Recap: Last time, Bea and the ghost searched a graveyard but found no trace of the ghost’s husband’s soul. Then they followed a trail of sinister magic to the cellar of an old house.
The cellar must have been put to normal use throughout most of the year. Shelves on one side held canned food and bottles, and the other had old gardening tools and stacked boxes. Everything in the center of the room had been cleared away, however, to make way for an altar covered in black cloth. A woman lay upon it, bound by coarse rope, the light from dozens of candles reflecting off her tear-stained face.
Symbols on the cement floor looked ominously like they’d been painted in blood, and at the head of the altar on a small pedestal squatted a grotesque statue. It was a hideous, goat-like creature carved from gleaming black stone. A group of six men stood around the altar in a circle, all dressed in black robes like warlocks from an old story. They chanted in low tones until the one directly across from the stairs broke off with a shout, seeing Bea.
All the men turned. “You!” one of them cried, and it was the brute from the library. I barely paid him any mind, though, because of the man who’d first seen Bea. His hood had fallen, and I recognized his face.
Recap: Last time, Bea and the ghost found the name of the cemetery where the ghost’s husband was buried. Then two mysterious men attacked Bea but were scared off by the ghost.
When Bea parked her van in front of the graveyard, I felt colder than ever. I had no body to produce heat, no clothing to shield me. My soul was naked and exposed to the chill, and I dreaded going any closer.
Bea climbed slowly down from vehicle, wincing from her injuries. She raised her keys to lock the door but paused when she realized I wasn’t following.
“Hey,” she said. “It’s gonna be okay.”
“What if we don’t find him?” I whispered.
“Then we’ll try something else. I’m not giving up anytime soon.”
Recap: Last time, the ghost began to remember more of her past, and she and Bea went to the library to research what happened to the ghost’s husband. Though they were interrupted by a creepy guy who seemed way too interested in Bea’s research, they eventually found an obituary…
I couldn’t turn my gaze from those small words wedged between two other obituaries. We’d found him. The pride of accomplishment should have surged through me, but I felt vaguely sick. Was this all that remained of Nate? He deserved so much more than a snippet of text in an old newspaper.
He’d been merely twenty-eight years old according to this. Grief scraped my soul like gravel against skin, an old and familiar pain. I’d wanted to grow old with him, to raise a family. Our life together had been just beginning. It wasn’t fair. We should’ve had more time.
And had his death truly been an accident? It didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t remember…
Bea’s gaze was gentle and full of concern. I couldn’t bear it.
Recap: Last time, our ghostly protagonist’s monotonous afterlife was interrupted when the old woman she’s haunting calls an exorcist. But instead of moving on, the ghost talks the exorcist into helping her track down the soul of her lost husband.
“Here we go. Nathaniel Breen, 1847 to 1902. Banker from California. Died of tuberculosis.”
Bea was lying in a bunk in the back of her van, staring at a small device with a rectangular face that lit up and showed pictures and text. (I remembered the old woman in my house using something similar.) We’d spent the night at a campground, and the new scenery had both mesmerized and invigorated me. The only one more excited was the cat, who darted among the trees all night in exploration.
“Nate wasn’t a banker,” I said. “And he certainly wasn’t from California.”
“What was he, then?”
“A factory worker. And I don’t think he ever left Ohio.”
“Hm.” She stretched. “Well, I don’t see any other Nathaniel Breens on here.”
“You should try a library.” I sniffed. “There are still libraries around these days, aren’t there?”
It’s October! Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year, so to celebrate, I want to share a free urban fantasy short story. I’ll be serializing The Memory of Ghosts all through October, so expect updates every Thursday this month. Check it out if you like:
Grumpy paranormal investigators
I hope it helps you get into the Halloween spirit. Happy reading!
*To be on the safe side, I’m adding a content warning for a brief instance of animal cruelty in this chapter.
I hated the woman who lived in my house.
She’d made it as slovenly as a pigeon coop. Unwashed dishes were always piled high in the sink, attracting a swarm of flies and other crawly things. Crumbs and crumpled paper bags covered the couch, and half-empty cups grew moldy on the end tables. Soiled clothes littered the floor in the master bedroom, and the less said about the washroom, the better.
I could forgive her untidiness if she were a pleasant person, but she wasn’t. When her husband cooked dinner, she’d spend the whole meal talking about how it tasted like garbage. If her kids spoke more loudly than a whisper, she shrieked at them to shut up and do their homework. Her favorite words were “stupid,” “worthless,” and “don’t know why I put up with you.” Continue reading The Memory of Ghosts: A Halloween Urban Fantasy Serial (Part 1)
Looking for an urban fantasy short story with lots of action and a bit of creepiness? Finished reading Poison and Honey and want more of the characters and world? You’ll probably enjoy Strange Hunt.
Just make sure you read Part 1 first, or else you’ll probably be pretty lost.
Sal’s magic compass took them down a back road, bringing them to a dilapidated house. Woods covered most of the large property, and a sign at the end of the dirt driveway warned about trespassing and how the building was condemned. It was legible thanks to a nearby streetlamp, but as they crept down the driveway, the trees blocked the light, and the thin sliver of moon shrouded in clouds overhead was no help.
Leigh couldn’t see exactly how rundown the house was, but she was glad it was abandoned. If a family had still lived there, the Others would have taken them all.
We’re not getting our usual selection of superhero blockbusters in theaters this summer for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean we have to be deprived of good superhero stories. One way to get them is by supporting your local comic book shop, and another is by searching the internet.
Or you can let me search the internet for you and collect a bunch of free-to-read superhero short stories into one nice list. 😉
Sojourner: Forsaken by Will Casel Brown
It is my hope and expectation that Sojourner: Forsaken will eventually grow too long to be considered a “short story,” but I’ll keep it on this list forever anyway because I love it.
The story follows Sojourner, an alien sent to Earth to study superhumans, but who crash-lands and ends up getting involved with the resistance. The main villain is the Enforcer, a costumed superhuman who is definitely not a hero and whom I just hate SO MUCH. Much of the action involves fighting him or escaping from him, and it’s wild how much adventure is packed into the current four chapters. Continue reading 4 More Sensational Superhero Short Stories
Did you finish reading Poison and Honey already? You may have noticed the afterward where I promised a free prequel short story on my website.
Strange Hunt is a look at how Leigh and her team fought the Others before going to Otherworld. It’ll give you a bit more insight into the world and characters of the series–plus a fun story about friendship and monster-hunting. Read and enjoy!
The cue ball struck the five-ball with a crack, sending it rolling into the corner pocket. Leigh Morgan straightened up, pushing back her long hair. Not a bad shot, considering she was only half paying attention to the game.
“Nice.” Garrett strolled around the pool table, surveying his options. “Too bad I’m about to win. You want to play darts next? You’re good at that, right?”
He looked up from the table, his face scrunching. “But you have a dart board in your apartment. I’ve seen it.”
“That’s not for darts.”
His head tilted.
“It’s for knives,” she said. “Why would I practice throwing darts? They’re not gonna hurt the Others.”
Marigold pushed the blankets off herself, careful not to make a sound. Slowly, she sat up in bed and put her bare feet on the rough wooden floor. Then she stood, wincing as the floorboard creaked under her weight. She froze, and her heart pounded as she waited to see if the sound had woken her stepsister sleeping in the bed next to hers.
Nothing. All Marigold heard was the hooting of an owl and the sound of the wind rustling the trees outside. Her stepsister, Saffron, hadn’t stirred.
Relaxing, Marigold dressed clumsily in the darkness and groped under her bed until she found the bag she’d packed earlier in the day. Food, water, matches, rope—she hoped she hadn’t forgotten anything, but she didn’t have the first clue what was needed to rescue a prince from an evil wizard. Probably, she’d fail no matter she brought.
But she had to try. She couldn’t forget him and move on, no matter what anyone else said.
The glass case over the pastry display was shattered, a masked goon moaning on the floor in front of it. Half the tables in the small cafe were overturned, broken plates and smashed sandwiches scattered across the tile. The rest of the customers had fled, and a terrified barista peeked out from behind the counter.
Oh, and the salad bar was still on fire.
Surveying the destruction, Dave would have sighed if he wasn’t still catching his breath. He glanced at Val, who was checking her reflection in a handheld mirror, another masked goon lying at her feet.