#NGHW 300-Word WINNER! Naching T. Kassa

Winner for episode #138

The Laughing Man

by Naching T. Kassa

The heart was still warm when I found it near the latrines. It hung from the barbwire fence like some hellish Christmas ornament, dripping blood into the muck below. I wasn’t sure who it belonged to.

It might’ve been Private Jefferson’s or Lieutenant Blackmore’s. They’d gone missing and Sargent Collins had laid the blame on the Hun’s doorstep. I knew the truth, though. My mum had told me long before I took up my gun and gasmask.

“Go to sleep, Johnny,” she’d said one night before bed. “Sleep before Laughing Man comes. If he catches you awake, he’ll rip your heart out and hang it up to dry.”

“Does he come every night,” I had asked.

“He does. If you smell almonds, he’s coming. And, if you hear him whisper your name, he’s testing to see whether you’re awake.”

“What if I can’t sleep?”

“Best pretend, love. Pretend and pray.”

The memory of her words kept me from the trench and the squirming shadows which filled it. I returned to my dug-out as quickly as I could.

The blanket had grown cold in my absence. I huddled under it and would’ve drifted off if the scent of almonds hadn’t wafted in.

“Johnny?” a voice whispered.

I froze. Something moved in the moonlight. It dropped to all fours and peered through my doorway.

“You awake, Johnny?”

Moonglow didn’t favor the creature. Instead, it laid bare every flaw in his leprous face. I shut my eyes but the image of oozing sores remained. He hadn’t changed.

“Johnny?”

I answered with a snore as I had always done. A moment later, his cold hand clutched my throat.

“I’ve always known you were awake,” he said.

Laughter echoed throughout the dug-out and, like a malevolent lullaby, it bore me to my final rest.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW TOP Seven 300-word Stories

TOP 7 / 300-WORD STORIES featured on #138

  1. 1: LARVAE by Sumiko SaulsonLARVAE – A sliver of sunlight pierced the stagnant air of the subbasement, illuminating claw marks in the mossy walls. Under the stream of light I observed bloodstains at the base of my torn nailbed. I winced. The iron-rich smell would attract the creature.Its piteous mewling arose from the depths. I nervously kicked soil into the tunnel at my feet. I had to escape before it returned. Clutching the soil, my fingers dug deep within. Quickly, I ascended. I was six feet up when I felt a tug at my feet. Looking down in horror, I witnessed the creature’s bloated, white body creeping up my pants leg.

    “Get off me, foul thing!” I screamed, kicking the hideous larvae. It was three feet long. Its maw oozed putrescent yellow fluids reeking of fetid lard. That evil oral emanation hit toe of my sneaker, melting canvas and eating away at flesh. I screamed in pain, kicking loose the shoe, sending the maggot dropping below with it.

    The small crevice at the top of the well was just feet away. Heart racing, I redoubled my efforts to scale the wall. A nail broke with a gut-wrenching crack. I felt blood rush out from under the cloth, hot and sticky. I began to calculate how much pressure it would take to knock the wooden cap off the well.

    A new sound emerged. Loud buzzing that grew rapidly closer. I felt wiry hairs touch the back of my neck. Against my will, I turned to look.

    A monstrous fly stared at me with its compound eye. It’s voice, high-pitched and querulous, vibrated against my maddened eardrum. “I bet you didn’t know we evolved,” it said, arrogantly hissing before its mandibles slid into the unyielding flesh of my eyelid, tearing asunder the fragile orb underneath.

    2: THE PET by Daphne Strasert

    THE PET

    You first found your precious baby while she cowered under a car—tiny, trembling, more fur than flesh. Such a helpless angel… you couldn’t leave her to the cruelty of the streets.

    You recline on the couch, Netflix droning in the background and your snuggle muffin nuzzled against your chest. Her breathing lulls you into the blissful space between sleeping and waking. You stroke her fur, careful to avoid the sharp spines, and trace each of the prominent bones that protrude from her back. The tip of her tail coils around your wrist, forming a vice of soft hair. Loving cupcake, you’d do anything to keep her happy.

    You coo at her and she raises her head, blinking each of her four eyes in turn. A rumbling hum passes from her body through yours and she stretches to rub her nose against your arm. She nibbles at your finger and three rows of jagged teeth prick your skin, a minor pain while you swim in an ocean of bliss. Warmth trickles along your hand, followed by the rasp of your sweet pumpkin’s tongue and a crunch as her jaw snaps bone. You murmur affectionate words of encouragement. You would never deprive her of happiness over something as insignificant as an appendage. She gnaws at the edges of your mangled finger, mewing between nips.

    Blood and flesh—you have plenty to spare for your darling. After all, your body is useless if it cannot cater to her. Any pain is worthwhile if you can provide what she needs. Isn’t that what you want? To be with her—a part of her—together forever? You’ll give anything for your dear pet. Even your life.

    Especially your life.

    Story 3: LINGUA by JC Martinez

    LINGUA

    The rotten smell comes from the body it left in the shower. It’s grown worse. It’s almost my time.

    I hear something. A muffled splash, like a wet towel hitting the floor repeatedly. Its footsteps. Then, another sound, like the towel getting wrung. It’s disposing of the body. It’ll come for me next.

    I close my eyes as the closet doors fly open. I close them hard, but I still see it. There’s nothing human about its shape, except for the… tongues. It’s all made of lilac tongues, grouped together like tangled hanks of yarn. I don’t know how it sees, for it has no eyes. I can make out no noses or ears either, just those tongues that wiggle wildly in all directions.

    It grabs me by the waist, pulls me toward it. God, no. It yanks my feet, lifting me effortlessly. The tongues are everywhere now, all over my legs and arms and torso, leaving a slimy trail that dries swiftly over my skin.

    Its tongues are over my closed eyes too. It pulls gently at my eyelids, as if caressing them. I want to scream, but I don’t. All I can do is cry silently, and that’s exactly what it wants.

    It tastes my tears. It drinks them.

    Over the next weeks, it’ll keep me alive, feeding me that strange marmalade that I don’t know where it gets from. It’ll keep me alive, savoring my tears and sweat and saliva, and any other body fluid that it craves.

    After it grows tired of my taste, it’ll leave me to starve to death in that putrid shower. I’m not sure how it’ll do away with my body, but since I can see no other, I guess it’ll devour it whole.

    So much for an open-casket funeral.

    Story 4: BLOODWORM by Jonathan Fortin

    BLOODWORM

    It started with wriggling under her fingernails. Sam ignored the feeling. It was late, and most of the office had left, but she had to finish this report.

    Then came heat, flushing her back and brow with sweat. Sam slipped off her hoodie. She was probably reacting badly to the meds she’d ordered off eBay. They’d looked shifty, but she’d had no choice—this scummy place didn’t provide health insurance.

    The wriggling sensation spread through her body. She felt dizzy and numb, her fingers punching random keys. “Shit…” She couldn’t let this distract her from the deadline. She tried to sit up.

    Her body didn’t respond.

    A red worm poked out between her knuckles. Then another, from her wrist.

    Terror hit her like a train. The meds—did they house parasites? Was she now their host? She’d been so stupid to take them!

    She tried to scream, but instead fell off the chair and became fetal on the floor. She choked as worms crawled up her throat and out her mouth like regurgitated noodles. They plugged her nose and burrowed out her eyes, popping them. Pain rushed through her as worms ripped out her back and twisted into sinuous, red-soaked ropes.

    Blind, she felt her body rise up from the floor, like a puppet. She took steps against her will.

    “Sam?” A voice. Her boss! She tried to tell him to run, but her mouth was blocked. Vomit rushed up and back down again.

    She couldn’t stop. Her hand collided with something, just as her boss began to scream. She pummeled over and over amidst wet sounds until the screaming ceased.

    Sam felt his still body with her fingers. She felt worms slip out from her and burrow into him.

    And then, soon after, she heard him stand.

    Together they lurched.

    Story 5: The ODDMENTS Monster by Adele Marie Par

    Corners hold secrets that burst forth like rotting fruit when darkness falls.

    A blackness within the dark. Shapes that form to become objects of dread as they begin to move. A puppet dance with no master.

    This is the jerky, raggedy birth of the Oddments Monster.

    Tommy’s safe world no longer existed. It had exploded into shards when his father died.

    The house became a lifeless tomb that he and his mother shuffled through.

    She trailed dust and dirty clothes behind her.

    Tommy was a ghost, incorporeal, unheard.

    Perfect conditions for the Oddments Monster.

    Wrapped up like a mummy in his bed, Tommy waited. Frightened into silence and rapid puffs of breath.

    A crackling sigh vibrated around the room. A slithering sound followed, evocative of a snake shedding its skin.

    The atmosphere became heavy. He gulped air like a fish stranded on land. He felt compelled to look and when he did…..

    Blackness filled his dirty clothes. A striped t-shirt wavered and flapped. Jeans bent at the knees and wobbled into an upright position. A crusty, grey handkerchief became a face. The centre puckered inwards to form a rudimentary mouth.

    The monster moved.

    Tommy cried.

    It lurched towards him, eyes made from lost buttons. Black as coal with twin, red, pinpricks of evil intelligence behind them.

    The raggedy thing leaned over Tommy’s paralyzed body.

    The stench of its breath was forgotten memories and sorrow.

    “Dust and ashes you will be, Tommy boy.”

    His trembling bladder gave way and the sharp smell of urine drew the monster closer.

    Ancient bubble gum drooled from it’s puckered mouth and dribbled onto Tommy’s face.

    He opened his mouth to scream but the monster kissed him. He tasted death and dirt as the monster sucked his breath.

    Story 6: THE LAUGHING MAN by Naching T. Kassa

    The heart was still warm when I found it near the latrines. It hung from the barbwire fence like some hellish Christmas ornament, dripping blood into the muck below. I wasn’t sure who it belonged to.

    It might’ve been Private Jefferson’s or Lieutenant Blackmore’s. They’d gone missing and Sargent Collins had laid the blame on the Hun’s doorstep. I knew the truth, though. My mum had told me long before I took up my gun and gasmask.

    “Go to sleep, Johnny,” she’d said one night before bed. “Sleep before Laughing Man comes. If he catches you awake, he’ll rip your heart out and hang it up to dry.”

    “Does he come every night,” I had asked.

    “He does. If you smell almonds, he’s coming. And, if you hear him whisper your name, he’s testing to see whether you’re awake.”

    “What if I can’t sleep?”

    “Best pretend, love. Pretend and pray.”

    The memory of her words kept me from the trench and the squirming shadows which filled it. I returned to my dug-out as quickly as I could.

    The blanket had grown cold in my absence. I huddled under it and would’ve drifted off if the scent of almonds hadn’t wafted in.

    “Johnny?” a voice whispered.

    I froze. Something moved in the moonlight. It dropped to all fours and peered through my doorway.

    “You awake, Johnny?”

    Moonglow didn’t favor the creature. Instead, it laid bare every flaw in his leprous face. I shut my eyes but the image of oozing sores remained. He hadn’t changed.

    “Johnny?”

    I answered with a snore as I had always done. A moment later, his cold hand clutched my throat.

    “I’ve always known you were awake,” he said.

    Laughter echoed throughout the dug-out and, like a malevolent lullaby, it bore me to my final rest.

    Story 7: Always Hungry by Cat Voleur

    ALWAYS HUNGRY

    It was horrible when the sound stopped. For the last few hours Kimi had been forced to listen to the slurps of the creature’s messy eating – interrupted only by the occasional cracking and crunching of bone. Sickening though it had been, it was preferable to the silence in which she was now stuck.

    They have an insatiable hunger for human flesh that grows as rapidly as the beasts themselves.

    Her grandmother had believed strongly in the Algonquin lore with which she had been raised, and Kimi had heard many such stories growing up.

    If only I had listened.

    The beast had stopped eating, which could mean only one thing; it was out of food.

    For a moment it lingered, still crouching in the bloodstained snow a safe distance from dying campfire. Elongated limbs extended from the emaciated torso at strange, unnatural angles. Even in the warm glow of the embers Kimi could see that the skin stretched thinly over its skeletal frame was a sickly, mottled gray.

    It was all she could do not to gag as the thing straightened and she caught a whiff of its decaying scent.

    At its full height, she saw that it was clearly taller than it had been prior to the feast, and Kimi gasped at the realization its head would now be level with the branch where she was hiding.

    It turned toward the noise.

    For the first time she could see it in all its grotesque glory. Teeth jutted in all angles from the gaping, gore-filled maw. Its distorted facial features were dripping with blood. Worst were its eyes – two black orbs that were sunken deeply into the deformed skull, reflecting no light.

    She knew in that instant she would not be spared.

    The wendigo is always hungry.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW TOP 100-word Stories

TOP / 100-WORD STORIES

  1. Last Days of Sunlight

by Feind Gottes

Her heart began to pound in her chest as though it would burst at any moment. The steel bands of anxiety tightened threatening to suffocate her. The last beams of light were coming through the window now, ushering in another nightmare filled night. He only crept in to torment her once the sun was gone. Blood dripped to the floor from the dozens of wounds covering her tiny frame. The last ray of sunlight burned out and died signaling a new night of terror. The last, she hoped. A tear rolled down her cheek as the door creaked slowly open.


  1. Bully

By: Naching T. Kassa

Bobby stood by his grandfather’s grave, his eye swollen shut. Cory ran up, Bobby’s blood on his shirt.

“Give me your money,” Cory said, as he halted. “Or I’ll break your nose.”

Bobby glowered at his tormentor. “No. He told me not to.”

Cory glanced around. They were alone in the cemetery.

“Who?”

“My grampa.”

“You’re nuts.”

Bobby flipped him off.

Cory charged forward. Bobby side-stepped him and he fell on the grave.

A dirty skull rose from the earth and sank its teeth into Cory’s throat. He screamed.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Bobby said. “Grampa eats bullies for breakfast.”


  1. MOUNDS

by Jess Landry

The rain started to fall just as I finished up. As the cool mist washed over me, I was reminded of something my Baba had told me when I was little.

“Julia,” she had said. “There will be two great loves in your life. The first will be a beautiful home—”

(Currently burning to the ground)

“—And the second will be a caring, loving man to call your own.”

I tossed the shovel aside. The rain cleared the sweat and grime from my face as I sat on the mound of dirt I had once called my husband.


  1. Lily House

By AE Kirk

Walking down a gravel path at twilight, I made no sound as I stopped and saw a wooden cross that had been taken by the wind. It bore no name. It was just a simple marker. I placed it in my pocket. I passed by the others who came before me; they stared at their marble, their sandstone or slate. I felt sorry for those whose stones were covered by ivy, or ravaged by weather and time. I found my stone, newly cut, placed just today. Lily House. 1994-2000. Rest In Peace. I cried and lay beside my grave, alone.


  1. A True Artisan

by Timothy G. Huguenin

The baker thought of Carol as he kneaded. He’d been captivated by her frame—slight, tender—he loved her.

The dough was too wet. He reached into his flour sack. Empty. He had to make more. A true artisan, he milled his own flour. Nothing like stone-ground flour.

The walk to his shed was cold. No matter; the mill would warm him.

The light from the opening door fell upon his dog, gnawing a bone.

“Git outta there.”

The dog slunk away.

The light expanded to show the old millstone and the bone pile, waiting.

Carol, he thought. He smiled.


  1. Tributaries

By Sumiko Saulson

In horror films, there’s a moment the audience knows our heroine should run. We scream at the idiot looming large before us, hoisted high above on silver lenticular projected through cellulose in particles of light.

Yelling at the movie, I don’t notice the monster leaning against me for comfort. Nearby monsters are difficult to identify.

A raised rash spreads over my shoulder where your head lay against me. Mold spreads outward, green and black tendrils where your fingers grasped mine.

This isn’t your fault.

Now, we are trapped, phantoms in the theater, offstage, in seats below, no audience watching us.


  1. The Count of Three

By Cat Voleur

“I love you,” he said, who had never loved anyone.

“I love you too,” she said, who had loved far too many.

“Together, then?” He asked, though he was not prepared to jump.

“Together,” she said, stepping up onto the ledge beside him.

“The count of three?” He asked.

She was ready, so with a sad smile she started off their count rather than to answer. “One.”

“Two.” He replied.

“Three.” She pushed him off and watched lovingly as he plummeted toward the rushing waters below. He didn’t scream as he fell. That was disappointing. Her other boyfriends had screamed.


  1. Wax on the Doorknob

By Quentin Norris

Emily called me at three in the morning, still breathing hard. She told me she’d seen the man standing behind her in the reflection on her phone. Standing under a streetlamp, he wore a black coat, his face and hands were covered in dripping wax. He’d followed her home, and tried to open her door, and was now standing in her yard. I peeked out the window at her house across the street, yet saw nothing. Everything seemed fine as I walked over, but my heart stopped when I reached for her doorknob and saw wax cooling on its surface.


  1. Fairies

by Jonathan Fortin

Fairies are eating my ex. She lies on a banquet table, smiling at me as they pierce her eyes with needle teeth and drag razor nails down her breasts. My breath quivers. I instinctively know she’s no longer mine, even if we never broke up.

“It’s wonderful, darling,” she says, with a voice that’s not her own. “I am devoured every night, and reborn every morning. I am courted, danced with, and given beautiful dresses.

Dearest, won’t you join me? Won’t you be eaten too?”

I know I should run, but I miss her so much. I reach for her.


  1. Friend

By Adele Marie Park

A scratching, beastly noise. The prick of fear, sharp as a needle quivers through me. I am alone in the house.

I grip the bannister. Knuckles blanched. Only shadows thrown by the electric light.

I climb. My pulse racing deafens sound. Breathing laboured. Suffocating with foreboding.

Sweat moulds hair to my face. I turn the handle and push the door. Shadows sharpen into familiar objects except: an unknown darkness manifests before me.

My throat fills with bile. Frozen in terror. I scream.

Putrid smell of garbage fills my nostrils. Revulsion gags in my mouth as shrivelled lips tickle my ear.


  1. Grandma

By JC Martinez

I close my eyes, because Grandma asked me to do so.

I sit on the floor, behind the bed, as far away as possible from the room’s door, just like Grandma instructed.

The hinges creak. The sound makes me cringe. The footsteps even more so. But it’s just Grandma. I think.

She doesn’t speak, but I feel her breath on my face. I can smell it. Minty. Almost like toothpaste.

Something wraps my nose. Something slimy and wet, like a tongue. Makes me feel… uneasy.

But I don’t open my eyes. I never do.

Because Grandma told me not to.


  1. The Inevitable

By Harry Husbands

The black shape ballooned upward from behind Doctor Forster’s shoulder, then began to take on a human form made entirely of shadow. It was not the first time Michael had seen this figure—though never so close—and with muscles tensed, gripping his knees, he tried listening to the Doctor who spoke with an ashen face of pity.

“It’s cancer, Michael.” The Doctor said before continuing on at length about potential treatments and support groups. Michael paid no attention. His eyes were fixed instead on the apparition and the awful grin that emerged from its otherwise dark and featureless face.

 

  1. Dinner at the Millers

By Riley Pierce

Babysitting for the Millers the first time, Abby pressed the channel button looking for something that would keep her attention long enough to stay awake through dinner. Clutching the baby monitor, she ate another bite and smiled. The colicky child was now silent. It had only taken an hour, but she was proud of herself for handling little Eric and his seemingly endless cries. Happily settling on a cooking channel, she glanced at the clock and wiped his blood from her cheek. Daniel and Jayda would be home soon. Stew next, Abby thought, I think I’d like to try stew.


  1. Till Death

By Daphne Straasert

My bridesmaids would think I’m nuts if I told them. Nothing’s changed about him—he has the same face, same laugh as my fiancé—but he’s different.

The wedding blurs by in a parade of hugs and congratulations. I’m not alone with him until the limo door shuts behind me. In the silence, the air between us chills.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?”

I slide my hand from his. “You’re not Michael. You’re not my husband.”

His smile doesn’t warm his eyes. “Maybe not Michael… but your husband?” He leans forward so his breath tickles my ear. “Until death do us part.”


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

Free Fiction Friday: Bellamorte by Alex S. Johnson

Bellamorte

by Alex S. Johnson

Rising from her bath, Bellamorte took a moment to regard herself in the oval silver and jewel-framed mirror that stood in the east-facing corner of the tiny hut in the woods. Beside the fireplace hung the copper basin in which she’d heated the water.

Vanity, her good stepmother had called it. Self-regard, a sin for which the consequences were death. Yet, good as she was, Clarissa allowed it nevertheless.

She was convinced, bless her dear soul, that Bellamorte would eventually see the error of her ways and accept the true Savior.

Amazingly enough, all it took was a blush and a bowed head, simple words of a contrition she would never feel, for Clarissa to believe that her stepdaughter was headed down the true path. Give her time, and she would come around to righteousness.

Righteousness, yes.  For Bellamorte, this was her fine 18-year-old figure, droplets of water glistening in the firelight. Miniature echoes of her full breasts, womanly hips and dark thatch. Her waist-length, straight raven hair. Subtly Asiatic eyes.

Her younger sister, Donella, had not been as understanding. Donella clung to her prayerbook and her Bible like talismans. She lectured and read aloud from the volumes the village priest had given her.

Probably for a stiff price, smirked Bellamorte.

But Donella had been dealt with. Sternly, but more mercifully than she deserved. Bellamorte would never stoop to the cruelty of the priest and his kind.

She stoked the fire again with the poker and threw in a sprinkle of the rust-red powder from the pearl-colored sachet.

The fire snapped and sparkled. For a moment, a face appeared in a burst of grey smoke: the Lady of the Castle.

Her face was white as snow and her lips a rich scarlet. Long dark ringlets gathered on her shoulders.

Her eyes: terrible and beautiful at the same time, like the sweet tongues of Hell.

Fair Lady, I will be with thee soon.

Thoroughly toweling herself off, Bellamorte scooped a handful of the unguent–a clear gel that smelled of burning leaves, blood and opium–and carefully applied it, first to her forehead, then her shoulder blades, her breasts, and further south.

Her skin tingled, and at first a strawberry rash burst from the places she had touched. Then the rash receded and the slow bloom of ecstasy traveled in two directions: up her spine and down her flesh.

Deeper down. Crosswise.

Acorus vulgare, Verspertillionis sanguinem, Solanum somniferum, boiled together in oil. Indian Hemp and stramonium. To bind it, the blood and fat of night birds.

Then the charm was firm and good.

Outside the virgin snow spread across the countryside. Stars like diamonds studded the night sky. The moon was pregnant and about to give birth.

Bellamorte reached for the dress, a magnificent creation in violet: shot silk, with a ruffled collar, lacy puffed sleeves, low-cut decolletage, silver hem. She rolled the white silk stockings over her knees. Then the burgundy shoes.

The hut was ever so quiet.

Ever so peaceful.

And she looked and smelled and felt like Magic.

But she was losing time. The Lady was very strict about her new appointments, and Bellamorte did not wish to disappoint.

Gathering together her offerings of love, Bellamorte placed them in the wicker basket and covered it with a blue cloth. She plucked the half-eaten apple from the rude wooden shelf her grandfather had built and took a big bite. The sugar rushed through her bloodstream like living flame.

Now she would go.

She spun before the fire, counterclockwise, stamping out the rhythms of the Rede on the tamped earthen floor.

Bellamorte took one last look around the cottage. Her sister, stepmother and father, still as statues on the hay-stuffed cots. Three gifts for the Lady.

She pulled the thick woolen shawl around her shoulders and poked her head out the doorway, through the apron of cured leather.

Sniffed the air, the clean early-morning scent of nothing.

And bid farewell to the hut in the forest forever.

Guest Blog: An Encounter In the Dark by A.D. Vick

An Encounter In the Dark

by A.D. Vick

For a little over twenty years, I have been the caretaker of, and lived by two historic cemeteries that exist on the side of a mountain in the Arkansas Ozarks. East Mountain, as it was once called, is the local at which some of the first pioneers arriving at what is now the City of Fayetteville decided to settle. It is also a place where the local history and tales of the supernatural co-mingle to create a rustic atmosphere in which both are equally believable—and sometimes felt.

The larger of the two cemeteries contains the remains of hundreds of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the War Between the States. Most of those buried here struggled against Union forces at nearby battlefields that are today commemerated  at Prairie Grove State Park, a bit to the west of here, and Pea Ridge National Military Park, twenty or thirty miles to the north. The Battle of Fayetteville took place in April, 1862, when Confederate forces under the command of Brigadier General W.L. Cabell launched a surprise attack upon the occupying Union army. That struggle took place only a few blocks from where I live and the Confederate attackers set up their artilary literally a stone’s throw from where I am typing this story.

Those who died upon the nearby fields of war were at first buried on the battlefields; it was not until the year 1873 that their bodies were exumed and delivered here to East Mountain for a final resting place. I often wonder, given those circumstances, if any of their traumatized spirits still linger in the vicinity of their remains.

A distance back into the woods that border the east side of my driveway lies a deep ravine known as Ghost Hallow. Although the hallow is situated close to the center of town, it remains a remote and very isolated piece of land. In the year 1852 a newlywed couple from Fort Smith moved into a log cabin owned by the son of a distinguished Revolutionary War veteran. At the time, the log cabin stood  approximately a quarter-mile up the road from where I currently live. It was situated very close to the above-mentioned ravine.

One winter night the young lady got too close to the fireplace, catching her dress on fire. In a panic, she ran outside toward the ravine screaming. She didn’t survive her ordeal; and due to that winter’s bitter cold, it was necessary to store her body above ground until the arrival of spring’s warmer temperatures. It is said that those venturing close to Ghost Hallow at night can hear her screaming through the darkness. Although I live very close to where she burned to death, I cannot honestly say that I’ve ever heard her screams. Still, I have spoken to those who swear that they have.

Friends who used to live at the base of this mountain and considerably closer to where the Battle of Fayetteville occurred, once told me of a young girl they would occasionally see roaming around their back yard upon their approach home. Yet, she would always vanish by the time they pulled into the driveway. One day, information imparted at an historical event forced me to seriously consider the possibility that the disappearing young lady might have been killed during the Battle of Fayetteville, but that’s a story best left for another time. I would however, like to relate a story about my own personal encounter with the unusual—and the event took place only steps away from my front door!

My encounter with the paranormal (or so I believe) took place on an August night during the 90s. That evening, I sat with my guitar, as I often did, on the stone wall that encloses the Confederate Cemetery. Opposite me, a security light, which thankfully no longer functions, cast its light into the cemetery and upon a nearby monument once erected in memory of a soldier named James Davis, who had also been a Mason. The monument cast a long shadow, dividing some of the nearer, more illuminated grave markers apart by its veil of darkness.

For a while, I remained almost oblivious to my surroundings as I concentrated upon my musical instrument. Eventually, I took a breather; and gazing into the cemetery, noticed a shadowy figure sitting atop one of the illuminated grave markers. It appeared as a heavyset male figure sitting with an elbow on his knee and hand under his chin. At first I considered the possibility that I was looking at my then neighbor Brad, who used to live directly across from the cemetery entrance. On second thought however, I realized that it likely wasn’t him. Brad would generally drink when he got home in the evening; and at those times,  he’d become quite loud, almost obnoxious. There’s no way he could have resisted interrupting me. Further, the figure sat upon a grave marker that only measured an inch or two in thickness and stood only about 1.5 feet above the ground.

It was my job to ask visitors to leave the cemeteries after dark. On that night however, I decided to leave this particular intruder alone. There was simply something mysterious about him and I considered the possibility that he was enjoying my music.

The mystifying figure maintained his position for the next ten or fifteen minutes while I continued with my musical endeavors. Eventually though, I’d had enough and decided to go inside. I took a look at the visitor as I climbed off the wall and headed toward the cabin. I took only three or four steps before once again gazing back at the strange man. He was nowhere to be seen and had simply vanished within a matter of seconds.

Looking back on that long-ago incident, I can come up with no definitive answers as to what or whom I saw sitting upon that grave marker. I know this much though: No human being could have vanished from my line of vision as quickly as that shadowy figure did on that night.

There are a number of ghost stories associated with the hill that was once called East Mountain. I  take a certain satisfaction in knowing that I’ve related my personal tale to some folks that have come to visit here. Perhaps in the distant future a day will come during which those wishing to hear stories of the past will learn about the dark man who once sat upon a grave marker at the Confederate soldier’s final resting place.

**********

DSCF1060A.D. Vick is short story writer living in Northwest Arkansas and is the author of a blog entitled The Gothic Embrace, which features a variety of entries of interest to the Goth subculture. He is also involved with the maintenance and preservation of some historic cemeteries and spends his quiet time with one rather large cat named Mr. Gray. He enjoys listening to a variety of music, which ranges from heavy metal and dark wave to classical, and takes great pleasure walking through the woods and burial grounds that surround his home.

Guest Blog: Touched by a Ghost by Loren Rhoads

Touched by a Ghost

by Loren Rhoads

            After I paid for the first Haunted Mansion retreat, I worried what I’d do if the mansion really was haunted.  I wouldn’t be able to drive to Mount Tamalpais for the long weekend, since I couldn’t leave my family without a car.  If I caught a ride with a stranger, I would be trapped at the mansion.  What if things got really bad and I was afraid to sleep?  I wouldn’t be able to slink out to my car and sleep in it.

            HMP2coveritunesI also couldn’t call my husband — assuming the isolated mansion got cell reception — to come and get me in the middle of the night.  No way could I ask him to get our seven-year-old up, put her in the car seat, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, and rescue me from the ghosts.  If I went, I had to stick it out.

Probably, I told myself, if it got that bad, someone else would have the sense to want to leave.  I could ride back to the ferry or a bus stop with them.

Of course, I was pretty sure that we wouldn’t face an all-out Poltergeist-style freak out.  As I packed for the weekend, my new worry became that I’d spent a couple hundred dollars to write for a weekend in a haunted mansion — and nothing would happen.  The ghosts would ignore us, or they’d prowl around downstairs while we were all upstairs asleep.  How disappointing would that be?

See, I have a healthy respect for ghosts.  I’ve seen their shadows since I was a kid.  Generally, they don’t do anything more than make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I feel cold and slightly jittery.  Most of the ghosts I’ve seen were people I knew, or at least people I recognized.  They weren’t trying to scare me.  My body’s reaction to them was scarier than anything they ever did.

Rain hadn’t told us much about the ghosts that she’d encountered in the mansion.  She wanted us to have our own experiences, to form our own opinions.  So I went into it blind, knowing no one other than her.

I met Scott and Eunice for the ride over to Mount Tam.  Eunice had come up from Southern California; Scott would drive the two of us from San Francisco’s Marina District across the Golden Gate.  I was relieved to find them your typical very nice horror writers.  They made me feel comfortable, like I wasn’t making a terrible mistake going away with strangers to a haunted house for the weekend.

We arrived at the Haunted Mansion in the middle of Thursday afternoon. As we carried our bags into the mansion, Rain was standing in the grand staircase.  She offered to give us a tour, so we could pick our rooms for the weekend.  We hurried to move our luggage into the first-floor parlor and followed her up the stairs.

The second floor was a maze of interconnecting rooms that encircled the stairway.  Almost everyone else had come with a friend with whom they planned to share a room.  Since I was solo, I wavered between asking to share someone else’s room or taking a room of my own.  Would the ghosts be more or less likely to mess with me if I slept alone?

There were only eight of us there that first night, rattling around in a house that seemed able to sleep a hundred.  Rain said we would all stay on the second floor, even though that was where she’d had the most intense of her ghostly encounters.  Most of the second-floor rooms were pass-throughs:  each dormitory-style room connecting to the next.  I don’t sleep well at the best of times, so I wasn’t eager to choose a room where people might walk through in the night to use the bathroom.  Since I wander a fair amount when I can’t sleep, I also didn’t want to wake anyone else.

Rain’s tour paused outside a little blue room tucked between a suite — reserved for the one married couple among us — and dead space.  I’m not sure what lay on the other side of the wall: maybe a linen closet?  It wasn’t another guest room, anyway.

The blue room felt very restful to me, very welcoming.  It helped that it only had one door, which faced the bed, and a window that looked out on Mount Tam.  The energy felt inviting.  When I stepped inside and saw the artwork hanging above the vanity — a piece of white silk featuring a bright Chinese phoenix — I had to have that room.  I wear a phoenix tattoo on my left arm.  The room and I shared a kinship.

*

            My little room proved to be a great haven, especially after I set my suitcase in front of the closet.  Not that I thought anything was going to come through there — or that I felt the suitcase provided much of a barricade — but I’ve seen Poltergeist too many times.  You never know with big empty spaces.

I settled into the double bed, feeling safe in a way I wouldn’t have in a room with more doors.  I closed my eyes, exhausted and slightly drunk from Rain’s good Argentinean wine.

Sleep wouldn’t come.

I thought I heard whispering voices, then a man speaking, but Yvonne and Weston had the suite that shared the minuscule balcony outside my spider-guarded window.  I gladly put on my headphones to block the voices out.

As I lay there in the dark, trying to sleep, the light in my room kept changing.  Smudges and smears of light flashed through the well of shadow that lay between the bed and the vanity.  The sliver of light coming in around the door grew wider toward morning, as if the door was inching open, but it wasn’t.  Even so, I didn’t turn my back toward the center of the room.

Finally, about 4:30, I told myself that I really needed to get some sleep.  I rolled onto my stomach, clutched the pillow, felt myself relax.  Sleep was washing over me when someone touched my hair.

Someone touched my hair.  Electricity thrilled through me.  I knew I was still alone in the room, but opened my eyes anyway.  The room remained silent and empty, holding its breath to see what I would do.

It occurred to me that a spider might have fallen from the ceiling on to me. However, the sensation of being touched hadn’t felt like something practically weightless dancing across my head. My hair is just not that sensitive.  Something the size of a hand compressed the hair on the right side of my head.  Without a doubt, someone touched me.

“Hello,” I whispered softly.  “It will be dawn soon.  I’d really like to get some sleep before then.  Can we talk in the morning?”

I waited, but nothing more happened.  Sleep was remarkably easy to find.

 ***

 CIMG0977-headshotThis is an excerpt from an essay I wrote for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One, published by Damnation Books in 2013.  I served as editor for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, published by Damnation Books in 2014.  Both books in the series collect fiction and poetry inspired by our retreats at the mansion.  They also include reports of the hauntings we experienced and evidence reports by the GhostGirls.

The third Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat is in the planning stages for September 2015.  You can see the details and register for it here: http://hauntedmansionwriters.blogspot.com/

Review: An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

englishghostAn English Ghost Story by Kim Newman was different from any other ghost story I’ve ever read or seen on film. The ghosts are cool and there are plenty of spooks and scares to satisfy even the pickiest ghost story reader. However, there is also a deep message about family bounds and how this particular family can endure pain, hardship, and multiple issues, but still come out of it with their souls and lives intact.

The tale is about a modern family who buys a house in the country that once belonged to children’s book author, Louise Teazle. When they move in, all of her stuff is still there and thus begins a fun scavenge for things she once held dear, many of which appeared in the pages of her books. What a dream for an avid reader, to own a house with an author’s personal belongings still intact. What a dream for many of us, no matter how unrealistic that is in today’s world with everyone money hungry over bestseller’s unpublished manuscripts, but still a fun concept.

There are four distinctive voices in this book and I loved and despised each of them at different times, sort of like you do your own family.

Whether you connect with…

  • Dad, the businessman who feels the weight of the families’ success on his shoulders and is battling with anger and control issues,
  • Mom, the flighty creative one who can never quite make her talents pay for themselves and has a destructive relationship with an outsider who makes things worse,
  • Big sis, an anorexic teen who borrows identities from 50’s icons because she doesn’t really like who she is or,
  • Little bro, who lives his life in a complete combat fantasy world to escape the fact that he’s the low guy on the totem pole without much of a voice in this screwed up clan,

You will find someone to take this crazy, strange, wonderful, horrifying ride with. Frequent point of view changes kept me interested as each member of the family experienced different occurrences and reacted in their own ways.

The author did an awesome job of weaving each section of the book in a way that not only showed the family in different mental states, but forced me as the reader into these same mental states. When they first got the house and were excited about moving in, I was excited by the discovery. When they were confused seeing ghost things happen, unable to decipher quite what they meant, I was there, just as confused as they were, trying to put the puzzle pieces together, but coming up short.

I really enjoyed how there are mini books inside the main book, one of them a children’s book by the famed Louise Teazle. The family and visitors talk constantly about the children’s series and to be let in on one of the texts added a little fun for us book lovers and a bit of whimsy apropos for a children’s book author like Louise.

I found two parts in this book particularly scary and I’m hard to freak out. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say the way dad gets into the closet and what mom puts in the top drawer of the little dresser near the end will stay with me for years to come.

Great chilling read with a message we all need to hear.