The Tower Journal

  Andrea Thames


      

   Frozen in Time

 

Judy Cutler stood quietly, afraid to move. A chill unlike any she had ever experienced overcame her, as though a thousand drops of ice water slowly trickled down her spine. The sensation rushed through her body as she stood frozen, staring at her reflection in the window. She watched as individual strands of her short red hair defied the gravity that should have held them in place. One by one, each fine hair stood on end, creating a halo of fire around her head. She had seen and felt her face turn white, nearly bleaching her freckles and removing the healthy flush that had been there moments before. She violently rubbed the goose bumps on her arms in an effort to warm herself, but the chill remained. When she had first viewed the house, then decided to buy it, she had been certain it was free of paranormal activity.

She’d been the only person inside, yet a small-framed woman had just walked past, inches away from where she stood. The woman was gone faster than she had come, her entire form disappearing before Judy’s eyes. She was about five feet tall and her white knee-length dress hung loosely over her shoulders. Her legs and feet were bare and her hair was twisted into a silver braid that reached the middle of her back. It was her eyes that were most memorable, however, as they were ice blue, vacant pools. Judy shivered again and forced herself to concentrate once more on her deep breathing.

She could see her daughter standing outside as she peered through the thick window. Kate was twirling a chunk of her brown hair around her finger as she talked to the neighbor girl. Judy had been certain that she and her Cocker Spaniel, Gruff, were alone in the house. She looked at the assortment of boxes stacked in the corner of the living room near the red sofa she had purchased for their new home and wondered if the move had been a mistake. Judy picked at a small tear in the gray diamond-print wallpaper and wondered what horrific stories the home was hiding.

She rolled down the sleeves of her over-sized sweatshirt to combat the cold she felt and shook her head as she looked back at the window. She could barely hear Gruff’s whine, but saw his reflection as he ran and hid under the solid oak dining set, then shivered and stared in terror as a word was scratched into the glass. She cringed at the high squeal of a blade as each letter was formed, though no knife, or hand, was present. One by one, the letters W, E, L, C, O, M, and E came together. Just then, her bedroom door slammed shut and her knees collapsed. She dropped to the floor and stared down the hall in the direction the sound had come from, unable to move.

“Mom! Where are you? I just met the coolest girl! She said she would come by after dinner and bring her mom to meet you…” Kate was saying, though her mother barely heard.

“Oh! There you are! Wait… Are you ok?” Kate asked, her brows arched in concern.

Gruff came running towards Kate and whimpered by her side. The girl bent down and rubbed his head, then sat on the floor next to her mother. Gruff climbed into her lap, shaking.

“What’s wrong with Gruff? What happened, Mom?” Kate asked.

Judy looked around and wondered if what she had seen had been real. Jumping to her feet too quickly, she nearly fell to the floor again, but supported her weight by holding onto the back of the red sofa. Kate, though small for an eight-year-old, wrapped her arms around her mother, attempting to hold her up.

Gruff was whimpering, looking down the hall at the closed bedroom door. His ears were up and his tail was stiff as his body responded to the same fear Judy felt. Kate’s eyes widened as she noticed a word on the window she hadn’t seen before.

“WELCOME,” she read aloud. “Has that always been there? Mom? Are you alright?”

“Someone is in the house,” Judy said quietly.

Kate froze and stood up slowly, looking around. Gruff was still staring down the hall and Kate looked in the direction his eyes were pointing. All she could see was her mother’s closed bedroom door.

“Mom? MOM? I don’t see anyone,” Kate responded, staring into her mother’s ashen face.

“We have to leave now,” Judy said quietly. She picked up Gruff, startling him, and held him in one arm while grabbing hold of Kate’s hand.

“Quickly.”

They rushed to the front door, which had been left open in Kate’s haste to tell her mother about her new friend. They had nearly reached the door when Judy paused briefly to adjust the weight of the dog in her arm. The door slammed shut in front of them, followed by the twisting of the lock and the slow placement of the chain.

Kate screamed and Judy nearly dropped Gruff as she raced to the door and unlocked it. Pulling on the knob, an icy chill enveloped Judy as she realized the door could not be opened. It was as though an enormous weight was pressed against it, though she could not see anything or anyone in front of it. She carried Gruff, her hands shaking, and pulled Kate along as they headed towards the back door.

They stopped abruptly as they reached the dining table, only a few feet from the back door. Gruff wiggled out of Judy’s grasp and dashed down the hall with wide eyes and tail dragging on the wood floor. The woman was there, hovering in front of the door. Frozen to the floor, Judy held her sobbing daughter. The woman slinked forward, then stopped and stared coldly at them, as if daring them to come closer. Suddenly, the ghost began moving again, the vision of an eerie mist, then turned and walked through the wall into the next room. Judy held Kate’s hand and together they ran to the door. Yanking on the knob, Judy found it tightly shut as well. Sinking to the floor, they held each other, too terrified to move.

“Mom, what are we going to do?” Kate whispered roughly.

“We’ll find a way out,” her mother responded, though she did not know how this would be possible. She pictured the floor plan of the small home. There were only two doors to the seventy-year-old house, and the windows were too thick to break easily. Looking towards the entrance to the cellar, Judy remembered that no outside exits would be found there, either.

They heard Gruff bark and listened as he came darting towards them, claws scratching the floor. He climbed into Judy’s lap and tucked his face under her arm, his small body quivering. Judy’s heart was pounding so hard against her chest, she thought it would break through bone and flesh. Kate looked up at her mother with wide eyes. Judy had a knot in her stomach and felt numb as she wondered what she could do to ease her daughter’s fears.

Together, the three of them stood up, Gruff in Judy’s arms and Kate clinging to her mother’s sweatshirt. Perhaps if they did not attempt to leave, at least for now, the woman would not try as hard to keep them there and would become careless, giving them a chance to free themselves.

“Let’s make dinner,” Judy said as calmly as possible.

Kate looked at her as though she was crazy. Setting Gruff on the floor, Judy ignored the look on her daughter’s face. Kate helped remove items from boxes and the refrigerator as they slowly prepared their meal, glancing around the kitchen in quiet terror. When it was time to eat, Kate found plates and silverware and her mother served up spaghetti. Judy refilled Gruff’s food and water bowls and slid them under the table where he hid, but the dog would not eat.

The attempt at small talk was painful for them, but they gave it a try.

“What is your new friend’s name?” Judy asked her daughter.

“Annabelle,” came the whispered reply.

“That’s a pretty name. How old is she?”

“Just turned nine,” Kate answered while her eyes continued to look around the kitchen.

“Great,” was her mother’s quiet response. Kate’s eyes widened. She dropped her fork on the table. Judy looked around the room and saw their unwelcome guest peering into the kitchen, then vaulted to her feet, knocking her chair over.

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” Judy screamed, bringing a large grin to the woman’s transparent face. Shivering, Judy did not look away until the ghost disappeared into the wall. Kate screamed as spaghetti sauce smeared letters onto the refrigerator door, slowly spelling out the word “YOU.”

Judy threw her plate at the red sauce, causing the word to slide down in a mess of noodles and Parmesan cheese, then left the kitchen quickly with Kate. Gruff followed closely as they moved towards the living room. The woman stood in front of the door once again, this time with a blank expression on her face. Slowly, the specter drifted to the windows and pulled down the shades. Judy and Kate shivered as darkness fell around them. The woman’s wintry face appeared only inches away from Judy, her mouth opening impossibly wide, and a shrill cry coming from somewhere that could only be hell. Kate and her mother shrieked as they were forced in the direction of the cellar door. Judy clumsily yanked it open and tugged on Kate’s hand as they descended the stairs, Gruff dashing ahead and reaching the darkness below only seconds before them. Failing to flip the light on, they fumbled in the dark, hoping to find a place to hide themselves.

“Mom! Look! There’s a tiny bit of light coming from that wall!” Kate said.

Her mother, unable to see where Kate was pointing, inspected the darkness until she could see the glow. They began to step towards it, and as they did so, the cellar dust choked them, causing an eruption of coughs. They moved spider webs as the light illuminated more of their path. Glass crunched beneath their feet and they saw a variety of empty glass bottles lining dusty shelves, several having fallen to the concrete floor, shattered into hundreds of pieces. Judy carried Gruff as they worked their way closer to the wall. She heard the awkward cadence of her heart echoing in her ears as she reached out with trembling hands to find the source of the light.  

Listening as the cellar door creaked, Judy steadied her breath. Soft footsteps slowly reached the bottom of the stairs and she pulled Kate and Gruff along with her out of the path of light, hoping to hide from whoever or whatever was coming. She held tightly to Kate, who hid her face against her mother. Gruff whimpered again and worked himself into a tight corner. They could feel cool air coming through the crack in the wall where the light was coming in. Judy put her right hand to her side and felt a hard, wood surface. She ran her hand along it and came across a sledgehammer. She quietly urged Kate to hide next to Gruff, then picked up the sledgehammer as she walked towards the light once more.

There began to be a shuffling across the cellar floor, then a voice.

            “Don’t be foolish, child,” the woman said. “I know where you are, because I am everywhere.”

            Judy hurled the hammer at the wall and pieces of cement broke off in large chunks in an explosion of dust. Kate cringed and held her ears as the loud cracking echoed in the small space. A musty smell saturated the room, causing a wave of nausea to hit Judy and Kate. The room grew brighter and brighter. Judy swung the sledgehammer with greater force.

            “Just keep trying, child,” came the woman’s amused voice again. “You can’t be rid of me.”

            With one last hit, the final pieces came falling down, creating a hole large enough for three to pass through.

            “KATE! Come on! Hurry! Gruff, run boy!” Judy yelled.

            Judy felt herself being pushed through the hole in the wall, and a voice cackled and then was silenced by the sound of the wall being rebuilt behind her. She looked around in confusion, and could hear Kate screaming from the other side of the wall. Judy pounded her fists against the cold cement and cried out for her daughter, but was interrupted by the chill she felt creeping into her skin.

            She stepped away and stared. Her surroundings were surreal. The ground was flat. There were no trees, no buildings. The car was not there, and neither was the house. There was no sky. There was merely a wall that stretched on through, what could be, eternity.

            Suddenly startled by movement close by, Judy stepped back, a gasp escaping her throat as she saw the specter standing before her, smiling, with ice blue eyes carving into her soul.

            “I’m so glad you could join me here, child,” the woman said.

Before Judy could collapse to the ground to succumb to the terror, her feet turned to ice. The cold crept up her legs and she was unable to move them. Slowly, her torso froze, and her hands and arms. The cold worked up to her shoulders and neck, reaching her chin. She let out a final gasp and her mouth froze open, followed by the freezing of her wide eyes, then her fine red hair.

            She looked on as the ghost turned in satisfaction and floated away, then could hear a child’s voice, echoing somewhere in a distant place.

            “Kate! It’s me, Annabelle! I told you I would come over after dinner and bring my mom…”

The voice faded, but Judy could still hear pounding against the other side of the wall where her daughter remained.

            Kate.

The sound vanished. Color dissolved slowly, as did all light. Eyes stared into darkness, seeing nothing. All that endured was a statue, frozen in time.

 

   Copyright © 2018 Andrea Thames


Andrea Thames lives in American Fork, Utah, with her husband, Brian, and their five kids: Ciara, Joey, Lily, Jack, and Annie. She enjoys time with her family. She loves reading stories to her young children and playing with them because she loves to see what they discover and how they use their imaginations. She dabbles in painting and photography and has recently become interested in poetry. Her undergraduate degree is in Graphic Design and Media Arts, and she is currently working on her master’s degree in English and Creative Writing with an emphasis on fiction at Southern New Hampshire University. She has had art and a short story published in two Utah Valley University literary and art magazines, and her art has won awards in local competitions. She has always loved a good story and telling a story is akin to creating her own world, very much like putting paint on paper or canvas or looking through the lens of a camera. She typically enjoys stories that are lighthearted, but she  has noticed that when she writes, sometimes another side of her comes out that has been hiding. It is amazing to her what can lie deep within the mind, coming to the surface only when writing.
 

The Tower Journal
Summer 2018