New Reel for Dumaine Street

Check out my new Dumaine Street reel for Instagram!

Voices in her head, catastrophic emotions, hallucinations, Rebecca Wells is more than convinced that she is losing her mind. And as a last-ditch effort, she contacts a self-professed counselor who seems convinced that he can help. Gabriel Sutton has abandoned the world of medicine to navigate a realm filled with psychic phenomena. Diagnosing Becca with extreme empathic abilities, he struggles to help her stabilize her gifts while trying desperately not to fall in love with his patient.

Dumaine Street- First 3 episodes Free!

Dumaine Street

I am very excited to announce the launch of a brand new Kindle Vella story called Dumaine Street. I’ve so enjoyed my experience with writing episodes of The Lady in the Blue Dress that I decided to start a new paranormal romance embroiling a different sort of love story with some of my favorite places in New Orleans. As with all Kindle Vella Stories, the first three episodes are free and you can access the episodes through your Kindle or through your computer if you enter Kindle Vella. And as an added bonus, if this is your first time at Kindle Vella, you get your first 200 coins free. So I hope you drop in and check out Dumaine Street.

Dumaine Street

Voices in her head, catastrophic emotions, hallucinations, Rebecca Wells is more than convinced that she is losing her mind. And as a last-ditch effort, she contacts a self-professed counselor who seems convinced that he can help. Gabriel Sutton has abandoned the world of medicine to navigate a realm filled with psychic phenomena. Diagnosing Becca with extreme empathic abilities, he struggles to help her stabilize her gifts while trying desperately not to fall in love with his patient.

The Witches’ Own – Just Released

Just in case you haven’t quite gotten Halloween out of your system, here is one more chilling tale for you. The newly revised edition of The Witches’ Own has just been released and is available at Cornerstone, Amazon, and most other online book and eBook retailers.

The Witches’ Own

On the surface, things seem quiet and serene in the picturesque coastal village of Kilmarnock, Virginia. But something unseen roams its lush forests as the past and present collide and the unthinkable begins to wreak its vengeance. Young Lucy Bonner is executed for witchcraft in the town’s distant and brutal past. Her death triggers an unholy chain of events which grasp at the restless heart of novelist Peter McQuade, spurring him towards a quest to uncover the dark and terrifying truth.

Halloween Month

It’s Halloween Month at evelynklebert.com. Its been such a difficult year for most people that I hope everyone takes some time to enjoy the season. So, I’m kicking off the month with a short paranormal story entitled “The Lost Soul” which was first published in the short story collection entitled Travels into the Breach: Accounts of a Reclusive Mystic. This story introduces Malachi McKellan and his spirit guide Simon Tull, a pair of unconventional detectives who specialize in psychic attacks. I hope all is well in your world and you take a little time to relax and hopefully enjoy 🙂 Follow the link below.

The Lost Soul (link)

Ch. 1 – The Bookstore

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak and temporary era of social distancing, it occurs to me that more than anything people need distraction. With that mindset, I’ve decided to post one of my paranormal novels, A Quiet Moment, chapter by chapter on my website. A Quiet Moment is at its heart a love story although it is heavily interwoven with reincarnation elements as well as psychic phenomena. (And for you young readers out there, this novel does not contain explicit sexual content or violence, although it does deal with some adult themes)

I hope in this challenging time you drop by and escape a little with A Quiet Moment. Peace to everyone.

Chapter 1:

The Bookstore

The smell of coffee wafting across the bookstore came as a comfort to him as he walked inside to escape the bitter cold of the January morning. His face felt numb and, in some respects, oddly paralyzed. Yes, granted getting out on the road on such a day was stupid but he’d been working doggedly all week. The very idea of spending the whole weekend alone shut up in his mountain home was intolerable. Nice, cozy, well-furnished as it might be, at the moment it still felt like a prison.

So, he foolishly braved the sleet and heavy downpour of snow. After all wasn’t that the purpose of four-wheel drive? And not so surprising was the fact that the retail stores were open, to accommodate, no doubt, all the crazies just like him.

Superficially pleased with himself and feeling a bit of a thaw in the facial region he rolled out the plans. First there would be a hot coffee, a mocha coffee — a bit of caffeine and a bit of desert. He casually unwrapped the long beige scarf from around his neck that his sister had bought for him years ago, and, due to his forgetfulness, rarely made it out of the closet. The girl standing behind the cafe counter looked young, teenager-like young. Smiling half-heartedly, she murmured, “Getting pretty bad out there?”

He felt a slight, albeit brief stab of guilt. She would no doubt rather be somewhere else, not waiting on those who were not clever enough to stay home. He couldn’t in that instant remember exactly where teenagers would rather be. That was much too far back. He was driving fiercely into his forties; without a seatbelt he might add. It wasn’t this poor, perturbed, young girl’s fault that he hadn’t taken the time to cultivate a social life so that he would actually have somewhere else to be. Although glancing at the store window to the side of them and the increasingly turbulent weather outside, perhaps home would have been a good choice.

“Umm, I’ll have the mocha coffee.”

“With or without whipped cream?”

Probably shouldn’t, “Okay with.”

She nodded and was off to fill his order, the one for the crazy man who didn’t want to be home alone.

He had been married once. Although in truth it didn’t really feel like it, more like a foggy dream that sort of still held onto the fringes of his awareness. Perhaps that was why he spent years pouring his energies into other directions. The experience had been dank and dismal for both of them, especially the end. Better not to start than reach that sort of an anguished conclusion.

Here she was again, the café girl, still smiling at him with very little conviction. “Here you go sir.”

It certainly was a frothy drink, probably too frothy for a rugged man like himself. He didn’t consider himself a gentile sort of person, rather more outdoorsy, at least in appearance. But as he’d always acknowledged, he was a mass of contradiction. It had its benefits on occasion, being so frequently misjudged.

He slipped the young girl a few dollars as a guilt tip, which she received with little joy.

As he wandered toward the main thoroughfare of the store, he felt that tingling feeling as though the whole world for just a fraction of a second was at his feet. Where should he venture today: the dark corners of psychology; the wide world of sports, the abyss of pulp fiction? It was like a carnival. The possibilities of entertainment were endless.

As he often did on these ventures he decided to roam and let the vibes guide him, let something spark his interest. He was a Pisces; they were largely governed by the energies of emotion. At least that was what his Mom had informed him of at an early age. Astrology was one of her hobbies, as was Palmistry, yoga, and rather off the course auto repair. She hated the idea of being taken by mechanics who thought her ignorant. He smiled, even at her age she blew him out of the water with her energy. “It’s just that you need someone to complement you, and then you’ll find your real niche in the world.” He frowned. He had to buy her a birthday gift. He could do that now. And then he saw the history aisle and was willingly drawn off-track.

The pull had been strong that morning, uncomfortably strong. The weather would be bad, that much she knew. But she did live in the city, and the roads would not be treacherous, at least not for her. So, the question then became, did she ignore the invisible fingers scraping along her skin, the ones that once ignored would continue to dig more deeply until she reached a fevered pitch of irritation, or would she scrape the snow off her windshield and just go — get it over with. It’s a gift her grandmother had told her on more than one occasion, but it didn’t feel like a gift. It felt like a vise around her at times that dragged her helplessly along.

She dug deep into her dresser drawer for the silky pair of long johns that only made their appearance at this time of year, on very cold, ridiculously cold days. It was wearing on her, all of it. She had just crossed into her thirties and she felt worn-out. She didn’t bother with make-up. Who would be out anyway on a day like this?

Ancient Egyptian history, he had settled into one of the strategically placed reading chairs in the bookstore and sipped his Café Mocha while he perused a volume on pre-dynastic Egypt. He’d always been drawn there, to Egypt that is. He’d even planned a trip there, or rather preplanned one. That was the summer before he and Talia split. He wanted to go hunting for antiquities, and she wanted to go lie on a beach somewhere. They’d gone to the beach, but it had done them more harm than good. His mother had commented rather dryly: “It’s not a good idea to give in, but then hold resentment. It just ends up poisoning everything.” It hadn’t been the cause of their break-up, but he had to admit that it had speeded the demise.

Longingly, he flipped through the pages of the oversized volume, captivated by the photographs of the ancient ruins. It had been a long time since he’d thought about Egypt. He felt as though he’d spent the last five years of his life in hibernation, licking his wounds, producing enough uninspiring art to support his lifestyle.

It was an odd feeling that was coming over him, a sort of quickening inside him. As though he’d been in a kind of trance and was just now on this very remote, wintry day able to dust off his old dreams and remember how it felt to be truly charged again.

He didn’t really hear her footsteps as she turned the corner on the far end of his aisle. He didn’t hear her. But he certainly felt her, as though a cataclysmic charge of electricity, the likes of which he had never experienced before, had just propelled through every cell of his body.

When she was a little girl, she felt the pain of others. It was not as though she sympathized with them or was exceedingly compassionate. She actually, truly, physically experienced their pain.

As a child, she was moody, given to inexplicable bouts of depression or euphoria. Her father was concerned for Aimee’s mental state. Her mother was not. It was then, very young, that she was introduced to those who understood who she was, who could help her.

As she stepped out of the car, the cool snowflakes hit her face. She breathed deeply in the icy air and pulled the black leather gloves that protected her hands on more tightly. It felt good to be out, energizing. She’d been in doors for nearly the whole of last week. She’d been ill. She was susceptible to it.

Again, the pull reached out to her as though it were a lasso wrapping itself around her waist and pulling her toward the store. There would be no peace unless she heeded it. “You are always being guided,” her grandmother had told her. But sometimes to her shame she did wish they would guide elsewhere and give her a little peace.

She pulled the red knit hat lower around her ears. She certainly didn’t need a relapse from her recent infection. There was still a deep rumbling in her chest that hadn’t completely cleared. Her boots crunched on the ice as she plowed forward.

Aimee had grown up in New Orleans and so at an early age was exposed to the nuances and diversity of a city overrun with divergent cultures. She came to respect and appreciate individuality, expect the unusual, and accept the power of the unseen.

At five her family moved into a house where St. Charles and Carrollton Avenues meet in the river bend. It was a beautiful old place, with shiny wooden floors and a lovely brick-layer patio on the side. There was even a rose garden that her mother began to tend to tirelessly.

Aimee’s bedroom was on the second floor. It was spacious with a lovely bay window and a window seat actually built into the wall beneath it. It should have been a dream, but the little brown-haired girl knew the moment that they crossed the threshold that something was not right.

She could tell that her mother Anna sensed the same thing, but for her it seemed easier to brush aside. She had lost a baby earlier in the year and her emotions were commandeered by grief. That was why she didn’t protest about the house and let Aimee’s father purchase it. He was a deeply caring man, but, as she would come to understand later, one that limited his own understanding of things. Some people actually, she observed, erected self-imposed boundaries on their willingness to understand the true nature of life. Those boundaries could never be forced down by anyone else. It must be one’s own choice.

It was in the house that Aimee saw her first spirit, or ghost, a term she wasn’t particularly comfortable with. It was clear early on that the grief in that house far surpassed anything that her troubled family had brought with them.

As she pushed open the glass door of the bookstore, the first thing that struck her about the inside was the quietness. She stood on the threshold, the door swinging silently closed behind her, and she sensed a calmness that she had not expected. The draw had been so strong, and she was usually not guided to a place because things were calm. She was usually guided because of trouble or pain. She breathed in deeply and cleared her mind of thought. Briefly she glanced over to the coffee bar. There was a girl there, leaning on the counter flipping through a magazine. She hadn’t even looked up at the sound of the door. Aimee’s mind opened to vibrations — some frustration, irritation but nothing much to note there.

She turned forward, before her the aisles of the store appeared deserted. But then again, she felt the pull, gentle at first and then more insistent. It would be really irritating if she came out on a lousy day like this one for a wild goose chase.

It’s truly difficult, especially when you’re five, to discern the difference between your own feelings or emotions and those of someone else. That is if you’re a sensitive. That was the name that her grandmother would give Aimee’s particular gifts some years later.

It began as waves of inexplicable sadness that would wash over her at odd times: when she was out on the patio with her roller skates; when she was drawing a picture at the kitchen table; or maybe when she was taking a bubble bath. There was no rhyme or reason for the violent flood of emotion, just that it was real, powerful, and as upsetting as anything she had ever experienced.

And then there was that one night. It was late, very late. She awoke abruptly in her bed feeling a terrible pain in her stomach. Then when she looked down, her pristine white sheets were running red with blood and the handle of a knife was sticking out at the wound’s origin. There was no way of telling how long she’d been screaming before she was in her mother’s arms. But then of course they had all determined that it was a nightmare, because there was no blood, no knife. But the pain felt all too real, and it did take some time before it finally disappeared.

He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, trying to quell the crazy surge of shakiness that seemed to have taken him over. It was like the after shocks of an impact, but what had he been hit with? He slowly closed the oversized book that he had been clutching, a bit too tightly, as testified the bright red indentations on his palms. As he opened his eyes with more than a bit of blurriness, he focused for the first time on the figure at the end of the aisle. His was a side view. It was a woman, seemingly intent on examining the titles before her. She wore a long coat, dark gray, and had long brown hair that flowed several inches down her back.

Jacob Wyss rubbed his eyes to further clear his vision. He tried to focus more acutely on her. Her leather gloved hands brushed a few of the books on the shelf, but she hadn’t picked anything up. Stuck in the pocket of her coat he saw some piece of bulky red material protruding. He glanced around. They were alone. His heart’s rapid beat that had escalated abruptly moments before was slowing, but the feeling of disorientation had not. It was as though he was somewhere else now. Although his physical surroundings were unchanged, something else basic, primeval, molecular, had shifted inside him.

He saw her hands drop to her sides and then there was a hesitation. She turned slightly then too quickly rounded a corner and disappeared from his sight. There were not even moments of thought before he rose to his feet and began to follow her.

It was strange that on this chilled, wintry day so far away from home that she would be dwelling on Rose. Rose was what she came to call the woman who roamed the house on Carrollton Avenue. It had been nearly a month after the incident in her bed that she first glimpsed her. There had been similar sporadic episodes that she kept to herself in the house. Of course, they weren’t nearly as traumatic as the first. After the shock and newness wore off, the strange nature of things in that particular house became somewhat the norm. Children in many ways were more resilient, more accepting of change. But as she became older, she found herself less flexible, not able to bounce back nearly so quickly.

Rose was a young woman, perhaps no older that seventeen. She had an affinity for looking out the window in the hallway of the second floor. It was a lovely large window that overlooked the rose garden. The first time Aimee glimpsed her she mistook the figure for her mother. They had a similar physique long, willowy and delicate. And they both had hair of an ash-blonde shade. But the long white nightgown was not one that Aimee recognized. And when she turned her face slightly in the shadowed hallway, she could see that the pale face was that of a much younger woman. It wasn’t hard to connect the thick, drowning waves of sadness with this figure. As she watched her, Aimee felt as though she would suffocate in the ocean of desolation that washed over her.

Aimee pulled off the red hat and without much attention shoved it into the pocket of her coat. She made a mental note that she would get a hot cup of tea before she walked back outside of the bookstore into the chill.

Clearing her mind again of debris from the past she let the calling gently pull her in its direction. It was intense but not in an overt way. When someone was in severe emotional distress there was a chaotic feeling to the call, not any calmness. When there was fear or danger it was similar, although slightly different. Once she had been called to a meeting with a teacher, but that was something very direct. This was not the same. It was strong, consistent, but not direct.

She walked down toward the wall directly opposite of the vibration. She must approach with caution. There was no telling what she was walking into and that in itself was odd.

The first thing he did was head to the front door. He wanted to make sure she didn’t slip out without him noticing. He didn’t consider the fact that his behavior was a bit bizarre. He was acting on instinct. He didn’t know what he wanted. Only that she couldn’t leave until he figured it out.

He stood in front of the entrance, breathing deeply in a strange sort of panic. And then he heard low murmurs. His eyes slowly moved over to the coffee bar only a half dozen yards away. Her back was to him, but it was she. The woman in question was at the counter, talking to the girl that he had purchased his coffee from the same coffee that he’d abandoned unfinished moments before somewhere deep inside the bookstore. He continued to stand there watching, sort of paralyzed. There was a cup in her gloved hand, and she moved away from the counter out of his view.

Firmly convinced there was no choice, he walked into the café to seek her out. She sat at a small table in the corner. There wasn’t another soul about. Even the girl at the counter had disappeared into some back room. For the moment, there were just two souls now, his and hers. As he approached the table, her head remained bowed not acknowledging his approach, just intent on stirring her steaming beverage.

He smiled. Being pleasant and what could be loosely described as charming was a skill he had mastered. “I know this is odd,” he began, “but I was wondering if I could join you for a few moments. Being out on a day like this sort of makes me feel like the last person on the face of the earth.”

Slowly her eyes rose to meet his and a bit of that electrical sort of jolt that he’d felt so acutely moments before delicately skimmed along his nerves again. Her face was lovely, but her eyes were devastating to him — green, unflinchingly, dramatically green.

It was best not to make any direct contact, not even direct eye contact. She had found this out through experience. One day long ago, she had gone to a hospital to help a very ill child. Just perchance as she was standing in the hallway his mother brought him by in a wheelchair. Their eyes met, and the little boy smiled at her with curiosity. She could tell that he knew, knew that she was a friend, knew that she was there to help. He was very aware. Some adults were also sensitive or perceptive in the same way, but most she’d found dismissed such feelings. But Aimee had learned caution and the best thing to be was inconspicuous.

She could feel the man at the far end of the aisle as she rounded the bookshelf. She kept her eyes forward and pretended to be looking for some particular title. It was strong what she felt, intense fluctuations of energy coming from him, but in no distinct pattern.

So strange, this was a highly complex and advanced spirit, and he had no idea. All that power at his fingertips and he was just sitting on it. She sighed. What now? This wasn’t exactly her area.

Her gloved fingers lightly tapped on a book in front of her. There didn’t seem to be any specific distress, a little frustration but join the club. Well perhaps she could send out a little influence, to draw him in the direction of esoteric studies. Putting that vibe out would be easy enough and she could get home in time to do a little housework before the whole day was shot. This past week of illness had left everything in a wreck.

She focused inward, concentrating on pushing some of her psychic barriers down that she had painstakingly spent so many years constructing. She first must let herself open to his energy corridors before she could interject into them.

As she concentrated her hands instinctively balled into fists. The outer bands of energy were as she expected not terribly strong, but any inclination that she placed here would be disregarded as a passing whim. She must go deeper. As her consciousness moved further inward, she could feel herself begin to draw closer to the core with very little effort. The power swept around her aggressively, and she began to experience a slight panic. It was so much more intense than she’d encountered before. It took only seconds to realize clearly that this was a mistake. This wouldn’t work. She was way over her head. With all the discipline she possessed, she tried to back away, but the tentacles of energy that had drawn her to this place wrapped firmly and completely around her.

The slight panic now exploded into fear. The realization hit hard. She had not been guided at all. It was he. He had called her, consciously or not. This man had summoned her. She was thrown off balance, the fear taking hold. So dangerous, she was losing all control.

And then she felt herself violently yanked forward into his mind, the past.

The desert swirled around her, hot on her skin. There were gold bands on her arms. He stood at her side and spoke to her in a language that she did not remember and held her hand in a clasp not of tenderness but possession.

Her eyes were teary.  Her head pounded so furiously that it felt like she would pass out. Even her hands were trembling. She rounded the bookshelf without looking back. She was nauseated, overwhelmed. What the hell had happened?

It was sheer panic that was flowing through her veins now. But then a calm voice from within surged up, a familiar one. Calm Aimee. It’s all right. There is no danger here. Go and sit for a while.

Every fiber of self-preservation was telling her to tear out of here as quickly as she could. But she did trust, so she would wait. She would have some tea, wait five minutes, then tear out of here.

It’s difficult for a five-year-old to know how to deal with a spirit in distress, especially one that did not acknowledge her presence. And since there was no one available to guide her, Aimee did the best she could. At first, she just tried to ignore Rose, as everyone else seemed so accomplished at doing.

Rose, she came to believe, was caught up in some painful and disorienting personal drama. Why else was she there? She certainly didn’t seem very happy about it.

After the first glimpse she had of her, Aimee started seeing, but most often feeling, her more frequently. After a short time, it didn’t frighten her, these waves of sadness and hopelessness. After all these feelings didn’t really belong to her, they were just sort of like a calling card that Rose was about somewhere.

It was about three months into their unique acquaintance that Aimee made a breakthrough. She got it into her head that if she could experience Rose’s feelings perhaps Rose could feel hers.

Late one night when she was in bed, she felt the familiar downpour of sadness. She ventured into the hallway to Rose’s favorite spot where the apparition was standing, mournfully looking out the window. With all her might Aimee concentrated on a feeling of happiness, a powerful one like her mother’s hug. It took a few minutes and then the tragic woman turned to the little girl with a distinct look of surprise.

He stood there waiting for an answer. Unbelievable, this person had just turned her psyche inside out and now he’d followed her. She struggled with everything she had to disguise her shakiness. But at the moment she was having trouble even holding onto her tea without spilling it. She smiled slightly, not too warmly. “I’m sorry. I’m a little preoccupied today. I don’t think I’d be very good company.”

The man standing in front of her could be called handsome, sort of rugged, bearded, with nice eyes, brown, warm but distinctly a little sharp. “Well,” he shrugged in an unassuming way, “for a day like this I think you’d be great company.”

Her eyes widened a bit. What was that supposed to be a compliment or some kind of joke? Her voice took on its dismissive, icy quality. “I don’t really know how to take that.”

He put his hands in the pockets of his coat, reminding her sort of a little of a kid that had been chastised, “Yeah maybe that wasn’t exactly the right thing to say.”

She took a sip of her scalding tea, ignoring the singe to her mouth. “Maybe not.” He hadn’t moved. He wasn’t going away. It was evident that she would have to do something very harsh to get rid of him. But at the moment, still recovering her footing from the tumult she’d experienced, she found she didn’t have it in her. And beyond that she had to admit there was curiosity. What she’d experienced with him before, well she couldn’t quite wrap her brain around it. Would a conversation be so harmful? It could give her some answers.

His eyebrow rose a bit in question. “Do I get to sit down, or have I been dressed down and dismissed?”

She indicated the chair across from her. “You can sit,” and then she added dryly, “for a little while.”

He settled in across from her, and then extended his hand, “By the way I’m Jacob Wyss.”

She hesitated. This was no problem. She was protected. That was why she wore the gloves so often, but she still felt profoundly shaken and more than a little bit wary. Harmless he seemed, but most appearances she’d found were thin veneers to what was truth. And what she’d experienced before definitely wasn’t harmless. Cautiously, she returned the handshake and minimized its duration, but even that caused a strange frisson along her senses. “Aimee,” she murmured, “Aimee Marston.”

He smiled, but she knew he’d noticed her reluctance, reluctance that seemed to bother him. “Pleasure to meet you Aimee Marston, I’ve got to tell you that when I decided to come out today, I had no idea that the day would take such a turn.”

Her heartbeat picked up a bit. He was so perceptive. She could feel it, but she didn’t want to. She was trying very hard to protect herself with layers of barriers, but at this moment it seemed as though everything was in tatters. “You’re not drinking anything?” she inquired.

“Um yeah,” that innocent question seemed to befuddle him a bit. “I had a coffee earlier.”

“Oh,” she left it there and waited. She strummed her fingers along the sides of her mug of tea. She was not about to hold up this conversation. After all, it wasn’t her idea.

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and for some reason that simple gesture made her smile a bit. “Do you live around here? I mean did you have to drive far in the snow?”

“Well, no actually I have an apartment, not very far.” The tea had cooled, so she could drink it comfortably. “And you? Did you have far to drive Mr. Wyss?”

He reacted a bit, a little surprised at the formality perhaps. She didn’t know why she did it, maybe to throw him a bit off-balance. “Well yes Miss or would you rather Ms. Marston, I drove in from the mountains, just outside of Crozet.”

She was smiling now. He was funny, “Ms. will do. That seems a bit unwise on such a day, driving I mean in such conditions.”

“Yes, well I have to confess that this is not the first time I’ve been labeled as unwise.”

“That seems hard to imagine.”

“Not really, if you get to know me.”

His eyes flickered for a second to the counter where the salesgirl had returned. She couldn’t resist. “Do you feel the need for another coffee Mr. Wyss?”

He laughed, “Um, if I get one will you still be here when I get back?”

She swallowed, wondering, “I suppose for a few minutes longer.”

He nodded, “And when I get back do you think you might call me Jacob?”

She leaned back in the chair feeling calmer and more relaxed, although unsure if she had reason to be. “Well we’ll just have to see.”

“Yes,” he responded, “we will.”

“Not a coffee drinker?”

She shook her head. She had pretty brown hair, wavy and thick. “No, I’m not.” In fact, mostly everything about her was pretty.

But also, distant, that would be his impression. She was holding herself at a deliberate distance from him. He’d taken in quickly that there was no wedding ring, no engagement ring on that long, tapering finger. The other hand did have a ring, a silver one done in a kind of weave, sort of Celtic in design he guessed. He had an eye for detail. It came with the trade. He was an artist. And he had decided not so many minutes ago that Aimee Marston would be his next subject, willing or not. He was hoping for willing though.

“I’ve found that you can pretty much divide the world into coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers.”

“Oh, and there aren’t any who might do both?” He was enjoying the way her eyes sparkled a bit when she found him amusing, which was actually happening quite frequently in this conversation.

“Oh sure, but people who drink coffee are usually dedicated to it, drink it every day, not like those who dabble in it.”

“Do you think the word addicted might be more appropriate than dedicated? Dedicated implies some sort of choice in the matter.” And she liked sparring; he’d already picked that up.

He nodded, “I see you’re into the half-empty philosophy.”

The beautiful green eyes got a little cold, “I like to deal in reality.”

He smiled a bit. He’d irked her. That was okay as long as she didn’t get up and walk out. “Whose reality Aimee?” He emphasized her name a bit. It was the first time he’d used it, and he could see something flare for a second in those captivating eyes. “Doesn’t that all depend on one’s perception?”

“Perception does not alter truth Jacob,” he couldn’t suppress a huge grin. She was right and obviously took being right very seriously.

“No,” and he raised his frothy Café Mocha to her in a mock toast. “No, it does not, although it often does make a pretty picture.” She looked at him with question. “Sorry, I’m an artist. I deal in perception. In fact, I’m having a showing at the downtown mall next week. Maybe you might want to stop by.”

She shrugged a little. That made her uncomfortable. Why was that? Didn’t want to be pinned down, this one. And that was all he had been strategizing about since he sat down at her table. Something in his blood was going kind of crazy around her. He didn’t understand it, not in the least. But he wasn’t going to just let her walk through those doors and out of his life, until he got a handle on it.

She glanced down at the thin, silver watch on her wrist. “I’m afraid I have to be going. I have some things to take care of.”

His eyes flickered over a large picture window to the side of them. It appeared that the snow had stopped. She was already gathering her purse, making movements to leave. She glanced up at him. “Will you be able to get back all right?” hesitating. “I mean to the mountains.”

“Yes, I’ll manage,” he murmured.

“Drive slow. It can be tricky, you know.” She was concerned. That was nice.

She started to get up, and he couldn’t stop himself. Instinctively, he reached out and put his hand on her arm. She just sort of froze at the contact, and then gingerly sat back into the chair that she’d started to rise from.

“Aimee I’m sorry, I feel like I just have to see you again.”

His words bothered her. Something was wrong here that he couldn’t pinpoint. “Jacob,” she began with great deliberation. “This is a bit awkward, but I’ll be honest with you. I’m not really dating right now if that is what you have in mind. I’m just not open to that right now.”

He nodded, “Well are you open to friendly conversations? Because I’ve really enjoyed this one, and lately quite frankly I’ve found that kind of rare.” She smiled, seemed a little afraid he thought. Was he being scary? “I promise you’ll like me more when you get to know me.” He didn’t want to push too much, or he really would scare her.

Again, she met him head on with those eyes. “My life is complicated.”

 “Married?”

Slowly, she shook her head.

“Involved? An escaped convict?” Again, she shook her head, trying to suppress a smile a bit he thought.

“Okay anything else I’ll brave. So not trying to be too high schoolish, can I have your number?”

She just stared at him, “You’re very pushy.”

“Only when it really matters.” He took one of his business cards out of his pocket and slid it over to her face down with a pen. She paused for a moment, just sort of staring at it. He really thought for a moment that she might tear it up and throw it at him. But she didn’t.

She picked up the pen that he’d placed on the table and began to write.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea Jacob.”

“Well then we’ll take a risk. I’m overdue for one.” He was a bit relieved when she was finished, and the card was back in his possession. “Can I walk you to your car? I’ll even scrape the snow off your windshield.”

She stood up and pulled out a little red hat that she put on. Good grief, she was adorable. “That offer I find very hard to resist.”

He grinned with satisfaction, “That was the plan.”

Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Klebert

Jacob Wyss is caught in a rut, in fact on the verge of being engulfed by it. After an excruciating and disillusioning divorce, his life as an artist in a sleepy-college town at the foot of the Appalachian mountains has become quiet, routine, and maddening in its predictability. One wintry day, his deep restlessness drives him out in precarious conditions to a largely empty bookstore nearly devoid of another living soul, nearly.

Aimee Marston isn’t like everyone else. On the surface, she lives a sedate life working as a feature writer for a small local newspaper in addition to several other editorial jobs to help make ends meet. But just beneath, her existence is largely not her own. She is a sensitive, an empathetic psychic, guided by her calling to use her gifts to help others. Unfortunately, as a result, her secretiveness has made her defensive, protective of herself, and prevented her from having much of a life of her own.

A psychic call for help sends Aimee out on a freezing January morning where her destiny and Jacob’s collide sending both their lives spiraling onto an unexpected and often disturbing track. Two lonely souls connect, not by accident, but by design. Theirs is the intersection of two spiritual paths, two lovers who must struggle to overcome the phantoms of a past life, as well as the challenges of their own inner demons to carve out an extraordinary future together.

Catch up on the rest of A Quiet Moment’s chapters. Click on the book.

The Left Palm New Edition

Need something spooky but just a bit unpredictable to read this Halloween season? The recently revised edition of The Left Palm and Other Halloween Tales of the Supernatural has just been released.

Halloween is the time of year when that veil between worlds is thinned, and you can just catch a quick glimpse into the realm of the unknowable. In this collection of short stories, Evelyn Klebert takes you to a place where ordinary life splinters into the sphere of the paranormal.

The journey begins with one woman’s unstoppable quest for vengeance against a supernatural creature in “Wolves,” and continues in an old historical graveyard where a horrifying discovery is uncovered in “Emma Fallon.” In “The Soul Shredder,” a psychiatrist’s unusual patient opens his eyes to a disturbing new view of reality, while in “Wildflowers,” a woman strikes up a supernatural friendship with impossible implications. And in “The Left Palm,” a fortuneteller in the French Quarter receives a most unexpected and terrifying customer.

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The Tear

My final spooky short story is entitled “The Tear.” I chose this particular story as the last because outside of being a tale steeped in the paranormal, it is a story about hope. Even in the darkest of times, when circumstances appear insurmountable, there is always the hope for new beginnings — a message that I feel is timely and essential, always. I hope you enjoy!!

The Tear

Walking in this world on shards of glass.

Trying to evade the pain,

wondering what you are doing here

And it’s that question that is in need of an answer,

because—

Because you’ll be leaving soon,

And all the whys are just singing in your ears,

like echoes that won’t quiet.

She closed her fat little book. That’s what they called it where she bought it — a fat little book, now being filled with fat little nothings that she was writing.

“Ah, you look unsatisfied.” She took off her sunglasses and smiled up at a friendly face. She hadn’t seen him approach the park bench that had been her custom to settle on every afternoon. Here, perhaps foolishly, she was trying to create something lasting for posterity — sometimes writing, sometimes sketching, or taking photographs. But none of it seemed to accomplish what she wanted. It simply wasn’t enough.

“Well, I guess I just don’t have what it takes to be a great poet.”

He sat down next to her. “It depends on what you term great. Most poets aren’t genius. They just find a moment that inspires them, moves them to tap into the finest part of themselves.”

“And if that moment never arrives?”

“Then have a nice cafe au lait instead, and don’t worry about it very much. These things can’t be forced.”

She laughed. He had a curious blasé manner that lifted her spirits, when often nothing else could. “But I could miss my inspiring moment, while I’m wasting time having that cafe au lait,” she teasingly retorted.

“Ah well, my dear, you must realize that enjoying yourself is never a waste of time,” and then he reached down and warmly squeezed her hand. And the anxiousness that she lived with, and quite frankly cultivated on a daily basis, slipped away unnoticed. He stood up, “Shall we?”

She rose to walk with him. Since she had met him in the park two weeks ago, she had never been able to, or perhaps been willing to, say no to the mysterious, engaging gentleman. A year ago, she would have treated this man who had befriended her with suspicion or at least a measure of caution. But there wasn’t time to be guarded now. She needed to experience and absorb everything that came her way. There was absolutely no time for second-guessing, only time to soak up what each experience had to offer.

It is unreal at times, listening to him speak to me with such ease, as though we have been long acquaintances. His voice is soothing, captivating, eliciting a peace that I find impossible to find elsewhere. Being in his company is like being drawn into that quiet sleep unawares. Am I being seduced into forgetting, into not resisting what is to come?

She sipped her overly hot coffee while he flipped through her notebook. It was crammed full of thoughts, impressions, and small sketches — a wealth of material that in most moments spoke to her of tedium and frustration. Letting him look at it might very well send him running off for higher ground somewhere, but she didn’t really care. Life’s incessant turns had left her stripped down of inhibitions, of any small worries. There were far too many larger ones looming close.

Glancing out of the large, picture window beside their table she noticed across the street, several buses had pulled in front of a school. The young girls dressed in their crisp white blouses and plaid skirts took her back for a moment to her endless days in private schools. It seemed so very far away now.

Resurfacing to the present she found his dark eyes watching her, studying her, “And you did not like school so much?”

She picked up the mug and took a sip of coffee. It had cooled to a tolerable level, “No, not very much, I guess I’ve always felt like I didn’t fit in. And school is the worst place for that, because there is no running away. Fitting in is not only essential, it is a necessity for survival.”

Nodding slightly as though in understanding, he closed the notebook, “You are too hard on yourself. You are gifted. The writing is strong but dark and very sad.” He slid the notebook across the table to her, and there was an instant of contact as she picked it up. She smiled at him, not knowing how to respond.

She was struck again at how handsome a man he was. His eyes were a dark brown shade and his hair very black but touched by grey on the sides. His bone structure was strong, almost carved looking — classical, as her mother would say — a classical European. As a child, the image of what exactly a classical European was had eluded her. After all, Europe was a mish mash of different countries. But now, she believed she could safely categorize this man as such. It had something to do with old-world mystery and a strong but refined look. It was something that you just didn’t see here in the states, or she hadn’t at any rate. But she was not really a good judge. Her experience with the other sex was limited. Her mother was much more a connoisseur of men than she had ever been. For Moira there had been the one mistake — one emotionally catastrophic marriage. And then, she’d taken time to heal, too damn much wasted time. “Tell me something. Why do you look so sad when you think about your past?”

Quite expertly, he drew her out of her morbid reflections, “Oh, I don’t know. I guess I haven’t known that much happiness. Much of my past feels depressing to me now.” She didn’t bother to cover with him. Their brief acquaintance had taught her how extraordinarily perceptive he was.

He looked out the window at the masses of teenagers pouring out of the school, and then there was a wistful smile. “I suppose we get into the habit of interpreting things a certain way. It’s really all a matter of perception.”

She smiled thoughtfully, “Oh, you are of the make lemonade philosophy.”

“Well, I suppose you might say that, as long as it keeps that smile on your face.”

“And are you taking care of yourself Moira? Are you sure you’re all right in that house all alone. You know you could move in with Roger and me.”

Even the momentary thought of living with her mother and her latest husband in that big drafty house on Napoleon Avenue gave her a sensation of claustrophobic panic. “No, really, I like it here Mom.”

“But baby you’re alone, what if, what if —”

“Mom, I told you I’m feeling fine. The doctors say I’m stable, and I truly need to be by myself right now.”

There was silence at the other end, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, yes, I know where to find you when I need you,” More silence, even in the whirl of her largely superficial existence Christina Redford had a sense of things, especially when it came to her daughter.

“Baby, let me help.”

“Mom, just give me some time. That will help.”

“Oh, do you still see that man, the foreign one? You know the one you met at the park.”

“Yes, I do every once and awhile.”

“What was his name again?”

“Jean, his name is Jean.”

Lying, lying to everyone.

Is that what it all boils down to?

She died, and she had lied to everyone.

“Are you all right?” She looked down at the cracks in the cement sidewalk beneath her feet. Her vision blurred for a moment, and then a strong arm linked beneath hers to prop her up.

It was a fight to catch her breath. She was stupid to be out, after this morning’s treatment. She was too drained to be out in the heat. But she couldn’t stop herself from going to the park. He was waiting for her there, just as she knew he would be. “We can stop, Moira.”

She nodded, too tired to respond. He pulled her toward a stone bench, and she gratefully dropped down to it. “You went to the doctor today.”

She smiled at him, “Yes, I did.”

“I see,” and he looked away from her. “Why did you come here? You are too ill.”

“It will pass,”

And then she felt him put his arm around her and pull her closer. “Yes, I promise. It will pass.”

These moments we share, they seem so removed to me, as though real life has already slipped away.

He had taken her home, to her small two-bedroom house on the corner of Canal Street that she had rented only a few months before. She watched as he put the keys into the heavy wrought iron gate that surrounded the front patio. In moments, they were in the den, the largest room in the house with its large picture window looking out onto the street in front of it. She actually liked being so close to a main traffic route, where life with consistency continued to go on daily.

She sank onto the sofa and nodded as Jean murmured something about getting her a cup of tea. Closing her eyes, she let the pure flood of fatigue take her.

“Why this house Moira?” her mother had asked. “Just the noise of the traffic on that busy street will stop you from getting any rest.” But it hadn’t. It had been a comfort to her. She had always liked living right in the midst of activity, and now that it was all ending, she preferred not to have things any different.

The sleep is heavy, dragging me along somewhere. The weight on my chest feels so heavy, as though it will plunge through me.

When Moira awoke, her body felt different. The sluggish heaviness that had seemed to enmesh her for so long seemed remarkably lightened now. Her very breathing came easier. Sitting up, she felt a distinct chill in the air and then, in the same thought, detected the unmistakable aroma of burning wood. Across the den was Jean kneeling next to the fireplace that had been unused since she moved in. She rubbed her head. The headache was gone, but there was a slight feeling of disorientation in its place. “Lay back and rest. I’ll have this done in a minute,” he called to her, not even turning around to see that she had indeed gotten up. “Use that throw on the couch to cover up until I get the chill out of the room. The heater here isn’t working too well.”

She did lean back and pull the dark green woven afghan around her. And then, as reason slowly began to filter in, she wondered why it was so cold now. It had been almost balmy outside earlier. New Orleans only seemed to catch a substantial chill in the dead of winter and right now it was early May. And then, as her eyes casually began to scan the room, she abruptly froze on the spot. Her mild bewilderment now exploded into tremendous proportions. This was indeed her house, but that was the end of it. Nothing beyond that was the same.

She sat up and rubbed her eyes, beginning to take inventory. Her television was gone, and in its place a short light-wooded bookstand. There was a small dinette set across the room that she had never laid eyes on and what looked to be a computer desk against the wall. Then she looked down at the sofa she laid on that wasn’t her old blue overstuffed couch but a tan rustic looking piece that, “Where’s my stuff?” The words flew out of her mouth.

It was then that he stood up from the fireplace and turned toward her smiling, “I think that will do it.” She took a sharp breath. It certainly was Jean, but even he was noticeably transformed. His hair was longer. He wasn’t clean-shaven, as he’d been earlier. There was several days’ growth on his face, and his clothes were different. When she had gone to sleep, he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a pair of dark pants. Now he stood before her in a beige pullover sweater and blue jeans.

This time she whispered to him shakily, “What’s going on? Where’s all my stuff?”

He smiled gently, “Are you warm enough?”

She pulled the throw more tightly around her. Then, looking down at it, realized that this too was not hers, “I — what the hell is going on?”

Sitting beside her on the couch, he quietly took her hand in his. “It’s all right Moira. This is not what you think. Just think of it as a dream.”

Her eyes widened, “A dream? You can’t be serious.”

“Well, that is all I can say for now. Why don’t you lay back and relax? Dinner is almost ready.”

She didn’t resist as his hands calmly but firmly pushed her back to a reclining position on the sofa, “Wait a minute now. I have to tell you that this doesn’t feel like any dream I’ve ever had.”

His hands were smoothing her hair now, like he was comforting an upset child. “Don’t try so hard to figure everything out right now. Relax and enjoy.” His eyes were so gentle, “Sleep.”

She closed her eyes as though unable or unwilling to resist his suggestion. Sighing deeply, she murmured, “I thought I was sleeping.” And then there was stillness.

When she awoke, she found herself still within the dream. Jean was no longer in the room, but the fire was blazing warmly and comfortably. There was a glass of red wine sitting on the coffee table beside her. She picked it up and took a sip. It was cool on her lips. And in that instant, she decided not to fight this anymore. It was as though she were under a spell, compelling her not to resist what this moment was offering her. She felt drowsy and relaxed. She rose and let herself meander across the room, studying its strangeness. As her eyes took in all its details, she realized that for some reason it now offered more comfort to her than when it was filled with her things.

For some time, she had felt her furnishings to be oddly tainted, as though there was a history of anxiety stuffed deep within all her possessions. Most of them had traveled with her through her disastrous marriage. She had considered dumping everything and starting fresh. But that fresh start had become indefinitely postponed, and then ultimately scraped when she became ill.

“I’m glad you found it.”

She turned toward the sound of his voice and found Jean standing in the doorway of the kitchen. “Well, I hoped it was mine,” glancing briefly down at the glass of wine in her hand.

Then he moved toward her, “If it wasn’t, I’m sure it would have taken little provocation for me to give it to you. Everything is almost ready. I hope you like fish.”

“Yes, but I thought that went with white wine.”

“Well, as they say overseas, anything goes in America.”

“Is that what they say?”

Smiling, he ushered toward the small wooden dining table that was now fully set, with a single white rose in the center, “A young country allows a lot of flexibility from tradition.”

She sat down in the chair that he had pulled out for her, “And this is good?”

“That does depend on who you are talking to.”

Taking in the setting, she whispered, “Everything is lovely.” She let her hand lightly brush the petals of the flower, “You’ve gone to a lot of trouble.” And then she felt him lean over and lightly brush the top of her head with a kiss.

“I’ve been planning this for some time. I’ll be right back.” He disappeared into the kitchen, leaving her wondering, but swirling in the contentment that was blooming inside her.

The fire was becoming embers as Moira sat on the couch, watching quietly as Jean tried to resurrect it. She sipped her coffee from the white, ceramic mug that she did not own, feeling contentment in the fact that she was unconcerned by it all. Dinner had been light, filled with smiles, and witty talk. She found him more relaxed than the other times that they had met in the park. It was as though now he was in his element, though precisely what that element was she didn’t let her mind wander to seek. He had told her it was a dream, and she was buying it. The fact that none of this was real had ceased to bother her. So what if she was losing it. What was so darned important in her life, in her mind, that she couldn’t afford to just let slip away?

The flames before them finally managed to reemerge. Being successful in his task, Jean left his work at the fireplace and joined her on the couch that she still did not recognize but was becoming increasingly fond of. “I think I’ve prolonged its life a bit,” he remarked, picking up his mug of coffee that was resting beside hers on the table.

“I’m sure it’s enough to fight back the chill, although I still don’t get this cold weather in the spring. Or has the world just turned upside down?”

He nodded, “Perhaps, it would not be so terrible if our little corner of it is comfortable.”

She laughed instinctively, “Yes, my mother has always said that Europeans are more concerned with their recreation than anything else.”

“Oh, and she has made such a broad study to draw this conclusion.”

“Well, of course she has. She has met at least one, and that is enough for her to pronounce a judgment.”

“She sounds like an interesting woman.”

“She is colorful anyway, not like her daughter.”

He sipped his coffee, momentarily focusing on the mutating firelight. “And what does that cryptic statement mean?” he murmured.

She leaned back on the couch frowning, letting herself speak without caution. After all, if it was just a dream, there was no accountability here. No reason to shroud the truth in tactfulness. “Mom has always been very flamboyant and aggressive about her life. She’s had several husbands, probably more lovers than I know about, has traveled, seen things, and does not second guess herself the way—”

He filled in quietly, “The way that Moira does.”

“Well, I suppose it is predictable that such a mother could only produce an inhibited, cautious, conservative little thing that couldn’t run fast enough to get out of her mother’s shadow.”

“Predictable, that’s interesting. I don’t find you in the least predictable. So, this pathetic description is truly how you see yourself?”

She supposed she should bristle at his comments, but she felt so relaxed and peaceful that she didn’t feel like it. “At times,” she sighed deeply, feeling any concern for anything in particular slipping away.

“It’s a pity, that people spend so much time in self, how can I put it, mutilation.”

“Mutilation? Hmm, is that what you’d call it?”

He’d picked up at her hand and seemed a bit stern at the moment for some odd reason. “No, what I think is that what you call inhibited and cautious, I call sensitive and intuitive. What you find conservative, I see as thoughtful and caring of others. Being aggressive about life isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes it’s just callous. When you are so anxious to reach something, you often miss the journey, the beauty around you, and your successes are without depth, without substance. So much is missed that can’t be recovered.”

His hand felt very warm around hers. She tried to consider his words. “I see your point. I am afraid of that, that I’ve missed too much and now.”

“But Moira, being afraid is a waste of time too. Too much time is lost in fear.”

She bent her head down and whispered, “What’s going on here? Am I really dreaming all of this?” And then she felt his hand caressing her cheek.

“Can I ask you just to trust me for a little while?”

She looked up into his face, such soft dark eyes, “I suppose.”

He smiled, “But it’s not easy.”

She shook her head. “I haven’t been the trusting type.”

“Then it’s time for a change, yes?”

And before she answered his lips were on hers, kissing her, and he was pulling her into a warm embrace that made her forget all the questions that were floating around in her mind.

The heat was unbearable. She felt like she was being drowned in the thick humidity. The sleep was exhausting and smothering.

She awoke from the dream drenched in her own sweat. She was lying on the couch, her own couch, and it was night-time. Her watch read eleven’ o’clock at night to be exact. And every inch of her body ached, as though she had just run several miles. Her stomach rumbled with the familiar nausea of the treatment from earlier that afternoon. Forcing herself to get up, she stripped her damp clothes away as she stumbled to the shower. It took a moment, but the cool water hitting her body began to revive her. The images in her mind were blurry, but she remembered his touch — being held close and being kissed. He had kissed her with passion, and she returned it. After that she recalled no more.

It must have been a dream, perhaps brought on by the powerful pain medicine the doctor had given her. Because beyond that she could find no rational explanation. Anything else was simply not possible.

“What’s the matter with you Moira?”

“I told you Mom. I’m just feeling a little tired.”

“You know. It’s been nearly a week since I’ve seen you. Honey, I’m really beginning to worry about you — the way you’re cutting yourself off from everyone.”

“Really, I’m not. In fact, Jean cooked me dinner last night.”

“Really? He did. You didn’t mention that.”

“Well, it was spur of the moment,” she breathed out deeply, stupid, stupid to bring this up.

“Oh where did—”

“Here, he fixed it here.”

Then there was a silence. “I’m glad you aren’t just staying in that house all alone.”

“No Mom, I’m not alone.”

Where am I Going? I feel so disconnected as though I am not resisting anything now.

“Am I privy to your thoughts today?”

She looked up from her writing. It was Jean, looking as he usually did — his hair short, clean-shaven, not at all like the dream. “I don’t know if they’re worth looking at really.” He sat beside her on the park bench, where she had come to sit only moments earlier. His timing in finding her was always remarkable. She’d never given it much thought, that was until today.

“I won’t push, some things should remain private. You look as though you are feeling a little better today Moira.”

She smiled, now vigorously debating with herself, whether or not to bring it up. And then, he took her hand in his and squeezed it in his own. It was something that he’d done before, but now oddly felt much more intimate and familiar. “I wanted to tell you something.”

“Yes,” but his eyes were looking forward, watching the young children playing on the swing set before him with great pleasure. There was the trace of a smile on his face. “Look at them Moira. This is life being played out in front of you. Now, this moment, they don’t worry about the future or carry pain with them from the past. They are simply enjoying what is. That is what we forget to do when we become tied to the world.”

And then she let her eyes follow his and travel to what was in front of her. She watched one little girl playing. She wore a short off-white dress with leggings underneath. Running around the swing set like a hellion, her neatly bound hair was becoming unraveled and her pretty lacy leggings getting smudged with dirt as she tumbled on the ground with her playmate. But her face was beautiful. It was lit up with joy and abandon. And Moira felt herself smiling with her. It must be wondrous to be so happy, not worried, not being cautious or regretful, just being. She felt his hand on her knee, “You see. It’s not so hard to be happy. Let them be your teachers.”

And she spoke low, “Was it a dream?”

“It was whatever you wish it to be.”

Winding down the Path, where it ends is not possible to know.

“Where are we going?”

“For a drive around the city, just lean back and rest.” They had walked to his car, which she had never seen before. It was parked on a side street not very far from her house. It was a beige car, some sort of sedan. The day outside, when she had headed to the park, had seemed very hot, but that had lessened. There was almost a breeze now. She didn’t question it. She just leaned back against the soft upholstery and let herself drift into a light sleep. The last thing that she felt was his hand softly brushing against her cheek as the car headed down the narrow, well-traveled roads behind her house.

Her eyes opened and a shiver passed through her. “Are you cold?” he asked.

She rubbed her arms, feeling goose bumps all over them. “Yes, I guess I am.”

“I have a sweater for you in the back seat.”

She turned and saw an ecru colored sweater lying on the seat behind her. She drew it to her, feeling its softness and noting the delicate craftsmanship that went into its making. “It’s beautiful.”

“It’s a gift.”

Her eyes focused onto Jean, and it struck her immediately. He was different again. “Oh God.”

He smiled, “You like books, don’t you?”

“Yes, but—”

“That’s where we’re headed, to a book sale on St. Charles.” And then, she noted the elegant mansions quickly passing by her. There was no mistaking the opulent homes on this route.

“Jean,” and then she looked over at his smiling face, “another dream?”

“Well, maybe everything else has been a dream, and this is reality.”

“Oh, shut up.”

He laughed with real amusement as he pulled the car in front of a palatial house on a small hill. It was an elegant mansion that had been converted into a public library. People in their winter wear were mingling across its lawn under tents which evidently had been set up for the sale. Jean, this particular Jean, who was now dressed in a pullover sweater, walked around and opened her car door. “You better put that on. It’s a bit chilly.” And as she stepped out into the air, she found that it was indeed.

“I am so glad that you could make it. We’ve had a nice turn-out today.” The silver-haired lady, well up in her sixties, that addressed Jean was dressed in a royal blue sweater dress. She seemed to be officiating in some capacity at the party/ book sale. Moira, who now held a glass of white wine in her hand, had gleaned that this was some sort of a preshow fundraiser before the book sale opened to the public. She then turned to Moira, smiling broadly, “I’m sorry we haven’t met. I’m the managing librarian here, Bess Wilcox.”

Then Jean stepped in, “Yes Bess, this is a good friend of mine, Moira Claiborne.”

“It’s good to have you here Moira. I’ve only known Jean about a year, but I’ve found him to have excellent taste in books, as well as friends.” Moira smiled and sipped her wine, vaguely wondering why Bess Wilcox was in her dream. As Bess moved on, greeting other potential customers, Jean smoothly squired Moira to a table of books in the corner. She picked one book up entitled The Psychology of an Abnormal Psyche.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” she murmured. Jean looked down at the book in her hand.

A bit abruptly he took it from her and put it back on the table. “No, just trying to get you away from the crowd. How are you doing? And no, you are not crazy.”

“Are you sure? I have my doubts. And you evidently spend a lot of time here.”

“Some, did you know this place used to be a private home owned by a silent screen, movie star.”

“Really?”

“Yes, and it was donated to the city and converted into this library. Finish your wine, then we’ll take a walk around the area.”

She took the last few sips and put the glass on a nearby table, “Are you sure Bess won’t miss us?”

“Yes,” he bent to her and lightly brushed her lips with a kiss. “I am sure it will be fine.”

The sidewalks around the library were largely uneven and cracked from the huge tree roots bursting through the cement. But she found it calming and peaceful as the winter breeze swept through the branches overhead. Winter breeze and it was April? “Do you like it here?”

His voice interrupted her contemplations. “Yes, it’s lovely. I spent a good part of my youth in this city, but for some reason I never stopped here before.”

“Maybe you were waiting for me to show it to you.”

She glanced over at him. “Yes, and what a unique way you have of doing it. You know, I can only glide along for so long before I have to get my head screwed on straight again. All of this is not fitting well into my perception of the world.”

“And is it essential that everything makes sense to you. Can’t you just enjoy the moment like the little girl in the park?”

“I’d like to, but I’m not the little girl in the park.”

“No and yes, part of us is always a child. We just tend to push that part aside and give it no importance, which is unfortunate.”

“I feel sometimes like you’re speaking to me in riddles.”

“No, I’m feeding you pieces of the truth a little at a time, so that you can feel them out before I give you more.”

She asked with genuine curiosity, “Is that what you are, some kind of teacher for me?”

“Aren’t we all teachers for one another?”

“Can’t you give me any straight answers?”

He nodded, “Yes, here is something concrete. There is a coffee shop not far from here.”

“You Europeans and your coffee.”

“Now you sound like your mother.”

She laughed, “That’s really wounding.”

Home again, or am I? This place with my things is beginning to feel less and less like home. The dream is becoming my real life. Is this what insanity is? If so, why does it feel so comfortable?

She awoke on her couch again, her head pounding fiercely. She had to sit up slowly, because there was the dizziness also. What had happened?

She remembered the library sale and then the stroll to the coffee shop. It was casual, unhurried, both of them simply enjoying the crisp cool day. The coffee house was inside a small wood frame house that had been converted into a restaurant. They had settled out on the patio beneath an umbrella table sipping cafe au laits. It was all that she seemed to order these days. The wind was blowing cool on her face, but it didn’t bother her. She felt warm. The familiar heaviness that was always present in her chest was absent, and she scarcely had noticed its departure.

And there was Jean. She knew that somehow, he was deliberately striving to distract her. It amused and charmed her at the same time. They talked of books, of music, even of unsuspecting pedestrians who were walking by. “Have you ever wondered what their lives are like?” he had said to her.

“No,” she had answered sheepishly. She hated to admit how very ostrich-like she had been in conducting her life, so wrapped up in her personal dilemmas that she had never looked very far beyond her own backyard.

“How do you suppose they live? Can we ever really know what sort of joys or burdens each carry? What secrets?” He seemed to enjoy prodding her with questions, making her dig deeply within herself.

But at moments, she would only deflect him. She’d laughed and told him that he sounded like a voyeur.

He smiled at her with genuine warmth, “No, more like a voyager, a voyager of life.”

Soon after they had gone back to the car, he’d touched her hand and then asked her to rest. That was the last thing she remembered, until now.

The phone rang, shattering her pensive recollections.

“Yes,” her own voice sounded distant and groggy to her.

“Moira, it’s Jean. I wanted to see if you were all right.”

“I—I think so. I just woke up.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Confused, I can’t remember coming back here.”

“It’s all right. Don’t be concerned.”

“Hmm,” Rubbing her forehead that seemed to be throbbing a bit at the moment, “this is so strange. Yesterday, this afternoon, I don’t know.”

“Don’t try to sort it out now. Rest for a while. We’ll talk later.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “I am tired.”

“Please rest.” Then he hung up. And she was left vaguely comforted but also wondering. She laid back on the sofa and let the fatigue take her. There was no resistance left within her.

When she awoke again, it was sharply to the sound of a bell. The clock on the wall read 4:00 P.M. She had been asleep nearly an hour. Pulling herself up, she shakily walked out onto the wrought iron patio. Peering through the decorative bars on the front door, she could see Janice Deveroux waiting on the landing.

Wonderful, she was hardly in the proper frame of mind to entertain her somewhat gregarious landlady, but there was no help for it. Moira smiled widely because she knew she had been spotted.

Immediately, the words began to bubble over as she opened the door. “Moira, I was in the neighborhood, and I thought I’d save you the trouble of mailing your rent check. Unless you’d prefer to wait—” Janice continued to prattle on as she, with reluctance, escorted her inside.

Several cups of coffee and a half an hour later she was disconcerted to see that Janice Deveroux showed no indication of leaving. Moira had heard the dish on the neighbors, the latest successes of Janice’s real estate firm, and more details on the exploits of her two-year-old nephew than anyone could imagine ever wanting to know. As she sat in her glider rocker across this very vivacious yet disturbingly obtuse woman, she plotted quietly and somewhat desperately how to encourage a departure. Her patience was deteriorating at the same rate that the pounding in her head was escalating. She really had to go lay down for a while.

“You know you are looking a little pale. Are you feeling well?”

She responded, “Just a little under the weather.” There was no way she was confiding her chronic medical problems to this woman.

“Well, you should see about it. It’s very dangerous to let these things get out of hand. Like that poor man who lived here before you, it was terrible what happened with him.”

“What happened?”

“Oh,” and then there was an awkward silence. Evidently, something had slipped that wasn’t supposed to. This was confirmed by the red tinge of embarrassment that had crept into Janice’s round face. “I thought I’d told you.”

“I seem to remember something about it, but the details escape me. What happened again?” This was in fact the very first that she’d heard about the previous tenant. But it was potentially the most interesting tidbit that had come up during the visit.

“Oh, well,” there seemed a bit of relief in her with the possibility that Moira already knew whatever it was she was going to reveal. “The gentleman who had rented the place before you, he was a quiet sort, kept to himself. And then suddenly, one day out of the blue, he had a heart attack. Didn’t even go to the hospital, just died. It was terrible. You know. He wasn’t found for several days. And although some relatives did claim the body, some of his things are still boxed in the attic. They weren’t very interested in his possessions. I’m still trying to track down someone to take them.”

“That’s very sad. When did it happen?”

“Several months before you rented the house. January or early February, I believe.”

“I had no idea,” her astonishment overwhelmed her attempt at subterfuge.

Her eyes widened a bit, as though she’d been caught in something. “I thought you said you knew about it. It’s not something I’d advertise to would-be tenants. Some might be unnerved by it.” And then she looked at Moira a bit sheepishly, “Are you?”

“No, not really, it’s just sad. That’s all. Is he buried around here?”

“Oh no, they took the body back to France.”

“France?”

“Yes, he was French. He had only been here for about a year.”

“Really?” And then Moira felt the pounding in her head become stronger, as a distant uneasiness crept in.

“Yes, he was very distinguished looking. And polite, I remember that especially. You know, these days you don’t find that as often, well, as you used to.”

“Yes, that’s true.” For some reason, she wanted her desperately to stop now, no more about this man who was no longer here.

“He seemed very much a loner. You know, Mrs. Gallows next door said she did see a young lady here occasionally but only from a distance. Have you met Mrs. Gallows?”

“Ah, no, I guess I keep to myself as well.”

“Yes, well, I suppose I should be on my way. You look like you need some rest.” Moira nodded and walked with her to the front door. “And, of course, if there are any problems with the house, do call or give me a page on my beeper. I’m on the go so much.”

She nodded, “Yes, uh—”

“What, what was that?” She had turned around in response to Moira’s almost incoherent murmur.

Something compelled her, as though she had no choice but to ask. “The man, who lived here before, what was his name?”

“Oh, didn’t I say? It was Jean Soule.” And then the next few things that she said Moira did not hear. All she heard was the pounding in her head that had magnified to almost intolerable proportions.

She was alone in the house, sitting quietly and catastrophically stunned on the couch. It was simply a bizarre coincidence. She had just seen Jean. She had just spoken to him on the phone. This man, who had died in this house, was simply someone else. She touched her face and felt the tears that she did not realize she was shedding. They felt hot against her fingertips. Her whole face felt warm, like she had a fever. All of this was impossible, simply impossible.

The attic in the house was a large one with a huge fan atop to keep the items stored safe from the blistering heat of the South in the summertime. When she first moved in, Moira had put a few boxes of her own to the front of the attic, but she had ventured no further into its darkened corners. However, today, she had a different purpose. This was a mission of exploration. She must find out as much as she can about one Jean Soule who passed on months before she ever stepped foot in this house. More than whom he was, she had to confirm who he was not.

Although the attic was lit by a small light bulb at the front, she had brought a flashlight to illuminate its shadowed interior. She shone it along the back walls of the tapering walls and was quickly rewarded. For lodged in a stack, barely perceptible in the ordinary lighting, were indeed several medium-sized cardboard boxes. She walked back towards them, crouching now, because they had been placed in a section where the attic’s ceiling was at its lowest.

She situated herself beside the stack, sitting back on her legs. Pulling one out of the set of four toward her, she noted that it was sealed. Clearly labeled on the top with a thick black marker was the name Jean Soule. She stopped for a moment. Was this indeed an invasion of this poor deceased man’s privacy? Yes, of course it might be, but who would know? She would reseal these boxes, restoring their original condition when she was finished, and her angst would be satisfied. She felt driven, both compelled and desperate. She had to make some sense of her life again or confirm that the progression of her disease was somehow making her lose her mind.

It seemed endless, the time it took for her fingernails to lodge beneath the masking tape and rip it off the box. Then finally, it was open, releasing the musty smell of ink from the packing carton. The items within had been wrapped in newspaper. Quickly and frantically, she began to unfold each item, searching, but also hoping that there was nothing to find. Mostly books — it was filled with a stack of books on philosophy, some written in French, some English. There were books of poetry and even some New Age titles that she recognized. And then, as she reached further in the carton, there was another smaller box at the bottom. She pulled it out with some degree of difficulty, and then took off its lid.

It was filled with papers, letters that she scanned with impatience, and could hardly make sense of because they were in French. Her college French was to say the least rusty. Then lifting up a large stack of documents, she spied something that made her freeze. She remained in the same stunned pose for a moment, motionless, staring at the small item at the bottom of the box.

Ridiculous, her mind told her, just coincidence she whispered shakily to herself. Then her hand reached out tentatively toward it, as though she were about to grasp some unpredictable serpent. Gingerly, she lifted the small notebook out of the black box. Her eyes examined it carefully. It was the same type, but they were common and easy enough to come by. And with a sudden clarity, she realized that her notebook was no longer with her. It had been left in his car, Jean’s car, when they took the drive earlier in the day.

Impulsively, her hands flipped back the cover to the fat little notebook. It only took her a flash of an instant to recognize the handwriting. She dropped it, almost threw it to the floor, as though the contact had burned her. There was no doubt. It was her notebook. Her notebook that she had left in the possession of a man whose name was Jean, who was now dead, had been dead for months, before she ever stepped foot in that park for the first time.

It remained sitting in front of her on the coffee table. She hadn’t reopened the notebook, couldn’t bring herself to. She simply sat waiting. It was late. She had no idea how late. She simply waited, expectantly. He would come and explain all of this somehow. He might well be dead, but that had never stopped him before.

Then suddenly, the phone rang, startling her, shattering the tension that had been building all afternoon. There was no place to hide anymore. She picked up the phone with trembling hands and put the receiver to her ear. She waited, being unable to even speak.

“Moira? Are you there?”

It was he, impossible, but it was, “Yes, I’m here.” She wondered distractedly if she was still breathing.

Silence, and she heard him softly say, “You are upset. You must be calm.”

“Calm? You don’t know what—”

And then he interrupted her, “Would you like to meet me Moira?”

Vaguely, she wondered how this was possible. “Yes, I need to talk to you.”

“Good. There is a Chinese restaurant across the street from your house. Half an hour, will that be enough time?”

She paused. She wouldn’t let her mind acknowledge the fact that she was making a date with some sort of ghost. “Yes, that will be fine.”

“Good and try to relax my darling,” then click. He was gone. He called her my darling. Was she his darling? Her head was spinning. Now somehow her own impending disasters seemed very far away. She tried to concentrate on getting ready, making herself breathe again.

There was a small shopping center directly across the street from her home. She had dressed rather quickly, but also in somewhat of a detached state. She wore a pretty sundress. It was made of a soft, clingy, rayon fabric and imprinted with a design that had struck her as Egyptian-like, silver and black. It was quite becoming on her. And she wondered with distraction, if he would like it. Being attractive to him had somewhere along the way become important to her. There was no denying even in the face of what she suspected, that she was drawn to him, to him as a man. What was happening here, between them, all of it was simply not possible. She pulled on the light cotton sweater that had been his gift to her and stepped into the balmy heat of the New Orleans’ evening.

She stood on the corner in front of her house, waiting for a break in the traffic. The boulevard was incessantly busy. And it was a comfort to her. Absurd as it was, it made her feel connected to living. As the flow of cars briefly ebbed, she stepped onto the asphalt and quickly walked across the street. It smelled strongly of tar, only a week earlier a portion of it had been re-blacktopped. The noise, the smells of the city — all of it connected with her, felt reassuring somehow.

The restaurant that she sought was at the center of the strip mall. She had to walk past a grocery, a hair, salon, a drugstore and dry cleaner before she reached it. But the exercise was welcome to her. It helped distract her very overwrought mind. As she approached, she noted the name of the restaurant on top of the building. The Joy Inn, it made her smile ironically. Was it indeed?

As she pushed open the heavy swinging door and walked inside the dimmed interior, she felt that odd dizziness rush through her body again. Everything around her seemed to swirl momentarily out of focus. Luckily, the chairs in the lobby were in close proximity. She walked toward them and sank down into one. Closing her eyes, she tried to will the disorientation away. Then she felt a hand touch her shoulder, and she looked up into his dark eyes, Jean’s eyes. He sat beside her, “Give it a moment. It will pass.”

He took her hand in his. His flesh was warm. This was no ghost. He was as real as she. And then the dizziness began to ebb away, almost as though he had willed it to. Finally, she was able to straighten up in the chair. He smiled comfortingly, “Better?”

She nodded, “Yes.”

He stood up and with his arm around her gently propelled her to her feet. “Then let’s go. Our table is waiting. I took the liberty of ordering us some hot tea. There’s a chill outside tonight.”

She looked at him quizzically, “What do you mean. It’s absolutely humid. I was just outside.”

“Well Moira, things have changed just a bit.”

She sipped hot tea and sat across from him at a dimly lit table with a dark red tablecloth. At that moment, she couldn’t remember a Chinese restaurant that she’d been at that did not have a dark red tablecloth. With great distraction, she wondered if they all bought them bulk at some tablecloth wholesale outlet. “You’re bothered about something?”

She looked at the handsome man seated across the table from her. “Yes,” she murmured. “Yes, it’s true.”

“And would you like to talk about it now?”

She looked down at her purse that was looped around the side of her chair, and impulsively dug her fingers down beneath its open flap until her hand closed around it. And then she abruptly flopped the notebook down on the table in front of him. He looked down at it, and then up at her, with a blank expression on his face. “It’s your notebook.”

“Yes, it is my notebook,” she stated flatly.

“Is there something you want me to read?”

She shook her head with upset and impatience. There was no delicate way to launch into this. “Don’t you remember? I left it in your car this afternoon, after the library, after the coffee shop, after you told me there was nothing to worry about.”

His fingers lightly brushed across the cover of the notebook. “I see now,” he said quietly.

She waited for elaboration, but he seemed content to wait calmly for her to continue. “Don’t you want to know how I got a hold of it?”

He lifted the small cup of tea to his lips, as though there was no problem here at all, no stress to be concerned with, while she was ready to explode. He quietly put the cup back on its saucer. “First, you need to calm down a bit and then tell me the rest.”

She took a deep breath. Her heart was hammering so painfully against her chest. “I found it in a box, in my attic.” Tears were beginning to spill from her eyes. She couldn’t help it. “The box belonged to a man that has your first name, a man from France who died months ago. I need to know what the hell is going on.”

He leaned back in his chair and sighing deeply. “Yes, I see that you do.” He paused, looking off in the distance as though trying to pull the words from somewhere. “I suppose I’ve been a bit selfish about all of this. I wanted to preserve the fantasy for a while.”

“Fantasy?” She wiped her cheeks. “I don’t understand.”

He spoke with weariness and almost a sadness that she could nearly feel in her own skin. “I knew when I talked to you that something was wrong, but I didn’t know you were already putting it together. But then, why should I be surprised? That you are so intensely intelligent and creative was one of the first things that struck me about you.”

“Putting what together? I don’t know what the hell is going on. These bizarre dreams about us. Damn it, I had just about accepted that along with the deterioration of my body that my mind was going, or maybe it was just a side effect to the pain medication that I’ve been taking. But that’s not it. That’s too easy. Something else is happening.”

“Would it be so much easier for you to accept that you are losing your mind?” He strummed his fingers pensively on that red tablecloth. “You are right. Much more is going on here.”

“Tell me Jean. Who is this Jean Soule, and why was my notebook that I left in your car in his things?”

“I suppose you left it with me at some point Moira, and after I was gone, it was boxed up with the rest of my things.”

Her heart had clutched so tightly at his words that it was painful. “What?” she whispered with desperation. “What are you saying? Your things?”

His hand reached out to grab hers. “Be still. You are much too upset. I can feel it. Please calm down. Truly there is nothing to be frightened of.”

She could feel her breath coming in short stops. She was upset, beyond upset, frantic. “How can I? What are you saying? You, you are Jean Soule. But he’s dead.”

He leaned toward her, “Not so loud my dear. You must be discreet about these truths that most people never allow to touch their lives. The world is a much different place than most perceive it to be.”

She leaned back, forcing herself to control her anxiousness, and dropping the elevated volume of her speech. “Are you saying that you are dead, Jean?”

He smiled with a touch of irony, “Do I look dead?”

“No, you look and feel very alive to me. So, are you saying that Janice Devareaux was mistaken that Jean Soule did not have a coronary and die?”

He looked slightly disturbed, “Ah, it was the heart. I didn’t really know. Well, no, that is true. When it was his time or mine, Jean Soule did make the transition or die if you want to put it that way.”

“What?”

“Moira, there is so much that you just don’t understand my dear. Look around you. How is everyone dressed?”

And then, she did look at the individuals seated at different tables. She was astonished that she hadn’t taken it in before. They were in sweaters and jackets and long pants, definitely cool weather wear. And yet, there she sat in her summery dress with her flats and light sweater draped around her shoulders. She was the oddity here. Then she noticed that he was dressed in a long-sleeved flannel type shirt. Why hadn’t she seen that before? “I was just outside. It’s hot. It’s muggy. What the hell is going on here?”

“Moira, we are in the same place you and I, but we have been travelers. For a while just I and then you. There is a tear here, a tear allowing us to step into each other’s lives and be together.”

“A tear? A tear in what?”

“In time, a rip in time.”

He had walked her back soon after. And she didn’t think of it as hers, because she knew where she was going, at the moment, was not her house. She had told him that she couldn’t eat. He had quickly flagged the waiter and got their check. As they stepped into the night, all the fanciful talk of tears in time was confirmed, although she had hoped it would not be. The night was frozen by the chill of a December breeze. It seemed to pass right through her and freeze her heart with fear. How could all this be? And the worst of it was that she knew she was falling in love with the man who protectively put his arm around her and led her quickly into the warmth of his home. There was no debating that whatever side of this rip they were on, it was his domain now.

He disappeared into the kitchen as she waited calmly by the closed front door. She felt afraid to move, and he quickly reappeared with two brandy glasses partially full of amber-colored liquid. He stopped and looked at her, “That bad?”

“It has all been a bit much.”

“Well, you have been here before, and it was comfortable for you then.”

“You made me dinner.”

“I can again, if you are hungry.”

“No, I’m afraid my appetite has fled for good.”

“Then come sit next to me and have some brandy.” She nodded and sat down on the beige couch, his beige couch. He sat beside her and gently put one of the glasses in her hand. Impulsively, she took a sip that was in hindsight too large. It stung her throat like fire. But the tingling aftermath was pleasant and distracting. “Did I mention how beautiful you look tonight?”

“No, but then there was hardly time. And as it is, I am inappropriately dressed,” she quipped.

“It is somewhat difficult to plan in cases like these.”

“No kidding,” she firmly placed the glass on the coffee table in front of her. “Okay, enough polite chitchat. I want to have all of this explained in a way that my human brain can wrap itself around it.”

He stared at her for a moment and then stood up and walked across the room to the fireplace as though collecting his thoughts before turning to face her. “You know Moira, the first time I saw you was not that day in the park. It was many years ago on that college campus uptown.”

“Tulane?”

“Yes, I think you had just started there, because you seemed quite young. I saw you sitting on the steps outside a building talking to some other students. I watched you for a few minutes, though I am sure you did not realize that I was there. I remember thinking how beautiful you were, so intensely animated and alive. And so, I was very disturbed that first day in the park to see how very tired you seemed, and how very sad.”

“I was dying, I mean I am.”

“And when you say it, that seems like such a terrible thing for you.”

She felt a bit stunned. How did one respond to such a statement? “Isn’t it? The end of life.”

“No, it’s the end of your body’s life. But what is really you, the spirit, goes on to another life.”

“What do you mean, reincarnation?”

“There are many different kinds of life, of living.”

“But Jean, that doesn’t explain all of this.”

He nodded, “Yes, well the point I am making is that I have always known of you. I come from an old family, from an old country who teach the world to its children in a more honest and truer way than is generally known. I was brought up to see clearly and to use all of my senses. You and I, our spirits are linked. Wherever they are living, whatever kind of life, our spirits are linked. They were created together so always wanting and needing to be together.”

Her mind was swirling, “But how?”

“I have always known we would meet, one way or another. It so happened that the paths we led did not allow for it during this lifetime, not in the usual way. But it was necessary that we help each other. I came here, to this place at the end of my life, knowing that here what seemed impossible would become possible.”

“This rip or tear as you call it.”

He sat beside her, “Yes, you see time is not a linear thing as we are taught. It is all happening at once. And here this tear exists. I don’t really know why. Maybe because of the location, the energy of the area. I don’t pretend to understand it all. But I was able to travel through it to what you call your time to meet you. And then I began to pull you back into my time.”

“Why?”

“Because to be blunt, your disease is not so advanced in my time. Frankly, you feel better and can enjoy life more. And that is why I am here, to help you enjoy life, to understand it.”

She stood up shakily, pulling away from him, “I can scarcely take this in.” And then, caught by a new realization and fear she abruptly turned to face him, “But I can tell you that I am not some charity case that you need to care for.”

His face hardened, “Don’t be ridiculous Moira. Do you think I did this just because you are sick, and I feel sorry for you?”

“It crossed my mind.”

“Did you not hear me? What I have done here was not selfless. I have led a very full but also very lonely life. There has been a chasm within me that no one else’s presence could fill.” He crossed to her and put his hands on her shoulders. “I need you. I have worked to try to help this world, but this time, this time with you, is for me as well as you.” He paused and then took a step backward, looking at her intently. “You can feel the truth. That is all it takes to complete this journey.” And then he held out his hands to her.

She could feel the genuineness of his sincerity. It seemed that in this moment a few small steps would start her on an entirely new journey. In many ways, it felt like a leap of faith, but she placed her hands in his, accepting the peace that he offered, content to let it flood her being.

Janice Devereaux walked through the open door of her rental property at the corner of Canal Street and Robert E. Lee. It was a simple, nice home, and it irritated her somewhat that she would soon again be looking for new tenants for it. If she weren’t careful to keep the matters hush hush, she feared that soon the place would soon irrevocably have a macabre reputation attached to it.

As she entered the dwelling, she had time to evaluate the two striking individuals that were sitting in her den. One was an older woman, at least five to ten years older than herself, and from the resemblance, she assumed was Moira’s mother. But for her age, she appeared very well-kept, even could be described as casually elegant. She was kneeling over a packing carton on the terrazzo floor. The other was a younger, good-looking man, who was sitting on the couch across from the lady. He was watching her with what could only be described as a deep concern on his face. Janice wondered if this was her son, but then Moira had never mentioned siblings.

Putting on a realtor’s smile, she entered the disturbing circumstance. “Ah, I hope I’m not intruding. I’m Janice Devereaux. I was Moira’s landlady.”

The woman looked up from the packing carton, showing signs of a tear-stained face. “No, not at all,” she said with the grimmest of smiles. “I am Moira’s mother, Christine Redford, and this is my husband Peter. We were just collecting some of her things.”

Janice smiled, realizing that this of course was a stepfather. He was much too young to be anything else. “Yes, well, I know what a difficult time this must be for you. It really came as quite a shock to me. I hadn’t known Moira long, but I was struck by what a truly lovely person she was. And, of course, I had no idea how ill she was.”

The lady stood up, dusting the wrinkle out of what Janice thought were linen pants, very nice taste, obviously expensive. “Well, Moira was very private. She had been in remission for some time, so we didn’t realize, that she had relapsed. It was quite advanced when she did tell us.”

Janice nodded with sympathy, simultaneously scanning what she could see of the dwelling. They hadn’t made much progress. She calculated that it would be at least several days to a week before they had everything out. She murmured, “She was a very friendly young woman, but she did seem to keep to herself, or so the neighbors mentioned. Of course, the lady next door did mention seeing a gentleman here a few times, from a distance of course.”

The lady’s expression seemed to harden a bit. Evidently, she was close-mouthed like her daughter. “Yes, she did have a friend. He was very kind and supportive. I met him often at the hospital.”

Janice smiled again, although her face ached a bit from it. “It’s good she was surrounded by people who cared about her.”

“Yes,” her mother said. “I can truly say she wasn’t afraid at all. At the end, she was just accepting and peaceful.” And then, she reached into the box that she had been packing, pulling out a small notebook. “Even her writings at the end seemed happy. It’s of great comfort to me.”

And then Janice looked at the small fat little notebook, and said absently, “These are popular to have these little books.”

Moira’s mother looked at her with a bit of a puzzled expression at her odd comment. “Yes, I suppose,” she murmured.

And quickly, Janice Devereaux, moving on to other concerns, dismissed the recollection that she had packed one just like it for the previous tenant.

I’m nearly to the end of this book,

And I feel that I should have something strong to say about it all. But I don’t know enough to sum it up, only to comment that I am still on the journey, and content to allow it to unfold.

Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Klebert

First appeared in Dragonflies Journeys into the Paranormal

A mystical wordsmith entices you into the world of the paranormal with this collection of inspired stories. Each tale takes the journey of the dragonfly imbued with the momentum and energy of change, following a winding and treacherous path that ultimately will lead you to find the truth buried beneath perception. Includes: “The Wizard,” “The Sojourners,” “Late One Night at Berstrum’s Books,” and “The Tear.”

A Ghost of a Chance – Newly Revised

Just in time for the Halloween season, there is a vampire, a ghost, a writer, and at its heart an unforgettable love story. The newly revised edition of A Ghost of a Chance has just been released!!

You never know what’s coming next.

Jack Brennan, an ambitious high-powered attorney, dies. But that’s not the end, rather only the beginning. He finds himself constrained to an inexplicable afterlife as an earth-bound spirit trapped in an old Virginia farmhouse. His only companion is a very much living, reclusive writer of campy vampire novels. The maddening problem is that Hallie does not know he is there, nor that he is somewhat reluctantly falling in love with her.

Hallie Barkly is recovering from a painful and disillusioning divorce. Out of the ashes of her former life, she has managed to somehow forge a career and exorcise her demons by writing under the pseudonym of Sebastian Winters. Slowly, she is awakening to the fact that she is not alone.

Their lives intersect, and two unconventional lovers are brought together under insurmountable circumstances. Together they must battle an unseen force hell-bent on possessing Hallie’s life and bridge death itself to make possible what cannot be — to find a chance.

A Ghost of a Chance Book Excerpt

The Lost Soul

This short story, “The Lost Soul,” originally appeared in Travels into the Breach: Accounts of a Reclusive Mystic. The story introduces Malachi McKellan and his spirit guide Simon Tull, a pair of unconventional detectives who specialize in psychic attacks. Hope you enjoy!!

The Lost Soul

It’s painful, perhaps too painful at times to be alive. In fact, at times he felt drenched in it. Odd how negativity so completely drowns out gentler emotions — love, hope, even joy.

The fear feels like a raging animal filled with pain and madness, desperate to alleviate it, somehow, any way possible.

He breathed in sharply, the emotion clinging acutely somewhere around his spine, specifically the lower back region. The solar plexus was usually where the more primal emotions were housed though he felt it everywhere.

Whoever said emotions weren’t physical, well, was more than mistaken. The intensity of it made him ill.

He walked into the hallway of the apartment building. The ceiling was high, the floor a black and white terrazzo pattern — small blocks — rather nonde­script, the doorways painted white, wooden.

Again, there was a wave of that intense emotion punching into his gut. How could anyone bear to live here?

“Numbness,” his companion commented to him. He glanced next to him, a tall stately, ebony skinned young man dressed in his 19th century English garb. Simon Tull was his sometime companion and his full-time spirit guide. He would see him, normally, when he traveled astrally – whether in dreams or as now on an excursion, an out of body excursion.

He was Malachi McKellan – primarily an esoteric author but from time to time a sort of paranormal investigator. He was in his mid-60s and was feeling more often than not that he was getting too old for this business. “One would have to be pretty numb to ignore this level of emotional disturbance.”

“Most people achieve a cultivated numbness, dismissive of their own feelings, or rather worse attrib­uting them to incorrect sources.”

Another wave of fear hit him acutely right in the middle of his stomach. It was true that if he didn’t understand this intense emotion did not belong to him that it would be extraordinarily disturbing to his peace of mind. He tried to clear his thoughts, separating himself from the unchecked negativity. But it was challenging. The place was thick with the cobwebs of unfiltered emotion. “It’s difficult,” he murmured.

“Yes, of course,” Simon grimaced; continuing to walk beside him but letting Malachi take the lead. Simon never relinquished his role as a mentor, or perhaps more aptly put guide. These exercises, though often disguised to help others, were still his learning ground. Simon’s function was to nudge him, at times strenuously nudge him, in the right direction, and also in the direction of Malachi’s personal evolution.

He stopped near the end of the long hallway staring at a wooden door — one with a bold number eleven painted in black on its white surface. “Still alive?” he asked.

“Unknown,” Simon answered.

And quite jarringly, even for those operating from the astral plane, the door flew open. Malachi stumbled backward a bit at the force of the action. In addition to the jolt of his sudden appearance, the man now before them was perfectly frightening. He was a young man, early twenties, skinny, grizzled, unshaven, eyes wide with terror, face with a nearly yellow pallor. But it was the blood that was so evident, still running from the slashes he’d made on his wrists — some dried, caked on his clothing, but most still fresh dripping out of the wounds.

“Are you the paramedics?” His voice rasped with fear. “I called days ago,” and then he frantically clutched his wounds. “I can’t get it to stop bleeding.”

Malachi took in a breath that felt like a knife of pain in his stomach. No, this one was definitely not alive, and that would make it much more complicated. “How long?” he murmured to Simon.

“About half a century,” he answered softly, clearly not trying to further agitate the monstrously agitated young man.

Good Lord, imagine being trapped in your own psychodrama for half a century.

Two days earlier

“It’s an older building, right on St. Charles Avenue. I’ve no idea how long it’s been there.”

Malachi sipped his blueberry tea. It was purported to be good for his nerves, though at the moment he couldn’t really attest to that. He’d been stuck somewhere deeply in the abyss of writer’s block when Adele Blanchard had dropped by unexpectedly to jar him further off course or perhaps just distract him a bit from his intended purpose.

“And your friend who looked at an apartment there, did she find something somewhere else?”

Adele seemed to perceptively bristle, straightening up in the rattan chair across from him on his screen porch. “Well yes, she found a lovely place off of Henry Clay Avenue, but it’s more than clear something is very wrong in that apartment building.”

He nodded, noting her blueberry tea still remained untouched on the glass coffee table in front of her. “You went there?”

“I was curious.”

He put his mug down and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes for a moment. “You were able to go inside?”

“Yes, I called, told them I wanted to look at the place.”

“To rent for yourself?”

“Well yes Malachi, otherwise —”

“Otherwise they wouldn’t have let you in.” He opened his eyes, feeling a dull throbbing somewhere in the middle of his forehead now.

“There is something very wrong there,” she muttered.

“No doubt, clearly you lost quite a bit of energy.”

“Do you think so?”

He shrugged. “Tell me what you felt.”

“Let’s see. The place was large, two-bedroom, high ceilings but window units. Not so unusual for an older building.”

He could concretely see the place in his mind as she described it. Quite unconsciously, it seemed that she was somewhat adept at transferring visual images. “No Adele, please, how did you feel there?”

“Oh yes of course, well it did feel cold, oddly cold since it was such a warm day outside.”

He could sense within the image the cold spots she’d felt. “What else?”

“I—” and she hesitated, shifting a bit in her seat, “I felt strange as though it was difficult to breathe.”

It was clear that she’d tapped into others’ emotions there — powerful, tangible, negative emotions that translated physically. “You know you really shouldn’t seek these places out.”

“I thought you’d want to know Malachi. You know you’re very gifted with these sorts of things. Maybe you could do something to help there.”

“Not everything can be helped. Sometimes you have to simply let things be what they are,” he commented, perhaps a tad too dryly as he sipped his tea.

She did look a bit stunned, surprisingly as though he’d reached out and slapped her across the face. “But you’ve been given such abilities Malachi. I truly believe you should use them.”

He leaned back in his chair with no comment. How could he possibly explain this to her? Somewhere along the way his optimism and belief that he could fix and help every situation had dissipated. It had evolved into a sort of world-weary acceptance that every soul was involved in its own self-created drama, and yes at times its self-created hell. And the truth was that there was very little on the whole that he could do to make much of a dent in the misery in this world.

“You must understand, Adele, that acceptance is often a vital part of life. People choose their own paths for varied amounts of reasons, not the least of which is learning. We should invariably spend much less time judging what is good or bad but rather accept. We must allow others to go through life their own way, instead of trying to force what we believe should happen upon them.”

She sat up even more straightly, though he had not believed that was possible. Bristling further, yes perhaps that was an apt description here. “Malachi, what are you here to learn yourself, if you don’t even try?”

He sipped his tea because it had cooled off enough to do so, and he sipped his tea because he did not know how to answer her. When should one accept and when should one attempt to be of help? That was the question he had never quite found a proper answer to.

Over the next day and a half Malachi sunk himself into his writing. Through his books, this was a tangible way he could help people, educate them about the spiritual nature of existence. But it was rough going. There was no easy flow to his thoughts, nor any adhesiveness to his concentration. There was an impediment. And though he did not actively seek it out, he knew without question Simon would tell him that this was a message from the spiritual realm. It was telling him that he was ignoring a pressing matter.

So, he took a drive in his sky-blue sedan. It was late May, and the humidity of the summer was already beginning to devour the New Orleans’ landscape. At this point, all he could hope for was a strong thunderstorm to temporarily blot out some of the heat.

It bothered him, or rather Adele bothered him — her optimism, her naïveté so to speak. Perhaps it had begun to overwhelm him, too much pain traveling to places and seeing things with a decidedly unique view that most people would never be conscious of.

He found it necessary to insulate himself from becoming too involved, not unlike a doctor who had to become detached to the suffering of their patients in order, well, not to absolutely drown in it. But how much was too much detachment? Was he slowly losing his humanity? And as Adele had suggested, what indeed was he here to learn?

As he drove past the palatial homes on St. Charles Avenue, he forced himself to put aside all of these cryptic self-reflecting considerations and obtain a clear mind. Such circular distractions could be of no help now.

He slowed his car as he approached the building. Adele had succinctly described its location before leaving. No matter what he’d said, she hadn’t given up on him. He breathed in deeply, focusing on receiving impressions much as a blank slate.

But at least a block and a half before he came to the structure, it made its presence known with a stabbing pain directly in the middle of his forehead. The sensation was not so very unlike someone taking a rather sharp and pointy knitting needle and plunging it directly through the skin on that spot.

And as he actively drove by, it intensified quite decidedly. His breathing became labored, his skin clammy. He was more than sure anyone else experiencing these symptoms might surmise they were having a heart attack or stroke. But Malachi knew differently. He knew the symptoms of a spiritual attack. Nearly as though something had reached outward and struck at him directly.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been down that street, but I’ve never felt this magnitude of negative energy there before.”

“Sometimes these things are cloaked, perhaps mostly confined to the interior of the structure itself.” Simon didn’t always have all the answers, or if he did, he didn’t always disclose them promptly. Malachi had noticed since their earliest association, which had actually been when he was a young teenager that Simon Tull preferred for Malachi to puzzle out his own answers. A good tactic for a spirit guide, he supposed.

“Adele, Adele came into direct contact with the place. I suppose she might have functioned as a kind of conduit or even magnifier for me.”

“Could be,” Simon murmured, pacing in front of the fireplace of the mountainside cottage, actually the cottage that existed somewhere in a deeper level of Malachi’s consciousness. It was a place where he and Simon would extensively hash out some of his dilemmas. And always here it seemed to be perpetual November, something that suited him quite well. “That is possible. Adele Blanchard is quite a sensitive, untapped as that may be.”

Well he did agree with Simon on that count. Although she liked to assume the façade of a bit of an eccentric, she did have an uncanny way of getting to the heart of the matter. “She was adamant about that place. That something was very problematic there.”

Simon had stopped his pacing and was eyeing him curiously. “And you resisted her prodding?”

“Yes, I suppose I did. New Orleans is filled with all manner of psychic activities, divergent energies, problem spots if you will. How in the world does one know when to step in, and when to leave well enough alone?”

Simon leaned back against the redwood mantle of the fireplace, seemingly lost in thought. “Well I can tell you my friend it isn’t an analytical decision. At times, you must act because there will be no peace within you if you do not.”

When Malachi was nine, nearing ten as he recalled, though granted the recollection was not as crisp and jarring as it had been when he was younger, he and his family vacationed in a charming sort of beach house along the coast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. His father’s work, consulting on engineering projects, actually had the small family rather mobile in those days. For him, it meant roots that were transferable, certainly not firmly grounded and a younger sister as his one true friend.

But this summer had promised to relieve them all of some of the vexation and turmoil of their transient lifestyle. At least, that was the hope.

Cosmetically, and from old family photos that he’d acquired upon his mother’s death, he recalled the house as being quite lovely. Just a half dozen yards from the beach proper, white wood, spacious rooms, a long screen porch at the front, and a winding stairwell leading to the second-floor bedrooms.

Of course, even at nine, though he was not yet under the tutelage of his good and faithful mentor, one Simon Tull, Malachi had a radar for unusual phenomena. Even before he crossed the threshold of the house, he knew that something was wrong.

And on the third night of the occupation of their new residence, Malachi found out in particular what it was.

He kept his window open at night, allowing the sea breeze to fill his room. The white sheers fluttered as the illumination from the moon gave a tinge of variation to the darkened room.

Perhaps he’d been dreaming, but he awoke to the sound of rustling, movement.

It startled him, the figure standing at the window. He was only nine, but then reason stepped in. Perhaps it was his mother or sister. But no, his sister was not of a taller stature than him and his mother, while a lovely woman, was well into her late thirties. This young lady in the long white nightgown was also not a blond. Her hair was long and dark, dark like the shadows covering her.

His heart was pounding with fear as his analytical side concluded that this indeed was an intruder. “What do you want?” He called out in the steadiest voice he could pull out of his nine-year-old arsenal.

It was moments before he was acknowledged, but she did slowly turn toward him. Granted, the light was dim but even, so he marked the extreme pallor of her skin, not so different from the color of her nightgown, nor the long rope hanging loosely around her neck. It was a noose.

But even with the ugly swollen welts around her throat the most horrible thing was her eyes. They were so wide, so terror filled that he could feel her horror, her fear hitting him tangibly in the gut. He was a boy, not given to panic, but he was more than sure he screamed.

Of course, when all was said and done, his rescuers, his parents, attributed the episode to a bad dream. But he knew without question that it had not been.

“Suicides are a difficult lot,” Simon had pronounced rather emphatically some years later. “Unfortunately, of course depending on the mitigating circumstances, they often bear the fate of a murderer.”

Malachi did remember being somewhat befuddled at that proclamation. “That sounds a bit harsh.”

“From a certain point of view by killing our body, we are murdering ourselves. Do we have the right to destroy the physical vessel that houses the spirit, any more than another has the right to destroy that vessel?”

“Yes, within suicide we are only causing harm to ourselves. And I’d imagine someone who does it is just looking for an escape from pain,” Malachi argued.

“Pain perhaps their spirit has chosen to learn from.”

“All in all, it still seems a bit harsh.”

“Well judge it as you may my friend. It does, however, hurl the one who does it into a rather protracted period of chaos, a fugue if you will. That can last for some time, until they can acknowledge and take responsibility for what they’ve done. Only then can healing begin. That young woman you saw had been trapped in her own psychodrama for over a hundred years in your estimation of time.”

“My estimation of time?”

“Another discussion Malachi, but the truth is that in attempting to escape pain a suicide actually only inflicts more pain on themselves, self-created as it is.”

Malachi took in the pitiful creature before him, feeling a curious case of déjà vu. He had all the hallmarks of a suicide trapped between realities that had been quite unconsciously haunting this old apartment building for some time. But nonetheless something about this just didn’t quite sit right with him.

He turned to Simon. “He can’t be responsible for all the negative energy in this place.”

Simon shrugged a bit expressionless. “Doubtful that he could be, more of a symptom I’d imagine — though no doubt he has fed into the overall complexity of the situation.”

He turned back to the fellow in question who seemed to be eyeing both he and Simon with growing agitation. “Yes, of course we called,” he tried to say as pleasantly as he could manage. “But you really need to calm yourself.”

His eyes widened in undeniable terror. “Look at my arms,” he said holding them out in front of him. “They won’t stop bleeding. No matter what I do, they just won’t stop.”

“Yes, perhaps you just need a bit of a rest.” He glanced inside the apartment becoming aware of a rather pungent smell emanating from the interior. “What did you say your name is again friend?” he asked.

The poor unfortunate glanced to Simon then back to him suspiciously. “My name? Why do you need my name?”

“Don’t push,” Simon murmured.

He was right. Malachi could feel it acutely — the sheer horror and panic emanating from this lost soul — something that he found oddly disproportionate, because clearly it wasn’t all self- generated. Something or someone wanted to keep this one in a perpetual heightened state of anxiety. But why?

“Draining,” Simon answered as though Malachi had spoken his thoughts aloud, but then again it was true in this astral state that thoughts were more permeable, more accessible than normal. “Such a height­ened level of upset makes energy draining much more easily accomplished.”

Of course, that was true, and in the psychic or dare he say spiritual realm, energy was a commodity much sought after. It was more precious than gold to those who understood its real power — the life force: a force that under the right conditions could be stolen from unsuspecting victims.

“So, he is not the source,” Malachi concluded. The young man was glaring at both of them wide-eyed and utterly panicked, responding as though what they were saying was complete gibberish. And he supposed, considering his realm of experience that their conversa­tion probably was.

“No, as I said a symptom or if you’d rather a victim.”

Malachi stepped back from this pitiful individual trying to obtain enough distance so that he could focus again on his surroundings. “There isn’t a great deal that can be drained from an individual such as this caught between existences. Most of his energy is gone.”

“Yes,” Simon standing beside him again. “Unless, he can be used as a tool, help create an atmosphere of anxiety in this place.”

“To help facilitate the draining of the living,” he finished Simon’s thought. “But if he’s been here over fifty years, what exactly is forcing him to stay.”

“Something else,” Simon murmured. “Something confusing him, suppressing him, using him for its own ends.”

Hearing is an odd thing in the astral realm. Sometimes it functions like a thought in one’s mind, and sometimes it is something quite physical akin to the sensation in the physical world. Malachi was more than certain that in that moment he heard a heavy foot fall behind them.

Fifty-two years ago

“Your sister is in trouble.”

He frowned. He was thirteen and heavily enmeshed in a new science fiction release. And at that point he hadn’t really decided whether or not Simon Tull was real or just a figment of his overactive imagination.

But there he stood, big as life, in the middle of his bedroom, two o’clock in the morning while Malachi lie huddled in his bed holding a flashlight reading his new book. Perhaps he wasn’t really reading. Perhaps Simon Tull was part of a dream within which Malachi was reading his book, though quite honestly that seemed a little thin.

So, he put down the paper back and quite dryly commented, “Am I my sister’s keeper?”

The tall dark fellow glared at him a bit. “Are you daft lad? To sit up on your high horse and quote the Bible at me as if you even understand what it means.”

He shrunk a bit beneath the covers. The stern British tone disturbed him. “I don’t know what you expect me to do.”

“I expect you to help young man. You’re very gifted, and I expect you not to just sit on all that talent and piss it away.”

He sat up in the bed though feeling a bit of outrage making the hairs rise on the back of his neck. “I’m only thirteen. What do you expect you ridiculous ghost?”

And then his face broke into a wide smile. “That’s better. Now get out of your bed, and let’s see about your sister.”

He was dressed in a t-shirt and pajama pants with no socks, of which he was acutely aware as his bare feet hit the cool wooden floor. “What’s wrong with her anyway?” He didn’t actually care for his sister just now at this stage of their lives. She was a pest, a pesky ten-year-old who always wanted to be in his business. She hadn’t always been that way. His mother claimed it was a phase, a phase that in his estimation was going on entirely too long.

“Come with me,” the tall lanky, fellow com­manded. He’d actually talked to him only maybe one or two times before, but he was always dressed the same, that old-fashioned gray tweed suit. Awfully dressy for Malachi’s boyhood bedroom he thought.

Evangeline or Evie as was her nickname slept across the hall, door always opened because she was afraid of the dark. Simon Tull stopped short before they entered the room putting his hand out in front of Malachi. “Now lad, you might find this a bit upsetting at first. Keep your wits about you. That’s the only way you’ll be of any use to Evangeline.”

He yawned, wishing now he could just return to his bed. “Fine,” he muttered.

Simon Tull stepped back allowing Malachi to enter first. But he didn’t get far. In fact, he didn’t get much more than two feet in the room.

Evangeline was there, seemingly asleep in her white metal daybed. The shocking thing, though, was that she wasn’t alone. There was something with her, bent over her, something dark, darkish green and moist. It seemed humanoid in some respects but with abnormally long slimy wet arms and scaly skin. It moved or slithered a bit over her, then pulled its misshapen head up and turned to them. He didn’t know if it had eyes. All he could see was a round hole where a mouth should be and long silvery teeth.

“It’s a monster,” he choked out.

“Calm down Malachi. You won’t be of any use so upset.”

“What’s it doing to her?”

“Draining energy, I’d imagine. Most children have a natural immunity to that sort of thing, but there is something about Evangeline that makes her vulnera­ble.”

Its arms sort of unwound and slithered over his sister, almost as though it were making some sort of claim. “Why is it so hideous?”

“I think it’s the only way your mind can translate it to your brain. It’s a low one, a sub parasite sort of creature. Looks like a monster to you because it lives on such a base plane of existence.”

“What does it want?”

“What we all want deep down to have a better life, to evolve, acknowledged or not. It feels that if it can absorb Evangeline’s pure energy it will gain strength, feel better.”

“You said she’s vulnerable.”

“She’s an empath. A pension for psychic abilities seems to run in your family. It must have approached her as something else — perhaps.”

“An imaginary friend,” Malachi completed the thought dubiously. She had rattled on and on about her imaginary friend. What was it? A koala or panda? Much to his chagrin, he couldn’t recall.

“Yes, yes and she’s a lonely little girl, happy for company.”

“But this thing?”

“Well she doesn’t see it as you do.”

“So, monsters are real then?”

Simon Tull shrugged a bit. “There are all kinds of monsters in the world Malachi. But what’s clear is that we need to get rid of it, before it makes her too weak and open to all sorts of other attacks.”

“How do we do that?”

He smiled rather warmly given their situation. “That’s where you come in.”

Malachi stood quietly within the halls of the Napoleon Apartment complex on St. Charles Avenue. It was difficult to think here, difficult to center himself as he was overcome with waves of disturbing concentra­tions of low frequency emotions. Fear was paramount, anxiety of all sorts, panic, paranoia, and anger — fierce strands of anger always the stalwart companion of fear.

“Focus Malachi,” Simon’s voice from now or perhaps long ago. “Fill yourself with calm, with peace, with love for your sister.”

He remembered it from the past. “The feeders don’t know what to do with those emotions. It confounds them, then it terrifies them.”

He heard the movement behind him — the rustling. “Can you see it yet?” Malachi asked.

“Yes,” Simon said quite solemnly. “This one has grown strong here — feeding for so long.”

“What can I do against that?”

“It thrives on fear young Master McKellan, on all the base emotions. Even its appearance to you inspires this. So, you cannot give it what it wants, instead give it what it does not want.”

Slowly, he opened his eyes. It was in front of him now, moving, rasping as it moved. It had a huge misshapen head, long twisted arms not unlike mangled and brittle tree branches. The eyes were red, a glowing indication of its energy frequency, and the skin the palest white. There were clothes as well; tattered torn clothing suggesting that it had attempted to emulate human wardrobe. Is that what it aspired to, evolving to their level?

There were beings in the world who masqueraded as people, usually existing on the lowest rung of the evolutionary ladder. Base creatures still functioning largely as parasites, bent on exploiting what is worst in the human condition. Perhaps in all its energy accumulation that was its ultimate goal.

“Possibly,” Simon muttered, acknowledging Malachi’s thoughts in his clipped British accent. “This whole place has functioned as a power charging station for this thing for decades.”

It moved or slithered perhaps was the proper description. “I don’t think it likes me,” he remarked. His skin felt hot. It wanted a way in, but his determination and focus were resisting it.

“We need to kick it out,” Simon said rather placidly.

“How do we get rid of it?” He said a bit breathlessly. That’s what it felt like being near the creature. That he was wholly out of breath.

“Be calm Malachi. Do not be afraid of what you see. It’s much more afraid of you, than you are of it.”

“How can that be?” asking a bit in disbelief.

“Because it feels your strength, the positive energy of your character, your energy, that is death to it.”

“I’m not that positive.”

“Do you want to hurt anyone?”

“No, of course not.”

“Do you wish to help people?”

“Yes, that’s what is right.”

“Do you want to help your sister?”

He focused on her, seeing her toss and turn in her sleep and seeing that thing near her. “Yes, of course I do.”

“Then use all your concentration Malachi and surround her in white light, a protective cocoon that this thing cannot breach.”

He stood there concentrating, reaching deeply into his imagination. There is a power in creativity. He remembered that from somewhere.

He could see the light all around Evie now like a white glistening bubble surrounding her. He could feel peace, love, and a calmness that he could not remember truly ever tapping into before.

This will be your life — the voices whispered to him. You will help others and battle what seeks to attack.

It rasped and moved as though it had been hit by something. “That’s good Malachi. It drains through the eyes.”

He zeroed in on the glowing red eyes, targeting and sending forth a pure belt of energy. It tumbled backward slithering.

“It’s strong, and it’s been here too long. Remove its focus.”

The frightened figure was crouching down a bit near his doorway, but whether or not he could actually see the thing was unknown. Malachi reached out for a name. “Henry,” he called out. “It’s time to move on.”

He felt the initial rush of Henry’s fear but tried to steady it with his own energy. “Come Henry, it’s time to end the pain you’ve been living in and move on where there is help for you.”

“No, no, I can’t leave. It’s not safe.”

The thing rasped in anger, but Malachi ignored it. “Henry, you aren’t safe here,” he said as compassionately as he could muster. There had been many times during his life, when he’d been called upon to help a spirit cross over who had lost their way. It was essential to be firm but comforting with them. They must feel your resolve but not be too afraid of you to trust. “Henry, you are being used, used to hurt others. Calm yourself and feel the truth in my words.” He projected a powerful shower of energy in Henry’s direction. He tried to help him sort past the fear that paralyzed him in order to hear the truth.

“I — I can’t.”

“Henry, they’re waiting for you, the ones who love you.” He could feel them just beyond the veil, just into the light. There was now the passageway to them opening in that dusky hallway where they all stood. They had tried for so long to reach out to him, but all their efforts had been muffled by the hunger of the thing still rasping behind them.

Henry rushed toward him. That was the key. He felt the tiny flower of hope in him. “My mother.”

“Yes Henry, she wants to see you again, but you must go to her.”

He stopped in front of Malachi. Beside him the thing writhed, reaching out its gnarled limbs toward Henry. Once it made contact, Henry flinched but didn’t seem to see it.

“I can’t,” he muttered again, his energy being tapped by the beast. Malachi focused his energy toward it again, and it rasped painfully, breaking the contact. “You must. You cannot stay here any longer. It isn’t safe.”

“I don’t know.”

Malachi could feel his confusion. He’d been trapped here for so long, literally preyed on until he had so little will of his own left. “Henry, she needs you.” He had to try to reach him. He looked up confused. “Your mother needs you. Won’t you go to her and help her?”

Henry looked around with an alertness in his eyes that Malachi hadn’t seen before.

“Behind us,” Simon said.

Malachi turned as he saw the tunnel of white beginning to open. He had to push his advantage. “Can’t you hear her now Henry?”

The tall gaunt man shuffled closer, and Malachi stepped back so he could see the tunnel. “That’s where she is,” he compelled. “Henry, you must go quickly.” But he was wavering, Henry glanced around with confusion. The thing made a sudden lurch toward him, but Simon jumped between them intercepting the contact.

“Go Henry. Run. She needs you.”

The lost soul hesitated but only for a moment. Then, with an unexpected sprint that Malachi was amazed he even had within the emaciated body, he leapt toward the tunnel that seemed to immediately seal itself behind him.

“Good,” Simon said breathing deeply with marked fatigue. “That will make this much easier.”

“What do I do?” He whispered, literally shaken to the core for the first time he could really remember in his thirteen years on this earth.

“Focus, envelope Evie in the white light, restore the natural barrier that she should have to this kind of attack.”

He tried. He focused with everything he had in him. His imagination was strong. It had always been that way, but it undeniably felt different this time. It pooled into a place of visualization where he could literally feel power in the form of energy flowing out of him. The thing moved, glided perhaps around the outer perimeter of the bubble he’d placed around his sister. It was trying to reestablish contact but seemingly unable to puncture the protection he’d placed around her. “Now strengthen it,” Simon Tull’s voice was calm but exacting.

He focused strength into the bubble and almost instantly the creature reacted — howling in some disturbing, indistinctive voice. Malachi could see liquid oozing out of it, ugly black seepage as though it had been wounded.

“What now?” He yelled to Simon because everything felt louder, as though a powerful storm was whipping around them all.

“Holdfast boy, continue,” he commanded.

He focused, focused acutely until his head ached, his body stiffened with discomfort, and his vision began to spin. But he held on with the determination born of his innate stubbornness. He wasn’t one to give way. It wasn’t in his nature.

The thing continued to ooze in more places and twist in horrible unnatural contortions. “Good Malachi,” he heard Simon’s voice but couldn’t see him. The storm was too loud. All he could see was the thing twisting and howling and Evie thrashing about in her frilly rose-colored nightgown as though she were trapped in some horrific nightmare.

He knew that he had to end this. His knees were trembling violently, and he wouldn’t last much longer.

Malachi focused one last ditch effort and sent every ounce of strength that he had left into the white bubble around his sister.

It landed powerfully, something like a mad surge of electricity. He saw the thing fling back violently against the far wall of the bedroom. It hit like an explosion, then broke into pieces with a fierce pop before it dispersed into a shimmery black dust that dissipated in the air.

He was breathing heavily, feeling as though he couldn’t get any air. “Did we kill it?” He rasped to Simon who was now standing to the right of him.

“Nothing ever really dies,” he said a bit solemnly. “But it’s changed into something else, perhaps a bit less virulent. I don’t see it returning.”

Malachi wanted to cheer, claim some sort of victory, but instead the shakiness overtook him as he sunk to his knees. “What’s wrong with me?” he murmured, feeling the peculiar pressure of Simon’s hand on his shoulder, given that he believed he was a ghost.

“You’re dangerously low on energy now Malachi. You must rest. You saved your sister my boy, be happy.”

It moved and rasped in confusion in the hallway. “Henry was its conduit, its bridge to draining the living here. Now it’s disconnected from its energy source.”

Malachi nodded. He could feel that. Simon’s words were accurate. But he could also feel that the thing was very old, and it would be difficult to dislodge it from its current residence. “If we leave it here, will it simply diminish over time?” Malachi asked.

“Hard to say,” Simon said grimly. “I don’t think we’re equipped as of now to drive it off. It’s too entrenched.”

Malachi felt a heaviness inside his heart. It bothered him to acquiesce to the reality that some things were beyond him. Some things he couldn’t resolve neatly. “I suppose we could do damage control. Keep an eye from time to time to make sure that it’s not exploiting some other lost soul as it did to Henry.”

“Yes, I suppose,” Simon said dryly. “Better if the place could be leveled in the earth and scorched.”

Malachi laughed a bit, “Yes, in a perfect world my friend, in a perfect world.”

Copyright © 2018 by Evelyn Klebert

First appeared in Travels into the Breach: Accounts of a Reclusive Mystic

At first glance, his life seems quiet, serene, and even uneventful. Malachi McKellan, a 65 five year old widower and author of esoteric books, lives largely as a recluse in a house situated just off the banks of Bayou St. John in New Orleans. But unbeknownst to most, he is also a bit of a detective, a specific kind of detective whose specialty is psychic attacks. Alongside his lifelong companion and spirit guide Simon Tull, a nineteenth century, twenty something English gent, Malachi battles the unseen, and is an unacknowledged hero to the most vulnerable – most of the population who have no idea what is really happening beneath the surface of the world in which they live.

In this collection of adventures, Malachi McKellan and Simon Tull wage war against the most insidious elements of the paranormal. In “The Three,” Malachi and Simon come to the aid of a young woman being victimized by a group of dark witches. An old apartment building is the scene of an unimaginable battle against monstrous forces in “The Lost Soul.” Malachi and Simon find themselves strategizing against a psychic vampire in “Obsession,” and “The Hotel” turns back time to the 1980’s where Malachi confronts a demonic spirit. In “Between,” a past life is revisited as Malachi attempts to rescue a beloved sister from committing her existence to vengeance, and “The Wedding” takes a personal turn when Malachi must confront painful truths while endeavoring to protect his niece from a potentially devastating union.

Travel into the Breach with a pair of paranormal warriors who choose to confront overwhelming forces on a battlefield unsuspected by most.

The Hotel Mandolin

Unravel the sinister mysteries of New Orleans opulent Hotel Mandolin in its newly revised edition. Now available at Amazon and Cornerstone Book Publishers.

Peril is wrapped up in the most enticing of disguises, in The Hotel Mandolin, the second installment of The New Orleans Paranormal Mystery series. It’s opulent, it’s classic, and it’s one of the most renowned hotels nestled deep in New Orleans’ famous business district but something is amiss at the Hotel Mandolin.

PI Peter Norfleet is calling out the big guns to help him investigate a recent suicide at the famous establishment — his good friend Max Gravier, a formidable psychic, and his girlfriend Caroline Breslin, a talented empath. But none of them can seem to scratch the surface of this puzzle, no one except Cassie Breslin, Caroline’s clairvoyant mother.

Cassie, unwittingly, has somehow tapped into an unexpected connection with a tragic ghost from the turn of the century who is linked to a whole trail of suicides winding tragically through the grand old hotel’s history. And the more she uncovers, the more dangerous and malevolent the mystery becomes.