***Don't miss the last chance to enter the contests I have up this week; the 300 followers, the AZ road trip, the one yesterday to name the clown and....this afternoon another contest goes up, one sponsored by SyFy with a wicked prize!***
The month of October every Saturday expect a new short story. Last Saturday's was scarecrows. This Saturday, well, you'll see....
“This room has just been sitting here ever since we moved in. We ran out of ideas for what to do with all the space.” Jill chuckled.
Ken studied the corner room in the large Charleston mansion. His friends were collectors and, even with eight bedrooms, the place was really just a storage place for a rather obsessive addiction to shopping for antiques and imports, having no children, and way too much old money.
“This’ll be fine.” He smiled. Dust motes floated in the air from the two sunny windows. It was small and pleasant with a simple bed and bed stand, a dresser and a closet. He walked over and tried the door but it didn’t open.
“Oh, we never figured out how they did that. It’s like it’s locked but there’s no keyhole.” She shrugged. “You can hang your clothes in the closet across the hall if that’s okay. Oh,” Jill sighed and crossed her arms over her chest, “I wish we had planned this out a bit better. You must think we’re awful hosts.”
“Not at all.” Ken smiled. “I’m thankful I get to stay here while I’m interviewing. I couldn’t afford a hotel in Charleston for a whole week.”
“It is a popular time of the year, all the ghost tours.” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s all ridiculous, you know, but the locals take it quite seriously around Halloween time. Don’t let it bother you. The house has been in Marcus’s family for a century, but I promise, no ghosts. Just a few eccentrics have lived here, including a vaudeville ventriloquist. He did go mad, but he didn’t die here. I promise.” She winked as she left the room.
The room felt inviting when he pulled down the bedspread. The scent of rose potpourri in a dish on the dresser in the chilly humid room filled the air. A moment of nostalgia overtook him. How long had he been working in the North? Too long, it felt. He hadn’t taken the time for simple pleasures like tea in the afternoon or pleasant conversation over a two-hour meal. He was glad to settle in the South again.
Ken drifted off quickly, awakened briefly by a knocking on the wall. He turned over and found a soft spot in the feather mattress only to hear the tail end of a sentence.
“…won’t stop talking. I’m here, you know.”
Ken chuckled as he became alert. It was just like Marcus to come and want to talk to him, probably present a couple of beers and catch up on the titillating details of his newly single life rather than talk about it in front of Jill.
“I am not going to talk to you in the middle of the night. I need sleep.” He sat up and swung his legs over the bed to be greeted with a pitch dark room. The door was sealed. The windows were closed. It had taken on a potent chill in the night. He wrapped the blanket around him and got up to check the hallway.
Ken slumped back onto the bed and pulled the blanket over his head. The clock read 3. He could still get some good sleep in. As he dozed, a few more words rattled off from the darkness, but Ken was so exhausted he fell all the way into a quiet sleep. How long it lasted, he didn’t know. The wall thudded beside him and he sat up and studied the clock, worried Jill was letting him know he’d slept in.
It was 4:30 now. The room was silent. The door was still closed. He lied back and stared into the darkness, cursing the sounds that old houses had to make. Now, he was beginning to feel quite awake.
“I won’t go away, you know. I’ll torment you forever.”
The raspy little voice startled him and Ken knocked over the lamp trying to turn it on. He righted it and got the room cast in a warm glow. His heart thumped wildly. He definitely heard those words. They were very clear and very near. Was Marcus playing a prank? It had been 20 years since college. He seriously doubted it.
Now, fully awake, he went over to the desk and turned on the light, sat down and began to make some notes about how he would answer those pesky unexpected interview questions, but his mind was drifting to that voice. Could he have been partially asleep and didn’t know it? Could a conversation carry through the vents in the walls?
He stilled as he heard a scratching sound across the room. Ken swung around and studied the place, expecting to see a rat. When it stopped, he sat there staring at that door that had no lock but wouldn’t open. He got up to go try the knob again when a loud thump sounded from the other side.
“What the fuck?” He gasped. Ken held the blanket around him as he tested the door.
“Open it, stupid!” The voice growled on the other side.
Ken stumbled back, his foot catching in the blanket; he fell to the hard wood floor, his head striking the edge of the bed frame. Stars glittered in his eyes before he shook it off and scrambled to his feet. The door thumped again.
It had to be some kind of trick. Marcus really came up with a good one. He tried the knob again and still it wouldn’t open. Ken might just have to surprise his friend by calling his bluff.
He sorted through the drawers and then reached into his suitcase and pulled out his Leatherman tool. He dug it into the frame of the door and pried at it as he worked the knob. It wouldn’t give. He felt around the doorknob, shocked it could lock without a locking mechanism. Then, he felt it, a thin film of tin painted over. He pried at it, releasing it from the lock, exposing the hole. He dug the pocketknife into it, feeling for the groove and pressing in while he turned the knob, a smile on his face as he considered Marcus’s surprise.
With a click, the knob turned and Ken pulled it open with a laugh.
“I got you!” He called out.
A rush of cold air and dust assaulted him and Ken stumbled back, squinting into the dark closet. From deep within the void, something lighter showed up. Confused, he backed up until he bumped into the bed. Something clanked against the hard wood floor and then the strip of lamplight struck against a wooden face painted like a human with rosy cheeks, high-arched blonde eyebrows and a hinged mouth.
“God damn!” He nervously chuckled, running a hand through his hair. “The crazy ventriloquist’s doll.”
As soon as he said it, Ken heard a low chuckle. The lifeless eyes stared up at him, the doll on its back helplessly sprawled out but the rumbling sound of laughter emerged from its chest and then its hinged jaw clanked with each chuckle and one arm moved ever so slowly against the wood floor.
Ken didn’t take the time to look back. He ran barefoot, blanket still wrapped around him into the hall. He heard the voice calling out after him as he padded down the oriental runners towards the stairs.
“I’ll find you! My master tried to put me away, but I always found him! I’ll find you too!”