I absolutely loved Daniel B. Johns addition to the Winter Heat Anthology. WInter Heat is an amazing collection of stories by some new and promising authors. Enjoy the first part of Daniel's first published story.
Daniel B. Johns
It all starts out innocently enough. First comes the smell, something musty or maybe decay.
Second is the vision, quick flashes of objects at first, all leading me to one thing, a door. It’s the last door down the hall, the one door with no number. The number '4' is missing. A faint glow from an overhead bulb flickers from lack of use. The narrow space resembles a tunnel as I slowly climb the steps. The old wallpaper is peeling from the walls after years of neglect.
When I reach the top, the first thing I notice is a large mirror with no reflection. Hanging on the walls are numerous other mirrors, all shapes and sizes.
These visions go on for several nights, and then I hear the voice in my head. He calls himself, Luchien and at first I ignore him, but he is persistent and it scares me. From the voice comes a tale of a place between here and there, a place known only as the Realm. The only way to enter the Realm is through mirrors, or as Luchien calls them, gateways. You are always given a choice at the time, but choose wisely, for it might be your last. The voice in my head proceeds to tell me that the realm is ruled by 'He who walks the Realm'. 'He' is evil in its purest form, goes by many names, and takes on many forms.
As I said earlier, the mirrors are the gateways to the realm, and they can take you anywhere you want to go, for a price. As I listen, I try to keep an open mind to everything I am hearing. Then the voice tells me what he has a proposition for me. A proposition I find hard to say no to. That is when I decided to keep this journal of sorts. The length to be determined by the amount of time it takes to reach the end, or until I loose my grip on reality, whichever comes first.
The headline of the newspaper says it all.
PSYCHIC HELPS BOSTON POLICE SOLVE ANOTHER COLD CASE
This time I find the remains of a young man who disappeared in the 1940s, shrouded in mystery. A story that urban legends are made of, and here I am, a small part of a much larger picture. I can not take all the credit though; I owe most to the voice in my head.
Until now, I had never thought about my gifts as a means of financial support, but yet here I am. I am by no means rich, never wanted to be and never will be, but I live comfortably.
For five months I worked with the Boston Police on this case. My first contact with Sam Somers was like all the others. He knew he was dead, but what he didn’t realize was that over sixty years had passed. This seems to be a side effect of people from the Realm, time slows down. By now you can see that I accepted that proposition from the voice in my head. He gives me the lost souls so I can help them find peace and cross over. In return I have to open a gateway for him.
Oliver Stranton has been coming to see me for the past five months in the hopes that he can close this chapter of his life. I get the feeling that the man is making preparations.
Twice a week, like clockwork, the eighty-five year old man visits my apartment building for his reading. I shuffle the cards and he cuts them. I light my candle, clear my mind, and begin to turn over the cards.
I never ask for details before I do a reading. It makes what I do more exciting for everyone involved, including me. During these past few months though, I learned some things about Oliver's partner, Sam Somers. First, the night he went missing was Sam's birthday. Second, they were high school sweethearts in a time when homosexuality was forbidden, and third, Sam was only twenty-one years old when he vanished.
I use to think that was impossible. No one can just vanish without a trace, never to be heard from again. That is, until I heard Luchien whisper in my head. As I researched, I found recent statistics that show nine hundred thousand people, worldwide, go missing each year. That is 2,300 people a day. Most are never found.
When there is a knock on my door, I am not surprised to find Oliver Stranton standing in the doorway.
“Mr. Stranton.” I greet him and step aside for the elderly man and his companion to enter.
“I hope I am not interrupting?” he asks. “And please call me Oliver.”
“Oliver it is.” I grin as we walk to my small living room. “I was actually expecting you.”
“I understand from the police that you were the one who finally found him,” Oliver says as he sits in his usual chair. His caretaker stands silently and waits diligently.
“Yes,” I answer and nod. Oliver seems to want to ask more, but is not sure how to do it.
I sit down on the coffee table in front of him, take a deep breath and hold out my hands. The elderly man places his in mine, and I close mine over them.
“Are you ready?” I ask him before I continue. “He is very eager.”
Oliver nods in agreement. I close my eyes and take another deep breath.
Sam, Are you here? I call out in my mind. I see many faceless forms wandering around in a blinding fog. All the souls Luchien has released as part of our deal.
“Here I am Stanley,” a young man says, stepping up to me. “Is Ollie with you?”
Yes, he is here, I tell Sam with a smile. For some reason the nickname reminds me of an old show I used to watch with my dad on Saturday mornings, ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’.
Holding Oliver's hands in mine, I give them a squeeze. I feel his body tense and he takes in a breath. I listen to what the spirit of Sam has to say, and then I begin to relay it to Oliver.
“He says to tell you that he loves you very much. Always has, and always will,” I begin.
“He says to tell you that he is sorry he missed his birthday dinner,” I add and open my eyes slightly. I watch as a tear rolls down the old man’s wrinkled cheek.
“Sam says to tell you that he will wait for you, just as you waited all these years for him,” I add.
Then there is a rush of energy that races through my body, and with that, the connection to Sam is gone. All that remains is the faint aroma of Lucky Strike cigarettes. I can hear Oliver as he takes in the familiar aroma.
Silent moments pass and Oliver slowly starts to leave when he turns to me.
“I waited for him, you know, never giving up hope,” he tells me, and I nod my understanding at his wanting closure. “Do you know if he suffered?”
“He didn’t,” I lie with a slight smile. With some peace of mind, I watch Oliver leave.