Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tales of Adventure: Finalist #5


By L. Harder

It was a dark and stormy night, I was far away from home, and even though my parents were in the same hotel room, I felt very, very alone. I looked at the portrait of a stern looking gentleman who was hanging above the fireplace. I walked to one end of the room. He still glowered at me. I moved myself towards the doorway. He wasn’t looking so stern anymore. I am sure it wasn’t my imagination. He was looking downright malicious. It was just his eyes, I assured myself. The Mona Lisa thing, I was sure of it.

That night I dreamed of the guy in the painting. He was chasing me with a fork in his hand, yelling “The knife! No feast without a knife! Give it!” A few wild-looking dogs appeared beside me, saliva dripping from their jaws. They would have eaten me for sure, but the man shooed them away, saying “No feast until the prey is dead! No feast until she hands it over!”

No feast? A knife? I checked my pockets. Nope, no knife in there. Before I could tell my pursuer as much, I jerked awake… and found a long, silver dagger in my hands. I flung the weapon as hard as I could away from me and suppressed a scream. I flinched as the dagger hit the floor with a loud clatter and glanced at my parents’ sleeping forms. No movement. Good.

Shaking, I stepped out of bed and tiptoed my way to the weapon that had appeared in my hands. The motel room was freezing. I tried my best to ignore the man in the painting. His eyes looked dead in the moonlight. I stayed awake long enough to hide the knife in my suitcase, then stumbled hazily back to my bed. The picture, even though the man portrayed in it wasn’t real, had a hypnotizing effect.

When I woke up the next morning, I had nearly forgotten about my nightmarish dream and the dagger, but it all came back when I rooted through my suitcase and found it underneath a pile of socks. I took out three pairs and covered the gleaming blade up with a T-shirt. My feet were blue with cold.

We were ready to leave to go home by then, but first we had to check out of the hotel. My mother bought a few postcards with the guy from the painting on them. I should have been repulsed at the idea, after my scary dream, but my eyes were drawn to them. It was almost as if they were hypnotizing me.

So we went home, and I put the postcard of that guy on my bulletin board. That should have been the end of everything, but it wasn’t.

That night, while I was snuggled in bed comfortably, I was drawn to the picture again. He seemed to get nearer and nearer until he seemed close enough for me to touch. Closer, and closer, and closer…. I jerked out of my trance and rubbed my feet. They were still freezing cold. I had tried all day to get them warm, but they refused. When I walked around, I couldn’t feel them. I sighed and tried to get to sleep.

I dreamed of that guy again. We were in my classroom, and he was giving me directions for an assignment. “I told you a thousand times,” he said, sounding exasperated. “I’m not going to tell you again.”

“Please,” I begged, “Just one more time. I promise I’ll listen.” He handed me a worksheet instead and glared at me until I started reading. It was something about mummies, I think. I had to do some questions, too, but I couldn’t see what they were. I was just going to have to do them anyway.

I started writing, but as soon as my no. 2 pencil touched the paper, it turned into the silver dagger that was currently hidden in my sock drawer. Wait, what?! In my dream, I looked up at the guy quickly. He looked almost hungrily at my paper—no, my knife—and was opening his mouth to speak. And then my alarm went off.

I was conscious instantly. Before I could hurry over to turn it off, I realized that I was holding the gleaming blade, and it was poised over my heart. I gasped, but this time I held onto it. I looked at my postcard. He was wearing the same expression he had worn before I had woken up. It was as if time had stopped. And, as if something inside of me had clicked, I understood.

But it was too late. My numbed feet were already moving. They were taking me down the stairs, out the front door. On and on they walked, and I did not know where. I was still holding the dagger in one hand. My eyes were fixed on those of the guy in the picture. I guess I had grabbed it on my way from my room.

After almost another hour of walking, I arrived at a graveyard. My feet carried me over to a tombstone, the name on it almost entirely worn away by passing years. My body now seemed to be my own again, if only for the moment, and I bent down to discern the writing on it. I edged closer, wishing that the flickering floodlight above me would give off a stronger illumination. It said:

General Frank Capp

Died 1753

You were never missed.

This was the guy on my postcard, then. I tried to get up, so I could find the nearest pay phone to call my parents, but my legs seemed rooted to the spot. The air was getting colder, and the hand with the dagger in it was edging close to my chest. It seemed the general’s ghost wanted revenge. For what, I couldn’t guess.

My hands were freezing, and I knew I wouldn’t have that much chance against a bloodthirsty spirit. I quickly said the Lord’s Prayer, but the ghost wasn’t a vampire and didn’t back off. I could now feel the blade pressing against my pajama top. More as a desperate hope than anything, I said “I know you were hurt, but since you’re dead and can’t do anything about it, you shouldn’t take it out on living people.” I wasn’t expecting the ghost to lighten up on my hand, but I guess I surprised it. It hesitated for just a moment, allowing me to put my whole weight on the dagger. It fought back, stronger than ever. This struggle wasn’t going to allow room for any of us to make a slip or mistake.

My arms were shaking. It was going to win, I knew it. With the last ounces of strength left in me I plunged the dagger down towards the photograph.


Later, I found a pay phone and called my parents.
I haven’t worn the color blue since.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:02 PM  
Blogger Spring said...

You should write a whole book about that! Cool!

12:38 PM  
Blogger International Mastermind said...

Whoa! That belongs in a scary short stories book.
maybe we should compile our stories and try to get them published!

1:30 PM  
Blogger Argent Editions said...

Did you know that General William T. Sherman's great grandfather was murdered by a man named Frank Capp?

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Ananka said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting!

Whoa, I didn't know that. I matched that picture with the story cause Sherman looked so cranky. I'm not even sure if L. Harder knows that. Though maybe she does. She's kind of a genius.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Lena said...

Great story! I can see how one of the judges wanted it to win!

Five stories down, one to go until the end of the Tales of Adventure Finalists! (I THINK five have gone.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Hazel said...

That was cool! I loves how you prayed to get rid of the ghost.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey. great story. But why did he come after you in the first place?

12:55 PM  

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