Sometimes Visitors Come To Stay

Emily and Alex moved into the small house just a few months earlier and were still settling in. One night while Emily was watching Alex play video games after doing his homework, they began hearing strange noises coming from Alex’s bedroom.

Alex leaned to the side and looked into his room. Shadows crossed the room. “Mom?”

“They’re just visiting. Go back to your game.”

Days passed and Alex found himself alone in the house while his mother ran errands when he heard a little kid laughing in his mom’s room. He decided to wait for her on the front porch.

“Mom–”

“They’re just visiting,” Emily interrupted. “Help me with the bags, hun.”

After a month of hearing voices and seeing shadows and people in his room, while his mother ignored his concerns, he gave up. He stopped telling her things. He stopped telling her what her ‘visitors’ said every night.

When she finally listened, it was too late.

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The Date – FTS Aug #7

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The Date

Emily Elizabeth stretched as she sat up in bed. The early morning sun peeked through her blinds casting golden tiger stripes across her room. A quick shower finished waking her up. As she leaned against the kitchen counter waiting for her morning pot of coffee to finish brewing, she glanced at the calendar.

“Hmm,” she said, “I wonder why today’s circled.”

She checked her phone’s calendar, but there was nothing there. Her coffee finished and she started running through the past few days trying to remember as she poured herself a cup.

Emily Elizabeth took a few sips of her coffee, staring at the calendar on the wall. “Oh my gosh!” she yelled. “I completely forgot I promised to meet that guy in the park for lunch.”

It was easily done. She was at her friend, Carol-Lynn’s 21st birthday party and enjoying herself rather a lot. This guy came up to her and started dancing. He had slicked back dark hair and really white teeth. He had a nice smile. She already had quite a bit to drink and so she could only vaguely remember him. He wouldn’t leave her alone all night. He’d been one of Carol-Lynn’s many cousins, she came from one of those huge families. She was one of seven herself and apparently, her Mother came from an equally large family. She’d had to admit that, what she could remember of him, he was quite nice and handsome. She’d not long split up from A.J. and so was not particularly looking to tie herself down to another guy, but he asked her to meet him at the Park today. She remembered now, coming home in a bit of a state, circling the date on her calendar, drinking a pint of water then going to bed. The hangover the next day had been terrible and it must have completely slipped her mind.

Gosh, she couldn’t ever remember his name!

Checking her watch, it was still a couple of hours until midday. Looking down at her attire, she’d put on a casual tracksuit, she had to change, and do something with her face and hair.

After an hour busying herself in the bathroom, she emerged with her dark brown hair arranged in braids and her face lightly made up but her eyes, her best feature so she’d been told, emphasised with black eyeliner with a flick at the corners.

She opened her wardrobe. What to wear? She’d been wearing her red dress that night. It had a high neck, bare arms and came down to her mid-thigh to show off her legs. Her Mother had drilled it into her, show off legs or bust but never at the same time.

She picked out a light summer cotton frock, with broderie anglaise on it, but when she tried it on, the frills made her look a bit frumpy. She discarded it on the bed.

Pulling out dress after dress, it wasn’t long before the bed was covered in most of her summer wardrobe.

Then at the back, she saw a dress she hadn’t worn in a while. It was a cotton dress in a pale yellow gingham, with a loose long skirt but tightly fitting halter neck. It was a bit folksy, but as he was one of Carol-Lynn’s country cousins, he would probably like that. Not that he was a corn chewing yokel. Although, she couldn’t remember much about him at all, only his nice white smile. This dress was perfect, the colour went well with her brown hair and it made a feature of her top half that he wouldn’t have seen. At least she thought he hadn’t seen, she was sure she would have remembered THAT!

Putting the dress on, she slipped on a pair of yellow pumps on her feet, grabbed her wide-brimmed summer hat, her Jackie-O sunglasses and her small leather bag. She was ready to meet her Date.

Well, she thought she was ready, but it was still a shock when Lizzy (the name her father had shortened her name to) heard her mobile phone buzz with a text message to say he was at the park and waiting for her at the Northern gate.

Lizzy dashed out of her apartment and started to race down the avenue she lived on. She was almost run over by the Number 38 bus as she tried to dodge traffic on the high street. If she was in her jogging gear she could have run to the park in ten minutes but she didn’t want to turn up to meet her date dripping with sweat.

As she finally approached the park, she heard her phone buzz again and rooted through her bag to find it. The message read:

“HEY LIZZY IS THAT YOU IN THE SOMBRERO?”

Lizzy drew her sunglasses down her nose to survey who was around her. Almost immediately she noticed the young man she was sure was her date, same slicked back hair and white teeth flashing a grin at her, as he made his way towards her with a determined pace. She waved and received a salute back.

From a distance she noticed the pressed trousers, loafers and polo shirt that gave him a generally clean cut image – if that was what he intended to portray, she could only guess. As he drew close to her, he seemed to lunge towards her to offer her a peck on the cheek, so Lizzy thought, which she responded to by pouting. However, when he was less than an inch from delivering that peck on the cheek, he seemed to draw back very suddenly.

“Woah, Lizzy…you are a coffee drinker!”

Lizzy felt a slight flush of embarrassment…and rooting through her bag to find some kind of chewing gum.

“Oh, goodness, yes, I did have some coffee early this morning, don’t you like coffee?”

“Uh uh noooo! Coffee is one of the quickest ways to stains on your teeth. Although I can see you obviously have a thing about yellow.”

Lizzy felt slightly confused, she liked a bit of sarcasm, but this was not the best way to start a date. She brushed it off with a coy smile and readjusting her stance to her most flattering posture, she replied to him sweetly.

“Well, nothing says summer like yellow does it?”

“Technically it is not summer yet. It is only the 18th of June you know”, he flashed a cheesy grin with his shiny white teeth.

Lizzy smiled, “it’s such a beautiful day, it feels like summer”.

“Too true, you got me there Lizzy. Although it’s not worth an argument.”

“Oh, I am sorry. I don’t mean to be argumentative. Let me start all over again,” Lizzy held out her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Lizzy, nice to meet you (again)”

He took her hand and shook it limply and replied, “Hi, I’m Miles, charmed to meet you Lizzy”

Ah ha! Miles – that was his name. Lizzy could not remember ever knowing that.

“Miles, forgive me if I already asked you at the party when we met, but what do you do for work?”

Miles pulled an enormous smile and almost sung the word “Dentist!”

That made so much sense!

“How about you Lizzy? How do you earn your bread and butter? Are you a career woman?”

Lizzy replied, “Well, erm…I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

Miles scoffed, “Oh, please. Are you trying to tell me you work for the CIA or something?”

“Or something.” Lizzy responded quite seriously, although she was thinking to herself that if he kept up his attitude maybe she should tell him so she’d have an excuse to off him.

The truth is Lizzy is a member of the “Men in Black,” her job is to keep her city safe from alien invasion, but it’s not as pretty as the movie makes it seem. There’s no such thing as a nebulizer, and the aliens aren’t nearly as cute.

“So, what did you have in mind for lunch today?” She asked, trying to change the subject.

He sighed, realizing that he wasn’t going to get any more information out of her about her job. “I thought we’d start out with a picnic, since it’s such a nice, SPRING day,” putting way too much emphasis on “spring.”

She bit her tongue, What’s with this guy? She thought to herself, but instead responded, “Sounds great.”

Miles had packed a lunch which included a grilled chicken and berry salad with a

homemade raspberry vinaigrette, french bread, and white wine.

Miles caught a glimpse of Lizzy’s face as she sipped her wine. “Let me guess, you prefer red?” He asked.

“Yes, but this is fine,” she responded, sweetly, and flashing him a smile.

“No wonder your teeth are so stained. If you stop by my office, I’ll give you a discount on whitening treatments.” He moved closer to her mouth, making Lizzy feel slightly uncomfortable, “It also looks like you could use some fluoride treatments, why don’t I just…”

“You know what, I don’t think it is going to work out.” Lizzy interrupted him.

“May I ask why?” Miles inquired.

“Do you want my honest opinion?”

“Please.”

“Because you’re a certified jerk!”

All of a sudden a flash of light erupted from they sky and the entire park was filled with bright flashes, wing dings , colourful lights, bangs and fuzzy looking wispy yet menacing winged things, did she just say ‘things’ to herself? Lizzy pondered. With all my experience with strange phenomena and the best l can arrive at is ‘things!’, it ‘s this blooming Miles and his overly shiny white teeth, he is putting me off my game!

She looked up into the blackening skies and gasped “Oh no, it’s them, they’re back!!”

Meanwhile Mile’s was looking at the sky himself and nodding turned his head towards Lizzie with a know it all look, that some of these glamour boys shiny teeth boys have and said “You see, l told you it wasn’t yet summer. Anyway – what exactly did you mean ‘certified jerk Lizzie, or is it Elizabeth, you did actually tell me your name was Elizabeth when l first met you!”

“What on earth is your problem Mr Dentist? I haven’t got the time for your dilly dally’s with the seasons, l have got to call this in, this is a priority 97, with a potential of an 18, maybe even with added 21b’s and c’s and most assuredly not a simple stand alone 33Xz! So please do step back and completely bugger off!”

“I say steady on, with all this hibbly gibbly giggledook, what on ‘earth’ are you on about Miss Perkins!!’ Miles suddenly was no longer smiling, his excellently white teeth no longer visible? Lizzie noticed that he was doing something with his face? Oh my, was he peeling his face off?

“Good grief, who or what are you?“ Lizzie yelled [and how did he know my surname was really Perkins?] now looking at the head in front of her. It was slowly becoming worse, his clothing was somehow sliding off his body and falling crumpled at the ground at his two, no three feet and one coiled tail now slowly unfurling, and oh my! That was not a tail!!!”

“You can put that ‘thing’ [another thing] back where it belongs, it’s rude to poke a girl like that you know! Now l am warning you “Mr Miles No Longer White Teeth But Three Legged Slimy Grey Blobhead With Fangs And Horns”, that unless you stop advancing towards me l shall be forced to react with deadly force”

“Deadly force with a banana?!”smirked the blobhead. Lizzie relaxed and let a slow grin slide across her face. Males of the species were all the same no matter what galaxy you were in. They all see better than they think. “Banana? It’s a Beretta you wassock” She had neither the time or the energy to waste so she pointed her banana-beretta and flambéed the blobhead. She’d wasted enough time, the skies were filled with dragonlets.

“I wonder why people always things dragonlets are related to dragons?” she mused “Dragons breathe fire and..” pahruummmp!! “Bloody dragonlets! Their flaming farts STINK!” She put two fingers in her mouth and let forth a piercing whistle.

The dragonlets turned as one and in a graceful motion, turned and landed in front of Lizzie. She couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the sound of cannons from across the park. The Hussars were practicing their 21 gun salute beside the Serpentine and here she was on the other side with flying snakes and a 21 bum salute!

“Okay dragonlets, what’s going on? You know the agreement is that you stay in Snowdonia” All the dragonlets clamoured to speak at once and the hissing and squeaking of their voices rapidly rose. EeeeeeNOUGH!! Bawled Lizzie. I just want one of you to speak. One of the dragonlets shuffled forward. It was slightly knockneed and buck toothed with a shock of purple hair. It’s azure skin glistened in the sun, the pink and gold spots on its back indicating it was both an adult and female.

Lizzie flicked her hair out of the way and switched her babble fish translator on. “Hi I’m Lizzie Perkins of MIB, who am I addressing?” “I am Chitheadra. We were flying around and realised by accident that there was a hole in the containment shield. Most of us have never been past Holyhead – we got excited and just wanted to go sightseeing in London”

I felt sorry for them but my immediate problem was containment. If this was the US we could have easily covered up the appearance of strange creatures spouting gibberish by fixing any video footage to look like just another awards ceremony in Hollyweird. It wasn’t so easy in England where the weirdest collective in Lizzie’s opinion was football fans.

This gave her an idea. She grabbed her phone, hit #6 and called her father.

In all honesty, she felt like she’d swallowed a bunch of worms waiting for him to answer. Her stomach was twisting itself in knots as she waited one, two, three rings for him to pick up.

Finally, on the four—because, of course, it was on the last ring, that was the kind of jerk her father was—he answered.

“Hello?”

“Father? It’s me, Lizzy.”

“Oh Lizzy! What a pleasant—”

“Not now Dad, this is business related,” internally, she cursed at herself. She’d vowed never to call him “dad” again. Not after he deported her best friend back to Zenothia.

Clearing her throat—and her thoughts—she carried on. “I need a containment unit here, stat. A non-aggressive one, please. And if you could send Agent MJ out as well, that would be great. He’ll need to come up with something to excuse all the dragonlets.” She had to be very specific with her father, or else he’d do something awful like use lethal force on the sweet, cooperative dragonlets.

And then they’d really be in a pickle.

The dragon-not-let would come out. And he was big. And scary. And a lot more like those story-book dragons.

Right about then, she took a step, and she felt something squish beneath her boot.

Looking at the mess that had been Miles, she also added, “And I’ll need a clean-up crew. And, possibly, someone from the hunting department. Clearly Miles was no accident.”

“…what?”

“JUST DO AS I ASKED PLEASE,” she said, rather firmly, into the phone.

“Okay, okay, no need to shout. I’ll be out there soon.”

“Great,” she said, sounding less thrilled than she should have.

At least she was going to have some back-up.

Even if it was her problematic father.

But, as she finally got around to feeling relieved about the situation, she couldn’t help but notice something across the street. Something eery. Something dark.

Something that couldn’t possibly have good intentions…

The Story Died Here


This story was brought to you by:

The Haunted Wordsmith
Tales From The Mind Of Kristian
Crushed Caramel
Bitchin’ In The Kitchen
H. L. Sailer

 

The County Fair, FTS Aug #9

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The County Fair

Ashley and Jacob, Jared and Melanie, and Tony decided to skip school on Friday to spend the day at the Reno County Fair. The Midway didn’t open until noon, so they looked at all the animals, pet the goats and camel in the petting zoo, and felt completely ripped off by the world’s smallest horse. Tony waited and ate a snow cone while the couples went on the Love Canal ride.

“Where do you want to go now, Tony?” Ashley asked.

They all made a point when they went out together to not make Tony feel like a third wheel. While they all thought their fourteen-year friendship was stronger than that, they really didn’t want him to feel left out or pushed away.

“I’ve been thinking.” Tony grew a wicked grin that everyone recognized. He wanted to do something that would either get them kicked out, the police called, or worse — they would call someone’s parent.

“Let’s go check out the old county jail!”

Ashley looked at Jacob. Jacob looked at Ashley. Jared looked at Melanie. Melanie looked at Jared. All four were gape-mouthed and wide-eyed. They all turned toward Tony, who was still grinning like a madman and actually rubbing his hands together, and spoke simultaneously.

“Yeah I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” “What, are you crazy?” “Um, no?” “Oh hell no!”

“What?” Tony cried, eyebrows arched and shrugging his shoulders. “Are you all too chicken?” He tucked his fingers beneath his armpits and started flapping his folded arms. He strutted in a rough circle, jerking his head forward and back, forward and back. “Bawk! Bawk! B-GAWK!”

Ashley folded her arms and cocked a hip. “That’s not even funny, Tony. That place gives me the heebie-jeebies just looking at it from the road.”

“Yeah,” Jacob added, “and that overgrown field around it’s gotta be full of ticks. I bet there’s snakes in there, too!” He shivered.

Melanie had gone pale and quiet. She drooped her head, and her straight, brown hair fell over her eyes. She hugged herself tightly, fingertips pressed so firmly into her triceps that the skin around them was white. “You know that place is…” she whispered, then gulped, her throat clicking, “…haunted.”

Jared hugged her with his right arm. “Even if we wanted to, how would we get over that fence? The concertina wire on top would rips us to shreds. No thanks to tetanus today, man.”

Tony put his hands on his hips, threw his head back, and cackled. “You are scared! I can’t believe it! Haunted? I’ve been going there every weekend for the past month,” he spat, “and there aren’t any ghosts.”

“Still,” Jacob said, “how would we get over that fence? If we were interested, y’know?” He looked at the others, elbows bent and palms up, a silly grin on his lips. “You don’t really believe the jail is haunted, do you?”

Jared rubbed Melanie’s back in soothing circles. “Yeah babe, and even if it were, Big J would take care of you!” He stepped back, flexed his left arm, and kissed his bicep, looking at Melanie and waggling his eyebrows.

Melanie giggled and punched him softly on his left arm. They hugged. “I know you would, Jare.” They kissed.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Ugh, knock it off. Anyway, I cut the fence. We won’t have to climb.”

Ashley and Jacob stood side-to-side, arms around each other’s waists. “I don’t know, Tone,” Jacob said, “what’s so special about the jail?” “Yeah,” Ashley added, “what could there possibly be to see? That place has been empty since before we were born.”

Tony stuck his lower lip out and jammed his hands in his pockets, shoulders up around his ears. “Well,” he pouted, “I wanted to surprise you, but if I have to tell you to get you there…”

“Spill it, Tone,” said Melanie, “or else I vote we go to Brrr Stacks for mochaccinos.”

Tony stepped toward the couples and put one hand on Jacob’s shoulder, the other on Jared’s. “Now don’t freak out,” he said, “but I’ve kinda been seeing someone—“

All four of them gasped then congratulated him all at once.

Jacob pounded his back. “Awesome, dude!”

Ashley clapped her hands and hopped up and down. “Tony, that’s wonderful!”

Melanie hugged him then stepped back, beaming. “I’m so happy for you, Tony!”

Jared put him in a headlock and knuckled his scalp. “’Bout time, son! Hey wait, what does that have to do with the jail?”

Tony blushed. “—and she kinda lives there.”

Jared’s jaw was punched agape. Melanie and Ashley were on the cusp of a Victorian faint.

“You’re messing with us, right?”, Jacob inserted, hopeful.

Jared became conscious of his parting lips and closed his mouth.

“You want to meet her or not?”, Tony challenged.

A minute-long silence blanketed the air. Pale Melanie and dubious Ashley shook their heads. Jacob and Jared looked back and forth between Tony and the girls.

“Why can’t she meet us at the fair?”, Ashley broke the silence.

Tony’s forehead was throbbing with frustration. “Because … because she is…”

“A ghost?”, Jacob interjected with a condescending chuckle.

Ashley and Jared burst into broken giggles. Melanie tightened the grip on her arms, nails digging into the skin.

Tony’s grin appeared on his face and stretched from right ear to left cheek. “No, but she ran away from home and is hiding in the jail”.

Four distinct voices simultaneously shouted, “WHAT?”

“I know…I know. But her parents are horrible people, a’ight? And she is very cool, I promise”, Tony said in a haste.

“And there’s no ghost?” Melanie croaked.

“No ghost. It’s probably only run-away kids that hide there, and folks assume it’s haunted. Just a bunch of desperate, lonely, but cool teenagers!” Tony presented his argument with a confident voice.

“Okay, fine. But you better not be lying about her being cool, we don’t wanna get into trouble”, Ashley pouted.

“Let’s go meet Tony’s girl!” Jared announced, enthusiastically punching Tony’s arm and then giving Jacob a double punch on the shoulder.

Five shadows moved towards the county jail. Tony was washed with disbelief. He had somehow convinced them to go to an almost-collapsed building, infested with all sorts of revolting insects, to meet an imaginary rebellious girl. He made sure to take them around the jail and in from the right side so that they wouldn’t see the ‘No Trespassing’ sign.

As they got close to the fence, Melanie halted, “I’m not sure about this, it doesn’t feel right”.

“I said I’d save you, Mel, don’t worry, need I flash my guns again?”, Jared smiled.

The excitement was bubbling in Tony’s stomach, “Okay, enough vomit-inducing cuteness, through here”. He pointed to a hole in the fence.

Jacob went in first, holding out a hand to Ashley. Jared crouched and crawled in next. Melanie took one last glance at Tony and moved her hesitant body through the hole.

“Just go straight in, I’m right behind you”, Tony reassured as he pulled his phone out of his jeans’ pocket, the grin siting wide on his face.

“Oh, hi, I wanted to report trespassing teenagers in the county jail…”

A shrill scream interrupted him. It sounded like Melanie. Tony thought, she probably saw a spider or a rat.

He looked into the window, focusing on their shadows. Melanie was covering her face with both hands while Jared held her protectively. Jacob and Ashley were walking backward, away from a fifth shadow.

“Hello…are you still there..?” the voice in the phone inquired.

Tony turned and ran towards the fair.

“The county jail, county jail, there’s someone…”

He tripped on a protruding rock and fell onto the grass, asleep from the hit. His phone lay among the crickets and the muffled voice kept asking, ”Which county jail? Hello?”

The Story Ended There


This story was brought to you by:

The Haunted Wordsmith
The Ceaseless Reader Writes
Earthly Brain

 

The Unfinished Story, FTS Aug #8

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The Unfinished Story

After serving thirty-five years in the military, Austin retired to a quiet little town in the middle of the Catskills. He had saved money every month since he enlisted so that he would never have to work another day when he left. His plan worked, but now he found life boring and uneventful. Every morning he walked down to Jennie’s Diner for coffee and a little conversation, then over to the library where he would whittle away the day. Three months of this routine and he was going stir crazy. That was until a strange woman asked if he had ever considered writing a book.

“I never really thought about it,” Austin said, flipping through a magazine.

“I have a story to tell,” the woman said, “and I have a good sense about people. You are the right person to tell my story.”

“Um, I’ve never written before. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“Well then, it’s a good thing I do. Meet me here tomorrow and we’ll start.”

She disappeared before he could even answer. He looked around, but she was nowhere. Austin shrugged. He would be at the library the next day anyway, maybe he would be able to ask more about what she wanted…and why him.

The next day, as the grandfather clock rang eleven, the woman tapped Austin on the shoulder.

“I’m glad you’re punctual!” the woman said. Austin shrugged. Years of military life had drummed that practice into him. He was never late. And to be honest Austin was intrigued. His precisely regulated life was beginning to gnaw at him. Sure, routine and order were important, but he had no idea they were so damned DULL.

Even though he’d lived such a life in his military service, there was always something to DO…some place to go, some orders to follow. As he rose in the ranks of the Army, eventually topping out at Colonel. His pension was substantial because he’d always given first rate service to his country. He was secretly really proud of this.

“Now about my story,” she began…but Austin interrupted her. “Might I know your name first?” he asked. She turned a little pale, but nodded. Hesitantly.

“I’m Rose,” she said and extended her hand to Austin. He shook it, noting that she had fine bones, he could feel them right through the white gloves she wore. A bit dated, a woman wearing gloves. Those hadn’t been the fashion since he was a boy in the 1950s he didn’t think. Austin wondered briefly why his thoughts kept rambling all over like they were…and he forced his mind back to the woman in front of him.

“I’m Austin” he replied, “and I’ve spent the greater portion of my life in the Army. They weren’t big on writing in the Army, at least not my branch. Only Administration ever did much of that! Are you sure you want me to tell your story?”

Rose smiled. It was wistful and rather sad. “Yes I’m sure,” she said. “I KNOW you’re the right one to tell my tale.” Austin noted the powder blue suit and skirt Rose was wearing, and the hat with the netting and little blue flowers across the brim. Again it struck him that her clothes looked really dated and out of place. Man, she really reminded him of someone.

Haunted by Rose’s manner and attire, and how she felt simultaneously strange and familiar to him, Austin went home that night, went up to the attic, and located his mother’s old scrapbooks. She had been the family archivists when she was still living and had meticulously placed old family photographs and documents, including birth certificates, marriage licenses, and obituaries, in dozens of scrapbooks.

After his mother passed, he had all of her scrapbooks boxed up and shipped to him at his home in the Catskills. He had never bothered opening the boxes and sorting through them before. But there was something about this woman who had seemed to approach him from out of the blue, told him that she had a story to tell, and that he was the one to tell it. None of it made sense to Austin.

He spent hours opening up the boxes and searching through the scrapbooks, not even understanding what, exactly, he was expecting to find. But he felt compelled to do so.

It was sometime after 3 am, his eyelids growing heavy and his mind weary, when Austin opened up the last scrapbook and began leafing through the pages. Suddenly he let out an audible gasp at what he saw on the page. Were his eyes deceiving him? Was his tired mind playing tricks on him? Was this even possible?

He was holding in his hand an old creased and faded photo of a group of people standing under an old Oak tree. Austin didn’t recognise any of the people in the photo apart from the woman on the end.

There stood Rose, a grin across her face and her arm around a good-looking man in his work clothes. The others in the photo all stared towards the camera and Austin could see they were a happy lot of people.

He turned the photo over to see if there was anything written on the back. In faded pen he could make out September, 1919, Horsefold. The name Horsefold did ring a bell with him and he scurried back through the scrapbooks until he found a series of photos depicting the family on holidays at Horsefold. From what he could find Horsefold was a popular family destination and in the post world war one environment the place where great colourful and loud parties were held. The Rose in the photos looked the same age as the Rose he had encountered. But how could this be? She’d have to be over one hundred years of age by now if it was the same person.

He determined that the next day he would seek her out and show her the photo and try and get some answers.

‘Ah, I wondered if you’d find it,’ Rose said looking at the worn photograph Austin had handed her. She seemed to know he’d be looking for her and now they were sipping lattes in the library coffee shop. Rose was relishing hers.

‘How did you know I’d have it?’ Austin asked. ‘You don’t know me from Adam, though I must admit you are vaguely familiar but I can’t figure out why! Is that you in the picture? Are you a member of my family? How come you haven’t aged?’

Rose smiled sadly.

‘That is my great grandmother. They say I look like her. The man is your great grandfather, but they weren’t married.’

Austin didn’t understand.

Rose went on to explain that her great grandmother was The Lady of the Manor at Horsefold and having lost her entire family in the hostilities, had opened her home to the less fortunate to have a family holiday after the war. She enjoyed having the laughter and gaity of children around, and her grounds were sufficient to provide treasure hunts and other activities for all ages. She had become taken with the young man visiting one summer and they had plans to marry.

Then tragedy struck in 1922.

Austin couldn’t believe what he was hearing as Rose told him of the events that unfolded all those decades ago.‘The fire that ripped through Horsefold Manor in 1922 destroyed the building. All that was left was a burnt out shell. The windows and doors were boarded up and the ruin stood there for another forty years before it was demolished,’ she paused. ‘But that wasn’t the worst of it. On the day of the fire children from the local orphanage were visiting the Manor. Fifteen in total. They were playing ‘Hide and Seek’ when the fire started on the ground floor. Ten children managed to escape.’

‘And the other five?’ Austin already knew what the answer would be.

‘The inferno was so hot that only fragments of remains were found.’ Rose sighed and continued. ‘The cause of the fire was never determined. No one was ever charged with any crime. Five graves were added to the cemetery in the village churchyard, near to the orphanage. And that was the end of the Manor. My Great Grandmother moved into a small house in another parish, met my Great Grandfather and they lived out their days in humble surroundings. She never saw your Great Grandfather again after that day.’

‘Why do I feel their is something more you have to tell me?’

Rose pointed at the young man – Austin’s Great Grandfather – in the photograph. ‘He was there on the day of the fire at Horsefold Manor.’

‘Did he survive?’ Austin asked.

‘Unfortunately, yes.’

A puzzled look crossed Austin’s face, ‘Unfortunately?’

‘Rumours persisted about the fire that day. Many blamed your Great Grandfather. You see, he was in the military in World War One, fighting for his homeland, Germany. He was badly injured at Ypres and taken prisoner. When the war ended he eventually emigrated to America, where he volunteered at the orphanage in Horsefold and there met my Great Grandmother.’

‘They blamed him because he was German?’

Rose shook her head. ‘The war had left him damaged. These days we would call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Things he had witnessed corroded his mind, corrupted him, made him unable to see evil from good. After the fire he fled. I’ve managed to track his movements in the years that followed.’

She took out a piece of paper from her handbag. It showed a list of places dotted around America. Next to the place names was another column, with a date and a name in it.

‘What does this mean?’ asked Austin.

‘This is a list of all the children he murdered.’

Austin gazed at the list of five names, the five murdered children, penned on a scrap of paper yellowed with age. He didn’t recognize any of them, but then he didn’t expect to. “You said you wanted me to write your story, but you’re telling me about my Great Grandparents.” The retired Army Colonel, dressed in his usual flannel shirt and jeans, short salt and pepper hair framing a well-worn face, spoke to Rose who was still dressed like a woman out of time, a refugee from another era.

She didn’t look older than thirty-five, but there was something about her eyes, as if they’d seen the fall of Rome, the sails of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria disappearing over the Atlantic’s horizon, the Conestoga wagon trains as they departed Independence, Missouri on their treacherous journey westward. But then, what about Horsefold and the fire? Had she seen that, too?

Rose sighed, her chest rising and falling within the silken lace of her blouse and the tailored powder blue jacket. White gloved hands clutched at her tiny handbag on her lap as the shadow of her wide-brimmed hat fell across her face. Long eyelashes fluttered across ocean-colored irises, and full, crimson lips pursed. “Austin, I haven’t been entirely honest with you.”

“In what manner?” He’d seen combat, led men into battle, faced death a score of times, and yet whatever secret Rose possessed frightened him more than any enemy’s rifles and artillery, more than any horror of war.

“Honestly, I was hoping you’d have guessed by now. How can any two people born a century apart be so identical in appearance?”

“You’re saying…”

“I didn’t know who he was at the time, not really. I carry not only the guilt of those five children with me, but the disgust of having consorted with a man so dreadfully evil, the man I have been hunting for countless centuries. I gave birth to his children and so I bear a certain amount of his shame. I know you won’t believe me, but I am the Rose in that photo, and if you will, I’m a good deal older than a century or even ten. I am a hunter. Like me, your Great Grandfather is an immortal, but unlike me, he is murderous and insane. The deaths of those five dear little children are the least of the crimes he’s committed across the ages. I need your help, Austin. He’s here, somewhere in New York. We have to find him, to stop him, or countless others will die starting with your grandchildren.”

“But I don’t have any children, let alone…” Then he stopped talking and Austin’s eyes opened wide with panic..

What is it Rose, asked studying Austin’s face. Shifting uneasily in his chair Austin looked her full in the eye and replied, how can he kill my children, and grandchildren, let alone my great grandchildren when I have never had or wanted any children.

Rose still sat quietly just watching Austin. Her eyes widened with horror as his last few words sank in. “Are you sure,” Rose asked “that you have no children?” “I am indeed” replied Austin.

Rose took a deep breath and then slowly said that somehow she had made a mistake and that she had obviously approached him in error.

Standing up Rose made to leave, Austin reached across and caught her arm. “Were are you going” he asked her gently. “I have already wasted two weeks approaching you I must get on I must find him! “

Austin looked deep into Roses eyes and he saw only beauty and kindness, he reached out and touched her cheek and said “Rose I am going to help you find this immortal. I may be a mere man but I see only good in you so I am ready to help in anyway I can.”

Rose smiled, it looked like she was about to turn him down when suddenly she took a deep breath and said. “Thank you Austin I would really like that”

They decided to have dinner at Austin’s house and he would show Rose all his mother’s photos and family records. Rose closed her eyes for a moment and thought, maybe this kind brave man could help her. Goodness knows she needed help and she was so lonely there had been no one special in her life for at least 75years.

Rose smiled at Austin as they looked through the old photos and thought “I feel a true connection with this man.”

Austin glanced at Rose who seemed to thoroughly enjoy looking at his mother’s photo albums. He couldn’t help feeling agitated. There was more to her story. The fact that she hadn’t been totally honest with him in the beginning made him uneasy. In fact he had more questions now than ever.

“I’m gonna grab a beer. You want one? Or a coke? I have some in the ‘frig. Some bottled water too.”

“Nothing for me,” chirped Rose, who was happily flipping through the photos.

“I promised you dinner, Rose. I’m a pretty decent cook. What can I whip up for us?”

“Oh Austin, how very sweet of you, but as I mentioned, I’m an immortal. I dine on, you might say, more exotic fare. Fix something for yourself.”

Austin didn’t feel hungry anymore. He took a long swig of brew and sat in the easy chair facing Rose.

“I guess it’s time to get down to business then. You said I can help. So tell me Rose, how do we stop this so-called maniac?”

Rose looked up from the photos in her lap. “I’m afraid that’s going to take some thought, Austin. You see, I have no idea why he is raging. Usually it is the children who draw him out. And since you said you have none, I’m not quite sure…unless…”

“Unless what?”

“Unless it is you that he is after…”

Her words hung eerily in the air as the lights flickered briefly, then snapped to darkness.

A deep voice echoed from the hallway, “Hello Rosie, old girl. It’s been too long, hasn’t it? You didn’t think I was going to let you have him all to yourself, did you?!”

The Story Died Here


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