To celebrate Halloween, I have written a short story so that you might escape and get into, dare I say, the spirit. Please enjoy and Happy Halloween, everyone! ~ E. M. Duesel
It was mid October and the leaves on the trees were turning their vibrant colors of yellow, orange and red. Usually fall is regarded as the beginning of the end, but in Stacey McKinney’s eyes, it was the beginning of a most anticipated life. She graduated from the local university last spring with a degree in Journalism, and worked at the Dairy Mart over the summer while she sent out resumes. Last week the position of junior reporter at the Country Star came knocking at her door and she got the job. It was a good start, and the pay was enough for her to strike out on her own, over the protest of her parents.
That fine Friday morning, she and her best friend, Maggie Turner, set out to explore second hand shops and any leftover seasonal garage and yard sales. The goal was to find furniture to fill Stacey’s new apartment. They went from store to store and sale to sale finding nothing. Ready to give up, they discovered one last shop which was bursting with odd pieces. Its setting produced recollections of all things past that exuded character and seemed to trigger bizarre imprints upon shoppers.
They went up one row and down another, and were stopped in the furniture area by a curious recliner. Its design appeared to be askew, but when Stacey sat in it, she was overwhelmed by comfort and security. Even though the color was bright orange and in some places the upholstery was a little threadbare, the price was right. The chair just seemed to call out to her.
The girls approached the checkout counter with giggling enthusiasm. The owner, who was as peculiar as the store asked, “Is this the first furniture purchase you’ve ever made?”
“Yes, it is and it’s the first piece of furniture that will go into my first apartment.” Stacey beamed with pride.
“All things have a story. It is a unique piece and will require respect and attention.” The store owner eyed Stacey with skeptical curiosity.
Maggie piped in, “What do you mean? It’s a chair.” Both of the girls snickered.
“Hmm … you should always be grateful for things in your life and value them for what benefits they still have left to give. You never know when fortune will turn on you.”
Wanting to escape the ominous conversation, Stacey said, “I will … it’s all good.”
After the purchase was made, the tug of war began to get the chair into Maggie’s SUV. The chair seemed to control the efforts of fitting it into the car. If it didn’t like the way the girls pushed it, the reclining end flipped out. If they were too forceful, one of them got a finger jammed. The peculiar conversation with the store owner haunted them and it affected the way the girls perceived the chair. With pinched fingers and bruised arms, they were at last able to get it into Stacey’s apartment. It looked lovely by the window, and because it was her first piece of furniture, Stacey chose to decorate her new home around its wild orange color.
The first weekend at her apartment Stacey breathed in new found freedom. There was no one to answer to; no curfews and drinking could happen without the monitoring of concerned parents. So, a small housewarming was planned. As it so happened, there was a new guy who bumped into Stacey at lunch the week before and he also was extended an invitation.
People started to arrive including Stacey’s new friend, Braden Adams. One at a time, guests sat in the chair to try it out as it had an aura that beckoned them, but none of them stayed in it very long as they preferred the pillows strewn on the floor. However, Braden did stay in the chair. He found it interesting. The gaudy color and its uncommon design mesmerized him. Although he made friends with the chair, he did not fit in with Stacy’s group. He disrespected her home by spilling his drink on the floor in a drunken stupor, he kicked the refrigerator door closed, and wiped his hands on the chair after eating some Cheetos. He laughed when someone brought his boorish manners into question saying that the chair was so orange; no one would notice it anyway.
As the night progressed the party-goers left one by one, leaving Braden behind alone with Stacey. He got out of the chair and grabbed Stacey and kissed her. Plopping back down in the chair he pulled her with him. They reclined back and Braden got aggressive. As if having a mind of its own, the recliner’s extension dropped down on Braden’s ankle trapping it in the space between the chair and the kick bar. It wouldn’t loosen, but instead increased its grip.
“Stacey, get me out of this damn chair! Goddamn, it hurts. I think my ankle is broken.”
“I’m trying. It won’t budge. I’ll get help.” Stacey ran out of her apartment to her neighbor’s. They returned with a crowbar. As soon as the crowbar touched the chair, the clutch released and Braden’s ankle was free. It was swollen double its normal size and Stacey and her neighbor had to take him to the emergency room.
The next day, Maggie popped over to check on Stacey intending to help her clean up after last night’s party. “Hey, how did it go with Braden?”
Stacey, still tired from the overnight escapade to the hospital, described in detail the strange events that followed the party. “Honestly, Mags, I could not get the chair to loosen the hold it had on Braden’s ankle. It was like it wanted to hurt him.”
“Please tell me you don’t like that jerk. I say yay to the chair. He is not a keeper.”
Stacey laughed, “It’s true. What a supreme assaholic. He came on to me fast and furious, and when he got too familiar, the chair kind of … attacked him.”
The girls laughed at what seemed to them a piece of dumb luck believing Braden got what he deserved. It took all day to clean the apartment, but in the midst of it, plans were made for the next party. Halloween was closing in and because of her fascination with the macabre, and since it was her favorite holiday, Stacey wanted to host a gathering of ghouls. They sat on the floor with their glasses of wine and lists of things to do. An icy chill traveled passed them.
“Whoa! Did you feel that?” Maggie’s face whitened.
“Yeah … it’s probably nothing. Just an apartment quirk I need to get used to.”
“Okay … well … do you want to explain why the chair is rocking by itself?”
Both girls crawled close to each other. The chair was indeed rocking on its own. It kept it up for about ten seconds and then stopped. They looked at each other and rolled on the floor laughing at the thought of being so naive. They chalked it up to the wine, the apartment’s air flow, and their active imaginations.
Monday morning came around and Stacey was late for work. She had misplaced her cell phone, and without her phone her job was impossible. Frantic and hurried, her phone ringer went off near the chair. When she got closer, she realized that it was tucked down into the side of the recliner. This was curious as neither Maggie nor Stacey wanted to sit in it after what happened to Braden, so she had no idea how her phone ended up in the chair. With that query lingering, Stacey left the apartment to go to work.
On her way to an interview, her cell phone pinged. Stacey checked the message. It read, “Beware of BA.”
She immediately texted Maggie. “Did you just text me?”
“Nothing. Stop by later.” Stacey was now feeling frightened. There were no people who knew both Braden and her, so she was perplexed as to who sent the message and how they got her number. She wanted her day to be over. The unknown message unnerved her, and she needed to solve the mystery.
Her work day finally ended, and Stacey was glad to be home. She opened the door to her apartment. To her amazement, the chair was moved away from the window to the other side of the room. Behind her running footsteps startled her.
“Hey. What’s going on?” Maggie came right after work.
“Things are getting very creepy.” Stacey stepped aside to reveal the chair.
“Oh, did you decide to move it?”
“Uh … no. I came home to it like this. Then there is the text message I got.”
“What text message?” Maggie was confused.
“Today. I got a text message telling me to beware of BA. Here let me show you.” As Stacey tried to find the message, it was no longer in her phone. “Okay, now I’m really freaked.”
“BA. You mean like Braden Adams? Do you think he sent it to scare you?”
“I don’t know. But, if he did, how did he get to my phone to erase the message? I haven’t seen or heard from him since the party. Listen, can you spend the night with me? I am really spooked. I feel like I’m in the middle of a Halloween sequel.”
Maggie laughed. “Yeah. Come with me to pick up some things for tomorrow.”
Just the break from the scene at the apartment was enough to set things right again with Stacey. They were still at a loss as to how the chair got moved, but that was a puzzle for another day. The friends got Chinese take-out, and picked up another bottle of wine. When they got back to the apartment, they ate and made further plans for the Halloween party. Well mellowed, they went to bed and fell fast asleep.
In the middle of the night, Stacey awoke to something moving around in her living room. She shook Maggie. “Mags, wake up. Someone is in the living room.”
Sitting up in bed, the girls held their breath. Visions of Braden armed with a butcher knife played with their minds. They heard a low moaning and a rubbing noise; then a creaking like someone was rocking in the chair. The creaking stopped, but the sound of footsteps made their way closer and closer to the bedroom door sending chills down their spines. They stopped right outside the door. The girls clung to their blankets and each other. Hampered breathing could be heard from the other side as if whatever it was, was deciding whether to enter. Afraid to move, Stacey and Maggie sat straight up in bed for what seemed like forever. The door never opened, the footsteps stopped, and the breathing died out.
Lying back in the bed, relieved but still frozen with fear, Stacey said, “Let’s go out and check to see what it is?”
“You know what? Let’s just count our blessings and wait until morning.” Maggie was the practical one.
“Maybe we should call the police?”
“And report what. We heard creaking in the living room? No, let’s just wait it out until morning.”
“No, no. We need to see …” Stacey was altogether too eager to flirt with this unknown danger.
“What do you mean we, Kemosabe? I’m not going out there.”
Over Maggie’s whispered protests, Stacey got out of bed and slowly tip-toed her way to the door. Putting her ear next to it, she listened. There was nothing. She turned the door knob to open it.
“Stacey, don’t open it!” Maggie couldn’t believe what Stacey was doing.
There was a hard knock on the door and it slammed shut sending Stacey careening back to her bed as Maggie caught her. They were beyond terrified, but Stacey loved the thrill. As they clung to one another the door creaked slowly open. A mist floated in and drifted in front of the bed where the girls held their breath in shock, and then it shifted towards the dresser mirror. The reflection of an old woman appeared. Stacey and Maggie screamed at the top of their lungs and ran out of the room and out of the apartment.
Still in their pajamas, they went to sit in Maggie’s car until morning, but they realized that her car was locked and the keys were in her purse in the apartment. It was freezing cold. There was no other choice but to go back into the apartment to get the keys.
“Alright, look. We go together. My purse is near the door, so it shouldn’t be so bad.” Maggie tried to convince herself that everything was okay.
“Yeah, okay. We go together.” Stacey agreed.
When they got to the stoop to the front door, hanging from the doorknob were Maggie’s keys still on the lanyard where she kept them. No purse, but the keys were there for the taking. The night held no end of freakishness. Whatever it was, it seemed to know their every movement and thought and it just kicked them out. It was Stacey and Maggie’s very own little nightmare, and Stacey was getting a weird form of delight from it.
Morning found the two huddled together in the back of the SUV. Still charged with trepidation, they worked up the nerve to go back into the apartment. To their astonishment, the chair was once again moved next to the window. It had a wash cloth hanging over one arm and the mark left by Braden’s fingers from his Cheetos disaster was gone; rubbed away by the wash cloth which had the telltale signs of orange Cheetos powder on it. Everything was like it had been the first time Stacey arranged her apartment around the chair.
Because of her attraction to the paranormal, Stacey had heard of a local woman with extrasensory gifts. She called her that afternoon and arranged for a meeting in the apartment for later in the evening. Normally, Maggie would have balked at the idea of a psychic, but last night convinced her that something was amiss and she was curious.
On her way to another interview for the newspaper, Stacey was engrossed in her notes. A man’s hand grabbed her arm and pulled her backward. She spun around to be face to face with Braden Adams.
“Braden, I thought you broke your ankle.”
“Uh, no. It’s pretty banged up, put I can still walk … or, you know, limp on it.”
“Oh, well. Glad to hear it. I have to go, I have an interview.”
He held onto her arm. “Umm … maybe we can get together sometime.”
“Listen, I don’t think so.” Braden was no longer attractive to Stacey. She wondered how she never noticed it before, but he had bad breath and an arrogance that was not at all right.
Still holding on to her, Braden threatened, “No, we’ll see each other again. I know it.”
“Let me go, Braden … now.” Stacey lifted her high-heeled shoe aiming at his injured ankle, and he let go of her arm.
“I won’t always have this limp, you know. Just biding my time, Stace. Some day you will look over your shoulder and there I’ll be.”
“Don’t bet on it.” That’s all Stacey needed right now. She was still creeped out by the crazy stuff going on in her home. Braden Adams was the least of her worries.
Evening set in and Stacey and Maggie were ready. For what, they weren’t sure, but something had to be explained. Sierra Cummings was a well-known psychic in the area who had an interview with the newspaper and that’s how Stacey knew how to contact her.
As they all met in front of the apartment, Sierra was distracted. “Wow, there is definitely something going on. Let’s go in. She’s waiting.”
Maggie and Stacey gave each other a stunned look and followed Sierra in. Not missing a beat, Sierra sat down in the chair. The girls were intrigued. After a few minutes of silent meditation, she got up and cleansed the space with sage and lit white candles. She said a prayer and then motioned to the girls.
“Come sit with me ladies. Hold hands. Myra has a message for you. Clear your minds of all that bothers you … take some deep breaths. Good.” A few more minutes passed and Sierra began to speak. “Myra Schultz was the owner of this chair. She wants you to understand its importance and why she haunts it. She became a widow in her middle age. Her life spun out of control after her husband died because he was the bread winner and she was a homemaker. He didn’t have life insurance and he died too soon, leaving her with nothing. They had no children, so she soon became homeless. Not on the street, homeless, but she still had to live with various members of her family until she got on her feet. She says that people don’t know what it’s like not having a space to call your own. You have to rely on others for food, heat, electricity and even toilet paper. It was a horrible experience for her and she swore that when she got on her feet, the first thing she would buy for her home was a chair to call her own. This chair became her space to be. It was hers and no one else’s. She cared for it because it was a symbol of her personal freedom from a life of reliance on other people, and to her it was sacrosanct. It was her place to feel comfort and security when the world threatened her. She wants it respected. If she can trust that you will respect it, she will move on into the light.”
“I get that, but, why did she scare us so last night?” Stacey was confused by this sweet spirit.
“She cannot control her energy and she is very worried and wants to warn you about a young man that was here during a party you had.” Sierra jerked into a trance and her voice aged and weakened. “… he … is … bad … he is dangerous … he wants to hurt you … hurt you … hurt you. Don’t let him near you! He has raped … killed others … beware of him … he is coming for you. Follow the roses …”
“Holy crap.” Maggie shuttered, and her words broke the trance.
“How then? How can he be stopped?” Stacey was concerned, especially after her encounter with Braden earlier.
“Well, she’s gone now.” Sierra was only concerned for crossing Myra over and wasn’t sure whether that happened. But there was a more desperate situation going on here.
“Sierra, Myra is right. Braden ambushed me this afternoon in front of the newspaper office. I was on my way to an interview and he practically threatened me.”
“You didn’t tell me that, Stacey.” Maggie was surprised.
“I didn’t have the time. Listen, I’m worried about this. What could Myra have meant by follow the roses?” Stacey pleaded with Sierra.
“I don’t know. But, when she gave you that message I believe this was the way to catch him and stop him.”
The next day, Stacey researched any rapes or murders that involved a rose. In the police reports were three rape/murders where a rose was left behind by the killer. Her predicament was how to alert the police to Braden Adams without sounding ridiculous. It didn’t seem likely that she could work with law enforcement on this. The idea that Braden was out in the world lurking troubled Stacey, mostly because he didn’t seem like the kind of predator that gave up easily.
The Halloween party was the following Saturday. Now that they thought they had rid it of its haunting, the apartment was a pleasure to live in the last few days, and Maggie and Stacey were excited for a good time. The morning of the party came fast and the girls were out purchasing some dry ice for effect and other necessaries. Their packages were heavy so they were distracted by how to carry everything into the apartment along with the hundred pounds of dry ice. So, they didn’t see the dozen red roses left on Stacey’s kitchen table until all the items were unloaded. The card read, See you soon.
“How did he get in?” Stacey’s heart pounded.
“Stacey, I don’t know, but we should call the police. This is too weird.”
“No, no. I can handle this jerk.”
“You’re kidding, right? Stacey …”
“Just let me handle it. I have Halloween on my side.” Stacey laughed like the scary guy telling a horror story making Maggie chuckle and roll her eyes.
Both of the girls supposed that Braden would show up at the party that night. But, Stacey refused to divulge her plan, and Maggie’s skin crawled at Stacey’s present demeanor. She didn’t believe Stacey had a plan at all but instead was spellbound by the idea of a murder and rapist attending the party. It was as if she were someone else. Stacey always loved the thrill of the unknown, like her willingness to get out of bed and confront the ghost on the other side of the door. Her abnormal interest in all things creepy shook Maggie down to her core.
Their costumes were fun. Maggie dressed like a killer clown and Stacey was a dark fortune teller with long grisly nails and a big wart on her chin. Everything was set up and ready to go. Maggie watched as Stacey set up prank after prank all meant to terrify the living guts out of people. Chilling screams were triggered when someone walked by certain figures that were motion activated, an automatic hand reached out and grabbed at people. There was a bowl of fake worms and eyeballs floated in a jar. Stacey’s phobophilia was intensifying, and it all kick started in response to Braden’s threats.
The living room had drinks, and food, and music. A werewolf, followed by a zombie came through the door, and party-goers filed in dressed in everything from funny characters to frightening ones. Maggie and Stacey scrutinized every one, keeping a lookout for Braden. He could have been any of them.
Stacey’s bedroom was turned into a fortune telling den complete with Ouija board and tarot cards and Stacey reading palms. As the night progressed, a group of guests asked her to conduct a séance with the spirit board. Gathering around it, vampires, witches, clowns, and werewolves rubbed shoulders. A Freddy hung back in the corner of the room decked out with a fedora and sharp cutlery. Uneasy with this guy, Maggie and Stacey caught each other’s eye.
An icy chill seeped into the area around the spirit board. A little surprised, they all just went with it, and to Stacey it added to the intrigue. The Ouija board spelled out, “beware of B A.” Maggie looked around for a familiar entity. Everything got eerie. Freddy shifted uncomfortably in his corner. Working wildly around the board, it spelled “… I warned you … he is here …” The hodgepodge of ghouls was now stimulated by the intensity in the room.
One asked, “Who is here?”
The board spelled out “… rapist …”
A chorus of “ugh” and “yikes” and “damn, this is creepy” were heard from around the table. It caused such uproar that when Maggie and Stacey looked for Freddy, he had left without detection. He was nowhere to be seen.
The pointer moved aggressively around the board in a circular motion throwing some hands off, while others clung to keep the spirit focused on her message. “… he … will … be … back …”
Stacey asked, “Who will be back?”
“… B … A …”
The commotion in Stacey’s bedroom attracted others from the living room. It was jam-packed with interested guests. So fixed on what was happening with the spirit board, no one saw the face of Freddy look through the bedroom window from outside. No one except Myra, that is.
“… he … is … here …” The pointer continued and then dropped off the edge of the board pointing to the window.
So hair-raising was this exchange with Myra on the spirit board that the energy in the room was electric. They could have levitated something if they had tried. Slight whimpers of, “God, this is creepy” to “I think I want to go home” were heard around the room.
“Where is he? Is he in this room?” Maggie wanted answers.
“… outside …” A rush of guests ran outside to look around. There was no one there. They agreed laughing that the spirit board was just a great hoax, and they abandoned it for the rest of the party. Meanwhile, Maggie and Stacey stayed close to one another.
As the party wound down, guests left one at a time, but Gemma, the last to leave and one who had a little too much to drink needed a ride home. “Stace, you need to come with me. You cannot stay here by yourself.” Maggie was concerned about Myra’s warning.
“I would, but what if he sneaks back in the apartment while we are gone? Come on, it’s just a few blocks away. Take Gemma home and come right back. I should be okay.” Reluctantly, Maggie agreed and she guided a puking Gemma outside and left Stacey alone.
The apartment looked like a cyclone hit, so Stacey locked the door, and she began the cleanup. She moved some leftovers into the kitchen and wrapped them up for the refrigerator. As she walked into the living room to retrieve more leftovers, a chill swept past her and the chair began to rock. Then a hard knock sounded from the bedroom. Stacey titillated by fear and adrenaline, walked into the bedroom. Once there, the door slammed shut and Braden emerged from the shadows.
“Braden, how did you get back into the apartment?” Her fear was heightened.
“When everyone came back in from trying to find me outside, I came back with them. No one knew that I was the one your ghostly friend was hinting at. I must admit, you had me going, too. I mean, how did you know?”
“She really is here. That wasn’t me manipulating the board … and she is here right now.” Stacey looked around for Myra. “This would be a good time to show up, Myra.”
Braden’s hand came from behind his back. He dropped a rose on the bed next to Stacey, and then revealed the knife he had concealed in his other hand. “Here, my love. Something romantic before the fun.” He grabbed her holding the knife to her throat and then tore open her top.
A force came from behind and pulled Braden to the floor. “What the hell! How did you do that?”
Stacey seized the opening and kicked Braden in his sore ankle. As he struggled to get up, he was shoved down again by the unknown force. He screamed at Stacey, “What is that?”
“Her name is Myra, and you shouldn’t have messed with her chair.”
Braden, whose ankle was pretty well battered, dragged himself to the door. It slammed shut. Stacey walked over to him and kicked him again. “You know I always knew that some guys only think with their lower body parts. Don’t you know how unattractive that makes you?” Preparing to give him another swift kick, this time somewhere a little dearer to him, Maggie was heard pounding on the front door. The bedroom door automatically opened to let Stacey through and then slammed shut again.
Opening the front door, Stacey yelled, “He’s here … in the bedroom …”
“Are you kidding?” Questions filled Maggie’s head.
“No, we need to call the police. Myra has him locked in.”
While Stacey was calling the police a confused Maggie’s face puckered, “What?”
The police arrived and Stacey filed a police report for the assault. She told them what she had found out in her research and gave them the rose and the knife for evidence. Braden was carried out of the apartment in handcuffs on a stretcher.
The girls sat down on the floor of the living room and stared as the chair rocked back and forth. When it stopped, they heard soft footsteps go into the bedroom. Trailing after them, they saw Myra’s reflection in the dresser mirror. She smiled, blew a kiss and faded away.
After that night, both friends believed in the paranormal, but held a deep respect and gratitude for life’s gifts and they never forgot Myra and the help she gave to avoid a murderer’s dark intentions. The chair stayed with Stacey for a very long time, but under her careful protection.