Laughter in the Dark by Guest Author Ava Sprayberry

Ava Sprayberry‏

The legend says that the witches of the backwoods were different.  They were not like the normal stories of witches that people are accustomed to.  They were friends to the towns’ people.  They looked to them for guidance when an illness plagued the town.  They were healers, and in most cases, the redeeming feature of the town.  They had saved the lives of countless children with their natural cures for pneumonia and influenza.  They were invited to weddings, and barn dances.  They were the life of the party with their unnatural outfits, and hilarious antics.

One night, the four sisters returned home from a night out at the town social.  They were full of laughter and excitement.  They danced around, twirling in circles with smiles on their faces.  They had no idea that their death lurked within the very walls of the small cottage that they called home.  They entered their domain.  Fiona lit a lantern that rested on the table.  The bright light illuminated almost every corner.

Beneath the stairs, they waited.  They watched as Fiona, Sophia, Camilla, and Athena dressed, climbed into their bed, and settled down for the night.  Camilla extinguished the lantern before lying down.  The four still lurked beneath the stairs.  Four witches slept as their four assailants watched and waited.  They knew that they couldn’t act too quickly.  They had to use the element of surprise.  They knew that the witches could destroy them with their powers.  They had to stick to the plan.  That was the only way to ensure their safety.

Now, here in their home, the four sisters would pay the price for their sins.  They would feel the pain and torment that they had caused the wives of their married lovers.  Each of them had armed themselves with thick wooden boards.  Silvia looked at the other women.  She nodded.  That was the signal that they had decided to use.  One by one, each woman stuck her victim in the head.  The intensive force from the blow rendered each of the four Bishop sisters unconscious.

When they woke up from their blackouts, they could feel the pain piercing their heads.  They could feel their arms were bound, and they were being suspended from something.  One by one, they opened their eyes, and analyzed their surroundings.  They were surprised to see Silvia, Mary, Caroline, and Delilah standing before them.

“What the hell are you doing?” Fiona demanded.  She studied the women.  She tried to read their minds.  She didn’t understand the point.  She knew that they were going to kill her and her sisters.  They were powerless now to stop it.  She knew that it would be a waste of time to attempt to talk them out of it.  Athena, felt no terror in her body.  All she could feel was anger.

The wives placed their torches in the fire they had built.

“Don’t bother screaming whores. No one will hear you.” Caroline said.

Athena gave her a devilish glare.  The look sparked a small amount of fear in the body of the feisty homemaker.

“Enough talk.  Good bye Satan’s whores.”  With those words, the four women approached their victims.  They lit the brush piles beneath their feet.

The heat was intense.  They could feel the pain invade their bodies as they began to burn.  The screams from the sister’s bodies gave a sickening pleasure to the wives.  While the heat of the flames rose ever higher on the body of Athena, she could feel the anger more.  She could no longer resist the temptation.  She allowed the evil side of her to surface.  She fought past the pain her body was enduring.

“You all shall bare a son.  Your sons shall have sons, and they will have sons.  Then daughters will be born to them.  When these daughters reach the ages of us, they shall die horrible deaths that will avenge the hatred and wrong you have done.”  With those words, Athena Bishop died.  Her three sisters were gone before her.

“Claudia that is the craziest story I have ever heard.”  Michelle Daniels stated.  Claudia Arnold had a vivid imagination.  She had a natural talent for story telling.  She wrote short stories in her spare time.  Michelle knew that her interest in literature would explain the story she had just heard.  “Actually, this is a true story.  I read it in a book at the library.” Claudia said trying to defend herself.  “Yeah, and the library is full of terrific fictional stories.” Amy Isakson commented.

“Hey it is possible that it’s true right?” Nicole Marley asked.  Claudia was happy to see that at least one of her three friends agreed with her.

The four of them stuck together like glue.  Their fathers had been friends since childhood, and so had their grandfathers.  The families had been together since before any documentation could be kept.  Their families had been through good times and bad times together.  They had been together through births, deaths, being rich, and being poor.  As the four of them sat there at Diana’s book café sipping coffee and sharing laughs, they had no idea that they were about to face their greatest challenge.  They would have to stick together if they were to survive.  Little did they know that they were only days away from their death that was scheduled by the witches in Claudia’s story.  The story was true, and the four of them were about to figure out how true it really was.

Claudia was sitting at her computer typing away on her newest story.  She was hoping to turn the current short story into a successful novel.  She didn’t see it happening any time soon.  When she began the pursuit of her writing career, she hadn’t realized just how tedious her task would be.  Now she was learning.  She found that research was seventy percent of the job.  Thorough description was a necessary ingredient in the recipe for a great story.  The image of what the author sees should be evident in the words in order to produce a clear picture for the reader.  Her short stories had provided a decent income for her.  She had loyal readers that purchased the magazines in which her stories appeared.  She received fan mail.  She considered this a tremendous honor since she wasn’t known in the same sense as best selling novelist.  Claudia hoped to change that.

She grew tired of writing.  Her fingers and shoulders hurt after four continuous hours of typing.  She decided to take a break, and grab a drink.  She stood up from her desk, and made her way to the kitchen.  She walked in to the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator.  She glanced around at her beverage choices.  She had the typical drinks anyone would have in their fridge: milk, juice, soda, sweet tea.  Without a second thought, she grabbed a can of soda, and closed the refrigerator.  She popped the top on the can, and turned it up, indulging the cool liquid as it traveled down her throat.  It was cool and refreshing, exactly what she needed.  She couldn’t understand how writing could make a persons’ mouth be so dry.

She thought back to her story.  She thought of ways to pick up and expand the story the way she wanted to.  It just wasn’t working out.  She couldn’t seem to find a solution.  She didn’t stress over the task.  She was confident that it would happen; it would just take some time.  Claudia was an impatient person, and she always expected things to come to her instantly.  She knew that that wasn’t the case.  That wasn’t how life really worked.  Still, she maintained hope, and continued to allow her impatient nature to run rampant.  She took another drink of her soda before returning to her computer.  She sat down in front of her computer, and placed her soda a safe distance away from the computer.  She placed her fingers on the correct keys to begin typing.  She looked up at her computer screen, and what she saw terrified her.  There on the monitor were words that hadn’t come from her own hand. “Claudia, your time is coming.”

Claudia was frantic at the sight of the words on her computer screen.  She quickly raced to the phone to call one of her friends.  She didn’t have a particular one in mind.  She decided that she would talk to the first one that she called, and answered the phone.  She first tried to call Amy, but Amy didn’t answer the phone.  She forgot that Amy had to work today.  She thought for a moment, and then realized that Nicole would be home.  She quickly dialed the number to Nicole’s house, and waited impatiently for her to answer.  The phone rang three times.

“Hello?” she heard Nicole say as she answered the phone.

“Nicole, I need you to come to my house now.  You need to see what is on my computer screen.”  Nicole paused a minute to allow the words to register in her mind.

“Wait a minute Claudia.  What are you talking about?”  She had never heard Claudia sound so frantic.  Claudia wasn’t one to get scared easily, and not one to become paranoid.  Therefore, the events that were occurring at that moment disturbed Nicole tremendously.

“I’ll be right there.” she told her, before replacing the receiver.

Claudia waited pacing the floor impatiently as she waited for Nicole to arrive.  She glanced at the words on her computer screen repeatedly.  She wondered where Nicole was.  She hadn’t shown up.  She had plenty of time to get there, but she hadn’t gotten there.  Claudia couldn’t figure out what the problem was.  She started wishing that Nicole had gotten a cell phone as she had instructed her to.  Before she had realized it, she had vocalized her thought.  Just then, she heard the sound of Nicole’s car pull into the driveway.  She continued to listen as she turned off the engine, and slammed the door shut.  Claudia went to open the door for Nicole.  She opened the door to find Nicole standing there, with her hand raised.  She was just about to knock.

“What is the problem Claudia?  What has got you so scared?” Nicole asked her.  Claudia looked down for a moment, trying to force the fear from her mind.  She searched for the correct words to say to answer her friends’ question.

“Just come and read what is on my computer.”, she instructed.

“Okay.”, Nicole responded with a puzzled tone.  They walked onto the study where Claudia’s computer was set up.  There on the monitor, were the words,” Claudia, your time is coming.”  Nicole studied the words for a moment.

“Okay, this makes no sense.  Where did this come from Claudia?”, she asked her.  Fear overcame her once more as she answered her friends’ question.

“I don’t know.  I did not type this, and no one was here but me.  I don’t know how it got on my screen.”

Nicole paused for a moment.  ” Wait a minute.  Are you trying to convince me that a ghost typed these words on your computer?”  Nicole could fill the urge to laugh build inside of her, but held it back.  She could tell that her friend was obviously distraught.  The thought was hilarious regardless of how Claudia was feeling.

“Wow, death threats from beyond the grave.  That should be an attention grabber for tomorrow’s newspaper.”  Nicole couldn’t hold back the laughter any longer.

“Don’t make a joke about this.  This is serious.”  Claudia was clearly agitated at Nicole’s response.  She had thought that Nicole would be there for her, not make fun of her.  Claudia began to regret calling upon her rational friend.  She began to wish Amy had answered the phone.  At least she had the ability to leave her mind open to possibility.  At least she would have considered her feelings.

Claudia took a seat in her office chair, and propped her forehead on her fingertips.  It was at that moment that Nicole had become aware of how her reaction had hurt Claudia.  She pulled a chair over, and sat down in front of her.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to make fun of you, but what am I supposed to say?  What is it that you want me to say to you?”  As Claudia turned to face Nicole, a tear fell from her eye.

“Do you know the story I told you guys yesterday about the witches?”, she asked.  Nicole gave her a puzzling glace.

“Yeah, what about it?”, she asked.  It was now evident to Claudia that she had Nicole’s attention.  “Do you know where I got it from?”, Claudia said.  “Yeah.  You told us that you found it at the library.”  Nicole remembered her telling them that she had found it in a book at the library.  That was the object of her argument that the story was not a fictional one.

Claudia took a deep breath.  “I didn’t exactly tell you the truth about that.”, she admitted.  Nicole glared at her.  “Then, where did it come from?”, Nicole asked.  Claudia remained silent for a few moments.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to tell her the truth.  She quickly realized that she had no choice.  She had already begun the conversation, and she had to finish it.  “Uncle Mike gave me the book.  It belonged to his great grandmother, Silvia Marley.”  Nicole was stunned.  She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  Why had her father given something so valuable to Claudia, and not to her.  She didn’t know if she should feel jealous and envious, or give her deceased father the benefit of the doubt.

“Why would my father give you something like that?”  The question just rolled off her tongue.  She felt that she deserved an answer.  Claudia waited a moment before answering her.

“Uncle Mike said that he knew that you would pass it off as some old wives tale.  He said that he trusted me to take care of the four of us should the curse be true.  Now I know that it is true.  Silvia’s story book was a warning.”

Later on that night, Nicole and Claudia called a meeting with the other two girls.  They had agreed to meet at Claudia’s house.  As Nicole was getting ready, she thought back to the warning that Claudia had given her.  She told her that they would die in a specific order, and that she was first.  She told her that they would be killed in the order of the witches, and the family that they were associated with.  Fiona Bishop had been murdered by her great-great-grandmother, so that made her the first one on the list.  The second would be Amy, the third would be Claudia, and Michelle would be last.             Nicole wasn’t the type to believe in curses and magic.  However, this was scaring her to a degree that she couldn’t describe.  She put the finishing touches on her hair, and stood in front of her bathroom mirror.

“Well, if I die tonight, at least I’ll go out in style.”, she stated to herself.  With one last look in the mirror, she decided that she was pleased with her look, and turns to leave the bathroom.

On her way out of her house, she retrieved her jacket from the back of the chair by her door.  She placed it over her shoulder, and walked outside.  As she made her way to her car, she thought back to the warning that her friend had given her.  She then had a second thought about driving the one and a half mile drive to Claudia’s house.  She wasn’t crazy about dieing in a car accident.  She decided that she would leave her car parked and walk.  The streets of Adairsville were not very dark  at night, and considering she would be walking right behind the police station, she decided that she would be safe.

She began walking along the sidewalk in the direction of Claudia’s house.  The air around her contained a chill.  Cool nights were not uncommon in the summer.  That is one characteristic that the residences of this small town were accustomed to.  It was a characteristic that made the town a comfortable place. To live.  Nicole made her way past the library.  Her mind thought back to the cover up that Claudia had created to prevent her from discovering the truth.  She dismissed the thought as quickly as it had entered her mind.  She didn’t want to harbor the issue.  She saw no point in doing so.        She continued on her path, passing behind the police station.  She saw a member of the police force standing outside the back entrance, having a smoke break.  She waved, and smiled politely, as the officer threw up his hand to greet her.  She turned her attention back to her direction of travel.  She was cautious in her travel.  She kept her eyes open for passing vehicles.  Granted, there were not many people on the roads at nine o’clock at night.

Nicole could see the rays of light coming from the porch at Claudia’s house.  The fear that had nestled its self inside of her slowly began to diminish.  She was only a couple of hundred feet away at this point.  As she continued forward, she heard the sound of a female’s laughter.  She stopped, and looked around her.  She couldn’t see anyone.  She was alone on the street.

She brushed off the sound as coming from one of the houses around her, and began to walk again.  Then, she heard the laughter again.  This time, she could tell that it was coming from behind her.  She turned to locate the source.  There, standing before her in the darkness, she saw the silhouette of a woman.

She attempted to focus on the woman, trying to see if she could recognize her.  As she tried to see the face, a set of headlights broke through the darkness, and illuminated the woman.  She was dressed in clothing that had been out dated by at least two hundred years.  She could feel the fear begin to take her over as she watched the car accelerate to a high rate of speed.  The car was headed straight for her.  She tried to scream, but couldn’t.  She watched in terror as the car went through the woman as if she were a mere fog.  She then realized that it was her time to die as the front of the car made contact wit her body.  Nicole Marley died instantly.

The three women sitting inside heard the sound of a car horn blowing, and then, an impact.  They were terrified, for they knew that Nicole was scheduled to arrive any moment.  The three women jumped up from their seats and raced to the door.  As they exited the house, they could hear the sirens of the rescue units approaching.  They ran up to the scene of the accident.  They saw that the car that had crashed head on into the old cotton gin didn’t belong to Nicole.  However, that offered them no comfort.  They searched frantically for Nicole.  They knew that they would find her in the area, but they didn’t know if she would be alive.  They continued up the street, and there they saw her, lying on the sidewalk.  Her body was covered in blood, and she wasn’t moving.  Amy let out a horrifying scream.  The sight of Nicole’s lifeless body lying on the sidewalk, tormented her.  The fact that she had been killed by a two hundred year old curse didn’t help matters at all.

They continued to watch as the ambulance arrived, and the paramedics exited the vehicle.  They wanted to run up to Nicole, but they knew that they would be in the way.  That would stop any hope of the paramedics possibly saving her life.  They knew that it was a slim chance that she might still be alive.  Actually, it was more of a hope than a possibility.  The police officers were already making their way around, taking statements from the bystanders.  Among the officers, was the one that Nicole had waved at only moments before.

The police then made their way over to Claudia and the others.  They asked each of the grieving friends to give a statement.  It was obvious that they were all upset, and they decided that they would have a better chance of getting the statements if they separated them.  Therefore, they did just that.  Claudia told the officer that the four of them had plans to meet at her house to hang out for a while.  She told them that they had planned to examine a piece of family history.  She explained that their families went nearly as far back as the town its self.  They all explained that they were not sure why she was walking instead of driving her car.  Michelle had told them that Nicole was an active person, and enjoyed walking.

One by one, the women finished giving their statements to the police.  They all had left out one detail.  Not one of the women spoke of the curse that was placed on them two hundred years before they were born.  They all knew that it would make them look and sound crazy.  No one there would believe them anyway.  The officer interviewing Amy finished taking her statement.  He walked back to his cruiser to put his notes away.

Amy looked back toward Nicole.  She was no longer on the sidewalk.  She was now inside a black body bag that had been carefully placed on a gurney.  She could feel the tears swell in her eyes again.  He placed her hands over her eyes, and hung her head as she began to sob.

She took a seat on the back bumper of one of the fire trucks.  Her legs were weak, and she needed to sit down.  A fireman walked up to the side of the truck.  He opened the storage compartment on the side of the truck, and placed his rescue kit inside.

As he slammed the door shut, he rattled the tool rack on top of the truck.  A pickaxe rested there that had not yet been secured.  As the rack was disturbed, it knocked the axe from the top of the truck.  The axe fell, and in doing so, impaled Amy in the head.

Claudia and Michelle heard the commotion of the crowd, and turned to look across the street.  They watched as Amy fell to her knees, and then face down on the ground.  Michelle screamed in horror as she saw the axe protruding from Amy’s skull.

Claudia stared in disbelief.  She then thought back to the story in Silvia’s book.  All four of the Bishop sisters died in one night.  That meant that the four of them would also die in one night.  She didn’t know which scared her more, the curse, or the fact that she was the third to die.  Claudia was next on the list.  So far, the deaths of Fiona and Sophia had been avenged.  Now, the only ones left were Camilla and Athena.  That meant that Claudia would be the next of the four descendants to die, and Michelle would be the last.

Michelle would be the last.  The thought suddenly terrified her.  Of the four of them, Michelle had the weakest spirit.  She couldn’t handle being alone, as she waited to die.  Claudia began to fear that Michelle would try to do it herself.  She then realized that Michelle’s death would avenge the death of Athena.  Athena was the sister to cast the curse in the first place.  She was also the devious one.  She wouldn’t allow Michelle to rob her of her revenge.  She would also take pride in the level of terror that she would be in.

Claudia’s heart went out to her friend.  She suddenly feared more for Michelle than she did herself.  She couldn’t let Michelle be the last to go.  She had to try to find some way to change it.

Back at Claudia’s house, Michelle had finally fallen asleep.  Claudia stayed awake to watch over her.  She hadn’t handled the events of the night very well.  The entire mental and emotional trauma had drained her.  Claudia thought back to the order.  She thought of Michelle being alone when her time comes.  She couldn’t let that happen.  She got up from the loveseat, and went into her bedroom.  She lit a candle, and turned out the lights.  She sat on the floor, placed the candle in front of her and closed her eyes.

She began to chant.  “Athena, I call upon you.  Reveal yourself to me, I demand of you.”  Once the words were spoken, a breeze blew through the room, and extinguished the candle.  They are around her grown cold, and she could feel that she was no longer alone.  She opened her eyes.  There, standing before her, was Athena Bishop.

“I’m surprised.  I didn’t think you could conjure a spirit.”, she said to Claudia.

“From one witch to another, it’s not that difficult of a task.”, she replied.  Athena walked over, and took a seat on the edge of the bed.

“So, what do you want with me?  I can tell you now, I will not lift the curse.”, she informed.  Claudia paused for a moment. “I don’t want you to lift it.”, she replied.  Claudia’s response surprised Athena.  Athena began to wonder what she could want.

“I’m listening.”, she said.  “It was because of your love for your sisters, and the anger of what happened that caused this curse.  It is for the same reason that I have called upon you.  I want you to change the order.”

The look that the spirit of Athena gave her was one of shock.  Claudia had definitely peaked her curiosity.  “Why would you want me to do that?  That sounds like a request to allow you to live a little longer, not one of love.”  Claudia paused for a moment.  “Michelle is a weak spirit.  I don’t want her to die alone.  That is why I want to be last.  Besides, it was my great-great-grandmother that planned the attack, so you still get your revenge.”

Athena sat there silent, as if she were taking her request into consideration.  Claudia hoped that was what she was doing.  She waited a few more moments for her to respond before speaking again.  “Please Athena.  I’m sorry about what happened to you.  What they did to you was wrong, and I don’t blame you for being angry.  Please, I’m begging you, don’t let my friend die alone.”

Claudia hoped that her plea was being heard.  “You know Claudia, witches don’t back off when they have been mistreated.  Those jealous wives that killed my sisters and I were wrong.  They went against everything that their bibles teach.”  Athena grew silent.

“Alright, I can understand your request, and I admire it.  Go back to her.  Lay down beside her, and go to sleep.  I give you my word, you will be the last.”  with those words, Athena Bishop vanished.

Claudia entered the living room to find Michelle still sleeping.  She walked over, and lay beside her in the floor.  She reached up, and placed her hand in Michelle’s’.

“Goodbye Michelle.”, she whispered.  A tear fell from her eye as she closed them. She could feel Michelle grip her hand tightly in her sleep.  Claudia did the same.  She thought of her meeting with Athena.  She was thankful that she had listened.  For the first time, Claudia wasn’t afraid.  She felt herself drift off into a deep sleep.

She could hear Michelle calling her name in the darkness.  She thought she was dreaming.  She then thought that the night wasn’t over, and Michelle’s time had come.  She opened her eyes.  She saw michelle standing over her smiling.  She thought then that they had died in the night, and were now in heaven.  She sat up and looked around.  She was still in her living room.  She looked back at michelle.

“Are you okay?”, she asked her.  Michelle smiled again.

“I’m fine.  Look Claudia, its morning.”  the words hit her like a ton of bricks.  How could it be morning?  They were supposed to die before the end of the night.  This didn’t make any sense.

“What?  It’s morning?”  Claudia rose to her feet, and walked to her front door.  She unlocked the door and walked outside.  She stepped out onto the porch.  The sun was shining, birds were singing, and the school bus was picking up the children for school.  She couldn’t believe it .

Claudia couldn’t remember a morning that she had woke up so hungry.  She went into the kitchen, and cooked a big breakfast for michelle and herself.  Once it was finished, they sat down, and began to eat.

“Why didn’t we die last night Claudia?”, Michelle bluntly asked.  Claudia looked up from her plate.  Michelle was waiting for an answer.

“I don’t know.  I was wondering the same thing.”, she said.  Just then, a cool breeze blew in from the open window in the kitchen.  There, in front of the window appeared four women.

“The Bishop sisters.”, Claudia said in shock.  It was evident by the look on her face that michelle shared the same reaction.

“Claudia, your sympathy for us and your love for your friend broke the curse.  We realize that it was not your fault.  It wasn’t the four of you that did this to us.”  with those words, the Bishop sisters disappeared.

Claudia heard a knock on her door.  She got up to see who could possibly be there that early in the morning.  As she opened the door, her heart stopped.  There, standing before her, alive and well, was Amy and Nicole.  Claudia screamed with delight as she threw her arms around them.  Michelle rushed to the door to greet them.

“How is this possible?”, Claudia asked.

“what are you talking about?”, Nicole asked.  they had no clue what she was talking about.

“Don’t you remember anything about last night?”, Michelle asked.  Amy looked at them.

“I remember going out with Nicole and getting drunk.”, she replied.

Claudia and Michelle shot her a puzzled look.  “Nicole, what about you?”, Claudia asked.  She wondered for a moment if it were possible that they didn’t remember the awful tragedy that they had both experienced.  Nicole finally responded.

“this might sound really crazy, but all I remember is hearing laughter in the dark.”

© 2009 Ava Sprayberry Shook

Publish under pen name Dianah Brock

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