This is the first victim of my ‘5 strikes and you’re out‘ rule for short story submissions.

The fifth rejection was a very pleasant one but it commended the submission cover letter and rejected the actual story, not a great sign to be honest.

This was originally written for the Writing Magazine ‘Seance’ competition in January 2009.  If anyone wants to use it on or offline, then just let me know first.

Prins Kobaal – The Little Dutch Demon

After being knocked around by the blustery evening, Dominic re-organised himself as he assessed the gaunt house, over-shadowed by fauna and night.  The gate to ‘Blacknest House’ flung open and let a gust of wind through, Dominic followed it to the weather worn front door

This was Dominic’s own fault really, why did he choose to get his girlfriend, Mary, the unusual birthday gift of a séance evening?  What was wrong with a concert or a weekend away?  He’d used up those options before and this time the pressure was on.  He knew this because Mary had explicitly said, “The pressure is on Dominic.  I don’t care about value or extravagance; I want to know that you really know who I am.”

Dominic had found this gem of an idea in the back of a women’s magazine during a lonely lunch break, and after a flick through the Yellow Pages and a phone call, he felt pleased with his declaration.

She loved it.

He knocked on the door.  Eventually it slowly creaked open to reveal a short man, framed by a greying beard and a black fedora, all propped up in an old suit.  He stood at the door clutching a walking stick.

“Yes?”  The man asked with tired eyes.

“I’m Dominic Brinker, I’m here for the séance thingy.  My girlfriend Mary should be here already.”  Dominic moved closer into the doorway out of the weather, “I’m probably late.”

“Yes, yes you are.”  The short man stepped aside to let Dominic in.  “They’ve already started but you can join them, follow me.”  He led Dominic through a poorly lit hallway hardly using his walking stick at all, merely waving it in front of him.  “Let me help you out of your wet coat.  My name’s Peter, by the way.”

“Do you…”  Dominic tried to think of an appropriate term as he removed his jacket, “…’run’ this thing?”

“No, my wife.  She’s the one with the gift.”

“Do you believe in it?”

Peter turned from the cloak stand with more haste than he’d previously displayed, “O’yes, yes I do, don’t you?”

Dominic played down his scepticism, “Well, I don’t know,” But couldn’t keep the white lie going, “No, not really.”

The man stepped forward and without warning gently grabbed Dominic’s arms, “You must open your mind, don’t go in there with cynicism.  You’ll leave this room believing in the afterlife, I guarantee.”

The door was held open, “Take a seat and join the others.”

Dominic entered the darkened room and approached the table in the centre, illuminated by a low hanging, solitary light.  All the participants were resting their foreheads on the table in silence, connected by fingertips and a shared belief.

Peter’s voice was heard in an elevated whisper, “He’s here, you can begin.”

Dominic took his place next to Mary without causing so much as a ripple of disruption.  A curtain fluttered beyond the table as the winter evening crept in whilst the table remained silent and focused, awaiting Dominic to complete the circle.  Dominic looked up and broadly grinned at the others, all of them already hooked by the drama, sucked in by the surroundings and bowed into submission.  Dominic felt he was the only one who was still channelled into reality.

The door slammed shut and Dominic turned around in shock only to see the faint shadow of the walking stick stretch across the room.

A few seconds more of silence passed with no movement until the show finally begun with the medium raising her head with eyes shut.  “Through this body I shall speak to you,” Her voice was clear but monotone, “The medium is my connection to you, your connection to me is through death.”

Dominic raised an eyebrow and surveyed the group once more, no-one had moved.  Dominic couldn’t stop smiling, this was too cheesy.

The possessed medium continued, “There is a non-believer amongst us; one who does not listen to what I am saying, one who does not share what we share.”

Dominic raised the other eyebrow, “This old dear’s gone nuts hasn’t she?”  He whispered to Mary as the breeze gently swayed the overhead light.

“Non-believer!”  The medium raised her spirits, “You have been trapped inside your body for too long; you cling to it for life, afraid to let go.”

Dominic touched Mary’s leg with his knee and sniggered a little louder than he’d intended.

The medium turned swiftly to face Dominic, only the white’s of her eyes fixing his stare, “Non-believer, your lack of faith will be your downfall and other people’s lack of faith will keep you down.”

“Oooooooo” Dominic whispered the universal call sign of a ghost.

Without warning Mary lifted her head with a sharp intake of breath, “You must release the non-believer.”

Dominic looked to his side in disbelief; Mary was obviously bored of this charade too.  Dominic whispered words of encouragement, “Go on girl.”

“His time hasn’t come.”  Mary looked around at Dominic, wearing a veil of blood hung from the deep wound on her forehead, “Help us! He’s taking us to a dark place, help us!”

Dominic grabbed Mary’s shoulders but was left holding a lifeless body, “My God!”

The spirit continued channelling his message from the great beyond with increasing passion, “Your body is a prison; we are free.” The medium then fell, her head hitting the table with some force as her arms slumped down beside her.

Dominic held Mary, trying to resuscitate her with words.

There was a panicked knocking on the door, Dominic turned to look over Mary’s shoulder as he cradled her.

“Police!”  The door came crashing open and filled with policemen, “Don’t move!”

Dominic held Mary closer as her blood soaked his shoulder.  “Put her down!”  Demanded the officer in charge.

Dominic sat down with Mary on his knee, coiled around him.  The light came on to reveal the full vista of death.  A couple of policemen investigated the scene, “This one’s dead sir, slit throat.”

“This one too, cracked skull by the looks of things.”  They moved on and inspected the others, similar diagnoses followed.

The sergeant looked around at the walls covered in a rambling diatribe; inked in blood and punctuated with faeces.

Dominic sank further into his chair as the scene slowly achieved a level of comprehension.  He spat out a brief defence in case he lost consciousness, “There was a man…he opened the door, let me in…Peter…”

The sergeant picked up the walking stick and in slow motion, pulled the handle to reveal a blood stained blade hidden within the wooden shaft.  A third policeman walked in from the hallway with a coat, “Is this yours sir?”

Dominic automatically nodded, all higher brain functions being shell-shocked.

Addressing his sergeant, the policeman listed its contents, “It’s got pills in plus this piano wire with blood on it.”

Dominic tried to explain himself, “She was speaking, just now, before you came in, Mary was talking,” Dominic pointed at the medium, “So was she!  Not two minutes ago, she was sat up, talking to me!”

“Really sir.”  An unconvinced sergeant replied as he examined the medium.  After a short autopsy he declared his thoughts, “Sir, she has been dead for at least one hour.”

“It wasn’t me!”

“Yet she was talking only a few minutes ago?”

“Yeah!”

“Maybe a poltergeist, sir?”  A policeman offered from across the room.

Dominic tuned out as he searched for his own explanation.  Examining his time in the room, he realised that no-one had so much as moved when he walked in, not even his girlfriend had given him a welcoming smile.

“Where’s Peter?”

“Peter?  This house only has one resident and she’s currently lying face down in her own blood.”

Dominic, again, searched for concrete evidence when his eye recognised some words written on the wall, his own signature.

As calmly as possible, Dominic protested his innocence, “Sergeant, this has nothing to do with me, I’ve been setup.  There was a man here, Peter.  There must be witnesses outside or some CCTV?”

“We got a phone call after screams were heard and the witness kept watch until we arrived, they saw no-one leave.”

Dominic didn’t want to entertain any ideas of spirits or possessions but this non-believer had to for any of it to fit together, “The medium was channelling a spirit; it must have given her corpse animation…Jesus!  I sound nuts…it’s true though…it’s not me.”  Mary was delicately lifted from Dominic’s lap as he continuously detailed his innocence.

The sergeant reported back to the station after Dominic was handcuffed and led away, “Another ‘Séance Slaughter’ sir, another one protesting his innocence and blaming evil spirits whilst a signed confession sits on the wall.  I’m guessing he’ll also have a clean record and no motive or reason.  It just doesn’t fit the profile of a copycat killer though…I’ll let you know more once forensics have examined the scene.”

*****

Peter sat on an old bed in a cheap bed and breakfast, cowering.  His hands shook as he rested them on his knees, letting go was becoming more tiresome than holding on.

“Prins Kobaal, when will you let me speak to my daughter?”

Peter’s body tightened as his head shot skyward and his eyes rolled back into his skull, “The dyke that divides us still leaks, Peter.  The believers and mediums continue to trespass upon our realm feeding a rising tide of hope and unity between them that mocks the very division itself.  Your daughter could be caught in the middle; we must protect her from both sides.  Before I can give you anything, you must provide my master with peace from all these leaks, the drip…drip…dripping, angers him.”

Peter awoke curled up on the floor, pain pulsed from a finger, the very tip having been surgically sliced off.  Hesitantly, Peter got up to look at himself in the mirror; staring back was a desperate man and another address written in his own blood.  Looking down at his hands, only 3 fingers remained untouched.

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