I said I was gonna write a short story a week and one week in, I’m 1 for 1!
I even sent it around for some feedback (Thanks to everyone who got back to me – I really appreciate it!!).
For now, I wanted to share a little of the story with you folks. This is the raw, unedited-and-not-taking-into-consideration-the-feedback-yet version. This came to me on the drive into work one day when I thought it would be cool to have a character calling himself ‘Murder’ who brings ghosts back to help them cross over…
© 2010 Patrick Hester
Annoyed! Who would be bothering me now? When I’m in the middle of the best, most restful sleep I have ever known?
Knuckles on wood? No, something else. Maybe a key or a key ring tapping against stone. Why stone? Whatever, still annoying. I just want to sleep.
Fresh air on my face, not too warm not too cool. It smells of jasmine and sorrow. That doesn’t make sense. What does sorrow smell like?
I open my eyes to see yellow, paint splattered stars on a brilliant blue sky. No moon, no other light, just those stars looking brighter and larger than they should. Sitting up, there is no wind, no breeze that touches me yet it seems to roar just beyond my reach out there, where a gray mist hangs over everything. That doesn’t make sense either. The wind should be ripping that mist away.
Pushing to my feet I turn. There is a man sitting on a piece of cut-stone that’s half in the ground. Harsh words desecrate the stone, chiseled in its flesh. I can feel its pain over these wounds. I don’t recognize the language. The man is perched there like a bird, head titled, eyes watching me. He is dressed all in-no, wait – I want to say ‘black’ but there is no color here, just pale blue and drab gray. I look up at the yellow stars and wonder if they truly are yellow. I look back to the man. My mind says he wears black. It makes no sense.
Black shirt, black pants, long black coat. Even black hair and black eyes. Pale skin, colorless. With one finger on his left hand, he reaches down to the stone.
“Who are you?” I asked, surprised at my own voice. Deeper than it should be, my brain says. Off, somehow.
“Always with you lot, it comes down to names. Names have power.”
“I’m Josh,” I offer. He tsks.
“Never listen either. Names have power. Tell someone your name and they have power over you.”
I blink. It hurts. “Okay, then, what do I call you?”
“Murder,” he replies. He doesn’t blink. That’s wrong.
“Murder? That’s not a nice name.”
“I didn’t say it was my name. You asked what you can call me. You can call me Murder.”
“Okay.” I turn, looking around. Some sort of park full of stones. My brain disagrees but I don’t listen. Everything is so gray. The sky is clear, the night perfect, not too cold, not too hot, and no moisture to speak of. Where does the mist come from? The wind roars in the distance.
“Things to do, Joshua,” Murder whispers in my ear. I turn back, shocked at the intimacy. He still sits perched atop the stone, easily six feet away.
“How did you do that?”
“Always who, how, why. Never was before, always is now. Too far, too long yet not far enough.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Not to you,” he smiled, briefly, like a flare in the sky, then it was gone. “Things to do.”
“You just said that.”
“Did I? Did I… Follow now.”
He hopped off the stone, spun on the spot and started walking. I didn’t have anything else to do and was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep, so I followed. He lead me down a jagged path through the stones and through the mist. It seemed to part before him, then close again behind me, so we were in a perpetual mist free circle. That doesn’t make sense. Mist shouldn’t act like that – it’s mist.
Now and again I would catch the faint sound of someone moaning or crying or shouting. Looking around, I never saw the source. It was strange. Murder didn’t seem to notice at all. He kept walking, that long coat of his billowing in the wind that I couldn’t feel. My mind protested that.
At an iron gate, he paused. It was closed tight, wrapped in a large chain held by an even larger lock. Murder tsked. Spinning, he grabbed my shoulder, my stomach jumped and we were on the other side of the gate. Gone was the mist, gone too the strange roar of the wind. Best of all, color flooded back into my eyes.
The pavement beneath my feet was the only gray I saw. Across and down the street, houses stood, penned by green trees, bushes and lush lawns. Flowers bloomed, the scent of them tickling my nose even from where I stood a good half block or more away. Looking up, the sky was dark, the stars muted but twinkling and a few wispy clouds meandered their way east.
Nothing about Murder had changed – he was still black as night from head to toe, with pale skin and unblinking eyes.
He shook his head. “Not yet. Too soon. Walk first, then run.”
He turned and started down the road and after a minute, I followed.