A collection of ghost stories that will touch you, thrill you and send chills down your spine.
An abused boy receives a ghostly visitor, a lost girl discovers a house which could save or damn her. An impossible voice sings an impossible song. A Christmas miracle allows for a once in a lifetime visit, and a man faces the darkness in himself and his world in these tales which will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading them.
Okay, see, what happened was I was left unsupervised…
Honestly, I’ve intended to pull together a bunch of my ghost stories into a collection and release them together for a while now–I had the cover made for it last year so it’s been at least that long–but I never seemed to find the time to do it. Then, on the 20th my husband had to work.
We’re usually pretty strict about not working on weekends around here, or we try to be anyway, in order to keep my workaholism in check and ensure we have family time together. But on the 20th he had to work. Which meant I had a day I could work if I wanted to, guilt free, and there was nothing in my planner. Nothing that needed to be done. And with Halloween approaching, that made it the perfect chance for me to finally make this collection.
It also meant there was a super small window between when I created the book and when I released it, so there was none of the usual pre-release trumpeting and promotion. I offered copies to my ARC team* and then it was today and here I am, surprising you with my ghost stories.
This collection includes some of my personal favourites (“Coming Storm” and “The Other Side of the Door” in particular) and if you like ghost stories I really hope you’ll check it out.
*If you’d like to join my ARC team please just drop me a line
Every year around Christmas time I write an ‘Advent Ghosts’ story. Loren Eaton started Advent Ghosts several years ago as a way to continue the Victorian tradition of sharing spooky stories at Christmas time.
Last year was exceptionally busy for me so even though I wrote an Advent Ghosts story I didn’t actually type it up and share it. Today when I was flipping through that notebook looking for something else I stumbled across it and decided to correct that. Better late than never, right? 🙂 So, without further rambling please enjoy my 2017 Advent Ghosts story:
A Christmas Surprise
His truck was in the driveway.
How was his truck in the driveway?
The meth head with the gun had relieved him of it an hour ago. And yet, there it was. Parked and still running in front of his house.
An icicle of dread began in his belly and spread its frigid fingers through his body. With leaden limbs he approached, cupped his hands against his face and pressed them against the driver side window.
The garish green light of the GPS howled
You have arrived at your destination: Home
while simultaneously revealing that the monstrous red suit usually crumpled into the passenger seat was missing. As much as he’d hated having to wear it for the past month to pay the bills he hated that empty seat even more.
The boot prints in the snow leading from the truck to the front door chilled him more than the December wind, but he entered the house to a scene straight out of a holiday television special.
Bathed in the coloured lights of the tree, the boys were stretched out on the floor in front of the television, snug as bugs in their flannel Oilers pajamas.
“Daddy, Daddy!” they chirped, bounding up and jumping around him like excited puppies.
He patted them distractedly on their heads, his eyes frozen to the wet foot prints heading down the hall toward the bedrooms.
“Boys—” he started.
“Daddy! Daddy! Santa’s here! Santa’s here!”
“Santa is what?”
“Santa is here!”
“He took Mommy down there,” Allan pointed down the hall. “He promised he’d have a surprise for us when he was done with Mommy. They were playing really loud, but it’s quiet now. Do you think that means we get our surprise soon, Dad? Do you?”
To quote Loren Eaton from a couple years ago, “Advent Ghosts seeks to recreate the classic British tradition of swapping spooky stories at Yuletide. However, instead of penning longer pieces, we post bite-sized pieces of flash fiction for everyone to enjoy.”
Loren has been hosting Advent Ghosts for I dunno how long, but I’ve been participating for a handful of years. It’s one of my favourite holiday traditions. Officially, we’re suppose to write and share drabbles–stories that are exactly 100 words long–to date I have never done this. My stories have varied in length over the years but this one is probably the longest yet at about 1,700 words long. It’s also the first story I’ve ever written that was set in space, or on a spaceship. That was pretty intimidating, I won’t lie–I really like it though, so I hope you will too 🙂 This story does contain sexual violence however, so consider yourself forewarned before reading…
As Christmas feasts went, it wasn’t much —an MRE, dried fruit and instant coffee—but it was the best she could do given the circumstances. She wasn’t supposed to be in orbit—she and her crew were supposed to have returned to Earth weeks ago so she was lucky there was any food left at all. What was that saying? No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy? Well, no space mission ever survives leaving orbit.
They’d been on their way back to Earth when NASA spotted the debris field. If nothing was done the edge of it would come in contact with Earth and the results planetside would be catastrophic. The ISS was useless in situations like this—they only kept it operational as a floating museum of space exploration so Bethlehem would have to delay their return home, at least for long enough to set up a laser grid.
It wasn’t a difficult job—or it shouldn’t have been—but the whole thing turned into a farce of unbelievable proportions. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. First the shielding on the communications system had failed leaving it exposed to any cosmic rays that happened to come along. And apparently they did because it began to malfunction almost immediately, garbling their messages so much that the data they were getting back from Earth became completely unreliable.
Unable to get the information they needed to deploy the laser grid necessitated a EVA. It was Helen’s turn in the rotation but her preparations turned up a leaky air hose in her suit. They didn’t have time to repair it and since suits were custom fit she couldn’t just use another…
Helen glanced up at the digital clock on the wall—20:16. She had four more minutes before the ship’s rotation would swing back around and let her see the star—her star. The star shouldn’t exist, wouldn’t exist if Captain Monsef hadn’t done the walk in her place, but he had. And he’d died.
With communications down they hadn’t even seen it coming.
Helen had been on the bridge with D.J. when it happened. She saw the whole thing, saw it over and over again whenever she closed her eyes. A scout, a bit of debris that was ahead of the rest, had come out of the black, spinning and twirling like a dreidel. Helen watched it sideswipe the captain, snapping his umbilical to the ship and saw his face as he zoomed by—stiff-jawed and stoic. He knew he was doomed. Maybe he knew, even then, that they all were, but he wasn’t going to die kicking and screaming. That wasn’t his way.
She didn’t see the captain and the boulder tear through Shuttle One. Not with her eyes, anyway. She did see the control panel light up like a Christmas tree as every klaxon on the ship began to scream.
D.J. elbowed her out of the way and began pushing buttons seemingly at random.
“What are you doing?” She’d tried to stay calm—men tended not to listen if she raised her voice. “D.J. what are you—”
D.J. wasn’t even qualified to be on Bethlehem—he’d won some sort of social media contest or something and his inclusion in the ship was his prize—a PR stunt for the space program. Certainly no one had expected him to do anything.
He launched Shuttle One before she could stop him. In his defense, launching Shuttle One was the ship’s suggested protocol to deal with the hole the captain and the asteroid had punched through its hull opening them up to space. An experienced astronaut, however, would have just closed off that section and tried to find a way to save the shuttle and the captain.
She’d shoved D.J. out of the way just as Ramirez entered the bridge. In retrospect, that was probably when D.J. started hating her—the moment another man saw her overpower him and watched her try to correct his mistakes.
By the time the other four crew members had joined them on the bridge she’d stabilized things to the point the sirens had stopped wailing and she’d deployed the laser grid based on the last good coordinates they’d received from Earth before everything went to shit.
Unfortunately it was too late.
The grid did its job. Mostly.
Bethlehem hid beneath its cover and watched it obliterate the debris that passed through it, reducing it to sizes that would burn up in the atmosphere. The grid wasn’t perfect though and a few pieces slipped by on the edges. Helen and the crew could do nothing but watch and hope the Earth-based defenses could take them out.
Helen took another bite of leathery apple and looked at the clock again. Two minutes. Two minutes until she’d see her star once more. She and the star were orbiting around each other so she only got to see it every fourteen hours and then only for a few minutes.
Difficult decisions had needed to be made. They couldn’t land Bethlehem without comms—they needed to be in touch with ground control. Bethlehem had a nuclear reactor and any failed landing that resulted in a crash could cause a chain reaction that would endanger innumerable people planetside.
The remaining shuttle was operation and small enough that if it crashed it would only kill its passengers but there were seven people on Bethlehem and the shuttle was only designed to fit four. It was possible they could cram five in, but not seven. And they couldn’t just leave Bethlehem unattended in orbit, either.
And so they’d drawn straws. Well, everyone but Helen had. She’d volunteered to stay aboard—she’d been Monsef’s second-in-command so his death meant she was captain now and the captain goes down with their ship. But someone had to stay behind with her.
D.J. was chosen.
Helen suspected the process was rigged, that the rest of the crew was punishing him. Or her. Her cool competence had not earned her any friends on board, and more than once she’d heard them refer to her as a bitch. So maybe D.J. had been left behind as a punishment, maybe it was a message to her, or maybe it was just dumb luck. Whatever the reason it had signed his death certificate.
The shuttle launched without ceremony and then there was nothing Helen and D.J. could do but wait and hope it landed safely. Hope the crew sent up help. Hope rescue came before the food ran out…
Actually, that wasn’t all there was to do. D.J. found another thing—another two things, actually. The first was drinking.
He’d tracked down every liquid with any alcohol content whatsoever, including Smith’s potato homebrew, and spent more time than not totally hammered.
His hair stuck up in all directions, his face was flushed an odd orange colour and he pushed his mouth into a shape that resembled nothing more than an asshole. It might have been comical if not for what came next.
She’d been passing him in the hall on one of her many trips between her quarters and the bridge when he’d slurred something incoherent and groped her, obscenely cupping her crotch.
Shocked, she hadn’t reacted for several full seconds and then, when she did, it was in an explosion of energy. She slapped him hard across the face and pushed away. In the low gravity of the passageway that was enough to send him careening into the doorway of Ramirez’s quarters. The door irised open, D.J. floated through it, and it closed behind him while Helen propelled herself to the bridge.
There, gravity still reigned allowing her to stomp around with much more satisfaction than was possible in the living quarters. How dare he? If she ever saw him again it would be too soon.
Sadly, only a couple hours later he joined her on the bridge. He was leaning against a wall and blathering. He wasn’t making any sense, just rambling randomly about everything and nothing at all. When Helen started to turn her back on him he snatched a femur-sized wrench from where it was Velcroed to the wall and smacked her across the back of the head with it.
Helen reached behind her, felt the fist-sized lump that was still there and winced. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only place he’d injured her. She’d woken up striped to the waist with him grunting over her, his hand pawing at her breast, his putrid breath washing over her.
She tried to push him off but this time she couldn’t overpower him. He had gravity on his side, superior size, and wasn’t struggling just to remain conscious. Then, her searching hand landed on the wrench he’d struck her with, now forgotten on the floor. She closed her fingers around it and cracked him across the side of the head as hard as she could.
Then it was his turn to be unconscious. And when he woke it wasn’t in the bridge like she had. Oh, hell no. Even the brig was too good for him.
“A tragic accident,” she’d said into the intercom when the cameras showed her he was awake and aware of his predicament. “Just horrible. He must have had too much to drink and stumbled into the airlock…”
No one would believe that story, of course. Too many security protocols had to be overridden for that to be plausible, but Helen didn’t care. Help wasn’t coming from Earth. It had been two weeks now, if someone was coming they would have arrived already. Or signaled. Or something.
Maybe the shuttle had crashed on its way down. Maybe the debris that had slipped past the net had taken out the fleet. Maybe it had taken out the world. If it hadn’t, history would someday show that she, Helen Rosemary Carver, had gone down with her ship… after ridding it of a rat.
For now though, she glanced at the clock, in five, four, three, two—there he was.
He’d only been out there for a couple cycles but space was already working its magic on him—freeze-drying his corpse, turning him into a space mummy. He would never rot, but stay up here—a desiccated lump, arms and legs splayed like a starfish with a scream frozen on his face.
She watched him, the star she’d created. Even now when all hope for her, maybe even all hope for mankind, was lost, watching him sit and spin could still make her smile.
I wrote this a long-ass time ago. I’m not even sure when anymore. It was first published like 8 years ago though… so yeah, it’s been a while. Originally it was a drabble but when I opened the file up to copy it into this entry I couldn’t stop myself from cutting a few especially purple descriptions out 😉
Katya hung her blonde head while tears coursed down her sunken cheeks. “I know I’ve given you a hard time – I’ve been an ungrateful brat and always made things difficult.”
A solitary tear trickled out of her eye and captured a sunbeam which made it sparkle like a liquid diamond. “I’m sorry. It doesn’t take DNA to make a father, it takes love. You gave me that.” She sniffed, and looked down at the freshly dug earth. “I love you too, I just wish I’d told you before it was too late.”
Cheerful, no? LOL Sorry, but it’s still the most father-themed piece I have…
Happy father’s day to all the dads out there. I’ve been lucky enough to have two fathers, one I shared DNA with and one I shared a life with. I love them both.
I think it was Simon Kewin who introduced me to the Advent Ghosts shared storytelling event at I Saw Lightning Fall. To quote Loren Eaton from the blog post I linked to, “Advent Ghosts seeks to recreate the classic British tradition of swapping spooky stories at Yuletide. However, instead of penning longer pieces, we post bite-sized pieces of flash fiction for everyone to enjoy.” What a fabulous idea! I really wanted to come up with a story, so for the past month or so I’ve had that page open as a tab in my Firefox and my brain has been chewing away at a wintery spooky story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything. Nothing. Nothing.
Then, the other day I couldn’t sleep, so I lay in bed staring at the ceiling and working on this problem. Spooky winter tale. Flash-sized (preferably drabble sized, actually). Finally, at about two thirty in the morning I hit on something. I typed this story out on my iPod and emailed it to myself. It has since been revised, critiqued and cut down to be as short as I can make it (which is still about six times as long as a drabble ;)) and I’d like to share it with you.
It was bitterly cold. Bethany’s nostrils froze together with each inhalation and her eyelashes clung to one another when she blinked. She’d been walking through the snow a long time. Her thighs felt as though a thousand icy needles pierced them and her boots like anvils.
The blizzard had come out of nowhere, blinding her completely but Bethany knew they were almost home so she did her best to keep the horse pointed toward home and her heels in his sides. However, once the worst of the storm had passed it was clear they were in the middle of the woods, the worn track they’d been traveling on nowhere in sight. The storm had covered up their tracks so Bethany pointed the horse toward where the drifts seemed the lowest and pushed him forward. As daylight perished the horse had stumbled and refused to rise and now, many hours later, Bethany was sorely tempted to do the same.
And then she saw it.
The cottage filled the opening between the spruce trees, like something out of a fairy tale. Snow pillowed upon its roof but golden light poured out through its windows like honey.
She ran, stumbling in the knee-high drifts, and fell, palms first, into the snow. Her hands, bare, red and raw, burned from the cold and as she trudged the rest of the way to the cabin, she breathed clouds of warmth against them to soothe the pain.
The window glass was clear as crystal and through it Bethany could see the roaring fire in the fireplace, a tree bedecked with ornaments with a blanket of brightly wrapped gifts at its feet. A child sat between the tree and the pane, staring back at her through the barrier. A blue-eyed darling with golden ringlets and a sugary smile. A smile which widened as Bethany approached. The girl leaped up, gesturing excitedly toward the door.
As she trudged through the drifts to join her Bethany could almost feel the warmth of the fire. Almost. She glanced up at the stars, shining brighter than ever she’d seen them, and thanked the Lord for delivering her from the cold. For bringing her to safety.
Then she noticed the chimney.
It was straight as Jesus’ cross, and the moon lit it well enough for her to see the stones used to build it, but no smoke escaped its mouth. No clouds, like those which fogged the air before her, spilled from its lip.
Confused, fingers numb and mind slowed as well, she continued around the corner, toward the door the girl had pointed to. And there it was, flying open and spilling golden light and cheerful sound out onto the snow. “Come on, come on,” the girl laughed and beckoned with her hand. No fog surrounded her either, nor did any pour from the doorway.
Bethany hesitated. She stepped forward and the little girl’s eyes twinkled. Twinkled with something that had naught to do with being jolly and everything to do with hunger.
Hunger like Bethany felt for the warmth the cottage promised. Desperate and toothy.
She took another step. She could see the fire dancing behind the girl, could hear it crackle and pop, but though she was near enough to reach out and touch the door frame, she could not feel even a hint of its warmth.
“Come on,” the girl said. “Come in!”
Bethany looked from the child, alone in the cabin lit with gold and cheer, then back to the wood where looming trees boughs were twisted into claws and their moonshadows reached toward her. Better, she thought, to spend the night in Winter’s embrace than with whatever was in that house.
She took a step backward, and the girl-thing frowned. Then she took another, and another. Its features twisted into something feral, something fierce. “Come in,” it said once more, but this time the snarl hidden beneath its words was loud in Bethany’s ears, and the next step backward was easier to take than those which had come before.
Crossing herself, Bethany turned her back on the girl-thing and a howl, frustrated and fierce, echoed through the woods. And when, eventually, she dared look back over her shoulder, the cottage was gone with no sign that it had ever been.
My story, Waste Not, is now available for you to read for free on the Stupefying Stories ezine, Stupefying Stories Showcase. Waste Not is a fun bit of zombie flesh flash that even has an inside joke or two for anyone who has played World of Warcraft with me. Most importantly, perhaps, it makes me grin every time I read it. I hope you have the same experience 🙂
My flash fiction, Gopher Season, has been accepted for inclusion in a future issue of Fiction 365. Gopher Season actually began its existence as a poem, but I had difficulty making it work as such so changed it up into a piece of flash fiction instead. I thought it worked well as such and apparently the editors at Fiction 365 agreed. Yay!
My zombie story, Crimes Against Humanity, was published on The WiFiles yesterday. For a while I was writing a lot of zombie stuff set in Edmonton, a lot. This is one of those stories. I hope you like it.
I’m working on my zombie chapbook today (mostly trying to figure out what to include). That involves a lot of looking at file names and going ‘What the hell is that?’ and then opening them to find out. It’s a bit frustrating but it is helping me clean out folders a bit. Tossing things into the ‘Trunk’ directory when their time has come and reminding me of a piece or two that really just need a little attention to be something I could be proud to submit.
It also resulted in my re-discovering this drabble. I remember writing it back when I first learned what a drabble was (in 2007!) and it was actually my second drabble ever. It falls into a third category ‘Cute, but not really worth revising’. It is worth sharing here though, I think, because it made me smile, hopefully you’ll have the same reaction.
A Long Day
Jack cursed himself for the third time and stomped angrily around the clearing.
If he returned to the ship his crew would know what a fool he’d been and wouldn’t respect him anymore. He should have brought one of them with him to help, they could they have carried the darned chest instead of he, and done the digging too.
Swearing once more Jack dropped to his knees and began to dig in the soft sand; it was going to be a long day.
“What kind of barnacle sucking, bilge-brained pirate goes to bury treasure without a shovel?!” he screamed.
On a related note, there’s nothing that’s humbling in quite the same way as reading some of your old work, is there? It’s inspiring though, to look bad and see how much I’ve improved in the past 4 years because it makes me excited to see how I’ll be writing in 2015 🙂
*posts before she can no longer resist the urge to start editing*
I’ve a couple new stories out today, which is a lovely way to start the year. Firstly is my six-word story that is in It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure which has an ironically long title 🙂 I get paid with a contributor’s copy for that, which has a value of $8.10 US. That means I got paid an equivalent to $1.35 a word. I’m pretty sure that’s my highest per word payout so far. Pretty snazzy.
I also have a short story at Flashes in the Dark today. You can read Dive just by following that link, and Flashes in the Dark is one of those cool webzines that will let you leave a comment if you feel like it. A little bit about this story, but cut because here there be spoilers: