Each page Karen Tyler pens fuels the fires of her own nightmares and by the time she's aware, she's knee deep in blood.
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Buried deep in the soul of every man is a tormented child, some more terrified than others. When Karen Tyler agrees to write the sad story of Tony Carlton's childhood, she's unaware of the peril it will unleash upon herself. Each page she pens fuels the fires of her own nightmares and by the time she's aware of what's happening, she's knee deep in blood.
So reader beware of the ghosts that taunt you as you sleep, because once you break the binding of "Abigail's Cries" there's no turning back. Just as the author couldn't stop writing, so will you not stop reading.
April 24, 1990
It rained all day, and night fell early leaving Hank Carlton in the dark. The moon hid itself behind the mountain and the amber glow of the lantern barely put out enough light. He set the lamp on the floorboard and pulled his fatigued body onto the seat of the tractor determined to give it one last try before turning in. He’d been tinkering with the damn thing all day and was cold, wet and downright pooped, ready to leave it in the field to rot. The old piece of shit came with the property he’d inherited from his father, but didn’t purr like she had when he was a boy. The past few years she’d been more trouble than she was worth, but when she ran, the chores were done a hell of a lot faster.
“C’mon baby…” he coaxed, stroking the oversized steering wheel with slimy gloved hands, “…you can do it.” He reached for the key, holding his breath, when a horrifying sound sent a shockwave of terror rippling through his veins. Hank twisted in the seat, fixating on the farmhouse, and let out a grueling howl…“Oh—Noooo—NO!” His child’s scream tore at his heartstrings as he pulled out the choke and tried the key. “Come on, come on!” The old tractor groaned, spit and sputtered. “Fucking piece of shit—START!”
Darkness blanketed the sky but couldn’t contend with Hanks soul as he listened to his little girl’s frightful outcry. “Leave her alone, damn you!”
He twisted the key, nearly breaking it off in the ignition, pulled the choke clear out of the dash, and pressed the accelerator to the floor, HARD. “Come on—come on—you son of a bitch!” This time it gave out one final cough, and Hank, wasting no more time, leapt to the ground.
“Daddy, please help me—pleeeeeease!”
His blood soured as he sucked in deep. “I’m coming Abigail! Oh God—please—God!” He trudged through the deep mud, his boots stuck, one then the other, but he plodded on in stocking feet trying desperately to run in the thick gooey mire. The ground claimed his socks easing his stride, he leaned forward; elbows bent and swung his arms gathering strength from Abigail’s cries. He could see the houselights, his daughter’s room; but was still a good fifty yards away. There was no telling what that monster was doing to her. The thought of it made his head reel. “Why did I leave her…why?” He cried out. “Hold on baby…daddy’s coming angel…”
Her screams became more desperate. “Daddeeee…help me!” she squealed.
Between her sobbing pleas, Hank could hear the malicious shouts and hideous laughter coming from the monstrous creature. Somewhere in his mind, he knew time was running out.
Panic and fear sheathed his heart as he neared the edge of the field. “Almost there…only ten yards to go,” he gasped. Hank knew what that fiend was capable of, and shuddered at the thought. “PLEASE God, help me MOVE!” Hank shouted into the blackened night.
Abigail stopped screaming. Hank drew his leg from the muck, jabbed it forward as far as he could stretch, then pulled out the other leg. “Daddy’s coming,” he choked through tears.
The sludge oozed between his toes, as his feet sunk deeper. He felt as though he were in a paralyzing nightmare. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as the ground swallowed one foot after another, up to his calf, then his knees, it was getting deeper, thicker, restricting his movements. He’d tried to avoid the bog, but found himself right in the middle of it. “GOD DAMN IT TO HELL. So close—so close.”
His mind’s eye pictured the five-year-old trembling with fear, cowering in terror as her fragile body was battered, helplessly begging for his help. The silence whispered his darkest fear. “Oh Jesus,” he prayed. “Hasten my steps and spare my precious little girl this torment!”
The hideous laughter and ominous tongue, rattled the still night. “HE CAN’T HELP YOU NOW!” The impious words echoed through the canyon, loud enough to raise the dead.
Rage pumped through his bloodstream as he glared toward the house. “Come on sweetie; hold on—I’m coming!”
Finally, Hank heard Abigail cry out again, just as he found solid ground. With freer movement, he raced toward the house.
“There’s still time, thank you! Shit—just get me there!” He shrieked, as he reached the edge of the yard.
There was one long, shrill wail—silence, then another—louder, older! It was coming from the monster! The screams stopped, and so did his heart.
Thick shrubs stood between him and the house. He plowed through them, nearly knocking down his ten-year-old son, who met him on the lawn. Tony’s eyes were wild and haunted with terror.
“The doors locked, I can’t get in!” Tony yelled. “What’s happening to Abigail?”
Hank heard the panic in his son’s voice, but had no time to console him. Not hesitating, he pushed him aside and shouted. “Wait here,” then raced across the yard, his chest tightened, begging for air. He sucked in hard not caring if his lungs exploded. He wouldn’t stop. Nothing could stop him, not as long as there was hope. He tromped across the porch and kicked the door, slamming it back so hard against the wall, the panes shattered.
There was a troubling hush inside the house—except for the grandfather clock, ticking off the seconds—seconds he didn’t have. His eyes fixed on the upper floor as he bolted for the stairs, not paying any mind to the shards of glass slicing into his flesh. His muddy feet, mingled with blood, slid on the linoleum. He came down hard on both knees with a thud. Pain shot up his legs and he let out a shrill moan, as he scrambled to his feet then scaled the stairs two, three at a time.
Half-crawling, feet sliding, leaving mud smears in his trail, Hank worked his way to the landing as he called out breathlessly. “Daddy’s coming princess!” His voice raspy, throat aflame with bile, “Please God, don’t let me be too late!”
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake…
November 3, 2005
“Karen, its Margo. Where are you? I’ve been waiting forty-five minutes. I’ve been calling—why didn’t you answer your phone?”
Once I heard her voice, I remembered. “Sorry Margo, I forgot about our lunch date.” I cringed with anticipation of her anger. “I’m about an hour out of town—didn’t hear my phone—I had the radio turned up.”
“What? Are you running again? What happened?”
“I’m just driving, sorry I dist you.” I hated to grovel. Mostly I hated it when she treated me like a child.
“Oh, well—that’s real nice.” Her voice dripped with heavy sarcasm. “So obviously you’re skipping lunch. Are you all right?”
“Yes, I just needed some time. I’ve been having horrible nightmares again.” Damn tears—stop! “Shit—I feel so bad.”
“Don’t—I’ll get over it.” Her chuckle sounded forced. “I wish you’d talk to me about it, rather than run off.”
How can I? No one really understands. “I know Margo. It’s complicated and hard for me.” God—if only I knew myself, maybe the tormenting would end. “Hey—I may lose you in a minute, there’s a tunnel coming up.”
“Will you call me when you get home?” She asked, sounding more like a mother than a best friend.
“Sure. Can we do lunch tomorrow, I’ll buy?”
“Talk to you later.” She hung up without answering. I tossed my phone in the passenger seat. I’d flaked on her. She won't get over it. That irritated me, since it was usually her forte. Apparently, she was allowed screw-ups, but I wasn’t. God, am I the only one who gives a shit?
I set the cruise control at a steady fifty-five and drove aimlessly along the old country road, forcing it back in my mind. The mountains had whispered, summoned me to ditch it all for the day and just drive. I knew I’d pay for it later, but at that moment, I didn’t care. My tormented soul had been begging for a reprieve, and what better way to clear the mind than with God’s masterpiece. Green pastures edged with brush and tall trees, just starting to turn a variety of brilliant hues. Orange, yellow, and brown, bordered by plush green hills, and speckled in autumn tones. My idea of true art, I sighed as I cocked my head to admire the tall firs and pines leaning ever so slightly as the wind pressed on their branches, stretching high in the air, tips reaching for the heavens. It was a quiet serenity so unlike the turmoil in my life. Let it go, Karen. Let it go…
Abigail was on my mind. It wasn’t just that the little girl’s story was heartbreaking, but writing about it was drudging up my own childhood horror. Good going Karen, ever think to say no? My foot pressed on the brake as I approached a corner posted for thirty-five, but not enough, barely keeping the Civic on the road. My pulse quickened at the thought of how close I had come to losing control. The damp pavement was slick, I knew better. Billy Joel sang “Only The Good Die Young” on the radio. It seemed ironic at that moment.
I regained my cruising speed, focusing better on my driving, and gazed out across an open meadow where a flock of geese taking flight caught my eye. They are an amazing creature. the males pick a mate and are faithful for life. Humans could learn a lot from them, my ex-in particular. I watched as they formed a V in the sky glancing back at the road every two to three seconds, just long enough to focus on the birds, wondering what it would be like to be so carefree. Then they were out of sight, off to a tropical vacation for the winter. At least that’s how my mind saw it. I laughed aloud when I pictured them sprawled out along the beach in a lounge chair, sipping on umbrella drinks in Speedo’s and dark glasses. Where I get my imagination is anyone’s guess. I’m sure it wasn’t my mother, she never thought outside the box. So I was told, I didn’t remember much about her, or my father either for that matter. Let’s not go there now, you’re here to relax and soak in the scene. I scolded, and gazed through the driver’s window.
My eyes were riveted by the breathtaking scenery, Gods divine handiwork; multicolored leaves gracefully pirouette across the asphalt, twirling, and floating to a minuet conducted by a masterful current, one that would carry me out of the gloom.
Fall was my favorite time of year, not for any particular reason other than the magnum opus that would regenerate my soul, and send the nightmares into the abyss. It reminded me of grandma’s house, smelling of fresh baked bread, pumpkin pie, and roasted turkey. Everyone hugging, sharing tales of their year and what they were thankful for. Mostly, I remember sitting at my grandpa’s feet with all my cousins listening carefully, as Grandpa read us stories from his old worn out bible. Later we’d sit by the fire munching on popcorn while he played his guitar and sang us old tunes. The kind of peace that doesn’t come along everyday, lying far back in my memory.
As I drove along reminiscing, Whitney Houston sang to me through the car speakers. I cranked it up and beat out the rhythm on the steering wheel as I sang off key, but who’d hear? My foot tapped against the floorboard as the song reached my favorite part. The cords in my neck tensed as my voice blared, drowning out Whitney. I wanna dance with somebody. Wanna feel the heat with somebody! My body danced to the beat as I cruised along. Cool air rushed through the cracked window brushing past my damp cheeks. When the song ended, I sniffed in the sweet bouquet, drinking in the refreshments of nature. I was going to be OK. I smiled reassuringly.
My emotions had been all out of whack, I blamed it on PMS when anyone would ask, but secretly I knew what caused it and needed to snuff it out. I was strong; I could do this on my own. I just needed to flee from time to time and leave the demons behind. Much like the birds take flight and soar to fairer weather.
I found myself pulling up in Neil’s driveway. I guess it was automatic, I hadn’t meant to be there, but at that moment, I really could use a hug and change of mood. What are you doing? You’re a big girl Karen. You don’t need a man to get past this. I scolded, but I was already there, may as well say hello. Bringing Neil into my nightmare was taboo. I vowed never to burden him with my issues. As I stepped out of the car, determined not to stay long, I caught a glimpse of someone rushing toward me out of the corner of my eye …oh no, not today!
“Hello!” Peggy shouted, arm waving in the air. Her oversized, moo-moo flapped in the breeze as she waddled toward me, flip-flops slapping the soles of her feet with a rhythmic clapping. I hoped she was waving down someone else, but to my dismay, she trotted straight for me.
Oh no, my heart sank. I’ll never get away from her. Peggy Muller, the most loquacious woman in Coos County. She was on my list of people to interview for the story I was writing, but I wasn’t prepared, nor in the mood for it that day. I didn’t want to be trapped with her never-ending prattle, but I had already shut the car door and stood vulnerably at her mercy. I was stuck, with nowhere to hide.
“Hello,” I waved back, trying to be friendly as I took a step toward the front door. She struggled for a breath and raised a finger, signaling me to wait a minute, while clutching a fistful of the moo-moo at her chest. That gave me a chance to talk first. “I was just dropping by to see Neil for a split second, I don’t have much time today.” I glanced at my watch to indicate I was in a rush. “I’ve got to get back home right away, busy day today, lots of work to do, never a dull moment you know.” I threw up my hand, “besides, my dog’s been inside all morning too, shit he’s probably not going to hold his water much longer.” Maybe a bit overdone, but it was the best I could do on short notice.
“Neil’s not home,” she began, still clutching her chest while her other hand was busy trying to calm a mop of red curls that had fallen over her eyes. “He left early this morning,” she exhaled the words.
I could have found that out by going to the door, but for some reason she felt it necessary to rush over to inform me. The poor woman must be desperately lonely; I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, but not enough to hang around. “Thank you,” I said and started to get back into my car, thinking I’d get a quick escape; boy was I mistaken.
“You know, you two make the cutest couple, reminds me of when I met my husband.”
Oh please don’t compare us, I thought as I gave her a warm smile and nod then slipped my foot inside the car.
She exposed two deep dimples in her pudgy face. “He and I were so much in love back then.” Her grin didn’t falter as she looked back toward her house. “I still love him of course; all that new passion seems to have faded over the years though. He was so handsome, and oh, what a lover he was. Love deepens as you grow old together, but it changes.” She only paused for two seconds to breathe. “You know like a good pair of shoes you just can’t part with.” She cocked her head toward the sky; her eyes twinkled as if she’d been swept off to a dreamy wonderland, before returning her gaze on me. She giggled then took a cleansing breath.
She seemed to have lost her train of thought, the break I needed. “Well, it was nice to see you again, Peggy, sorry but I’ve got to run.” I thrust my arm in the air, “the dog awaits!” I bent my knee and just about had my ass to the seat when she got her full wind.
“Do you want me to tell Neil you stopped by?”
Oh, wouldn’t he just love me for that? I mused. “No, no thanks. I’ll just call him later. You have a great day Peggy; it was so nice to see you.” I was in my car and had the key slid into the ignition when she reached out and locked her fingers around the doorframe. Damn it!
“Well it would be no bother. I enjoy visiting with Neil. He’s always been so nice to me. I don’t have much to do all day anyway; my husband’s gone a lot lately.” Her smile faded into a slight pout. “Seems the honeymoon is finally over, it lasted longer than most do I guess. I don’t know what happened exactly. Maybe he just lost interest in me. I get so lonely sometimes.” I gazed at her ring finger, admiring the modest single diamond band that appeared to be cutting off circulation. It was evident she’d never taken it off, or at least hadn’t tried in a long time. The palm of her hand rested on the car door, only her fingers moved as she talked, the gem sparkling in the sunlight.
“I sure like talking to you; you’re such a nice lady. Seems like people these days are too wrapped up in their lives…always on the go, no time to stop and chitchat with a neighbor anymore. Not like we’re neighbors,” she pointed first to me then herself with her whole hand, “at least not yet, but we kind of are with you and Neil, well you know. Anyway I sure do appreciate talking to a nice person; I don’t get that opportunity very often.”
Damn, damn, damn…now I feel bad and need to do something. “I’m really sorry to hear that.” Now what do I do? I can’t just drive off and leave her standing here. Besides, she still had a death grip on my door.
“Oh, don’t be, I get used to it,” she smiled again. “I have my soaps I watch faithfully. Do you watch the soaps? I do a lot of crossword puzzles too. I’m not very good at them and have to cheat from time to time but it does keep the mind sharp they say. Have you heard that? I don’t know if I believe it or not, but it makes sense I guess. I also have my craft projects; I do a lot of knitting and crocheting. I made the cutest little afghan for Mrs. Peter’s great-granddaughter, pink and white of course. Mrs. Peters used to do all that, but her arthritis has gotten so bad, that I volunteered when I saw how painful it was for her, poor thing. I didn’t mind, gave me something to do. Besides, I like crocheting anyway. She paid for all the material, so it was like free entertainment for me. She even tried to pay me, imagine that, but I wouldn’t hear of it. Do you do craft work?”
Bla… bla…bla…I took a breath to answer but it wasn’t to be.
“It’s also good for the mind and it keeps your hands busy. You know what they say about idle hands.” She gave me a sideways glance that reminded me of an old school marm. Suddenly I felt twelve. Is she making some kind of accusation? Her face softened as suddenly as it had shown scorn, and a sheepish grin crept upon her face. “Enough about me…what about you and Neil, are there wedding plans in the future? I love weddings, haven’t been to one in a long time though, no one gets married these days.”
It looked like she was going to allow me to answer her this time. I had to clear my throat, since I hadn’t spoken in a while. “Oh no, well, we haven’t gotten that far into our relationship.”
“Oh, come on,” she waved a hand at me. “You’ve been seeing each other for a long time now. I’ve seen you over here a lot, staying the nights too.” Again with that look. Then she touched her brow with her fingertips as though she were getting a premonition. “Over a year now, right?” She said slowly and dropped her hand to look at me smugly, “see what doing crossword puzzles do for the mind. You didn’t think I’d remember did you? I’ve noticed Neil gone a lot of nights since he met you too.” She said in a singsong voice, coupled with a coy grin.
Oh great! She knows we’re sleeping together, and probably thinks I’m a slut. I smiled and nodded, about all I could do at that point.
“I read your last book, I loved it. Hated the ending though, no offense. I always hate the endings, but I keep on reading. I guess leaving someone hanging is what gets them hooked, huh? You got me hooked!” She chuckled. “When’s your next one coming out? There is a next one in the making right? I sure do love to read when I’m not busy doing something else. Wintertime’s my favorite time to read. You must read a lot too, being a writer and all. I tell all my friends that I know a real live author, makes me popular at the sewing bees. One day I took that signed copy I have,” she raised her eyebrows, “turned them all green!” Her dimples deepened.
“I was sure glad to see a normal person move into our neighborhood. You heard all the stories about this area didn’t you? It was all over the newspaper.”
I was relieved she’d changed the subject and it appeared that we were finally getting to the belly of her reason for rushing over here. “Lot’s of tragic things.” She shook her head, and clicked her tongue. “It seems that this whole block was cursed for a while there, but nothing ever happened to our family. I was sure happy for that. We got lucky I guess. It all seems to have started at that old house on the corner.” Her eyes narrowed as she pointed a plump finger in that direction, then her hand slid across her forehead and dropped to her side. She released her grip, now I needed the right moment. “Evil, sheer evil that house is. I just know it. I wouldn’t step foot near that house.” Her face furrowed into an arduous scowl, and I couldn’t help but copy it. “It’s haunted you know, stories go way back. When my boy was growing up, I made sure he never went near it, too. I told him if I ever caught him even walking on that side of the street, I’d tan his hide like no tomorrow. He listened too, at least as far as I know. I never caught my Glen even so much as looking in that direction, must have scared the poop right out of him.” Her body jiggled when she laughed.
I chucked a laugh and stopped trying to hide my boredom, while thinking up an escape.
Peggy’s voice went quiet and mysterious as if she was telling a ghost story to a group of girl scouts on a campout. “A horrible, evil young woman…when she was only eight years old she murdered her own parents.” Peggy scowled, “can you imagine? She spent years in the insane asylum. Everyone in town was shocked that they let her out.” She continued, her crude expression returned, and as she rambled, my mind began to wander as I gazed at the house. “I wasn’t the only one in the area to be relieved when she died.”
Do, do, do, do…I couldn’t help it. Peggy’s story was starting to get to me.
“She hacked them up in pieces,” Peggy went on unaware I’d stopped listening. “It took days for them to find them all. You know, I always thought she had to have had some help. Little girl like that, I can’t imagine her doing it alone. I saved the newspaper clippings, all of them. It’s so gruesome you wouldn’t believe it unless you read it for yourself. That’s when things really started getting strange around here.”
My mind had been working overtime lately and day-to-day conversations didn’t seem to have a place to stick in my brain. I need to find a way out of this before I lose my mind. If only she’d stop flapping her gums!
“Well do you?” Peggy stared at me as though I had a booger hanging from my nose or something equally gross.
“Do I what? Oh God, I’m sorry I didn’t hear the question. My mind must have drifted.” I squinted and gave her an apologetic frown. “What was it you asked?”
“Do you want to see the articles? I saved them all, hell you could use them for one of your stories, its right up your alley. Of course I’d give you copies…I’m saving all the originals, might be worth something someday. Anyway, after she got out her grandmother died mysteriously. They never figured out what happened, called it an accident, but everyone knew better. It’s just a gut feeling, not that they ever proved that, but I know. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were bodies still buried in the back yard.”
“Maybe next time, I really have to get going. But, I would like to see them.” I hated to be rude, but I had a feeling once she got a person trapped in her web, she ate them alive. I had to grin at my own play on words, but I tried not to laugh and turned toward my car.
“Aaaand,” she stretched out the word to let me know she hadn’t finished her story. “It’s supposed to be vacant.” She stopped, raised her eyebrows and silently stared at me. Was I supposed to fill in the rest, or guess what she was going to say next? Then she started in slowly nodding her head affirmatively. “But I have seen someone in there. Mrs. Peters says it’s probably the caretaker…but I don’t think so. It doesn’t look cared for to me.”
I did have to agree. “Wow, sounds spooky,” I winked. “Well, better get going now.”
Peggy frowned, and took a step back, “I understand, you’re busy. You don’t have to tell me twice.”
Wanna bet? “Bye-bye,” I shut the door before she could say another word, smiled and waved as I backed out of Neil’s driveway. She stood in the same spot, waved back then turned toward her own house. I had hurt her feelings and felt like an ass. She must have such a sad life, if only she wasn’t so yakkety. Made me wonder what kind of muck she was telling all the neighbors about Neil and I.
As the car came to a stop at the corner, I peered over at the old dilapidated house. I counted five stories, maybe six. It was an enormous house; the city could turn it into a museum or something. It was definitely in dire need of maintenance, which coincided with Peggy’s remark about the caretaker. It resembled a haunted house right out of an old horror movie, but I didn’t believe in ghosts. Old it was, and spooky too. The weather didn’t help as a dark cloud had settled over the roof peaks. All it was missing was the thunder, lightning and heavy rain then I’d be convinced. Yuk. Ghosts or no ghosts, you wouldn’t catch me spending a night alone in that place.
As I surveyed the property, I thought I saw a figure appear in one of the upstairs windows. Jesus! I went pale, nearly peed. Quickly, I turned away and accelerated through the intersection, glancing back once as I pulled away. It had to be my imagination but I still got a shiver. Peggy had gotten to me. There’s no such thing as ghosts, I scolded myself. Isn’t that what daddy used to say when he came into your room after a terrible nightmare? I got the heebie-jeebies and slid my Steppenwolf CD into the player to switch gears. So where were those words of wisdom this morning when you woke up drenched in sweat?
Inside the mansion, the marauder stood statue-like at the window watching every move Peggy Muller made. “That mud slinging albatross…,” seethed through taut lips and rigid fists clutched the windowsill so hard, nails tips flung in the air. “That fucking whore is going to pay…”
Glaring eyes set on the Honda Civic as it backed from the drive and pulled up at the stop sign.
“Whatever it was Peggy had said made that snooty little bitch curious enough to gawk. Go ahead and laugh ladies…have fun, cause one day really, really soon…I’ll have the last laugh!”