I have some thing a little different tonight. I'm introducing you to the mother/son team of Suzie and Bruce Lockhart. Not only that, they have graciously provided their short horror story Ten To Midnight, in it's entirety, for me to post. So without further ado here they are. The amazingly talented mother son team who is rocking Western PA.....The best thing about these guys, they support a cause close to my heart, Autism. (This is a long post, so be sure to click on the page break and continue reading)
Suzie Lockhart and Bruce Lockhart 2nd
Suzie Lockhart and Bruce Lockhart 2nd are co-editors of Sinister Saints Press, the ‘Young Adult’ Imprint of Horrified Press. (They are a mother/son writing and editing team—they hate when people think they’re a married couple! Ewww!!!)
Suzie is married & a mother of 4, and was supposed to be on a beach somewhere writing romance novels.
Bruce, her second child, was born on Halloween, and dreamed of playing football.
So there they are, writing horror in Western PA—otherwise known as purgatory.
Hey, Suzie was just trying to get published when Dark Moon picked up a little flash fiction piece she wrote, entitled ‘Instinct’.
What about all those romances?
Next thing she knew, Bruce and her were working together, getting short stories accepted left and right in a variety of publications such as: Dark Moon Digest, Sirens Call, PMMP, James Ward Kirk Fiction, The Chicagoland Journal, Women on Writing (Top Ten, Spring Flash Fiction contest), Dark Lore, Diabolic Publications, and, of course, Horrified Press!Try them out with this fantastic piece..... Ten To Midnight
TEN TO MIDNIGHT
Appeared in: Tales of the Undead, Suffer Eternal volume 2
Appeared in: Adventures in Horrorland
“Are you repentant, my son?” the Holy Father asks, his tone dripping with sincerity.
“Am I repentant?” I repeat quietly, more to myself than to him. The priest nods, attempting to reassure me that I’m heading towards a path to redemption.
It’s obvious that this man of the cloth believes I must be the one who took Lily’s life; the expression on his face says it all. The country’s criminal justice system wouldn’t make such an erroneous error, would they? I wonder if his firm belief of my guilt is rooted in lies the warden has poisoned his head with, or is the color of my skin enough to convince him.
The only thing I’d done wrong was falling in love.
And love can cause a person to act a fool.
I’d been staying with my Grandmother over the summer, trying to earn money for college. She had warned me, over and over again, that things in the South were far different than in New York. She often chastised me, telling me I was far too smart for my own good.
“Don’t you get mixed up wit dat white girl, boy. Ya’ here me?” Gram scorned harshly, after discovering one of Lily’s pictures on top of the nightstand. “You don’t understand. Here in Mississippi, dey’ll kill you over sumthin’ like that there, Donnie!”
“Am I repentant?” I repeat once again, lost in my own tortured thoughts. Was there something I felt sorry for? I was sorry for ever putting Lily in danger; for not being more careful. That was the guilt that has been chained to my soul; ever since I found out she’d been murdered that night.
After we were discovered together.
Rotting away in this miserable hellhole was tolerable compared to the heart-wrenching grief that remained my constant companion.
I was sure death would be a welcome relief; that is, until these last few hours. Now, I find myself filled with uncertainty.
“This would be the time to confess, and plead for Christ’s mercy on your everlasting soul.” The priest hooks his index finger inside his white collar and tugs at it, as if the room has suddenly become too warm for him.
I look him directly in the eye, adding to his discomfort. “The only thing I’m sorry for, Father, is that I didn’t have the opportunity to kill Lance Blackwater.”
The priest slams his Bible shut in disgust and shakes his head at me. He mumbles a prayer under his breath and calls for the guard. My sadness is quickly replaced with uncontrollable anger. How badly I wanted to grab that priest by his shoulders and shake some sense into him.
Two guards; Roy, who I despise, and a younger guy I hadn’t noticed before, step in and grab me under the elbows, jerking me to my feet. The shackles rattle, causing shivers to surge through me, and my blood runs cold. A part of me suddenly has the urge to holler after the Holy Father, to beg for mercy. Panic overrides sense momentarily, and I feel ready to confess to anything if it will grant me some assurance.
Assurance for my immortal soul. Will I find rest? Or will my afterlife be never-ending torment because I had put Lily at risk. Did that mean I was ultimately responsible?
I clamp my mouth shut as my bound feet shuffle towards the execution chamber. My eyes burn, but I bite the inside of my lip; I won’t give into the tears that are threatening to spill over.
The guards shove me roughly into the traveling electric chair, the one that will soon end my days on this earth. I glance up at the clock above the observation room and see that it is nearing the midnight hour. It doesn’t matter; no pardon will be coming.
Not for me.
“Any last words, boy?” I hear the warden’s voice boom through the intercom.
I shoot him a hateful look through the window, trying purposely to avoid looking in the direction of Lily’s parents.
“What’s a matter?” Roy hisses. I don’t know who I despise more, him, or the warden. “Usually our uppity New York negro is full a fancy words.” I take the opportunity to spit in his puffy red face. There is nothing more the filthy bastard can do to me. Except punch me, which he does.
Time seems frozen as I wait for the end. I wonder if I’ll see Lily again, in the afterlife. And my Gram, who had died during the years I’d spent rotting behind bars? Had I made it back to New York, I would’ve been getting ready to graduate from the college
I’d been accepted to; to receive a teaching degree. I had dreamed of helping mold young black minds in the inner city.
Dreamed of making my mother proud; the first young man in our family to go to college. Everyone had had such high hopes…
My thoughts are interrupted as they begin the process of securing me to that hideous chair. Heavy leather straps crisscross over my chest, and my wrists are fastened to the arm rests. The brevity of the situation takes hold, and my hands clench tightly around the edges, my short fingernails digging painfully into the wood. Shudders run through me as the execution team fits a helmet around my head. Some of the slimy saline smeared inside the headpiece trickles down my face; mingling with tears I hadn’t even realized I’d begun to shed.
Knowing your time is up is enough to make any grown man cry.
I hear Roy snicker.
Everything is blurred, but I can just make out Lily’s parents, watching from behind the window.
They still believe I killed their daughter.
Why wouldn’t they?
The usual procedure is to blindfold an inmate in this situation, but by special request of the warden, I will not be granted this luxury.
They tell me they are ready. I take a deep breath and decide to say a short prayer. I try to think of what to ask for.
“To see Lily again, to hear her gentle voice, touch her skin.” I whisper to a God I hope hears my plea. A God I want to believe created us all. If there’s no justice in life, maybe we find it once we move beyond.
That feeling of uncertainty has returned, causing my gut to clench just before they pull the switch.
“Midnight.” An unfamiliar voice announces over the intercom. I hear the executioner throw the switch. The portable generator roars to life, blasting electricity into every pore of my being. The pain is indescribable. My body twitches spasmodically, my limbs moving of their own accord. I can no longer control my own breathing.
Out of nowhere, an array of bright light surrounds me. I feel myself begin to pull away from my body, and then…
The lights come back on and I manage to force open one eyelid. I squint at the glass, even as my scorched nerves scream in protest; Lily’s mother has her face buried in her husband’s chest. My other eye opens slowly, deliberately, and my gaze roams over to the despicable warden. The corners of his thin lips curl into a sneer as he tilts his head forward.
It takes me a second to realize he’s not nodding at me, but rather to the executioner.
To my horror, the switch is flipped a second time.
I hear my own flesh sizzle; the noise reminiscent of a piece of bacon frying. Volts of electricity tear through my veins, rattling my entire body. I howl uncontrollably at the excruciating torture, begging for it to end. My body blisters with hot intensity, as flames seemed to engulf me.
No pain, no agony. Just…nothing. My body feels lighter, somehow; yet I don’t feel the relief I thought death might bring.
“Lily?” I call, tentatively opening my eyes; halfway expecting her to be waiting at the pearly gates for me. I gasp as I realize I am still inside the electric chair. A horrific thought crawls into my head; what if they have to pull that switch again?
But, quickly I realize, I’m all alone.
The straps and headpiece have come loose, so I stand up, unable to comprehend what is going on. Everything is dark, except for the flickering orange emergency lights.
I rush to the door to see if it is still locked, and to my disbelief, it swings open. My skin prickles as I enter the hallway, uncertain of what I might find. Fear is twisting my gut into a knot as the heavy metal doors swing open, one by one, like a row of dominoes. Then, the lights overhead click on, seemingly of their own accord.
I take off running down death row. All the doors along the hallway are ajar. I start to holler out inmate’s names, but all I’m greeted with is an eerie silence; every last cell is empty.
Is this some kind of hallucination?
A cold shiver runs through me.
I tear through the prison, filled with desperation as I call out the names of anyone I can think of; prisoners, guards…
Nobody is there, not one single soul.
Shouldn’t I at least hear my own voice, echoing through these hallways?
Fear finally overwhelms me, and I sink to the floor. The prison appears completely deserted; I really am in here all alone. Is this the way I am destined to spend eternity?
An odd scraping noise reverberates through the abandoned hallways, and I raise my head as I recognize the sound of a needle settling onto a record. Music I am far too familiar with fills the air. The mournful lyrics beckon me in the direction of the warden’s office.
Tears fall unabashedly as the words from that night return to haunt me.
“I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz,
Now I know just how much I have lost.
Yes, I lost my little darlin' the night they were playing…
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz.”
A thought penetrates the fear. Will Lily be waiting for me? Will she be wearing the powder blue gown; the one she’d had on the night of her prom? The night she had sneaked out behind the gym to dance with me. The night Lance followed her and…
I fling open the door to the dimly lit office. A lone figure sits in the warden’s chair, his feet propped up on the desk as he finishes the lyrics in a raspy voice.
“I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz,
Now I know just how much I have lost.
Yes, I lost my little darlin' the night they were playing
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz,
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz.
“What the…who are you?” At first, I couldn’t see him very well. It was as if he were a shadowy figure, lurking behind a thin veil
“Name’s Clarence.” The man stands, materializing more clearly. He is wearing a sleek black suit with a pinstriped vest underneath. Covering his wavy, snow white hair is a top hat, and he holds a gold-tipped cane in his left hand.
“And my name’s George,” I say, glowering at him.
A twinkle appears in his light periwinkle eyes. Eyes like a devil, I think.
“What kind of game is this?”
“No game, Donnie.”
“How the hell do you know my name?” My voice rises in anger.
“Shhh,” Clarence admonishes. “You see Donnie, you’ve been given a special gift tonight. An opportunity… for justice.” I see the glint of a gold tooth as he speaks.
I back away. “What the hell are you talking about, old man?”
He continues on, speaking in a hushed tone “For the next twenty-four hours, Donald Quinn, you’re a half-life.”
“A half-life?” This must be some whacky dream; none of this is making any sense.
“Yes, Donnie, a half-life. A soul wavering on the edge, between life and death.”
“I must be off my nut,” I grumble, remembering the line from Lily’s favorite movie. I don’t know how this Clarence fellow knows my name, or where he comes from, and at this point, I don’t care. I turn to leave. A chill runs through me as Clarence unexpectedly appears in front of me, blocking the threshold.
“How the hell?”
His eyes bulge at me for a minute, and his grayish eyebrows knit together in a deep frown. “You’re wasting time, Donnie.” Then, as if reading my mind, he says, “Seek justice, Donnie. You owe it to Lily, if not yourself.”
Hearing her name is the last straw. I barrel past him, sprinting through the deserted corridors of the prison, going nowhere.
Clarence appears again, materializing in different places, following me all the way back to the room where the empty electric chair sits. I can’t seem to escape him.
“Why!?” I scream, falling to the floor as overwhelming sadness rises to the surface, threatening to overtake me. I gasp. “Why can’t you just let me die?”
“There’s no justice in a wrongful death, Donnie…” Suddenly, this Clarence guy begins to age dramatically, right before me. His cheekbones hollow out, and his eyes fade to a dull gray.
He pulls a silver pocket watch from his inside his vest and encloses my hand around it. “You have a chance now…Donnie. A chance for…retribution”
“What would you know about it?” I spit vehemently, but I don’t get an answer as he seems to fade before my eyes. Panic equal to the pain in my heart quiets me.
All at once it feels as if the temperature in the execution chamber has dropped thirty degrees.
His now faint voice struggles. “I know that you didn’t… kill her. Lance Blackwater’s father… personally orchestrated the prosecution’s case against you, using you as a cover… for his own son’s heinous crime.” He coughs, and the music begins to play again, louder and louder, but I can still hear Clarence, feel his cool breath as if he was talking right against my ear. His body looks fragile, and he has an ethereal, silvery mist encompassing him.
I anticipate what he is going to say next; somehow I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is all real.
Smiling weakly, he says. “I know…this is the last song you and Lily danced to. Before she was murdered.”
His unnaturally calm voice booms over the loud music. The walls of the prison begin to crack, as if the music itself is tearing it apart.
Clarence transforms into something inhuman; terrifying and mesmerizing at the same time.
His tone, while still commanding, carries hollowness. “Seek justice, Donnie. You only have twenty-four hours!”
There is urgency in Clarence’s voice as his final words reach my ear. “The watch has the power to help you…use it wisely…”
A shiver runs down my spine.
“What do I need to do?” I cry.
All I hear in return is something akin to a shriek, and I can barely make out the words carried within. “Twenty-four hours!”
Mist rises from the floor, swirling around me as if trying to swallow me up. I feel cold, and then I feel myself blacking out.
When I awake, I discover I’m lying on a sidewalk, across the street from a picturesque house, sporting a perfectly manicured lawn.
The coldness seems to linger inside of me now.
Dawn is breaking; I see a newspaper already tossed at the end of the driveway. A truck barrels up the street, and a stout man hops out from behind the wheel, taking two milk bottles over to the front porch.
I consider how surreal the whole thing seems, as he grabs the empty ones and then turns around. I suck in my breath and wait for him to shout something at me about being in the wrong neighborhood.
He says nothing; acting like he doesn’t even notice me as he whistles his way back to the truck.
I holler after him as he drives away, until the sound of a barking dog causes me freeze. I don’t care for dogs; I’ve had one too many bad experiences. It stops short, about a foot away from me, sniffing at the air in confusion. It only takes a moment for me to realize the snarling beast can’t see me.
The owner of the dog is grabbing his morning paper, yelling after it. The sound of Lance Blackwater’s voice slices through me like a knife. As he stands in his plush navy bathrobe and slippers, waiting for his dog, I charge at him. The thought of killing him consumes me.
And I fall right through him, landing flat on my face. Furious, I stand back up and swing wildly at him.
Nothing. No reaction.
How the hell am I gonna make this dirty bastard pay, if I can’t even touch him?
“Damn!” I curse, trailing after him into the house.
“Sharon!” Lance yells, stomping up the carpeted staircase. “Sharon! You damn well better get your ass outta bed and have my breakfast ready by the time I’m dressed!”
My mind is whirling. He has a wife?
At the top of the stairs, he flings open the bedroom door and shouts at her again. She jumps off their bed and pulls on a housecoat, but not before I see the purple marks on her arms. A faded yellow bruise on her left cheek mars her otherwise perfect features.
“I’m going,” she tells him, twisting her golden blond hair into a knot as she rushes out of the room.
My hands clench into fists and my eyes bore into him. Lance walks into the bathroom and turns the shower on full blast. I hover in the corner as he pulls aside the hideous Hawaiian print curtain and steps inside the tub. I’m seething; wanting to destroy him. Wanting to crush every bone in his body. Wanting…to kill him. Clarence’s words run through me as rage consumes me. Retribution.
“Yesss.” It sounds like a hiss. Hmph. Must just be the rising steam in the bathroom.
The sight of the mirror on the front of the medicine cabinet catches my eye.
Maybe there is another way to get Blackwater’s attention?
I move over to it, and lifting my hand very slowly, I use one finger to touch the mirror’s moist surface. I form the letter “L” in the mist, and, seeing that it works, proceed to spell the rest of her name. I write it several times before planting myself on top of the toilet tank to wait, anxious to see the bastard’s reaction.
He steps out of the tub, damp footprints sinking into the shaggy throw rug. Automatically, he opens the door of the medicine cabinet and grabs a comb. I watch his face as he shuts it and gasps.
“What the hell?!” Lance’s face contorts with a combination of fear and anger as the steam separates, revealing the message I have left for him.
“Lily. Lily Lily Lily.”
He rubs his hand frantically across the mirror as I take a spot behind him. While my reflection isn’t visible, my presence does appear to disturb the dense air surrounding me.
Lance spins around.
“Who’s there?” he demands. “What kind of trickery is this?”
He can’t hear me, even though I scream in his face. He does take a step back, however, as though he may have sensed something. Reaching under the sink, he grabs a dust cloth and rubs it vigorously over the mirror.
“Humph.” Lance rushes out of the bathroom to get dressed.
I decide to follow him to work. I slide into the back of his bronze Mercury, complete with color coordinated seats. Apparently, Lance had done well for himself.
Riding on his daddy’s coat tails, no doubt. I hover behind him, unnoticed, as he strides into the law firm like he owns the place. He stops at his secretary’s desk, and leans towards her, his hand gripping the desk.
“Coffee,” he sputters.
“Right away, Mr. Blackwater.”
I catch a whiff of the strong brew as his secretary heads into his office. Interesting that I hadn’t been able to smell anything at his home. Taking a seat at her desk, I press on one of the typewriter keys. Discovering I can move it, I filled the whole page with the same message I’d given Lance earlier.
It is taking awfully long for her to serve him coffee. Something disturbed me; a rustling noise coming from the window. There is something enticing about the sound. It sounds like someone whispering. I strain to hear, but noises from inside Lance’s office grab my attention away from the window.
After giving it a moment’s thought, I wonder if I can walk through the office wall. I stand in front of it and test it out by sticking my hand through. The rest of me follows with ease. My eyes widened as I discover why they’d been in here so long.
“Pig!” I spit in his ear. He swats the side of his face, as if a fly had disturbed him. I was gritting my teeth. This was not working.
I stare out the large tenth floor window, trying not to listen as Lance moans with pleasure. Fury overwhelms me, as all at once I catch sight of the mug of coffee, sitting untouched on the edge of his desk. I focus as hard as I can, sliding it towards the entangled couple, and giving it a hard shove.
“Augh! Damnit, Cheryl!” He begins cursing at his secretary as she quickly stands to straighten her long skirt, fiddling anxiously with the tiny buttons on her cardigan sweater. The hot liquid has burned the bastard’s bare leg, and some splashed onto his trousers.
Lance yanks up his pants and tightens his belt, as his flustered secretary rushes out.
Her shrill scream follows a few seconds later. She rushes back into his office and slams the door shut, apparently more disturbed by what was typed on that paper, than afraid of Lance. A heated argument ensues, until he grabs the sheet from her. His eyes widened, and he sinks into his chair, muttering, “Go.”
Lance sits, rubbing his temples. “What the hell is going on?”
While scaring him has given me some small sense of satisfaction, it’s not enough. I stick my hands into my pocket and feel the chilled metal of the watch. I pull it out and open it, trying to remember all that Clarence had told me. I had fourteen hours left.
Fourteen hours to do what?
Play more games with Lance? Furious, I throw the pocket watch across the room. It bangs against the window, and before I could blink, materializes back into my hand.
When I glance up, Blackwater is staring at the window, his mouth hanging open.
New possibilities begin to take shape. If I can focus my anger, concentrate it, it appears I might make him feel my presence.
I’d been so enthralled with the prospect of hurting him; I hadn’t noticed him pulling a handgun out from behind his desk.
“Nnoww, I know somebody’s there. Show yourself.” He says, sounding like a scared child. I scoff at how pitiful he looks right now. The sound I’d heard outside the office comes back, except it’s more distinct this time.
I can understand the whispers as they urge, “Show, show...” I can feel my body tingling as the silvery mist appears again. My connection to it is undeniable; I can almost control it.
I open the watch again, realizing it will enable me to communicate what I want. Lance gasps as my body becomes visible for a brief instant; I glare at him before fading away.
“Holy shit!” I had showed myself to Lance, just as he’d requested, and am rewarded with his reaction. He is truly shaken now, and gingerly places the gun back inside his desk. He opens a bottle of aspirin and pops a few of the tablets.
“I need a drink; this is all just too much...” He tries to reassure himself that his mind must be playing tricks on him, but we both know better.
Briefly, the thought of what will happen when this is all said and done surfaces like a challenge. What if I can’t get justice before the time runs out, what then? Will I be stuck like this forever?
A shudder runs through me, what if there’s nothing for me after this? What if I’ll just cease to exist? I shake off the notion and follow Lance back to his car. He has to pay, regardless.
As he drives around for a while, I stretch out in the back seat. I’m beginning to feel a little tired. I start to wonder if a better idea would be to drive Lance so insane that he takes his own life. Then his blood wouldn’t be on my hands, but he’d still be dead.
We finally pull into a bar. “What can I get you?” the bartender asks.
“Martini.” Lance says, taking a spot on a wobbly bar stool before lowering his head onto his arms, crossing them in front of him on the counter.
A breeze seems to blow in through the closed door of the bar, and then there are the whispers again. It’s like they are giving me hints on how to tap into my otherworldly abilities. I open the watch again, and the mist circles around the bartender. “Possess, possess.”
I hesitate before the mist engulfs me, pulling me towards the greasy-looking man. The whispers become more insistent, so I obey and step into the man’s body. The next thing I know, I’m viewing the world through the bartender’s eyes. I stare down at my now white knuckles, and feel somewhat repulsed as I notice the dirt under his fingernails.
“Hey Ed, how about that martini?” Lance’s voice startles me. There must be something I can do, some way to influence Lance. Otherwise, why would I be controlling this man’s body?
And that’s when my eye catches it. On a dirty piece of paper, next to the small television covered in colored cellophane, is a list of popular drinks and how to make them.
· 1 oz. Gin
· 1 dash Pernod
· 1 oz. white Rum
· 1 oz. Orange juice
I quickly mix the contents together and shake it with some ice. “Here.” I slam it down in front of him, waiting expectantly. “It’s on the house.” I offer.
“Yea, thanks Ed. Hey, what is this, anyway? I asked for a Martini.”
“I thought you could use something stronger, Lance. So I made you a White Lily.” I give him a hard stare through the bartender’s beady eyes. His hand begins shaking feverishly, and the drink slips out, spilling on the marred wood. He gapes at the bartender before stumbling out of the bar.
“God, this is some kinda damn stinking nightmare.” I see him fidgeting with his keys when I hear the whispers. I ignore them as I follow Lance to a nicer hotel bar. I am rendered disgusted by what I’ve just done. Being one with that bartender made me feel…dirty. Like I would never be able to scrub off the filth. Not from the bartender; rather, from what I had done to him.
Clarence’s words resonate as I lean against the counter, twirling the watch through fingers that belong to me once again. “The watch has the power to help you…use it wisely…”
No one sees me, of course, as I stand next to Lance while he quickly downs some whiskey. Ironic, that in life, I wouldn’t have been allowed in here.
Lance is pretty drunk by the time he piles back into his Mercury. I wonder if he’ll crash the car, and that will be it for him. For me.
“Lights.” I hear it, and I clench the watch in my hand. This doesn’t seem vile, as the deception in the first bar had.
As he drives down his street, I direct the mist to the lamp posts, bursting each one as he steers past.
He doesn’t crash, but he pulls recklessly into his driveway, hitting the retaining wall. He curses up a storm as he jumps out and flees.
“Get the hell away from me!” he yells, scared out of his wits as he bursts through the front door and locks himself inside. I sigh. I know I can walk right through the door, but I feel my energy draining. My time is running short. I see that the clock reads 9:42. I had better figure something out, and do it quickly. I drag myself over and enter through their large front window.
“Lance is that you?” Sharon asks with mock sweetness.
“Yea, it’s me. I’m not hungry.” His voice is slurred, and he looks ten years older.
His wife comes out of the kitchen, wielding a huge chef’s knife. If she didn’t look completely mad, it might have been funny. She stomps her foot. “That’s good, ‘cause I didn’t cook. You wanna tell me who the hell Lily is, you son of a bitch! I saw her name on the mirror upstairs…
“Put the damn knife down!” Lance demands angrily.
His wife ignores him, seething. “I went by your office today, Lance. You weren’t there, but that little hussy you’ve been sleeping with was.”
“Now just a damn minute!” he tries yelling over her, but she starts throwing things at him. “Out! Get out!”
Again, we are in his car as he swerves away down the road.
Lance drives until he stops in the middle of a large bridge. He gets out of the car and walks over to the railing. It would be so easy to give him a shove…
I decide this is where I will seek retribution. This is where I will kill Lance Blackwater. I get ready to push.
“What do you want me to do, Donnie?” he asks, sounding defeated.
I hold tightly to the pocket watch in my hands. I know this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, but, suddenly, I’m not sure I can go through with it.
The silvery mist appears again, and I reveal myself to Lance. “No, no…this can’t be possible.” He racks his hand through his hair.
“Believe it!” I shriek, just like Clarence had; that same ethereal tone gripping my vocal cords as I grab him by his collar and lift him over the edge, letting him dangle far above the dark waters below. That’s when I hear the voices again, hissing in my head “Kill, kill.”
The anger I feel at Lance, the scared, helpless, whining murderer in front of me, only intensifies. All I have to do is let go, and he’ll plummet to his death. I’ll have done the world a favor, wiping it clean of his wretched existence.
But I can’t let him go?
“Please, please don’t kill me!” he whimpers pitifully, as the voices become more forceful. “Kill, kill!”
No. I can’t do it. After everything, I realize I don’t have it in me to kill the son of a bitch. Besides, I think, if I let go, no one will ever know who Lily’s real killer was.
I shake him, and he squeals.
“I’ll never stop, do you understand me? For the rest of your worthless life, I’ll find you… until I drive you to the brink of insanity. And don’t even think about taking your own life, unless you wanna find out where low life’s like you end up.”
“What, then? What? I’ll do whatever you say…pleassse,” he whimpers.
“Get in your car. We’re going to the police station.” I pull him back onto the safety of the bridge’s walkway, and shove his sorry ass towards his vehicle.
“Drive!” I growl at him, angry at myself for my weakness. He obediently obeys, until we reach the station.
Once there, I can feel myself wavering. Lance sits tapping the rim of the steering wheel. I grab his wrist, and he cowers at the sight of me.
“They can’t make me leave you alone, Lance. Only you can do that.” I threaten, and he nods, fully comprehending that there is no alternative left to him. Thoughts of my moments with the priest have me add unintentionally, yet effectively, “Confession is your only path…to redemption.”
Finally, I listen as Lance confesses to everything. The officers look at him as though he must be crazy, but he knows details that only the true killer could possibly know. Details that turn my stomach, even as life seeps out of me. I fight to keep my eyelids open; I want to see. I want to see them take him away. The last image I see is one of the officers picking up the telephone…
Then everything once again goes black. I know I’ve done right by Lily, even if I was too weak for true retribution.
When I awake this time, I am lying on a bed in the prison’s hospital ward. A light is being shined at my pupils.
“What…what happened?” I croak.
“You passed out. At ten to midnight, Lance Blackwater made a full confession in the murder of Lily Parker. Due to the circumstances, Donnie, the governor has issued a stay of execution. Attorneys are already working on your release.”
Hearing the familiar voice, I look into the face of the man who spoke.
Somehow, I am not surprised to see a slightly younger version of Clarence, dressed in a white doctor’s coat.
“Well, Donnie, it appears you beat me at my own game.” He gives me a wink, but there is a malevolent look in his eyes that I hadn’t noticed before.
I reach into my pocket for the watch, but it’s gone.
“What are you talking about, Clarence?” I ask hoarsely, my throat feeling tight.
“We couldn’t take you, because you hadn’t killed anyone. If you would’ve killed Lance, well then…but, you, Donnie. You were even smarter than I gave you credit for. Making Lance confess. Hmph. Brilliant.”
Clarence begins to fade out; the silvery mist engulfs him.
“Maybe next time, Donnie,” he calls out, right before he disappears.
I sink my head onto the soft pillow, trying to absorb everything that has just happened. Sweat is beading on my brow.
It appears what I thought was cowardice kept me out of Hell.
Our work can be found in the following Horrified Press publications:
‘Nightmare Stalkers & Dream Walkers’ Winner: 2nd place for Anthologies in P&E Reader’s Poll
‘Adventures in Horrorland’ Suzie & Bruce’s short story collection
‘Fractured Realms’ charity anthology benefitting The Autism Trust
‘Nightmare Stalkers & Dream Walkers volume #2’
‘Dark Fairytales Revisited, volume #2’ Featuring cover art by Stephen Cooney
http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Undead-Suffer-Eternal-Series-ebook/dp/B00D0OPP1C (featuring ‘Ten to Midnight’)