Chloe Writes: Chapter 1 (Someone Was Following Me)
Chloe Writes is a #GS&NS blog series featuring the work of our very own Design Assistant, Chloe Glass. From her notebook to your screen, Chloe shares her writing, photography, and art with our creative readers.
In this week's installment of Chloe Writes, we share an excerpt of Chloe's novel that's still in progress.
Briar Pierce is absolutely normal. A teenager living in a tiny town with normal friends and normal surroundings and normal problems. Normal until she begins to see a ghostly woman that only she can see. Normal until she comes home to find all the rooms mysteriously empty of her family, and something else waiting for her. Normal until she realizes that she is absolutely nothing that she thought she was.
Someone was following me. A shiver ripped violently up my spine as I continued to walked down the sidewalk that I could barely see in front of me. I heard no footsteps. Only the quiet rush of air of someone walking behind me, as swiftly as I was. But as soon as I ceased to walk, stopping suddenly on the pavement, all was silent. I was only a few blocks away from reaching my home, but it was dark and cold and all the lights in the houses around me were beginning to dim as it became later. The only source of light I had to guide me back home were the old lamp posts that stood high above me every hundred feet, and the sliver of full moon that I could see above me, the rest hidden by undulating storm clouds.
The air had that wet, frigid smell to it, as if it were going to start pouring over my head any second. I wished to make it home before that happened, but I was deeply afraid that I was not even going to make it home at all. But after fifteen minutes of walking quickly, and stopping, quicker, and stopping again, I was starting to think I was crazy and only just hearing things. Though I definitely did not wish to risk it. My pace quickened even further.
Only one and a half more blocks to go, and the sound of my would-be follower had ceased. It must have just been the wind that I heard. I was turning the corner into my neighborhood just then. It was a collection of old houses, built in the early 1800’s. At the beginning were the smaller ones, ones you might just call antique, or maybe old fashioned. The deeper you got into the streets the more victorian they started to look and the appearance of my neighborhood was not much different from the rest of the town that I lived in. It was a town obsessed with it’s history. Founder’s day celebrations, heartfelt community, tourists and all that. The entire place was like the setting of a museum.
Each step I took seemed to echo under the silence of the night, and I crossed my arms over my chest, wrapping my coat tighter around myself, as if it would help decrease the eerie aura around me. Only a block left to go. It seemed like such a distance as I passed the countless houses on either side of the street. Trees planted in front yards loomed over the sidewalk like black holes you might fall into if you stepped underneath them and the moon continued to cast an unearthly glow over the streets. It was the only light I had now, unless I were to take out my phone and turn on the flashlight.
As I turned around another corner, I felt a chill fill the air. One that was more than the winter temperature already present. It was a coat of ice that blanketed around me and raised goose bumps on my skin. And the shuffling of movement sounded behind me once more. I stopped. My feet frozen to the ground. The sound did not stop. I sucked in a gasping breath, whirling around. My book bag almost slipped off of my shoulder, my hair whipped my face and my skin stung with the ice.
There was nothing there. Nothing but the rows of houses on either side of the street and my breath clouding in front of my face. Terror filled my body and I took another deep breath, slowly turning around. There was nothing there. My house was around the next corner. Where my mom and sister were waiting for me. My feet swiveled on the pavement as I turned back and my eyes watered, making me blink hard. When I opened my eyes, the ice was covering every inch of my skin.
There was a figure in front of me, ten inches from my face. Her face was pale, ghostly. All angles and hollow cheeks, kind grey eyes. Silver blonde hair cascaded around her face. She was thin and hollow everywhere, and wore a long white dress that had almost turned to rags and gathered around her slim waist in a sort of corset. The woman looked straight at me and smiled with pale lips. They cracked, as if she had not smiled in a long time. I stood there, unmoving. She opened up her mouth and formed soundless words, and when I did not respond, a look of despair came over her. She then reached towards me with her pale hand, and placed her long fingers on my cheek. I felt nothing. I did not move. The woman smiled again, and then disappeared in front of me. As soon as she was gone, I ran.
My mom called my name as she heard me open the front door, but my dogs started yapping before I could respond in any way. I shushed them, bending down to pat their small heads and then follow them through my living room into my mom’s bedroom, about fifteen steps away. Our house was a smaller one, though beautifully refurbished on the outside. Painted light grey with a darker trim on the outside, a 90 degree porch and steps that led to the front door, surrounded by the most beautiful garden in the spring. My mother had a way with flowers.
She turned around as I appeared in the narrow doorway, a worrisome smile spreading across her face. My two dogs, a miniature doberman and dachshund, wagged their tails and headed over to her lap. She sat on the floor of her room, her back leaning up against the king sized bed that happened to fill up the majority of the room. She wore her silk robe with slippers and had a book opened in her lap. I walked slowly over to her and the corner of the bed that she leaned her back against, so as to not make my dogs bark. But they would start making noise if someone opened their front door at the end of the street.
I sat down on the bed close to my mom and smiled back at her, readying myself to explain. “Hey,” I greeted her, trying my best to sound as innocent as possible.
She laughed my imitation for a moment, but then her face became more serious. She set her book down on the floor beside her and twisted her body around so that she was better facing me. “Where have you been? You said that you were going to the library to study.”
I sighed and looked down at my hands in my lap. The black nail polish was starting to chip off my fingers. After a moment I looked back up at my mom’s face, and could see only worry present there. I knew that she would either be furious with me or laugh at me once I told her. I felt embarrassed of myself.
Finally I grimaced and told her. “I did go to the library, and I studied. Until five o’clock when the library closed. Then I went back out to the parking lot… and realized that I hadn’t turned the headlights off in my car,” shame at myself weighted my voice and I continued to grimace at her. “and so I walked home. And then, conveniently, my phone died too.” Once I was finished I dipped my head down and dramatically covered my face with my hands.
There was silence for a second, until the latter happened. She started cracking up. She laughed deeply and as I lifted my face from my hands I saw that her head was even tipped back. My min-pin licked her hand worriedly at the noise. When she was done with being amused at me her chin came back down to it’s usual position and a wide smile was on her face. I glared back at her, but couldn’t keep the slight grin from reaching my own face.
“I can not believe that you did it again,” she said, chuckling one more time.
“I really can’t either,” I replied dryly, still glowering.
My mom used the end of her bed to help her stand up, and looked at me amusedly with her hands on her hips. Her dark light blonde hair was trimmed very short, almost pixie like, but it went with her oval face nicely. Her face, which looked twenty years younger than the age she actually was. I had seen the photo albums, she was as gorgeous as she was then that she was now. Blue-eyed and blonde-haired just like my little sister. She had her, my sister, in life, at forty-nine years old, and then a short year later she and my father took in a little three-year-old girl. They had been trying to have another child, a sibling for their first one, but it wasn’t happening. So they decided to adopt a child that was in need of a family. Who happened to be me. I even had a name already. And their biological baby got an older sister instead of a younger one.
“So I suppose you’ll just have to take my car to jump yours tomorrow after you get home from school… it’s my day off so I will be here,” she was helping me out with my problem but still had a completely amused expression on her face. Though I couldn’t really say anything because I was pretty amused at myself. I left the headlights on all day the first time I ever drove my car to school last year. That had not been the best day for me.
I sighed, but smiled, and reached over to hug my mom. She hugged me back tightly and kissed the top of my head. Even at exactly five foot, nine and a half inches, she was still taller than me at six foot, one.
“I’m just glad that you’re okay,” she muttered. “I was pretty darn worried when you weren’t home two hours after the library closed.”
“Thanks mom,” I muttered back. We stepped apart and she backed up gracefully towards the side of her bed where she slept and plopped herself down onto the white sheeted mattress. I wish that I could have somehow gotten a few genes from her, because I was definitely the opposite of graceful.
She smiled at me a kind smile, still tinted with that hilarity, and reached over to flip on her lamp, set on a nightstand beside the bed. “Good night, I love you. Go to bed soon okay? You have to get up early for school tomorrow. Turn off the ceiling light when you leave too, if you would.”
I nodded and told her goodnight, and that I loved her as well. My mother was already laying down on her side with her book open in front of her face when I left the room and turned off the switch connected to the ceiling light. I looked back once more at her, engrossed in the pages of her novel, relaxed features on her face. My dogs slept beside her on the large bed, where an otherwise empty space would be. But the empty side of the bed was the thing that relaxed my mom’s features as she lay there.
As I said, my house was small. Not the smallest, but not exactly of medium size either. It had three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the inside, and a kitchen and dining room which led out into the living room which connected to the front door and vise versa. The traveling to my own bedroom from my mother’s took no more than fifteen seconds and a turn around a corner, into a hallway which held in residence my sister’s bedroom and then mine of course. The door to a bathroom stood between our two doors. The hallway held the only light left in the house, as I’d switched off all of the other ones on my way. As I entered it I saw that my little sister’s door closed, but I headed towards it anyways, wanting to say good night.
The door slowly creaked open to shed a portion of light from the hallway into the pitch black room, on my sister, cozied into her bed. The blanket she had was pulled over most of her head, but her music was playing and I could see the light of her iPhone peeking out from the top of her blanket. Obviously she was awake.
“Good night Layla, love you,” I whispered at her, but loud enough so that she would hear.
There was a slight movement underneath the blanket and a head of sunlit blonde hair peeked out along with a pair of blue-green eyes. “Night,” she muttered, and ducked back under her covers.
I turned away and shut the door lightly, until it clicked. Layla was going through a phase where the words, I love you, weren’t cool and hugs were way too embarrassing. I didn’t take any offence to any of that though. I knew it was just that, a phase.
The hallway light went dark as my fingers brushed across the switch, and after that I hurried quietly into my bathroom to turn on the light in there so not to be stuck in the darkness. Once in the tiny room I proceeded to do my normal nighttime routine; brush teeth, wash face, comb hair. I was just finished brushing through my long waves of my lightly shaded hair, when I noticed something in the mirror. Not my face, nor my dark eyes, nor pale skin. It was something on my face. My cheek. I leaned forward and touched it, the mark that was there. It looked almost like a bruise, in the shape of four long fingers brushing down my cheek.
Goosebumps rose up on my skin as I realized what it was and suddenly my head whipped around only to see the blank bathroom wall behind me. The air around me seemed thicker all of a sudden, like there was someone else in here with me.
I got out of there as fast as I could. I was still careful to be quiet, but my tiptoeing to my bedroom definitely could have been described as fast. I got straight into my bed, and could not fall asleep for a long time.
I felt more tired than I had in a long time, but my mind would not shut down. Thoughts buzzed around in my head like a million wasps, and something like fear had pinned my eyelids opened. I had tried to tell myself that I had hallucinated that woman following me home, just the result of a big imagination and reading a lot of horror novels. But the mark of her fingers on my cheek said otherwise. It said that there was actual physical evidence, and that I was not crazy. Though I’m not sure if being crazy would have been better.