White Harbor Road – Halloween Month

Sometimes the supernatural crashes in on you in an abrupt and jarring manner, and at other times, it’s a slow, languorous journey that unfolds in surprising and unexpected ways. My third story for Halloween Month is the tale of a woman who essentially is running away from her life, if only for the holidays, and how a chance encounter on a beach along the Mississippi Gulf Coast changes everything.

White Harbor Road

It wasn’t exactly as she’d intended, but the truth of the matter was that nothing ever was, exactly as she intended. It was Christmas, the Christmas holidays, and she had three weeks off at teaching at the University. But she wouldn’t be travelling home. Her parents were off to visit her sister’s family in North Carolina — a trip that she simply couldn’t face. So instead, Helen had decided to do something odd and spontaneous that no one really understood. She’d decided to rent a beach cottage and spend Christmas alone.

“You can’t spend the holidays alone dear.”

“That’s just odd.”

And a maelstrom of other responses, but she was thirty-six years old, unattached. And her heart craved something indefinable. But as was not unusual, her plans did not turn out as she expected.

“This is not a beachside cottage.”

The manager, a woman in her early sixties with abundant white hair, smiled at her broadly, clearly unruffled. “If you follow this street down White Harbor Road, you will hit the beach in no time.”

Helen frowned. On the internet, it had advertised a Gulf Coast beachside cottage. “That’s not exactly the same as a beachside cottage. I wanted to be near the water.”

Mrs. Haughn smiled broadly again, smoothly, as though completely untouched by misunderstanding. “You know Miss Ellis, it is Miss.”

“Lately it’s been Ms.”

Another smile, “Ms. Ellis, I would be happy to refund your deposit, but I must tell you I think you’re making a mistake. This sweet little cottage is right in the midst of historical Crystal Springs. Just turn a corner and you’re walking down a lovely street filled with shops owned by our artistic residents. And my dear, you can walk to the beach. It’s only three, well, maybe four blocks down, a lovely jaunt in this cool weather.”

Her head spun a bit. It wasn’t what she’d planned. She’d planned to be well isolated, work on the novel she’d been piddling with for the last two years and listen to the sound of the water, not of cars driving by. “I don’t know Mrs. Haughn. It’s just not exactly what I had planned.”

“Well, my dear, why don’t you try it out for a few days. Plans can change sometimes, change and often for the better.”

It was a lovely cottage, wooden floors, a cozy bedroom with a full-size bed covered in a light blue chenille bedspread that reminded her of her grandmother for some odd reason. There was also a small sort of den with a comfortable overstuffed chair and a television that she did not intend to use, then a connecting open kitchen with a small dinette table. All in all, very comfortable, very solitary, and there was free wireless. It fit the bill for what she wanted, except she wished all of it were sitting right on the beach.



“It’s not too late to catch a flight out to North Carolina. I hate the idea of you spending Christmas alone.”

“No, no don’t worry. I need this time to myself to figure some things out.”

Actually Mrs. Haughn was just slightly off. The beach was a five block walk from the Seaside Cottages. That was even their name, Seaside Cottages. But the first morning, actually a Sunday morning, Helen bundled up and made the jaunt. Living in the South, one would think the winters weren’t as terribly cold, but they’d be wrong. There might be an absence of snow, but there was also the moisture in the air that made the cold so penetrative. As she walked, Helen pulled the heavy teal colored scarf that she’d wrapped around her neck up to cover the bottom part of her face.

The beach itself was definitely worth the walk once she arrived. The day was gray, overcast, but the white sand gleamed. The water soothingly lapped up on the shore. She sat on a cold granite bench for a moment that had been placed in a park like area leading up the sand. She breathed the cool air into her lungs as she considered for the first time that perhaps she’d made a mistake. Christmas was in four days, and she would be alone. It hadn’t bothered her before, not really. She’d felt determined, possessed in some way to be isolated, but now there were doubts — the best laid plans.

She bowed her head, overcome with a sudden surge of confusing despair when out of nowhere she felt a long cold nose nudge her. Her head pulled up, and she met the large dark eyes of a black dog. It aggressively pushed its face into her hands, so she would pet it.

Finally, regaining her bearings after being so startled, she noticed the long slim dog was leashed and followed its long connection to a man standing quietly a few feet away. “Don’t worry. She’s harmless,” he commented. Helen slowly stood up, though the dog was still intent on nuzzling her. “You know, she doesn’t take to everyone but seems to like you.”

He was tall, tall with a big blue jacket on. “Well, she’s beautiful. I didn’t notice you two walk up.”

He pressed a button reeling the leash in a bit tighter as he approached her. “You seemed like you wanted to be alone. I was planning to walk by, but then Hazel had other plans.”

She laughed, “She’s a lab?”

“Lab, collie, a mix of other things.”

She smiled nodding. He was closer now. Brown hair, beard and mustache, maybe forties she thought. “Are you—” then she stopped.

“Are we—” he echoed in a friendly manner.

“Sorry, I was going to ask if you were from here.”

“Ah Crystal Springs, not originally, but I have lived here for the last three years. It’s a lovely little antiquated community. And I would say quite definitively that you are not.”

She laughed nervously, “No, I guess that’s obvious.”

“Yes, but not for reason you may think. Visiting?”

She nodded, “Yes, I rented a cottage.”

“Ah, one of Mary Haughn’s cottages down White Harbor Road?”

“Yes,” she answered a bit surprised.

“Over Christmas here alone?”

She sighed a bit in response, trying to decide how to respond.

And then he smiled, “Would you like to get a coffee. It’s just into town.”

Now that was quick and unexpected, seeing as though they’d literally just met. “I suppose,” she answered a bit hesitantly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name.”

“No you didn’t. My name is Billy Struve.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Helen, Helen Ellis.”

It was a small café/coffee shop just off Main Street. And by the time they arrived, she was grateful. She’d thought she was in good shape, but all the walking this morning had proved differently. Mr. Billy Struve had tied Hazel to the white wrought iron chair across from hers on the café’s patio asking her to keep watch as he disappeared into the restaurant. The patio was positioned just off the street where she could observe people milling around, wandering from shop to shop. It was actually quite soothing, a different pace from the city where these days nothing much felt languid.

In moments, she was pulled from her thoughts back to the presence of her companion arriving with two steaming cups of coffee and two almond croissants. He smiled, sitting across from her. “I hope you don’t mind. I thought you might be hungry. Breakfast went right by me today.”

Strange, she hadn’t given a thought to breakfast this morning, just focused on the necessity of getting out by the water. “Oh, actually it’s perfect, thank you,” she answered.

She hadn’t looked too closely at her companion on their jaunt here. There was some conversation, but purely superficial, about the lovely houses near the water, the weather, the beautiful day, and Hazel. She learned quickly all there was to know about Hazel — an SPCA dog he’d adopted as a puppy just after he’d moved here. He took a sip of his coffee and more than a few bites of his croissant and then leaned back in his chair, eying her amiably. “So, you work here?” she asked a little awkwardly.

“Yes, I own one of these shops here. It’s a bit of a gallery for painters, sculptors, other artists. “

“Oh, that’s interesting. What about you, are you an artist?” It was an odd question that had simply popped into her head. But he seemed to take it in his stride, as though he were not surprised.

“Yes, Helen, as a matter of fact, I am a painter and I make pottery as well.”

She nodded, “So you sell?”

“My work as well as others,” he answered, smoothly completing her thought. “And you are a writer?” he asked, as he took another sip of his coffee.

The question hit her strangely. “No, not really, why would you say that?”

He hesitated, almost as though he didn’t believe her, then shrugged, “Felt right.”

She glanced away, feeling a little uncomfortable now. “I’m a professor in New Orleans. I teach English.”

He slowly lowered his coffee cup to the table. “Hmm, strange, you just have that writer vibe, you know.”

She turned back to him adding, “I guess I dabble in it a bit, my own writing.”

“Well, Helen Ellis, I have a sense of these sorts of things, and I think you should do more than dabble. You should commit to it. I’m sure you’d be wonderful.”

She felt a bit stunned at his pronouncement, at how personal he was getting. “And this you know from our short acquaintance?”

“Hmm, don’t mean for you to get your back up. In my experience, it’s just important to do what your soul craves. “And then he smiled warmly, “And if you don’t, it won’t give you any peace. You see, I used to be a lawyer, practiced out in Georgia for many years. Then I gave it all up and came here.”

“Really?” she asked a bit surprised.

“Seems reckless I suppose to some. But I don’t think you can put too high a premium on peace.” She felt stunned, having no idea at all what to say. “So Helen, since we’re being candid, is there anything else you’d like to know?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’m not married, have been, have been divorced, have no children.”

She nodded, not at all sure where he was going with this. “Oh, well, that’s nice.”

He laughed, “Yes, my point being that if we’re finished with me for the moment, I would like to know about you. About why such a lovely woman has come to this place, a place she clearly doesn’t know, alone for the holidays. Why?” and then he smiled in that warm way of his, “And why again?”

She sipped her coffee, wondering if it was time to leave and start closing doors. “It’s not a mystery. I wanted to get away, alone. That’s all.”

“And write?” he asked.

“Maybe,” she hesitated.

“Been married Helen?”

Another odd moment in a series of odd moments since she’d met this man. “Yes, once, a while ago,” she answered with a distance in her voice.

He nodded slowly, as though it was of no surprise. “Thought so.”

“Why, why would you think so?”

And then he looked past her to the people milling on the sidewalks, “Because these things leave marks.

After coffee, they walked around Main Street with Billy Struve amiably pointing out this establishment and then the next. She found herself drifting into a peaceful zone, one that was not contemplating her next move, or analyzing the implications of what was happening. She was simply moving in the moment, a soothing place to exist.

“Are you getting tired?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe a bit, I’m not really used to walking this much.”

“Well, we don’t want to wear you out on your first day. How about I walk you home?”

“All right,” she answered, as he changed directions, she following his moderate strides back towards White Harbor Road.

“You know, I was thinking Helen Ellis. Why don’t you let me fix you dinner tonight?”

She breathed in the frosty air, her city upbringing creeping back into her mind with doubts. After all, Billy Struve was a virtual stranger. What did she really know about him, except that he was pleasant, laid-back and —

“Only the things he has told you he is.”

She halted in the middle of the road at his strange pronouncement exactly mirroring her thoughts. “What did you say?” she asked.

He frowned, “Sorry, I told you I get a sense of things. You’re worried about whether you can really trust me.”

“How did you know what I was thinking?”

“Helen, it’s not such an incredible jump to make. Tell you what. I’ll take you out to dinner, into Biloxi. Things roll up early here in this sleepy little town. Would that be better?”

She started walking again but slowly this time, a bit taken aback by what had just happened. “I don’t know.”

“Hmm, look, I like spending time with you. You seem, how can I say this, kindred to me. So, don’t over think it, all right.”

She didn’t answer just let his pronouncement float solitarily in the air as they turned another corner that led into the parking lot of Mary Haughn’s cottages.

“So how’s the great experiment going?”

“Fine, it’s beautiful here.”

“You know, we could still get you a last-minute ticket to fly up here for Christmas,” Helen could hear a bit of strain in Lydia’s normally cheerful voice. It was evident that her mother had put pressure on her to make this scenario happen.

“Thanks, but I’m all set up here. And I think it’s doing me some good.”

“Oh, okay, met anybody interesting?”

She sighed, questioning whether to open this up or not, but in truth, it would be reassuring to them to know that she wasn’t completely alone. “Actually yes, I met a man on the beach this morning, and we’re having dinner tonight.”

Helen dressed in one of the few slightly dressy outfits she’d brought with her — a dark green wool skirt and matching sweater with boots of course, her favorite cold-weather accessory. It was just after six when she heard the light quick knock at her cottage door. She’d spent most of the afternoon resting and then actually for the remaining hour or two writing. She was gratified at actually getting some of this work done finally. The normal distractions that always seemed to vex her were absent here. Truly, it was as though she’d escaped, at least temporarily, to a different reality.

“You look beautiful,” he immediately commented as Billy Struve crossed the threshold into her small den.

“Oh thanks,” she responded. He was so gracious, so smoothly attentive that it took her by surprise. Most people who had been orbiting her sphere of contacts lately seemed more self-absorbed, completely focused on keeping their personal realm intact. As a result, giving wasn’t a high priority.

He was dressed nicely too, a sweater over dress pants and a long trench coat that gave him a different look, sharper, as though she could now imagine him as that lawyer he had claimed to be.

“Look, I’m sorry about brushing you off, I mean about dinner at your house.”

“No, don’t give it a second thought, too soon. That’s my problem. Once I set my mind to something, I’m ready to move ahead full steam.”

She picked up her long gray coat, and he immediately took hold of it, helping her into it. “Set your mind to what exactly?”

He grinned a bit, “Yeah, hmm, how about seafood? I know a good restaurant.”

“Sounds fine,” she said realizing that he was not going to answer.

It was dusk, and they traveled the long quiet stretch of beach road into Biloxi. Billy Struve drove a Jeep Cherokee that seemed to be filled with various extraneous equipment in the back that denoted a more rural style of existence than she was used to. It was strange. The pace here seemed more mellow, calmer, but the further they traveled away from Crystal Springs that feeling of tranquility seemed to dissipate a bit.

“You feel it?” he murmured.

She turned to him with curiosity. The conversation between them had died off since he’d initially picked her up at the cottage. In fact, so gradually that she hadn’t even acknowledged it. “Feel it?” she asked.

“The change,” he said.

She smiled. He certainly was being opaque. “I’m sorry. Maybe I’m a bit thick, but I don’t follow.”

He shook his head, his eyes still fixed on the long curving stretch of beachside road. “I just mean the feeling. It changes once you get out of Crystal Springs. Of course, it’s lovely here along the water, but there is something particular and special about that little town. That’s why I originally suggested cooking you dinner, all decorum aside. I thought you weren’t ready to leave yet.”

“Ready to leave?” she echoed with some confusion.

He sighed, “Sorry, I mean never mind. Here we are,” he noted, as she looked up seeing the corporal limits sign for Biloxi.

Helen Ellis was a blond, a blond with rather large hazel eyes. And he had to admit, she was beautiful. All these facts sort of hit him like a rock in the side of the head. They’d settled into their table at The Seagull, a nice table where they could see the water, even though the light of the day was nearly gone. The waves felt a bit more turbulent tonight, just a bit, by degrees. Perhaps, there was a storm coming, but none was forecast. Then again, perhaps, he was projecting his own somewhat tumultuous thoughts onto the scenery. He’d felt sure that when he came here, that when she came here, he would be prepared. But now, it didn’t feel that way, not nearly.

She glanced up from behind the menu, a lovely smile but something else, a pensiveness. “What do you recommend?” she asked lightly.

He breathed in deeply, coaxing patience to himself. He’d tried to refrain as much as possible canvassing her thoughts. No matter how tempted he was. And he was tempted. Helen wore a veneer, a protective veneer. It wasn’t so obvious who she was, one had to dig to find it. On the surface, she appeared to be a smooth serene pearl, fluid, pleasing, lovely. But beneath, and it was beneath that he was interested in, it was a different story. “Well, that all depends on how hungry you are.”

She smiled smoothly, “Not really all that hungry.”

“Then the redfish or the flounder.”

She nodded, closing the menu and putting it softly down in front of her. “So, tell me Mr. Struve. What did you mean about Crystal Springs and the feeling there?”

He placed his menu down in front of him as well. Tactful buddy, not too much too soon, or she’ll scare away. “You know, the Indians originally settled that area. They felt there was something special there, mystical energy if you will. It’s my experience every place has its own energy. Your city, New Orleans, being so large is overlaid with many different energy imprints. But this little town, there is something encased about it, strong, pure, consistent. It’s healing.”

Her eyes had never left his face, those large deep eyes. “Do you believe all of that?” she asked hesitantly.


“Okay Billy, do you believe all of that, about the city, I mean?”

“Well, there is more than is dreamed of in our philosophy Horatio.”

She’d almost asked him another question, but then the waiter arrived just in time. It was better this way, small steps, small truths to digest a little at a time.

She’d decided. This was it. She would have this dinner with him, and then the rest of her time in Crystal Springs would be reflective, solitary, and uncomplicated. The man sitting across from her, engaging her in relaxed, entertaining conversation, was anything but uncomplicated. On the surface, he was handsome, in a rugged kind of way, intelligent, thoughtful, and at first glance easy-going. But this was not her first time around the block, and she had the intense impression that she was being handled.

“How’s the fish?” he asked.

She glanced up, pulling herself out of her troubled assessments. “Oh, you were right. It’s great.”

He hesitated, his eyes on her face, and it disturbed her. All evening she would catch him doing this, weirdly looking beyond what she’d said. “What’s wrong Helen?” he asked.

That was it, too perceptive. He was too damn perceptive. “Oh, nothing really, I just have a lot on my mind.”

Again, with that stare but the warm bluish eyes at the same time put her at ease, put her at ease and made her nervous. She worked to steady herself. This wasn’t happening. Whatever this was, wasn’t happening. “Am I making you nervous?” he said placidly.

She shook her head in reflex. Her mother’s influence, never hurt anyone’s feelings. Be tactful. “No, no this is all lovely. I just. . . I’m not sure how to say this.”

He frowned a bit, “Well, if you have to be that anxious, it’s best just come out and say it.”

Directness, refreshing, disarming. “I just don’t want to give the wrong impression. I came here, well, to figure some things out quietly. I don’t want things to get complicated.”

“Friendship.” He stated a bit bluntly.

“What?” she answered with confusion.

“I’m just offering friendship. I like you Helen, and I could use a friend. Is that acceptable?”

She eyed him with confusion. It sounded so, on the surface, perfectly acceptable.

“You know, your abilities are getting stronger William.”

He frowned, “I know. Sometimes it’s difficult controlling them. I don’t want to see auras bleeding out of everyone as I walk down the street.”

“Sometimes, it takes time for natural talents to develop, and, of course, this place is especially conducive to the psychic energies.” Sara Morgan, the lovely lady that he sat across from on the rug in her den began to cough very lightly, and then reached for a cup of tea, she’d placed on the coffee table beside them.

“Are you sure you’re feeling up to this Sara?”

She smiled softly. She was a slight silver haired woman in her late sixties, and she was a bona fide psychic. She’d come to live in Crystal Spring just six months before he’d settled there. She ran a small metaphysical bookstore and gift shop. After a brief acquaintance, he’d begun taking classes from her; first for stress control, and then later for other pursuits. “It will pass,” she murmured. “Anymore dreams?” she asked.

“Yes, several times a week.”

“The same woman?”

“Yes, we meet on the beach, and then we talk, talk about everything, and then sometimes just sit there. I can’t really see her face, but her energy I know. It’s so familiar.”

She nodded, “She’s coming, maybe another year,” she murmured.

And it had been as Sara had predicted. And unfortunately, six months earlier, his teacher had crossed over, passing away from an affliction she had opted to keep private.

He’d scared her. Too much too soon, that’s a lesson that Sara had often stressed that he needed to learn, patience — the ability to allow things to unfold in their own time. They were traveling along the long dark road back to Crystal Springs. The darkness of the winter night was thick just now, heavy and dense. And her mood reflected it. He could feel that her thoughts were somber, somewhere else. Stuck in some painful rivet from the past, he suspected. “Doing all right?” he asked.

She roused from that gray misty place where she’d resided in only moments before. “Yes, sorry,” she said. “It’s so dark tonight. Is this the way it usually is around here?”

“At times, seems more so in the winter.”

She sighed deeply, “You didn’t tell me. Do you have family?”

“I have a brother up North and a sister out west. My parents have passed on.”

“And they didn’t want you to visit for Christmas?”

“Well, I have to say it didn’t really come up. They have their own families, their own lives, and we were never what you would call a close knit family.”

She responded pensively. “This is really my first Christmas away from some kind of family. And you’d swear I was stealing the Crown jewels, the way everyone is reacting.”

“Good to know they care.”

“Hmm, I don’t know if it’s that or them just being shocked I’m not doing what they expect me to do. They don’t take to change very well.”

“How about you?”


“How do you take to change Helen?”

There was a pause, and he could feel she was actually genuinely considering the question. “I’m not sure. I haven’t had very much lately.”

It was strange, unexpected. She was comfortable being with Billy Struve and yet not — relaxed and yet tense. She’d decided to not see him again and yet couldn’t seem to follow through.

The dinner was nice, and he’d taken her out to a coffee shop later. Nothing earth shattering happened but it felt as though something, something had happened. Something she couldn’t put her finger on. And then he’d taken her home. He talked about his shop off of Main Street and invited her to drop by.

Her response was vague, and he seemed undaunted. A good night at her door, a slight hug, and then he was gone. And she felt, well, clearly not quite herself.

It was after eleven and the darkness of the cottage wrapped around her. Silently, she eased out of the bed and wrapped herself in a soft fluffy pink robe that she’d brought from the city. It was comforting. There had been many sleepless nights like this one when she’d wrapped up in it, settling into the large blue-gray lazy boy that she’d taken with her when her marriage had ended.

Here, there was only the large over-stuffed armchair in front of the TV. But it would have to suffice, and she curled up in it, tucking her feet beneath the robe. She’d tried not to think of it much, but she supposed that was when everything changed, at least when she changed. As marriages go, hers was short lived. Just two years, and most family and friends had commented supportively, “Well, at least you didn’t invest too much. There were no children, no real entanglements.”

At the time, she’d responded numbly to such comments, but in retrospect, she wondered exactly what they could be thinking.

She’d come out of it changed. The sparkle had gone out of things, the enthusiasm from youth, and yes, the innocence. She’d left much on that doorstep, so strange. Kevin wasn’t a bad guy by any means. But together, well, it drained something out of her, something she didn’t know how to get back.

There was a chill in the air. She supposed she could put the heater on, but that would take effort and a perceptible grogginess was slipping in. She let her head rest softly on the back of the chair and closed her eyes, not even willing to make the effort to return to bed.

Hazel was restless when he returned home. She knew as well. She’d taken immediately to Helen Ellis as had he. For a full two years, he’d been aware of her presence. It was something that had slowly seeped into his dreams and then his waking thoughts. At first, it seemed like some sort of fantasy, perhaps like an imaginary friend of from his youth. But then, the impressions became more insistent.

And tonight the pull was strong, maybe because they’d finally met in the flesh. But her flesh, her free will, was resisting this, even though her spirit felt differently. He heard the rush of wind chimes just outside the French doors in his bedroom. The doors led onto a secluded patio. Patting Hazel lightly on the head, he gently put her out of the room and then pulled on his jacket. As he opened the doors, he could make out shadows, but he reached for the lights on the wall to light up the stone patio.

It startled him at first, the figure he saw down the steps moving across the granite stone pattern he’d designed himself. She was dressed in a long white nightgown, just silently wandering barefoot across the patio. It was startling to find her here, such a direct contact. But he cleared his mind and directed his thoughts to Helen.

“What do you need?”

The figure stopped and turned to him with no expression on her face. It was her and not her — a spiritual manifestation, reaching out, feeling the powerful connection between them as had he. There was silence in response but also confusion, yearning.

“How we make our own prisons,” he murmured. And then she was gone. Shakily, he sat down in one of the wrought iron chairs near the patio table. He felt shaky all over. She would seek him out again. He was sure of it. After all, it was what her spirit wanted.

It was her intent to resist, instead, to spend the day writing or perhaps taking another walk on the beach or perhaps even a long ride along the coast. All of these were distinct possibilities. But what she had decided against was walking into town and heading in the general direction of Billy Struve’s place of business. Helen had decided after a somewhat restless night that she would avoid this and him. But of course, just after lunch, after one, her feet were itchy for exploration. And they began to draw her in the direction that she had decided against.

“Just friendship,” that was what he was looking for, that was what he had said. But as had been her experience, what one said was not exactly always what one meant. Kevin, her ex-husband, had said he supported everything she wanted to do, was enamored of all she was. But that was before they were married, before he began to chisel away at her dreams piece by piece, slowly and methodically, until it almost went unnoticed by her. Of course, upon reflection, she never felt as though he did it deliberately. It was just his nature to absorb what was around him and funnel its energy to benefit himself. She often chastised herself for not being more of a fighter in the relationship and less of a giver. But then again, she had never envisioned a relationship where she would have to fight. It went against her grain.

She drifted toward Main Street and noted how busy it was but more of foot traffic than cars. “A right off of Main Street onto Pine.” That was what he had told her. Again, she questioned the wisdom of seeing him again. Would that denote too much interest on her part? But something pulled her, something unconscious. And she disregarded her better instincts. She smiled in appreciation as she turned the corner and spotted his establishment. Artistically scripted across the window was the word Illuminations. He hadn’t told her the name of the store, but she knew it was his. With a deep breath and not another thought, she turned the knob where she was greeted by the happy bark of Hazel that drifted in from somewhere in the back of the store.

She was initially overwhelmed, actually stunned, by an impressive array of glass shelves decorated by all manner of artistry imaginable. She simply stopped in the middle of the significantly large room and allowed her eyes to travel and soak in all that was around her — pottery, jewelry, paintings, baskets, all manner of decorative items formed from seashells. And it felt, it felt as though light and energy poured through the room, so much that it was dizzying. “What do you think?” His voice took her by surprise, but she was more surprised by that fact that he was right beside her, evidently moving next to her while she was completely distracted by what she was seeing.

She turned to him a bit shakily, “You startled me.”

He smiled, his face more pensive now as though he were a bit preoccupied, “Sorry, I wasn’t sure if you’d come today.”

“To tell you the truth neither was I, but I’m glad I did. This place, it’s amazing.” She said as she drifted over to a lovely curling, bluish vase made of glass.”

“I try to pick pieces that are conductors of energy.”

She stopped focusing on the beauty of the items around her, then looking at him curiously, “Conductors of energy?”

“Yes, you could feel it when you walked in.”

She answered thoughtfully. “I felt light, and yes, I guess you could call it energy.”

“Everything carries its own energy, and some objects serve as conductors. It’s very helpful to any environment it’s placed in.”

She turned to him, smiling. Clearly, he was quite serious about this, “Sounds like you’ve made a science out of this.”

He nodded, “If you had come earlier, I would have taken you to lunch.”

“I wasn’t really sure what my plans would be today.”

There was another bark from toward the back of the expansive shop. “I think Hazel wants to see you as well. Come on. I’ll show you the back.”

Windows and light, that was what struck her about the backrooms of Billy Struve’s establishment. It was winter, icy and cold outside, but it felt warm in here, and not just from artificial means. The first room was a stock room with shelves of items that had yet to be placed on display. The next seemed more of a studio — a table for pottery, an easel, counters for all variety of work. She was envious. It was charged with energy. Oddly, she could imagine herself having a desk near one of the large windows and writing, writing in a way that she’d never been able to before.

He’d disappeared in the front, hearing the chiming of the front doors. She was left here, not quite alone. Hazel lie curled up on a bed just under a light wooden table against the wall. Clearly, it was a spot she’d made her own. There were dual impulses she was feeling. One was to bolt and return to the life she knew, forgetting that people lived like this on their own terms. The other, even more perplexing than the first, was to sit down on the window seat and pull the soft afghan throw that was draped across it lightly across her shoulders and relax — allow herself to let go of all the tenseness and all the baggage from the past that she seemed to carry around with her and simply be.

She looked up and saw him standing there in the doorway. Again, he’d surprised her while she was deeply enmeshed in her own thoughts. He frowned, “All right?” he asked pointedly.

She wondered, simple question but what was the answer. “It must be wonderful to work here,” she said, sidestepping the question entirely.

“Well, it is great, at times. But the retail thing interrupts.” He stepped off the small landing and in a few direct steps had made it to the space directly in front of her. “So, I have a microwave. How about a cup of mint tea?”

“Sounds nice.”

He nodded, turning away from her, but then adding just over his shoulder. “Then after that maybe you’ll answer my question, Helen.”

It was disorienting, having her here, having her here after seeing her last night on his patio. He’d done his best. He’d concentrated on sending energy to her, but then he’d done something else, something that he wasn’t at all sure that he should. He’d brought her here today, funneled all his concentration on luring her to him. Truthfully, for all intents and purposes, he’d felt as though he’d failed, until he found her standing in the middle of his shop in an almost mesmerized state.

He debated within. Was this really fair to influence her like this? After all, he wasn’t some sort of vampire beckoning his intended victim to his side. He wanted to help Helen. He wanted, and then he stopped. What exactly did he want from her? If it wasn’t even clear in his mind, he shouldn’t be playing around with her life.

He brought two cups of steaming tea from the small kitchen galley to the studio where he found Helen sitting on the window seat with Hazel curled up beside her as she stroked her. “Now that’s a pretty picture,” he commented, as he handed her the tea.

“It just kind of happened,” she said, taking a sip. “It’s good. Do you do a lot of painting?”

He’d grabbed one of the metal chairs lurking around the studio and pulled it up beside her. “When I’m inspired. The shop brings in enough money that I don’t have to paint, but, of course, I have to stay creative, the ener—” then he stopped.

“The energy,” she finished for him.

“I’ve been bantering that word around a lot today. So—” he said.

“So,” she repeated, continuing to stroke Hazel’s heavy black fur.  She felt calmer now, not thinking as much. He could feel it. This place was soothing her, clearly exactly what she needed.

“You seemed very bothered earlier.”

She didn’t answer at first, just quietly sipped her tea. And he was struck again at how physically beautiful she was, her hands long and elegant, an aura of delicateness, and now rather fragileness. “I don’t know. Like I said at dinner, I came here to sort some things out, reassess I guess.”

He nodded, “How’s that working out?”

She smiled lightly, meeting his eyes with her large green ones. “Good question, sometimes I think reliving the past is maybe just that reliving the past. Doesn’t really change anything, just stirs up,”

“Pain?” he asked.

“Maybe, I mean it’s not a huge secret to me why things happened, how they happened. But it is a secret how I can let go of all that.”

“Hmm, there’s the trick.”

Her long elegant hand started to scratch Hazel just under the ear, and she settled against Helen as though she was in bliss — odd to be jealous of his own dog. “You seem to have made peace with things William.” He felt a bit startled. The last person who called him William was Sara Morgan, his teacher. But here in the small town of Crystal Springs, he was just Billy or Struve to some. Her eyes widened. She was perceptive. “I’m sorry. Would you rather I call you Billy?”

He smiled, shaking his head, “No, no William is fine. Um oh yeah, making peace with things. That’s a bit of a tall order. I don’t know if you can ever completely get rid of the old stuff. I don’t know if we’re meant to .It kind of reminds us of where we’ve been, who we’ve been — a benchmark so to speak. But it’s important to learn from it but not to keep beating yourself up for it. After all, you wouldn’t make the same choices today that you did say five years ago.”

Her eyes were wide and filled with shadows. “I hope not,” she murmured.

“And the rest of the cure is living. Just moving on and filling your life with new things, better things that bring you joy.”

She sipped her tea, her eyes focusing on something beyond him. She was considering. He could feel it, considering carefully.

She hadn’t intended to stay here as long as she had. In fact, she hadn’t intended to spend much of any time at all with Billy Struve. But the hours of the afternoon stretched on. There was a comfortable, languid feeling throughout the rooms of Illuminations. And Helen was not in much of a hurry to relinquish the feeling.

It was approaching four, the hour at which he would close up shop. There was a door at the back of the store that led to the back patio. While he took care of business up front, Helen wandered outside. It was a bright winter day and she inhaled deeply. The cool air flooded through her lungs, and she felt peace float in, a peace that she had never comprehended as possible.

He appeared in the doorway, quietly waiting for her to notice his presence. “So,” he said quietly. “All closed up.”

She smiled, “So soon?”

“Well, I’m the owner. It’s my prerogative.” He walked out further onto the patio. “And today feels like other things take precedence.”

“I hope I’m not interfering with your business.”

He nodded, “You are, but it’s not unwelcomed. So, can we try dinner again?”

Her head swirled a bit. It was not unexpected but still caught her off guard, “Dinner?”

He smiled, “Yes, but at my place. You know, Hazel and me.”

“Um, I don’t know.”

“Too late to be cautious, we’ve spent the afternoon together.”

“Oh, you think it’s too late, do you?”

“I think it’s time to let things follow their course. Don’t you Helen?”

Her heart was hammering in her chest a bit more profoundly. But she didn’t want to think about it too much, didn’t want to let go of this peacefulness that was wrapping around her like a cocoon. So all she said was, “I suppose not.”

It struck a chord. They’d stopped on the way to William’s house at a small grocery just a few blocks away from Illuminations. It was like everything else that she’d seen of Crystal Springs, homey, personal, and creative. The owner knew Billy Struve on a first name basis. She waited in the café portion of the store with Hazel while he shopped. Mr. Deangelis, the owner, and his daughter came from inside the store to greet her and play with Hazel. It seemed no problem for the dog to be there. It was so different, so alien for her. Where she came from, people were generally aloof, and you’d never see a dog in a grocery. Oddly enough, it felt destabilizing. When William returned to her, he looked at her with concern, “Something wrong?” he asked. “You look a little pale.”

“I’m just tired,” she lied. And he looked unconvinced. It was second nature for her to cover like this, to cover the truth of her feelings. Why exactly, she’d never particularly examined except that it had begun in her marriage.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m unhappy.”

“What’s the matter with you? Can’t you be satisfied with anything?”

And then it became, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I’m just tired.”

But the truth seemed to bring caustic, painful confrontations. So, she began to avoid them. But this man, this one next to her, was not content to accept platitudes.

It was the house, however, that struck a chord. This shook her a bit, because it seemed so oddly familiar. When they pulled up in his driveway, it nearly took her breath away. It was a wooden frame house, sort of warm beige in color, the front with several steps leading up to a porch — nestled comfortably in trees surrounding it, protecting it she thought a bit abstractly. It was lovely, not the most extraordinary house she’d ever seen, but in some other, indefinable way it was the most extraordinary house she’d seen.

He patted her hand softly, not questioning her this time. “Come on,” he said, but she hesitated. She couldn’t help it. She knew that if she went inside things would change. That thought resounded through her mind. But then she stepped out of the jeep, knowing that she would. It was inevitable.

She was wandering around his house, and it made him feel odd, as though some electric sort of energy was weaving its spell around them now. He didn’t know he would feel this way, didn’t really think about it at all. “You really don’t get it William. When the two of you finally come together, it will be extraordinary, powerful. Change both your lives in ways you can’t imagine. Your spirits are a perfect fit, created together for each other.”

“That sounds a bit overwhelming,” he’d told Sara Morgan.

“I imagine it will be,” she’d answered. “But you have never struck me as a man who would shy from a challenge.”

And here he was, watching Helen Ellis, absolutely incandescent in the way she was subtly connecting with everything around her. It was profound how drawn he was to her, physically, emotionally. He wanted so fiercely to get past all those barriers that she’d erected in the name of self-preservation. And he’d only known her a few days.

“So, what do you think?” he said wandering into the den where she was standing near the fireplace.

“You have a wonderful place. Did you do this?” she asked in regards to the landscapes that were placed on either side of the fireplace.

He handed her a glass of white wine. “Yes, some of my early work. I hope I’ve improved.”

She shook her head. “They’re wonderful William. They feel peaceful to me,” she murmured. And the she looked at him oddly, “Have you found that here? In Crystal Springs, peace?”

He sat down slowly on the small moss green sofa. “Sometimes Helen, I think peace is something you have to work at. It’s something earned, not just a natural state of being.”

She nodded, sipping her wine. “I guess that’s why I don’t have it. I never thought I’d have to earn it.”

“Well, it helps when you’re in a place you want to be, doing things because you enjoy them, not just because you have to.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing?”

“Actually, I was talking about myself. I had to remove myself from an environment that was, well, toxic to my spirit. That was the first step for me, I guess caring for my inner self.”

“Some of us don’t have that luxury.”

“Some of us don’t give ourselves the luxury.”

She turned away from him, facing his pictures again. He stood up and walked over to her putting his hand on her shoulder. He could feel it, fear. Her experiences had taught her fear. “I’m sorry Helen. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“We’re just very different William. Come from different places,” she murmured.

He put his glass of wine on the mantle and put both hands on her shoulders, beginning to gently rub, trying to drive some of her tenseness away. “I’d like to help you relax some, Helen,” he said. But she didn’t answer. He could feel so much, just connecting with her skin — confusion, tumultuous emotion, but it was helping. She was calming. “That’s it,” he said.

“William,” she began.

“Just relax Helen.” She was leaning back against him a bit, not realizing at all what she was doing. It was completely unconscious. He breathed deeply, feeling it as a languid and yes sensual feeling traveling through his veins. Sara had said they would be powerful together, but he hadn’t realized to what degree. There was a decision to be made now. Move forward or wait, give her a bit more time.

He pulled his hands away from her shoulders and whispered into her ear. “I better get dinner going.”

She straightened up, turning around to face him, “Yeah sorry, that felt good.”

He smiled, “Just relax awhile. I’ll be in the kitchen.”

He headed out the room, trying to shake the almost overwhelming need that was coursing through him.

William had a lovely natural wood dinette set in a small sunroom just off the kitchen. But instead, they ate in the den on the coffee table, sitting cross legged on his large Aztec pattern rug in front of a crackling fireplace. Of all things, he’d made spaghetti, but it was actually quite good.

“This is really great. When did you learn to be a great cook?”

He laughed, “Well, I’m not a great cook but generally out of necessity. After my marriage fell apart, I decided either I would learn to cook decently or eat take out the rest of my life.”

“That makes sense.” She picked up her glass of wine off the coffee table to take a sip. Her plate was somewhat precariously perched on her lap, but truth be told, she didn’t care. This was her second glass of wine, her limit usually was one, but she felt warm, cozy, and watchful of Hazel who more than once had tried to abscond with her dinner. “I can’t believe Christmas is in two days.”

“It’s true, any regrets?”

“You mean coming here?”

“Not being with your family.”

“No, oddly enough, it feels right. I guess though I feel some pressure not doing what I feel I should be doing.”

He put his glass down abruptly on the coffee table. “Okay, you’re going to have to explain that one to me. Not doing what you feel you should be doing?”

She laughed. It was true. Once she voiced it, it sounded remarkably nonsensical. “Okay, let’s see. Christmas comes with pressures. You feel if you don’t celebrate it in a certain way, you’ve failed somehow.”

“Wow, that sounds joyous!”

“Now you know what I mean. If you don’t have a tree,” she gestured to the small live pine tree he had in one corner of his house, sparsely decorated with ornaments from his shop. “If you don’t have a family around you, if you don’t exchange presents, if you don’t send out Christmas cards.”

“You send out Christmas cards?”

She sighed, “I used to when Kev,” then she stopped.

William put his basically cleaned plate onto the coffee table. “Okay, you want to finish that thought?”

She swallowed, good question. Did she really? “I was going to say I did when Kevin and I were together, then for a few years after. I guess to make it seem like I was okay, then I let it go.”

“I see, and all this was because you felt you should.”

“It’s part of the trappings of Christmas. Come on, didn’t you send out Christmas cards when you were married?”

“Honestly, I think Laura did, but I let her handle all that stuff I’m ashamed to say.”

“I see, a bit of a workaholic husband.”

He nodded, “Yeah, ambitious, self-centered, all the trappings that go with it. It isn’t a wonder she left me.” He took a sip of his wine.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you think about unhappy things.”

“No, no she did me a favor. Made me wake up, re-examine things.”

“Did you ever try to reconcile, I mean, once you changed things?”

He shook his head, “No Helen, one thing I’ve learned emphatically is that not everyone is a good match for you. Two people can be very nice, but once you put them together, they just don’t bring out the best in each other.”

“Sounds like you believe in soul mates.”

He smiled, “That’s one word. Kindred is another. Twins, twin spirits, is another.”

“Then I wonder why so many people wind up with the wrong match?” she said softly.

“It’s all about learning Helen. We’re all here on this earth to learn, to evolve. And that’s hard to do if you always do things perfectly.”

She glanced at a clock on the wall. It was already eight. The evening had been flying by, great food, great conversation, and she wasn’t in all that much hurry to go back now to her lonely cottage. They’d just had coffee, and she knew she should leave. “Ah, I see thinking about leaving now.” He spoke from across the den.

“You know, sometimes I get the strange feeling that you’re reading my mind.”

He walked in further, coming to stand just next to her near the fireplace. “Would that I could my dear,” he said laughing.

“I really should get back.”

“Because you think that is what you should do Helen?”

It was awkward. He was too honest, too unvarnished about what he was thinking. “I had a lovely time. In fact,” then she stopped.

“You know, before you vanish back into your old life, it is my quest, my most earnest desire, to get you to say what you really mean.”

She frowned, “Are you implying that I’m insincere?”

“No, I’m saying that you’re guarded and defensive and protective of yourself. But you don’t have to be around me.” He reached out and softly touched her face with the tips of his fingers. It made her literally catch her breath.

“I wanted to say that I can’t remember, at least not for a very long time, having such a wonderful evening.”

He nodded, “That’s high praise, and may I say that I feel the same.”

He moved in a step closer, and her heart began to race. “William, I,” she tried to say, but he was touching both sides of her face now with his hands, softly caressing. “You said you were only offering friendship,” she murmured.

“I know, we can be friends, and more,” he whispered.

She thought to answer, but then she didn’t because he was kissing her now. Softly at first, so gently he eased her into an embrace. And then more intensely, as he folded her deeply in his arms, against his chest, more passionately. It was unexpected, and yet more than reasonable.

He drove around the city after he brought Helen home. He was rattled, completely overwhelmed, but delightfully so. “It’s control that you need to work on William,” Sara Morgan had said.

“I don’t know what you mean. I’m always in control of myself, my life.”

“That’s the problem,” she’d said. “You have to learn to let go, allow life to have its flow without you impeding it.”

He hadn’t really understood what she’d meant, until tonight. He felt as though he were caught in a tidal wave. Helen would have stayed with him the night. He was sure of it. She was caught up just like he was in the passion igniting between them, the electric crazy flow of energy. She would have stayed, against her better judgment, against what she believed she should do, and all of that would have come crashing down on her the next morning. She wasn’t ready for this. Hell, he wasn’t ready for this. But it didn’t matter, not really, because it was going to happen. The feelings, the sensation, the connection was like a deluge. It wouldn’t be denied. But tonight, he’d pulled back. And he didn’t know at all if he was happy about it or not. She’d seemed confused, scattered. But once he’d brought her back, he’d stepped into the cottage, closing the door behind him.

Her eyes were wide with a bit of surprise. But he pulled her, without asking, straight into his arms again, kissing her softly, but trying to stave off the intense passion. “I want to see you tomorrow,” he’d said.

She was breathing deeply, “I don’t know.” She was confused, but he wouldn’t let her pull away from him now.

“It’s all right Helen,” he whispered into her hair. “Don’t worry. I’ll call you tomorrow.” She nodded and again he kissed her. This was crazy. All he wanted to do was scoop her up and take her back to his house, into his bed — such an incredibly powerful need.

But he didn’t, instead he wandered the darkened streets of Crystal Springs, trying, trying to get a handle on things.

Helen woke from a heavy sleep. It was late for her, ten o’ clock, but she felt well-rested, calm. As she wandered around the small cottage, it distantly registered in her mind that it was Christmas Eve. Presents weren’t something she needed to worry about. She’d mailed a package filled with them up to North Carolina. But then of course, there was one person that she hadn’t bought anything for yet — William.

Her breath hitched a bit in her throat at the memory of last night. It was the point at which their understanding of friendship had evolved into what she could only describe as passion, uncontrolled passion. She watched the small coffee pot that the cottage provided slowly drip. Coffee was such a wonderful aroma. It connected her with peaceful soothing things. There were actually just four more days that she would spend in Crystal Springs. The time was flying now.

She poured herself a cup of the morning brew and curled up in the overstuffed chair. She didn’t want to think too much, about the future or the past, just allow herself to feel now, to feel joy.

Her cell phone rang, and she answered without even looking at the number.


“Hello back, and how are you this morning?”

She sipped her coffee, “Good, a bit lazy though. I only got up a little while ago.”

William laughed a bit on the other end. “Well, maybe you needed the rest. I was hoping you’d meet me for lunch. We’re closing early today because it’s Christmas Eve.”

She straightened up, thinking about the gift she had yet to buy for him. “Are all the stores closing early?” she asked.

“All of them around here. Why? Have some last minute shopping to do?”

“Well, a bit.”

“There’s still a little of the morning left. Do your shopping, then meet me at the store. Can’t wait to see you.”

It felt like butterflies, and she was much too old for butterflies. “Okay, that sounds good.”

“Great, see you later.”

“Okay,” she’d already said that, just like a flustered teenager. And then she hung up.

She looked up at the clock, ten-thirty, enough time to hop in the shower then make a mad dash into town. She wasn’t thinking, wasn’t examining too much. That, she felt acutely, would ruin everything.

He watched the clock. The morning was busy enough, a steady stream of customers to distract him. But then, it was eleven and eleven-thirty and his mind wandered, lingering on the wild energy last night passing around them, through them, within them, when he touched Helen, when he kissed her. He’d been warned of it but still hadn’t really expected it.

“When the two of you come together, it will be extraordinarily powerful.” Sara Morgan had told him serenely, as though it were quite natural.

He’d frowned at her a bit. It was undeniable. At that point in his life, there was still a hefty dose of pessimism within him. “What do you mean powerful?”

She’d smiled at him, almost indulgently. “William when two spirits reunite who are a perfect match, it is extraordinary. Energy is created, healing occurs. And there is a need between them to be together that is like an unstoppable storm. It will defy logic, judgment, and reasoning. It is simply undeniable.”

And then she’d said something odd, that he’d forgotten. “I envy you William, what is to come. Don’t let anything come between you, especially yourselves.”

“Especially yourselves,” he murmured to himself. Yes, he could easily see that possibility looming — fear, wounds from the past, and a host of other things perceived as stumbling blocks. But if he’d learned anything in his years of life was that perception did not necessarily equal truth.

The front bell chimed, and Helen crossed the threshold of Illuminations.

She was holding a small decorative bag in her hand and smiling as she approached him.

“So,” he said kissing her softly on the cheek, “what’s in the bag?”

“None of your business,” she laughed. And he knew it was a Christmas gift for him. The truth was that he’d already picked one out for her on that very first day that they’d met on the beach.

There was a change. At first, he’d felt it, then he’d seen it, in Helen’s aura — the colors of the energy around her. When he’d first met her, in fact before he’d even introduced himself that first day on the beach, he’d taken a moment to look at her, really look at her. Seeing auras wasn’t something that had come easily to him. It had begun first as picking up random splashes of energy on people, objects. At first, he’d thought it was his vision going, but an eye doctor confirmed that this was not the case. Ever since he was a child, he’d had extremely good vision, and that hadn’t changed as he got older. So, he’d mentioned it to Sara Morgan in one of their sessions, and she had introduced him into the world of energy, the colors of energy and its significance.

And with much practiced meditation, he’d begun to see clearly, the auras surrounding people.

Helen had been low on energy and surrounded by great splashes of pink and orange. The pink denoted confusion within her emotions and the orange a strong connection to other people who might be influencing her. But rather quickly over the last few days of their association, he was noticing a difference, less pink, less orange, more white and blue-green — strong energy colors. There was a lighter mood to her, more buoyant. And with no humbleness, he knew he could claim credit or rather their association could. They were helping each other already, because he also could feel the energy shifting within himself for the better.

He’d just closed the shop, and they were sitting in the back room with Hazel at their feet.

“So, what do you want for lunch?”

She smiled, “This is your town, what do you recommend?”

He grabbed her hand and impulsively brought it up to his lips kissing it softly. “Well, we can pick up some po’boys at a little seafood place I know, then go picnic somewhere.”

“Sounds nice,” she murmured. But it was clear, her focus was on the hand he was still holding. He breathed deeply. It was difficult. Last night they’d pretty much let the genie out of the bottle and now. Well, there seemed as though there was no going back. Again, he brought her hand up to his lips, kissing it more lingeringly this time.

“Or we could go back to my house, and I’ll fix us something.” She was breathing deeply, and it felt like a spell wrapping around them.

“What are we doing?” she whispered softly but with intent.

He shook his head, “Not really sure Helen Ellis, feels a bit like falling but not in a bad way.” He turned her arm a bit and now brought her wrist softly up to his lips.

“You know, this isn’t really like me.”

“This isn’t like anything. This is all brand new.” And then he reached over, softly drawing her to him, and began kissing her. He kissed her again and again, and he could feel she was not holding anything back. “Let’s go,” he whispered to her. He thought he read some confusion in her eyes, but then it was gone, just acceptance. She nodded then he stood up, soon after pulling her to her feet.

She was going to have an affair. This was the only way Helen could interpret what was happening. It didn’t fit into any other construct that she had been taught since she was a child.

Of course, it was still new to her. She’d never had an affair, although there had been a few opportunities. Several she could remember after her divorce from Kevin. And she had considered it. She was lonely, feeling terrible about herself, but something had held her back — something that clearly was not holding her back now.

They were largely silent as they drove to William’s house. Hazel barked occasionally from the back seat, and once William had reached over to squeeze her hand. “Okay?” he’d said.

She’d nodded, saying nothing. She was afraid a bit, but it had such an edge of excitement, like the unknown. This was her plunging into the unknown, whatever it might bring, but feeling intoxicatingly alive. They pulled into his driveway, and he turned off the car. But he made no move to get out. Finally, after a few moments, he spoke, “I guess I should ask you if you’re sure you want to do this,” he murmured.

She waited, smiling a bit. “Was that a question?” she couldn’t help but saying.

He turned to her, also smiling a bit. “I think that was the lawyer in me trying to cover the bases.”

She nodded, “I’m sure.”

There seemed to be a slight sigh of relief from him. Then he opened his door and stepped out of the car. She did the same. Her answer had been true. She was sure. Whatever would come, whatever it would bring, she was sure. Breathing in the cool mist around her, she noted happily that around them it was a sunny day.

Copyright © 2012 by Evelyn Klebert

White Harbor Road and Other Tales of Paranormal Romance

A psychic soul mate, a time traveler, a horror writer, and a enigmatic stranger take a selection of resilient, life-battered heroines to a place of paranormal healing and transformation. In this collection of short stories, White Harbor Road is the last stop where life’s burdens and hardships evolve into something unexpected.

Obsession – Halloween Month

For the second spooky story for Halloween Month, I thought I’d change pace just a bit. “Obsession” is a story out of a collection of the adventures of Malachi McKellan and his companion, Simon Tull. In Travels into the Breach: Accounts of a Reclusive Mystic, Malachi is a 65 five year old widower, author of esoteric books, as well as a bit of a psychic detective and Simon is his spirit guide, a nineteenth century, twenty something English fellow. The two join forces in “Obsession” against a curious and somewhat determined foe.


“If I were man, this wouldn’t be such an issue.”

Adele Blanchard struggled to hold onto her pleasant demeanor in the presence of the young woman in front of her. She was reading her tarot cards. She didn’t do palms. That was Annette’s job, but occasionally Adele did still read Tarot cards in addition to attending to the day-to-day operations of her esoteric bookstore, The Blue Pelican. It was as much for herself as anything. She enjoyed reading the Tarot for customers, playing off the vibes she received from them, digging deep into her intuitive gifts while using the symbolism of the cards as a bouncing off point. Usually, she gained as much from the endeavor as those she read for, usually. But this one, Suzanne Evans, she couldn’t seem to get her to focus on what Adele was saying. Rather, she was purely focused on the one that got away.

“Oh, I don’t know about that Suzanne,” she murmured as jovially as she could manage. “Unrequited love unfortunately, when taken to extremes can turn into harassment — male or female in question.”

She bristled noticeably. In fact, she found that young Suzanne Evans tended to bristle whenever she didn’t readily agree with her. “Are you implying that I’m harassing Joe?”  She delivered in a stringent tone bordering on indignant.

Adele steeled herself inwardly, continuing to shuffle the oversized deck of Rider Waite cards. It was difficult keeping calm. Something about this woman had raised her hackles from the very moment they’d met. This would be the second elaborating spread she was doing for Suzanne as the original and the one following didn’t seem to penetrate her rather tunnel vision perception.

“No, I didn’t say that. Joe, of course, would have to be the one to determine if he was feeling harassed or not.” And then she smiled to temper the sharp edges of her observation.

Suzanne’s face seemed to only harden at Adele’s remark. Her sharp cheekbones seemed to set as though carved in stone, and her well sculpted eyebrows froze over her long almond-shaped eyes in an expression of determination. She was an attractive young woman, an ER nurse, no doubt a catch. So why was she so resolutely focused on a man who clearly wasn’t interested anymore?

“I’m sure you’re wrong Ms. Blanchard. Once Joe remembers how good we were together, he’ll wake up. I’m sure he’ll value and appreciate the fact that I didn’t give up on us,” she stated rather flatly.

And invoking what Adele considered her minuscule repertoire of psychic gifts, she definitely sensed a wall here. There was a block in Suzanne’s thinking where reason, reality, and good common sense just did not seem to penetrate.

I honestly can’t account for it Malachi. Love, lust, obsession — whatever you might want to label it, that sort of nonsensical determination is going to lead to trouble, maybe even of the criminal sort.

She was sitting out on Malachi McKellan’s screen porch with his lovely view of the Bayou St. John and sipping tea — something fruity, blueberry or raspberry, or something of the sort. He had said distinctly that she needed calming before they sat down to talk. He was very sensitive to those sorts of things. And it was true. She was extremely agitated. The problem was that this whole matter incensed her to no end. The why exactly she couldn’t say, except that she felt an instinctive dislike of Suzanne Evans.

“And how did the appointment end?”

“Well, I spread the cards again, which advised for the third time the same thing. Move on, let the fellow do the same. But to no avail. It was absolutely as if I was talking to a brick wall, then she left.”

He shrugged, “Young love.”

“More like obsession.” He leaned back on the rattan sofa, smiling a bit, she thought. She amused him, though exactly why her frustration amused him was a bit beyond her. “Are you taking this seriously Malachi?”

“I always take you seriously Adele. You have a powerful, though admittedly raw, psychic radar. I find you quite infallible.”

“So, what do we do?”

“Do? Well, nothing at the moment I’m afraid. Ms. Evans’ obsession I’m afraid is just that, her obsession.”

“But she could very well ruin her life over it.”

“Yes, she might. But it is her life to ruin.”

“Energy vampire?”

“Yes, no question, a young one, unconscious of it, but undeniably caught up in the thrall.”

Nuance sat perched on one end of the tan suede sofa in Malachi’s mountainside cabin. It was where he and Simon Tull, his spirit guide, met to hash things out, so to speak.”

“You don’t seem inclined to do much here Malachi.”

He scratched Nuance’s head. She was nuzzled up against his leg. “Do you know how high a percentage of the population are energy vampires Simon?”

“Of course, it’s a significant rung in the ladder of spiritual evolution.”

“Yes, something no doubt both you and I experienced in some former life,” he said a bit distastefully.

“No doubt more than once my friend, it’s a hard lesson to fully absorb. That you have power and yet you must learn not to use it.”

“That’s one way to look at it,” Malachi scoffed.

With a big smile Simon tapped him on the shoulder. “And what’s another way my old friend?”

“Learning not to be a parasite, sucking the energy out of your fellow human beings, and in effect compromising them and yourself.”

“Not everyone is vulnerable.”

“Yes, I know. Just the ones a little lost, searching for their next path.” Softly, he commented, “Yes, those in between, but they manage to sniff them out readily enough, exploit them, steal their energy.”

Simon frowned, “They’re not evil you know. Mostly it’s unconscious.”

Malachi shrugged, “One can feel what’s positive or negative even if they choose to ignore it.”

“It’s all learning my friend, no judgment, just learning.”

“Yes, as you say,” Malachi said a bit dubiously.

“So, are you going to help?”

“Help who, poor hapless Joe?”

“No, help Suzanne Evans.”

“Suzanne — the vampire?” Malachi said with a bit of surprise.

“Yes, before she destroys herself.”

In the evening, Malachi took a long walk down to the metal footbridge that connected Moss Street to its other half, crossing the placid waters of Bayou St. John. It bothered him, the feeling that whatever he did, however he chose to help, was seemingly inconsequen­tial in the vast scheme of things.

His hands rested on the metal railing of the footbridge as he stared out onto the darkening waters before him.

“It sounds like a dark night of the soul Malachi.”

He didn’t look up. He knew the voice. He would have known her voice anywhere. She didn’t come around often, not often in his dreams, or even in his imagination. He believed that if she did that he might just cease living altogether and drown himself in those few precious moments when he was in her presence again.

“It must be pretty bad, if you’re making an appearance.”

“Maybe you just need a jolt or a kick.” Her graceful hand softly took hold of the metal rail just next to his.

“I’ve missed you, Josie.”

She laughed softly, “You keep busy enough trying to save the world, except when you won’t.”

He glanced up. She looked young, maybe into her thirties, not as she looked when he’d lost her nearly fifteen years before. Then she’d been ill, it had been a long-protracted illness, before she finally let go, leaving him to find his way alone in the world.

He breathed in her presence. It was intoxicating. Yes, he remembered love, and he remembered loss as well. “Whatever I do doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

She smiled. “It makes a difference to those you help, even if you can’t help them all. It makes a difference to them.”

“I’m tired Josie.”

Again, that incandescent smile, “I know my love. But there are still miles to go, so many miles.”

He decided to focus on Adele. He sat in his den; candles lit and put himself into a meditative state. He could see Adele clearly in his mind’s eye. Using her as a starting point, he allowed himself to be drawn with her into her meeting Wednesday at The Blue Pelican with Suzanne Evans. It took place in a room at the back of the store, a small room that Adele had furnished almost as an old-fashioned Victorian sitting room with a splash of New Age. Intricate esoteric tapestries hung on the wall, and several vintage looking lamps that reminded him a bit of steam punk with ornate shades sat on small antique-looking tables. There was a short pink velvet, serpentine loveseat, and two rosewood parlor chairs covered in a deep burgundy striped satin facing the intricately carved, mahogany card table. Adele had undeniably spent some time thoughtfully decorating the room, reaching for just the right atmosphere to conjure up the image of a Victorian séance.

But as he looked closely at Adele’s companion, he could see that all the ambience seemed lost on her. She was, and he was trying to summon the proper word —

“Pragmatic,” Simon completed for him.

His spirit-guide companion was now standing just to the side of Adele’s chair. The women were silent, motionless, almost as though frozen in a tableau as he analyzed the situation. “I was wondering if you would make an appearance.”

“As did I, I thought to leave you to your own devices, but my curiosity won out.”

“She seems a bit cold.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said eyeing the tall brunette with expertly styled bangs fluttering across her forehead. “Certainly not terribly romantic, but undeniably a girl who knows what she wants.”

“And that’s Joe.”

He shrugged, “She thinks so in any case.”

“But not romantic?”

“I believe the word of the day is pragmatic. She feels she needs Joe for her life to progress on as she envisions.”

“And that’s not cold.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t know. Some of us like our romance wrapped up in flowers, music, and pretty poems. And others in necessity, as things you must have like food, medicine, a car.”

Malachi sighed, “And that’s love?”

“Oh, I didn’t say anything about love.”

“You lost me.”

“All right, think about your wife Josie.”

He frowned, “I’m not interested in discussing my wife, Simon.”

He held up his hands as if felling off an attack. “Yes, yes, old boy, nothing personal, but if you knew you were causing her upset, distress, would you continue?”

“Of course not, if she wanted me to or had wanted me to, I would have left her alone instead of trying to force what I wanted on her.”

“Yes, exactly, the difference, but Lady Suzanne here feels justified in pressing her expectations, her needs, her desires with no contemplation on how it might cause distress to poor Joe. In a nutshell, she wants what she wants and everyone else be damned.”

“Not love.”

“No, not love, need perhaps, inexplicable deter­mined need.”

Malachi murmured in fatigue. “Of course, but she calls it love.”

“Indeed, justification is a handy tool.”

“So how to reach her?”

“Yes, that is the question. Perhaps make the cost too high.”

“Too high?”

“Yes, let’s start with Joe.”

Joseph Orusco worked for an insurance company — car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, whatever your pleasure might be.  He was a young businessman just into his thirties who liked to spend his weekends playing tennis or racquetball.

“Doesn’t seem like a complicated fellow,” Simon commented dryly.

Malachi and Simon had traveled deep into the next evening and now stood in Joe Orusco’s bedroom, quietly pondering their next move.

“I see your thread. Why such a commotion from Suzanne? Yes, okay of course the draining. Addiction to the energy she’s gaining from him.” Malachi glanced across the bedroom to the set of sliding glass doors leading out onto the patio. Quite clearly through the open blinds, they could see a familiar figure in a long black nightgown pacing the pavement. She just kept walking back and forth in front of the window, not looking up at them once.

“Relentless might be the word,” Simon muttered.

“I imagine if we weren’t here, her astral self would be inside draining Joe relentlessly as you say.”

“Yes,” Simon murmured. “She is still draining through their bonds, but not as much as if she were closer and not nearly as much as if they were in actual contact.”

“Even more, of course, if it were intimate contact.”

“Quite so.”

Malachi stared at the sleeping figure of Joe Orusco tossing around fitfully in the bed. With a bit more concentration, Malachi could actually see a faint flow of energy, looking a bit like a translucent beam of light colored blue green, moving from Joe’s heart area toward the outside wall where Suzanne’s astral self was holding its vigil. “The addiction goes both ways,” Simon murmured.

“Yes, I suppose he has a taste for it, addiction to the draining, even if he is trying to break away.”

“I wonder just how hard he is trying.”

Malachi stepped back from the king-sized bed. “Let’s find out, shall we.”

He put his hands together and sank himself into a focused concentration reaching out to the deeper, spiritual self of the man in the bed. Within moments, the astral self of Joe, still wearing the same sweat-soaked New Orleans Saints t-shirt, sat up in the bed, and stood, entirely separating from his physical self that remained in the bed.

His short cropped, brown hair seemed damp and his eyes somewhat unfocused when he finally acknowledged Malachi. “What are you doing here?”

Malachi tried to appear pleasing. “Mr. Orusco, my colleague and I have come to talk to you and hopefully be of aid.”

He looked around with confusion, then to Simon, who he eyed up and down a little warily in his vintage tweed suit. “Am I dreaming?”

Malachi responded a bit energetically as he suddenly felt anxious to be done with this business. “In a manner of speaking Mr. Orusco, this conversation you will remember as a dream, but that does not make it in the least bit not real. In fact, perhaps very essential to your well-being, do you see right now who is pacing across your patio Mr. Orusco?”

In the instant of a thought, the three of them were back in his den, standing in front of the sliding glass doors. Joe frowned looking over Malachi’s shoulder at the woman now staring longingly through the glass. “Son of a bitch, that’s Suzy out there. I told her this was over.”

“Apparently, she didn’t get the memo,” Simon muttered under his breath.

“Why don’t we sit down Mr. Orusco and have a chat.”

“Yeah, well okay, is she just going to stay out there all night?”

“Hard to say,” Malachi responded.

Joe Orusco had a small kitchen table in his condo, espresso colored, lighted by a low hanging brass chandelier situated over the table. The three of them settled in for a discussion as Malachi debated the correct approach to the problem at hand.

“Mr. Orusco,” he began.

“Everyone calls me Joe,” he commented a bit obtusely, still appearing more than a bit disoriented.

“Joseph,” he began again. The old adage that everyone understands from their own level of perception kept ringing in Malachi’s ears. Joe even for a white-collar working fellow, he could feel, was rough around the edges. He operated from a place of pragmatism, possibly more concerned with the comforts of the material world. This, more than anything, could have been his initial attraction to Suzanne Evans. “Tell me, are you in love with Suzanne?”

The tall well-muscled fellow focused on him a little blankly. Perhaps it was the effects of being in an astral state or perhaps it was his fallback demeanor, at the moment, hard to say. He shrugged. “Honestly, Suzanne is a great girl. We had a great run, but I’m looking to see what else is out there.”

He heard Simon beside him sigh deeply. And he wondered for not the first time this evening, why he was even trying. “So, I take it you have fully severed the relationship.”

Joe leaned back in the chair, absently strumming his fingers on the espresso-colored tabletop. “For the most part.”

Malachi caught the explicit frown that placed itself on Simon’s face. “What the devil does that mean for the most part?” His speech had slurred a bit back into his cockney English accent, which tended to happen when Simon got irate.

“I mean, well, we’ve been together a few times since we broke up.”

Malachi pressed for clarification. “By together, you mean intimate?”

“Well, you know, yeah, sure I guess so.”

Simon shook his said saying nothing. So, it was clear Joe’s firm feet were undeniably feet of clay, which would mean mixed messages.

“Yes, well Joseph, I’m going to tell you some things that you may or may not remember tomorrow morning. But you should remember your emotional reaction if nothing else. Suzanne is what we call an energy vampire. She has been draining your spiritual energy. That is why you have been feeling tired, unfocused, excessively emotional, having problems concentrating, problems with sleep, perhaps inexplicable pains in your body, in your chest, and in generally poor health.”

Joe was looking a bit befuddled, but again perhaps a fallback expression. “I thought I’d just been pushing too hard at work.”

“The low energy is going to make it difficult to function in all areas of your life.”

“Why would she do that to me?”

“It’s not conscious on her part, just something that she does. But it’s up to you to cut her off.”

Joe seemed confused again, but Malachi could understand that this was a lot to take in. “Suzy, well, is persistent. She was very unhappy when I asked her to move out, angry and really upset. And I didn’t want to seem like a total jerk.”

“You were living together? That makes the draining much worse, much more chronic.” Then Simon directly lit into Joe with evident distaste. “You’ll have to be a jerk. It’s best for you and actually a kindness to her. So, she’ll hopefully fill her life with other pursuits.”

“Yes, in a nutshell Joseph, no contact, particularly intimate contact,” Malachi continued to pound the point. “The closer you are to her, the stronger the energy bonds she has with you. It is best to sever all contact, even if that means a restraining order.”

“How could I do that?”

“You must. You must not equivocate. You must make it clear she is out of your life for good. No backtracking Joseph, no communication, no phone calls, no emails, no texts, no contact at all. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Joseph, look at me,” Malachi said strongly.

It startled him. That was good. He wanted to scare him, so the impression was deeply embedded. “This is a dangerous matter. It will end badly if you do not heed me. Follow my instructions to the letter. No contact Joseph, even if you have to move, even if you change your phone number. No contact Joseph.”

Joe Orusco nodded slowly, but Malachi wasn’t satisfied. He needed to drill it in so that the impression wasn’t pushed aside in the morning light. “Repeat what I said.”

“No contact.”

“With whom?”

“No contact with Suzanne.”


“No contact with Suzanne.” That night Joseph Orusco repeated the mantra one hundred times. Malachi suspected that Simon thought he was being excessive, but he said nothing.

As far as Malachi was concerned, Suzanne wouldn’t see reason, so Joe was the only hope. When Malachi finally returned to his body, he felt as though he’d expended all of his energy trying to leave Joe with enough concern in his heart that he might actually stay away from Suzanne. There was no guarantee, but he’d tried and tried his best. So, he slept, a heavy sleep, devoid of any travels.

“I haven’t seen Suzanne Evans again. I thought about calling her to see how she is.”

“Best to let it go Adele.” They were taking a late afternoon walk along the perimeter of Bayou St. John. She’d shown up at the house earlier, and he’d felt a remarkable draw to be outside, no doubt in need of the healing energy that nature could afford him.

“Do you think it will work out for her Malachi?”

“Hard to say my friend, we all have free will and ultimately are responsible for our own destiny.”

“Yes, but we can’t anticipate everything that happens to us.”

“No of course not, but how we navigate the waves that crash on our shore. Well, that is always our choice.”

Copyright © 2018 by Evelyn Klebert

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.

Slipping – Halloween Month

Well, it’s that time of year again, the spooky time, and it’s also Halloween Month at evelynklebert.com. To kick off the month in hopefully a great way, I’m posting a story from my recent collection The Hotel Stories: Appointment with The Unknown. I started to pen this collection while my husband was on a very busy lecture circuit, and I found myself spending more and more time in very interesting hotels. My mind began to wander, and the result was this curious collection of short stories. So I hope you’ll enjoy this slightly unnerving offering that I call “Slipping.” And whatever you are up to, please take a little time to enjoy the season. 🙂


She’d checked into a hotel off of US Highway 65. It was on the outskirts of somewhere, some town or city, heading into the Ozarks. She hadn’t really paid much attention, just stopped when things started getting wholly unbearable.

“Just one?” The girl at the receptionist desk had asked. Just one, as though it were an oddity. The world was filled with people who were Just One, traveling this great canvas all by themselves. But she didn’t belabor the point. She was deeply in need of a shower and a soft pillow to rest her weary mind upon.

“Enjoy your stay Ms. Ascher.”

She was not married, thirty-four and more single, she thought, than most people.

She took the elevator up to the third floor. Her surroundings were not penetrating her psyche just now. It took every effort to reach her destination down a long insufficiently lit hallway. But perhaps it wasn’t the lighting, perhaps just her eyes not functioning properly.

She slid in the card, opening the doorway to room 302. She let the heavy door close behind her, plopping her large shoulder carrying bag onto one of the two double beds. The room was large, beige, decorated sparsely with a few oversized floral photographs. The beds were unremarkable, white bedspreads, dark burgundy, cotton bed skirts. The headboards were a dark wood of a cheap variety, as was the rest of the furniture. As hotels went, it was serviceable, and her skin wasn’t crawling.

She pulled her long black hair out of its ponytail and shook it out. Even in her thoughts that sounded, well, snobby. But it wasn’t actually. It was literal.

Many places felt simply, physically intolerable to her. She laid back on one of the beds and closed her eyes. She was so tired. With distraction, she wondered why they gave her two beds if she was Just One?

She heard the fly buzzing around her, and her eyes flickered open. A chill of recognition traveled up her spine. Evidently, she was not Just One. There was something else here with her.

He must have been only a half an hour behind her. It was eight in the evening when he pulled into the Ozark Mountain Motel. It had been late afternoon when he first became aware that a traveler was passing through the area. He was just leaving his office as the first wave hit him. It felt a bit like a strong current of erratic weather rushing through the landscape, a sudden storm but not a focused one, though evidently only apparent to those that were tuned in. Immediately, he’d cleared his mind, sending out feelers to his network.

“What is it?”

More like someone.

“Are you sure? It doesn’t feel like anything I’ve ever sensed before.”

Yes, the consensus is it’s a traveler.

“A traveler, you mean a time traveler?”

No, no different, maybe dimensional.

Now that had given him pause. He’d been studying esotericism and parapsychology for nearly twenty plus years, and he’d never encountered a dimensional traveler.

Do you want me to follow it up? There seems to be something wrong there.

“No,” he’d sent out almost involuntarily. “Let me. I’ve never encountered anyone capable of dimensional travel before.”

At this point, it really isn’t clear what she’s capable of.

“She?” He’d asked, surprised, but why exactly he wasn’t clear. He’d just assumed it was a man. Perhaps that was a tinge chauvinistic of him.

Yes, late twenties, early thirties it seems. But the energy is erratic. Be careful.

“Yes,” he’d answered, getting in his car. There was an overnight bag in the trunk already packed in case, well, just in case the unexpected might happen. And this as much as anything qualified as unexpected.

It seemed like a dream at first. No, that wasn’t true. It seemed like a nightmare, a waking nightmare. Nina woke up in her bed, and she had slipped, though at the time she didn’t know it. Where she found herself was dark, shadowy, but undeniably her bedroom. She remembered the horrible panicked feeling, her heart pounding wildly. She was only twelve. That’s when it had really started. Her menstrual cycle had just begun the week before, and it brought with it changes, clearly unforeseen changes to her psyche. Her mother had told her to be aware, cognizant of unexpected feelings, but she hadn’t warned her about this.

She’d sat up in the bed, calling out, “Hello,” but no answer, in fact just an eerie muffled sort of silence. Silence, until of course it wasn’t. The movement began quickly, first in the shadowy corners of her room. There were things unseen there, things rustling, scurrying.

Cold fear energized her as she jumped out of her bed and began in fact running through the house. But it wasn’t the house she knew. Everything was different, even the air, cumbersome, as though she were pushing through sand, heavy wet, mushy sand that clung to her skin, weighing her down and impeding movement. “Momma,” she screamed in terror, but the sound of her voice was constricted, stifled in the thick darkness.

With Herculean effort, she moved from room to room, only to find each empty, filled with dense shadows. No one was there, and yet it seemed as though they almost were. She could feel heat in places, the heat of living bodies, the heaviness of form that was simply not quite where it should be. Again, she opened her mouth to scream, but it was as though she was swallowing the murky atmosphere around her, thick in her lungs. There was no doubt in her mind that this would kill her if she remained. She was literally drowning in this place.

And then joltingly she was back, as though she’d just awoken from a bad dream. But it didn’t feel like a dream because that place was still inside her making her sick. She thrashed in her mother’s arms. “Nina,” she whispered in her hair. “It’s all right. You’re back home now,” and it chilled her, because it was clear that her mother knew exactly what had happened.

They called it slipping, her mother, her grandmother. But it was a secret, something not spoken of — a curse of sorts, they believed, passed from daughter to daughter. It bypassed the men, her uncles, her brother, being immune and completely ignorant of it.

“Shouldn’t we tell them?” she’d asked.

“They wouldn’t understand,” was their answer. “They will believe something is wrong with your mind.”

“But I don’t understand. What is that place?”

Her mother had remained silent, and then her grandmother had spoken. “It’s another realm, a dark place, just next to us. A terrible place, I think. That was how my mother described it. There are things there that shouldn’t be seen, shouldn’t be known about. The best thing to do is to try to learn to keep yourself here and ignore it.”

That was all that was said, their best advice she surmised. And when she tried to speak of it again, she was stonewalled.

Usually, she was pretty successful in anchoring herself. Unless, well, unless she was too tired or run-down. Over the years, Nina became an expert in monitoring her physical and emotional state. And, of course, relationships were a problem. She started dating in college, Jerry. And then it became a battle, a constant struggle.

A year or so into their relationship, she’d spent the weekend with him and found herself trapped in the middle of the night in the cabin with things, horrible distorted things in those shadows. She’d concluded that there was an emotional component to all of this. The next day she had him take her home, and she broke up with him soon after. She would be Just One. Decidedly, it seemed the only solution.

She opened her eyes and watched the fly bounce off the ceiling of the hotel room. It wasn’t very big. But her instincts told her that it was much more than just a fly. Her eyes opened wider as it circled overhead. Louder, louder, the buzzing grew until she felt it in her fingertips, her hands, beneath her skin, then her blood synchronizing with the irritating pitch.

“Anchor yourself.” She could hear her grandmother’s voice from the past. But it was all too late, she noted as she slipped into the darkness.

He’d just begun to settle in his room on the third floor when he felt it. Something powerful seared through the energy around him. There was a distinct pull and loss of energy in his chest as he abruptly sat down on the hotel bed trying to collect himself. Peter Lochlan breathed in deeply, while focusing on centering himself again.

“She’s traveling,” he sent outward.

Yes, an answer. He was never really alone, just a directed thought away from obtaining much-needed guidance. Are you sure you want to handle this?

“Yes,” though he didn’t know why exactly, just something he felt strongly about. “She’s pulling energy.”

It’s not deliberate. It’s done in a sort of panic.

“Do you think she’s dangerous?”

It depends on what you mean by dangerous.

The room pulsated around her. It wasn’t always the same. Where she ended up wasn’t always the same. The hotel room wasn’t couched in shadows but rather distorted, flickering frequencies of light. And she could still hear that buzzing sound that the fly was making, but it was in everything, the walls, the furniture. The carpeted floor all pulsated at that strange reverberating pitch.

She moved rather fluidly back against the bed. This was the manner of movement here, a sort of liquid-like slithering, not unakin to swimming through jelly. She continued to stare at it. It was affixed to the pulsating ceiling. She should have screamed, but it was pointless. And she’d seen worse, much worse in her time. The fly had ballooned in size, its eyes glowing orange, all its eyes on its enormous head, now around the size of a small bear. Its legs fidgeted and pranced, moving around the ceiling as though trying hard to get a grip on its fluctuating surface. No, she was wrong. Perhaps, she should scream. It was zeroing in her, undeniably positioning itself, wanting something.

She deliberately focused on the door, concentrating. Each place, each space, had its own rules. This place felt connected to it, to that thing. She didn’t want to call it a fly, because it wasn’t really. That was only what it looked like in her world.

With will and concentration, she pushed off from the headboard, springing across the room to the door. When her hands made contact, she found the fluctuating wood thick and slimy. Wielding a fist through its unstable surface, then punching through, she pushed herself through the newly created opening, tumbling with significant force.

Again, she focused, being direct and mindful she’d learned were the tools of the trade in survival. The hallway was different, completely different, as though she’d passed into a different level. Its ceiling was low, and it seemed to stretch endlessly, bending, and curving out of her sight. Here, all the walls were a flickering, blinding white. She heard it behind her, scrambling, that horrible buzzing sound. The other place had been its domain, but it clearly was coming after her, hunting, predatory in nature.

She took off down the curving hall. But the more she traveled, the more it curved and bent like a confusing sort of maze. She was stupid to have stopped here at this place, at the hotel, but she’d been so tired. This place was complicated, so many pockets, unseen pockets. It would be easy to get lost.

Directly behind her, she heard it scuttling, that horrible, incessant buzzing noise. She could feel how it wanted to rip her to pieces in that pincer-like mouth. And if it did, would she be dead, or just trapped somewhere unspeakable? Her calmness was deteriorating into panic. That could be deadly to her. She pushed forward, stumbling along the tight and uneven little walls of the hallway. They went on and on relentlessly, no place to break out of. And then she turned a sharp sudden bend, and there was something or rather someone standing there in front of her. Her vision was blurred here, but she clearly made out a form.

Her heart clutched in fear. In all the years she’d been doing this, experiencing these bizarre phenomena, she’d been alone, solitary, except for the ambient creatures. There was no one else. But this form, person she suspected, reached out toward her, jarringly grabbing her arm in a painful grip.

“Come on,” she heard a voice inside her head and then felt an abrupt yank outward.

Nina sat up in the bed in her hotel room. She touched her face with the palms of her trembling hands ― icy, sweaty, her heart cramping painfully in her chest. She physically jumped when the first knock came at her door and then the second, sharp, unrelenting. She looked around, still in that state of panic. She didn’t see the fly. Perhaps, it had moved on. Then the third knock, just as fierce, reminding her sharply of the present. After that it stopped, for quite a space nothing, just silence. If she waited, whoever it was might just leave. But there was something that began to pull at her, something powerful, insistent, drawing her to her feet.

Without thinking, without being able to stop herself, she reached out, opening the door.

A man was standing there, out in the hallway, looking at her intently. “Are you all right?” he asked directly. And he reached out, catching her, as she began to collapse in exhaustion.

He had gotten her a glass of water and waited patiently as she took a sip. He watched her intensely as though every movement she made was of some peculiar fascination. “You need to leave this room. There’s something in here that’s not good.”

She looked down into her clear glass of water, feeling intensely embarrassed. “It’s a fly.” She spoke softly. It was so awkward, so alien, speaking to anyone about this.

“A fly?”

“I mean, it looks like a fly, but I’m sure it’s something else.”

“Some sort of drainer?”

She frowned, looking up at him with some confusion. How could he know? Who was he? He wasn’t an old man, maybe a bit older than her, but not terribly. He was dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt, sleeves rolled up, and tan slacks. She wondered with distraction how it was possible that he was jumping into the middle of her secret world, and more than that why. “Maybe,” she murmured hesitantly.

“You’re not the only one who knows things, sees the unseen, you know. They’re many of us out there,” he said quite solemnly.

“I—” she tried to speak, but it felt as though her breath had been cut by something.

“You’re very tired. Get your things and come with me.”


“My room, there aren’t any flies there,” he said flatly, though with just the hint of a smile.

Nina Ascher appeared oddly delicate to him ― that long black hair that she pulled up into a bun at the nape of her neck before they left and that pale porcelain-like complexion. Her skin felt cool, in fact too cool, and clammy as though she’d run a great distance. And as far as he could tell, she had indeed.

Peter was surprised that she seemed so willing to go with him. He hadn’t expected, well, the truth was that he hadn’t known what to expect. But he knew, as soon as he walked into her room, that there was something very problematic and even threatening there. He accepted her word that it was a fly. He’d seen odder things, and he was greatly concerned about her. Dimension traveler or not, she needed help.

As he opened the door to his hotel room, she slowly walked inside, a bit dazed. “What was your name again?” she nearly whispered.

“Peter, Peter Lochlan.”

“Oh,” the overnight bag that he’d taken from her room, he placed on the far bed. She glanced around tentatively with obvious distraction. “It looks like mine.”

“No flies,” he murmured, closing the door behind her. “Would you like a soda or something?”

“Maybe, but don’t leave right now,” she said with hesitation. “I’m so tired, worried I’ll slip again.”


She laughed awkwardly. “That’s what my grandmother used to call it, slipping.”

“You mean dimension travelling?”

She looked at him with a bit of confusion. “Is that what I’m doing?”

“I think so.”

She sat down gingerly on one of the beds. “Just don’t leave. I feel so weak. If it happens again, I’m worried I won’t come back.”

It was calming, being around him. She’d expected questions, but he was quiet. They’d walked down the hall, largely in silence. He’d gotten her a Sprite from the vending machine and a Coke for himself, then they’d returned to his room, a stranger’s room that she curiously felt safer in than her own.

“You must think I’m very peculiar,” she commented, as they made their way down the actually very unremarkable hallway.

“I think you’re extraordinary,” he answered softly.

That was shocking, comforting, having someone be so kind to her. The world she was used to was hard, people generally rough with her. He opened the door to his room, and she walked in, but then stopping, just inside as the door closed behind them. She looked around, actually actively considering things for perhaps the first time since she’d met him. “Why are you here?” she murmured. “I mean at the hotel.”

“You,” he answered, sitting on the edge of the bed closest to them, then sipping his Coke.


He looked at her directly. She noticed him doing that since they’d met, just looking at her directly, unflinchingly as though it were no problem. It made her uneasy. She was used to other sorts of people who didn’t look so closely, who were perhaps more comfortable only seeing what they thought should be there. “I felt you, sensed you, driving near where I worked. So, I followed you. It felt as though something was terribly wrong.”

She looked down at her Sprite, breathing deeply. It was easy to talk to him, and for her that was more than unusual. “Where do you work?” That wasn’t the question she wanted to ask. But it was the one she could manage.

“Branson, I’m a psychologist.”

She glanced up. He had brown eyes, not hard, but still focused on her. “Then you must think I’m crazy.”

“No,” he said with a bit of surprise. “But I think you’re having a difficult time. You should sleep here tonight, in the other bed.”

She’d expected it but still ― “Peter, I don’t know how I can do that.”

“I don’t know how you can’t,” he stated flatly.

Do you need help?

“I don’t know.”

Have things stabilized?

“I’m not sure about that either.”

She slept restlessly, tossing, murmuring in her sleep. He concentrated on her, trying to place a protective shield or rather bubble of energy around her, but he wasn’t sure if he was trying to keep something out or trying to keep her within. And on top of everything, just attempting to maintain it was incredibly draining to him. It was a battle. Clearly, there was an unconscious component of her that wanted to travel, wanted to slip into these other lower, problematic dimensions so close to their own. Yet, her conscious self resisted and was being dragged unwillingly along.

What was happening was terribly disturbing, but beyond that the why of it bothered him even more. There was a persistence, perhaps a self-destructive thread here that he did not understand. Peter sat cross-legged on his bed, focusing on her, dropping down to a level where he could reach her subconscious mind.

“Nina,” he summoned. He felt a stillness overtake her, and the restless thrashing of her sleep ceased. Again, he directed the thought to her mind. “Nina, do you hear me?”

The whisper came floating tentatively back to him. “Yes.”

“What are you fighting?”

There was silence, then a stirring. “I am drawn.”

“Drawn to what?” he prodded.

“There is something here, something dark.”

“Why are you drawn to it?” he asked, pushing her for concreteness.

“I need to stop it.”

He hesitated. He hadn’t expected this, that there might actually be a purpose to any of her traveling. “You’re very weak.”

“You’re stopping me.”

“Yes, I don’t want anything to happen to you.” This was the concern, and he’d openly admitted it, perhaps for the first time to himself. There was something about her, about Nina Ascher that he was finding it difficult to keep professionally detached from.

“I have to go. Let me.”

He stopped, considering. Whether he wanted it or not, it was clear that she would be traveling. “Let me go with you.”

It seemed like endless moments before there was an answer. Then finally, “Yes.”

He sent out a call for aid to help bolster him before he released the shield around her. It was clear. If this was really going to happen, then he needed all the help he could get.

Was it shame? She wondered why it was never spoken of. The women of her family seemed to bury their ability as if it were an aberration. They operated under a definitive pressure to blend in, be unseen, appear normal.

But she wasn’t. And at times in wandering the darkness and in exploring these unknown spaces between, she admittedly felt more herself than when she was in the “normal” world.

She landed on a swampy surface, her feet sinking and then rebounding. It was different here, in Peter’s hotel room, than it had been in hers. The shadowy, turbulent surfaces were slashed with waves of calming blue-green light, flickering, and tempering the darkness.

She recognized from some inner compass that it was temporary. Peter had brought the serene light with him — his influence, his power perhaps. Straightening up from a crouching position, she canvassed the room. As her vision cleared, surprisingly, she saw him right beside her, though he appeared insubstantial, as though he hadn’t fully made the leap.

“Are you all right?” She sent the thought toward him. She could almost see its physical movement appearing as a kind of wave in the thick, gelatinous atmosphere.

His image beside her seemed to solidify a bit as her thought merged into him. He began to move, and she saw fluctuations in the light bands. It was clear that all that energy was connected to him.

“Adjusting,” he sent to her. And again, she could see the thought traveling in a ripple through the jelly-like atmosphere, until it hit her. Although it wasn’t exactly a hit, it felt more like a benevolent warmth spreading over her before the meaning crystallized in her mind.  

She silenced her thoughts and listened. The buzzing that she remembered from her room was in the distance but near. With instinct, she began to move toward the door, but his arm shot out in front of her, barring her way. “Wait. Where are you going?”

She stopped. She hadn’t thought, just responded to the pull. “I need to find it.”

Again, his thought collided with her. “Why?”

Why? That repeated in her mind. There wasn’t a coherent answer. She didn’t know Why. She only felt an urgency. She pulled away, forcing her way through the pulsating barrier that was his door. Peter was following her. That much she knew. His thoughts and emotions were tangible things wrapping around her like a cocoon.

Complete disorientation was what Peter was experiencing. The first time that he’d sent himself to this level to reach her, it hadn’t been wholly him, just a projected piece of his consciousness. But now, he was all in and woefully out of his element.

He followed her through the sticky mess that was his doorway and into the hall. His vision here was severely compromised. He had experienced moments of complete blindness, then after periods of settling some splotchy forms had begun to creep in.

The usual guidance he received from others on his team had become completely muffled out. This place that Nina Ascher had slipped into was clearly a corrosive, toxic space. Just being here had already caused him a severe drain of energy. He had no idea how she continued to function on this level of reality, except that perhaps by virtue of who she was, she possessed a natural immunity to it. Trying to keep up, he followed her down the dark aberration that was the hallway, amazed at how quickly and fluidly she moved in this space, nearly as though she were swimming through the dense atmosphere.

“Where are you going?” he sent out to her.

But she didn’t respond, just continued to move, wrapping around unexpected corners and turns. And then suddenly, abruptly, she stopped in front of a doorway. This gave him the chance to finally catch up, reaching her side. She remained motionless, staring forward. From his sketchily representational vision, she now seemed to be floating, feet not even touching what could loosely be called the carpet of the hallway.

“What is it?” he sent out. Though at first, she didn’t seem to respond to him.

“My room,” she sent back jarringly. So odd, how he could feel actual impact from her words. “It’s inside.”

He looked at the fluctuating doorway, now semi-recognizing it in its mutated form. “What does it want?” He sent toward her.

Then she turned to him, no expression. So strange how different she seemed here, more confident, oddly in her element. “It wants me.”

Peter wasn’t doing well. She could feel it. She knew she should attempt to send him back, but for some reason his presence was helping her, helping her feel more focused than she usually did, more empowered in some way.

As he stood next to her, she felt an inexplicable impulse that she seemed helpless to resist. Reaching her hand out, she grasped his tightly. Initially, the effect was as expected, skin touching skin, as it would be in their “normal” world, but then, just like the doorways and everything else here, she felt the surface give way. Her flesh began to actually part and melt into his, and she moved beneath the surface of his palm. Her hand began to physically merge with him, sinking past skin, past bone, beyond.

She could feel, feel all that energy that she had seen in the room, touching her. And then she sunk deeper, her form, the body that she remembered, completely merging into his, until vision was not hers, nor his, but theirs.

“What is this? What are we becoming?”

“We’re one.” Each thought was not hers, nor his, but now undeniably theirs.

They moved, though in what form was now unknown. They moved through the doorway, then beyond.

It was there, as expected, waiting in the middle of the room for them. It had drained all the energy that she had left behind and grown to enormous proportion, now almost reaching the ceiling in stature.

They knew that they could not leave it like this. It would be too damaging in this world and theirs. They centered thought, drawing from both consciousnesses.

The creature almost immediately began to react, nervously twittered, clearly intimidated by what they’d become. It felt them, and its great misshapen head twitched in agitation.

With all the force that they could muster, they directed energy, his energy, her focus, with the solitary thought of evolution. The thing that had been a fly in her room was hit, at the center of its being, scrambling, maddeningly for a moment in response to the flood of positive energy, then stopping and finally allowing the evolution to take place. It shrunk and transformed before them, mutating into a small form, a bird, perhaps a sparrow that fluttered uncontrollably for a moment then flew out of the room from a sudden gap that appeared in the wall.

They stood there, transfixed by what they’d done. Then Nina began to feel the tearing of their separation before everything swirled into blackness.

She was unconscious when he found her on the floor of his hotel room, breathing steadily though her pulse was racing. Peter shakily placed her in one of the beds pulling the blanket over her. He was trembling himself from the profound loss of energy. What had occurred, he couldn’t even begin to wrap his mind around. Profound didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. He’d always been drawn, drawn to the paranormal, drawn to the other worldly elements of his studies. And undeniably, he’d been drawn to Nina Ascher even before he set eyes on her. But now, well, they were connected in a way that he couldn’t begin to fathom. At the moment though, all he wanted to do was rest. He hesitated, then climbed into the bed himself, pulling her into his arms before he collapsed into sleep.

What happened?

“It’s hard to say. We were able to intercept a drainer on another dimensional level and, well, stop it.”

Stop it, how?

He paused. How could he explain? How could he explain something that he didn’t understand?

Nina had woken up during the night a few times. She seemed a bit disoriented but other than that in reasonable health. He had a made a motion to leave the bed, but she’d held onto his arm, pulling him back. There weren’t words. What had happened between them was beyond words. They had become one being, one being that had the power to evolve another creature out of its own darkness into a new form of existence. He couldn’t imagine what that meant going forward — only that there was a formidable link that had been forged between them. 

She’d slept the rest of the night in his arms. Tomorrow they’d talk, talk about how to move forward; how they would move forward together.

“It’s hard to explain. I think we’ll need a bit of time to sort things out, sort out the ramifications. But I’ll be in touch.” 

Copyright © 2021 by Evelyn Klebert

A hotel for most represents a normal place, a predictable realm of commonality. One might even go as far to say a safe space, the reliable where nothing particularly unusual is expected to happen. Or is it?

Dimensional traveling, spirit guides, mystical storms, and soul mates separated by time are only a few of the elements dotting this supernatural landscape. Drop into a collection of romantic paranormal stories where that place of commonality is only the threshold, the jumping off point, for extraordinary adventures into the unknown.

Even in the Darkest of Times

My next short story for Halloween month is a tale about a young woman in the midst of one of the darkest times in her life finding hope and a new beginning in the most unexpected way. “The Tear” is a paranormal short story that I first published in a collection called Dragonflies. And it has always been one of my favorites. Hope you enjoy! Follow the link below.

The Tear (link)

Now For Something Completely Different

In need of a bit more Halloween right now? Here’s a spooky story about a disenchanted bookstore clerk who gets an unexpected customer late one Halloween and is unwillingly dragged into a terrifying supernatural battle. The lesson I guess is that you never really can predict what is just around the corner. Follow the link below to “Late One Night at Berstrums Books. “

Late One Night at Berstrums Books (link)

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)

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.


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 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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”

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.

Late One Night at Berstrums Books

I am posting this spooky short story, “Late One Night at Berstrums Books,” which first appeared in a collection called Dragonflies: Journeys into the Paranormal. This story is a bit on the lighter side inspired by my time working in retail. Hope you enjoy!!

Late One Night at Berstrums Books . . .

Miranda Shangle nervously clicked her well-manicured nails on the counter at Berstrums Books. It was the checkout counter, and it was well piled with books: books to receive; books to shelve; books to return. There was a hefty bit of work to do, but she didn’t care, not one bit. She was merely content to leave all in chaos, if she could just leave and get dressed up for her sorority’s Halloween party. But it was at least an hour until she got off, and the minutes were dragging by like heavy iron weights shackled to her shoulders.

She was alone, and that in itself pissed her off enormously. No, she hadn’t called in sick to work, but what raised her hackles even more was that she hadn’t thought of it. Damn, so closing the place would take at least another 45 minutes on her own, or maybe thirty if she started early. She clicked the heel of her black boots with irritation on the floor and checked her watch again. It had become a ritual — at least every five minutes.

She sighed deeply. She could shelve the books piled up on the rolling cart near the counter. That would certainly fill the time, but she didn’t want to. She just wanted desperately and unequivocally to be somewhere else.

Out of nowhere, she heard a rustle somewhere toward the back of the bookstore. She glanced toward the entrance, no one lurking at the Mall entrance. They must have slipped by while she was busy bemoaning her miserable fate. She glanced closely at her long black nails. She had painted them this way particularly for this evening. But crap, the end of one was chipped now, an obvious white crack along the flawless sheen of black. Well, maybe before the party, she could do a quick repair, if she ever got out of here.

She glanced up again down the long central aisle. There was a flutter of movement rounding a corner, and then it was gone. Hmm, what to do now, try to put away some paperback romances that were bound not to fit on the shelf or harass a customer with Berstrums uniquely ineffective selling formula, AIE—approach, inquire, and execute.

She swirled her longish black, broomstick skirt around the corner of the cabinet and proceeded down the aisle, peaking around while inconspicuously trying to locate the customer. There was only one, that much she knew. Working here over many months and many long hours had enabled her to pinpoint the level of activity of solo customers or plural ones. Without question, her keen sense of hearing had identified this one as a solo flyer.

She turned a corner and spotted the individual in question. It was a man, although her view was curiously of his backside. He was facing one of the walls — his hands up, sort of grasping the bookshelf, and his head bent.  She didn’t know if he was sick, or just a bit strange. From what she could make out, from her obstructed viewpoint, he seemed well dressed, a nice dark suit, and his hair a light shade of blond.

She wondered with disinterested distraction how in the world the clever executives of Berstrums expected her to execute the selling formula in this particular situation. Oh well, who cared anyway, she had time to kill.

With exaggeration, she cleared her throat to let him know that he was not alone. The man in question hunched his shoulders, lowered, and straightened them. Then, with deliberation, he withdrew his hands slowly from their odd grasping position on the shelves.

As he deliberately turned to face her, her breath caught a bit, not at the face, although it was unique, but at something else that lie somewhere in the vicinity of his chest area, held by a long thick silver chain. It looked to be a brilliant shining medallion, made entirely of silver, and inscribed with symbols that she found oddly painful to behold. She pulled up her eyes to his. He was quietly staring at her with a pair of disturbingly pale, blue eyes.

She breathed in and then forced the words outward, “What can I help you find tonight?”

The pale eyes in the nearly flawlessly, sculpted face widened, and he began to laugh at her, loudly.

Heat rose to her face, and her voice took on a steely, but still polite, quality. “Is something funny?”

He frowned and rubbed his chin, which although aesthetically appealing, she was quite sure hadn’t been shaved for several days. Oddly though, it didn’t diminish his appeal. He exuded a sort of a Dungeons and Dragons kind of sexiness—something you didn’t run across often, if ever, in Central Virginia. “Are you heer alone Madam?” 

With strenuous effort, she tried to resume her breathing. A million red flags had just appeared before her eyes, and somewhere in the process her heart had jolted with a nasty bump of fear. Mentally, she tried to remember the number for Mall security. Damn, it was back at the desk. If she could just finesse out of this, she could be there in several quick strides.

She smiled prettily, although she knew her lipstick was overly dark in anticipation of the Halloween party, and probably not appealing to most normal individuals. “Oh no, my co-worker should be back any minute. You might have seen him in the Mall, tall guy named John. I mean really tall, probably seven feet.”

Deliberately, she took a step backward. He eyed her with the stare of a policeman who was trying to ferret out the truth from a suspect. Regrettably, that unfortunate drug thing last month at the frat house had put her up close and personal with a few of them, but this guy was no cop. Maybe, he was going to his own Halloween party. “Vere are you going?” What was with that weird accent?

“Um, I have some work to get to unless there’s some book I can help you find.”

He smiled in an eerie way that only increased her agitation. His hands had drifted to the medallion around his neck. Again, her eyes were compulsively drawn to its brightness. It actually made her eyes sting as it caught the light in different ways. “I am looking for something in particular.” She heard his voice, but her eyes remained riveted on the medallion. She tried but it was impossible to make herself look away. The metal changed from silver to white, and the engravings seemed to move, mutate into varying shapes. But they couldn’t really be doing that, could they? He was closer to her now, right in front of her, but it was impossible for her to look away. His voice sounded raspy in her ears, his accent scraping like broken glass. “I don’t have zee time to waste. You are alone here.”

Her head had begun throbbing. His voice sounded so loud. “I’m waiting to close the store. I have too—” And her voice drifted off somewhere. The silver medallion was filling her vision now, sucking her into it. She was falling, tumbling away, far away. And then she felt two hands roughly grab her arms and shake her violently. “Come on,” again she was roughly shaken, “Come back.”

With no strength left, she fell down to her knees. Her stomach flipped violently with nausea, and her vision continued to swirl. But it was gone, the medallion. He’d put it away. She felt him wrap his arms just under her ribs. Then, again she felt his powerful strength as he pulled her to her feet. He grabbed a handful of her hair, actually yanking her head back by it. “I told zyou. I don’t have time for thiz now.”

She stared into the pale blue eyes, finding nothing but coldness there. And then she gathered what miniscule strength was in her and abruptly slammed him in the knees with the hard toe of her boot.

Caught off guard, he grunted and loosened his hold just long enough for Miranda to wrench away and race down the aisle toward the Mall door. Just as she reached the front desk, she stopped short at the entrance.

There was someone standing there or rather something. Two robed figures stood just outside the door with hands outstretched. But what was so shocking was that where their faces should be, she could only see darkness and glowing yellow eyes. Maybe, it was a costume. She hoped desperately. But the growing horror deep inside her told her something else.

She opened her mouth to scream, but a mere fraction of a second before the sound came out, a hand clamped over her mouth as he yanked her backward against the wall of his chest. He continued to hold her with unyielding strength, dragging her back to behind the desk, while she made muffled sounds of panic against his hand. “Now,” he rasped, “Close zee door now. Zey can’t come in yet, not yet.”

Slowly, he removed his hand over her mouth and with terror she stared at him, “Please let me go. Just, just—” she stammered.

“Close zee door now Miranda.” Her eyes widened. How did he know? And then she glanced down at her nametag. Shit, that was pretty obvious.

She reached for the key on the wall with trembling fingers, preparing to turn it to bring down the steel gate that covered the entrance way. But then she glanced up at the clock. It was five until nine. Where had the time slipped to? She glanced at him shakily. He had his hands on her shoulders. “I’m not supposed to close until nine,” she whispered.

And then she felt his breath in her ear. “I don’t think your going to have any other customers tonight Miranda.” Even his breath seemed strange to her, not exactly icy, but not warm either.

She nodded shakily in acknowledgement and turned the key. The steel gate came down in front of the hooded figures. But they made no movement, just remained standing outside. “What are they?” Her voice seemed to be quaking to match her insides.

He removed his hands from her, and she was grateful, although it felt like her knees were going to buckle. “I am a bit surprised you can zee them at all. Not everyone can, you must have zome sight.”

He walked from behind the center to the center of the aisle, and then closed his eyes, touching his forehead with his fingertips. She looked him over carefully. He didn’t seem like a criminal, not that she’d had much exposure to any. Rowdy drunken frat guys yes, but not criminals. He was disheveled from their tussle, but in a weird way it seemed to suit him. He was definitely older than she, at least by a decade, but exactly what his age was seemed impossible to determine. And then, in the midst of her mental inventory of the stranger, she thought about the back door. How stupid, of course! Empowered by this new idea, she straightened up and started to edge from behind the counter. His eyes flew open immediately at the movement. “There are some at the back door too, and yez they will harm anyone leaving this place.”

“Why, why would they want to harm me? I’m just a college kid who works in a bookstore.”

His eyes were focused on her again in that unnerving, penetrative way. “You must help me find it.”

“Find what?” With clueless exasperation.

“Find zee book.”

Her eyes got very large, “A book? All this is about some book?”

“Not zome book, a very important, ancient book.”

“Well, just tell me the title, and I’ll look it up.”

A smile flickered across his pale lips, “If only it was that zimple, it’z hidden and it’z here. And if we don’t find it very soon,” his gaze flicker in the direction of the creatures at the front of the store, “We are going to have company.”

She couldn’t still the trembling in her hands as she counted out the bills from the cash register. “Three hundred and sixty, sixty-one, sixty-two.”

“Aren’t you finished with that rubbish?” He called somewhere from the vicinity of the middle of the bookstore.

“Look, if I ever get out of this, I would like to have a job to come back too,” she grumbled with agitation.

“You are wasting precious time.”

Again, her hands were shaking as she filled out the deposit slips for the bank. He was standing beside her. He seemed to walk around nearly silently. But she could feel him next to her, although she hadn’t looked up. “I’m almost done. Why aren’t you looking for your book?”

Closing off the bank bag, she put it in the safe and closed it. As she headed to the computer, there he was, standing in her way. “If you don’t let me finish, I won’t be able to help.”

With a look of impatience, he stepped aside as she punched the final closing codes into the machine. Well, that was done. She clicked her nails nervously on the counter. “Now I can figure out from here pretty much where anything is shelved in the store. If you could give me some idea what sort of book—” Her eyes drifted up to meet his.

“I told you. It iz hidden.”

He was right beside her, too close. This very dangerous man was way too close. She could actually feel a heat emanating from his body. Well, at least he wasn’t some kind of walking corpse. Her mind had spun out several horrific theories since his arrival. “What does that mean, hidden?” She whirled to face him seized by a sudden fury at all the drama that had been dropped on her. “And for that matter, what the hell or who the hell are you? Is this some sort of elaborate gag? Am I being punked?”

His expression was very cool, “What does thiz mean punked?”

She sighed painfully. No, this was not a setup, by now that would be obvious. So, what did that leave, insanity on his part? But then that wouldn’t explain the creatures outside. “You’ve got to understand how bizarre this is from my viewpoint. I mean you drop out of nowhere and lay some weird story on me about a book.”

As quickly as she’d begun, he grabbed her shoulders and spun her around to face the front of the store. His voice was like a hot rasp, and his hands pinched her in their rough, reckless grip. “Do you still zee them,” he whispered.

There they were as clear as day, but now more, three standing out in the corridor of the Mall. “Yes,” she whimpered.

“They’re hungry,” his breath was hot on her neck.

“Hungry?” she questioned with terror.

“Hungry for souls Miranda. So, let’s not zpend precious time on theatrics.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

Again, he turned her to face him this time. “I need you to find the book. It’s blocked from me, but you have a zight. I felt it the moment I came near thiz place. I knew it waz here, and that you were here to guard over it.”

She yanked herself out of his grasp, not an easy accomplishment considering his determination. “Do you have any idea how insane that is? Do you know who I am? I’m a Fine Arts major, barely maintaining a 3.0 average. I live in an apartment with two other girls and am very close to getting kicked out of my sorority because I’m nearly broke. That makes me a screw-up and definitely not the guardian of some ancient and mystical book.”

He quietly had taken in her emotional explosion. And then smiled in a way that caused a strange fluttering in her stomach. “Well Miranda, I zee you have no idea who you are. But I don’t have a lot of time.” And then he stepped in close to her, putting his hands on either side of her face, and in the next moment crushing his mouth against hers in a passionate kiss.

It was dizzying, smothering, and there was a swirl of colors everywhere around her — and then a powerful pain in her head that made her collapse in his arms.

It glowed in her mind like a beacon. But it was encased in something else, a dark envelope, another magic, but she could clearly see through it. Her eyes flickered open. Her legs covered by her black broomstick skirt lay sprawled out on the floor of the central aisle of the bookstore with the top half of her body resting against the kneeling man. “Did you zee it?” He asked quietly.

His arms felt strange around her, as though they were encasing her in some deep hypnotic dream. “I saw it.”

“Can you find it?”

She shook her head, “I don’t know. What did you do to me?” she whispered.

He lightly tapped her forehead with his fingers, “I opened your eye here.”

She touched her forehead. It was tingling. For the second time tonight, her stomach flipped a bit with nausea. She was definitely going to heave. “I feel sick.”

“That iz natural. It will pass.” And then he pushed his hands underneath her arms and hauled her to her feet. Everything was spinning. “Now focus. Find zee book.”

Her head continued to spin wildly, making it nearly impossible to focus on anything. This couldn’t really be happening. It had to be a bad dream. His voice harsh in her ear, “Miranda you must assert some control, focus now!”

“Leave me alone, you son of a bitch,” she managed with difficulty to get out.

He chuckled, “Good, uze your anger.”

“I’d like to use it on you. I don’t even know who you are. You could be some awful demon from hell using me to get a hold of this book.”

He removed his hands from around her waist where he’d been supporting her. She still felt dizzy but could manage to stand on her own now.  Her vision was still spotty, but she was beginning to see more clearly. He was standing a few feet away, his back to her. “I’m not a demon.” He stated flatly.

“Oh good, well I believe that.”

He spun around, “You’re too young to be so jaded.”

“I’m too young for a lot of things.”

With a look of determined impatience, he suddenly took off his suit jacket and dropped it to the floor, and then pulled out his black shirt, and started unbuttoning it. Her mouth dropped open a bit, “What are you doing?”

He said nothing, just continued to unbutton his shirt. “I, I don’t know what you think you’re doing but I,” she stammered. And then he pulled open his shirt to bare his chest. She gasped. There were marks drawn there, as well as deep red scars raised on the flesh. “Oh God, what happened to you?”

He smiled grimly as he grabbed her hand, “Many battles, many, many trials — zpread out your fingers,” his voice was soft but steely in its command.

She did as he asked, and then he took her hand and placed it right on his heart area. “Now close your eyes Miranda and feel the truth.” The hand that he still held on his chest was shaking, “Sssshhhh,” he murmured, “feel.”

In her mind, she could see the book shining like a white beacon, and he was there too, holding it — dressed in a long white tunic with a huge red cross on it, an ornate sword at his side. Everywhere there was light, everywhere. And he stretched his hands outward, toward her. Her eyes snapped open, “Godfrey,” she whispered for no reason that she could fathom.

He smiled, still holding her hand firmly against his chest. “Good.”

Her voice was quaking, “I don’t know how I knew that.”

He pushed her hand away and began to rebutton his shirt, “There will be time for that later, if we get out of thiz. Now,” his face had hardened again in that back to business look, “the book.”

She nodded, “Well, maybe we could look in New Age.” As she started off in that direction, he grabbed her abruptly, but not quite as rough as before, pulling her back against him.

“No Miranda, you can’t find it that way. You must uze your sight.”

 “How?” Was all she could manage to say.

“See inside your mind. Let it guide you.”

His hands were still on her shoulders, firmly holding her still. Whoever he was, this bizarre man who was effectively turning her young existence into chaos, was just centimeters away from being desperate. Not truly expecting to see anything, but more than happy to oblige at the moment, given her predicament, Miranda closed her eyes. She could easily envision the bookstore in her mind, but what was odd was that she could actually see something glowing toward the back of the store. A broad smile broke across her face, “I think I can actually see it.”

“Good,” his voice was low and steely, and he hadn’t made a move toward releasing her.

She felt nearly gleeful now. Maybe this nightmare was somewhere close to being over. “Let’s go get it.” With joy, she opened her eyes, and then a wild scream rose somewhere out of the depths of her being. With his characteristic timing, he slapped his hand over her mouth just moments before she could utter a sound. She struggled against him wildly, yelping against his hand.

His voice was eerily calm, more soothing than it had been the whole night, “I know, I know. It’s not as bad as you think.”

Eyes wide with horror, she bit his hand, and he finally removed it. “Oh my God, oh my God, they’re everywhere. Where did they come from? Oh my God.”

“Be calm Miranda. They’re not nearly as dangerous as what liez outside.”

“Are you crazy? They’re awful, snakes and ugly birds and things that look like that Blob from that old horror movie.” Her eyes couldn’t seem take in all the movement—slithering things around her, on the floor, perched on the bookshelves, creatures, sub-human creatures that looked like they were straight out of some low budget horror flick.

His hands tightened on her arms, “You have to get hold.”

“What, what,” she whispered in a mindless panic. It felt like all the breath had left her reed thin body. God, she wished now she’d eaten a bigger lunch.

“It’z your sight. It’z gone a bit overboard. Theze thingz will fade away again soon enough.”

“But what are they?”

He shrugged, “Many have been here all along. Creaturez, parasites really, hanging between dimensionz, taking the energy of those who are unaware of them. Thiz place has been going down for a while. I’m zurprized you haven’t felt it.”

She was trying to mentally slow her panicked breathing. “I, I don’t know. Maybe I have. I’ve been feeling numb to everything.”

“Curiouz thing this numbnezz. It makes you very complacent.”

She kept shaking her head in disbelief. “But there’s so many of them, slimy thingz everywhere.”

“Well yez, I’m sure zome have been sent as an impediment.”

“To stop us?”

“Yes now, zee book Miranda.”

“How can I with all this stuff?”

“You can because you have to.” She felt him wrap his arms completely around her. In a way it was calming. In a way it was not.  “Now again, where iz it?”

She tried to block out the slithering and waddling horrors around her and focus. Again, toward the back of the store, she could see a distant glow. “I think it’s back there,” she gestured in the general direction.

“Show me.”

“I can’t.  I’ll have to walk through all that stuff.”

With a distinct frown, he brought out the large silver medallion that had so mesmerized her earlier. He held it out with his hands and murmured something harshly in a foreign language. The gaggle of creatures before them instantly began to scurry away. “Wow,” she murmured. “Can you part the Red Sea with that?”

With flourish, he indicated the path that was now clear for her. “The book please, unlezz you want them to return.”

When she was a little girl, she used to play a game with her friends. An item would be hidden, and as she drew closer to it, they would say warmer or colder if she went in the wrong direction. Late tonight, in the unimaginable circumstance that she had unwittingly become captured in, this memory suddenly became concretely relevant. She could not see the book that Godfrey, whoever he was, deemed so critical to their survival, but she could certainly and without equivocation feel it—feel its warmth.

She took a step forward, and an iciness covered her fingertips that were stretched out awkwardly. She stepped backward, and a lovely sheen of warmth, as though she were gently holding her hand near a warm crackling fireplace, replaced the previous sensation.

“I think I’m getting close.”

“Good, hurry,” there was a new quality in his voice that concerned her. She brought her head upwards, but harshly he commanded. “Don’t look up Miranda, only focus on the book.”

She didn’t question further but was taken by the horrifying thought that time had run out. Again, she followed the fleeting glow of warmth that was their only trail to salvation.

She stepped directly in front of the history section, and it was as though she were suddenly bathed in a glow of tingling energy — a bit like after she used her loofah sponge to exfoliate during a shower.

Her eyes quickly scanned through the titles hoping to find a clue. Directly behind her, Godfrey’s voice, “You can’t find it that way. Feel Miranda.”

Shakily, she outstretched her fingertips before her, brushing against the titles. And then she stopped. It burnt like fire. It actually hurt, but there was no inflammation, no redness about her fingertips. There was, however, unquestionably pain. She reached out and grabbed the book, turning quickly to look at the title and read it aloud, The Women Behind the American Revolution.

He was beside her, “Ah huh, clever, evidently a book that would rarely, if ever, be sold.”

She frowned, “Not true, that’s very popular,” she lied.

“Here,” she made a motion to hand it to him, but he stepped back.

“No, it’s not for me to open.”

She looked at him with confusion and then with horror as she saw what was just beyond him. The figures from the Mall, the ones with the glowing eyes, were standing just behind him. “Oh no, they’ve gotten in.”

He stared at her very calmly, not even acknowledging what she’d said. “It is for you to open the book Miranda. You are its guardian. Now uze its power.”

She looked down at the volume in her hands. What moments before had been The Women Behind the Revolution was a huge oversized book, looking like an ancient sort of manuscript with crumbling pages, “Uze itz power,” he repeated.

She opened it with some difficultly, as the palms of her hands continued to burn against its heavily textured surface. And in an instant, the fiery brightness that poured forth from it seemed to envelope everything around them.       

“Are you going to class?”

She blinked her eyes open in the semi-darkness of the room. “What?” Her throat felt scratchy and wasn’t functioning normally.

“I said, are you going to class today? You’ve already missed a lot. You might not want to cut again.” Miranda focused in on the concerned looking face of her roommate Sarah. Sarah with her huge blue eyes and kinkily permed blond hair always looked angelically concerned about something.

“Umm,” she rubbed her head. That hurt too. Everything seemed more than a bit hazy. Especially the part about how she got into her bed. “What day is it?”

With a crease on her smooth forehead, Sarah frowned at her. “You don’t remember anything do you?”

“I, uhh, not sure. What anything are we talking about?”

She sighed deeply. “Last night at the Phi Kappa party. Jessie said you drank a lot. I don’t know even what time you guys got in. It might have been hours ago.”

She sat up as best she could manage. She was wearing a t-shirt and pair of pajama pants. That was normal, but where was, “Godfrey?” she whispered.

Sarah kind of cocked her head in a confused look. “That’s a weird name. Is that some guy you met at the party?”

Miranda struggled to piece things together, but her memories, her jagged fantastical memories, in no way jived with Sarah’s report of last night’s activities. Maybe it was all an alcohol-induced delusion. That seemed as probable as anything else.

“Look, if you want a ride to class you better get dressed quick. We have a test in Psych.”

Her eyes widened in horror, “No way.”

Sarah abruptly pulled back the covers on the bed to facilitate a quick exit for Miranda. “Yes, but I don’t think it will be hard. I hope it won’t.”

Some thirty minutes and a strong cup of coffee later, they were walking into the large mini auditorium of Psychology 201 class. As they took their seats on the third row, Miranda tried to concentrate on the concrete things before her, like her pencils, the cute guy on the second row, and the test she was likely to fail. Rather than those intangible things like magical books, and foreign wizard-type fellows who kissed passionately and dragged her about a lot.

She glanced up as she heard Sarah whispering to a girl seated on the other side of her. She thought she might be from her sorority, but she had no idea. She hadn’t spent much time with them lately. Nudging Sarah, she asked, “What’s up?”

Sarah responded blandly, “It looks like you lucked out. No test.”

She yawned, suddenly wondering why she dragged herself out of bed. “Why?”

“Maddie says Professor McCauley has been replaced.”


“Yeah, he took a sudden leave of absence.”

“In the middle of the semester?”

“Apparently,” she shrugged looking disinterested. There was a consensus that Professor McAuley wasn’t particularly inspiring.

And then they heard a muffled but conspicuous tapping toward the front of the classroom. Her eyes swept up to the large blackboard behind the podium. A man stood there tapping a ruler softly but continuously on the board. Her breath caught for a moment. And then he turned around with a rather large smile on his face.

“Now that I have your attention. I’d like to introduce myself. I am Professor McAuley’s replacement, Professor Chaney. To most of you I am a stranger, but I do zee a few familiar faces.”

A shiver traveled up her spine as his cool blue eyes locked on her momentarily.

He continued, “The first thing you should know about this class is that you should leave preconceptions behind and understand that nothing, truly nothing, iz as it appears.”

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.”