You Will Die Tonight
By: Tom Fowler

1.

Kayla Brown, whom most people knew as Kay, heard the bell and was not surprised at what she saw upon opening the front door. It was a few minutes past 7:00, and the little child thrust her candy bag towards her and said the familiar, “Trick or treat,” in a timid girl’s voice.

Kay was a bit surprised, however, as she thought it odd that most of the time, this early in the evening young children showed up in groups of two or more. This young ghost was alone, and the first to come calling on this Halloween night. The child was small, and Kay wondered if she was out alone, as she saw no adult with her, or standing discreetly in the sidewalk a few feet back from the door. No matter, she thought, she will be gone soon enough.

The little girl, dressed in a very expensive looking ghost costume, meekly said, “Thank you.” Kay, anxious to be rid of her, a bit gruffly replied, “You’re welcome.” Kay was not a kind person and did not like the hassle of trick or treat night. As it was just beginning, she knew she had two, maybe three more hours of this and was not looking forward to it. But, before she could close the door, the small ghost said softly, so softly Kay could barely hear, “You will die tonight.”

Kay was stunned, for just a moment. But, as she prepared to offer a reply, the girl seemed to disappear into the crisp autumn air. She stepped outside and surveyed the area, swaying her head to left, center, and right. The girl, and whomever may have been with her, was gone, vanished. Stepping back inside, it took another moment to regain her full composure. When she did, she thought no more of it.

Wish I could have a drink, but there will be more kids come to the door, she sulkily thought. But, 15 minutes passed, and then an hour had passed, and an hour after that it was after 9:00. There had been only one trick or treater come to her door, the shy but rude girl in the expensive ghost sheet. When she heard no more children outside, she fixed herself the strong bourbon and ice she had craved all evening, and also her first cigarette of the evening to go with it. There had been more than the usual amount of kids out this year and she wondered why they had not come to her house. Not that she cared.

That had been Kay’s trademark for most of her life, she did not care. She did not care how many families she broke up by enticing the husband with her considerable beauty and love of carnal pleasures, did not care how much money she took from an unsuspecting employer in her position as chief accountant, did not care how much grief she caused her parents with drug and alcohol abuse, and for the most part, did not really care about anything except herself and the pleasures she so liberally allowed herself. At age 38 with the body and looks of a 25 year old, she had lived approximately half a lifetime creating problems and misery for those unlucky enough to enter her sphere of negative influence.

2.

Only after a couple of stiff drinks and another cigarette did Kay think further of her sole trick or treater. The more she thought of her, the angrier she became. Who the hell does that kid think she is, talking to me like that? It’s a good thing she disappeared before I had a chance to answer her. Better not see her again. All of these thoughts ran jagged through her mind, already feeling the effects of the nightly liberal doses of alcohol and nicotine.

Kay sat down, bringing the bottle of booze with her, dropping the pretense of mixing it with ice carefully and timing her consumption. She knew the bottle would be empty before going to bed. This, however, was one of the many things she did not care about.

One of the rare things she did care about was the handsome young intern at work. A few drinks later, she was nearing that sweet spot of alcohol induced warmth and lustful thoughts of the young man – Joseph, his name was - when she heard a noise from the back bedroom. Making the effort to get up and go check on the unusual noise, she stumbled on a loose piece of carpet, severely twisted her ankle and fell to the floor. Forgetting about the noise, she crawled back to the chair and, with effort, deposited herself back into it, swearing to herself as she did so. This is where she would be for the remainder of her life.

Kay did not notice how swollen her ankle was already becoming, as the 100 proof bourbon had done its job well. Soon, though, she heard another noise, and saw the reason for it. The corner of the living room ceiling had cracked, leaving a several inch gap. Wonder what caused that? Kay dreamily asked herself, as she took another long gulp from the bottle. Better see about that tomorrow.

Soon however, something even more extraordinary happened. She saw a raging fire in the fire place, even though the damper was shut and there was no wood in it. The fire raged, but the fireplace seemed to radiate cool air, not warmth. The flames were very intense, and were almost white in color, and Kay thought she saw the bright white satin costume the little girl wore when trick or treating earlier that evening. Kay was startled, normally excessive drinking did not affect her this way. She was even more startled when the ghost walked, no, glided out of the fireplace and approached her, saying, “You will die tonight.”

Anger replaced fear. Kay grabbed at her sleeve, and seemed to grab only air. But, she said, “I think I’m drunk, you don’t scare me.” The angel replied, “I have taken your mother tonight as well. I did not want her to have to suffer your death. She has suffered enough.” The ghost continued, “I am here for all the people you have wronged. There are way too many, you have done much harm in your young life, Kayla Brown. You will die tonight.”

“Get out of my house. I wish I could have slapped you when you were at my door asking for candy. Now, get out!” Kay again attempted to grab the ghost and shake her, but it was purely a reflexive action. However, she did notice a slight tingling in her arms when doing so. Angrily, she hissed, “You killed my mother, tonight? Somewhere in her drunken stupor she began to suspect this ghost was real, not just the result of bad whisky.

“Yes, and you will be next, very soon. You won’t be seeing your mother again, though.”

Suddenly, Kay felt a stabbing pain in her chest. Once again, the ghost had disappeared right before her eyes and, for the first time, she felt fear instead of anger. But, soon the pain eased, and then she regained her composure and resumed drinking. Being a functioning alcoholic, Kay was capable of consuming a great amount of alcohol without becoming incapable of normal functions. For the next hour, she watched television, drank, smoked cigarettes, and relaxed. She was beginning to feel like the ghost was a bad dream when, just before midnight, her phone rang. Thank goodness for cell phones, she thought, as she was old enough to recall the days of landline telephones and the need to get up and answer them before the caller hang up. Her swollen ankle was throbbing with pain even through all the booze she had consumed and it would have been impossible to run to a telephone.

Answering her cell, she heard the soft voice say, “Hi Kayla. Don’t forget you will die tonight.” Instant terror left her speechless, something which had never happened to her until now, and her heart again began to throb, this time so hard she felt it may burst out her chest. Had she been standing in front of a mirror, she would have noticed her hair was now a whitish color, even the few strands which were treated with a subdued coloring.

She also noticed her cell phone, while listening to the voice, appeared to be in the idle state. She saw no indication of an incoming call, and a blank screen, even though the power light was on. Did I answer a call, and am I getting to where I can’t hold my whiskey anymore? she asked herself. But, she heard the voice, felt the terror, and this time the fear did not ease.

3.

The next two hours were the worst of her life, which now was nearing its end. Around 2:00am, she had to relieve herself, but dreaded getting up to go to the bathroom. She wondered if the ankle was broken, and also dreaded sobering up later to feel the un-medicated pain. I’ll wait a bit longer, she said to herself, and then crawl. Drunkenness, fear, and heightened emotions left her frozen in place. Kay realized she was meeting a side of herself on this long night she had never known, and it disturbed her a great deal. Add discomfort to what I am experiencing tonight, she sourly thought. She hated to admit it, but the ghost, whether a figment of her imagination, or not, had her thinking of many things in a new light, and she did not like it.

Kay fell back into an uneasy sleep. It was now early morning, the entire bottle of 100 proof had been consumed, and the beginnings of a raging hangover were upon her. She rarely had hangovers, but the living nightmare of the last few hours had weakened her system. The hour or so of rest did her no good, as nightmares of the ghost, the mystery noise in the bedroom, the crack in the ceiling and mysterious non-fire in the fireplace haunted her sleep. For some reason, she did not dream of the little ghost with the soft voice, perhaps she feared hearing her say, “You will die tonight,” inside her sleeping mind. Somewhere in her semi-conscious awareness, she said to herself, “no more alcohol.”

Upon awakening a little after 3:00, Kay fought down nausea, knowing she would be unable to run to the toilet. Her ankle now throbbed with the full pain of the injury, her bladder was full, and she noticed feint burn marks on her arms, remembering with horror reaching for the ghost coming out of the fireplace. Terror gripped her and now, not only her heart, but her head ached with a pain as intense as she had ever felt. She was in bad shape, and she knew it. To make things worse, the little girl now seemed to be inside of her mind and she heard the dreaded and familiar, “You will die tonight,” running over and over like a loop tape. In misery she wondered, have I gone mad?

For the next hour, she was in a prison of the mind. Thoughts and emotions ran together until she could not tell one from the other. The realization that this was far worse than a hangover or bad dream came slowly but steadily. By now, she was too weak and in too much pain to hold her head up, but upon those occasions when she would look up, she could see the ghost standing in the corner, saying nothing but staring at her with intense, quiet emotion. Full realization of a life poorly lived came upon her, and words cannot describe what it felt like to have 38 years of a wasted life come to you in the space of a single hour. Kay knew her end would come soon, but there was nothing she could do. There would be no time to change her lifestyle, make amends to those she had wronged, or do the good works her talent and skill would have enabled her to do all along.

Her last lucid thoughts were of what had happened to her. Was it food poisoning, tainted whiskey, a heart attack, which was what it felt like, or something else? It was the something else which worried her. Had she really seen a ghost? That was not possible, or was it? It did not really matter now. Mercifully, her pain and misery had turned into an overwhelming fatigue. Kay had not been out of the chair in several hours, her bladder was full but she did not feel that discomfort anymore, and was too exhausted to think of this further without rest; deep, solid rest.

Once again, she passed into a fitful sleep, more of a unconscious netherworld this time, and for some unknown reason the thought of dialing 911 for help did not enter her mind. If there had been a mirror in front of her, she would be shocked to see the youthful appearance she was so proud of had changed into one of a much older woman.

At 4:30, she was abruptly awakened by the ghost. The meeting was not a long one. In a firmer voice than the softer one she had used until now, she simply said, “Kayla Brown, you will die now.” At that moment an intense spasm of pain shot up Kay’s arm, stabbing her heart with what seemed a thousand sharp, white hot needles. She quit breathing, and soon both she and the ghost were gone.

Epilogue

Kay did not report for work that morning. Occasionally, Kay was a no show at work after a long night of partying, so her boss was not too worried. But, she did not show up that afternoon, and had not called. When she failed to show up the following morning, the police were asked to visit her home.

The front door was half open, the trick or treat candy still in a jar nearby. Since the door was open and there was no answer to the doorbell or a verbal announcement, the police entered and found Kay in her easy chair, appearing to be asleep. An officer quickly determined she was dead as his partner searched the house. Everything seemed in order, except the large crack in the living room ceiling corner. But, they were very disturbed at the sight of Kayla Brown’s body. She appeared wasted, which was really no surprise as there was an empty whisky bottle by the chair, and she had lost control of her bladder, probably after death. She had mild burn marks on her arms and her hair was a strange shade of gray, eerie to the point that is was the second most disturbing thing about her. They noticed her swollen ankle, which was now a deep black with collected pooled blood. The officers were not sure, but they suspected heart attack after a night of excessive drinking.

But, the strangest thing was the look on her face. It was a look the officers had never seen, nor would ever see again, an odd mixture of fright and horror, along with peace and acceptance.

Leaving the house after the coroner had taken the body away, the officers saw, for just a moment, a little girl dressed in white standing by a shrub near the front door. She smiled and waved at them as they started the patrol car and prepared to drive away. Soon, both the police and the little girl were gone.

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