Jezri's Nightmare Books

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Experiment

It had started as an experiment. Rowan had been looking for a cure for death.  He'd found it, but the cure came with a price--an insatiable thirst for blood. It also only worked on children, turning them from the angelic creatures their parents believed them to be, into life sucking monsters. So he decided to scrap the project and start over again. The only problem was, his lab rats weren't cooperating. He'd managed to destroy all of them, except for these last few. They were different than the others ... Stronger, healing from every attempt on their lives.

Rowan glared at the children. There were 4 of them--dirty, snotty noses--and yet they stared back at him, defiant. They weren't afraid. He hated kids. Worse, he hated kids who wouldn't die.

"Kill them."

Quaid's voice trembled, "Again?"

"As many times as it takes until you get it right."

"But boss ..." Quaid's voice trailed off as Rowan turned away from the cage and looked at him.

"Or I could let them eat you."

Quaid swallowed. "Sure boss, but do I have to go in there with them?" He eyeballed  Ed. Ed was the last man Rowan had ordered to kill these kids. Now Ed lay in the corner of the cage, dead ... Or mostly dead. Quaid thoughtfully pondered the slight quiver that indicated Ed's shallow breath. He reminded himself that the experiment hadn't ever brought back a single adult.

"I don't see how you're going  to do it from here, unless you can kill them with your mind."

Quaid was pretty sure he couldn't kill these devil kids at all, after all, wasn't that the point of the experiment in the first place? He wasn't going to argue with Rowan though. Unlike these children, he was afraid of his boss. He was also afraid of these children. Both were sure to kill him, but with Rowan, death was sure to be permanent. With the children ...

Inside the cage, Ed's hand moved. It was barely noticable. Quaid would have missed it if he hadn't been watching. Rowan didn't even notice. He supposed if these kids got him, he would die too. Maybe. Ed's fingers clenched into a fist.

Quaid didn't like blood, a strange affliction for a hit man. He'd always killed by strangling his victims. He supposed if there was a chance he could live through this, somehow, he could get used to blood. At least he could still be with Charlene. Of course she might not like being married to a walking corpse.

'Undead,' Quaid reminded himself, 'the term is undead.'

A small moan from the direction of Ed. Quaid needed to act quickly before Rowan finally noticed. He was afraid of Rowan, but he also hated him. He hated that he was afraid of him, he hated that he knew Charlene was banging Rowan behind his back, and he hated that he didn't have the courage to confront him. Now, maybe there was a chance for some payback.

Making up his mind, Quaid stepped toward the cage and swung the door wide open.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Never Get Involved With The Living

     A brief history since I don't always write in order and I tend to ntroduce characters or story lines that are connected to previous stories. Max and Trina are vampires I have written about before. The Covenant is a agreement between James, a Vampire leader in another set of stories, who believes Vampires still have souls and can be saved, and a priest at a local church. The Covenant says No Vampire in their Coven is to take a human life or make any new vampires. James Coven lives in Graystone Manor and nor everyone is happy with the agreement. His daughter Linda, for one. Max and Trina are not a part of his Coven. James leaves them be, as long as they don't start piling up bodies.

      Never Get Involved With The Living

     The house was engulfed in flames. He had seen the man who started it; recognized him even. A local politician who had set his sights on the White House. Max imagined arson wouldn't help his portfolio. Neither would a pregnant mistress, one who was threatening to expose their affair by insisting on having the child. Well, if she was dead, she couldn't talk.

     Max started to follow the politician. He was hungry and the blood of the homeless he had been feeding on tasted sour. A rich politician would be a luxury, and unlike the down and out, he wouldn't need to be careful how much he took; he wouldn't feel guilty if this guy died. The media would have a hay day, but he would make it look like a robbery ... maybe a drug buy gone bad.

     The screams of the woman though__she was still alive. Max tried to ignore it. He tried to leave, to go after the politician. The woman wouldn't live for long ... not unless ...

     Don't get involved with the living. It was his motto and it had always served him well. The few times he had ignored his rule had always ended up driving the point. Still ... the baby she carried, it also might be a tasty treat. If he hurried and got to the woman before she died. It would make a nice gift for Trina. They hadn't had anything that tender since the New Years fiasco with Jayne. The baby would die anyway, so he doubted James would object if he found out ... and if he did, so what? He hadn't agreed to the Covenant.

     That's what he told himself as he walked into the flames. Things went a bit differently than he planned.


     "She's burnt," Trina said when Max lay the woman on the table. "Her blood will be charred.

     "She's not food."

     "Then why did you bring her here?"

     The woman moaned and turned her head. Trina saw the mark on her neck; two small pinpricks against healing skin.

     "Never get involved with the living," Trina scolded. Max almost laughed. Trina was older than he was by several hundred years, but she looked to be a pouty ten year old. Usually it was Max who did the scolding, and Trina who ignored the golden rule of the dead. Don't get involved with the living. To do so risked exposure. But he and Trina were both here because someone had gotten involved with them ... had saved their lives, if saving was the correct word.

     "Technically, she isn't alive. Not anymore."

     Trina felt the woman's belly. "It's still alive."

     "And thriving," Max agreed. "An interesting turn of events."

     "What about James?"

     "We aren't a part of the Covenant. Besides, we didn't kill the baby, it's still alive."

     "You turned the woman though."

     "Again, we aren't part of the Covenant."


     Her name was Margo. She wasn't sure if she was grateful Max had saved her. All she thought about was Julius and how he had tried to murder her, and not just her, but her child. At first she felt despair. She wanted to die. If Julius didn't love her__and it was obvious he didn't __then what was there to live for? She watched him on TV. He was the front runner, The People's favorite. He lied to them with the ease of a seasoned politician, his wife by his side, smiling. She had every reason to smile. Julius hadn't poured gasoline over her drugged body and set her on fire.

     Margo felt the baby move. She'd been 3 months when she told Julius. He'd wanted her to have an abortion. That was out of the question. She was an adulterer, but not a murderer. As her baby began to grow, despite the fact that Margo no longer had a beating heart, or blood flowing through her veins, her despair turned to revenge. She didn't know what kind of a baby she would give birth to, but it was hers ... and for better or worse, Julius'. She would make him regret trying to get rid of them.

     Not until she completely healed though. Max had given her life when he turned her, but the burns to her skin were severe. They were healing, but slowly. The baby was taking its nutrients from her, inhibiting the healing process. Newly turned vampires were usually strong, at least that's what Max and Trina told her, but the baby was taking most of the healing energy for itself. Margo was ok with that. Her baby was alive, that's all that mattered.

     "Don't you ever get tired of watching him?" Trina asked.

     "He's going to be campaigning here next week," Margo said. "I think I might go."

     "Is that a good idea?"

     "Probably not. I won't talk to him." Margo paused, a smile forming on her face. "I want him to see me though. I want him to know I'm not gone."

     The baby moved inside of her. Margo was sure he approved.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Zombie Court


     Judge Radcliff stepped into the courtroom and sat down behind his bench. Everyone waited as he put his glasses on and read the papers in front of him. That’s the way the judge liked it. He hated to have to slam his gavel and yell “Order in the court!” There was a time when he liked that kind of excitement, but now when he was so close to retirement he preferred the easy cases. By the looks of it, this wasn’t going to be one of them.
     “Let me get this straight,” he said, looking up, “the defendant is accused of eating his neighbor’s face?”
     “In a very brutal attack,” Meganne Lawson, the defense attorney said.
     “Well he ate his face off. I guess you don’t get more brutal than that.”
     “Allegedly ate his face off,” the defense attorney said.
     “Allegedly,” Judge Radcliff grunted. He hated it when people spoke out of turn. Squinting, he looked at the defendant. The man looked, well, putrid. There was also an odor of rotting meat  and a look about him that reminded the judge of a feral dog. He was glad to see the man in chains. Clearing his throat he addressed the defendant.  “Well, we are just here today to determine if there is just cause to take this to trial. I am first going to have the charges read into evidence. You will answer the charges guilty or not guilty… or if you choose you can plead no contest and I will make a decision at this time based upon the evidence. Do you understand what I’m saying, son?”
     “Speak up when talking to the court. I didn’t catch that.” Judge Radcliff looked towards the court recorder and shook his head.
     “If you’ll allow, your honor,” Mark Lawson said, putting his arm on his client, “my client can’t speak yes, no, or no contest.”
     “Does he speak English?”
     “Yes, he does,” the prosecutor said.
     “He did at one time,” the attorney said. “He no longer does.”
     The judge looked over his glasses at the defendant. He was drooling at the mouth and sniffing his attorney. “Is he retarded? Can he assist in his defense?”
     “He’s not retarded,” the prosecutor said.
     “He’s not alive.” the defense attorney, glared at the prosecutor. Judge Radcliff shook his head. The prosecutor and the defense attorney were married. It would probably be a chilly evening at home.
     “Your honor,” Meganne Lawson said, “clearly the defendant is moving around. The dead do not walk... or hit their heads on tables”
     “They do if they are zombies,” Mark said, pulling out a stack of papers to present into evidence.
     “What do you have there?” Judge Radcliff asked, staring disapprovingly at the client as he continued to bang his head. He didn’t like the way the proceedings were going. The talk of zombies belonged on late night horror shows, not in a court of law.
     “Statements from the defendant’s doctor stating that he died a week ago, the coroner’s report, a statement from the undertaker and pictures taken at his funeral. Mr. Wilcox is no longer among the living and therefore not bound by our laws.”
     “Is there precedent?”
     “No your honor,” both Lawson’s said at the same time.
     “Your honor, clearly the doctor made a mistake.” The prosecutor said.
     “Guuuuhhh…. Uuuugggg,” the defendant said, leaning towards his attorney. Mark Lawson stepped a bit farther from his clients reach and turned towards the prosecutor.
     “And the coroner? He performed the autopsy.  Mr. Wilcox was an organ donor so his heart and liver were removed, along with several other organs. His brain however had shown deterioration and was considered unsuitable for use. It is his brain that has reanimated Mr. Wilcox.” The attorney held out the paperwork for the bailiff.
     “You say he has no organs in his body at all?” The judge looked over the paperwork. Ms. Lawson, there is a photo included. I can see for myself that the defendant is cut open, his organs on the table next to him. How do you explain this?”
     “Your honor, there are many people that walk among us that have been said not to have a heart.  That does not mean they are not alive. For death to be determined, there has got to be no brain activity.”
     “That is not true,” her husband interrupted. The judge shuddered. It was going to be a truly cold night in the Lawson home. “They only have to prove that there is no detectible brain activity. My client has none.”
     “He has some.” The prosecutor held out a paper for the bailiff to take. “At my request, an EEG was performed on the defendant. Though barely detectible, there is some activity at the hypothalamus.”
     “And not able to be detected by any other machine. He met the legal definition of death, your honor. An EEG is not required for determination.”
     “It should be.”
     “Meganne, you cannot change the law,” Mark said. “My client is legally dead. You have no right prosecuting him.”
     “He ate a man’s face!”
     “Order in the court,” Judge Radcliff yelled, banging his gavel.
     “GUUUUUHHHH!” Ignoring the judge, the defendant pulled against his restraints, leaning hungrily towards the prosecutor. In her anger she had crossed the room and was standing nose to nose with her husband. There was sexual tension between the two of them and Judge Radcliff wondered if it might prove to be more steamy than chilly in their bedroom that night.
     “I said, ORDER IN THE COURT!” Judge Radcliff continued pounding his gavel but no one seemed to be paying attention. While the prosecutor and defense attorney seemed to be locked in some kind of silent foreplay, the defendant worked to free himself from the restraints. The judge winced as the man’s skin flayed, revealing muscle and bone.
They bailiff moved to subdue the defendant, but quickly returned to the bench when he was nearly bitten. Judge Radcliff was at a loss as to what to do; he had clearly lost control. It was at that moment that the doors to the courtroom banged open and a figure in black entered the room.
     “Excuse me, I’m here for Bob Wilcox.”
The defendant stopped his struggle and turned, as did the two Lawson’s. Judge Radcliff stared, his jaw hanging open.
     “There you are, Bob. You are in a lot of trouble. Khronos has been yelling at me for an hour straight and I’m late for dinner with Hecate.”
     “Who are you?” Judge Radcliff asked.
     “Oh, I’m sorry, where are my manners? I’m not used to dealing with the living, just the dead. My name is Grim. Grim Reaper.” He held out a boney hand, presenting identification and a white form to the bailiff.”
     “What is this?” The judge asked.
     “Papers releasing Mr. Wilcox into my custody. He was supposed to have been delivered to Hades. I put him on the boat with Charon. I tried explaining this to Khronos that it was Charon that lost him, but he still insisted I ‘do my job and collect him.’  Always more difficult once they’ve turned.”
     “I told you he was dead,” Mark said. Meganne just made a face and waited to see what the judge would do.
     “Well, it would seem I have no jurisdiction over the case,” he said, looking over the paperwork.
     “But your honor, he killed a man.”
     “I’m sorry Ms. Lawson,” the judge said, “but it’s out of my hands. I know this is your first murder case. You’ll get another one, I’m sure.”
     “Come on, Bob.” Grim said, taking hold of the restraints.
     The former defendant sniffed at Meganne, a look of disappointment crossing his face.     “Guuuuhhh.”
     ‘Down boy,” Grim said, “I agree, she looks delicious, but you can’t go around eating people. At least not without permission.”
     “Well, it looks like this is over,” Judge Radcliff said, once the Reaper was gone. Lifting his gavel he brought it down.  “Case dismissed. Now if you’ll excuse me, the missus has an apple pie waiting for me at home.” He stopped and sniffed the air. “Someone get the cleaning lady in here.”

The End

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Fairy Tale Disguise

Not really a Halloween story, but it does involve disguises, and horror. Enjoy!

“The pigs, the pigs!”
“He screams that over and over, doctor.”
“Could be a reaction from being hauled in here by the police; I’ve never cared for them much myself.”
Nurse Sally rolled her eyes at Doctor Stanton’s attempt at humor. The two were standing outside of a locked door, staring in at the man sitting in the corner. His arms were restrained by the straight jacket, an attempt to prevent the patient from harming himself as well as the staff at the mental institution.
“What was his demeanor when they brought him in?”
“Agitated. He was howling … you know the type.”
“There was a full moon last night.”
Sally chuckled. “Since he wasn’t hairy and his teeth are missing, I think it is safe to assume he’s not a werewolf.”
“Tell me about the teeth,” Stanton said, looking at the chart. “It says that his mouth was bloody and it looked like his teeth had all been pulled out recently.”
“A butcher job. It looked like someone had taken a hammer to his mouth.”
Inside the room the man tilted his head back and howled, a long mournful sound that sent chills through Nurse Sally. She’d seen patients that thought they were werewolves before, but something about this John Doe seemed… different. He howled again, then looked towards the window she and Dr. Stanton were observing him through. Shuddering, she took a step back. For just a moment there was something in his eyes, something that was almost animalistic. Then it disappeared and he let out a slow sob before screaming again. “The pigs! The pigs!”
“This case isn’t that unusual,” Dr. Stanton said, making some notes in the chart. “Give him the usual cocktail and we’ll see how he is tomorrow. Moving on…”
Sally followed the Doctor down the hall to the next patient, a woman who thought she was Marilyn Monroe. Looking behind her before they entered the room, making sure the security cameras in the hallway had been disabled. Dropping a card on the ground, she shut the door… Marilyn would keep Dr. Stanton busy long enough for her brother’s to get the job done. She was just glad she’d been working when the police had brought in their newest patient.
As the door closed, three orderlies came around the corner.
“Here it is, just as she promised.” The fattest of the three bent, his breath coming in short gasps from the effort of bending. Retrieving the key card from the ground he and the other three made their way to John Doe’s room.
“This seems a little too easy,” the shortest of the three said as he stared through the small window. “Like taking candy from a baby… where’s the sport in that?”
“Where’s the sport…” the skinny one slapped him on the back of the head. “Don’t forget, he tried to kill us first.”
“Hush it you two.” The fat one took the card and held it against the key pad. The red light changed from red to green as the lock made a soft clicking sound. Pushing the door open the three orderlies skulked into the room.
Against the wall, John Doe shrank back, a small whimper crossing his lips before he screamed.
“Hey Frank, look… I think he’s trying to change.”
The fat one chuckled, “Won’t do you any good Thomas. The wolfs bane we shoved down your maw will stop you from shifting. It also makes you act a little insane, right Toby?”
“Let’s just get this done,” Toby said. “And let’s try not to flub it up this time by letting him get away.”
“Where’s he going to go,” Stubby chuckled as the three morphed into pigs. Their teeth jutted out, sharp and jagged, canines that would rival any wolf’s glimmering against the light.
“You should have just stayed away, Thomas. We don’t like the taste of wolf blood, but we’ll drain you just the same.”
Thomas howled again, his eyes flashing between wolf and human. If he could just change, but the wolfs bane was still in his system and the pain was too much. Looking past the pigs he looked down the hall. They’d left the door open, maybe someone would see him. Then he did see movement… a flicker of red. Then Stubby’s head exploded as a stake shot out from the back of his skull. The vampiric pig turned, snarling at the girl.
“Ooops, I missed,” Red grinned, already loading another stake into her gun.
The pig tried to dodge, but was slow from the damage to his head. This time it landed where she intended, piercing the dead heart of one of Grandma’s killers. Then she took aim at the other two.
Frank ran straight at the girl. Dropping her gun, Red grabbed a stake from her basket and slammed it into his heart.
“Mmm, bacon,” she said. Smiling slyly at the one remaining pig she bent her finger, wiggling it. “Here piggy, piggy.”


Nurse Sally stepped into the hall, straightening her top. Dr. Stanton followed, a little dazed. Sally wiped a lingering trail of blood from her mouth.
“I’ll go get that cocktail you ordered for John Doe.”
“Yes, that would be good,” Stanton said, his confusion beginning to clear, a false memory forming in his mind. Nothing unusual had happened in the patient’s room. Turning he headed in the opposite direction of the nurse and was just beginning to turn the corner when her screams reached him. Running back down the hall he found Sally standing outside of John Doe’s room, a hand covering her mouth. The patient was no longer there, his straight jacket lay shredded in the middle of the room, along with the bodies of three of the orderlies.
“How did he…”
“He never finished his question. Sally ripped his head off, her anger at her brother’s death fueling her rage. She guzzled the blood as it spurted out. She would find Thomas and Red and when she did she would avenge their deaths. She had an idea of where they might go next. Vampire hunters were so predictable… they would be looking for their next victims and Hansel and Gretel didn’t live far from here.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Getting By

Johnny always seemed to just get by in life. He stayed out of conflicts, didn't speak up, and when he caught his wife in bed with another man, he waited for them to finish before confronting her about it, if confronting her is what it could be called. The conversation consisted mostly with Johnny agreeing with her that he was lousy in bed, unimaginative, and too quick to the finish line.

"I need more," she said, and more meant Tom Hullinger. He was married too. His wife was in the Hospital where Betty was a nurse. Betty didn't want to leave Johnny, she just wanted an open marriage. She could see whomever she wanted, and Johnny could see other women too, if he so desired; Perhaps Tom's wife, she was in a coma, so not likely to notice his inadequacies.

She kissed Johnny on the forehead then, dressed for work, and left. Johnny found his gun and put it to his head. Thing is, the safety was on and having never used the gun before, (he only bought it to make Betty happy, because according to her, a real man owns a gun,) he didn't know how to take it off. So he set it on the table and popped open a beer. Maybe getting good and drunk would give him the gumption he needed to stand up for himself.

Two beers later, Johnny, who also was never a drinker--the beers were Betty's--set off for the hospital. He had a few things he wanted to say to his wife.

The hospital was in chaos. Apparently there had been an accident involving a school bus and several cars.

"Johnny, what are you doing here?" Betty asked.

"I wanted to talk to you." His words were slurred and he leaned into her, breathing his alcohol laced breath over the love of his life.

"Have you been drinking, Johnny?" She stepped back and looked at him. His eyes were glassy and he was leering at her like a drunk teenager at the prom. She shook her head.  "I only had 2 beers left and I was looking forward to those. You better replace them, and not with the cheap shit you bought me the last time."

Betty tried to step around Johnny, but he had a mission, he wanted to show his wife he could satisfy her as much as any other Tom, Dick, or Harry. He grabbed her arm, intent on pulling her to him and kissing her passionately. What actually happened was he grabbed her arm and she pulled away from him. He had a pretty good grip though, which surprised Betty. Johnny had never been particularly strong. When he had courted Betty, she'd only been interested in making Doug Benfield jealous.

 He was the star quarterback of the football team and had been her boyfriend. Then she caught him kissing Jenny Cowan. Johnny was the only one left to take her to prom. He wasn't a football player, but he was the water boy, so that at least had to count for something. It didn't and she knew it. Instead of making Doug jealous, she'd made herself look pathetic. She was going to let Johnny down easy after the prom, except somehow she'd gotten herself drunk and woke up the next day in bed with Johnny. What's worse, a few weeks later, she'd missed her period. A few months after that, at the insistence of her dad, she'd married Johnny. The day after that, she had a miscarriage, but she was stuck. Her daddy was a preacher, he'd never allow her to divorce Johnny. She'd made her bed when she shagged him.

Betty tried to pull her arm loose, but Johnny held on as though his life depended on it. She yanked harder, finally freeing her arm and falling backward against her cart. The cart tipped over and medicine and needles went flying everywhere.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Johnny?" Betty stood up, feeling somewhat woozie. She'd hit her head on the floor and when she reached up to touch it, she felt something sticky. Then she collapsed to the floor again. This time she didn't get up.

"Johnny, what did you do?" It was another nurse ... Linda, Johnny thought. She bent down and felt for a pulse.

"I just wanted to kiss her," Johnny said.

"She's dead," Linda said. "You killed her."

"I didn't mean too." Johnny stared at his wife for a second and then, when he heard Linda calling for security, he turned and ran.

He didn't know where to go. He couldn't go home, that was the first place the police would look for him. Maybe he should turn himself in. It had been an accident, certainly they would understand that. Yes, he should turn himself in.

"NO!" Something snapped at that moment. Johnny, who had never stood up to anyone, knew that he would be arrested and found guilty. He'd caught Betty in bed with Tom. It would look like be had killed her in a crime of passion.

Still, he didn't know where to go. He took the elevator and hit the button for the basement. Maybe be could hide out there for a while.

Turns out, the morgue was in the basement. Johnny had just decided that maybe he should find someplace else to hang out, and was getting ready to push the button to bring the elevator back down, when he saw it was already on the way. He looked around and saw a closet across the room. Moving quickly, he hid himself just in time. Johnny watched through a crack between the door and the frame as an orderly stepped off the elevator. Behind him, he pulled a sheet covered gurney. An unidentified shape lay underneath. The orderly pushed the cart next to a table, then pulled the cover off, revealing that it was Betty who lay beneath the sheet.

Johnny watched in horror as the man unbuttoned Betty's uniform and fondled her breasts. A rage built inside of him. Not only was she unfaithful to him when she was alive, she couldn't keep her marital vow in death, either. Johnny was about to fling open the door and confront the fiend, when the walkie on the Orderlies hip cracked to life. There was some kind of emergency upstairs and he was needed. Did they say something about the accident victims attacking the other patients?

The orderly left, after re-buttoning Betty's uniform and covering her again with the sheet. Johnny stepped out of the closet and went to look at his wife. She was beautiful, even dead. He regretted that he had never been the man she'd wanted him to be. He knew she didn't love him, had always known, but he had loved her and never had the courage to let her go. Maybe if he had, she'd still be alive. A tear fell from his eye and landed on her face. Then another one fell, this one landing on a closed eyelid. Betty's eyes fluttered open and Johnny screamed, startled by the intense blue of her eyes. Mainly because her eyes were brown, or he thought they had been. Now he questioned his sanity.

"Betty, you're alive!"

Johnny wanted to run to the elevator, bring someone back down, show them his wife was still alive--he wouldn't have to go to prison for murder--but Betty had hold of his arm. He looked down at her, joy swelling inside his chest. Her mouth was moving and she was trying to lift her head to his. Her other hand came up and touched his face, caressing him. He lowered his head toward her to finally kiss her the way she deserved. It wasn't until she ripped his tongue out of his mouth that he realized his mistake. Betty wasn't alive after all, and soon, neither would he. As in life, he didn't fight back. He let Betty eat until he took his last breath. He loved Betty, and if he couldn't satisfy her in life, maybe he could in death.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Death Rattle

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Joleen hesitated, her hand hovering over the Ouija board. “I don’t know,” she said, pulling away from the pointer, “maybe I should just let this go.”
“If that’s what you want to do,” Karen said, “but I really think this will help bring you some closure.”
“I know what you think,” Joleen snapped, then immediately regretted it. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I’m not as comfortable with this thing as you are. My mother always said Ouijas were a portal to hell.”
Karen laughed. “Tell me about it. Do you know she came to see me once?”
“You? Was it a bit nippy in hell that day?”
Karen, known to her clients as Madam Kara shook her head. “No and she didn’t want a reading. She told me she was praying for me and that even though I had strayed from the good Lord, she still loved me.” Karen teared up, then swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. “Your mother was always decent to me, even after I took up the ‘devil’s work’ as she called it. I really missed coming over here.” Looking around the living room, she smiled at old memories, frowning when she saw something she didn’t recognize. “Hey, that’s new.”
“I bought it when mother got sick. It’s Aceso, the goddess of healing. Mother was too sick to notice, thank God, or she would have insisted I get rid of her.”
Curious, Karen picked up the statue and examined it. The sculpture depicted a naked woman, bent down on her knees, wings furled out behind her.  “Where did you get this?”
“That new store downtown.” Joleen laughed, then put her hands up when she saw the dark look in her friends eyes. “I know, she’s your competitor, but I don’t know ... I was thinking about mother and worrying, and then I just found myself there asking if they had anything that could help my mother.”
“That store is full of dark magic, Joleen. I wish you had not gone in there. “
“Well you sound awfully self-righteous for someone who handles Ouija boards. Maybe you haven’t strayed as far as my mother thought.”
“The Ouija is just a tool to help connect to the spirit world. It is what the user makes of it. This statue though—” Karen paused, not sure if she should continue. “It is not the figure of Aceso, it is one of the Keres.”
“The Keres?”
“Goddesses of death ... violent death.”
Joleen’s face grew pale, remembering her mother’s final moments. ‘They’re coming for me,’ she had screamed, holding her arms out, warding off invisible attackers. Joleen thought her mother’s actions were a result of the dementia that had fallen over her the last year of her life. Her nights, often plagued by dreams of demons and monsters, left her listless during the day. Joleen had hoped the statue would help bring her mother peace, but her dreams had grown worse, even after the addition of the talisman.
“Oh my God,” Joleen called out.
“I’m sure her death had nothing to do with the statue.” Karen put her arm around her friend. “Just get rid of it so it doesn’t give you nightmares.”
Troubled, Joleen looked at the Ouija board. “I need to talk to her now more than ever. I need to know she is at peace.”
“Then let’s begin.”
Doing as Karen instructed, Joleen hovered her hands over the planchette. “Mother, are you there?” The pointer sat still so she asked again, “Mother, are you there? Are you at peace?”
At first nothing happened but then the planchette moved.
“No? You aren’t at peace?”
Gasping, Joleen pulled her hand back. “My mother would never use that word.”
“It could be we haven’t summoned your mother. It could be another spirit. One associated with your house ... a vulgar one. Has anyone else died here?”
“Not as far as I know, but it is possible. The house has been in my mom’s family for generations. She inherited it when my grandmother died.”
“Well, let’s find out who we have contacted so we can move on.” Karen hovered her hand over the Ouija. “Are you Helen Bailey?”
“Who are you?”
“Who’s Bill?” Karen asked.
“My mom’s uncle. She never talked about him much, but I remember him. He was old then . . . I was maybe five. He had this cough that rattled in his chest. Emphysema ... I remember he scared me and I hated being in the same room with him. He made my skin crawl, and I don’t think mother cared much for him. I remember her asking grandma why she didn’t send him away.  ‘He deserves to suffer,’ is what she said and I remember asking her why.”
“What did she say?”
“She never answered and we didn’t go back for the longest time. Mother told Grandma that as long as he was in the house she wouldn’t set foot inside.”
“He must have really done something to make her mad then. She wasn’t happy with me, but she still came to see me . . . even if it was to tell me I was wrong,” Karen waved the planchette across the board. “You know, this probably isn’t going  to work, I really didn’t think it would, since your mother shunned anything she deemed the devil’s instrument, but I wanted to at least give you some peace. Since she didn’t answer, can we at least agree she must have found it too?”
“What about Bill?” Joleen asked, chewing her lip nervously while Karen put the board away.
Karen shrugged. “Ignore him. He’s probably been wandering around this house for awhile. Without the Ouija, he has no way to contact you. Now, didn’t you say you still needed to buy candy for tonight? Hey, this is your first year celebrating Halloween, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, you know mother, ‘It’s the Devil’s Holiday’.”
* * *
“This is so much fun,” Joleen said, shutting the door on the last trick-or-treater of the night and turning off the porch light.
“I told you.” Karen stuffed the remnants of a chocolate bar into her mouth.
“Remember third grade, when I tried to sneak out so I could go trick-or-treating with you and Janie Anderson?”
“Do I ever. I thought your mother was going to perform an exorcism when she caught up to you.”
“I think maybe we went a little overboard on the blood. She actually burned the clothes I was wearing.”
“Yeah, well she had the best of intentions. There was always an aura around her ... something bad happened to her at one time. It changed who she was.”
Joleen turned on the couch, looking at her friend. “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”
“So you could grill your mother about her past? I know you, Joleen, once you get an idea in your head you don’t let it go, which is why you sometimes act without thinking, like going into the Occult Store. I wish you had come to me first.”
“I just wanted to find something to relieve mom’s pain.” Joleen stared absent-mindedly at the Keres. “It didn’t work.”
“Well, certainly not with that thing.” Karen looked at the clock and sighed. “I have to go, but call me in the morning and we’ll set up a night out. Maybe get hold of Janie Anderson.”
“Will do,” Joleen said, walking her friend to the door. On the way past the mantel, Karen snatched the Keres off the shelf. “Let me get rid of this thing for you.”
“Fine with me.” Joleen shrugged.
That night her dreams were troubled. She was a little girl again, standing next to her uncle’s bed. He was saying something to her, but she couldn’t understand what it was. He reached his hand out and grabbed her arm. She tried to pull away, his hands dug into her flesh ... he pulled her toward him. A small whimper escaped her lips. His tongue slipped out of his mouth, fetid breath reached her nostrils and she gagged. Where was her mommy?  She screamed, or tried to, but her voice froze in her throat. His breath rattled in his lungs from the effort of holding onto her. He pulled her forward, his other arm reaching for her ... reaching for her dress. Fingers fumbling, he lifted the hem, his hand slipping under the fabric and pushing at her legs ...
Sitting up, Joleen looked around her room, a scream dying on her throat.  She sat there a few minutes, trying to shake the dream, but it didn’t fade, like so many other dreams did.
Maybe a drink of water.
Passing the fireplace on her way to the kitchen, Joleen stopped. Something on the mantle caught her eye. The Keres sat on the shelf, the face of the goddess turned, looking at her. Frozen, Joleen stared back at it ... from her bedroom a cough rattled in a throat scarred from years of smoking.
Her phone on the table rang. Fingers trembling, she picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Joleen ...” Karen’s voice was weak. Joleen had to strain to hear her over the sound of sirens in the background.
“Karen, are you okay?”
“Joleen, we should have made him go away. We let him out . . . with the Ouija. We didn’t make him say goodbye. I was wrong. He doesn’t need the Ouija now.”
“Karen ...”
“It’s the Kera’s. They give him strength. Joleen ... Get out of the house.”
“Karen? Karen?”
The phone had gone dead. The coughing in the bedroom grew closer as feet unaccustomed to moving shuffled across the carpet.
“Girlie, come here, your mama ain’t here to protect you now.”
“No.” Joleen sobbed, remembering that day. Her uncle, his hands ripping at her underwear; she finally managed a scream. Her mother had run in, pulling her away.
“How can you keep him here?” Joleen’s mother said, holding her daughter close to her. She was staring angrily at her own mother.
“He’s sick, Lois. He’s my brother, what am I supposed to do?”
“Let him rot in a home somewhere. You know what he did to me ... he just tried ... he deserves to suffer. And so do you, for harboring a monster. I’m not coming back, mother. I won’t let him hurt Joleen.”
“Lois, please, she’s my granddaughter, you can’t keep her from me.”
“Yes I can. If you want to see her, you’ll choose ... it’s either him or us?”
“He’s my brother ...”
“Good bye mother.”
And they had left. But they’d come back, after Bill had died. He was gone and could never hurt them again.
“Not gone,” Joleen breathed while backing up toward the front door, Karen’s words echoing in her head, ‘Get out of the house.’
A shadow stretched across the floor, reaching out from the bedroom, moving toward the living room and Joleen. The persistent cough rattled, sending tendrils of fear through her abdomen. Joleen nearly let loose of her bladder, a small trickle of urine seeping into her panties.
‘Get out of the house.’
Turning, Joleen ran for the front door. The deadbolt was locked. Twisting it, she tried to move it, but somehow the knob refused to turn.
“Can’t get away from me that easy.”
Joleen turned. Behind her was a man, his face sunken, yellowed from illness. His lips were cracked and dried, a tongue, shriveled, tried to moisten them. He grinned, showing blackened teeth.
“I told your mama I’d have you some day.”