A Horror/Paranormal story
by E. H. James
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* * *
Michael Caulfield’s dreams are all about to come true—a new apartment with the woman he loves… an engagement ring in his pocket.
Only Michael has no idea his idyllic existence is about to come crashing down. The apartment is over a Darkening—a vortex between this world and the next. Created when the original owner made a deal with the devil, and opened years later, when an unsuspecting woman holds a house party with a psychic.
Now everyone who comes into prolonged contact with the Darkening is pulled in. Only no one remembers they ever existed. That is until Michael comes along. Not only is he not taken, but he is the first mortal to know of its existence. Only there is no one who believes him…or is there?
* * *
* * *
New York, 1925
“And how is my little man tonight?” Amanda Bridges knelt before her son. “My you’re getting big. How old are you now, twenty?”
Tommy giggled. “No, three.” He struggled to hold up three fingers.
Amanda tweaked his cheek.
“You ready, honey?” Henry Bridges stood in the bedroom doorway, all six-foot-two of him bedecked in his finest suit, his short, black hair slicked back in a state of perfection. “Hey, little man.” He winked at Tommy. “You be a good boy for Rosario.” He stepped back to let Amanda pass.
“You look pretty, Mommy.”
Henry grabbed Amanda around the waist. “Yeah, Mommy, you look pretty.” He grinned down at her.
“Down, tiger.” Lowering her voice, she leaned in. “We don’t have time for that. We’ll be late.” Henry demonstrated his best impression of Tommy pouting and Amanda laughed. “Now come, or Mrs. Hamilton will be wondering what has become of us.”
Rosario gripped the talisman from under her sweater. “Gloria Hamilton? You are going to Mrs. Hamilton’s?”
Amanda pressed a smile to her lips. “Not now, Rosario.”
Henry frowned. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing.” Amanda patted his chest.
Henry looked from Rosario to Amanda. “Something’s going on here. And I’d like to know what it is.”
“Please, Missus.” Rosario tightened her grasp on the talisman.
Amanda spun on Rosario. “No. I will not discuss it. This conversation is over.”
Henry stepped in front of Amanda and took her by the shoulders. “I’ve never seen you this upset.”
Forcing a smile, she pulled up. “Yes, well I wouldn’t be, if Rosario didn’t keep bringing it up.”
Henry swung around. “Rosario?”
Amanda stepped between them. “Not now!”
Tommy whimpered, and Henry drew Amanda out into the hallway. “Tell me what’s going on.”
“Ever since Mrs. Hamilton sent the invitation to tonight’s party, Rosario’s been acting strange.”
“What do you mean, strange?”
She crossed her arms, avoiding his gaze.
“Amanda, clearly this is upsetting you. Now tell me. What did she say?”
She waved her hand. “Oh, it’s all just a bunch of nonsense. You know how she can be.”
He took her by the shoulders once more. Lowering his head, he tried to catch her gaze. “Ignore her. Yes, she’s young, but she’s great with Tommy, and that’s all that matters.”
She nodded. “You’re right.”
“Of course I am. When am I not?”
She pursed her lips and pressed up against him. “Why do you think I married you, for your looks?”
He slipped his arms around her and kissed her.
She pushed him playfully. “Careful. You don’t want to smear my lipstick, now do you?”
“There’s nothing I’d like to do more.”
She clucked her tongue and shook her head. Running a gloved hand over her blonde bob, she lifted her chin and slid her arm through Henry’s. “You’re right. I’m not going to let her ruin my evening.”
“There’s my girl.” He chucked her under the chin.
“Missus?” Rosario stood in Tommy’s doorway.
“We’re going now, Rosario.” Amanda brushed past her, and Rosario ran after them.
“Take this, please.” Rosario held out the talisman that never left her neck.
Amanda stopped. “You’re offering me your necklace?”
“Please.” Rosario nodded.
“I can’t take that. It means the world to you.”
“Yes, but you need it more.” She dangled it before Amanda.
Amanda held up her palm. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“If you’re going to Mrs. Hamilton’s, you need this more than I.”
“Okay, that’s it.” Henry scowled. “Look, I know you mean well, but you’re upsetting my wife, and I won’t have it. Do you understand?”
Rosario bowed her head. “Yes, sir.”
“You’re great with Tommy. You really are, but if this keeps up, we’ll have to let you go.” Henry shook his head.
Tommy started to cry.
“Now look what you’ve done.” Henry turned to Tommy’s room.
“No, let me. I know how to calm him.” Amanda went into Tommy’s room. Tommy was on his bed hugging his stuffed bear. “There, there.” She removed a silk handkerchief from her purse and wiped away his tears. “There’s my brave little man.” She sat on the bed. “I tell you what. Why don’t I make something just for you and no one else? How does that sound?”
Tommy stopped crying.
“That’s my good boy.” She moved to the mirror, braiding a small section of hair. Taking the scissors from the play table, she then cut the braid. “Fetch me a pen and ink, would you, Rosario?” She untied the blue ribbon from the stuffed bear’s neck and wrote across it: ‘I will love you always, Mommy!’ She drew a heart and kissed the ribbon, leaving a lipstick mark. “Here, you want to help me?”
“You hold this braid, while I tie the ribbon.” She wrapped the ribbon around the braid and tied it with a bow. “There now.” Fastening the ribbon and braid to Tommy’s pajamas with a safety pin, she then hugged him. “Wear this next to your heart, and Mommy will always be with you.”
She kissed his cheek and walked from his room.
Rosario stood silently, as Amanda and Henry walked down the hall.
* * *
The chauffeur brought the Lincoln to a stop before the New York townhouse.
Amanda climbed from the car and tugged her fur collar snug around her neck. She shivered, and Henry paused.
“You all right?”
She tucked her arm around his. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine.”
“It’s a chill, nothing more.” She studied his expression. “The way you’re looking at me, you’d think someone walked over my grave.” Henry stared, and Amanda snickered. “It’s just an expression.” She drew a finger down his cheek.
She admired the bow windows that extended up to the second floor. The townhouse’s windows were open, the Charleston drifting out into the night from the Victrola inside. They ascended the front steps. The doors opening, as Mrs. Hamilton crossed the marble floor of the grand entry.
“Darlings.” She was dressed in black. The feathers from her headband waving above her, as she came gushing toward them.
The man by the door took their coats and Henry’s hat, and then disappeared without saying a word.
“I’m so glad you’re here.” Mrs. Hamilton did the double cheek press she was known for. “Everyone’s here, don’t you know. And I have a special surprise.” She escorted them into the drawing room. A number of people were chatting among themselves. As they entered, all conversation ceased. “Amanda and Henry have arrived.” She guided them across the room. “I believe you already know everyone.” She stopped before a woman on one of the sofas. “And this is Madame Baranovsky.”
Madame Baranovsky lifted her head. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Mrs. Hamilton beamed. “Madame Baranovsky is a medium and has agreed to hold a séance for us. Right here, in this very drawing room.”
The smile fell from Amanda’s face, and Henry chuckled, prodding her with his elbow. “You’re not thinking about what Rosario said, are you?”
“Of course not. Don’t be silly. This is all in good fun. Nothing more. I know that.”
“Good to hear, but you know you’d be more convincing, if you stopped crushing my fingers.” He patted her hand.
“It’s all the rage, don’t you know. I brought Madame in special for this evening.” Mrs. Hamilton clapped twice, and six big men appeared carrying a large table. They set it down in the middle of the room and then placed ten chairs around it. She waved, and they vanished through the doorway as silently as they came. “Everyone, if you would please be seated. There’s no time like the present.”
They all pulled out a chair and sat, grinning at one another as Madame took her place at the head of the table.
Mrs. Hamilton lit candles and placed them in the table’s center. Turning off the Victrola and the lights, she then sat at the table’s foot. “There now, I think we’re ready.”
“If you would all hold hands, please.” Everyone held hands with the person on either side of them. “Now, everyone relax and close your eyes. Clear your minds of all thought. Feel the energy, as we seek to communicate with the other side.”
Amanda’s heart pounded, and she opened one eye. Henry was peeking at her. Squeezing her hand, he winked. Smiling, she closed her eyes once more.
Madame began to hum, her breaths coming slow and deep. “Spirits, are you with us?”
“Is there anyone there?”
The table shifted, and they all gasped.
Henry gaped. “Jeez! This thing must weigh a ton, how—”
“Shhh!” Madame raised her chin, and the room again fell silent. “Who are you? Who has come to us this night?”
The table lifted a foot off the floor and dropped with a bang. The candles fell over, and the room fell into darkness. They all screamed, and Amanda jumped back, her chair falling onto the hardwood floor.
“Amanda, where are you? The lights. Someone get the lights.”
Glass smashed on the floor, and the lights came on. Mrs. Hamilton stood next to the switch. “It’s all part of the séance.” She smiled, but her face was white as a sheet.
It was clear to Amanda that Mrs. Hamilton didn’t expect what had happened. It took six large men to lift that table and carry it, and here it had risen on its own.
Mrs. Hamilton walked back to her chair. “If you would all take your seats?”
“I’m not going near that thing.” Amanda grasped the doorknob, but it wouldn’t budge. “This door is locked.”
“What?” Mrs. Hamilton came over and took hold of the knob. True to Amanda’s words, it did not open. “Gerald? Why is this door locked?”
There was no answer from the hallway, and Amanda ran to the other door. It too was locked.
“I’ll climb out the window, if I have to.” She took a step toward the windows, and the table split in two. Each half flew across the room, as guests dodged out of its path. The two halves crashed into furniture, as chairs splintered and ornaments smashed. The Victrola started to play on its own. “Henry?”
Henry grabbed Amanda and held her tight. “What’s going on here?” He turned to Madame, who’d been sitting quietly this whole time.
Slowly, Madame raised her head. Her eyes were black, as she stared out at them.
Amanda buried her head against Henry’s chest.
The floor opened up, the wood splintering and cracking as it flew out into the room. The hole beneath was black and bottomless, and furniture and carpets began sliding into it.
“Henry!” Amanda wrapped her arms around Henry’s neck.
Henry ran to the windows, pulling Amanda behind him. Guests were dragged across the floor toward the hole. Amanda screamed. He lifted her up onto the sill. “Quick. Slide your legs out and drop down.”
His hand was wrenched from hers, and he flew into the hole. “Henry!” She reached for him, but he was gone. “Henry, no!”
Everything in the room was slipping into the hole, as Amanda gripped the window frame, her knuckles white. A blinding flash filled the room and surrounded her…and then everything fell into darkness.
* * *
All around Rosario, toys were vanishing from Tommy’s room. Clothing and furnishings disappeared.
Darkness, not unlike a black mist, crept under the door and across the floor.
Rosario fastened the last button on Tommy’s coat and adjusted the talisman around his neck.
Tommy pointed at the darkness under the door. “What’s that?”
“It’s nothing.” She lifted him into her arms.
“Where are we going?”
Rosario hurried through the side door. “Some place safe, sweetie. Some place safe.”
* * *
E. H. James has always been fascinated by the unexplained. Wanting to delve deeper into the unknown, James has read and researched in the areas of parapsychology and metaphysics, for the past forty years.
Taking those first hand experiences, involving the unexplained, James has woven the real and imaginary together into stories of the strange and bizarre.
James' stories range from the paranormal to horror, to fantasy and science fiction, from short stories and novellas, to 100K+ novels.