Tis’ that time of year again, holidays and New Year’s celebrations abound. It’s also the time of year many of us see and feel a darkness settling over and into us. We have an idea of what holidays are meant to be, and it’s a hard ideal to live up to.
Holiday parties, gift giving, colorful lights and pop cheerful music assaults us at every turn in public. Underneath the fun and joy of finding something, usually small, that a friend or loved one would really enjoy is a competition or perceived pressure to not make them happy or joyful with a gift but to impress someone.
And maybe you’ve even chosen to exclude yourself from it all.
Then the big day comes with family and friends, to be followed up with a frenzy of sales and returns.
And yet, it’s not over. We follow up knowing we are days away from starting a new cycle, the chance to lose the burdens, challenges and difficulties of the last 365 days and the promise of a new year.
With that, we’re all painfully aware of the “New Year’s Resolution,” that idea that since the calendar resets, we have that chance to remake some part of ourselves; to make ourselves better. It’s so prevalent to be a meme.
How quickly can you break your New Year’s resolution?
Can you even make it through January 2? Will you take any slips as a bump in the road, or a reason to quit?
Let’s start with the easy ones. Losing weight, working out more, watch less TV, or even to contribute more to our communities. It sounds good on paper, we walk around the block once or twice, and then reward our hard work with (insert your favorite calorie ridden vice here) and instantly offset any benefits and more!
And then we give up. Or even worse, spiral down.
Fret not, and do not feel alone. This is nothing new. All of us at times may be surrounded by people, even ones we love, and yet still feel alone. We all at times set goals we can’t or don’t meet for one reason or another.
What is important is to learn from our mistakes, and not to quit. Often, it means making changes in behavior, or the people and environments we surround ourselves with to escape the comfort zone and make a real change.
For me, 2016, was a real mixed bag. I worked my ass off to drop 50 pounds (which I did and am still working on). I also had a project I wanted to get out after 3 years of research and work. I didn’t.
It’s close, and the first phases will be coming very soon.
I’m not happy it’s not out, but I missed that goal in part because I got shiny object syndrome (for something else also coming in 2018), I underestimated the amount of work left, and like it does, sometimes life just gets in the way. And it did in so many ways this past year.
I was sitting at this very desk the other day, and reworking my calendar for 2018. What I needed to deliver, and when. And I seriously thought about shelving a couple of projects I really want to finish, but I was asking myself if it was worth it. Because even once I get these out the door, the job is really just starting. It’s going to mean a lot of work that could be a big benefit not just for myself, but hopefully a lot of others as well. I looked at other work that would be more fun to finish, and frankly, easier to do. I debated putting almost four years of work aside, something I’ve bled into and contemplated the easy path.
I pushed away to reorganize my disaster of an office. To change the shui of the feng, if you will. I had something streaming in the background, and heard them talking about a short story I hadn’t read in years. They were talking about Isaac Asimov’s ‘The Last Question’ (http://multivax.com/last_question.html if you’d like to read it),
I won’t spoil it for you, but it spurred me to write this post. I hope you might find a little something in it yourself.
For everyone looking at the stress and change of 2017, and the uncertainties of 2018, I want to pass on my best wishes for your holidays and a new year. I challenge you to take life’s challenges and learn from them. I ask you not only not to quit, but don’t wait until January 1 if there’s a change you want to make. Do it today.
Let there be light.
About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tale as much as I did bringing it to you!
Thad turned down the flame coming from a glass oil hurricane lamp, poking his head around the side. “And welcome back to our live Halloween special.” Thad sat down at the table on the wooden dock. The still air didn’t even bother the candles glowing on the table, or the ones carefully placed atop each wooden piling. Gentle waves licked the floating dock, not enough to rock anything, but giving a serene but eerie soundtrack to the night.
“So far tonight, we have seen and heard a few interesting things, but it’s been pretty quiet overall. “ The camera panned back to reveal those gathered around. “You met her earlier, but with me now is Miss Amber Simpson, and her partner in both the business and mediumship, Derek Greene. And in a rare event indeed, my producer Tiffany is rounding out our participants for the highly anticipated séance.”
Amber tugged her corset down to be able to breathe. She’d been in it for much longer than usual, and was ready for the evening to be over. “Happy to hear you’ve had a good evening around our little homestead.”
“Is there anything you would like to prepare us –“ Thad leaned into the camera, “and our audience at home to know about what’s about to happen. Who might we talk to tonight?”
“We have a couple of resident spirits, which if we’re lucky may stop by and say hello.” Amber glanced in the direction where she could feel the spirits waiting. “Lula Rose and Viola Todde who lived and died on the property. Beyond that, who knows? Is there anyone either of you might ask to come through?”
“It’s interesting you ask that.” Thad moved to take in some of the flickering light of the candles. “In doing research for the trip, I knew of course I had family from the area, but I found out I actually have a connection to the property. Earlier tonight, we explored a few of the odd happenings over the years, including the accident that claimed six people, and none of those bodies were recovered. One of them was a man by the name of Clarence Henry Wilkins. It turns out, he was my great, great, great, great uncle on my mother’s side of the family. And I’m to understand he disappeared with Constance Todde.”
“Constance. She has upon occasion made her presence known.” An ulcer endeavored to will itself to form in Amber’s stomach, and she tried to discretely rub away the twitch in her nose. “Thank you for sharing your family history. We’ve never had any of the young men lost that day come to visit, but we could surely offer an invitation.”
“Let’s do that when our last participant arrives. I met one of your performers earlier, the one who does Constance for you.” The cameraman zoomed in on Thad’s wry grin, and swung to Amber.
Amber’s mouth hung open wide enough to trap a bat.
“Problem, Miss Simpson?”
“No problem, Mister Taylor.” Amber locked eyes with the host. “At least not for me. I don’t have any performers, or actors, or cast. Other than Derek and myself, we have a few grounds people.”
“We can clear this up right now.” He pointed to the end of the dock. “Here she comes now.”
The cameraman swung around. “What are you talking about Thad? I don’t see anyone.”
Amber reached out for Thad’s arm, “You can see her?”
“So you’re related to dear Clarence.” Constance stalked forward. “Cousin Viola will be happy to hear that.”
“She’s right there.” Thad threw his hands out, almost brushing her. “Right in front of me.”
Tiffany stood up, “Are you high? Did you take something?”
Amber rose, edging her way around the dock, trying to get between Thad and the spirit. “Constance, what are you doing?”
“I slipped the oleander into your tea Viola, and Lula Rose’s for good measure so you wouldn’t want to go out on the boat.” Constance loosed the top button of her gown. “I slipped a few morning glory seeds into the pitcher of tea we took out on the water, you’d be surprised how attentive those boys were after that. All but Clarence.”
Entranced, Thad bit his lip.
Constance ran her icy finger down his face, wrapping her hand around his throat. “He denied me, whether it was the competition, or he really was that tied to courting you, he insisted we turn back.”
Excitement froze in Thad’s throat, his eyes going from slits to saucers in an instant as she swept him up and out of his chair with no more effort than plucking a flower. He managed to get out a small squeak as she continued her slow trek to the end of the pier.
Tiffany let out a gasp, “Tell me you’re getting this.”
Amber fingered the protective gemstone around her neck, “Release him, Constance.”
The specter’s had turned unnaturally to face her. “The tide ran out. Stranded us on the pluff mud. The sweltering heat got to us, and all the tea was gone. Clarence insisted he could lead us to dry land.”
Viola and Lula Rose swept in over the water.
“Free him, cousin.” Viola plead, “He’s done you no ill will.”
“We made it as far as the point down there.” She used her free hand to motion towards a large cluster of spartina. “That’s where the fool got stuck. The tide was coming in with a vengeance.”
“This is your last warning Constance.” Amber swallowed, hoping her plan would work. “Please put him down.”
“Got pulled into one of the deep patches. We tried to free Clarence, and instead, we all were pulled into that welcoming blanket of mud.” Constance flicker her wrist, sending Thad flying into the night and through the open arms and body of Viola, landing in an ungainly splash. “He’s free.”
“Don’t move,” Derek screamed. “Float on your back.”
Amber shook from head to toe, “Constance Todde, I hearby bind you to your bones until such time as they dissolve to dust or you’re ready to walk into the light.”
Constance’s spectral form jerked high into the air like shot from a catapult, shrieking a banshee’s curse until she disappeared into the night.
“I’m stuck.” Thad waved his arms frantically. “Help me.”
“Derek, get the skiff.” Amber grabbed the boat pole and ran to the end of the dock. Even as far as she could stretch, the feet between them may as well be miles. “Viola… Lula Rose… anything you can do?”
The specters reached down, pouring the little material power they help into trying to calm the man, his thrashing sending him deeper into the rich brown muck.
Derek paddled the flat bottom boat from the shore, stopping at the pier. Amber stepped into the aluminum boat, using the pole to pull them faster through the shallow waters.
Thad had sunk to his chest, Lula Rose and Viola failing to calm him.
Amber stuck the pole into the water in front of Thad, finding some purchase in the murky depth. “Grab hold and pull yourself up.”
He grabbed the pole with one hand, and the side of the wooden boat with the other, Amber trying to pull him in by his shirt with one hand, and keep them all balanced using the pole with the other. He worked himself loose against the vacuum of the mud below.
Halfway into the boat, he cut loose with a shrill cry, “Something’s got me. My leg.”
Amber reached under the water, finding his belt and dragging them both backwards into the boat. “Paddle Derek.”
A coffee colored skeletal hand, only visible by the bright lights the cameraman turned on and shone down upon them, held Thad’s leg in a death grip. Another hand, missing two fingers, grabbed the edge of the boat. A skull rose up, a few strands of hair still clinging on.
Amber kicked the skull, spinning the jaw back into the water.
“Dear Amber,” Constance’s form a thin sheen over the bones. “Is this what you had in mind?”
Viola swatted a hand at the skeleton, passing through bone and specter without effect. “Constance, this is not proper behavior for a lady of your stature.”
Thad whimpered, kicking his leg and trying to get free.
“And how should a second class haint behave cousin?” Constance pulled herself higher out of the water, rolling into the boat. “My father’s property is long turned underneath these monstrosities around us. I’ve had to spend my days with these rotting bones while you continue to relax in the family home.”
The boat bumped up against the dock. Amber pulled Thad onto the worn planks, nearly pushing a cameraman into the water.
Constance placed one foot on the dock to follow, “Derek, I see you thinking about paddling away. For your sake, I hope you reconsider.”
“Constance,” Amber shattered the hurricane lamp across the specter’s skull in a whoosh of flame. “It’s time for you to see the light.”
“It’s time.” Derek shouted from the office. “We get to see how they spun the evening.”
Amber put a plate of snacks on his desk and rolled her chair beside him, the laptop already streaming the feed from the ‘Haunted or Haint It? website.
“Good evening to all our loyal fans.” Tiffany sat in Thad’s leather chair, surrounded by memorabilia. “And welcome to the ‘Haunted or Haint It? recap from our live Halloween episode. As you can see, I’m in the driver’s seat. Have no fear, Thad will be back next week, he’s just on assignment.”
Derek chided, “Is that what the kids call it these days?”
“For all of you that tuned in on Halloween night, or have caught the replays, it was quite an experience. I want to say we’re still working through all the evidence, but spoiler alert, we’re giving Sand Crane Hall a solid seven out of ten that some degree of unknown, possibly-“
“Turn it off.” Amber closed the laptop. “What would it have taken for them to admit there was real proof of something besides this life?”
Lula Rose clasped her hands in front of her. She and Viola had taken their own advice, and now cast the visage of themselves from their early twenties. “That was kind of them to not totally… what’s the word…”
“Shaft us, Lula Rose. The words you’re looking for are screwing us over.” Amber reached for her vibrating mobile. “Hello?”
“Miss Simpson. Amber.” She knew the voice in an instant. “This is Tiffany-“
“Seven out of ten?” Amber fired back, “Really?”
The line was silent for several seconds. “Look, the network execs were pretty freaked out by what happened. It was a compromise. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. Besides, business has quadrupled during the day, and nighttime events are booked solid for the next six months out.” Amber chuckled, “How’s your boss?”
“They’ve completed all the tests, and found no drugs in his system. A miracle in and of itself. The psych ward should be cutting him loose in a day or two.” Tiffany took a deep breath, “The bones, Constance, you said you’re going to bury them in the family plot?”
“As soon as the police are done with them.”
“I’d like to come for the ceremony.” Tiffany coughed, “If that’s okay. No cameras, just to pay our respects.”
“That should be fine.” Amber looked at the spirit standing in the corner. “Constance seems fine with it. You can even bring a camera or two, if you like.”
“Yeah.” Amber nodded to the spirit. “She’s a whole lot nicer now that she’s seen the light.”
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this, and all the other 2017 #OctoberFrights entries!
Welcome to the fifth installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. We’re closing in on the finale tomorrow. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.
The unseasonably warm air buzzed with gnats and a john boat’s trolling motor navigating its way through the channel to the river. If whoever was in the boat didn’t get out on the water soon, the tide would be out and they’d spend most of the day stuck in the muck under the sun, Amber thought to herself.
A Sprinter van plastered with Thad’s face tinted with night vision green, and the ‘Haunted or Haint It?’ logo on the side rolled in, taking up three parking spots.
“Girl, keep that smile on, no matter what.” Derek squeezed Amber’s hand, and let go, pushing her out onto the porch. “I’ve got your back.”
She stumbled, and caught herself on the nearest column. “How sweet of you. Get out here.”
Thad slung a beaten leather bag over his shoulder, and waved on his way to the house. His producer Tricia, the short brunette crossfit junkie from New York, her mouth and legs running to keep pace with her meal ticket. Two more men unloaded gear out of the back of the van.
Thad whispered something to the producer, stopping the chatter. “Miss Simpson, you’ve already met Tricia Allison, my living and breathing calendar.”
“Mister Taylor.” Amber gave a curt nod. “Hi Tricia. Good to see you again. This is Derek Greene, my business partner and fellow medium.”
“That’s our camera crew Dave and Brad.” Thad halfheartedly pointed over his shoulder at the garden. Tricia whispered in his ear. “I mean, Dan and Steve.”
Amber chided, “Which is which?”
Thad looked over his shoulder, and realized he was pointing to the wrong spot.
“Green shirt is Juan, and the red shirt is Will.” Tricia nodded to the van and crew, cutting a look at Thad. “We’ll be filming B Roll most of the day, and scouting the location for tonight. We’ve brought the tables, chairs, candles and other props for the séance shoot, unless that’s a problem for you.”
“Not at all.” Amber held out with a map of the ground with numbers, and a stack of notes. “I would like a chance to look it over in the daylight though. Unless that’s a problem.”
Tricia shrugged, “Whatever. We do the walk and talk in the house at five once you’ve shut down for the day, set up the séance scene about seven and start the live feed promptly at nine. No cameras near or on your deal inside until they leave around ten-thirty. Is that acceptable?”
“That will be fine.” Amber shook hands with the producer. “Derek or I will be available should you need anything, but it is a busy day for us.”
Viola guffawed, “I floated my eyeballs through the air. The little fellow kept pointing them out and calling them really big ‘spirit orbs.’ He even chased me into the poison sumac. He’s going to be itching for days.”
“That Miss Tricia is quite insistent.” Lula Rose folded her hands across her stomach. The others seemed to like the different floral scents I used on them, except for her. I suppose she is not one for the botanicals. I did go knocking on things, they seemed to get all excited over a little noise.”
“I’m glad you ladies had fun with them today.” Amber shook her head at the two old ladies. Even curmudgeonly Viola looked to be enjoying teasing the television crew. “Constance? “
“Oh my.” Constance looked almost solid, except for the sunlight shining through her. “I managed to show enough of myself today that they said something about getting a walking shadow on their device. Kept complaining about their batteries running dry.”
“Remember, we want them to get hints you’re real, and get it on tape.” Amber looked out of the window of the office. “But no harm I suppose. Any idea where they’re at right now?”
“Down at the old dock I suppose.” Lula Rose mused. “They were carrying furniture out there. I can only imagine being eaten alive out there by the no-seeums.”
“It’s about that time. All of you keep them on their toes until tonight.” Amber rifled through her desk drawer, pulling out a can. It was late in the season, but the insects were still pretty bad. “I’ll carry down a bottle of bug spray as a sign of good faith.”
“I’d have thought the little bloodsuckers would leave them alone out of professional courtesy.” Derek picked up a box full of candles. “I’m going to get the ballroom set up while you go see your boyfriend.”
Amber gave him the universal hand gesture, indicating he was number one in her book, and took off for the stairs. Walking into the parking lot, bickering sounds drew her attention to the back of the Haunted or Haint It? van.
Tricia and one of the cameramen were snapping at each other. She threw her navy crusher onto the ground in a fit.
“Everything okay?” Amber announced at a safe distance.
“Everything’s fine.” Tricia gave a dismissive wave, and picked up her discarded hat. “A small technical problem.”
“Since you mention it,” Juan held up a battery pack, “Got somewhere we could charge a couple of these? We’re about tapped out. This happens sometimes.”
Amber suppressed a little grin and motioned to the house. “Derek is inside. You can charge them in the office.”
The cameraman ambled towards the house, and Tricia kept pace with Amber en route to the dock. “How did your day go on the grounds?”
“Fine.” Tricia’s voice could shave ice into a mint julep. “Couldn’t have gone any smoother. Are you ready to do a quick shoot, out at the dock while we still have some sunlight?”
The floating dock rested just above the water with the tide just starting to roll back in. Small gusts of unseasonable wind tousled the taller clusters of cordgrass, sending birds nesting down for the night into tantrums.
Thad sat in a hardback wooden chair, the setting sun turning the bands of clouds into a mosaic of scarlet and crimson with violet accents as his backdrop. “…research into the plantation, I found my own – no, that still isn’t right.”
“Thad.” Tiffany waited for the cameraman to give the high sign to step onto the creaking boards. “Let’s do the quick five so Amber can do her thing.”
Thad rose, and held out a chair for Amber. “We’re going to just do a few quick Q and A’s for tonight’s lead in, if that’s okay with you.”
Amber shifted to half-face the camera. A shadow flitted nearby.
Thad settled into his chair, “We’re here with Miss Amber Simpson, the –“
“Wait.” The cameraman raised his hand. “That weird clicking, scratching sound is back again.”
Amber focused in on the shadow. In the sunlight, it was harder to pick out the details, but Viola came into focus, rubbing her fingers along the foam of the boom mike. She waved a quick finger at the spirit, who decided to shuffle further onto the dock, causing the boards to groan.
“It’s quit again.” The cameraman gave a thumbs up.
“Damnit.” Tiffany swiped her hand at her floating hat and missed. The merest outline of Lula Roses’ thin and nimble form had the Navy crusher in her hands, sending Tiffany into a less interpretive dance than a toddler trying to find their legs and swinging at the old aunt coming in for a mustached kiss. Ultimately, the hat swiveled into the marsh. Tiffany held onto the post, and tentatively moved to step onto the ground.
“I wouldn’t do that.” Amber nodded to her merry pranksters. “You won’t get that hat back, and you’re likely to lose a shoe, or worse.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Tiffany hung from the wooden piling.
“The pluff mud giveth life, and beach winds take the odd sacrifice.” Amber lifted a pole used to pull in small boats off its hooks, and retrieved the lost clothing. Plucking the now muddy hat off the pole, she offered it back to its owner. “That’s one achievement unlocked to become a Carolina girl.”
“That’s supposed to be a good thing?” Tiffany sniffed the muddied hat, and shoved it into the camera bag.
“I’m going back to the van to splice to upload the video, and see what they can splice together out of this mess. The audio sucks, but it looked like your feed with Simpson was about the only clean shoot of the day.” Tiffany powered off the camera. “Can’t wait to get out of here.”
“Aw, you’re not buying into all this, are you?” Thad fired up his hand held night vision camera, doing a test sweep of the bay, still a sea of color from the warmth of the day against the chilled water.
“God no.” She scoffed. “Just some locations suck to shoot in, and this seems to be one. I’ll see you at the van in a half hour.”
“Sweet.” Thad gave the thumbs up. “I’m going to walk around a bit, and get a last lay of the land in the dark before we start the live feed.”
Thad pocketed the camera, and turned on a small red headlamp. Taking mental notes about spots to do live shoots, and figuring out the time he’d need to move between locations, something moving in the dark caught his eye.
A young woman followed him at enough of a distance, he didn’t hear her, and wouldn’t have even caught a glance if he hadn’t turned around at just the right time.
“Hi there.” She looked to be maybe twenty. Not old enough to take for a drink, but not that far out of his age range. The thin dress looked like it should be too light for the night air, but he figured she was staff. Or a lost tourist. “You here for the séance?”
“Oh no.” The girl edged closer, still half in the bushes.
“Are you staff here?” Thad palmed the camera. “You know we’re doing a TV shoot tonight.”
“I heard something about that.” She cocked her head to look around the bush. “You could say I help around here sometimes. When needed.”
“You know how I am? I’m the star of ‘Haunted or Haint It?.” Thad studied her movements. She seemed hesitant to leave, but fascinated at the same time. He wondered if she was part of how Amber pulled of her show. “Do you watch it?”
The girl twisted with a coy grin, her hands clutching the thin fabric of her dress. “Oh, I do not spend my time on such things.”
Thad paused, hoping she was start struck, or at least a fan. “Too bad. Here’s my card, and our usual show times, plus clips on the website. And here’s my cell number.” He jotted his cell down and put the card just out of the girl’s reach, then backed up a few steps.
She took the piece of paper, and tucked the memento into her dress. “How kind.”
“I’m Thad.” He reached out his hand. “Maybe I can see you later? We’ll be around all night.”
She shrugged. “I may be around. You can call me Constance.” Gotcha, Thad grinned.
And we’ll see you tomorrow for the finale, Part IV!
Welcome to the fourth installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part I, Part IIand Part III.
“What were you thinking?” Derek paced between the pair of workspaces in a back bedroom they used as a shared office. “Have you even informed the ladies yet?”
Amber stared out the window. For a mid-week day, they had good tourist traffic, and Harvey her groundskeeper was working double time to prepare for their big night. “I screwed up getting into bed with them to start with. But the cash flow will keep us going for months. And the publicity – the only reason I talked to them was what they’ve done for the Cistern Inn. They’re packed every day and night. Bobbi introduced me to the producer. It was a weak moment during a long boring day. “
“Thad Taylor loves nothing more than to tear a new one in any poor soul that doesn’t worship the ground he defiles.” He perched himself on the worn oak of his own desk. “You remember Cissi over at the Old Jail? They destroyed her career.”
“She was a hack.” Amber refused to look back at her business partner. “She deserved to get blacklisted after the way she behaved.”
“And more people he ruined just for sport.” He ticked off on his fingers. “The Sable Stable? The Westerly? Madame Anna Richardson? Marie Doubloon? Mohawk girl from the square?”
“Marie? Really? She pulled gauze dipped in yogurt out of her size EEE over the shoulder boulder holders as ectoplasm during her stage bit.” She shuddered. “That was just nasty.”
“You’re just jealous. And she had skills.” He slid to block her view of the outside. “The girls love her, and she’s legit. And can’t get a gig. That’s who you’re letting in here is the man who loves to tear down any spiritualist. He’s worse than Houdini, and believes even less. He is from around here, which is why he sees it as his mission to bust frauds.”
“We’re not frauds.” She threw her hands in the air, knowing that wasn’t the point. “We’re locked in now, so what do you propose?”
“I could take the day off.” Derek picked at a chip in his manicured nails. “That way I don’t go down with the ship.”
“We ask the ladies to put on one hell of a show for the non-believer.”
Amber gathered her family, both corporeal and not in the parlor.
Viola made a show, plucked each of her eyes from their sockets, and set them in a saucer on a tatted doily.
Amber tried to rub away her budding migraine, knowing they all had a long evening ahead. “Now what was that for?”
Viola looked back at her from two deep dark holes in her head. “Because I don’t see how this is going to happen.”
“That man was… disagreeable the other evening. I did not mean to eavesdrop, but you know how these walls echo.” Lula Rose pursed her lips, shuffling away from her sister on the settee. “He does favor someone, but for the life of me I cannot remember who.”
“Reminds me of Uncle Junior.” Viola huffed, “If you could buy the man for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he is…”
Amber stood up and waved at Derek. “You try.”
“Miss Viola, that is inappropriate. And a little creepy. Please put those things back in your head.” He hissed, “We’re all family here, and you might need that trick for tomorrow night.”
Viola blinked, and the milky balls were back where they belonged. “I may be caged, but I do not perform tricks for treats.”
Lula Rose turned, “It could be f-“
“Don’t you dare say it.” Viola poked her sister. “This will not be fun.”
Lula Rose looked at Derek, “I believe it could be a lively evening.”
“Viola?” Amber plead, “Please?”
“Fine. But if I do this, I want a week without disturbance. From any of you.” The ghost rocked back and forth, like she was making an effort to get out of her seat. She spun around to loom over Lula Rose. “Especially you.”
Derek swung an excited thumbs up. “Thank you ladies so much.”
Viola pivoted on a point in space, glaring at his gesture. “What about Constance? Has anyone thought about her?”
“Did someone call?” Constance’s head rose out from the potted ficus tree. Her body took form as she sauntered out of the bush. “How may I be of service to the family in its time of need?”
Amber flashed an ignored glare at Viola before turning to the spectral teen, “Tomorrow night, Halloween, we’re going to have a television crew here looking to prove you don’t exist.”
“My, what a quandary.” Constance made a scene of wedging herself between her cousins, false innocence flavoring her tone. “Are we looking to give them evidence to the contrary?”
“Maybe Constance. We want to give them enough to prove there may be something on the other side.” Amber rubbed the sudden perspiration coating her hands on her jeans. “But nothing harmful or destructive.”
“It would be my pleasure to do my small part with my cousins.” Constance reached out to grab her cousin’s hands.
Viola pulled her arms inside her girth like a vacuum was pulling her inside out. Lula Rose squirmed, but took the specter’s gesture.
Constance looked up as oblivious to Viola’s slight. “What is it you ask of us poor lost souls?”
Amber’s head throbbed, almost enough for her to lose the ability to focus on the spirits. “They want to have a séance on the dock near where you and your suitors took to the water on that unfortunate day. I think they might be interested in even doing an interview.”
“If you are willing to allow me, dear Amber, it would be my pleasure.”
The new <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Home-Summonings-Winter-Trilogy-Omnibus-ebook/dp/B072JMRCZ1/”>Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3</a> is out, <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Spirits-Season-Longbow-Initiative-Short-ebook/dp/B00OP1XKIY/”>Spirits of the Season</a> and <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Gnomebodys-Business-Longbow-Initiative-Novella-ebook/dp/B016XI574G/”>Gnomebody’s Business</a> are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. <a href=”http://eepurl.com/S9uGL” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Sign up today</a>!
Welcome to the third installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. If you missed them, here’s Part I and Part II.
Amber led fourteen of her guests from the parlor into the ballroom. Four tables formed a square in the center of the hardwood floors. A cluster of candles flickered on a column placed in the center, the small flames dancing on the movement of air from the people marching in to find their seats. Every footfall echoed, hammering home the hushed whispers of the participants. They each found a place, leaving the high back chair for the medium.
Amber closed the double doors from the parlor, reignited the few candles scattered around the room that had extinguished themselves, and approached her throne for the evening. “Before we begin, I welcome all of you have joined us here before, and those of you for whom this is their first time. We will not be in perfect darkness, for this is a house where only light is welcome. Your eyes must be open to see, your ears open to sound. I can’t say who, if anyone will come through, but you are welcome to invite those who have passed over to join us. All I, and the spirits ask, is to be open minded and respectful. Any questions?” She walked around the chair, and pulled it beneath her with a groan from the wood.
Missus Fergus’ exaggerated praying, muted only by the heavy wooden doors, started up from the parlor as if on cue.
Lula Rose pinned the essence of a chrysanthemum bloom to her lapel. The flower she’d taken it from was starting to wilt, but the rest of the arrangement stayed vibrant. “Such a friendly group this time, don’t you think so?”
Viola rolled her eyes hard enough to look for a jackpot.
“H…hi. Am I in the right place?” The barely visible ghost of an old woman in a stiff blue dress looked around.
“That depends.” Viola huffed, taking the spirit by the hand, helping it become more solid.
“I remember you.” Lula Rose mimicked hugging the woman. “You’ve been here with the Society before. Welcome to this side of the table. I’m Lula Rose, and this is my sister Viola. This is our house.”
“Was.” Viola shook her head. “Was our house. But we don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Am I?” The woman lost some cohesion, and fought to come back.
“Dead as a doornail.” Viola patted her arm. “And now you’re first called up at a séance. Go on over, Amber will introduce you, and pass on any messages you have. After, go on to the light. Then you get a little more choice about being at the living’s beck and call.”
Viola gave her a nudge. “Oh yeah, and you don’t have to keep looking like when they buried you. You can pretty much look however you want.”
The ghost ambled on, drawn to the candles at the center of the table, like a moth to the flame.
“That was quite nice of you, Viola.” Lula Rose pulled a pudgy older gentleman behind her. “Look who I found. Mister McCalister. He’s a little reluctant.”
“Call me Jack.” His head wove around looking to see if his wife had come into the room this year. “I’d hoped to talk to Diane, but she’s not here.”
“She’s in her usual spot in the parlor, but I heard her tell her friend over there to ask for you.” Lula Rose guided him to the table. “I’m certain she’ll be happy to let Diane know you’re here.”
“I’ll go ahead and tell her to give old man Linden a thrill.” He marched the last few steps before tapping Amber on the shoulder. He shed nearly fifty years just making the trip. “I said ‘till death do us part, and she isn’t willing to come in and talk to me herself-“
“Good luck Mister McCalister.” Lula Rose shrank back and returned to her sister’s side. “That was… unexpected.”
“The old boy still has some fight in him.” Constance floated in through the wall. “I might have to find out if he’d like to stay around a little longer.”
“Don’t strain yourself on our account.” Viola stretched a finger towards the river. “I always love to see family. I love to see them come, but I love to see them go even more.”
“Fine, dear cousin. I can take a hint.” She wove an indirect path, easing just close enough to one of the participants to run her fingers along the lady’s neck, giving her a cold damp chill, and dousing a candle near the window she used as an exit. “I will see you soon.”
Amber watched the van pull out of the parking lot, and turned back into the house. The extra Cheerwine cake had gone over well, and the only person whose presence was requested and didn’t show was Elvis. As usual, Misses Silverberg was disappointed, but even more so when her mother in law paid an unrequested visit in his place.
Lula Rose and Viola were nowhere to be found, nor any of the other visiting or semi-permanent residents of the property. It had been a busy night, and no doubt as draining for them as it had been for her. Seeing Constance flit through had gotten her guts tangled like a briar patch. The only reason she had not completely lost her focus was the briefness of the visit, and the amount of concentration it took to hold onto Miss Evans, realizing it was her first time at the séance from the etheric realm.
She’d have to thank Viola for ushering her cousin out the door before she could be a real problem.
She loaded the dishwasher, and was putting away the last of the unopened snacks when a knock at the door caused her to bump her head on an open cabinet door. She figured one of the ladies had forgotten something, but hadn’t heard the bus come back into the lot. Derek had a key.
Instead of finding one of the night’s patrons looking for her glasses, or a spirit late for the party, she slammed the door on opening it, and quickly turned the lock. The figure was tall and thick, dressed head to toe in black, down to a baseball hat. “What do you want?”
“This is a little awkward, talking through the door, don’t ‘cha think?” His resonant voice was vaguely familiar.
She took a look through the peep hole. He stood at the edge of the steps, fully in the light of the porch. “Thad Taylor, from Haunted or Haint It?” He removed his hat loosing a mess of sandy hair, and flashed his too white teeth. “You met with my producer earlier today?”
She leaned her head against the door, ready to get a few hours of sleep. “Can you come back tomorrow, during business hours?”
“With all due respect, I’m the host of a paranormal show, and you do ghosts.” He chuckled, “These are business hours.”
Her hand hovered over the latch, already regretting having agreed to let them film at the plantation. Just talking to him through the door left her feeling the need for a shower.
She turned the lock and opened the door to let him in. “Please call me Amber.”
His hand barely graced hers as he passed through the door, his head panning like a camera, drinking in the visual buffet of the room. “Fantastic place you have here.”
“Inheritance, my mother’s side of the family. We’ve had to sell off a lot of the old property, but managed to keep the house and flower gardens, and other intimate parts of the grounds. The suburban hell around us used to be the working farm.” She left the door cracked, hoping to speed Thad on his way. “What can I do for you tonight? It’s been a very long day. This is our busy season.”
“I’m sure it is.” He walked into the ballroom where most of the candles still burned. “Great ambiance, and it looked like a stellar performance in here tonight.”
She snapped back, “You were watching?” She reached for her glass of sweet tea to wash down the bile.
“It wasn’t front row seats by any means, but I hung out in the parking lot with the bus driver, and we caught the show from outside.” He walked over to investigate the candle Constance had extinguished, picking it up, and turning it over in his hands. “Hard to pull off a gig like this and get those kinds of reactions without having them sit in the pitch black. Driver says it’s how you always do your thing.”
She snatched the candle from his hands. “You had no right. This was a private event.”
“I have every right. Contract explicitly states we can come out and scout the location.” He darted around the room, looking at every nook and cranny. “I even thought I saw something a couple of times. Really impressive effects. I originally thought this little place would be good for an opening segment, but based on what I saw tonight, what do you say to doing a live broadcast Halloween night? A repeat performance?”
She stomped through the hall, cornering him. “I don’t do ‘performances,’ Mister Taylor. I use my gifts to help people, and keep this place running. With people like you-“
“Oh, this is great.” He grinned, throwing his hands up in mock surrender. “You actually believe your own spiel. Look, what do you say we add another ten grand to the fee, and do the live show?”
“Get out.” Amber stepped aside, her finger a spear point aimed at the door. “I knew this was a mistake. You can have your check back.”
“No way, lady. I have a signed contract, and a show busting fake haunted places. I’ve never seen anything to make me even think there’s even a spirit outside of a bottle of rum, but some places get the benefit of the doubt. .” He stretched before crossing his arms over his chest, and leaning against the wall. “The ones that cooperate. How about we make the bump fifteen grand, and you do your thing live? Or maybe you’re just relegated to our list of Haint Nothing Here and move on.”
Amber walked away, making a slow loop and extinguishing candles along the way. Thad kept pace a few steps behind. She spun around to face him, poking him in the chest. “Let’s get this straight. I’ll do it, but with conditions. One, we have an event that night and the privacy of every guest will be respected. Two, you will not film the event already planned for the evening, any live stuff will have to happen outside of the house. And three, I’ll do your live séance, but only at midnight after all of our guests have left. And four, only you and your crew for the séance. No public.”
“I’ll see your conditions.” His eyes glistened, the flame of a candle reflected in his dark eyes. “And raise you one. My producer took your tour today. Something about your haunted lake? I want to do it on the dock. Unless of course, your ghosties don’t like the outside.”
She shook her head and walked towards the parlor. “That’s a bad idea.”
“Your bit doesn’t work in the open air?”
She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She looked around the room for a sign, but for once, the house was silent. Pivoting to face the showman, “It’s not safe. But if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. I want the contract amended that I, the plantation, and no others associated with the property have any liability. This is on you. And I want twenty thousand dollars. Plus rights to sell and show the episode here and use it in any promotional materials.”
“There is a heavy handed business woman underneath that crunchy exterior. Good.” He dropped the plastic charm, fired off an email from his phone, and extended his hand. “Deal. You’ll have your contract first thing in the morning, and a check before we start that night.”
“Mister Taylor.” She gripped his hand with all of her considerable strength from doing much of the manual labor on the grounds. “I admonish you to be respectful of powers you don’t understand, but it seems that’s beyond you to even do that for the living. I look forward to the new contract, and I’d appreciate it if you got the hell off my grounds.”
I heard from a lot of you that loved Part I of this little tale, but many of you asked the same question. What is Pluff Mud?
Pluff mud, sometimes called plough mud, is much like the city of Charleston, SC. It’s got a beautiful silvery sheen on top of its rich brown and gray color. The smell is like no other, organic and sweet with decay. Made from the spartina grasses, crabs, and other dead matter, it could even be called the life blood of the Low Country, collected from the marshes to revitalize depleted fields. One step could cost you a shoe. The wrong step can pull you in deep like quicksand; the more you fight the faster it sucks you into its murky depths.
Now on to Part II of the Pluff Mud Seance
Amber loosened her leather corset enough to be able to breathe. It wasn’t really her thing, but coupled with the extra silver bangles and chains on top of the flowing black skirt and white lace top, she had the look her guests would expect. Gotta look the woo to do the woo.
Customer service and all.
Viola would give her hell for the unladylike appearance, but that was the least the old gal would complain about. Her eighteenth century sensibilities weren’t likely to modernize any time soon. At least it was better than the sixties when her own mother had tried to lecture the spirits on the women’s lib movement.
The gravel crunched in the driveway under the wheels of the mini bus. It would be a tight fit, but they had twenty-six coming in for the house tour, half that for the séance. The other half of the ladies would sit in the parlor sipping punch and gossiping about the ones who’d crossed the forbidden threshhold.
Widow McCalister would put her ear against the door in case her husband decided to come through. He usually sent a polite decline. If she wasn’t coming into the room, he wasn’t either. Missus Fergus would loudly bemoan her fears about being so close to the devil’s work and lead a round of prayer. Then she’d dig into the Cheerwine pound cake with an air of earned disdain, saving all others from its rich evilness.
Amber had taken care of the problem this year, and gotten a second one to put out when the ceremony was over.
She doused herself in a last cloud of sage incense and scrambled to the hold the doorway open.
The ladies had already broken up into the two groups. Miss Fergus, a good Presbyterian woman, proudly clutched a rosary in front of her like a child would hold a handful of candy, the cross dangling and leading her way through like she was on her way to face Dracula. Amber greeted the octogenarian, and deftly wrapped the beads around her hands properly.
“Oh goody.” Lula Rose chirped in Amber’s ear. “Miss Reverend DuBose is here, and she brought Chrys… Chrysemums… Chrys…”
“Chrysanthemums.” Amber glanced at the specter only she could see, and turned back to the wraithlike wife of a preacher, taking the vase of flowers and putting it on a side table. “How kind of you, and always good to see you again.”
“My favorite.” Lula Rose’s hand passed through the blooms. “Chrys…”
“Chrysanthemums.” Viola stood in the way to force the rest of the guests to walk through her presence, giving more than a few of them a chill they attributed to the evening. “And anything with a flower is your favorite.”
“It was a thoughtful gesture.” Lula Rose grinned.
Amber closed the door behind the group packed into the parlor. She recognized all but a couple of the youngest ladies, new additions to the club. And at youngest, she figured at least mid-sixties. Two others that had been regulars were obvious in their absence. Maybe they’d make themselves known in other ways this night.
She dimmed the electric lights housed in the hurricane lamps dangling from the near garnet walls, casting a warm glow on the Daguerreotypes, tintypes, glass prints and ambrotype photographs, mixed among painted portraits and other family artifacts from nearly two hundred years of family history.
Amber started into the history of the plantation, “Welcome all, especially those of you who have never visited Sand Crane Hall before.”
“Why are you two still putting yourselves through this?” The spirit of Constance Todde materialized beside her cousins, leaving the audience unaware. She looked very much like the day she’d died on her sixteenth birthday. “Especially you Viola. This is undignified. Letting her drag your names through the mud like this.”
“Here we see the two heavily courted sisters, the demure Viola, skilled businesswoman… “ Amber held up a fuzzy black and white picture, “and the lithe athletic Lula Rose, amateur botanist.”
Constance whispered into Viola’s ear, as if it mattered on the etheric plane, “Here it comes.”
“And here we have the sisters with their beloved cousin, Constance Todde. This picture, in fact, was taken mere hours before the incident.” Amber swept her arm in front of a large print of the three girls sitting on a bench in the flower garden. “You can see here, a basket of hibiscus and jasmine with which Lula Rose was preparing tea for the party.”
“She even wraps the story framing you, so very nicely.” Constance stroked Lula Roses’ hair.
Amber picked up a pitcher of fresh floral tea, placing it on a tray, and walked from guest to guest giving them their own cup. When everyone was served, she took her own cup, and sipped at its lightly sweet contents. “They drank the tea, and snacked from a basket of treats.”
Amber worked her way around the room to where artifacts from the time were placed to allow her to circulate, and keep her audience on its toes. She picked up the model of a flat bottom skiff. “Five of the most eligible bachelors , all vying for the attention of the Todde clan, took one of the family boats intending to paddle Constance on a trip through the Cypress on the main river.”
“Or trying to get a little more personal attention.” Constance got nose to nose with Viola, and licked her upper lip. “Especially the Wilkins boy. The one you had your eyes on? That day he was just trying to get a peek by sitting next to me in the boat.”
“Most believed it was just a tragic accident. A few whispers of something darker when Oleander blooms were found among the florals.” Amber held up a freeze dried Nerium Oleander bloom from the garden. “Some just like this from the local garden.”
Viola sniffed back, “You were well known for your garden, and that your blossom had been picked many times.”
“Some time that warm fall afternoon, the boat overturned, and all were lost. The bodies were never found, as they got pulled into the pluff mud.” Amber gave a knowing nod, “There was never any evidence of wrongdoing. But the Todde sisters Lula Rose and Viola, well let’s just say the well of suitors dried up.”
The room full of ladies shared nervous laughter.
“Jealous, dear cousin? ”
“You mean, since you’re the one who poisoned all those poor boys?” Viola refused to look at Constance. “And left us to take the blame?”
“It’s not like I planned to drown myself.” Constance’s fingers danced in a wave as she faded back into the wall.
And check out all of the other great authors as well!
For me this year, I’ve got a new story set in Charleston, SC on a fictional plantation.
The Pluff Mud Seance
James P. McDonald
Derek pulled his light jacket tight around him against the chill of the fall evening air. He stood on the wrap-around porch and watched a well-used Subaru park in the gravel lot in front between the main house and meditation garden. He turned to the collection of rocking chairs, two of which were occupied by the Todde sisters, the descendants of the original builders of Sand Crane Hall.
Even in its heyday, it had been one of the smaller homes on one of the tributaries feeding the Edisto River, just south of Charleston. It had been the perfect place to raise indigo and rice, but now its main trade was in tourists.
He crossed his arms, and tried to paste on a look of mirthful admonition, “Amber is here for the evening shift. You ladies have a perfectly lovely night.”
Viola pouted, puffing a few creases from her ample jowls. “I am not fond of her.”
Lula Rose smoothed her faded dress with her long bony fingers. “She is an enchanting young woman. You’re just jealous. Besides, she is one of the few besides Derek here that hasn’t forgotten old women like us.” She cocked her eyebrow like their father had done with his favorite flintlock rifle he’d used for hunting.
“I will remind you ladies, she also now owns your little homestead, and the deal to keep your in your home.” Derek pursed his thin lips.
“Oh lawd,” Viola bemoaned, “You only remind us of that when you want something.”
“You know it’s that time of year, as best you’ve done to ignore the Halloween decorations.” He reached inside the front door and pulled the “Special Event sign from where he’d hidden it until the last minute, and set it in front of the main doors. “You know how important this time is, and I expect you both to do your part.”
Viola huffed, “I am a proper lady, not some puppet in a calliope show.”
“Miss Viola,” Derek admonished, “I expect you to show up, and for your cousin not to.”
“I have no control over that woman, I have no idea why you even bring Constance up.” Viola drifted off to stare towards the river. “Besides, we’ve not heard hide nor hair from her in a donkey’s year.”
“Two weeks Viola.” He tied a cluster of black and silver balloons to the sign. “It’s only been two weeks since she decided to make an appearance, and upset a number of patrons.”
“A little bit of Constance does go a long way.” Lula Rose nodded and folded her hands in her lap. She looked upwards, her milky sightless eyes focused on Derek, the edges of her lips curled in a hopeful way. “Who are our guests this evening?”
“The James Island Ladies Tea and Elderberry Devotional Society is bringing a big group tonight.” Derek clasped his hands excitedly. “I hate to miss it, they’re always so much fun, but I have to do my readings in the market tonight, and try to bring out more business.”
Lula Rose joined in the clapping. “I do hope Miss Reverend DuBose’s wife will be joining. I was such good friends with her grandmother. And she always brings out my favorite flowers.”
“I can’t be certain, Miss Lula Rose.” Derek waved to Amber, toting an arm full of bags from the parking lot. “Let’s hope so. Why don’t you ladies go on in and get ready.”
Lula Rose let out a gleeful squeak, her spectral form shooting backwards from her rocking chair, through the closed floor to ceiling window, the sheer curtains billowing in her wake. Viola grunted, bracing herself against the wood to pry herself loose, as if her considerable girth was still corporeal.
She floated in a weaving pattern to pause in front of Derek. “It’s one thing to not help a lady in with all of her parcels, but it’s entirely another to not even hold the door for one. I shall not be as undignified as my sister.”
“Where are my manners?” Derek pulled the door wide, and gave an exaggerated bow. “Please forgive me, Miss Viola.”
“Most kind.” Her nose turned to the sky far enough to drown her if it was raining, she drifted into the hall and faded out as she touched the staircase. “Most kind indeed.”
Derek closed the door, stared at the sky, and took a deep breath.
“Little help?” Amber dropped six plastic bags into Viola’s recently vacated seat. “Can you grab the rest out of the car while I start setting up?”
“Wait.” Amber grabbed his arm as one foot lingered over the step down. “I may have done something we’ll regret.”
He stopped on the first step, putting them at eye level. “I’m listening.”
“I was approached today, and signed a contract.” She stared at a chip in the wood of the porch. “I wanted to talk to you first, but the money was too good. I know we said we’d never do it….”
Derek rolled his eyes and pulled his immaculate coif back with his fingers. “Which show?”
She clenched her eyes shut, and squeaked out, “Haunted or Haint It?”
Creases formed in Derek’s face at the pace of cold molasses over fresh biscuits until his nose threatened to touch his forehead. “The worst of the worst fake ghost shows? Weren’t they busted for wrapping a Chihuahua in gauze covered in the goop from a glow-stick and turning it loose on the rooftops in New Orleans until it fell off and landed on a bridal party? Poor dog bot bathed in a fishbowl full of hurricanes. Got that green stuff on her veil.”
“I know, I know.” She opened her eyes, and put her hands on his shoulders. “I need you with me on this. We need the money.”
“Fine.” He leaned forward and pecked her forehead. “But if that Thad character gives me one ounce of lip, I’m bitch slapping him into the pluff mud.”
It’s that time of year again, getting ready for #October Frights.
In the sake of kicking off the season right, I’m going to post up something that has become a #HalloweenFavorite for my fans, my little short story that was called “Sultry, yet horrific.”
And some day, the rest of the story will be published.
James P. McDonald
They had been easy enough to find, since they were staying in the expensive hotel across from her shop in the market.
When they passed through, the woman’s snippy comments were aimed at both her companion as well as Boo herself, accentuated as she flashed fingers barely able to support the gemstones mounted in gold upon them. He followed up with a crude attempt to solicit her charms after his woman stormed away. She knew then her evening was booked.
She watched from her shop window as the couple consumed a meal that cost more than she would make in a week. The cold silence between them did little to chill the sweltering summer evening. Charleston was especially humid this time of year.
She leaned out of her apartment window, her hunger growing as the couple argued in their room, the barbs they exchanged splintering into the night air through the open French doors. The spat ended with the man downstairs in the small bar, and the woman resting against the rail of their shallow balcony.
She found him bending the inattentive bartender’s ear. His smile was predatory as he offered her the seat next to him. It took few minutes before he was sweating heavily as he fumbled for words and pawed at her sensual caramel skin.
She took his sticky hand in hers and purred, “Boo’ll take care of you.”
He stammered and panted as she led him to the small apartment above her shop. Her lips brushed his. He stripped quickly before she pushed him onto the worn couch, straddling him in the process. He grabbed at her shirt, sending two buttons hurtling into the dark.
In her smoky voice, she whispered in his ear, “Do you want the rest of Boo?”
The corners of his mouth curled as he nodded hungrily.
She locked lips with him, and inhaled.
His excited groping turned into panicked clawing and punching, but only for a moment as he felt the ambrosia of her kiss drawing away his life force. Blood trickled as his trembling hands clenched into fists. His gasps and moans turned to desperate shallow wheezing. His eyes froze wide as saucers and reddened as blood vessels burst painfully, but quietly.
She climbed off him, knowing her prey was going nowhere. He was drained to the edge of life, but still conscious. His eyes locked onto hers as she peeled away the last shreds of clothing he hadn’t destroyed.
She leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Boo said she was going to take good care of you. And now she is.” She stood inches in front of him. Her fingernail slowly chased a rolling bead of sweat from her throat to her navel. A thin red trail formed as traced it around her hips and down to her ankles.
He managed a single whimper as she tugged and pulled at her skin, starting at her thighs as if they were stockings. Her head came free of the meat suit last, before she draped it around his shoulders. She gloried at the sight of her true body in the full length mirror. The red muscle glistened in the dim light streaming through the windows.
Blood streaked across his skin as she slid herself back onto him. “How do you like Boo now?” She locked her lips onto his and drew his last breath into herself. It was always so much more savory with the adrenalin flavoring, and the sweetness of dread and the dismay of certain death.
He shuddered, and she leaned back to see the last ember extinguished behind his eyes.
Ever so gently, she used her talon until she was able to free the worthless meat from the shell. She wouldn’t need the outfit for long.
It took a little work to bulk up to fill his skin. A few whispers of the old language to heal the wounds. A little bleach for the errant drops of blood that reached his shirt. She buckled the loose fitting pants around her waist and dug into the pockets. His license said he was from Chicago. She would have sworn the accent was from New York.
She sauntered lazily back to the hotel. The new skin exquisitely gliding as it stretched across her taught muscles, trying to find purchase.
Her hunger barely sated, she slowly slid the key card into the lock. The woman’s voice was shrill and accusatory as she opened the doorway. Wordlessly she embraced the woman in a kiss. Glorious silence fell from her prey who instantly became compliant.
This one wasn’t like the man. She was full of life, tasting of desire and indulgence. She was meant to be cherished. Boo would be able to wallow in the woman’s spirit for hours before taking the last drop.
The woman’s eyes danced lazily and rolled back into her head as she was stripped and lain in the bed. She didn’t notice the meat suit sliding around as the man’s clothes fell to the floor.
She nibbled on the woman’s ear and mumbled, “Boo’ll take care of you.”
She locked her lips around the woman’s. She was getting drunk on her prey’s energy.
She enjoyed the thought of being a blonde again for a while. No need to decide yet. She had plenty of time.
I hope you had fun with this little fright. I’m working on turning it into a longer story.
I’ve had a lot of people suggest and ask what kind of creature Boo really is. She’s based on the Gullah legend of the “Boo Hag.” For those of you who have never been to Charleston, SC, or know about the Boo Hag, here’s a little piece you might find interesting. https://scaresandhauntsofcharleston.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-boo-hags-of-gullah-culture/
I found this story to be a lot of fun to write, and wrote, edited, and submitted it all in about an hour to beat a deadline. And it’s still one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written.