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Chapter 1: Bump in the Night
My head was pounding, my mouth was dry and my eyes were gritty. On the plus side, the room stopped spinning, I got the vomit out of my hair and I made it from the shower to my couch without retching all over the place.
Now all I had to do was lay still until I fell asleep, and then hopefully, whenever I woke up, I wouldn’t feel like complete and total shit with the added bonus of cotton mouth and a worse headache than I had now. I closed my eyes and tried to relax.
Of course, it would be so much easier to relax if my pajama bottoms weren’t twisted around my hips helping my underwear further wedge itself up my ass. Ignoring a fresh wave of nausea, I lifted my butt up, turned the waistband of my pajama bottoms to rights, gingerly put my butt back down on the itchy-looks like denim, but is actually polyester- couch and closed my eyes, waiting for the bliss of sleep.
Someone started stomping around outside my door.
Dempsey, Georgia, the town in which I live, is what we southerners -that would be me- call a one traffic light town, meaning it’s so small there is literally only one traffic light. The rest of the town, which only covers a little over ten square miles, is tamed by stop signs and a speed limit of 15 miles per hour. Dempsey, like most small southern towns, is primarily made up of old worn down mill houses and antebellum mini Taras with columns and wrap-around porches a plenty. I live in such a house. Well, I live in a one bedroom apartment that was previously three bedrooms and two baths in such a house.
My apartment takes up almost half of the second floor. Doug Pittard, who lives in the apartment across from mine, took up the rest. Doug got a second bedroom, and I got the balcony and claw foot tub. The main floor of the house was divided into a small studio apartment, a large entryway with a grand curved staircase, a couple of storage closets and the landlady, Mrs. Crowell’s- wall to wall pink carpet, ugly antique furniture and pink and gold walls strategically covered with ornately framed floral oil paintings- three bedroom monstrosity .
Mrs. Evelyn Crowell was an evil Harpy who insisted on making my life hell, but on one of her best days she couldn’t get her bony, haggard self up the stairs. Apartment 1b, the little studio, was still vacant, and Doug Pittard was out of town. I knew because he had asked me to get his mail for him three different times. So who the hell was in my hallway?
Whoever was outside my door was still un-rhythmically banging around, so obviously I was going to have to get up and do something about it. I did a roll-off-the-couch-into-a-squat move and slowly, because the room was still spinning with every step, made my way to the front door. Unfortunately, we don’t have doors with peep holes in Dempsey- it would be rude to spy on your visitors and heaven forbid you use them to avoid unwanted guests.
Thinking it had to be some kid, the plan- which really was more of a thought, and a tiny one at that- was to scream my head off and scare the juvenile delinquent away.
It was not a kid.
“What the hell?” I asked.
He looked around as if he expected someone else to be standing behind him. “You can see me, pretty?”
“I’m not the one that appears to have vision problems,” I scoffed.
He did call me pretty.
He smiled. It made his little black eyes beadier.
“I am not visually impaired.” His smile widened, “And neither are you. You can see me, can’t you, pretty?”
“Yes. I can see you and hear you,” and unfortunately smell you. “So what are you doing in my hallway, making enough noise to wake the dead?”
He snickered, and it was a little disturbing. Spit started pooling at the corners of his mouth, making him drool. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I can handle the dead, pretty.” He snickered again, “it’s my eternal work.”
“Well, your hours suck.”
He continued to smile. The throbbing pain in my head increased.
“Why are you in my hallway?”
“I had required Mr. Pittard’s assistance.”
Ahh, he was one of Doug’s geeky buddies. “He’s out of town,” I said.
“Yes, but the Fates, bless them, gave me you, pretty,” he said, walking towards me.