Back in December, my son, Anthony, was killing time at a job fair, waiting to interview perspective employees for his company and asked for some prompts for a creative writing project he was doing. In response to his request I sent him this prompt: “It was dark and raining when I suddenly hear a loud boom. I know it’s not thunder…”
Within an hour, he came up with part one and finally finished it recently. It needs a title. Any suggestions?? Now, sit back and enjoy this read from an extremely talented imagination!
“Another day, another deluge here in Tampa folks! Tomorrow looks to bring more of the same. Better start building that ark and counting anim..” *click* Dana switched off the television with bitter disappointment and an air of annoyance. The weatherman’s cheery attitude matched his cheap, bright suit, but not her mood.
“It’s cats and dogs outside for days, and this asshole is smiling about it.” She muttered as she peaked out of the curtains into the storming night. The rain seemed to be mad at the earth that it struck, each drop landing more ferociously than the first. She longed to see the headlights of Paul’s truck, slicing through the rain, but he wouldn’t be back for a few days, at the earliest. While the rain violently crashed down, the tears on her face fell slowly. “It’s only a few more days, Dana. Pull yourself together.”
Dana was upset that she was not able to go with Paul and their daughter, Faith, to help her relocate for her freshman year in college. No, not upset, she was fucking pissed. Sometimes work got in the way of life, but this time it was too much. Luckily, for what she lacked in family company, she made up for in bottles of wine. If she was going to be lonely, she might as well be buzzed doing it. She downed the remainder of her glass while wiping away a rogue tear and marched towards the wine cabinet to find her next companion.
As she debated the finer points of an Oregon Pinot or a bottle of five dollar Cabernet, everything went dark. “Well, fuck. This is just fucking perfect!” She directed her shout directly at the light fixture that she couldn’t see, but knew was there. She was not surprised the power went out, the thunder and lightning had been worsening for days. But damn it, she was still angry about it. Fumbling blindly in the dark for her phone, she heard a very loud and distinct “boom”. She froze, it was not thunder. The sound of thunder does not come from inside her house. The boom had a familiar ring to it; like someone hammering on a door.
She found her phone.
She turned on the phone’s flashlight.
She caught a glimpse of a wave of moisture, as if seeing a breath in cold weather. Fear trickled in slowly as she realized that it was a breath. Her own. The temperature had dropped fiercer than the rain outside. Each breath expanded in front of her, faster and faster. Tiny knocks rattled against the window behind her. She turned quickly shining the light on the window, it was almost completely frosted over and was holding steady against the hail that was now steadily bouncing against it. Goose bumps rose on the back of her neck. “What the fuck is going on?!” Her brain fought frantically to interpret what it knew was impossible. A shriek left her lips as she felt an icy breath on the back of her neck. She snared a bottle of wine to use as a weapon and ran towards the bedroom. The shot gun was in the closet. She just had to make it to the closet. The breath hit her neck with force. She attempted to turn around, to confront the source of the breath, but she was paralyzed. Her legs were frozen, and the frost was creeping up further.
The door to their bedroom splintered open and he was able to remove the chair blocking the handle. “Damn it! Dana, Dana answer me! Are you here?! Are you okay?!” Paul frantically searched their room for signs of life. He was only gone for a few days, but she had stopped answering the phone the last night of his trip. She always answered. “Dana, you in here?!” He called as he tore through the room. He hardly noticed that the house was freezing, quite literally. But he took stark attention to the temperate of the closet door. The air radiated frigidity towards him as he began to shiver. The door handle burned his hand as if he gripped dry ice without a glove. He blocked out the pain and pulled the door from its frozen frame.
The light to the closet blinked on and gave off a dull, blue light. The light twinkled brilliantly off the large block of ice in the middle of the closet. It playfully reflected off the phone and the broken bottle of Oregon Pinot frozen in side.
Part Two as written a few days after:
A chilly, singsong voice snaked slowly across the room. Worming it’s way, muffled at first, then with rising strength. Whispering through layers of space like sunlight kissing the bottom of a neglected swimming pool. Warbled, disconnected, and distant, the voice playfully pushed aside the muck and penetrates deeper.
“Dana. Daaaaana. It’s time to wake up now.”
The voice tickled the inside of Dana’s ears ever so slightly, teasing her. She stirred slightly in resistance, but the voice brought forth the warmth of the Florida sun. Welcoming her to continue her peaceful rest.
“Dana. WAKE UP!!”
The singsong voice morphed into shrillness. Words, once slow wanderers, catapulted harshly into her brain causing her to wince with pain. Dana’s eyes shot open with a bloodshot haze distorting the darkness. A blue light briefly washed the room with energy and in that moment, instant dread broke through the haze. This was not her house, and she was not alone.
Her mind struggled to process through her groggy state of affairs. Slowly, she attempted to assemble her memory of the evening. The haziness, she knew, was not from the wine. Judging by the way her tongue clung to the roof of her mouth like sandpaper, it had been hours without a drink. Of anything. She took a deep cool breath of damp, musty air and felt it soothe the cracks that crept down the back of her throat. That will have to do. To her frustration, her memory would not cooperate. Trying to remember what had transpired was as trying to complete a Jackson Pollock puzzle without all the pieces, or worse…too many.
Her head pounded incessantly with a dehydrated ache. If only she could rub her temple, she could make it go away. Breaking through the haze even further provided another piece to the puzzle. Her wrists and ankles were warm and sticky. In the flash of blue she saw that her hands and ankles were bound to a chair. The ropes sliced their way through her pale, almost luminescent, skin. Blood escaped from its cage turning the ropes red, not from fighting the restraints, but from the ferocity of which they were tied.
“Dana, I said to wake up….”
The voice frolicked playfully on the pools of blood that grew ever larger below her feet. It climbed tentatively up her leg, carefully avoiding the streams of sticky red that made their way downward to join the pools. Each of its eight legs touched her skin one at a time, then all together. Its eight eyes blinked in unison as it crested her knees, its stare locked directly onto hers. The piece eluded her, she could hear the voice but she could also see it as well. The voice’s breath was cold on her skin as it marched slowly up her thigh, each step coming faster and more hellish than the last. Eight legs marching in unison up her stomach. Eight legs savagely storming onto her breasts while eight eyes held her gaze. By the time the voice reached her shoulder, its cool breath raised bumps on her neck. And as it creeped into her ear, the legs knocked rapidly like tiny pellets on metal. No, like hail on glass. Another piece of the puzzle. The shrillness of the voice as it settled inside her ear caused her insides to jump violently.
“Dana. I said wake up. So fucking. Wake. The. Fuck. Up.”
The blue flashed again, and in front of her sat a Victorian mirror. The ornate iron circle cuddled a finely polished glass that seemed to hold the blue captive, giving off an other worldly glow. Still reeling internally, her world tilted externally in kind. Her chair reached forward as the room titled while the wall opposite of where she sat slowly started becoming the floor. The chair teetered precariously as her floor became the wall. She barely had time to wonder how this was possible when the legs of the chair slipped in the pools of blood. Gravity disappeared momentarily as she hovered over the mirror in her chair by her restraints. Blood dripped onto the mirror, and then tendrils dripped into it. Red streams burrowing their way deeper into the mirror, mixing with the blue light that encompassed its soul. The ropes that kept her in the chair started to slowly untie, releasing her a half inch at a time from the floating prison.
As she fell into the mirror, she expected to feel the sensation of glass breaking and meeting her skin, but instead she was surrounded by red and blue. The brilliant, deep violet it created was blinding. As she fell further into the mirror, she could hear the singsong voice once more.
“Dana, I did tell you to wake up.”
“Anthony, you’re fine baby, don’t worry.” Dana was barely able to mutter the words as her son suffered from another asthma attack. She had to stay calm and show resolve, her worrying would only make things worse for him. She stroked his hair and rocked gently as he struggled to breath, fearing that each gasp would be his last. His chest heaved as if drowning, but there was no water to be seen. Just the red and blue faced child in her arms, hoping for another breath.
Finally, the breathing machine kicked on and the lifeline of medicine vaporized, making its way through the tubes to his breathing mask. “Boo Bear, you’re fine. Pretend you’re a fighter pilot, or Superman, flying through the clouds on their way to save somebody. The asthma, that’s you’re super power.”
Her son, all of six or seven years old, looked at her with full belief. She could see in his eyes that he was flying through the clouds, saving the world, one breathing treatment at a time. As his breathing began to even out, she said a small prayer of thanks and wiped her tears away before he noticed.
Streams of purple fell silently around her as she plummeted slowly through the mirror. As she proceeded through her descent the thought to scream never entered her mind, not for one second. Her eyes scanned the area as she fell, slowly, she began to wonder if she was even falling at all. Her surroundings, while dark, reflected the purple light off of unseen resistance. A tendril of purple shot past her far into the distance, and she could swear that the exact same tendril of purple rocketed back the opposite direction just moments later.
She met the cool glass with a resounding thud. Darkness gave way to a faint purple glow that reflected off her luminescent skin and back off into the inky blackness beyond the purple’s reflection. Luckily, her wounds had stopped bleeding and started to heal quicker than she imagined possible. As each separation of skin patched over, she noticed the purple light faded subtlety. As each of the flowing tendrils disappeared into the glass below her, another puzzle piece connected perfectly. The previous night’s events, well,…what she assumed was the previous night, started to fall into place morbidly. The rain, longing for Paul, mad at work, mad at the power, loving the wine…the breath.
A shiver went down Dana’s spine as she recalled the breath that caressed her as she was staring at the frozen window that should not have been frozen. Goose bumps popped up on her shoulders, unprompted, and crept their way up to the base of her skull. Shotgun. Closet. Oregon Pinot. Her mind flooded with a mass of incapacitating thoughts. Tears spouted out of her eyes and froze in place, slowly sinking into the base of the mirror, being absorbed.
“Son, if you need to talk, I am here.” Normally stoic, her tears flowed freely for her son. She had seen his heart broken before, but not like this. No…not like this. She cursed the world for her not being able to be there to hold him, to offer the comfort that only she could offer. She listened to his sobs; she noted that they came uncontrollably. Consoling was not an option, but repairing a heart that was being torn apart was. It was her job – she could do it. “Son, talk to me.”
He didn’t. He just cried, unrelentingly, made an excuse and disconnected the conversation.
“Mom, wake up…please, just wake up.”
The voice returning was not a surprise; the floor turning into a reflective quicksand was another story. She sank as she heard the voice, which had somehow managed to sound very much like her son, tell her to wake up. From soft tones, to dangerous cursing overtures, the voice mocked her. She was a wake, and sinking further into the mirror.
“Stop telling me to fucking wake up and toss me a fucking rope!” She shouted as the mirror sand had reached her waist. If the voice was going to mock her, she would demand that it gave her assistance as well. “Well?! Where the fuck is my rope?!”
Silence thundered off of the mirror sand, which had enveloped her chest. She began to wonder if the voice had abandoned her. She thought of the last conversation she had had with her son. She could sense that he was still not himself. It had been years and he was still fraught with pain, quite possibly sinking himself. She worried that each phone call or text would be the last between the two. She sank further; mirror sand topped her shoulders as she continued her downward descent. She just managed to work an arm out of the downward spiral she was in and sucked in one last breath.
“GIVE ME MY ROPE!” She screamed just before her head was completely enveloped in the sand of red, blue, and tears, disappearing into a shimmering purple reflection.
The voice, still her son’s, seemed to slightly crack. It seemed to be a fight between disappointment and hope in a battle for supremacy.
“She is waking up…” trailed the voice, echoing slowly out of existence.
The mirror sand barely rippled as it swallowed her, with only her hand remaining in the air.
It rippled even less when an object plopped directly to the left the hopeful hand.
The hand grasped what it knew was a rope, and pulled.
Paul had never believed in the supernatural, not once in his life. His experiences in catholic school and the Army lead him to believe one thing; you can only trust what you see because there is no such thing as faith. His instincts had lead him a long way in life, and they had kept him alive through many fires with the Irving Fire Department and through many a firefight in Afghanistan. He found most problems could be solved through dousing something with a lot of water, or lead. Logic and reason is what makes sense in his world. Not ghosts, Holy or otherwise.
“It still doesn’t make any sense to me. Why the ice, how…is she…s-she okay?” Paul stared in disbelief into the closet, shivering. The house was well below freezing despite the temperature outside being an ideal 80 degrees. He felt like he was inside of a snow globe, frozen in time while he was shaken about unmercifully. “Anthony, why is she in the ice?”
“Paul, man, I’ve told you. She is fine. She is fighting for her life, but she is fine in the ice. From what I’ve researched, it is supposed to keep her safe.”
Paul tried to focus on Anthony’s voice as he explained what happened, but the whole situation just did not make sense. Anthony went on about how he had heard that their house was haunted; the malevolent spirit that resided in the house preyed on distraught women. The spirit broke them down from the inside, torturing them mentally while feeding off their life force. Paul believed Anthony, but this shit just did not make sense to him.
“Anthony, how are you here?” he stared at the floor as he asked the question. He noticed that Dana’s footsteps towards the closet were frozen in the carpet. Her short legs had made long strides to escape the evil spirit. She obviously had no idea what was coming for her, or she would have ran out of the house and not towards the shotgun. Paul was proud of her for making it that far. “Why…how did you know to come here?”
“She’s my mom, Paul. I came as soon as I found out what was happening.” The disappointment in Anthony’s voice hung thickly on the air. Paul knew that Anthony was too slow in coming to his mother’s aid, just as he was himself. Neither of them vocalized that fact, but they both knew the truth of it. “I did what I could to help her, to give her a chance, Paul. You have to believe me. I just…I’m sorry, man. I’m so, so sorry.”
“I don’t know how any of this is possible Anthony, but I trust you. God dammit, just help me bring her home.”
Anthony nodded in silence, but Paul did not notice…let alone see him. All he could focus on was the block of ice containing his wife, and how the hell she was supposed to get out of it.
Dana continued her assent, one hand grasping further into the air after another. Sand cascaded off her glowing body, hurtling back towards the depths. Shouting echoed around her as she climbed, the voice arguing with itself. The shrillness of the voice intertwined with that of her son’s, as if fighting a battle against itself.
“How did you come here, why now?!” the shrillness shrieked violently. Dana could hear boom after boom ahead of her as if two titans battled for souls in the room she was steadily rising towards. “You are NOT supposed to be here, when she wakes up SHE IS MINE!”
“Do not concern yourself with how I am here,” her son’s voice echoed out once again. The familiarity of it made it sound almost as if it were, in fact, him. She shook her head, it was not possible. “The why, is what should be concerning. She is not yours, and you will not have her.”
A chill ran through out Dana as the shrillness shrieked, as it was a shriek of hatred and pain. Most of all, it was a shriek of fear. She could not understand why the voice argued against itself, but she was happy that it was distracted as she made her escape from the mirror.
“I will kill you!”
Dana strained her ears to try to grasp what was happening above, but all she was greeted with was silence.
Dana reached the oval opening from which the rope hung and gripped the iron edges of the mirror. To her surprise, the room that she climbed into was not the one that she had fallen.
Carefully, she pealed herself from the cool, smooth glass and settled onto the floor. The mirror was the same ornate iron mirror that she fell through, but the chair and the ropes had vanished. Darkness no longer enveloped the room, which was now a blinding white and blue. Light glittered off two items floating in the room, suspended in place…her cell phone, and a broken bottle of Oregon Pinot.
“What the fuck…” she whispered, her breath quite visible in front of her. “What the fuck…ANTHONY! Son, where are you?!” She was convinced now that it was in fact her son’s voice she was hearing, and he had to be close.
She noticed the walls were frozen, and not quite opaque. She stared intently at the wall, willing herself to see through it. Clothes, shoes…shotgun…Paul. She saw Paul sitting on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands, crying.
“Paul..PAUL!!! Paul, I’m here!” she screamed wile banging on the wall. She saw him raise his head and look in her direction as if he had heard her plea, but he shook it while whispering something to himself returning his head to his hands. “DAMN IT, IT PAUL. I AM HERE!!!”
“Yes, Dana, you are here. Finally.” The shrillness had transformed back to the singsong voice that had first teased her. “I am happy that you’re finally awake.”
She was able to see the voice once more. It had abandoned its spider form, thankfully. Mist had taken the form of a towering figure. The figure glided towards her, staring holes into her soul with two black, dead eyes that seemed to seep smoke.
“PAUL, PLEASE!!!” she screamed, as the figure loomed closer. Beating on the wall with all her might, she thought she felt it crack, just a millimeter. She continued to beat. The figure continued its slow move towards her. “Paul…Paul….”
She felt a breath on the back of her neck. An icy, heavy breath. Her neck froze with each of the excited, haggard breaths. Turning, she confronted the figure head on. A ghastly face had formed around the eyes, which she could not look directly into, and a smile formed on its long, thin lips.
“I thought I had lost you. He tried to steal you from me and wake you up himself. No, that would just not do.” the shrillness singsonged to her. His mouth did not move, but words escaped it nevertheless. Just the grin, slowly widening, impossibly so. “I enjoy this much more when they are awake.”
The figure’s mouth opened slowly, revealing row after row of glowing, razor sharp teeth. The mouth soon had opened wide enough to encompass the entirety of the figure’s face. Admitting a low, pleasurable growl, it leaned closer to Dana.
She was frozen, this time with fear. She searched the room for an escape, desperately searching for a door or window to flee through. There were none. Just the mirror, her phone, and a broken bottle of wine.
“I love you, Paul.” She said towards the transparent wall. She longed to feel his embrace one last time. She did not know what the monster that was upon her was, but she knew it would be the end of her.
The monster stopped, looking confused and slightly concerned.
The concern turned into fear as the smile faded back into a thin-lipped grimace.
The glass in the mirror shattered in a violent explosion of blue, white, and violet sending shards of frozen sand flying across the room.
Dana shielded her face from the blast and felt her skin scratched in the sand storm. The shrillness had returned, shrieking…matching the sound of her own scream. Once again, she thought that she had heard the faintest “crack” from the wall.
“Mom, run!” Anthony shouted as he hovered over the mirror. “RUN NOW!”
Dana did not question how Anthony had arrived, she did not question where she was supposed to run in this small room with no doors, she just ran. The room seemed to expand around her as she ran; unable to reach the opposite wall, but still putting distance between her son and the figure.
“H-how did you escape?!” cried the shrillness towards her son. The figure grew greatly in stature, its arms formed into medieval weapons of destruction. As the shrillness grew, so did its confidence. “It matters not, boy. I will destroy you.”
“No.” Anthony whispered as he rose higher over the mirror, the ceiling raising with him. With a bolt, he flew directly at the figure, brandishing a flaming sword that appeared out of the frost that surrounded him.
The figure anticipated this move, raising his arm and twisting it dangerously causing a morning star to appear swinging towards Anthony. At the last moment Anthony diverted his path sharply, barely dodging the morning star as, slashing the figure’s leg with flame.
Mist sizzled as the flame swept through the figure, causing it to cry out in pain. It quickly flung a spear of ice in Anthony’s direction in a fit of rage. Unable to dodge, the spear caught Anthony just above the shoulder, causing him to crash heavily against the wall.
Dana noticed another, distant cracking sound. She also noticed the figure stalked closer to Anthony, who was struggling to remove the ice spear from his shoulder. He frantically pulled at the spear with both hands, slipping on the ice, the spear not budging. She ran. No, she flew towards the figure that was standing over her son.
The shrillness leaned in closely to Anthony as it hovered over him. “Now, boy, you WILL die.”
The growling whisper reverberated through the room, brushing Dana backward as she flew closer. Anthony looked at his mother and gave her a silent nod of love and acknowledgement. She could see that he felt that he had accomplished the mission that he had come to do.
The figure raised its morning star and brought it down with a crushing blow. At the same moment, Anthony pulled the figure tightly to him, running the figure through with its own ice spear. Dana wisped closer, leaning to pick up her son’s sword. The shrillness raised its head, howling out in pain. Anthony did not make a sound, nor did he move.
With a sudden and violent swing, Dana took the figure’s head off with nothing but sizzling mist left in its place.
“Anthony, son, are you okay?! I love you, son, so much!” As she landed next to him she could tell that he was not.
Dana’s scream reverberated throughout space and time, cracking both completely.
Paul was blown backwards by the explosion. Ice and clothes flew throughout the room, and he swore he saw a phone fly past him as well. He quickly composed himself and started towards the closet. Dana, his bride, knelt in the closet crying. He scrambled across the debris towards his wife and pulled her into his chest. She was crying, and freezing.
“Dana, baby, you’re here now, you’re safe.” Paul was barely able to say the words through his sobs of joy. “I’m never leaving you again.”
“Paul, where is Anthony? He was injured saving me … we need to go back and help him.” She said quickly, with determination and fear. She had to save her son, as he had just done for her.
Paul held her closely, attempting to warm her frozen soul. He wished that he could go and help her son. To save him, to thank him for helping her come back. But he couldn’t.
“Dana, baby…” Paul whispered, unable to control his emotions. The truth of his words seared through him, knowing the pain they would bring. “Anthony has been dead for years.”
© Anthony Martinez, 2016