A Death in Texas
Click on image to enlarge.
by Lisa Rene' Smith
Description: Welcome to the second annual mystery anthology by The Final Twist, a Houston, Texas based writers group. Sample an assortment of unique stories set in cities and towns throughout the Lone Star State. Some characters reappear from the first anthology, Dead and Breakfast, also set in Texas. Other short stories are adapted from the authors' novels, such as Men in Jeans, where Pauline Baird Jones brings in elements from her award-winning novel The Key. Enjoy your taste of Texas terror - Pushing up Bluebonnets by Linda Houle, The Best Man by Cash Anthony, Searching for Rachel by Laura Elvebak, Death on the Bayou by Mark and Charlotte Phillips, Men in Jeans by Pauline Baird Jones, Guilty by Lisa Rene' Smith, Rumors on Rat Shack Row by Alexis Glynn Latner, Feels Like Home by Shirley H Wetzel, Dead End Job by Cornelia Amiri, Secrets of Canyon Lake by Autumn Storm, Anna Rose by Betty Gordon.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2008 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: November 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [346 KB]
Reading time: 223-313 min.
I see dead people. I don't like seeing them, I wish I didn't, but that's how it is.
It started five years ago on a "...dark and stormy night" as dark and stormy as Bulwer-Lytton described in Paul Clifford. I don't like thunderstorms and the one roaring through Houston on this precise night in 2002 was threatening in more ways than I could have imagined. I went to bed yearning to pull the covers over my head. If I could have foreseen the future, I would have put my head under my comforter and kept it there.
After an hour of tossing and turning, all hopes of immediate sleep dissipated. I concentrated on the rain tapping on my window with great force by this time and the unwelcomed radiance in my room created by constant lightning. I buried my face in my pillows. It didn't help. Finally, in desperation, I turned on my back and stared at the swirling ceiling fan. It repaid my attention by manifesting obscure substances that eventually developed into white puffs of smoke. That performance would have been enough for me, but whoever or whatever directed this production had other ideas. The puffs of smoke revealed blurred images that came forth every once in awhile. I leapt out of bed frightened that lightning had hit something nearby. It hadn't, so I burrowed into my nest more determined than ever to hibernate until morning. The filmy cloud continued its eerie exhibition and it wasn't long before the faces floating in the meringue-like haziness became more distinct. Was I hallucinating--was the lightning playing tricks? I moved from my imagined safe zone into the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror before splashing water in my face. Convinced I imagined this craziness and feeling somewhat calmer, I returned to bed only to resume my nightmarish visions. They, whoever they might be, were determined to capture my attention. I stared at the gauzy images. Before long, distinctive faces no longer content to stay at the end of the bed drew closer and closer. I watched them hover over me. I was scared and fascinated by their expressions of sadness tinged with anger. Then, they retreated to the center of the room.
Icy droplets trickled through my body and came out my pores resulting in a wet gown, among other things. The next morning brought me back to my senses and I convinced myself that everything I saw was simply a hallucination. The next night changed my mind as the same scenario, minus the storm, repeated itself.
It didn't end there. It continued for six more nights and on the seventh, I saw only one face--the face of a woman whose eyes revealed her desperate plea for help. This frightened the heck out of me and the next morning I raced to Mary James, a psychologist friend of mine, for help. She explained there are people in this world who are open vessels for poor souls trapped in transitory journeys to their final destinations. Mary pushed her glasses up on her forehead before making it clear this was strictly her personal viewpoint.
Words struggled through tight lips. "Why the hell would these 'poor souls', as you called them, think I could do anything?"
Mary used her professional treatment on me, but I wasn't having it--I wanted to know why I saw whatever it was I saw. I wasn't ready to declare them ghosts, spirits, or anything else Mary chose to call them.
She gave me a short verse to recite the next time I saw these visitants, pointing out there probably wouldn't be a next time, but if so, this verse would protect me. When I asked why I needed protection, she maneuvered around the question by suggesting I sketch one of the faces and take it to local law enforcement to see if someone had shown up on their radar who matched my sketch.
I stared in amazement feeling my straight brown hair curl at its ends. "So, Mary, I say to these whatever, 'If I could help you, I would, but I don't know how. Please don't harm me and go in peace.' You're saying these few words will get rid of them?"
Mary rolled her eyes. "Come on, Julia. How do I really know? I'm just trying to give you some comfort and insulate you from this unexpected phenomenon."
"All rightee, then, I'll try. If it doesn't work, Mary, I am not, repeat am not going to the police. They'll think I'm some kind of nut and at this point, I'm not too sure I'm not."
Mary laughed threading her arm through mine. "You may be a nut, but you're one of my favorite nuts. Now, go along--I have a waiting room full of clients."
* * * *
I continued seeing a variety of faces for several weeks. Each time I whispered the protective mantra, the visions faded until one night the collective faces evaporated into a stunning vision sending me on an unbelievable journey.
It was Wednesday and I was more exhausted than usual when I retired--so exhausted, in fact, I couldn't find sleep no matter how hard I tried. I counted sheep, I stacked imaginary blocks, I said the alphabet forward and backward--nothing helped. Then all of a sudden an image appeared--an old farmhouse that could be anywhere U.S.A. It was rundown with cracked paint, a decaying roof, and loose shutters. It looked like it might slip off its block foundation at any moment. I saw myself treading rickety steps leading to the front door. It was unlocked, so I pushed it open wary of what might lurk behind this structure half off its hinges. My penetration into the old house revealed an image that would become a permanent painting in my head.
A young woman, twenty-five years of age, give or take, with long blond curly hair, lay on the wooden floor cushioned by a green and black circular rug with drops of white sprinkled like snow between the braids. The woman was slim, small, wrapped in a rose colored quilt and, yes, quite dead.