Writer of Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Horror and Comedy



            After a horrific nightmare, Christine Taylor found herself in the Murder House.

            She woke up very early in the morning, her husband gone as often, threw on a pair of jeans, white sneakers, a long-sleeved, low-cut white t-shirt and a jean jacket, and then left the private apartments of the Merrick Hotel.

            The hotel was at the corner of Edmonton St and Alberta St and she started west for no particular reason. She walked through the morning mist, looking at the buildings and the light poles emerging from the mist like ghosts, and found that dream burrowing through her mind like a worm through an apple.

            She was tempted to head north up Alberta St to the Old Barton Property and knock on Ethan Bartlett’s door. The urge to do that was powerful but was also out of character for her and she couldn’t think of a reason why she should do that.

            So she continued west past Alberta.

            She found herself moving very quickly, unable to shake that nightmare an hour later, and at some point almost screamed. Suddenly, she turned her head to the right, looked through the rusty open gate, and saw the lavish home the black community called the Murder House.

            Dustwood, as it was technically called, was covered in mist and looked almost alive. She walked toward it down the asphalt road one of the earlier owners had put in, looked up at the windows, and imagined the dead slaves staring at her from the shadows.

            If she was white, the house would be terrifying, but to the black community, and blacks from Bartlett Bay especially, it was a strangely comforting place. The slaves like us, her grandmother’s voice echoed in her mind. They want to see more of us. You can feel it when you walk in the halls.

            Like most black children in Bartlett, she had snuck into the house on a dare. It was something of a growing-up ritual but only the boys ever dared someone to stay the night. She probably could have done that. To her community, the house was more of a Nazi concentration camp than a haunted house. To them, the victims were wholly innocent and no one could imagine them as cruel or maligned.

            The only horror stories that came from the place, beyond the infamy of the Black Night Massacre, pun probably included, were limited to the few white people who dared to try living there starting with the Gurneys who perpetrated that tragedy.

            As Chris got closer, she felt a feeling creeping over her body. It was akin to being groped by an invisible man and she twitched as walked, adjusting her clothes awkwardly. She had this urge to cover the tops of her breasts, feeling as if a dirty uncle was leering down the front of her top.

            She took a hold of the handle of the door, found it unlocked, and then stepped inside. She immediately felt much better and the thought that came was simply, Sarah would never hurt me. Why she had not thought that before, she couldn’t say. Sarah had been a very young girl and was reputedly the soul of kindness on that miserable plantation.

            “Oh thank God,” Chis said with a sigh. She shut the door behind herself, flipped on the lights and when that didn’t work, she leaned back against the door. “Of course not,” she added.

            She started through the entryway and tried to cast her light spell as her grandmother had taught her. Like all her spells, she failed most of the time she cast it, three times just as she walked into the family room.

            She lowered her hands with a sigh and looked around the room through the beams of early morning darkness.

            Even in the dark, she could see Ethan had taken almost everything of value that the owners had left there. The only things he had left behind were some inexpensive tables and the painting of Aloysius Gurney above the fireplace.

            She looked up at the painting and let out a high-pitched shriek.

            She tried to cast her spell again fast as she stumbled backward, failed three more times, but succeeded on the fourth just as she bumped into the wall. The room filled with blue light and she lifted the bauble high in her left hand toward the painting.

            Aloysius’s hard, square face, lit by her light, looked as stern and serious as ever in a pose with his head tilted to the right and chin held high. He had a thick gray mustache, a full head of hair streaked with gray combed over from the left side of his head, and long sideburns reaching down to his jaw. He was dressed in full blue military insignia of a Mexican-American War officer with dual rows of brass buttons and gold epaulets on his shoulders.

            The war ended in 1848, the same year Connecticut finally outlawed slavery, and it was accurate to that period so he must have commissioned it around that time. He had lost two sons in that war and some thought that fueled what was generally believed to be the underlying reason for his rampage: his belief that the country he fought for had betrayed him.

            She had seen it before. That painting had never been removed from the house to her knowledge, and she knew it well. However, a moment ago in the dark, it had been looking straight at her. The proud, aristocratic look of his expression had turned to the hated sneer of contempt that the Gurneys had for her ethnicity.

            Chris remembered him well.

            He never saw any kind of legal repercussions from his actions although he was trialed. As Elizabeth Domerson Taylor, she had never been brave enough to confront him, not after witnessing her brother Pete being lynched as a child, but she had seen him around here and there. On those occasions, he never spoke or even noticed her. She was just one black person among many other black people.

            The one time she did get close enough for that was by accident. She was walking down Fisher St with a basket of fish her brother had caught. He was going off to drink with his friends and she was taking it to their mother when she heard something break behind her. She looked back and saw that someone had piled something too heavy on a fragile empty crate and it had shattered under its weight.

            She bumped into Aloysius Gurney as he stepped out of an alley. She didn’t hurt him, didn’t spill her fish on him or anything, but when she looked up at him and saw his expression, she earnestly thought he was going to kill her.

            He had that same expression; the very one she thought she saw on the painting.

            His blue eyes went wide in barely controlled rage and he raised one shaking finger and said in a guttural, hard voice, “You stay away from me, nigger! You stay far away!”

            Elizabeth had stepped back, suddenly certain he was going to attack her, and she stammered some kind of apology but he was already walking away.

            Maniac, Chris thought. The word was often used lightly but not with him. He really was insane.

            As she turned away, she got that sense of being leered at again but only distantly. She decided to walk it off, so she decided to wander through the house and check each room. It was utterly empty, her blue bauble illuminating every corner, and she even checked the loft where Aloysius Gurney hanged himself but found nothing.

            No sign of the dolls.

            Her grandmother had spoken of a woman who called herself “Mama Sylvia.” It was a fake name, Louisiana voodoo witches rarely gave an accurate account of their identity, and her grandmother explained that until 1960 or so, the dead slaves had just been ghosts. Mama Sylvia, what Ethan would no doubt call a “witch doctor,” had put them in the body of little dolls in order to give them some physicality and peace of mind.

            Chris damn near had a heart attack when she saw the segment from the film Tales from the Hood where some white man was being tormented by evil dolls with an eerily similar background. She saw it when she was twelve and it gave her nightmares for weeks. When she spent her hour in the house at night, she couldn’t stop thinking about that damn film.

            She ended up back in the family room with that painting and found she did not want to leave.

            She moved her hands through her hair, feeling it as she didn’t understand the texture of it, and then had an urge to wrap her hands around her breasts and feel them. That was an odd urge, to be sure. The kind that someone who had never had breasts might have.

            Someone like a little girl.

            Maybe I’m just crazy, thought Chris and she went to the wall facing the painting, slipped down onto her bottom, and leaned against the lovely white paneled wall. Despite it all, she felt better in that house, and she relaxed and shut her eyes.
She could not sleep, hard as she tried, so, she let her spell drift off and sat there in the dark.

            She was still there staring at the painting in the morning light when she heard the sound of the front door being unlocked. She stood up, stepped into the foyer and looked curiously at the front door. It being locked was rather odd considering that she had found it unlocked and not locked it behind herself.

            The door opened wide and Ethan Bartlett slipped inside with his black hawk Mickey on his shoulder and a new pet, a black Labrador, trotting beside him happily. He was wearing a pair of jeans, an orange raglan shirt with black sleeves and collar, black boots and a black jacket. It was a rather ordinary-looking outfit but for some reason, it look fantastic on him, and she could only stare.

            Ethan stopped when he saw her standing there and smiled. “Hey Christine,” he said. “How did you get in here?”

            “The door. Uh—” she shrugged “—I couldn’t sleep.”

            “Yeah, I’ve been there,” Ethan replied.

            “Don’t bring up Shiloh again,” Mickey said unhappily.


            “Battle of Shiloh,” Ethan told her. “It’s been haunting my mind for the last of couple weeks but Bastard here doesn’t care about my agonizing pain and demands silence.”

            “It’s slow-moving but he’s finally learning obedience,” said Mickey.

            Chris burst out laughing. As the dog came up to her, she petted his head and face with both hands. Then scratched him behind his ears, loving his cute, doggy face. “Aren’t you a good boy?” she said in that cooing voice everybody used on dogs. “Aren’t you?”

            The dog’s face turned ecstatic and then said, “Thanks—” Chris shrieked and jumped back “—sorry.”

            “A little jumpy this morning?” Ethan asked.

            “Yeah,” she said. “Hey, I thought you couldn’t have two familiars.”

            “He can’t,” said Mickey bitterly.

            “It’s a whole weird thing. The dog has latched onto me but I’m in with the bird so it’s kind of awkward. The dog’s name is Paul but I usually just call him Meth Lab.”

            “Ah, that’s mean,” said Chris and she began to pet the dog again. “He’s too sweet to be Meth Lab, aren’t you?” she cooed.

            “Well, Mobile Shit Factory was taken,” said Mickey.

            “Jealous?” Chris asked Ethan.

            “Big time,” he replied and then he walked up to her. Without warning, and completely out of character for her, Chris felt extraordinarily aroused. She had never once been so aroused by the mere sight of a man, not even going through puberty, and all she could do was stare. “Are you okay?”

            By sheer force of will, she kept her hands at her sides and her expression blank. “I’m—good.”

            “You don’t look ‘good.’”

            “I am,” Chris replied and then forced a smile.

            “Oh—kay.” He looked into her eyes with a strange expression and then thought it prudent to change the subject. “You know, I’ve been haunted by this place in two lives. I was a boy when the Black Night Massacre happened.”

            “That checks out,” Chris replied. “I was in my thirties or so around that time. Did I ever tell you my name? I was born Elizabeth Domerson but by then was Elizabeth Domerson Taylor, no relation to the famous star.”

            “You did not tell me that.” He became very curious. “Charlene’s sister?”

            “Aunt. How do you know Charlene Domerson?”

            “She used to make dresses for Thomas’s mother,” he replied. “Quiet woman.”
“Do you remember her child, by any chance?”

            “She had a boy named Martin, I recall, who sometimes sat around during my mother’s fittings.”

            “He was named after his father,” she told him. “Martin Sr. had been a slave blacksmith working for the Gurneys. When freed, he had planned to take Charlene to San Francisco where he would blacksmith to make money to support her while she opened up a dress shop.”

            “She could have made it,” Ethan told her. “She was good.”

            “I thought so too.”

            “Does she connect to the Fullers in some way? I know they have some kind of multigenerational war with the Gurneys but I don’t think they were ever slaves. The mayor told me they were descended from Moorish lords who were in exile in England when the English started to settle the new world.”

            “Before the massacre, one of the Fuller men fell in love with one of the house slaves. A maid. When she became pregnant, that asshole—” she pointed a thumb at Aloysius Gurney’s painting “—wouldn’t sell her. When their daughter was born, he wouldn’t sell her either, possibly out of spite, and both were subsequently killed in the massacre. The Fullers never forgave them for that.”

            “Sarah,” Ethan said softly.

            “Yeah,” she said awkwardly. She found the way he said the name disquieting although she did not know why.

            Then Ethan said something very random yet not very surprising. “Have you ever seen the movie Tales from the Hood?”

            She swallowed a lump down her throat and asked, “Why?” even though she thought she knew the answer.

            “Well, for one, it’s a great film,” he told her. “Another—”

            “I know the movie and the doll story.” It was possible the writers of the film found Bartlett Bay and got inspiration from the story but she didn’t think so. People didn’t talk about the Black Night Massacre outside of Bartlett Bay and living voodoo dolls and slave-era cruelties were a common theme in pop culture.

            All the same, the similarity made her deeply uncomfortable.

            “I saw their bodies with my own eyes,” Ethan told her with a strange look on his face. “There were so many of them all merged together like some kind of insane nightmare, it was hard to remember specifics but I remember one vividly more than any other.”

            “You saw Sarah Fuller,” Chris said softly.

            “Yeah,” he told her. “She was wearing a bright yellow dress and had those cute afro pigtails things everywhere that black kids had during that time.”

            Chris swallowed and her heart went thump, thump in her chest. “I—uh—” she blinked at him, moved close and then almost kissed him, which felt rather random. What the hell is wrong with me? she wondered incredulously.

            Ethan looked very confused and she thought he had read her correctly but, like herself, didn’t understand why. She was deeply grateful that he did not make a move on her, certain that her will would crumble like dust if he did.

            “Why are you telling me this?” asked Chris softly.

            Ethan cracked tilted his head around, his neck cracking, and then said, “When did the doll thing start?”

            “Nineteen sixties or so. Why?”

            “It’s funny,” he said. He reached into his jacket and what he pulled out made her want to shriek. She stared at the thing in his left hand, her eyes wide, unable to believe he was actually holding it. She had not seen it with her own eyes since she was a little girl and had almost come to believe it was a dream or something she made up.

            It was a very simple, little wooden doll, maybe eight inches tall, with only a few moving parts connected by string slipped through various holes. Its skin was painted dark brown, with painted white eyes and red lips, with carved afro pigtails everywhere over its head colored jet black. It had a cloth yellow dress, red shoes and mismatched green and brown socks.

            It was the doll of Sarah Fuller, alright.

            Ethan held it up and said, “I haven’t seen a doll this scary since The Sound of Music.”

            Chris swallowed a lump down her throat. “It’s just a doll,” she lied.

            “Is it?” he asked. “Here’s a question. How, exactly, in the nineteen sixties, did a woman recreate a doll with the pinpoint accuracy of someone who died a century before without any frame of reference.” His eyes became very serious. “No one took any pictures. I know because when they tried, the Gurneys broke their cameras or fired guns at them.”

            “I don’t know,” she said. “Do you think she was alive then too?”

            “Maybe,” he replied.

            “Maybe she could see their spirits or shades.”

            “Well—” Ethan suddenly gave a “that makes sense” expression and then shrugged “—that’s a good point, actually. That’s how I found Jessica Downs and that’s probably how she did it.” He took a deep intake of air through his teeth. “But what a sight to see.”

            “It can move,” said Paul the dog. “I found it running around the house yesterday, so I picked it up and took it to Ethan but it won’t move while he’s around. I think it was trying to be sneaky and it did not like being picked up.”

            She didn’t know the dog could talk, thought Chris. She would have just played dumb the whole time if she did.

            “The dog is crazy,” said Mickey. “There’s no magic in that thing. It’s no different than a Barbie doll and Barbies can’t walk around.”

            “Oh there’s something in there, alright,” Chris said as she stared at the limp doll. Its eyes did not focus on her but if they had, she might have started to scream.

            Paul sniffed the doll, shrugged, and sat down on his bottom.

            “Anyway, I figured I would just dump it here. I’m done with this place so, for the moment at least, I’m done with the dolls.”

            The need for Chris to wrap her body into Ethan’s became disturbingly stronger the instant she sensed he was going to leave. She thought it best to leave his presence herself but she couldn’t make herself leave the house or him, so she changed the subject instead.

            “Is it true you met Paul Walker?”

            His face lit up. “Oh yeah!” he said with a wide smile. “It was great!”

            “I hear Anderson is pissed you didn’t tell her about it,” she said.

            “I was too busy being stoned out of my mind and fixing that weird, vague, indefinable curse of hers to bring up the wondrous fun experiences of hanging out with the Man himself.”

            “A fan, I see.”

            “Oh yeah,” he replied. “Loved him everything he’s been in except Tammy and the T-Rex but we do not speak of that film, so it doesn’t exist. Meeting Paul Walker was a lot like meeting Henry VIII only I was not full of contempt or afraid of being unjustly executed.”


            “It’s a joke. I think. You seem really distracted.” He shrugged it off. “What happened was that when I went back to California to help my grandma, a Hollywood producer tracked me down. Grace O’Brien has been in contract with Hollywood in hopes of restarting her career as a child actress and as a consequence, several of them now know all about my adventures.

            “This particular producer is hoping to ride on the fantasy train following The Lord of the Rings but much cooler and with a more modern setting, hence Paul Walker. So he got me in the same room with him in hopes I’d tell him my awesome stories, which the movie will supposedly be based on, and then hopefully Paul would get on board with the producer.”

            “Did he?”

            “I don’t think so. They don’t have a screenplay yet, Paul’s got a full plate, I think, and I don’t think he’s super into it which is a bummer because I might have got something vague like a producer credit if it was ever made. The point of the story is that I spent a day with Paul Walker and you should be in total awe of just how cool that makes me.

            “I mean, it was fucking glorious! I got a pictured autograph, a picture with him and everything, and heard tons of stories behind the scenes. I met his brothers too, who were also really fucking cool; it was great!” He laughed and then added, “I don’t think anyone believed me when I told him I met Henry VIII and Abraham Lincoln but they gave a shockingly large amount of attention to the talking bird. This evil bastard is turning into a real chick magnet.”

            “What can I say,” Mickey replied simply. “I’m awesome.”

            Ethan checked his cellphone with his free hand and then placed the doll on an old table in the foyer. “I got to go. I’ll be outside if you need me. I’ve got to go talk to Frank Domerson about the burial location but I’ve got to make it quick because I’m heading into New York City in a couple of hours with the guys. We’re going to tear up the town and probably see The Evil Dead tonight. It won’t be the same without Bruce Campbell but it still ought to be pretty damn good.”

            She nodded and resisted the urge to follow him and his dog as he stepped outside, noting that the door remained open. “Burial location?” she asked after a second. She turned around for a moment with her arms crossed, and wondered, What the hell does he want with the burial location?

            Her hands twitched and she suddenly felt the need to feel herself again. It was different that time, not focusing on her breasts, but on her athletic physique. Chris was a gymnast, dancer and cheerleader during high school and she never stopped working out which gave her a sculpted look that looked fantastic in a bikini. The urge to feel the contours of those results was strong, specifically over her abs, but God only knew why.

            It was as if she was being possessed by a man.

            She turned around, looked at the table where the doll had been placed, and then her heart had suddenly jerked in her chest. She straightened her back, put a hand over her mouth, and let out a weak, frightened whimper.

            The doll was gone.

            “Oh God!” Her eyes immediately went to her feet and her ears listened for the terrible sound of the pitter-patter of little—

            A hand came down on her shoulder and she let out a loud, long shriek as she spun around. “Goddamn it, Matt!” she cried at the beautiful man standing before him and punched him in the arm. She then cried out because he was so physically hard that it actually hurt a bit to punch him. “You are so lucky you are hot, nigga,” she said as she rubbed her hand. “You’re like one of those Greek statues.”

            “I’m sorry!” Matt Merrick lied as he attempted and failed not to grin, the doll in his left hand. He was just about the most attractive black man she had ever seen, his hair almost buzz short, with a lean, tall, muscular body like a professional boxer, and a gorgeous, sculpted face. He was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, which seemed to move over the contours of his body like a second skin.

            Goddamn, he’s hot, she thought.

            That feeling she got around Ethan did not return for him and she felt lucky for that. She found Matt far more attractive than Ethan and if the same thing that happened with Ethan happened with him, she could not have hoped to resist him.

            “You evil bastard!” she cried. “You scared the living shit out of me!”

            “Damn, girl,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t expect to hear words like that from you.”

            “I’m sorry,” she told him. Swearing like that really was unlike her. “I’ve been having horrible nightmares and they’ve been keeping me awake all night for like a week.”

            “I’m sorry too,” he told her and then held up the doll. “Is this one of them?” He asked like someone who didn’t believe they were more than a myth. Many people didn’t, whites especially but most blacks as well. Only a very few people had ever seen one of those dolls and most of those people, Chris included, had very real doubts they were anything more than they appeared.

            “Paul the dog thinks so,” she said. “So you’re back, eh?”

            “Yeah,” he said.

            “How was the motherland?” she asked with a seductive smile. Flirting with Matt was something she found difficult to resist, even though she was married to his uncle.

            “Africa was ‘interesting,’” he replied. “We went out hunting with bow and arrow.”

            “In Africa?” she said incredulously. “Sometimes I forget just how insane you Merricks are.”

            Matt laughed. “It’s not a sport if the animal isn’t able to fight back.” His face hardened. “Unfortunately, we ran into something that required a little more than an arrow. We stumbled onto some form of Inkanyamba.”

            “A what?”

            “Inkanyamba. It’s an eel-like monster but this one was a cousin or a like-creature as opposed to the real version. A real Inkanyamba can apparently control the weather but, cousin or not, this fucker ate our guide whole. Just sucked him down his throat like a snake eating a mouse. After that, we pulled out guns and sent the creature back to hell but we lost interest in hunting after that. We called it off early and came home. Uncle Dean kept its head.”

            His face became strange and unreadable before he said the next thing.

            “How’s Owen?”

            How was Owen? She couldn’t describe him if she tried. The man literally had no emotion and she wasn’t particularly fond of being married to him. If it hadn’t been for her drunken uncle getting himself in such insane trouble, nothing on Earth could have forced her into that sham of a marriage.

            The worst was that room Owen had hidden away that he kept tempting her into opening but she would not think of that.

            “I don’t want to talk about him.” She then smiled and said, “I missed you.”

            “I know you did,” he told her, and then he took her hand and pulled her out. She let out a happy squeal as he did but the instant she was outside, the feeling from last night returned. She didn’t let go of his hand or pull away though, though, feeling confused more than anything else, and allowed him to take her around to the west side of the house. When he stopped, she followed his eyes off to the distance in the northwest where Ethan was talking to old Frank Domerson, who was wearing a suit and tie.

            Frank was showing him the mass grave that contained the murdered slaves’ bodies, which was pretty easy to find since nothing grew over it. He was caretaker of the house as every Domerson from Charlene down had been and his children would probably continue that tradition.

            Chris looked over her shoulder back toward the entrance and saw a crowd of African-American citizens had appeared but none of them were carrying protest signs. They looked uncharacteristically happy.

            “So that’s Ethan Bartlett,” said Matt. “Shockingly nice what he’s doing with the house.”

            “What is he doing?” she asked.

            “Oh, you didn’t hear?” Matt replied. “Bartlett is ridding himself of it. He’s donating it to the black community and Janine Fuller is going to turn it into a community center.”

            “That’s—unexpected.” No wonder everyone seemed so happy but that small mansion? Really? Since the Gurneys had lost in the late 1800s, every owner had tried to capitalize on it and failed, so there was that but to just give it away? “It’s worth a lot, isn’t it?”

            “A lot if you could sell it or use it but that would never happen and Bartlett knows it.” Matt looked at Ethan in the strange way anyone who knew his family looked at him. It was one-third surprise, one-third suspicion, and one-third tentative respect. “He’d never be able to sell it or rent it out. Any buyer would flee after quickly learning its history and no serious renter would ever stay there for long.”

            “So he’s just giving it away?”

            “Yep. He called it, ‘ridding himself of a white elephant.’ He’s keeping almost all of the old Gurney land, though and is going to build a fence around the property. Reverend Timms is going to consecrate the area where the bodies are located and Bartlett is going to set up a plaque with all the names of the slaves who died here as a kind of memorial or tombstone.”

            Chris watched Ethan walk around the brown dirt surrounded by vibrant green grass, and bit her lower lip. The feeling came back and she felt her heart start to beat faster.

            “Something wrong?” asked Matt.

            Chris blinked and looked at him. “What?” Her hands were shaking and she was suddenly and acutely aware of how low cut her shirt was and how her sweat made the tops of her breasts glisten. Why she chose to put on that for a trip into the misty morning to a haunted house, she couldn’t say. “I’m good.”

            “You and Isaiah have been acting really weird lately,” Matt told her. He had that look in his eyes; the one that said he was going to become an authority figure and “do something.” It was an annoying Merrick family trait. “What is going on?”

            “What is wrong with Isaiah?” she asked.

            “I don’t know what’s with him or anyone else for that matter,” Matt told her and then he gave an exaggerated shrug. “I leave for a year and suddenly everyone’s worshipping a new Bartlett, the fisheries and cannery are coming back, there’s a werewolf roaming around, the Ku Klux Klan tried to kill the mayor, you’re married and everyone else is just half insane.

            “I found Isaiah staring out on the boardwalk like a guy contemplating suicide but all he would tell me is that he ‘just couldn’t wait for Grand Theft Auto V.’” He mimicked Isaiah’s voice when he said the last part.

            “I got nothing,” Chris told him and then shrugged at him. “I—I got nothing.”

            He was about to say more when he saw something out of the corner of his right eye and sighed. “Shit,” he said. “Rose is out again.” He moved past her. “I know you know something!” he told her over his shoulder as he went over to help the old woman.

            Rose Samuels was the oldest woman in town and probably Connecticut as well. She was black, very hunched over, her white afro hair tied in a conservative knot behind her head. She was so skinny, she was almost a skeleton, and her dress was a cute, conservative green dress. She was supposed to use a cane, but for whatever reason, she wasn’t that morning.

            For the last fifty years or so, she was known to sleepwalk out of her house and wander toward the Dustwood as if looking for something. Old, and apparently senile, she recently started to do it awake as well. It happened so often that the entire black community had helped her so many times that almost everyone knew where her home was by heart.

            When Matt went up to her, she smiled up at him and said, “You’re so pretty, Marcus. I’ve always thought so.”

            Marcus was either Matt’s grandfather or great-grandfather.

            “I wish I was a pretty young girl again,” she told him sweetly, fishing for a compliment.

            Matt smiled at her and said, “You’re as beautiful as any nineteen-year-old and I would be lucky to have you,” as he led her away carefully toward the crowd. She slipped her arms through his and cackled happily like a girl being led to Prom.

            Suddenly, Rose became serious. “Have you seen Mama?” she asked soberly. “I need to talk to her.”

            “I have not, Rose. I’m sorry.”

            Chris’s heart thumped in her chest and she stood there, twitching uncomfortably. She had been unable to stop thinking about the dream all night but then, alone and in broad daylight, she allowed herself to fully confront it for the first time.

            In her dream, Sarah Fuller had stolen her body.

            Chris had been switched in Sarah’s doll body, unable to move, sitting on a table, and was forced to watch as Sarah stood in her human one, naked, with her hair hanging down, looking at her reflection in a full-length mirror. Chris could not move in her doll body, nor could she scream or cry out, and could only stare as the child swished around and stared at her new curves. Since she had been a child when she died and never had curves, Chris’s enthralled her.

            That was the core of the nightmare but there was more to it than that. She wasn’t frightened of Sarah, even though at first she had thought that she was. If she had been truly frightened of Sarah, she would never have come to the Murder House, and she would have probably run off shrieking off into the distance at the very sight of her doll.

            No, it was the Other.

            A third person was there, someone she only recalled then because allowed herself to do so. In the room where Sarah was playing in her body, there was someone in the corner, an obese, rotting corpse of a woman standing in the dark, but with glowing eyes. She stood in the shadows, watching her, grinning at Sarah with two rows of shining white teeth.

            She was the one who gave Sarah the idea.

            There was something powerfully familiar about that figure but that was as far as it went. Chris must have known it was the Other all along and somehow sensed the house would protect Chris against her. The terrible truth came suddenly.

            It wasn’t Sarah at all, she realized with growing horror. It was the Other who wanted her body and it was using Sarah to get it.

            Figured it out, did you? asked a voice in her head.

            Chris almost shrieked, her hands slapping over her mouth, her eyes growing wide as two golf balls. The voice that spoke in her head was female, evil, guttural, and yet somehow very familiar. “Wh-who are you?”

            Wh-who am I? she mocked. Don’t know you, sweet Christine?

            “Wh-what do you want?”

            The voice laughed in her head, fully knowing that Chris knew exactly what she wanted.

            Suddenly, Chris’s legs started to move on their own. Chris squeaked, fought it, stumbled, and went flailing shoulder first into the west wall of Dustwood between two windows. That was good because she would have gone right through the glass if she landed against them at that speed.

            She leaned there awkwardly, facing north, feeling the Other trying to exert control.

            Oh my sweet black bitch, said the voice and her left hand went between her legs and her arousal skyrocketed. Her eyes and head moved against her control and stared at Ethan who was still talking to Frank. He’s so fucking hot, said the voice and her hand began to grope her through her jeans. Let’s do this! Right here! Right now! Her hand grabbed for her belt.

            No! squeaked Chris and to her horror, she realized she was thinking instead of speaking. That made her feel as though she was losing control. “No!” she hissed aloud on purpose and fought against the Other’s control.

            Why is so fucking hard with you? Chris could feel herself being examined through the same receptors she used. Goddamn it, just give it up, you fucking nigger bitch!

            “Why me?”

            Because Darcy Hamilton and Carrie Crocetti have a wall and Angela Anderson, whose tits I most surely deserve, is immune for some fucking reason, but you know, I’ve always wondered what it was like being a fit, sexy black girl. It might be hard to get a bank loan but black cock should come easily enough.

            “Leave me alone!” Chris whimpered. She didn’t think this could be real. How could it?

            It’s real enough, she thought.

            You’re goddamn right it is! The Other snarled. Christine, you are a fucking pain in my new black ass! I guess all the best are walled out but, hey, Sarah left an opening, didn’t she?

            Chris tried to force herself to move, stood up straight for a minute, but then was thrown back into the wall with a cry.

            I saw the way my Ethan looked at you. He would ravage our sweet black cunt, which I know you would also enjoy, despite giving it away to that psychopath for a ring.

            “Fuck you!” Chris hissed and pushed against the Other’s control hard, feeling all the blood rushing to go to her face with her efforts. It wasn’t working very well, though, and she soon felt like she was lifting weights too heavy for her. “Goddamn it!”

            Don’t be greedy, Christine, said the Other in a cold way. There’s only room for one sexy nigger bitch and you’ve already had your turn.

            Chris gritted her teeth, turned around so her back was against the wall, forced her hands up near to each other as if she was holding an invisible basketball and started to cast a spell.

            What are you doing? Chris felt something rifling through her mind and thoughts like a card catalog. Don’t you fucking do that!

            The Other yanked her arms apart and the spell broke. Chris shoved them back but the Other pushed instead of pulled and her hands clacked together hard enough to make her cry out. She tried to cast again and then failed again but on her own that time. She tried to cast multiple times more, the voice pulling her arms this way and that at the crucial points, breaking her casting each time.

            Sweat soon covered her and, due to some machination of the Other, she became aware of the sweat slipping down over and between her breasts again. It wasn’t that Chris cared, it was that the Other cared, thinking about wearing her attributes in the objective way another woman would think of wearing another woman’s cute dress.

            She lost control of her hands and they gripped her breasts and squeezed them. It wasn’t like a man trying to get aroused or out of curiosity, but like a woman feeling the quality of a fur jacket. Chris sensed she was trying to break her will by disturbing her. By effectively raping her with her own hands.

            You’re quite the handful, Christine, said the voice amusedly. I could make them bigger if you want. I could give you a set just like Salma Hayek’s.

            Chris took a deep breath and then jerked her hands away. Then she quickly slammed her elbow backward in the wall, causing both of them to cry out in pain, and then cast her spell for what felt like the thirtieth time.

            The spell finally worked, a burst of blue light shooting through her, and the voice shrieked in her head for a solid minute and got weaker as each second passed. Chris felt the Other scrambling to take control and failing utterly against her spell.

            You fucking bitch! she cried at Chris.

            It was a spell of protection against “invading spirits” and it worked. She could feel the Other being pulled out of her head like a headache residing.

            Oh, I’m going to get you for this! said the Other distantly. I will find you and I will make you fucking pay!

            And then she was gone. Gone from her mind and her body.

            “Thanks, Grandma,” she said softly and she slipped down onto her bottom once again and felt exhaustion overwhelm her. All the tiredness she had built up over the last week had just come back and hit her like a baseball bat across the head.

            Chris had no idea what just happened but that Other was very real, whoever or whatever it was. All she knew for sure of that creature had been female and white. She had no proof of the latter but the speaker’s tone and talk of Chris’s ethnicity convinced her of that somehow. That probably meant she was human once, for whatever that was worth.

            After about ten minutes, she stood up, walked out into the sun, and felt the warmth spill over her. The whole incident made her feel like she just stepped off an amusement park ride that had left her incredibly dizzy.

            She turned back to the crowd and her eyes caught onto someone new standing in the crowd.

            A pretty, redheaded girl was standing amid the crowd of blacks, and staring at her strangely. She was wearing a red dress, low-cut, with a black jacket over it and a black purse. Her hair was disheveled, hanging down the sides of her face in large, temporary curls and her makeup messed up from sleeping in it. She looked like a girl who passed out at a party the night before and come running the following morning without out so much as washing her hands.

            She was looking directly at her, her face full of shock and worry, her hands in her pockets. She was controlling her face but underneath it all, Chris sensed fear.

            When she saw Chris looking at her, she turned around and disappeared into the crowd. Chris started toward her, her legs moving shakily but quickly getting back under control. Her grandmother told her to “trust her instincts” and those instincts told her that girl wasn’t just a passerby walking home after a party.

            Matt appeared in front of her and immediately read how upset she was on her face. “What is it? Are you alright?”

            Chris looked past him, saw the girl had disappeared somewhere, and then, feeling her self-control finally break, burst into tears. Matt looked completely out of his depth, utterly confused and uncertain of what to do or say, so she wrapped her arms around him to help him figure it out. He was so stunned by the action that he didn’t know what to do for a solid minute before he put his arms around her.

            “I’m—sorry if I yelled at you.” He said it almost like a question.

            Chris laughed loudly and continued to laugh as she pressed her face against his chest. “Is that what you thought?” she asked, then laughed again and gave him a long kiss on the cheek. She continued to hold him, enjoying the fact that her body was not acting out of character and enjoying his presence. “I’m fine.”

            “Are you sure?” he asked with that same confused expression on his face.

            “Yes,” Chris replied, looking at him with a cute smile. She was pretty sure that armed with that spell, she could sleep without nightmares and be free of that Other but the more she thought of the situation, the more she understood a greater problem. It wasn’t complicated or metaphysical. It was incredibly simple, really.

            Her smile wilted off her face.

            The Other wasn’t lying. Sooner or later, she was going to come for her. Chris’s arms wrapped tighter around Matt and he said something but she didn’t hear him. She was pretty sure it wouldn’t be very useful considering he knew nothing of what had transpired in her head. Still, the fact that he cared meant a great deal to her.

            “Thank you,” she told him and hugged him tighter.

            As Chris saw it, the problem was that she was almost certainly the only magician in town who could rid herself of what she called “the Other.” If the Other couldn’t take over Chris’s body, then she would simply take over someone else’s. Some other woman because somehow Chris couldn’t imagine the Other taking over a man. Once she had done that, and when Chris’s guard was down, she would come for her. Perhaps creeping up behind her with a knife in her stolen hand, her stolen mouth grinning with that creepy, toothy smile. If she couldn’t have Chris’s body, no one could.

            It was only a matter of time and Chris had no idea what she was going to do about it.


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