This seasonal short story offers insight into the background of a character in The Littles, An SSCD Crime Thriller. The Littles is now available from your favorite ebook retailer.
The lights dangling merrily from every house on the street except hers silently mocked as she drove home. “It’s Christmas, time for family and friends and all-around good cheer,” they screamed with their twinkling colors swaying in the cold winter wind. Like she needed a reminder. It was impossible to turn around in this town without getting some type of in-your-face seasonal message. It was enough to make Rudolph puke.
She used to love Christmas; the decorations, the parties, the baking and the joy in finding just the right gift to make her little girl smile. Before, she couldn’t wait for Christmas to arrive. Before, she shopped all year to give everyone on her list something special. Now, she wanted to close her eyes and wake up in mid-January. Or not wake up at all.
As the garage door closed behind her, she grabbed her briefcase and the fast food bag that held her Christmas Eve meal. Doing her best to ignore the holiday wishes stamped all over the paper bag, she made her way into the dark house. Seven years had fled since the night she’d lost everything, but the memories were still fresh, too fresh to celebrate this farce of a holiday ever again.
The high-pitched beep of the alarm broke the silence until she entered the code. After flooding the kitchen with light, she locked all three deadbolts before stepping out of her shoes. “I should have gone away again this year,” she told the African violet perched on the window sill. “Blake could’ve handled the trial.” Even as she spoke, she knew that this one was too important to turn over to anyone else. No way would she risk the pervert walking. His victims could never testify against him, but she would speak for them, with a vengeance. He would rot behind bars, of that she was certain.
“Fine thoughts for a Christmas Eve.” The voice came from out of the blue, causing her to drop the wine glass she had just removed from the cabinet and whirl around frantically. The kitchen was empty.
“Who’s there?” She reached behind her, trying to grab a butcher knife from the counter. “Show yourself!” She commanded.
“I don’t think I can.” The voice came again, this time it was right beside her. “Put down that knife, please, before you hurt yourself.”
“What is this?” Kelly whispered, sliding along the counter’s edge, away from the disembodied voice.
“Don’t be frightened, sweetheart, it’s me, Kyle. Have you forgotten what I sound like?”
Kelly froze, still holding the knife in front of her. This could not be happening. Maybe I’m losing my mind, she thought.
“No, you’re not crazy,” the voice answered her thoughts. “At least not any crazier than normal.”
The low, deep chuckle sent shivers along her spine. It sounded just like Kyle, but it couldn’t be. Kyle died seven years ago, along with Kaylee, their daughter, her parents and Kyle’s parents. It was a stroke of luck that she had not been in the house during the invasion. A stroke of very bad luck. She would much rather have died along with her family than to be left behind to mourn them.
“No, Kelly, you’re still here for a reason. Please stop thinking that way.” The voice became soft, almost pleading.
“Stop that! How can you know what I’m thinking? Where are you?” Kelly moved along the counter until her back touched the corner. “If this is some kind of sick joke, I am not amused.”
“It’s no joke, hon, it’s me. Come sit down and I’ll explain.” One of the chairs around the breakfast table slid out as the voice continued. “You always did believe in ghosts, don’t tell me that you’ve changed your mind.”
Kelly stared at the chair, willing it not to have moved. After several, silent minutes, she spoke. “Kyle?”
“Yes love, I’m here. Please put down the knife and sit. I’m not sure how long I can stay.”
Kelly did as the voice asked, still afraid to believe this was really happening. “How are you here? Where is Kaylee?”
“Kaylee couldn’t be here tonight. She was needed elsewhere, but trust me, she’s fine, better than fine. We have one amazing daughter.”
“And Mom, Dad, your parents—are they here?”
“No, hon, they also had other places to be tonight. It’s Christmas Eve, remember? So many people need help over the holidays; we go where we’re needed most.”
“And you came to me.” Kelly shook her head. “Why now? Where have you been for the past seven years? You don’t think I needed you before, when all I wanted was to die too? I’ve finally put my life back together; I’m doing great, so why now, Kyle?” Kelly had no idea she was so angry at the man she once loved with all her heart. But here she was, yelling at a ghost she couldn’t even see. The words kept tumbling out.
“Where were you when I walked in and found you all, lying on the floor dead? Where were you while I planned six funerals or hunted down the monsters that killed you?” Kelly was sobbing, but she couldn’t stop the tirade. “Where were you when I packed all of Kaylee’s toys and clothes, and carted then to the shelter. Where were you when all of our friends stopped calling or coming by, because they didn’t know what to say? Do you have any idea how much I needed you then? You left me all alone, Kyle, all alone to deal with unimaginable tragedy. WHERE WERE YOU?” Kelly picked up the salt shaker and threw it across the room.
The flood gates had opened, but Kelly ignored the tears. It was the anger she held onto, the anger had helped her rebuild her life. Anger at the Universe and everything in it that conspired to bring those devil men to their home on Christmas Eve, seven years ago. If she was angry at Kyle, too, so be it.
The soft white light began as a shimmer, then formed the outline of a man. Kelly stared, but didn’t move, as the transparent form came towards her.
Kelly watched as the light knelt in front of her and covered her hands with his. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. If I could have been with you then, I would have. I was angry, too, at first. Without Kaylee, I might still be in a furious limbo. Our daughter helped me to see our purpose, helped me to move past the anger. Time is different there; I had no idea how long it took me to get back to you. Please forgive me.”
Her hand tingled at his touch; Kelly immediately felt a peaceful calm envelop her. The feeling was as foreign to her as everything else happening this night. “Why are you here?” She asked softly. “Are you really here? Or is this some kind of hallucination?”
“I’m really here, Kelly. You must believe that. You must also listen to what I have to say. Your life depends on it.”
“Huh, my life. You say that like it means something.”
“It does mean something. Your life impacts so many others, in ways that you can’t see. Think back over the past seven years, how many violent criminals have you put away? Think of the trial you’re in now. Do you have any idea how many little girls you’ve saved, just by fighting to keep that monster in jail? You make a difference, Kelly, an important difference. But you need to get to a better place. You’ll need every ounce of strength, courage and heart that you can possibly gather in the coming months.”
“What are you saying? My personal demons have not kept me from doing my job. I told you, I’m fine.”
“You are most definitely not fine. What’s in the bag, Christmas dinner? Where’s the tree, where are the lights, where is the woman who lived for Christmas 364 days of the year?”
“She died seven years ago.” Kelly snapped.
“No. She didn’t die. It’s time you stopped acting as if she did. Evil’s coming, Kelly, worse than you’ve ever seen before, and you have to be ready. You can’t face this on your own; you must let people back into your life.”
“I think I’ve already seen the worst, thank you very much. How much worse can life be? Losing you, Kaylee and everyone else I loved in one fell swoop; it nearly killed me. I wish it had.”
“Stop it, Kelly, right now. You’re young, healthy, smart, beautiful and you have more love to give than anyone I know. You just have to open up again. “
“Never. I’m fine alone. I don’t need anyone.”
“But you do, and they need you. You’ll meet a man and a woman very soon; let them in, Kelly. All of your lives depend on it. So do the lives of many, many others.” Kyle’s light was fading as he spoke; Kelly tried to hold on.
“Wait, who will I meet? What are their names? Don’t leave me again, Kyle.” Her voice was thick with unshed tears.
“I love you, Kelly. I always will. But you have to move on, live while you still can. Open your heart to love, to the wondrous miracle that life can be. Remember what I said; gather your strength, love.” The light had disappeared and the voice was barely a whisper.
“I love you Kyle. Tell Kaylee I love her, too.” Kelly brought her outstretched hand back to her lap. The tears came, unbidden, but not unwelcome.
The following bit of flash fiction is based on real events; a dear friend actually experienced perfumed visits from a gentle spirit and another friend was repeatedly subjected to nocturnal crashes when books and small appliances jumped from the shelves to the floor. I plan to help my friends document a collection of true stories describing the paranormal events that they lived through. For now, enjoy this flashy short.
The sickeningly sweet aroma of Beautiful perfume surrounded Keri as she sat alone in the quiet room. Rolling her eyes with exasperation, she spoke to the unseen.
“Go away. You don’t frighten me.” Picking up a magazine, she prepared to ignore her visitor while wishing that the dead woman preferred a more subtle fragrance. Or at least understood the concept of less is more.
At first these nightly visits had Keri running for the door, but after two months in her new home, the malodorous visitor was merely a nuisance. Aside from permeating the room to announce her presence, the spirit was never inappropriate. An occasional curtain flutter and a few rearranged objects were the only bits of physical evidence she left behind. Typically, her visits were brief, but lately she had begun to linger longer.
“It’s almost Halloween, maybe she expects a treat.” Keri mused aloud as she waited for the scent to evaporate.
The sudden crash of books landing on the hardwoods punctuated Keri’s comment.
“Hey,” Keri leapt from the sofa, dropping the magazine as she whirled towards the noise. “Stop that.” She watched in burgeoning anger as her precious books began to scatter across the room. Before she could move, the old cuckoo clock began to chime. Turning her attention to the broken clock, Keri watched the tiny bird move frantically in and out of a small doorway that hadn’t opened in years.
Anger quickly turned to fear as music began to blare from her iPod. The one with no speakers attached.
As her visitor’s aroma became almost overpowering, Keri found that she was locked into place. Nothing worked. Her legs, her hands, her arms, even her voice was frozen.
“It’s time.” The disembodied voice came as a whisper, so close that Keri could feel the cold breath touch her left cheek. Chills spread to the top of her head and the tips of her toes. Still, she couldn’t move, couldn’t speak.
She watched in mute horror as the French doors flew open. The cold October wind ushered in dead and dying leaves along with a nauseatingly familiar smell of cigar smoke and sweat.
It can’t be, Keri thought. Even in the face of the unthinkable, she refused to believe that he was back.
“I killed you.” Her silent screams had no impact, but the dark presence heard her cry.
Deep laughter rippled eerily through the space as it replied, “I came to return the favor.”
This bit of flash fiction was part of an interview with fellow author. He set up the question, I wrote the story.
It’s a dark and stormy night…you’re alone in the house…there’s a knock at the door…you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl/boy (they kinda scream the same anyway). What’s on the doorstep?
A box overflowing with spiders. How did they knock, you ask? Of course they didn’t, but the deranged stalker who’s been following me for months used them as a diversion to gain entry into the house, unnoticed. I slam the door in the path of the eight-legged fiends and run to find the phone. After calling my neighbor for extermination assistance, I fly upstairs to find my hiking boots and spot the stalker, poised behind a door in the foyer, ready to spring. Upon reaching the upstairs landing, I head for the iron urn filled with great-aunt Gert that’s sitting on the table directly above the crouching man. Without a second thought, I drop the urn on his head and go for the boots. I’ll deal with him later; the spiders must not get into the house.