Friday, October 27, 2023

“A Touch of Silver” • by Robert Walton

I touch my hair, my silver earrings—still in place after my dash across the rain-slick street. They came to me from my grandmother, so I treasure them. Besides, silver is so becoming.

Someone is following me, someone who does not mean me well. Footsteps—flat slaps on the pavement made by a big man, no trick-or-treater—pace closer. I touch the ivy-covered fence next to me, brushing my fingers through cool leaves until I reach an iron gate. It is ajar. I slip through and push its spiked bars shut behind me, gently so the latch doesn’t click.

A house looms like the prow of a ship, vast and Victorian. A window on the second floor is broken, one shutter hanging askew from a bent hinge. The other windows are dark, gaping like missing teeth.

The footfalls on the other side of the fence sound louder, nearer, and then they stop next to the gate.

He must have seen me. I hurry to the front porch, mount its steps, pause in deep shadow. The gate creaks open. An enormous man dressed in black slides through. His shaved head reflects moonlight above rolls of fat on his neck. The blade of the machete clenched in his right hand gleams.  

The front door yields to my push and I slip into a hallway. Shadows dart and skitter from my intrusion like panicked mice, scattering into deeper shadows. A rutch of claws on hardwood indicates the departure of a king rat. I hesitate, though not from revulsion. Rodents don't disturb me. 

A ponderous tread on the porch urges me forward. I pad through deep dust, cross the hallway and enter a musty parlor. I pass rodent-chewed chairs and loveseats, exiting through a door in the opposite wall. 

An eccentric stairway ascends to the upper floor. I take it two steps at a time. A hallway lined by closed doors awaits me. One door is open at the corridor's end, beckoning to me. I make for it as glass shatters below.

I reach the doorway and enter what once was the master bedroom. Moonlight shines through tall windows. A massive oak armoire stands against the wall to my right.  A canopied bed rises to my left like a clipper ship under full sail. 

Fatso's heavy tread wrings squeals from the stairs and then from the hallway's floorboards. He's faster than I thought. The door splinters against the wall. I whirl.

He stands grinning in the doorway, his broken teeth reflecting moonlight. “Hello, little lady.”

I do not reply, but step toward a window.

His eyes follow me, rolling like black marbles beneath his cliff of a brow. “Stand still. It will be over soon enough.”

I’m sure it will. His biceps bulge as he clenches the haft of his machete. It quivers with his eagerness. He takes a sudden step forward and swings the blade toward my face.

I leap inside of his swing, grip his right wrist, and stop the blade’s glittering edge inches from my throat. His eyes widen with shock. He grunts, strains, but the blade remains frozen in the air between us.

“I’m stronger than I look,” I murmur.

His muscles flex again as he tries to snatch his hand out of my grip. I tighten my hold, squeeze until I feel his wrist bones grate together. Sweat springs out upon his forehead.

“My stature,” I purr, “is somewhat variable, but I'm in petite mode tonight—five foot two, eyes of blue—you get the picture.” I press my small but distracting bosom against his midriff. 

“What are you?” he gasps. “Some sort of vampire?”

“Vampires are nouveau, dear.” I smile as sweetly as I can, showing my normal dentition. “I’m a ghost and I’ve lured you into my house.” 

“A ghost?”

I nod. “Or perhaps an angel—a dark angel.”

“A dark angel?”

“Very dark. I had unfortunate experiences with a certain man, you see, the man who owned this house when I was but a girl. He pulled me into this very room. I never left it—alive.”

Drops of sweat slide down the creases of his neck, but he does not speak.

“You’ll understand that I have issues with bad boys like you.”

“I’ll leave now,” he gasps. “No problem.”     

“Yes, you will.” Still gripping his hand, I step back and inspect him. “I could use a familiar, a nice black ghost cat.” I shake my head. “But I'm afraid you'd make a very chubby kitty.” 

He pushes with all his strength, trying to thrust me away. I lean closer and whisper in his ear, “Have you any last words you’d like to share?”

His lips make round, gasping motions like those of a beached trout.

“I thought not. None of the others did either.” I raise my right hand and give it a flick to extend my talons. I turn them and they catch stray gleams of moonlight. “Do you like my needles?” I caress his double-chin with their tips. “Silver is so becoming to a lady, don’t you think?”

His face contorts. “Please!”

“Certainly!” I plunge my needles beneath his chin, through his throat into his brain. He quivers for a moment as if thrilled. Then his dead weight slumps to the floor.

“Treat!” I hold my crimsoned talons up to the moonlight, admiring their scarlet gleam. “Or trick!”



Robert Walton retired from teaching after thirty-six years of service at San Lorenzo Middle School. He is a lifelong rock climber and mountaineer with ascents in Yosemite and Pinnacles National Park. He’s an experienced writer with published works including historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy and poetry. Walton’s novel Dawn Drums won the 2014 New Mexico Book Awards Tony Hillerman Prize for best fiction. “Sockdologizer,” his dramatization of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, won the Saturday Writers 2020 Everything Children contest. Most recently, his “Mansa Musa’s Wisdom” was published in Cricket Media’s February, 2022 issue of Spider magazine.



Have a Kindle? Find out what you’ve been missing!
Buy the four latest issues with just one click!

(Or buy just one, if that’s what you’d really prefer.)


Anonymous said...

Ver creepy Mr. Walton. On point for the season!

Made in DNA said...

We don't have enough avenging spirit stories in my opinion. Great work.