Rest In…

Jordan Drew and Elysabeth Williams decided to put their heads together for this last 13 Stories ‘Til Halloween post and write something together. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

This wasn’t right. Something had gone horribly wrong and he didn’t know how to rectify the situation. Was this truly all there was? When he’d signed on the dotted line, he hadn’t known he was promising mind, body, and soul. In it for the long haul was one thing… but this… this was nothing short of hell on earth.

His girlfriend stood in front of him, more well put together than she’d been the last time he’d seen her. Her lips were lined with blood red, contrasting nicely with her stark white teeth. A single tear fell down her cheek. He longed to reach out and wipe it away, but could not. He recalled the skin being torn from his fingertips. They’d touch nothing.

“I miss you so much already, Toby,” she said, stepping aside to make room for his brother.

Wait. Charlotte… I made a terrible mistake!

“You care if I play your video games?” he asked, not looking Toby in the eyes.

Are you bloody kidding me? You have the audacity to stand there, in front of me, like this, and ask me about freakin’ video games?!

His mother’s face slid between Charlotte and Henry. He felt instant relief. His mother was always available for some sort of comfort, be it a warm smile, or a loving hug. He braced himself for the love of a mother to her child. “I can’t believe you did this!” was what he heard instead. “It’s an affront to all that is holy. I reared you better than this, Tobias. I taught you better!”

Mama! Come on! Please don’t do this to me! I didn’t know! I swear to God if I’d known, I never would have…

“Millie,” his father’s silky smooth voice sounded out loud and clear. It was the voice of a storyteller – deep, Southern, soothing. His mother looked behind her as his father patted her shoulder. Henry and Charlotte both stepped back, away from Toby’s sight.

Dad! Tell her, man. Tell her to pray for me! Tell her not to give up on me!

“It’s what he wanted, Millie. You saw the paper he signed. It was his decision to donate his body to science. How were we supposed to know this was what he meant?” His dad threw his hand up toward him, as if his mom couldn’t see. She didn’t want to, it was obvious. She covered her face. Toby tried to look down but couldn’t stand to see himself – insides out. “You can’t stay angry with him forever. Forgive and forget, that’s what I say… even if he does look like he took one too many dips in the hot tub.”

“Dad!” Henry said, hiding his smile with his hand. It was still there in his eyes though, and Toby wished he could punch Henry one last time.

His father chuckled, tilting his head to look closer at Toby. He shrugged and turned away, placing a comforting arm around Toby’s mom. “Come on, Millie. It’s time to say goodbye. Every time he comes into town, you drag all of us out here, and I’m not sure it’s good for you to see him this way. It’s not exactly how he’d like to be remembered by us, I’m sure.

Don’t leave me here! Please! I made a mistake, Dad, and I need your help… or Mama’s prayers. Something! Anything, just please God don’t leave me here like this! I can’t stand eternity stuck in here.

Millie sighed, dabbing the corner of her eye with the monogrammed handkerchief she pulled from inside her shirtsleeve. “I know you’re right, George.” She leaned in; close enough that Toby could smell her floral perfume. “It’s just that he shouldn’t have done it. I told him not to. I told him this was a monstrosity, and look at him, sitting on a block like Rodin’s Thinker, paraded about like that for the world to see. It’s not natural, George, it’s just not.”

Mom… please. Help me!

He watched as his family – the people he loved more than anything in the world – walked away from him. He’d see them again, and again he’d try to get them to hear him, but of course they wouldn’t. They never did.

Souls were supposed to go to heaven or hell… not be stuck as an attraction in a mobile museum where people came to gawk and point at the subjects insides… or maybe they were. Maybe this was hell. Either way, he was pretty sure someone made a mistake, be it God, for forgetting all about him, or himself, for signing the piece of paper donating his body to the most disturbing exhibit he’d ever seen in his life.

“How can I not, Mom? This cancer is gonna kill me anyway, what difference does it make what happens to my body after I die?” he remembered telling his mother the day the sign-up paper came in. He proudly showed her the paper. “It’s not like I’m gonna be here anyway… right?”

Sunday Service

Imogene’s white eyelet lace Sunday dress billowed with the wind. She tried to hold it down so her behind wouldn’t show. She should have listened to her mama about wearing bloomers. Her little knees knocked together, goose-bumped with the cold gust. Little lace lined socks were smattered with dirt around the ankles of her black patent leather mary-jane shoes. Imogene was sad she got her outfit dirty. She tried so hard to be good. It had been a good Sunday until the service.

She scratched her knee and turned around to face the worship hall door. It was hard being a good girl for her mama. Some days were easier than others. Today wasn’t any different. She turned away, and skipped to her mama’s car – a beat up Cadillac, and opened the door. Seeing her treasure, she picked up the battered board book of “Goodnight Moon” and skipped back to the building. With a smile, she walked up the stairs, wrapping her bare arms around herself for warmth.

The door opened with a creak as she turned the knob, and she stepped into the heated building. Softly glowing colored lights cast rainbows on the beige tile, crying down from the old plates of the stained glass windows. Imogene always loved these colors, as they reminded her of the rainbows after a good summer thunderstorm.

Remembering her duty, Imogene tiptoed through the worship hall to the front of the room. She climbed the red-carpeted stairs to the pulpit and turned to face the parishioners.

With a weak smile, she opened the book on the pedestal to the first page.

The faces glared back at her. Mouths anchored shut by their belts or duct tape crossed through their teeth were good. They couldn’t interrupt her. Muffled moans and tear stained cheeks reflected to Imogene’s eyes. A hundred people sat, finally silent to listen to her story. She always wanted to stand here and read her favorite book. Nevertheless, no one listened. It had made her very angry. Very angry indeed. She hadn’t wanted to make them be quiet, but sometimes people had to be reminded to listen and not speak. Be seen and not heard. Wasn’t that what Mama had told her so many times before?

She frowned as she felt warmth on her toes, and looked down. The preacher’s glassy eyes stared up at her in fixed horror as the blood rushed from the back of his skull onto her shiny black shoe, and her previously white lace anklet sock was now bright red.

Imogene ‘tsk’d and took a step to the side. Mama would be so disappointed. With a quick thought of her mother, the little girl looked to the front pew and smiled warmly. A disfigured female corpse was propped up on the end, her face bloated and mottled in death some time ago.

“Sorry, Mama. I got red on my sock,” Imogene spoke, her twenty six year old voice warbled out, in what seemed to be a six year olds’ mentality.

Cries sounded out in the worship hall, drawing Imogene’s attention back to her task.

She cleared her throat and glanced down to the board book. Muffled cries sounded from the pews distracted her and she put her finger to her lips.

“Shhhh… I don’t want to waste anymore time.”

She put her finger under a word on the book page to mark her place, and began reading.

“In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red balloon…”

Saying Goodbye

“That’s all?” He wasn’t sure what else to say to the ancient, wiry haired woman standing behind the counter.

She smiled a crooked grin and nodded. “That’s all Mr. McIntyre. If you do exactly as I say, she’ll appear, and you may say your goodbyes.”

“Midnight?”

“Yes. Not a minute later or the window will be closed, and Mr. McIntyre… a little faith, would be wise.”

He nodded, thanking the black eyed woman for her time before slowly walking out of the shop. It was six months after he’d laid his wife of only two months to rest. Six months after the accident that took her away from him before he was able to say goodbye.

This kind of stuff was not his thing. He didn’t believe in it, and he didn’t want to, but his roommate was adamant he try something. He’d already shot down a séance, a Spirit board, and therapy… though he’d wondered over the last couple of weeks if maybe his roommate wasn’t in need of some of the latter. This was a little overboard, but Charlie swore up and down he’d let it go if Warren tried it, so he acquiesced, and if it did work… if he got the chance to tell her he loved her one last time, well then maybe he could let her go once and for all.

That night, the moon was full and cast an eerie glow across the cemetery. He found Lori’s grave with ease and set out the piece of blessed fabric, placing it on top of her headstone that read “Lori McIntyre – Beautiful person, beautiful soul”. Warren then placed the candle on top of the fabric and checked his watch. 11:52. Three clicks of his lighter lit the wick, and he closed his eyes, gripping the candle tightly. Eight minutes to set everything up exactly the way he was told. Lighting the candle exactly five minutes before midnight, he knelt in front of the grave, whispering the small chant in repetition thirteen times. As the clock on the county courthouse struck midnight, he closed his eyes. If this was really going to happen, this was the time. His chest constricted, and his heart began to race as he opened his eyes and looked around. Breathing… blinking… if he did those things, he might miss her, miss the opportunity to say the words he’d needed to say.

He listened for any noise around him that might not belong, but there was nothing. A light breeze rustled through the trees, an occasional frog called out to the crickets singing in the darkness, but there was no Lori, not a hint of her voice in the air. He gasped for breath and his shoulders sunk a little lower. He’d been a moron for agreeing to even try this. You can’t commune with the dead, not even to tell them you loved them more than life itself. Once a person was gone, that was it. There were no goodbyes and no second chances to say the things he should’ve said to her when he could have.

He stood up, disappointed in himself. “I love you babe,” he said before walking away. “I miss the hell out of you.”

The candle flickered, but Warren was no longer paying attention. He was too busy reprimanding himself in his head for going along with this lunacy. He didn’t see her, and he didn’t hear her.

“Believe,” she whispered, standing behind her grave, just before she faded away. “All you had to do was believe.”

Home Again

Dallas noted his mother’s ability to create their modest house into the most cheerful and warm home with ease as he walked up the leaf-covered driveway. The windows were alight with a soft glow from lanterns through gauzy off-white curtains. A stuffed nylon devil swung silently from the hook on the porch, its smile infectious in mirth. He grinned along as he scanned the yard. The wrecked witch stapled to the sweet gum tree made him chuckle, and a plastic skeleton abruptly shivered and “woooo’d” at him as he passed by. He had no doubt his mom was the quintessential southern woman – complete with perfect poise and grace, mixed in with a hellion’s sense of humor. She took much pride in celebrating every holiday with gusto, up to and including Halloween, even though the local fanatic church tended to frown on her antics. Such was life in a small southern town.

Dallas continued up the long winding drive toward the porch. The jack-o-lantern was already lit, since it was 5pm and dark would be coming soon. He glanced around once more, seeing a hand stuck out of the ground, its fingernails dirty from the dirt. A new addition, no doubt. A little morbid for his mom, but it didn’t concern him. She probably found it at the nearby Big Lots for a quarter or something. His mom loved a good bargain.

Approaching the wood screen door that was the only thing between him and the house he banged on the frame. “Mama, it’s me. Can I come in?”

“Yeah, come on, son,” the sweet soprano voice inside responded. “The pie is cooling off. You want some coffee?”

“Love some,” he said, opening up the door and walking through the foyer. Little, dusty, tissue ghosts hung from the ceiling, a Frankenstein face glared at him cross-eyed from the wall. He remembered all the décor from his childhood, packed in a special box that was unearthed the 29th of every September. They’d spend days putting these decorations up in the most perfect spots. He entered the kitchen where his mother stood, pouring coffee from the old percolator. Dallas kissed her on her perfectly curled and coifed hairdo and she scoffed.

“Just got my hair set yesterday. Don’t be messing it up. Betty would have a fit if I came in twice in one week.”

Betty was the ancient hairdresser down at the local salon, the Blue Hair Brigade. It was an apt name, since the age requirement seemed to be around 80. His mom was one of the youngest at the young age of 72 . They called her ‘youngin’ affectionately.

“How’s Miss Betty doing, anyway?” Dallas sat down at the sea-foam green Formica table. His mom handed him a chipped plate with a perfect slice of pumpkin pie atop it, and steaming cup of coffee that tickled his nose when he breathed it in.

“Oh you know. Ford’s been a brute since his hip replacement. Been givin’ her fits since he came home. Meaner’n a snake, mostly. Old bastard can’t shut his mouth to save his life and just leave people be.” Ford was Betty’s husband of several decades. He was a retired Marine, a World War II vet who still barked like a drill sergeant, wore his hair in a crew cut, and loved to bully the local kids – or anyone who dared cross his path. Generally harmless, he tended to get on people’s nerves with constant ‘back-in-my-day-‘s and his ability to Know All. He and Betty loved each other dearly, but Dallas knew they came from another time and place where divorce was unheard of and people married for better or worse, no matter how much worse was involved.

“I’m surprised that old coot is still alive,” Dallas said, sinking his fork into the warm pie and taking a bite. It was heaven baked in an aluminum tin.

“He’s been living on fear and spite, I believe,” she giggled and winked at him. Dallas nodded and laughed with her. “But something tells me he’ll get his come-uppings soon.” He smiled at that, but something hung in the air he wasn’t really sure of.

He listened as she prattled on about the local gossip; who’s been seeing whom, who died, who was born, what’s been torn down and rebuild as a new Piggly Wiggly. Dallas nodded at all the appropriate times as he listened and ate his pie. She talked about the upcoming holiday, now only 3 days away, and how she was prepped and ready for the local trick-or-treaters.

“That reminds me,” Dallas said, pointing his fork in her direction. “What’s up with the hand in the yard?”

“Oh he’s an old friend,” she said, taking his plate away. He stabbed the last bite of crust off before she walked away to put it in the sink.

“I don’t recall that one though. I guess you bought it while I was away?”

“Probably,” she dismissed and turned on the faucet and snapped on her yellow rubber gloves. Dallas knew she prided herself on lovely hands, and refused to succumb to the ever-dreaded dish-pan-hands – or the lure of a shiny new-fangled dishwasher.

Dallas considered dropping the subject while he watched his mom scrub the plate with vigor but something made him wonder.

“I’m going out for a smoke,” he said, pushing the metal framed chair across the linoleum away from the table.

“You really should give that mess up, Dal. Stuff will kill you,” she pointed her foamy brush at him as he kissed her on the head on the way by.

“I know it. I’ll quit next week,” he promised, pulling his pack of cigarettes from his pocket as he crossed the threshold again to the front porch.

He lit up and looked about the yard again. The stars were coming out already, even in the short time he’d been sitting in the kitchen with his mom. It didn’t take long once the sun set behind the trees.

Glancing around, he caught the sight of the hand again. It was upside down though, palm up. With a frown, Dallas tried to remember it earlier. Didn’t look the same – that was for sure. He took a drag off his cigarette and flicked it into the yard, more concerned with this decoration than a nicotine fix.

As he grew nearer, he saw the hand twitch and he cursed loudly.

“Watch your mouth, boy!” his mom called from inside, making him jump.

“Sorry mom!” he yelled, trying to catch his breath.

He took another step closer, and the hand flipped downward again, gripping handfuls of the ground.

Dallas jumped back, gasping for air. Either this was the most realistic decoration he’d ever seen, or something was truly amiss.

With one last step closer, he inspected the hand. Wrinkled and liver-spotted, it trembled. Upon even closer inspection, Dallas noticed the insignia ring, of a World War II veteran.

His mom approached from his left side with a knife in hand. “You want some more pie?”