Marcus and Nikki had an incredible lunch. The news of Nikki's pregnancy had put them both in better spirits than they had been in for a long time. There would probably be no reason to fight with a baby on the way. It was incredible what a baby could do for a marriage, especially before it was born.
That afternoon, much of the discussion revolved around which room would become the nursery in the Lemonte house. It was really a simple matter, but how it would be set up was not, at least, not for them as new parents.
By evening, both Nikki and Marcus were ready to go to the Krepps, and the thought of a pleasant visit with the older couple made them feel even more secure in the idea of a long lasting marriage. Although times had changed, the possibility of a long-term commitment holding out was something that both of them strongly desired. It was too easy to just give up on something that could be as fragile as a marriage, and never try to gain back what was lost.
"Well Marcus, are you about ready to go over to the Krepp’s? They said they wanted us there at seven, or somewhere around that time.” Nikki said as she walked out of the bathroom, finished with her necessary tasks.
"Almost, I didn't think that you'd be ready so fast. Are you sure that you're feeling all right? I've never seen you get ready this fast."
"I guess it's just the excitement. We're finally going to have something to show the world as proof of our love for each other."
"I've never thought of it in those terms, but I guess you're right. People might have trouble seeing that we really love each other sometimes. But then, who really cares what anyone else thinks, right?"
But Nikki wasn't listening. She had floated off on one of the many clouds that she had been riding all day. Her relationship had taken a sudden upswing, and there wasn’t a soul in the world that could have been happier. As she stared smiling out the bedroom window, the headlights of a car pulling into the funeral home driveway caught her attention for a moment. But she blocked out the thought of the place and what might be going on over there as quickly as the car was out of sight. The thought of someone being there tonight was ridiculous and didn't stick with her long enough to tell Marcus about it. Soon he was ready, and they were out the door to the Krepps. Bad thoughts were far from their minds.
Shortly later, they pulled up to the Krepp's quiet house on the outskirts of Hawthorne, and Marcus and Nikki locked hands and walked to the front door. After a knock and a quick kiss, they entered the Krepp's home under the twinkling eye of Ray, who led them to the living room where Hedda was sitting.
"Promptness befits a doctor, Marcus, and I'm glad to see that you’re still meeting up to my expectations." Hedda said as Marcus and Nikki took seats almost on top of each other.
"I told them you’d say that as I let them in. I hope you kids are hungry. Hedda's cooked up enough food to feed the whole town."
"I know I'm starved, Ray. And Nikki needs to keep her energy up for the next few months."
"Marcus! You shouldn't have told them that way."
"What's this? If you're pregnant Nikki, it's the best thing I've heard in years." Ray said with enthusiasm that couldn't have been matched by anyone but Marcus under the circumstances.
"This is great news you two! We couldn't be happier for you." Hedda said, adding to the excitement. "It almost makes me want to have children again."
For twenty more minutes, the four rambled on about the future addition to the Lemonte household. It was a good beginning for what was to become an even better night at the Krepps. Everything they did and talked about gleamed with a hint of happiness.
At about eleven-thirty as the evening was dying down, Hedda brought up her concern about their recent arguments, but even this didn't dampen the spirits of the evening.
"I honestly don't think we'll have any more trouble now, Hedda." Nikki said with as much assurance in her voice as Marcus had ever heard.
"No, I think we were both being a little childish. We're going to have to grow up now, and make this marriage work."
"It doesn't have to be perfect, Marcus. Just keep your heads clear, and don't let the little things get you down. Ray and I have had out troubles, too, and there's always a way around them, if you're wise enough to see it."
"I couldn't have said it better myself,” Ray said, “it just takes a little work sometimes, but in the long run, you'll be glad you made the effort."
The evening over at the Krepps, Marcus and Nikki made their way to their car leaving a trail of “thank yous” behind them. Today seemed like it was going to be the beginning of new and happier times for them, and they believed they deserved it after what they had been through. Too much trouble had developed in their marriage for it to be left unchecked. Now, they had new hope in the form of the coming baby, and with the extra support of the Krepps, all of the forces of hell weren't going to be able to hold them back.
Still drinking that night at nine after having started with Nikki's news that morning, Matt was within a few beers of passing out. The world had pulled a quick flip-flop on him that would only be remedied by a long run of drunken days and nights. With any luck, she had only been joking around, and there would still be hope for him. Luck wasn't one of his bigger fans in life.
Making his way slowly to the bathroom, Matt didn't know whether he should, piss or puke. A sudden heave later and the choice was taken out of his hands. This wouldn't stop him though. He still had a full case left in his refrigerator, and he planned to down it by morning. After rinsing his mouth out with part of a beer, he returned to the kitchen and his growing pyramid of empty beer cans.
But as the minutes crept by, Matt felt his head falling toward the table. No matter how hard he fought it, he was soon snoring loudly. But either a bad dream, or another surge in his stomach brought him abruptly awake, and he stood up to feel his head swirling faster than vomited beer down his toilet bowl.
Stumbling to his medicine cabinet, he found the bottle of amphetamines he had gotten from Terry and popped a couple down. Calling them amphetamines instead of speed seemed stupid and he started to laugh. A big mistake, he soon found, and a sad waste of the pills as they shot out of his throat and into the sink along with some beer that was starting to taste like acid. Being careful not to think about it this time, he took two more pills and made his way into his living room to wait for the effects.
"Too slow" he drunkenly thought five minutes later, and went back for a couple more. He would have to talk to Terry about this bad speed. You just couldn't trust people once you got out of college, not even your best friends. He still didn’t feel any effects, but he gradually forgot about it as his thoughts drifted to Nikki. He would have to figure out a way to get her away from Marcus, an idea he had discarded quicker than his first six-pack when he had still been almost sober. But nearing the point of alcohol poisoning, nothing really seemed unreasonable to him now, not even murder.
"Do you think the kids' marriage is going to hold out, Hedda?” Ray asked as Marcus and Nikki pulled away from their house.
"Don't be absurd, Ray! Of course it will. You know how I am anyway. If the slightest problem comes along with that child on the way, I'll be over there to help patch it up before you know I'm gone."
"I guess you're right."
"There's no guessing to it. Those kids don't need to go through what we've been through. We're lucky that we're still married now, and we both know it. Not that it bothers me. I think I'm happier now than I've ever been and I hope you are too."
"Now you're being absurd. You know I'm happy. I didn't ever want a divorce in the first place, if you recall. I was only riding along with what you wanted, even though it wasn't what I wanted."
Continuing to talk as they cleaned up the kitchen from the evening's meal, the two began to recall the good times of their marriage, letting the bad ones fall away. Before long, they were making their way into the bedroom, too tired to think of much more than sleep. Tomorrow, they could sleep late, and they had looked forward to it all week. They didn't have to start their days at the store so early, but they always did. It was the way an old corner store should be run. A tradition they were proud of.
As dreams crept gradually into Hedda's sleep, a strange, somehow familiar scene drifted before her eyes. She had been there before, hundreds of times. Why did it look so different this time? Was it the mist lying low to the ground, engulfing the stones? Everything was just too hazy.
In the distance, faint glows of light bobbed their way toward her. It was good that she was hidden behind this row of trees so she wouldn't be seen.
The trees had always been a wonder to her, enclosing the cemetery into its own little world. Trips there with her father hadn't been scary at all. In fact, she had grown to enjoy being there while her father mowed and dug the occasional grave.
But now, something was very different about the place. The mist had never been here before. Not only that, but it was dark and glows of light were bobbing slowly towards her. She had never been here at night, and she didn't want to be here now.
As she stared through the trees into the cemetery, the mist began to swirl in places. Almost instantaneously, huge eyes formed out of the swirls in the mist. With a stare that should have driven her crazy, the eyes directed their vigilance toward her. Fear crawled deeply into her soul. The lights were getting closer, and the eyes were going to give her away! There were no doubts in her mind about that.
The glows that had been on the other side of the cemetery were now popping up over the nearest hill. She saw that they were candle flames and the candles were being held by a procession of hooded figures. There were more than she could count, and they slowly surrounded a huge, flat-topped stone no more than twenty feet from her. She watched as each figure placed its candle on the stone making it glow strangely in the misty darkness.
Confusion began to overtake her as the intensity of the eyes' glare increased on her. As she let out a small gasp, the hooded figures suddenly noticed the eyes. The eyes floated to her location among the trees and revolved about her, increasing her panic. Her worst fear quickly came to fruition. The figures glided toward her, flashes of jagged steel emerging from their vestments.
She froze as the figures closed in on her. The lead figure's hood slid to its shoulders and she screamed desperately as the horror of realization struck her. The rotting face of her long dead father was the last monstrous thing she saw as Ray woke her from her nightmare.
"This place doesn't look so bad, Norman." Phyllis said spitefully as they drove up to the back door of the funeral home.
"Looks can be deceiving, my dear. I don't want to make this any worse for you than it can be." He said, barely able to hold back the sarcasm.
"I still think you're crazy, Norman. Nothing that you've told me could have possibly happened."
"Give it time, Phyllis. Give it time."
With this, the two became silent as they stepped from the car and walked to the door. Fumbling with his keys, Norman reluctantly found the one he had grown to dread using. How many times had he dropped it as his hand shook unlocking the door? "TOO many", he thought.
The door opened as easily as if someone had pulled it from within. It wasn't the type of thing Norman liked to think about when he had to go into the place. Maybe his imagination was just a little too wild. But then the smell of the prep room hit his nose bringing with it a flashback of his past experiences. Imagination couldn't account for everything. It was ridiculous to even consider it.
With familiarity he wished he didn't have, he maneuvered his way through the room pulling Phyllis awkwardly behind him. He would make sure she regretted this if it was the last thing he did. With that thought, a touch of raw and irrational courage warmed his blood causing him to tighten his grip on her wrist. He could feel the air flowing around them in cold invisible swirls, and a tremor from Phyllis's arm gently shook his hand. A little demeaning would be good for her soul, if she even had one. But then, it would take more than that to turn this witch around.
It had to be seven-thirty by now, he estimated. The rooms were already dark enough to make a flashlight useful. A flashlight they didn't have. Phyllis's glowing red pig eyes might be enough to get them around. They sure lit up the bedroom at night when he made it in late. It was a wonder their whole house didn't glow.
Passing a room on the right side of the corridor, Norman heard a small thump. It was just a small thing in here, and definitely not enough to scare Phyllis. She needed something big...really big, or she'd never back down. At least that was the front she was still trying to put on. Every time he'd looked back at her, she had given him a "well, where are the monsters, bozo" look that made him want to shove a pitchfork in her glowing eyes.
With that thought in mind, he pushed through the door leading to the massive front room and felt a slight chill rush down his spine as he caught sight of the staircase. He really hated this place. There was no way to convince him otherwise. The thought of that head rolling down those stairs almost made him turn tail and run. But Phyllis's arm in his hand reminded him of his purpose. He would shake hands with the devil himself to put her in her place. And then, sometime in the near future he would have Janet without having to hide it from the old bat.
Feeling a shove at his back, Norman went on into the front room. How could she be so eager to do this? She was the crazy one, for sure, and she didn't seem to be satisfied with her own insanity. She was out to push him over the edge, too.
Even Phyllis's steps slowed as the air seriously chilled around them. Somehow, the coldness of the air made the room seem even darker, and shadows leapt to life in the near darkness.
The funeral home was a storeroom of the dead more than any single haunted house could claim to be. The number of dead that had made their way through the place doubtlessly had to leave a black mark of some kind. What that mark was, and how deep it ran had only begun to emerge for Norman.
A shadow stirred on the staircase, and their blood pressures shot up violently.
For an instant, the two were frozen in their tracks. They had seen the movement, and were more than ever aware that something was about to happen. Norman tried to urge Phyllis on anyway. He wanted this to be over.
Hesitatingly, he got her over to the stairs and made her go up in front of him. As they inched their way to the second floor, he knew that she would get the full impact of whatever happened. It made him horridly joyous, and in spite of the fear, he loved every minute of it.
The top stair creaked as they passed over it, stretching the tension a little farther as they stared down the hall. The room which had provided the earlier nightmarish experience in Norman's life was at the end of the hall, and too close for his comfort. He had been avoiding it for what seemed like an eternity, but there was a time for everything, and this was the time to scare the hell out of Phyllis.
Suddenly, a darkness appeared at the end of the hall. Its presence was stronger than Norman had ever felt before, and goose bumps erupted immediately from his flesh. It was becoming more and more powerful by the second. How and why didn't matter; only escape mattered. But the presence was all around them, and its crushing weight on their souls made them even more panicked.
With quickness Norman had never seen in Phyllis, she flung his hand off her arm and darted past him to the stairs. The fear holding his body in place was becoming unbearable and movement was totally impossible. The will Phyllis had summoned to break through her fear was far beyond his capacity. He just couldn't move!
Near the top of the stairs, Phyllis's eyes caught hold of a dark figure. It was solid, and moved steadily toward her, bringing her fear to a rocketing climax. With the stubbornness and stupidity that Norman knew were her strong points, she tried to rush past the figure to make it to the stairs. The figure lunged out of the way, tripping her as she tried to push past. Unable to prevent the fall, she went crashing to the bottom, bouncing from railing to step and finally laying motionless a few feet from the stairs.
Sitting in the dark, Harold heard the floor creaking around him. This place was sure scarier on the inside than it was outside. His mind was already playing tricks on him. There couldn't possibly have been anything out in that hallway just then. He had just gotten there, and things weren't supposed to happen until he was ready.
He felt the need to move but held back until he could see where he was going. The ghosts could wait for him. They were dead already anyway. As he looked around, he felt as if someone was looking right back at him. That was all it took to get him on his feet.
Making his way to the black hole he figured was a door, he decided not to use his flashlight. The ghosts didn't need any more advance notice than they already had. At least his brain was working in this old place. His imagination accounted for the better part of the work, but he could still manage some simple thoughts.
At the doorway, he thought he heard footsteps coming from somewhere down the hall to his left. Listening closely, he was sure of it. He was going to have to check it out. Either that, or he might as well turn around and scurry back home to dwell on his self-defeat.
He had never been a quitter.
With a few quick and quiet steps, he made it through the door and into the front room. He couldn't make out any shapes, but he could still hear the footsteps. Then he shuddered as two loud simultaneous creaks reverberated through the room. Checking his automatic urge to flee, he strained to see what he could, and then stepped further into the room.
The massive emptiness of the place came to rest on his shoulders, and he ran to the stairs trying to get away from the feeling. His tennis shoes made him more silent than his prey, but he still had a dread feeling that he couldn't understand. It was almost as if he wasn't the predator, but the prey, and he would soon regret his entry into this haunted old place.
The stairs went quickly below his feet and he was soon two from the top. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw another movement. This time, he was sure he had seen it. Cautiously stepping onto the second floor, he began to walk toward the movement, flashlight and cross in hand.
Suddenly, with horrid assurance, a figure came rushing at him. His first instinct was to dive to the side. As he did, his foot caught hold of something solid that almost dragged him with it. Behind him, he heard a series of muffled thuds, but never a scream. That had been a real, live person, and he was in real trouble!
Before he could get up, another figure was rushing at him. Too much in shock to move, he sat and waited for the consequences. A ghost might be better than a real person after what had just happened.
"Phyllis, Phyllis are you all right? Phyllis!" Norman's voice half cracked as he yelled out.
Glancing down, he noticed Harold sitting on the floor shaking and managed to get out "What are you doing here?"
"Don't hurt me.” Harold mumbled, trying not to think about what he had done.
"Don't worry, kid. Everything is probably O.K."
Seeing Harold's flashlight, Norman grabbed it up and walked down the stairs to where his wife lay motionless.
"Well I'll be a god damned fool," he blurted out, "her head's twisted clean around!"
And it was. Phyllis was as dead as she would ever be. A thirty-step flight of stairs could do wonders for a body, and it had done so for Phyllis.
The new nursing home director in Breklettin started his Monday with the project that had been left him as priority one by the board of directors. Get all of the deceased patients' papers and requests sent out immediately. Unlike the last director, the job meant something to this man. It meant food for his family, and a roof over his head. He would work his ass off for this place. By the end of the day, he wanted to have most of the papers on their way. It would show the board that he wanted this job.
At first, the parchment laying spread out on his new desk went unnoticed by the director. He had begun to think that he might just need an assistant to get things rolling a little faster. As a result of this thinking, he sat down at his desk to make a phone call. His son would help him. He was a good kid. They needed to be doing more things together before the boy thought he was too old for that kind of thing anyway.
The parchment caught his eye. It lay plastered to his desk as if it had recently been wet. The burnt spots dotting it verified this in his mind, and also brought him the reason it was a priority job. The paper looked important, too important to be lying in his office.
S****ing the corner up with his pocketknife, he felt funny even touching the paper. It felt hot to the touch, and yet, it had to have been doused at least two days earlier. The name on the back sent him to his file for a family record. Surprisingly, there seemed to be only one relative of this Eagan Portraire. He had no doubt in his mind that the relative would be as lost as he was when trying to decipher the papers. But then, that would be her problem.
Five minutes later, he decided it would be stupid to send something that looked so important by mail. Hand delivery would make up for the time lost when the former director neglected the paper. No, that would be a stupid, wasteful use of his time.
With a quick search through his desk, he came up with a large manila envelope and an official nursing home label. Stuffing the pages into the envelope, a strange thought hit him. What if the paper hadn't been meant for the relative, but another person was expecting to receive it. The thought was so stupid that he shook it off and addressed the package to Janet Portraire anyway.
The day was a pretty good one in Hawthorne, or at least, it was for Marcus. In the past few days, his life had made a pretty good turn around. Besides, his head wasn’t throbbing constantly and the seizure auras were keeping their distance.
With all of this in combination, the day went quickly as good ones usually did, and Marcus was home and in a good mood before he knew it. Nikki happened to be in a good mood, too, and Marcus appreciated it more than he would have expected. Something healthy and different would do them both some good this evening, and Marcus knew exactly what it was. They hadn't been on a walk for years, as he remembered it, and this would be a good evening for one. When he mentioned it to Nikki, she got pretty excited by the idea too.
After putting dishes away and changing into shorts, they headed outside for some fresh air.
"I don't think I've even seen this entire little town.” Nikki said as they hit the sidewalk.
"Well, it's been awhile since I really had a look at it myself. I don't know where we should head to."
They both felt years younger as the blocks slowly and aimlessly passed. The evening turned to darkness as the Lemontes looked closely at each and every house they passed. The walk was pulling their thoughts together as walks had always done in the past.
As their conversation shifted from one thing to another, it eventually came to the disturbing subject of dreams. Both were obviously uneasy with it, but they fell into the topic anyway.
Pointing to a huge white house as they passed it, Nikki turned to Marcus with a grimace.
"You know, honey," she said, "I've had a dream about that house before."
"What, Nik? Have you ever even seen that place?"
"No, I don't think so. But I know it was in one of my dreams. I remember walking past it, and there was an old man sitting in a rocking chair on that front porch."
As they looked at the bleak old house, Marcus tried to picture what she had just said. Nowhere in his memory could he recall seeing any people out on that porch. And there was a certain weirdness about the house. It had two front doors, and practically no windows. In fact, the front was shovel-faced, if that was a good term for it. It was just a box with a porch.
"Do you remember anything else?"
"No, that's all, just the old man out on that porch. But I'm sure I've never seen the place before now."
"I don't know, honey. You could have driven past here sometime and just happened to have glanced at it."
"I don't think so. Let's get away from here though. It's starting to give me the creeps."
Speeding up a little, they were soon out of sight of the white house. Their pace didn't slow down for several more blocks where they came to a small bridge and stopped for a rest.
"Can I have a kiss?” Marcus asked quietly.
"Of course you can. Do you think you deserve it though?"
Before he could answer, she had locked onto his mouth and didn't let go until a passing car interrupted them. Their love was still alive, and possibly even growing. It was strange how trouble could come and go so quickly in their lives, leaving only its small tracks for them to remember. Maybe all marriages were the same way. But then, it didn't really matter now.
"Are you ready to go on?"
"Only if you are."
But she knew that he wasn't, and she wasn't either. Just holding each other on this little bridge in the darkness was all they wanted right then. The simple things had always been the best for them.
After about twenty minutes, and hyped up more than ever, they continued their walk. They could continue their closeness at home later, and both knew that they'd probably be up pretty late doing just that. The walk would continue to invigorate them, making it even easier to stay awake.
The blocks went by quickly, and they soon found themselves in the worst part of Hawthorne. Even in this small town, a certain fear of bad neighborhoods could creep into people’s lives. Evil was universal, and Hawthorne was no exception to the rule.
"I don't like it here." Nikki said, clinging to Marcus's side. "Why don't we turn around and go back?"
"Anything you say, honey. After that white house, I'm not up to being in this area myself."
Instead of going back the same way they had come, they would go over a block so they could see new things. They also, without actually saying so, wanted to avoid the white house on the way back. Something about Nikki's dream was troubling, and they would rather figure it out in the morning, or at least in daylight.
As they approached the block the white house sat on, they turned down another street to avoid even seeing it. There definitely wasn't any reason to tempt fate, especially when it concerned them and a future child. Marcus had learned from his funeral home experience, and Nikki wasn't any stupider.
But as the two got farther away from the place, the effects it had rendered wore off. They were soon talking happily again.
Crossing through the center of town, they occasionally stopped to gaze in a store window. Most of the time, it was too dark inside to see anything. But they didn't care. They weren’t really looking for anything anyway.
Quickly bored with the stores and their meaningless contents, Marcus and Nikki moved on and were soon in residential areas again. Being an old town, Hawthorne was filled with huge houses that had been around at least since the turn of the century. Even though Marcus had lived in the town most of his life, some of these old houses seemed as new to him as they did to Nikki. One of these soon came up on the opposite side of the street and caused him to stop, pulling Nikki back with him and nearly bringing them both to the ground.
"Wait a minute, Nik. There's something over there in that yard. Can you tell what it is?"
"Marcus..Don't do that to me. I'm scared enough, and that house looks creepy anyway."
"No, I'm serious, Nikki. There's something in that yard, and I don't like the looks of it."
"Well, why don't you go over and look at it. I'm staying right here though."
Crossing the street, Marcus glanced back at Nikki. She was huddled up and shaking, even though it wasn't cold outside. She was as afraid as he was, only smarter and still on the other side of the street. Curiosity dictated that he see what was in that yard.
When he got to the curb at the other side, he stopped. He was close enough to the house to see that it could easily have been used in the old 'Addams Family' series. Staring intently into the darkness at the figure, it slowly cleared in his vision. It was a statue of a winged dog with lion’s legs and huge fangs. It was a demon statue! A sudden flood of images from old horror movies filled his mind and he stumbled back a few steps. This was just too much for one night! Turning and running back across the street, he could almost feel the thing drilling a hole in his back.
"Come on, Nik." He said as he pushed her ahead of him.
"What was it, Marcus?"
"It was..it was a demon statue, a winged dog with all the trimmings. And that house....it was so terrible looking. It almost made our funeral home look like a toy store."
They were both really scared now. Marcus became silent, and the silence only made things worse. They were going home. As fast as they could, they were going home.
Making there way down a huge hill, Marcus suddenly stopped cold. Tears came to his eyes as he stumbled backwards grasping at air that wouldn't support him. Nikki turned, and her eyes caught the terror that was in his face.
The dark figure from his dream had been on the corner ahead of them.
"What's wrong, Marcus? What did you see?" Nikki asked frantically.
But Marcus only stood there, his eyes too full of tears to see anything anymore. His legs buckled, and he fell to his knees, a faint smell of hotdogs and popcorn drifting in.
Nikki, heart pounding erratically, knelt down in front of him and looked into his eyes. They were frightened eyes, eyes full of more fear than she had ever imagined possible, especially in her husband.
"Marcus...Marcus, honey. What did you see? You have to tell me. I want to know."
Still unable to speak, Marcus looked down to avoid her eyes. He didn't like for anyone to see him cry, especially not Nikki. There was just no way he could avoid it. He had seen what he had seen, and it would have been enough to send anyone into tears. His dream had come to life, and there was no way he could escape it by waking up. He was already awake...
"Squeeze my arm." He said them being the first words he was able to get out.
"Squeeze my arm!"
Grabbing his arm, she squeezed. Lightly at first, but he made her squeeze harder and harder until her hand cramped up and she had to let go. What's gotten into him, she thought?
"I am awake.” He said as the aura drifted back and faded away again. “This is the worst nightmare I've ever had, and I was awake when I had it…. We have to get away from here, Nikki. We have to get home. I don't feel safe out here anymore."
"O.K., honey, but you have to tell me what happened on the way home. Will you?"
"When we get home, and behind locked doors. Then ...maybe.."
Jumping to his feet, Marcus took off for home, leaving Nikki behind. She had to run to catch up to him, and she practically had to keep running to stay by his side. Occasionally, he glanced back over his shoulder to see if someone was following them. His eyes were still watering, even as they approached their own home twelve blocks from the hill they'd just been on.
Slamming and locking the door behind them, Marcus walked to every window in the house, closed his eyes and shut the drapes. Then, and only then, did he sit down with Nikki, who had followed him to each and every window.
"Nikki, I saw him."
"Saw who, Marcus?"
"The black figure from my dream, I saw him on that corner. He was there one second, and gone the next. I saw him! My dreams are coming to life! What am I going to do?"
"Just calm down, Marcus, you're safe here with me in the house so just calm down."
"But I saw him. I know I did. He was all in black, and he was staring at me. And then he was gone. I know he was there, I know it! Didn't you see anything?"
"No honey, no I didn't. But I know you did. I've never seen anyone's eyes look so afraid. I believe you really saw what you say you did, and it scares me to think that something could scare you so much. It terrifies me!”
No matter how hard he tried, the picture of the figure in his mind plagued him for the rest of the night. Nikki could see this, and tried as hard as she could to distract him, but he would still drift off. He had seen it. They both knew it, and they could only hope that he didn't see it again. That neither one of them saw it for that matter. If they were lucky, it would be a solitary, freak occurrence and whatever it meant would fade from their lives.
Norman struggled through a strange day. Phyllis's untimely demise had thrown him a little, even though at the back of his mind somewhere, he had wanted her dead. She was really gone now. He didn't know whether to party or to mourn. A decision would just have to be made, he thought to himself with a slight chuckle.
The funeral had gone smoothly without him even shedding a tear. The people in the town must have thought him to be either a stoic old rock or completely devoid of emotion. That was their problem though. Soon, Janet would be over to see the recent widower, happily enabling him to forget his sorrows. She was good at that, as good at it as Phyllis had been at nagging him into the ground. Why had he ever married the witch in the first place? A question he was happy not to have tormenting him any longer.
It was nice how so many people had brought him such good food. Cooking was one thing Phyllis had been good for, and he would have to suffer without now. It was only a small suffering though, and nothing to compare with what he had gone through when she had been alive. He could learn to cook. That, or Janet could come over and cook all of their meals for them together. That was probably the way that things would turn out. Sounded pretty good to him, and she would surely be happy to do it.
The phone rang as Norman got up from the kitchen table to go to the bathroom. Who could that be, he thought. Maybe it was Janet calling to say that she would be over right away to see him. That would seem strange in itself, her being there in the house that Phyllis had so recently lorded over. But as he got to the phone, it stopped ringing. Only three rings, that was peculiar wasn't it? People who called him usually let it ring for hours. That is, if he didn't quite feel like answering it!
Heading on to the bathroom, the phone again started to ring. He rushed to his bedroom and the nearest phone to answer it, but again the phone stopped ringing just as he got to it. Something was definitely going on here. If it happened one more time, he was going to take the phone off the hook for the rest of the night, Janet or no Janet.
A little pissed off, he returned to the bathroom, and decided that while he was there, he might as well take a shower. If the phone rang while he was in there, it would just have to wait. He was getting tired of the pranks.
But the phone didn't ring while he was in the shower. In fact, it didn't ring until he was again sitting at the kitchen table. This time, it was Janet.
"Who have you been talking to?" she asked with a slight amount of anger evident in her voice.
"I haven't been talking to anyone. Every time the phone rang, I picked it up and there wasn't anyone there. No, that's not even the way it's been. I haven't even gotten as far as picking up the stupid thing before it stopped ringing."
"You definitely had to be talking to somebody. I've been calling all evening."
"That's impossible. The phone didn't start ringing until about an hour ago, and then it only rang two times."
"Norman, why would I lie about this? There must be something wrong with your phone then, because I know what I've been doing all evening."
"Why don't you just come over here, Janet? We'll talk about this when you get here."
"Oh..all right, Norman. But I don't really want to talk about this anymore. I'll be over in a few minutes."
Hanging up the phone, Norman returned to his place at the table to wait her out. Maybe there was something wrong with his phone. He couldn't think of any other reason why she hadn't been able to get through, unless it was Phyllis's ghost trying to put a stop to their little affair. That one would be good for a couple of laughs later.
For twenty minutes, Norman sat at the table waiting. What was keeping her, he thought? She was usually quick about doing the things he wanted. Surely, that wasn't all going to change now. Not that he was the type of person who would use anybody or anything like that. In fact, it was usually the other way around. At least it had been with Phyllis.
He was starting to worry about her when he heard her car pull into the driveway. Getting up to let her in, he glanced out the kitchen window. For a second, he thought he saw a figure on the corner at the end of the block. But then it was gone, and the doorbell was ringing.
"Did you just see someone standing down there on the corner as you pulled in?" he asked Janet as she came through the door.
"That's a nice way to greet me. I wish you wouldn't try to scare me like that. I've had enough of a scare with that stupid phone of yours."
"I'm sorry, honey. I just thought I saw someone down there, but I guess it could have been my imagination. That phone business kind of got to me a little, too."
"Well, O.K. Give me a hug, and I'll feel a lot better."
Taking her in his arms, he gave her a good hard hug. Before he let go of her, he grabbed her butt, and she let out a fake squeal.
"I'm not ready for that yet, Norman. Give me a chance to calm down a little first."
"But I don't want you calm, honey."
"Well, you certainly don't want me tensed up the way I am right now either. Neither one of us will enjoy it if I am."
"I don't know about that, but I guess whatever makes you happy. What took you so long getting over here anyway?"
"I just took my time. That's all."
"Why? Are you mad at me because you couldn't get through on the phone for so long?"
"Yes, I was getting mad. But I'm not mad anymore. I just didn't feel like rushing myself."
"That's nice to hear. Put Norman on hold for awhile so he can sit here in his kitchen and worry until you get here."
"Don't be crude, Norman. You know I wouldn't do anything for such a stupid reason as that."
"I guess you're right. I'm sorry, honey."
"That's O.K. I guess you have had a pretty tiring day with the funeral and everything. How about we go ahead and hit the sack? I'll make you forget all about that terrible funeral and anything else that's happened to you today that you want to forget."
With no verbal reply needed, they shed their clothes as they walked to the bedroom, and were soon too occupied to see the figure standing at the window.