The beginning of October means the beginning of celebrations for my favorite holiday, Halloween! My fascination with the holiday, specifically all things spooky, has become stronger over the years. I am a huge fan of ghost stories and all things “haunted”. Not necessarily the hollywood versions of movies that are associated with Halloween, but the old ghost stories, the American folklore and urban myths, the reason we now celebrate Halloween. Stories like Ichabod Crane, the Headless Horseman, Bloody Mary, and Stingy Jack and the Jack-O-Lantern. I’m not quite sure where my fascination originates from. It may come from my love of dressing up, pretending to be someone else, and taking on a completely different persona for a night. Or it may just be a fun way of believing for a night that magic exists, that ghosts and goblins and witches roam. Regardless, my love for Halloween is stronger than ever, so I took a stab at writing my own ghost story! Below is an excerpt of one that I recently wrote! Let me know if you’d like to read the rest! (Note: I’m not an author, I just like to write. So please excuse any incorrect grammar or formatting.)
Hope you like it and Happy Halloween month you ghouls! 🙂
The clock above my head chimed. It was definitely dark now as it neared 11:00 p.m. The walls creaked with the howling wind as the tree branches, now vacant of their leaves, scratched against the windows. There was a storm blowing in as the far off sound of thunder rumbled. A sliver of the harvest moon shone through the clouds creating just enough light to cast an ominous hue over the building. I loved this place despite it being so creepy at night. The library has become somewhat insignificant to many, but it is the only place that I can still find inspiration. The only place my writers block is kept at bay. I knew I should be getting home especially after hearing the stories of what happens here at night, but I was on a roll. Frank, the janitor, and I had become friends over the years and he always stayed late with me when he knew I had work to do so that he could lock up behind me. If it were anyone other than Frank I would feel bad for keeping them so late, however, Frank told me many times how much he enjoyed my company. Earlier this year he lost his wife, Victoria, after 60 years of marriage. I knew he was lonely most of the time and I was happy to provide companionship and a much needed distraction. He said I reminded him of her with my spunky attitude, positive outlook on life.
“Storms’ a brewin’ I reckon,” Frank said as he leaned against the door frame. “Better be getting home darlin’, don’t want you gettin’ caught in it.”
“Thanks Frank. I know, I’m almost done. Just a few more sentences to finish out this chapter,” I replied without looking up.
I am a writer. Or at least I want to be a writer. My insignificant blog that I occasionally post on is the closest thing I have to being published. I am determined to change that. Determined to write something worthwhile that people will want to read. I have been working on a novel for over a year now, changing and editing it more times than I can count. Frank has read and reread my drafts telling me each time it is “dang good” and that I have a “knack for the words.” But I continue to edit, doubting myself and unsure I can open myself up to the criticism I know will come. So I continue to sit here, with Frank, a few nights a week after work trying to perfect something that can never be perfect.
“Don’t know why you keep changin’ that thing Miss Lilly, I think it’s a mighty fine story you got.”
I looked up and smiled at Frank. He had quickly become my favorite person to be around. He was blunt without being cruel and had a sweet southern nature about him, treating me like the daughter he never had. Frank and Victoria were never able to have children, so they became the pseudo parents or grandparents to everyone in our small town. After meeting Frank at the library and seeing him around town, I was soon invited over for supper on Sunday nights and of course every holiday for a feast prepared by Victoria. I miss her everyday, but nowhere near as much as Frank. I catch him often times pretending to read but instead staring off into the distance recalling a memory of her marked by the slight grin on his face and the tears that roll down his cheeks.
“You’re right, Frank. I suppose I should just leave well enough alone and send it off to be ripped apart by an editor and publisher,” I remarked sarcastically. “After all I’ve only been working on this for a year.”
“That’s the spirit!” he said jovially sensing my sarcasm. “Now let’s get out of here before we get soaked walking home!”
I could tell he was getting tired so I quickly gathered my things and turned off the light. Despite my constant requests to let me borrow his keys and return them on my way home at night, he refused to let me stay at the library by myself. He escorted me to the door and locked it behind us as we walked out into the blustery fall evening. Frank had been the janitor at the library for over 20 years. He retired from managing a very successful cotton farm when he was in his late 50’s. From this, he and Victoria were very well off but lived incredibly modestly, sharing much of their wealth with the community in any way they could. After a few years of being retired, he decided he was bored and wanted to work somewhere that could really use his help. He had the title “janitor” for the library however it was merely a catchall for his many odd jobs that he collected over the years. Without Frank the library would most likely fall down, be overtaken by the mossy vines that covered the outside and not have a working lightbulb or bathroom. There wasn’t a problem he couldn’t solve or a leak he couldn’t fix.
We walked the six blocks to my small house as quickly as Frank’s old legs would take him, both strategically hovering under the umbrella. When Victoria died, Frank sold the cotton farm they lived on and moved into a small house just up the road from mine. Since then he has walked me home every night that we have stayed late at the library. I know how protective he is of me, especially since Victoria told him to make sure I was taken care of once she passed away. Since then he has also slowed down a lot, his age was beginning to catch up with him. As we neared my front porch, I realized that my cell phone was not in the front pocket of my purse where I always stored it. Frustrated, I began searching through my many bags. With no avail, I realized that I left it charging on the floor of the library near the desk where I was working. I knew Frank was much too tired now to walk all the way back to the library with me to retrieve it.
“Frank, I left my phone charging in the library and I need it for work in the morning.” I said loudly as the wind and rain began to pick up. “Let me borrow the keys and I will go back and get it. I promise I will run right in, grab my phone and run right back out!”
Frank looked at me hesitantly from under a furrowed brow. From the time I was a little girl I heard stories of the library being haunted. There were stories of a large black figure that terrorized those that visited the library at night and the screams of a woman that could be heard from the outside. Being the skeptic that I am, I never believed any of them. Even when I confronted Frank about the rumors, he waived them off saying they were all old wives tales, a way to give our small town something to talk about. So going back to the library by myself posed no concern at all for me. I had been there enough times after dark that I knew there was nothing to worry about. But the concern still flashes over Frank’s face.
“Lilly I can not let you go back there by yourself,” he stated firmly. “It is too dangerous.”
I held back the urge to roll my eyes. “Frank, I promise, I will be fast about it. I will literally run, you can time me!” I tried to lighten the mood but there was no breaking him.
“Look,” I said, more serious now, “We both know that you are too tired to make it all the way back now and it will be much faster if I just go by myself.” I looked up at the black clouds covering the sky like a blanket. “This storm is only going to get worse and if I don’t hurry, we both are going to be in serious trouble.”
Frank looked up, the lines on his face becoming more pronounced as he watched the sky.
“Alright, here.” Frank slowly handed me the keys. “But Lillyanna, I swear on all that is holy, if you do not come right back, there will be hell to pay. You walk into that library, grab your phone, and come right back out. No passing go, no collecting 200 dollars, come right back out as quickly as you can.”
I winced at my full name being used. The only time Frank ever used my full name was when he meant serious business. My parents died when I was in college, so Frank was the only person that used my full name anymore. My mom would always use it when I was in trouble and when I told Frank and Victoria the story, they laughed and said that as my pretend parents they would carry along the tradition.
I grabbed the keys from his hand. “Thanks, I’ll be right back, I promise.” He tried to hand me the umbrella, but I refused knowing that I could run faster without it. I started to run hearing him yell, “be careful” as a crack of thunder shook the earth, making my pace increase. Running was a hobby for me, so making it back to the library was no problem, despite the fact that I was soaking.
I inserted the keys into the large metal lock and pushed the large old door open. The loud creaking of the opening door echoed through the deserted lobby. I left the keys in the lock and left the door open just a crack, I figured that would make my exit a bit faster. I shook the rain off of me and quickly walked over to the desk where I left my charger. As I walked I passed by the large antique mirror that sat in the lobby, I stole a quick glance at my rain soaked self and flipped on the small lamp next to it. The library was so massive, the light provided just enough to see where I was going casting shadows on the dozens of bookshelves. I approached the desk and leaned over to pick up my charger. As I leaned over, I felt a cold shot of air on the back of my neck that sent chills all over my body. I got up slowly to check the windows, surely the cold air was coming from a window I forgot to close. All of the windows were shut and locked. I looked around for a vent or something blowing the air conditioning on me. Nothing. It must be coming from the door that I left open. I shook my head, “stop scaring yourself, Lilly,” I whispered to myself. I turned and started towards the door. Though I didn’t believe any of the stories people told about the library being haunted, I noticed for the first time how eerily silent it was. A silence that made my very presence seem like an intrusion. For the first time, I felt jumpy and anxious being there by myself. I had visited the library many times by myself during the day, but usually it was buzzing with other people. The only time I ever stayed at night was when Frank was with me. Now I was alone. However, I was starting to have an unshakable feeling that I was being watched.
As I turned the corner towards the door to leave, I froze, stifling a scream, as the sound of shattering glass filled the building. My heart began racing, my palms sweating and my breathing short. I was unable to move. The silence made the noise sound like a bomb going off. I took a deep breath, composed myself and took small steps forward to investigate. The large antique mirror lay on the floor in the lobby in a million pieces.
“Shit,” I thought. “Frank is going to kill me.”
I walked over to the broken glass on the floor and looked around. Though the mirror stood near the door that I left cracked open, there was no way the wind could have knocked it over. I remember when Frank brought this mirror to the library. It was at least six feet tall, 100 pounds and bolted to the wall (Frank made sure he used everything Home Depot had to safely secure it). I knelt to the ground and picked up one of the larger pieces. I looked at my reflection in the broken glass. Unsure of what the reflection showed me, I squinted my eyes. As I did, I realized that I was not alone in the reflection. Behind me stood a large shrouded figure. I dropped the glass and whipped my head around. But there was nothing there. My eyes searched the surrounding lobby, the shadows seemed large and threatening but it was completely empty.
“Comeon, Lil’ get it together, you’re starting to lose it.” I said aloud.
I felt a pulsing through my hand. I looked down to see that it was bleeding badly. The glass that lay on the floor was covered in blood. I realized that I must have cut my hand when I got scared. I grabbed the tissues on the table nearby and winced as I wrapped my hand. I realized then that my entire body was shaking. I tried to take a few deep breaths, but couldn’t seem to calm my breathing down.
“Ok,” I thought, “It’s definitely time to go. I will explain to Frank once I get home and we can both come back to clean up.”
As I turned to leave, the large old door creaked and slowly began to close as if being pulled from the outside. I ran towards the door and as I ran the door began to close faster, slamming shut before I could catch the doorknob. The loud bang of the slamming door echoed through the library. I pulled the large brass knob but it wouldn’t budge. I tried turning the locks back and forth continuing to pull the door. Nothing. “Damn it, damn it damn it.” My hand was bleeding through my makeshift bandage with every pull of the doorknob. I pulled my cell phone out of my purse, I would just have to call Frank to use his extra key to get me out, since my keys, still in the lock, were now on the outside.
As I began to dial his number the light from the lamp flickered. I began to panic. “Please don’t let the lights go out,” I thought. I heard a faint sound behind me. I stopped and looked around. The sound stopped and as soon as it did the lamp went out completely. I was now standing in complete darkness, the storm obstructing any light from the harvest moon. The only light was the dim glow of my cell phone. I started dialing again. The sound began again as well, this time more distinct. I listened hard. It was the sound of footprints. They began to get louder and closer. I jumped as a crack of thunder shook the library. I felt the blood drain from my face as the footprints stopped behind me as a jolt of lightening lit up the floor where I stood, revealing the shadow of the same large figure I saw in my reflection standing behind me. I began to shake with fear. I felt a hand grip my shoulder and as it did a terrifying scream filled the lobby. Then everything went black…
Excerpt from short story, “The Janitor” by Emily Cahill
copyright: Emily Cahill 2015