This story is by Condor Caruncle and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Myrtle-on-the-Moor is an enormous house, located miles from any town or village. It’s said that a neurotic multi-millionaire regarded his peace of mind sacred. He couldn’t live among other people. The location suited Anthony’s purpose. When he married Oscar’s mother, Oscar was given his name.
Oscar’s problems started early on. A punch here, a slap there, and often it was from the man’s boot. He never complained as it might have proved awkward for his mother.
‘Lily,’ Oscar said one night. ‘You were my fiancé but you’re dead now. You don’t need to hang around. Why do you?’
‘Because, lover boy, I want to get my revenge on your stepfather, and I need you to help me do it. And – I like your company.’
‘How am I to help you, Lily? I’m not able to sword-fence to protect my maiden. Er, ghost-maiden, or fistfight the bully. What then?’
‘Don’t know yet but it will take a living person to kill him. I’m not able to leave this world until he’s deceased. I can’t commit a physical act in my see-through condition.’
‘I intend to get my papers into the world at some time. He’ll get his lot then.’
‘Nobody will get the chance to see your papers until he is dead. Think, man.’
‘Oh, yeah. Hmm…’
‘What abilities do you have? You can’t run, I’m sure of that. Can you walk at a brisk pace?’
‘No. It takes me all my time getting up and down those stairs.’ He points toward the bedroom door.’
‘Well, give it some serious thought. We’re both stuck here until he’s gone.’
‘I’ll be honest with you. I slide down the stairs on my backside and then shuffle across the floor to the study door. I pull myself up using the door handle. Then, I pick the lock. Easy.’
‘Why do you only come here at night, Lily?’
‘Because you won’t see me in the daytime. Anyway, your stepfather murdered me and your mother and crippled you. He locked you away, to keep his crime from discovery.’
‘I know where my Mum’s papers are. I pretend loss of memory and he keeps me alive, waiting to see if it returns.’
‘Yes, he won’t get her money until it does. It’s a big house to hide things in.’
‘Why kill her?’
‘It was an accident. He was beating her to get the information. He went too far.
‘I feign being a complete cripple, you know. I’ve some mobility but he doesn’t know it.
‘I know, Oscar. Don’t let him find out.’
‘I’m writing down everything that’s happened. I’ll get it to the proper authority sometime.’
‘It was a good move learning to pick locks when you were a schoolboy.’
‘Yes. I can get through the bedroom door and his office one. The desk too, for the paper and ink. I don’t take much, so he never notices.’
‘According to your mother, we ladies gossiped you know, he never liked you. She learned that he married her for her money, and you were baggage.’
‘I guessed as much.’
‘I know he put out the word that she’d run off and left him, and you went with her.’
‘I wish it had been the case. You would have joined us, I hope.’
‘As far as he was concerned, I didn’t exist. I’m not a local, born-and-bred. I wouldn’t be missed, not here, anyway.’
‘Why did he kill you? Accident, too?
‘No. I was looking after your interests.’
‘What d’ya mean?’
‘I approached him, and I had it out with him.’
‘I told him he was a bully, and he should leave my man alone. I said you were going to give him a thrashing, one of these days.’
‘Yes, I heard you. And he crippled me for it?’
‘He killed me first, for having the gall to stand up to him.’
One day in the early evening when the clouds are heavy, darkening the sky, Lily’s ghost arrives at the house. It’s not quite dark enough yet, to reveal her ghostly form.
Instead of her usual visit to Oscar’s bedroom, curiosity gets the better of her when she detects strange sounds coming from the big shed behind the house. She investigates. Anthony is standing on a wobbly crate, wrapping a rope around a beam that helps to keep the building stable. Lily watches him put his hand through a small noose and take hold of the rope. He gives it a powerful tug, testing it to make sure it’ll hold.
While he’s in this position, the ghost decides to take action. Unseen, she floats behind him and places herself in a dark corner. Concentrating on what he’s doing, he’s looking up and doesn’t notice her arrival. Lily speaks to him with a normal voice, like a living person.
‘Hello, Anthony. What are you up to, eh? You appear to be preparing to hold a lynching. Who is to be the victim?’
When he sees who’s talking to him, he gets the shock of his life. Before he can answer, the ghost leaps inside him, integrating with his body. There’s nothing he can do to prevent her from doing as she pleases. Causing his bones to pull at their joints creates severe pain. So does pulling his muscles this way and that. He’s prepared to tell her anything if only she’ll leave his body. She stays put.
It turns out, the recipient of the noose is to be Oscar.
‘I want to live on my own, with no headcase to feed and look after,’ he tells her. ‘I’ll search for the wife’s money, and you’re in no position to do anything about it.’
With his wrist still in the noose, and Lily still within his body, she causes Anthony to kick the crate away from under him. He’s left hanging by his wrist and even with his great strength, it’s impossible to release himself.
The spirit glides up to Oscar’s bedroom window and through the glass.
‘Your tormentor is in the shed at the back, hanging by his arm on a rope. He was planning to stretch your neck with it. Pick your bedroom door-lock and get down there before he escapes.’
‘Why? What can I do?’
‘You’ll work it out once you see the circumstance.’
About half an hour later, he’s in the shed, and he can see what’s needed. The books he reads often have captives in them. Cutting more rope from the coil, he manages to get to his feet by wrapping his arms around a heavy, upright, beam support. He then pulls himself up inch by inch until he’s on his feet, leaning against the support. After several attempts, he manages to throw the rope over the beam and beside the first one. His stepfather is conscious and complaining.
‘My arm is killing me, you moron. Cut me down.’
‘Shut up Anthony. You’ve abused me for long enough. It’s my turn now to be the bad guy.
He makes a noose and throws it over Anthony’s head. Third time lucky.
‘Hey! What’re you up to? Get this damned rope off of me.’
‘No can do, Anthony.’ There’s no respect now, for any father figure.
Oscar pulls the rope tight. The beam takes the bulk of the bully’s weight. It’s not easy for Oscar to pull him up far enough but he does in the end. He ties the loose end to a strong horizontal rail, supporting a nearby storage stall.
Shuffling around on his backside to where Anthony dangles, he grabs the crate and replaces it under the condemned man’s feet. This has him standing eighteen inches or so above the dirt floor. The noose is tight enough around his neck to make him splutter, choking for air. The one around his wrist, although higher up, stops him from falling to his death.
‘Alright my lady, are you ready to witness the moment I perform revenge on your killer?’
‘Yes, get on with it,’ the dainty Lily shouts.
Oscar unties the rope holding Anthony’s arm and immediately kicks the crate from under him. The bully drops, short of the ground, and his spinal-cord snaps. His worthless life is over. Anthony is dead.
The ghost wishes Oscar well in his new life and disappears forever. He’s sure the law will view Anthony’s death as suicide.
“His wife ran off years ago. Her son with her.” is what they’ll presume. Nobody in the area will miss Lily, she wasn’t a local.
Oscar removes the spare rope to a likely storage place. After searching Anthony’s study, he finds his bankroll and pockets it. He crawls upstairs and packs a small suitcase with a few clothes. Retrieving his notes from their hiding place, he lights a fire in the grate and destroys them. Downstairs again, he retrieves his mother’s papers and phones for a taxi.