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    Ghost Story Contest Winner 
 Category:  Horror and Thriller Fiction
  Posted: July 4, 2020      Views: 47

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A sound leads a woman to look for its source.
"The Searching" by Shailaja

It was 3 when it began to drip again.

Mary dug her face deeper in her pillow, trying to muffle the sound. But the singular plop punctured the silence of the night, burrowing into her head and skittering her nerves like little animals.

She felt her stomach muscles clench and the loose lace on her collar gnawed into her neck, and a familiar malaise began to settle in her bones.

She had searched the entire house. She had shut every faucet. Even clamped the main water pipe. But the drip started every night. It died down by morning but left her drained and irritable.

Initially, the sound only irritated her. But slowly her irritation had bloomed into a wave of gnawing anger. She complained to the agency that had advertised the house. But they never called back.

The gardener too was a sullen fellow, never bothering to help. She squelched her eyes shut and curled up into a ball. There was still so much cleaning to be done. The windows had to be painted. The room furnace was dead. The kitchen sink was clogged. In spite of being at it every day, the house still looked dirty.

But tonight was different. The sound was insidious; mocking her, tormenting her. She opened her eyes. The house stared back, cold, and remorseless.

"Will not let you win this time!" She hissed.

She flung back her covers, grabbed the candle, and the bundle of keys from the nightstand.

She started with the faucets, all 9 of them. The basement pipe was next. Everything was dry.

Now only the cellar remained. She stood outside the oak door, hesitating.

The cellar unsettled her. But today she would leave nothing to chance. "Just this cellar and then I can go back to bed.", she comforted herself.

Armed with her candle, she unlocked the iron bolt and pushed back the door. The door swung in silently. She entered the cellar, gingerly feeling her way in with her hand on the wall. The plaster was cold and damp.

The light flickered weakly, as the dark rose to sheath her in its web, its wispy strands crawling on her skin like fingers. She shivered but continued to walk ahead. Suddenly her fingers sensed a change. This part of the wall was raised.

She held up her candle and squinted. The wall had been whitewashed in a hurry, the untidy splatters of paint visible in the watery light. She put an ear to the wall.

The sound was louder now. Maybe there was a tap behind this wall.

She would arrange to tear the wall down tomorrow, she decided.

But could she wait another day, with the truth so close at hand?

She struck the wall with her fist. It rang hollow.

"I can do this" She was so close. She scanned the rubbish stored in the room, unable to quell a faint trembling in her limbs.

Behind a bundle of books, she saw a crowbar stacked against the wall. Placing the candle stand carefully on the ground, she lifted the crowbar feeling its cold, ominous weight.

She aimed it at the wall, and struck hard. A piece of plaster fell down.

She did not stop, landing the heavy crowbar again and again against the wall, the metal clanging sharply in the night.

Soon the thin plaster started to give away. She struck back with renewed vengeance, each angry strike bringing her closer to the drip. Finally, one brick gave in, falling with a loud thud on the other side. She hit the wall again, loosening more bricks, creating a foot-long hole in the wall.

She threw the crowbar and picked up her candle, bringing it to the hole and peered in. Something big and heavy was swaying slowly in the dark.

She poked the candle through the hole and picked the crowbar again, prodding the object, trying to bring it closer. The object lurched ahead and she fell back on the ground in horror, a quiet scream rising in her throat.

Hanging on the meat hook, the other Mary stared back at her, her eyes cold and vacant.

The blood dripped slowly from a dark hole in her chest.

"No, this couldn't happen. Her mind was playing tricks.", she thought wildly.

Then slowly like movie spooling in reverse, it began to come back.

She was in the cellar, cowering behind the dressing table, when Jack grabbed her, by the nape of her frilled collar, ripping the delicate lace. She begged him, pleading for the sake of their son. But there was a gleam in his eye, the same gleam he got when he butchered the veal calves in their barn.

She was more valuable dead than alive.

Yanking her by her hair, he pulled her out screaming, his face cold and unyielding. As she felt his hands close around her neck, she tried one last time. Kicking him hard on the shin, she darted ahead, stumbling in the dark, flaying wildly at the rusted meathooks dangling from the ceiling. He struck her then, with the hook, piercing her deep in her back. She looked down in surprise and saw the curved metal poking out of her chest, a red stain blooming around the hook.

Strangely enough, she didn't feel any pain, only a yawning sense of loss; the loss of never watching her show roses bloom, the tomatoes ripen on her kitchen window, watching Tom grow up.

She struggled weakly, but the hook only bit in deeper and slowly the dark began to close in on her.

He had left her hanging on the meat hook, her life dripping into a crimson pool below.

She walked away from her body, back into the house. The unrequited calls, the never-ending cleaning, the indifferent gardener, all made sense now.

How many years had she been searching? And searching for what? To find her body? To discover that she was dead? To witness betrayal? To suffer the pain of never-ending loss?

She put her arms around her and folded into the ground, her sobs ripping through her in the silence.

It was almost light when she picked herself up.

A strange calm had descended. She wandered over to the window. Dawn was breaking against the dark sky with a swathe of rich gold and purple.

And then she saw him, walking towards the house. She knew it was him. The same fair floppy hair, that all too familiar tilt of his head, the same china-blue eyes. He was all grown up now, she realized, her eyes welling up.

And he was not alone. There was a young woman who came bounding up behind him, laughing. "Hey wait up Mister!"

Aren't you going to carry me over the threshold?", she stomped, planting herself in front of him.

"Of course Missus!", Tom smiled. Picking her up in his arms, he looked at her for a long moment and kissed her.

"Wish mother was here. She would have loved to meet you."

Writing Prompt
Write a Ghost Story. No limit on the word count. No poetry.
Ghost Story
Contest Winner
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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