Have you ever been in bed late at night and thought that you might open your eyes and find someone sinister sitting there, staring at you? I have. Usually it only happens after I’ve watched the classic film, The Exorcist. I tend to watch that every few years or so. It’s really the only film that stays with me long after I have turned the television off. It makes you wonder why I put myself through that, doesn’t it? A post for another time, perhaps…
So, let’s get back to the original question. You open your eyes and find an old woman sitting on a chair at the end of the bed. Her hands might be in her lap or they might be placed casually atop the arm rests. In any event, she’s staring a hole through your forehead as if you’ve done something really terrible to her. Or perhaps she wanted you to do something for her – something really important to her – and you failed her.
How about that?
That is precisely what happened to Paul Herrera. Paul is a friend of mine, you see. Okay, he’s actually a character of mine, but he’s got a lot of me inside him. My characters tend to be fleshed out that way, whether I like it or not. Paul lost his young wife and unborn child a few years back. He’s doing okay, but not great. Do you blame him? Now, I have never been in his shoes, so it wasn’t easy to write him. What I did, however, was channel all of those teenage years when I was a lonely stick figure of a kid, just laying on my bed and passing the time listening to every sad rock song I could get my ears on. I took those feelings and stretched and shaped them into Paul’s life.
Even though I grew up watching 80’s slasher films and write horror/paranormal books, what you will find me watching most days are romantic comedies or dramas. Tear jerkers? I love them. Don’t know why. With that in mind, after penning two vampire books about good versus evil and whether a vampire could be used by God or not, I decided to try something more romantic. I took a lonely character who was just a little bit fragile, added the ghost of a dead relative and served him an old haunted farm house. The result was something that really pleased me, and I hope it will you too.
But wait? Wasn’t there something about Aunt Flora wanting something from Paul? Oh, yes. That’s her name, by the way. Flora. Paul had never met her before, as far as he could recall. But there she sat just the same. Here, take a look as the book begins…
I suppose you can say this whole thing began and ended with ghosts. Not all my life, of course, but only all that ever really mattered. Everything before meeting Angie happened simply to get me prepared for our life together. No real living had occurred until that moment. After Angie died, I was left only with ghosts. Now tonight I lie beside another woman who is not my wife, and who I have yet to touch. I marvel at her even, peaceful breathing as I stare at the awful ghost that sits calmly, but menacingly, near the foot of the bed.
Aunt Flora is dead and has been for several months. There’s really no reason on God’s green earth why she should be here, in my home, a place she’d never visited in life, but here she sits just the same, and I’m sure I know why. Perhaps it has everything to do with her not having a home of her own any longer, or because she’s lost her husband once again. She seems to grin at me as if she can read my thoughts.
Now she nods dramatically to say that she can, indeed.
“What do you want, Flora?” I finally ask, whispering. I try to be as quiet as possible. It seems like a useless proposition. Peace is an illusion to me at this point; like something so far out of my grasp as to be laughable.
“You know what I want, Paul.” Her voice is low and calm, but seems to reverberate against the walls. “You know very well what I want,” she says as the all-too-familiar lightning flashes outside probe into the bedroom and illuminate her. A gust of wind rattles the window briefly. It must’ve been the reason I awoke in the first place. I’m pretty sure it was just wind, but who could know at this point? In any event, there’d be no more sleeping.
I see Flora’s terrible features—that aged and deep-wrinkled skin pulled over high cheekbones; and that profound smile that brings no pleasure, but only sets me on edge. Thunder roars in the distance as if on cue. I am intimately familiar with this particular storm. Both it and Flora seem to have followed me.
“I can’t help you with that, Flora,” I say.
“Yes, I know. All you can do is bring everything to ruin.”
I stare at the ghost and say nothing further, taking in the sight of her with her long-sleeved white blouse, dark slacks and black shoes. It’s incredible to me that I’m having another conversation with my aunt. It’s clear she holds me to blame for what’s happened. If I wasn’t afraid before, there’s no denying it now.
Flora reclines against the winged-back chair that was Angie’s favorite and smiles. Her arms remain atop the arm rests, the perfect picture of quiet. Another bolt lights up the sky and my eyes immediately find her claw-like fingers as they seem to be digging into the upholstery. Now I know better and I shiver at this apparently perfect culmination of events.
“It’s not over, Paul,” Flora says. Her tone is firm and reminds me of a wild animal’s growl. “You know damn well what I want! It is all that I have ever wanted. But you have taken that from me. You have taken far too much. Now I shall do the taking. Do you hear me, Paul? Do you understand what I am telling you?”
Now I’m the one who leans back. I sit up first, positioning myself against the tall headboard. Here is a trend I can’t shake free of—me being awake as the night wanes. Another burst of lightning flashes across the Central California sky and then disappears, casting the room back into shadow. Thunder sounds. The storm is fast approaching. I say nothing more as I recline and simply stare at my dead aunt who sits and stares back, composed for the moment. It would seem I’ve become quite comfortable with ghosts, doesn’t it?
Thank you so much, Clarissa. I really appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to grace your site and share what I do with your readers. Obviously I am in the business of selling books, but making new friends is the next best thing as far as I’m concerned. If nothing else, I hope I’ve done that.
James Garcia Jr.
Author of the vampire novels, Dance on Fire, Dance on Fire: Flash Point and the paranormal romance Seeing Ghosts.
Stalk him at his blog, Facebook, Google +, Twitter and Crushpath.