Authors: J. Joseph Wright
J. Joseph Wright
Text copyright 2013 by J. Joseph Wright
Cover copyright 2013 by Krystle Wright
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I want the world to read
. If you’d like to share it with your friends, feel free. Just don’t make a material gain off of it, because that would constitute copyright infringement. Thank you, J.
For my loving wife Krystle—
May our souls never part.
HADN’T planned on being unfaithful to her husband, especially with a man who’d been dead almost nine decades. She couldn’t help it. The dead man was, in a word, irresistible. And, by night’s end, she wasn’t one bit sorry. Besides, her husband had it coming.
all took place one enchanted Saturday evening at the Forsythe residence, a lavish 8,000 square foot mansion, ensconced in Portland’s West Hills, where the Rose City’s elite gathered nearly every weekend. On this particular night, Dianne pulled off what was considered in many social circles a triumph of singular distinction. Along with the requisite five-star dining and exquisite dancing, she’d secured the attendance of a very special guest—the world-renowned psychic, Madam Dominika.
“Madam Dominika, are you ready for the sitting?” Dianne timed her question so the lady didn’t have to answer through a mouthful of chardonnay. The elderly woman sipped from her tumbler anyway, a tangle of golden bracelets jingle-jangling on her wrist.
“Born ready, dear.
Born ready,” Dominika spoke with a thick Polish accent, her alert and glistening gaze peering from fleshy, rugose folds. “And, if you ask the dwellers of the spirit plane, Madam Dominika expects she’ll die ready as well.”
Apprehensive guests shifted in their seats. All of Dianne’s favorite people were there, in her elegant two-story library. Roberto DuPont, the conductor of the Oregon Symphony, and his wife, Frieda. Bob Frond, the CEO of a famous computer animation studio called
, along with his life partner, Earle. Her
Friends of the Opera
friends, and, of course, her mentor, Zelda Brown, ex-wife of the wealthiest man in town. She’d taught Dianne everything she knew about spending her husband’s money.
“This isn’t going to be scary, is it
, Dianne?” asked Zelda. “Like your husband’s TV show? Are we going to be attacked by ghosts? I bruise awful easily at my age, you know.”
“Don’t worry, little filly?”
Dom Peterson, owner of a local discount furniture chain, patted the empty chair next to him. “You can sit here with me. I’ll protect you from those wicked little unclean spirits.”
Zelda’s pulse shot up. “You never said anything about that, Dianne.”
“There better not be unclean, clean, or any other types of spirits around here,” Richard
Forsythe, Dianne’s husband of fifteen years, puffed his barrel chest.
“Richard,” Dianne eyed him
sideways. “You promised to behave.”
exhaled loudly. Dianne knew he was threatened by such a powerful and venerated medium in his midst. She didn’t care. Tonight she planned on teaching him a lesson—that he didn’t hold the patent on the spirit world.
“If everyone will
remain quiet,” Dominika gestured gently. “The spirits are anxious to communicate this evening.”
anxious?” Dom snickered. “How do they think
feel? I’m as jumpy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs.”
“You’ve got nothing to fear,” the medium produced a bundle of twigs from her coat pocket and circled it over a small porcelain container she’d laid out earlier. After a few seconds, the bowl erupted with a tall flame and a
that startled the witnesses, Dianne included.
“Oh, my!” she covered her upper chest with her palm. “That was impressive.”
“Not really,” Richard leaned back in his chair. “Just a simple pyrotechnic trick. Seen it done a hundred times. A former producer once tried to get me to use it for an episode of
“You don’t say,”
Dom spoke with a fake country twang. “So, did you do it?”
“I said he was a
producer, didn’t I? All my events are real. Everything,” he glared at Dominika. “I don’t need to fake anything on my show.”
Dominika glared back. Her accent became even more pronounced.
“I don’t have to resort to tricks, either. My mind and body are portals to the spirit plane. Now observe as I call my spirit companions to come forth and communicate with us from the afterlife.”
She circled the brush over the bowl once again, chanting under her breath.
A silent stillness settled over the two-story reading room. Dominika’s incantations echoed through the shelves of first editions, the rare and original paintings, the marble busts of Greek philosophers.
from the bowl made everyone jump in their seats. A small, bulbous billow of smoke drifted up, inch by inch, and took on an oval shape. Stubby arms formed out of the cryptic nothingness. Then a pair of lopsided shoulders. Then an oddly abnormal head. Mutated eyes. A strangely adorable nose. A little, impish mouth. Finally, with two crooked ears, it became human—and it was tiny.
“Oh, my god!
It’s a child!” Zelda captured the entity’s attention. The cloud fluttered and folded inside out, facing her. She took an immediate deep breath, sat in her chair, and fainted.
Dianne caught her friend before she crumpled to the floor.
The apparition flashed a large grin
, then proceeded to produce a maddening cacophony of chirps and whistles. Resonant and otherworldly high-pitched, staccato giggles echoed through the book collection. The guests felt a chilling tension.
Dianne fanned Zelda’s face. “What have you done!”
“Relax. It’s only Ruby.
One of my spirit companions. She’s harmless. A little puckish, but harmless.”
darted toward the ceiling, racing through the rafters until it came to the far wall. There she dropped to the open second floor and whisked past the books, rattling several shelves along the way.
“Some of those volumes are priceless,” Richard pointed with his
reading glasses. “I’m taking note of everything that you damage or destroy with your little tricks.”
“She’s just having a look around,” Dominika said flatly. “No need to be concerned.”
Ruby swooped over the table. Candles flickered in her turbulent wake. Guests flinched and held their breath. They weren’t afraid, just curious at the provocative sight.
Then there was Zelda.
Dianne’s friend stirred and awoke in time to see Ruby race by. She shivered and went lights out again, dead weight in Dianne’s arms.
Dominika circled her crude brush over the little bowl a third time and another small explosion
illuminated the spacious room, sending a gray haze which formed into a distinct figure much more prodigious than Ruby.
Dom gaped at the great column of smoke.
Wait a minute!” Richard stood, pointing an electromagnetic field detector at the newest guest to the party. “This is what I was afraid of! This crap!”
“Crap?” Dominika skewed her head. “What is crap?”
“This!” his readings were irrefutable. The beings were of otherworldly origins. “I knew you were gonna bring ghosts into my house! If you don’t keep those things under control, I won’t be held responsible for what happens!”
Dianne shot him a glare. “We all know your show’s a big hit. We get it. You’re the star of the world famous
You don’t have to threaten Madam Dominika with the ghost gun!”
Dom clasped his hands. “You finished it?”
“I have a working prototype,” Richard
boasted. “It can detect and locate ghosts—even eliminate hauntings. And I won’t hesitate to use it on your ghost friends, Dominika. If they’re real, that is.”
Hush!” Dominika’s formerly tiny voice overpowered every sound. “Listen as I relay a message from the afterlife,” she pointed at Richard. “A message meant for you, sir.”
moke coalesced above her, becoming an ominously thick and dark mass, crackling and flashing like a tiny thunderstorm. In a quick motion, it stretched toward Dominika, surrounding and seemingly evaporating into her. She convulsed, throwing her arms high, tossing the trinkets asunder.
Dianne wanted to help, but she had her hands full with Zelda. “Madam Dominika? Can you hear me?”
“Not Dominika!” the old lady’s face contorted
in wild and haunting ways. Sharper angles. Deeper eyes. A broader chin. The voice didn’t sound at all like Dominika’s. It roared in a low bass, impossible for such a petite throat. “I am Brutus…and I must tell you, Richard Forsythe, no more hunting ghosts. Do you hear me? No more!”
Richard was stoic.
Dom, though, more than made up for it with his animated ardor.
Why don’t you want him to hunt ghosts anymore?”
“Why? You dare ask WHY!”
Dominika’s chair levitated a few inches, then crashed back down on the floor to yet more gasps and whimpers. “How would you like to be hunted, tracked down like an animal? It’s not good, what you’re doing, not good at all!”
“Well, yeah. If you put it that way, I can—”
“Shut up, you idiot!” Richard glared at him.
“You all witness. You all see. You all hear,” Dominika swept her arm and stopped at Richard. “I warn you. Do not take my words lightly. Stop hunting ghosts, if you know what’s good for you.”
She took in a deep and ragged breath, then dipped her head as an abysmally dense steam appeared to lift from her body and dissipate into oblivion.
“I’m sorry, everyone,” her voice and facial features
, astonishingly, were back to normal again. “But my spirits have departed, rest their souls. I am finished.”
A modest round of applause.
Dominika appeared unmoved.
Dom spoke up again. “She’s not leaving yet, is she?” he glanced around the table. “We want more, right, people?”
“I happen to agree,” added Zelda.
The ovation had woken her up again. “The show was all too brief as far as I’m concerned.”
“That’s because you were passed out for most of it,”
“I’m not going to allow it,” Richard tilted up his nose. “No, she’s done.”
“Come on, Richard,” Dom insisted. “She hasn’t done any personal readings. Don’t we want to see some readings?”
“Readings!” was the general murmur, and that’s when
Dianne slipped out of the library. She was too preoccupied with the incessant ringing in her ears, the witchy cloudiness in her head, the flimsy way her legs felt—all of which came on quite suddenly. Thankfully, nobody seemed to notice.