Breath

"Riverwalk Christmas 05" Photo by Zereshk, 2005

“Riverwalk Christmas 05”
Photo by Zereshk, 2005

New fiction by Nicholas Paschall

Walking down the hall, Sarah shivered at the chill of winter as it brushed over her delicate skin like the bristles of a wet paintbrush. Looking ahead, she saw the darkness of the living room: a large table with six chairs set around it, with a hanging light.

She smirked; the home was supposedly haunted, at least that’s what the ad had told her. The real estate agent had been wary when she brought it up, only bringing it fully into light when Jessica revealed that it was a selling point. The papers had been signed, and by the beginning of the month she had her new loft overlooking the Riverwalk, which was brilliantly colored due to the holiday season, strung up lights flickering with the colors of the rainbow. Even now with her shades covering the window Sarah could see the flickering lights, their dim glow coming through the wooden slates to merrily dance in her darkened den.

Walking into the kitchen, she stepped on something thick and leathery, causing her to gasp. Flicking on the light, she looked down to see her wallet on the ground. Bending down to scoop it up, she checked it over to make sure nothing was missing and looked for her purse.

“This never leaves my purse unless I’m buying something…” Sarah muttered to herself, walking out of the kitchen and back into the den, only gasp in surprise.

Stacked up on the table, the high backed ends holding up the light fixture, the chairs had moved from their spots on the floor to the top of the large table. She saw her purse sitting in the center of the table.

“Hello?” She called out to her small loft, looking around wildly. She didn’t dare dream that this could be an actual haunting; such a thing would prove too good to be true! Looking around wildly, she tried her best to remain calm.

That is until she heard the giggles of a little girl.

Her heart beating a mile a minute, she moved forward into the hall leading to her bedroom. It was dark, and the light switch was on the other side of the hall… but in this dim lighting, she could just make out the shadowy form of someone small, with long unruly hair. Another giggle escaped from the entities direction, sending shivers down Sarah’s spine.

“Hello?” She said, hoping to keep the spirit calm. “Are you lost?”

The entity tilted its head to the side, a glint in the dim lighting reflecting from its dark eyes, which seemed to be analyzing Sarah, judging her. The entity slowly turned and walked into the total darkness of the bedroom, singing a wordless song softly.

First contact! Sarah thought frantically, standing still as the spirit moved deeper into the bedroom. It’s important to let them know you’re here to help them, not to do anything bad.

“Little girl? I’m coming in the bedroom… don’t be afraid, okay? I just want to talk,” Sarah called out, padding softly into her bedroom, shivering as a cold wind blew in from her balcony. The two doors that led to her view over the San Antonio River had been opened, the curtain billowing lazily. In the flickering glow from the holiday lights, Sarah could just make out the figure of the little girl standing in the shadows near the closet.

“Are you afraid?” The little girl asked her voice cold and detached, though still curious.

“No, of course not. I would never be afraid of you… what’s your name?” Sarah said, walking further into the room, taking each step slowly so as not to startle the ghost-child.

“Erin. I live here.” The child replied in a sing song manner, her eyes glinting happily in the darkness.

“Well I live here too. Maybe we can be friends?” Sarah said, walking around the bed until she was standing in front of the opened balcony, a few feet away from the girl.

The girl shook her head. “He said I can’t have friends. You need to leave before he gets to you.”

“Before who gets to me?” Sarah asked before being slammed from the side, her body flying out and landing on the balcony, her left side bruised from the sudden impact.

“Him.” The girls voice faded as a hunchbacked figure, arms dragging along the floor, came into sight. In his hands was a strand of Christmas lights, looped around like a lasso.

“No. I just want to be your friend!” Sarah cried.

“Friend…” The spirit groaned, waving a misshapen arm at Sarah, knocking her out onto the balcony. The cold air nipped at her flesh as the specter advanced, stooping in the doorway.

“Yes, friend. I want to help you, I want to understand you!” Sarah pleaded, doing her best to stand, leaning on the railing.

“Friend…” the ghost repeated, the lasso of Christmas lights lashing out and wrapping around Sarah’s hand before snaking up her wrist and forearm. “Friends play games.”

“Y-yes, friends play games! So let’s go inside and play a game!” Sarah said, growing more nervous by the second as her arm became numb wherever the strand of lights touched.

“Already playing a game,” the ghost replied, the strand of light slowly slithering from its hand to begin wrapping around Sarah’s neck.

She screamed, hoping someone would hear here from the streets below. The strand of lights, now flickering on, was wrapped tightly around her arm and neck.

Then they began to constrict.

Gasping for air, Sarah stumbled back as another wave of force slammed into her, pushing her over the edge of her balcony, leaving her dangling some ten feet above the sidewalk.

As she inhaled to scream, the cords constricted even tighter, choking her on her own fluids as she dangled lifelessly. Just as she felt the pressure of her lungs give way, Sarah gazed out over the Riverwalk at the people walking to and fro, some stopping to stare, screaming for an ambulance.

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