Authors: Annette Brownlee
Tags: #Adventure, #Paranormal
Good News, Bad News
Chaos woke to the image of Dead Bill standing at the foot of her bed. She flipped him off and he disappeared like a bad smell in a cool breeze. “It’s official,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m certifiably nuts.” It was the third night that Dead Bill had visited her in her Durango motel. The good news was that she was getting used to it. It didn’t terrify her anymore. The bad news was that she was getting used to it. Dead Bill was quickly becoming a regular part of her night. She laid awake the rest of the night wondering what to do about her sanity.
Too Damned Tired to Cry
Durango was miles behind her and Ouray waited just ahead. Instead of looking for a motel tonight and facing the possibility of seeing Dead Bill again, Chaos chose to pull into a campground. She paid her campsite fee, hit the showers and then stopped by the campground store for a microwavable burrito and a coke. She found a Charlaine Harris novel on the shelves and read until the sun went down. Leaning her seat back, she curled up inside the sleeping bag she’d purchased at a camping store in Durango. Chaos fell into a restless sleep filled with sexy vampires and vengeful ghosts.
She smelled him first. Groaning and fighting the urge to keep her eyes pinched closed, she opened them and rolled over. Sure enough Dead Bill sat in the passenger seat of her Jeep. Stretching her arm forward, she poked him. She felt nothing. Just empty space. “You’re trying to drive me mad, aren’t you? This is your plan, your way of getting back at me for killing you.” She wanted to cry but the tears wouldn’t come. She was just too damned tired to cry. “Get out of my car.”
Dead Bill disappeared.
Chaos spent most of the day sleeping in her Jeep before she cleared out of the roadside campground. She’d had a lot of time to think last night. Somehow it felt safer to sleep during the day when the sun was up. The bright afternoon sun and the monotony of the drive helped to clear her mind. She had a plan. Tonight, one way or another, this was going to be over and she’d know if she needed to check herself into a mental hospital or find a priest to help her get rid of a ghost. Just contemplating the idea of a ghost seemed insane. She was grasping at straws, desperate to find an explanation for Dead Bill that didn’t involve her imagining him.
Just south of Montrose and on the way to her next destination, Crested Butte, she found a dingy motel. "Good enough," she thought, pulling into the parking lot. The sun was setting and it was time to get prepared for the night’s events. It wasn’t like she was going to get a good night’s sleep anyway. In fact, she wasn’t going to be sleeping at all tonight. Her plan was to wait for Dead Bill to show up and when he did, she’d confront him. She was going to have it out with a ghost. Her camera had a recording function so she could record the interaction. If she was truly losing her mind then she was going to go out with a bang and record her downfall. If by some slim chance ghosts did exist and Dead Bill was haunting her, then she’d have proof. In the lobby, paying for her room, she spied a vending machine. Preferring stale Fritos and a warm 7-up to socializing with strangers at the bar down the street, she bought her dinner and headed to her room.
The door to her room opened with a rusty creak. Chaos reached inside and flipped the switch on but didn't step inside. What she was waiting for she didn't know. If she dug a little deeper, she’d admit that she was making sure Dead Bill wasn't inside or that it didn't have a creepy vibe, but press her to answer and she would just tell you she was making sure it was clean enough. No one would ever get her to admit that she was looking for a ghost.
The overhead light cast a bright yellow light on dingy grey walls. A moth slammed its head against the ceiling fixture. She couldn’t blame it. She probably kill herself too if she was trapped in this room. “Gross.” Chaos flipped the light back off and stepped inside. It felt safe enough, but she sure as heck didn't have to look at the depressing walls. Chaos realized she was beginning to miss the comfort of her home. With some sadness, she accepted the fact that her home may never feel comfortable again. The memories of that night might always linger in her living room. She knew one thing for sure. She couldn’t go back there until this was finished. When she walked back into her home, Dead Bill needed to be completely gone from her life.
Walking over to the bed she dropped her duffel and flipped on the bedside lamp. It was bolted to the table so she couldn’t move it closer to the bed. It cast enough light to make her feel comfortable but not so much that she could see the room’s fatigue and secrets.
Chaos flipped back the comforter and tossed it on the floor. She then lifted the sheets and peered underneath. The sheets looked clean. Whew. The last thing she needed was to get grossed out by bugs, or worse, in the bed. Putting them back in place, she grabbed the remote from the side table, grabbed her snacks and sat cross-legged on the bed.
She flipped on the television and was rewarded with a full digital cable choice of channels. She found a do-it-yourself landscaping show and relaxed into a world she knew and felt comfortable with. Meanwhile she waited for Dead Bill the rapist, stalker ghost, aka creepy figment of her imagination, to show up.
Chaos awoke with goose bumps all over her body. It was freezing in her room. She’d forgotten to turn on the heat when she'd come in. She looked at the clock. Two fifteen a.m. “Son of a bitch,” she groaned. “I fell asleep.” That wasn’t part of the plan. If the clock was right, she still had fifteen minutes. He seemed to show up like clockwork at two thirty every morning. She looked around the room for signs that he’d been there. The television was still on. No sign of Dead Bill.
The lamp beside her bed was off. She’d left it on. Chaos turned on the side table lamp, slid out of bed, and looked for the thermostat. She found it by the bathroom. Squinting, struggling to see through sleep blurry eyes, she noticed the thermostat was set at seventy degrees but the reading was forty and it was dropping as she stood there. “Guess this is what I get for thirty bucks a night.”
Chaos pressed the button to increase the temperature setting and heard the fan kick on. Warm air flowed freely from the unit. She turned up the fan and enjoyed the heat on her face. The air felt heavy, almost oppressive and she wondered if it was snowing outside. Relaxing a touch, Chaos padded over to the window. She pulled the curtains open. Dead Bill looked back at her through the window.
“Found you,” he laughed.
A Colorblind Lumberjack
The doorknob rattled. He was trying to get inside. She wondered why he didn’t just float through the wall. Isn’t that what ghosts did? Some untalented ghost he turned out to be. He had to use the door. Chaos wanted to laugh at his ineptitude but she couldn’t relax enough to find any of this funny. Clenching her fists, Chaos took a step back. Looking around she saw that she didn’t have anything to use as a weapon. There was nothing but a TV remote and an empty Fritos package, everything else in the room was bolted to the floor. The door knob stopped rattling. Maybe he's given up, she thought and then mentally smacked herself. He was dead and he was stalking her. Or she was nuts. Either way, he wasn't giving up. It was up to her to make him go away. Smoothing her hands on her jeans, Chaos grabbed her cell phone from the bedside table. Chaos set her phone to record and positioned it on the far side of the bed. It would catch the door and anything that happened between the bed and the door. It would record something or nothing. Either way she’d have an answer. That set, she sat on the edge of the bed and waited. Dead Bill would find a way in and when he did whatever happened would happen.
Chaos clutched the necklace around her neck. Symbolizing victory and strength, the Nike pendant felt warm in her hand. She’d worn it since she was a toddler. Her mother had died wearing it and it gave her comfort. Still holding her necklace, Chaos wasn't surprised when Dead Bill simply appeared inside the room. Guess he figured out the floating through walls thing, she thought. He stood less than five feet from her, directly in front of the windows and in line with the recorder on her phone. Perfect. She glanced at the clock radio, not sure why but certain it was important to mark the time. It was exactly two thirty in the morning. Maybe it would be the time of her death, she thought. But she didn't feel ready to die and certainly not by the hands of this...this...jerk.
“Are you a ghost?” She asked, not waiting for him to speak.
“What do you think?”
His whisper touched her neck and sent chills down her spine. “I think I’ve lost my mind. You’re dead.”
“You killed me.”
Chaos nodded. “That I did.” She crossed her arms. “It was you or me. So now what? Why are you following me? Are you in my head? Maybe the attack was so traumatic I’m reliving it or feeling some sort of stupid guilt about it.” Chaos shook her head. She couldn’t believe she was talking to him. It’s the only way, she reminded herself. She needed to find out if he was a figment of her imagination.
“Make it right.”
“Make it right?” She heard it clear as day, though the image of Dead Bill was starting to fade. “You caused this. You attacked me. I was defending myself.” Bill’s face contorted. His eyes hardened. The image of him solidified. The grey t-shirt he wore tucked into his black jeans, the same clothes he’d been wearing on that awful night, seemed to shift as he moved. She knew he wasn’t real but he sure as hell looked real. Chaos wanted to leave the room and keep running until it all disappeared. “All in,” she reminded herself.
Bill crossed the room. His eyes never left her and his legs never moved. If she was imagining this she was doing a damn creepy job. He stopped just inches from her face. Leaning in, his mouth opened. Chaos could smell the stench of whiskey on his breath. Down the dark cavern of his mouth she saw never ending blackness. “Murderer,” he rasped.
The sickly cologne smell danced around her like a wraith. It enveloped her. She gagged. “Back up. Now.”
“Or what?” he said, leaning in closer. “You’ll leave? I’ll find you. There’s nowhere you can run that you'll be able to hide from me. “
She was going to vomit. “Make the smell go away!”It disappeared. Like a fart in the wind, she thought. Weird how he could turn smells on and off.
“Now you do something for me,” he said, sliding back away from her.
“Let me see you naked.”
“Fuck you.” Bill shrugged and grinned. Tired of being taunted and bullied, Chaos shoved her fear aside. She wasn't going to be bullied by this man, alive or dead. She was ready for him to be gone. “You’re dead. Go away.”
“No,” she shrugged and shook her head. I'm not giving up my life for you, she thought. Besides, she didn’t know where his body was and she sure as hell wasn't going to drag Paolo into this.
“See you tomorrow, chica.”
Dead Bill disappeared. Heart pounding, Chaos clamored across the bed and snagged her cell phone from the bedside table. “Please let it have recorded something. Please don’t let me be crazy.” Of course as soon as she said that she wondered which was worse, being crazy or actually finding out that ghosts existed and she had one of her very own. Fingers shaking, Chaos stopped the recording and pressed play.
Her hope slid to the ground. All she could see was her back sitting on the edge of the bed. No Dead Bill. Sorrow filled her as she listened to her own voice on the recording.
“Are you a ghost? I think I’ve lost my mind. You’re dead.”She didn’t hear his responses. This proved she was crazy. She was imagining the whole thing. “What am I going to do?” Rewinding it, Chaos turned the volume up as loud as it would go and pressed play.
Chaos froze. Her heart skidded to a stop. She heard something. She rewound it and listened again.
There was an inhalation before he said it and the voice sounded almost electronic but there was no mistaking it. She had Dead Bill’s voice on her phone’s recorder. “I’m not crazy.”
Halfway through the third playback, Chaos didn’t hear any more voices but she realized something wasn’t right in the video. There were two shadows in the room. With the bedside table light behind her, it made sense to see her silhouette on the wall but there was another one beside it. A larger, taller shadow. It had mass and form too, like it wasn’t really a shadow at all but a large black cloud. True, the image quality on her phone was pretty crappy but still. She put the camera back on the table, pressed record and sat back in the same place she’d been when Dead Bill had been in the room. Chaos waited sixty seconds and then grabbed the camera and pressed play.
“One shadow.” Dead Bill wasn’t a figment of her imagination. He was a ghost. A stalker ghost. She wanted to cry, both from relief and from the terror that was bubbling up inside her. “How do you get rid of a stalker ghost?” On the one hand it wasn’t so bad because it sure as hell beat a live stalker. Ghosts couldn’t do bodily harm, right? But she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life being haunted by such a vile man. He had to go. He’d said confessing would end it. If she went to the police he would go away. But that wasn’t really an option. If she did that, not only would she go bankrupt spending the little money she had on legal counsel, she’d also be sacrificing Paolo and the people who helped her. She was indebted to them. Betraying them wasn’t an option. Trusting Bill would be stupid anyway. If she confessed and ended up in jail, he’d probably haunt her in her cell and she really would go crazy
No, she had to get rid of Dead Bill on her own. Glancing at the clock, she regretted not bringing her laptop with her. Not that she'd have wireless internet connection in this motel in the middle of nowhere.
Slipping into her shoes and coat, Chaos grabbed her room key and wallet and headed for the registration building. She remembered seeing a computer for guest use there. She crossed the poorly lit parking lot and shivered. It probably wasn’t a great idea to be running around outside in the middle of the night. She reached the building and turned the knob. “Locked. Damn.”