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The Tweaker by Shane Knolltrey
SUMMARY: For Expendable's Flash Fiction Ghost Story Contest
(a horror story in 999 words or less, or your fright is free!)
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a girl who wasn't there.
She wasn't there again today;
I wish, I wish she'd go away.
Derived from the verse by W.H. Mearns.
October came. It was harvest season: the time men reap what they sow. One foggy night Bill Bly encountered the Tweaker for the first time.
He was dumping water bottles out back, near his basement window, when the smell of garbage and cat-pee drifted through the wind. She appeared near the woods: a little girl, pale and emaciated, kneeling in a torn nightgown. Her knees were scraped.
She smiled at him with cyanotic lips, twisted her black hair, then vanished.
Bill considered this a hallucination.
But then, two nights later, Bill came home with sundries: he carried a bag of iodine and Robitussin. He opened a door and was startled by the stench: garbage and cat-pee. Then he saw her: down in the darkness, leering up at him with cold, black eyes. A pendant dangled from emaciated clavicles: looked like a lump of charred mercury.
She cocked her head, grinned, and vanished.
"I know what I saw!" He told Fredrick, his neighbor, the next day.
"I don't doubt you, but let's see what happens tonight, alright?"
Night fell. Fredrick kept vigil with Bill in his living room. Hours passed: nothing. Fredrick, not amused, complained of the cold; Bill saw to it immediately.
She appeared one hour later.
"I don't feel well." Fredrick complained. "Nausea..."
Garbage, then cat-pee.
Bill saw her: leering from the shadows, but elusive as a jackrabbit.
The next day the pair met at Sisemen's Pharmacy, where Bill was manager.
"You saw her, Fredrick!"
"I'm not superstitious... but I did see something." The professor agreed to research this matter.
The next day Fredrick found Bill in the diner across from Midlothian Elementary.
"Wasn't that ‘Tommy Dee' you were with, there?"
Bill nodded. "Poor kid. All that business with his old gang, plus the dealing: it's taken a toll." They watched the teenager scuttle away, clutching a duffle bag with grimy fingers. "He takes the food I give him, though: God willing he'll get his act together."
"You're a saint, Bill. Even with Wal-Mart slicing into your profits you find time for charity-cases like that: you certainly deserved that ‘Silver Scales' award. Where is that bauble, anyway?"
"Threw it away: piece of nonsense..." Bill growled. He asked about his demonic little houseguest.
"I think you've got a ‘Tweaker'." Fredrick answered. "As folktales go: people who die violently— unnaturally— get no rest; they sometimes appear around their old haunts— no pun intended. They need some kinda help: they wanna ‘tweak' things in this world to make everything square in their world."
"Hell, Fred, I'm not fuckin' Haley Joel Osment!"
"Don't ignore this, Bill: she won't stop coming."
Two nights later a frost came in: Bill had to raise his thermostat.
He awoke before sunrise with a great pressure on his chest.
She was there, straddling him, her black eyes wide and blue lips grinning.