Sometimes death returns...time and time again...until it gets what it wants.
Last spring, while packing away my aunt's belongings at her lakeside cottage, I discovered this letter in a box of old party games…
February 13, 2004
To Whom It May Concern:
If you found this letter, it means I'm dead.
Plain and simple.
And if I'm dead it's not by natural causes, I can assure you. I'm writing in haste cause I know I don't got much time.
It’s after me!
What, you're asking. Well, I'll tell you.
It all started with that gawdforbidden Ouija board. The board that my best friend and I found in her attic.
Liza and I had been friends and neighbors for more than 45 years. We even buried our husbands within 2 years of each other. And no, we didn't bury them in the backyard.
Let me make somethin clear, first off. I'm not crazy. I'm of sound mind. Maybe not sound body though. I'm not crazy and neither was Liza. I'm as sane as you, whoever is reading this, and what I'm about to tell you is true . TRUE! Not one word is a lie.
My phone rang a few nights ago.
"Liza," I said. "It’s in the gawddamn morning!"
"You gotta come over, Sharon. Quick!"
"Why do I have to come over now? Can't it wait until morning?"
There was silence.
I sat up in bed and turned on my lamp. "Liza, you there?"
"I hear voices," she whispered. "There's someone in my attic."
She sounded scared, more scared than I ever heard her before, and her voice gave me a chill up my spine.
"Maybe you should call the police," I said.
"No, it's not that kind of voice."
Aw crap! There was only one other kind of voice that Liza heard.
"Be right over," I said.
Liza had been hearing ghost voices all her life. She heard when little JimmyBarton called from Mr.Porter's well. The police found his body the next day. Jimmy had somehow fallen in and drowned…three days before. Liza also heard Mrs.Morgensteen calling to her one night to let her cats outside. When my friend got to the old lady's door, she could smell something rank and awful. The police found Mrs.Morgensteen dead on the floor. The newspapers said she had been dead almost a week.
Anyways, I have to tell you this so's you can see I'm telling the truth. So you'll believe me when I tell you what happened next.
After Liza called, I dressed quickly then stepped outside. There was a full moon and a fog had settled over our lane. I remember thinking how strange the weather was.
Crossing the street, I walked down the sidewalk to the corner. Liza lived less than a block from me. When I got to my friend's house, I saw her lights were out. Everything was black. The least she coulda done was put the porch light on for me. So in the glow of the moon I crept up toward her front door, not knowing if I should ring the bell or walk right in.
The door opened with a groaning creak and I jumped.
“Don’t scare me like that!” I hissed, then stood with my mouth open.
Liza Plummer, from 1842 Walker Lane off Aurora Lake, looked like death warmed over. My friend’s thin gray hair was a mess, her eyes were sunken in like she hadn’t slept in a month and she was wearing her natty old housecoat, the one she refused to throw away.
Liza’s a packrat. Can't let go of anything.
"Its coming from the attic," she whimpered.
We closed the front door and made our way upstairs. In the ceiling of the hallway there was a trap door. That's how you got to her attic. Using a broom, we hooked the rope handle and pulled it toward us. The trap door opened and―lo and behold―a set of steps appeared, ending almost two feet off the ground.
Now Liza and I, we aren't in the prime of life anymore. She's 58 and I'm 61. So getting up the first step took a bit of trying. Liza refused to go ahead of me so I put my foot in her hands and she boosted me to the first step. Then I leaned down and hauled her up behind me. A few minutes later, we were up and poking our heads into the pitch-black attic.
"Dontcha got a light in here?" I asked her.
She reached into her housecoat pocket and then passed me something. "Use this."
I flicked on the flashlight and we held our breath, waiting for the light to reveal some hidden evil, some specter from the past. We didn't see nothing except cardboard boxes piled in one corner and an old, empty picture frame leaning against the wall.
The floor was lined with boards and I tested one with my foot. "Can we walk on these?"
Liza nodded and clamped her hand on my arm, her fingernails digging into my skin as I took a step forward. I kicked at one of the boxes and it slid to the floor with a crash. Its contents tumbled out. Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders, Yahtzy and some other games.
"For crying out loud,” I huffed. “There's nothing here. No voices."
"B-but I heard someone up here,” she said. “I swear I did.”
"Well, there's those Poker chips you was looking for last month."
Liza swallowed hard. "How’d they get here? I'm never in my attic."
I rolled my eyes at her, thinking that maybe she came up to her attic lots of times. Maybe she just didn't remember. She’d been having a lot of memory lapses lately. Some days I wondered if she was suffering from Old Timers Disease.
“Nothing here,” I sighed, patting her on the shoulder.
It was when we were putting the games back in the box that we did find something.
A Ouija board.
"It's eeee-vil," Liza said, refusing to touch it.
I scowled. "Whatcha mean, evil?"
"It's the devil's board game."
When Liza said this, the attic grew colder than the cemetery in the middle of February. I looked down at the Ouija board, then picked it up. It appeared harmless enough. Wasn't too heavy either. I don't know what got into me but all of a sudden I was overcome by curiosity.
"I wanna see it," I said stubbornly.
I took the game downstairs, much to Liza's dismay, and put the box on the scratched coffee table. I turned on a lamp then pulled out the board and set it on the table. Tipping the box, I watched a small piece of wood tumble to the floor.
"What's this for?"
Liza explained how you rest your fingers on the wood and ask the spirits a question. She told me that the spirits would push the piece of wood and spell out the answers on the board. I thought, this I gotta see. But Liza wanted nothing to do with it. So me being a good friend and all promised to make her favorite carrot cake if she played the game with me.
We put our fingers on the wood and stared into each other's eyes.
"What should we ask it?" Liza’s voice trembled with fear.
"Who are you, Great Spirit?" I asked in a spooky voice.
I tried hard not to laugh at the horrified expression on my friend’s face while we waited for an answer. Nothing happened. I was gonna take my hand off when all of a sudden the piece of wood shot out from beneath my fingers.
"Liza,” I scolded. “You pushed it."
My friend shook her head, her face whiter than bleached cotton.
I rested my fingers back on the wood and we waited again. We were mesmerized when it moved across to the A.
Then it moved to the T. Then the A again.
Liza leaned forward. "You think it's NatalieBrown from down the road? You know, the lady who died last Sunday."
I shook my head. "Dunno. Let's ask it another question instead."
Me and my big mouth.
I asked the board if it had a message for us. When we read it, Liza and I gasped. Then we shoved the board into the box and stuffed it under the couch.
You're probably wondering what the Ouija board said.
It said: DEATH BOBBYT.
BobbyTruman was the only BobbyT. we knew. And the very next day, he was hit by a train when his truck stalled in the crossing. He was only eighteen years old when he died.
The day after that, Liza phoned me and said we had to get rid of the Ouija board. She couldn't have anything that evil in her house. So I met her on the corner and we took the board to the dumpster behind the laundromat and left it there. That was that!
Or so we thought.
Later that night I got a phone call. Liza was hissterikle. "Come over, quick!"
When I got to my friend's house, I saw that every light in her house was on.
"What's going on?" I asked when she pushed me into her living room.
And then I saw it.
Right there, in the middle of the coffee table, was the Ouija board.
"JesusMurphy!" I muttered. "Why'd ya go back and get it?"
Liza swore up and down that she never went back for that board. It had just showed up on her table after suppertime. It still smelled like garbage and laundry soap.
"We have to find out what it wants," I told her. "Then maybe it'll leave you alone."
When we asked, the board came back with…DEATH SERENAU.
SerenaUnderhill was a girl I taught piano to. She was only 16.
I stared down at the board then said to Liza, "Pack it up."
We left her house just after 8. She was holding a plastic bag with the board in it. She held it out in front with her fingertips as if she was holding fresh dog crap. We walked four blocks down to Ling’s Noodle House and shoved the bag into a trashcan just before the garbage truck came. We stood there and watched as all the trash was compacted.
The next day SerenaUnderhill drowned in Mears Creek.
And by suppertime the Ouija board was back on Liza's table, reeking of sesame oil.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Liza went out and got back that board. I admit it. I was thinking the same thing. So when she called me that night, I went over and got the board. Then I took the bus to the ocean by myself. I walked along the boardwalk on the water's edge and flung that Ouija board out as far as I could. I waited while it was dragged out to sea and I stayed there until I saw that gawddamn board sink into the ocean.
Half an hour later, I got home and found Liza sobbing on my front porch. In her hands she held a sopping wet Ouija board.
Oh my Jesus, and all that's above! I was more than shocked. For the first time in my life I was deathly afraid.
Realizing that we had no choice, we sat at my kitchen table with the board between us.
"What on God's green earth do you want?" I yelled.
My fingers tingled as the wood slowly slid across the board.
I thought of UrsulaBigelow or UgenePierce.
The wood stayed where it was.
"U?" Liza moaned. "What does that mean?"
We waited for the board to spell more but the wood didn’t move.
Liza bit her lip. "We asked what it wants. I-I think it wants us."
Suddenly the room vibrated and we heard a wicked laugh echo through the house. We snatched back our hands and watched the wood race around the board.
"We gotta get rid of this thing," I said.
"We tried that!" Liza cried. "But it just keeps coming back."
When I glanced at the fireplace in my living room I got an idea. We built us a fire and when it was blazing hot we fed it pieces of the box.
"Put another log on the fire," I sang bitterly, tossing the wood piece into the flames.
Together we threw the Ouija board into the fire and watched as it slowly crumpled on the edges. When it ignited, we let out a sigh of relief. Me and Liza stayed there, arm in arm, watching the letters slowly fry until the board turned to ashes. And then the smell hit us. The stench of rot and decay was awful―like an Easter egg long forgotten after Easter.
That was the night before last.
Yesterday morning, I found Liza on her front lawn―dead of a broken neck. Beside her lay the Ouija board with one small scorch mark on its edge.
The sky is blood-red over the lake and the air tastes like death.
I have to hurry. I don't think I got much time left. The board said both of us, so I know it’s coming for me next. I’m so afraid but I have to try to get rid of this thing one last time and I have to let everyone know the truth. I was the one who opened Pandora’s Box. I’m the one who needs to close it.
Just so its clear, Liza and I tried throwing the Ouija board in a dumpster and a trashcan. I threw it in the ocean and when that didn’t work, we both watched it burn in the fireplace. Each and every time, the gawdawful evil thing ended up back at Liza’s.
Then again, Liza never could throw anything away. A pack rat. That’s what she was.
And my best friend.
I'm writing this letter and watching the Ouija board burn. This time I soaked it in lighter fluid, and when it's done burning I'm gonna take the ashes and bury them by the lake.
When we asked it that first night what its name was, we should have waited. Actually, we never should have asked in the first place.
I know now that only one other letter was missing and that if I held a mirror to it, the word would read backwards―the devil of all evils. SATAN!
He’s coming for me. I can feel it in my bones. It’s all my fault. I was curious. And you know what they say about curiosity.
I have to get these ashes to the lake.
Be back later…I hope.
On February 13th, 2004, my aunt Sharon was found lying near AuroraLake, her gaping eyes frozen in fear and her hands blistered and burnt. The coroner said she drowned. But I think something else killed her―something insidious and older than time.
While packing away my aunt's belongings at her lakeside cottage, I discovered this letter in a box of old party games. Curious, I read the letter and then reached into the box, pulling out something damp and slightly scorched.
I agree with my anthology mate Terry Vinson on this one. You need to find a print publish with this bastard of a horror story. Eerie you are there feel, and this isn't done in a long time. Your voice here calls to mind some of the John Silence stories by Algernon Blackwood. If you haven't read him pick up the short story "Victim Of A Higher Space," and this would fit right there with his work. Definately have a voice for the darker horror styles, and this is really hardcore too. For Terry to review this one, you did a good job -- and he has a strong eye for the frightening. This is coming from someone who appeared with him on Reality Check. Send this one to James Riser for his anthology. Since it appeared in a magazine go for it -- you got nothing to lose.
Unique hook on the intro, pacing of this storyline complemented the narrative, building suspense and engaging your readers & rewarding them with a powerful & awesome ending. Wonderful work Cheryl, looking forward to reading more from you!