‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part Two, Chapter 1

Arlene and Jonas Frey gave up their search for Alexa after a week, leaving it to the police in exasperation.

One day, in the late afternoon when Alexa’s mother and father had both just got home from work and were hungry for supper, they felt a strange compulsion to go upstairs to their bedroom and close the door behind them. They sat side by side on the bed and stared at their reflection in the dresser mirror.

They just sat there and didn’t move, their stomachs growling.

It felt as if some outside force was controlling them.

After several minutes of doing nothing else, Arlene finally felt free to open her mouth.

“What…are we doing in here?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Jonas said. “We should be…cooking dinner.”

“It’s like…something is holding us here,” she said.

Something is holding you here, a hoarse voice said.

Arlene and Jonas yelped and jerked at the disembodied voice.

“What was that?” he said in a trembling voice.

Me, the voice said, revealing the speaker in the mirror reflection. It was a spectral version of Alexa, pale with disheveled hair and a menacing frown.

“Oh, my God!” Arlene said. “The stress of her disappearance is making me see things!”

“Alexa?” Jonas said.

“You see her, too?” Arlene asked.

You both see me because I’m really here, the ghostly apparition groaned. She wore a tattered black dress, and had dark rings around her eyes, the irises of which glowed red. Her parents no longer saw themselves or their bedroom in the mirror reflection: the background of Alexa’s ghost was a void of infinite black.

“What happened to you, honey?” her father asked.

“Did you kill yourself?” her mother sobbed, tears forming in her eyes.

I’m not your honey, the spirit said, scowling malevolently at both of them. You never gave me the love and support I needed when I was being tormented at school. Now, you two are receiving your punishment.

“Our punishment?” he asked, shaking.

You are to remain in your room without supper.

“What is this nonsense?” he said, then finally with all his freedom of movement returned to him, he got up and walked over to the bedroom door. “You don’t get to decide if we can–

On touching the doorknob, he got an electric shock so powerful it threw him across the room. He hit his head on the wall, just under the windowsill, so hard that it knocked him unconscious.

“Jonas!” Arlene screamed, shooting up on her feet like a rocket.

He isn’t dead, Alexa’s ghost said. But he will be.

“Alexa, you little bitch! You stop this now!

You’ll be dead, too…’Mother.’

“Stop this nonsense, right now! I’m your mother!”

How will you make me stop it? You were never a real mother to me. He was never a real father to me. If you had been, if you’d shown me some compassion, I’d be with you at home now, eating supper together. Instead, you both will do without food…’til you die!

Arlene went over to Jonas, seeing the blood pouring from the wound on his head. She got an old T-shirt from his dresser, one he rarely, if ever, wore anymore, and wrapped it around his head to control the bleeding.

Then she looked up at the window above him.

When she reached up to open it, the whole room transformed into a surreal structure without windows or doors. She screamed and jumped at the sudden change.

“I am seeing things,” she whispered to herself. “I’m going out of my mind.”

Instead of the bedroom being a cubic rectangular shape, it was now ovoid. The furniture had all disappeared. No longer was there the room’s original light blue paint and blue-and-white striped wallpaper with flower motifs; now it was white with swirling light brown stripes everywhere…and the curved stripes were slithering like snakes!

“I’m going mad,” she whispered in sobs. “Jonas!”

She looked down at him and shook him. Her stomach was growling more and more, as if her hunger was being sped up to feel more like a few days’ hunger rather than that of a few hours. Jonas wouldn’t wake up…but his flesh was beginning to look…tasty.

“No!” she said, slapping herself. “I can’t let myself think that way. That bitch-ghost wants me to.”

You will want to think that way, Alexa’s ghost hissed.

“You little bitch!” Arlene shouted. “I wish I’d never given birth to you. My pregnancy was an accident, you know. I wish Jonas and I had decided to abort you! You’re lucky we’re Catholic!”

That unmotherly attitude is why you must die, the spirit said. If you’d loved me, the way parents are supposed to, we could have all been friends.

Her stomach growled even louder. “Oh, God!” she said. “I’ve got to eat something. I’m dying of hunger.”

There’s meat right next to you…Mother, Alexa said.

“You shut up, Alexa!” Arlene shouted. “How could Jonas and I have produced such a little beast?”

By being beasts yourselves, of course, the ghost growled.

Arlene looked down at still-unconscious Jonas, whose skin was looking sweeter and sweeter. Then she looked at her ever-growling stomach, which looked as if it were caving in from emptiness and malnutrition.

“What the–” she began in sobs. “I thought starvation causes a swollen belly…or is that just in kids? What’s happening to me? What…black magic…are you bringing on me, you bitch?”

You’ve done it to yourselves, Alexa said. You two are self-destructing. Now, enjoy your meal.

Arlene’s stomach was caving in even more. Soon, a huge empty black hole appeared where her stomach should have been. The pain and discomfort from having no food was overwhelming.

And Jonas’s body was looking delicious.

A large carving knife and carving fork appeared by her feet.

She picked them up.

She looked at her unconscious, scrumptious husband.

Her eyes widened, she salivated, and licked her lips.

“I’ve…gotta…eat,” she hissed, her energy beginning to be drained away.

His eyes opened a few millimetres.

“No,” she said hoarsely. “My dinner…must stay still.”

She stabbed the carving knife into his throat.

His lifeless body slumped on the floor, a red river flowing from his neck. Not that she, in her hallucinating state, noticed–she removed the shirt off his back, then stuck the fork in his right arm to hold it still. Then she used the knife to cut off thin slices of his flesh.

She looked at the slices as if they were Thanksgiving turkey. She put a piece in her mouth.

She moaned with pleasure as she chewed on it.

Alexa’s ghost grinned as she saw her mother continue slicing off her father’s arm flesh, stripping it right down to the bone, and eating it all…both arms, eventually.

Now fully sated, Arlene came out of her hallucination and back to her senses. Eyes agape, she gasped. Shaking, she screamed over and over again at the sight of all that blood, the gash in his throat, and his bare bones.

“Oh, my God!” she sobbed. “Oh, my God…What have I done?!” Now that the bedroom had returned to its original inner decor, she looked through teary eyes at the dresser mirror and saw her gloating ghost of a daughter.

Did you enjoy your meal…Mother?

“You!” her mother hissed at the mirror image. “You…little…b–no, ‘bitch’ is not nearly a strong enough word. You’re a demon. You’ve been ruining my life…and your father’s…ever since your misbegotten life began!”

If you hadn’t thought of it as ‘misbegotten,’ this would not have happened to you, Alexa’s ghost said. Good mothers are supposed to love their children, not despise them.

“So, I was a bad mother, is that it, Alexa? Fine! This should make you very happy!”

The knife was still there. Arlene plunged it into her guts and fell to the floor beside Jonas.

Alexa just kept on grinning.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 4

The Hamilton Spectator

Three St. Thomas More Schoolgirls Missing

by Tonya Mills

Alexa Frey, 17, Megan Fourier, 18, and Tiffany Ferry, 17, students of St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, went missing as of last Sunday night. It is assumed they all ran away from home as a result of constant bullying at school.

Don Murray, 51, principal of the high school, asked some of those accused of the bullying, in particular Denise Charlton and Boyd McAuliffe, both 18, what they had done lately that may have provoked Alexa, their victim, to have run away. Though on Friday afternoon when school was finished, they’d shoved her into a mud and slush puddle, kicked her several times and spat on her (according to eyewitnesses), they denied having done anything else to her since then.

Those who’d bullied Megan and Tiffany also denied having done anything to those girls since they’d been reprimanded the previous Friday morning.

The girls’ parents have shown nothing but dismay at what they deem their daughters’ “wayward” ways.

“That girl has been nothing but one problem after another,” said Alexa’s mother, Arlene Frey, 52. “First, she can’t keep from provoking her classmates to pick on her. Then, she trudges slush and mud all over my carpet on Friday afternoon, and now my husband and I have to search all over the place for her. I’m at my wits’ end here!”

“That wayward girl is always getting mixed up with boys,” John Fourier, 55, said of his daughter Megan. “I’ll bet she’s run off with some boy, who’ll mistreat her and dump her. Then she’ll be lost. With any luck, I’ll find her soon enough. But she’s always been trouble.”

Tiffany’s mother, Alice Ferry, 49, had this to say: “That girl has always been a burden. She gets her classmates mad at her, they break a chunk of ice on her head, and I have to clean up all the blood on her. Now she pulls this on me. When’s it going to end?”

Disturbingly, the only traces left of the three girls before their disappearances were: a razor blade on the side of a filled-up bathtub in Alexa’s home; a bottle filled with John’s sleeping pills on the bathroom sink in Megan’s home, when her father hadn’t touched them Sunday night; and a kitchen knife in Tiffany’s bedroom.

Yet the three girls never used these items.

The girls just disappeared instead.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 3

“You shouldn’t have antagonized them, Alexa,” her father said in their living room an hour after she’d gotten home. “They’d have left you alone if you’d kept quiet.”

“What?” Alexa shouted. “So, it was my fault? The principal made me tell him who did it, Dad!”

“Don’t you raise your voice at me, young lady,” he said.

“You side with my enemies, and you’re surprised at my shouting?” she yelled.

“Oh, go to your room, and without supper, if you’re gonna give me that attitude!” he shouted.

“Yes!” her mother shouted. “If you hadn’t provoked them, you wouldn’t have gotten slush all over my carpet! Go to your room and stay there–yes, without supper–’til you change your attitude!”

“You don’t love me at all!” Alexa shouted in sobs, then stomped up the stairs.

“Oh, listen to that melodrama,” he said.

“If your stamping of your feet makes marks on those stairs, you will be cleaning them, not me!” her mother shouted, just before the slamming of Alexa’s bedroom door.

She dropped on her bed, sobbing and sobbing. Then she looked up at her dresser mirror; but she got a shock when she saw, instead of her face in the reflection, a split-second flash of the red-skinned man.

***********

“You shouldn’t have finked on those kids,” Tiffany’s mom said in the bathroom, a half-hour after washing Tiffany’s clothes. Her mom took a wet cloth to the blood on Tiffany’s hair. “If you’d kept your mouth shut, I wouldn’t have to do all this cleaning away of your disgusting blood.”

“Your sympathy for my plight is touching, Mom,” Tiffany, sitting in the bathtub, hissed with a maximum of sarcasm.

“What did you say to me?” her mom said in a threatening tone. “Maybe I can leave you to clean yourself, you ungrateful little brat.”

Tiffany bit her tongue.

A tear ran down her cheek.

She looked over at the bathroom mirror. Instead of seeing her reflection, she saw a brief flash of the man with bright, devil-red skin looking back at her.

She yelped and jerked her head back.

“Tiffany!” her mom shouted. “Stay still! This is hard enough as it is!”

Another tear ran down Tiffany’s cheek.

*************

Megan had been lying on her bed, shaking and crying non-stop for almost an hour before her father knocked on her door.

“Supper’s almost ready,” he said. “Hurry up.”

“I don’t want any,” she sobbed.

He opened her door. “What’s this nonsense?” he said as he approached her bed. “I just cooked your dinner. Not get down there and eat it before it gets cold!”

“I’m not hungry,” she sobbed.

“Oh, I see,” he said. “You had some…meat…earlier today, and it…filled…you all up, didn’t it? Well, that serves you right for giving yourself up too easily.”

“Dad, I just got raped!” she screamed, getting up from her bed.

“Your punishment for being too easy. I warned you…”

“Oh, I wouldn’t expect my own father to sympathize, since you yourself raped me when I was twelve!

He smacked her so hard, she flew over to the other side of her bed.

“You were punished today for being a little slut,” he said, playing with his zipper. “As you were when you were twelve. Now, get downstairs and eat your dinner before you get punished again!” He left her room.

I’m a ‘slut,’ she thought, because Mom ran off with another man. You, Dad, didn’t have her around to call a slut, so you took it out on me. You can get it up only if you have total power over a girl…like me.

Her face soaked with tears, she looked up at her bedroom mirror and saw a split-second flash of the red-skinned man in the reflection.

*************

WE’RE GONNA GET YOU.

This is what Alexa saw on her computer screen when checking her email on Saturday morning. The sender was anonymous. Her heart thumped; she twitched in her chair.

“Mom! Dad!” she called from her room, a tear running down her cheek. “Please, come here! I’m scared!”

“Oh, what’s your problem now?!” her mom yelled.

“Can’t I watch the game in peace?” her father yelled from the living room as he watched a video on his computer of a hockey game he hadn’t had time to watch on TV the night before.

I guess only I can solve this, she thought, with a thought of her dad’s razor blades; then she twitched again to see the red face in the monitor reflection.

*************

YOU’RE GONNA GET RAPED AGAIN.

Megan read this on her cellphone early on Saturday afternoon. As soon as she saw the anonymous message, she dropped her phone on her bedroom floor; luckily, it hit a soft rug and didn’t break. She let out a loud yelp as she let go of it.

Her dad heard her from his bedroom. “What’s your problem now?” he barked.

Knowing she’d get no sympathy from him, she kept her mouth shut.

Luckily, he didn’t inquire any further.

She began sobbing. She looked in the mirror, and gasped at the sight of the red man.

*************

WE’RE COMING AFTER YOU.

Tiffany jumped in her chair at the dining room table when she saw this anonymous message in her email on an iPad.

“Oh, my God!” she sighed, then began sobbing.

Her mother–on the sofa in the living room, which was next to the dining room and without a separating wall, so Tiffany was in earshot–said, “What are you blubbering about now?”

“I wouldn’t expect you to care, Mom,” Tiffany snapped.

“What did you say to me?” her mom hissed.

Tiffany got up and took her iPad to her bedroom.

“Yeah,” her mom said. “You get out of here if you’re gonna give me that attitude.” She heard Tiffany slam her bedroom door. “That’s it, slam the door, ya spoiled little brat!”

**************

WE’RE GONNA GET YOU.

YOU’RE GONNA GET RAPED AGAIN.

WE’RE COMING AFTER YOU.

Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany respectively got these anonymous email threats repeatedly over the weekend, an average of about one every three or four hours each day until bedtime. Their parents continued to show no sympathy.

By Sunday night at about 11:00, the three girls were ready to end it all. Alexa was filling her bathtub while getting a razor blade ready. Megan swiped a bottle of at least sixteen or so of her dad’s sleeping pills from the bathroom medicine cabinet. Tiffany took a kitchen knife to slash her wrists in her bedroom; she wanted to give her mother a pool of red to clean up.

About to get in the water, Alexa looked down in it and saw the red man’s face again.

Megan closed the door to the medicine cabinet and saw his red face in the mirror.

Tiffany’s teary eyes looked in her dresser mirror and saw his face.

“Who are you” all three girls said…at the same time.

“I am a chthonic spirit,” he said.

The confusion on the girls’ faces indicated that they didn’t know what chthonic means.

“I’m a spirit from the underworld, the land of the dead,” he said.

“You’re a devil?” all three girls said, at once again.

“Yes, but that shouldn’t bother you,” he said. “You’re about to kill yourselves, which you know as Catholics will send you straight to hell. I’d say you’re emotionally prepared to deal with devils, aren’t you?”

“What do you want?” all three asked together again. It was as if their identities were fused.

“I want to help you,” he said.

“How?” they asked.

“My name is Furioso,” he said. “Since all three of you are about to commit the sin of despair, and give up the hope of salvation, perhaps you’d like it if I helped you get revenge on all your tormentors, including your so unloving parents.”

The girls, now seeing not only Furioso, but also each other in the reflections, were…for the first time in a long time…grinning.

“I can help you make them all share your pain. I can drag them all down to Hell, where you three, as demons, can torment them for all eternity. You will be their bullies, for a change.”

The girls’ grins widened.

“What’s more,” he went on, “I can make your exit from this world far less painful than the exits you were planning. Join me, and as a trio of spirits, you can unleash your fury onto the world.”

Suddenly, a crimson vortex appeared before each of the three girls, a portal into Hell. Alexa saw her bathtub water transform into a red whirlpool. Megan and Tiffany saw such bloody whirlpools form on their bathroom and dresser mirrors.

They each felt a tugging, pulling their trembling bodies forward, which they at first resisted. A swarm of moaning voices from the whirlpools seemed to be warning them, “No!…Don’t!”

“Whose voices are those?” the girls asked in unison.

“Don’t worry about that,” Furioso said. “Just let yourselves be pulled in, and be the spirits of vengeance, punishing the guilty of the Earth. The wrongdoers of the world deserve to be punished, don’t they? Aren’t you tired of evildoers getting away with their crimes? When have you known God to intervene, even after your most fervent prayers? You were going to kill yourselves and go to Hell, anyway. Now, stop hesitating. Come in!”

The girls continued to tremble before the vortices and the moaning of No.

“Come in, and claim your rightful revenge!” he called out.

“OK,” the girls said in a synchronized, tremulous voice.

They leaned forward and let themselves get sucked into the red hole, screaming the whole way.

They landed in a pit of infinite darkness.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 2

There was no way Alexa could have hidden the bruises on her face, or for Megan to have hidden the green paint splattered all over her blouse. The teachers and principal were going to get an explanation, one way or another, and the girls’ reluctance to tell on their tormentors, for fear of reprisals, didn’t stop the school authorities from finding out who was responsible.

Tiffany, on the other hand, wanted to tell on her bullies. She wanted to share her pain with Fay and George, no matter what the consequences would be afterwards.

The teachers and principal paid lip service to how they’d protect the three girls from any revenge attacks from their bullies. The girls didn’t believe a word of these promises.

That’s because the promises of protection really were nothing more than promises.

The girls had never been protected before…why would they be protected now?

On the very day that Denise, Boyd, Lynne, Fay, and George were reprimanded–as well as given empty warnings of further punishments if any of them hurt the girls again, warnings so empty that not one bully even flinched–they all went to work on their revenge, each achieving it right at the end of school.

Alexa was walking outside when Denise and Boyd saw her from behind. It had just finished raining, melting away some of the snow on that late February afternoon, so slush puddles were everywhere, with mud and slush patches where students had trampled away the snow and grass on either side of the walkway outside the school entrance.

Denise and Boyd sneaked up behind Alexa. Just as she was passing a mud and slush puddle, they shoved her, making her fall into it and making it splash everywhere.

An eruption of laughter from students all around the area burned in Alexa’s ears. She hadn’t even had time to look up and see who’d pushed her before she felt a few kicks to her gut.

“That’s for splashing mud and slush on me, dyke!” Denise said after giving Alexa a third kick.

“And for getting it on me,” Boyd said, kicking her in the leg.

As Alexa was getting up, Denise aimed her fist at the muddy girl’s upper right arm. After punching it five times, Denise said, “Thank you. I feel so much better now!” She walked away.

Boyd spat on Alexa’s face before following Denise.

Alexa closed her eyes…and thought she saw a man with devil-red skin looking at her for a split second. First, I was hearing whispers, she thought. Now, I’m seeing things.

**************

Tiffany went out the way opposite where Alexa had left, for she was anticipating some nastiness from Fay and George, and hoping they’d go out one of the ways most everyone else went. The coast seemed clear: some teachers were walking about, too; so if those two were hiding out and planning a revenge, the teachers would be there to stop them…she hoped.

She went past where all the cars were parked, seeing no students (let alone bad ones) among any of them, so she assumed she was safe. She took a relaxed walk in the neighbourhood of houses nearby, dodging the piles of slush and ice that hadn’t yet been melted.

She couldn’t hear Fay and George behind her, for they were being so quiet and so good at hiding that they were able to make her hypervigilance useless. They found a block of ice on the sidewalk, where Tiffany had just walked by. They picked it up and followed closely behind her.

They raised the block of ice–almost brick-shaped and as big as their heads combined–inches above her head, then dropped it, hitting her on the top-back of her head. She didn’t hear them laughing or running away because she was unconscious, staying that way for about ten minutes, and lying on the slushy sidewalk with no one to help her.

In a brief dream, she saw the same red face watching her.

*************

Megan was late leaving school; in fact, she deliberately waited for Lynne and Herman to leave first. In gym class, she saw Lynne finish her shower, get dressed, and leave before Megan even began taking her own shower. While showering, Megan assumed that Lynne was hooking up with Herman and leaving school with him.

She was right about the first part.

No sooner had Megan, having finished her shower, wrapped a towel around herself, than she saw Lynne standing by the entrance to the shower area with a malicious smirk.

Megan let out a short, piercing yelp.

“Nobody’s here to hear you, bitch,” Lynne said.

“What d’you want?” Megan spat back in a shaky voice.

“To settle the score with you, of course,” Lynne said. “I don’t appreciate you getting me in trouble just because you’re jealous of me being with your crush…a guy who’d never want you in a million years.”

As Megan walked out of the shower area and into the changing area, she saw Herman standing in front of the locker where her clothes were.

She let out another yelp of terror, and held her towel tighter around her torso.

“Well…,” Lynne said, “maybe my boyfriend will want you…just this one time.” She grabbed at Megan’s towel, and after a struggle, she tore it off the dripping wet and shaking girl, leaving her naked and trying to cover her breasts and crotch with her hands.

“C’mon, Lynne!” Megan screamed in sobs as the other two laughed at her. “I don’t deserve this!”

“I don’t care whether you deserve it or not,” Lynne said smugly as Herman walked up to Megan. “I just wanna see him do it to you.”

“Lynne!” she screamed as he grabbed her and struggled to get her on the floor. “You’re a…fellow female! You can’t…sympathize…with a guy…doing this…to one…of us! Ugh! He’s your…boyfriend! You want him…cheating on you?”

“Oh, I won’t be jealous, like you,” Lynne said as Herman, now on top of supine Megan, unzipped his pants. “Your body is nowhere near as good-looking as mine.”

“It’s good enough for me, though,” he said, whipping it out. “Just this once. You wanted me, Megan? You got me. This is for getting my girlfriend in trouble.”

“I’ll indulge him this one time, Megan,” Lynne said, that malignant grin never leaving her face, “just to watch him traumatize you.”

Megan screamed from the sharp pain of his entry. She could hear Lynne laughing as he carried on inside her. She closed her eyes, seeing not Herman’s face, but a red one.

*************

Over the weekend, none of the three victims’ parents showed any interest in their daughters’ suffering.

The sight of Alexa covered in mud got one blunt comment from her mother as soon as the girl walked in the front door of the house: “What the hell happened to you? And now you’re getting that crap all over my carpet? Go take a bath!”

Tiffany’s mother was similarly annoyed to see her daughter’s clothes covered in slush. “Oh, look at what you did! Now I have to clean that all up! Get out of those clothes so I can wash ’em. Hurry!

In her annoyance, Tiffany’s mother never bothered to notice the blood spot on the back of her head.

Megan was still shaking when she got home. Her father saw her pass the living room, where he’d been watching TV, and go upstairs to her bedroom. Though he got a clear look at her frowning face, he didn’t consider it worth his trouble to see how wet it was with tears.

I’ll bet she’s just having more boy troubles, he thought as he turned his head back to the TV. The little slut just keeps asking for it.

Alexa lay in the bathtub, stunned. Why doesn’t anybody care? she wondered.

Tiffany sat on her bed in her underwear, stunned. Why doesn’t anybody care?

Megan sat on her bed, stunned. Why doesn’t anybody care?

All three girls saw repeated flashes of the red-skinned man before their faces.

I care, he whispered in their ears.

‘Furies,’ a Horror Novel, Part One, Chapter 1

Boyd McAuliffe hated Alexa Frey so much.

Well, it isn’t that he hated her so much that he regarded her as not worth the tiniest bit of consideration or compassion.

Actually, if you were to trace his bad attitude to her right back to the beginning, you’d discover that he envied her for having gotten into the gifted students class back in Grade 8, when he hadn’t.

Sure, that was a good enough reason to hate her.

That was a great reason to regard her as non-human.

That was all the reason he needed.

That was the best reason in the world…

…wasn’t it?

Anyway, right now, in one of the science classrooms during lunch break, when Alexa was concentrating on a chess game with another, equally unpopular student named Sal Moon, Boyd was aiming a bottle-cap in his slingshot, right at her face.

And he had another excellent, perfectly honourable reason to be doing it.

He wanted to impress Denise Charlton, the pretty, shapely redhead who also happened to be one of the biggest troublemakers in St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, in Hamilton, Ontario.

Alexa was debating in her mind which move to make. Should she trade pawns? Doing so didn’t seem to serve any purpose, except that Sal was just going to trade with her anyway, and that would have opened up her castle and exposed her king. What to do?

Meanwhile, Boyd was taking aim from the other side of the room.

Alexa could have moved her white queen diagonally two spaces to the front and right to put Sal’s black king in check, but he could have just moved it one square to his left and out of danger. It would have been another useless move that wouldn’t have helped her at all.

Boyd was steadying his hands; his aim was just about perfect.

Her knights, side by side, to the left and behind the centre squares, and with three of her pawns in front of them, were also useless. Her rooks, on the back row, had nowhere to go, either.

Boyd’s aim was perfect. Ready to shoot. Take a few slow breaths in and out, and…

Alexa thought, I’ll bet Karpov could figure out a brilliant way to proceed. With my mediocre talents at the game, though, I–

The bottle cap smacked her just under the left eye. The sting burned.

“Oh, Jesus Christ!” she shouted.

“I didn’t do it,” Denise said with a smirk that showed she was nonetheless entertained by it.

“Oh, sure you didn’t, you fucking bitch!” Alexa spat back, remembering the many other times Denise had been the one who ‘did it.’

“What did you call me?” Denise said, getting up and approaching Alexa. “I’ll kick your ass.”

“You heard me,” Alexa said, though avoiding Denise’s eyes.

“C’mon, Alexa!” Denise said, saying the name with mocking contempt and balling her fists.

“Oh, don’t be such a suck! Miss Dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it.”

“I didn’t do it, ya ugly dyke!”

“Then WHO DID?!”

Boyd looked back at her, smiled, and waved at her.

“You prick!” Alexa shouted. “What did I do to you to deserve that?”

“You stayed alive,” he said.

“And now, you can apologize to me!” Denise said.

“Alright,” Alexa said, “I’m sorry you’re alive.”

Denise stomped over to her, her fists ready to swing.

“You stay away from…!” Alexa began, before getting a fist on her chin, knocking her off her chair.

As Denise gave her kick after kick to the gut on the floor, Alexa lying in the foetal position, Boyd walked over to get a better look. As he saw Alexa writhing in pain, he smiled.

Sal, too scared to get involved and thus become their next victim, got up and left the room.

As Alexa continued receiving kicks from Denise, as well as getting her long, wavy blonde hair pulled by Denise, she looked up at that smiling prick who’d started it all. All she could think about was how badly she wanted to get revenge on the two of them.

She was sure that the stress was making her hear things, because she would otherwise have sworn she’d heard a voice whisper, I can help you get them.

****************

Later that afternoon, in the halls, Megan Fourier was walking to her locker when she saw Lynne Hendricks, a pretty, curvy, and buxom brunette, but also one of the head mean girls in St. Thomas More, holding hands with Herman Schubert, one of the most handsome football players in their school, and also a guy Megan had had a crush on for years, though she was too shy to tell him or even hint at it.

Lynne knew how Megan felt, though. Megan had once confided in her about this.

The couple kissed before walking into art class together. Megan, frowning, followed them in.

As Megan walked through the doorway, she saw Lynne look back at her and grin, gloatingly.

Megan went red with rage.

“You bitch,” she hissed at Lynne. “You wrapped your legs around him on purpose.”

Lynne saw a big can full of green paint on a table. The lid was off. She picked up the can and turned to Megan.

“I can fix that red face of yours,” she said.

She threw the green all over Megan’s face and blouse.

Her eyes squinted shut from the paint; she heard a tidal wave of laughter all around her.

“She’s green with envy,” Lynne said.

The laughter continued. Megan opened her eyes.

Herman was laughing, too.

I wanna get that bitch soooooo badly, she thought. But what can I do?

A male voice whispered in her ear, I can help you get her…and him.

She looked to her left in surprise.

No one was standing there.

****************

Tiffany Ferry was in math class at about the same time as when Megan’s misfortune had happened. A short, chubby brunette named Fay Oliphant was walking by Tiffany’s desk when she looked down and saw her calculator lying by the edge.

Fay brought her fist smashing down on the calculator; Tiffany was too shocked by the suddenness of Fay’s action to get mad. Knowing no one in class liked her, Tiffany felt she could do nothing other than cower in response.

Mocking an answer she’d heard Tiffany give, with what seemed far too much pride, in their previous physics class, Fay said, “Force equals mass times acceleration!”

Those half-dozen or so students who’d also been in that physics class laughed. Tiffany, of course, didn’t laugh at all.

She’d wanted…but didn’t have the guts…to say, And you have plenty of mass, don’t you, Fay?

George Kelly, a boy sitting in the row of seats in front of Tiffany’s, looked back at hers and said to the kids sitting by her, “I feel sorry for you guys, having to sit next to a wimp.”

The math teacher entered the classroom. After twenty minutes of teaching, and having given the students a set of math exercises to do, he walked out of the classroom: Tiffany’s protection was gone again.

Focused on writing her exercises, she never bothered to look up and see George aiming a triple-A battery with an elastic band at her face. He’d heard of Boyd’s glory with Alexa earlier that day, and had hoped to emulate it here; he got her in the shoulder.

“Oww!” Tiffany shouted.

“Shit,” George said. “I meant to get her in the face. Well, at least I hit her.”

She heard an explosion of laughter from all directions.

“I’ll get her,” Fay said from behind. She had her own elastic band, with a marble aimed at Tiffany. “Tiffany Ferry, which should be spelled F-A-I-R-Y, called me ‘Fay Elephant’ last week. She’s gonna get this upside the head.”

Having had enough, Tiffany looked back at Fay with a scowl. “You know,” she said, “I was wrong to have called you an elephant. You’re really a shithead.”

Fay scowled back and fired the marble, but Tiffany ducked out of the way.

“Oh, well,” Fay said, getting out of her seat. “I’ll just have to get you upside the head another way.”

Fay punched her hard in the shoulder several times, then gave her a punch in the back of the head, and then returned to her seat just in time before the teacher returned.

“Tiffany F-A-I-R-Y,” she said when she got to her seat, “if you squeal to the teacher, you’ll get it worse, I promise you.”

I can make it even worse for Fay and George, if you let me, that same voice whispered in Tiffany’s ear.

I’m going nuts, she thought. I’m hearing things.

‘The Lake,’ a Horror Short Story

“Look at that lake,” Cecil said as he and his fiancée, Eleanore, came to an opening in the forest to see the sparkling water.

“It’s beautiful,” she said with rapt eyes as she saw how the light of the summer sun danced on the gentle waves.

“Let’s go in for a swim,” he said, beginning to take off his shirt.

“Hey, you kids, I wouldn’t do that if I was you,” slurred a man’s voice from behind them.

The couple looked back and saw a middle-aged man standing a few feet behind them, holding a bottle of whiskey in his right hand. He staggered a bit and belched.

“Who are you?” Cecil asked. “And why can’t we go in the water? Will we become drunkards, like you?”

“The name’s Nelson, and if you go in that water, you won’t come back out,” he said, then took another swig from his bottle.

“We can swim all right,” Cecil said.

“It ain’t about if you can swim or not,” Nelson said. “That’s Lake Real. It’s cursed with witchcraft.”

Both Cecil and Eleanore laughed.

“I recommend you leave that rotgut alone,” Cecil said. “It’s affecting your brain.”

“I began drinkin’ because people were dyin’ in that lake. I saw ’em all die with my own two, sober eyes. I also know the story of how a witch turned Lake Real into the deathtrap it is now.”

“Oh, this I gotta hear,” Cecil said.

“No, honey,” Eleanore said, pulling on Cecil’s arm. “Let’s just go. He don’t want us swimmin’ here, so we’ll go, alright?”

“No, no,” Cecil said. “I wanna hear the ghost story. You ain’t too drunk to tell it, are ya?”

“Actually, the drinkin’ will prob’ly help me tell it,” Nelson said, then took another swig. “Have a seat.”

He sat on a rock, and Cecil and Eleanore sat on two rocks facing him, all three of them shaded from the summer heat of the early afternoon by the overhanging trees.

“Well, it all began back in 1857 with the passing of the Gradual Civilization Act in the Province of Canada.”

“What does that have to with us here in the Colony of British Columbia?” Cecil asked.

“Well, back in the Province of Canada, they wanted to get the Indians here to be a part of our Christian society. Some Catholics living near here learned about this idea to purify the Indians, cleanse them of their heathen ways, and teach ’em about Christ. They liked the idea, and used their money to set up a school by this lake.” Nelson pointed with his bottle to an abandoned building several yards behind Cecil and Eleanore, a small, wooden building obscured mostly by the bushes and trees of the forest, but visible enough for the couple to see it. “In 1860, St. Peter’s Residential School was established for Indian children…not those livin’ ’round here in the Fraser Valley area, mind you, but for those livin’ further away.”

“Why not Indian children from here?” Eleanore asked.

“‘Cause the idea was to take the kids far from their families, and from their heathen influence,” Nelson said, then took another swig. “Best way to make ’em Christian…or so the Catholics thought.”

“So anyway, what happened?” Cecil asked. “Did the Catholics make the Indians all Christian in that school?”

“Not exactly,” Nelson said. “There were stories that the priests and nuns were abusing the kids, punishing them for being defiant and refusing to accept Christ.”

“Did they beat the kids really hard?” Eleanore asked.

“Worse than that. The priests, being celibate and therefore denied the society of women, did filthy things with many of the kids, the sorta thing you don’t wanna say in front of a lady. Sometimes, to keep things quiet, they even killed many of the kids.”

Cecil and Eleanore gasped at these words.

“The bodies were buried out by the school, not far from the lake. One woman, who was a teacher at the school named Audrey Wilson, got so infuriated at how the priests and nuns were mistreating the Indian kids that she not only quit the school, but she also gave up on her Christian faith…assuming she ever even was Christian to begin with.”

“What makes you think she wasn’t Christian?” Eleanore asked.

“Well, Miss Wilson was a white lady, so I assume she was originally Christian, but if she was, and lost her faith, I’ll get into the reasons for that soon enough.”

“In any case, giving up on her faith sounds excessive to me,” Eleanore said. “We all know there are some bad apples out there among the Christian flock, but that doesn’t mean there’s no Jesus looking down on us from heaven.”

“Well, whatever her religious leanings had always been, she surely didn’t see it that way,” Nelson went on. “It seems she couldn’t reconcile men of God, presumably guided by the Holy Spirit, readin’ the Good Book and praying every day, allowin’ themselves to stray so far from the right path to be doin’ what they did to those Indian kids. She’d walk by the confessional set up next to the school chapel, and she’d eavesdrop on the confessions of beatings, rapes, and killings. The confessor would advise them to turn themselves in to the law, which the confessing priests and nuns never did; and the sinning priests and nuns continued working in the school, and Miss Wilson knew they continued their abuse of the kids.”

“Well, again, that’s the fault of those priests and nuns, not the fault of their religion,” Cecil said.

“But how do you know all of this?” Eleanore asked. “You live near here, right?”

“Yes, I do,” Nelson said. “And as I said, she didn’t see it as only a matter of sinnin’ priests and nuns, she saw it as a problem of the whole religion. I worked as a janitor for the school, and she and I used to have conversations about the corruption in the faculty. She claimed that faith in Jesus is the ‘theory’ of Christianity; the corrupt ways of the Church are the ‘practice’ of Christianity throughout history, which makes me think she may never have been Christian, but some kind of pagan in secret. She claimed she’d read of, and heard anecdotes of, countless times when the Church–Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant–had committed similar abuses.”

“So anyway, what did Miss Wilson do about the abuse, besides quitting her teaching position?” Eleanore asked.

“Well, a week after she quit–and this was in 1862, so four years ago–I saw her by the lake one evening, after the school closed down for the day. It was still light enough for me to see basically what she was doin’. She was chantin’ something, she had candles lit in a circle all around her, and she was dancin’ around as she chanted. It looked like she was doin’ some kind o’ ritual. That’s why I think she may have been a pagan.”

“And you were getting drunk, and dancing to her music, too, no doubt,” Cecil said with a smart-Alec smirk.

“No, I was stone cold sober!” Nelson snapped. “I didn’t start drinkin’ ’til after the deaths, as I told ya before. And now I’ll get to that part o’ the story.”

“Oh, good,” Cecil said. “Now the story should get interesting.”

“I live near here, as I said before, so I’ve seen it happen every time,” Nelson said, then took another swig from his bottle. “I’ve never known Indians to practice witchcraft, and Miss Wilson was the only white woman I’ve ever known to renounce Christ, or never believe in Him, whichever, so her little ritual must ‘a’ been the witchcraft that caused all the deaths in Lake Real.”

“Very well,” Cecil said. “What about those deaths? You claim you were sober when you saw them.”

“The first couple o’ times, after her ritual, when I saw people go to the lake for a swim, I walked over to the shore to get a better look; for that woman’s ritual looked so intense, combined with her hate o’ that school and the sufferin’ o’ the Indians she so pitied, that I had to see what was goin’ t’ happen.”

“…and what did happen?” Cecil asked, his patience leaving him.

“As soon as the first person to go in was all the way under the water, I saw him freeze in it.”

Freeze in it?” Eleanore asked. “You mean, go cold?

“No, not that,” Nelson said with dread in his eyes. “The swimmer just stopped movin’. Completely. I looked down at him in the water. He was facin’ me, so I saw the terror in his eyes. He wouldn’t move. Couldn’t. Then, what I saw got stranger ‘n’ stranger.”

“What was that?” Cecil asked, smirking in disbelief.

“His whole body…his face, trunk, arms ‘n’ legs…they all started…stretchin’ out, like as if he were meltin’, or goin’ fat, or somethin’ like that.”

“What do you mean?” Eleanore asked with a sneer of disbelief.

“It’s like his body was slowly mergin’ with the water, becoming one with it.” He shook, then took another swig.

“How is that even possible?” Cecil scoffed.

“I don’t know, but that’s what I saw,” Nelson said. “And I was completely sober.”

“No offence, my friend,” Cecil said, “but if you saw all that while stone cold sober, then you’re lucky you haven’t been put away somewhere.”

“If you go in that water, you’ll learn the hard way that I ain’t crazy at all!” Nelson shouted, standing up as if ready to have a fistfight with Cecil. “Go on in! You’ll regret it! I warned ya!”

“Sir, we’re sorry,” Eleanore said. “Cecil, watch your tongue!” Then, back to Nelson, “Please, sit back down and finish your story. What happened next?”

Nelson calmed down, sat down with staggering difficulty, and continued: “As I said, his body was merging with the water, and I could see him slowly fading away. His skin turned blue and became the water, and the last thing I saw o’ him was his terrified eyes, ‘n’ they faded away, too.” He took another swig from his bottle.

Cecil and Eleanore just looked at him with confused eyes. They didn’t know what to say to such a crazy story.

“Every other person, man, woman, or child–white people, that is–that I saw goin’ into that lake over the past four years, has met the exact same fate. I put up a sign or two, warnin’ people not to go in the water, but people just ignore it, ’cause the water is so beautiful. Nobody believes there’s anything wrong with the lake.”

“We saw such a sign, remember, Cecil?” she asked him. “We just walked by it as if it wasn’t even there.”

“Because there’s no reason to believe there’s anything wrong with the lake, honey,” Cecil said.

“Because part o’ the witchcraft is to lure you in,” Nelson said. “Miss Wilson told me how much she hated the white man for hurtin’ the Indians so much, so part o’ her avengin’ them musta been to lure as many white Christian folks to their doom as possible. Some priests in the school tried to baptize some Indians in the lake: the priests went in, felt compelled to dip their heads in the water, go all the way in, and died–I saw it, the same way as that first man…but the Indian kids came out o’ the water unhurt.”

Cecil’s and Eleanore’s eyes widened.

“The survivin’ priests and nuns concluded, as I did, that Lake Real is possessed o’ demons, so they closed the school down and tried to warn other people, though everybody was just like you…unbelievin’. Over the past four years, I’ve tried to warn would-be swimmers here not t’ go in, but none of ’em listen to me. They go in and die the same way. And then is when I started drinkin’…out o’ despair.”

“Very well, then,” Cecil said, getting up with Eleanore. “If it’ll make you feel any better, we won’t go in the water.”

“Thank you,” he told the couple, then stood up. “That gives me a peace o’ mind that I rarely have these days. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye,” they said, and walked back into the woods.

They’ll still go in, Nelson thought. Lake Real is callin’ for ’em.

Cecil and Eleanore walked through the forest in a semicircle around the lake before coming out in a clearing on the other side. (Nelson had gone in a semicircle the other way; the equidistant roundness of Lake Real made it easy for him to reach the same area in roughly the same time. He hid behind some bushes before they got there.)

The couple looked around for any signs of Nelson hiding.

“Good,” Cecil said. “That crazy old drunk is gone. Let’s go in the water.”

They stripped down to their undergarments and waded into the water, up to their upper legs. So far, nothing to fear. They ventured in further, up to their waists, and far from sensing any danger, they found the water to be most refreshing. They felt an urge to go in deeper, so they went in with the water up to their necks.

“What do you think, Eleanore?” Cecil asked her.

“The water is lovely,” she said.

“I agree,” he said. “Let’s dip our heads in and swim around some.”

At that point, Nelson came out of the bushes and approached the shore. Here’s where it happens, he thought. As soon as they put their whole bodies under, as those priests who did the baptizing, they who couldn’t resist going all the way under, too. The lake makes them want to.

As soon as Cecil and Eleanore dipped their heads under the water, they froze.

They couldn’t paddle their arms or legs at all.

They just floated, immobile, under the water.

“Mmm!” they both whined repeatedly as they tried to fidget in the water, but neither could budge in the slightest.

Both of them were facing the shore, so they could see Nelson standing there, frowning at them. He took another swig from his almost-empty bottle.

Go on, you old bastard, Cecil thought, scowling. Gloat at us. Shout out, “I told ya so!” Go on. You know you want to.

Eleanore wanted to scream at the top of her lungs, but all she could do was whine as before. Why is this happening to us? she asked herself. Cecil and I never hurt any Indians. Why are they taking their revenge on us?

Because you came here with the rest of the white men, a voice said in her mind’s ear and in that of Cecil. You took our land from us, scorned our religion and culture, and stopped us from practicing it. You all abused us, raped us, beat us, and killed us in massacres and spreading your European diseases onto us. Worst of all, you’ve benefited from our suffering. That’s why you all deserve to die!

Cecil and Eleanore assumed that, no longer able to hold their breath and forced to inhale, they’d pass out, drown, and be put out of their misery. But when they breathed in the water, a strange thing happened: not only did they not pass out and die, they found themselves breathing the water as if their nostrils and mouths were gills! The Indian spirits possessing the water were keeping Cecil and Eleanore alive…for the moment.

As they breathed in the water–which felt as natural to them as breathing in oxygen–they found their bodies slowly merging with it. Nelson watched with horror–a horror only somewhat mitigated by his drunkenness, and not at all mitigated by having seen the same thing many times before–as the couple’s bodies were melting and mixing with the surrounding water. Their undergarments slipped off and floated to the surface while the peach colour of their naked skin stretched out into the water, merged with each other, and began melding with the blue.

Nelson saw a growing, wavy rectangular form made up of the skin colour of both of their melting, merging bodies. The two pairs of terrified eyes, however, stayed where they were and stared at him. He almost heard what those eyes were saying to him.

Help me.

Please.

That rectangular mass of skin colour was slowly changing into the blue of the lake. Those pairs of eyes, though, remained intact and kept staring at him, pleading with him.

Help us, please.

Save us, if you can.

Could he save them? In his staggering drunkenness, Nelson knew, far off in the back of his mind, that he could.

The voices of the Indian ghosts in the lake had said to him, every time he watched all the other deaths as with these two, that he could have saved them…if he’d had the guts. He still could, this time.

All he had to do was replace the couple in the water.

Nelson had come to hate his life. He hated his cowardice, the cowardice that had kept him from saving the lives of the previous victims. He hated himself for running away from his responsibility, and running towards bottles of whiskey.

Getting drunk was an attempt to escape the pain, of course, but it was a failed attempt, every time. This time, however, he was so drunk that he felt fewer inhibitions about going in the water, so this handsome young couple, young enough to have been his own son and daughter, could come out of the water and live the full lives they should have been allowed to live.

So, Nelson? one of the Indian ghosts’ voices asked him, the voice echoing in his mind’s ear. Do you have the courage, finally, to do it this time? Will you demonstrate the truth of your religious beliefs? Will you be an imitator of Christ, go in the water, and die for these two people?

Nelson watched those fading bodies and shuddered.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, the Indian voice said. Isn’t that true, Nelson? Are you ready to redeem yourself, your religion, and your people?

Cecil’s and Eleanore’s bodies continued turning blue, and those pleading eyes kept staring into Nelson’s.

He gulped down the last of the whiskey.

A tear ran down his cheek.

He was shaking all over.

You had better hurry, the Indian voice said. Time is running out for the two of them.

“The hell with it,” he slurred, then tossed the empty bottle to the side. “I’ll do it.”

He waded into the water, staggering and stumbling. By the time he was up to his neck in the water, he turned around to face the shore, took a deep breath, looked down at the pairs of eyes in the water one last time, and dipped his head in.

He froze.

Cecil and Eleanore felt their bodies slowly materializing: blue turned back into the peach colour of their skin, which condensed and reshaped itself into their naked bodies, and they found their undergarments. They rushed out of the water, so eager were they to get out of it that they didn’t care about their exposed nakedness.

They wrung out their undergarments and put them back on; then they put the rest of their clothes back on. Finally fully dressed, they looked out at Nelson in the water.

As motionless as they had been, he was facing them and smiling at them. Eleanore wondered, at first, if his smile was from the lecherous pleasure of seeing her body. Then she realized it was a smile of peace of mind.

It was his body that was melting and dissolving in the water this time. His eyes looked out at Cecil and Eleanore, who looked back at him teary-eyed.

Eleanore couldn’t bear it. “No!” she said, starting back for the water. “We can’t just leave him there to die! We have to–“

“No, Eleanore, no!” Cecil said, grabbing her by the arm and stopping her. “We ain’t goin’ back in there. I won’t let you experience that hell again. He’s done this for us. He wanted to. Don’t refuse it. Look at his face. He’s found peace.”

Indeed, they saw a dissolving face with a smile and eyes that shone peace of mind, something he hadn’t felt in years.

Soon, all that was left were Nelson’s floating clothes and those peaceful eyes.

Then the eyes faded away, too.

‘Ghost Town,’ a Western Horror Short Story

Duane Parkhurst rode on his horse into his small hometown of Arlington only to find it completely deserted.

“What the hell?” he whispered to himself as he looked around and saw not even one person on the main street.

Far off in the distance along the main road, he could see the local saloon, which looked burned down to its foundations. It was an eerie sight, seeing it all turned from a healthy brown to a black of death. It reminded him of some nasty business he’d been involved in just a few days ago.

Don’t mind that for now, he thought; I’ll check on it later. I wanna go home ‘n’ see the Missus, see if she’s alright.

He rode off the main road and found the neighbourhood of houses where his family’s was. He got there in a few minutes. He got off his horse, took off his hat, and went in through the front door.

“Emily?” he called out for his wife, then for his kids: “Billy? Sue?”

He looked around the parlour, then the kitchen, and finally, in his and Emily’s bedroom.

“Where the hell is everyb–” he said as he entered the bedroom, then he saw Emily.

She was hanging by the neck under a wood beam from the ceiling. A kicked-over stool was lying by her feet.

“Oh, my God! No!” he yelled, then ran over to her body.

He untied the rope and took her down. He laid her on the bed, then removed the rope from her broken neck. The red marks were deeply cut into her neck. He checked for breath and movement, only to find none. The top of her dress was torn open, revealing her breasts. He looked over at the floor, by the stool: her torn-off drawers were lying there. He wouldn’t allow himself to imagine what had happened.

“No, baby, no,” he wept. “Why? Why’d ya do it?” He held his head in his hands and continued weeping for several more minutes. Then he got up and left the room, fearing for his kids. “What the hell happened here?”

He kept looking around the house for little Billy and Sue, but they were nowhere to be found. It was getting harder and harder for him to contain himself. He returned to the parlour and sat on his chair. He needed a moment to think things over, to reflect on what had happened over the past several days…not that they had had anything to do with what was going on now, surely.

It had been three days, since September 23rd, 1883, to be exact, when he and his gang robbed the bank in Chesterton, Nebraska, and burned down two buildings there to distract the locals from chasing the gang. Actually, two of the boys in the gang, brothers George and Ronald Wilson, also burned the buildings down for the sheer fun of it.

All of them had safely ridden out of town on their horses after a shootout with the sheriff and his men, and Duane and his partner in the robbery, Clifford Keane, hid out by some trees. (George and Ronald were slowed down by the shootout, which injured both of their horses.) Then Duane pointed his sawed-off shotgun at Clifford.

“What the hell d’you think you’re doin’, there, boy?” Clifford said as he stared at the barrel of Duane’s gun.

“Drop yer share of the loot,” Duane said.

“You’re gonna regret this, Duane,” Clifford said, then untied his bags from his horse and dropped them to the ground.

“I’m sure I will,” Duane said with a grin, then shot him.

George and Ronald were approaching on foot, their horses too badly hurt to be ridden on anymore, when they saw Clifford fall off of his horse and hit the ground, a river of blood flowing from his gut. Their jaws dropped.

“What the hell you doin’, Duane?” George said.

“Drop yer bags, boys,” he told them.

They did. Then he shot them. He got off his horse and picked up Clifford’s bags of loot.

As he went over to get George’s and Ronald’s bags, he heard the gasps of barely-alive Clifford: “You will pay dearly for your sins, Duane…You…will…pay…dear…ly…”

Duane tied the other bags to his horse, got on, and rode on towards Arlington. Any posse coming for me would first find the bodies of my gang, he thought. They’ll be too distracted with the bodies to continue searching for me. In fact, who knows? Maybe the posse will think the whole gang was killed and they’ll stop the search completely.

If this last possibility came true, he would be totally free. Then he would ride into Arlington with all that extra loot and enrich the entire village, not just his family with his original cut. So were his hopes at the time.

But now that he’d reached Arlington, he saw nobody, not a soul, to share all that money with.

His triple murder and grand theft had all been for nothing.

Unless his kids were still alive. He hung on to that fragile hope.

He went back outside, put his hat back on, and got on his horse.

I’m going back to the main street, he thought as he began riding. That saloon down the way, burnt to a crisp, looks ominous, but I’ve got to find the truth to whatever happened here.

As he was riding along, he heard, Duane, whispered from a familiar voice.

Emily’s.

He spun his horse around in a panic.

There she was, a glowing, ghostly apparition that was floating before his face. The rope marks were still on her neck, she was in the frilly dress she’d had on–still torn and showing off most of her breasts–when she killed herself, and on her pretty face was a permanent frown.

“Hey, baby,” he sobbed. “Why’d ya kill yerself?”

I couldn’t live with myself after what…they done to me, she said in a reverberating whisper.

“What…who done to ya? Done what to ya, darlin’?” He still refused to contemplate the meaning behind her torn dress.

Three men…yesterday…they…knew me…in a way…only you’re supposed to know me. The ghost began sobbing.

No longer able to deny it, Duane blew up. “Where are they?! I’ll kill ’em, the lousy sumbitches!” He was ready to ride off.

You can’t.

“What’dye mean, I can’t? I’m quick on the draw! You think yer husband ain’t man enough to–“

It ain’t that, honey. You can’t kill ’em ’cause they’re already dead, like me.

His eyes widened so much, you could have seen almost half his eyeballs, it seemed. His jaw dropped so low, it was almost touching his chest. Naw, he thought; it couldn’t have been them.

“How can dead men…v-violate you, honey?”

I don’t know, but three ghosts came at me and…they did things to me…that are so filthy…I can’t describe ’em to you. She began weeping again. They were like…ghosts with bodies, ’cause I could….feel them…inside me. She was weeping louder now.

“Who were they?” Duane asked, afraid to hear the answer.

They told me their names, ’cause they wanted me to tell you: Clifford Keane, and George and Ronald Wilson.

Duane fell off his horse. His hat fell off, and the wind took it away.

He just sat there on the dirt road, stunned, for several minutes.

That can’t be! he thought. Emily never met the members of my gang, not even once in her life. There’s no way she could have known their names. Still, can ghosts come back from the dead like that? Naw, they can’t!

He snapped out of it and looked around. Emily was gone.

“Uh, baby? Where’d ya go?”

No answer.

He got back up and got on his horse. He continued riding over to that saloon, full of emotional exhaustion and dread.

He reached the front of the saloon, that is, its charred and blackened remains, and he got off his horse. He walked in so slowly, it was almost as if he were standing still.

As he walked around the remains of the ground floor, with its coal-black stools, tables that once had been, and a bar totally devoured by fire, he heard faint voices from below.

We’re down here, a group of voices whispered.

“In the basement?” he asked.

Yes, they said in those eerie, ethereal voices. Come down and meet us.

He gulped, then looked around for the stairs down there…hoping he wouldn’t find them, but sadly, he did find them.

Duane went down those stairs with shaking legs as the whispering voices grew louder.

Come and meet your destiny, one voice said.

Come and meet your doom, said another.

Daddy, two children’s voices whispered…familiar voices.

“Billy?” Duane yelped, then rushed down the rest of the stairs, almost tripping at one point. “Sue?”

He stopped dead in his tracks just a few steps from the bottom. For in the basement, he saw a hill of charred corpses. It seemed to be pretty much the entire population of his village here in this large basement. The stench was unbearable. He put his hand over his mouth and nose, then continued inside.

Daddy, Billy’s and Sue’s voices said again.

“Where are you?” Duane asked in sobs, his eyes darting all over the place to find their ghosts.

Over here, Daddy, they whispered. He followed their voices over to the hill of bodies.

He stopped before a slope of the hill of corpses when he saw two tiny, blackened arms sticking out, each with a distinctive bracelet on its wrist. Though they were damaged by the fire, he could still recognize them by the names carved into them: Billy and Sue.

He’d given them the bracelets as gifts a year ago.

He broke down and wailed, “Oh, my babies!”

Why’d you do it, Daddy? Billy’s voice asked from over his right ear.

His head spun around behind him, and he looked up to see floating apparitions of his eight-year-old boy and six-year-old girl. They looked down at him with a kind of despairing frown that should never be seen on children.

“Why’d I do what, boy?” Duane asked in sobs.

Kill those three men you were workin’ with, Sue asked. Weren’t they yer friends? You’re never supposed to do that to yer friends, ain’t that right, Daddy?

Duane’s heart was pounding with terror to know that they knew something they couldn’t have known. The words of his sweet, innocent daughter gave him a pang of conscience.

It’s enough of a sin that you robbed that bank and had your men burn those buildings and kill all the people in ’em, but killin’ yer own buddies, Daddy? Billy asked in that haunting, echoing voice. That’s just too much.

An’ yer buddies done killed all o’ us to get back at you, Daddy, Sue said in that same, chilling whisper. If you hadn’t done killed ’em, they wouldn’t ‘a’ killed us.

“How could this’ve happened?” Duane sobbed. “I just wanted to use all the loot to help our poor town to invest it and prosper. Those three men were just thieves. No one woulda missed ’em.”

You got greedy, Duane, the familiar voice of a man, Clifford’s, rang in Duane’s ears. I told you you’d pay dearly for your sins.

Duane turned his head slowly, away from the ghosts of his kids, the other way to find the source of Clifford’s voice. Sure enough, now he saw apparitions of not only his ghost, but also the ghosts of George and Ronald.

It’s payback time, Duane, George said.

Remember what it says in Galatians 6:7, Ronald said. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

“Since when are you a preacher all of a sudden, Ronald?” Duane said. “You’re as much an unrepentant sinner as I am. I never committed arson, as you ‘n’ yer brother done!”

True, but we’re paying for our sins now, Ronald said. As you will be doin’ soon…with us, in Hell!

All three ghosts were glowing and hovering over Duane’s head, looking down at him with malevolent smiles.

But before you’re sent to Hell, where we’ll really torment you, Clifford said, we want you to see how all your efforts to help your town done the opposite.

“How’d you kill everyone here, you sumbitches?” Duane asked.

Well, after we raped yer wife… Ronald said.

…and did things to her that are illegal in every state in the Union, George added with a lewd grin. What exactly are the laws against sodomy, fellas?

“You shut yer goddam mouth, George! That’s my wife you stained!”

Oh, yeah? George said. Whatcha goin’ do about it? Shoot a ghost?

We played the incubus on yer wife as part of yer payback for betrayin’ us, Clifford said.

Yeah, Ronald said. You ain’t got no right to complain.

Anyway, after we had her, we took possession of all the people in this town, Clifford said.

We led ’em all down into this here saloon, down into this here basement, and locked ’em in, George said.

Then George ‘n’ me set fire to the building, Ronald said. It was fun listenin’ to all o’ them screamin’.

Especially the cryin’ o’ yer two li’l brats, George said.

“You bastards!” Duane shouted.

Shouldn’t ‘a’ killed us, Duane, Clifford said. And now it’s your turn to die.

And when we have you with us in Hell, that’s when the real torture begins, George said with a malicious grin.

“Whatcha gonna be able to do to me if I’m already dead?”

You’ll see, Clifford said. In Hell, there’s sufferin’ you’d never dream of up here on Earth.

Just so you know, it ain’t just yer wife ‘n’ kids that are ghosts, Ronald said. Yo mama, papa, ‘n’ kid sister were in that fire, too. Look aroun’ in that pile o’ bodies. You’ll find ’em in there, too.

You’ll have a whole eternity to see unspeakable things done to yer family, George said. And you’ll hafta watch, ‘n’ won’t be able to do nothin’ ’bout it. He giggled at the thought of it.

“I won’t letcha kill me, you bastards!” Duane said. “I’ll–“

You’d never be able to stop us from killin’ you, Clifford said. But even if ya could, we won’t need to kill ya.

Posse’s on its way, Ronald said.

We guided ’em here, George said.

Duane ran back up the stairs with the laughter of his three former friends echoing in the background. As soon as his head was over the ground floor, he saw a group of men on horses, out on the street, staring at the burnt saloon.

“The remainder of the gang must’ve burned down this saloon the same way they did those buildings in Chesterton,” the leader of the posse said.

“Hey, look!” another member of the posse shouted. “Look down at the stairs to the basement. That man hidin’ down there–he’s one o’ the gang, ain’t he? Betcha he’s hidin’ down there, thinkin’ we won’t look for ‘im down there.”

“I saw his face,” a third posse member said. “I reco’nize ‘im. He’s one o’ the bank robbers.”

“Get ‘im!” the leader said. All of them got off their horses and ran for the basement stairs.

I’m dead, Duane thought, running back down as he heard the laughter of the three ghosts get louder. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna hang by the neck in shame back in Chesterton. Maybe the ghosts of my family and friends in Arlington can help me ‘gainst them three sumbitches.

He took a pistol out of his right holster and put it to his head. He saw the posse coming down the stairs and pointing their fingers at him.

He blew his brains out.

He woke up in Hell.

No burnin’ fire, he thought as he looked around. No Satan. Where am I?

He was in the outskirts of Chesterton again. He saw himself, as if looking in a mirror, pointing his sawed-off shotgun at him.

“Drop yer share of the loot,” Duane said to…himself?

He untied his bags of money from the horse he was on–not his own–and dropped them to the ground, then saw himself in…Clifford’s clothes?

He felt a bullet pierce his gut. He fell off his horse. His half-closed eyes saw, in blurry vision, his blood flowing out in a river. He blacked out.

Now he found himself on his feet, walking with bags of loot in his hands and approaching fallen Clifford and…himself? He looked over at Ronald, then at himself: he was in George’s clothes!

He and Ronald were again told to drop their share of the loot on the ground. He felt a bullet pierce his heart, and just as he began to fall to the ground, he felt his consciousness go over to Ronald’s body…just in time to feel a bullet pierce his heart again.

Everything went black.

He found himself in his bedroom. He looked down at himself…or was it herself?…and saw that frilly dress Emily had worn. His arms were skinny and hairless…his wife’s arms!

He…or rather, she…felt three incubi hit her like three huge balls, knocking her onto their bed. Duane was experiencing it all in his wife’s body. The dress was torn away to reveal her breasts. Then her undergarments were torn off.

Yes, what these three incubi…Clifford, George, and Ronald…were doing to her was unspeakable. Duane felt three female orifices, not two male ones, being invaded. The physical pain was nothing compared with the shame he felt.

So this is how it feels for a lady to be transformed into a whore, he thought as the three-way penetration continued. I’m so sorry, baby. I wasn’t here to protect you.

When they finished, they shot out of the house as quickly as they’d shot in. He could hear himself crying his wife’s tears as the trembling body his soul was trapped in was searching for some rope.

He felt her step up on the stool, tie the rope to the wood beam on the ceiling, put it around her neck, kick the stool, and felt the rope fibres cutting into her neck, cutting off her air supply, breaking her neck, and making her lose consciousness.

Next, he felt himself being compelled to walk out of the house and towards the saloon. He looked down at himself, and realized his soul was inside Billy’s little body. He looked to his right and saw Sue there. She was looking straight ahead, with what looked like no independent will. He could sense the presence of Clifford, George, and Ronald controlling both his boy and girl.

No, he thought. No. Don’t make me experience their deaths. No!

Yes, the voice of Clifford buzzed in his ears. You’re not only gonna experience yer little boy’s and girl’s deaths, not only yer mama’s, papa’s, ‘n’ sister’s deaths, but you’re gonna re-experience them all, over and over again, for all eternity.

What? he thought.

That’s right, George said. Why’d ya think they call Hell ‘eternal death’?

The Devil’s makin’ us three experience the same thing, Ronald said. Experiencin’ and re-experiencin’ the deaths of all the people we done killed. But the Devil done made a deal with us three. Since you double-crossed us, we can enjoy makin’ you suffer far worse than we have to. You see, you’re in what’s called the Ninth Circle o’ Hell, which is reserved for traitors. You’re a traitor, havin’ double-crossed us, so you’ll suffer far worse than us.

This can’t be happenin’, Duane thought as he saw himself and Sue nearing the saloon. This is a nightmare, ain’t it? Please pinch me an’ wake me up!

This is no dream, Clifford said. And you ain’t ever wakin’ up.

No! Duane thought, trying to take control over his son’s body, but he couldn’t move any part of it an inch.

You ain’t got no control, George said. Whatcha think you’re doin’? There ain’t nothin’ you can do ’bout it.

He and Sue walked into the saloon, over to the stairs, and down them. In the basement was almost everybody else.

He saw his mother, father, and kid sister, all of them standing there without any ability to retake control of their bodies and get out of the building. He and Sue were now also standing there, helpless and immobile.

A few more people from the village were made to enter the basement.

Everybody’s here, Clifford said. Alright, boys, go burn the saloon down.

Still trapped in little Billy’s body, the soul of Duane watched, in all helplessness, as the ghosts of George and Ronald flew out of the basement. After several minutes, he could smell smoke.

A while later, he and all the others felt the heat growing, then the flames appeared all around them.

Here are the fires of Hell, Duane, Ronald said. You were wonderin’ about them. Here they are.

The worst feeling of all wasn’t so much the physical pain of the burning; it was feeling the terror of his helpless son and daughter, feeling his boy’s heart pounding, his little pulse racing, his shaking body, and knowing he couldn’t do a thing about it. Looking over and seeing the mounting terror in little Sue’s eyes was all the more unbearable for him.

The flames got closer and closer, already burning his neighbours. The boy wept as he heard their screams. Duane could say nothing to comfort poor little Billy. He had no control over the boy’s body, which was fixed in its spot, practically paralyzed, as all the other victims were, being possessed by Clifford, George, and Ronald.

Then the flames came for him.

As the flames crawled along his skin and devoured everything in their path, the boy screamed and wailed. His father wanted to say, “Sorry, Billy. I’m so sorry!” but he couldn’t even do that.

When Billy passed out from the excruciating pain, his consciousness went over to little Sue.

Oh, God, no! he thought. Don’t make me feel my little princess sufferin’! Please, God, no!

But he would feel it, and hear her shrill screams of pain and bawling until she lost consciousness.

Then he went into his father’s body, and he felt his father’s body burning. Sorry, Daddy, he wanted to say…but couldn’t.

Then, after his father passed out and died, Duane’s soul went into his kid sister’s body, which immediately after began to burn. It broke his heart to know her pretty face and hair were being destroyed by the flames. Sorry, Sis, he wanted to say…but he couldn’t.

Finally, his soul went into his mother’s body. The sacred body of the angel who gave him life…burning in Hell like a devil.

And he could tell her no words of apology or comfort. He could only hear her screams, and watch her body destroyed.

After she passed out, Duane felt himself back in the outskirts of Chesterton again, in Clifford’s body, and looking at himself pointing that shotgun again.

And let’s do it all over again, he heard Clifford’s voice say to him. And again and again and again…forever.

NOOOOO!!!! he wanted to scream, with all of his might, and all of his soul.

But he couldn’t.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter Twelve

A month had gone by. That look of stupid contentment on Peter’s face was still in stark opposition to how he felt inside. Yet if he even thought in opposition to the new way–critical thoughts, rebellious thoughts, conspiratorial thoughts–he would feel a sharp migraine that seemed to split his head open. He didn’t understand how Price and Hammond were able to endure such a painful death for the sake of ‘liberty.’

To feel comfortable, he had to repress his honest feelings and go about with that mindless grin…not something he was wont to do. His only consolation was that he had Michelle at his side…in body, if not in spirit.

“Years back, I complained about viruses, vaccines, and mask mandates,” he said. “Those were days of carefree happiness compared to now. Unh!” His splitting headache came back.

“Be content,” she said. “We have our homes back, and we’re sharing the extra rooms with the poor, as we should be. The Bolshivarians’ work will be all finished any day now, and they will leave. Then we’ll have our heads back.”

“I’m not…holding my breath…for that. Oh!

“Let’s turn on the news,” she said, walking over to his TV. “Maybe George will have a new speech.”

“Oh, yes,” Peter said, rubbing his head. “Our beloved dictator. Oww!

She turned the channel to CNN. “If you’d just stop thinking ill of them, the pain would go away.”

“I can’t help it. It’s in my nature…to rebel. Oh!

“George asked no less than four times to step down as leader,” she said. “They won’t let him resign because they love him so much. He’s a great leader.”

“You believe that bullshit, eh? Ooh!

“Here we go. He’s about to give us a speech.”

“Friends, comrades,” George began. “The time has finally come. Our work has finished. Your Earth is healed, democratic systems of government have been established around the world, and the gulf between the rich and the poor is no more.”

“Wonderful,” she said with a wider than usual grin.

“Hooray,” Peter grunted. “I can feel the…democracy…swimming in my head. Unh!

“You are free!” George shouted to cheers from his listeners.

Free? Peter wondered, with another stinging pain in his head. Could there have been some justification in Price’s opposition to the Bolshivarians?

“The time has come for us Bolshivarianss to say goodbye to you Earthlings,” George went on. “So this is the end.”

They’re going to kill us, Peter thought, his head throbbing in pain. I knew it. They’ve fixed up the Earth. They don’t need us anymore. They’ll split us all up into pieces, scatter our body parts everywhere, and they’ll enjoy our Earth without the need of human flesh for clothing. We’re all dead.

“We Bolshivarians wish to apologize to all the better Earthlings for having occupied your bodies for so long,” George said. “We know many of you have been bitterly opposed to our use of mind control, but with all the deaths we Bolshivarians have suffered, we were given no choice. The saving of the Earth was growing far too urgent for us to allow a protracted struggle with the likes of President Price. A shortened, but aggravated, struggle was necessary. But now, we will release you. We will let you go.”

Good, Peter thought. Kill us all and get it over with.

Oddly, though he didn’t feel a headache after those thoughts.

He and Michelle saw the little dots of light emerging from their bodies. They floated out and hovered before astonished Peter and Michelle.

“I knew it,” she said with a tear rolling down her cheek. “The mind control would only be temporary.” A grin lit up her face that to Peter could only be described as genuine.

“I don’t believe it,” he said. “I’ve got my brains back.” Now he was grinning.

On the TV, they saw the lights come out of all the people listening to George, and out of his body, too. The lights all floated up to the sky as everyone looked up.

“I’m free,” George said. “I can resign my position. I no longer have the burdens of leadership.” He let out a loud, triumphant laugh.

Peter and Michelle felt a gentle ‘farewell’ energy emanating from the Bolshivarian lights as they floated towards the living room windows. They were about to pass through the glass like ghosts and fly outside before Michelle stepped forward.

“Wait!” she said. “What about my mom and dad? I don’t wanna lose them!”

You will never lose us, Siobhan said in her mind. We will always be with you.

As will we, Peter, the energy of Peter’s parents vibrated throughout his body.

“But isn’t your energy linked with the Bolshivarians?” Michelle asked. “If they leave Earth, won’t you go with them?”

No, sweetie, Siobhan’s soothing energy buzzed in Michelle’s brain and heart. The Bolshivarians shared their energy and our energy with yours. So we’ll always be together, even after they leave the Earth. There is a common oneness that transcends all space and time, so we’ll always be together, no matter how far away the Bolshivarians are, even to the other side of the universe.

“Wait a minute,” Peter said. “That could mean that the Bolshivarians are still, secretly, controlling us.”

“Oh, will you stop with your paranoia?” Michelle said. “You have your mind back, don’t you?”

“It seems that way,” he said.

“Any headaches?” she asked, sneering at him.

“No.” In fact, he’d never felt better.

“Then stop worrying about it.”

“But what if, in some subtle way, the Bolshivarians are still–“

“Oh, please, Peter!”

The little lights were all outside now.

She rushed to the front door and went outside. Peter followed her. All of his neighbours were out on their lawns, watching the Bolshivarians floating up into the night sky. Soon, it became impossible to distinguish their alien visitors from the stars.

The people of Earth felt one last message sent into their minds: Remember, if you humans return to doing harm to each other and your world, we Bolshivarians will be forced to return and save you from yourselves again. Remember the lengths to which we are willing to go to ensure that salvation, so be good to each other and to your planet.

“How could they tell us that if they’re really so far away from us?” Peter asked.

“Through their advanced technology, of course,” Michelle said.

How does it feel to have a healed world, Michelle? her mother asked her in her mind.

“Like paradise,” she said with teary eyes and a wide grin.

“Yeah,” Peter said with a grin of his own. “It’s great to be free. I guess it was all worth it in the end.”

All of his neighbours were thinking the same way.

Every single person was grinning.

THE END

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter Eleven

Peter and Michelle, having heard the breaking of the glass on the front door to the restaurant, shuffled over to the back door leading out to an alley. They heard the shuffling of feet entering the restaurant; the footsteps grew louder as they, presumably carriers, were approaching the back.

“They’re gonna find us in here soon enough,” Peter whispered, then listened at the door. “I hear nothing out there. Let’s sneak out before they turn on the light in here.” They went out the door.

In the alley, they hid between stacks of crates and garbage bags to the right of that door. They heard it open, a pause, then closing the door.

“What do we do now?” Michelle asked.

“We don’t wanna go in the direction of that door,” he whispered in her ear. “Any of them could be out there waiting for us. We should go in the opposite direction.”

One of us should go first,” she whispered in his ear. “Then, if the coast is clear, we’ll go out together.”

“OK, I’ll go.”

“Stop being so gallant. I’m smaller than you, so I should go. I can hide more easily than you.”

“OK, but don’t take long. I don’t like you going out there alone.”

“I’ll be super-fast. Don’t worry.” She kissed him on the lips, then went.

Shaking with worry, he peeked past the crates and garbage bags to see what was out there, but it was mostly darkness.

Thirty seconds of agonizing waiting passed.

I thought you were going to be super-fast, Michelle, he thought.

Finally, she came back.

He got up from his crouching position to see her better. “So?” he whispered. “Can we go? Is it OK?”

“Yes, it’s OK,” she said with a wide grin on her face. “Everything is just fine.”

“C’mon, Michelle. Don’t joke around. We don’t have to–“

“Join us, Peter.” She was still grinning. “It’s for the best.”

“Oh, no!” His heart sank with his lower jaw. “Please, God, no! Not you, too, Michelle.” He was choking up.

“Peter, just accept the new way. The Bolshivarians’ work is almost done. Just a few more months, and all the vestiges of our old, sick world will be annihilated.”

“With our souls,” He began weeping.

“No, Peter! As soon as the Bolshivarians are finished, they’ll free us and leave the Earth. I promise you.”

He just kept crying. “I love you.” He held the can of bug spray in his hands, but couldn’t bear to use it on her, for fear of even hurting her with it.

“I love you, too. And everything will be OK. Trust us. The souls of our parents are telling me, right now in my head, that all will be well.”

He looked at her and frowned. “Didn’t you tell me during our meal in there, that when I sprayed the lights coming from Sid’s hands, that our parents’ souls were destroyed, never to come back?”

“That was a white lie they told me, I must confess.”

“You Bolshivarians are all liars, like the ruling class here on Earth. You’re no better than they are.”

“The ruling class here is almost all obliterated. We had to lie about your parents. It was a desperate attempt to stop you from killing more Bolshivarians.” The lights were coming out of her fingers and were hovering before him.

“I remember when we lost our fear of these things.”

“I don’t fear them now, Peter.”

“They’ve taken your will, Michelle; but I know, deep down, you’re still in there, and I don’t wanna lose you.”

“You won’t lose me, Peter. They’ve reaffirmed my faith in them. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, let them in, the voice of his father said in his head.

We’ll all be together again, his mother’s voice said.

As Don and I are with Michelle, Siobhan’s voice said.

“I can’t bear to lose you,” Peter said in sobs.

“You haven’t, and you won’t,” Michelle said, still with that grin that told him those words weren’t her own.

“Well, being a Bolshivarian slave with you is better than not having you at all.” He stretched out his arms to receive the lights in his body. “I guess this is my suicide.”

“Oh, nonsense,” she said with a laugh as the lights went inside him.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter Nine

A week later, Peter and Michelle made arrangements to meet with Sid, this time in her house.

“He’s on his way, right from his home in Brantford,” she said. “So, we’re gonna go through with this farce again?”

“Yes, crazy as it sounds,” he said.

“Crazy as it is,” she said. “At the worst, he’ll be a carrier who we’re risking turning us into one of them, or one of us will kill him and we’ll risk–this time, my neighbours finding out, since we’re meeting him here this time. At best, Sid will be the way Wendy was acting: he’ll be one of us, but too scared to show his real self.”

“Or he will let his real self show. As tense as this is going to be, we have to try. I’ll go crazy if I have to live knowing only you and I are normal.”

“And what if he’s one of them, and he makes one of us into a carrier? What if I lose you, Peter?”

“I could lose you to them, too, Michelle. And that terrifies me. But that’s why we’ve gotta try to find allies. What’s going on around the world is like the zombie apocalypse, only it’s the Bolshivarian apocalypse. The more of them there are out there, the more desperate we’ll be to find any of us, ’cause we can’t do this alone.”

She let out a big sigh. “OK, let’s do this.”

They kissed.

**************

Five hours later, the doorbell rang.

They took a deep breath, clutched the bug spray hidden in their jacket pockets, and went to the door.

They opened it to see, predictably, a grinning Sid.

“Hi,” he said. “Long time, no see.”

“Yeah,” they grinned back, much better practiced now.

“Come on in,” Peter said.

They went into the living room and sat down.

“So, Sid,” Peter said through his bared teeth, “how are you coping with all of the changes going on?”

“Coping?” Sid said with a tinge of disbelief in his eyes. “What’s there to cope with? The improvements being made around the world are nothing short of miraculous. Schools and hospitals are being built all over Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Decent-quality housing is replacing all the slums, including those in Regent Park, as you both must know. The unemployed are being given work. The climate crisis is practically over. What’s there to complain about?”

“Oh, of course we know about all the improvements being made around the world,” Michelle said. “We’re more than happy about all that. It’s just…well…”

“Well, what?” Sid asked, his smile beginning to fade.

“We don’t…feel as free…as we used to,” Peter said.

“Don’t feel free?” Sid said. “What could be more liberating than the changes we’ve recently seen? No more war. No more poverty. No more wildfires, flooding, or pollution. The people want these changes. Don’t you?”

“Of course we do,” Michelle said.

“But at what cost?” Peter asked.

What cost?” Sid asked. There was an uneasy pause. “Has your loyalty shifted?”

Peter and Michelle couldn’t answer.

“You in your nice palace of a home?” Sid added.

There was another uncomfortable pause.

Then the dots of light flew out of Sid’s fingers.

Peter and Michelle pulled out their bug spray, but they then heard some familiar voices in their minds.

Michelle? Siobhan’s voice called to her.

“Mom?” she said.

Peter, what are you doing? his mother’s voice said.

What George is doing is for the best, Peter could hear his father saying in his thoughts.

“You’re not real,” Peter said, aiming his little spray can right at the dots of light. “You’re a Bolshivarian hallucination.”

Sweetie, you don’t wanna spray me, do you? Siobhan’s voice almost sobbed in Michelle’s mind’s ear. If you do, I’ll die a second time, and I’ll never come back.

“Mama,” Michelle answered in a sobbing voice.

“The voices aren’t real, Michelle,” Peter said.

“Oh, yes they are,” Sid said.

“Mom?” she wept.

“Don’t listen, Michelle,” Peter said. “It’s a trick.”

“If you spray them, you’ll regret it, Peter,” Sid said.

We don’t want to take you by force, Don’s voice said to Michelle, but we will if we have to, honey.

“Daddy, you won’t hurt us, will you?” she sobbed.

“Of course they will,” Peter said. “They’re not our parents.”

“Shut up, Peter!” she bawled.

“Fine,” he said. “Speak, can, for me!” He sprayed at the lights.

Michelle! the voices of Siobhan and Don said, fading out into oblivion as the little dots lost their light and dropped on the carpet.

“Nooooooo!” Michelle screamed.

Peter grabbed her by the hand, sprayed Sid in the eyes, getting a grunt from him, and the two ran out of the house.

Peter and Michelle ran down the sidewalk, almost reaching a corner when he saw a few people farther off, with their backs to them. He stopped running and tried to calm down.

“Bastard!” she hissed, hitting him on the shoulder.

“Stop!” he whispered. “They’ll see us fighting.”

She wiped the tears off her cheeks, gave him a brief scowl, then calmed down and imitated his grin.

As they continued slowly walking down the street, she whispered, “The carriers are all around your home, Sid is controlling my home. We’re homeless now, you know.”

“Don’t remind me,” he said through his grin.