I suppose you think I forgot about everything on Halloween. But really it was a busier day than I expected at the time. I hope this makes up for missing that one last day of this month of horror.
For the most part I think I kept it all fairly close to the theme of the month (Letters from the Sanitarium). We explored quite a few different flavors of insanity over the past month. Sadly, even things we enjoy must come to an end. But I want to bring the end of the month of October into a good light.
Though I didn’t share it on the last day of the month, I didn’t want you to think that I forgot about the serial we were working our way through. The story that follows is the last of it. It is a slight bit longer than I would like to share for a normal days reading, but I want to share this in its entirety.
As always the rest of the story can be found at these links (in the order they are meant to be read).
She is Watching
There will be Flood
Will you do the Fandango
Awake in Dreams
Trip to the Doctor
Visions of Breakfast
After the Fire
Sweet Dreams are made of These
Sweet Dreams are made of These
They worked together at the library. Several hours of searching through town records and public files, and they still hadn’t found anything more than the original documents Shan had found. Although, there had been a piece of the article he had missed when he read about Michael O’Malley’s second wife.
Not only had he been caught with her death, but he died as well, resisting arrest. Michael used the house as a shield, a hold out against the police. The firefight had been brief but a lucky shot through the living room window hit him in the temple. The man had died in the house.
“I don’t think that means anything,” Shan said. “I think they would have taken his clothes identifying objects with them. No reason to leave pieces of him lying around the house.”
“You say that,” said Lisa, “and look at where we are right now. Something is haunting our house. Haven’t you heard anything about the legends of ghost? They linger in places of violent deaths.”
“Hogwash. There is something holding Michelle to the house, but they never found her body. I think if we search the house we will find her bones in there somewhere.” She traced the scale drawing of their basement, stopped with her finger near the markers for the electrical box diagram. “Can you remember what side of the basement houses the power box?”
He didn’t take his eyes from the paper in his hands. “South side, under the living room.”
“Have you seen these original layout plans?” she said. “Look at this right here.” She left her finger on a small section of the plans.
“Isn’t that where the water pipe burst when we first moved in?”
“Wouldn’t that be noticed? That’s quite a bit of work to hide a body.”
“Seems he had some talent as an electrician,” Shan said. “He rewired the house to support the change.”
After they stopped at the hardware store for goggles and a sledgehammer, they returned home. They sat for a while in the driveway, staring at the front door.
“We should go inside,” Shan said. “She hasn’t done anything but spook us out. If she was going to hurt us, she has had plenty of opportunity before now.” His knuckles had gone white on the steering wheel and he never looked in her direction.
“Look, this is crazy, right,” Lisa said. “What the hell are we doing here? We bought the house and ghosts aren’t real.” Her voice quivered with less conviction than she spoke with her words.
They opened their doors together and huddled close to each other, a quick embrace before they approached the house. Lisa wasn’t sure what she expected. After the sight of the spirit in the smoke earlier she was afraid the house might up and grab her at any moment.
The thoughts rushed through her mind, a loop of fear and reassurance, chasing so fast she lost track of which one was in the lead. She twined her fingers with Shan’s as they walked to the front door together.
The quiet inside the house carried a cold stillness. She felt like an intruder in her own home. It’s our house, the thought fought its way to the front of her mind. In their rush from the kitchen they had left their breakfast dishes and half eaten breakfast on the table, still undisturbed.
It’s a ghost, not a maid. She smiled but the thought did little to put her at ease. Shan flexed his hand, reminded her how tight she squeezed his fingers in hers. “Maybe we imagined it all,” she said.
“As much as I want to believe that, we need to make sure.” Shan gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “At the least we may need to do some work on our foundation later. Or we might be able to give a troubled woman some rest.”
“How can you be so calm?”
“I have the sledgehammer.” He flicked the light switch for the basement stairwell. “You coming?”
Lisa glanced around the room. “I sure as hell am not staying up here alone.”
They hadn’t unpacked all of their basement boxes. It wasn’t so much of a maze to make their way through but there were a number of different stacks of boxes and knick knacks scattered in the room just past their laundry room. Shan led the way as they worked further into the back half of the basement.
He examined the section of pipe in question, normal pipe, though it hung about a foot lower than the upper floor. This section touched the wall beside it. “This is where the junction box would have been before they made changes,” he said. “You think we might find anything right here?”
“Quit screwing around. Bust the brick out and see what’s back there.”
He lined up the sledge, marked his target on the wall. “I hope this works.” With a heavy smack, the hammer cracked the mortar around the brick as well as chipped at the brick itself. He lined up and smacked it again.
As the hammer slammed into the wall, a loud screeching cracked through the basement. An inhuman wail with an animal quality, it echoed through the room. Shan froze, stopped his next hit short of the wall. He scanned the room looking for the source. “Shan!” Lisa screamed at him as she ran into him and pushed him away from the wall.
She had been too late. Part of the brick exploded away from the wall. Shrapnel blasted into Shan’s chest. Lisa’s push knocked him at an angle with the blast of brick. They crashed to the floor in a crumpled heap.
Lisa fought to a kneeling position and rolled Shan to his back, no blood but red welts covered his arms and neck. “Shan? Are you okay?” He didn’t respond. The screech echoed through the basement again. She searched the room, a hole had opened in the wall, and a black mist oozed from the opening, and trailed to the floor.
As the mist settled it began to coalesce and shape itself. The shape grew from the bottom, shadowy feet formed first then led to the lower portion of a pair of legs. It was a shadow with defined and contoured shape. Work boots, the cut of denim pants, though ephemeral like a shadow they had a substance closer to a solid form.
Lisa tried to scream, her mouth open and air forced from her lungs but her only sound was a croaking wheeze. She crab crawled away from the thing before her as the last of the smoke formed the head of the thing, a man’s head. Even through the ephemeral nature of what built his body his features were chiseled into the smoke. She could not mistake Michael O’Malley’s face, it stared at her earlier in the news clippings they read about the house and its checkered past.
He held a long-bladed black shadow knife in his right hand, and a wicked sneer that opened into a nothingness inside him. The thing stepped toward her, a stiff movement with an unnatural weight to its form.
As she cringed and scurried away from the creature her hand brushed against the handle of the sledgehammer. Lisa locked her fingers around the heavy wood of the handle and brandished it in front of herself like a talisman to ward off the evil that approached her.
Shan’s eyes popped open. Still groggy from the explosion, he struggled to gather himself from the floor. His chest and arms ached with the effort but he managed to stumble to his feet. He rubbed at his eyes when he saw Lisa swing the sledgehammer in front of her. The steel head sliced through black smoke like a sword blade. But the smoke reformed itself in front of her. She missed the junction box by mere inches, though her swings passed through the thing several times.
A bit of silvery shimmer caught Shan’s eye near the junction box. It lacked the substance of the black thing but it stood out just the same. A shining silhouette beckoned for him. Shan reacted without thought. He raced to the junction box and placed his hand on the main switch. Lisa screamed as he pulled the switch and cut the power to the house.
In the sudden quiet, Lisa’s scream trailed off and faded. She dropped the sledgehammer to the floor when the thing fell to the ground in a puff of smoke in front of her. Shan rushed to her side and wrapped his arms around her, and she fell into his embrace. “It’s done,” he whispered. “It’s done.”
They had broken through more of the brick. Michael O’Malley had built a false wall to cover the bones of his dead wife and their unborn child. It hadn’t been a big change from the original but enough to shove the broken body parts behind after he chopped her up.
It wasn’t cheap, but Shan and Lisa agreed that the expense of rewiring the entire house with a new junction box was in their best interest.