Short Stories

THE KISS

(Originally published in Simply Horror: Seeds of Nighmare, 2016)

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Boston, Massachusetts. 1845

Elizabeth Florence unzipped her bag, tugging hard when it got to that spot where it always hung up. Ugh! A broken tooth on the zipper. A second tug got it past and the back opened up. She reached in and took out the four candles and looked around the room. There, on the dresser, was the perfect place for the large one. The mirror on the wall would provide excellent reflections. Carefully, she selected a resting place and sat the candles around the room. On a bedside table beside the table lantern, on a table across the room, and one on window sill. She lit each one as she carefully placed them, looking at him on the bed, resting so peacefully, to see if the light was hitting him just right.

She walked to the bedside table and turned the wick down on the lantern, extinguishing the flame so that the only light in the room was the low glowing illumination of the candles. She walked back over to her bag and turned to face him. He was such a powerful looking man. She remembered, vaguely, the first time she had seen him, with his wife at the park. She was shooting some photos for a newly married couple and saw him in the distance. At the time, she didn’t think twice about him, other than he was strikingly handsome.  But she had no interest in him at that time, for obvious reasons. There was a certain “type” of man to which she was drawn. She had no idea that they would end up like this. She smiled.

She pulled the make-up kit out and took it to the bedside table, setting it down beside the candle. She walked back to her bag and reached in, withdrawing a small piece of silk paper that had the red waxy paint on it. She rubbed it against her lips, painting them the ruby red that matched those maidens of the night she saw on the Northside of town at dawn. She placed the toe of her left Rose shoe on the heal of her right and lifted her let to slip It off. She then took the toes of her right foot and placed them on the heal left and pushed that shoe off as well.

Standing barefoot on the cold wooden floor, she began unfastening the buttons on her dress, pulling it over her shoulders and letting it fall to the floor. She reached behind her and pulled at the strong, loosening the corset that squeezed her into her hourglass shape. She was a beautiful woman and her hips were curvy but the corset was a must for the woman in today’s society. As the corset popped loose she slid it over the curves of her hips and thighs and let it fall to the floor, stepping out of it. Her white linen chemise was draped below her shoulders, revealing the soft, milky skin and she smiled at him, knowing she would shudder at his touch. She reached between her breast and pulled the string to loosen the bow and allowed the soft cotton garment to fall to heap at her feet. She stepped out of it and began walking to the bed, smiling at him.

She touched his bare foot, feeling how frigid he was in this cool room, and begin walking her fingers up his legs, over the leg of his pajamas, and placed her hand flat, sliding it up…feeling the muscles beneath. Her hand continued to slide to his chest and she marveled at the shape of his body. She crawled into the bed and laid beside him, holding her finger to her lips to say “shhhh”. She knew his wife was near and it would not be wise to draw attention to the room. She began unbuttoning his night shirt from the top; one button…two buttons…and slid her hand inside to touch his chest…her fingers gliding through the hair. He pulled back and unbuttoned the final three buttons and tossed the shirt open, exposing his chest. Her heart began to race, seeing his naked torso and she knew he must feel it.

She threw a leg over his waist and was atop him, straddling him as she placed both hands on his stomach. She took a deep breath and again placed her finger against her bright red lips…”shhh, darling. Not a peep,” she whispered.

She reached down and untied the string holding his night pants on and began loosening the waist and pulling them down, sliding down his legs and pulling the pants with her until she had them completely over his feet. She smiled in marvel at his body and could feel herself pulsating with desire. She placed her hands on his feet and began sliding her hands up his legs as she began to crawl back up. She got her hips positioned over his, her legs straddling his body and she stared at him, feeling his love for her and hoping he would feel hers for him.

It was the aroma. There were many things that attracted women to men. Yes, the thought of today’s society was that real ladies didn’t think like that. “Pfftt,” she thought. She would be ostracized by the community had they known the thoughts that ran through her fair head. For her, it was the aroma. The smell that came through her nose and penetrated her soul was…erotic. It awoke the carnal beast in her every time.

His skin was velvety smooth and the hair on his chest was sexy. She slid her hands up his chest and leaned down pressing her lips against his cheeks…her hair spilling over his face…and kissed to his lips…where she pressed hard against him and slid her tongue into his mouth. She kissed him hard and could feel his hand against her leg below.

She could feel his manhood against her below and she began moving her hips, rubbing against him. She kissed him and then pulled away from him…kissing down his neck. She allowed her lips to trace his neckline and down his chest as she began to crawl backwards down his body.

She leaned back up. The heat on the inside of her thighs was intense as they rubbed against his hips. She reached down between her legs, finding him and rubbing him in her hand. She looked down at him and smiled, leaning her head to the side and playfully staring at him through the curtain of hair draped across her face. She rubbed herself against him and slid her legs apart, lowering herself onto him…a gasp…a light moan escaped her as she felt him inside.

She took his hand from her leg and lifted it to her face, taking a finger in to her mouth. She smiled as she slid it from her lips and slowly lowered it to her breast. Pressing it hard against her. She arched her back and held her head back and rode him, watching the shadows from the candle light dance across the walls and ceiling of the small, dark room. She turned her head, looking over her shoulder at her reflection in the mirror of her riding her man and ripples of bliss flowed through her body as she flooded him beneath.

She leaned forward and laid her breasts against his chest and her head on his shoulder. She whispered “I love you” as she kissed his cheek and just laid there for a few moments, together, resting in peace.

***

She looked in the mirror, straightening the bodice of her dress. She looked at the low neckline and made sure that it was low enough to showcase the locket that hung from her necklace. She placed the candles back into her bag. She then placed the make-up cases back into her bag, zipping the bag closed and, again, fighting with the zipper as she tugged it past the broken tooth.

She turned and looked at him and smiled. He was so handsome in his suit. She walked to the bed and leaned down, whispering, “I’ll see you in a few minutes, sweetheart.” She kissed him on the lips again and turned to get her bag. As her hand turned the doorknob of the door, she took one more glance at her prince, smiling at him, and opened the door and whisked out of the room.

The others in the room looked up as she entered, closing the door behind her. She felt that level of excited nervousness that she always felt. Did they hear anything? Were they listening? She surveyed their eyes…did they know? The woman in the purple dress, his wife, walked towards her. Her eyes were wet and a slightly blood shot. She stared into Elizabeth’s eyes and Elizabeth noticed she was wringing her hands together.

“Is he…” she struggled with her words and looked down at her hands as if the words were there. “Is he ready?” She looked back to Elizabeth and saw that there were tears in her eyes as well.

Elizabeth touched her hands and nodded from behind her tears. She could feel the woman’s hands trembling from the tremendous grief and absorbed it, allowing it to well up in her own emotions.

“Yes.” She sobbed lightly. “Yes, he is ready.” She turned to the two men, one his brother and the other the brother of his wife. “You can bring him in and set him up now,” she said. “Please take care with his face, as the make-up is already on him.”

Elizabeth walked to the parlor where her calotype was and began preparing the paper with the chemicals for the photography. She was almost finished when the two men carried him into the room and placed him in the high winged back chair. The positioned his arm on the arm of the chair and she looked at his positioning. They took his other hand and put is fingers inside his vest, allowing the vest to support the dead weight of his arm. She nodded and they walked back into the other room.

She went behind them and pulled the doors almost shut, leaning out towards the family. “We will be about an hour here.” She nodded. “It takes a long exposure to get an acceptable image and we want to make sure we get a very good image to keep Mr. Albrights memory with us always.” She smiled and closed the doors behind her.

She smiled at him. At last, alone again. Their final hour together.


DEAD RINGER

by James Baxter

(Published in 2017 in Simply Horror: Seeds of Nightmares)

BOSTON, MASSACHUSSETS

1832

I stood nearby, but obscurely away from the crowd, hidden from them by their own absorption into remorse as the priest made his final remarks over the small coffin. It was a beautiful piece of art, made of steel with a beautiful powder blue brush finish, adorned with gold plated ornaments on the corners and every curve of its shape.  Around the edges and equally spaced were small, intricately detailed mermaid ornaments around the entire body of the coffin. It would have appeared that the wee lass was a fan of mermaids.  Interestingly enough, mermaids were not the kind loving creature children’s fairy tale authors would have one believe; in fact, they were just the opposite. Aquatic beasts who would lure seaman towards rocks and sandbars in an effort to shipwreck them.  In fact, they –

Yes, I’m sorry. I do tend to get off track a bit.  Atop of the small decorative box was a splash of roses, bright yellow and swimming in a pool of baby breath. Close, a man stood in his long black coat, holding a woman who shared the same black in her attire. Her face, though covered with a veil, carried a sad countenance and the soft sounds of weeping could be heard escaping her lips from behind the dark curtain handing from her hat; between those weeping sounds short, shallow gasps as her upper body went through the spasms of her pain driven crying.  The man’s fedora was pulled low and had drops dripping from the brim as the rain from the sky cut through the air and pelted on him; it was difficult to tell whether it was rain or tears that caused the cheeks to shine beneath the dark circles of his eyes as he held the woman tightly beneath his arm and his hand gently, but firmly giving a comforting squeeze to her arm.

I looked away from the couple, respectfully taking my curious gaze from them and down; I noticed the same rain drops that were clinging from the brim of his hat were also beading up on my freshly polished wingtips. The water could not seep through the fresh coat of Kiwi boot polish I had just worked into them earlier that morning. I took pride in the appearance of my shoes; it tells a lot about a man, you know?

Anyway, I looked back on the scene for moments that seemed like hours and watched the family and friends as they greeted the couple with condolences and the crowd slowly diminished. Eventually, the man pulled the woman away from the site and walked her back to the awaiting coach; they disappeared into the backseat the steeds pulled it away through the narrow, snaking path through the cemetery. It is always the saddest moment, you know, riding away from this resting place, leaving the remnant of a loved one that shall never grace your presence again. It reminds me of another time —

I’m sorry? Yes, yes, I am getting to that. You see, that is when it began, this ringing.  I had completed my task of lowering the tiny coffin into the grave and completely filled in the grave in with the fresh soil that had been taken from that hole just hours before. The sod was carefully place back onto the loose soil and there was no need to water considering the rain that had fallen on the pieces of grass as they waited their resting home. I stood and looked at the grave for a moment and marveled at how beautiful it had been put back together. The headstone of little “Angela” was a fine piece of craftsmanship and deserved to be complimented by an equally impressive manicured grave. You know that the marble for that particular headstone was of the finest and was imported from –

Yes, I’m do apologize. So, it was shortly after that.  I was repairing the gravesite of this precious angel when the ringing began. I would say that it was the very next day.  I had put so much work into this grave and it pained me so that it was in such a state in just two days.  The grass sod was disheveled a bit and the earth was soft, as if it had been moved. Erosion after heavy rains is always a risk in these places because of such heavy foot traffic on a daily basis.  Yes, I’m sorry; the ringing.  It was…well, I found it odd. It had been many years since I had heard a ringing like this in my ears. It was, in fact, the very sound, the ringing, that the voices gave way to.

What’s that? The voices? Absolutely.

From as far back as I can remember, I could hear the voices. Sometimes so feint that I could not make them out, little more than whispers. Statements, explanations, rhetorical questions filled my head. You ask me if they scared me? No, I was never in a state of terror from these voices. They were sometimes soothing at times when I was facing some of the situations in my home that I’d really prefer to not delve into at this time. It is fairly common knowledge, anyway, that my father was a savage man and his cruel and brutal actions eventually led to the death of a man whom he bludgeoned with his own hands. I remember thinking “at least that fellow’s beatings are over” at the time. But that is another story. You ask me if I ever spoke back to the voices? Good Lord, no. At least not at first. In fact, I tried to ignore them as they became increasingly disturbing to me in the things they pointed out and the things they were encouraging.

What? Oh, yes, forgive me. Back to the ringing. It began as a faint, psssssssst-zzzzzzzzzz-eeeeeeee in my ears. So much so that I thought how in the world am I hearing a dog whistle and looked around me to make sure there were no hounds frantically searching for their master. It had been many years since I had heard the voices, which eventually died down to just little more than a ring, similar to this one. It did go away so I continued with my work. I take a great deal of pride in the grave sites, you know. It is very important for the families of those who have passed to find the resting place of their loved ones clean and well-manicured. There can be many problems encountered in maintaining the estate grounds from improper fertilization, erosion as I mentioned, bare spots, dense weeds but all have to do with neglect, which I – oh, yes, I’m sorry.

Where was I? Oh, yes, so I continued to work and I was kneeling down over the little angel’s site when the ringing started to transform; suddenly it went from the steady pssssssssst-zzzzzzzzzzz-eeeeeeeee to more of a “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding”. Well I knew immediately what it was as in the cemetery there are no dinner bells so it most certainly had to be one of the security bells on a buried coffin. I stopped picking the weeds momentarily and sat perfectly still and the ringing stopped. I looked around the grounds and no more than a stone’s throw there was a gathering of four or five people visiting a headstone, placing flowers. Did you know that ancient Rome began placing flowers on the gravesites to give comfort to the spirits who they believe circled around the graves? And before that it dates as far back as —

Yes, I do apologize. So, I looked to the gathering of people and noticed that they were not phased at all by the ringing. They were all focused on the headstone. The women were placing kerchiefs to their noses and the men were hanging their heads pretending to have sorrow to comfort them.  Looking back to the grave, I had repaired it back to its original state. I stood, wiping my hands and picked the tamp from its resting place on the headstone. To properly take care of sod on these sites you would ideally need a sod roller but with such confined space throughout the property I find it easier to use the tamp. I began tamping the sod back firmly into the soil when I heard it again…”ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” I stopped and looked around. It was louder this time, certainly loud enough for the nearby visitors to hear. I looked towards them and they were oblivious to the sound. I called towards them.

“Excuse me,” I yelled. I had to yell it twice and finally one man turned to see me and then the others peered over to me. “Sir, do you hear that?” I know that he at least heard me but he looked at his friends and they were whispering and shaking their heads. He turned back to me and unsurely shook his head back at me with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

I walked towards them and could the two women stood behind the men, as if I was threatening to them. “Sir,” I said, “I hate to bother you but do any of you hear that?”

“Hear….what?” he asked, frowning as if he were confused.

“That,” I pointed to the air as if to catch one of the soundwaves. “That ringing; do you hear that?”

The young man looked at the others who looked at him in slight confusion and shook their head. He looked at me and shook his head. “No. No sir, we don’t hear anything.”

“That’s absurd,” I said, more firmly now. I began to say something else when I realized that the ringing had stopped. I looked at the two couples who were staring at me and I looked around, back little Angela’s grave. I strained my eyes, as if that would sharpen my hearing. Nothing. The ringing had stopped. I looked back at the two couples. The man who had spoken was looking at me with his head cocked to one side.

“Sir,” he said. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” I replied. “I suppose I’ve been working way too many hours this week,” I replied and chuckled to relieve them of their concern.

My day was over and it was time for me to go home. Margaret would expect me. She knew my schedule and it was like clockwork. After I placed my tools back in the shed, I locked up and began walking towards the gates that open to Broad Street. I live just a block away on — well, you know where I live of course.

Yes, of course, the story. I do apologize.

***

As I said, I left for home that afternoon and really thought nothing more about the ringing. Time? I believe it was around 6:00 pm or shortly after. I know that it was l late because I recalled it odd that Margaret was not home when I arrived. This was particularly frustrating for me because she always has my dinner cooked and this was not the case on this day. I pulled out some leftovers and after adequately stuffing myself from the pork loin from the previous night, I laid on the sofa and fell asleep.

No sir. That was it. I slept through the night and actually woke up a little late. I had to rush to prepare for work and actually didn’t even have time to shave properly. Nor did I have time to shine my shoes. It is very important the shoes carry that glean; you know you can tell a lot about a man by how he keeps his shoes. I’ve actually seen men in the past that – yes, I’m sorry. So, I go on to work and to the maintenance office where I pick up the schedule for the day. There was a burial scheduled for later that afternoon in the F-section so I had time to work the grounds before getting that site prepared. And that was my routine typically. You know, the grounds keeping is very important. I take a great deal of pride in the grave sites, you know. It is very important for the families of those who have passed to find – yes; yes, perhaps I have said that.

Well, I began my rounds, walking through the grounds and making sure they were clean of debris and trash. I typically will stop if I see weeds growing in the grass of the sites. I am very meticulous in taking special care. Dense weeds are just one problem one can encounter with grounds maintenance. improper fertilization, erosion, and basically just neglect can lead — yes, I’m sorry. Sometimes my mind wanders.

So, I was working the grounds of Gladys Morris, 1795 -1825; if you ask me far too young to die. I remember her service and how sad it was that there was but one soul there, her husband, and he – I’m sorry. So, I was working the grounds of Gladys when I heard the feint ringing again. I rose from knees and glanced around in an effort to assess where the ringing was coming from. But I already knew. I walked towards the gravesite of little Angela and realized that it was, in fact, coming from there. Now, as you know these security bells are there for a purpose but I am quite sure, from the type of trauma this little girl suffered, there was no chance that she had been erroneously pronounced dead and buried alive. I looked around for someone, anyone, that could possibly confirm what I was hearing. I saw Jon walking towards the section and yelled for him. I’m sorry? Yes, Jon is one of our custodial staff. A rather large black man, but nice chap; unfortunately, not very well educated nor articulate. Rather strong fellow, though. I once saw him, alone, take the end of a — Yes, of course. So, Jon recognized that I was hailing him and walked to the graveside of Angela. I looked at him, inquisitively, as he stared back at me.

“What do you make of that, Jon?” I asked him.

“Make of what, sir?” he responded.

“That ringing, Jon.” Certainly he could hear the ringing.

“What ringing, mista K?”

Jon called me Mr. K, or “mista K” as his dialect was, mostly because my last name is so unique to some. I can actually remember when I was a young lad in grade school the teacher – yes, sir. I apologize.

So, I asked Jon if he could not hear that ringing.

“No sa,” he shook his head. “I don’t hear no ringing.”

I know that he could see I was shocked and I looked to Angela’s grave and held my hand out to the grave and looked back to him. He looked at me with a perplexed look; he looked to the grave and back to me again and shook his head.

“Mista K, you alright?” Jon was such a gentle man; a gentle giant.

At any rate, I told Jon, yes, I was fine and to run along and apologized for interfering with his duties. But the ringing, oh my heavens; “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding” it just continued over and over. I looked around to see if there was anyone else and there was not a soul in sight. But the ringing persisted. I knelt down onto little Angela’s resting place and put my ear close to the grass. It was definitely coming from her coffin and I was horrified. Could it be? Could the physician have made such a grave error in pronouncing this little angel dead? Was she ringing the security bell with her tiny hands? “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding”, over and over.

I stood and decided something must be done about this. I went to the maintenance office, which is a good 75 yards away from lot 467, which is the site of little Angela. I was in a rush to find someone but was careful not to trample the grass of the clients. There is enough walk traffic through the property without me adding more damage to some of the sites. You know, combined with erosion and improper fertilization due to budgets we must take special care to ensure these – yes, again, I apologize.

So, I arrived at the maintenance office and Mr. Hardy, he’s the shift supervisor, was in a conference with two vendors. We get vendors quite frequently who ask for referrals for their custom headstones, flowers, and a multitude of – yes, ok. So as I burst into the room, Mr. Hardy and the two guests appeared startled. I supposed I did come in rather abruptly. I began to tell him the situation but Mr. Hardy held his finger up to me and gave me a condescending look to silence me. I stepped back and waited on him to finish his conversation with the two salesmen.

As the two vendors left the office and closed the door behind them, I stepped forward to speak but Mr. Hardy raised his finger at me again.

“Kerandek,” he said, as his eyes looked me up and down. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror today?”

Well, I’m sure I did not know where this was headed. As I stated, I was running late this particular morning and surely did not look at myself in the mirror. “Sir?” I asked.

“Look at you,” he said. “You haven’t shaved and are looking quite unkept there; your clothes look like you’ve slept in them,” and he looked at my feet and back to my face. “and your shoes, man. It looks like you’ve scuffed them up with fudge.” He shook his head. “Don’t you have a burial at three today?”

“Yes,” I told him. “yes, I do, but sir, there is a bell; a bell ringing from lot 467.”

He looked at me with a confused look. “467? Who? I don’t know that lot.” He looked at his ledger and flipped through the pages. I watched as he drug his fat, stubby index finger down the column to find the information. He found it and without lifting his head, looked at me over the rim of his glasses, which were resting on the end of his nose. He looked up and removed his glasses. “Kerandek, you DO know what happened to that little girl? There is absolutely no way that this was an error on this. The family was unable to even do an open coffin ceremony. They weren’t even able to do post-mortem photographs.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” I said, “but none the less, sir, there is a ringing coming from that lot.”

He started at me for a moment, looking me down with his eyes again to my feet and back up to my eyes.

“Ok,” he said, grabbing his hat from the rack hanging beside his desk. “I’m going to come out there with you so we can settle this. And then you are going to get yourself straightened up and cleaned up for that service this afternoon. We can’t have our clients’ families seeing our staff looking like vagabonds at their services.”

So, together we walked across the property, carefully navigating the resting sites of the beloved. I’m always careful to stay off of the grass, as it is hard enough to keep up. We have a great deal of foot traffic through this property and combined with the erosion and — oh. Yes. You are right. I do drift. So, we walk the 75 yards and as we near the grave side it comes again… ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding. I looked to Mr. Hardy with a hesitant and slight grin. He returned a smirk to me from his fat jowls, causing my grin to disappear. We got to the site of little Angela and the ringing was loud. “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding” over and over again “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.”

I looked at Mr. Hardy, waiting on him to respond. He just stared at me. I looked at him, as his thick neck spilled over his collar. He had the nerve to say something about my appearance as he stood there with his shirt barely able to stay tucked in over his barrel belly and a mustard stain on the front of his tie – and I’m unsure if the stain was even from this day. It could have been – yes. Sorry.

“Well,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I’m here.”

The ringing was fading a little but it was still audible. “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” Over and over.

“Do you not hear that,” I said. “Here,” I said, kneeling down on the grass, which was still soft from the repair I had done the previous day but was looking a lot better. “Here, do you not hear it?”

“Kerandek,” he looked at me with his hands on his hips as his belly lapped over his belt.  “I don’t hear anything. There is no bell. That little girl is D-E-A-D. Dead. You got it? Now, you’ve got a half hour before the service so you need to get your ass cleaned up and shaven or you will find yourself without a job come tomorrow. You got it?” He turned to walk away.

That fat fuck, I thought to myself. I was so angry as I watched his waddle away, trampling on the nearby resting sites that I didn’t even realize that the ringing had stopped. I was actually more concerned with him damaging the grass of the patrons. At any rate, the ringing had stopped and I lifted myself up and wiped off the leg of my trousers.

I went back to my locker and was able to find a razor and did a dry shave in the bathroom. There was little I could do about the condition of my clothes other than just straighten them out by hand. I did take some paper towels and wiped my shoes of the dirt. I really found it odd that there was so much dirt on my shoes and actually caked around the soles. I had been repairing some of the grave sides but didn’t think I had been in that much soil. I wiped the shoes clean and though I didn’t have my kiwi polish with me, I was able to get them at least to acceptable cleanliness, though not the normal shine that I have. I worked the service at three and as the family was carried away in the coach and the sounds of the horse hoofs were out of earshot, I began closing this grave. By the time I put up my tools in the maintenance shed, it was past quitting time and as I began my walk towards the gates on Broad Street, I could see the light on in the maintenance office, realizing that Mr. Hardy was putting in a late night. What? No, sir. I did not stop to speak. In fact, I didn’t go anywhere near the office. I made my way to the gates and to my home. I live but just a block away and I’m sure that Margaret would be waiting on me. I would not share with her encounter with Mr. Hardy as sometimes, she seemed to defend him over me in my grievances with my supervisor. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that there may have been some inappropriate activity between the two. But that is neither here nor there with this story.

I arrived home a little after six pm. Again, Margaret was not yet home and I suspected she had been visiting with her mother on the Eastside. The truth of the matter is we had been quarrelling for a while but lately it had become worse. You see, we had a daughter several years ago that got the fever and passed away. Little Maggie was just four years old. I suspected that she was becoming ill because she had acting a little under the weather and not her normal self. I had asked Margaret to have Dr. Giles – he’s our physician – come by and see her. I thought she had done that. Maggie began to develop a rash on her little face and within days the fever was so high that she felt like a broiler to touch. Dr. Giles came by and gave us a grim report and within days, little Maggie had left to be with the Lord. It was only days after that I found out Margaret had not reached out to Dr. Giles to come see Maggie. She felt distraught over it, blaming herself. I tried to console her and tell her that the Lord would probably forgive her for her neglect but never the less, it was difficult to overcome. Since that time, our relationship has not quite been the same. She seems to run to her mother, who manages to pet her and make her feel comfort and I no longer fight her desire to be absent. But I digress.

After making some soup and taking that in, I again laid down on the sofa for a little rest. I overslept again and was in a rush to get ready. The last thing I wanted was to give Mr. Hardy something else to go into a tirade about. I wet my hair and put on my shoes and headed out of the door. When I arrived at work, I went to the maintenance office to get the schedule for the day. Mr. Hardy was not in, thank goodness because the sight of the sow causes nausea. Perhaps he had worked too late the night before and decided to sleep in himself. There were no services scheduled for that day so I was relieved I would be able to spend more time on the grounds.

I walked immediately to the F-section, where the previous day’s service was held. I always inspect the site of the recent services to make sure that the grass has not been shaken loose by traffic from vagrants in the middle of the night. It takes a lot of time to make sure these sites are in pristine shape for the families. There are a multitude problems which can arise from either erosion, or improper fertilization or – yes, yes, well, I suppose I have said that before.

So, the grounds for lost 514 in the F-section were fine. As I gathered my tools and started to assess the neighboring sites it began again. . “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” Over and over. I turned to the site I had just walked away from and leaned to listen. But it was not coming from there. I immediately thought of little Angela’s site. Now, she was a good 30 yards away from the F-section so I was shocked that I could hear the bell, that “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding” from this distance but I was certain that is where it was coming from. With tools in hand and in double time, I made my way through the maze of resting sites and got to lot 467. It was, as I suspected coming from the site of little Angela. I knelt down on to get a clear listen and once again, the site was somewhat disheveled. The grass was sitting loosely on the soil, which had obviously been disturbed again. There had been no rain the previous night so I knew that it was not that. Perhaps there some vagrants. I’m unsure. At any rate, the ringing wouldn’t stop. . “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” Over and over.

Jon, who was in the area, saw me on the ground and startled me from behind.

“Mista K?” he asked, as I jumped at his voice.

“Goodness, man,” I exclaimed. “You startled me.” I stood to face him and said “Now, Jon? Now do you hear that ringing?”

Jon just stood there looking at me. After staring at me for a moment he spoke again. “Mista K, are you sure you alright? You look awful.”

I looked down at myself and could see what he was talking about. Apparently while on the ground I had gotten a fair amount of soil on my shirt so I reached down to wipe it off. I looked down at my feet and sighed. Once again, I had gotten wet soil caked on my shoes and stuck on the soles. I pride myself on my shoes, you know. You a lot about a man by the way he keeps his – yes, I’m sorry.

I could see Jon was no help. I surveyed the grounds and there was no one else to be found. I decided once and for all to find someone to confirm this ringing in my ears so I headed towards the Broad Street gates with the intention of finding someone to assist me. I was – why…I didn’t think to go to the maintenance office. Why? Well, because I already knew that Mr. Hardy was not there; he was not at work when I arrived. Time? I suppose I had been at work for around an hour or so. No, I didn’t think that Mr. Hardy would have arrived by that time but what difference would that have made? The fat bastard had ridiculed me the previous day and I knew he would not believe me if I had gone to him. No. That’s not what I said, I said that I didn’t even think that he would have arrived yet. I didn’t…you are trying to mix me up. Please, let me finish my story.

When I got to the gates, there were a few people passing on Broad. I stopped the first couple I saw, pleading with them. They backed away from me like I was a mad man or something. I actually think they looked afraid. That was total absurd. I pleaded my case with them. What? No, of course not. I didn’t touch them. The man put his arm around the woman and they backed away, as if they were in danger or something. As they moved along quickly, I turned looking for someone – anyone – else who could help. Another gentleman coming walking towards me noticed me immediately and went to navigate around me but I stopped him. I started to tell him the story about this ringing  “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” Over and over. He looked at me, as the other couple did, like I was a madman. He turned to walk away but I grabbed his coat sleeve and pleaded. He told me to get my “filthy, stinking hands off of him” and snatched away, brushing his coat off as he walked away. Sir? No. I would say that I approached two…no, three more people, all with the same results.

The ringing was louder and even more intense. I could hear it from the gates. I kept pleading with passers by, “don’t you hear that? Please help. She is alive.” But no one would listen. They all just stared at me like a freak. They looked at me with the same look that adulterous pig had looked at me with the day before. And the ringing would not stop. “Ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” Over and over. I could no longer stand it. I surrendered my efforts to solicit help from the street and ran back into the cemetery. I ran through the lots as the crow flies and bumped my knee on a headstone. I looked and sure enough, I had torn a hole in the leg of my trousers from – what? Why, yes, yes, I did. I know I don’t normally cross the grave sites but this was urgent. I had no choice and knew I could repair the sites on tomorrow.

The closer I got to little Angela’s grave, the louder it got. That maddening ringing in my ears. “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” Over and over. I pounced down onto the grave and began tearing the lose grass away. I could tell this site had been tampered with, as the grass was not even rooting into the soil. My tools were close but I could not stop to get them. I had to get this site opened. I continued to dig, the moist and loose soil began to stick beneath my fingernails, staining them like dried blood. It was odd to me that the soil was so soft, seeing that this particular grave was several days old now and we had not had rain since the first night.

I heard my name being called and was startled when Jon’s hand grabbed my shoulder. “Mista K” he said. “Mista K, what are you doing?” and he tried to pull me, lightly – Jon is such a gentle man, you know – by my arm but I pulled away and regret that I lashed out at him, knocking him backwards. I – yes, yes, I did intentionally push him away.  At any rate, he did not bother me again. And the ringing, that terrible ringing continued in my head  “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding.” Over and over. I had dug as much as I could with my hands and reached over the ground and grabbed my short shovel. I looked at Jon, who was laying on the ground and found it odd that he was not moving. I continued to work with the shovel this time.

I was a good four feet into the hole when I heard your officers yelling at me. The kept yelling at me “Sir, sir, you need to stop and come out of the hole.” I looked at them as I continued to dig the loose dirt away. “Can’t you hear that,” I screamed at them. “Sir, you need to stop now,” they commanded. But I ignored them and continued to dig.

One of the lads jumped into the hole with me and grabbed my arm; I pulled away and turned to face him. He had his club pulled out, ready to hit me. I couldn’t believe I was being assaulted by an officer. I pleaded with him to step away but he would not. He persisted that I stop and get out of the hole. He reached to grab my arm again and I had no choice. I hit him across the face with my shovel. He immediately dropped to the ground. I moved him away and began digging again. His partner began blowing that whistle loudly, yelling for help. Now I had to deal with the “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding”  ringing of the bell and that bloody whistle. Within moments, I began to hit something and it was not a coffin. In fact, I was little more than four and a half feet into this grave and the coffin was a good six feet down. I pushed the shovel into whatever this object was and it felt somewhat squishy or soft. I tossed the shovel down and got on my knees and began to hand dig again. I saw his fat balding head first. It was no wonder I felt it was something squishy. It was that sow of a man, Terrell Hardy, that I was uncovering. He was on his side and appeared to be dressed in the same clothes that he was in the previous day. In fact, I’m sure of it because the slob still had the tied with the mustard stain on it. I had to brush off the dirt to make sure. He was laying a little odd and I noticed a hand on his chest that certainly could not have been his. So I began digging some more. I uncovered the dirt and began tossing it back onto the officer, who was still unconscious from – yes…yes. So, I continued uncovering the body belonging to this mysterious hand and I recognized it at once. It was the locket that I had given her on our first anniversary and inside it, a photo of her and of little Maggie. At one time, I had held that place where her photo was but she had replaced my face with her own. It was Margaret. And it was no wonder that I had not seen her for two days. It was about that time that you and your other partners arrived. I looked up out of the hole and realized that the ringing had stopped. The sound of the bell was gone.

Something told me that there was something wrong there. That there was something that needed to be uncovered. Poor Margaret. Never able to forgive herself for the death of little Maggie. Turning to this fat, lard of a man for comfort instead of me. I can’t say that I have any animosity towards whomever committed this absolute heinous crime. But I am certainly glad that you fellows were there to see this discovered. And even more so I am glad that the terrible ringing, that “ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding” over and over again inside my head is now gone.

WHITE DEMON

by James Baxter

(Published in 2016 in the best selling Amazing Paranormal Encounters)

We all have darkness inside of us, the depth of which is determined by the measure of those things from which it was created. The darkness inside of my family is an abyss and the screams that come from the other side of that darkness are  an endless haunting inside my head. – – James Baxter


Shhh - 300Everything I am about to tell you is true.

It began with a dream though a more appropriate description would be nightmare. I woke abruptly to the screams of children. Sweat beaded on my forehead and I could feel my heart racing, feeling as if it would beat out of my chest. As I looked around the room, my eyes adjusting to the darkness, I could see my sister, five years my senior, in the other bed fast asleep.

“Why didn’t the screams wake her, I wondered.”

“Missy,” in a loud whisper across the room. “Missy, wake up.” The words sounded muffled in my head, like I was talking into a can.

During my futile attempts to wake her I caught glimpse in my peripheral vision of a shadow moving past the doorway down the hall of the second floor. Slowly, as if I were navigating an imaginary mine field, I crept to the doorway. As my bare feet left the soft rug and found the hardwood floor in the hallway I saw the shadow leave the landing of the staircase and go down the stairs. I crept down the first six steps to the landing and peaked around the banister down the next flight of stairs. At the bottom, I saw the shadow and realized it was not a shadow at all but more of a black mist. It had no shape and no features but I knew that it was staring at me. It moved, without touching the floor, around the corner of the down stairs and I followed.

As I reached the first floor I was very cautious and quick to move quickly away from the living room, which was to the right of the staircase, to the den to the left. Pa-hoo was in the living room resting on the piano and no on in our entire family, at least the kids, wanted anything to do with being in the same room with Pahoo but he is a story for another time.

As I rumbled into the den I saw the thing on the other side of the glass paned swinging door that led into the dining room and kitchen. But the door had no moved; it was as if the black thing had went through the door. As I went into the dining room and to the left into the kitchen, I knew immediately where this thing was leading me; to the pantry where there was a door to the basement.

The door was old and wooden and usually very cold to touch. I first found that out playing hide and seek with my cousins. Finding a great spot beneath the bottom counter of preserves that my grandmother jarred herself, I would lean my back against the door and notice how cold it felt against the backside of my shoulder, almost as if there was ice on the other side of it.

Once, when Tommy, one of my cousins, found me and we let out a loud laughter my grandfather stormed into the pantry.

“What are you kids doing,” he shouted in his deep voice and his arms cocked by his side like he was ready to fight.

“Nothing” grandpapa, Tommy said. “We’re just playing hide and seek.”

“Did you try to open that door?” he peered into our eyes, assessing us for lying.

“No sir,” I said. “It’s locked.”

“Yes, it IS locked,” he said firmly. “And you kids are never to try to open that door. “Do you understand me?”

Nodding, Tommy said, “Grandpapa, what’s down there?”

He turned back and if looks were lasers there would have been a hole in Tommy’s head. “Do…You…Understand…Me?”

“Yes sir,” we said in chorus. And he left us standing in the pantry with even more curiosity than before.

As I entered the pantry I could see that the door was open and the screaming was getting louder. It sounded like the screams of several kids who couldn’t have been much older than me by the pitch of their sounds. I looked into the basement, down the stairs and though it was black, there was a feint lightness below. I began down the steps and the room was cold. With each step down it got colder and the screams got louder. When I reached the bottom of the staircase I could make out nothing in the thick blackness.

From out of nowhere, the face of a girl, not much older than me at ten years old, lunged at me! Her eyes were wide and tears welled up around them. She had a look of panic on her face.  Her hair was disheveled and her skin had a pallor about it that I had only seen at my great grandmother’s open casket funeral when, for the first time, I had gazed upon a corpse. I could feel the girl’s cold hands touching me, grasping for me and her nails clawed my cheek and I jumped back. As I jumped back, the hands of others reached out of the darkness pulling on my pajama shirt on one side and the other on my arm. I felt another set of hands tugging at my pants leg and could feel the cold finger tips as they slid from the cloth to top of my bare feet.

“Please,” she pleaded. “Please make them stop. Please help us!” and she vanished. The screams became cries and while I could not see anything, I knew they were all girls. I couldn’t tell how many but knew there were more than two or three by the number of different cries simultaneously and knew that there were at least four sets of hands that had touched me.

As I began to back pedal, I leaned over and stretched out my neck, as if that would help my vision cut through the darkness and that is when I saw his face. Smooth as glass and white as snow. The circles around his eyes were black but I realized as I surveyed his face that it was because they were sunken deep into the recesses of his head. His nose was long and had a slight pointedness to it. His eyes had a slight tent of yellow where the white should have been and there was no color to his iris; it was solid black. His lips were near colorless, as well, and he leaned over me and grinned. I realized I was no longer in the cellar but now back in my bed on the second floor. This ghastly looking creature leaned close to my face and I could smell his breath that stunk of rotten meat. He raised a long, crooked, slender finger to his lips, puckering them and the sound was deafening;

“Ssshhhhh..” it whistled in my mind. I knew that this thing was not telling me to hush, for I was making no sounds. It was telling me to keep my mouth shut from what I had seen.

Suddenly, the screams stopped, and I sprang up in bed. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could see Cindy still sleeping in the bed across the room. I looked out into the hallway but only the light from the bathroom illuminated down the hallway. I listened through the darkness for sounds of the children I had seen in the cellar but heard nothing.

Suddenly, the light came on. I looked across the room and Missy was standing beside my bed, leaning on the bed with her hands staring at me.

“What are you doing, Jimmy.” Yes, my family called me Jimmy when I was a boy.

“Nothing,” I said. “I…I guess I just had a bad dream.”

“Well stop screaming before you wake everyone,” she said. She leaned her head forward and squinted her eyes. “And what did you do to your face?”

“What?” I asked as my hands went to my cheeks.

“Your face. Must have been a wild dream,” she said. “It looks like you scratched yourself.”

The three claw marks on my face stung as the tips of my fingers found them.

“Yes,” I said. “I guess I did.”

“Go back to sleep. It was just a dream,” she said as she went back to her bed, leaned over and turned the lamp off.

“Missy,” I said through the darkness. “Can we leave the light on?”

“Oh my God,” she mumbled under her breath as she tugged on the chain of the lamp and the light dimly illuminated the room.

Missy was fast asleep quickly, but I didn’t return to slumber that night. I propped my head on the pillow, so I could see the entire room and pulled the blanket all the way up to my chin, as if to provide security from anything that would try to threaten me in the room. Sleep eventually found me and pulled me back into a slumber.

When I woke the next morning, Missy was sitting on the side of her bed brushing her long dark hair, as she did every morning. I was relieved that everything looked normal around the room. A dream. I nervously laughed at myself. It was just a terrible dream. As I looked back to Missy, she was slowly walking towards me, with her eyes squinted as if she was straining to see something.

“They’re gone.” She said.

“What? What’s gone?” But I knew what she was talking about.

“The marks,” she said. “You were bleeding from clawing yourself last night while you were having that dream last night. The three marks on your cheek…they’re gone.”

My hand went to my cheek, first one side, then the other. No stinging; no scratches. They were gone.

“You saw him didn’t you?” she leaned towards me, saying in a lighter voice as if others were listening outside of the room.

“What?” my brow frowned; I was confused. How could she have known?

“What…who…” I felt dizzy; the room felt like the tilt-a-whirl at the state fair and nausea was beginning to overcome me.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But he’s taken others there.”

My mouth opened but I couldn’t find words.

“Me; Jane; Brett; Terrie; I’m pretty sure Tommy but he won’t talk about it. We’ve all seen him. And the girls.”

I knew that my dream was no dream at all; I also now knew that I was not the only one who had suffered this living nightmare.

The pale man haunted us for years to come and it was only later in life that we found out who he was, what he was doing in the cellar, who the girls were and what was causing their frightening screams. That is a story, however, my family does not wish to tell.

Unfortunately, I cannot say that this was the last time that any of us saw this demon of our sleep.