Friday 19 October 2012

Halloween House of Horrors - Is there love beyond the grave?

My entry for the RomanticFridayWriters Halloween House of Horrors is taken from Chapter Three of my WIP, a 16,000 word ghost story novella, Paradise Can Wait, set in Afghanistan and the US in 2009. The protagonist, Delbar, has lost her husband Alam in the ongoing war against the Taliban. She has escaped her country, but can she escape the dead? 

As I am seeking publication for this story, I would appreciate all feedback.


Trick or Treat?

The flames of the fire flickered and died. The room plunged into darkness. The chandelier's crystal droplets clinked against the draft that crept into the room like a stealthy ghost. Trees moaned against the walls, a lament of damned souls.

A white flare fizzed through the room.
Delbar leaped from her chair in front of the fire. Rough hands clamped her mouth. Her arms wrenched behind her. She was thrown onto the couch where she lay on her back, juddering with terror.

Damp enveloped her in a watery cloak. What is this? Water boarding?  My hiding place discovered so soon? 
She struggled to see her assailant through the dark shadows…she saw no one…then…a kaleidoscope of color swirled at the top of the staircase. It spilled onto the stairs like molten metal tipped from a cauldron. Colored shadows glinted as the liquid dripped downwards, then puddled at the bottom of the stairs.

Mmmh...mmmh…ughh...” Delbar fought against the invisible hand that pressed her lips together. Water continued to drip. Blinking through the damp, she stared at the man who arose fully formed from the puddle–face…limbs…body…hair…clothes. The garments were bright white as if lit from within–baggy trousers, tunic, turban.

“Yaa Ilaahee!”*
Delbar struggled against the invisible ropes. She jerked from side to side, moaning. Abruptly the binds loosed, the dripping stopped and she could speak.

“Al…am? Is…you..?” Water dribbled from her mouth. She brushed her hand across her face. “No. You are dead! You died in the mountains! The Taliban killed you… I’m dreaming…why was my mouth stopped and my arms tied…why did water nearly drown me? Why..? Why..?”

He stepped forwards, knees high, like he waded to shore from a turbulent ocean. He stopped a few meters from her. Delbar smelt rosewater and spices, the strong scents of her homeland. Hair escaped from under his turban, long and lustrous. The gray streaks in his beard had gone as had the scars on his hands from that hideous time when he’d been imprisoned and tortured during the Mujahedeen wars.

“So you could feel me die.”

‘That was cruel…I feared…for my life.” She reached for the rug that had fallen from her shoulders, dabbed her mouth then hugged the soft wool to her chest and sobbed.

 “But you live. I’ve been waiting. So long. You’re here. I need you to trust this.” He pointed to his body. “See me. Your Alam?”

She turned away.


She spoke to the room. “I’m dreaming, I know. What I see isn’t real. My husband is dead. He’s in Paradise. A demon uses a husband’s body to trick a wife.”

“Delbar. It is me. Look. This is no dream. I drowned. The portal opened, the angels came. I turned back. I was to enter the Door, but I answered, no, I’m not ready for Paradise.”

Daabí Ashkun!”**  She clamped her hands over her ears.

“My Paradise is being with you.”

“No. Jannah awaits you. If it is indeed you? My Alam would obey the angels. Go to your reward.” She pointed to the door.

“My reward is to be with you.”

“No. Jannah awaits the righteous.”

“The things I’ve done were not righteous. I’ve no business in Paradise with killers of women and children. Scoundrels like me deserve to wander the earth, hungry, never satisfied.”

“A soldier under orders obeys orders. You tried to ease the suffering of the Afghani people. Go to your blissful, happy life.”

“My blissful, happy life is here. In my new body. You need me…”

“I need Alam, but not this way. Continue your journey.”

“My journey ends here.”

“No. Leave. This is a trick. Go back to the portal if you are man, not demon.”

He dropped to his knees as if shot. “Let me stay. One night?”

Dreamy sensations flowed through her as she floated into a fantastical world. He has cast some spell over me. A spell that holds me entranced. Her heart cried out for Alam. A tidal wave of power suffused her–where before she was weak, now she was strong–where before she had mourned, now her heart danced.
Alam is here!

He saw her thoughts.

He reached down, tore the rug from her hands. He stroked her shoulder, testing her–chilly hands, icy fingers. He sat on the edge of the couch. Embraced her.  Pressed her warm flesh against his coldness. Oh, the chill! Icy lips found hers. 

Water rushed down her throat–spurted out her nose–her eyes filled–overflowed. She panicked. Pulled away.


She cried. Scrubbed her face with the rug.

“Relax,” he said, “Control your fear. The drowning sensation will vanish. I promise.”

“Who are you? Which demon has stolen Alam’s body?”

I am your Alam.” He kissed her again. “My precious wife.” His garments disappeared as if by magic. Naked, he covered the length of her warm human flesh with his otherworldly coldness.

 “I am so cold. The fire...” she said.

“This new body has an enemy–fire.” He turned and blew into the fireplace. Flames lit up the space. “But I can try to bear it…for you, my love.”

Her heart leaped into the flood of pleasure offered by his arms. Do I care whether he is dead or undead, cold or warm, ghost or demon?
They lay side by side. Stroke for stroke they sought remembrance of times past…but...something jarred...
Delbar felt it creep along her nape. Something frightening, more frightening than what she’d already experienced. She sensed absolute evil.
Too late she saw the malevolent glint in eyes turned red. The beautiful face melted into a hideous mask. The body bunched, the back humped, hands curled into claws that raked her face. Pain stole her breath. The mass twisted into a formless black that blasted putrid air over her like a toxic cloud. Hands forced her arms behind her back. Filthy water poured down her throat. Life squeezed from her.
The flames flickered…and died.


* Yaa Ilaahee! (Oh my God!)

** Daabí Ashkun!”* (No!)


***L'Aussie Image edited in

WORDS: 986

If you'd like to add your Halloween story/poem to the list, submit in the right top sidebar or wherever you find the linky until October 21 AEST.

This challenge is being judged by venerable bloggers, Ann Best and Nas Dean, who are on a quest to find the Featured Writer.



Yolanda Renée said...


Great imagery! Scary imagery! The ending was fantastic. Can't wait to read the entire novella.

So well done!

Denise Covey said...

Thank you Yolanda! I can't wait to finish the novella! :D

Charmaine Clancy said...

Oh dear, Delbar should have trusted her instincts! This is great, very rich with culture and imagery. Felt the shivers down my nape when I read that passage!

Charmaine Clancy said...

And great picture!

Unknown said...

Perfect..! I think you meant heaven when you wrote Jannah? In that case, the word is Jannat.

Loved the way you used water, wonderful imagination that gave me the creeps :)

Panchali said...

Denis...Ewww...this would enchant any die-hard horror fans out here.Great fictional work set around a political movement that emerged out of the rubble of the Cold War to shock the world!!
Wow....a compelling piece. Would love to read the whole novel now! After you officially publish your book, do let me know please!!:)

Raelene Purtill said...

sensual and creepy. great imagery.

Unknown said...

Dear Denise,

I agree with Raelene. This is both sensual and creepy! There is also a lot of tension and suspense. We find out in the end that she should have gone with her gut feelings, but your description is so convincing that we hope against hope for a happy end.

I'm glad that there are knowledgeable readers here who can help you with the cultural/linguistic details. To me it is just very exotic.

Wow! What a story!

Can't wait to read the finished novella.

Best wishes,
RFW No. 46 - 'Jenny Holland's Robinson Crusoe Halloween'

Denise Covey said...

Naughty Google said 'Jannah' but I guess there are differing spellings. I'll recheck soon...thank you for your comment. D

Denise Covey said...

Ooooeee! I scared myself!

Denise Covey said...

Thank you sweet Anna. I'm glad you liked it. D

Denise Covey said...

Panchali, lovely to meet you. I have spent a lot of time researching the causes of these Afghanistan wars. I am fully creeped out by the political background. The more I learn the worse I feel for everyone involved. I have a full novel set in Afghanistan as well, just waiting to find time to finish. D

Denise Covey said...


Denise Covey said...

Go PicMonKey!

Anonymous said...

Wow that was powerful and creepy. Love the rise in tension.

Anonymous said...

Wow that was powerful and creepy. Love the rise in tension.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Never trust the dead!

Kiru Taye said...

This is pretty spot on, Denise. I can't find a fault with it. Evil comes in all guises. Beware. Well done.

Jai Joshi said...

Yikes! Isn't it interesting how we can allow grief to lead us into all sorts of places?


Scarlet said...

This was really creeping and chilling....She didn't want to believe that he is her husband but the man we adamant. In the end, those malevolent eyes...perhaps a devil playing with her emotions. Very well done with the storyl ine ~

dolorah said...

A lot of powerful emotions here. Love and lust and evil. Love beyond the grave indeed. I like how use the water to bind her, and to form his body. A brilliant concept.


Sally said...

Malevolent and creepy. The (evil) things people will do in the name of politics or religion.

Nas said...

Romantic, sensual and creepy!

Well done, Denise!

Francine Howarth said...


Ah, water-boarding - horrendous... Great paranormal theme!


Unknown said...

Wow, Denise. Your excerpt grabbed me by the throat. I love these few lines: "She struggled to see her assailant through the dark shadows…she saw no one…then…a kaleidoscope of color swirled at the top of the staircase. It spilled onto the stairs like molten metal tipped from a cauldron. Colored shadows glinted as the liquid dripped downwards, then puddled at the bottom of the stairs." "molten metal tipped from a cauldron," superb!!

I think the premise of your ghost story is wonderful. The creep factor is fabulous!

There was only one small detail that made me do a double-take. The mention of the *white* light appearing in the room. I took this line as the entry of the evilness, am I correct? If so, if it were me, I'd consider changing the color to a more ominous shade / hue. I've always considered white to be holy, protective, and safe. Gray, black, deep reds, greens, foul yellows, these I associate with darkness. Does that make sense?

Unless I completely misread that line. As the white light could've been Alam's spirit warning her of the evil to come??

Oh, I wish you all the best with your submissions. :)))

Unknown said...

Ugh, I didn't mean for my comment to be sooooo long. :)

Nilanjana Bose said...

That was scary-intense and surreal!Totally spooked me out. You had me from the first sentence right upto the last. Wish you the very best with publication.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Denise
I was completely submerged in your imagery. Powerful. I especially liked the water that flowed into her mouth. Clean the first time and filled with grime the second time. So scary I'm looking over my shoulders. Well written. Well done.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Candilynn. I can see your point as you haven't lived with the story as long as I have - but remember he was trying to pass himself off as 'good', not 'evil' so he's not going to appear as a black evil looking fellow. He changes to black after he exposes himself.
Thank you for your considered comment...D

Denise Covey said...

Thank you Nancy. I'm glad you got the clean then filthy allusion. The filthy was an afterthought...D

Scarlet said...

Hi Denise,

Thanks for your visit in my blog~

Please note my direct link for this challenge:

Denise Covey said...

All good Heaven. I've visited the right post now and have added the direct link on RFW. :D

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise - I'm glad I've had time to read this and take it in .. and I didn't realise you have so much knowledge about Afghanistan - a great deal of understanding must be required even to scratch the surface - let alone write a novel and novella ... I was totally bewitched.

However I'm doubly bewitched as you've got some great commenters with an appreciation for that land and its troubles ...

Now I need to know more ... really good - lovely excerpt ..

Cheers Hilary

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Denise,

Making the rounds. SOOO far behind in EVERYTHING. Another CRAZY week ahead. This will be one INTENSE and chilling novella. I did find a few typos, but minor and nothing more. LOVED the tension, imagery, and premise.

I really enjoy your cultural pieces. You really nail the women in this society ... their strength, their vulnerability, and their passion.

Thanks again for your patience on my entry.

Denise Covey said...

Typos, young man! What typos?? D

Denise Covey said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment Hilary.

Denise Covey said...

Thank you Nilanjana. D

Denise Covey said...

Thank you Catherine. D

Talli Roland said...

Wow! Now that was gripping. I love the emotional journey you manage to get in so few words.

Theresa Milstein said...

What a wonderful visual description. I think you did a great job!

Wendy Lu said...

Such an intense, scary piece of writing! I loved it. I like how you returned back to the original imagery of flickering flames (great alliteration too, by the way). Perfect for the challenge. Enjoyed this so much, as well as the other RFW submissions. :)

~Wendy Lu

The Red Angel Blog

nutschell said...

Love the imagery and the emotions you've wrangled out of me. great piece!

Denise Covey said...

Thanks nutschell!

Erin Kane Spock said...

I love how this made full circle with the flames dying. I was confused as to what was happening for the first few paragraphs. Until the dialogue started (which was engrossing) I had trouble following the sequence of events. Watching the fire, seeing a flash of light, being attacked, then being under wrapped in a veil of water. I had to re-read in order to follow what was happening. I can see it being used to show Delbar's disorientation, but it made it hard to read.
The rest, the conversation, the clear display of cultural values (shown very well), then the final unexpected and very creepy ending, was excellent.

Denise Covey said...

Thanks Erin. Helpful.

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