There was a strange smell that filled the air as I slept. I was dreaming the most beautiful dream but this strange odor kept pulling me back to consciousness. In my dream I was walking through the woods breathing in the mist under a large pale moon. There were fireflies all around me ablaze with bright green light illuminating the woods in the most magical way. I never wanted to wake. But that stupid burning smell, it nagged at me like a whining child. “Damn it,” I should get up and see if anyone left the stove on. When I opened my eyes the smell was much fainter than I had expected it to be. I breathed in deeply, sat up and switched on my bedside lamp. This time nothing. Just the scent of my own sweat and the lingering aroma of my extinguished incense stick which was protruding from a porcelain turtle. Hanging on the turtle’s neck was a golden locket. The amber light from the lamp illuminated locket with a soft glow.
I reached over and palmed the locket with my left hand and admired it. My eyes glimmered from the reflecting light and went wide from the golden splendor. I delicately removed it from the turtle and fastened it around my neck. A soft breeze came from the small opening in my window causing the small hairs on my neck to stand at attention. I could hear the crickets chirping, beckoning me. I gave a little smile at the thought of running barefoot on the cool grass under the moonlight just like in my dream. I grasped the locked with both hands and with my fingers firmly holding each edge I pried the locked open. Inside was a yellowed black and white photo of a young woman. She looked about my age, twenty something. She had beautiful blond hair, soft pale skin, and green eyes that pierced right through me.
As I was sitting on the edge of my bed lost in thoughts of the girl in the photo when a loud THUMP came from my bedroom window causing me to nearly fall off the bed. I quickly turned, my heart beating loudly through my chest. I sat motionless waiting for the sound to repeat itself, nothing. Then, BLRARM, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, a car alarm blared out from somewhere on the street. I quickly slid off of my bed and went to the window to investigate. When I peered out I could see a few cars on the street under the orange glow of the street lights. A dark colored sedan was blaring its call to arms as its lights flashed in a strobe like pattern. No robbers though, as far as I could see anyway. My focus shifted to the large glass window I was peering through. Forgetting the danger I might have been in I admired my own reflection. My long dark hair looked elegant in this light. I traced the from of my body, then made my way up and stared deeply into the eyes of my own reflection. As I smiled at my image in the glass it seemed to ripple. When it cleared my reflection was gone, but there was someone else staring back. I tried to scream but no sound escaped my throat. I tried again as I tip toed backwards but only a low pitched squeak escaped me. There was some other girl in the window looking back at me. I raised my hands which were shaking. In unison she raised hers as if she were my reflection. I tripped on a pair of fuzzy slippers and landed in a sitting position on the bed. Then, she spoke.
“Help Me” she shrieked eyes wide hands pressed firmly against the glass. Was this a ghost? Some dark specter come to drive me insane? My thoughts raced and my heart beat felt like a race car ready to explode out off the starting line and right out the door. I was squeezing the mattress tightly getting ready to make my escape when I saw something in her eyes, sadness. She gestured behind her with one hand and beckoning me come and look with the other. I could feel her desperation. She needed me. I slowly rose from the bed and cautiously made my way to the window with my back hugging the wall. The fingertips of her right hand gently pressed against the glass. Once again she gestured for me to look out the window. The car alarm was still blaring, echoing through the neighborhood. Strange, no one was waking up, or attempting to turn it off. I looked at the specter and cocked my head slightly. “Do you want me to go there?” With trepidation in my voice I gestured toward the dark colored vehicle. She nodded without breaking eye contact with me.
I quickly slipped on some jeans and a jacket and made my way toward the curb of my street. It was very quiet out except for the blaring alarm. The mildew laden grass rubbed against my angles making me feel uneasy. I was exposed out here, and it was very late. There was still that slight breeze which caught my jacket a few times, blowing up it and tingling my back. The breeze ran up my spine giving me the shivers as I neared the dark colored sedan. When I got close I stopped and took in my surroundings making sure there were no lurkers in the dark or even the car’s owner come to silence the loathsome racket. I began to focus on the car’s windows as there was something strange about the reflection in them. I Quickly turned to see if there was anyone behind me. As I turned back I nearly fell over. “HELP ME!” A sharp voice rang out as the spirit’s image appeared to rise up from inside the vehicle. “Damn it, you f-ing scared me! I’m trying to help you you know” I huffed. She laughed and pointed down the block at a row of cars “this way” she beckoned.
I followed her reflection in car after car for three blocks until she pointed at what I hoped was our final destination, a twenty four hour convenience store. “Is this where you want me to go” I asked a little winded. She cocked her head and nodded. I entered the store and made a beeline for the water bottles. It was all neon and electric hums from the bright florescent bulbs illuminating this kingdom of soda and sugary delights. A cornucopia of tobacco, taquitos, dirty magazines, and even dirtier old men. The clerk glared at me with distrust as I perused their various beverages. There must have been thirty different kind of water!
A loud, wet, raspy cough broke me out of my daze and made me almost vomit. I knew what I was in store for before I even turned to look. A middle aged overweight white man with a dirty White Snake t-shirt and torn up jeans sloping onions on a footlong hotdog. He was coughing up spit and who knows what all over the sneeze guard at the hotdog kiosk. Not exactly the kind of person you want to be alone with at three in the morning. He took one look at me and grinned licking his lips and gesturing to the onion covered meat in his hands. I shivered from head to toe and quickly made me way out of his eye line. I could see him shrug and go in for more toppings out of the corner of my eye. The locket started to feel very warm against my skin. I grasped it and could feel some real heat emanating from it.
“Hey, boy, get me some friggin relish. There’s only a spoonful left” the plump customer excalimed to the pimple faced clerk who looked irritated at having lost count of the cigarettes on the rack. “Yes sir” he squeaked in a defeated tone disappearing into the backroom. Once the clerk was out of sight the overweight man quickly scarfed down the whole hotdog in seconds like a wild pig then grabbed a fresh bun and tried desperately to build an exact duplicate before the clerk reappeared with a container of “fresh” relish. “About damn time” the fat man exclaimed with bits of bread and chewed hotdog flying from his lips. The clerk paused and shook his head before making his way around to replace the relish. The clerk mockingly tipped his paper hat before replacing the container, then made his way back to the counter. The fat man took a large bite of his hotdog and proclaimed “I hope you’re not looking for a tip!” He tried to laugh but his mouth was full of partially chewed pig carcass and relish. The fat mat admired himself in the glass front counter stroking his exposed chest hair. As I started walking toward the counter to pay for my water I could see the fat man still admiring himself and his prized hotdog. I kept looking at his reflection while I walked and spied, hands? Hands that didn’t belong to the fat man growing nearer to his reflection. Hands making there way around his neck. Choking, the fat man gasped for air, hurling large chunks of partially chewed food as he did so. The fat man struggled to take a breath, and grasping his own throat in despiration. The clerk ran from behind the counter to help but looked completely flustered. “Ok, c.p.r., or hemlick something or other, crap! Ok, hold on mister I just have to go find the instructions in the back office!” The clerk ran off to the back of the store knocking over bread and soda bottles that rolled in every which direction.
I panicked dropped my water and just stood there not know what I should or shouldn’t do. The fat man stared at his reflection mouth agape tongue flailing. Then, suddenly, his body collapsed like a twenty pound bag of potatoes and went rigid in an unnervingly ghastly position. I just stood there. I could have helped but I didn’t. I could hear a strange muffled voice coming from near the corpse. I looked around and the store was still empty. The clerk hadn’t returned, so I was still all alone except for the dead man with a gut for of junk food. Then I saw something, odd. The fat man, his reflection was still there in the glass, still alive and banging against it frantically. “Holy crap” I screamed out. The clerk rushed in from the back room waving a pamphlet in the air “I got it” he exclaimed before stopping dead in his tracks at the site of the hotdog covered stiff on the floor. A bell rang out from the front entrance. A new customer. We both turned to look and as we did we saw what can only be described as the ghastly shape of a woman walking right through a terrified young lady. Before the ghast left our site it turned locking its deadly gaze directly at me mouthing the words “Thank you.” I grasped the locket and it smoldered right in my hand causing me to wince in pain, then crumbled in my fingertips turning to nothing but ash. My heart sank as I came to the realization of what I had done. I had helped release something dark into this world, trading one soul for another. There was one thing I was certain of. No more late night snacks.
Images by: Immortal Alexander
Choking image taken by Jeanette Andromeda.
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