The Search

Posted: June 19, 2012 in short stories, Uncategorized, writing
Tags: ,

Popping the top on her beer she flopped onto the couch and opened her laptop to search for ways to mix cement to patch her driveway. She couldn’t live with that hole anymore, and lacking funds to hire a contractor she decided to do it herself.  Carefully typing in the words, “how to mix cement at home,” she hit the enter button and took a swig of her beer.

“Son of a Bitch!” she shouted as her screen filled with pictures, the same picture over and over again. “Great, just what I need, a new freakin’ virus!”

Closing the browser she did a restart, rehashing her day as the computer did it’s thing. Landscaping was hard enough without spoiled rich women griping about the noise from her mower or the color of the mulch. Taking another drink she grinned, the work was hard, and some of her customers were unlikable, but she would stay the course. Her ultimate goal was to start her own landscape design business, so she kissed butt and cultivated her client list for the future.

“Finally,” she mumbled when the computer sprung to life.

Settling into the cushions she resumed her search, growling when the same set of images filled her screen.

“Damn it! I don’t need this crap!”

Then she noticed the images were slightly different. The first time the face of the woman was completely blank, only her dark-blond hair was visible. This time you could see her hair and the outline of her face. Powering off she decided to let it go until the morning, if it was still acting up then she would call Mitzy, her computer nerd friend for advice. Settling on cold pizza and another beer she finished her late dinner and headed to bed.

At six a.m. her eyes popped open right on schedule, she never needed an alarm clock, instead she told her mind when she had to wake, and she just did. She grabbed her morning caffeine from the twelve pack in the fridge and took a long swig of the Pepsi before checking her schedule, groaning when she realized she had to return to the residence of Mrs. Horace VanWert, the biggest pain in the ass this side of the Mississippi. Muffster, as she was known to her friends and family, decided to buy the old sawmill perched at the end of the town, planning to turn it into a fashionable and chic Bed and Breakfast.

After putting all of the local contractors through her version of hell on earth, she had turned her attention to the landscaping, setting her sights on Jan’s fledgling business. She was expected to turn the grounds into a twisted version of an old English garden that would blend with the hulking wooden mill. Muffster whined, complained and prowled through her life on a daily basis, making her rue the day she agreed to take the job. On the other hand, if she could satisfy this woman, her reputation in town would be set and her business would benefit.

Noticing her laptop on the coffee table the memory of her virus trouble returned.

“Crap, I almost forgot about that,” she grumbled as she flipped the lid open to hit the power button. If she was going to bug Mitzy with her trouble, she wanted to make sure the trouble still existed. Grabbing a stale muffin to go with her Pepsi she flopped on the couch and opened her browser. So far so good, her familiar home page waited for her attention. Moving to the search bar she typed in “how to mix concrete” and waited for the results.

“Dammit!” she yelled when multiple images of the blonde woman filled her screen. Only this time, the images showed a pair of gold-flecked, hazel eyes that seemed to bore into her soul.

“What kind of sick virus is this?” she grumbled, “some people need to get a life!” she said, yanking the power cord from the socket. Storming to her truck she tossed the computer on the passenger seat and headed to Mitzy’s. She left a brief explanation of her trouble before heading on site to report to Muffster, girding her loins for a day of abuse.

Her morning went as expected, the Muffster was already on site, hands on hip, waiting for her. Before she could grab her set of plans the woman attacked her with her concerns. Answering her questions and addressing her complaints with as much decorum as she could muster she breathed a sigh of relief when the demanding woman set her sites on the poor boy painting the trim on the ancient building.

Heading for the mill, she intended to check out a report by a contractor of tree roots invading the building. If there was a tree pushing its way into the foundation, that could disrupt her plans. It would be futile to install expensive plants if a crew had to come in and take down a tree.

Pulling a flashlight from her kit she descended the unfinished stairs into the bowels of the mill. Once filled with large steam engines, pipes, moving belts and coal, the now empty space felt eerily dead. Making her way around spools of cable and power tools she found the wall the contractor mentioned. She poured over the entire surface, feeling it with her hands as she looked for decay or evidence of encroaching roots, but the damp wall seemed intact to her.

“Hello,” she shouted, turning her light on the room. “Who’s there?” Met by silence, she felt her skin crawl.

Deciding it was time to leave, she found the stairs and quickened her steps. Someone had called her name, she heard it as plain as day, but she was obviously alone. Not willing to wait for an unwelcome surprise she pulled herself up the first step.

“Don’t leave,” whispered a voice.

Spinning on the step she flashed her light over the basement. Still alone and terrified she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her. Tearing up the stairs she took a minute to compose her thoughts before reporting to Muffster.

Once everyone agreed that the cellar wall was intact, she pulled out her tools to ready the ground for planting. Ten hours later she was pleased with her progress. Washing her hands with some bottled water she dried them on her jeans and headed for Mitzy’s to see if her computer was fixed.

“Hi Mitz,” she said with more energy than she felt as she entered the kitchen without knocking. Her and Mitzy were like family, knocking was for strangers.

“You look like hell,” Mitzy said over the rim of her glasses.

“Thanks, love you too,” she grinned.

Moving to the fridge Mitzy grabbed a can of Pepsi and popped the top before placing it before her friend.

“So, what’s wrong with my computer?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Mitzy replied.

“Don’t tell me nothing! Every time I do a search all I get is a page full of thumbnails, all of a blonde women with a high, white lace collar.”

“Look, here is your home page, and here is what I get when I do a search for say, pizza.” Sure enough, a list of local pizza parlor filled the screen. I ran virus scans, I crawled over your hard drive looking for worms, trojans, adware, spyware and anything else I could think of. This unit is clean girl.”

“You never saw any pictures of the blonde woman?” she asked, not sure she wanted an answer.

“Nope.”

After some small talk Jan grabbed her computer and headed for the door.

“Are you ok?” Mitzy asked.

“Yea, I guess this job, and “the Muffster,” have me stressed more than I realized. A good nights sleep should help. Thank Mitz, I appreciate you checking this out.”

“No prob, that’s what friends do,” she smiled as Jan headed to the truck.

Tossing her computer on the coffee table she locked her doors, washed her face, stripped and fell into bed. Her aching muscles thanked her as she curled into her sleep spot.

The voice was so soft at first it integrated into her dreams. As it grew insistently louder it tugged at her eyelids, forcing her to rejoin the waking world. Wide-eyed with fear she scanned her room, looking for the intruder. Grabbing a lamp, the only weapon she could find at hand, she tossed her legs over the edge of the bed and inched her way over the room, wincing as the cord pulled free of the socket to bang into the nightstand. Peering around the door jamb she noticed the soft glow of the computers screen. It was then her blood turned to ice. She had tossed the computer on the table, but hadn’t plugged it in, or opened the lid.

Figuring she must be having a bad dream, she decided to go back to bed, but the computer had other ideas.

“Please Jan, I need you,” it whispered.

“No, no you don’t!” she yelled.

“You have to find me, you have to make him pay for what he did before I am lost,” the voice cried.

Moving to the couch she punched the power button, trying to silence the machine, but it wouldn’t respond.
When a decaying skull filled the screen with a bloodcurdling scream she jumped, dropping the lamp.

“Leave me alone!” she screamed.

“I need you Jan, you have to help me,” the voice crooned as images of the blonde woman filled her screen.

“Why me? I don’t know you, I don’t even know who you are. Hell, I don’t even know if you are real,” she moaned.

“I am real, or at least I was. Now I am somewhere dark, somewhere cold and I can’t get out. I reached out to many of you visiting the mill but you were the only one who could hear me.”

“Oh, yeah me,” she said in disbelief. “What do you want?”

“I can’t move on until you find me and make my husband pay for what he did. I want to leave here, you have to help me!”

“I don’t understand all this. Are you dead? What do you have to do with the mill? How can I help you?” she asked.

“My husband owned the wood mill. He was a greedy man who ruled the town and used cruelty to deal with his workers. I was promised to him when I was a child by my father and we married when I was fourteen. The last thing I remember of that life was taking a basket lunch to his office, where I found him in a compromising situation with his secretary. All is black after that.

“I hear you, but I don’t know what you expect from me,” she said, heading to the fridge for a beer.

“Please, you are all I have,” the voice croaked.

“I don’t want to be “all you have,” she groused, “I want you to go away and leave me alone!”

“You have to find me, make him admit what he did, and pay for it.”

“Find you? Do you know how insane that sounds? You could be anywhere.”

“No, I know I’m close. Someone saw the roots of a tree I projected on a wall today. I thought if I could delay your work someone would find me. I don’t know why I projected roots, I asked for a way to get your attention and the roots appeared,” the picture sobbed.

“That was on the north wall,” she said excitedly. “I was down there once but it felt creepy so I left.”

“That was me, I was trying to reach you. Please stop the work, find me and make him pay!”

Racing for the backdoor she grabbed her keys, made sure she had her tools and fired up her truck. The site felt eerie after hours, but she didn’t let that phase her. Grabbing a pick axe and a flashlight she headed to the basement of the ancient mill. Reaching the north wall she moved from side to side, feeling the smooth sides until a silent signal told her she had found the right spot. She swung the axe like a weapon, chipping away at the wall. Debris piled up around her feet as she worked and sweat ran into her eyes, but she kept swinging.

When she felt a thud unlike stone she put down the pickaxe and studied the wall, finding a layer of ancient bricks. Excitement mounted as she resumed her hammering, shattering bricks as she worked. She had been unprepared for what she would find. The smooth white skull and slender vertebrae she found took her breath away.

“Who are you?” she croaked

“Elizabeth, Elizabeth Smythe. My husband killed me and nobody knew.” the voice whispered.

“They will now,” she smiled, dialing 911.

After an intense investigation, the aging Mr. Smythe was more than happy to get his crime off his chest. He was arrested and detained in a prison wing for aging prisoners. The work at the mill was finished, the Muffster was happy and Jan had more job offers than she could handle. Best of all, Elizabeth was finally at rest.

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