Indie Ink Challenge October 24 - 28 2011
Prompt: Tell us a ghost story. The kind you would tell while sitting around a campfire eating roasted marshmallows.
There has to be a cat. There always is, in any good ghost story. Those stealthy creatures with their malevolent eyes and maccavity claws. Those violent hisses, they know there's something there long before you do. And that's why they're so disconcerting. They know. They see.
It was on nights like tonight that Chloe resented having a cat almost as much as it comforted her. The feline company assured her she was safe; this feline watchcat could alert her if she wasn't. This frightened her.
A stormy night in that old creaky house was enough to frighten anyone. The chills were in, in full force.
Chloe's mother would arrive the next morning, and the same catly apprehension applied. The Alzheimer’s, it had gotten worse. And she knew she'd have to explain again. About Josh, how he wasn't with us anymore, about how he'd been a bad, bad man, and he was better off gone. About Sarah, and why she wasn't here anymore. About the two urns atop the piano.
Mum had always been so fond of him and by the time the beast in him had begun to surface, she'd been in no state to understand the truth. The truth about what he really was: a charming, charismatic, loving father who was an abusive, vicious, drunken bastard.
But what her mum couldn't remember the court knew, and Chloe had been let off in a good call of self-defence. She'd gotten state-funded therapy and rehabilitation for her suffering as well.
Any man who touches my child, she thought, deserved to suffer. Any man who takes my child from me deserves to die ten times over. Even if he was her father. Sarah had been just 3 years old, but she hadn't lived to see her birthday. Josh had been all of 34, and he'd never live to see another day.
Still, she always felt like he was there, watching, mocking her for that extra drink she indulged in daily, scoffing at her holding her breath on the weighing scale, staring with hate if she even spoke to another man. She always felt like he was there.
It had been a year since she'd made him leave for good; a year since Sarah had been ripped away from her too. You don't get over that, and you certainly don't forgive that. You never do. No mother can.
Both their urns, placed on the purely ornamental piano, the only place in the house safe from dust and its sheath. She needed to get rid of him. She just couldn't decide how. It had been too long that he tormented her in her own home. Hell would be a better place for him, failing which, a good dumpster would do.
She'd never regretted it for a minute. He'd deserved to die, and she was glad to be rid of him. She wasn't sorry. She hoped he wasn't watching.
The nightly ritual of the same thoughts came to a halt as she heard a pitter-patter overhead. Mr. Skittles, he took care of the house pests well. For such an old house, it was surprisingly clear of rats and roaches, which do tend to fester in old wooden floors.
He slept in Sarah's room, that lovely cat, and she was glad. A child's room was not meant to be empty, and his occasional purrs and movement in her daughter's room kept Sarah alive for Chloe. It was almost as if she were still alive.
Sometimes, Mr. Skittles would crawl into bed with Chloe, and she liked that too. In the middle of the night, when it was really dark, she'd sneak into her bed, just like Sarah used to do, in between the two of them. They never said a word, never touched, but acknowledged each other's presence with a silent sigh of calm.
A knock on the door; Chloe was startled. No one called at this time of the night, but a familiar voice rang out. It was her mother.
Quickly unlatching the numerous locks she had installed, Chloe gazed in joy and confusion at the sight of her dear mother.
"Mum, how did you get her?" she demanded to know. She was meant to pick her mother up from the airport the next morning.
Old Mrs. Wang pottered right in to the house, wrapping her only daughter up in a big motherly embrace.
"It was our little secret, Josh and I!" she cackled gleefully.
"He called me once he heard my flight would be in early, said he'd pick me up! Such a sweetheart he is, mind you keep him around!" she advised.
"Said he had to be out of town for a meeting, but he'll be back tomorrow to pick the three of us up."
"The.... the three of us?" Chloe whispered, refusing to believe what she'd just heard.
Mr. Skittles clearly up to something again, as she heard him in Sarah's room, and then bound down the stairs. Cats were meant to be quiet hunters, really.
"Of course, silly, you, me and Sarah! Where is that little angel?"
Just then, a meow came from outside as Mr. Skittles sauntered in.
"Oh there's our other darling!" Chloe's mum yelped. "We saw him all the way out along the road; you really oughtn't let him out so late! He must've been out for ages."
"The patter down Sarah's room grew louder, coming to a halt, as Chloe stood, her eyes on the sealed urns of her husband and her child on that piano.
Behind her she felt a quiet presence as her mother's eyes lit up. Just then Josh's voice came in on a voice message.
"Hey babe, sorry I couldn't stay; you know I have somewhere I'm meant to be. Dropped your mum off at home, give Sarah a kiss for me. I'll be over tomorrow to bring you all out for a treat. It's a surprise, but let's just say, it's somewhere you've never been before. A surprise, from Sarah and I."
Chloe felt her heart fall out of her body as a tiny hand snuck its way towards hers and squeezed her finger.
"There's my girl!" Mrs. Wang cried, as the voice recording ended leaving a hollow, never-ending tone of nothingness.
This week's Indie Ink Challenge came from Kirsten Doyle, who gave me this prompt: Tell us a ghost story. The kind you would tell while sitting around a campfire eating roasted marshmallows. I challenged Random Girl with the prompt It was the dirtiest window, but it had one hell of a view.