She worried the inside of her cheek as she read the letter’s content again. Ghosts? She shook her head. Disappear? Me? Someone was playing with her she reasoned, who? Her gaze moved up the page till it rested on the large house across the way. Her landlord, eyes narrowing, she stared across the courtyard and noted the flicker of candlelight beyond the window. That mysogyntic sadist who got off on scaring women, she frowned angrily as she remembered his earlier treatment.
She squared her shoulders, well this is one woman he would not scare away! Letter crushed in her hand she made to step toward the dimly lit larger house only to be halted mid step by the appearance of a rather largish black bird standing before her on the portico. She stilled. Unruffled it took a step, then another, toward her it’s head turning sideways, the beady eyes locked with hers.
‘Shoo’ she whispered.
The bird fluffed slowly then returned to staring. She cleared her throat, ‘shoo’ the word was louder this time.
As if capable of disdain, the bird opened it’s beak it’s black maw silencing her. Refusing to give way to the shiver slipping down her spine she took a step closer lifting her hand, rattling the paper within her fist and tried again, ‘go away.’ The crow dipped its head and cawed. The sound eerily deep and raspy. Silently as if summoned, another crow sailed from the red maple to join it’s companion.
A voice filled with disquiet murmured, ‘the letter said stay away from the crows.’
Grace, focus centered on the birds, tried waving her hands again at the two crowding her.
‘I don’t think that’s going to work.’
Grace exhaled in exasperation and whispered angrily, ‘it’s better than nothing!’ Her concentration unwavering.
‘I’d just scream.’
‘Scream?’ Grace turned in surprise, ‘why would I screammMMMMMMM…’ Her scream was shrill, and loud. Very loud as her eyes widened impossibly at the three wispy figures behind her.
‘See,’ Yoon, nodded to the birds as they scattered taking raucous flight behind the screaming woman, ‘that did it!’
Grace whirled, crows forgotten, and shot across the courtyard to her landlord’s house the letter still crumpled in her hand her screams echoing off the courtyard.
‘Got a set of lungs on her, don’t she?’ Kat observed crossing her arms under her transparent breasts.
Manoco watched the large house door fly open, and the eruption of her startled son rushing out to collide with the young woman, full on. She studied the two in backwards flight after they bounced off each other, the young female still screaming her son looking frantically around for whatever set the her off, ‘quite…’
‘What?’ Yoon and Kat turned to her in surprise as she faded from view. Kat and Yoon turned back to the loud couple, and tried to see what the boy’s mother has seen, but flounced in chagrin as Mick stood, and reached for the still screaming female.
Grace felt two hands grab her and closed her eyes, her voice raising another octave in terror.
‘OI!’ Mick grabbed her shoulders and shook her gently, ‘what the hell is wrong with you?’
‘Ggggghhhh..ooo…’ she shivered beneath his hands, her eyes tightly closed, her face pale as she tried to answer him.
Irritated, Mick yanked the woman up and dragged her to his home. Dumping her unceremoniously on the nearest chair he headed to the kitchen and his never diminishing supply of whiskey. Swiftly pouring two glasses he downed his, and took the other to the shivering women in his living room. Grasping her hand he placed the glass within it then helped her cup it till she was able to sip the firey drink. Removing the glass after several swallows, he sat it on the nearby table.
‘Now, mind telling me why the hell you were trying to wake the southern hemisphere at this hour of the night?’
Grace swallowed, her tongue brushing her bottom lip, ‘ghosts..’she stuttered, her gaze on the letter in her clenched fist.
‘Wha?’ Mick didn’t catch the stammered whisper and leaned closer.
Grace’s head jerked up, unmindful of the bang of her head against Mick’s nose. ‘Ghosts!’ Grace wailed, tears raining down her cheek.
Mick cupped his aching, and quite possibly broken nose and glared at the crying woman before him, this was the complication he didn’t need, ‘what the hell are you talking about?’
Grace pushed the letter toward him and watched as he took it, unwrapped it from it’s crumpled mess and began to read. Her palms slipped up and down her thighs as she waited for him to finish. Her eyes moving across his face, watchful of his expression. Uneasy she held her breath as the letter dropped slightly and his eyes took in her frightened state, ‘now you know why I didn’t want you to move here.’
She gasped, ‘what?’
Placing the letter on her lap, Mick stood and headed back to the kitchen and the whiskey bottle to pour himself another drink. Incredulous she watched him slowly empty the glass before turning back toward her, ‘looks like it’s too late to worry about that now.’
Grace stood on trembling legs, the letter clenched in her outstretched hand, ‘you knew about this?’
Mick’s brow arched his affirmation over the lip of the refilled glass. Fear rapidly gave way to anger, her trembling now accountable to another source, ‘why didn’t you try to stop me then?’
Mick lowered his glass and smirked, ‘I tried, remember? But you,’ he waved his glass toward the clearly emotional woman, ‘wouldn’t listen.’
‘Maybe if you tried explaining,’ Grace was having none of it.
Mick scoffed, ‘Oh yeah, let’s see, ummmm…’ he pointed with the empty glass ‘.. don’t unpack, you won’t like it here, there are ghosts, curses and crows… Oh! My!’
Grace’s mouth dropped open in disbelief, ‘you, bas…’
‘This is entertaining, kids, but it’s not helping.’ Mick stilled as the womanly voice slipped through the room.
‘We’re going to depend on these two to get us out of this mess?’ Yoon appeared slowly leaning against the door jab leading outside.
Kat’s sneer was the first thing to materialize followed by her head, hair, torso then legs, ‘wonderful…’
‘Come on guys, give them a chance,’ Abby popped into the room all at once. Grace jumped and began backing toward the kitchen and the warmth of the male she knew was still there as Cloud fluttered into view beside her.
Cloud smiled tentatively at her then turned toward Gladys, the woman materializing in front of them, her gaze steadfast upon the rapidly back walking Grace, ‘please help us…’ Grace’s eyes rolled back into her head before she slowly sank onto the floor.
‘Great!’ Yoon straightened throwing up her hands.
Monaco shimmered into appearance her gaze upon her son’s wide eyes, ‘Mick, you have to help us.’
The glass in Mick’s hand tumbled in a free fall to the floor shattering into a million pieces, ‘Mom?’
Her smile was wistful as she nodded, ‘help us, son.’ she murmured then vanished; taking the rest of the transparent menagerie with her.
Inky: A sneak peek of what I’ve been working on…. 1st draft
Listening to: Damn Your Eyes Alex Clare