While vacation in Maine I wrote two of this years' stories and just finished the third last night.
I emailed the first story to Kelly from Maine with a warning not to read it at night when she was home alone. She has not read it, and probably won't because she has always been apprehensive about being alone, and especially alone in this house where she ahs always sensed a presence in the kitchen/dining room/living room/hallway area. She and I have both seen phantom cats and possibly a small dog in this area. I was once in the bathroom and saw my cat Hyper walk past the bathroom doorway heading toward the master bedroom. It was so real I left the bathroom and went to the bedroom doorway fully expecting to see her curled up on the bed looking back at me as she prepared for a cat nap. There was no cat there of course. Hyper had been dead for several years by then...but still, it had looked and felt so real. Kelly and I have seen our late black cat with the big black plume of a tail. He was very protective of his home, so maybe he still patrols the house and we catch glimpses of him as he slips in and out through gaps in the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead. Kelly used to talk in her room at night and laugh when she was a toddler. I'd ask her in the morning who she had been talking to and she told me "Uncle Pete." Kelly was born in 1991. My Uncle Pete had died in 1978 or 1979. By the time she was born no one ever really mentioned him anymore- so how my little girl knew his name, and that he always wore a dress shirt to dinner and when visiting us when I was growing up, I have no idea. There were never any family pictures of him around. She also saw my grandfather, her big grandpa, a year or so after he had passed away. My mother's spirit has visited our house several times since her passing in 2000.
So, being a mother and daughter attuned to the spirit world, she does not want to read this chilling little story about a young writer living alone in a house she's inherited from a relative. The house is on a spit of land jutting out into the sea. She is writing one evening during an Indian summer when she hears what sounds like a child's ball bouncing down the staircase from the second floor. She goes to investigate, expecting to find the ball in the downstairs hall. There is nothing there. She looks up the staircase, hears a childlike giggle, perceives a shadow darting to one side and starts to mount the stairs to investigate when a mysterious man who claims to be a neighbor appears at the screen door. Apparently he's been sitting on her front porch watching the sunset- for whatever reason, he never really says. He says he was a friend of her great-aunt's, that they walked on the beach together. She tells him she heard a child and thinks one of the neighborhood children is hiding upstairs. He volunteers to go up and search for the child, so she lets him in. Meanwhile, she goes to the back of the house to check to make sure the back door is secure. She hears him walking around above her head. By the time she returns to the front of the house and calls up to him there is no response. She goes upstairs and she cannot find anyone at all. She thinks he's simply left. She secures the house and goes to bed....and then....well, you know how it ends.
I doubt Kelly will ever read this one.
Story two is set at a college much like Cemetery Crawl was last year. Four girls sharing a senior apartment suite invited four young men who share another suite on the same floor to dinner. They have all been friends since freshman orientation. There have been several gruesome murders on campus during their senior year. Young women are being attacked, their throats slit and their long hair cut off. They're all walking in groups to and from classes. No one goes out without a buddy. It has become a way of life for them but still they are all apprehensive and wondering who the murderer could be.
Within a few days two of them will be dead.
The third story takes place on a farm that has been in the same family since the 1730's when the first James settled there and began farming. Fifteen-year old Radley James is the last in the James line. She was brought to the farm by her father at age seven after the death of her mother. Radley has lived there for eight years and sometimes has difficulty sleeping. She lives with her great-grandparents who are getting on in age.
One night she is sitting at the window. The moon is full. She is watching for wild animals and daydreaming a little, thinking about various things. The breeze is fluttering her white curtains and the corn in the field, and the scarecrow on his tall pole amid the cornstalks. She names the scarecrow Prince Cyrus and makes up a fantasy about him being a prince under an enchantment by a wicked witch. The kiss of a princess would restore him to human form.
The breeze shifts the scarecrow side to side, and then suddenly he drops off the pole. A short time later she sees a flickering orange light amid the cornstalks, and notices it is drawing nearer to the yard. She thinks it's neighbor boys hunting rabbits in the field- but it's not. It's the scarecrow and he's coming for her. He has a mission. His mission is to see that the James line continues, and Radley is the one who must bear the James heir.
When the accomplishment of this goal is chillingly completed in the cornfield Radley staggers back to the house where she finds her great-grandmother waiting with an explanation of why tis has happened to her.
This is probably one of the most disturbing stories I've written as it involves a supernatural being raping a fifteen-year old girl and impregnating her after placing her under an enchantment. The great-grandmother is very matter-of-fact about the whole thing.
This walk on the dark side is definitely darker than in years past.