“I See Irene” by Richard F. Yates
Jill and Melissa were both 22 years old and had recently rented an apartment together. They had been friends since high school and liked to tease and challenge each other, though normally they never let things get too far out of hand—until THAT night, anyway; THAT night they watched a particular horror film together, the one about a murderous specter, named Irene, who appeared when you said a certain chant in the bathroom mirror.
Jill had borrowed the film from her brother, and as she slid the disc into Melissa’s dvd player, the first crack of thunder hit from the storm that had been building all evening. Melissa jumped at the booming rumble, and Jill made ghost noises and wiggled her fingers at her friend. They both laughed.
The movie was a solid feature with clever dialog, some good jump scares, and a storyline that had the girls clenching their teeth and skooching closer together on the couch during the tenser scenes. After all the beautiful young-adults had been slaughtered and the credits started to roll, a daring lick of lightning got a little fresh with a transformer on a telephone-pole near the apartment, and the lights went out.
Both girls screamed and grabbed each other. When they mustered the courage to open their eyes, they realized it was just a power outage, and Melissa grabbed her cell phone to use it as a flashlight, then began searching the apartment for a couple of candles and a lighter.
Conversation by candle-light can be a lovely experience, and Jill and Melissa spent the remainder of the evening discussing old boyfriends, troubles at work, and plans for a beach trip once the weather improved. Bathed in warm, flickering shadows and the smell of mulberry, the night melted away swiftly, until the friends found themselves on the verge of sleep.
Carrying their candles with them, they went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. It was only a matter of seconds before the idea hit both of their brains to try to conjure Irene, but Jill was the first to voice the plan as a dare. Had they not been so calm and cozy from the night’s conversation, they wouldn’t have had the nerve to test each other’s courage. But THAT night…
They held their candles with both hands and stared into the mirror.
“I see Irene!
I see Irene!
I see Irene!” they chanted together, and a freezing wind blew through the apartment extinguishing the flames in their hands.
Lightning flashed, (although whether this was the same mischievous bolt that struck earlier or not, we’re not at liberty to say,) and the girls, just briefly, spotted a pale, female figure behind them in the mirror. Then the light was gone.
And a soft voice said, “And I see you.”
The girls screamed and raced out of the bathroom, slammed the door behind them, and flew to their bedroom.
After a night of huddling in terror, which eventually melted into troubled sleep, the pair woke to find that they were both exhausted but still alive.
“Was that some kind of nightmare?” Jill asked.
“Or a hallucination, maybe?” Melissa said.
They dragged themselves, reluctantly, out of bed, convinced that the experience they’d shared was just a game played on them by the night’s storm.
However, when they reached their living-room, there, on the couch, lay a pale, female figure with blond pixie-cut hair and a pink angora sweater, stained rusty-purple by the dozen slashes her boyfriend had dealt her when he murdered her two decades earlier. At the edge of the couch, next to her feet (with pink roses painted on each toe-nail) were three open cans of soda, a half full bowl of popcorn, and an empty bag of chips.
“Oh, hey girls! Thanks for letting me out,” the figure said, opening one eye, but remaining supine on the couch. She stretched out a hand and wiggled her fingers in a weak wave. “The power came back on right after you two went to bed, so I stayed up all night watching movies. I hope you don’t mind, but I helped myself to a few snacks. It’s been decades since I’ve eaten and that can cause a serious case of the munchies. If it’s okay with you, I’m gonna sleep in for a bit,” she said and rolled over to go back to sleep.
Jill and Melissa just stood, staring, their mouths hanging open—in TERROR!
“Oh! Can you get another bag of those chips while you’re out today? They were bitchen!” Irene said.
“Can you believe this?” Jill whispered.
“I know!” Melissa answered. “That bag of chips wasn’t even opened yet! I just brought them home yesterday!”
(—Screeching violins play, and the scene fades to black.)
—Richard F. Yates
(Commander in Cheap of The Primitive Entertainment Workshop)
[Originally posted 5 Dec. 2012 @ The Primitive Entertainment Workshop.]
#writing #fiction #humor #horror #ghosts