I haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do with this. Short story, novella or novel. Ideas are running rampant and I hope to really get started on it this week.
Hope you enjoy.
Fumbling with the doorknob she finally got it open and sprinted across the room to Casey's bedroom, turning the handle and pushing. The door wouldn't budge. "Casey!" Valerie pounded on the door, continuing to push.
"What?" Casey pushed the chest away from the door and opened it a crack. "Jesus, Val, it's only four a.m. I knew you wanted to get an early start but this is…" Casey took a good look at Val's face, noting the paler than usual complexion, as well as the tears streaming down her face. Pushing the chest completely out of the way she opened the door. "What's wrong?"
Valerie struggled to bring her breathing back to normal. "I heard a scream. I thought. . ." She couldn't finish the sentence, instead she reached out and pulled
Casey into a tight embrace. "I thought he'd killed you."
Casey broke the embrace. "Who, that sweet little old man you rented this place from?"
Valerie had the decency to flush. "Okay, so he gave me the creeps too. But I did hear voices and then there was this horrible scream."
Sighing, Casey knew she wasn't going to get back to sleep so she headed for the kitchen and a fresh pot of coffee. "Maybe it was your lady in white?"
Valerie perked up at the idea, but immediately discarded it following Casey into the kitchen. "Ghosts don't usually talk in groups, and I've never heard one scream like that."
Casey filled the coffee pot and turned it on taking two cups down from the cabinet. "You're always telling me that it's an unknown phenomena. How do you know ghosts don't scream like that?"
Valerie pondered the question for a moment. She couldn't be sure, but it sounded human. Too human. "Well, I'm going to ask Mr. Jenson if there's anyone else around here, and if there is we're going to get at least part of our money back."
Casey chuckled, and shook her head. "We stole this place as it is, Val. Two hundred dollars for a full month? I expected it to be run down, poorly furnished and a real dump. Instead it's clean, and the furniture looks almost new. Where else could we find a deal like that?"
Casey's words sunk in and Val felt the hairs rise along the back of her neck. What had she been thinking when she'd read the brochure? "Yeah, where else could anyone get a deal like that?" She whispered.
# # #
Grabbing her easel, canvas and paints Valerie headed to the clearing at first light. Two pots of coffee and daylight had gone a long way in dispelling her earlier fears. It really was beautiful here, and she couldn't wait to start painting.
At least Mr. Jenson hadn't lied about the clearing. Setting up her easel and canvas Valerie walked around the clearing, getting a feel for the place. She had the feeling something had stood here in the past. Perhaps another cabin. The grass was lush and green as if tended by some unknown hand. The forest closed it off in a perfect circle.
Returning to the easel she prepared her pallet and picked up a brush. "Okay, guys. Show me what you want me to see."
Valerie knew she often tranced out when painting and hours passed like minutes. Still she was surprised when she looked around and noticed the deepening shadows and sun disappearing below the horizon. Where had the day gone? Standing back she looked at the canvas and frowned. She recognized the clearing, but there was definitely something new there. A huge stone occupied the center. More disturbing though was the water-like ripples flowing from left to right. The painting was ruined. Sighing she packed up and headed back to the cabin. Casey was just coming out the front door as she trudged up the porch.
"Hey, I was just coming to look for you. I had to cook supper again and it was your night."
Valerie shrugged, mumbling as she passed her. "Sorry, I lost track of time."
Casey followed her into the cabin. "You better put something on that sunburn. What happened anyway?"
Tossing the painting into her bedroom, Valerie put her easel and paints away before coming back to the living room and flopping on the couch. "Bad paint, I guess. A total day wasted."
"I doubt that. You only buy the best paint. Let me have a look." Casey picked up the discarded painting, frowning as she noted the ripple effect. "Is this the clearing you were in?"
Valerie nodded. "With the exception of the rock in the middle."
Casey looked closer. "That's not exactly a rock, you know."
Valerie joined her looking closer. "Looks like a rock to me."
Casey gave her a condescending look. "You really need to get out more. It's an altar."
"Altar? What kind of altar? And what's for dinner?" Valerie took the painting and propped it against the wall. Maybe it wasn't a wasted day after all.
"Looks like a sacrificial altar to me, and we're having franks and beans."
Valerie grimaced. "We had franks and beans last night."
Casey grinned. "Maybe tomorrow night you'll cook."