Hello, Briefers! It’s a few weeks (or maybe months!) since I was able to take part, what with holidays, work, new puppy, and various other things taking up every spare minute. And then of course my website was offline for nearly 2 weeks *sigh*.
But now I have a two part Halloween short story for you, so have a read and let me know what you think. The second part will be up next Wednesday.
Check out the other writers’ Briefs for this week – links below:-
An owl hooted, breaking the silence. I peered out of the window into the darkness. Another sleepless night, broken by the sound of footsteps; steps trodden in an empty house. I’d lived alone for eight years since my wife died. A lifetime together, childless and nothing more than friends after the first couple of years, when she guessed my secret. She’d stood by me and confessed she had her own secret to keep. In those days it wasn’t easy to be who you wanted to be. Now in my sixties, I went on alone, convinced that in this brave new world where people could be themselves more easily, I’d left it too late.
I returned to bed and closed my eyes, hoping for sleep. It was just past midnight, but I didn’t expect to slip away any time soon. I never did on Halloween. That’s when he’d died, over forty years ago. My heart and soul, my everything, my secret, taken from me in a road accident. Ice caused his motor to leave the road and in those days of few cars on the roads, he’d already been gone for nine hours before he was found in the morning. I hadn’t even been able to attend his funeral. None of his family had known we were close, and seeing his fiancee grieve would have made my own pain that much keener.
The familiar tap came on the window. The same sound I heard repeatedly on this night each year. As usual, I returned to bed and buried my head beneath the pillow to shut it out. That wretched tree outside the window, its leafless twigs caught in the breeze, sounded so like fingers tapping, beckoning me. A chill crawled up my spine and I tugged the bed covers tighter around me. The sound only grew louder, muffled through the pillow still, but persistent.
“Come to me, Richard.”
I flung back the covers and bolted upright. Surely the whisper had been in my imagination. My mind conjured up too many memories at this time of year. Always I imagined I could hear him, calling to me from wherever his soul rested.
A glutton for punishment, I tiptoed to the window again and opened the sash. Leaned out into the chilly night. The tree whispered in the breeze and a twig, so like a finger, scratched my cheek. Shivering, I pulled back and shut out the night. Perhaps a tot of whiskey would help. It never had before, but it was worth a try. I reached for my robe to cover my thin pajamas, and startled at another sound; similar to the first, only this tapping came on my bedroom door. This had never happened before. Every year I fancied I heard him at the window, and every year I opened it to find a tree branch scratching on the pane. But now…
The tapping came again, faintly enough that I could have imagined it, but I knew I hadn’t. Someone was out there, in the hallway, waiting. Clutching my robe tightly around me, I lifted a shaking hand to the doorknob and gripped it tightly.
“Who’s there?” I asked, wishing my voice sounded stronger. It quavered just a little. I curled my toes into the carpet, waiting for the response.
“Open the door, Richard. I’ve been waiting for you.”
I jumped back at the steady voice on the other side of the wooden barrier. Not a whisper this time; not my imagination. It was real. It was him.
“Charlie?” I breathed.
“Who else would it be? Won’t you come out and join me?”
Cautiously I approached the door again, took a deep breath, and tugged it open. There he stood, just the same as the last time I’d seen him. A young, handsome blond, eyes twinkling from his narrow face, dressed in a casual shirt and pants.
“I must be dreaming.” I went so far as to pinch my arm, and it hurt like buggery. Not a dream. “Are you real?” I reached out, expecting my hand to drift through the form in front of me, but it came to rest on a solid, warm chest. His heart beat steadily beneath my palm and I met his eyes in wonder. “How did this happen? Have I died too?”
“No, you’re not dead. But it’s Halloween. Sometimes wishes come true, if they’re strong enough. Why don’t you make us some tea, and we’ll talk?”
Excited, scared, disbelieving, and filled with wonder, I followed him to the kitchen and flicked on the light. Blinking hard, I expected the apparition to disappear in the light, but there he stood, smiling, as real as I.