Roger was slow at many things. At eating. At test taking. He was slow at finding courage for simple things, such as telling the one girl, out of many in his class, that he liked her. Roger was slow in all these things and more. Yet he still found himself acing the latest test in the gifted math class. How’d he pull that off?
The one thing Roger was not slow about was how white his skin turned, right at midnight, as he put his head to the fourth grade lunch table, listening, when the anomaly suddenly appeared. Roger’s hair stood on the back of his neck.
She was beautiful. From behind the lifted curtains, a red light illuminated her and the stage. Draped in a scarlet, transparent, red veil that covered her whole body, she couldn’t have been older than twenty-four. An air of sadness could be felt as she silently, gracefully, danced on the stage of the theatre at the back of the cafeteria. The sounds that came from the table as Roger put his ear to it were of church bells.
It was everything that was described to Roger. The school librarian had even loaned him a book on the various ghosts that haunted Bernard Berenson Middle. “The Red Veil Phantom” was rated #15 of 24 specters found all around the school grounds, ranging in poltergeist activity and frequency of appearance. Wrestling his fear under control, Roger pulled out his phone. He set it to camera mode to record. Now he had to stay there for a full twenty minutes.
Suddenly the Red Veil Phantom stopped dancing as the stage light suddenly turned off and the darkness suddenly became totally black. The sounds from the table went silent. Slowly, quietly, Roger could hear strange sounds. The sharpening of iron.
SLIKT, SLIKT, SLIKT
Then a dialogue, first a female voice:
“Alas, Hector my love, why do you do this?”
“Eugenia, Eugenia, my love, my bride,” said a smooth male voice,
“If I cannot have you to myself, THEN NO ONE SHALL.”
Now a ring of steel, as if two knives were clanged together; a sudden spark was seen on stage. A sudden ripping of flesh, a curdling scream that sent Roger’s heart into his throat, followed by the sounds of water. But it wasn’t water.
Roger suddenly felt warmth. And a smell, no, a stench. It was familiar to him, he had to deal with it when his brother gashed his leg and had to be sent to the ER. Blood. The smell of blood.
It was everywhere. The book never covered this. All it covered was the red apparition dancing. The darkness lifted, but Roger wished, wished with all his might, that it had just stayed dark. Blood was everywhere. On the walls, on the curtains, on the stage, on the tables. It was also on Roger.
He couldn’t leave. Even if he could, he was plastered to the table. Roger wanted to run out the door screaming. He was panting, cold from fright, and had ten minutes left.
The red stage light turned back on. On stage now could be seen the woman in the red veil, but now she was held in an embrace by a suave, older gentleman in a white dress shirt and black pants. He held in his hands two long knives soiled red. The couple stood still for at least two minutes. Roger thought it would be over soon. Then the man turned his attention away from the red veiled woman. He then turned to Roger.
“Who are you?” said the man, “I will not allow suiters.”
He suddenly stepped down from the stage and walked toward Roger.
“Answer me this: who are you to court MY WIFE?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” said Roger, “I’m just here for another eight minutes, then I’ll be out of your hair.”
The man scoffed. “Eight minutes? You will not last one more, much less eight.”
He brandished the bloody knives. The blood dripping from them was still warm.
“I’m going to make you specter number twenty-five,” said the man.
Excerpt from “Fall from Autumnway” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?
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