Still Hungry for More Thrills & Chills?
We will continue to run a new story each day this week. These stories were written at an Inlandia workshop for those wanting to write for Ghost Walk.
A Doll’s Dominion
The Eckright women were said to have a nasty habit of fatal mortality in their early forties. The routine curse was one, folklore had it, offered by the devil to some not-too-long-term thinking Eckright man who gave the devil the lives of his daughters at the expense of one of the largest agricultural fortunes of Southern California. But, this was only folklore, and though folklore may be dissected and disputed the sickness which wove its way across the Eckright family tapestry was very real.
It was always such a shame too. Little girls who were remarked upon as “sweet hearts” and “pretty little things” grew into women of astounding, paralyzing beauty. But suddenly, as if on a soulless, supernatural schedule; they would fall bed-ridden. Sometimes, but not always, the sickness was made even more untimely by the recent birth of a child.
The trend continued down the generations; until finally one of the more-long-term-thinking Eckright women had the foresight to make a new tradition. A woman of keen intellect and a compassion more heavenly than worldly, she purchased a doll from some shop in downtown Riverside. The name and nature of the shop were forgotten to her shortly after, when the illness wrecked her bones and ravaged her mind; but the sentiment of the doll was not.
The doll, “Angie” was to stand watch over the Eckright’s when the family curse took them, to not leave their side so that as they went from one world to the next; it would be as if all generations of the family were in the room with them, so that they would not make the journey of life and death alone.
Angie herself was a rather inconspicuous-though-elegant doll. Soft, rounded porcelain features, blue eyes which almost captured the color of a soul, blonde hair that sometimes was curled and brushed. She didn’t wear a mourning dress, a custom that was absolutely forbidden when one very sad husband attempted to bring Angie to his wife’s funeral. Angie was a family treasure, to be honored and cared for. Although, no one could blame the poor man for his misunderstanding. The Eckright women, after all, always managed to pick themselves good and loyal husbands.
It was Rachel Eckright who broke that tradition.
Arthur Kraddick was a man bereft of a moral compass. He came from another wealthy family, another of the clans who lived on hills and considered themselves local aristocracy, but was as quick to spend money as he was to make it. He was a liar, a thief, and rumor had it…a murderer. But; what could local folklore do to dissuade a woman whose family was known for making a deal with the devil when the man she loved was only considered a mere murderer?
No. Arthur Kraddick had swindled one brother out of their father’s will; sent his mother to an insane asylum and sent his sister to an early death. What was breaking the heart of a wonderful, though naïve, young woman? And indeed, he would not have conned her long. What are twenty years, two children and a façade of lovingness to one who is constantly playing a long game in their mind? Arthur Kraddick was scornful of his children; whose naming he left to Rachel, and only provided his wife the basic affections she needed to convince herself that his love had any semblance of truth.
But he had a calendar. One in the drawer of his desk. Not a traditional kind but one of a series of tally marks and numbers which he would use to attempt a prediction of Rachel’s succumbing to an illness.
When she finally fell, bedridden and alone, Arthur already had budgeted the final years of his life according to the massive fortune he would inherent. He intended to spend every penny, to live out his long; final days in an opulence that would make Julius Caesar blush. His hated children would receive nothing but his blood in their veins.
However, something unheard of happened, an occurrence that had not once happened in the better part of a century. Rachel began to recover. The symptoms of her recovery were slight, not enough to embrace hope but enough to be suspicious of its arrival.
Arthur, however, could not wait.
Rachel always asked that a cup of water be placed on her nightstand, in case she woke up thirsty. Usually the duty of a trusted maid that loved Rachel as an older sister, Arthur brought his wife her nightly drink; shortly after he fired each member of the household staff in preparation for his seizure of the property.
One reluctant sip was enough to close her throat.
In her final moments, terrified, she pointed at her husband, who was cruel enough to laugh.
“You foolish little girl,” he chided, “There’s no one here to witness your accusation.”
What Arthur did not know was that she wasn’t pointing at him. Behind him, through her darkening vision, she perceived something monstrous in a white dress. Arthur’s body faded into a darkening mist, lifted off the floor by some large, lumbering white shadow. His feet kicked beneath him wildly as Rachel died. The last thing she heard was Arthur’s terrified screaming, and the last things she saw were glowing blue eyes.
When the staff returned, bringing police in anticipation of a struggle, they found the couple dead. Rachel was smiling, beautiful as ever as the angels embraced her. Arthur’s face had a look of frozen horror, a gaze that looked upward from the floor as if staring at a demon.
Angie sat on the shelf, her soft porcelain hands covered in blood.
You Never Hear About Them Anymore
You never hear about werewolves anymore.
In the old days, in Europe, everyone was afraid of them. Some evil man or woman would go out into those black forests and they would meet a man. Only the man was tall…and dark…more of a stretched, slender shadow whose form only vaguely suggested being a man. In the flickering light of a dying fire (one doesn’t partake in such a transaction without fire) the shadow would also seem something far older, far greater than a man.
After you made the deal, you supposedly lost your soul…but then, anyone who would want what you got from that deal wouldn’t have had much of a soul to begin with.
The individual in question would then proceed to go about their days: uninterrupted and largely uneventful. It was their nights that changed, when they gave themselves up and underwent the change in order to carry out their crimes. Ghastly crimes too, the sort that would make even the strongest modern detective vomit at the mention. Europe’s history is full of ‘em; tailors who murdered children, cannibals who lived on the sides of roads and ate travelers alive; packs of wolves that went uninterrupted into cities to steal babies from their cribs.
Then the scares sort of stopped.
You don’t hear about werewolves anymore.
But you see the posters. You know, the ones that are just outside grocery stores? “Missing Since,” “Please Help,” “Call with any information.” You stop and you wonder to yourself how so many people could be missing for so long, how they never found them or where they could possibly go. Enough to fill a board that big, at least one hundred faces from your own towns.
There aren’t many forests out here, sure. Bu there are mountains, desert, whole tracts of land on the fringe of your city that nobody bothers to even check. Certainly there is no concern about fires, plenty of things burn out here. And then there are the industrial districts, the abandoned parts of town full offices which are only inhabited for 25% of the year before they are inevitably given back to the emptiness which so tightly cling to them.
And then, living in a city has made you far too arrogant, you’ve thrown caution out the window almost entirely. Your buildings, walls, don’t mean anything when someone can just break them. You wander home alone at night simply because there are streetlamps now. A street lamp might do you some good if you only had to worry about seeing. They don’t stop someone…something, from lunging out behind an alley, from the water drains or bike trails. And like I say, there are mountains all around us. Technically, each of you lives on the edge of civilization; though the term is just as meaningless now as it was to the Europeans, all those hundreds of years ago.
The reason you don’t hear about werewolves anymore isn’t because they’re less scary.
It’s because we’re scarier now than ever before.