It’s that spooky season again and Halloween Month here at evelynklebert.com. Every week I’ll be posting a creepy/paranormal short story. My first story features my favorite werewolf Ethan Garraint as well as some of his more unusual friends. I hope you enjoy, “The Broken Window.”
“I’m not sure, not at all sure what the problem is.”
“Is it the glass?”
“Doesn’t seem to be. It’s made of the same glass as all the other windows along the wall.”
“Perhaps the sizing of the glass is off.”
“I don’t know. That seems to be a bit unlikely. After all, this is the third time.”
“Are you serious? The third time?”
“Yes Ma’am, last Thursday, Tuesday, and then today.”
Moira frowned. It was Saturday evening at the East Bank Regional Public Library, and she was staring at a two-story tall wall of plate glass windows — in particular, one pane whose glass was not shattered but oddly cracked from the center out.
“You want me to put up the yellow tape?”
She shrugged with distraction. “I suppose. I’ll call someone to fix it, but it’s the weekend. They probably won’t do anything until Monday.” She continued to stare for a moment, oddly transfixed for some inexplicable reason. After all, it was just a window. It didn’t mean anything.
Moira was a part-time librarian at the library, at least for the present. Her plans were uncertain, her life in flux. She didn’t intend to make a career here, just fill a gap or a chasm as she often looked at it. She’d actually only been working here a month, and the window problem. Well, the night watchman had indicated it had started about two weeks ago. She tapped her pen on the wooden counter in front of her, just two weeks.
“Working late tonight Moira?”
She glanced up from the computer terminal where she’d been constructing an inventory form. “Yes, until nine. How about you?”
Sally Clark stared at her with that wild animated look that she always seemed to possess. “No, no, I’m out of here at six. Wish you were coming. My boyfriend has a friend—”
Her voice droned on in Moira’s ears, but she had tuned her out. Sally was, well, predictable. She was closing in on forty, and although Moira was only several years her junior, she looked on in trepidation with anyone Sally could set her up with. Sally was a lovely woman, but Moira was sure their taste in men might not even rub elbows in this universe.
She snapped a book closed, looking up at Sally, whose hair had been dyed an odd reddish-blonde color when Moira wasn’t paying attention. But it seemed as if she’d concluded her ramble. “You have a great evening.”
“Maybe some other time,” Sally tacked on enthusiastically. She was actually a nice lady, and Moira should be nicer. But, well, she wasn’t. So instead of responding, she just smiled, waiting patiently for her co-worker to exit.
It was Saturday evening, but the staff tonight in the whole two-story structure of the East Bank library would be there tonight; however, only four, as opposed to the usual six, were closing.
The desk in reference where she stood had a clear view of that problematic cracked window. It was odd, disturbing, and alerted her to something deep within her skin that perhaps told her it was time to move on, although she’d only been here a mere month.
She sighed deeply from somewhere at her core, glancing down at her hands that were spread out on the wooden counter. And there, right on the ring finger was a tell-tale white mark indicating where a band had once been, a band that was now missing.
Instinctively she balled her left hand up in a fist almost protectively.
She ran her hand through her short brown hair. It was a sensible haircut that she’d gotten just before she came to work here. After all, if Moira Archer wanted to be a librarian, she needed to look the part. But she missed her hair, her long auburn-colored hair that she’d dyed a shade of dark brown. It was best not to stand out. Nervously, she strummed her fingers again on the counter, staring at the broken window, broken strangely, almost as if it imploded internally from pressure but pressure from an odd point.
She breathed in deeply. It was unfortunate because she’d hoped to stay longer. It was unfortunate but unavoidable. Tonight, after work, she would go home to her small apartment on West Napoleon Avenue, pack up her car and leave. She would leave behind the furniture that she’d just bought and decorated with, leave behind the friends, although just a handful that she’d just begun to make, leave behind everything, and start over somewhere else. She thought perhaps of the mountains, maybe driving up into the Ozarks. There it would be more difficult. There were so many varying energies that would block things. But then again, that was why she’d come to New Orleans with the same thought, perhaps if she’d settled deeper in the city.
But she shook these second guesses out of her mind. The broken window could be a coincidence, but she was not in a position to gamble.
She tried to focus on the screen in front of her. It was just after six. She just needed to get through the next three hours, although she was not beyond walking out. That indeed was a possibility.
Again she stared at the computer screen in front of her, mind cluttered, unable to concentrate. It wasn’t as if it mattered if she worked much tonight. She’d already decided she was leaving. And the fatality of that understanding left her with a heavy heart. She liked her little apartment with its light wicker furniture and the pretty floral pictures she’d hung on its walls. It felt like life.
She shook her head and headed to a shelving cart by the side of the desk. This she could do right now. It required little brain power.
The long aisles of the library were narrow and smelled musty to him — but then again, his sense of smell was of the acutest kind, a blessing and a curse. Of course, he thought with little humor; this seemed to be the theme of his life.
Ethan wore a long trench coat of which he was of half a mind to divest himself. After all, he had spent enough time over the centuries in Southern Louisiana to be aware of its humid climate. It was only two days until Halloween, late October, and still summer as far as this area of North America was concerned. But he was on a delicate mission, and so as his indulgent nature demanded, he had wanted to dress the part.
Then on the other hand, he was also suffocating, so in expediency, Ethan pulled off the trench coat and flipped it over his arm shaking out his longish blonde hair. He checked his watch — eight o clock. Well, that gave him about an hour to exercise his diplomatic powers. Lucky for him, there would be no full moon this Hallow’s Eve. A full moon on that particular night or in the days leading up to it could be particularly, well in his case, unraveling.
He took in a deep whiff of the musty air around him, trying to focus beyond the well-worn stench of book covers that had been untouched for far too long.
No, it was beyond the human occupants of this building where he focused, well beyond.
A slight smile crossed his lips. Yes, he had marked her.
Moira was trying to relax, but her skin prickled. For some time, the mindless shelving of books had placed her into a sort of thoughtless reverie. But that had seemed to pass now. Something had changed. Only four were on duty tonight, but they could close up without her if she feigned illness. She moved the cart of books she’d been pushing around all evening around the corner of a bookshelf, then stopped.
Several sections of books away down at the other end of the long stretch was a man, a tall blondish man dressed in black with a coat draped over his arm.
She didn’t know who he was, but she could clearly see what he was — a werewolf standing right in the middle of the East Bank Regional Library.
Moira took a deep breath and braced herself. After all, they were in a public place, and the last she’d checked, the moon was at a very slim crescent. So all she had to do was play dumb — be the reclusive little librarian that she had chosen to be.
She glanced at the stranger, a brief acknowledging smile, then turned to her task of shelving books, focusing intently. Perhaps his presence here had nothing to do with her; maybe it was one of those odd random coincidences that the universe seemed intent on perpetrating on ordinary folk.
Another deep breath to stabilize her, yes indeed, that was what she had chosen to be, ordinary folk — just like Sally, or dour Tom at the front desk, or combative Jessica Renard up in Special Collections. Yes, indeed extraordinary in their unique ordinariness.
She grasped the three hardback Nora Robert’s novels from the cart and placed them on the shelf. Then she froze, on the spot still facing forward. But she could feel it all over her back, as tangible as if he’d directly placed his hands there. Of course, he hadn’t. He was just standing there quietly, now behind her.
With little choice, she slowly turned to face him. He looked to be in his thirties, bearded with a mustache, longish blonde hair grazing the top of the black turtleneck he wore. And his eyes, which she was close enough to see, were an eerie blue-gray color staring at her as though he hadn’t a care in the world.
And everything, still everything about him screamed wolf to her.
“Can I help you with something?” she asked softly.
It was odd what hit her most acutely in the next moment. A touch of compassion seemed to reach his eyes — something she found most unexpected. “I think perhaps maybe I can help you, Moira Archer, is it?”
It was a strange moment filled with some duality. Indeed there was the disappointment that her hopes had been crushed. Oddly enough, and there was no denying her existence had always been filled to the brim with oddities, she also felt a measure of relief.
Although she’d pegged him as a werewolf, she was also sensing no malice, no threat — quite unexpected.
Ethan felt oddly frustrated as a lingering thought floated through his mind. “Why were all the good ones taken?”
There was a coffee shop or a small coffee bar with accompanying tables situated in the library’s foyer. He and the woman who was calling herself Moira Archer sat there. She sipped a hot mug of peppermint tea and he, a hot coffee mocha, something that called itself coffee but tasted a bit more like hot chocolate. But given that he’d nurtured his sweet tooth through the many centuries of his existence, it suited him well.
A brief interlude having a sweet and spending time with an intriguing woman didn’t seem like a bad deal for an old lycanthrope like himself.
“So,” he smiled engagingly, “how do you like the city?”
She slowly placed her hot, in fact still steaming cup of tea on the table and stared at him with eyes that were large and dark, but for some odd reason, reminded him of some strange violet tone. Of course, that couldn’t be so — what human had violet-colored eyes? And then he stopped himself. Yes, what human indeed?
“My break isn’t that long, Mr.— I’m sorry, what did you say your name was again?”
She nodded slowly. “And may I assume that you were sent here by—” she paused, so he obligingly filled in. After all, there wasn’t time to be coy. In fact, there didn’t seem to be time for much of anything.
“Well, actually, an old friend — your husband.”
Her face showed no surprise, in fact, not much emotion of any kind. But then again, for a woman like this, it was most predictable that her husband would attempt to get her back.
“I am not wholly unacquainted with my husband’s acquaintances, but I don’t recall—.”
“We go way back,” he replied, taking a quick sip of the cocoa/coffee concoction. “Actually, early Renaissance, in Italy, we first crossed paths.”
“I see,” she pronounced a bit definitively. “I’ll get to the point, Mr.—”
“Ethan,” he interrupted. He had to get this on a friendlier plateau, or it would be a wasted effort before he even began.
“Ethan, you can tell my husband that I am not —”
“Yes, yes, that you are not coming back.”
Now she looked at him a bit oddly. Finally, he’d said something that had elicited a reaction. “Yes, isn’t that why you are here?”
“Well, Moira, not exactly, he is concerned about you. You see, it seems your absence has created a bit of, well, imbalance.” He sighed deeply, trying to find the appropriate avenue to navigate around the truth.
Her brow wrinkled slightly, but it did nothing to mar her delicate loveliness. He was not at all at a loss to explain his friend’s fascination, dare he say, obsession with the woman before him.
“What do you mean imbalance?”
He leaned in a bit closer to her. “Moira, haven’t you felt ever since you’d left that you were being followed?”
A slight downturn of her finely shaped lips, “Well, yes but I thought that was just him, well, trying to get me to come home. After all, he sent you.”
“Yes, but he sent me to warn you. He hasn’t been trying to get you back, just protect you.”
There was a hesitation, clearly a moment to soak in unconsidered information. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Ethan,” she almost rasped out in what he unmistakably pegged as mild panic.
“Think Moira, the window. They’re coming for you — the minions breaking in from their dimension to disrupt the order of things.”
Again she stared at him with violet-colored eyes. Perhaps they were violet, and with indulgence, he thought perhaps he was the only one who could see that.
She leaned back a bit in her chair, contemplating, he thought, sipping her tea. “What are you trying to say that to restore the natural order of things I have to return?”
He shrugged a bit. Who was he to get in the middle of another’s marital discord? He’d tried it himself once so long ago and found not only was it impractical for a werewolf, but he wasn’t exactly the best marital material. “I don’t know if it’s that simple, Moira. It has more to do with discord, ill-feelings. If you both could come to an understanding, it might stabilize things.”
And then the unexpected happened. Her wide violet-colored eyes seemed to tear up as she shook her head. “You don’t understand, Ethan. I am a free spirit — a creature of the light.”
He smiled a bit sadly. She tugged at his heart, and he truly wished he could tell her what she wanted to hear. But as it was, “I do understand Moira. But I also understand that each of our lives comes with burdens. Burdens we must learn to carry.”
She stared at him a moment, so long that he wondered if she’d understood what he’d said. And then she stood up, “It was good of you to come, Mr. Garraint. I will certainly consider what you have told me.” And then she walked away, and he took one more sip of his coffee before he gathered his things and left.
As Ethan exited the library doors, a chill hit him that he had not expected. It seemed that when he arrived, it would be a balmy autumn night which was not so unusual for this part of the country. But something in the air had changed; something that he had an instinctual feeling had nothing whatsoever to do with the weather.
Slowly he descended the granite steps, never letting his eyes leave the shadows which seemed to be unnaturally gathering in the parking lot. Once he reached level ground, he waited patiently for what exactly he had no idea. But something, every inch of his skin, told him something was on its way.
Then finally, as if in direct answer to his anticipation, a figure stepped out of the darkness — a tall, lean man dressed rather immaculately in a grey suit with shoulder-length black hair.
He breathed a sigh of relief that would be tangible to no one but himself. It wasn’t exactly that the new arrival was devoid of danger — just not particularly dangerous to him. After all, he was simply a bit player in this particular drama.
Being in no particular hurry, Ethan Garraint waited patiently for the man to approach, who, when doing so, paused just in front of him with a very slight smile crossing a particularly distinguished face.
“You might have given it a bit more time,” Ethan directed toward this very old acquaintance, although in reality, the man physically didn’t look a day over forty.
“There isn’t time,” he responded with a sereneness that Ethan always recalled seemed to be present in his manner.
Even in the very pale lamplight of the library steps, he could see the very dark blue eyes that he remembered his old friend possessing. It was the most animated aspect of his persona, those eyes that seemed to stretch deeply into infinity if you were foolish enough to gaze too deeply within.
“Well, that’s a pity Nathaniel. She is confused and could use more time.”
He nodded slowly, staring beyond him towards the library’s front doors. “There is no choice. Even now, the others are planning their strike. If they succeed —” then he stopped.
Ethan instinctively reached out and patted his friend’s shoulder, instantly recognizing the chill he’d sensed in the air earlier. Of course, it had emanated from this ancient and powerful being. “Then let’s make sure they don’t.”
The deep blue eyes focused on him again. He felt compelled, even drawn to a place where his particular immortality had prevented him from ever finding — that place beyond in another sort of eternity that undeniably a part of him craved.
“Did you pave the way?”
He hesitated. Had he indeed done all he could have? Hard to say, not knowing what the outcome might be. “I did my best Nathaniel. The rest is up to you.” Then he stepped away from him, donning the trench coat he’d been carrying across his arm, and headed toward the shadows before him. However, he paused for just an instant and called over his shoulder.
“Nathaniel, I have no evidence of this, but I feel it. I believe she still loves you.”
And then he continued to walk away, not particularly interested in waiting for a response because the dominant emotion he felt at the moment was envy.
Moira Archer’s head began to swim. It was just thirty minutes until closing and then — and then. There was the rub. What would she do? Where would she go?
So much she had deliberately blocked from her mind so she could do what she wanted. Her legs felt like lead as she walked, was compelled to go there — just take one more look to see if what Ethan Garraint had told her could possibly be true.
She moved beyond the information desk to right in front of the tall wall of glass where the fracture had occurred.
Her eyes slowly drifted into another state of seeing. Now it became more apparent. It was a glowing light, gathering, not outside, not inside but within the cracks of the panes — glowing like some strange insects, fireflies perhaps, but those which gave off a ruddy, irritated-looking, reddish-pink glow.
“You have the gift of sight, Mneme,” her mother had told her. “And the gift of healing, and merging the light with the darkness. So many gifts my child. Your life is one filled with destiny. You are the bridge.” So young she’d been told this, so young she’d been given away in an arranged marriage so long ago. It had been frightening and then uncanny. It wasn’t as if she were unhappy, just puzzled, curious as to what she did not have.
Her eyes were drawn back to the window. She could feel them near her skin, buzzing angrily, hungry, ravenous, in fact. She could feel them gathering strength, pushing against the cracks in the glass, determined to spread the opening further and further.
“Until they gain entrance to this world.” The voice came from behind her and sent an instinctive shiver up her spine.
“To what end?” she murmured without looking back, although she felt him move beside her.
And then she began to feel that instinctual draw toward him — the one she had felt on her wedding day. She’d been so filled with terror learning she would be the bride of the master of death, but then she’d seen him, and all the fear had melted away. And there had been the magnetic pull that had been so nearly impossible to overcome.
“They feel the balance has been disrupted. It is their chance to enter and feed on humanity.”
“Feed?” she whispered.
“In all kinds of ways. Energy to begin, then life itself, so there is no peace, no transition.”
“I thought that was your domain.”
She felt him sigh. He was weary. She could feel it within her as it had always been with the two of them. “That’s not really fair, is it my dear? I do not take life. I am simply there to ensure transition once it is time.”
She turned slowly to Nathaniel, feeling tears slipping down her cheeks. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hurt you.”
“This goes beyond you and me,” he stated softly. “But you could have come to me if you were so unhappy.”
Her heart hurt like a tangible stab. How she’d missed him; how she had fought so hard not to acknowledge it. “I needed to be here, to remember living. To remember who I was. If I’d come to you.”
“If,” he repeated.
“I would not have had the strength to leave.”
Slowly he nodded in understanding, she thought; his dark eyes filled with so many layers of emotions that she could easily allow herself to drown in them. “And did you? Did you find what you sought, my beloved?”
“Maybe, I think I’m still looking. I don’t know, but it seems it’s over.”
And then he smiled softly. “All that is needed is the balance between us, death and memory. The balance must be restored. The discord must end.”
“I don’t understand,” she said in confusion.
“If you wish to stay for a while, you can. If you only return sometimes and, of course, allow me to visit you.”
She looked at him with surprise, a compromise quite unexpected. “You mean something like six months of the year?”
His dark eyes sparkled. “Something like that if you agree to take me back as your husband.”
She smiled, noting that the ugly fireflies at the broken window had begun to thin bit.”
“I’ve missed you, my love,” she whispered.
She felt Nathaniel softly take her hand in his. “We have much to talk of,” he said as she gazed at her husband, feeling her heart begin to lighten.
“Yes, that is true.”
Copyright © 2022 by Evelyn Klebert
If you’d like to spend more time with Ethan Garraint, check out his stand alone novel.
The Broken Vow: Vol. I The Clandestine Exploits of a Werewolf
In the heart of every man there is a history. In the heart of every monster there is a story. In this first installment of “The Clandestine Exploits of a Werewolf,” Ethan Garraint is on a vendetta that begins in the heart of the Pyrenees with the fall of Montségur and leads him to the streets of New Orleans nearly five hundred years later. But the person he chases isn’t really a man anymore and Ethan has been a werewolf for almost a millennium. With the aid of a gifted seer, he is on a blood hunt that will culminate in a journey that crosses the line between heaven and earth and ends somewhere in between.
Also check out the sequel to The Broken Vow, The Story of Enid at Kindle Vella.
When one realizes that a long-lost soulmate has been reincarnated, it poses some complications. When you have been a werewolf for nearly a millennium, the complications explode exponentially. Ethan Garraint understands that he should stay far away from Erin Holt, but she is in his city, New Orleans, and possibly in danger. And the truth is, he doesn’t want to stay away. He only wants to remind her of the lifetime they lived long ago, when they were more than lovers, when they became legend.