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

George Kelly’s 72-year-old mother was in bad shape. Just a few days before, she took a nasty fall down the stairs from the second floor to the ground floor of her apartment. She was already quite brittle, so one particularly hard knock on her upper right arm fractured it on the corner where the tread and riser of a stair meet.

Fortunately, George–who still lived with her–was there when the accident happened, having heard her scream from her apartment, which was right by the stairs. She’d meant to go to the grocery store just down the street to buy something, and she’d assured him that he didn’t need to accompany her; he could just relax in the living room and watch TV, for she’d be right back.

If only he’d accompanied her.

Instead of going to the grocery store, she of course went in his car to the hospital where he worked. He was a nurse, and he insisted on taking care of her personally.

She lay in her recovery room on a bed the upper half of which was raised up at about a forty-five degree angle. Her right arm was in a cast, going straight out from the side of the bed to the elbow, then going straight up from there.

George virtually never left the room. The rest of the staff liked and respected him enough to let him focus all of his care on her during his nursing shifts, and when his shifts were finished, he was allowed to stay with her even when she was sleeping and therefore not to be disturbed, which he of course would never do. He slept in a bed on the other side of the room, had a change of clothes handy, and food was sent to him as well as to her.

Why did he insist on being with her as much as possible? His love for her went far beyond the usual love of the most dutiful of sons. George, in his late thirties, never married. He was straight, but no woman could ever replace his sweet mother.

Though as a high school student, he’d bullied Tiffany along with Faye and all the others, George was far more of a ‘weakling’ (in the form of a ‘mama’s boy’) than Tiffany could ever have been. By calling her a “wimp,” he was really just engaging in projection.

His father died when he was six, so his mother’s burden of raising their one child was enormous. She’d been a timid, reclusive sort, with virtually no friends in the neighbourhood, so he became her best friend…in the Norman Bates sense, though without the psychopathy.

She was his entire world, and vice versa. Terrified of abandonment, she couldn’t bear the idea of him meeting a girl and marrying her, then moving away to some far-off city, his mother never seeing him again except for the ever-so-occasional visit.

So, in anticipation of such a scary prospect, his mother subtly manipulated her boy into such a state of emotional dependency on her that the idea of marrying and moving away would have been unthinkable to him. She even influenced his decision to become a nurse, so she’d have someone to take care of her in her old age…and now he would do just that for her.

On the third night of her hospitalization, he sat by her bed, his eyes tearing up. He knew in his intellect that with proper care, which she of course was getting, she would be fine and well again; but her fear of abandonment was something she’d managed to project onto him, so his emotions overruled his intellect, and any significant injury she’d sustain would put him in terror of her approach to death being at all pushed forward.

She lay there asleep. The medical equipment indicated, at a glance, that her heart rate and other vital signs were fine. He could see the rising and falling of her chest to indicate breathing; but the fear remained in his heart that that rising and falling would stop, even though he knew, in his medical expertise, that there was no reason for such a stopping to occur all of a sudden.

“Wake up,” he whispered in a barely audible voice. “Mom, please wake up.” He wanted her to wake up, but he didn’t want to be the cause of her waking up.

Her eyes opened. She looked at him and smiled.

“George,” she said in the frailest of voices.

“Oh, Mom,” he said, with a smile and a tear running down his right cheek. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, dear,” she said. “I just had a really good, long nap. I actually feel quite good, especially with you here. It’s comforting knowing my son, the best nurse in the world, is so dedicated to my recovery.”

“I am, Mom,” he sobbed. “Yet I’m so mad at myself for not insisting on going with you to the grocery store. When you slipped, I could have grabbed your arm and stopped you from falling.”

“We didn’t know this would happen. Don’t blame yourself.”

“You’ll be OK, Mom. Don’t worry. I’ll be sure of that.”

“I’m sure you will, son. But if you’re so sure, why are you crying?”

“I just hate to see you get hurt, Mom. There’s always that fear, in the back of my mind, of something…anything…going wrong.”

“What could possibly go wrong, honey?”

“Well, we assumed you’d be OK going to the store by yourself, and look what happened.”

“Oh, just because one thing went wrong doesn’t mean all manner of other things will go wrong, too. George, tell me: what’s worrying you so much? You always seem so afraid for me, and that’s sweet and all, but you’re making yourself needlessly unhappy, and that will affect your own health. What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing, I guess,” he said, looking down at his hands, which drooped between his knees. “I guess I’m just thinking silly thoughts.”

“Well, stop thinking silly thoughts,” she said, giving him a firm look. “Oh, I’ve gotten sleepy again. Back to sleep for me.” She closed her eyes.

“Good, Mom. Get some more rest.”

Actually, his thoughts weren’t all that silly. He just couldn’t tell her about the voice he’d hear, from time to time, a voice that he’d been hearing over the past year.

A voice that said, You’re going to murder her one day.

…and the speaker of that voice, invisible, was at that very moment hovering right beside him.

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

Faye Oliphant and Brad Rolie, her husband of nine years, had been trying for the whole length of their marriage to have a baby.

It wasn’t an infertility or sterility problem. Actually, Brad had difficulty getting it up for her.

There were two main reasons for this problem. One was Brad’s secret addiction to internet porn, and its bevy of flawless, photoshopped beauties causing him to be used to that lofty standard of physical perfection in women, which the vast majority of women outside the fantasy world, of course, haven’t a hope of even approaching.

The second reason was Faye’s size, as of her thirties.

She was rather chubby in high school, recall; hence Tiffany’s changing of Faye’s surname to “Elephant,” and earning Faye’s hatred, as well as giving her a motive to bully Tiffany. By the time Faye had reached her thirties, though, her size had ballooned to that of a woman weighing almost five hundred pounds.

When Brad was dating her, in her late twenties and weighing around three hundred pounds at the time, he was deeply conflicted between his sincere love for her as a person and his distaste for her looks. He imagined that, over time, he’d outgrow his shallow preference for women with the bodies of models, and would be able to have a normal sexual relationship with her, getting aroused in bed with her based on his love for her.

No such luck.

She was so deeply hurt, on their wedding night, by his lack of enthusiasm for her in the bedroom that she found herself eating the pain away.

Hence, three hundred pounds became five hundred.

…and he’d sneak off to his computer for a good wank every night after she’d gone to sleep.

Still, she wanted to have a baby, her own baby, not an adoption. And so did he.

So they attempted lovemaking in the missionary position, at least once or twice a week, every year from their wedding night until now, with Faye at the age of 38. It had been so frustrating for them.

Faye’s self-esteem was so low that she didn’t even consider exercising or dieting. Brad was so ashamed of himself for not being “man enough” to get the job done that porn was his only escape from his depressing reality.

But one night, after seeing his dear wife in tears after having caught him masturbating to a PornHub video, Brad was determined not to fail in bed with her this time. He had to make it up to her, after having disappointed her for so long; after all, in spite of his porn problem, he did sincerely love her.

So, as absurd and pathetic as this must sound, he got on top of her that night, closed his eyes, and imagined as vividly as he could that he was about to screw the porn star he’d been watching on that video.

…and a miracle happened.

He actually got enough of a boner to stick it in her and pump away until he came inside her.

But would she get pregnant?

Actually, she did!

Both husband and wife were so thrilled to find out that they were dancing together in the doctor’s office.

When she had an ultrasound, it indicated she’d have a girl. Both parents were perfectly happy about this: a daughter was exactly what they’d been hoping for.

Family and friends congratulated her, celebrating with a huge party. These were the happiest moments of their whole marriage.

As the months went by, full of delightful anticipation for both of them, she was for the first time in her life happy to see herself getting bigger in the middle, and her weight going up. She crossed off the days on the calendar, impatient for the time when she was expected to go into labour.

And finally, the big day came. It would have been difficult getting her huge body into a car and over to the local hospital, so they managed to deliver the baby with a midwife right in their home.

As she was struggling, groaning, and screaming to get their daughter through the birth canal, she had her eyes squeezed shut almost the whole time.

…and with her eyes closed like that, neither she nor Brad or the midwife, so focused on the birth, noticed the malevolently grinning apparition of Tiffany’s ghost looking down on the mother-to-be.

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

Furioso looked first at the ghosts of Alexa and Megan, then at that of Tiffany.

The first two of the three female spectres were in a kind of agony that made Tiffany’s pain seem almost like relief.

You shouldn’t be too surprised at the heightened pain you are feeling, Furioso said to Alexa and Megan. The vengeance you wreaked on your victims far outweighs their past cruelties to you when you were in physical form.

I wanted them…to know…what real pain is, Alexa said.

Her apparition was melting into a lava-like blob, as was Megan’s. The skin of theirs that wasn’t melting was flaking off into thousands of tiny pieces of ash that were blown all about in the steaming hot air of Hell.

They already knew what real pain is, he said. Everyone on Earth knows what real pain is.

I wanted them…to know…what my pain felt like, Megan’s ghost said. To be raped…by the one…you love…while another watches…and laughs at you. She and Alexa were groaning in pain, twice as loud as Tiffany’s groans.

They didn’t kill you, he said. Nor did they kill the ones you cared about.

Since when are you,…a demon,…lecturing us…about right and wrong? Alexa growled at him. It was your idea…to have us…get our revenge…on them…in the first place!

They made us want to kill ourselves, Tiffany said. Our own parents didn’t care about us. They all taught us that the whole world is uncaring; with no one to care about us, we found ourselves with no one to care about.

You killed innocent children, he said. People who had done you no harm. I never recommended that you do that.

We were innocent, too, Alexa said. We’d never done…any of them…any harm…before they hurt us, including our parents.

Still, he said, you are now so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin. When I offered you a chance for revenge, I’d never imagined you would go to such extreme lengths of cruelty. Instead of you enduring the suffering of Hell while gaining satisfaction from contemplating your tormentors’ own suffering, your new sins have added to your own suffering in a way that makes your revenge seem to have not been worth it.

As awful as I feel, Alexa snarled, it was worth it.

I agree, Megan said.

That is because your hate has grown to such a size that you imagine it will shield you from your pain, Furioso said. That shield will be only temporary; you will feel much worse later, for it will be your hate that makes you hurt.

I feel nothing but hate, Tiffany hissed. Hate for a world that hated me so unjustly.

I feel…the same hate, Megan said.

As do I, Alexa said. There is…no other feeling.

The world gave us nothing other than pain and hate, Tiffany said. It will make no difference to me to feel Alexa’s and Megan’s greater suffering; but vengeance will give me the satisfaction that at least Faye Oliphant and George Kelly will suffer, too.

Are you sure you want to do this? Furioso asked Tiffany. I advise you not to carry your revenge too far.

I’ll do what I have to to get my satisfaction, Tiffany grunted. Take me to where Faye and George are! I want them!

Very well, Furioso said.

The demon disappeared with Tiffany’s ghost, while those of Alexa and Megan continued their grotesque degeneration into disfigured, molten piles of unimaginable pain.

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

Lynne sighed softly at first, her eyes closed and her mouth wide open, as she felt Herman entering her in his usual slow, gentle manner. Then, suddenly, she felt a sharp, painful stabbing as he jerked the rest of the way in.

Her eyes came wide open. “Oww!” she yelped.

The look of pain and malice that she saw in his eyes was inexplicable. Herman was never this way in bed.

Well, that’s because he normally never felt the sensation of a strap-on dildo rammed up his ass.

Though invisible and ghostly, that dildo tore Herman’s anus apart as thoroughly as a physical one would when shoved in as aggressively as Megan the ghost had shoved it. And with a grunt of pain, he was forced, by that thrust, to thrust just as abruptly into Lynne as he’d received it.

The thrusting continued, though…for both him and Lynne. Indeed, in raping Herman, ghost-Megan was, as it were, raping Lynne by proxy.

Herman looked behind him to see what the hell was going on. He saw the Megan of those dreams he used to have. “Megan!” he gasped as he felt another ramming.

Her dishevelled hair, her pale, flaking skin, and her glowing red eyes, circled in black rings, were disturbing enough to see in themselves, but the malicious grin he saw was far worse.

That face being far too unbearable to look at, he looked back down at Lynne, meaning to apologize for hurting her; but instead of seeing his wife wincing in pain, he saw her laughing at him.

“That’s it, Megan!” he heard Lynne say. “Jam that strap-on deep in his ass! Ha! Ha!

“Lynne?” he grunted in disbelief. “Unh! What are you…Uh!…saying?”

Only Lynne wasn’t laughing or saying any of that.

She was yelping in pain from the ramming she was getting from him, as well as seeing a malevolent grin on his face that was no more real than the malice he saw on her face. She said, “Honey, stop! Uhh! You’re hurting me! Oh!

But he didn’t hear or see any of that, due to Megan’s manipulations. Both husband and wife were experiencing variations on the dreams they’d had for so long.

As the sodomizing of Herman continued, and as he continued hallucinating Lynne’s laughing at him, he was filling up with a feeling for her he’d never imagined he’d ever feel–hatred. Part of this hate came from the laughing Megan was making him see and hear from Lynne; part of that hate came from Megan entering his body and consciousness.

Yes, the ghost was shifting from sexual possession of him to outright demonic possession. Though he still saw Lynne laughing at him, she was really looking up in incredulous horror at the transformation of the man she loved into…some kind of…monster.

“Herman?” she sobbed, the tears in her vaginal walls getting excruciating, “What…are you…doing? Ah!

Now he no longer felt the dildo stabbing his ass. With Megan fully controlling him now, he was laughing at Lynne as he continued raping her.

He no longer saw Lynne laughing at him. He saw her real face, her tears, her fear, and the pain in her eyes. He was so inundated with Megan’s hate, though, that he felt no pity for his wife. He just continued raping and laughing.

She struggled, trying to push him off, but he was too big and strong. She could only hope he’d climax and get off of her soon…but he didn’t.

“Herman!” she sobbed with pleading eyes he wouldn’t acknowledge. “Why? Ah!

She gave him one strong shove, and though it didn’t get him off of her, it did reveal someone behind him, the one who would answer her question.

“Megan?” she gasped, now remembering her own dreams.

Indeed, now she saw the ghost laughing at her with Herman, just like in her dreams.

Megan’s a ghost? she wondered, still yelping in pain from Herman’s continued phallic stabbing. I don’t even believe in ghosts.

Suddenly, Herman pulled out. Before Lynne could even have time to feel a sense of relief, though, he flipped her over on all fours, then he aimed for her ass.

“Oh, God!” she screamed. “Please, Herman, no more!

Then, the sight of Megan’s grinning ghost just a few centimetres away from her face explained it all: this wasn’t her husband doing this to her; Megan was possessing him, getting her revenge on Lynne for having Herman do this to Megan back in the girls’ changing room in the high school gym.

Lynne screamed as he penetrated her the same way Megan’s ghost-strap-on had penetrated him.

Did Lynne deserve this?

Wasn’t the shared guilt between her and Herman, and their committed love as atonement, sufficient redemption? Didn’t their commitment to their Catholic faith, all their attending Mass, redeem them for that one sin?

Not in Megan’s opinion.

Mercifully, he came after about a minute of sodomizing Lynne, then he pulled out and lay on the bed in exhaustion. He no longer had that malevolent grin; instead, his face showed unmistakeable shame and remorse…yet he knew there were no words that he could say to ease the pain he’d caused her.

For a second, she acknowledged his guilt and didn’t hate him for what he’d done, knowing Megan’s ghost had made him do it. But that second of forgiveness was only for that second.

For Megan’s ghost had left his body and entered Lynne’s.

Herman now looked into the hateful eyes of his wife, not sure if that hate was all hers or all Megan’s. If it was shared by both, how much of it was Lynne’s? If it was ninety-nine percent Lynne’s hate, he knew he deserved it, regardless of Megan’s possession of him. He simply couldn’t bear the thought that his own body had hurt the woman he loved.

She walked out of the bedroom like a naked automaton.

He lay on the bed waiting, panting, his heart pounding.

In two minutes, she returned with a large knife in her hand.

She grinned at him as she approached the bed. He smiled back.

He lay on his back, arms stretched out, ready and willing to receive the knife in his chest.

He did.

Megan’s ghost left Lynne.

She let out an ear-piercing wail as she looked at the blood coming out of Herman’s chest.

Then she stuck the knife into her own chest.

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

Lynne Hendricks and Herman Schubert got married almost immediately after graduation from high school. It seemed to most that this marriage was way too hasty, yet his and her parents saw, demonstrated every day in the couple’s sincere, enthusiastic love for each other, a true, bedrock commitment.

Besides, Lynne and Herman had no desire to have kids, so if it ever came to a divorce, there was no fear of custody battles complicating things.

They went to the same university, renting an apartment just a few blocks from the campus, and their commitment to each other extended to a commitment to focus on their studies; because without a wish to chase after sexual encounters with any other members of the opposite sex, neither of them had the temptation to party in bars.

This monogamous commitment of theirs, so unusual in kids in their late teens, was nonetheless explicable: the apparent suicide of Megan Fourier drove the two into such sexual guilt that their monogamy was meant as a kind of atonement.

Herman had been getting nightmares starting just a week after Megan’s disappearance. He dreamt of himself raping her, a vivid reliving of the actual event, of him raping Lynne, or of Megan with a strap-on raping him. He’d dream one of these variations at least once a week, if not almost every night.

As a Catholic, he went to confession and told the priest everything with his face soaked in tears. The priest advised him to turn himself in to the authorities, but Herman of course didn’t want to face that; so he decided never to have sexual relations with anyone other than Lynne, for the rest of his life. To him, such a sacrifice of so many potential partners, with his good looks making temptation easy, seemed an acceptable form of atonement.

Lynne had nightmares, too. She’d witness either the rape as it had happened to Megan, or she’d see Megan watching Herman rape her, or she’d see Megan with the strap-on raping her, with Herman watching and laughing. Her nightmares were less frequent than his, around once a month, but they were no less intense. When he proposed to her, she agreed that their giving up of sex with anyone else would be a sufficient punishment.

Of course, neither of them could have even imagined that it was Megan’s ghost that was visually narrating their every nightmare.

Lynne’s guilt increased upon taking a Women’s Studies course during her first year in university. Hearing the shocking rape statistics her professor quoted invariably triggered her memory of what she’d had Herman do to poor Megan. At the same time, though, the guilt motivated her to commit to her marriage all the more, resisting every pass handsome guys gave her on and off campus. Given her beauty, she got lots of those passes, almost every day, often several on any one day.

Lynne and Herman never changed their minds about not wanting to have kids, and their hard work studying paid off, with Herman getting into Law School, and Lynne getting a degree in psychology. Eventually, after their post-graduate work, he joined a successful law firm, and she became a psychotherapist, often listening with tears of compassion to her patients’ retelling of such traumas as child sexual abuse. His proudest court case, him as prosecutor, resulted in the conviction of a rapist.

Over the years, Herman and Lynne found that their nightmares about Megan were becoming fewer in frequency, until by the time they’d reached thirty years of age, they were no longer having them at all. During their thirties, therefore, their married life had become nothing less than a blissful one.

Indeed, they remained no less in love than they’d been as teens. With their successful work, they used their plentiful money to buy a beautiful house in a quiet neighbourhood in North York. Every year, they’d have vacations in such places as Florida or Europe. Life was good.

Megan the ghost had been monitoring their marital bliss the whole time.

She grew conflicted over whether or not to get revenge on them. First, she noticed how the simmering hate in herself and in Alexa and Tiffany was eating them up, hence Megan’s easing up on Herman’s and Lynne’s nightmares. Also, she sensed how her tormentors had grown repentant of what they’d done to her, making her less eager for revenge.

Still, seeing the boundless happiness of that couple irked her, for she remembered how she’d originally wanted Herman for herself.

She was especially irked to see their passion and joy when making love, which was every time they did it.

So one night, twenty years after her rape and her disappearance with Alexa and Tiffany, Megan decided to make her presence known to Lynne and Herman…in their bedroom.

It was just past ten PM. Lynne, still quite beautiful at 38, had just showered, perfumed herself, and prettied her face with makeup while Herman lay in bed waiting for her. It made no difference to him if she were eighteen or thirty-eight years old: she was still the sexiest, loveliest woman in the whole world.

She came out of the bathroom with only her bathrobe on. She went into the bedroom with a grin for Herman, who grinned back at her.

“Take the bathrobe off, honey,” he said. “Let me see you.”

“No,” she said bashfully.

“Oh, come on. I know how you look under it, and that’s why I wanna see. You have a beautiful body.”

“But, honey,…”

“Don’t be shy. Give us a look.”

“Oh,…”

“C’mon, don’t be such a tease.”

“Oh, OK.” She undid and dropped the bathrobe at her feet. One hand covered her breasts, the other, her pubes.

“Lynne, what’s with the covering up?”

“Well, I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“What’s that got to do with anything? You’re still the hottest, sexiest woman in the world. Let’s see it all.”

“Oh, alright.” She moved her hands away in all timidity.

He grinned as his eyes feasted on her lovely flesh.

“What are you so shy about?” he asked. “Your body is as perfect as it’s always been. Now, get in bed with me. I’m as hard as a rock, and I’m gonna show you how much I like that body.”

Giggling, she got under the covers with him. He took off his underwear. They held each other and began kissing.

Megan scowled, burning with envy, as she watched them together, so happy.

So undeservedly happy.

It’s time I took away your happiness, she thought. Her spirit descended on Herman as he entered Lynne.

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

Some time after the achievement of her revenge, Alexa’s ghost reappeared before those of Megan and Tiffany. They looked at her apparition with mixed feelings.

Do you feel satisfied, now that you’ve destroyed Boyd and Denise? Tiffany asked.

Yes, Alexa said. Completely. She grinned gloatingly.

Are you sure about that? Megan asked.

Why would you doubt me? Alexa said. Of course I’m sure.

It’s just that…here in Hell, we burn, melt, and suffer, Megan said. Satisfaction seems so far away, so unattainable, even after receiving revenge, as I got on my father.

Achieving revenge is a satisfaction all in itself, Alexa assured Megan. Even in this hopeless place.

I suppose so, Megan said, looking away from Alexa.

Why do you have doubts? Tiffany asked. Don’t you want to get revenge on Lynne and Herman for raping you?

Oh, yes, of course I do, Megan said. Every second that those two are still alive, I burn in a rage. Their every heartbeat is an insult to me.

So, go after them while you still have the opportunity, Tiffany said. Make them suffer, as we suffer.

They have no right not to suffer, Megan acknowledged with a scowl and a snarl. I hate that they’re happy.

Then get them, Alexa said. Ruin them. Why do you hesitate about your revenge? What’s stopping you, Hamlet?

Oh, I don’t know, Megan said, still not wanting to look at Alexa. How much of our burning and melting is just our sentence here in Hell for suicide, though; and how much of it do you think could be because of how much we’ve let our hate and anger turn us into murderous monsters? Aren’t we turning into the very bullies that we despise?

I don’t care if I’ve become a monster, or a demon deserving to be in Hell, Alexa said with a frown of hate. We’re in Hell and suffering anyway; it makes no difference if we get revenge or not as far as our fate’s concerned. But it makes a lot of difference if we suffer here and let our bullies get away with what they did to us, or if we make them pay.

I agree, Tiffany said. I groan in agony as each day passes and I don’t get revenge on Fay and George for what they did to me. We’ve followed Furioso’s advice about waiting to get revenge later, after cooling off after killing our parents. I’ve waited long enough: I will definitely get Fay and George.

We’ll suffer either way, Megan, Alexa said. But we can make them suffer, too, and we’ll show our strength, our power. Aren’t you tired of being weak? Make Lynne and Herman weak instead. Enjoy it. I enjoyed making Boyd and Denise weak.

But you killed their children and spouses, too, Megan said. You killed innocent children, and really violently. They never did you any harm.

Oh, who cares about them? Alexa said with so cold a face, it was as if her burning and melting had stopped and reversed, making her almost into an ice sculpture instead.

You don’t have to harm anyone other than Lynne and Herman, Megan, Tiffany said. Just hurt those two alone, if the idea of hurting innocent people bothers you. It makes no difference to me. We’re in Hell: having a moral conscience here is rather pointless, don’t you think?

I guess you’re right, Megan said. But I’m getting only Lynne and Herman. No one else.

Do what you like, Tiffany said.

Furioso appeared before the three spirits.

Are you ready to face Lynne and Herman, Megan? he asked her.

Megan looked over at Alexa again and winced.

Yes, I guess so, she said with a sigh.

Megan and Furioso disappeared, off to find the two targets of her revenge.

Tiffany now looked at Alexa’s apparition and winced.

You have no regrets over how you got even with Boyd and Denise, do you? she asked Alexa.

None at all, Alexa said with a rigid tone in her voice, though her face and body were anything but rigid.

In fact, her apparition showed her skin melting and dripping down to her feet, like the wax of an almost used-up candle.

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

Denise put the Pepsi and Fanta bottles on the kitchen counter, then she opened a drawer to get some straws. As she put her hand in to get them, she heard a whisper from behind.

Hello, Denise.

Startled, she spun around to find the speaker. Though the girl she saw looked ghost-like, the face was familiar enough. Denise gawked at that face in disbelief for several seconds, her jaw dropping.

“Alexa?” she whispered.

The ghost smirked.

Then it flew inside Denise’s body.

She gasped, then froze.

Her brain was now thinking thoughts that weren’t her own.

Terrifying thoughts.

Thoughts that couldn’t be expelled from her mind.

The baseball bat in the hall closet. Get it. Get a knife out of the drawer, too.

After getting a steak knife out of another kitchen drawer and putting it in her back jeans pocket, then putting her shirt over the handle to hide it, Denise walked out of the kitchen and into the hall like an automaton, with absolutely no ability to stop herself. She approached that closet with helpless dread.

All the while, she could hear her son noisily playing with his Star Wars toys.

You hate that noise, don’t you? Alexa’s voice rasped in Denise’s ears. You know you want to stop it, and there’s only one way to do it.

Denise couldn’t say no. She couldn’t even think it, as hard as she tried to.

She opened the closet door and picked up the bat.

She closed the door and took the bat with her down the hall to the living room. She couldn’t believe she had no ability to stop, drop the bat, and just return to the kitchen to get the drinks.

But she knew exactly what she was meant to do with the bat.

She couldn’t stop herself. She couldn’t say no to Alexa’s ghost. She couldn’t think any thoughts of objection to the ghost’s plan.

Alexa had total control over her mind and body.

Denise remembered how she’d bullied Alexa back in high school, but she couldn’t muster an apology, as sincere as it would have been. She couldn’t even let a tear roll down her cheek, over what she was being forced to do to her boy.

As she approached little Jameson with the bat, his voice, still imitating light sabre sounds, grew louder and more obnoxious. Her possessed brain was making her hate her son’s noises.

Violence is the only way to deal with anything you don’t like, Alexa’s voice told her. You know that. You’ve known it your whole life. Oh, sure, you’ve tried to suppress your rage against the world, you’ve pretended to be a good, loving mother, but you know, deep down, that that’s not the real you, Denise. Swing that bat. Beat him to death with it. You know you want to.

She was standing right behind him now. He just kept on playing and making those noises. He didn’t know she was there with that bat. He’d even forgotten about the Pepsi.

She raised the bat high over her head.

That noise is really annoying, isn’t it? Alexa asked. Little dorks like him deserve to be beaten, don’t they?

Denise kept that bat over her head, but knew she wouldn’t be able to stop it from coming crashing down on his head. She also knew why the bat stayed up above her head for the moment, why it wouldn’t come down just yet.

She was being made to wait for him to see her.

The waiting was also cruel suspense.

There was nothing she could do to stop it. The alien intelligence controlling her mind wouldn’t let her scream out a warning; it wouldn’t let her weep; it wouldn’t let her feel any affection for little Jameson.

It forced her to feel only murderous rage.

Still making the loud light sabre noises, he finally looked behind, saw her legs, then looked up at her.

He barely had time to frown at the sight of the baseball bat in her hands.

CRACK!!!

After that first blow bashed the boy’s skull to bloody pieces, she brought the bat down again and again, with many more a clubbing of his bones and back to finish him off.

He just lay there on his front, a motionless, bloody mess.

…and finally, she regained control of her mind and body.

She fell to her knees and dropped the bat.

She screamed a deafening wail of grief that went unbroken for the next ten seconds. Then she took in a hoarse breath and screamed again, louder and longer.

“I didn’t do this!” she yelled. “Something else…made me do this! Who?!

Alexa’s ghost reappeared before her, smiling.

“You!” Denise hissed. “You fucking bitch! You made me kill my son! What I did to you back in school was nowhere near as bad as this! I didn’t deserve this! He didn’t deserve this! I went to prison for my crimes! I reformed myself! I paid my dues!”

She picked up the bat and rose to her feet. She swung it at the gloomy apparition, hitting only her furniture as it swept through Alexa’s transparent spectral image. The ghost laughed at Denise’s futile attempt at revenge.

How does it feel to be the weak one, Denise? Alexa whispered. But as you can see, you still have your violent nature. All I did was reawaken it in you.

“I would never have been violent to Jameson!” Denise screamed, no longer swinging the bat in exhaustion. “You made me do that. I should have killed you back in high school.”

You did, Alexa said. You and that prick, Boyd, drove me to commit suicide. But I’m not finished with you yet.

Outside, Denise heard the door of their car shut. Her husband was about to walk through the front door.

One of the first things he’d see was little Jameson’s body in a pond of blood on the living room floor.

Before Denise could say or do anything, she felt Alexa fly back into her body. A cruel look on her face replaced the grief-stricken despair that had been on it just a few seconds before.

She picked up Jameson’s body and took it out of the living room.

Jack opened the front door and stepped in.

“Honey?” he called out as he walked down the hall to the living room. “I’m home. I’m really hungry. Could you please make me a…what the fuck?”

He saw that pool of red staining the living room carpet. He saw some broken things and dents in some of the furniture.

Was there a break-in? he wondered, trembling all over and stepping slowly and quietly into the living room. I thought I heard screaming as I drove in. Is the intruder…are the intruders…still here?

He walked over to the bloody baseball bat and picked it up.

He crept out of the living room and reached the entrance to the kitchen, listening for any sounds that might indicate an intruder. Any time his feet made the slightest creak, or if his breath was at all audible, he got mad at himself.

I must not give away my position, he thought.

No one was in the kitchen. He didn’t want to go in there for fear of his squeaking shoes telling the intruder…or intruders…where his was.

He went back across the living room and to the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. He noticed a few drops of blood here and there, suggesting where the intruder/intruders had gone.

He went up the stairs with painstaking slowness, careful not to make any noise, but slow also out of terrified reluctance to find out whose blood he’d seen on the living room carpet.

He reached the top of the stairs and looked around the hall leading to the bedrooms. No one was there, but a few drops of blood led the way to the bedrooms.

He crept over to his and Denise’s bedroom. He listened at the door. He heard the sound of something knocked over. He took a deep breath in and put his hand on the doorknob. He turned it ever so slowly and quietly.

He pushed the door open with the same slow, silent care. He saw mostly darkness and shadow, for the curtains were closed over the window. He heard a shuffling movement.

As soon as he flicked on the light switch, he felt something knock against his left leg, something that had leapt from the dresser drawer, knocking over a bottle of Denise’s skin moisturizer. It ran out of the room, scaring the shit out of him.

It was their cat.

“Jesus Christ, Snowball,” he whispered as their white cat continued running down the hall to the stairs. Then, remembering he had to be quiet, he put his finger to his lips. He looked down at the hall carpet. The drops of blood hadn’t stopped at their bedroom.

He continued his slow, quiet steps over to Jameson’s bedroom. He saw blood on the doorknob.

Oh, please, God, no! he thought as he opened the door, the bat in his other hand ready to swing.

This room was similarly dark and shadowy, the curtains also closed; but he could make out a short, small silhouette of a human being lying on the bed.

Please, let him be OK, he thought as he reached for the light switch. He turned it on.

Jameson’s body lay there, grotesque and disfigured from the beating he’d received, blood staining the bedsheets.

Jack’s eyes and mouth agape, he could produce no sound other than a hoarse gasp. He just stood there, frozen and stupefied.

Denise flew out from behind the opened door with that knife. She dug it deep in his gut.

The pain of the stab was nothing compared to the shock he felt from seeing the inexplicable malevolence in his wife’s eyes. He dropped the bat and fell to his knees.

“Denise…why?” he grunted as he looked up at her and her hateful expression.

He fell to her feet, surrounded in his blood.

She regained control of herself, then screamed at the top of her lungs again. “What am I supposed to do now, Alexa?”

You have the knife, the grinning ghost said. Use it on yourself.

She did.

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

A few days later, the local newspaper reported the double murder/suicide, Denise’s naked body found in the bathtub filled with bloody water, her wrists slashed.

How such a family, known all over their community to have been so happy and loving, could have ended so tragically seemed a mystery to all…until a little research dug up her criminal past. It was assumed that her old violent ways had never been fully extinguished.

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

Denise Charlton, 38, had gone through quite a transformation over the years. Had she, at the age of eighteen, seen what kind of person she’d become twenty years later, she’d have never believed her eyes.

Still, the transformation did occur. It occurred out of sheer necessity. There was simply no way she could have sustained herself by continuing with her juvenile delinquency. Her violent ways had to stop.

It had all started with her abusive drunk of a father, an ongoing problem she’d known as far back as she could remember. As a little girl, she’d had to endure seeing that piece of shit get pissed and beat her mom; little Denise would get plenty of hits from him herself.

Now, when he attacked her, her trauma response wasn’t freeze, as was the case with her timid mother. She hated the way her mom was too afraid to fight back, so Denise was resolved never to deal with her dad in that way. Though the beatings she’d get were far worse than those her mother got, and though Denise always lost her fights with her old man, at least she made sure that bastard got a few dents on his own body, too.

Her fight response became her way of dealing with everybody. She was determined to let the whole world know she wasn’t going to take shit from anybody, and if anybody was stupid enough to give her shit about anything, she’d fuck him up good and proper.

Because of her attitude, she got into a lot of fights in the schoolyard…and no, she wasn’t afraid to fight boys, either. She’d fight with people at school, on the streets, and at any part-time job she ever-so-briefly had. She was a potential menace–Denise the Menace, everyone called her–to anyone who had the bad luck of crossing her path, and she was damned proud of that.

She started getting in trouble with the law, typically charged with assault and battery, at around the age of fifteen. Sometimes she’d get caught vandalizing–throwing rocks in windows, spray-painting rude words on buildings–or there was the occasional petty theft. But usually it was her and her gang of bad girls beating people up, out of sheer boredom.

Well, one night, months after the disappearance of Alexa, Megan, and Tiffany, Denise took her violent ways too far. That night, she and her gang assaulted a middle-aged woman and put her in the hospital. Denise was the ringleader, and the one who gave the woman the worst of the beatings, so she got the harshest punishment: five years imprisonment.

During her first year in prison, she stewed in a rage, angry at how unfair the world had always been to her. She got into plenty of fights with the other female convicts. But early into her second year, after a nasty fight that got her face bloodied and her ass in solitary confinement for a week, she found herself forced to rethink her life.

Though the preaching of the prison priest only made her roll her eyes, he did say one thing that made her reflect: “Anger is the enemy. Anger is a poison. If you don’t cure it, your hate will kill you one day.”

Indeed, she thought as she sat all alone in that room and sulked. Look at where my hatred and anger have led me. I have to stop fighting all the time. Maybe Mom was right to have been such a wimp.

She resolved, once she got out of solitary confinement, to make efforts to control her hostility to the world. Naturally, it was hard at first: she got into a few fights after getting out, but they were fewer, and she was pulling her punches for the first time.

After a few months, she was surprised with herself how rarely she was being even verbally abusive. The others in the prison were even more surprised, and after another year and a half of good behaviour on her part, she was considered for early release.

She had a parole hearing, and after making it clear how sincerely remorseful she was for not only having beaten up that woman, but also for all the hurt she’d needlessly caused others, she was released halfway through the fourth year of her sentence.

She found work–menial labour, but it was enough to get by. Her parole officer never had any complaints about her. She continued to be amazed at her transformation.

A few years later, she met a man, Jack Drew, a nice man, totally the opposite of her father. Jack was gentle, he never drank, and he managed to revive a belief in her mind that there actually are good people in the world. After two years of dating, they got married.

She was thirty when she gave birth to their son, Jameson. She lay in bed at the hospital, and when the nurse put the newborn baby in her arms, and her husband was standing by her, tears ran down her cheeks. She’d not only escaped the hell of hate and anger; she’d entered the world of love.

Notions of wanting to hurt people had become alien to her on this first gazing into her baby’s eyes. Now she felt only nurturing instincts, the drive to help, to give comfort, to remove hurt.

Again, she was amazed at how much she’d changed.

Years went by, and she was a dedicated mother. Taking care of little Jameson was a joy. Even when he was difficult, and outright annoying–which was not infrequent–her first instinct was almost always patience and kindness, rarely anger. He’d have to have been an extraordinary brat to make her as much as raise her voice.

So one morning, 38-year-old Denise was with her eight-year-old boy in the living room while Jack was at work. He was playing with his Star Wars action figures while she was watching TV.

He was imitating light sabre noises as he had Rey and Kylo Ren fighting. Really getting into it, he was also getting really loud.

“Keep it down, honey,” she said. “I can’t hear the TV over you.”

He kept at it at the same volume.

She sighed and said, “Fine.” She picked up the remote and turned up the volume. He made louder light sabre noises.

She sighed again, but before she could open her mouth to tell him to play quieter, a commercial came on. She decided to get a drink from the kitchen.

Before she got up, though, she looked over at Jameson. The sight of her cute little boy, so happy playing with his toys, disarmed her annoyance at his loudness. She got up and walked over to him.

“Look out!” she said playfully, her tickling fingers poised for attack. “The Emperor is going to zap you, Rey!”

She got her fingers on Jameson’s little belly and began tickling. He screamed and giggled, dropping his action figures.

“Stop!” he yelped. “Mom, stop!” He giggled and screamed some more.

She stopped, then gave him a big hug and a kiss on his chubby left cheek. “Want a Pepsi from the fridge?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, nodding with enthusiasm.

“What’s the magic word?”

“Please.”

“OK, one Pepsi, coming right up.” She got up and went over to the kitchen. He returned to his loud light sabre noises.

She stood by the fridge, and as she opened the door, she looked back, with a smile, into the living room at her boy.

“I love you,” she whispered, then reached into the fridge for a Pepsi, and she got an orange Fanta for herself.

Someone else was gazing at her boy, and at her, but this person was frowning, not smiling. This person was invisible to Denise and Jameson, but were they to have seen this person, they’d have seen disheveled hair, pale skin, red eyes, and a tattered black dress.

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

Tess ran and stumbled through the grass, bushes, and fallen twigs in the forest. She fell to the ground a few times and got some mud on her jeans and jacket.

“Oh, shoot,” she whispered when she saw the mud on herself. “Mom and Dad are gonna be mad about that, for sure. Oh, well…”

She heard the shot of a rifle farther off.

“That must be Daddy!” She ran in the direction of the gunshot.

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

Boyd frowned as he saw the deer run away.

“Shit,” he whispered. “I hate it when I miss.”

Indeed, Mr. Marksman, as had been his nickname ever since high school (in fact, long before he’d even hit Alexa in the face, just under her left eye, with that bottle-cap in his slingshot), almost never missed. Each miss, as rare as it ever was, wounded his pride terribly.

He shuffled through the grass in the direction that deer ran in. He looked all around, but couldn’t see it, or any other deer, anywhere.

“Dammit!” he whispered. “I’ll find you, deer, soon enough.”

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

Tess had been running and running, falling in the mud again and again, knowing full well her dad and, especially, her mom were going to be really mad at her for getting her clothes so dirty. Still, she was giggling the whole time.

She didn’t care what punishment was coming her way. She was having fun.

She was going to meet with Daddy, and they were going to play some more. Her spirit guide promised her.

She heard another gunshot. It was louder and closer.

That was Daddy again, she thought. I must be almost there. I’d better be really quiet. I want to surprise him.

She crept in the direction of the gunshot, careful to make as little noise as possible, then hid in the tall grass and bushes.

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

“Goddamn it,” Boyd whispered as he watched another deer run away. “I missed again.” This was two misses in a row. As rare as missing a target was for him, two consecutive misses were especially rare…and in his opinion, humiliating.

He went after that deer, being as quiet as he could.

I never miss like that! he thought. Those two opportunities I just had were easy hits. I had my target locked, both times. It doesn’t make any sense that I missed them. You’d think there was an evil spirit out here making me miss.

Actually,…

He now saw a deer feeding off of the leaves of a bush not too far off. It didn’t look like the other deer (or two) he’d shot at and missed, but it was a deer, all right. A rather small one, a particularly sweet and innocent-looking one, the kind that normally aroused his sense of compassion and mercy.

But with his wounded pride, mercy was the last thing on his mind at the moment.

Sorry, sweetie, he thought as he brought up his rifle to take aim. But I’m hitting you. And nothing…and I mean nothing, is gonna make me miss this time.

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

Tess looked through the leaves of the bush she was hiding behind. She saw her dad in profile, aiming his rifle to her right, about ninety degrees from her position. He was clearly aiming at a deer out there somewhere; she looked out far to her right to see if she could see the deer.

She couldn’t find it anywhere out there, no matter how hard, or how far out to the right, that she looked.

Where is it? she wondered. Daddy seems to be aiming at nothing, if it’s a deer he wants to shoot. I guess the deer is too far out there for me to see.

She could see him keeping his aim and staying perfectly still.

Why doesn’t he just shoot? she wondered. Surely he’s aimed long enough. I wanna jump out and surprise him so badly. She was about to rise.

No! her spirit guide whispered in her ear. Don’t move at all. Wait for him to take his shot, then surprise him. If you startle him, he’ll miss the deer and get mad at you.

“OK,” Tess whispered.

Dammit, Boyd thought. The deer moved a bit, right when I was about to shoot. Good, it’s still again. Don’t move, you: I don’t wanna miss again.

He had the deer’s head right in his sights. He took a few slow breaths. The deer was perfectly still.

This is it, he thought.

He pulled the trigger ever so slowly.

POW!

Blood splashed from the head in all directions.

But it wasn’t the blood of a deer.

Not one second after the bullet struck did he see the brown fur of the deer change into Tess’s brown jacket.

Not one millisecond after he fired the shot did she see him change, from firing ninety degrees to her right, to firing straight at her face.

“What the–?” he whispered, with a chill going all the way up his spine to his head. He went closer to get a better look.

The bullet hit her just under the left eye.

“Jesus Christ!” he screamed.

He fell to his knees, just a few feet by his daughter’s bloody body. He shook for several minutes, his eyes wide open to see what they couldn’t possibly have believed they were seeing. Then, finally, he began sobbing.

“It was a deer!” he screamed. “I saw a deer! Not…my…dear!…” He continued bawling.

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

“Tess?” Sharon called as she entered the woods. “Tess, where are you?”

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

“What did I do to deserve this?” Boyd sobbed.

I am what you did, Alexa’s voice called out to him.

“What?” he said, his head swinging around in all directions to find a voice that seemed to have no body.

I told you I was gonna get you, the voice said.

“Wait,” he said. “Is that the voice…from my dreams?”

Yes, Alexa said, her ghostly apparition showing itself to him from his left. She was grinning.

He swung in her direction, pointing the rifle at her.

“Alexa,” he grunted. “I always hated you.”

And only now do you have good reason to.

“And now I’m gonna kill you,” he said, aiming for her face, his trigger finger more than itchy.

You can’t kill a ghost, you moron, she said, grinning nonetheless at the prospect of tempting him into more foolishness.

“No, but I can shoot at you to make me feel better.”

Are you sure you’ll feel better? Maybe you’ll feel worse. Remember what happened the last time you pulled the trigger.

“I didn’t see as clearly then as I do now.”

Are you sure about that, asshole?

“Shut up!” He fired.

Again, as soon as the bullet reached its mark, Alexa’s apparition disappeared, replaced by the person who really got the bullet in the head…just under her left eye.

“Sharon!” Boyd screamed as he saw his wife’s body fall to the ground. Now, he was bawling twice as loudly. “Alexa, you fucking bitch! I may have bullied you back in school, but I did not deserve this!”

Alexa’s ghost reappeared. Then shoot me, she said.

“And who will I kill next? Did you lure my mother here?”

Shoot, and find out.

He just stood there, frozen in a mix of stupefaction and despair.

If you don’t shoot me, who will you shoot?

Finally, he made up his mind. “Oh, you’ll like this, for sure!”

He put the end of the rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

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

Over the following weeks, journalists, as well as everyone else who knew Boyd, puzzled over what the reason could have possibly been for such a happy, successful businessman to want to destroy himself and his loving family.

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

Twenty years later, Boyd McAulliffe, 38, had become a successful businessman, owning a cellphone app company headquartered in Toronto, but with branches all over Canada and the US. He married Sharon Willis when he was 27, when his company was struggling after two years of existence, but when she told him she believed in him and said never to give up. With her encouragement, he stuck to it and found the beginnings of success a couple of years after.

The couple had their first child, a girl named Tess, when he was 28. Every day of looking in his daughter’s baby blue eyes felt like looking at the entrance to heaven. She was number one in his life; neither himself, nor Sharon, nor his business, nor the rest of his family or friends, came even a distant second. Sharon was second, for sure…but still far behind his little angel, Tess.

With the massive amount of money he made from his business, Boyd bought a huge stretch of land near the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River area, home to white tailed deer that he liked to hunt in October, when he typically took time off work to go there with his family. Being out there in the fresh air, spending a month of quality time with his wife and daughter…this was when life was at its happiest for him.

He truly felt he’d had a fortunate life: a successful business, a beautiful, loving, and supportive wife, and an adorable daughter. On top of these blessings, he had a big stretch of land and plenty of time off every year to pursue his hobby and passion–deer hunting, a test of the marksmanship skill he was so proud of. How could his life have been any more perfect?

Well, there was that recurring dream he wished would go away.

Once every several months or so, he’d have a dream about that bitch Alexa he used to go after, the girl who mysteriously disappeared shortly after he and Denise Charlton had gotten her one particularly bad time back in high school. Nobody knew what had happened to Alexa. Had she run away from home? Did she commit suicide?

The principal gave him and Denise a really hard time for having bullied Alexa so much, especially since there had been fears that the bullying may have driven her to suicide. Boyd admitted to himself in hindsight that he and Denise had taken things a little too far a few times; after all, teenagers can be really immature assholes sometimes, including himself back then.

All the same, though, that was a long time ago. Why was he still dreaming about that girl? Surely his guilty conscience should have forgotten about her by now, two decades later.

But every two or three months, he’d see a vision of her in his sleep. He’d see her against a black background, with messy hair, pale skin, glowing red eyes surrounded in black rings for eyelids, and wearing a tattered black dress. Sometimes it looked as if tiny pieces of that ghostly white skin were flaking off. Sometimes her skin looked reddish-white, melting.

Worst of all was that frown on her face, a scowl that looked like she wanted to kill him. At last, these words would come out of her mouth, which made him wake up bathed in sweat.

I’m gonna get you.

He had this very dream again one night during his October vacation with Sharon and Tess on his property up in northern Ontario. The next morning, he brushed it off and forgot about it as usual, and after breakfast–delicious bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast made for them by Sharon–he found himself playing with his daughter in the living room of their log cabin.

First, they played a clapping game of “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.”

Together, they chanted, “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
Bake a cake, bake a cake, as fast as you can
Pat it and prick it, mark it with T,
Put it in the oven for Tessa and me.”

Then they chanted “Mary Mack” to their hand claps; and after this one, he took her in his arms.

“Who’s the ticklish one?” he said as his fingers tickled her sides, getting high-pitched screams of laughter from her. “Who’s the ticklish one?”

“Oh!” she yelped. “No! Stop, Daddy, stop!” She continued screaming, giggling and struggling to get free of him until he finally relented.

Then he gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“I love you, sweetie,” he said.

“I love you, too, Daddy,” she said.

Sharon came in the living room with a tray of three mugs of hot chocolate. “Here you go,” she said as she put the tray on the coffee table.

“Yummy!” Tess said, picking up her mug.

“It’s not quite cold enough to drink this, but why not?” Sharon said. “It’s yummy!”

“Absolutely,” he said, picking up his mug for a sip. “This is gonna hit the spot, just before I go out there with my rifle.”

“I wanna go out with you, Daddy,” Tess said.

“No, sweetie,” he said. “I need absolute quiet when I’m hunting deer. Besides, I don’t like the idea of you being near my rifle when I’m using it.”

“Oh, but Daddy,” she whined with a pout.

“Your father’s right, dear,” her mom said.

“You are too dear to me to be anywhere near the deer I’m about to shoot at,” he said.

“OK,” Tess said, still pouting.

He gulped down the last of his hot chocolate.

“All right,” he said, standing. “Time to do some hunting. Thanks for the hot chocolate, honey.” He gave Sharon a hug and a kiss, then left the living room to get his rifle and get ready.

“Have fun,” Sharon said, then she and Tess drank their hot chocolate. When Sharon finished hers, she gave Tess a hug and a kiss on the forehead. Then she took the tray and her and Boyd’s empty mugs back to the kitchen. As she was walking out, she said, “When you’re finished yours, don’t forget to bring your cup back to the kitchen, honey.”

“OK, Mom,” Tess said, then drank another gulp. Why can’t I go with Daddy? she wondered. I like being with him. I wanna play some more. I’d be quiet. I’d stay clear of his rifle. It’s no fair!

Then she heard a faint whisper in her ear.

Why don’t you go out and surprise him, Tess?

“What?” she said. “Who said that?” She looked around the room for the invisible speaker. She saw her dad go out the door with his rifle.

I’m a spirit guide, the feminine voice said.

“A spirit guide?” Tess asked. “Where are you? Why can’t I see you? What does a spirit guide do?”

Well, you can’t see me because I’m a spirit, of course. I’m like a ghost except I’m one of the good ones. I’m here to guide you, to help you find ways to be closer to your father, to help your love grow stronger.

“OK, so how am I gonna do that?”

Well, just let me lead the way. Go on outside, but make sure your dad doesn’t see you, ’cause we want this to be a big surprise for him. It’ll be more fun that way.

“But he said he doesn’t want me to go, and Mom doesn’t want me to go, either. If I go, won’t they be mad?”

Not the way I’m gonna have you go. Your mom just went to bed for a nap, so she won’t hear you go outside. As for your dad…well…I’ll have a way of making him see you so you’ll be…a real dear…to him.

“OK,” Tess said, then finished her hot chocolate, took her cup to the kitchen as her mom wanted her to do, put on her jacket, and went outside.

Alexa’s ghost watched the girl run into the woods. As she watched, her lips curled up into a smile.