I’m doing a call for beta readers today and posted the general blurbs in a list here. I didn’t have excerpts for all of them so the four that need excerpts are being posted today so people can read those and decide if they want to try the short story.
“Why do you think you’re being haunted?” I asked.
“I don’t think I am. I know I am,” Mandy said.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I was the adult here after all. “Okay?”
She nodded again. “It started maybe a week ago. I’m not sure because it was so gradual. You know when something feels off and you just shake it off? Like you had a bad dream or the place is too cold so you’re on edge and shivery?”
I waved a hand and nodded. Come on, kid. I’ve got real work to do here… well, kind of.
I blinked and realized she was talking.
“…so I just shook it off. You know?”
Apparently I hadn’t missed anything important.
“Yeah,” I said.
“But the cold kept getting worse and my roommate couldn’t feel it and then my laptop disappeared.”
“Someone stole it?”
“No. I put it in my backpack and put on my backpack. I took it off at home and the laptop was gone. I would’ve noticed someone unzipping it. I wasn’t holding still long enough for anyone to anyway.”
“But you didn’t notice the change in weight?”
“Well, I mean, I ride a bike and put it in the basket. It’s heavy. You know?”
“Okay. What else?”
“Two nights ago, I heard something in the bathroom. It was sort of a thump?”
I wanted to say, “Asking or telling, kid?” I kept my mouth closed. See, sometimes I have tact.
“I got out of bed and went in there and the faucet was on. I went to turn it off, and it was pouring blood.”
I sat up straighter. Okay, that was definitely a sign of a ghost. And one that was pissed off and powerful. That either meant poltergeist or a dead witch. Either way, she could be in serious trouble.
“And then I turned on the light and the blood was gone,” she said.
Or she could be a blond with an overactive imagination and a TA who was all too ready to fall over himself to help her. I was so going to get Chet back for this.
“I tried telling myself it wasn’t real. It was my imagination. I’m just freaking out from the noises in the dorms. They take a while to adjust to. But my laptop popped up this morning. I pulled it up and the screen saver was a picture of my family, with my eyes crossed out.”
I shivered, sitting back. “Okay, that’s creepy. Do you have the laptop?”
“No. I screamed and ran to the common room to get my roommates. When I got back, the laptop was gone again.”
“I know the professors probably already asked you this, but are you sure you’re not seeing things? It’s October, Halloween stuff is going up, there’s horror movies in the theaters and on TV. And you don’t have any proof apparently. Nothing has stuck. If it was a ghost, wouldn’t he leave stuff around for you to show others so you’d get really worked up?”
“Do ghosts like it when people know about them?”
“A ghost pissed and powerful enough to mess with things on our plane wants chaos. Fear. They can’t move on for whatever reason, so they start to lose it, and they want others to as well.”
“Then wouldn’t he keep making only me see things so I’d think I was going crazy? If there was proof, I’d know I wasn’t.”
I shrugged one shoulder. “True, but ghosts aren’t coherent. They aren’t sentient the way we think of it. They’re an echo. A memory. They just react… like animals.” I leaned my elbows on the desk and pressed my fingers together in front of me. “Though, if it’s not a ghost, but a trapped spirit, it’d still be coherent. That requires some serious power… and the proper rituals before death though.”
“You do know about this stuff,” she breathed, grinning. “I knew it!”
“Do I need to say what I’ll do to you if this gets out?”
“Whatever you’re already going to do to poor Chet?”
“Yep… only he’s getting the dull hedge clippers because he’s older and owed me keeping my secret.”
“I’ll owe you forever if you can make this thing go away.”
I pointed at her. “Never say that. I mean it. To anyone, but especially anyone…” I bit my tongue.
“Were you going to say magical? Anyone magical?”
“What else has happened, if anything?”
She told me of the bad feeling building up, swearing she was being watched when she was alone, someone peeking into the window when she was at her boyfriend’s place, the cold spots. “And…” She finally paused for breath. “I’ve been hearing things from other people after I talked to the professors today. I’ve walked past someone and a voice has hissed at me. It’s happened a few times and it’s only been like two hours.”
“What does the voice say?”
“It says…” She looked down and when she met my eyes, hers were filled with pure terror. “It says if I want to play it that way and tell everyone, I won’t live through the night.”