Spark, No Flame
sat up abruptly, reached over to his nightstand for his pack of cigarettes. Not
there. He leaned over, opened the nightstand's drawer, and pawed through the
papers and junk stored therein. At the back of the drawer he found his crumpled
pack of cigarettes. He deftly shook one out, stuck it between his lips.
searched the drawer again; surely he’d left an extra lighter or matches in
there. He found a cheap disposable lighter under a stack of small papers, a
collection of receipts or something. He held it up to his stale cigarette and
thumbed the tiny wheel. Scritch, scritch. No spark, no flame. He threw the
impotent lighter at the wall.
great effort, he swung his legs over the side of the bed, planted his feet firmly
on the floor, and pushed himself up. He was a little unstable, and more than a
bit groggy, but he figured he’d been asleep a long time; which was often the
case after a long hard night of partying.
shuffled over to his dresser; he always kept a lighter, or matches, in the
antique silver change bowl there. He felt around but couldn’t locate his bowl,
or anything else familiar on the dresser. He suspected one of his
friends-with-benefits might have lifted it. Those women always seemed to think
he owed them something after their romps.
it was so dark in here! He couldn’t really see much of anything in this room,
only vague, shadowy shapes. He looked back at his bed. Where was the light from
his digital clock? Was it unplugged? Was the power out? Or did one of those
fun-time bunnies take that too?
jerked the cigarette from his mouth. He ran his tongue over his lips; his
tongue felt rough and dry. Dehydrated, he supposed. He chuckled to himself. No
surprise after what he indulged in last night—which was? He couldn’t remember,
which means it must have been awesome.
like he’d have to scrounge around in the den or kitchen for a lighter. He
trudged over to the bedroom door, grabbed the knob, and tried to turn it. It
wasn’t that the knob wouldn’t turn, it was that he had little to no strength in
his thin hand. He shook the knob in frustration. He was thirsty and he wanted a
smoke—now! Frustrated, he slapped the door with the palm of his sinewy hand.
* * *
you hear that? Sounded like someone rattling a doorknob. Don’t you tell me you
didn’t hear that.” Eileen’s wide eyes dared her friend to contradict her.
left the window open a teensy bit in the spare room—you know, to help air it
out—so it was probably a breeze knocking something over, or—” But Joan’s
explanation was interrupted by a loud thump on the spare room’s door. “Old
houses are full of creaky noises, anyway.” She shrugged, hoping to appear
nonchalant. “You get used to it.”
you afraid to live here alone?” Eileen chewed the rough edge of her fingernail.
It’s a great little bungalow—and the rent is cheap,” Joan laughed. “You know,
my folks charge me hardly anything to live here.”
wondered how you could afford a cute house like this, in a decent part of town,
on your salary.”
my mom inherited this place from her younger brother,” Joan went on. “Uncle Jon
was a real party boy. He never married, or had any kids—that we know of.”
She laughed again. “So when he kicked the
bucket, he left everything to mom.”
he die? Drug overdose? Did he owe the mob money? Did an angry husband catch him
in flagrante with his unfaithful wife?” Eileen shivered. “Did he die
Joan groaned. “He died of a massive heart attack. I was told he got up in the
middle of the night, to pee, probably, and—boom!—fell over, stone cold dead, on
In this house?” Eileen held her breath; she knew the answer but didn’t want to
Joan sighed, attempting to sound unconcerned. “His old bedroom is now the spare
room I use for storage. I still have a few pieces of his furniture in there;
stuff I couldn’t sell on Ebay. Like his bed.”
that’s why you’re airing that room out! How long was he dead in there?”
about ten days before someone came looking for him” Joan badly wanted to change
the subject. “So, hey, how about we stream that movie you were raving about? I
found it on Netflix, I’ll throw some popcorn in the microwave, and—”
The door to the spare room shook.
I should go on home,” Eileen whispered.
on! We’ll open that door—and you’ll see there’s nothing to be afraid of.” Joan
grabbed her friend's arm. “Lets go.”
the young women approached the closed door of the spare room, they could hear a
faint shuffling and scratching.
know, I bet some critter crawled in through that open window, and it’s just
poking around in there, looking for food,” Joan said, as much to convince
herself as her friend.
looking to make a nest,” Eileen muttered. Finding a raccoon or a rat in the
spare room would not make her feel any better than a ghost would.
put her hand on the cool glass door knob, turned it, and pushed the door open.
* * *
hellllooo ladies!” Uncle Jon croaked through cracked lips. He leaned
lecherously close to Eileen. “Aren’t you a pretty little thing.” He sniffed her
hair. “Nice and fresh!”
then turned his attention to Joan. “You look real familiar.” In the back of his
throat, he made a sound like a handful of dry leaves being crushed in a fist. “Didn’t
we hook up in Daytona Beach, a while back? Spring Break, and you in a string
bikini? Yeah, I remember you!” Joan shook her head frantically. She’d never
been to Florida in her life.
ghoulish thing standing before them was tall and gaunt and gray, wearing
stained silk pajamas that hung on his haggard frame like rags on a forgotten
scarecrow. He rolled his head on his crooked stick-like neck, loudly cracking
the joints. The sound made both women cringe; neither could catch their breath,
much less speak—much less run away screaming; which is what they both wanted to
Joan and Eileen hugged each other, and began slowly backing away from the
horrid specter in the doorway.
on girl fun, huh?” Uncle Jon cracked his bony knuckles. “Alright, alright—looks
like party time is upon us,” he continued, cocking an eyebrow in what once
would have been a smoothly flirtatious move. Now it just looked sadly hideous.
Still leering at the panicked women, he rubbed his sinewy hand across his cold,
his other hand, he took the stale cigarette from his parched lips and waved it
in an arc towards the receding women. “But first things first, ladies—either
one of you have a light?”