Welcome to FROST HARROW, my new modern (1990s) gothic horror series!
TWENTY-SEVEN – ARRANGEMENTS
Cold water cascaded over Ivy’s breasts and down the front of her body, soaking her crotch and then dribbling over her legs and down the drain.
She took deep breaths and tried to fight back the feelings welling up inside her. The urges had been almost irresistible when she left the car. Even Kaplan looked good to her.
When she got to her room, she lay down on the bed and masturbated, but it didn’t help. If anything, it made the feelings stronger. And Ivy had the disquieting feeling that she was being watched.
She looked in the closets, the wardrobe, under the bed, out the window, in the bathroom, but found no one. The urge refused to abate.
She took her mother’s mezuzah and her father’s cross from her jewelry box, held them in her hands, and prayed. But that did even less than masturbating.
She felt as if a great hot fog had rolled into her brain, and she didn’t know the way out of it. The day passed quickly. Ivy skipped lunch, but still the fog refused to lift.
Ivy looked at Tony’s lighthouse where it hung on the wall. She concentrated on it the way she’d learned to do from a friend who was into meditation. It helped a bit.
Until she began to imagine that she saw someone in the lighthouse looking back at her. First, she thought it looked like Grant. Then she realized it was a huge, dark man with blazing red eyes—the stranger from her dreams.
That’s when she hit the shower. The cold raised goose bumps on her skin, but she could still feel the fire inside.
She closed the tub’s stopper and sat down, letting the chill water rise and envelop her body. She didn’t even care if her cast got wet. She only wanted relief.
The shower pounded on her head and torso like a cold rain. In the hissing sound it made she almost thought she could hear a voice, though she couldn’t make out the words.
Ivy wondered if she might be going mad.
She covered her ears and hummed Dream Lover by Bobby Darin to drown out the voice. Then she segued into Mack the Knife then Beyond the Sea. When none of those helped, she resorted to singing Splish Splash at the top of her lungs until her ears rang.
No. Wait. It wasn’t her ears ringing; it was the phone.
Ivy had to answer the phone.
She stepped out of the shower and picked up the receiver.
“Cassie!” Ivy cried, immediately recognizing the voice on the other end. “Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you since this morning.”
“Sorry. I was out shopping. What’s up?”
“Cassie, I think I’m losing my mind. Something in this house is driving me crazy. I keep having these terrible dreams, and…”
“Okay. Okay. Slow down. How can I help?”
“Could I come and stay with you for a while? Just a couple of days, until I can settle down?”
There was a short silence on the other end of the phone. Then Cassie said, “Sure. Drive right over if you like.” She paused again. “If you want me to stay here with you, I’ll have to cancel a date.”
“Could you, please? I need someone to talk to for a bit.”
“Sure. You know, if you’d rather talk to Grant, I’m sure he’s available.”
“No!” Ivy blurted, hoping Cassie couldn’t hear the desperation in her voice.
“No,” she said again more calmly. “I’d rather not. I think Grant may be part of the problem.”
“Huh? How do you mean?”
“I’ll try to explain when I see you. I’ll have Kaplan bring me right over.”
“Okay. See you soon.”
Ivy hung up the phone, walked to her dresser, and picked out some sweats. Every place the clothing touched her, her skin tingled. Having to struggle around the cast made it even worse. It felt as if a million tiny tongues were touching her all over.
She threw a few things in an overnight bag, hung her medallion around her neck, called the carriage house, and told Kaplan to meet her at the front door.
Twenty minutes later he dropped her off in front of Cassie’s house on the south side of Frosthaven. A storm had rolled in from the lake, painting the evening pitch black. Now a gentle rain fell, but the flashes of lightning made it obvious things would get worse before they got better.
Cassie met her friend at the door. “Jesus, Ivy, what’s wrong? You look terrible.”
Ivy stepped past her into the house. “I feel terrible.” She dropped her bag on the floor and collapsed on the couch. “I feel like I’m running at a million miles per hour. My sex drive’s in overdrive and I can’t take it out of gear.”
Cassie almost laughed, but then seemed to realize that her friend was serious.
Ivy felt flushed, and her breath came in short gasps.
Cassie sat down beside her friend.
“Did you try masturbating?”
“God, yes. It didn’t do any good.”
“You could borrow my vibrator if you like.”
Ivy laughed. “No. Thank you. I think this problem goes deeper than that.”
“I’ve got some pretty big vibrators, a couple that will tickle you all the way back.”
“No. Really,” said Ivy. “I don’t think sex is going to solve this problem, no matter how good it is.”
She paused. Took a deep breath. “Cassie, do you think I could be going out of my mind?”
Cassie narrowed her eyes and looked at her friend. “They say if you’re really crazy, you don’t know you’re crazy.”
“I’m not sure I trust that cliché. What I’m really wondering is if the accident did something to me—gave me some kind of brain damage.”
“Why don’t you go to Beth Iz and find out. I know it’s past their usual hours, but with your family’s pull…”
“No!” snapped Ivy. “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want my family to find out. I don’t know how they’d handle it. I don’t know what they’d do.”
“For God’s sake, it’s not like they’d throw you in the loony bin. I mean…That’s over ages ago, right?”
Ivy stared at her friend with cold, blue-grey eyes. “Over…? With my family…? I’m not sure of that.”
Cassie exhaled audibly. “Ivy, that sounds a bit paranoid. Have you been getting much sleep lately?”
“Hardly any. I keep having nightmares.”
“How long have you had these nightmares?”
Ivy thought a minute, wiped some sweat from her brow. “Since the accident, I guess. Cassie, I’ve never told anyone this before, not even Grant. After the accident, I had this dream. At least I think it was a dream.”
Cassie nodded. “Go on.”
Ivy took a deep breath. “I was walking on a deserted seashore, and I met my mother.”
“Ivy, your mother’s dead. It must have been a dream.”
“That’s what I thought, but it seemed very real at the time. Anyway, my mother tried to warn me about something, but she wasn’t very clear. I couldn’t figure out what she meant.
“Then a storm came up. There was something in the storm. Something that wanted me. I ran, but it nearly caught me.
“I got hit by lightning and the monster vanished. Then I remember hearing the doctors talking about me. I guess I must have woken up from the dream, though I never opened my eyes. Maybe the lightning was when they jump-started my heart. I blacked out again after that. Anyway, the next thing I remember is being in the hospital.”
“But you’ve had the dream again since?” Cassie asked.
“Not the same dream, but other dreams where I was being chased or carried away. They all involve some kind of creature with red eyes. I think it wants me—sexually.
“Last time, I woke up outside the door to my room with my nightgown in tatters on the floor. The nightgown had blood on it, but there isn’t an open scratch on me. And I’m not having my period.
Cassie propped her hand on her chin and looked thoughtful. Ivy took another deep breath.
“Cassie… do you think I could really have been dead? That meeting my mother wasn’t just some bizarre dream? Could something have followed me back from the other side?”
Cassie rubbed her head. “Ivy, that kind of stuff only happens in movies.”
Ivy sighed. “I know. And I know you’ll think I’m crazy when I tell you this… But I think I’ve seen the creature when I’ve been awake.”
“What?” Cassie seemed to hardly believe what she was hearing. “Where?”
“At Tony’s the other day. And then this morning, in the old graveyard. It chased me through the graveyard. At least, I think it did. If I hadn’t run into Grant, I don’t know what would have happened.”
“Did Grant or Tony see this monster?”
“Not that I know of. They didn’t mention it anyway. Tony looked, but I didn’t want Grant to leave me alone.”
“Okay, so if you saw Grant after this happened… Why don’t you want to see him now? How is he part of the problem?”
Ivy sighed. “Cassie, I don’t want him to think I’m crazy. I don’t want to blow it with him. I like him too much.”
She took a deep breath. “Plus, over the last couple of days, I’ve been getting hornier and hornier. I feel completely out of control.
“I’ve tried everything I can think of. I trust him, but I’m afraid—if I’m with him—I might do something I’m not ready for. Something one of us might regret later.”
Cassie shook her head. “I don’t know, Ivy. I think part of your problem is that you’re exhausted. Everything’s been happening all at once since your accident.
“Grant coming home. Your birthday. You trying to recover and get back to work. It’s all happening too fast.”
“Plus the usual shit with my family,” said Ivy, rubbing her eyes.
“Yeah. All that shit, too. Hon, I think you really need a vacation.”
Ivy laid her head back on the couch. “I’d settle for a good night’s sleep.”
“I’ve got some sleeping pills if you think that will help.”
“It couldn’t hurt.”
Cassie hugged her friend.
Ivy’s body felt hot—hotter during the embrace.
“I’ll get the pills,” Cassie said. “You go upstairs and lie down in the guest room. I’ll bring some aspirin, too. I think you might have a fever.”
Ivy looked at her friend, then closed her eyes and sank back into the couch. “I hope the fever breaks before I do.”
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).
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