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Guest Blog Post by Short Story Writer D.A. DeCuzzi aka David A Eddy:
A Call From Beyond
*A short story of horror and darkness about small, ordinary things
Whenever Grandpa visited, Gina spent every spare moment with him. She didn’t care if they played Scrabble, or just sat on the couch and watch television; she adored him. Most of all, she relished his attention and the stories he told. He spoke of his own memories of being her age, in a simpler time where no one had too many worries. He made her feel safe.
Each time Grandfather stood at the door to leave, Gina admired his silhouette, shadowed against the setting sun. At thirteen, she’d nearly perfected the melodramatic frown and puppy-dog eyes, and gave him the sweet pouty face, hoping he would stay bit longer. It never worked, but it always ended with a kiss on her forehead, and a promise to return for another day of fun.
Not once did she think he would never come back.
Gina watched her mother lean against the kitchen wall, and grab the counter with a shaky hand to steady herself. Her mother’s face paled, and her voice cracked.
“Was it quick?”
“What’s wrong, Mom?” As Gina stepped closer, her heart sank in.
“Shhhh.” Gina’s mother waved her away.
Gina sat at the kitchen table, staring at the phone in her mother’s hand. The ice in her gut took her breath away and her intuition screamed that something bad had happened. When her mother hung up, she sat next to Gina with tears welling up in her eyes and took her hands.
“Honey.” She spoke softly as Gina saw hesitation in her eyes. “He’s gone.”
“No!” Gina stood up and her chair shot out behind her. “He’s not gone! This can’t be true! He’s coming back, he promised!” She fled the kitchen, and ran down the hall toward her room.
“Sweetie, he was—” Gina’s bedroom door slammed shut, ending the conversation. “—getting old.” Her mother put her head in her hands and wept.
The next two days seemed to last forever. The emptiness Gina felt wouldn’t leave her alone. It kept haunting every waking moment and led into a sleepless night. Restlessness crept into her dazed mind, hoping there would be an end, but she didn’t know how to put herself at ease. Her thoughts continue to drift toward her best friend, but she couldn’t help remembering what he had done for her.
“It’s not fair!” Gina cried in her pillow.
“I know you feel, sweetheart. Her mother smoothed her hair and set a glass of water on the nightstand. “It’s never fair when someone we love dies. This is a part of life that’s never easy, but we have to move on. We just have to go on loving them, and missing them, and hope that one day we’ll be together again.”
“But, Mom, I want Grandpa now.” Gina’s tears turned certain spots of her light blue nightgown dark, and she punched her pillow. “It’s just not the same . . .”
The next day, she stood by as they buried Grandfather in a cemetery just a few hundred yards from their house. Her mother encouraged her to say goodbye, but Gina still heard his voice in her memory, promising to return.
She touched the casket, and whispered, “It’s only see you later. Right, Grandpa? Isn’t that what you’ve always told me?”
That night, and several nights after, she looked out her bedroom window at his grave marker silhouetted against the setting sun. Every evening she closed her eyes and imagined he’d just kissed her forehead and promised they’d be together soon. And every evening she opened her eyes onto her grandfather’s gravesite with its soft earth and loose sod, and realized he was really gone. Her heart ached with stories left untold, games left unfinished, and secrets yet to be shared. She stared out from between her dark bangs as a tear rolled from her desolate gray eyes, down her cheek, and into the corner of her small, quivering mouth. Every evening she tucked herself back into bed and dreamed that he would keep his promise to return.
A week after the funeral, Gina’s father knocked at her bedroom door.
“Come on in.”
“Hey, beautiful.” He sat on the bed next to her. “What are you reading?”
“It’s a book that Grandpa gave me.” She sighed and kept her head down. “About a girl who becomes a princess.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember that book. She’s smart and beautiful, and sometimes she’s afraid, and the king makes sure she’s always safe.”
“Yeah. That’s how Grandpa makes me feel.” She caught herself, and muttered, “. . . made me feel.”
Her father put his arms around her and gently squeezed. “And he’ll always be with us, you know that, right?”
“Yes, but it’s not the same.”
“Sure it is,” he said warmly, gently wrapping his arm around her neck, hoping to give her a hug. “Whenever you feel afraid or lost, just think of him, and you’ll feel all the love that he gave you warm you up inside.”
“That’s my girl.” He kissed her forehead, and the corners of her mouth curled up in a weak smile. “And now, your mother and I have an appointment with the lawyer about Grandpa’s estate later this afternoon. Vicky’s coming over to babysit, and we’re leaving in a few minutes since it’ll be a long drive.”
“I don’t need a babysitter, Dad.”
“Okay, you don’t need a babysitter. Maybe I do.” He chuckled innocently. “It just makes your mother and I feel better to have someone around, just in case.”
“Fine.” She turned a page.
Her father left the room, and Gina’s thoughts turned to the view outside her window. The sun lay close to disappearing below the horizon, as the appointment with the attorney weighed heavy on their minds when the anxiety appeared in his eyes, and the sky swirled with murky black clouds, ready to pour. Already, he heard the distant thunder rumbling closer. She pressed her hands and head against her window pane and sighed. She changed into her nightgown, but kept her eye on the window.
“Wish you were here, Grandpa. Remember how we cuddled on the couch when it stormed? How you told me that thunder was from when the angels took a day off and went bowling? She traced a fingertip on the glass in the shape of a lightning bolt. “I really miss you. It’s hard for me to understand why you left.”
Bright lightning, not a half mile away, startled her and she shrank away from the window. The thunder followed quickly, and rumbled through her body, sending its own lightning bolt of fear down her spine. Panting, she ran out of the room and grabbed the banister to go downstairs where she wouldn’t be alone. She paused when she heard her mother’s voice talking on the phone.
“We really can’t wait any longer.” She paused and listened. “How long?”
Gina sat down and peered through the slats. Her father touched her mother’s arm, then pointed to his watch. Her mother covered the mouthpiece and mimed the words, “I know.”
“Hold on, let me talk it over with my husband. Okay . . . ? Thanks. Just a minute.” Gina’s mother covered the mouthpiece again, and turned to her husband. “She says she’s going to be about twenty minutes.”
“Why?” Her father’s hushed whisper had that annoyed sound, like when she caught sleeping instead of doing her homework.
“She says her car wouldn’t start. She got her dad to give her a jump, and she’s leaving now.”
“What about Gina? You know how she is with storms.”
“I know, I know. But she’s thirteen now, and she can handle it. We really have to take care of this estate thing. We’ve put it off since the day Dad died.
“Okay, tell her to hurry but be careful in the rain. It’s a bad one.” Gina’s father’s shoulders sagged, and he nodded. “I just don’t like leaving her alone this long yet.”
“Me either, but she’s a big girl, and she’ll be fine.” Gina’s mother turned away to speak on the phone.
Her father looked and saw her peering through the railings like a little girl. He said, “I know it’s a horrible time, but we should get there before the storm hits. We’ll try to make it as short a night as possible, but we need to take care of this; it’s too important. Besides Frank next door said he would keep an eye on things while we’re gone.”
“Are you sure?”
He gave her a comforting hug. “Gina’s a smart girl, and we’ve taught her what to do in case of an emergency. If anything should happen, she knows how to use the phone Vicky can’t make it. Just calm down . . . She’s gonna be fine.”
An earthquake of thunder sent Gina running down the stairs and into her father’s arms. “I don’t want to be alone, Dad.”
“I know, beautiful. But Vicky’s coming, so you won’t be. Your mom and I have to take care of Grandpa’s estate, and his lawyer’s office is staying open late to help us.”
“But Dad . . .”
“Gina, honey, this is important.”
Her father hugged her and let out a pained sigh. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but if we don’t have this settled by Monday, a lot of things are going to go wrong. You don’t want us to be careless with Grandpa’s estate, now, do you?”
She shook her head and looked into his eyes. “Just hurry home, okay?”
“You know we will.” He Gina at arm’s length. “Look at you, almost grown up.” He grinned. “I have an idea. Why don’t you go and get ready for bed, and read that book Grandpa gave you?”
False bravery nodded Gina’s head. “Okay.”
Her mother hung up, and came over to give Gina a hug too. “It’s a long drive, so we probably won’t get home until around 11:30. Tell Vicky there’s soda in the fridge, and snacks in the cabinet. Love you, baby doll.” Her mother kissed her cheek, then raced to the door. “Honey, would you bring the umbrella?”
Gina sat on the bottom step of the stairs and waited for Vicky to knock on the door. Her anxiety grew by the minute, and she yearned for her grandfather as loneliness continued to haunt her, craving for his company more than ever.
An hour later, the storm continued its rampage. The rain pounded against the windows, and the wind wheezed and howled against the walls.
An hour later, the storm continued its rampage. The rain pounded against the windows, and the wind wheezed and howled against the walls.
“I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid. It’s only a storm,” Gina repeated to herself. A blinding flash was followed by a boom that shook her from her meditation, and she ran to her room, shut the door and dove into bed. She pulled the comforter over her face, and let the tears flow.
Gina did know how to take care of herself, yet the thought of the loneliness awaiting her in the dark made her nervous. She couldn’t understand how her parents could even think about leaving her to struggle alone.
Don’t they know how I feel right now? I don’t understand why they had this appointment so late in the day. I wish they hadn’t left in such a bad storm. She shivered with a cold chill that flowed through her. How can they do this to me? I don’t want them in that storm! It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a calm one. Don’t they realize what could happen?
“Grandpa, I really need you now,” she whispered nervously. “Please . . . come back to me . . .”
Something in the backyard caught her eye, but the storm prevented her from seeing clearly. Her imagination always played tricks on her when she was scared, and it ran wild with the churning clouds, the bright lights and shadows, and the deep rumbling thunder that penetrated her very bones.
A giant clap of thunder boomed directly overhead, and shook the house with a violent quake. Gina jumped back and caught her breath. The wind howled like wolves and the storm hammered against the windowpanes, threatening to smash them to pieces.
Something was out there.
Something came with the storm and a chill flowed down her spine as she watched the something—what, she didn’t know—close in with each flash of lightning. The room darkened again with a coldness unlike anything she had ever felt. Her nightlight, dimmed, flickered, and then went out. The room was pitch black. Gina dove back under the covers.
Huddled in her bed, she could see and hear nothing but the storm, but sensed something waiting for her in the darkness. Silently, she slipped out, planted her feet onto the firm, hardwood floor, and ran through the room, hoping she wouldn’t bump into anything. She felt something brush past her shoulder just before she flipped the light switch on.
Fear gripped her heart, making it hard to breathe.
“It’s all in my mind,” she whispered. “There’s nothing here.”
She pressed her back against the wall and prayed for the lights to come on. The lightning flashed, and her room was bright and normal. Within that, she ran to the foot of her bed. Blinded by the darkness, she struggled to glance round, plagued with an ominous feeling of being watched, threatened. She felt as sure of that as she felt the floor under her feet.
With a flash of lightning, her eyes locked onto the doll on her dresser, smiling gloomily back at her. The doll always wore a grin, but Gina felt malicious intent in the midst of the storm. Another flash appeared as she imagined the doll in a different position; its head slowly turned toward her instead of facing the window. Her heart punched against her chest, fear rising into her throat, while something moved within the darkness. The presence was still somewhere, surrounding her. She heard childish cackling all around, taunting her from just out of reach.
“I’m not afraid of you!” she shouted, but the laughter continued, as if the darkness itself called her bluff.
The fear and darkness consumed her, and tore down every boundary to her imagination. Unseen voices laughed at her, and familiar objects, once comforting, leered and changed, moving in the darkness, only to reveal themselves in the flashing light. A scratching sound forced her eyes open, and she squinted, trying to distinguish anything that would make sense in the darkness. She clutched her nightgown in her fists, and stifled a squeal when the floorboards creaked.
“Vicky . . .”
Silence filled the room.
“Mom . . . ? Dad . . . ?” Only thunder answered. “Or, maybe, it’s my imagination.” She closed her eyes, only to wish away the storm and her fears but, most of all, she needed the comfort and safety she almost lost, as it only left the emptiness. “Grandpa, where are you when I need you the most?”
A shadow beckoned her to sleep. A whispered voice on the wind suggest that she resign herself to the darkness.
“Rest,” it said in a soothing whisper. “Let me take you away from this.”
Whether the voice was real or imagined, Gina’s terror solidified in her gut and threatened to make her throw up. Feelings of abandonment swallowed her, and for the first time in her life, she felt completely alone. Her heart shattered with grief, and she accepted the fact that her grandpa, the man she adored, was gone for good. Fresh, hot tears rolled down her cheeks, and she sobbed into her hands.
The phone rang, and Gina jumped. She ran. The darkness clutched at her hair, her nightgown. The floor tried to hold on to her feet. The wind whispered its invitation for her to let the darkness take her, but she ran down the stairs and into the kitchen.
“Hello? Mom . . . ? Vicky . . . ?” Her voice trembled and cracked. Blurry static murmured on the line, then she heard a soft, distance, and oh, so comforting voice.
“Grandpa! Is that really you?” Gina struggled to find the right word for her relief and disbelief. “I miss you so much.”
“I miss you too, sweetheart.”
“But why did you leave me?” She pouted. “Don’t you love me anymore?”
“You know better than to say things like that, especially to me. Those words are so cruel and cold.”
“I’m sorry, Grandpa.”
“Just so you know, I will always love you, no matter what happens.”
“You left me without saying goodbye,” she cried. “I didn’t want you to go.”
“I’m sorry, Princess, but I had to go. It wasn’t my choice to make. Some things in the world are beyond our control. If I had my way, I would never leave you and would stay there for as long as you needed me. Believe me, honey, I didn’t want to go, but it was my time. This is just part of life.”
“But I need you. I wish you were here now. I’m so scared.”
“You know what? If I had my wish, I would stay there with you forever.”
The soothing words calmed the flutter in her chest, but Gina’s sorrow rumbled through her veins, as the sounds from the storm returned to her ears. Thunder boomed, and lightning flashed, and the wind howled as apprehension flowed relentlessly through her. Fear reclaimed her small body, sending icy ripples down her spine.
“Don’t be afraid, honey,” the voice said. “You’ll be safe in the house. Just stay inside your room, and everything will be fine. The storm will pass over.”
“I will, Grandpa,” she said sweetly. She calmed down after listening to the soothing sound of his voice; her grandfather never misled her. She trusted him more than anyone else.
“I have to go now, honey, but I want you to know that I love you, and I’ll never stop, no matter what. Never think otherwise.”
“I love you too, Grandpa!”
“You’re a special young lady, and you have a wonderful life ahead of you. Just focus on the bigger and better things, instead of worrying about losing me. I will be here for you—that’s a promise—one we will share forever.”
“Cross your heart?” Gina felt the conversation nearing a close, and searched for things to say to keep him on the line.
The telephone went silent, and even though the man she loved left her again, her heart began to mend, despite bearing some scars from her pain. The storm retreated to a softer din, and the ominous presence dissipated. A final tear rolled down her cheek, and she hung up.
As she climbed back into bed, she glanced at the doll sitting at the foot of the blanket, the very doll her grandfather won for her at last summer’s county fair. She picked it up, and held it close as she pulled the comforter up to her chin.
Just remember the good times we had together. Gina treasured the memory of her grandfather at the fair, grinning ear to ear as he handed the doll to her.
“Thank you, Grandpa,” she whispered as she fell asleep.
Gina woke to the smell of bacon frying, and the sound of her mother’s agitated voice. She stretched, and the doll fell from her arms, reminding her of last night’s ventures in fear, love, and healing. She put on her robe and bounced downstairs, to give her parents the biggest hugs ever.
She strolled into the kitchen, grabbed a biscuit and sat at the table. Her mother, busy on the phone, waved, blew her a kiss, and held up one finger while mouthing the words, “one minute.”
“No, no, she’s fine. And I’m glad you’re all right.”
Gina titled her head and raised her eyebrows.
“Okay, Vicky, let us know when you’re up to it. Yes, we’d love to have you babysit.”
Gina flailed her hands at her mother, and whispered, “I don’t need a babysitter!”
Her mother grinned back and waved her down. “I’ve got to go. Good luck with the car repairs.”
Gina looked out the windows and lost herself in the clear blue sky, and the chirping songs of the birds pecking for bug and worms after the storm. The beauty of the morning relegated last night into the twilight dreams within her mind. In spite of being alone in the drama, she felt more rested than any other time since her grandfather passed away. Her thoughts were interrupted by her mother’s arms being flung around her, squeezing her tight.
“Oh, my baby, what a crazy night!”
Gina pretended to pull away, but giggled at the shower of kisses raining down on her face. “Mom, stop it, its fine.”
“Good morning. How’s my baby?” Gina’s father came in, picked her up and gave her a bear hug.
“Hey, I’m not a baby, you guys.” Gina protested, but accepted the comfort offered by those familiar words. “What’s up with Vicky, Mom?”
Her mother brought a plate of biscuits and eggs to the table, while her father brought the pan of bacon. They sat in the morning sunshine catching up on last night’s events.
“Oh my goodness. Vicky had an accident on the way over here last night. She’s okay, a few bruises, but her car is in bad shape. Grape jelly?”
Gina took the jelly and spread it on her biscuit. “I wondered why she didn’t come by.”
Her father cleared his throat. “Gina, we shouldn’t have left until she got here. We’re both very sorry. Especially since we know how you are with storms.”
“No, it’s okay.”
Her parents looked at each other with proud curiosity. “And we’re sorry we didn’t get back until after midnight, but the roads were clogged with downed trees and power lines.”
“It’s okay. Grandpa helped.” Gina bit into her biscuit, and dipped her bacon in her over-easy egg yolk. “I was scared for a bit, but he called, and reminded me how much he loved me, and that he’ll always be with me, and then, well, then it wasn’t so bad, and I went to bed.” She stuffed a bite a bacon in her mouth. “I slept really well, too.”
Her parents exchanged another glance, and her father leaned forward. “Gina, honey. You say that Grandpa called you?”
“Yeah. After I already almost peed myself from the thunder, though.”
Her mother dropped her fork on her plate. “The phone, it rang?”
“Yeah. I thought maybe it was you or Vicky, but I swear, it was Grandpa.”
“It could have been a dream; don’t you think? I mean, oh, Sweetheart, Grandpa’s gone.”
“Mom, I know. Grandpa is buried right out there in Greenwood Cemetery, but he’s always right here with me.” She pointed to her chest. “And I don’t care if you believe me or not, but he called, and I talked to him, and he made the fear go away because he promised, he promised to always be with me.”
A knock at the door interrupted them, and Gina’s father rose to answer it. Her mother stopped to the sink to rinse off his dish. From the foyer, Gina heard her father speaking to a man outside.
“Thanks for coming out so early to fix the line, it works perfectly. Did you see what was wrong?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Campbell, a tree in the cemetery lost a branch in the storm and knocked the phone lines out to the whole subdivision. The line was laying over a couple of plots, still hot. The severed end even stuck into one like it was trying to connect a call. Ain’t that something?”
“Ahh, yes. Thank you.”
“Glad to be of service. Let us know if you need anything else.”
“Can you point out which plot? From here, I mean? Which one had the wire embedded in it?”
Gina’s father squeezed out a weak, “Thanks,” shut the door, and walked back into the kitchen. He glanced at Gina, then locked eyes with her mother.
“It was Grandpa’s, wasn’t it?”
Her mother’s eyes widened.
Her father nodded.
Her parents passed off most of what happened that night as the events of her overactive imagination, but Gina knew the truth. From time to time she heard her grandfather laughing with her, sometimes on the breeze, sometimes in the sounds of passing traffic, sometimes it echoed in her heart. It was such a hearty laugh, so full of life; she knew no one else could ever sound anything like it.
She would never forget his words, cherished each memory of their time together, and treasured the thought that her best friend was always with her, no matter what. Those distant memories would always be special, giving her life meaning, something to believe in. She truly knew she would always have her best friend with her.
His laughter could never be replicated by anyone; it was the only thing that made her feel better. Nothing could replace h love she felt, but Gina realized her best friend was in a better place, not suffering. It was a difficult to let go of someone so close, especially one so special, and it was going to take time.
Gina learned that lesson.
D.A. DeCuzzi wrote A Call From Beyond in the year 2004 after he experienced the death of three family members within a short time frame years before. At the time of the writing of A Call From Beyond David was living in his home in Florida.
By the time he completed the final draft of A Call From Beyond he came to the realization that A Call From Beyond resembled an episode from The Twilight Zone. A Call From Beyond was published the anthology series Possessions https://www.amazon.com/Possessions-Collection-Stories-Ordinary-Objects/dp/149749527X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= edited by Paul Loh https://www.facebook.com/paul.loh.9 and published by Burnt Offering Books.
He now resides in his small apartment in Georgia where he writes at different times throughout the day; first using pen and paper, then transposing onto his laptop; and then doing the final edits via the laptop. He can be reached via his Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authordadecuzzi
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