Here’s a preview for Tainted (Ghosts IV), which will be out next week!
I wake up suddenly, sweating.
I sit up.
The room is dark, and the only noise comes from Herb, sleeping happily on his own single bed. I look over at him. Sometimes I wonder if we should try having a double bed again.
After all, Herb’s problem might have gone away by now.
What was I dreaming about again?
I try to remember, but the dream – so vivid a moment ago – has already blown away on my mind’s breeze. Damn it, I can never remember my dreams these days, just the impression of how it felt. And this dream scared me. Terrified me. They’ve all been like that lately. If only I could remember…
I get out of bed and sneak over to the door, then out into the corridor and along to the bathroom. Switching on the little electric light, I use the toilet and then I pour myself a glass of water from the sink. It’s nice and cold, and it helps me to calm down.
Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, I’m shocked by how old I look. When did that happen? When did happy, pretty, young Tammy Brightwell become an ageing, childless old lady sleeping in a single bed because her husband has an incontinence problem? When did life get like this? I see other people on the street every day, and they don’t seem to be in such a state. Then again, maybe they’re just better at hiding things.
I take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. I used to be pretty. And Herb used to be handsome. But time scraped away at our faces with its bony fingers until all that was left was this loose, sagging image that stares back at me from the mirror. And it’s only going to get worse.
I jump as the phone rings, off in the front room. I rush through, hoping to answer it before Herb wakes up. As I pick up the receiver, I glance at my grandfather’s Grandfather Clock and notice that it’s half past two in the morning. Who could be calling at such a time?
“Tammy Brightwell?” asks a distant, distorted female voice on the other end of the line.
“Yes,” I say quietly.
“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” says the voice. “You’ll have to speak up”.
“Yes,” I say, a little louder. “This is Tammy Brightwell. Who are you?”
“One moment please,” says the female voice. “I’ll connect you”.
There’s a pause, and then another voice, male this time, speaks.
“Tammy Brightwell?” he asks.
A shiver runs down my spine. I knew it would be him. Who else would call me at this time of the night? Who else would call me at all?
“What do you want?” I ask.
“It’s time,” he replies.
“No,” I say.
“Oh yes”. There’s a pause. “I told you not to argue with me,” he continues. “When it’s time, it’s time. And it’s time. You know what that means, don’t you?”
I swallow hard, trying not to cry. I’ve been dreading this moment for so long. Does it really have to happen?
“One day,” says the voice. “Do you understand?”
“I want longer,” I stammer.
“That wasn’t part of the deal!” the voice shouts, so loud that I almost drop the receiver. “One day. No more, no less. The deal is old and certain. Don’t try to wriggle out of it now, or I’ll come and cut your throat right now, do you understand?”
I pause. “I understand,” I say.
“No,” says the voice. “You don’t. But that doesn’t matter. You don’t need to understand. All you have to do is die. The clock starts running now”. I hear a ticking sound, and then the phone cuts off.
I gently put the receiver down. Is this really it? Is this the end? I have one week left, and then… I turn and look at the door to the bedroom. Was it worth it? Was all this worth dying for?
…And that’s all I remember. I have a few other vague memories, but the rest of my death is hazy. I don’t remember exactly how I died, or what I did in my final day. Like all ghosts, the actual moment of my death is not something that I can remember. Except… bits of it are coming back to me now. Fragments in time.
My name is Tammy Brightwell. This is the story of how I died, and what happened next.
Tainted (Ghosts IV) is available next week from Amazon.