This one is a bit of a failed story. It originally started as a writing prompt, but I blew right through the word limit and it all went a bit off-piste. Rather than bin it, given that it’s the Halloween season I thought I would finish it (1046 words).
When I say finish it. I’d actually written three different endings to this and I didn’t like any of them including this one. I chose to go with this ending as it left the most options on the table if I felt like picking it back up at some point. Not that will be anytime soon with NaNoWriMo just around the corner.
Half-term had been a washout, she’d been stuck indoors all week. Boredom had set in after the first day, by weeks end she was climbing the walls. It didn’t help that her father was away and her mother was at work most of the day. Alone, she rattled around the old wooden house, desperate for something to do. Her father’s workshop was off-limits, she knew that, but boredom and curiosity lured her down the cellar stairs, that rainy afternoon.
His workshop had always fascinated her, strewn as it was with half-finished projects. There was always something to play with. Truth be told, she was on a mission. Her father’s absence was unusual. She’d half overheard his conversation before he’d left, that had piqued her interest. She didn’t know what a spirit-light was, but she was determined to find out.
Scrabbling around the workbenches, it was proving a fruitless task. She didn’t even know what such a thing might look like. It was more by luck than skill, that she literally tripped over it, half-hidden under one of the tables. A battered flashlight held together by copious duct tape, a surefire hallmark of her father’s handiwork. Much to her frustration flicking its switch did nothing. Annoyed, she shook the tatty device. With a high pitched buzz, a faint blue light shone across the room. Was that it, a blue light? She waved her hand in front of it, shone it around the cellar, blinded herself staring too closely. Unimpressed she was about to place it down when the house phone rang. She found the handset buried under a bunch of papers and answered.
“Kat? I’m sorry I’m going to be late.”
“I don’t know. Probably a couple of hours.”
“Have you heard from your father?”
“Ok honey, I’ll bring something in later. Can you feed Charlie? Sorry hon, got to go.”
“Okay, Mum”. The line was already dead.
Turning her attention back to the underwhelming device, she noticed its light had faded, the bulb now glowed dimly. She switched it off and headed off upstairs. Maybe a change of batteries might help.
In the kitchen, she rifled through the draws, searching for the elusive batteries. Charlie was doing his best to trip her up, weaving between her legs, tail up, purring. “All right, all right, I’ll feed you.”
She found the box of batteries next to his dry food. She was dishing up his food when the kitchen lights flicked off. “Damn it.”
It wasn’t the first time this week the power had cut out, the weather was playing havoc with the power lines. In the dark she fumbled with the flashlight, unscrewing the end cap and trying to determine the correct orientation of the batteries. Screwing the cap back on she flipped the switch. Nothing. She shook it again. The light buzzed on, a little brighter this time. Whether it was the new batteries, or that she was now stood in the dark, she couldn’t tell. Either way, she was happy for any light. In the darkness, Charlie meowed and hissed.
“Okay, give me a minute,” she moaned, laying the flashlight on the counter. She finished dishing up Charlie’s food and leant down to place his bowl on the floor. “Here you go.”
Charlie was nowhere to be seen. She stared around the dimly blue lit kitchen. Two pale blue eyes shone back at her from across the worktop. “Come on you get down, your foods here.”
Charlie didn’t move.
“Come on, you know you’re not meant to be on the counter.”
His eyes blinked, before they floated slowly upwards above the counter. An icy chill ran down her spine. “Charlie?”
She snatched the flashlight and shone its beam across the work surface. Instead of Charlie, the ghostly apparition of a boy stood staring back at her. She recoiled in terror, the flashlight fell from her hand and span across the floor, sending eery shadows skittering around the room. The flashlight came to rest illuminating a small cone of the kitchen floor.
She tentatively reached out a trembling hand to grab the light. Her heart froze when a pair of ghostly feet stepped into its pale beam. She was torn. Should she run screaming into the darkness or snatch the light? With fingers only inches away, she grabbed it and angled it up at the ghostly figure. Cold dead eyes met her gaze. For an age, the spectre stared back at her, she couldn’t move it. When it suddenly raised a pallid hand, she almost bolted. Until he waved. Unable to believe her eyes, she cautiously raised a hand and waved back. He lowered his hand and curled his lips into a haunting unnatural smile.
She stood up, all the while keeping the light trained on the phantom. He didn’t move, he just watched her, grinning. Sliding back around the counter, she continued to scrutinise the strange apparition. “Wha … what are you?”
He didn’t answer. She wasn’t even sure if he’d heard her. At least he had stopped grinning. Once again he raised his arm and waved, just as he had the first time. She waved back, confused. Something was odd, something was different. It took her a moment to realise he wasn’t waving at her. The blood drained from her as she turned and shone the blue beam back across the kitchen. Several pairs of eyes stared back from every shadow and slowly, silently they moved towards her. She waved the flashlight wildly around the room. She was surrounded. The horde of pale blue spectres inched forwards out of the gloom. There was no escape, she screamed as the ghastly crowd pressed in close.
With a blinding flash the power came back on. The bright halogen kitchen lights banished the shadows and along with them, the ghastly spectral throng. They faded like a bad nightmare. Frantically, she fumbled with the flashlight’s switch and to be absolutely sure removed its batteries. Even with the lights back on and normality restored, she couldn’t shake the feeling they were still there, watching and following her. How would she ever know? Nervously, she pocketed the flashlight and a fresh set of batteries. Hopefully, curiosity wouldn’t kill this Kat.