by James Garcia Jr.
Cover Artist: Maria Zannini
Paul Herrera finds himself bequeathed a mysterious old house near the California central coast by a deceased aunt he never knew. The woman who shows it to him is the spitting image of his wife, taken from him three years before in a senseless car accident which also took his unborn son.
While he deals with the ghosts of a past he cannot let go, there are new ghosts Paul must deal with - alone for the week in the expansive two-story house that he will soon discover holds many secrets.
Eventually, he will see that he is surrounded by ghosts as he struggles to hold onto the only thing that he has left in this world - his sanity.
Then it hit me.
“On, no.” I stifled a cry by covering my mouth. “Holy shit!”
The last time I had the Kindle was when I had been sitting on the porch and Patricia and Flora found me asleep.
Defeated, I walked down the stairs and headed for the vestibule. A very big part of me thought to leave it there until morning. Another part of me wanted to simply let Flora have it as some sort of peace offering. Scared as hell, I really wanted no part of opening that front door again until the sun was at its highest in the blue coastal sky. I could hear the whipping wind once again.
I found Paul at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for me.
“Did you lose it?” he asked. He must’ve seen the expression on my face.
“No,” I replied. I sat down on the second to last step. “But I just remembered I left it outside.”
“On, no,” he said, sitting down beside me. “What are we gonna do?”
I glanced over at the boy. He looked up at me with those questioning eyes of his and I felt a burst of courage surge through me.
“I guess I’m gonna have to go get it.”
“Are you sure?” he asked. He didn’t seem to want me going outside anymore than I wanted to.
“Yeah, but I’m not going that far. If it isn’t on the porch, I’m coming right back inside. Okay?”
The boy nodded, but said nothing.
“You stay here.”
In spite of what it would feel like, I reached over and patted the boy on the back. Sure enough, a spike of cold drove itself through me with each pat. I only did it twice, and then instantly regretted it. I stood, walked into the hall and then turned into the vestibule. Lingering at the door, I listened for long moments before even taking the doorknob into my hand. The wind sounded angry, but it came in spurts. It would appear and slowly build to a kind of roar, and then it would dissipate for a time before starting again.
Gingerly, I turned the knob and pulled. I braced my left knee against the door, in a manner of preparing for someone or something to attempt to rush me and gain access. I peeked through the tiniest of gaps in the door and glanced about. There wasn’t much moon, so I had to wait quite a while before my eyes adjusted to the dark. When they finally did, I opened the door a little more.
The overturned bench still lay where Flora had thrown both it and me much earlier the previous evening, but I could see no further. I stuck my head out into the night air and quickly checked behind me. As I opened the door just a bit more to accommodate this, something fell. I couldn’t stifle a surprised cry and a curse. I looked down.
My missing Kindle. It had been left for me, propped up against the door. Perhaps it was to be a peace offering after all.
I knelt down and retrieved the device. I slid the switch on and a moment later, it came to life. Cool to the touch after having sat outside, it appeared none the worse for wear. As I prepared to rise back to my feet, the wind started again. I looked up just in time to see it and realized—it was no wind at all, but a man. One no longer the man he’d once been. He glowed white and ran past the front of the porch. Beyond him in the yard were more just like him. I dropped the Kindle.
They were all shapes and sizes of ghosts. Men, women and children, even the occasional dog and cat. One of the dogs was barking and it sounded familiar. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to be looking for me this time. They all seemed to ignore me and one another. They just ran. Some waved their arms. A few stomped about like zombies. From the expressions on their faces, none were at rest. This was a horror among horrors.
I sat down there and watched the pain as it unfolded about me, frozen by it. Somehow it felt as if I’d just survived a plane crash that had killed everyone else and my brain was short-circuiting because it was simply too much to fathom.
“They’re so sad,” a voice said beside me on the left. I nodded, but couldn’t pull my eyes from the dead. “This is because of the bad lady,” Paul announced. He stood beside me in the doorway. Mercifully, he didn’t touch me. It might have been the last straw that, once removed, would make the whole construct that was me crumble towards nothingness.
“Yes,” I said, finding my voice.
“We must do something to stop her.”
I turned at this and looked upon the boy standing there before me, who stared past me at the scene in the yard. Interesting to behold—he was very young, but unafraid. Glancing down at me, he nodded as if resigned to some duty.
“We must,” he said. I felt very proud of him at that moment for some crazy reason. I recall shaking my head in astonishment.
James is an Administrative Supervisor for Sun-Maid Growers of California.