Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween House of Horrors Blogfest

#DailyWings: "There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery." - Joseph Conrad

This past weekend was a very special weekend for the Romantic Friday Writers, as the Halloween House of Horrors challenge took place Oct. 19 - 21. I know, I'm late. But when you've got four writing assignments due in less than a week and the flu to battle, your priorities tend to shift around. But hey -- better late than never, right? I won't be winning any awards with this piece (I wrote it in less than two hours, all the while wagging a disapproving finger at my own head for putting myself in such a time crunch), but it was still fun to write and come up with at the last minute.  

So what exactly was the challenge all about? 

RFW: "We’re looking for chilling stories of ghosts and haunted locations – and maybe even love from beyond the grave. A romantic element is essential, but we’re looking for stories with a thrilling edge of fear to add to the romantic tension building between our hero/heroine."

The maximum number of words is 1,000 but I'm afraid I went over quite a bit (it's hard to stop after you start, you know!).
 


~ ~ ~ 

The Wife's Return

Anne-Marie didn't like where she was. Everything was dark and claustrophobic. She was inside some sort of case, which was musty and smelled of carcass. Where was she? The last thing Anne-Marie remembered was pounding on the glass window of her bedroom as smoky fumes filled her lungs and flames flickered against her ankles. Before she was  engulfed in fire, Anne-Marie had caught a glimpse of her husband, Kenneth, running across the front yard with his hands waving frantically. She'd been so sure that he had gone for help...

Her arms lifted, and a gasp escaped from Anne-Marie's lips. The gasp came out strange, though. Icy, almost. Anne-Marie stared at her arms -- they were transparent, as if they weren't there except as a ripple in the air. She moved her fingers one after another, and there went five ripples. She glanced down, and realized her long, once beautiful blonde hair was also transparent, like cellophane noodles. And so was her floral dress, the one Kenneth had bought her for their anniversary months ago. The one she had been wearing the day of the fire. 

"W-What am I?" asked Anne-Marie to no one in particular. Her voice had also changed -- it was several octaves higher than it used to be. "What have I become?" 

Anne-Marie moved to the side, feeling claustrophobic, and looked at the bottom of the case.  She screamed. There, right beside Anne-Marie was her own corpse, more than half-decayed. She was in her own coffin. 
* * * 
Three weeks had passed since Anne-Marie climbed out of her grave and discovered that she'd come back as a ghost. Waking up next to her own body wasn't the only surprise. Returning to earth as a disembodied spirit had its advantages -- Anne-Marie could now walk through solid objects, walk through the air and become invisible at will. If she didn't want humans to see her, they didn't. And if she wanted to move an object or walk through it, she could. The afterlife had so much to offer. But all Anne-Marie wanted was to know about Kenneth. Was he all right? How did he escape? Did he miss her, and if so, what did he say at her funeral? 

It didn't take long for Anne-Marie to figure out where to find her husband. The day she awoke, she'd realized that her grave was located in Breyer Meadows, the cemetery just a few miles from her home. When she returned, Anne-Marie found that her house had been burned to the ground. The fire had destroyed everything -- her piano, her favorite family photographs, her china and parlor furniture. All of it was gone. 

"No," Anne-Marie whispered. "No!" That night, she filled the town with her screams, cursing the name of God and terrorizing children in their sleep. She watched from behind windows as mothers rushed to their young's beds, holding tiny heads against their chests and assuring them it was only a bad dream. Her heart hardened at the sight. Nobody was there to hold her, or tell her that everything would be okay. 

Her only consolation was that Kenneth was still alive -- he had to be -- and that he would surely reach out to her if only he knew she was here. In some form, at least. 

Anne-Marie could bear it no longer. The next day, she went into the city and floated up to the seventh floor of the investment company where Kenneth used to work, hoping that he was still there. Sure enough, just as Anne-Marie reached the glass window of Kenneth's office, she saw him. 

There he was, standing against the door in a gray pantsuit with his hands in his pockets, looking flawless as ever. There was that dark brown hair and caramel skin, long nose and curled mouth. The fire hadn't left a single burn on Kenneth, at least none that Anne-Marie could see. Her eyes drooped and she cocked her head to the side, smiling dreamily at the man who had asked for her hand. Kenneth was alive and well. And still so handsome. The sight of him was enough to make her feel almost warm again. 

Then, movement on the other side of the room, behind the curtains that blocked part of the window, caught Anne-Marie's eye. The smoothing out of a skirt. The adjustment of eyeglasses. A woman came into view: a pretty blonde woman with long legs and red lips. Anne-Marie watched as she walked toward Kenneth, her heels making a small clicking noise against the tiles, and gave him a kiss. 

Kenneth put one hand around the woman's waist and the other around her neck, and kissed her back. With overlapping lips and tongue and passion that he had never seemed to put into the kisses he'd once given Anne-Marie. They were locked in a tight embrace now, as if they were determined to put as little space between them as possible. 

Disgusted, Anne-Marie looked away. Being a ghost was living hell now, for try as she might, she just couldn't get tears to come falling down her cheeks. How could Kenneth do this? It had barely been three weeks since the fire, and here he was kissing another woman. Hadn't he missed her, or at least wondered what she would think if she saw him right now, cheating? No, he probably hadn't wondered that, and -- as much as she wanted to think of it this way -- he wasn't cheating. Everyone thought Anne-Marie was dead. 

I am dead, Anne-Marie thought, angrily. Her life as a human being was long over, but Kenneth's wasn't. He had already moved on and left her behind. I can't let that happen. I can't let him do this to me.

She waited until Ms. Long-Legs left the office, her poker face on and her hair clipped into a tight new bun as if nothing had happened behind closed doors. 

Kenneth was alone in his office now, straightening his sleeves and walking toward his desk. Now was Anne-Marie's chance. She slowly floated through the glass window and right into the room until she was hovering above Kenneth. It took him eight seconds to realize he wasn't alone, and he whipped around to find a rippling Anne-Marie by his side. He let out a sound between a yelp and a wail. 

"Darling," Anne-Marie purred, and put one icy hand on his shoulder. Kenneth jolted out of his chair. 

"Who--who are you?" he said, wide-eyed and transfixed by her lucid presence. "What are you?"

"Oh, my dear Kenny." Anne-Marie watched as he flinched at her old nickname for him. She took a leap toward him, and he took several steps back. "Kenny, don't you know who I am? I'm Anne-Marie, your true love." 

"No, that's not possible. Anne-Marie is dead," Kenneth said, shaking his head back and forth as if trying to get rid of what was right in front of him. "She died in that fire." 

He took another step back, and Anne-Marie realized he was barely a few feet away from the glass window she'd spied on him through. Her eyes darted to his temples, where beads of sweat had begun to form. She smiled sweetly. 

"I've come back for you," Anne-Marie said. "Soon, we'll be together forever and you won't leave me again. You won't have a choice, if you're just like me." 

"Just--just like you? But, no," Kenneth stammered. "You're not real. This isn't happening." 

"Oh, but it is. You made this happen, honey, when you decided to leave me behind in that terrible house." Anne-Marie's tone was suddenly icy. "Now it's your turn to know what it feels like to be left behind by your entire world." 

"No!" Just as Kenneth turned his back, Anne-Marie swooped down and pushed him with her icy fingers until his face met the glass window. 

Blood everywhere. Broken shards flying in the air. From the seventh floor down, Anne-Marie was falling, falling, falling with Kenneth. Her hand held onto his shoulder, refusing to let go. And even as the wind blew roughly against his broken and ensanguined skin, he turned his head ever so slightly and saw her face plunging forward next to his. Seconds before Kenneth's body hit the pavement, he looked at her in the eye and seemed to notice her for the first time. He uttered his last word as if it was a question, "Anne."

I will be visiting RFW House of Horrors blogfest entries during the next couple of days. Thanks to those who have already stopped by to visit! Can't wait to read and get spooked!




Wendy Lu

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14 comments:

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Wendy Lu
Saw your comment on RFW and came over. For only two hours I think you nailed the spook into the story. I guess Kenny isn't going to kiss anyone else. LOL

The flu always hits at the worse times. I'm getting a shot this year.
Nancy

PS Welcome to RFW.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Wendy,

WOW, that was a fantastic story. I can't believe you penned this in only a few hours ... WELL DONE!

Your descriptions were spot on....

Donna Hole said...

A chilling ghost story. Very spooky. I like how she came back all angry and jilted. Loved the desciptions of her movement, and waking up next to a corpse.

Good work Wendy.

.....dhole

Ann Best said...

As one of the judges, I'm glad to see that you got in under the wire. Good for you!

Ann Best said...

Well, not quite under the wire, but at least you did it! Too long as you know, but it's very well written. Just want to let you know that.

Ann Best said...

Well, not quite under the wire, and of course you know it's too long for the contest, but you did it. Just want to let you know that I think it's very well written. Donna mentions the "waking up next to a corpse." That was chilling!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Wendy. Great that you got this penned. You are a wonderful writer. Sorry to hear you've been unwell. If you can write this well in 2 hours, imagine what you could do in a much longer period.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and the menace of this jealous ghost was communicated so well. Great Halloween ghost story.
And a big thank you for writing for RFW! Glad you did something different.

Anna said...

Dear Wendy,
Nice to meet you and welcome to RFW!

What a chilling and thrilling ghost story you have written under difficult conditions.
(The flu is no fun.)
Your story has almost all of the requirements - even a romantic element.
(Too bad you did not get the word count right. But you will learn how to do that too. Go to a site called WordCalc and make counting words a thing of the past: http://www.wordcalc.com/ )

Great descriptions, interesting characters and lots of suspense until the end.

Well done.

Best wishes,
Anna
RFW No. 46 - 'Jenny Holland's Robinson Crusoe Halloween'

The Golden Eagle said...

I hope you're feeling better!

Great writing. That was definitely a suspenseful ghost story.

Yolanda Renee said...

Wendy,


Excellent story, and written in two hours, wow! Sorry you've been ill but I'll be looking forward to following your blog and reading more.
Welcome to RFW.

Great Halloween short!

Ghazala Hossain said...

I adored the way your ghost took her revenge and I must congratulate you for how you started your story.

Very visual, I was watching as I was reading :)

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi,

Hope that flu has flown by now!

Oh nice one... Chilling and fascinating all in one fell swoop... Love, jealousy and revenge and perfect for the challenge. Well done you. ;)

best
F

Debra Ann Elliott said...

Great story. I felt like I was there.

Wendy Luane Barber said...

Wow! That was cool. Yay Wendy Lu!

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