Monday, December 30, 2013

Nicole E. Hirschi

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Memoir of CJT – Journalist (found)
There comes a time in every journalist’s career when you hope to have the chance of a lifetime—that one story that will change your fate. That’s why we do it, to make a world-renowned name for ourselves.
I’m no different from the rest.
Chances are funny things. They come and go at the whim of Karma—as if you deserve them. I’m not sure why I feel that way; it just is.
My chance, I think, came on a stormy night while my flight was delayed. With nothing better to do than wait out the tornadoes swirling around the Dallas area, my feet finally found a resting place at the airport cantina.
I ordered my usual Jack and Coke and glanced through my notes.
“Excuse me?” A craggily woman’s voice asked from next to me. I looked over at her. Her eyes, startlingly cloudy, held me to them.
“Oh, hey, um… hi.” I blurted out, realizing that I’d been staring.
“Is this seat open?” Her voice croaked above the music.
“Sure.” I offered her a hand which she ignored as she climbed into the chair. She set her gnarled cane down on the bar with a thud.
“You don’t know me.” She half whispered after taking my drink and finishing it off. I ordered two more.
“Well, my name’s CJ, if you tell me who you are, then I guess we’ll know each other.” I felt like a smartass.
“Just call me Karma,” she said, and I snorted Jack and Coke out my nose and blindly groped for a napkin.
“Ok, Karma, it’s nice to meet you.” I stretched out my hand, but slowly pulled it back when she didn’t take it.
“You don’t want me to touch you, I promise you that.” She let out a crackly laugh, “I’m a psychic, and have only one thing to share with you.”
Psychic, really? I’d only met one other psychic. Sure, I wrote her precious tear jerker story about a dead pioneer girl, but even that was followed up with research. Her fluff was just good talk for the tabloid I was writing for back then.
I rolled my eyes and took another sip of my drink.
“Don’t,” she harshly whispered thumping her cane on the bar again, “be skeptical. I’ve seen things you’ll never understand.”
“Um… okay.” I decided I’d play along for the moment.
“CJ, I know that’s not your real name, just as Karma’s not mine, but that’s neither here nor there.”
I cleared my throat, feeling uncomfortable. It was true, I had changed my name after getting divorced, but anyone could have guessed that.
“You want,” she hesitated, her milky eyes glancing at the ceiling, “no, need, your life changing story, yes?”
My God, was I such a fool? “Yes.” I spoke barely above a whisper and leaned towards her.
“I thought so. You’ll find your story, off the beaten path, across a bay by the beach in the East. Find the place, and you’ll find yourself.”
Before I could ask another word, she finished her drink and slid out of her chair.
Curious, I quickly paid the barkeep and turned in pursuit, but alas, she was already lost in the crowd.
The old woman’s words have stayed with me for years now. I’ve searched in earnest, looked up psychics, events by every bay, but never found a thing. That is, until last week.
I’ll admit that I’ve been at wit’s end for some time now. My publishers began telling me last year that my stories are outdated and no longer hold any interest for the younger crowd.
So, there I was, reading the paper last week when I came across an article about a series of mysterious deaths deemed suicides at an old house by the Chesapeake Bay. Within minutes, I found myself booking a flight and arranging a car. I stayed up through the night looking into the haunted house, intrigued about the people who’d died there. Each, like myself, was a forgotten writer. Fourteen deaths in all. I found a phone number for an agency who was advertising tours – I called to book a stay.
“I can’t let you stay in the house.” said a woman on the other end of the line.
“I’ll pay extra, my family and I are big into haunted places.” I lied.
Finally with enough cash, she acquiesced.
The GPS in my rental car buzzed with protest at trying to locate the address, and frustrated, I smacked the damn thing. The house eventually came into view, clearly neglected – they must have posted an old photo online. Weeds and vines were growing up the walls and the front porch was hanging. It almost looked like a haunted house. I entered through the front door and despite the dust and dead bugs, I instantly felt at home.
The old woman’s words came to mind again. Was this the place she spoke of?
I walked the beach two nights ago, feeling the sand between my toes, and I swore I could hear laughter in the wind.
I awoke yesterday morning to the smell of freshly made coffee, but found the pot empty. I spent all day searching the house from top to bottom, looking for signs of anything – anyone – and what they might have left behind. Fourteen people in ten years, after all, don’t just keel over without leaving some sort of trace behind.
I came across moth balls, creaky floors, a basement room filled with old furniture, miscellaneous clutter and old photos, one of which depicted a group on the beach at sunset. Each person was looking in a different direction than at the photographer. The date at the bottom was from almost twenty years ago. I found, carefully placed above a door, a set of cutout paper dolls, yellowed from age, ten in all, as if watching the people who may have come and gone over the years. I remember thinking ‘Did you watch over those who died?’
I sat on the musty couch last night in the living room with my notebook and heard the sound of thunder in the distance. When the lights flickered and went out, I imagined others like myself, maybe the group from the picture, writing by the mere light of the moon as rain poured just outside the French doors.
I slept in a different bed. There was sand in the sheets, but I didn’t care.
I dreamed of being a part of a group who called this place their “House of Writers” and saw myself amongst a variety of eclectic people writing as if their lives depended upon it – laughing, crying, amazed at each other’s creativity.
Today, I think I will swim in the bay, taste the salt in the water, drink in the sun, and pretend that last night’s dream was real.
-CJ
* * *

“Angela,” I croak, my voice barely a wisp anymore, “Angela, read this to me.” I shakily hold out a rough feeling newspaper, my cloudy eyes too blind to read any longer.
“Woman missing, known journalist, no leads.” I can feel her staring at me. I hear her ragged breath as she tries not to sob with the vision. She shares my gift, we’re mediums, or psychics as others call us.
“Angela, please take me for one last trip.”
“But Grandma!”
“No buts.” I hack into my hand, “Just do as I say.”
It’s a long drive across the bridge to the police department in Cape Charles, but a necessary one. I knew the woman, I told her my story of Anna Marie, and years later, told her where she’d find herself if she looked.
“How can I help you Ma’am?” A man’s voice asks loudly. I’m blind not deaf, idiot. I thump my cane.
“I’m here to tell you where to find the missing journalist.” I wheeze.
“I’m sorry,” even louder, “I didn’t hear you.”
“She said,” Angela’s voice becomes louder and more despair filled with each word next to me, “that she knows where you can find the missing woman, you know, that journalist gal.”
The police station becomes deadly silent and I can feel the weight of everyone’s stares upon us.
“Who are you?”
“Call me Karma.” My voice shakes with age.
“And the woman?” He questions.
“You’ll find her body washed up on the beach at the old haunted house just outside town.” I’m straining to get all the words out before my voice is completely gone.
“You sure?” I can feel his breath.
I grab his face with my arthritic hands, my cane falls to the ground with a clatter.
“Do you think these eyes would lie?”
Silence.
“I didn’t think so.”
I suddenly feel the urge to laugh and find myself doubled over hacking, tears in my eyes.
A voice fills the air around us, and I smile knowingly in response.
“I have finally found my story… my home… we all have.”


© Nicole E. Hirschi 2013

Nicole was our first guest writer back in April 2010 and has contributed other fiction and poetry to the site since then. She is currently involved in screenwriting and loves telling stories with a touch of the macabre. One of those paper dolls has her name on it.

3 comments:

  1. whoa! Wh-fuckin-oh! You tapped into something very strong here, lady. The supernatural is your genre, for sure. The funny thing about this story is, if I could die right in the middle of a HoW event, by the beach with the warm waves rolling in, I would die a happy woman. No better place and no better company. Good work.

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  2. 'Spirit of Place', 'genus loci' - whatever you call it, you've tapped straight into it's warm and still=beating beating heart. Fantastic,

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  3. mmm...loved this tale. no better place to expire than in the place where one was given life.

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