Tales from the Dark Side

Tales from the Dark Side
Readers: This is where I will be posting my short stories that are of supernatural, paranormal, horror, dark fantasy genres. Check back often because there will be new items added or revisions made to existing posts.
This was part of a display and booth I had a "Night of the Paranormal" at the
Daytona Museum of Arts & Sciences, Daytona Beach, FL October 28, 2011.

This short story, "The Gypsy Fair" was originally written as a writing course assignment, it has evolved from a 250-word short-short to a 4,400+ word Young Adult Reader (teen) short story.  Enjoy!

A mid-length teen short story with:
·        a mysterious foreshadowing tarot reading 
·        interesting characters – a loner, mean girls, a flirting handyman, a disabled girl
·        moral lessons about being teased and about doing the right thing
·        a twisted close-call
·       a tragic climax

A group of cruel teenage girls attending a rural New York state summer camp taunt a disabled girl, Elaine.  But one of them, Lisa, a former victim of bullying herself, empathizes with Elaine’s loneliness and pain.  As Lisa wrestles with being popular or doing the right thing, there is a hunky handyman, a gypsy fair, and a tragic turn of events.

"The Gypsy Fair"

Elaine was different from the other girls at camp. She walked with a bent-kneed limp and slurred her words in a way that made it hard to understand her. “She’s weird,” everyone said behind her back. The counselors did their best to make the campers include her in group activities. “Girls, take Elaine hiking with you,” they’d say. Or, “We’re putting Elaine on your team.” But there were always those sideways glances between the other girls when Elaine would do something strange.

Fourteen with long blonde hair and a figure beyond her years, Elaine was accustomed to being ostracized by other kids. Her parents pushed her to do things that healthy kids did, like going to summer camp. Despite her fear and loneliness, she tried to make the best of it, always eager to go along.

“Lisa is taking a group hiking up the hill, Elaine. Why don’t you go too?” a counselor said.

“Uh-kay,” Elaine said and trailed off after the group.

“Slow down, everyone, wait up,” Lisa told the girls.

Christine and Annie, cheerful twelve-year-old best friends stopped and waited for Elaine to catch up.  “Come on, Elaine,” Christine shouted.

Annie took Elaine’s hand. “You can do it, Elaine!” she encouraged.

“Ank yuh. Uh ca keep up uh-kay,” Elaine said, flashing a friendly crooked smile.

Lisa thought of the novelty of friendship with this odd girl as she stared at Elaine hobbling toward the other girls.  She felt a strange combination of the common bond of aloneness and the morbid curiosity a driver would have slowing to witness a fender-bender. Christine and Annie weren’t like some of the other campers. They weren’t brats trying to be cool, but innocent and helpful. They took Elaine’s hands and steadied her over the rocky path.

Holly Ranch rested on five hundred acres in rural upstate New York. “Aunt” Kathy and “Uncle” Jake Harrison were the good-natured elderly owners the camp. They lived in the large main house with an expansive Victorian veranda, large kitchen, dining hall, and a screened-in back porch. To the left, farther up the hill, was a long bunkhouse for the campers, and lower down the hill, the cavernous old barn which served as both recreation hall and tack room for the camp’s horses.  Beyond the barn were a swimming pool, a wooden gazebo, and a small lake. Below that were the lush green horse pasture and cornfields bisected by the gravel road. The vista sloped into a gentle valley where the road crossed a small river at an old iron bridge. The gravel road bent upward again for two hundred yards to meet the two-lane paved road to town.

Four girls, ages fifteen to sixteen years old, were invited each summer to be counselors-in-training. It was Lisa’s second year as a CIT. Stephie, Laura, and Becky were new, but the four quickly formed a tight group. When not waiting tables or taking the younger kids for hikes along the river, the girls liked to sit and talk together in a secret hiding spot inside a concrete culvert underneath the gravel road.

“Anyone have matches?” Stephie asked.

“You have cigarettes?” Becky said. “Where’d you get ‘em?”

“That guy who lives in the trailer next door. He came over to say ‘hi’ and gave me a whole pack of Cools,” Stephie answered.

“That’s Frank, the handyman here. He’s married, but he likes to watch the counselors and CITs. Last year, he gave us beer and cigarettes all the time. Did he take his shirt off?” Lisa said, reaching into the pocket of her jeans.  “I have matches. Can I have one of those?”

“God, what a pervert—and he’s married!” Laura said. “What’s wrong with that creepy girl?”

“Jeez, don’t be mean, Laura,” Stephie said, lighting her cigarette and blowing the smoke up high. “She’s some kind of retard.”

“She’s not retarded, she’s a gimp,” Becky retorted.  “Duuuh” Becky said as got up and staggered around, imitating Elaine. “Hey, give me a smoke too,” she said, grabbing one from Stephie’s hand.

“You guys are funny, but you’re mean,” said Lisa. “You really shouldn’t make fun of that girl. She can’t help being that way. You gotta watch your Karma.”

“Ooh, is my Karma showing?” Stephie said looking around behind herself, as if something was exposed. “What the hell is Karma?”

“It’s like, ‘What goes around, comes around.’ What you do, good or bad, will happen back to you. You know…‘Do unto others, what you would have them do unto you,’” Lisa explained.

“That’s like what Jesus said, right?” Laura asked.

“Yeah, sort of the same.  Rotten things you do will come back to you someday, when you least expect it, maybe not even in this lifetime, but in the next.” Lisa explained.

“In the next–what? Wow, like I’m so worried,” Becky said.

There was a long silence while the four girls enjoyed the warm late afternoon and each other’s company.  Smoke from the four cigarettes wafted gently up and out the end of the concrete culvert like a pale silk scarf.

Stephie, questioned Lisa, “Where are you from? So who do you know from home?”

Long Island, and no one,” Lisa answered. “I know about half the people here from last year, but I have don’t have any friends where I go to school. I guess I’m like a black sheep or something.”

“We’re all black sheep in a way.  I’m the troublemaker in my family,” Stephie said.

“Speak for yourself, Steph! “I’m popular.  I’m a cheerleader at our school,” Laura said. “So what is there to do around this damn place besides riding horses and pushing little kids around?”

“It’s cool here. I pretty much do what I want. After the morning horseback ride, I mostly sit on the back porch and paint all day or go walking in the river,” Lisa said. “It’s a really laid-back camp.”

“Far-out!” said Stephie. “Can we sleep in the gazebo tonight and watch that guy? He said he goes skinny-dipping in the pool at night.”

Two sets of upside-down eyes suddenly peered over the edge of the culvert at the older girls. Annie and Christine lay down on the road, hanging their heads over the edge to get a good look at what was going on underneath.

“Hey, you guys, that counselor, Carol, said she can see the smoke coming up. She knows you’re here,” Christine said.

“And she said you have to set the tables for dinner,” Annie added, “You better go.”

Three weeks into camp, most of the girls were complaining they were bored, so the counselors cooked up the idea to have a gypsy-themed fair. It was a balmy mountain day.  The smell of fresh cut hay was on the breeze. Everyone dressed up in colorful old clothes from the camp’s costume trunk and gathered out by the barn. Carol taught the campers belly dancing and other counselors ran carnival games. They hung balloons on the side of the barn, so kids could throw darts to pop them and win small prizes.

The CITs helped too. Becky and Laura taught acrobatics like somersaults and cartwheels. Stephie ran around pointing and shouting about each activity like a carnival barker. “Over here we have games of chance, and over here, exotic dancing!”

Lisa was fascinated with the occult for several years and had brought her tarot card deck from home. “I’ll be the fortune teller,” she declared.  Dressed in a ragged floor-length skirt, gold-lamé headscarf, and plastic beads from the costume trunk, Lisa set up two stools and a round wooden table covered with an old black cloth. She laid her tarot deck in the center of the table.

Just then, Elaine came lilting toward her. “Cuh you duh muh for’une, Lisuh?”

"Sure, Elaine, have a seat,” Lisa said, shuffling her cards. “Cut the cards, take half the cards and put them here, and then put the rest back on top.  Then you get to ask a yes-or-no question and the cards will answer.”

Elaine eyes lit with delight. “Wull dose bih gulls quit makin’ fun uh me?”

Lisa lifted the top card toward herself. It was an odd-numbered card indicating the negative. She lied to Elaine out of sympathy, “Yes, they’ll stop soon.” Lisa felt a pang in the middle of her chest, a palpable remembrance of her many years of being teased back home. Lisa shuffled the cards again and paused in mediation for a moment, not just for effect, but to genuinely slip into the mental state to receive premonitions, which she was accustomed to experiencing. She dealt four cards in a cross around a center card which represented Elaine. Then, eight more cards in a large square around that.

“Now as I turn the cards over one-at-a-time I’ll tell you what they mean,” Lisa said. “This card means money. You or someone in your family will be getting some money.” Elaine’s eyes widened.  Lisa turned each card one-by-one. Most of them were alright, nothing special, a trip soon, and things like that. Then there was a card featuring a picture of a stream. “You will experience something having to do with water.”

Elaine opened her crooked smile. “Eh dat guhd or bahd?”

“That depends on what’s near the card,” Lisa replied. The next card she flipped over had a black-robed figure wielding a sickle.  It was the Death Card.  It was in close proximity, in the inner cross, indicating a sudden ending or loss. Lisa felt a sudden rush of warmth spread up her neck and across her face and the hair on the nape of her neck bristled. She had never seen the Death Card come up in that position before, close with no protection cards nearby to neutralize its power. She quickly flipped over another card, hoping Elaine wouldn’t notice.  “Well, it looks like you’ll be having a nice summer here according to this.”  Lisa scraped all the cards into a pile and stood up. She mentioned nothing of the Death card to Elaine or anyone else.


“Ank yuh, uh hope so. Uh like yuh, Lisuh. Yuh nice uh me,” Elaine said, gazing sadly at her own legs. “Yuh nuh like duh uhter gulls.”

“I like you too. I think we’re kind of the same in a way,” Lisa confided. “Back home, I don’t have any friends. I’m really shy, and people do really mean things to me.

Elaine looked at Lisa’s eyes for the first time.  “Da’s hawible. Buh yuh not shy now.”

“Yeah, they don’t really know me here. Hey, what happened to you? I don’t wanna upset you by asking, but why are you like this?” Lisa asked.

“Uh wuz bawn dis way. An uh ha opawayshuns uh muh bwain.”

“But you’re alive and your parents love you.” The two girls smiled at each other. Then Lisa looked around to see if anyone noticed. All day, the reading hung in the back of her mind like rumbling storm clouds on a distant horizon.

That night, an hour after curfew for the campers, the counselors and the CITs sat in the foyer of the bunk house chatting quietly. They were busy planning activities for the next week. Outside, there was a soft flash and low rumble of distant heat lightning, giving an eerie edge to the darkness that closed in around the bunk house.

Suddenly, the door to one of the dormitories swung open and Elaine, dressed in a long white cotton nightgown stood in the shadow for a moment. “Elaine,” Carol asked, “What are you doing?” Elaine didn’t respond, but stared straight ahead. She moved, not in her usual tippy gait, but smoothly, like a silent apparition. She glided quietly through the foyer and out the bunk house door. Elaine floated down the stairs just as another lightning flash faded and the blackness outside swallowed her.

Everyone watched in disbelief. Carol and another counselor jumped up. “Elaine, are you okay?” they called, “Where are you going? Come back inside!” They hurried out after her. The others noticed a trail of clear fluid marking the path where Elaine had moved.

“Pee!” Stephie yelled, “She’s peeing!”

“Oh, my God, gross!” Becky and Laura yelled. “What a freak!”

Lisa stared at the trail of liquid, feeling embarrassed for Elaine. “You guys, shut up.”

“What are you, that weirdo’s friend now? I saw you two at the fair.” Stephie snorted.

“No, just shut up. Don’t make fun of her. It’s mean, that’s all,” Lisa said. She felt torn. Was it worth it to be friends with these girls and betray her own feelings of sympathy for anyone who was a picked-on loner like herself? Lisa secretly felt she was in that class together with Elaine.  Is it worth the price of sacrificing some Karma to be popular for the first time, she thought?

The two counselors came back inside, guiding the still sleeping Elaine between them. “She’s sleepwalking,” Carol said. “We have to help change her clothes now. This is so weird!” Everyone stared as the counselors and Elaine passed by.

 “The counselors are saying that now too,” Lisa said to herself.

Campers rose early the next morning to pale-gray ground-level fog so thick that if anyone walked twenty feet from the bunk house they disappeared in it. In the Catskill Mountains, that means as the sun rises, the fog will burn off to become a mellow sunny summer day. And that day will be followed by a velvet starlit evening.

That night, the CITs decided it was time to bring bedrolls out to the pavilion, ostensibly to enjoy the view of the stars. The four girls felt comfortable in the warm soft night air despite the wooden deck and the thin wool blankets under their backs. They gazed up at the inky blackness riddled with so many points of light it was beyond imagination. How many zeros there could be on the end of the number of stars in the universe, Lisa wondered? She remembered reading once about there being alternate worlds out there like this one, but the reverse, where everyone on Earth has a body double there. It would be a place where cruel people are nice, the sick are healthy, and loners are popular.

Just then, Laura pointed to the sky and said, “Hey, look, a shooting star!”

“It’s called a meteor, dumb ass!” Becky said.

“Shh!” Stephie hushed them, “Look there!”

The girls turned over on their bellies and lay low, with their chins on folded arms, trying not to be noticed. They watched with tingly anticipation. Off beyond the back porch of the main house, two people whispered, quietly moving about in the darkness. Then, emerging from the shadows into the starlight, a naked man and woman, ran on silent bare feet. They held hands and carried towels, dropping them as they reached the swimming pool. The woman tried to stifle a squeal as they slipped into the chilly water.

“Holy crap!” Becky said, “Look at his chest!”

“Shush, you idiot! It’s not his chest I’m looking at,” Stephie whispered as the girls knocked each others with their elbows, trying to stifle the giggles and stay unnoticed in the shadows of the pavilion.

Frank and his wife talked softly as they enjoyed a leisurely swim in the cool black water. The four girls lay silent with eyes wide as the handsome couple got out and dove back into the water. Frank got out again and stood by the pool’s edge. He raised his arms high, stretching his firm workingman’s body in the warm night air, making sure to turn toward the pavilion with a knowing glance into the darkness.

There was a creak and a bang as the bunk house screen door opened and shut. Frank quickly sat down and slipped into the water as Elaine floated down the stairs from the darkened bunk house into the grass. The couple huddled low in the water and watched as she wandered silently past like an ethereal spirit. Elaine seemed not to notice the people in the pool or the pavilion as she headed beyond them toward the lake.

“What the hell?” whispered Stephie.

Damn, sleep walking again!” Lisa muttered as Elaine disappeared into the dark. The couple resumed their whispered conversation in the water.  The girls exchanged questioning glances.  They didn’t move, but turned back to watch the bathers again.

When the sound of a splash came from the direction of the lake, Frank bolted up out of the pool. He grabbed his towel and wrapped it around his waist as he ran toward the sound. His wife got out after him, tying her towel around herself. The four girls bolted upright.

“Oh, my God, Elaine!” Lisa said out loud. Frank’s wife looked quickly toward the pavilion and gripped her towel tighter.

Out of the darkness, Frank shouted, “Vivian, quick!” His wife ran toward the lake. The four girls jumped up to run to the lake too. Vivian looked at them in astonishment, but kept running.

At the lake, Frank emerged from the water carrying Elaine. She lay limp across his arms. Her long wet hair hung, her translucent nightgown hugged her shapely body, and soggy weeds clung to her legs. “She almost drowned! I think she’s asleep,” Frank exclaimed.

Lights flicked on at the bunk house, the door opened, and three counselors stumbled down the stairs in pajamas.  They met the group coming back from the lake about mid-way, when an upstairs light came on at the main house and a silhouette appeared at the bedroom window.  Everyone froze and turned to look.

“Shit!” Frank said. The counselors grabbed Elaine from him.  They stood her upright as she awakened, sobbing.

The next morning during breakfast, everyone watched through the windows as a blue pickup truck pulled an Airstream trailer from the yard next to the dining hall out to the road.

“Frank’s leaving?” Stephie asked out loud, spinning around to the window with her serving tray held high on her hand. The plates slid toward the edge and a girl seated nearby ducked.

Carol said, “Yeah, the Harrisons fired him last night.”

“But he saved Elaine’s life!” Lisa said.  She turned toward a table. “Who wants more orange juice?” Lisa began filling each glass down the long table of hungry little girls.

“I know, but he was skinny dipping in the pool,” Carol replied. A blonde girl at the table next to her spit-laughed some orange juice when she heard that and the other girls around her shrieked and laughed at the mess.

“But why should he get fired for that?” Stephie asked as she delivered a tray of pancakes to the table like a flying saucer coming in for a landing. “He wasn’t hurting anyone, and no one uses the pool at night. So, what’s the big deal?”

“Aunt Kathy sees everything from her window.  I overheard her on the phone with Elaine’s parents this morning,” Carol whispered as she leaned toward the CITs to prevent the campers from overhearing.  “The Harrison’s are worried that they might get sued for the lake incident. Her parents are driving up to get her tomorrow.”

“Well, maybe they shouldn’t have put her in this camp in the first place,” Becky said loudly. “People like her shouldn’t be with regular people. She can’t handle it.” Becky turned toward the table she was serving. “Hey, kid, you want syrup or not, take it or leave it?”

“Oh, how do you know?” Lisa started picking up empty plates from kids who were finished eating. “It’s probably good for her to be here, and try new things, and make friends. She’s lonely. She’s afraid no one likes her.”

“You mean, she knows it,” Laura said tilting her nose up.

“Girls, that’s enough!” Carol said sharply. “Get those tables cleaned up!” She glanced at Lisa and her look softened with a bittersweet smile.

After breakfast, two counselors, Fran and Beth, decided to take Stephie and a small group of younger campers on a bike ride up to the main road and about half way to town and back. It would be a round trip of about ten miles. They went down to the shed next to the tack room to get bicycles. Stephie took the last one, and as she walked it out of the barnyard to the driveway, fiddling with the handlebars, she realized there was something wrong with it. Carol and Elaine walked up to the group as they were getting ready to depart.

“Can you take Elaine with you?” she called out to Fran.  “I don’t think she should have to sit in the bunk house all day, waiting for her parents. I don’t want her alone in there anyway.”

“We don’t have anymore bikes,” Fran replied.

Stephie impatiently volunteered, “Here, she can have this one. I’ll stay here.” She thrust the bike toward Elaine, and walked away petulantly looking back at them.

“Thanks, Stephie,” Carol said.  The girls mounted their bikes to leave. Elaine was smiling broadly as she struggled with the bike and wobbled around. Finally, she got it under control and everyone headed toward where the gravel road crossed over the river at the bridge and inclined toward the paved roadway.

Before they were out of sight, Stephie had a change of heart and ran after them shouting, "No! Wait! Stop!" But no one heard and the group continued with a curtain of dust from the gravel road closing behind them.

Later Lisa sat alone on the back porch, painting a watercolor portrait of the camp cat. She looked up to notice Uncle Jake and Aunt Kathy with agitated expressions quickly getting into the Ford Falcon and pulling out of the driveway, leaving a tornado of pebbles and dust in their wake. The couple had rarely left the camp before, especially like that.

Lazy hours passed and Lisa admired several cat paintings she spread out on the table. But an arriving commotion broke the peace.  The girls returning from the bike trip were sobbing hysterically.  Curious, Lisa rose and walked out to meet them on the lawn.

“We were coming back down the hill on the gravel,” Annie sobbed. “Elaine couldn’t control her bike.  She smashed head-first into the side of the bridge!”

Christine yelled, “She passed out, there was blood, Fran rode back to camp for help!”

“Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jake freaked. They drove her to the hospital,” Annie continued, gulping back tears.

Carol came out of the main house toward the lawn, her eyes swollen.  She hugged Christine tight in her arms as if to keep her from running. “The Harrisons just called,” Carol said stiffly. “The doctors tried to save Elaine, but they couldn’t.”

“Sh-sh-she died?!” cried Christine, the words exploding from her throat.

Lisa felt paralyzed, her body moved in slow motion. She tried to speak, but no words came out.  Lisa felt that same flush of warmth and goose bumps and the surroundings became a blur.  All she could focus her mind on was the image of the Death tarot card.  Elaine’s death wasn’t Lisa’s fault, but the way the cards had foretold this haunted her.  She felt guilty that she didn’t warn the girl—or someone—anyone. But Lisa thought people would think she was crazy.  She never spoke of the reading to anyone, not then and not for many years.  It was decades before Lisa could read the tarot again, and she never forgot the summer of the Gypsy Fair.

© 2011-12 L.W.


Samhain Spirits 


Wheel of the Year turns fields to mire.
Reapers take stock and store for rest,
‘Tween bonfires, run to protect their best,
And toss the bones upon the pyre.

Rejoice! The veil between the worlds wafts thin
Like gauze floating upon the autumn breeze.
Souls whisk away to the sky as dry leaves,
And Hellhounds bay their moonlit din.
Banshees wail and turnip lanterns’ light toss,
As young ‘guisers, door to door they go,
Hecate watches with her torch o’er
Her charges, as gate and road they cross.
Morrigan’s black crow wings stave the hexed,
While guiding her child-soldiers seeking
Demons tricking and Angels treating.
From Otherworld, they’re reborn Imbolc next.

© 2011 L.W.
*Trick-or-treating children are actually dead and their spirits are watched over by Hecate & Morrigan until they reincarnate 15 months ater.

The Witch and the
Tax Man

“You won’t believe what came in the mail today. This is incredible,” I muttered to myself and anyone who was within earshot.  I stared at the scraggly cursive written by an elderly hand.  My grandmother lives in the ‘old country’, as we refer to it—Romania.  She likes to keep me up with what’s going on back there because she believes in remembering one’s heritage.  ‘Bubbi’, as I have always called her, keeps up with a practice called the Old Ways or Witchcraft.  She is a witch.

This is the news from abroad that Bubbi regaled me with in her letter.  It’s a tale of Bubbi and her homeland.  Picture a small ramshackle stone cottage with a thatched-roof situated in a rural village of similar homes, in the midst of bleak unplanted farm fields and roads muddy from spring thaw in the Carpathian Mountains. The land of my heritage is steeped in traditions, superstitions, and practitioners of the Old WaysRomania is the land of Prince Vlad Tepes, the Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, or in fiction as Dracula. The area where Bubbi lives looks today pretty much as it did in the Middle Ages, but it is twenty-first century Romania. Along with ordinary citizens, it is a country filled with folks known as Roma. The Romani are gypsies or wanderers, many of them are witches, fortune tellers, and sorcerers.

Bubbi looks so ancient. She stands only 4-foot-8 because of her stooped back. No one in the family knows exactly how old she, but Bubbi looks as though she easily surpasses the one-hundred-year mark.  She always wears her traditional black, time-worn dress, belted at the waist. Tucked into that is a dark red tattered shawl.  On her head, she ties a traditional scarf called a babushka to cover her wiry mane of gray hair.

“May you turn to stone forevermore!” Bubbi screeched, as she stared into the bubbling cauldron.  She stirred the molten brew with a long iron ladle, and with her gnarled hand, dropped a shriveled piece of bat wing into the stinking concoction.  Amused by her thoughts, she let out a thin wheezing cackle of a laugh and said, “Who vill haf de last laugh now!”

Bubbi turned to her kitchen table and picked up the newspaper.  “How ‘bout dat,” she grumbled as she read it.  The headline read, "Trouble Brewing for Witches in Romania."  The article explained how President Traian Basescu had just signed the Romanian Parliament’s bill requiring witches, astrologists, and fortune tellers to pay income tax for the first time.  In response, it went on to state, angry Romanian witches were rumored to be casting spells on government officials so that evil would befall them.  “Und dey tink vearing purple on de qvarter days vill protect dem from us, ha!” Bubbi laughed.

A moment later, there was a hesitant tapping on the door.  “Vhat is dis, like a mouse, you’re scvatching?  Oy, my back gives such a pain dese days! Vhere is mine broom?” the old witch complained.  She reached out and grabbed her straw broom for support.  Hobbling over to the door, she nudged it open a bit.  There in the crack of daylight stood a pale, thin government tax man, wearing a smartly pressed lavender suit.  “Good day, Madam,  I’m Pietre Visescu, tax representative, from the Dambovita District Tax Office in Sinaia,” he said as he scuffled his feet, knocking some of the mud off of his previously polished shoes.  “The government is sending us out to all the local villages to explain about the new tax laws.  I believe this new law will be affecting you. May I please come in?”

Bubbi squinted her eyes at him, silently stepped aside, and waved him in.  As he passed her, he wasn’t sure if she was looking strangely at him or if it was just the light from outside bothering her.  The witch pointed to a wooden chair at a table covered in a traditional white lace cloth embroidered with red roses, the only clean thing in the hovel. The tax man sat down and placed his leather briefcase on the table.

“My office has done some calculations to estimate how much you may owe,” he said sitting stiffly upright, and feeling rather self-important.

“Tea?” The witch looked sideways at him and then spat over her left shoulder.  “Government, Ptuh!”

“Uh, sure,” said Tax Man, clearing his throat.  He fumbled some official-looking papers out of his briefcase as the witch prepared a cup of hot tea.  With her back toward him, she slipped a spoonful of the brew from the cauldron into his cup.

She plunked the old chipped cup down in front of him. “Dis is as good as I hav, Mister…. Visescu.”

Pietre began explaining about the tax. “Well, Madam, with they way the economy is these days, it’s important that every citizen must pay his or her fair share to support our country.”

“I already know from dis,” she interrupted sharlpy, shoving the newspaper folded to the article closer to him. She added sarcastically, “How much do I hav to declare for expenses ov eye of newt and mandrake root?”

Pietre laughed. “Oh, I’m Catholic, Madam, I don’t know….is that for real?”

“Yes, my son, my ways are very real. You vill soon find out how real,” she seethed under her breath.

“It’s the President imposing this, Madam, not me. I’m just doing my job and following orders. Believe me…if I had the money, I…I’d leave this godforsaken place and go to America!” he said in a feeble attempt to commiserate. Pietre gulped down the tea.

“Und so?" the witch queried, "How much vil de President be stealing from my purse?”

The tax man held one of the papers toward the witch, tapping a spot on it with his finger. “Madam, it says here the amount of tax will be nine percent of the income from your services. What are you exactly, an herbalist?”

“Vhat does it matter to you or to anyvon? Look around!  I’m just a poor old voman,” she said.

Realizing his visit was pointless, the tax man shuffled his papers back in his case. His head felt like it was beginning to spin, so he rose toward the door. As Pietre stepped over the threshold, the old witch grabbed his arm with strength that surprised him.  He thought she drew some blood when he felt her jagged fingernails piercing his flesh through his jacket sleeve.  The witch stared hard into his eyes for an uncomfortably long moment then spoke, “Hair und flesh, cloth und bone, now it’s fresh, soon it’s stone.  So mote it be!”  She let out another long wheezy cackle.

The man glanced at the witch with his eyebrow raised as he wrested his arm from her iron grip. “What the hell…?” Lurching out into the gray daylight, he staggered across the muddy yard to the road.

“You vill see, mine friend. You vill see!” she shouted after him.

A week later, the headline of Bucharest Cotidianul newspaper read, “Mysterious Stone Statues Appearing All Over Transylvania Countryside.”  “The strange thing is,” the reporter wrote, “these statues all resemble government tax men that have gone missing in the past few weeks.


©Lisa Wojcik 2011-12


Story under reconstruction....stay tuned (working on turning it into an occult/fantasy/horror novel)...
Here's a preview:


“Our house  ̶  what the hell happened to our house?” I said. Everything looked the same as before, the yard, the trees, the street, except where our house used to be, there was nothing but a smoldering mass of burnt soil. Even the plants and vines, like Trifids, were beginning to creep over and cover the area. Soon there would be no trace that our house had ever existed.

It all began one night in November of 2003. Our two boys, Dominic and Devon, were six and four years old. It was about 9 o’clock at night. Robert, the boys, and I were sitting in the family room watching a movie on television. All of a sudden, we heard a loud pop, then a crackling sound followed by a bang like a clap of lightning and thunder. The room jolted as if a truck had hit the side of the house. Before our eyes, we saw chips of white ceramic floor tile flying up into the air, spraying over the whole room. We bolted up in surprise. Our gasps and yelling made the kids cry. Before we could blink or realize what had happened, Rob screamed, “Get out! Get outside!” We each grabbed a child in our arms and ran for the front door.

Out in the front yard, beads of sweat from shock were tingling against our foreheads in the cool night air. We were stunned, thinking, “What just happened? What is this?” After some minutes ticked by which felt like eons, nothing more happened. Robert and I tried to steel our nerves and calm the kids.  Slowly we peered inside the front door to survey the damage. We surely expected to find the roof caved in, but it was not that bad. Well, sort of bad, a big deal. The whole back third of the house had slipped slightly off the foundation. The floor along the seam between the main part of the house and what was an addition the previous owners had made was fractured and about an inch lower. The tiles were shattered like glass and jagged cracks ran up the walls in the family room, the study, and the back half of the master bedroom.

We weren’t sure if anything would slip again, or if that was it. Shell-shocked, I was sure that the roof would come down and crush us all the moment we lie down to sleep and close our eyes…if we could close our eyes. Our neighbor, Hakim, was a structural engineer, so Robert went over, knocked on his door, and asked him to come over to have a look. We wanted to know if it was safe to stay inside. Hakim came in and looked around. “Gee this is really something, you guys!” It wasn’t as bad as it looked, he told us, and we could certainly stay in the house. He said in a few days he could do a full inspection and write up report on the situation that we could take to our insurance company. We felt somewhat relieved, as much as we could be after such a surprise.

It was still dark out when the rumbling started. It was a low groan at first. I sat up in bed and shoved Robert. “What’s that? Do you hear that?” The clock was flashing 2:10 a.m. “Get the boys!” he shouted. We flew out of bed, ran into the boys’ room, and dragged them out from under the covers. I was reliving a San Diego earthquake experience from long ago in my mind as I raced, child in arms, out the front door. The rumbling was getting very loud by then and the entire house was shaking.

I thought, “Oh, God, this is it. We’re going to lose everything.” It happened faster than we had time to process it all in our minds. We stood in the yard watching helplessly as the main part of the roof crumpled and fall inward. The roar was deafening.

Neighbors, including Hakim, were turning on lights and peering outside. Hakim came running, shouting, “Get back, guys! Get back everyone!”

A few minutes later, only crumbling walls and piles of dusty rubble remained. We were horrified, devastated, and numb with disbelief. We could scarcely comprehend the reality of what had just happened. Hakim nervously asked us if there was anything under the house that might have caused this. Rob said that when he bought the house, he had to replace some plumbing and drain pipes. He had a company check out the septic system, but no one was quite sure where the waste was going because the pipes to the drain field were old and collapsed. In fact, the septic tank wasn’t even connected. “Oh, great,” I said when I heard that.  “Why didn’t you ever tell me we were living on top of a giant pool of shit! Only God knows how deep it must be.”  Our house was apparently on top of a fifty-year-old sinkhole of toilet waste. For all we knew it could go all the way to Hell under there.

Robert and Hakim were huddled together reporting to the police and fire departments on their cell phones. Now, crowds of horrified neighbors, shivering in their pajamas, were gawking at the ruins of our home. In the distance, I could hear the wavering wail of sirens approaching. Before I recount what happened next, I should digress and give you the full story.  

To be continued...

© 2010-12 L.W.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be patient. Your comment will appear after Moderator approval.