. But it’s so much more than just another copy. Kiss Me Like You Love Me stands on its own with a narrative that flows like a train on consciousness. Wednesday Lee Friday’s unique style gives each paragraph energy to keep you engaged, and the tone may even have you sad for characters you should hate.

And for those that struggle to find time to enjoy a good read, take this as an example. I received a copy of Kiss Me Like You Love Me last night and stormed through it this morning, losing track of time, losing previous stress, and feeling like I went through an experience I would surely read again today.

Kiss Me Like You Love Me by Wednesday Lee Friday is highly recommended.

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The Walking Deceased Review

“Carrrrooolll!”

What’s that? Oh, it’s just another episode of The Walking Dead, a zombie themed drinking game where you down a shot of Southern Comfort each time Rick does his routine yell for Carol!

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A drinking game is what you surely need to sit through some of the boring episodes, but there isn’t enough Carol to reach that good place.

But now with the Walking Deceased you can catch all your favorite Rick “Carol” moments back to back and end up so smashed that season 2 of the Walking Dead becomes somewhat bearable.

Walking Deceased also has other forget able characters from other mainstream zombie films, but don’t worry. You’ll be so fucking drunk you’ll find even the most cringest moments hilarious.

The Walking Decease: the perfect Walking Dead drinking game!

I mean, that is its winning quality.

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In the Garden by Jill Hand

Kayleigh always came back.  I told that to the two cops, the big, friendly one with the gap-toothed smile, his blonde hair cropped to a stubble, and the older, black one with acne scars on his cheeks who constantly chewed spearmint gum and didn’t say much.  Sure, we sometimes fought like cats and dogs and she’d storm off, proclaiming that she was done with my lazy ass for good this time, but she always came back.

“I know how that is, son.  Women love drama even more than they love shopping,” the friendly one said, smiling his gap-toothed smile.  He pushed the can of soda that I’d asked for toward me across the metal table in the little room.  It was good and cold, the sides of the can beaded with drops of condensation.  I popped the top and took a long drink. 

The room had a mirror on one wall that I knew from watching crime shows wasn’t a mirror at all, but a piece of one-way glass behind which someone (or more than one someone) was probably observing me.  The big cop asked me to go over it again for him and Sargent Woodhouse, if I didn’t mind.  When was the last time I saw her?”
So I went over it again.

The fight we had that Friday night was over something utterly ridiculous.  Our fights were frequently over trivial things, like who neglected to refill the water in the Keurig or who left the banana peel on the kitchen sink. This one erupted over the burning issue of which way the toilet paper should go in the wall holder in the bathroom of our cramped little apartment: facing out, toward the toilet and the person seated thereupon, or inward, toward the wall. I insisted that it should go facing out.  Kayleigh took the opposing position in the great toilet paper debate of 2015.

The argument rapidly became heated and accusations flew.  She called me a lazy piece of shit who needed to get a real job.  I called her a controlling bitch who wouldn’t be happy until I was chained to a desk, like her dad.  I believe I may also have informed her that it was at times like these that she reminded me forcefully of her mother, a dreadful harridan who chain-smoked Kools and had an uncanny resemblance to Hermann Göring, both in appearance and in temperament.

The fight culminated in Kayleigh hurling the roll of toilet paper at the bathroom wall, where it rebounded and splashed into the toilet.  Grabbing her backpack, she exited the premises.  That was eight days ago.  I haven’t seen her since.  This was the third time the cops had asked me to come down to the station and go over her disappearance.  I was getting tired of telling the same story over and over. 

“Where do you think she went?” asked the black cop, Woodhouse, exhaling spearmint fumes in my direction.  I said I didn’t know.  When she hadn’t come home by Sunday night, I called around to all her friends, asking if they’d seen her.  They hadn’t.  Next I called the restaurant where she worked part-time and asked if anyone there had seen her.  No one had.  Reluctantly, I called her parents’ house.  Her mother answered the phone and said Kayleigh hadn’t been there.  She seemed pleased when I told her we’d had an argument.

“I’ll certainly tell her to call you if she turns up here,” she said sweetly, leaving no doubt in my mind that she intended to do nothing of the sort.

“She didn’t take her car.  It’s still parked in front of your building,” the friendly cop observed.  His name was Van Horn, I now remembered, the same as my eight-grade home room teacher.  He asked if I thought she might have gotten a ride from someone.
Kayleigh wasn’t in the habit of accepting rides from strangers, but she may have gone off with someone she knew, possibly someone from school.  She was in her senior year of college, studying to become a special education teacher.  It was where we’d met.  I’d dropped out when I became bored by my political science classes and disenchanted with the idea of furthering my education with another boring, grueling and expensive four years of law school.

While trying to decide what to do next, I helped my Uncle Pete, who went around to estate sales, looking for valuable antiques that were being offered for sale at bargain basement prices by the unwitting relatives of the deceased.

He’d poke through a cluster of odds and ends laid out on a picnic table in somebody’s garage and come up with a dusty china figurine of a grinning monkey wearing a sailor hat.  He’d say, “My sister’s little girl would like this.  How much do you want for it?”  The person running the sale would hesitatingly ask for ten dollars, which Pete would bargain down to five, all the while knowing full well that the funny-looking monkey was eighteenth-century Meissen porcelain that would sell for about three thousand dollars in one of the fancy antiques stores in the city.

Uncle Pete was what was called a “picker” — a middleman who sold what he bought at a fat profit to antique dealers, who subsequently sold what they bought from him at an even fatter profit.

I was learning a lot from Uncle Pete.  I thought that maybe someday I’d start an antiques business of my own.  Kayleigh thought that was a terrible idea.  She hated my uncle, whom she disdainfully called “Picker Pete,” and begrudged the time I spent with him.  My lack of what she called a “real job” was a major source of friction between us.

“What happed after she left?” Van Horn asked.  I’d already told them that I watched TV and went to bed, but I told them again that I watched an episode of a reality show called Carnies, about a feuding, dissolute family of carnival workers.  In that Friday’s episode, Jayde tries to make funnel cakes for the first time and breaks the funnel cake fryer.

Then she and her brother, the one they call Full Moon because he’s always dropping his pants and mooning people, go out to a bar where a guy hits on Jayde and he and Full Moon get into a fight.

“I watch that show,” Van Horn said.  “I like the one they call Uncle Daddy.  He’s a real piece of work.”  He turned to Woodhouse.  “Do you ever watch Carnies, Al?”
Woodhouse shook his head.

Van Horn asked what happened the next morning.  I said I got up early, at 6 A.M., and went to meet Uncle Pete.  We took his van and went to a diner for breakfast, then started hitting yard sales, getting there early, just as people were setting up.  We went to six or seven yard sales, and three estate sales that were advertised in the local paper.  We unloaded the stuff Pete bought into one of his storage lockers (he rented several) and then returned to his house at around five.  It might have been closer to six, I wasn’t sure.  Pete counted off two hundred dollars from the thick roll of bills wrapped in a rubber band that he carries in his hip pocket, paid me, and I took off for home.
Uncle Pete lives out in the country.  As I drove home, my car started acting up.  It did that sometimes.  The thermostat would gradually creep into the red and the car would start bucking and sputtering.  When that happened, I’d pull over and wait until the engine cooled down before continuing on my way.  I meant to get it looked at, but I hadn’t gotten around to it.

The place where I pulled over was on a narrow county lane overhung with large old trees so that it was almost like driving through a leafy green tunnel. A disused canal ran along one side, the water brown and stagnant.  There was no other traffic and it started to rain lightly.  The sound of rain pattering on the car roof made me sleepy.  I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, having awakened several times thinking I’d heard Kayleigh come in.  I pushed the seat back, closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the sound of someone tapping on my window. It was a woman who looked to be a few years older than me, her red hair tied up in a bright blue bandana, like the woman flexing her arm on the World War II poster that says “We Can Do It!”  Rosie the Riveter, I think she’s called.

I have a thing for redheads.  Kayleigh’s hair is sort of a brownish-auburn but this woman’s hair was fiery red.  She had big blue eyes and a cute smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose.  Her denim overalls were caked with mud.  Her hands and arms were muddy, too.  She smiled brightly at me as I blinked drowsily at her, still half asleep.  I rolled down the window.

“I saw you parked out here.  Do you need help?” she asked.

I told her my car was acting up.

“Do you want to come in and use my phone to call a tow truck or something?  I live right over there,” she said, pointing.

The roof of a house was visible behind a high privet hedge to our right.  It was getting dark.  There were no streetlights and no sign of any other houses.  I told her it wouldn’t be necessary; the engine just needed to cool down.

“It’s not very comfortable sitting out here.  Why don’t you come in and I’ll make us some ice tea or something.  I was working in the garden and I’m pretty thirsty.  I could use some company.”

The way she said it made me think there might be more than a glass of ice tea on offer.  She was pretty, and I was single (at least temporarily) so why not take her up on her invitation and see what developed?  I said I’d love a cold drink.

“Great!  I’ve got some brandy and there’s ginger ale in the fridge.  If you want, I can make horse’s necks.”

I said that sounded fine.  I got out of the car and followed her through an opening in the hedge, up a flagstone walk that cut through a well-tended lawn with flower beds planted with rose bushes, to the front door of a cottage that had wooden fish-scale shingles painted a buttery yellow. She opened the door and ushered me into the living room.

“I’d shake hands, but I’m all muddy,” she said smiling, “I’m Milly, short for Mildred, by the way. And would you believe it?  My last name is Pierce, isn’t that a riot?”

I must have looked confused because she added, “Like in the movie?  With Joan Crawford?”

Aha!  The wire-hanger lady.  I told her my name was Sam Hurley.  She said to have a seat on the divan while she freshened up; she’d only be a minute.  I looked around while I waited.  She had some nice antiques, including a Biedermeier bookcase and matching desk that Uncle Pete would love to get his hands on.

She returned about ten minutes later bearing two tall glasses containing an amber liquid in which ice cubes clinked.  Spirals of lemon peel were draped over the rims.  Truth be told, I’d been hoping she’d be naked, or at the very least wearing only a robe, but she had on a blue and white striped cotton sundress that set off her tan nicely.  It had a wide skirt that came down to her calves, which could best be described as shapely.  Her hair was down over her shoulders in loose waves and she wore dark red lipstick.  She looked absolutely gorgeous, and I told her so.

“Why, thank you, kind sir,” she said, handing me a glass and raising hers in a toast.  “Here’s to new friends.”

“To new friends,” I echoed, and took a drink.  It tasted good.  I asked her, “What’s this called?”

“I told you, it’s a horse’s neck.  Haven’t you ever had one before?”

I said I hadn’t and drained my glass.  I was thirstier than I’d realized.

“Let me get you another,” she said, and went out of the room, presumably to the kitchen.  In the approximately ten hours that I spent in her house I saw only two rooms: the living room and the bedroom.  She returned with another drink and then another.  After that, I lost count.

“You slept with her,” Woodhouse said.  He wasn’t being judgmental; he was just stating a fact.  Just the facts, ma’am, I though, suppressing a grin.  Now that I thought of it, the stony-faced Woodhouse reminded me of Joe Friday in Dragnet, as portrayed by the late, great Jack Webb.  He even looked a little like a darker version of Jack Webb.  I wondered if anyone had ever told him that.

I admitted that I’d slept with Milly Pierce.  Kayleigh and I weren’t engaged, although we were officially in a relationship, according to our Facebook status, which I suppose is the twenty-first-century version of the medieval custom of handfasting.

What can I say about my night with Milly?  It was magical and wonderful.  Unlike a lot of redheads, her only freckles were the ones scattered across the bridge of her nose and a few cinnamon-colored ones on her tanned shoulders.  She was long and lean and lovely and we took our time, savoring each another. 

At one point, she lightly stroked my chest and asked where I’d gotten the scratches.  I hadn’t noticed them before.  I suppose they came from helping Uncle Pete load an unwieldy neoclassical Second Empire sideboard into his van.  (A sideboard that he assured the lady who was selling her dead grandmother’s possessions came from Sears.)

“I’ll kiss them and make them all better,” said Milly, bending down from where she sat astride me and doing exactly that.

I awoke the next morning in the front seat of my car.  The sun was coming up and I had a rotten headache.  I dimly remembered Milly walking me to the car and giving me a lingering kiss.

“Goodbye, lover.  Drive safely,” she said.  Did I feel guilty?  A little, but Kayleigh didn’t need to know about this.  And she had been pretty mean to me.  It served her right that I’d spent the night in another woman’s bed.

Van Horn spoke up.  “What do you say we drive you out there so we can talk to her in order to verify your whereabouts that night?  Would that be okay with you, Sam?”

I said it would be okay, although I’d rather Kayleigh didn’t find out about it when she came back from wherever she’d taken herself off to.

Van Horn nodded his head and gave me a wink.  “Gotcha.  We won’t tell her.  We just need to cover all the bases, you know?”

I agreed, although I didn’t see how talking to Milly would help find Kayleigh.  (Who was probably off sulking somewhere, hoping to throw a scare into me.)  I was looking forward to seeing Milly again, even if it was in the company of the police.  Who knows, if Kayleigh decided to call it quits, maybe Milly and I could become a steady thing.

Feeling hopeful, I accompanied Woodhouse and Van Horn to a patrol car and we set out toward her place.
Van Horn drove and Woodhouse sat in the passenger seat.  I was in the back, behind a screen of wire mesh. “How do you like riding back there, Sam?” Van Horn asked, studying me in the rearview mirror when we were stopped at a traffic light.  “Do you feel like a bad guy?”

“I ain’t talking, copper,” I sneered, doing my best James Cagney imitation.  Van Horne and Woodhouse laughed. “Look out, we got a badass on our hands,” Woodhouse remarked.

We found the street where Milly lived without too much trouble.  It looked different in the bright daylight. The trees still formed a tunnel overhead and the canal ran along on the left but now there were joggers and bicyclists on the towpath.  The last time I was here there hadn’t been a soul around.  There were more houses than I’d noticed before.  I watched for the privet hedge in front of Milly’s house and almost missed it.  It was a lot thicker and higher than I remembered.

“Over here is where I parked,” I told the two cops.  Van Horne pulled the patrol car over to the shoulder.

“This is it, huh?  Let’s go talk to the lady.” Woodhouse opened the door and let me out.  He stretched, looking around.  He observed, “Looks like it’s for sale.”

There was a for sale sign next to the road.  I was fairly certain it hadn’t been there before.  We walked through a gap in the hedge and what I saw made me stop dead in my tracks.  It was Milly’s house all right, but the yellow fish scale shingles were gone, replaced by grey vinyl siding. The windows were bare, the lawn was neglected and the house had a deserted look.

There was something else that Woodhouse spotted at once: a pile of dirt covering what was unmistakably a freshly dug hole about six feet long.  It’s a grave, I thought wonderingly.
“Get him in the car,” Woodhouse barked. 

“Come with me, Mister Hurley,” Van Note said, taking me firmly by the arm.
I was no longer Sam; I was Mister Hurley.  That didn’t bode well.  I didn’t understand what was happening.  Was that really a grave?  Had somebody killed Milly and buried her in her garden?  Did the cops think I did it?  They surely couldn’t think that, could they?

It turned out that’s not what they thought.

  It was a grave, but Milly wasn’t in it: Kayleigh was.  Her backpack was in there too, containing her cell phone on which there were a number of increasingly frenzied voice mails from me, asking where she was and when she was coming home.  The police found a shovel caked with dirt in the trunk of my car.  The dirt matched the dirt in the grave.  Don’t ask me how they could tell.  I guess they have ways of determining things like that.

They also found bits of my skin under Kayleigh’s fingernails.  They said she’d clawed at my chest when I strangled her.  I told them it wasn’t true.  I’d never hurt Kayleigh, but they didn’t believe me.

Uncle Pete got me a lawyer, a buddy of a friend of his.  I took two polygraph tests, both of which indicated that I had no memory of killing Kayleigh.  The polygraphs weren’t admissible in court, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t have a trial.  My lawyer worked it so a judge found me incompetent to stand trial on the grounds of insanity.

That’s about it.  I’m now in a prison for the mentally ill.  My lawyer said my stay here is “indeterminate,” which I take to mean that I’ll probably be here for the rest of my life.

I have a private cell, since my fellow inmates don’t take kindly to guys who refuse to acknowledge that they murdered their girlfriends.  (It appears it’s perfectly acceptable to kill one’s girlfriend, the reasoning being that she probably brought it on herself, but it’s not okay to deny any knowledge of it.)  I don’t mind.  I’m not lonely.  Kayleigh comes to visit whenever the C.O.s aren’t around.  I told her she shouldn’t be missing her college classes, but she says it’s okay; she wants to be with me.

“I forgive you for squeezing my neck so hard,” she told me the first time she came.  She seated herself next to me on the thin mattress of my bunk and gave me a hug.  “I forgive you for sleeping with that woman, too.”

I said I was sorry we’d fought.  I didn’t remember squeezing her neck.

“You did,” she said, looking up at me with serious brown eyes. “It was really scary but it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

I said I was glad.  I asked, “You want to hear something weird, about Milly?”
Kayleigh frowned and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.  She didn’t like me talking about Milly but I went on.  “She killed her husband, back in 1949 and buried him in the garden, probably right around where they found you.”
My lawyer told me all about it.  He even brought me copies of the old newspaper articles that described Milly’s late husband as a decorated war hero who had returned home blind and minus his right arm as a result of being blown up by a Japanese landmine on some island in the South Pacific.

According to the testimony at her trial, Milly got tired of taking care of him and hit him over the head with a heavy vase, cracking his skull.  She then dragged him out to the garden and buried him.

Unfortunately for the late second lieutenant Roy Pierce, he was still alive when his wife tumbled him into his hastily dug grave.  He managed to claw himself out partway with his remaining hand before finally succumbing to his head injury.  The milkman discovered him the next morning.

The news stories featured pictures of Milly in the courtroom, looking downcast and dressed sedately in a black dress with a white lace collar.  Even in the old black and white photos you could tell she was something to look at.

Her lawyer painted a picture of her husband as a mean-tempered alcoholic who’d attacked her, causing her to whack him over the head in self-defense, but the jury didn’t buy it.  She was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to forty years in the Scarborough Women’s Reformatory.  She died there in 1976, of pancreatic cancer.

“Humpf.  She doesn’t sound very nice,” Kayleigh said.  “If she died in 1976, how come you saw her?”

I said I had no idea.  I didn’t believe in ghosts.  Maybe I’d somehow stepped back into 1949 when I was parked there on the side of the road outside her house.  She was awfully muddy, and she said she’d been working in the garden.  Maybe she’d just finished burying her husband.

“I don’t believe in ghosts either,” Kayleigh said firmly.  She rose and kissed me.  “I’ve got to go.  Somebody’s coming.”

I could hear jingling keys.  It must be a C.O., coming to check on me.  I turned to tell Kayleigh goodbye, but she was gone.  That was okay, though; Kayleigh always came back.

      The End