The Girl on the Wall, by Eric J. Krause
Josh figured he would hurt a lot more than he did. He didn’t feel much at all. Wasn’t it supposed to be painful when you got hit so hard that you went to sleep for a little while? Uncle Lenny would have pretended to be sorry, but he’d only be worried that Josh remembered the story: he’d been clumsy and fell down. But when he woke up, Uncle Lenny wasn’t around. Probably out burning his memories with the Devil’s Juice, as Mommy called it.
Both the hands on the clock pointed at the twelve when his vision cleared. Usually he left Uncle Lenny’s house when the little hand pointed at the nine. Maybe the clock was broken. No matter how forgetful Uncle Lenny made himself, he always pushed Josh out the door. And if not, Mommy would pick him up. It’d make her mighty mad, but she’d do it. But no Mommy, so Josh walked home like every night.
Usually when he passed the cemetery, the girl stood on the wall, far enough where he couldn’t touch her, but close enough that he could see her scars. She had some of the same ones, so she must have an Uncle Lenny of her own. Or did. She was a ghost, he knew that. If he looked hard enough, he could see right though her body. Mommy said it wasn’t polite to stare, but this girl didn’t seem to mind. She stared right back. She wouldn’t talk, but that didn’t stop him from talking to her. He told her about Uncle Lenny, how he hit him with his fists or belt or anything else he could find, and how he threw him against the wall or pushed him down the stairs. If he told Mommy about any of it, Uncle Lenny promised he would pop one of Josh’s eyes out, or rip off an ear. He wanted to keep all his parts, so anytime Mommy saw a new mark, he told her how clumsy he was. Uncle Lenny just laughed and swore he’d never seen a kid so accident prone.
The girl always listened, but when he asked about her marks, she’d shake her head and run away, disappearing after a few steps. But he didn’t mind. He was grateful she let him talk. It made lying to Mommy easier.
Tonight, like every night when Uncle Lenny hurt him, she stood in place, waiting. He wasn’t sure where to start. Should he tell her how Uncle Lenny smacked him a good one upside his head, or about the strange state of the clock. Maybe she’d know why it read midnight but Mommy hadn’t come. Not that she’d answer, but Josh would feel better for asking. Since questions made her go away, he decided to start at the beginning.
“Uncle Lenny hit me so hard tonight that I blacked out.”
She took a few steps forward, coming closer than she ever had before, and spoke for the first time. “Necks aren’t supposed to bend like that.” Her voice came out creaky, like her throat was dry and she needed to swallow some water.
He reached up and touched his neck. Sure enough, it tilted at an odd angel. He hadn’t noticed, figuring he was still woozy from Uncle Lenny’s smack.
The girl sat down on the wall, her feet dangling in front of him. He fought every urge to reach out and touch her to see how solid she was. That wouldn’t be polite, though, and Mommy, if she found out he’d been rude, would punish him. Not near as bad as what Uncle Lenny did, but Josh preferred to stay on Mommy’s good side.
“My big sister used to babysit me,” the girl said. With each word, her voice cleared a little more. “She wanted to go out with her friends, but Mama needed her to stay home with me. She wasn’t happy about it, and hated me a great deal. She beat me almost every night, like your uncle does to you. One afternoon, while clipping my bangs, she got a phone call. A boy asked her out on a date, but she couldn’t accept because of me. She was awful angry when she hung up, and I didn’t want her cutting my hair anymore. I tried to cheer her up, and told her she could play with my dollies. She sneered at me, yelled that everything was my fault, and slashed the scissors across my neck. You can still see it.” She lifted her chin, and Josh indeed saw a long, jagged rip in her throat, though no blood leaked out, not anymore. “When I woke up, I was here.”
She stood, and Josh expected her to walk away and disappear, but she didn’t. Instead, she put her hand down for him to grab, and she lifted him as if he were made out of that floaty air in balloons. He’d seen inside the cemetery once. It looked like a huge park filled with smooth rock slabs with writing carved into them. Headstones, he thought they were called. But this time the park and rocks were gone, replaced by a shimmering white light shaped like a door.
“We’re supposed to go through that,” the girl said, “but I’m too scared to do it by myself. Maybe you can come with me?”
Josh stared at the light, feelings of peace and joy coursing through him. He looked down the street towards Uncle Lenny’s house. There were flashing red lights, like when an ambulance and fire truck went past. He thought of Mommy, and though he would miss her, he wouldn’t miss getting whooped by Uncle Lenny. He took the girl’s hand, shared a smile with her, and they floated all the way in.
Posted on August 27, 2013, in Issue 9: Crossroads—Realms of Death and tagged e-zine, flash fiction, ghosts, horror, paranormal, short stories, The Were-Traveler. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.