Spending Halloween with a writer
“Book of the Damned”
by members of Authors’ Tale
Halloween is coming, and writers continue to write. The theme is always horror or the season in its entirety. This year, members of Authors’ Tale came together to write a short story with a photo theme. The writers are limited to submitting three sentences, once every ten minutes or until another writer submits after them.
I will gladly share the story with you tonight, and I’ll provide the photo they used at the end of the story. Meet your writers (some writers have links to their FB page or other work. Click on the individual name to learn more):
Briana Ashford, Terra Beilman, Cayce Berryman, Crystal M M Burton, Cecelia Marriott Chittenden, Richard Happerger, M. W. King, Alexis Marrero, Ann Martin, Vanessa Sheldon, Tyronica Smith, and Virginia Carraway Stark
ENJOY THE STORY!
The rain beat against the glass, drowning Carrie’s hopes for the night. Normally, she met some friends for a scary story every Halloween.
“Not this year,” she complained aloud.
She stared out the window at the full moon that illuminated the empty street in front of her house.
“This would have been such a perfect year for it, too.” She sighed and turned her back to the window.
She drowned in her thoughts of a ruined night. The tapping on her window turned into scratching. All the hair on the back of her neck stood on end.
A streak of lightning lit up the room and decorated the walls with strange shadows. She slowly turned her head to look back at the window, jumping as the crack of thunder boomed through the noise of the rain.
The prophecy has come true, she thought.
Why did Jamie bring that book last year? The Book of the Damned should have remained buried along with all the other wretched souls. Now, we are damned, hunted by those who seek the crimson life flowing within us.
The words of the book that Jamie had uttered were forever emblazoned on her mind.
Without realizing it, her lips moved, “Ablatomus, skeletus endorma…”
It was like fire leaving her lips. Why had he ever read those words aloud?
“Boo!” yelled, Jamie, breaking the stillness of fear.
Carrie turned to hit him but stopped short when he bolted toward the stairs. Jamie vanished, though she could still here his wicked giggle. The whole world became hazy.
Nervous, she tore her room apart looking for that worn piece of paper that had been folded inside the Book of the Damned.
“Where is it?” she mumbled under her breath.
“Looking for this?” a voice said behind her.
She turned to see Samantha standing in the closet door, waving the paper.
“Where did you come from?” Carrie asked, her eyebrows pulled down in confusion.
“What, you think I just magically appeared in your closet?” She laughed and stepped out from the narrow threshold and into the room, sinking onto the edge of Carrie’s bed. “You couldn’t stop thinking about the book either, huh?”
Carrie sank back and sat on the floor, leaning against the wall beside her bed. She ran her fingers through her golden hair, pulling it off her face.
“It’s a little scary, Sam,” Carrie said after exhaling loudly.
“You always were a scaredy-cat, even when you were little.” Sam giggled as Carrie felt herself visibly deflate. “Anyway, what did Jamie say to you about the Book of the Damned? He said the legend about bringing the dead back to life was all hocum.”
“Maybe he’s wrong. I mean these things must have really happened or someone wouldn’t have written that book. And I’m not a scaredy-cat, I’m being serious.” Carrie crossed her arms across her chest as her lips pulled down into a grimace. “I don’t appreciate you mocking me.”
Sam smiled and she rolled her eyes at her cousin. Carrie knew there was something about those words that had more power than Sam would admit.
“Surely, if that book was a farce you wouldn’t be here. You are among the recently deceased. May I have that paper back now, Sam?” Carrie always looked forward to Sam’s visit from the dead, even if she was irritating. Losing her had destroyed the entire family, and one day she hoped to mend what was broken.
Sam reluctantly placed the folded yellow parchment in Carrie’s outstretched hand. “I’m here because it’s Halloween, that’s all. I don’t have to be alive to know that you can’t actually bring the dead back to life.”
“Well then, since you’re the apparent expert on this stuff, what does it do?” Carrie asked with much more attitude than she intended. “You can’t say it doesn’t do anything.”
“The book contains the spell that permits its reader to bring the dead back to life. That was why you wanted it; Jamie was right to try to keep it hidden from you,” Sam said in a menacing growl, backing up towards the window. Carrie recognized her retaliation – her intent of escaping the situation that was now becoming dangerous.
“Don’t just tell me what you think I want to hear, Samantha.” Carrie stood up and brushed the dust off her pants. “You always babied me, even when you were alive. Just tell me the truth.”
“Fine,” Samantha said as she sighed loudly. “Let’s find out together.” She ripped the paper from Carrie’s hand and unfolded it.
The rain had stopped, letting the moon’s suddenly intense light fill the darkened room.
“Locumism, robortious, pollumium,” they read together, and both Carrie and Samantha waited.
The sound began quietly, no more than a whisper in the luminous moonlight.
Carrie peeked out of one eye. “That’s it?”
“No…You just asked to light the way for the dead…I hope you’re ready, Samantha said. “Now, you have to read the actual spell alone. Only one person can read it.”
“Okay,” Carrie said slowly, frowning at the nervous tone in her voice. “Ablotamus, skeletus, endorma.”
They stood there in silence; not even the crickets were chirping their nightly melody. The room was thick with anticipation. The moonlight flickered, and a scratching began faintly echoing from just outside the window. Both felt the subtle ripples of air flow over them. The gentle moaning of human voices drifted into the room. Outside, a dog howled.
Carrie doubled over as an acute sharp pain radiated from her stomach. She could barely breathe through the pain. Trying to call for help, but unable to, she let out a groan. Her voice changed into a deep rasp that scared her. With her head between her knees, she felt her bones shift beneath her skin, as if her skeleton had just moved all on its own. She howled at the pain now flaring from her entire body.
“I’m sorry,” Samantha said, a tear tracing down her cheek. “I made a deal with the wrong person. I had to get you to speak the words.”
“You summoned me?” Samantha’s voice had altered, becoming deep and menacing.
Carrie watched, horrified, as Sam’s physical being changed before her eyes.
The lines in Samantha’s face began to sharpen, then took on the shape of the skull that once remained hidden behind the youth and beauty of a 19-year-old girl. All that remained was paper-thin grey skin barely covering the bones. Carrie’s mouth opened wide to let out a scream, but all she could get past her quivering lips was deathly silence.
Samantha, or rather the macabre collection of bones, turned a toothless grin on her before crumbling into a pile of ash. Carrie fell to her knees beside the ash and moaned softly.
“Sam,” she wailed. What had happened to Sam?
What was happening to Carrie was nothing short of horrific. She felt her own skeleton move beneath her skin in a jarring motion, tossing her backward and involuntarily moving her head towards the window. There she saw the top of a weathered skull gleaming in the moonlight.
Writhing and contorting in agony, Carrie squeezed her eyes shut, willing the night to swallow her whole or be gone as a horrifying nightmare. A tapping came to the window, but she dared not open her eyes. The slow, terrifying sound of cracking glass was followed by the chime of shards on the cold, wooden floor. Her eyes flew open, meeting the hollow sockets of the skull that was now inches from her own.
A glassy pearl rolled off her cheek, descending into the dusty pile that had been her cousin only a minute before. She knew all too well that it had been her fault.
The empty sockets pulling her into its abyss brought back memories she never knew she had – memories that reminded her she wasn’t any different from her cousin, or from any of the deceased. She was dead, and she ruined yet another chance at life.
“Well, well, Carrie. Is that your name now? Why are you crying? Is that a way to greet an old friend?”
“Don’t you dare refer to yourself as a friend,” Carrie retorted, wincing at the pain that shot through her jaw as she spoke. The memories continued flooding, but the memory of him came first, reminding her why she wanted to forget everything she left behind. “Not after last time.”
She tried to turn away from the skeletal figure, but her limbs refused to cooperate.
“Haven’t I held up my end of the bargain?” the skeleton asked. “You wanted to be alive again, and I gave you your chance.”
Carrie scoffed, wiping another tear from her face. “What do you mean? I’m not dead.”
The skeleton laughed and rattled his bones as he moved around her. “You, my dear, have been dead for centuries. Can you not remember the moment when we celebrated your demise? Ah, such an exquisite moment when we danced together around that pile of rotting flesh and bones that had once been your mortal self? My queen of the dead and I together, finally as one.”
He stood there and allowed a grim look to cast upon his structured face. “Let us rejoice.”
Yes, she remembered, though she wished she could forget again. She had been young, mortal, and terribly naive. As she allowed herself to remember the lives she had lived before becoming Carrie, she saw – in increasing intensity – her hatred for this man; he who had tricked her, stolen her eternal innocence, and stalked her through the centuries. He had been Christopher, he had been Vincent and in his last incarnation, Jamie. All these men and more she had loved and thought lost. However, he had always been there, watching, waiting for this moment in time to arrive and steal her once again.
“You’re so cruel. I could never love you, never!”
“Ah but my darling, cruelty is my specialty, and I have a fine skill set for it. You’d best remember that after all I’ve done for you these few centuries.”
Carrie ignored him. “Why did she have to die? You used her.” She dropped to her knees and ran her fingertips through the remaining fragments of Sam’s face, but they crumbled at the faintest touch.
“Lizzy, Lizzy…Elizabeth. Remember who you are. Your time among the mortals has changed you. I came just in time to bring you to your senses.”
Carrie grimaced as the memories encased her mind, reminding her of all the lives she had lived, stealing life by seeing and acting through another. She had too many chances, but he was right – she had her chance at life again…as Carrie. And she had wasted it; she turned away from him, fighting tears as she stared at the book she should never have opened.
Of course! she thought. As Jamie, he had led her to the book and tricked her, once again, into reading the words that brought his demonic self into being. She could use his leather-bound savior against him; how had she never thought of this before – to end all the torment he had inflicted upon her all these centuries?
Elizabeth had been a previous incarnation of herself, and it was Christopher, then, who had been the tormentor Jamie now became. Elizabeth had the strength to defeat the demon Carrie lacked as a timid mortal. As both Carrie and Elizabeth, she would close and destroy the leather book of hell and be rid of him forever, but how?
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me,” she said as she knocked Sam’s ashes off her hands. “I’m grateful for all that you have done for me. Forgive me, please.”
This was her only chance to break the cycle of death. She slowly reached for the Book of the Damned that lay open on the floor behind her. She knew she could find the answer in the book if she could get away. This was her only chance. Once Halloween ended, he would steal her memories again, and he’d exchange her soul for another mortal’s life to feed his eternal hunger.
Gathering her strength, knowing this could be her only chance, she slid up to him, and with a confidence she did not feel, Carrie put her hand on Jamie’s chest, feeling bone under the ragged shirt he wore.
“You were right; all these years, these centuries, and I never realized you were right,” she lied, giving the Elizabeth within her the chance to act.
“My darling, of course I am right. Must we indulge ourselves with this discussion every lifetime spent with these mortals?” He waved a hand toward the book, and Carrie clutched it tighter, wondering if he sensed her lies.
The rain had picked back up, and a light mist sprayed over her as a gust of wind blew through the broken window. Shivering, Carrie let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She looked up into the dark abyss of his eye sockets and offered her most disarming smile.
He reached out a bony hand and caressed Carrie’s soft skin. She shuddered as a chill ran down her spine.
“You know we were always destined to be together,” he said as she tried her hardest to feign an expression of affection.
She knew what she wanted to do, but she needed time. She needed breathing room to think and look. Suddenly it came to her; in her memories, she saw the page she needed to summon a skeletal army – just the distracion she needed.
Carrie covertly planted her hand on the book’s cover while embracing Jamie with the other to distract him. Just as she took a breath to recite the Skeletal Army incantation, Jamie reached behind her and grabbed the book.
“Did you really think the army would help you? I am their King,” he laughed, his jaw bouncing up and down eerily. “I know what you’re thinking, my dear.”
She shouted at the top of her voice, “Skelitus appearous immedious!”
As her lips spoke the last word, the skeletons broke free of the grounds of the local cemetery and rose up from their graves, marching in-step towards the house. She remembered reading the incantation and its laws that the skeletal army serves the one who summoned them before returning their loyalty to their king.
“You may be their king, but I am their master.” She stepped away from him and glanced out the window. They only needed to distract him long enough for her to escape, and then she could find the spell she needed – the spell to end their immortal curse.
The skeletal army began to clamber up the side of the house. Their bones scraped on the boards as they climbed to reach the broken window and the occupants inside the room.
Keep calm, Carrie thought to herself.
She glanced at Jamie, whose eye sockets were empty of expression, but she still felt the fear that would be there. He stepped towards her, but she backed herself against the window, smiling as the first of the skeletons clambered over the ledge.
“I want his head in the dirt,” she said.
The skeletons did Carrie’s bidding and they overtook Jamie. He attempted to fight them off, throwing a few of them across the room with the power that he’d built up for centuries. Ultimately, he was no match for the sheer quantity of them.
Carrie grinned as she took one last glance at him before clutching the Book of the Damned tight and jumping out the window.
“Elizabeth!” he called to her, muffled beneath the skeletons that continued to bury their bodies on top of him.
She knew they wouldn’t last long so she needed to hide, quick, if she couldn’t find what she needed in the book. She flipped the pages, frantically looking for the spell that would banish him to hell once-and-for-all.
“Come on, where are you?” she groaned.
Finally, she found it and held the book up in the moonlight to see the words more clearly, her hands shaking as she cleared her throat.
The rain had stopped. The wet road glistened in the streetlights as Carrie’s finger traced the line of words that would emit the power she needed to stop Jamie, Christopher, Vincent, whoever he was, or whomever he would become in the future. She took a deep breath and looked skywards at the moon.
“Redire ad infernum daemonium!” She shouted the words into the night. A blinding flash of lightning was the sky’s response, but the rumbling that followed was not thunder.
The ground began to tremble as the road cracked down the middle. The light emitted from it flickered, casting an eerie glow into the black sky.
“No!” Jamie’s scream sounded in the room above her. He had gained control over the skeletons around him and met her gaze at the window. “You will not only destroy my life, my dear, but yours as well and all other immortal souls who feast on the living.
“I can live —or rather die— with that on my conscience,” Carrie said.
The force of the hole in the earth pulled her toward it. She looked back up towards Jamie, her hair flying backward toward the hole. She could see Jamie and the skeletons struggling to resist the force of it.
“I have no fear of this. I’ve lived through centuries, remember?” Jamie gasped.
She was starting to come into herself, finally. This time, she had no intention of running, this time. She needed to end it all. “But that doesn’t mean I have to keep choosing you!”
Slowly, the outline of Jamie’s skeletal body faded, but the voice became louder, calling her by her new name.
She tried to block the voice by covering her ears, but the deafening scream seemed right above her.
“Carrie…Carrie! What the hell are you doing? The guests are coming any minute.”
Carrie dropped the diary she’d been writing in and set her pen down inside it.
“Time always gets away from me when I write. Sorry…” She looked up at the skeleton hanging over her window. “Till next we meet again, Skeleton King.”
She stood up and shook out her costume…being the undead fit her for the night; however, she wondered what she would do next Halloween.
Carrie rose from the trance that Dr. Samantha Hardwick had placed her under.
“We’ll try this again next week when you aren’t afraid to tell me the truth, and it’s imperative that you do. This is for your healing, Carrie.”
Carrie left the office walking at a quickened pace, tossing a glance over her shoulder. She wasn’t lying, but she knew no one would believe her. He, the thing that haunted her, was still out there…waiting.
I hope you enjoyed the story. I know I did, and I know the writers did. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s wonderful to see so many people come together to create something unique. The group has written other short stories, but last year was the first one I posted. It was a Halloween post, as well. Sadly, the featured writers are not available because the process was new. Check it out, here.
This is a neat little tale for the coming Halloween, and spooky stories are part of the season. This was more fun than it was scary, but several of these writers are also in a Halloween anthology called The Grim Keepers. If you want more reading out of this Halloween, take a chance and buy this unique anthology of short stories.
Have a spectacular Halloween and, as always, stay safe.