This story is by Lilian and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Gloria Jenkins closed the gate after Tony, her husband drove the car onto the street. She waited for him to blow her a kiss before he turned the corner and then strolled back towards the kitchen, mentally listing her daily tasks. The herbs need watering, she thought and turned to fetch the hose. At the ringing of the kitchen phone, she replaced the hose and ran to take the call.
“Hello. Who’s calling?” she asked.
“Hi, Glory. Timmy here. How ‘ya doing?” her nephew’s voice came over. He never called her ‘Aunt’. His calling her ‘Glory’ made her feel young.
“All’s well, and you?” she asked. Timothy, her younger brother’s son, lived in England with his widowed father. He finished his last year of school and was free until the end of summer. She tried to talk him into attending university, for art, at which he excelled. He said he ‘would think about it… someday’. She liked Tim for his happy-go-lucky nature. He was always ready for an adventure, but his weakness was that he was an incurable dreamer. Glory wondered how he managed to get through his final year at school.
“I’m coming over for a week. Is it ok with you and Tony?” he asked.
“Of course, Tim. Shall we pick you up at the airport?”
“No need. I’ll get local transport.”
“You sure? It’s quite a hassle getting to our little town.”
“Trust me. I’ll manage. See you soon, Glory.”
The phone went dead. She cradled it and ran upstairs to the guest room, made up the bed, put out clean towels, and made sure everything was all right to receive her nephew.
When Tony returned for lunch, Gloria gave him the news.
“I think the bloke should get a summer job. You should’ve suggested it to him and told him to come at the end of summer,” Tony said.
Tim arrived next day before lunch. He unloaded his backpack in the hall, hugged Gloria, gave her a smacker on either cheek and plonked onto the couch.
“You look good,” he said, running his eyes over her.
“You, too. What brings you here, Tim?” she asked.
“Huh!” he grunted. “I had to see you and tell you about this thing, that’s been following me around for the past week. I decided that the only way to lose it was to go away; far, far away. I thought that if I caught a plane, the thing couldn’t board. Glory, I hope it’s at the airport following somebody else.”
“A strange story, Tim,” she said, sitting beside him. She tousled his thick, sleek hair, and the hair gel smeared onto her fingers. He’s such a dreamer, but I don’t want to ridicule him. He’s too sensitive, she decided. “Tell me about it,” she said, smiling sweetly, “tell me about the thing?”
“Well,” he began, “I’ws walking home from Larry’s place, at ‘bout eight-thirty and I heard someone calling, ‘hey, son, you got any bread? I’m starving.’ I looked around and saw a figure, when the headlights of a car shone on the tree against which he huddled, wrapped up and hooded, watching me. His red eyes glowed and flamed. Scary, I tell you! ‘I’m hungry,’ he said. I had no money so I told him to follow me home for some food. Well, he wrapped his scruffy rags around himself, followed me, shuffled into the house and sat down by a pillar. I went to get him a bowl of milk and cereal, and when I returned, he was gone. “Hey! Where are you?” I called. No answer. Not a sound. Oh, well, I thought, maybe it was just another ghost.”Gloria swallowed, fear gripping her.
“Well, go on, Tim. What happened next?” she asked.
“You believe me, of course, don’t you?” he asked, noticing her interest.
She nodded and waited for him to continue.
“Well, I sat to eat the cereal. The thing bumped against my legs. I looked under the table. There was nothing. I thought I was dreaming, but when I went into the kitchen, it bumped against me again.” He paused to push back his hair. Gloria saw the uncertain, bewildered expression in his eyes. “Search me,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
“Let’s get lunch on the table. Tony’ll be here soon,” Gloria said. She stretched her legs and walked briskly to the kitchen. “Hey, Tim, something bumped against my legs. Are you playing a joke?”
“No,” he blurted, and added, “then the thing followed me. Gosh! It’s here. In the house!”
The fear in his eyes reflected in hers, too. She looked around the room to spot their invisible ‘guest’ but saw nothing. She peered again and trembled when she saw a pair of flaming, evil eyes under the table. “There,” she whispered, pointing under the table.
He bent to look, and said, “Can’t see anything.”
“Run outside and let’s hope it follows you, then step back in quickly and shut the door so it can’t follow you,” she suggested and turned to see a young, strong youth wrapped in tattered blankets, his incandescent eyes watching her every move.
“Can you see him?” she hissed, sheltering behind the fridge.
“Where? ” he asked, amazed.
“I’m seeking revenge,” the apparition said in a hollow voice, which only she could hear. She watched, mesmerised when he transformed into a furry, black dog-like animal.
“I know what,” she said, and ran to the neighbour’s house. “Bertha,” she yelled, “please lend me your cat for a moment.”
Bertha agreed and Gloria carried Penny into the house.
The cat arched her back, her fur raised, hissed at something under the table, spat, swore and gave chase, as she affronted the thing.
Gloria flung open the door, felt something bump against her legs and watched the animal transform into the ragged youth. Penny swore, spat and growled, and slunk carefully back into her garden.
“It’s gone, but don’t tell Tony,” Gloria said, wiping her brow, “he’ll say we’re both daft,”