So, I really need to revise this story, but since I haven’t posted in a while, and it’s all spooky-like I figured I’d share today in the spirit of Halloween.
King and Fool
I wake to the buzz of the alarm and glare at the blurry red numbers glowing in the darkness: 3:30am. What a shit time to be up. But I can’t go back to sleep, the pounding at the bedroom door ensures that.
“Yo esse, let’s go! You ain’t got time to make yourself pretty,” Raphael yells through the door.
I roll out of bed and stumble to open the door and stare blearily at the big thug. He flashes me an ugly, gold toothed grin and pushes a veladora candle and a lighter into my hands.
Emerson No. 3
“June! Honey, you gotta come see this!”
June Andrews looked up from the box of dishware she was unpacking, toward the basement door. With a sigh she set down the plate, still wrapped in old newspaper. Tucking a stray lock of her curly black hair behind her ear, she smoothed her floral sundress, and walked to the top of the stairs. Below, the rickety wooden stairs reached down into the dimly lit underground. They groaned ominously beneath even her slight weight, but they seemed stable for all of their appearance.
The bricks of the basement walls were a deep, ugly red, and crumbling with great age. The packed dirt floor was damp, the soil nearly black. A wet, earthy smell filled the air, the scent of an abandoned quarry or a lost ruin. There was a single light, a bulb hanging by a wire from the low ceiling. The pull-string which lit the bulb also set it to swinging wildly, causing shadows to dance in the pale yellow iridescence.
Keeping a close eye out for spider-webs, she walked over to where Frank stood: hunched low to avoid the planks holding up the floor above, a grin lighting his bearded face and warm brown eyes. His navy blue slacks and gray flannel shirt were dark with dirt and dust; and a pile of decaying bricks lay at his feet. Behind him there was a gap in the wall, in which broken bricks outlined a wooden doorway, like shattered teeth in a boxer’s mouth.
The door itself had once been an elegant thing; its dark wood paneling showed some hint of polish beneath the dust; its brass knob was heavily engraved with intricate whorls, mirrored on the filigree surrounding the keyhole. But after untold years sealed behind brick the varnish was peeling in places and the brass was tarnished. It had an air of antiquity about it, of the forgotten and lost.
“Isn’t it great!” Frank said, “I tripped into the wall and knocked loose some bricks. When I saw the door, I just had to get at it. What do think is back there?”
“I don’t know, but suppose it was bricked up for a reason.”
“Nonsense dear. Why, there could be anything be in there.”
June looked at him dubiously, then reached for the knob. It was icy cold to the touch, a cold so fierce it burned. With a gasp she jerked her hand away.
“What?” Frank asked.
“The handle is freezing,” she said, “I don’t think we should open it, we should have it bricked back up.”
Frank looked from the door to her and back again. Reaching out he grasped the handle, turned it, and pulled. But the door wouldn’t budge. Grunting, he tried pushing it, then pulling again.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I guess it’s locked. I’ll have to get a locksmith out here after we get settled.”
“Frank I really don’t think-”
“Oh, it’s fine. Come on, I’ll get washed up and then you can have me unpack all the boxes you want.”
Clicking off the light he marched up the stairs, his heavy tread eliciting tortured wails from the rough wooden planks. June moved to follow, but just as she was about to take the first step she heard a small noise. Pausing, she waited for Frank’s creaking footsteps to halt before the sink, and listened closely. From behind the doorway came a faint clicking, but as soon as she heard it clearly, it stopped. In the near dark, lit only by a narrow shaft of light from the kitchen above, the doorway was visible only as a patch of greater blackness on the wall. For a moment June thought she saw a faint rusty glow, shining weakly though the keyhole. She had a brief notion that something was watching her, and then the glow was gone.
Rubbing her arms to ward off a sudden chill she hurried upstairs to help her husband with the boxes.
In the spirit of the season I have decided to post a ghost story. I overheard this story a year or two ago while eating by myself in a diner. Two older women were sitting behind me, and as I had nothing else to do I could not help but listen in on one relating this story to the other.I did not have my notebook with me at the time, but I did my best to remember every detail and immediately wrote it down as soon as I got home. I’m sure there are some things I missed and some things that I changed; but by and large I believe this to be accurate and wholly true, at least to the woman who told it.
“This was back at my mom’s place, the one over by the trailer park. I was just old enough
to stay home alone, maybe 13. Mom was out somewhere, I don’t remember.
Anyway, I was making myself I guess you’d call it dinner, it was kinda late, slicing
cheese and tomatoes for a sandwich. You remember my mom’s old house? How the kitchen’s
over here, and down the hall is the living room? Well I’m in the kitchen, home alone, when all of
a sudden the stereo in the living room comes on, loud.
Now I don’t think too much of it, I just go down the hall and turn it off and come back.
Well after just a little bit, probably not a minute, it comes on again. So I call out, “Justin? You
So I’m still holding the knife as I creep back to the living room. The stereo’s in the big
black entertainment center, you know, the old one, behind one of the glass doors. So the stereo’s
on, and the door’s open, even though I remember shutting it. So I go turn it off, shut the door and
call again, “Justin? Is that you?”
So I go back to the kitchen, and just as I get there the stereo does it again. Well I figure
Justin is messing with me, so I run back this time, to try and catch him. So I get back there, and
the room’s empty, and the glass is open again. Now I’m a little worried, so I hurry over, turn it
off, and close the glass. And this time, as I’m leaving the room, I hear a click as the glass opens.
So I turn around and see the glass swinging open nice and smooth. Now this scares
me, ‘cause you gotta understand these doors are heavy, and the magnets are strong. It takes a lot
of effort to open those doors. So yeah, that scares the crap outa me and I go running out the door
to the neighbor’s house, to get my friend Sandy.
So I tell Sandy what happened, and of course she doesn’t believe me. But after a minute I
get her to come back with me. We get back to the house, and you can hear the stereo from
outside, some country station, which isn’t what it was before, and no one in my family listens to
country. Well before we go in I go around back and grab Justin’s baseball bat, just in case.
Now this was early fall, and like I said, sometime in the evening; so it’s really noticeable
when we step inside: it’s hot. Like really hot. I look over at Sandy, and I can see she’s starting to
believe me. Well we go back to the living room and turn off the stereo gain, and it suddenly get’s
cold. Cold enough to see your breath. Now we’re really spooked, and we go to leave.
Well while we’re walking up the hallway Sandy all of a sudden yells and points. You
remember how my mom’s room was at the other end of the hall? And the big mirror she had
hanging on the door? Well Sandy’s pointing right at the mirror, and at first I can’t tell what she’s
so scared about. But after a second I see it too: this gray shape in the mirror, like a person, but
vague and smudged. I couldn’t really say why, but I was sure it was a woman, and that she was
mad, like she hated me almost.
So we stare at it for a minute, afraid to do anything I guess. And then it moves, like it’s
reaching out or something. Well that gets us going, I dropped the bat, and we both ran from the
Well my mom got home later, to the stereo on, playing country loud, and me not home.
So when I see that she’s there and come back over from Sandy’s she gives me an earful. I tried
to explain what happened, but of course she doesn’t believe me. Anyway, after that I never
stayed home alone at that house again, and I definitely believe in ghosts.”