Blogging the Ghost!

So what in the world is Blogging the Ghost?

Well, yes, it’s a version of the ever popular blog tour, that’s true.  But it is also the marriage of several happy accidents.

Here, I’ll explain.

You see, I recently sold a novel called Inheritance to Evil Jester Press.  (You can check out their website here.)  Inheritance, due out in November, 2012,  is a police procedural ghost tale.  It’s the story of Paul Henninger, a rookie cop trying to learn the ropes on the gang-infested streets of San Antonio’s east side.  It’s a challenging enough time in any cop’s career, but Paul has other problems.  The ghost of his father has returned, and he’s determined to use his black magic to bend Paul into an instrument of evil.  Soon Paul finds himself the number suspect in a series of grisly, cult-style murders, and as detectives close in, Paul finds himself torn between dark family secrets and his marriage and his oath as a cop.  He’s in for the fight of his life, one that threatens to destroy everything he’s ever cared about.

Now most of the people who read my books know me as a zombie writer, and there’s something to that.  I love zombies.  I love their rotten little hearts.  But my first love is the ghost story.  I have loved a good haunting since I was old enough to seek out books other than those my parents bought for me, and to this day, I can honestly say that ghost stories are the only stories that have ever truly frightened me.  So imagine my surprise and delight when I started working with Peter Giglio, my editor over at Evil Jester Press.  I had already read Peter’s novels Anon and A Spark in the Darkness (you can check out Peter Giglio’s Amazon page here), and loved them both.  But I had no idea Peter was such a student of the ghost story.  The man has an encylopedic knowledge of ghost fiction and movies and our conversations on the subject were a joy to me and highly educational.  I thought I knew a lot about ghosts, but Peter Giglio, he’s the man.  And he had just written a ghost story of his own, a wonderfully unique haunted house tale called Sunfall Manor.  Better still, he let me read it and extended me the honor of writing the introduction for it.  Needless to say I was thrilled.  Sunfall Manor instantly impressed me as an Existentialist nightmare of the first order.  It wasn’t just a horror tale existing to fill up space on Amazon’s already bloated shelves, but a book that had a reason for being.  Like the character of Jake La Motta from Raging Bull, the (for most of the story) nameless ghost in Giglio’s Sunfall Manor has a gut-wrenching need to understand who he is.  So, yeah, I read the book and was truly impressed.

But it gets better still, because at the same time all this was going on, I got an invitation to read another haunted house tale coming out very soon, this one called A Requiem for Dead Flies by Peter N. Dudar.  Peter Dudar’s work was new to me, though he is certainly not new to writing.  He’s published quite a few short stories in some high-powered anthologies, which I have sought out since reading A Requiem for Dead Flies.  Agreeing to read a book by an author you don’t know is a scary proposition.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve agreed to give something a read, only to find that the author can’t write their way out of a wet paper bag.  Having to tell some eager young writer that I can’t endorse a work is tough, so tough, in fact, that I’m about ready to give up the practice of blurbing books unless the author is already known to me.  I am happy to report that I didn’t have to deliver bad news to Peter N. Dudar, though.  You see, the man can freakin’ write!  His story of two brothers returning to their family farm to try to bring the place back to life by brewing bourbon stirs up some dark family memories, which in itself is a great setup, but it is the way that Dudar developed his story that really impressed me.  He establishes two narratives, one in the past, the other in the present, and weaves them into a perfectly realized conclusion.  It was the work of a real craftsman, and I was bowled over.

And then it occurred to us: we had all written ghost stories, and in each of those stories, family and the secrets that dwell within all families were at the core.  The three of us had tapped the same creative vein, each giving that initial impulse our own distinctive twist.

So we decided to pool our efforts for a good old fashioned blog tour…but with a twist.

We started out with a three-way podcast interview, hosted by Philip Perron of Dark Discussions.  You can check out that interview here.

What follows is the second installment of our Blogging the Ghost tour.  First up is Peter N. Dudar giving us the inside scoop on A Requiem for Dead Flies.  Immediately following is a list of my favorite ghost movies of all time.  And we round off the fun with a short story by Pete Giglio.  I hope you enjoy, and I hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, September 11, over at Peter Giglio’s blog for the second installment.

September is the month of the ghost, and Peter, Pete, and myself have got the scares well in hand.  Enjoy!

Peter N. Dudar Talks About A Requiem for Dead Flies

Like most good horror novels, REQUIEM began with a bad dream.  Or a series of bad dreams I’d had somewhere around five years ago.  My wife and I were in the process of adopting our daughter from China, which was a stressful life transition in itself, and at the same time my grandmother, Marguerite Wright, was in the process of dying.  Somewhere in that time frame I had a nightmare about my grandmother in her kitchen, talking with a collection of dead flies she had scattered across her tabletop.  When she saw me walk in, she immediately snatched up the flies and shoved them in her mouth, and began to eat them (as if that would erase what I’d just witnessed).  I woke up in a cold sweat, feeling quite shaken up, and made my way down to my computer, where I typed out exactly what happened in the dream.  The scene made it into the book, although when I wrote it, I had no context as to what caused it and where it would go from there.

In another dream, I was haunted by the RCA Victor radio (which my other grandmother had owned), that would turn on and off by itself.  It played a song I’d never heard, one about “Burning that old house down”, and when I awoke I immediately typed what I’d heard in my dream word-for-word, and that also made it into the story.  More nightmares ensued, and I borrowed unapologetically from them.

I had lots of time to kill.  The adoption was taking forever.  My grandmother’s decline felt about the same.  I spent a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring and wondering if it would be good news or bad news.  It became dreadful.  My stress relief came from sitting at the computer and working out this story that was now taking shape in my head.  We had picked out the name Vivian for our daughter-to-be, and when I needed a name for the old lady in my story, I plugged in Vivian just because it was all I could think about.  And the creepier the story became, the more flack I caught for naming the real monster of the story after my child.

I love ghost stories.  To my belief, there are two schools of ghost stories; the first is that the ghost is NEVER the antagonist, but merely serves as a catalyst for some deeper, more sinister conflict (i.e. Hamlet’s ghostly dad, begging to be avenged).  The second is that the ghost IS the antagonist, and the whole conflict is locked into man vs. supernatural.  I subscribe to the former, and worked very hard to shape REQUIEM into a tale of terrible family secrets, and how far we will go to cover them up.  I restricted the supernatural elements to simply setting tone and atmosphere, and I think it lends more credibility to the story.  We know the protagonist is an unreliable character (if I’ve done my job correctly), and that he is, indeed, haunted on a psychological level.  Having the ghostly visitings and supernatural occurrences are what drive the storyline and help develop character arcs for the MacAuley brothers while they stay in the house on Battle View Farm.

And the flies…don’t they make you feel all oogey?  I think there’s a psychological component about them I hadn’t anticipated.  Miners used to bring caged canaries down into the mines with them as an early warning detection.  If the bird dropped dead, it meant that there were toxic gases about and that they should leave and find safety immediately.  There’s a windowsill just above my kitchen sink, and now and then when I’m washing the dishes, I’ll see a dead fly on the sill, and it has that same effect on me.  Am I breathing in something lethal?  Should I drop what I’m doing and get out?  Once they die, they always seem to topple over, with two or three legs poking helplessly into the air.  It’s disgusting and unnatural to see.

Seeing one is bad enough.  What if there was a collection of them?  What if they spelled something out?  Their bodies arranged into words, perhaps by invisible hands.  What would you do?   (It’s a worthy experiment.  If you have enough dead flies in your house, why not pick them up and leave a loved one a message with them?)

My grandmother lived long enough to see a photograph of our daughter, but passed away the week before we were supposed to leave for China and bring her home.  The adoption phone call came first, and filled me with gladness.  Then came the call about grandma’s passing.  The novel was put on hold as we were busy with life and with family business.  A part of which was the future of our family farm, where my grandparents had lived all their lives.  My younger brother and I had long discussions about it.  Battle View Farm is a very real place, and we both dreamed of one day living in that house.  My brother thought it would be cool to grow our own corn and distill bourbon there.  This provided the basic seed of my novel.  That “what if?” was all I needed.  As in, “What if we moved back into the house on Battle View Farm?”  And “…what if it was haunted?”

The original title for the book was THE MADNESS OF GRANDMA VIVIAN.  When we came home from China, I went back to writing the manuscript full tilt.  As I wrote, I often asked my pal, L.L. Soares for input.  The first thing he told me was, “I hate the name.  You have to change the name.”  So I changed the title to A REQUIEM FOR DUST AND BONES.  By then, I was adding subplots and subtexts to direct the story.  I’d forged the story about the miscarriage and how it impacted the rest of the events.  I also began structuring the novel into a three-act play, and named each part after a musical movement, in keeping with the concept of the requiem.  I wrote to L.L. and asked him if he liked my new title better, to which he replied, “No, that still sucks.”  I was crushed.  Like a dead fly.

When I finished the rough draft, I sent it to L.L., and he did the first round of revisions.  I got back a document file filled with red lines and marks and marginal notes to where he felt the story needed adjusting.  There were a whole lot of red marks, and I felt like I was back in high school.  I did a whole lot of learning as I combed through each correction and deleted errata.  It was painful.  When I finished that round of revision, I felt deflated and very unsure that the story was any good at all.  So I left the file on my hard drive and did nothing with it for the better part of two years.

This past January, I found myself revisiting REQUIEM.  Enough time had passed that I felt I could be objective about it again, and time gave me a fresh perspective on it.  I started reading, and was shocked at how good it was.  It needed a lot of polishing…and some minor adjustments to correct continuity and make sure all questions were answered by the final page.  I added three new chapters, and then finally felt pleased enough to call it complete.  At the time, I had made acquaintances with Bob Wilson and Mark Scioneaux, who were in the process of editing HORROR FOR GOOD with R.J. Cavender of Cutting Block Press.  They had read a story I’d submitted and loved it, but weren’t able to use it for the anthology.  Bob and Mark were also busy putting together a publishing house of their own, so I asked them if they would look at my manuscript.  They agreed, so I sent the file.  In the meantime, I was preparing a package to send to Tor Books.  They required a 10-page synopsis of the manuscript, which was a drag.  I’d never written a synopsis of my own work before.  It’s like writing a book report on your own book.  It’s freakin’ homework!  I sat down and wrote it, and put the package together to mail the next morning when I got home from work.  Bob Wilson sent my acceptance email that very night.  When I came home from work that morning, I picked up the package and tossed it into the trashcan.

I’m extremely pleased with this book.  I was able to explore a lot of my own fears in it; the fear of abusive adults, the fear of basements, the fear of death, and of course, the fear of ghosts.  After all, every single one of us will die one day, and nobody really knows where our souls roam once our bodies return to the earth.  And nobody every escapes madness unscathed.

P.N.D.

For more information on Peter N. Dudar check out his Amazon Author’s page here.

Joe McKinney’s Favorite Ghost Movies…That Aren’t The Shining

The Innocents

This 1961 black and white classic, a Jack Clayton film version of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw, is a great example of how you can scare the crap out of people with almost no special effects.  I’ve said before that Hollywood is just a bunch of kids with expensive toys, and the more toys you give them, the bigger mess they’ll make.  This is the kind of movie I hope filmmakers will return to, perhaps in some sort of reactionary way, abandoning the special effects and big bursts of scary music in favor of the far more subtle tricks of mood and tight dialogue to create terrifying pictures.

Below

Okay, this one may raise a few eyebrows.  Made in 2002, this film featured a great cast giving solid performances through and through, a claustrophobic setting, and a great murder mystery to impart some depth to the spooky occurrences.  Yet it got little or no love from audiences or critics, and is, today, largely forgotten I think.  Still, I loved this film, not only because it featured a solid ghost story, but because it takes place onboard a WWII American submarine…and here I’ll confess to a hobby of mine that I haven’t really made public.  I absolutely love submarines, especially WWII subs.  I remember reading a book called WAHOO! The War Patrols of America’s Most Successful Submarine during my early teens, and was forever hooked.  I now own a massive collection of books and movies concerning WWII subs, including some unpublished war patrol journals.  Seeing two of my great loves in the same movie sent me into ghost movie heaven!

Ringu

I think most ghost movie fans fell in love with the Asian movement that burst onto the scene with Ringu back in 1998.  What an amazing film.  Like most ghost tales, it uses a crime for its backstory, but the Kabuki theater-influenced ghost effects were something totally new for most American audiences, and I for one remember being genuinely creeped out in a way I hadn’t been since I was a kid.  This film had such an impact that it ushered in a whole flood of Asian-inspired ghost movies, from Dark Water to The Grudge and many others.   This one, though, was the source, and Hollywood is still going back to the well (Get it? Heh? Going back to the well?  Wink, wink.) for more J-Horror inspiration, as seen in the latest incarnation of Susan Hill’s wonderful Victorian-inspired haunted house tale, The Woman in Black.

The Others

Here we go again, revisiting Henry James’ Turn of the Screw.  Amazing how a book I found so incredibly boring could be adapted into so many wonderful films, but there you have it!  Plus, this one’s got Nicole Kidman, who’s pretty damn sexy, even when she’s acting bat shit crazy.  Great atmosphere, great acting, and a wonderful little twist make this film one of my all time favorites.  Plus, did I mention it’s got Nicole Kidman?  Cuz it does!

The Fog

I saw this one during my middle school years and never forgot it.  From John Houseman’s unsettling intro to the creeping terror of the fog rolling in to the pirates to the satisfying, if a little predictable, twist ending, this film hit all my buttons.  And of course it wouldn’t be a John Carpenter film without some amazingly frightening scenes, such as the scene where the corpse under the sheet sits up behind Jamie Lee Curtis to the pirate ghosts standing in waist deep fog in the church.  There was a remake to this one, but it lacked that certain eerie something that made the original so much fun.  Well worth a re-watching, if it’s been a while since you last checked this one out.

Stir of Echoes

This one was kind of a strange experience for me.  Ordinarily, I love the works of Richard Matheson, who ranks high in our pantheon of great horror writers.  But Stir of Echoes, as a book, felt lackluster to me.  It didn’t give me the willies the way some of Matheson’s other works have done.  But the movie, adapted from the novel by screenwriter David Koepp, was a first rate ghost story.  Here again we have a crime for a backstory, but the way in which the layers of that crime are revealed so impressed me that it has since become a major influence on my own writing.  Plus, I loved the bit about the orange juice!

The Changeling

Not the Angelina Jolie movie that came out a few years ago, but the George C. Scott masterpiece of low budget terror!  Yet another ghost story that uses a crime for its backstory, this one easily equals The Innocents in its ability to evoke pure terror with little or no special effects.  This one may very well be my favorite ghost story/haunted house tale of all time, and even after countless viewings, it still has the ability to make me look over my shoulder and wonder what’s going on at the top of the stairs.  Truly a masterpiece that deserves another viewing if you haven’t seen it in a while.

Peter Giglio’s “Tracking the Scent”

 

(Copyright © 2011 by Peter Giglio. Originally appeared in Big Book of New Short Horror (Pill Hill Press).)

Despite his dark actions moments earlier, Selim smiled as he slumped into the couch with Lucky, his dog and only friend. Laughing at something stupid on TV, he tossed the dog a treat. “Good boy,” he cooed.

Lacey stood in the dark hallway, staring at them. Anger boiled within, threatening to send her into a fit of rage.  But such an action, her voice of self-preservation warned, would make the night darker; would make him more violent.

There was a spasm in her stomach. Dull pain intensified, tightening into a burning knot of agony. Nauseous, she stumbled into the bathroom and threw up in the sink.

Dark blood…

Not ready to die, she thought.

Looking into the mirror, she inspected the bruise by her ear and the cut on her chin.

Payback, a voice inside cried.

Her reflection stared at her as she blocked out physical pain, thinking of ways to hurt Selim.

The solution hit her.

She splashed water on her face, spit strands of pink saliva into the bloody basin. Then she looked back at the mirror.

Her reflection was smiling.

***

Miles drained his fourth beer and gazed across the table at her. “Why do you push me away, Lace?”

“I don’t . . . mean to.” She looked down at her phone, pretended to read a text message, and hoped he would change the subject soon.

“You must see the way I look at you at work? You flirt with me, accept my invitations. But every time we go out, you seem, I don’t know . . . someplace else?”

Lacey put her phone in her purse, then, with a sigh, rested her chin in an upturned palm. “I’m not ready to trust.”

He nodded, flagging down a waitress. “What’ll you have?”

“No more for me,” she said. Hooking her purse strap on her shoulder, she met his eyes for the first time all night. “It’s getting late, and I’m feeling buzzed. I should get going.”

He stood, flashed a brief but warm smile, and gave her a hug she half-heartedly returned.

Walking to her car, she laughed. “I don’t need him,” she shouted. “I don’t need anyone.”

Fumbling in her purse for her keys, she noticed something wrong with her driver’s side door. “Christ,” she muttered. Crouching low for a closer look, she twisted the head of her keychain-flashlight, shined the beam across the damage. Four diagonal scratches, close together, ran from the mirror to the bottom of the door.

Despite the summer warmth, she felt a sudden chill. Trembling, she folded her arms and closed her eyes.

In the distance, a dog barked.

Her eyes shot open, gaze frantic.

It was late, only the middle of the week, downtown devoid of activity. Her breathing quickened, street lights closing in.

An icy hand gripped her shoulder.

Spinning around, she screamed, jabbing her car key forward.

“Ouch,” the stranger cried.

No. Not a stranger. It was Miles. “I’m so sorry.” She threw her arms around him. “Did I hurt you?” she asked, head nuzzled against his chest.

“No…uh, I’ll be all right,” he said, wincing. Gently wrapping his arms around her waist, he asked, “What happened?”

She gazed up with tears in her eyes. “I don’t want to talk about it, and I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

***

It had been three years since she’d let a man touch her—really touch her. In that time, she hadn’t longed for companionship. She was happy alone. But lying in bed, strong arms around her, she listened to him breathe and felt safe.

Drifting to sleep, she was startled by a noise. It was faint at first. Something rattling in the hallway air vent, she reasoned. Maybe a tree branch scraping the side of the house, but the noise wasn’t coming from outside.

It was coming from inside, getting louder.

Something scratched at the bedroom door.

Quaking like a frightened child, she threw covers over her head. She tried to block out the scratching sound, but it followed her beneath the blankets.

A familiar whimper—Lucky’s whimper!—made her bolt upright.

She gasped, watching water seep in under the door.

The whimpering intensified, echoing through her head. Paws quickened. The water, dark by the light of the moon, spread in all directions.

“No,” she moaned, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Rivulets split off from the growing body of water, sluicing in rapid patterns until they spelled a word on the hardwood floor.

FOUND.

Unable to breathe, Lacey leapt from bed and ran to the door, bare feet splashing through the deepening puddle. She flipped on the light.

Squinting, Miles rose on one elbow.  “What’s going on, Lacey?”

The water was gone. The scratching had stopped. Slowly, she exhaled and crumpled to the floor.

Miles was at her side. Stroking her long black hair, he whispered assurances she couldn’t make out above the din of her frazzled psyche. She felt herself lifted, then placed gently on the bed.

When she opened her eyes, she met Miles’ concerned stare.  She wanted to trust him, wanted to tell him what she’d seen, but feared he would think she was insane.

Maybe I am insane, she thought with a shudder.

“I had a bad dream.” There was a hint of shame in her voice.

His embrace tightened. “It’s okay. I’m here now.”

***

“So how are things with Miles?” Dr. Stevenson asked.

Stunned, Lacey looked away, frowning.

“Did I hit a nerve?” A long pause, then, “We slept together.”

Dr. Stevenson pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, crossing her legs. Eyes compassionate, tone soothing, she said, “That can be a very difficult step for someone who has been through what you have. Are you upset? Do you regret—”

“No,” Lacey snapped. “It’s just that…other things have started to happen. Strange things.”

“Strange?”

“Do you believe a person can be haunted?”

Dr. Stevenson nodded. “I see it all the time. Whether caused by guilt, or—”

“No. Do you believe the dead can haunt us, actually haunt us?”

“Do I believe in ghosts?”

“Yes.”

“Who do you think is haunting you, Lacey?”

“Selim…or…I don’t know.”

“Is it possible you feel guilty for taking your new relationship to an intimate level? I don’t need to remind you, what happened to Selim isn’t your fault. Suicide is—”

“I know, but—”

“You left him because he was beating you. You did the right thing. I wish more women in your situation would do what you did. Think of it this way—when he no longer had you to abuse, he turned his anger inward.”

She was quiet for a moment. Then she told Dr. Stevenson about the strange events of the previous night, leaving nothing out.

“So these occurrences didn’t start after you slept with Miles?”

“No. Well, some happened before, some after. But they started before.”

Dr. Stevenson nodded. “Interesting.”

“I wouldn’t have slept with him if I hadn’t been so vulnerable, so weak. It’s like…I don’t know…like the events pushed us together in a way.”

“Perhaps your subconscious was acting on need. You’ve told me that you like Miles, that you trust him.”

“I do. For three years, I didn’t talk to anyone, except to say hello or goodbye. Other than occasional calls from my ex-mother-in-law, each more horrifying than the last, I rarely spoke to anyone.

“Then last month, he started working in the office. I caught him staring at me, and was terrified at first, but there’s something different about him; something in his eyes.”

Dr. Stevenson flashed a bright smile, opening her hands wide. “Then this is a good thing, a step in the right direction?”

Lacey nodded.

***

Walking back to the office, Lacey’s was in a better mood. Then her cell phone vibrated against her leg. She snatched the phone from her pocket and looked at the display screen.

Iman.

She cringed at her ex-mother-in-law’s name and clutched the phone in a tightening grip, the call rolling to voicemail.

Back at her desk, she studied the blue Nokia readout. Voicemail received, the phone informed her, tempted her. Curious, she was about to listen to the message when—

“Hard at work, I see,” Tony Connolly said, straightening his tie.

Sheepishly looking up, she replied, “Hello, Mr. Connolly.”

“There’s someone new I’d like you to meet, if you’re not too busy.”

“Of course.” Standing, she tried to flatten the wrinkles in her slacks with a few frantic swipes. Forcing her smile to remain in place, she followed Connolly to Miles’ desk. But when she reached the desk, she felt a cold shiver. Miles wasn’t sitting at his desk. And his things were gone. In his place was a short, plump man.

“Lacey Christopher, I’d like you to meet Louis Dickenson.”

She shook the new guy’s hand. Then, with an expression of concern, she turned to Connolly. “What about Miles?”

“Miles?” Connolly’s smile dissolved. “Did we forget to reimburse your expense report?”

“No, he sits here, has sat here for the last month.”

“You must be mistaken. This desk has been empty for more than six months. And I don’t know a Miles who works here.”

Lacey staggered backward, smashing into the sharp edge of a cubicle wall. Pain radiated through her spine as she struggled for composure.

“Are you okay?” Louis asked, his voice a nasally whine.

Connolly reached out to her as she turned away.

She ran to her desk, grabbed her purse and phone, and dashed for the nearest exit. She collided with a man as he stepped off the elevator. “Excuse me,” she blurted, slipping past him.

“Is everything okay?” he asked, picking up his briefcase.

Repeatedly pushing the button for the main floor, she ignored the question. Mercifully, the doors started closing as Connolly reached the elevator.

“It’s an emergency,” she called out, doors snapping shut.

Breathing heavily, she winced from the pain in her back, watching digital numbers descend:  7…6…5…

The elevator stopped with a metallic clang and a jarring bob.

Heart pounding, eyes burning, she waited for the doors to open, or the car to move. “Please, please, please…”

When nothing happened, she screamed, “Help me!”

Faint scratching came from above.

She tried her cell phone. No signal.

She grabbed the handset of the emergency phone. The line was dead.

Crying and shaking, she crouched in a corner. “Help me!” she screamed again. But the only response was the screech of claws on metal.

She rushed into another corner. The elevator car bobbed again, and her stomach churned.

Florescent lights cut out with a faint buzz, leaving her in darkness.

She flipped open her cell, dimly illuminating the space around her.

Loud canine barks erupted from all sides.

She jerked back, her phone slipping from her grip.

Again in darkness, she ran her palms across the grungy floor. She found her phone, flipped it open, and turned the display screen into the gloom. Light reflected from narrow, predacious eyes: Lucky’s eyes. He growled, baring sharp teeth. Bathed in dim light, white fur looked blue. Backend high, head low, Lucky was ready to pounce.

She heard the sound of running water, felt the spray of it on her neck, face, and arms.

“Help me,” she cried.

Lucky lunged.

She fell back, water showering down, disorienting her. Front paws pressed into her chest, his rancid snout looming above her face.

“He tracked you,” Selim’s voice echoed through the small space. “He tracked your scent.”

She screamed.

Then everything went completely dark.

***

She opened her eyes and saw the hazy, upside-down outline of a police officer. Then, sight sharpening, she realized it wasn’t a cop. It was one of the building’s security guards.

“I think she had a panic attack,” someone said.

“Miss?” the security guard said.

“What?” Lacey asked. Sitting up, she felt dizzy. After a few deep breaths, relative normalcy returned.

The guard handed her a paper cup filled with water.  She drank as he shooed away a group of curious observers. He turned his attention back to her, flashing a warm smile. “Should I call someone for you?”

“No,” Lacey said. “I…I’ll be all right now. Thank you.”

She got up, grabbed her purse, and looked around for her phone.

“Looking for this?” He handed her the cell. “It was on the floor of the elevator beside you. Guess you were trying to make a call when you fainted, huh?”

“Something like that,” she muttered. She apologized for causing trouble and then fled into the bright, summer day.

A few blocks away from the office, she sat on a bus-stop bench and flipped open her phone. She accessed voicemail and listened to unheard message.

“I thought you might like to know that Selim’s beloved dog died last month.” Iman’s shrill voice cut to the quick. “That dog was never the same after Selim died; he was always so sick. When he got very sick, I took him to a doctor—a special doctor, one who works in the spirit world.”  Iman cackled. “And I took some of your things to the doctor, some of the things you left behind when you ran away from Portland, when you ran away from my Selim.

“When Lucky died, he was at peace, head resting on your sweater…tracking the scent of your foul, whorish odor. I didn’t want to call you today, but I’ve been advised by a higher authority that the circle will not be closed until I say goodbye. So goodbye, Lacey.”

Lacey went numb. She considered calling Iman, then decided she didn’t want to hear the woman’s crazy voice any more than she had to. Listlessly, she started for home.

Just short of her apartment, she stopped at The Mill, a cafe she frequented.

Staring at her reflection in a steaming cup of black coffee, her mind fell back into a dark moment.

Lucky thrashed in the bathtub, his claws raking her arms, drawing blood. Gripping the dog’s taught neck, she forced his head beneath the water. Climbing into the tub, she pinned the dog down, powerful limbs weakening as bubbles rose from his snout.

Overcome by the wretchedness of her actions, she let go.

The wet dog limped from the tub, staring up with betrayed eyes.

“I’m sorry, Lucky,” she said. 

She approached him with a towel. “It was just a bath, honey. Let me dry you off.”

But Lucky cowered in a corner.

She knew how the dog felt.

She couldn’t believe what she’d become.

Later that day, her car was packed and she was ready to leave for good. But before fleeing, she made one last effort to reconcile with the dog.

She found him in the corner of Selim’s closet, hiding behind a basket of dirty laundry, trembling. When she reached out, he growled, showing teeth.

Now, her dark reflection wept in the untouched mug.

Hands shaking, she selected Miles’ name from the contact list on her phone. She looked at the entry for a moment, five letters jumbling in her unfocused eyes.

Miles…

Selim…

How did I miss that? she thought. She had moved beyond shock, into the realm of acceptance.

She pressed SEND, put the phone to her ear.

“Hello, Lacey,” he answered.

“Hi, Selim,” she intoned.

“I know what you did.”

“I know.”

“Are you coming home now? Are you ready to pay?”

“Haven’t you done enough?”

“Yes, I have. But Lucky isn’t done with you yet.”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” she said, then snapped the phone shut.

This time, she knew she had it coming.

For more information on Peter Giglio check out his website and blog:

www.petergiglio.com

www.petergiglioauthor.blogspot.com

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3 Comments

  1. BLOGGING THE GHOST – WEEK 3 « peterndudar
  2. BLOGGING THE GHOST – Why We Write…A Holiday Haunt « peterndudar
  3. Blogging the Ghost – Redux « Old Major’s Dream

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