Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Ghost in the Garden by A. Morell

October 29, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

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The passage of time meant nothing to the dead. Even when they remained on earth.

How many years Elias had passed, never awake and never asleep, invisibly bound to the gardener’s shed in which he had too soon met his fate, he had no way of knowing. To him it appeared as it always had—neatly kept, if a bit ill-lit, and smelling of fresh, rich soil.

Sometimes people would join him for a while. At first, people he knew, like the servants about their business, and his mother in her mourning clothes. But then there were new faces, ones he did not recognize. Sometimes they would bring glimpses of rust and dilapidation with them. He didn’t care for those people.

Then Asher had come.

A loud crashing sound had alerted Elias to their presence. Two men, stumbling and panting and displaying the same wanton prurience that had brought about his demise. It was the closest to feeling alive again that he could recall, and it made him remember—the touch of callused palms, the scent of sun and sweat, the burgeoning passion that had been worth risking everything. He couldn’t help but watch.

But like the night his life had ended, something went wrong. The taller man kissed his amour’s neck, and then bit down.

Pain mixed with the pleasure on the other man’s face, then fear. And as his eyes had glazed over, they suddenly locked with Elias’s. For a brief moment, they sat on the same plane of existence, in that tiny antechamber to eternity.

Elias didn’t understand what occurred afterward. The man had died, and then just as quickly had somehow been reborn—sharper, faster, angrier. There had been a great fight and a lot of noise, and he had retreated to safety.

Some time later the bitten man returned. He called to Elias. Not by name, of course, but nonetheless Elias answered. But the man, like every other that entered these four walls, no longer saw him.

Yet he remained, perhaps having had nowhere else to go. He was handsome in a roguish, carefree sort of way, and he cut a pleasing figure. Elias wondered what had drawn him back.

“I hope you’re still here,” the man said to the room, “because I’d prefer not to add insanity to the list of shite I’m forced to deal with now.”

Elias stared and then laughed softly. The rusty wind chimes hanging inside the door clanged together quietly.

Asher, he called himself. He came and went. Sometimes he talked, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes Elias would respond, and the shed would breathe life for fleeting half-seconds. It wasn’t unpleasant.

One night, Asher returned early, grumbling of crowded streets and being unable to hunt. He flung himself down on his makeshift bed and sulked.

Elias drifted to the tiny window above the workbench and peered out at the dark, though his eyes saw little of present day. He could hear the distant commotion of excited children.

“What on earth are they doing out at such an hour?” he murmured.

There was a loud thud, and Elias turned toward the bed. Asher was on the floor, staring right at him, mouth agape. Elias could see his fangs.

“It’s—it’s you!”

Elias turned again in search of another occupant, but Asher scrambled toward him and stopped only a few feet away. His hand hovered in the air, fingers twitching faintly as though they wanted to reach out. Elias could see himself in Asher’s eyes.

“You… can see me…”

“You’re really real!” Asher broke into a smile, and his hand finally found purpose in running through his hair as he began to pace. “My god, what a relief. I really did think I might’ve hallucinated you.”

He stopped suddenly and looked pensive. “I guess there is something to that ghosts-walking-on-Halloween stuff.”

“Halloween… All Hallows Eve?” Dim recognition slowly pulled from the fog of Elias’s memories. He moved back to the windowpane. “The children… they must be out souling.”

“Souling, sure,” Asher grinned. “They call it trick-or-treating now.”

Elias was stunned. Once more they shared that same plane, only now for much longer than a final breath. He didn’t understand why on this night he was allowed true company, but it was only after talking the night away, when the first shades of dawn began to color the tiny garden shed window, that he understood what a true gift it was. It ended all too soon.

“You’re fading,” Asher observed quietly. He looked exhausted.

“And you shall be sleeping soon,” Elias replied. He hesitated, but he had to know if he was to lose this tenuous connection to the living come morning. “Will… will you be staying much longer?”

A slow, muted smile that would have set Elias’s heart to racing when he was alive warmed Asher’s face. “I’ll be here a while.”

So ended the first of countless Halloween nights with Asher. True to his word, he still called the shed home. He still came and went, sometimes for days at a time, always returning with his stories of the world outside. But Halloweens were special—the one day of the year they could truly meet.

Over time Elias found that the more he learned of the world that had gone on without him, the more connected to it he became, and the stronger his presence grew. Eventually he could venture out into the gardens surrounding his shed, and feel the waxing and waning of the veil between the worlds.

One year, Asher began to leave for longer and longer periods of time. As Halloween approached, Elias wasn’t worried, but his restlessness rustled through the overgrown branches of the trees, hurrying the footsteps of passersby.

Hours after the veil lifted, with the moon risen and the children safely in their beds, Asher came through the rusting door.

“You’re late.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Asher moved to the window, where Elias remained watching the outside. “Elias…”

“You must leave?”

Asher’s silence was answer enough, and it stretched mournfully. Elias felt him move closer—another new development in his strength, one he was loath to forfeit.

“I don’t want to. But I have to. I’ve been here too long, Eli. People see things… times change, but I don’t. I can’t hide it anymore. If I’m found out, they’ll kill me.”

Elias had no argument when Asher had already stayed far longer than he should have. He hated it all the same.

“Maybe… can’t you move on, now?” Asher spoke softly. “To the other side?”

“If I did, you would feel better about leaving.”

“That’s not—”

“I know,” Elias interrupted, already regretting his words.

Regret. That was the danger. What would send him back to the unknowing darkness, and trap him here forever in his desolate, narrow world.

He wanted the other side. But only with Asher.

He turned at last to look at the man he should never have been able to meet, that he had to cross lifetimes to love.

There would be no regret.

“I think… I would rather wait for you here.” However long it took. Time meant nothing to the dead.

Asher’s eyes widened with surprise before they softened in understanding.“I think that’d be nice.” He stared at Elias for a long moment before his boots carried him to the door. He paused, and waited until he held Elias’s gaze one last time. “I’ll come back to you… Halloween or otherwise.”

Elias’s smile was faint, but genuine. “I’ll be waiting.”

And then, he would be ready.

~*~*~

 

Find more of A. Morell’s vampires in Puncture Wounds, available from Dreamspinner Press.

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