This is day 42 of @mydivathings' #365daysofwriting. Every day @mydivathings invites you to write a short story based on the image she chooses. Today's image (below) is a Photo by Frances Yeung on Unsplash
Find out more about the challenge (you can join anytime!) here https://steemit.com/365daysofwriting/@mydivathings/day-42-365-days-of-writing-challenge
This is part six of a new story (told in instalments, written exclusively for Steemit):
You can read it as a stand alone piece if you wish, or you can read
part one here: https://email@example.com/haunted-part-one-an-original-work-of-fiction-for-the-365daysofwriting-challenge, or
part two here: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/haunted-part-two-an-original-work-of-fiction-for-the-365daysofwriting-challenge, or
part three: https://email@example.com/haunted-part-three-an-original-work-of-fiction-for-the-365daysofwriting-challenge, or
part four: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/haunted-part-four-an-original-work-of-fiction-for-365daysofwriting-challenge
part five: https://email@example.com/haunted-part-five-an-original-serialised-steemit-horror-story
Silky dropped the ball at Gillian’s feet and sat down patiently.
“Good girl,” Katie patted the dog on the head.
“Isn’t she?” Gillian smiled at Katie. “Do you want to throw the ball for Silky?”
“You do it Mummy. You can throw betterer than me.
“Better, honey. Not betterer. I can throw it further, than you. But Silky likes it when you throw it.”
“OK,” Katie picked up the ball and threw it. Silky caught the ball in her mouth and dropped it at Katie’s feet. Katie clapped her hands, and squealed with delight. “She caught it, Mummy! Did you see?”
Gillian nodded, smiling. It was good to see Katie happy. The arrival of Silky had been fortuitous. They hadn’t been able to bring the dog back from the shelter straight away. Claire from the shelter, had insisted on doing a home visit.
“It’s just routine,” she said. “We need to check that your house, and garden, is suitable for your new pet, and to give you some advice if there are things you need to change to make sure it is a safe environment for Silky.”
They had left the shelter, empty-handed. Katie had been upset about that. On the way home, Dan suggested going to the pet store to buy a bed, the food suggested by the shelter, and some toys for Silky.
“So when Claire comes, she’ll see we’re ready for Silky.”
Dan seemed happy here, so much more relaxed, and at one with himself. Even if his sleep seemed to be disturbed. He had woken her up, again last night. That was the third night in a row. Thrashing around in the bed. Mumbling incoherent words. It sounded like he was having argument. Even though she couldn’t hear distinct words, it sounded as if it was the conversation between two different people. He said he couldn’t remember what the dream was, when she asked him that morning. He seemed genuinely surprised that he had disturbed her.
And, since Kevin had gone missing, Katie wasn’t sleeping properly. It was weird, that toy disappearing like that. Gillian was certain he was there when she read Katie her bedtime story. As she recalled, Kevin had something to say about consent, after Sleeping Beauty was kissed by the Prince whilst she was asleep.
Where Katie had picked that up, Gillian had no idea.
Kids were such sponges. She must have overheard something on the radio. Woman’s Hour, was Gillian's guess.
They had searched high and low for that bloody toy. Dan had even pulled the bed out in the morning.
“Can we go into the woods and look for Kevin, Mummy?”
Gillian looked at her daughter. Was she a mind reader, now? Katie was standing next to the trees, Silky by her side. Both of them with pleading brown eyes.
Gillian sighed. They had already been in those woods, looking. Several times.
And besides, there was something about that wood that freaked her out.
Now, she thought about it, it reminded Gillian of something that had happened to her, when she was a child.
When she was eight her mother joined what Gillian now knew to be a cult. At first, it had seemed like fun. Living with her sad, nervous mother, Gillian had always been isolated - aunt Jane was the only person who regularly came to the house - and had found it hard to make friends. Suddenly, she had new ‘brothers and sisters’ and a new father figure in the charismatic Joel Keller.
Before they went away to Camp Saviour (which turned out to be a field Joel rented off a farmer somewhere in Wales), aunt Jane took Gillian to one side.
“I don’t know what this place is,” she whispered, as Gillian’s mother poured water into the kettle in the kitchen. “And I know that your mother thinks this Joel guy is the real thing. But I don’t trust him. So you remember this, Gillian. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Anyone makes you feel uncomfortable,” she looked Gillian in the eye. “Anyone. You scream like a banshee and kick them in the undercarriage and you run. You come and find me. I’m always gonna be there for you. You know that, right? You promise me, now.”
And Gillian promised her aunt, whilst not really knowing what the hell she was talking about, before her mother came back with the pot of tea.
There were five families on the trip. Gillian’s mother didn’t have a car - she couldn’t even drive - so they got a lift with one of the other mothers, and her two daughters Leanne and Vicky. It didn’t strike Gillian as odd that there were no father’s in Joel’s little group. She hadn’t ever known her dad. For the first time in her life she felt normal.
The tents were already set up in a circle, when they arrived. Five tents, one each for each family.
Joel was staying in a cabin in the woods next to the field.
When they had all arrived Joel led the group in prayer and they all chanted the familiar words to The Promise, a song that Joel said God had given him when he met him during his years in The Wilderness. The song preached obedience to The Word of Joel. It was catchy, and it was Gillian’s favourite song at the time.
The days were spent praying, meditating and preparing meals. The group would eat together in the evening, and then as the light began to fade, Joel would pick one of the young girls - it was always one of the girls - for A Special Blessing that took place in his cabin. It was the third night, that Gillian was chosen.
Leanne helped Gillian to get ready. At thirteen, Leanne was a veteran of the Special Blessings - she had been a part of Joel’s group for five years. She took Gillian down to the stream and helped her wash, whilst Gillian’s mother cleared up after the evening meal.
“You’ll be fine,” she said. “Just do as your told, and don’t struggle. It’ll be over soon enough.”
To Gillian, Leanne’s words seemed strange. Surely, it was the highest honour to receive the Special Blessing. Leanne seemed to be implying it was not the celebration she had been led to believe from her mother, and the others, but something to be endured. Perhaps, Leanne was jealous. At thirteen, she was too old to be Blessed now.
Leanne braided Gillian’s hair, and dressed her in the special white ceremonial robe. She was then led to the edge of the forest by the group. Her mother gave her a smile and a hug, and Gillian stepped onto the path that meandered through trees.
Gillian remembered the light being strange, almost orange, and when she approached the cabin, the same odd light leaked from the open doorway. Nervously, she walked up the steps of the cabin and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Joel said.
Gillian pushed the door open to find Joel standing beside a roaring fire. He too was dressed in a robe, although she remembered the white cloth was embroidered with purple and pink designs. He offered her a glass of wine. Gillian had never had wine before. It didn’t taste as nice as it looked. She put the glass down on the table, after two sips and stood there, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable.
“Take off your robe, my dear,” Joel said.
“No, thank you. I'll be cold.”
“The spirit will warm you, child. Besides the fire is warm,” his voice changed. There was an edge to it. “Take it off.”
“No, thank you,” Gillian said, firmly, her heart beating fast.
“Remember the Word of Joel,” Joel said, stepping towards her and grabbing her wrist and pulling her towards him. “Do as you are told.”
She pulled herself away and stepped back.
“Remember the Word of Joel,” Joel said again. “Remember The Promise.”
And Gillian did remember.
She remembered the promise she had made to her aunt. She kicked Joel in the balls and ran from the cabin, screaming.
Gillian shuddered, from the memory, and looked at her daughter. Silky put her head to one side, and whined.
“Can we go look for Kevin, in the woods?”
“I don’t think so, honey,” she said, checking her watch. “We have to go back to the house. Daddy will have the lunch ready soon. We’ll look, again, later. Maybe.”
Katie looked sad, but nodded.
“Okay,” she said.
Gillian gave Katie a big hug, and a kiss. Not for the first time, she promised herself that she would be a better mother to her daughter than her own mother had been to her.
She would not let anyone - or anything - hurt her daughter.
Current Serialised Ghost Story: “Haunted”
A family move into a big old house. The house has history. The family have history. Spooky stuff happens.
Part one https://firstname.lastname@example.org/haunted-part-one-an-original-work-of-fiction-for-the-365daysofwriting-challenge
Very short stories (stories told in exactly 50 words)
Miniature Tigers don’t belong in cages. You have been warned.
“The Lion’s Share”.
It is NOT his party, so why is the lion crying?
“Another Crime Involving Rhyme”
Someone is killing words. Inspector Poet is on the case
“When Rhyme Is A Crime”
Theft, murder, bad rhymes...
Some more of my short stories
Some more of my short stories
Some people only have their memories for company…
Don’t read this if you have mother issues.
A man is on a journey. But why?
Not sure I'd want this power...
A relationship ends
Some big news for me! One of my steemit stories (Reunion - told in 8 parts last month) has been selected to appear in the Isle of Write Anthology (see this post https://steemit.com/writing/@isleofwrite/isle-of-write-curation-to-publication-update). I am so excited to be a part of this. Please pay them a visit and check out the other stories that have been selected too. You too can be curated: so read the post and find out how!