Welcome to FROST HARROW, my new modern (1990s) gothic horror series! If you’d like to support this and my other work, go to www.CushingHorrors.com and become my patron! You may also enjoy the Scribe Award-Winning MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE – In print, for kindle, and for all e-book formats. And check out my retro-horror-comedy classic CANOE COPS VS. THE MUMMY as well as my other books. Now… On with the show!
THREE – FACES
A long time later, a soft breeze pulled back the gauze covering Ivy’s eyes. She blinked once, twice, and the world came into better focus.
A man’s face loomed over her. He had curly brown hair, black-rimmed glasses, and an extraordinarily large nose. The proboscis grew longer as he leaned closer. Ivy blinked again, and the man’s face assumed more normal, human proportions. When he spoke, Ivy recognized his voice as the one she’d heard while running from the storm, just before the lightning struck her.
“It looks like our patient is coming around,” he said to someone.
He smiled at her. She realized now that he wore a white doctor’s coat and a stethoscope around his neck. He turned to someone Ivy couldn’t see. “Tell Miss Frost’s family they can come in now.”
Ivy realized that she must be in a hospital. She heard the door to the room swing open.
“Ivy, thank God you’re all right!” Ivy recognized the voice as belonging to her Aunt Brittany. She also recognized Brittany’s vague, cloying perfume—the scent her aunt often used to conceal the smell of alcohol.
Ivy tried to move her head and discovered she couldn’t. She tried to speak but found a tube in the way of her tongue. It made talking difficult. “W-what happened to me…?” she managed to rasp.
Aunt Brittany came into her field of view, her violet eyes flashing behind her wire-rim glasses. Brittany had a pleasant, careworn face with small lines around the mouth and eyes. Grey streaked her auburn hair. She wore a knee-length burgundy dress and coat with a pink silk blouse. Several thin gold chains hung tastefully at her throat, and she’d limited her rings to one small one on each hand. Tiny golden studs decorated Brittany’s earlobes. As always, aunt Annie—that’s what everyone in the family called her—had chosen her wardrobe carefully and matched her clothing to her accessories.
She smiled at Ivy. “You had a little accident,” she said. “But everything’s going to be all right now. Your uncle will be so pleased.”
Uncle Daniel, Ivy thought. That’s a laugh. If it were true, it would be the first time her uncle had been pleased with anything about her.
“Of course, Danny couldn’t be here,” continued Brittany. “But Anthony and I have been with you since the moment we heard. Haven’t we, Anthony?”
Tony Frost stepped into Ivy’s field of view. He had a handsome face, short dark hair, and the family’s violet eyes. He was dressed casually in loose-fitting pale pants and a grey sweatshirt. He smiled down at her warmly.
Ivy felt glad to see him. She tried to smile back, but the tube got in her way.
“Hello, Ivy,” he said. “How’s my favorite cousin?”
“I feel like shit,” Ivy croaked.
“And I’m not surprised, after all you’ve been through,” said Annie, dabbing the corner of her eyes with a lace handkerchief. “But you’re going to get better now, I just know it.”
“Yes,” said the doctor from somewhere to Ivy’s right. “She’ll make a full recovery.”
“Why can’t I move my neck?” Ivy asked.
The doctor leaned forward so she could see him. “We put you in a neck brace as a precaution. Because you were unconscious, we had no way to tell how badly you might have been hurt. Can you feel this?” He ran his pen across the sole of Ivy’s right foot.
“Ouch! Hey!” she cried. “Can’t you see my feet were cut to ribbons by the sand?”
The doctor looked at Tony and Annie, who looked quizzically back at him.
“What does she mean, Dr. Shapiro?” Annie asked, a twinge of concern in her voice.
“Don’t worry,” Shapiro said, smiling. “She’s just a little disoriented.”
Tony smiled at his cousin again. “It wasn’t the beach, Ivy. You rolled your car down Victor’s Bluff. Don’t you remember?”
Ivy thought a moment. “Yes, I remember. A cat ran in front of me. I didn’t want to hit it.”
“Next time,” said Tony, “do yourself a favor and turn the other way. I don’t want to lose my favorite critic.”
Ivy tried to smile again, pushing the tube out of her mouth with her tongue. The doctor stepped forward and pushed it back in.
“I think that’s enough for now,” he said. “She should sleep. And you both probably need some rest, too.”
Tony nodded, as did Annie. “We’ll bring you something nice when we come back, dear,” she said. “You rest now.” Annie moved out of Ivy’s field of vision toward the door. Tony began to do the same.
“Tony, wait,” Ivy called. He stopped and returned to her bedside.
She tried to move her right hand to her neck but found the hand had been tied down. She glanced in that direction and discovered an intra-venous tube attached to the back of her hand as well. She could hardly feel her left arm at all. “My medallion,” she asked, “where is it? I can’t feel it.”
Tony’s eyes strayed to a nearby dresser. “Is it all right, Doctor?” he asked.
“She can’t wear it,” said Shapiro, “but you can hang it on her railing if she wants.”
Tony went to the dresser and fetched Ivy’s medallion out. The amulet was a silver triangle, the size of three half dollars, hanging from a thin silver chain. Celtic knots twined about the medal’s surface like a maze, with a polished blue stone resting in the center.
Ivy’s mother had given the necklace to her father, Edward Frost, years ago. Ivy inherited it after they passed on. The amulet remained one of the last keepsakes Ivy had of her parents and happier times. She’d worn it around her neck since the day they died. The sight of the medallion cheered her. She loved to trace over the knots of the design in her mind.
Tony hung the chain on her bedrail, out of the way of the tubes and equipment connected to her. Then he leaned close and whispered in Ivy’s ear.
“When you’re up to it,” he said, “I’ve got a special visitor who wants to see you. Mum’s the word to the relatives, though.”
Ivy started to ask something, but before she could form the sentence, Tony vanished out the door.
Dr. Shapiro took her pulse and made some notes on her chart. “Try to rest now,” he said. “You’ll feel much better tomorrow.” Then he left, too, dimming the lights as he went.
The darkness closed in, but sleep didn’t come quickly for Ivy. After the doctor left, a strange thought passed through her head. She was not alone in the room. A sound like distant breathing nagged at her ears. But shifting her eyes around the room, she found only shadows.
It must be the ventilation system, she finally decided. They should fix it. It’s creepy.
Discovering the source of the breathing didn’t help her get to sleep. Vague, disturbing thoughts and memories played across her mind and one troubling question burned in her brain:
Who is coming to see me?
TO BE CONTINUED…
Read my FREE Frost Harrow Halloween stories:
“The Weeping Ghost” (2012), “A Trace of Violet” (2013), “Lunchroom Zombies” (2014), “Omens & Visitations” (2015), “Fata Morgana” (2016), “At the Appointed Hour” (2017), and “Devil’s Lake” (2018).