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Category: Halloween

A Halloween Haunting: Carmen

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week wraps up my October Halloween story exercise. It has been a very interesting journey and I feel like I might have fleshed out a world that could have more stories to tell in it. This last week’s story I continued trying to go outside my comfort zone and wrote in third person present tense.

For the previous parts:

Enjoy the final and what might be my favorite part of this story.

  While not immediately obvious to the casual observer, the man in the black suit is not human.  He has gone by many names over his long lifetime, but the one he currently finds the most appealing is Carmen.  That is what Elizabeth calls him and hearing it from her lips moves him in a way he has not felt in over a millennium.  Thoughts of her always distract him from his duty, but some part of him welcomes the distraction.  So few mortals ever see him.  Those that do never smile like she does.  If they have any idea what he is they generally just run.

  He stands before a horrific car wreck.  The rain pours down but his suit remains dry and untouched.  One of the cars sits on its roof.  The occupant has crawled out but is oblivious to his presence. That is not who he is here for.  The other car sits in the ditch with a woman behind the driver’s seat.  He knows everything there is to know about this woman most importantly the potential for her soul to wander instead of going off with his minions.  He waves his crows away.  This woman is not for them.  She is his purpose for being out in this storm.

  The time has come, but he feels the pull.  Elizabeth is calling him.  It is not a simple request.  That woman has found an ancient rite and when she calls it is a demand for his presence.  That aspect of her annoys him.  A being like him should not be at anyone’s beckon call.  Still, it is Elizabeth and even if he did not feel the need to go he always wants to see her.  This woman in the car, Lisa, can wait.  The night swallows him and the two humans are alone on this stormy night sealing their fates.

  Elizabeth is sitting on her couch when Carmen fades out of the shadows into existence.  He can tell she has a worried expression on her face, but as usual he hides his own emotions.  “This had better be important Elizabeth.  You have called me away from my duty.”  He tries to keep the softness out of his voice.  She must be taught that casual summoning will not be tolerated.  Too much is at stake if he does not perform his duties. 

  “It is.  You might want to sit down for this.”  She pats a spot on the couch next to her.  In his mind he weighs his options.  Standing projects an image of power and would help cement the idea that he should not be trifled with.  However, the look on her face is one of fear already.  His heart screams for him to go to her and provide comfort.  In the end he wants to be closer to her and so he moves and sits down next to her.  He can smell the shampoo she uses, feel the warmth of her body heat, and hear the beating of her heart.  His senses are always good, but around here they feel more alive.  Then his eyes see a thin plastic item in her hand about the size of a pencil.  “I’m pregnant.”

  Dark thoughts race through his head.  Who is this mortal that she has been with when she should belong to him?  Him mind goes through hundreds of ways to torture this person in the blink of an eye.  It is easier to focus on the rage than it is to admit the pain that grows in his chest.  This is why he should not allow himself to get attached.  He has too much power to be compromised.  Just when the rage feels like it cannot be held back any further, he feels her hand on his and it subsides.  She always has a calming effect on him. 

  “I know that look.  I haven’t been with anyone else so you just get that thought out of your head.”  She looked him directly in the eyes and he knows that she is not lying.  It is not just that he trusts her completely, but no moral can lie to him while he is gazing at their soul.  He is going to be a father again.  This reality is not ready for the power his offspring could wield without any of the inherent responsibility of his station.  He glances through time and sees the horrors that his son would bring upon the world and shutters.  A son.  He is going to have a son, but his job will keep him away.  He cannot be a true father.  

  Carmen touches her stomach, and a darkness covers his hand.  “What are you doing?”  There is panic in her voice, and she pulls back from him.  She does not trust him, and that knowledge brings him pain.

  “Any child of mine has the potential for great power.  This would bring him pain and deny him a normal life.  I am granting you and him a gift.  His powers will be sealed, and he will never know of what he could have been.”

  “He?  It’s a boy?”

  “Yes.  There is more.  I am truly sorry, but I cannot be a true parent for this child.  Being around me will weaken the seal.  Though I love you and I will love him I can never know my son.  You must raise Benjamin on your own.”

  “Now you are naming him too?”  He could hear the anger in her voice and see the outrage on her face. 

  “No, that is the name you will choose.  After your father I believe.  Though now you will always wonder if you would have chosen it if I had not said anything.”

  After a long night’s conversation and one last night of sleeping with her in his arms Carmen leaves.  The years pass by like minutes for him.  He has seen her only a few more times.  Then the familiar pull comes again.  He finds himself standing in a little girl’s bedroom.  Elizabeth is there and though she has aged to him she looks just as beautiful.  He had ordered his minions to let her remain after her passing.  His eyes meet a little girl for the first time.  He sees himself in her.  Not just the eyes, but she has a much-diluted form of his power.  She can see both him and her Elizabeth.  “You call and I am here to answer.”  He looked down and smiled at his granddaughter.  “Why hello there little miss I don’t believe we have met.”

  “I’m Cathy.  Who are you?”

  “Oh, I’m just a friend of your grandmother’s and now I suppose I’m a friend of yours.  So, what can I do for my new friend?”

  “The Scary Woman is here, and she needs to stop coming here.”

     He turned to look towards the living room.  He could feel a soul he had forgotten about.  Lisa had been wandering for far too long.  “Ah I see.  She just ran off into the night.  Don’t worry though I’ll take care of her.”  He looked to Elizabeth.  Since their parting she had been tasked with finding these types of wandering souls for him.  It was not a job that she was particularly good at, but an excuse to see her though he would never admit it.  Cathy with her gifts would be far better at it, but she was still too young.  “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you Elizabeth my dear.  She’s almost ready to take your place and when that day comes, I’ll be back for you.”  Carmen turned and went off into the night to finally complete the job he started thirty-five years ago.  A soul needed to be escorted to the afterlife.               

A Halloween Haunting: Sam

Fiction Fragment Friday

After writing the first part of this month’s story I thought this perspective would be the easiest. It was the most obvious perspective to give and I expected it to be the most straight forward. I had an idea in my head for how it was going to go as I wrote Lisa’s part. Then I actually sat down to write it.

In my original concept Sam was much more of a bad guy being punished for his actions. When I started writing though it just didn’t feel right. Instead he has become more sympathetic and the idea of a clear good and evil dynamic has really faded as I have expanded on the story. Instead to feel more Halloween appropriate a story where everyone involved is struggling seemed to fit better.

As much thought as I put into this weeks story, I have to admit it is my least favorite of the batch. I think all the other parts have been better with Cathy’s being my favorite. I suspect I will someday rewrite this one. The story beats and action are all fine, but the writing itself just feels off to me in tone. Maybe I should have gone with third person instead of first, or maybe I just wasn’t in the right headspace.

So I hope you enjoy part 4 of A Halloween Haunting. There is only one more part to go. I will include links to all the parts in the finale next friday.

  Once again, I woke up drenched in sweat and screaming.  The same nightmare has haunted my dreams on and off for the last thirty-five years.  The worst part is that it isn’t just a dream, it is a memory.  A twisted version of something that had actually happened.  No amount of therapy can make it go away because sometimes on stormy nights my nightmare come for me while I’m awake.  As I climbed out of bed and headed to the shower, I could only hope for clear skies tonight.

  I got to work at six pm that night.  It was a little early for me, but there was no way I could have gotten back to sleep.  Working night shift at a gas station is not the most entertaining job, but at least early in the shift it is busy.  More people coming through means I can keep myself distracted and not let my mind wander.  I knew that wouldn’t last for long though and as the night went on my mind would return to fixating on my nightmare.  As the rain started to come down my anxiety started to rise up.

  My mind returned to the rainy night in 1986 when my life changed forever.  It was dark and one of my headlights was out.  The rain was coming down so hard I was struggling to make out the road.  I should have been more nervous, but I was a stupid teenager.  I was quarterback, had multiple offers for scholarships, and knew that I would be getting out of this small mining town.  It felt like nothing really bad could ever happen to me.  My favorite song had just come on the radio, but I could barely hear it over the sound of the storm and wipers.  That was when I rounded the corner and saw the headlights right in front of me. 

  **Ding Ding** The bell went off signaling that someone had come into the station.  I shook my head trying to bring myself back into the present.  My eyes turned to the front door and found my nightmare standing there.  Lisa Matthews the girl I had crushed on all through my first three years of high school was standing in my store looking just like she did in 1986.  She wore a letterman’s jacket wrapped tightly around herself and was drenched from the rain.  Her head was cut open and the blood mixed with the water dripping onto the floor.  Her clothes were torn exposing her pale skin underneath.  It wasn’t smooth though, there were bleeding cuts, and I could see a bone sticking out of her leg.  She walked forward with a limp but didn’t seem to show any pain on her face.

  “Oh no, not again,” I gasped and fell backwards from the counter.  This was not the first time I had seen her.  It didn’t seem to matter where I was if it was storming out at night, and I was alone she always found me.  My psychiatrist had told me that it was a hallucination fueled by my PTSD and survivor’s guilt.  I was supposed to face it down.  “Please just leave me alone.”

  She looked at me and I couldn’t see any sense of recognition.  Why would she know me though, she wasn’t real. She stepped forward reaching one hand out.  Her voice sounded as sweet as I remembered.  “What’s wrong with you?”

  “No, you aren’t real.  You aren’t real.” Panic overtook me and I ran from behind the counter and into the back room slamming the door behind me. There was no lock on the door, so I started pulling boxes in front of it.  “She’s not real. She’s not real.” I said, but I just couldn’t make myself believe it.  I sat on the floor rocking back and forth.  Usually, she just shows up and then goes away after a minute or two.  I told myself that I just needed to wait it out.  Then she started pounding on the stock room door. 

  “Please help me,” she screamed from the other side of the door.  She said it a few times getting softer each time.

  I was back in my car in 1986.  The other driver and I had both swerved, but it wasn’t enough, and we hit hard.  I still don’t know which one of us was on the wrong side of the road.  Her car went into a ditch and mine went flipping over.  I sat there held in by my seatbelt with my car on its roof.  Water poured in the broken windows, and I hurt everywhere.  Crawling out of the car I managed to stand, but I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg.  I would later learn that my knee had been shattered.  I braced myself against the car and then heard it. 

  “Please help me.”  It was a scream mixed with a sob and it was coming from the other car.  I looked over into the ditch and met eyes with Lisa.  Her face was covered with blood, and she was panicking. 

  “Just relax.  Try not to move.  It’s going to be ok.”  I believed my words until I noticed the flames coming from under the hood of her car.  Even with the rain the fire spread quickly.  I tried to move, but as soon as I let go of my own car I fell to the ground in pain.  It hurt so much, and I could feel the heat from the flames.  In my mind I tell myself to crawl.  To move and just try to do something.  That wasn’t how it happened though.  I lay there in the rain and watched the car burn.  She asked for my help, and I didn’t do anything.

  I sat in the stock room crying like I had done that night.  For me that was the beginning of the end.  My injuries ended my football career, but even if they hadn’t the depression and anxiety would have.  I barely made it to graduation and never went to any kind of college.  I couldn’t be relied on and that is how I found myself 52 years old working nights at a gas station in the town I always thought I would escape.  More accurately hiding in the stock room of that gas station being haunted by memories of a person I watched die. 

     The pounding had stopped so I forced myself back out into the station.  I was alone again.  Grabbing the mop, I started cleaning up the wet floor.  The blood was gone, but the water was still there and at least one newspaper had gotten soaked.  I didn’t ask myself where the water had come from if she wasn’t real.  Questions like that never have answers I’m willing to live with.  As I cleaned up that night something felt different.  It would be a while before I realized that I had stopped having the nightmares.  I never saw Lisa while I was awake again.   

A Halloween Haunting: Cathy

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week is the third part of my Halloween exercise. What made this story different to write is that I don’t think I’ve ever written from the perspective of a small child before. I kept looking at the words I was using and trying to scale them back. On the other hand I wanted her inner dialog to show that she is more intelligent and aware than her vocabulary lets her express. I’m not sure if I succeeded on that point.

I have been thoroughly enjoying this process and looking forward to sharing the final two perspectives. I had a basic idea in mind when I started, but the story has continued to deepen and grow as it moves along. There are so many angles to the events that no single perspective would have provided and if I’m being honest I would not have thought of if I were not exploring the other perspectives.

  It was a scary night.  The rain poured down outside, and the thunder was so loud the windows kept rattling.  Even our big fluffy dog Jack knew that it was dangerous, so he was hiding under the couch and whining.  Sometimes I think Jack is smarter than daddy.  Instead of hiding like we should have daddy picked me up and tried to calm me down.  Being in his arms did make me feel a little better, but he just didn’t understand.  I had to try to get him to.  “But the Scary Woman comes when it storms.” 

  “We’ve talked about this baby.  The Scary Woman isn’t real.”  Daddy always says that.  He has never seen her.  If he had he would know.

  “But Daddy I’ve seen her.” I try again. I just want to get through to him.  He thinks I made up the Scary Woman with my imagination.  I didn’t though.  I have really seen her.  I see lots of scary people, but she is different.  She keeps coming back.  Always during bad storms.  The other scary people are just out there in the world, but the Scary Woman comes to my house.  I am shaking because of how scared I am.  I know she is coming, but it feels different this time.

  “There, there child.  It’d going to be ok.”  My grandma puts her hand on my shoulder, and I stop shaking.  She can do that.  She makes me all calm even when I’m super scared.  Daddy never sees her or talks to her though.  I keep telling him that he’s being really rude, but all he ever says it that grandma is dead, and I shouldn’t talk about her.  I don’t know what the word dead means, but I’m not going to stop talking about grandma.  I love her and I won’t ignore her like he does.  I look at her and she is smiling.   

  I look back at daddy and stare into his eyes.  I am completely calm now, but I can feel her.  I can’t really explain it, but I just know so I tell him.  “She’s here.”  My voice always sounds weird when grandma is touching me.  I can’t really explain it, but daddy gives me weird looks when I talk.  The Scary Woman is outside our front door though and daddy needed to know that.  He is braver than me so maybe he won’t be scared.  He is going to see her tonight I just know it.  He sets me back down on the floor just in time for a loud banging sound on the front door.  It is her and he is staring at the door.

  “Come on Cathy lets go to your room.  We have some work to do.”  Grandma takes my hand, and we walk to my bedroom.  When she lets go of my hand the fear comes rushing back so I jump on my bed and under the covers for protection.  I know they won’t really protect me.  I can feel the Scary Woman out there still just like I can feel grandma standing over me. 

  “The Scary Woman needs to go away,” I say.

  “Yes she does Cathy dear.  I think she has bothered you long enough.  It’s time I taught you how to call my friend.”

  “Your friend?”

  “Oh yes dear.  When the scary people keep coming it means that they are lost.  If you call him, he will come and get them.”

  “Why don’t you call him?”  I didn’t want to talk to some stranger and daddy says I can’t use the phone unless he is there.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.

  “It has to be you dear.”  She takes my hands and I feel calm again.  She is under the blanket with me, but I don’t remember her crawling in and the blanket isn’t big enough for both of us.  It is covering us both anyway though.  Grandma always tells me not to worry about things like that and with her holding my hands I don’t.  She puts my hands together with my two pointer fingers touching and my two thumbs touching.  They make kind of a diamond shape.  Then she asks me to say some words.  I don’t know what the words are or what they mean.  They sound like gibberish, but I say them.  I can feel this strange sensation running all over me, but grandma is holding my hands so I am calm and still. 

  “You call and I am here to answer.”  The voice came from a man wearing a black suit.  He looked at me for a moment and then smiled.  “Why hello there little miss I don’t believe we have met.”

  “I’m Cathy.  Who are you?”

  “Oh, I’m just a friend of your grandmother’s and now I suppose I’m a friend of yours.  So, what can I do for my new friend?”

  “The Scary Woman is here, and she needs to stop coming here.”

  He turned to look towards the living room.  “Ah I see.  She just ran off into the night.  Don’t worry though I’ll take care of her.”  He looked over at my grandma.  “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you Elizabeth my dear.  She’s almost ready to take your place and when that day comes, I’ll be back for you.”  Then he did some weird heel tapping thing and turned to walk away.  I couldn’t see him anymore through the blanket, but I knew he was gone.

  Daddy came back in the room.  I could hear his footsteps on the floor.  I could never feel him like grandma, the Scary Woman, or my new friend.  “It’s ok now.  The woman at the door is gone.”

  Grandma was still holding my hand, so I was completely calm.  “I know,” I told him.  I did know.  I could feel when she ran away even if my new friend hadn’t told me.  I turned my head to look up at him.  “It’s going to be ok now.  He’s coming to get her.  I called for him.”  I was proud of myself for learning how to take care of problems like the Scary Woman, but my voice sounded all weird again. 

     Grandma let go of my hand and all these emotions rushed back into me.  I was suddenly so tired and just wanted to sleep.  I lay down in my bed ready to fall asleep, but when I blinked my eyes daddy was still standing over me looking really worried.  I was surprised to see him still there but didn’t want him to worry.  “Hi daddy.  I’m not scared anymore.  I am tired though.  Goodnight.”  I rolled over and fell right to sleep knowing the Scary Woman would never bother me again.

A Halloween Haunting: Benjamin

Fiction Fragment Friday

This is part two of my October writing exercise to tell the same story from different perspectives. I now also with this weeks story know what my fifth perspective will be. I know what the last story will be, but I’m not sure which of the two possible perspectives to use for next week and which to save for the week after. Hope you enjoy.

  “Daddy I’m scared.”  The windows rattled under the force of the thunder outside and Benjamin could hear the sound of his dog whining from under the couch.  He picked up his youngest daughter and held her close making eye contact.

  “Cathy baby there’s nothing to be afraid of.  We live in a big house, and it would take a storm five times bigger before we would need to worry.”

  “But the Scary Woman comes when it storms.”

  The Scary Woman.  Benjamin thought that his daughter had outgrown the Scary Woman.  Almost as soon as she could talk, she started telling stories and drawing pictures of an imaginary boogieman she called The Scary Woman.  He had no idea what inspired her, but it gave Cathy nightmares for years.  He hadn’t heard her talk about the Scary Woman in months.  This felt like a huge setback to him.

  “We’ve talked about this baby.  The Scary Woman isn’t real.”

  “But Daddy I’ve seen her.”

  Before Benjamin could reply a particularly loud thunder struck and the power went out with it.  It was only for a few moments, but the house went completely dark, and Cathy screamed in terror.  He held his daughter tight as she shook.  These were the moments that made him feel most helpless.  Even though he had plenty of experience doing so he just never felt like he knew how to comfort her.  She seemed to always be afraid of something.

  Benjamin met his daughter’s eyes and found the fear gone.  Her face was blank with no expression at all.  When she spoke, her voice came out monotone lacking all emotion.  “She’s here.”  He set his daughter down not wanting to admit how much this had disturbed him.  At that moment there was a loud bank on the door like something had hit it.  Cathy went from blank faced to scared instantly and ran from the living room, down the hall, and slammed the door to her bedroom behind her.  There was another sound at the door and Benjamin went to see what it was.

  As he opened the door a young woman almost fell into the house.  She grabbed wildly at the door frame to steady herself and just barely managed to not fall.  He looked down into her face.  This woman had showed up when his daughter was most afraid and made things worse.  He was angry, but as he looked her up and down, he could see that the woman was drenched and looked exhausted.  “Can I help you?” he asked feeling bad for the girl.  Her head and the front of her clothes were covered in blood like she had been in some sort of accident.  This could be my little girl someday he thought.  If it is I would want someone to help her.

  “Who are you and why are you in my house?”  She sounded angry and he was a little put off by her claim that it was her house.

  “Lady I don’t know who you are, but this is my house.  I’ve lived here for over five years.”  He watched as she looked past him into the house.  He could tell she was taking in the family pictures on the wall and for a moment he worried that she was casing the house to come back and rob it. 

  She looked down at the keys in her hand.  “What’s going on here?”  Her head turned to look over the neighborhood.  She was confused, but the look on her face was unmistakable to him.  It was the same look his ex-wife wore after Cathy had been born.  She was overwhelmed and didn’t think she could deal with it.  She was going to run just like Keri had.  He reached out to stop her, but she was already moving. 

  “Hey, come back, I can help you.” Benjamin yelled after here, but he was pretty sure she hadn’t heard him.  She was moving fast and before he knew it, she was gone.  He rubbed his eyes trying to focus.  It wasn’t like she had just ran, but like after she left the yard she just vanished.  He closed the door and turned back to his living room.  He could see in the corner that Cathy had drawn another picture at some point.  He couldn’t remember seeing her coloring.  Looking down at it even though it wasn’t very details he knew what she had drawn.  It was the woman from the front door.  The clothes were the same color, but more importantly the blood was in all the right spots.  He stood there as minutes passed trying to put it all together. 

  Benjamin knocked on Cathy’s door.  “Honey it’s dad.  Can I come in?”  There was no sound from inside, but the door creaked open.  He stepped in to find Cathy on her bed under the covers.  She was not shaking anymore though; she was sitting up not moving.  He closed the door behind him and wondered for a moment how she could have opened it and gotten back to her bed so quickly.  “It’s ok now.  The woman at the door is gone.”

  “I know.”  The voice was monotone again and sent a shiver up Benjamin’s spine.  He pulled the blanked back and found his daughter sitting very still.  She turned to him with the blank expression on her face.  Her eyes looked like they had rolled back into her head because they were all white with no color.  “It’s going to be ok now.  He’s coming to get her.  I called for him.”  The voice was clear and sounded too mature for his little girl. 

     Her eyes returned to normal, and she laid back down on the bed.  “Hi daddy.  I’m not scared anymore.  I am tired though.  Goodnight.”  He voice was back to normal and there was a cheeriness to it.

A Halloween Haunting: Lisa

Fiction Fragment Friday

I decided to do something new for October. This month every Fiction Fragment Friday is part of the same story, but told from a different character’s point of view. There are five Friday’s in this October so there will be five stories. There are only four characters in the story this week so that is going to present an extra challenge. I have some ideas, but we will see where it goes.

  I pulled the jacket tightly around myself, but it couldn’t stop the wind from ripping right through me.  The rain was coming down so hard it actually stung as it hit my face.  My heavy coat with a hood would have been so much more effective, but I liked the wind breaker better and I never imagined I would be stuck out in a storm.  It was one of many mistakes that night that had led to this miserable situation.  My car sat in a ditch about a mile behind me, but I was almost home.  My eyes stung from the water, but I could see my house at the end of the block.  Thoughts of dry clothes and a warm blanket filled me with hope.  I could deal with the car in the morning.

  I put my key into the front door and tried to turn it, but the lock wouldn’t budge.  I let out a scream of frustration and slammed my fists into the door.  I slumped my head against the door in frustration not sure what to do next so when the door opened, I stumbled and had to grab the frame to keep from falling.  As it was, I found myself staring up into a stranger’s face.  “Can I help you?”

  “Who are you and why are you in my house?”  I watched as his facial expression ran through a gambit of emotions.  At first, he looked annoyed, then as he took in the miserable state I must have presented he became concerned, when I spoke he was confused, but the circle finally completed and came back to annoyed.

  “Lady I don’t know who you are, but this is my house.  I’ve lived here for over five years.”

  As my eyes focused, I could see the living room behind him.  All of the furniture was different.  The walls were lined with pictures of a happy family, and I could the children age between photographs.  The TV was on, but I had never seen one like it.  It was thin and mounted on the wall.  There wasn’t even an antenna coming out of the top of it.  I stepped back into the rain to take in the house.  It was my house, but there was a strange family living in it.  I looked down at my key that hadn’t worked in the door.   “What’s going on here?”  I asked.  It just didn’t make any sense.  I looked to the driveway and didn’t recognize the cars parked in it.  They certainly didn’t look anything like my Cavalier.  Having no idea what to do next I turned an ran back into the storm.

  There was a gas station a few blocks over and I felt like I needed to get out of the storm so I could at least think.  Looking around I couldn’t find any pay phones outside.  I found that extremely odd, but I didn’t have change on me anyway.  I started thinking about who I would call collect for help if I could find one.  Maybe I could get the clerk to let me borrow the station’s phone.  I pulled open the door to the station and stepped inside dripping water all over the floor.  I looked over at the counter and locked eyes with a clerk who looked to be in his fifties.

  “Oh no, not again.”  He looked terrified and was backing away from me.  “Please just leave me alone.”

  “What’s wrong with you?”

  “No, you aren’t real.  You aren’t real.”  He ran out from behind the counter and disappeared into the backroom.

  I was so tired.  It was getting hard to keep moving so I sat down on the gas station floor.  I grabbed a newspaper from by the door not caring that I was going to destroy it with my wet hands.  I looked at the date, but it didn’t make sense.  October 2021.  I did the math in my head and wondered how the paper could be off by 35 years.  Blood dripped from my head onto the paper, and I dropped it in a panic.  I looked down and my clothes were torn and shredded.  When had that happened? 

  I couldn’t stand so I crawled to the stock room door and started banging my fists on it.  “Please help me,” I screamed.

     There was a voice behind me.  “I think thirty-five years is long enough.”  It hurt to turn my head to face the new voice.  It was a man dressed in a black suit.  He was holding his hand out to me.  I reached out and as our hands met the pain faded.  I looked down and my clothes were whole again.  “Come now, it’s time to go.”  Together we walked out the front door of the gas station and the world faded away. 

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