This is a story written for a comp…what haunts you, others…it can be anything, memories, regret, guilt…
I want you to explore what haunts one of your characters. Get as creative as you want with your haunting but make sure it evokes emotion. All genres are welcome. Perhaps it’s fear, lust, or remorse that consumes your character. Just make sure the emotions are raw and powerful, whatever they may be.
A look into Josie’s existence…
My hand shook as I applied black eyeliner to my puffy right eye-lid. The line was wonky and off course. I put the eyeliner beside the tap and gazed in the mirror. Dull blue eyes stared back at me from a ghostly white face. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go through with it. I had stupidly lied to myself…my friends. Who the hell am I kidding, me, them, all of us? I should never have agreed. If I don’t go through with this, what then? Where do I go from here if I can’t do this? I’ll ring and cancel. The doorbell rang.
I gripped the white porcelain sink. Shit. Too late. My chest heaved as I looked in the mirror. Fear filled irises looked back at me. It’s now or never! The doorbell rang again.
“I’m on my way!” I called untwisting the scrunchy. Dark waves fell around my shoulders and I combed my fingers through my hair. I shuffled slowly to the door, unlocked and opened it.
Perfectly shaped eyebrows and smiling green eyes greeted me. “Oh my god, you did it! You’re coming out with us,” Juanita shrieked through her scarf. She flung her arms around me and I hugged her tightly.
“I didn’t think you would. I thought you would cancel.”
“I almost did, but you rang the bell.”
Juanita held my hands. “Josie, you’re shaking like a leaf. You’ll be fine. We’ll look after you. I promise. The girls are waiting in the car.”
I grabbed my coat and bag off the chair and hesitated before locking the door. “I’ll be back soon,” I muttered.
I awkwardly slid into the back seat of the car next to Livvy.
“Hey girl,” she grinned lifting her hand up. We high fived. “It’s great to have the pleasure of your company this evening” she gave me a wink.
“Yeah, Thanks, Liv.”
“Good to see you, chick. Gotta leave that house once in a while.”
“It’s a bungalow.”
“You know what I mean, miss smarty pants,” she giggled. “Now gimme that long-awaited hug.”
Livvy threw her arms around me and I almost choked on her thick fur collar.
I coughed and spat out a few stray hairs that managed to coat my tongue.
“Hey babe, you okay?” a husky voice asked drifting from the front seat. “I’ll hug you later.”
“Hi Missy. Yeah, I’m okay. You?”
“I’m good, but you need to convince me a bit more than you are!”
I stretched forward in my seat and ruffled her hair. “I’m okay…Really.”
“Hmm. I believe you, thousands wouldn’t.”
I laughed. I wouldn’t believe me either. I want to go home. I look out the side window, it’s already dark. Christmas lights are still in some of the windows. We’re just on the outskirts of the village and heading into town.
“Oh my god remember this, girls?” Juanita asked cranking the volume up on the radio. Louis Fonzi’s song Despacito blared out from the speakers.
I smiled as they started singing along and I found myself singing with them.
“That was two years ago at Mickey’s eighteenth party. Livvy was kissing his brother ‘Sammy, six-pack Stevens’ as the surprise birthday cake was revealed.” Missy laughed. “Do you remember?”
Giggles erupted in the car.
“How can we forget. And it was a surprise! I don’t know who looked more stunned, his parents, Livvy or Sammy because he had unleashed her thirty-eight D, bad boys.” Juanita chortled.
“You’re only jealous because I got the six-pack and you missed out on the cake because we got thrown out,” Livvy let out a hearty laugh.
“Too damn right, bitch. I wanted that cake! Missy replied with a grin.
Laughter filled the car. I remembered that night well. We all stumbled out carrying our shoes and unable to walk in a straight line. I slipped and fell on my arse and two minutes later Missy did the same and almost did the splits. She was more worried about screwing up her fake tan when she grazed her knees trying to get herself up off the floor. Juanita laughed so much she wet herself and lost her footing and fell into someone’s hedge.
Good times, laughter and happy memories. I have forgotten what it is like to have fun and be in others company. That was a year before my life changed. I was different then. I used to be happy. I loved going out.
Led Zepplin’s song Stairway To Heaven blasted out from the speakers.
Juanita turned off the channel and stopped the car. “We’re here, let’s go shopping.”
I felt relieved that we got to where we were going, at least I didn’t have to listen to that song, but it had released memories I wanted to erase. I got out of the car and put my hood up.
Livvy linked my arm on the left and Missy on the right. Juanita walked ahead towards the store.
I really didn’t want to be here. I wish I was home. This would be a test for me…and I needed to know if I could pass it or fail. I cringed as I walked in through the automatic sliding doors. I wanted to unlink the arms of my friends and run from everyone.
Immediately I felt eyes gaping at me from around the store. My heartbeat fast and could feel the pulse beating through my chest as if it too wanted to escape. My breathing deepened. My feet moved forward naturally, but my body felt as if it were fighting against them. I seemed to be gliding across the floor, but I didn’t feel like I was actually moving …were the girls pushing me along with them? My cheeks burned and slowly I felt a rush of heat passing through my body.
I don’t want to be here. I want to get out. I want to leave. Please let me go home.
I bent my head. I didn’t want to see anyone or face anybody. I didn’t want the sympathetic stares, the apologetic voices or the faces whose mouths didn’t work, but the eyes spoke silent volumes. I realised then I had made a stupid mistake. I should never have come. Why can’t you listen to yourself once in a while you stupid bitch? You knew inwardly it wouldn’t work, but you did it, you agreed and for what? Where will this take you? Do you really think you are strong enough? No…I don’t know…maybe. I need to know. Am I strong enough or am I weak? Fuck.
I concentrated on staring at the white floor tiles.
“Josie, Josie, babe are you okay? You want to sit down?”
I heard Livvy’s voice, and I wanted to reply, No I feel like shit, can I go home? but my mouth couldn’t release the words.
Missy stood in front of me and lifted my head gently. My eyes blurred her red lipstick and her mouth moved slowly. “Babe, we got you. You’re safe with us. Breathe.”
I did as Missy told me. Deep breaths…in…out…in…out. Several times. Josie, get a grip, you can do this. Stop being a wuss, grow some balls.
We looked around the store; All Christmas items were half price. Christmas cards decorations were scattered across four shelves. Adult pyjamas and Christmas jumpers had sale labels hanging from them. Nothing took my fancy. It was just leftover Christmas stuff that people didn’t want or couldn’t afford. I was a bit of both. Why am I here?
“Oh hello, Josie. How lovely to see you. How have you been keeping, gal?”
The voice I recognised instantly, but one I didn’t want to hear. In my mind, I put my body armour on and took a deep breath.
“Hello, Mrs Jones. I’m getting there, thank you.”
“Good to hear gal. It was a terrible, terrible accident. You disappeared. The street has been so worried.” her inquisitive eyes scrutinized my face. “Oh you poor girl,” she gasped.
“Thank you, Mrs jones, but I’m okay.”
Mrs Jones inched forward with her walking stick. Her odour a mix of urine, talc and cheap perfume. I took a couple of steps back.
“What happened in there? I heard the screams from my house. There’s been so much talk,” she said wiping her nose with a tissue. “I’m not one to gossip, as you know. The rumours are rife…”
I froze and I felt numb. The words wouldn’t form. Why did she have to ask? Why can’t people leave me alone?
“It’s really none of your business, Mrs Jones or anyone else’s,” Livvy replied sharply tugging at my arm.
I remembered the screams as if it were yesterday. Forever etched in my brain, never to be forgotten. Is it too much to ask for a few hours of peace? I don’t want to be reminded. I don’t want to keep going back there. I want to leave the ghosts of my past behind even for a couple of hours. It’s all I ask, so I can try and hang on to some sanity for a short while.
My life will never be the same. It will be tainted by what if’s and horrifying images day and night. They will be with me when my eyes are open or closed. I have no escape.
“Well, how rude you are. I only asked out of concern for Josie,” Mrs Jones grunted.
“No, you were fishing for information. You’re rude and inconsiderate.”
I quickly walked away with Livvy, leaving Mrs Jones mumbling under her breath.
I bent my head and walked briskly around the store. I could feel the glares and hear the whispers as we walked past. I should never have agreed and come out. I wish I had ignored the doorbell.
We stopped at the stairs. My feet wouldn’t move. Livvy jolted back as she took one step up, still her arm linked with mine. The sound of my heart boomed against my ribs and my breathing quickened. My mind swept me out of the store and distorted the glossy white steps for a black carpet, slowly step by step I climbed them into the dark. Several agonising screams rang out in quick succession, then silence. Petrified and alone. I couldn’t see properly. My own piercing cry rang out in the night.
“Oh shit, Josie. I’m so sorry. I didn’t think! I was trying to…”
The glossy white steps appeared. I couldn’t move. Livvy’s voice brought me back.
The numbness surrendered me ridgid to the spot. I gazed slowly at the white stairs alone in my own little world. I couldn’t hear or see anyone else. Fear kept me still.
“Let’s use the lift.” Livvy patted my hand. I nodded.
We got in and a woman and her son walked behind us before the door shut. She smiled briefly at Livvy, it faded when she glanced at me and swiftly turned away. Her son glowered at me, while he stuffed his mouth with M&M’s, giving his hamster cheeks a workout. He made a slapping noise with his tongue each time he chewed. The broken sweets rolled round his mouth like clothes in a washing machine. He moved closer to me and tilted his head to one side. I turned to face the mirror.
The lift shuddered and came to a halt and the door opened.
“Hey what’s wrong with your face? The child asked.
My hidden anger shot upwards like volcanic lava. How dare he…the little shit.
His mum gripped his hand and pulled him away. She bent down and said something in his ear. Her cheeks flushed, her words lost within the crowd of people waiting to get in.
“Nothing, what’s wrong with yours?” I retorted.
The five people who were waiting to get in stood and ogled, their mouths slightly open on hearing the conversation.
“It’s okay. I’ve had my fill of human flesh. You’re safe. I only drink human blood after dark.” I licked my lips. The door began to close and Livvy let out a hearty laugh.
I glanced at my blurred reflection in the dull silver lift doors. I wasn’t me anymore. I wasn’t Josie. I’m a freak. The one that got away. I was lucky to be alive many had said. I don’t think so. I wish I had died. I should have died. I should have died with them! My life here will be slow and painful. Robbed of any happiness. How can someone be happy after something like this? How do people move on? How can I move on? Am I alive or dying slowly? I’m neither, I only exist.
I didn’t want to cry. The anxiety, the invisible wounds and unhealed pain. The memories, good and bad. It all merged into one. Overwhelmed. My back slid down on the lifts metal sheeting, I hugged my knees and sobbed. I felt the wetness seep through my woollen leggings onto my skin. Livvy sat down beside me, put her arm around my shoulders and kissed the side of my head. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. I want to go home. I want to be alone.
I felt the lift go up twice and come down twice The wet, saltiness lingered on my lips. Livvy spoke, but her words were muffled in the world I locked out. The lift shuddered and came to a halt. A mixture of female voices entered and I felt myself being lifted up by my arms slowly. A crowd of blurred faces looked in and parted to make way for us to walk through. Every part of me felt numb and confused. I couldn’t think. I floated alone, blocking out my surroundings…people …everything. My brain mushed. I shut down. I don’t want to be here anymore. Can anyone hear me? I don’t want to fucking be here anymore! I don’t want to fucking be here. Let me fucking go…Let me go…please…let me go. No one listens.
My head rests on Livvy’s shoulder in the back seat. She strokes my head. No music plays.
I feel the bumps in the road, each turn Juanita takes. I don’t care. I don’t speak. I want to be alone. It’s easier on my own. I can hide. I can be the person I am now. My name is Josie, but inside I will never be her again. On the outside, I will never be her again. So who am I? I don’t know anymore. Where I belong. Where I fit in…oh yeah…of course with the weirdo’s, the freaks…the cast asides, the no-ones.
The car stops. Livvy gets out and helps me to get out of the seat…Missy waits, her butt resting on the side of the car. Juanita turns off the engine. They all walk me slowly to the front door. I fumble for my keys. I let us in.
“I’ll go make some tea,” Juanita calls as she heads towards the kitchen.
“No, milk. I’m sorry I spoilt the night.” I throw my bag on the chair.
“Oh honey, you didn’t. Maybe it was too soon?” Missy cooed. “We know how tough it’s been for you.”
“It’s been two years, two fucking years.” I pick the photograph up of us from the mantlepiece; Mum, Dad, me, and my four siblings. Memories come flooding back. I was the eldest at the time at eighteen. There were three-year gaps between each of us, Jonah, Siouxie Shania, and six-year-old Dante. We stood from eldest to youngest with mum and dad in the middle. It was taken before we jumped in the lake. Our last holiday together. Before it happened. We went home a few days earlier than planned. I was stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction. My face resembled the size of a watermelon. Jonah and Dante found it hilarious. Siouxie and Shania agreed that I wouldn’t need collagen lip implants! I can laugh at their comments now. What I would give to hear their laughter again, their sarcastic words. To chase them upstairs in anger. Anything.
The stairs. The stairs. How I hate that part of a house.
“I know. That’s a beautiful photo of you all.” Livvy smiled and stroked my hair.
“I shouldn’t be here. I was saved by a mug of milk.” I sobbed.
“If you hadn’t gone downstairs we would have lost you too, honey.” Missy put her arm around me and squeezed.
“I may as well be dead. I no longer live. I only exist.” I pull my hood down.
Missy cupped my face in her hands and kissed me on the forehead. “We’re glad you exist in our world.”
I brushed the tears away. I felt the stretched skin and my deformed ear. I couldn’t even hide it. My hair had never grown back.
Juanita, Missy and Livvy stayed a few hours then left. I caught my reflection in the glass panel of the door. Not even after many skin grafts and a generous amount of makeup could hide my scars.
A loud bang exploded above the bungalow. I shrieked and ran. Urine trickled down my legs as I hid in the bath.
My thoughts transported me back to the stairs. BANG. BANG. BANG. The house shook and harrowing screams sliced the air. I climbed the stairs, taking each step slowly. The sound of hissing and loud popping was imminent as I made my way to the landing. I coughed and gagged on the sulpher filled atmosphere. An array of pretty coloured sparks came shooting towards me. My own excruciating screams mingled with the Guy Fawkes celebrations.