Read an Excerpt
A smile lit up his sensual lips. "Remember me?"
She peered at him. "It was your voice I heard. But what are you doing here, in my dream?"
"Showing you where you really belong. With me. Forever."
His arms surrounded her, and they danced, their feet flying over the marble floor. "Just think, to dance like this whenever we wish."
The scene changed and they were strolling in a rose garden, the man leading a large bay stallion. "Or like this, the two of us strolling among the flowers and trees, perhaps stopping to exchange a kiss in the arbor."
Again the scene changed and Sherry found herself with the stranger, naked, and lying on a soft white fur rug before a fire blazing in a fireplace. A glance down and she saw how well endowed he was.
He pushed her to lie on her back and he whispered in her ear. "Think of the romantic places we can make love, unlike your mean little cottage."
His lips covered hers and his hand stroked her flesh.
Sherry woke up, sweating heavily. Her nightgown molded damply to her skin and her hair hung in wet ropes.
"Sherry." The word felt like a silken caress.
She flung back the covers and jumped out of bed. "Oh God, you're real, aren't you?"
"You doubted that I was?"
"I thought you were only a dream, caused from reading that book!"
"Ah yes, Spectre Dreams and Visitations. But they can be more.
Just come to me."
She asked, "How?"
"The book. It has all the answers."
The last word echoed, fading away and leaving Sherry in the silence of her darkened room. She bounded out of the bedroom and to the kitchen, where she pulled the book out of the trash. Tomato stains dotted the coverand lettuce leaves hung off it. She wiped it off and then clutching it tightly to her chest, she wandered into the living room. She turned on the lamp by her chair, kneeling down beside it.
With a flip of a fingernail she opened the book to the page she has last read:
The beautiful young woman opened the book to the page she had last read and saw how she would be able to enter that dream world where she had danced, strolled, and loved.
Her finger shook as she traced the sentence with it.
Sherry's eyes widened with disbelief. A sound broke into her thoughts. She looked up and saw that he stood before her, a hand held out to her.
"It's time," he said. "Join me, ease my loneliness ... and yours."
Something within her compelled her to place her hand in his and he helped her off the floor. The next moment they were dancing away in the ballroom of her dreams, laughing at some witty remark he had made.
Later he led her into a large library, overfilled with books lining massive oak bookcases standing stiffly against the walls, reminding
Sherry of soldiers at attention. She let go of his hand and ran over to one bookcase, selecting a book wedged in with the others.
She read the title: Clarice. Puzzlement on her face, she turned around and looked at him. "Clarice?"
He smiled fondly. "She was a sweet petite redhead, with a fondness for peppermints and pepperoni pizza. I believed that's what she told me."
Sherry turned back to the books and saw that the titles all had women's names on the spines. She flipped open the book in her hand and read it. With a quick scan she read a paragraph here and there, finishing it with the last paragraph at the end of the story. Her eyes widened and the book fell from her hand, hitting the hardwood floor with a soft thud. A moan issued from it as if someone cried out in pain.
Sherry stared at the handsome man before her, a hand pressed against some books on one shelf.
"That was niece of the woman at the yard sale. The one who died and whose book of ghost stories I bought. My God, who or what are you?"
He arched an eyebrow. "Why, merely a collector of fine books.
And I think you'll make a splendid story for a book, don't you?" His lips formed into a cruel smile.
Sherry screamed as she felt her body contorting and shrinking.
He held the slim volume and smiled at the title.
Sherry. She would make a fine addition to the library.
Sherry didn't appeared at work the following Monday, and after two days her co-workers, worried as she hadn't called in sick and didn't answer the phone calls they made, got the landlord to open her place.
They found her dead, leaning back against her overstuffed chair, the book lying open on her lap. It was on the last page of the story, her finger pointing to the last sentence. Quickly, the landlord dialed
911 on her phone.
One of Sherry's co-workers, a small, plump, dark-haired woman named Jeanne Callen carried Spectre Love Tales to her mini van.
One of the paramedics had placed it on the coffee table so they could carried Sherry's body away. It seem as if it kept catching her eye and finally she picked it up and took it. She reasoned that the book would be boxed up anyway with the rest of Sherry's things and donated to a thrift store or something, so why shouldn't she take it for herself. It gave the landlord one less thing to pack.
She got in and threw the book onto the seat beside her. It hit the seat with a muffled thud and a woman's scream. Jeanne stared at the book.
She shook her head and started the van. There was no way she heard a scream, was there?
But a shame about Sherry, really it was. But then she had been an introvert and deep into reading horror novels and all that scary stuff. And it seem that finally she let that supernatural junk get to her, until it killed her.
Now, Jeanne loved a good love story and though these love stories appeared to be spooky ones, well, so what? A love story was a love story. It was the only way she'd ever meet a good-looking man...
The old movie theater stood, a shadow-ridden hulk of its former colorful majestic splendor. If you look beyond this peacock turned gray, home to termites and small scurrying spiders, you could see that in its heyday, the '20s-'40s, that it had been something to behold.
Then, going to see the movies was an experience worth in itself, the movies an afterthought.
I was here to write an article for the newspaper that I worked for, based on my experience of spending the last night of the Splendor's life before the wrecking ball demolished it. About a year from now a twenty theater multiplex would be here. Would the ghosts that supposedly haunt the Splendor still be there in the new surroundings?
Were there even ghosts at all, or just people's own imaginations working overtime? That's what I was here for, to find out.
So here I was, book bag of needed stuff slung over my right shoulder, waiting for the theater's owner that my editor, John Fett, had contacted. On hearing the noise of a car pulling up, I turned around. I
found myself blinded by the car's lights. The next moment they were gone and I saw an old man slowly walking up to me, a flashlight in hand.
He stopped and I extended my right hand. "Hello ... Mr. Clark, right? Well, I'm Jennifer Knight of the Newsport Local and I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend the last night at the
He didn't take my offered hand, instead he eyed it with distaste.
He grunted, "Don't thank me. I have misgivings about the whole idea and really don't want you staying in there tonight. If you're still here in the morning when I return for you, you can thank me then. All right?"
I heard jingling noises and saw that he had a large old fashioned golden key on a key ring. He walked away from me and went around to the alley next to the theater. I saw a small side door and it was into its lock that he inserted the key, unlocking it. Beyond the opened doorway I could see nothing, only a yawning darkness. I turned my flashlight on, for the lights had been disconnected, and the light picked up dust motes dancing in its beam. I stopped just on the other side of the doorway when I noticed that Mr. Clark hadn't followed me
in. I looked back and saw him standing on the outside, his flashlight still on. The light from his flashlight was aimed up at his face, turning it into a caricature of a monster's face. I was further spooked when he spoke, his voice hollow-sounding, as if he were within an empty tomb.
"Once I shut this door, that's it--no chance to change your mind."
I could feel something like butterflies fluttering in my stomach, but
I still grinned. "I have everything I need: a blanket to keep warm, my flashlight, extra batteries, couple of sandwiches and a bottle of water.
I even have a tape recorder, with extra tapes, to put down my impressions.
So there's no reason to worry about me. See you in the morning!"
"Maybe, maybe not!"
The door slammed shut, cutting me off from the outside. I placed my hand on the door knob, to test and see if it was still unlocked, when I heard the click of the lock. A few twists of the knob made me realized I was locked in. I turned around and, using the beam of my flashlight, took in my surroundings. I saw boxes, shelves, and a couple of broken chairs, all covered with three inches of gray dust. This dust bothered my allergies and I sneezed several times. I cursed myself under my breath for stupidly forgetting to take my daily allergy pill
and started walking. I kept running into debris that covered the splintered, wooden floor. I kicked the stuff out of my way, sending up clouds of dust that tickled my nostrils, and caused me to go into a sneezing jag again as I headed into the main part of the theater itself.
I found myself in the lobby, where the concession stand stood, empty of the soda and popcorn machines. The glass cases were devoid of the colorful boxes of candy. The only thing inside them now was the same gray dust coating the theater.
I laughed at myself and turned on my tape recorder, talking into it.
"Well, what did I expect? Ghosts don't eat and surely I didn't expect to find the spirits of candy bars, tubs of popcorn and plastic cups filled to the brim with ghostly soda."
I left the area and entered the theater proper. There were dustcovered seats, their plush red velvet faded and raggedly, strips of velvet trailing to the dusty detritus that covered the sticky wooden floor.
The screen, once white as snow and whirling with moving pictures, now stood silent, splattered with dried spots of thrown soda pop and greasy popcorn. I looked around for the most dust free seat I could find to park myself in for the night and finally found one in the middle. I
pounded on it, gray dust rising up into the air and making me sneeze repeatedly. Once I got the seat as clean as I could get it, I sat down.
After putting my book bag in the seat next to me, I placed the tape recorder on top of it and kept recording my thoughts about the theater.
I had been doing that for a while, the theater silent except for my voice droning, when I heard the laugh.
I jumped up. "Hello? Who's there?!"
A door slammed. The sound had come from the lobby. Was someone playing a joke on me, knowing I was staying the night in the
Splendor investigating the hauntings? I bet Mr. Clark was behind this, trying to scare the bejesus out of me!
I headed for the lobby, my tape recorder in one hand, flashlight in the other, and called out along the way. "Hello, hello? Come on, quit playing ghosts!"
I entered the lobby and looked toward the concession stand. What
I saw next shocked me. A tall young man dressed in a short red jacket and red pants with a black stripe down the side, a red pillbox hat perched jauntily on his blonde head, was handing a tub of popcorn over the counter to a pretty young woman. She had long red hair done up in banana curls and was dressed in a gray dress and black pumps that was fashionable back in 1940. They were both laughing, him in deep guffaws, her in pert giggles and were outrageously flirting with each other.
I was sure now that someone had hired some actors (even though
I still couldn't figure out how the concession stand, now filled to capacity with food, had been stocked without me hearing anything) and I
stomped up to them. "Who the hell are you? And who hired you to do this? Mr. Clark?"
Both stopped their laughing and flirting, and turned to look at me.
Their faces grew still like stone, the color of the dust that was everywhere in this theater. Silent they stood there, granite-faced, and didn't answer me. I raised my hand and tapped the young man's shoulder.
To my shock it passed through! Both of them vanished, along with everything else.
I backed away from what now had become once more an empty concession stand. "My God, I saw real ghosts!"
Fear made my feet take off and I ran back into the theater. I
slowed down by the time I got to the entrance, as I realized with growing excitement that I now had something great for my article. Real ghosts! All my life I hadn't believed in anything supernatural, at least, not until now. I rewound my recorder, played it back and heard their laughing on the tape!
I re-entered the theater and found myself in a place filled with people: men, women, and children, all of them watching with hushed breath an old Bela Lugosi movie. It was Dracula, which had come out in 1931. As I looked around I saw the people were all dressed in clothing from that era, the women in dresses with the hems down to mid calf, the men in suits. Bela stopped talking to Edward van Sloan who played Van Helsing and they turned toward the audience.
Bela pointed to where I was standing. "You do not believe in things not cut and dried like your newspaper articles, but now you see the truth, Miss Knight." He uttered these words in a Hungarian accented lisp.
The people in the theater stopped watching the screen and turned to look at me, their eyes cold and accusing, their faces the color of gray dust.
I giggled wildly and I couldn't stop. Like a madwoman, I kept giggling, while the moviegoers and the actors on the movie screen just stared at me in silence. I could see dust motes dancing in the air before me, some of which I breathed in and I went from giggling to coughing, causing me to drop my tape recorder. I turned and ran out of the theater, back into the lobby, now filled with people, again all of them dressed in clothing from three time periods, the twenties, the thirties, and the forties. They all stopped talking and laughing, became
silent, and turned to look at me, their faces like stone. Everyone was the color of gray dust.
I laughed and coughed alternately. "Gray dust, and more gray dust! Haunting must be a dusty business!" The coughing overtook the laughing and soon I was coughing up bile, choking on it. My air was cut off and I began making funny little sounds. The people continued to stand there, silent and gray. Then they walked toward me, circling me like a pride of lions surrounding a wounded zebra. I fell down, choking, watching them move closer and closer. My last sight was of their faces, gray and blank, breaking into a million little motes of gray
dust that filled up my nostrils, mouth, and eyes.
I lifted up a hand and saw that the flesh was no longer pink, but of the same gray color as the dust in the theater. I turned my head and saw something large and round burst from the wall, with crumbling bits of the plywood flying everywhere. A wrecking ball! It slammed back through the hole in the wall, heading back outside. I saw the other ghosts breaking up, becoming molecules of dust and slipping through the opening. Not being able to stop myself, I felt myself breaking up and joined them, becoming part of the gray dust cloud, rising
and spiraling up into the early morning sky.
Hard Drive Haunting
Tania searched the Internet when she found a chat room for those interested in occult matters. She entered, using the alias Ghost
Hunter, and noticed that three others already in the room. They were using the screen names Occult Baby, Tab1, and Vampiress.
She typed in her greeting, using as her screen name, Ghost
They greeted her, then continued with their chat.
Unfortunately, Tania soon noticed that it wasn't about anything occult. Not unless sex was a form of occultism, she thought cynically.
They tried to draw her into the steamy chat, but gave up when she obstinately remained a lurker.
Damn, why can't one of these chat rooms actually be what they claim to be? Instead they're just another form of 'singles bars' for the computer age, she thought.
Bored, she grabbed her slowly cooling cup of tea and took a sip.
As she did, she saw out of the corner of her eye another visitor had popped in. Setting her cup down, she saw that this person didn't interact with the others, just lurked like her. What intrigued her further was the simple name the lurker used: Ghost.
With quick and nimble fingers, she Instant Messaged Ghost. At first, it seemed that Ghost was going to ignore her too, when suddenly, she was IMed back.
Ghost--Want to chat?
Ghost Hunter--Yes. Are you into the occult, or are you like these three over-sexed people?
Ghost--I don't use the Web to surf for sex. I'm here looking for answers.
Ghost Hunter--Answers? To what?
Ghost--To the supernatural, particularly about ghosts and hauntings.
This intrigued Tania further. Was Ghost being haunted? Or was he or she looking for something different? She typed her questions in.
Ghost answered her, claiming to know of a spirit attached to the earthly plane. Ghost admitted to being male.
Just as they seemed to be communicating, he vanished. She waited, hoping that whatever server he used had only bumped him off and that he would return. But five minutes went by and still no Ghost reappeared in the chat room. With a sigh, she signed off, leaving the
Internet completely. She spent the rest of her night watching some sitcoms on TV, then went to bed.
It wasn't until the next night that Tania got back on-line. Once on she checked her e-mail before doing anything else. She noticed a new e-mail. Opening it, she saw two simple words:
What the--she thought. Just who is me? She noticed that the email bore no signature, but she did notice an e-mail address. She sent a reply, asking who he or she was, or if it was spam, to leave her alone. She then spent an hour surfing the Web.
Tania returned to her e-mail one last time before getting off the computer. There, she found that the reply she had sent had came back, saying that there was no such e-mail address. Odd, she thought. Deleting the message, she was about to sign off when suddenly an IM appeared. Her real name, Tania was used, not the screen name she used on-line.
Shocked, she saw who it was--Ghost! She answered his IM, asking him how he knew her real name. She hadn't let him know her name or anything personal about herself at all last night in the chat room.
Ghost--I knew who you were.
Tania--How can you? I didn't tell you anything personal about me last night!
Ghost--LOL! ;-D Now, Tania, with the Internet today, there are endless possibilities for finding out who someone is. I have my ways.
Tania--Your ways! What are you trying to get at? And since you know my real name, just who the hell are you?
Ghost--LOL! Maybe I'm the result of all your dreams, Tania. ;-D
Tania--In your dreams maybe! More likely I'm beginning to think you're a nightmare. Please quit harassing me!
Ghost--Tania, darling, harassment? :LOL: I say, more like a haunting, and this is just the beginning.
Fear gripped her and with swift fingers, she signed off. She shut her computer down, and then sat in front of the blank screen, staring at it. The sound of thunder rumbled heavily, and through her window
Tania saw spikes of lightning flash across the night sky. Her eyes returned to the monitor and she saw then that it was no longer blank.
Somehow, it had turned itself back on!
Her name blazed across the screen, in bold letters. Tania jumped up, sending her chair crashing to the floor. The sound of the thunder, her name on the screen, all of it became too much for her and she bolted from the room, heading for her bedroom and the safety of her bed. Deeply buried under the covers she huddled, her fear keeping her from falling sleep, until, eventually, the sands of sleep forced her lids to close. She fell into a deep slumber, full of frightening nightmares.
The nightmares found her stuck within the PC, in a chat room, in fact. She was a screen name pursued by Ghost and she couldn't find her way out of the virtual nightmare, not until dawn blossomed.
Tired, Tania woke up to a wet autumn morning. The storm had lasted the night. And like her nightmares it too had broken with the light of dawn. Jumping out of bed, she dashed to her computer and found the screen blank. In the light of morning, the events of the night before all seemed a part of her dreams.
That's all that it was--a dream! She showered and dressed for work.
It was Friday. She spent her work day in front of a computer, this time having no fun. No, she was preparing a profit and loss spreadsheet for the company she worked for, and, mindlessly she kept typing.
It was when she had keyed in the last of the numbers that she saw her name flashing across the screen.
What the hell--
Her name, in bold multicolor, the font fancy and large, dazzled her, hypnotic in its blipping. She brought her face closer to the screen.
The name left, to be replaced by a "hello." Freed of the spell that had been woven over her, Tania sat back up, her eyes blinking rapidly.
Turning around to her co-workers, Tania demanded," Okay, whose joke is this? I mean, which one of you--"
"What is it, Tania?" A co-worker, Daisy left her cubicle and came over to Tania's.
Tania turned to point at her monitor and noticed then that the
"hello" had vanished; leaving only the report she had typed in on it.
She looked at Daisy, her face pale. "Honest, Daisy, there had been my name, then a "hello" on the screen."
Daisy shrugged. "Well, I only see the report you've been working on."
"I'm not kidding! I know what I saw!"
Their immediate supervisor, Bob, waddled up to them. A short, balding, middle-aged man, with a paunch swollen from too many fattening lunches, he placed a hand on Tania's shoulder. He patted it lightly.
"Maybe you need to take the rest of the day off," he said. "It's been a long week of boring profits and gains, you know." He smiled, adding, "Just think, an early start to the weekend! So go home and just relax. And no computers, you hear! By Monday, you'll find yourself back here, good as new."
"Go! Whatever you have left, Daisy can finish."
With a sigh, Tania collected her purse and sweater and left. In thirty minutes she was home, walking through her doorway into her living room. After pitching her purse and sweater onto a chair, she placed two Blockbuster DVDs she had rented by her DVD player, and after putting down her fast food bag and drink on the coffee table she ran upstairs to change into something more comfortable. A few minutes later, she settled in an overstuffed chair, watching The Haunting
and eating a greasy hamburger.
Halfway into the movie, she grew scared and turned it off. Chills raced up and down her spine as she turned on the lights in the kitchen, dumped the trash from her meal, then rushed back into the living room. She stopped and stared into the dark hallway leading to her bedroom and the office in which her computer was. The darkness made her suddenly feel claustrophobic.
I'm glad my place isn't haunted. I couldn't stand living in a haunted house, with ghosts, ready to pop out at you! Running through the hallway, she flipped on light switches, letting the glow of the artificial light bathe the corridor. Stopping just outside the office, she slipped her hand around and turned on the light inside. She peeked in.
The PC, screen blank, sat on her plywood desk. It seemed as if it beckoned her to come and power it back up. Come play with me.
Computer geek to the core, Tania answered the call. She sat down in front of it and hit the
"Power" button. The machine whirred, words forming on the screen, letting her know that all systems were coming on. With a few punches on the keyboard, she was in.
Deciding that going on the Internet would help her forget the fear leftover from the DVD, she typed in her screen name and password and went on-line. Going to her e-mail first, she checked it. Most of it was spam and she deleted those without a second thought. That left e-mail from friends and these she read over quickly, answered, then deleted. But the last e-mail was from Ghost. Now, with the possibilities of viruses in e-mails she couldn't say why she didn't just delete it unseen, but something compelled her to open it. With misgivings and
caution, she did.
I tried to communicate with you at work today, but you tried
to involve your fellow workers, so I couldn't. I think you and I can
be good friends, so please don't try to avoid me. Because if you avoid me, well, I'll have to do things. Nasty things. And I don't want to do them. But if you give me no choice, Tania, I'll have to.
Tania sat there in disbelief. What happened at work was Ghost?
But how could that be? He couldn't know where she worked. Dear
God, he had gotten into her work PC! Demanding to be let into her life, or else! Her hand shaking, she deleted the email, as if by erasing it she might be able to stop him from harassing her.
Pamela K. Kinney
Oh, why did I ever go into that chat room? Tears welled up in her eyes.
Suddenly, an idea came to her. Going to her recently deleted mail, she looked for the email from Ghost, planning to copy it and send it to her server, informing them of this person and his strange threats. But she discovered that anything from him had disappeared.
All the other recently deleted e-mail was there, but not his. She closed the message and sat in front of the screen, staring at it with growing fear and anger.
Words formed on the screen and Tania saw her name, multicolored.
The name vanished, to be replaced by a "Hello, and was she ready to talk?" These words vanished, replaced by the word "Ghost".
In her anger and her fear, she pounded on the screen.
"Leave me alone!" she screamed.
Ghost vanished, more words taking shape on the screen, asking her not to strike at the PC. After all, she could hurt her hands that way.
Tania shoved herself back into her chair and stared at the words in horror. How did Ghost know she had been banging on her monitor?
What the hell was going on here?
The words disappeared again, to be once more replaced by new ones. This time Ghost asked her if they would have that relationship he had asked her about in his e-mail. He needed an answer, and he needed it now.
Slowly, the words added fuel to the heat of her anger, making it larger than her fear and with heavy, purposeful typing she answered him. No. She also typed that she refused to be intimidated by him and that if he kept it up, she would inform her server, the police, and anyone else that she needed to.
The typed in laughter scrolled all over her screen, making it look like some crazy screensaver. His reply told her how much he really feared anything she threatened him with. Once again, the cold fingers of fear crept up her spine, networking through her nervous system.
Her anger, once fire-hot, had been doused by her fear, which intensified when she saw what Ghost wrote next.
Don't decide never to get back on this PC. For if you try to
avoid me, I'll find you wherever you go. I can access your computer
at work, your TV, that clock radio that sits by your bed, even your microwave in the kitchen. I can access you anywhere, for wherever there is something electronic, there I am! The computer age is making it so easy to haunt these days. Who needs
an old house or graveyard anymore? LOL!!!!
Then her screen went blank. He had vanished, like a real ghost in a haunted house. Except this ghost had used her PC.
She went off-line and was about to turn the computer off, when he appeared once more. In deep, dark letters, he commanded her to leave her computer on.
Shaking with fear, she stumbled off her chair and left the room, tripping over things in her haste. She bolted to the living room and, after grabbing her purse, was about to leave her apartment, when she remembered her Dodge Neon had a computer brain in it, meaning that Ghost could get her there also if she believed his claims. All he had to do was tell the car not to start. She hurried to her Neon, determined to escape if she could. It refused to start. She returned to the apartment.
Falling onto the couch, she let her purse strap slip from her fingers and sat there, her fear gaining control of her. And I was so glad my apartment wasn't haunted! Well, she was haunted all right, just not in the conventional sense.
What could she do about it, call an exorcist? Who you gonna call?
Ghostbusters! With that thought, Tania began laughing, which blended into a crying jag that lulled her into sleep. As she slept, the lights in the apartment turned themselves off.
Morning came, and she found herself on the couch, her muscles aching from the oddball position she had slept. After wiping sleep from her eyes, she noticed that her lights were off. Knowing she had left them on last night, she knew that Ghost was showing her how much complete control he had of her apartment. How much he had assumed of her life. She decided that he had to be stopped.
If hers was a computer-age haunting, then she needed a special exorcist for the job. One of her dreams last night gave her the insight she needed to fight Ghost. Tania threw on a light jacket, grabbed her purse, and left her apartment. She walked briskly, her breath coming out of her mouth in small puffs, making her think that she was a steam engine. For no particular reason this cheered her and she enjoyed her walk in the chill morning air. And like a train she kept to her tracks, walking three blocks, not stopping until she had arrived at a small
house, white with green trim.
The grass in the yard was overgrown, obviously neglected. But she understood that the occupant of the house wasn't being lazy. No, the man inside wasn't the type to own a house, for he didn't think of cutting grass or other mundane chores. His passion was for computers and anything else of electronics, and because he was so expert in that field, she knew he had to be the one to turn to for help.
Tania pressed the doorbell and waited. No answer, of course. She knew he wasn't asleep, no, not Kevin Lark! No, more likely he was on his PC, accessing the Internet, or, testing out some new software he had acquired.
She pressed the doorbell again, letting it ring continuously until the door swung open. A tall, thin man, hair unkempt, his clothes wrinkled, and smelling musty from wearing them for days, no doubt, stood on the other side. Irritation colored his bloodshot eyes.
"What do you want?" he demanded angrily. He saw who it was then. "Oh, it's you, Tania. Come in, why don't you?" She walked pass him, entering the house.
She followed him as he walked to a room in the back of the house. Inside it were five computers, all of them sitting on various desks that crowded the room. Shoving off some stuff from a chair,
Tania sat down. Kevin decided to flop down onto the floor. He looked at her, curiosity in his eyes.
"Okay. Tania, why are you here this early? I mean, not even sending me an e-mail first."
Uneasily, she eyed the PCs surrounding them, noting all five were turned off.
"I don't know if we should talk in here, Kevin--"
"What the hell are you talking about? There are only computers in here with us, not living things!"
"Well, they are turned off, but I rather we talk somewhere else, maybe outside."
She led him out of the room and through the house, ending up outside. They sat together on his front stoop.
She jumped right in then, leaving nothing out about the events for the past week. After her story, she mentioned her idea for exorcising the 'ghost' in her computer.
Kevin was shocked. "You're trying to tell me that some creep you met in an Internet chat room is a ghost and he's haunting your computer?
That he claims he can haunt anything electronic? I don't believe in ghosts."
"Look, I don't care if you believe in ghosts or not, all I need is your computer expertise in ridding me of this spirit," she said. "You can create a virus to stop Ghost, right?"
"I'm the best at what I do, Tania, and yes, I know I can make a virus for you, if that is what you want, to infect your computer. But I
"If Ghost does electronic haunting, especially in a PC, then he is vulnerable to computer viruses. At least, I hope so."
"Well, go get something to eat in the kitchen while I work. It may take some time," said Kevin, standing up. He went back into his house and headed back to his computer room. Once there he went over to a desk upon which a Mac sat. Tania followed him, but seeing that he sat in front of the Mac, oblivious to her presence, she left him alone, and went to the kitchen to get herself a snack.
For most of the day she stayed at his house, idly reading from his vast library of books, an inheritance from his mother. Deep into Oliver
Twist, she almost didn't feel his hand on her shoulder, shaking her.
But she did after he shook harder and, looking up, she saw excitement on his face.
"I did it, Tania!" he exclaimed eagerly. "I programmed your virus, and it's all here on this CD." He handed the CD to her. "If this doesn't
\work, then I don't deserve the title 'computer geek'!"
Putting down the book, she rose and put on her sweater. Grabbing her purse and stuffing the CD into it, she bent over, kissed
Kevin's cheek, and said goodbye. She jogged all the way home, eager to place the CD in her CD player and rid herself of the haunting.
Carefully, she let herself into her apartment and noted the unnatural quiet. With slow, deliberate steps she walked to the office. She entered and saw that the PC was on. Words appeared on the screen.
It was Ghost, and he demanded to know where she had been.
So, Ghost as not so omnipotent as he claims to be, she thought.
She sat down at her desk, pulled the CD from her purse, and quickly slipped it into the CD ROM. She then installed it and released the virus. Then, she typed:
Goodbye, Ghost. It's time for you to stop haunting me and my computer. I won't miss you ... at all! :)
Ghost demanded to know what was going on, then said he was in pain.
Oh God, you infected this computer with a virus! You bitch, you'll be sorry you did that--
"Bye, Ghost," said Tania with a smile as the screen was wiped clean. The computer died, its ghost exorcised forever.
Monday morning, she went to work with a smile on her lips. All was right with her world, even if her home PC had a virus that had destroyed all of her programming. She sat down in her cubicle, dropped her purse under the desk and started up her computer, ready for a day of work. Her fingers on the keyboard she halted when words formed on the screen.
Hello, Tania. I can't haunt your computer at home, but this
one here will do just as well. And by the way, I messed with the
electronics in your car too, driving it will be hair raising, to say the least. ;-D I think we can both look forward to a long relationship,
Dumb with shock, Tania sat in her chair, not even noticing all the lights blinking on and off in the office, or that the other PCs were going haywire, acting as if some computer virus had infected them.
Call in the Night
The phone rang three times before Sandy woke up and answered it.
Sleepily, her eyes barely opened but a crack, she mumbled into the receiver, "Yes?"
No one answered her. She repeated the yes, asking who it was.
Silence was all she got from the other end.
She grew angry. "Look, it's--" She glanced at the alarm clock on her bedstead. "It's three o'clock in the morning. If this is a wrong number, hang up."
Whoever it was didn't. She listened for any breathing and heard none. Finally she remembered how they said on TV that sometimes a robber called to see who was home alone and if it was a woman, they knew that was the house to rob. Hastily, she slammed down the receiver.
Quickly thinking, Sandy thought to check the caller ID. There wasn't one with the phone in the bedroom, but she had one with the phone in her office/computer room.
She jumped out of bed and not stopping to put a robe on she ran to the other room, where she flipped the light switch on. Light flooded the room as she walked to the phone in there, sitting next to the computer on the desk. The caller ID hooked on a nail, hung on the wall above the phone so she could always see who called when she was in there.
Now to see if whoever called left a phone number or an unavailable.
It could have been a stupid salesperson, most likely one of those automated calls, trying to get you to buy something.
Sandy pushed the backward button, bringing up the last call. Her thumb fell from the button and she stood there, shocked. Her cell phone number? Her cell phone was in the living room, on the coffee table. Her cat! That was it! Her cat had jumped onto the table and stepped on the phone, hitting the auto dial. She dashed to the living room. There, she clicked on the table lamp by the couch and searched for her cell phone. And she found it, in the same position and place she had left it when she went to bed, on top of a DVD case
on the coffee table. Her cat was curled up on one corner of the couch, asleep. She hadn't even wake up when she had turned on the lamp.
She picked up the cell phone, dropping it back down on the DVD
"No one could have called me on my cell phone as there's no one in the house but me and Sassy," said Sandy out loud. "And Sassy's so dead to the world she didn't even wake up when I came in and switched on the lamp. So what the--"
Beginning to feel creeped-out, she left the living room, leaving the lamp on. She crawled back in bed, slipping beneath the covers. She left the light on in the bedroom, feeling afraid. Finally tiredness won out over her fear and her eyes closed. At 7A.M. the next morning the alarm sounded off and she woke up.
The soft golden light of the sun's rays filtering through the glass of her window faded the bedroom light she had left on. It made her feel like an idiot for the stupid fear she had felt last night. She slipped out of bed and took a shower, dressing in jeans and a sweatshirt. Her feet sheathed in fluffy bedroom slippers, she shuffled to the computer room to double check what she thought she saw last night. Which of course, she couldn't have had. A sleep induced state that made her imagine her cell phone number on the caller ID.
She found the light still on in the computer room and she shut it off after opening the blinds at the window to let in the natural light.
She pushed the back button to the last call. Stunned, she sat there in her chair. Her cell number showed in the square window of the caller
ID. So she hadn't imagined last night. And though it was the light of day shivers crawled up her spine and she shook, creeped-out.
Something had to be wrong with her cell phone. That was it! After a quick breakfast of fresh hot coffee and bagels and cream cheese
Sandy grabbed her cell phone. She dumped it into the cavern of her purse and grabbed her car keys. She got into her car, started it and took off. She drove to the nearest store of the company that was her cell phone provider.
The man checked it and handed it back.
"I don't know what happened, but your phone is fine, as is your service."
Sandy pressed, "But I have my own cell number on my caller ID, showing that my own cell number called my home phone number!"
She added, "Explain that!"
The man shrugged. 'I can't, I honestly can't." His brow furrowed.
"Maybe it's your home phone, or the service you use."
With nothing else to do she drove back home. She made a call to her home phone service provider, but again nothing could be found wrong. The operator said maybe it was a fluke or something. Something for the 'Ripley's Believe It or Not'.
That night she went to bed and fell asleep. And like the night before, her phone rang at 3A.M. and once again the caller never answered her. And once again the caller ID reported that it came from her cell phone. This went on for a week, until finally Sandy called the police and reported it.
Two policemen came by and took a report, saw the caller ID with the repeat of her cell number on it at 3 A.M. and put a tracer on the home phone. That was all they could do for now and please, next time it happened, call them right after so they could put in a trace.
"Thank you, officers, thank you," said Sandy. "Maybe you can find out who's doing this and how."
That night she stayed awake until the phone rang at 3 A.M. She answered it, then used her cell phone to put a call the police so they could trace the call. She was told to keep whoever it was on the phone at the very minimum of five minutes to complete the trace. So she talked into the receiver, pleading to whomever to tell her who it was on the other end.
For three minutes no one answered her, just silence. But she sensed someone was there, listening to her. Finally before five minutes were up someone spoke.
The voice sounded like a woman's and she seem to be crying.
"Please, please, it's so dark here. And cold. I feel claustrophobic.
Get me out of here!" This last sentence ended on a high-pitched scream, full of terror.
Then the unknown woman hung up. On her cell the police said they had traced the call and knew where it originated.
"Where?" Sandy asked in an anxious tone.
"The Richmond Memorial Park in Chester, Miss Deakins."
"The cemetery? Who, why?"
"We don't know, but we're sending a patrol out to the cemetery now to find out. We'll call you back on your home phone when we do."
"Thanks." She hung up. Too keyed up to try and go to sleep she stayed up and made some coffee. She was sipping a cup of coffee as she watched a late night movie on TV when the phone rang.
She answered it. It was the police and they had an answer for her, though they weren't sure she like to hear it.
"What is it?" she asked, gripping the receiver tight.
"We like you to come down to the Richmond Memorial Park, to the house here."
"All right. I'll be there in a half hour the most."
Sandy got dressed and drove down to the cemetery, to the house the gravedigger lived in. She found the police standing by their vehicle, the gravedigger by their side.
Everyone's face looked grim and uneasy at the same time. This made her even more uneasy and she grew ill, as her stomach turned over and over, like butter being churned.
"This way, Miss," said one of the cops, leading her off into the cemetery. The other policeman and the grave digger followed.
Dawn was just breaking in the east, a rosy glow lighting up the skies, the sun making its way up when they reached a newly dug grave. Sunlight lit up the gravestone, blinding Sandy to the name on it.
"Why are we here, officer?" she asked, nervous.
"Take a look at the name on the stone, Miss Deakins."
She edged closer and bent down to peer at the name etched on the stone. The sun's glare had left and she finally saw the name, along with the birth date and the death, chiseled on there.
Sandy Deakins, born April 20, 1975, died June 13, 2003.
Her eyes widened with horror.
"God, oh God, that was a week ago, about the time those calls started!"
She backed away. She turned and saw horror on the faces of the two policemen and the grave digger. A glance down and she saw her cell phone, broken in half, but still clutched in her hand, which was fading away. Blood, dirt and ripped parts of skin hung off her, along with torn clothing and a shoe missing off her left foot, halfway torn off from the ankle.
She looked back at the living people and cried, "I died in that car accident, didn't I?"
They didn't give her an answer, but stared in horror as she faded away. The broken cell phone dropped onto her grave, where someone must have left it when she had been buried a week ago. A cell phone that her ghost had tried to call her on, at the exact time she had died. She had used the ultimate service provider to make the last call she would ever make on her cell phone.
Pamela K. Kinney has always loved making up stories, whether in lieu of an assignment for class or for play time on the playground. She loved to scare the others kids into believing that the shed next door to the school playground actually had a ghost haunting it, or convinced her nephews that a dragon really lived in her closet. She never felt alone growing up as her imagination kept her entertained.
Stories she's had published were "They Really Exist" with
AlienSkinMagazine.com, "The Curse", a fantasy erotica, a science fiction story, "Sins of the Father" in online version of Nth
Degree Zine, "The House on Green Street" in Cyber Pulp's
Halloween Anthology 3.0, "Game of Hell" with Speculative Fiction
Centre and 'Plagued" in Travel Guide to the Haunted Mid--
Atlantic Region anthology.
Upcoming are "Donating" in Inhuman Magazine, "Werewolf for Hire" online with ScienceFictionFantasyHorror.com, two dark fantasy romances, "Shadow Lover" and "To Teach an Ancient
God" with Beyond the Blackened Mirror: Tales of Dark
Romance anthology from Coyote Moon Publications, "Azathoth
Is Here" in Cthulhu Express Anthology, "Abuse" online at Pretty
Scary, "Jack", erotic horror with Sinister Tales Magazine and the vamperotrica single title, Crimson Passion with Chippewa
Publishing. Both "Jack" and Crimson Passion will be und e r her pen name, Sapp h i r e P he l a n .
To keep up what has been accepted and what is coming out, you can find out more at her website:
Susan Wickham is by day a pet sitter and works with a vet in the Tidewater area of Virginia, by night she becomes a super artist! When her friend, Pamela called for her help in cover art for her book of four ghost stories she answered the call. You can check out her blog at: