A whole world on a single page!
The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.
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“You don’t want to die screaming Mrs. Martin.” the banshee whispers. “That’s how you become one of me. Try something else. You haven’t got all night.”
Tremors shake both hands while I pull the comforter up to my eyes. Frigid air punctures the covers. The space next to me is empty. No Tery. No warmth to be had. Just me and the banshee visitor. She might wail any moment and bring myocardial infarction with it.
“This is the bad news part,” I tell the banshee. “I’ve delivered enough to recognize it. You’re here to scream. Because I’m dying.”
Her luminous hair and moon-skin glow light the bookshelves, the folklore and mythology texts on the nightstand, and the unmoving ceiling fan overhead. And the framed photos of Tery and me. All my wavy hairs hanging over one eye seem twice as silver now. My eyes sting and flick to each photo through the strands.
Anyplace but the banshee’s face.
“Look at me,” the spirit commands.
When I don’t, her jaws part, preparing to screech. She forms words without the need for lip movement. “You knew I was coming. What is it you think I am?”
“A screamer in the black,” I say to Tery’s and my anniversary picture. “A light near the end. The research I’ve done says you’re either a fright or a guide. Go back. There are things I need to do because we didn’t before.”
“You assume, label, and deceive yourself. The times of helping others with knowledge and skills are done, and you choose lies now? With me ready to scream?”
No steam curls out from the chilled air when I say, “So you don’t want me to scream. You trying to steal something, or get away unnoticed?”
The banshee tosses her head back and laughs, her mouth gaping like a wound. “Reducing me to a common burglar. You will seek out any excuse. It surprises me you held down a job at all.”
“You’re talking to a former cardiac surgeon,” I hiss, old authority whipping the air. “Eighty hour weeks. Ten years of medical school.”
An icy breeze bites me when the banshee shrugs. “Hard work does not exempt one from the rules. Embrace lies and you become a spook. A haunting soul, common and irrelevant. Scream before me and you take my form. Fate is fate.”
“If you offer me choices, why not give me mine? I do not want an end.”
“Stubborn behavior,” the banshee murmurs, “won’t help you, nor anyone. Is it not enough knowing there is something that comes after, however unknown?”
Shuddering, I indicate the texts on the nightstand. “I’ve got proof what I know is real. Where’s yours?”
“You wouldn’t be able to read them,” She jerks her deformed jaw at me and adds, “You’re trembling a lot for someone so smart, Mrs. Martin.”
“Ms. Martin,” I breathe. “I’m a widow now. My fingers never shook during the thirty-two years when I was a surgeon. Surgery was simple. You could learn about the body. There is no way to learn about the end and what follows.”
“But I just taught you a little,” the banshee hisses, almost nagging. “Your after-death is something you pick. Die screaming. Me. Die holding onto something. Poltergeist. Mr. Martin says you hang on to things. Let go of the end you want. Accept the only end there is.”
Warmth flutters behind my ribs, a smile rising with it. I face the banshee’s sag-jawed gaze. “Call me Kendra. You whisper a lot for a banshee.”
She twitches her head in that follow-me way everyone knows. “We’re not all what you think. Can I scream now so we can get out of here?”