It’s been a while since I’ve written a short story, but I do enjoy reading them. I’ll post this one up on my Wattpad account as well.
This is the story behind Lesley’s comment in Chapter 14, of the first book in The Williamson Vampires series.
“But you must have seen something,” Lesley said. “I was talking on the phone last night about you. My friend Mandy said her brother’s best friend’s cousin saw a spirit in the woods near your property line. She said there are at least a dozen ghosts living on your property. I wouldn’t be able to sleep in a house that I knew was haunted.” Lesley gave an involuntary shutter.
This story comes from a reliable source as all stories pertaining to a friend’s “brother’s best friend’s cousin” usually do.
- Blogophilia 42.4 Topic: “Third Time’s a Charm”
- Bonus Points:
- (Hard, 2pts): incorporate a quote from Emily, Charlotte or Anne Bronte
- (Easy, 1pt): include a caution sign wording (like “Danger! Do Not Go Beyond This Point”)
Spirit in the Woods, A Companion Story to The Williamson Vampires Series
Dustin readjusted his backpack across his shoulders. It seemed as though he’d been walking for hours, but when he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, he realized it had only been about fifteen minutes. He tried to figure out in miles how far he’d traveled based on the time and speed he’d been walking. Had he only gone one mile? Dustin wasn’t sure. He’d never been good at algebra. At this rate, it would take him forever, and he was already feeling tired. He thought he was in a lot better shape, but his feet were telling him another story. He should have worn different shoes. That was as good of an excuse as any. The sandals he wore on his feet just weren’t cutting it and neither were his shorts for that matter. He was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and he kept stubbing his toes on fallen tree branches and rocks. He was almost ready to call it quits, turn around, and go back home.
A breeze shifted the leaves on the trees overhead, making Dustin feel uneasy. Branches snapped and popped loudly around him. His feet crunched over old leaves and debris. The woods were a lot noisier than Dustin had expected them to be. He’d always wondered how hunters were able to walk silently through the woods, now he was pretty sure that it couldn’t be done, at least not by him. He could hear other things crashing about amongst the scrub brush as well. No doubt he was scaring every animal that was within a hundred feet of him.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. Dustin checked his phone again. He thumbed through the various screens until he came to the camera feature on his phone. He wasn’t sure if he had the settings right, or if his phone’s camera would even take a decent picture in the dark, but his other camera needed batteries and so did his mom’s old tape recorder. He didn’t have enough batteries for both devices and he needed the tape recorder to try and capture voices that were too quiet for human ears. As he played with the buttons on his phone, he’d discovered that he’d already managed to take a picture of his feet, the ground, and the inside of his pocket. He grumbled as he tried to figure out which button locked the screen. His new phone was apparently smarter than he was, which was even more irritating.
Five more random pictures later, and Dustin shoved the phone back inside his pocket, cursing all the while. He needed to get going if he was going to get to the cemetery and back before his mom came home from work. He followed the rusty wire fence line. This wasn’t the first time he’d gone looking for something supernatural. He’d been to two other cemeteries, but hadn’t seen anything remotely paranormal. No ghosts, no spirits, not even a stray squirrel, but those other cemeteries were still in use. Dustin had decided that spirits probably didn’t lurk in cemeteries with well kept lawns and visitors that actually cared. They didn’t hang around statues of angels, and Mary, and solar-lit tributes. Spirits roamed the earth because they couldn’t find rest or they had unfinished business to take care of. He’d heard there was an old cemetery off of Electra Street. It was supposed to be located near the back of its property line, where private land met land owned by the state. If there was a haunted cemetery in Kindlewood, odds were in his favor that they’d be hanging around this one. It hadn’t been in active use since the early 1900’s.
Dustin continued to follow the fence, looking for a break near an old mulberry tree. That’s where he was told he’d find a path that would lead him to his destination. The problem was, he couldn’t see much of anything unless it was directly in front of him, and there were lots of trees all around, including mulberry ones. Every time he came across one of the dirty trees that littered the ground with their telltale fruit, Dustin would feel his heart race, only to be disappointed when he found the fence line still intact.
“This is stupid,” he muttered under his breath. “Third time’s a charm, my ass!” He reached into his pocket for his phone again, wanting to check the time. His phone was still in camera mode, and he took three more random shots, before he found the main screen with the time featured on it. A noise up ahead, got his attention. Dustin’s cell phone fell to the ground. He fumbled with the sleek gadget before jamming it back inside his pocket. His eyes strained to see through the trees. He stayed crouched down, frozen in place, unsure of what to do. He was sure he’d heard something. A high-pitched screech emitted from somewhere close by. Dustin wasn’t sure what it was, but it sounded like it had come from an animal. He tried to hold his breath, to listen, but his heart was beating so wildly, all he could hear was the pounding inside his own head. There was a rustling along the fence line.
Dustin fell over as he scrambled away from the fence.
Dustin got to his feet and ran! The dog on the other side of the fence pursued him. Dustin knew better that to run from a dog, but he couldn’t think. He was reacting purely on some sort of animal instinct that he didn’t even know he had in him. The dog loped along the other side of the fence, only a few feet away, barking viciously the entire time. Dustin knew it was a big dog, but he didn’t know what kind of dog it was, or if it was friendly. He tended not to trust dogs regardless of their breed. He only hoped that the fence was intact along this particular stretch and prayed that the dog wouldn’t try to hop over it. The last thing Dustin needed was to be bitten, especially when no one knew where he was. Dreadful thoughts passed before him as he ran. He should have left a note. He should have told somebody when he was planning to take this little adventure. Why had he been so stupid? Why had he gone alone?
Dustin tripped and stumbled on a tree root. His hands flew out in front of him to catch himself. He felt the pain scream through his wrist when he tried to get up. Dustin didn’t have time to assess the damage. The dog’s barking had become louder. It pushed itself savagely against the fence with its head, teeth barred and snarling the entire time. Dustin tried to stand up, to back away before the animal found a way through to him. He didn’t want to be attacked or mauled. He didn’t want to die.
“Get away from me!” he yelled. The dog became even more feral in its actions. Dustin didn’t know what to do. He picked up a stone with his good hand, and threw it towards the fence, hoping to scare the animal away. Unfortunately, it only seemed to grow more animated in its attempts at escaping the confines of its yard. Dustin clutched his wounded wrist with his good hand and tried to get up once more.
“BEAR!” The voice didn’t come from the dog’s yard, but from the path along the fence in front of him. “Bear! Go home!”
The dog whined uncertainly, then let out another volley of barks in my direction.
“That’s enough out of you,” the voice said. Dustin watched as the figure of a woman approached him. “Go home, Bear,” she commanded. The dog gave an eerie whine, but to his astonishment, the dog left, tail tucked close to its hindquarters.
“You’re bleeding,” the woman stated casually.
Dustin wasn’t sure how she knew this. He hadn’t had a chance to assess the damage to his body and it was too dark to see that much detail from where she was standing.
“You need medical attention,” she said.
Dustin just sat there. The pain in his wrist was terrible, now that he had a second to succumb to it. He cradled his injury close to his chest with his good hand. His stomach lurched when his fingers touched the tender and unnaturally shaped appendage. He thought he might get sick. His face felt hot, then cold, and all he wanted to do was lay down.
“You’ll be OK,” the woman said, perhaps sensing Dustin’s dilemma. “My house is just a little ways away. Try not to think about the pain. Talk to me. What’s your name?”
Dustin didn’t know if he could answer her or not. His face felt flush and he was lightheaded. His mouth felt too dry to speak.
“Hey! Talk to me.”
“Dusty,” he managed to say. “I’m…my wrist-”
“Yeah, I see it,” she said.
Dustin wasn’t sure how she could see his injury in the dark, but he was glad he didn’t have to talk to her about it. Maybe she could see the way he was holding his arm, and that had clued her in. Dustin didn’t know or care. Like a little kid, he wanted to go home where it was safe. He wanted out of the woods, away from dogs and nature. He wanted to lie down before he fell down. Chills ran down his chest and back.
“Hey! Dusty? That’s your name, right? I’m going to start walking, and you need to follow me. You’re going into shock, so you need to talk to me. Understand?”
Dustin knew he’d heard about people going into shock, but those people had been in car accidents or worse. He didn’t know much about going into shock, other than it wasn’t good. Dustin willed himself to stand back up on his feet. His head felt like it was spinning.
“So, tell me. What were you doing out here?”
“I…I was…” Dustin felt embarrassed to tell her the truth, but he couldn’t think of a reasonable reason for him to be out in the middle of nowhere, not at this time at night. “I was looking for a…a cemetery.”
“Ah,” the woman answered. She began to walk slowly along the path. Dustin followed behind her. “And why were you looking for this cemetery?”
“I was looking…” Dustin knew how ridiculous he was about to sound. He didn’t want to say the words, but talking did seem to help take his mind off of wanting to lie down or get sick. “I was looking for signs of…of spirits.”
“As in vodka?”
“No,” he almost laughed. “I was looking for ghosts.”
“Hmm,” she said. “I think you’ll have better luck finding partiers and booze around here than lost souls, but that’s just my opinion.”
Dustin found himself grinning despite his pain. “You’re probably right, but…well…”
“I was just hoping. That’s all. I watch those shows, you know, the ones on TV with those guys who look for paranormal stuff in old houses. I’ve never seen anything supernatural before, have you?”
“I’ve never seen a ghost,” the woman said carefully. “I don’t think I would want to meet one.” She remained quiet for some time, though she didn’t stop walking. Then she said in a haunting voice, “I had heard of dead men, troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes, revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the oppressed.”
“Charlotte Bronte,” she said.
“Jane Eyre,” the woman said, irritated.
“Was she like a friend of yours?”
“Charlotte Bronte was a famous writer!”
“Oh. I don’t read very much, but those guys on TV are so awesome,” Dustin continued. “I would love to be able to do that. I would love to know if there really is life after death, that our spirits go on even after we die.”
“It would be nice to know that there is intelligence after death,” the woman said. She fumbled in her pocket until she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, only stopping for a moment as she lit the end.
Dustin waited for the woman, fascinated by the way the tiny flame warmed away the unpleasantness of the woods that surrounded them both. She took a long drag from her cigarette before she continued walking. “You don’t mind, do you? I’m trying to quit, but it’s been one hell of a day.”
“No. No, it’s…cool,” Dustin said, without any certainty.
“How old are you?”
The woman cursed, took another drag off her cigarette, then smashed the lit end carefully against the bottom of her shoe before returning the unfinished cigarette back to the rest of its friends in the pack.
“You go to Kindlewood High?”
The woman cursed again. Dustin blushed at her creative verbal combinations.
“Sorry. Like I said before, it’s been one hell of a day. This way.” She went through an opening in the fence. Dustin squeezed through right after her. He didn’t know where he was, but he could sense that he’d be safe soon enough, and that gave him some relief.
The woman walked with surefooted confidence, while Dustin tripped and stumbled behind her along the narrow path. There was a clearing on the left-hand side. Dustin slowed when he approached it.
“Yeah, it came with the house, along with a dozen field mice, and a furnace that works only when it wants to.”
“Don’t worry about it, kid. I put up signs for a reason, but no one seems to know how to read anymore.”
“Yeah, the pretty red and white ones. The ones that say: Keep Out! Private Property! No Trespassing! It’s dangerous around here if you don’t know where you’re going. The last thing I need is one of you kids getting hurt on my land or finding an old well to fall into. You can tell that to your buddies too, Timmy. No fluffy collies are going to help you, if you get my drift.”
“My name’s Dustin,” the boy said, confused.
“Whatever. The point is, I don’t want anyone messing around on my land. I don’t want you or anyone else hanging around my cemetery, upsetting anything or anyone that might be in there. Got it?”
“Good, we’re almost to the house. We can call your parents when we get there.”
Dustin followed the woman along the dirt path lined with weeds and tall grass, to an old blue farmhouse. He followed her into the garage, though a part of him worried irrationally about going inside her house. Her SUV was parked in the garage. He’d never seen an SUV with limo tinting on all the windows, including the windshield. He didn’t even know if that was legal in Michigan.
“Hurry up,” she called out. She opened a side door that first led into the laundry room, and then into a 1950’s style kitchen. Dustin looked around, mentally taking everything in. “You’re probably going to need to see a doctor about that.” The woman pointed to Dustin’s wrist. He felt instantly lightheaded when he looked at the swelling. It was already turning shades of pale blue and purple. “Go lie down on the couch, through there.” She pointed to a room at the back of the house. “Your knee’s bleeding. Try not to get blood on anything.”
Dustin nodded mechanically. He gave out his mother’s phone number when the woman asked for it, though she stayed in the kitchen the entire time. She probably didn’t want to look at his injuries, Dustin assumed. She hadn’t come within five feet of him since they’d met. He didn’t care. He was exhausted. He just wanted this evening to be over and done with. He was sure that his mom would be upset with him for going out on his own like he had. He hoped that he wouldn’t be grounded. It was the middle of August. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his summer vacation stuck in his bedroom.
When his mother arrived, she came to him like a whirlwind of both worry and concern. He couldn’t speak to her through her frantic chatter.
“What were you thinking? Are you in pain? Just wait until your father comes home! Do you need ice? Oh, my god! Your knee! You’re bleeding. Oh, your poor wrist. There goes hockey season. I hope you’re happy! What if something had happened to you?”
“Come on. We need to get you to the emergency room. Thank you so much for helping my son, Mrs…”
“It’s Ms. Williamson, actually. You can call me Bobbi.”
“Thank you. Thank you, so much. You don’t know how grateful I am.”
The woman, Bobbi, ushered them out towards the door without further comment. She avoided looking directly at Dustin. Her hand was kept near the nose of her slim, pale face.
“Thank you,” Dustin said. His eyes left her pretty face and fell to the bloodstain on her blouse. She noticed and moved to cover the spot with her arm. There was something strange about the way she was looking at him. Her green eyes grew darker, almost black in color. Dustin felt a strange prickling sensation along the back of his neck.
“Dusty! Let’s get going,” the boy’s mother said in a warning tone, snapping him immediately out of his trance.
“Yeah. OK,” he muttered.
“Remember what I said,” the woman, named Bobbi, spoke quietly. “Stay away from my land. It’s dangerous out there.”
The boy nodded. The strange prickling sensation grew stronger. He left with his mother, his body filled with reprieve as soon as her car drove down the driveway, and away from Bobbi’s farmhouse.
Several days later, Dustin lay in bed. The cast on his hand was uncomfortable, and worse of all, he wasn’t allowed to watch any TV. He was grounded until the new school year started, but his parents hadn’t said anything about his phone. He thumbed through the screens as best he could, stumbling upon his gallery of useless pictures by accident. He deleted them, one by one, painful memories of a stupid night, best to be forgotten. He was glad to be rid of them. They were a waste. Grainy, indiscernible shapes mixed with the mundane images, like the one of his hand. They were all useless, worthless, of no value whatsoever…all except one. It was the second to the last shot he’d accidentally taken, just before the dog had run at him from behind the fence. He had to use the zoom feature to get a better look, but there it was, the unnatural and ghostly looking image of a woman in white.