Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!
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.”
“See you in two days.”
Come back tomorrow for Part IV!