It's time for the WEP/IWSG April challenge. I've been missing Yolanda Renee's grisly stories, so I thought I'd go grisly myself with a little ghost thrown in. I know. I know. It's April, not October, but sometimes the story won't be denied. I wanted to retell the Aladdin story. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw Jewel Box and the wonderful image our image guru, Olga Godim found. But Aladdin wouldn't be retold, so I plunged in another direction.
DISCLAIMER; Don't read this late at night...
DISCLAIMER; Don't read this late at night...
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
Since the murder, I could hear a mouse wearing bootees tiptoe through my house. Otherwise, I would not have heard the faint footsteps creaking up the stairs. Sitting up so fast I cracked my head on the poster, I screamed, ‘Who’s there?’
The bedroom door handle turned slowly.
I squeaked like a frightened mouse, my voice scarcely audible over the thump of my heart. ‘Who’s there?’
Someone. In my room. I strained my eyes in the darkness. A small shadowy sinister shape stood on the threshold.
‘Sorry, Sheila. It’s me.’
OMG! My arm hairs prickled. A shiver sprinted down my spine.
It was him...
But … I’d buried him a week ago. I’d tossed the black rose onto his coffin. I’d watched the gravediggers set about their grisly task. He’d risen from the dead? Tread quietly into my house like he’d been working night shift and didn’t want to wake me.
‘It really is me.’
I’ve never seen a ghost. But like they say in the old cliché, there’s a first time for everything. I’d heard there are two types of ghosts – benevolent and malicious. If this was Drew’s ghost, it’d be malicious. After what I’d done.
‘Sheila.’ He mouthed my name again, his voice wavering like he spoke underwater.
Far from oblivious to the threatening tone, I grabbed my throat. ‘Drew? How … why … whaaat?’
‘I had no time to give you your birthday gift. Sorry. Death came to me … so suddenly.’
Did he know I hired the assassin? Did he know about Leopold? Had he come home early one night and caught us? Maybe in that place where he’s gone, he’d figured out his sudden demise.
He stepped out of the shadows.
I gasped. Clutched the bedclothes to my throat. He looked the same but different. Was I expecting blood dripping from his slit throat?
He smiled his kind Drew smile. ‘I came back to give you something for your birthday. I don’t want you to go to your grave thinking I don’t care.’
Grave? A strange turn of phrase? I shuddered. Did he have foreknowledge? Did he know the time and hour of my death? Was I dreaming this whole creepy episode? I just wanted him gone. ‘Please don’t worry yourself. Go back where you came from. I, er, know you care. Or did. Once.’
And he did care. He was the best husband a woman could want, but not the one I wanted. I wanted glitz and glamour. Nights on the town. Not nights sleeping alone waiting for my husband to finish night shift.
Leopold gave me the glitz and glamour I craved, but he stressed I had to deal with Drew.
I rubbed my fingers over the gold necklace I never take off. So much better than those cheapo chains Drew gave me. Did he make the onerous journey back from the grave to give me another cheapo chain? I chewed the sheet so I wouldn’t laugh out loud.
Closer and closer he came. His shape grew bigger and bigger. His black presence filled the room. Or had a black moon stumbled through my bedroom window?
I flicked my eyes around the room. There was no escaping this looming presence standing between me and the door.
He opened the curtain that hid the safe, exposing the shiny steel. Flicking the dial, he said, ‘Someone’s changed the code.’
I didn’t miss the flash of anger in his voice.
Drew had been locking the safe when the assassin broke through the window and slit his throat.
I’ve since torn up the carpet. Repapered the walls. Hung new curtains. But like Lady Macbeth, I can’t get the blood off my hands. The smell of Drew’s death lingers.
By some magic, he wrenched the safe open. Apparently where he came from, you don’t need a code.
His shape turned to me, holding another, more concrete, shape in its hands.
‘Sheila. Your belated gift. I hid it in the secret compartment no one knows about, not even you.’
Walking to the side of the bed, he threw aside the filmy curtain I liked to sleep behind. Gave me a sense of mystery. Tonight, seeing his shapeless face, I’d had more mystery than I wanted for a lifetime.
‘Take it.’ In his cloth-covered hands he held out a small, sparkly box.
There was something vaguely Aladdin-ish about the scene. If I obeyed his wishes, maybe he’d disappear into the miasma from which he’d appeared. If he didn’t hurry and get this over with, Leopold would return. I crossed my fingers. I touched one the wooden posters of my four-poster bed.
The box was smooth, satin to the touch. Jewels studded the lid and sides. They looked like precious jewels, but, no, Drew never gave me precious jewels.
‘Open it.’ His shape leaned closer, but stepped back when I gasped in fright. He wandered aimlessly around the room seeking distraction while I examined his gift. When he picked up our photograph where I’d slashed him out of the picture and added Leopold, I nearly vomited.
The phone rang. I lay the box aside. If it was Leopold, I’d warn him to stay away. "Hello," I said, "Hello." No one there. I hung up at the same time the lights went out ...
Beside me, I heard faint music. What the? I picked up the box and lifted the lid. Loud music crashed around the room like out-of-tune violins played by a cat.
Then it stopped. Like my heart was about to.
‘Ghosts don't exist!’ I screamed as the horrific visage gurgled, approaching my bed.
Drew’s hand reached into the box and chose a shining emerald necklace. ‘Your birthday gift, Sheila. I came back to put it around your throat.’
I struggled. I screamed. I twisted. But he was a ghost. A malicious ghost. He ripped off Leopold’s necklace and replaced it with his. His ice-cold hands bunched it behind my neck. He pulled … and pulled ... tight … tighter. I gurgled loud ... louder... I was vaguely aware of the door opening and Leopold’s chilling scream.
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