Rose Winter came with the early morning fog.
It was Sunday—the Lord's Day, as her devout mother would deem it—and naturally, the eerie, foreign town of Wayford was more or less active.
The gravel beneath her walking boots crunched as she strode upon it. A suitcase swayed in her right fist. There was a pretentious sort of swing to her hips; this was accentuated by the means in which she held her chin aloft and trained her eyes sullenly. Her sorrel hair, which was cropped close to her shoulders, swished as she sauntered. Rose's free hand snaked up to adjust it.
Her mother, Anna Winter, scurried along beside her daughter. She clucked and fussed with the obstreperous folds and cinches of her daughter's (frankly, utterly appalling) shift dress, all the while scuttling to remain in less-than-perfect synchronization with Rose's rapid gait.
The two surviving Winter women were not of lofty standing, yet carried themselves as if they were nothing less.
"Rose Evelyn Winters," her mother exclaimed, with that familiar exasperated lilt pushing through. "Would you please slow down for one minute? You're driving me insane! I can scarcely keep up."
Rose came to a sudden and jarring halt. She angled her head just slightly, and hissed behind her shoulder, "I've spent my whole life trying to run from you, yet you always seem to keep pace."
Despite her daughter's malicious words, Anna Winter kept her mouth puckered and her blue eyes steely. "You'll be sorry when I am indeed gone, Rose."
Rose scoffed. She gave a careless shrug. "Keep telling yourself that, Mother. Maybe, sooner or later, you'll end up believing it yourself."
And that was that.
The encompassing town was a populace one might deem to be "quaint" or even "comely", if analyzed from the perspective of a shriveling, pinch-faced matron. The towering, spindly roofs did nothing to quell the overall sullen atmosphere; it was as if someone had tossed a slate-gray shag across the town. The edifices sagged. The gate doors screeched. The bricks disintegrated. It was clearly past its prime.
Anna Winters cast her squinny stare across the buildings, and then back to her scion. "Well. I think we should make do here."
Rose ignored her mother's remark, and paved her way across the cobblestone street. The young woman stepped up onto an enervated porch of a particularly promising structure, and turned sharply toward the entrance.
Before she had a chance to poise her fist at the door, it swung wide. It rattled as it went and slammed against the exterior wall.
A corpulent woman, clad in an ill-fitting lavender gown, digested the scene of the two pretentious women upon her doorstep with a skeptic's glare. She chewed over her words. "What do you want?"
"Pardon us, ma'am," Mrs. Winter stuck out her hand with a chilling grin. "We read of this town's advertisement in the papers, and we traveled a far distance—we're from Wisconsin, you see—to answer it, and—"
The plump woman's eyes grew as round as a full moon. Her jowls dropped in astonishment. "You're here on behalf of the ad?"
"That's what she said," Rose snapped.
The lady in the doorway seized them both by the arm and hauled them inside. "Welcome, welcome! Please, forgive my poor manners. It's only that it's been so long since anyone has come inquiring about our ad, and most who came to us were very unsuccessful or unwilling..."
She led the two Winter women into a sort of sitting area, one which was attempting to pass itself off as a parlor, and began to flit about the room. "Oh, this is just grand! I can't believe that we may actually get this whole mess sorted out, at long last!" Her beady eyes fluttered shut, and then reopened. "Ah, dear! I seem to have forgotten introductions—my name is Miss Pearce. Frances Pearce. And you two are...?"
"Rose. Rose Winter," the owner of the name piped up. With a roll of her eyes and a flick of her wrist, she continued, "and this is my mother, Anna Winter."
"It's a pleasure," Miss Pearce gushed. For a moment, she grew silent. A tumble of words ricocheted past her flapping lips. "So, are you both...spiritualists?"
"I am; she's not," Rose explained, a blithe smile blooming across her face. "My father always called my clairvoyance ability a blessing, but my mother is more inclined to believe it to be a curse."
"Your father...'called'?" Miss Pearce's eyes clouded.
"I'm afraid Mr. Winter passed away two years ago, when Rose was fourteen," Mrs. Winter said. The words congealed in her throat. She swallowed.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Miss Pearce said. She settled on a settee across from the elder Winter woman. "You brought Rose here to host a séance, correct?"
"Yes," Mrs. Winter replied, bobbing her head. "That's correct. In fact, we'd be willing to hold it tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Miss Pearce sputtered. "Tomorrow is Halloween!"
"Of course it is," Rose sneered. She drew her legs up onto the couch. "We do it tomorrow night or no night at all. Take it or leave it."
Miss Pearce wrung her hands. "Well, I'd have to convene with the other townsfolk first, of course, and—"
"Miss Pearce, we only have enough money to supplant lodging for two nights," Mrs. Winters explained.
"Very well," Miss Pearce heaved a sigh. She rose and ambled across the outdated Persian carpet. "I'll go speak to the mayor. He's the only one with power in this town that's still around."
"How do you mean?" Mrs. Winter asked from the parlor.
Miss Pearce stopped suddenly. She shifted in her scuffed Mary Janes—shoes that she would more than likely proclaim to be her Sunday Best—and rotated slightly. "Oh, well, it's nothing, really..."
"Tell us." Rose affixed her most commanding glower upon the stuttering, older woman.
A beat of silence lapsed. Miss Pearce fiddled with the many rings on her stout fingers, saying, "Most of our town, including the reverend, have either moved away or...moved on."
"You mean to say that some of them have died?" Mrs. Winter exclaimed. "Was that because of the spirits?"
"The spirits, who we believe were here before this town was constructed, began to act...malevolently toward us. This whole ghost trouble began about five or so years ago, and we took it rather lightly—in the beginning, that is. We'd hold little séances, just for fun. I remember, this one boy named Richie—the spirits got to him. He went mad and took his life," Miss Pearce choked over her words. She laid a quivering hand across her heart.
"What a shame...," Mrs. Winter bemoaned.
"We used to have a population of fifty-six," Miss Pearce said; she blubbered over her words. "Now, it's dropped to twenty-one. And that's the tally from a week ago. I don't know how many have stayed."
"I'll do everything in my power to communicate with these spirits," Rose spoke languidly from the couch. Her words did not synchronize with her attitude. "For a price, of course."
"I'll have to speak with the mayor about that," Miss Pearce said. She waddled from the room, muttering about something unintelligible.
"Rose," her mother snapped from her seat. "Why are you behaving so rudely?"
"I'm not," Rose barked. She swung her legs over the couch and placed her hands in her lap. "You are. All this ordering me around, it's gotten on my final nerve, you know."
Mrs. Winter rolled her eyes to the ceiling, and whispered a few phrases of prayer. "Just...try to behave, at least until Halloween is over."
Rose disregarded this. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared into the sizzling fireplace. The flames pranced about the hearth, shattering into a thousand scorching fingers and then reforming into a tangible, broiling beast. "I hope they pay me well."
Mrs. Winter was about to remark that it wouldn't be the Christian thing to do to demand payment from these pitiful folk, when Miss Pearce lumbered into the threshold. "I just got off the phone with the mayor, Mr. Levard." Her eyes shifted to Rose, then back to Mrs. Winter. "He's more than happy with hosting a séance tomorrow night. He has cancelled any planned Halloween celebrations. He's going to make an announcement about that tonight in the town square."
"What about payment?" Rose inquired.
"I asked him about that," Miss Pearce said. She fumbled with those damnable rings again. "He's going to pay you both fifty dollars each."
Rose clapped her hands together in an almost childish manner. "Splendid. That will do."
"He said that you may stay the night at the inn across town," Miss Pearce said. "You'll have to pay, however."
"That's fine," Mrs. Winter said. "We've been traveling so long, it'll be like staying in the The Plaza itself."
The nighttime curled around them, sending with it gusts of chilled wind Rose was inclined to believe was not an act of nature.
She perched on a milk crate beside her mother, who had said they should arrive at the town square for the séance prior to anyone else. Rose grinned as she sensed the delectable weight of a hundred dollars in her right pocket of her blue dress; the mayor had paid them in advance, and she had pilfered the other fifty dollars from her mother's purse.
A large, rounded, makeshift table was poised in front of them. It was unlike the surfaces Rose had utilized for her practices in the past, yet after a bit of her typical griping and lamenting, had succumbed to the notion.
Rose's fingers practically itched from anticipation as she glanced over at her mother; a few whispers of light from the nearby lanterns cast an ochre sheen across her weathering, frowning face. The girl smiled.
This would be the night that everything changed for the better.
"I don't know about this, Rose," Mrs. Winter murmured. Her hands shifted in her lap. "What if this isn't worth it? Maybe we should go back to the farm, start over there and—"
"I am not going back to Wisconsin," Rose growled. Her hands fisted. "And most certainly not with you."
Mrs. Winter cast bewildered eyes to her daughter.
"Once this séance is complete, I'm leaving this town. Without you," Rose whispered. A tiny, efflorescencing laugh rumbled from within her chest.
"Rose, would you really do this to your poor, old mother?" Mrs. Winter cried.
"Yes." Rose flashed a grin. "Yes, I would."
As Mrs. Winter began to weep, the townsfolk began to trickle in.
Miss Pearce, colossal and circumspect in a compact dress the color of terracotta, took a hunched position toward the elder Winter woman. Miss Pearce flashed as shaken Mrs. Winter a cheeky smile.
Rose noted this. She scoffed, then redirected her energies to the crowding table before her. She stood, her pointed chin hovering on the brink of superciliousness and haughtiness. She focused her eyes on the mayor, a small, balding man with a penchant for smoking (evident through the gray creases on his face and black tinge of his nails), and said, "Welcome. My name is Rose Winter, and this is my mother, Anna Winter. We come on behalf of ridding this town of the entities which haunt it."
A few townsfolk elicited audible groans. One man whispered, "Not this bushwa again. Didn't we learn from the last one?"
Rose adjusted the faux pearl bracelet on her right wrist, and gave the man a tight smile. "I beseech your trust, good sir. I'll have all of your...paranormal woes put to rest in no time."
He crossed his arms, mumbled a few incoherent phrases, and creased his brow.
"Now," Rose began. Her voice lofted over the crowd. "I ask that you all join hands and—"
"We've been through this before—no need to treat us like a bunch of damn idiots," the same man from before hissed out. One by one, the townsfolk began to clasp fidgeting palms.
"Harold," a woman from his right admonished. "You needn't be so rude."
Rose held up her own hand. "It's quite alright." Her charcoal-hued stare settled upon Harold; she flashed him a nefarious grin. "No hard feelings."
Harold gave her an otherwise uneasy look, then closed his eyes. The others followed in his wake.
The lamps dimmed; frail shadows sprawled across the table and the faces of the attendees. Rose leaned down and extinguished the candle with a tiny whoosh of breath.
"Spirits," Rose began, "we gather here this evening in peace and unity. We implore your humble company this night, and request but a few things of you."
A handful from the crowd shifted in their seats and elicited a few, tenuous coughs.
"If you are here with us now, I ask that you show us a sign," Rose requested.
A beat lapsed; silence chased it.
Mrs. Winter cleared her throat. Rose struck her mother's leg from beneath the table and flashed her a glare.
The table began to tremble, and along with it the candlesticks. Miss Pearce gasped, "Oh, good gracious!" Her chair began to levitate above the air, whilst she clung timorously to the people flanking her.
"Spirits!" Rose cried out. "That is enough for now, thank you."
She was acutely aware of a heady, evocative sensation glittering within her chest. The invisible feeling oozed, like viscous honey, along her veins, until it pulsated and thrummed at Rose's fingertips. She flexed her digits. A million splintering voices clamored within her mind, each contributing delicious whispers or imperious proclamations to the ever-increasing clangor. The tempo of the apparitions increased in her mind. Rose felt it as it swelled, like water against a dam. At last, the tide broke free until the ghosts left her in quivering silence.
This was her chance.
All at once, a gurgling, lamentable sound ascended from her internal din. A terrible, haunting noise rose from Harold's throat. His neck lurched back; he gripped his companion's hands in a vice. The bands upon his neck strained and contorted until it was nothing more than a mass of perspiring flesh and confusion. Then, he grew slack. His eyes fluttered shut. Harold sat upright, and his eyelids flickered open to reveal that his brown irises had twisted back into his skull.
Rose smiled at this; it was pleasing to know that it was she, and not the spirits, that had been the cause of Harold's dilemma.
Mrs. Winter, who had opened her eyes, took note of the man's state, and gasped sharply.
While the others round opened their own eyes and howled in alarm, Rose fixated her stare directly upon her very mother. The world slowed. Time trickled by, so cautiously sluggish that Rose could practically hear the drugged tremors of a clock in her ears. A pang of satisfaction crossed her as she continued to blink at her mother.
"Spirits," Rose whispered. Her hands clenched. "Kill her."
A look of terror and then realization throbbed across Anna Winter's face, before she was subsumed in the chaos around her. Shrieks surmounted the stillness, chairs clattered to the ground, bodies roiled and intermingled in an effort to escape.
Rose bent her knees and scooped up her luggage, which she had hidden beneath the milk crate before the proceedings began. She patted down her pocket, to ensure that the money was safely ensconced within.
Harold, still overcome by the spirits, stood from his seat and parted the rush of bodies. He advanced hastily and obliquely toward Mrs. Winter, his hands outstretched to strangle the woman.
That was the last Rose saw of her mother.
"Spirits," Rose rasped. She closed her eyes and ended the séance. "I thank you for your time."
The crowd had sustainably thinned by the time the young woman made it out onto the street. Pools of wan, amber light from the streetlamps gathered on the walkway; her lithe form cut through the glow, fracturing it in two as she scurried through it. Her suitcase bobbed against her hip as she strode. Above, she noted the faintly glittering stars against a pink and orange sky. She cast a final look back at the town. She smiled.
Rose Winter left with the early morning fog.
I am Jennifer, a 16 year old avid writer and artist. I hope to one day expand upon my skills to a professional level. I enjoy acting, singing, writing, and dancing as well.|
-Writing a novel.
-INFATUATED with the 19th century.
-My Tumblr: demonic-fantasy.tumblr.com/