I am delighted to present the winner of Paragraphs Of Power for September 2012. Melissa Eyler.
I have included for your reading pleasure a recent short story from Melissa.
Melissa lives in the Chihuahuan Desert in southeastern New Mexico with her husband of twenty-four years, a grown son, and an extended family of furry four-legged children. After a bout with cancer, and an approaching fiftieth birthday, she felt drawn back to the writing she put aside some thirty years earlier after earning a degree in communications. Since then, she won The Letters to Juliet Sonnet Competition on Harper Collins’ Authonomy web site, and has a poem in The Spirit of Poe Anthology.
She has written numerous short stories, a novelette, and a collection of poetry.
Someone rattles the folding closet doors at least once every night when the bedroom is dark. At first, eighty-nine-year-old Norma was startled when the shaking louvered bi-folds roused her from sleep and no one was there, but as weeks trundled by, the nightly occurrence became an irritation. Tonight Norma jerks to consciousness and squalls at the invisible presence, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” She trembles in anger as she holds her head just above the pillow then collapses back into it. “Quit doing that,” she mumbles. “Now I’m awake! No getting back to sleep now!” She flips her covers aside and hangs her feet off the side of the bed, fumbling for her slippers. She slides down the side of the bed, pauses a moment to gain her bearings and totters across the carpet toward the closet. Norma suffers from arthritis and maintains her balance with difficulty. Now the closet doors are motionless. “Humph,” she pushes them with agitation before turning to hobble down the hall toward the back bedroom. She steadies each stride by bracing one hand against the wall. Once there, she sees through the glass storm door to the back yard. It is still dark outside except for the porch light, but there is movement outside. She peers through the door, and through her own reflection at an unusual phenomenon. Someone is out there within the tall stone privacy walls among waves of cascading vines. She watches with horror and yet is fascinated, and fails to consider that they might see her, a helpless creature, behind glass. After a while, she makes an awkward turn away from the door, using the corner of her youngest daughter’s dresser to steady herself as she heads back toward the hallway. Family pictures of a lifetime line the walls all the way into the kitchen. There she is as a beautiful child in a sepia tone photo and over there is her eldest daughter, with long braided hair at the age of ten. She steps from carpet onto tile, walking past the stove and her mother’s wooden cookie jar to the old phone on the wall. Her knotted, twisted arthritic fingers fumble to press phone buttons then, she puts the receiver to her ear. Four rings follow until a cold, monotone machine answers, “Please leave a message after the beep.” Norma stammers, “Joan? Is that you? Some people are out in the back yard. I think they’re homeless. I watched them through the window for a while and they don’t seem to be vandalizing or causing any harm. They just seem like they have no place to go so I’ll just let them stay, but they have some nerve,” she emphasized. “I think I’ll.” The answering machine cuts off with a beep. She tries to replace the phone, but misses a couple of times before finding the slight indention in the cradle. Arthritis bends her back far over from the waist. She teeters and scuffs down the hall to her bedroom to scale her bed. It is an antique that sailed across the ocean with her mother, and was originally made to accommodate a single mattress with wood slats underneath. Norma had a box spring added to it, which raised it waist high. Now that her own height has diminished, she uses a step stool to get into it, and will not listen to the idea of cutting off the ball feet to make it shorter. She climbs up, rolls into bed, and falls asleep.
There is a scratching noise coming from the back of the house just down the hall by the back bedroom. Norma rolls awkwardly off the bed and stands there for a moment to gain her balance on the footstool before toddling down the hall. She steadies herself as she goes with a hand on the wall, passes the bedroom with the storm door, and heads toward the noise in the back bathroom. Moonlight streams in through the small high window. To Norma’s horror, a woman is crawling in through it and rests her stomach on the sill as if she were stuck. Norma Screams, “What are you doing here?” There is no answer. The woman is clawing at the wall with her arms as her long disheveled hair wisps about. She looks up at Norma with wild eyes. Norma turns to hurry back up the hall to the kitchen phone. Her steps are jerky and stilted and she stumbles a bit. The phone is difficult to pick up, but she manages to dial and hears four rings before the machine answers. “Joan? Are you there?” Her voice is hushed with restrained panic. “There’s a woman crawling through the bathroom window!” Norma’s eyes are wide as she hangs up, then turns toward the hall with a questioning expression. “Maybe the woman went back outside.” Norma peers at the silent darkness. “Are you there? What do you want?” There is no answer so she walks slowly down the hall to check. At the halfway point, she can see into the moonlit bath. The window is closed and no one is there. Norma stands there a minute before returning to the kitchen. She picks up the phone and dials, “Joan? Are you there? I think the woman left. She didn’t do anything. I guess I will just go back to bed and try to get back to sleep. I’ll take some of my sleeping pills.” She hangs up the phone on the fourth try and turns to find her pills across the kitchen. As she shakes the amber colored bottle, three tablets fall into her hand and she swallows them. The dosage is one to two per night. She returns to bed and pulls the sheet up to her chin to protect herself from the wild woman intruder.
Norma wakes to someone knocking at the kitchen door. “It’s a strange hour for someone to knock. How inconsiderate!” Once again, she crawls out of bed and walks up the hall. She is so very groggy from the sleeping pills that she can barely walk at all. Once she enters the room, the knocking stops, but she continues in order to turn on the porch light so that she can peek outside through the nearby window. She draws a small corner of the curtain aside and peers out. No one is there. She scuffs across the room to call Joan before returning to bed for the third time.
Norma wakes again, just as she was falling asleep. A scratching sound seems to be coming from the attic. “That crazy woman must be up there.” Norma makes it to the kitchen to call Joan once more. Again, the machine picks up and there is a beep before Norma is finished talking. She slams the phone receiver against the wall in anger because Joan has not answered her calls. She brings the phone back to herself and dials the police. Two officers are there within twelve minutes. They check for the intruder, but she is not there. They are gone by seven and by that time, the sun is up.
Joan checks her machine and the messages are full. She turned the speaker volume all the way down last evening because her mother’s phone calls were incessant. Joan was having a serious conversation with her husband about her mother’s health. Still, she feels vibrations of guilt for failing to turn the machine up again. What if Mom wasn’t simply calling out of boredom, what if something happened? She rushes through the messages, getting the general gist of each long monologue before skipping to the next. After all, she is going to her mother’s in a little while and will hear it all again… and again. The next message on the answering machine begins. Norma’s voice stammers, “Joan? Is that you? Some people are out in the back…” Joan draws a breath in fright, and stops the machine. Dear Lord! I hope she’s okay! How could I have ignored that? She grabs her purse in one hand and her keys in the other as she runs out the door to her mother’s house.
Joan knocks on the latched outer kitchen door and it takes Norma several minutes to get to the kitchen. Joan frets as she looks searches for signs of a break-in. Everything on this side of the house looks normal. Norma arrives at the door. “Joan? Is that you?”
Joan replies through the door. “It’s me, mom. Just take your time. There’s no hurry.” She relaxes as she hears her mother’s normal sounding voice. Joan’s mouth is dry and her legs feel weak from worry. A minute later, the door opens. Norma is flustered, “The police just left! Why didn’t you pick up the phone?”
Joan stammers with a mixture of concern and guilt, “What happened?”
“A woman was crawling in through the back bathroom window last night.”
Norma continues talking as Joan lightly pushes past her to check the window for herself. Once there, she cranks the old handle with force. the window opens about two inches and refuses to budge open another inch. Joan stands on tiptoes to look at the sill in front on the glass. There was a heavy coat of undisturbed dust coating it evenly. The screen is still painted into place as it has been for many years as are the fasteners that hold it. Joan turns away with a heavy sigh. She can hear her mother’s monologue rambling on as she wanders into her bedroom. Joan follows and as she reaches the doorway, Norma’s back is toward her as she stops dead still and looks to the left as if something has caught her attention. Slowly she turns toward it. Norma narrows her eyes, staring it down. “WHO ARE YOU,” she demands. “HOW DARE YOU!” Joan steps in just behind her mother. She is breathless with fear, but when she sees what is happening, her heart sinks, and it seems to sink endlessly. Her mother is talking to her own reflection in the dresser mirror.
For those looking for Melissa Eyler's work in print..This is the link for the kindle edition of The Spirit of Poe Anthology. Melissa's poem, "Window Wraith" is on Page 176.
The paperback book on Amazon
The paperback book on Amazon
Create Space: The Spirit of Poe Anthology
This is a blogspot about the anthologyFor those interested in entering Paragraphs Of Power the Submissions for the Halloween Special remain open until 25th October 2012.