The Vessels

Archive for the category “Zombie Fiction”

Winter’s Bride (Elizabeth’s story part 2)

I felt invigorated as the sharp winter air bit at my nose and ears while we raced down the snow-covered hill. Snow built up on the runners of our red, wooden sled and it slowed to a halt. I leaned into Alex’s warm, strong body. I inhaled deeply to breathe in the familiar aroma of his musky cologne. His athletic arms encircled me in a cozy embrace and he planted a kiss on the top of my head.
“That was fun,” he said.
I smiled and nodded in agreement.
“Now I want to go back for coffee!” I shivered.
The cold wind picked up and bit at us, whirling around bitterly. Alex leaned over and grabbed our sled.
We walked hand in hand back to my family’s cottage.
“Your family has an unconventional way of doing things,” he casually dusted a snowflake from his brow.
“I guess so,” I shrugged. “If you think this is weird, they took Steph’s boyfriend with us to Disney World when they wanted to meet him.”
“I always imagined the first time I’d meet my girlfriend’s parents, the dad would be sharpening his sword or cleaning his gun and the mom would be pacing behind him and giving me suspicious looks.”
“Okay my parents might be unconventional but at least they aren’t cliches!” I laughed.
He shrugged his broad shoulders as the door to the cottage swung open. He flashed a cool smile and said, “True enough!”
Dad was waiting at the entrance for us.
“Welcome back, love birds.” he waved us into the sitting room. Dad’s face was warm and inviting.
He was tall, lean and athletic. His salt and pepper hair was kept high and tight with gel to accentuate his strong jawline while disguising his receding hairline. He had chestnut eyes and a long narrow bridge with wide nostrils. His gray, well-groomed beard surrounded his full oval lips. Dad’s skin was warm sepia with copper undertones.
He wore a navy v-neck cardigan over a plain, black t-shirt and a pair of relaxed fit blue jeans and casual, slip-on loafers.
The sitting room was cozy; a fire was burning, giving off a warm glow. The fireplace was situated into the stone wall. On the left was a shabby, putty colored sectional and our Husky, Tundra was occupying one of the seats. Across from the sectional was a matching pair of arm chairs. We crossed the room and took our places. Dad chose to sit in the arm chair closest to the fireplace. Alex preferred to sit next to Tundra and I sat beside him, lacing my fingers with his. The room was filled with the aromas of garlic, onions, tomato and basil. And when I took in more I could smell hot pasta.
“Ahh! Mom’s spaghetti,” I relaxed and leaned into the couch.
Dad reached into the pocket of his cardigan and lifted out a silver cigarette tin. He pushed down on a brass button that opened the tin and offered a mentholated cigarette to Alex.
“I don’t smoke, sir,” said Alex, politely.
My dad muttered a bit, shifted in his seat and popped a cigarette in his mouth.
“I suppose,” he said, allowing the cigarette to bounce with his words, “it’s not a very good habit to get started on.” Then he struck a match and lit it. Now the room filled with the musty and minty smells of dad’s cigarette.
“No judgment from me,” Alex leaned back and freed his hand from mine to place his arm on my shoulder and pull me into his chest.
“How have you enjoyed Vermont so far?”
“Liz and I went sledding.”
“I remember when she was seven years old and I first took her down the same hill she brought you to,” Dad said, fondly recalling an old memory. “Yeah, I carried Liz up that hill on my shoulder and had the sled tucked beneath my arms. She was a chatterbox the whole way up. I sat down and planted her in front of me. I said ‘Hang on tight!’ and pushed off. As soon as we had momentum, Lizzy started squealing and laughing. She was a riot! You should have heard her.”
“She still screams like that!” Alex chuckled and nudged me with his elbow. “She sounds like a little girl. It’s a good thing we dudes have it together!”
I laughed out loud, “Whatever, Alex. When we picked up momentum even you shouted a bit. Its not so bad that I sound like a girl. I am a girl. But when a guy sounds like a girl…”
We all laughed.
Mom walked into the room and we all stopped to give her our attention. Alex stood up and flattened his sweater with the back of his hand. Dad stood too and nodded.
“Hello, Mrs. Rogers,” he greeted her with a smile.
“Oh hi, dear!” she said. “Follow me, everyone. Dinner’s on!”
Mom led us into the dining room. The table was adorned with a maroon cloth. In the middle two white taper candles inside of brass holders burned brightly. Our salads were already served. Crisp iceberg lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumber, dried cranberry and shredded cheese atop our bone white china.
“Mrs. Rogers, this looks delicious,” Alex commented.
“Thank you,” she said. “You two excited to return for the spring semester?”
“Yeah, just wish spring semester actually meant it started in the spring!” Alex chuckled.
Mom nodded, chewing silently.
“So, Forensic science,” said Dad “Is that pretty hard?”
“Well,” Alex propped his elbows on the table. “Its a lot of science, you know. I’m actually majoring in Medical Laboratory Science. I’ve had to digest a lot and I do mean a lot of terminology so far and this is only my second fall in.”
“I bet,” said Dad between bites. “Law school hit me hard. I was cramming all the time. It was such a relief when I passed the bar.”
“You know, I thought it was going to be big pressure to date the daughter of a prosecutor!” Alex said, sitting back in his chair with a nervous laugh.
“Oh it still should be,” Dad leaned on the table and held Alex’s gaze. Alex shifted uncomfortably in his seat and Dad sat back in amusement and let out a hearty laugh.
Alex sighed.
“Don’t let him get to you,” Mom said warmly serving Alex spaghetti on the dinner plate that now sat where his salad dish had been.”He teases everyone like that.”
After dinner we all got up and Alex offered to play a song.
He crossed our family room to the mocha-colored, baby grand piano in the far corner of the room.
“I’m taking requests.” He said, cracking his knuckles.
Mom sat next to him on the matching bench
“Lets do a duet.”
“Sure Missus,” and together they played The Waltz. Alex was on the low notes, mom on the high and we applauded when it was over.
“What else?” Mom asked.
“Chopsticks, like the cats on YouTube!” Dad exclaimed.
Mom turned on the bench to face us and crossed her arms in front of her. She huffed.
“Are you saying if a cat can do it then its a cinch for us?” she said, raising her eyebrows.
Dad and I laughed.
They began playing chopsticks and in unison they glared at us with smirks smeared across their faces.
When they were done they bowed facetiously. Alex gave a silly curtsey.
“Thank you! Thank you!”
We applauded again.
“Well, it was fun but actually your dad and I have to clean up the kitchen,” said Mom.
She and Dad departed from the family room, talking quietly with each other.
I turned to Alex.
“You’re doing well with my folks,” I said.
“Yeah, they’re pretty great!”
He walked over to where I was standing. He placed himself in front of me and placing his warm hands at my waist, he pulled me in close to him.
“You’re pretty great too,” he whispered against my cheek.
His warm breath made my body shiver with anticipation. He ran his soft, supple lips up my neck and then they met my own. Our lips parted and as our tongues danced sensuously, heat filled my veins. I felt his fingers slide under my shirt. Electricity shot through my body. I groaned, softly. But my parents faces flashed in my mind and I pulled back.

I looked up into his eyes, passion burning behind his green flecked, hazel eyes. He blushed. I straightened my shirt out and stepped back, bashfully.
“Not here,” I mumbled.
We turned around. Mom was glowering at Alex, her eyes throwing darts.
“Uh, we didn’t see you there, Ma!” I said, nervously.
She just stared. She didn’t speak.
“Oh come on,” I said, dropping my arms to my side. “Come on, I’m 19 years old. It can’t be that bad!”
She stood in the doorway and body-checked Alex. Her eyes unmoved and hot.
“Alyssa?” My dad had walked in. Mom’s body was tight, her spine was straight and she had not taken her eyes off of Alex.
Dad snapped his fingers in front of Mom’s face. She had seemed to go into an angry trance.
“That boy is trouble,” her voice was low and unforgiving. It sent chills down my spine.
She turned and walked away.
“That’s unlike her,” Dad said. “I will figure it out.” He followed behind her.
“What’s up with your mom?” Alex whispered to me.
I shrugged. Suddenly Mom was acting cold toward him. I was confused, because Mom had once walked in on Brandon and I making out. She said nothing then.
“It’s probably just my ex,” my shoulders dropped as I said that. I glanced at the ground. He sighed.
“I mean, it was traumatic for me, but when I told Mom she was a mess of tears and worry.”
“I can understand that,” He said.
“She called the cops, but you know.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry.”
He shoved both his hands into his pants pockets and glanced around. Then he gave me a sly look. He raised his eyebrows and shortened the distance between us. Pulling me close, he stared down into my eyes.
“So, its time for me to shower up and get all this filth off of me,” his voice lowered. “Wanna join me?”
I blushed, my cheeks grew hot. I pulled away.
“Eugh!” I joked. “But seriously, you men can turn it on like flipping a switch.” I laughed.
He nudged me with his elbow and winked at me. “Aww, you’re no fun.”
I gave him a silly smirk. “Dad or Mom will kill us both.”
“Probably your mom,” he agreed. “If looks could kill…”
“Yeah, and I don’t want to go home a widow,” I chuckled. I twisted a strand of my ebony hair around my fingers.
“We aren’t even married, you crazy chick,” Alex let out a soft chuckle and jingled change in his pockets.
I looked away.
“Which is just one more reason we shouldn’t be showering together.”
“Your loss!” he teased as he ambled up the stairs for the shower, giving me one last seductive look.
I rolled my eyes and pointed up the stairs.
“Go on,” I said.
When he was up the stairs I walked down the hall and headed for my room.  I stepped into my warm bedroom, an espresso colored vanity with an oval mirror was situated in the corner facing me. An old, worn out, leather-bound diary sat atop it and just beside the diary, my round brush perfect for my curls.
The seat matched, but now the cushion was worn from age. The walls against the back were papered with bright gold flowers and the maroon, faded curtains matched the bedding. Two fluffy rugs were situated on either side of my iron sleigh bed.
I sat down at my vanity and lifted my brush when I saw my mom reflecting in the mirror. She was standing in the doorway.
“Hey mom,” I waved her into the room.
She crossed the room, the old floor creaked beneath her as she stepped. She shifted her gaze from me to the back wall and back to me. She stopped behind my vanity stool and sighed deeply.
She plucked the round brush from my hand and began to gently stroke my hair. I relaxed. My mother brushing my hair before bed was something we did together every night while talking.
“Dad will be bringing our tea,” she said, warmly.
I saw a soft smile cross her lips.
I returned the smile and then closed my eyes.
“Remember all the winter breaks we’ve spent in this cottage?” Mom’s voice was soft.
“Yeah, warm cocoa by the fire with you, ice skating with Livvy and Darlene, sledding down steep hills with Dad and betting on how long it would take for me to start screeching like a little girl!”
“You were so wobbly at ice skating at first,” Mom recalled. She flipped my hair with the brush.
“One time when you and Darlene were first learning to skate you limped home holding your ass in your hands. When I took a look your tailbone was bruised pretty bad. You were all ‘My butt bone! My butt bone, ow, ow, ow!’ I summoned everything in me to not laugh at your suffering.”
I watched the scene unfold in my head. I could remember very clearly the days when my ice skating was wobbly and uncoordinated.
“Darlene’s mom had a few good stories to share about her mishaps too,” Mom chuckled.
“Here’s your girly tea,” Dad said, placing a saucer and cup on my nightstand.
“Get out,” Mom said, lightly.
The comforting aroma of chamomile and cool spearmint filled my nose.
“Ahh,” I said, relaxing my shoulders. “I love this stuff.”
I opened my eyes. Dad was behind Mom with his hands on her shoulders, massaging them and smiling at me.
“Love you girls,” He said. “Wish Steph and Mike could have joined us up here.” He kissed Mom on the cheek and released her shoulders. He leaned down and kissed me atop my head.
“Alrighty. I’m going to bed.” He stretched and headed out.
“You enjoying your winter break, love?” Mom said, placing the brush down behind my tea cup.
“Yeah, except I want you to know Alex is nothing like Brandon,” I said.
“Well you can’t be too sure, Brandon started off like him,” Mom lamented, wringing her hands.
I turned on my bench to face her.
“I just feel like you kind of overreacted when you caught us getting a little…erm…”
“What are you talking about?” confusion crossed her face.
I bit my lower lip. “Well you know…kinda making out.”
“I didn’t see you two making out,” she rocked on her heels.
“Mom you stared at him like he was dead to you!” I said.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about?!” her voice sounded genuinely puzzled.
She stood straight up.
“No, we’re not doing this!” I stood up and walked around her.
She turned and faced me, her mouth open.
I furrowed my brows and glared at her, hands on my hips.
“Mom, you were kinda rude. You said he was bad news.”
Mom stepped back on her heels.
“You’re mistaken!” she exclaimed. “I have done nothing like that this whole time. I’ve been very hospitable. What’s going on with you?” she chewed her bottom lip and her eyes searched me for an explanation.
My head buzzed. I was perplexed. How could she stand there and pretend nothing had happened?  I pinched the bridge of my nose and rubbed my eyes.
“Okay,” I shrugged. I guess I read more into her reaction than there was. I plopped down on my bed.
“You okay?” Mom said, cocking her head.
“Yeah,” I smiled up at her. “Guess I’m getting tired.”
Mom squatted down, her eyes meeting mine.
“Yeah get some sleep, dear.” She caressed my cheeks and lifted my chin to look into my eyes.
“Alex doesn’t have long with you, our, sweet, ebony queen,” an eerie voice escaped my mother’s lips.
I shot up as the hairs on my neck raised.
“What the hell, Mom?!” I squeaked.  My eyes searched her face.
“What ever do you mean?” her voice seemed to be many and it echoed on its own.
I rolled my shoulders involuntarily. The voice was so eerie. A fire burned in my stomach and goosebumps covered every inch of me.
She walked backwards out of my room, with her eyes fixed on mine.
She turned and disappeared down the hallway. I was floored. She was acting so strange. I tried to follow her but my feet felt cemented. I was paralyzed with fear and confused.
“Mom!” my voice was barely above a whisper. A tear burned behind my eyelids and slid down my cheek.
I shook my head.
“Weird as fuck,” I muttered, shaking my head. I shuddered. I finally made my feet move so I closed the door. “Nevermind.”
I sat on my bed, laid back and looked up at my ceiling which still had the glow-in-the-dark star stickers from my childhood were still clinging on.  I heard a knock at the door.
“Are you ready to act normal?” I asked, sarcastically.
“What?” came Alex’s voice.
“Oh, come in!” I said, pleasantly and sat up.
He walked in with just a towel wrapped around his waist, his hair was still wet. He smirked at me.
“Get some clothes on,” I said, waving him out. “We get it, you’re hot.”
“What’s the matter?” he asked. He plopped down next to me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
“Mom’s acting weird, I guess.”
“Moms, eh?” He kissed the top of my head.
“Okay, get out before they see you in here,” I pulled away from his embrace.
“Got it,” he said, standing up. “Mom’s cold, girlfriend’s cold, check.” He stood up and with long strides, sauntered out of my room pointing his elbows outward and zanily swinging them with balled fists. He looked back at me to see my reaction and of course, I was giggling.
“You’re so silly,” I commented.
“I y’am what I y’am, ma’am,” he winked outside of my door.
“Okay, Popeye. I’m going for my shower.”
I rifled through my drawer, gathered my pajamas and my yellow ankle socks and headed for our upstairs bathroom.
Mom and I passed each other on the stairs. Again, I searched her face for answers. I said nothing. She was carrying a laundry basket in her arms. She smiled at me. I shirked and did not return the warm looks. I saw a look of bewilderment cross her face as she furrowed her eyebrows. I shrugged and walked past her. I turned a corner and entered our bathroom.
“Eugh!” I said, seeing the fogged up mirror. “Can’t they ever clean up after themselves?” Using my sleeve, I wiped the mirror. I pressed a button on the mirror to turn on the glass warmer.
“Such an easy step to prevent this,” I said with a sigh. I turned the shower on and disrobed. I stepped in.  The water poured down my body and I wriggled my toes, feeling the hot beads beating down on me. Steam encircled me and fogged the door, erasing the outside from my vision. It allowed my mind to relax and escape. Just as soap bubbles careened down my wet shoulders I heard the door creak open. My heart beat more rapidly in my chest.
“Alex,” I said impatiently. “You can’t be in here.” I reached out to blindly grab  for the towel hanging on the nearby rack.
The silhouette continued to lurch toward me.
“Not funny!” I said in a loud whisper. If Dad saw this scene unfolding he’d go off. I slid open the door and Mom was standing there just looking at me. Her eyes were distant. It was as if she were staring through me instead of at me. I threw the towel around my naked body.
“Mom, what the hell?!” I shrieked. Her eyes were empty.
She was unmoving and I was unnerved. I shuddered, feeling chills shoot down my spine.
Her eyes met mine.
“We said you’d be our bride,” a dozen voices flew from my mother’s throat.
I stumbled backwards, a shiver raced up my spine. She reached out for me. I slipped on the ceramic, shower floor and fell on my bottom.
“What kind of a–”
“Be our bride,” they said.
A fire grew in my belly. My body began to tremble. I felt hot tears build up behind my lids and I choked.
I forced myself to stand up.
“What’s going on with you Mom?!” I was utterly disturbed.
“Be….with….us!” the voices chanted “Be with us….”
I reached out for my mother.
“Mom?” I felt the tears that had been building up slide down my cheeks. She jerked backward and evaded my touch.
A knot in my throat choked me. I looked carefully over her. I tried to find a reason for what was happening. Her pupils disappeared into the back of her head. I shook and lost my balance.
“What the fuck is going on, Mom?!”
Mom’s pupils came back into view, she shook her head back and forth.
“I was just coming to get towels for the downstairs bathroom,” she said in her normal voice.
“No freaking way, Mom! Absolutely not!” I screamed at her. My entire body tremored from the anger and fear I felt.
“You’re shaking like a leaf, dear,” she said, looking over me. She reached out for me. This time it was I who dodged her loving touch.
“Something is fucked up about you, and I don’t know what!” I accused, shaking and pointing at her, tears were flowing freely now and my bottom lip trembled.
Her eyes glowed hot white, now.
I froze.
“When we said before that you’d be our bride we meant it. Alex won’t have you!” the eerie voices spoke for her now.
I forced myself to move and ran for the door. I jerked on the door. It wouldn’t open.
Mom was right on top of me. I turned and we were almost nose to nose. Her lips were turned up in a sinister smile and only the whites of her eyes were showing. I felt my eyes grow. My arms were pressed flat against the door as I gazed into her emptied whites and chewed on my bottom lip.
I reached out for her face. I wanted to feel that it was real. As I started to touch her cheek she reached up to my hand and yanked it away. With incredible strength she pinned both my hands to the door.
“It’s too late,” the many voices oozed from her parted lips.
I twisted my body back and forth, trying to free myself from her.
“Alex!” I screamed at last. “Daddy! Daddy!”
Mom was a blur now that tears flooded my vision.
“Hush, child,” the creepy voices continued. “They can’t hear you.”
“How can they not hear me?” I cried.
“What do the dead hear?!” a sing songy voice of a young girl said.
“What the hell is going on?” I wrenched myself free from her powerful grasp. I ducked beneath her and crawled to the bathroom cupboard. I flung the doors open and rifled through the contents.
“Something, anything!” I said, panicking and tossing tampons, a curling iron and a blow dryer behind me. Buried beneath all of the hygiene products I found a painted rock I made in third grade.
Mom was standing behind me again, glowering at me.
With the rock in my hand I turned to the window, reached back behind my head and tossed it at the glass. It shattered. Mom’s body jumped. She looked at me and back at the window.
I ran for the window and grabbed a shard of glass.
“Stay away you psycho bitch!” I said, finding my courage. She wasn’t my mother anymore. I wasn’t sure what she was but she wasn’t my mother right now.
“Is that any way to address your mummy?” a maniacal singing voice escaped her lips. She lurched forward and grasped my right arm at the bicep. She shook the glass free from my hand. I choked on my words. I tried to scream but my voice was trapped. My legs trembled. I placed my free hand over her hand that was digging into my skin and tried to pull myself loose. She tightened her grip. My heart did somersaults. My eyes widened as I looked at her. I searched her face for remorse, for sympathy or love. Nothing, her face lacked any emotion. She stared blankly at me.
“Do you see this, Infinity? She thinks she can get away!” Said a gruff man’s voice.
“I see,” sang the eerie voice from before. “You will be our bride, girl.” And my mom’s mouth formed into an unnatural smile.
I twisted my wrist and yanked. I was free of her grasp again. I  looked carefully at the broken window now. It was an escape. I could get out onto the ledge and find Alex. I hoisted myself up onto the sill and climbed out the window. I peered back in and saw my mother standing there, unfazed. The cold air bit my naked body. I shook from the chill. I clenched my jaw.
“We need you,” the many voices sang all at once.
“Alex!” I screamed from the rooftop. “Where are you?!”
I carefully looked at the snow covered ground below. The only light casting onto the white snow came from the moon. It was dark and bitter cold. I decided to try to climb down. I laid on my belly and crept over to the edge of the roof. I grabbed the eave with my hands and dangled my legs off the side. I didn’t have time to figure out what was going on with Mom. I took in a sharp breath, the cold winter air stabbed at my lungs and I leapt down. The snow broke my fall. My ankles groaned as I tried to move. I had twisted them.
“Help!” I screamed into the quiet darkness.
I expected Dad or Alex to rush out. With ease, Mom leapt from the roof and landed like a cat on her feet into the snow. She lurched after me.
“Wha-wha-what?!” my voice shook. Mom continued forward. The piercing cold mixed with the intense aching pain in my legs slowed me down. I rubbed my hands together, the cold like needles.
My eyes darted back and forth. Where was Dad? Where was Alex? She lumbered forward with hastened steps.
“Our bride, our bride, our bride!” they chanted. I tried to run but the pain was too much. I fell on my hands and knees into the snow. I sobbed, defeated. I heard her footsteps crunching through the snow. I bent my head to look at her. The only warmth I felt came from my tears which didn’t last long. She paused in her tracks and cocked her head. Her rich umber skin turned pale. Her braided hair unfurled, revealing waves that stood on all ends. I froze with fear. I tried to crawl away and kept screaming. I wasn’t fast enough. She hissed as she leaped onto me and pinned me to the icy ground. She grasped my throat.
“What did you to do to Dad and Alex?” I demanded, shaking.
“Consent is needed,” she said in her many voices.
Mom was long gone. The snow beneath me took hold of my remaining strength. It burned. It felt like thousands of tiny needles poking my naked skin.
“Please stop this, mommy!” I pled, hopefully.
She grasped my throat.
“You will consent,” sang the voices.
“I don’t know what that means, Mom!” I sobbed.
“You will consent,” she chanted.
I wriggled back and forth, the frost biting at my limbs. I spit in her eyes. She used her other hand to wipe her eyes. She tightened her grip on my throat.
“Be our bride,” sang the girl’s voice from before. She placed her other hand over the first one and used her left knee to pin down my arms.
I squeezed my eyes tight and refused to look at her as oxygen escaped me. I wriggled back and forth, but I was growing weaker as her choke constricted my breathing.
“You will be our bride,” they chanted, using her mouth as a vessel for their disgusting voices. “You will consent.”
The harder I fought the more intense her grasp was.  My breathing slowed, darkness consumed me and my head felt light. I was nauseated. I was growing weaker, losing consciousness. I heard their voices whispering for me to say yes.
“Say yes. Say yes.” But I refused, shaking my head back and forth rapidly, tears flying from my cheeks. I opened my eyes one more time. The warmth was gone and my heart ached. I relaxed. She was stronger than me, now. I surrendered to her clutches. I laid there, motionless. I listened to my heart’s unnatural rhythm. The beating was slower. I absorbed it, echoing in my mind. The drumming. Thud…thud…thud…and then nothing. Nothing anymore, only silence. Painfully deafening silence. Oh, how I ached to hear just one more beat. I miss the warmth of my flesh and the sensation of blood flowing through my veins.  I yearn to feel my body animated again. I desire to feel the electricity pulsing through my veins when another person touches me or the cold kiss of a fallen snowflake on my cheeks. I miss the warmth of bathing in the summer sun, the feeling of warm, wet grains of sand squishing between my toes. I will miss every sensation I took for granted. Now, in this darkness, my soul only clings to my body to seek out my vengeance. They will pay.
“And that’s where you come in,” I said, hearing my voice echo through her head. “You are their bride, Caren.  I guess they worked out the kinks on that consent thing.”
My new, ghastly voice was hollow and raspy.
“You are my only refuge,” I continued. “You will free me from this prison and I will show you how to beat them, how to free us all. And when you do you will have avenged me.” I used her eyes to see around the stark, white room she was confined to. White walls, ivory white bedding tucked tightly in around the corners, white floors, no windows except in the single white door with just a small double-paned window. My laughter bounced through the walls of her mind. “They think she’s a nut.”  My cackle resounded through her head. She shuddered and scratched at her bloody scalp.
“You’re just making it worse, dear,” I whispered. She clenched her fists.
“Go away! GO AWAY” And her body shook with anger.
My soul returned to my murdered corpse and I kept company with the worms. With my reanimated hand I dug my overgrown nails into the soil.

She will call on me when she is ready. She knows my name and she will find me. Caren is our hope.

A Whisper (Caren)

It started with a whisper. When I first heard it I thought I was still dreaming. I tossed my legs over the side of my bed. I walked through my home into the kitchen where Dad was humming while flipping pancakes. I shook my head when the whispers began to multiply in my mind. There were so many now and so incoherent; they seemed to be bouncing off the walls of my skull. The innumerable whispers that echoed through my mind caused me to pause in my steps. I shook my head back and forth, trying to shake out the sounds. My heart thudded rapidly. I felt like I was being choked by invisible fingers. I wrapped my hands around my throat and began to gently squeeze.
“Help!” I whispered. The sounds of whispers resonated through my skull. I balled my hands into a fist and banged them against my ears. The whispers multiplied. My heart raced. My stomach did turns. I felt weak. I could not control the sounds in my mind. I was going insane! I squeezed my eyes shut and reached up to my scalp and began furiously scratching, digging at my scalp.
“No,” my voice trembled.
“Caren!” my mother’s voice cried out. I heard her feet pounding on the tile behind me. I could tell she was running toward me, but I continued in my madness. She grabbed my arms and released my clawing hands from my head. She kept a grip on my biceps. I opened my eyes, the whispers had subsided. I looked down into my fingers. Hair was wrapped around each one and blood and skin pooled beneath my nails. My shoulders sagged. Tears threatened to flow freely, but I took a deep breath and forced them back. I already felt pathetic enough. I looked up at my mom. My dad stood beside her. His arms crossed in front of him and a concerned look formed on both of their faces.
“Caren, you don’t have lice,” said mom, confused.
“What’s going on with you this morning?” asked dad as he wrapped his arms around my head and pulled me into his embrace.
“Why don’t you stay home today?” mom suggested, gently.
“You need to wash your hair,” mom said, thoughtfully. “You should use the baby shampoo on those cuts you’ve made.”
My head was sore, I could feel blood pooling out of the scratches in my scalp. I didn’t move, I felt frozen and confused. I felt ashamed as they spoke at me and not really to me. I pulled my biceps free from my mom’s grip. I stepped backwards, eyeing them suspiciously and I turned away from them. Then as soon as their stares of pity and concern were on my back, I darted down the hallway and into the bathroom. When inside the bathroom, with the door shut behind me, I undressed in a hurry, tossing my clothes angrily at the wall. I allowed tears of anger and frustration to sting my eyeballs and flow freely down my cheeks. What was happening to me? I leaned over the bathtub and turned the knob for the hot water until it was all the way on. I let the water run while I sat outside the tub, my back facing a nearby wall, and quietly cried. What was happening to me? Steam began to fill the room and the water continued to run. The white noise allowed me to relax. I stopped crying and closed my eyes, and as I did I saw a blood covered gray hand rise above the water, tinging my clear bath water pink. I let out a loud gasp and my eyes shot open. Fearfully, I looked into the bath. Aside from water, there was nothing ghoulish or even bloody about it. I turned off the hot water, wiped the steam and tears from my face and stepped slowly into the bathtub. What was happening to me? I leaned back into the steamy water, allowing it to cover my whole body and face. I closed my eyes under the water and drowned out the sounds of my surroundings. The water crept into my scratches, burning them, but I did not move. I felt apathy. I was numb, emotionally. After my bath I decided to hide myself from my parents’ stares of pity and confusion by lying in bed,  buried beneath my covers. Then the whispers started up again and I felt my body tremble.  This can’t be happening. Why?
“You will be there,” a thought occurred. “Samhill Cemetery in Ravenstown,” the whisper echoed in my mind.
I shook my head back and forth, trying to shake free the eerie whispers. I plugged my ears and shut my eyes in denial that these voices were real. But even in silence and darkness they made themselves known.
“Go and bring a shovel.” said one clear whisper. “My stone is made of marble and comes to a cross at the top. The name on the marker is: Elizabeth Warren. Free me!” The whisper turned into a voice and the silhouette of a woman formed in my mind’s eye. The invisible hands choked me again and stole my voice. I tried to fight my way out of my blanket but I could not move my body. I was paralyzed.
“Free me!” her ghastly voice repeated and she came into full view: a corpse wearing a tattered and dirty wedding dress. Her eyes were still intact and her blueish skin was only just beginning to recede away from her bones. Her hair was matted by dirt and blood to her disfigured head. “I will have revenge,” she sang, eerily, her dried lips forming a creepy smile at the corners. And then she faded from my view and the whispers all stopped at once. I forced open my eyes and pushed my way out of my blanket. I tumbled to the floor with the blanket twisted around my body. I yanked the blanket off of me and tossed it on to my bed.
What’s happening to me? 

Psychic Link (Caren’s Story:Mortal)

I specifically remember Friday, late September of last year, after school, Christina and I walking home together talking about boys, ghosts, and the paranormal. We had always been interested in the hereafter and had just finished reading a book called Purgatory after several summer sleepovers. At those sleepovers, in our oversized nightgowns, we would take turns reading chapter after chapter of the hair-raising tales of what happens in the next life to souls. Our priest had once given a sermon saying that we ought to not conjure up spirits and talk to the dead, but Christina and I were enamored with the morbid.

And that September afternoon, we had decided that we would go to Mass with our parents on Sunday and then hang out all day. That Sunday night the blood moon would rise and we were told by Paul West, a goth kid from 6th period, that during the blood moon the spirits rise from their graves and will interact with mortals. The idea of meeting a ghost, someone from the great beyond, thrilled Christina and me. After Mass, we spent the afternoon together, talking about our plans.

“Okay,” said Christina, “we’re going to pack a couple sandwiches for us each in our backpacks and maybe some chips or something.”
“Then,” she continued, “we’ll need some flashlights, because it’ll be creepy dark. And we’ll bring both of our phones, you know, just in case.”
I nodded and said, “Yes, just in case, but we’re tough; we won’t be scared anyway.”
“Thankfully, St. Mark’s is a quick, two blocks away and I told Mom we’re just going to the hill to get good pics,” she said, waving her phone around, convincingly.
“Why not just tell her we want to go prowl around St. Mark’s cemetery?” I asked.
“Mom would say that’s morbid,” she explained, “and she’d be kinda right but talking to ghosts seems too wicked to not try!”
I shrugged. “I guess so,” I said. And it kind of did sound like it could be fun. We had not spent any time in the graveyard and had only seen it from the back room of the church. Even if we did not get to interact with spirits, we’d at least see who all lied at rest there. I did know that Mrs. Cassidy, an old widow who used to play our church organ, was buried back there. But I did not know who else was buried there so: what the hay?
Christina and I hung out. We even flipped on the local 5 o’clock news and the anchorman was discussing the blood moon and irrational behaviors associated with it. He chuckled and talked about werewolves and then the weather came on.
“See, Mom?” said Christina, “Isn’t that moon lovely?”
“You can go get your pictures after dinner,”  said Christina’s mother, Gail.
“I know,” said Christina, “I just wanted to remind you.”
“Christina, come get me after dinner,” I said. “I need to go back home for dinner myself.” With that, I scooped up my backpack and walked out of their front door.
Later, Christina gave me a call and told me it was time to head back over. She was excitedly rushing around, grabbing her “ghost hunting equipment.” As we walked out the front door to go on our short journey to the graveyard, Christina notified her mother and we were off.
We walked down our street and up another, chatting about ghosts and the great beyond. The night air was cool and there was a slight breeze and it caressed my cheeks and blew softly through my medium-length, reddish-brown hair. Finally, we made it to St. Mark’s and stopped dead at the parking lot, seeing the entrance to the cemetery and a few small graves from our position. The blood moon in the background of the cemetery gave it an evil glow and sent a shiver up my spine. I felt goose pimples form along my arms and I shuddered.
Maybe the rumors about the ghosts coming to life for one night were true. Maybe the idea of talking to them had been romanticized by my favorite  teen movies. I felt slightly fearful of the prospect of meeting with the deceased, so I stopped and shuffled my feet around nervously in the parking lot. I noticed that Christina may have been feeling the same thing because she slowed down in her tracks, as well, and began anxiously twisting her black hair around her index finger.
“You nervous, Care?” she chuckled. Her voice cracked a bit and she stared at her feet.
“Nah, not nervous,” I said, now staring at my own feet. I kicked at the air and moved forward. Each step felt like my shoes were caught in molasses. My heart thudded in my chest  and my hairs stood on end. I felt my stomach do flip flops and I wanted to turn on my heels and leave. We approached the chain link fence that enclosed the entire graveyard. I  told Christina that we should go home. I reminded her of a sermon we once heard about not interfering with the dead or practicing any kind of incantations to get their attention. I remembered that our priest had said that communicating with the dearly departed was akin to allowing oneself to be deceived by a host of demons. She argued that we had gone “this far,” which was only two blocks away, so why didn’t we just think about all this beforehand.
“Plus,” I remember her saying, “I didn’t even bring a Ouija board or nothing.”
After a minute of back and forth, I hoisted her over the fence and she let me through.  And after that moment, everything seemed to go so quickly. At some point I remember her telling me a gruesome story about a family of five that had been shot to death over jewels. The next thing you know I had clean fainted on the floor after hearing creepy noises. I suppose I am easily startled and then, while unconscious, I had a dream. I was surrounded at first in a hot white light. I saw the silhouette of a young girl approaching me and I began to back up. I turned on my heels and ran, but there was nowhere to go. In every direction I went I could see her. I could hear her voice penetrating my mind, her creepy, echo-ey voice belting out a ghastly song of sorts. My heart rose into my throat, I felt paralyzed with fear. My legs were trembling and sweat careened down my forehead, dripping into my eyes and stinging them. I gained some control over my weakened legs and ran into every direction of this lowing whitewashed nothingness I was trapped in.  I could not get away from the ghastly girl. Another eerie voice entered my mind. The raspy voice sounded gravelly but also had a similar echo to the girl’s. I looked everywhere and could not see him so I kept running until my legs started to throb.
“Help me, please!” a loud whisper is all that escaped my throat. It felt closed.
“I am going to die,” I realized, sobbing on my knees. “I am going to die and never see my family again!” I screamed, pounding my fist against the hot, white nothingness.
“Death does that, dear!” another new, gentler voice entered my mind. This voice of an older woman, she spoke with subtle cracking sounds instead of an echo. It was like her voice was coming from an old radio.
“I can’t be dead!” I protested as loudly as I could in that raspy and strained whisper. Tears now flooded my cheeks.
“You are and you are not,” said the old woman. She revealed herself to me. A haggish looking corpse appeared in front of me, animated by something inside of it. As soon as I saw her grayed, receding, and worm-eaten flesh that revealed bone and cartilage, my stomach did a turn and I vomited on her maggot eaten shoe.  Her head, which hardly had any skin to cover the exposed skull, had only a few strands of overgrown gray and crisped hair. Her eyeballs sagged down over her skinless cheek bone and hanged by only a thread of muscle and nerve tissue.  I could not vomit anymore and my trembling, throbbing legs could not carry on to run. So I sat there, panicking and praying that I could wake up soon.
“You will go back to your life because I have marked you,” she said, explaining the situation to me as if it were pure common sense, “but unlike the others, I have marked you on your soul and in your mind.”
Even as she spoke, tears continued to burn behind my lids and a lump formed in my throat. I had no idea what she was talking about and all I could think is the whiteness and burning sensation in this nothingness was my own personal hell, and because I dared to visit a grave with poor intentions, God was punishing me now.
I whimpered and laid my head into my knees to avoid looking at this monster standing in front of me.
“Why?!” I sobbed, shaking violently now.
“You will work for us,” she continued. “You will have a psychic link that connects you to our world at all times. Because of this mark, you are now one of us, but you get to maintain your youth and beauty. You will be able to go unnoticed because you will be alive, but in a psychic and spiritual way, you will belong to the dead. You will hear us at all hours and people will probably think you are mad. And after tonight you will think you are mad, insane, out of your wits. But we will still use you for our purpose. You will travel, find graves and free us from our prisons. And your mark will guarantee this for us. We are coming. But we will all know you are now ours and will be ours in death so you will face no harm from us, unlike the other humans. So give thanks for this and be grateful!” Her crackling, yet warm voice turned sinister. And she faded away without another word.
“Caren!” I heard a familiar voice screaming at me. I shook my head back and forth, trying to gain control over my senses.
“Should we call 9-1-1?!” Christina was leaning over me and shaking my body.
She came into focus as I rubbed my eyes. Confusion set in but I could see Christina’s cheeks had been tear stained.
“I passed out?!”  I asked, upset at Christina for making me come here, but also relieved that I had been dreaming. “We have to go, Christina. This place is creepy!” and so we dashed out of the graveyard and walked the two blocks back home, in complete silence. She called out a friendly goodbye to me when she ran, exhausted, back into her own home.  I did not turn back to say goodbye or even nod. I was stressed out from being passed out on the dirty floor of the graveyard and felt justified in ignoring my best friend for that night. I went in, tossed my backpack on a coat rack, and walked through the living room where my parents were watching the news. I walked through the hallway and into my bedroom.
I sat on my bed and pulled out my diary:
Dear Diary,
I went to a cemetery and died. They are coming.

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