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Drama Mystery Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

TW: Suggestion of child abduction/murder.


“Darling, I’m home! Sorry, I took so long. I picked up some veal steaks for dinner and had a wander around that flea market in town. You’ll never guess what I found…”

Sitting in an armchair, close to the fire, working on a blanket she was crocheting for her granddaughter’s pending new arrival, Bethany Peace sighed, dropping her needles into her lap as her husband’s breathless words raced down the hall.

“Let me guess, dear,” she called back, removing her spectacles and pinching her nose. “Something musty, overpriced and, oh what’s that other word, can’t think of it for the life of me, oh, I know…haunted.

She said the last word as Ted poked his white-haired head into the room, grinning and extending an arm, giving the cheap plastic bag he held a shake.

“Don’t be annoyed, darling. I haven’t bought anything in ages. I haven’t even been looking. I was only browsing for books but it was just sitting there, on a table with Romanian antiquities and, well, how could I not?”

“Oh, Teddy,” Beth lifted a cup from its saucer on the table next to her chair and sipped chamomile tea. “I thought you’d given up on all this. After ‘Annabelle’ over there scared the bejesus out of you and everyone started calling you Ted Warren.”

She nodded at the oak display cabinet with the glass shelves that stood in the corner of the room and watched Ted’s smile fade as his eyes came to rest on the doll on the bottom shelf, no doubt imagining it was glaring at him, like always.

“Shh,” he said, entering fully and making his way to the sofa by the window. “Don’t say her name, darling, just in case ”

“You’re not still afraid of it, are you? I thought we agreed, you imagined all that. It was the covid. And the flu medication. And being alone in the house. The doll didn’t really escape and go running around the garden, you had it in your arms the whole time.” 

“Tell that to Mrs. Dingle.”

“Bernadette suffered with a dodgy ticker for years, her heart attack was nothing to do with seeing a doll crushing dahlias in our front lawn. Please, Teddy, it’s bad enough you got that nickname from screaming in the street about ‘Annabelle’ killing our neighbour, I had to quit book club because of jokes about ‘Warren and Peace’, don’t tell me you’re back stalking antique stores.” 

“Not at all,” said Ted, placing the bag like it was a baby on the sofa. “In my defence, I never said I’d stop completely, just that I’d stop seeking things out. We agreed, if an artefact presented itself during the normal course of events, it was fair game.”

While he spoke, Ted folded the sides of the bag down until the object within was revealed–to a now curious Beth–as a tiny pair of cracked and yellowed baby shoes with mother-of-pearl buttons on their straps and lace trim running around their collars.

Beth blinked, put back on her glasses, blinked again.

“Baby shoes?”

“Yes! But not just any old shoes! Shoes belonging to the kidnapped daughter of Princess Alexandra of Bucharest, who was taken from the family home to be held for ransom in 1910 but was eventually found buried on the family property, wearing nothing but these very shoes!”

“Oh, Teddy, that’s horrid,” Beth shivered, returning cup to saucer and laying aside her two-thirds finished blanket to struggle to her feet. “Poor child. So much evil in this world….”

Beth hobbled over to where Ted stood regarding the pair of doll-like footwear on the sofa and snatched them up with one hand, unconcerned about their age or haunted potential.

“Steady, darling,” Ted gasped, reaching out protectively as though they were a baby his wife was handling for the very first time. “They’re over a hundred years old!”

“Yes, I can count, dear,” Beth said. “So small. I can’t imagine the child was any more than two.”

“Two and a half,” Teddy said. “Her name was Luminita Albescu. And according to the gypsy, her spirit still resides in the shoes. They’ve been known to move on their own, walk, darling, as if being worn. And not just that. Kick. And run. And…”

“Yes, I get the idea, dear,” Beth said, shuffling with the shoes towards the bookcase by the fire, placing them on her armchair while she looked for a book. “I’m sure the dreadful story that comes with them caused all manner of impressionable people to imagine all sorts of things when the spirits were on them, and I don’t mean the ethereal type.”

“Oh, darling, I know you’ve always been sceptical and I know you’ve been able to explain away what we saw these things do in a logical way…” 

Ted was at the display cabinet now, looking at the items he’d collected, beginning with the 1916 Longines silver trench wristwatch, which his father had passed to him and he in turn had given to his son, Damien, on his fiftieth birthday.

The watch poor Damien was wearing the day he died, coming off his mid-life crisis motorbike while riding it recklessly around a series of hairpin bends. As a result it became one of the ‘personal effects’ handed over when Ted identified the body. The ‘personal effect’ Ted had resumed wearing, in remembrance of his son.

And that's how it started.

Damien had died at 6.45 on a Tuesday. And every Tuesday after that, at around 6.45, the watch would stop. No matter how preemptively Ted wound it, even several times a day, the result was always the same. 

Ted was sure it meant his son's spirit, having missed it's chance to move on, had become bound to the watch, so of course he had to do something to set it free.

Which was how his fascination with acquiring 'haunted' items and releasing the spirits attached to them had begun.

“...but this is different,” he went on. “When I bought the shoes I put them on the back seat, in that bag, and by the time I got home they were out of the bag, on the floor, on the opposite side of the car! I mean…what does that tell you?” 

Beth looked over her shoulder as she removed a leather-bound tome from a shelf. “You were doing over 50 again ? How many times have I told you, if you must drive, slow down taking turns, you’ll do your back in again.”

“What are you doing?” Ted asked, ignoring the brush-off.

“Getting on with it. You want to free the child, don’t you? Be a dear and fetch the kit.”

“But…now?”

“Of course now, why wait? She’s been waiting over a hundred years, remember? Best put her out of her misery. Then you can add the shoes to your cabinet. And give it a bit of a dusting. You know I don’t touch those musty things.”

The musty things in question were, apart from the watch: the porcelain doll they’d nicknamed Annabelle because of the movie, that had apparently been possessed by the spirit of a girl who drowned holding it in Mississippi in the 50’s (and had, by all accounts, been in the company of other children who met untimely, watery ends down through the years); a brown crystal necklace that had allegedly retained the soul of its owner, a washed-out actress who hung herself in the 70’s (which had been responsible for the freak, fatal choking of at least two subsequent owners); a desktop globe that had seemingly absorbed the essence of British archeologist Aaron Archibold, who died with it when a landslide crushed his tent in Guatemala (no further deaths associated with this item but it had a tendency to rotate of its own volition, a fact Ted and Beth had confirmed firsthand); and a first edition, tatty, dog-eared copy of Catcher in the Rye from 1951, underlined and annotated by its owner, a schizophrenic individual who had murdered his family before being killed by the police in the 90’s (with anybody who came into possession of said book thereafter supposedly drifting into a life of crime that led to their demise.) 

“It’s just…I thought you wouldn’t do exorcisms any more. After the Annabelle incident.”

“I don't want to. But I won’t be able to sleep after that story you told, so for the sake of resting easy, let’s do it one more time. The box, dear, please.”

Ted did what he was told, dropping to one knee before the cabinet and sliding an old briefcase out from under it. “Are you sure? It took a lot out of you last time. I was thinking of contacting Seb…”

“You are not contacting that charlatan,” Beth said, brushing past Ted to deposit the book she’d retrieved on a table. “I’m sorry, I know you have a soft spot for him and I know you believe he helped…Damien.” She looked at the watch. “I just never trusted the man. I think he’s a fraudster and I think he took advantage of your beliefs.”

“Darling…”

“No, Ted. I know you believe, and I know you want me to, and I’d love to but…he took the watch apart to perform his ‘blessing’ and when he put it back together, it was fixed. Same with the globe. You believe those items contained the spirits of their deceased owners…and yes, I know that’s including Damien…but they could have behaved the way they did due to wear and tear, which was corrected by being taken apart. Don’t look at me like that, you know that’s always been my position. And regardless of that, when that man announced he was going to do the same with the book and tear it to pieces, that was the last straw. Honestly. A first edition Catcher in the Rye?”

“He wasn’t going to tear it to pieces, darling,” Ted protested, placing the briefcase on the table beside the book Beth was leafing through, its brittle pages crinkling as they turned. “He was just going to remove the cover to make sure nothing was hiding in the spine. Sebastian Sempertinel is a professional.”

“A professional you found by searching ‘exorcists near me’ on Google Maps. Yes, dear, of course he is, his fees were professional also, professionally exorbitant. Spread the cloth, will you? And get the candles ready.”

 Ted, shrugging in acceptance though no doubt concerned because of what happened last time, did as asked while she removed a black cloak adorned with silver stars from the briefcase and tied it around her neck. Her husband spread the red, pentagram-illustrated cloth she’d purchased on ebay out on the table, placed the mediaeval spellbook he himself had acquired from one of the antique shops he used to frequent in its centre, stood twelve black candles in iron bases around it and used an electric candle lighter to light them while she retrieved a rowan branch ‘wand’.

She wasn’t happy about this. Taking this chance, one she'd been afraid to take even for Damien, was a bad idea before and a worse one now, considering what happened last time. But if she didn’t, Ted would involve Sempertinel, who in truth did have some ability, and while she appreciated what he’d done with the watch, she couldn’t trust him, because she felt he didn’t trust her.

Also, if the shoes were possessed by a child, she couldn't do nothing.

“That's good,” she said, inscribing symbols in the air with the wand while Ted looked on. He thought she’d decided to take things into her own hands purely to stop Sebastien destroying antiques. Gathering this paraphernalia, learning to recite ancient ‘spells', taking online exorcism courses.

He loved her so much, he either had no idea she was acting or he did and didn’t care because, as far as he was concerned, it worked. He didn't know the real reason why, but the items she spoke to were cleansed.

Like the book, whose pages would turn by themselves. (Poppycock, she’d said, the pages were 70gsm paper, the slightest breeze through the slightest crack of an open window would make them turn). 

And the necklace, the centremost brown crystal of which would display the face of the actress if viewed at a certain angle. (Rubbish, she’d said, a trick of the shadows, cured by wiping off the caked-in grime). 

And the doll, which would move on its own at night. (That one had taken some explaining, especially since Mrs. Dingle died, but he really had been sick with what they later discovered was covid and whose to say hallucinations weren’t a symptom?)

That particular event had made her faint so she’d asked him to stop. She should have been more forceful. Now she had to take a risk again.

“Darling, fetch the shoes and…”

She had raised both arms like a conductor, ready to bring her orchestra to attention, when Ted, beside her, gasped: “They’re gone!”

Surprised by the abruptness of his words, Bethany turned toward the armchair to find they were, indeed, no longer there, and her heart sank.

Ted was already hurrying to shut the door. “Don’t worry, darling, I won’t let them out! Can’t have any more neighbours dropping dead! Have a look for them will you?”

“I’ll do no such thing,” said Beth, turning back to the book. “They probably just fell, Teddy. As long as they’re in the room the spell will work, now shush and let me chant.”

Without waiting for his response she started reciting the words, words she could pronounce but whose meaning she couldn’t comprehend and didn’t need to. She just needed her mouth to voice them for as long as it took her to air-draw a certain symbol, separate her essence from the earthly plane and step back out of her body, into a red-tinged realm between worlds that were superimposed over each other, the world of the humans with all its physicality and the world of lost souls, barren, mist-covered hills that rolled into nothing.

She shouldn’t be here.

It had been a mistake coming back to release murderous Wilkins from Catcher in the Rye, and suicidal Garnett from her necklace and drowned Isabella from Annabelle. Before all that it had been fifty years since she escaped and it was partly curiosity–as well as fear that Seb, who really had freed Damien and Archibold, would discover her secret–that made her return, to see if She was still there.

At first it seemed like She wasn't, which put her at ease, but then, when she was setting Isabella free, she’d heard Her moaning in the distance having picked up her scent and she’d had to rush the job and jump out.

Causing her collapse in the human realm.

Coming back again was dangerous so she had to be quick, her eyes going at once to Luminita, two and a half years old and naked apart from her shoes, running around the hazy mirage of her armchair, snatching up the blanket, casting it to the ground, kicking the table, making the teacup in the saucer rattle, a rattle that sounded like thunder in this world between worlds. 

Ahead, at the transparent sitting room door, an equally transparent Teddy had turned back towards his wife, whose physical body still stood at the table, arms raised, chanting. 

Beth grabbed Luminita by the arm, drawing the toddler’s surprised eyes to hers. She wanted to say something reassuring but then that horrible moan crept over the hills, closer than before, suggesting She was about to appear.

There was no time for niceties so she stabbed a finger into a patch of red mist, drew a symbol and created an opening, allowing a spear of light to penetrate the void, a light that pierced Luminestra’s heart and caused her to dissolve into millions of dancing orbs, which were absorbed by the spear before the tear in the mist repaired itself and shut it back out.

All that remained were the shoes. 

She wanted to move them closer to the chair but there was no time, the moan came again, now accompanied by a pair of yellow eyes, glaring from the mist behind her husband.

Bethany Peace tore her eyes from her hunter and stepped back into her body, knowing the sudden shift would be jarring. 

The red mist faded. Her vision blurred, faded, then returned as she vomited while twisting from the table and falling to the floor, all energy drained from her body, a body she had stolen from a foolish, pregnant girl attending a seance decades before, to escape the void and take revenge on the bastards who’d killed her.

A task she’d completed before going on to live the full and satisfying life she should have had in the first place, at the expense of somebody else. 

But life wasn’t fair.

“Darling, are you okay?! Oh, I knew this was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have bought the shoes. I’m so, so sorry, love, please…”

“I’m…okay,” she muttered, allowing her husband to carry her to the sofa, where he laid her gently and touched his handkerchief to her bleeding nose. “The shoes are…cleansed. They’re on the floor, must have knocked them off chair. Don’t…fuss. Don’t want to talk about it. Don’t want to do this anymore. Promise. No more ghosts.”

“No more ghosts, I promise.”

He bent over her and kissed her, the loyal, loving husband of somebody else, whose body and child she'd stolen, somebody who was still trapped in the mists between worlds, still waiting and searching after all this time.

She could never let Ted know the truth and she could never go back there again, until the day she died, when there would be a reckoning. Before that though, she had a few years left with Ted, their children, their grandkids and more and she intended to make the most of it. 


August 18, 2023 15:25

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39 comments

Michał Przywara
21:29 Aug 21, 2023

So naturally, the title grabs the eyes, but then damn - that twist! What a cool premise, and a cautionary tale about séances. It puts her distrust of Seb into an entirely different light. We end up with a curious mix of cozy, at the start, with the seniors and the antiques and the everyday mysteries we might even call quaint, and then body-thieving soul-rending undead horror under the hood. And to top it all off, it's the ghost that's scared and we get to see it from her POV. Only one minor thing stood out - his name appears to be Ted, e...

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21:34 Aug 21, 2023

Omg thanks for catching that ! It was Martin originally then changed and I missed that instance. Great save thank you Michal. Also thank you for the comment. Yes I don't seem to be able to resist a spooky twist in my stories even when I try! This wasn't supposed to have a creepy ending lol Can't help it, the stories take over!

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Lily Finch
17:02 Aug 18, 2023

Derrick, this is such a cool premise for a story. I enjoyed this a great deal. Ironic that the wife did all the work while the husband, who brought the shoes home, did nothing. Until the end when he helps his wife to the sofa. I loved this story and the take on the prompt. Well done. LF6

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18:20 Aug 18, 2023

Ahh thanks Lily. It was a bit of a challenge as there was so much story it started off at 4000 words. Took a day to pare it down but even losing 1000 words it still covers everything. Amazing what you can edit out when you have to!

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Lily Finch
19:08 Aug 18, 2023

You did well. Congrats. LF6

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13:37 Sep 15, 2023

Wow, I love the spooky twists to your stories. The title really catches the readers attention. Your plot twists are really creative!

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14:29 Aug 31, 2023

Such a great story! I love the plot twist and it's so descriptive.

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12:01 Aug 26, 2023

Great title and a very clever story! You write really well and the whole thing just flowed. I love how pragmatic Beth was the whole time, until she got exposed and you get to appreciate her character's brilliance as well. 😂

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23:06 Aug 26, 2023

Thanks again Cecilia! Love your feedback:) Also love your bio! Final Space is amazing, devastated they couldn't finish it. Also the spiderman games.... dying for Spidey 2 to come out. Playing resident evil village in the meantime and scaring the crap out of myself. Also ..the fifth element!!! Corbin Dallas Multipass! Great taste you have all around!

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08:58 Aug 27, 2023

You know I wasn't expecting many people to recognise Final Space, but I am delighted you did. It was such an underrated and surprisingly deep show. I was gutted when I heard the news 😭 And cheers for the feedback on my bio, I was thinking of making it a bit more professional but kinda like the openness of it. Your's is better, you've done some actual cool stuff man. 😎😎 If you are still waiting on Spidey by the time you finish your current gaming goal, may I recommend any of the Arkham games? (if you haven't played thrm ofc😂) It uses the...

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08:20 Aug 25, 2023

A seriously creepy tale. Such an imagination. What a twist. I wondered what the husband had bought at the start, and after the surprise about it being baby shoes, I knew something really inexplicable was going to happen. Very surprising and shocking. Had to keep reading.

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21:01 Aug 24, 2023

Hi Derrick, interesting piece. I laughed out loud in places and squirmed in others. Love the twist. it seems I found a fellow lover of the dark side.

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05:15 Aug 25, 2023

You certainly do. I love Three Questions!

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Nina H
15:31 Aug 24, 2023

Ted Googles exorcists and has probably liked and subscribed to their YouTube channels, while Beth is the real deal! This was all-around fantastic, Derrick!! I love how you reveal what she REALLY is, turning the story on it’s end. Or maybe, spinning it a la Linda Blair’s head in The Exorcist? 🤔

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16:54 Aug 24, 2023

Lol yes all those ghosts ted wanted to exorcise and all the time his own wife is the most possessed of all. Thanks Nina glad you enjoyed!

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Mary Bendickson
15:20 Aug 24, 2023

Well, this was spooky and weird🥺. Well done, of course.

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18:20 Aug 24, 2023

Thanks Mary. Spooky and weird kind of sums my output up in a nutshell 😂 even when I try not to be it tends to end up there! Thanks for liking!

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Philip Ebuluofor
20:46 Aug 23, 2023

Fine storyline and some phrases are eye-catching. I like the twist too.

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12:09 Aug 24, 2023

Thanks Philip! I appreciate you commenting :)

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Philip Ebuluofor
14:52 Aug 25, 2023

Welcome.

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Kevin Logue
19:26 Aug 23, 2023

Wellity, wellity, wellity! Now that was a twisty turn bonanza of awesome. Serious man, the flow was brilliant, I was sad, then laughing, then wonder wtf was happening. When it ended I wanted more. This is so good, may deserve expanding or at least continuing. Brilliant submission!

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20:29 Aug 23, 2023

Kevin! Thought we lost you to the Spirit realm 😄 Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed. Yes there is a loooot of untold story here. Might call for a return visit!

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Kevin Logue
20:44 Aug 23, 2023

Haha, almost. Work, life, toddler, and a big slap of creative fatigue, needed a few weeks to put the feet up, read, watch, game, and recalibrate.

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20:47 Aug 23, 2023

I hear that. Mine is work, life , 4 teenagers and a dog lol creative fatigue hitting this week. I'm working on something but not sure if it will pan out. We'll see. Currently playing resident evil village and scaring the crap out of myself. Very good though. I see you used to draw comics? I used to write them lol back in the noughties. Just for small press UK comics. It was fun!

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Kevin Logue
20:54 Aug 23, 2023

Same, done the comic scene for five plus years as small press then ended up turning it into a multi media company. Made motions comics, animations, bit of everything. Always loved story telling and drew since I could hold a pencil so comic just fitted, but the worked that goes into just one page became exhausting and unfortunately, not financially worthwhile. In the last two weeks I did start on a little Jestinia and Ardle novella, not sure if it will work out yet but we will see.

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21:02 Aug 23, 2023

Ha just noticed we both have entries on Irish comics wiki . My pen name was dirk van dom. I self published 3 issues of a comic with strips written by me but as you said the work in pulling it together was too much , also coordinating artists lol. And I had young kids and was going through some crazy times with the ex so I had to drop out of the scene.

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12:32 Aug 23, 2023

Great cozy fantasy and what a funny title: the pace slowed for me a bit in the middle, but that ending was extraordinary! Really didnt see that coming.

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16:44 Aug 23, 2023

The ending seems to be catching everyone by surprise. That's nice :) Thanks for the feedback on the middle section, that helps and I will see if I can do something to perk it up there. I've a lot of back story to get through to set up the conclusion so that's always tricky to do without losing momentum. Thanks again!

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Olivia Lake
01:38 Aug 22, 2023

I didn't see that ending coming! This was such a fun ride, starting off with a cozy Ed and Lorraine Warren-eque couple and ending up in otherworld horror. So many pieces come together once you realize who (or what) Beth is.

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07:54 Aug 22, 2023

Heehee yes indeed it benefits from a re-read once you understand whats going on with Beth. Tried to hint at it without making it overly obvious something was off with her, I think I succeeded. Thanks for reading and commenting Olivia, it is super appreciated!

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L J
18:47 Aug 21, 2023

Nicely done ! My kind of story. Agree with the other comments: waiting for part 2...LOVED IT

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07:56 Aug 22, 2023

Hey thanks LJ! This is another example of a story that took on a direction of its own as I wrote it, I never had that ending in mind when I started, but thats usually the case with me. I have the idea and just trust that a suitable ending will materialise as I go through the story! Thanks for the comment, very much appreciated, I'll check out some more of your stories soon!

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L J
20:42 Aug 22, 2023

that's what I like about writing..the characters go wherever they want! Sometimes, I get surprised too! Thanks for taking the time to read mine: will look for your comments

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Wendy M
12:05 Aug 21, 2023

Such a clever story, I love the line “A professional you found by searching ‘exorcists near me’ on Google Maps. Fabulous

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07:56 Aug 22, 2023

Hey Wendy, thank you so much! Yes I like that line too, just popped into my head as I Was writing it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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Ty Warmbrodt
20:51 Aug 19, 2023

That ending! I did not see that coming. Feels like there's a prequel to this one. Horror and suspense seem to be your niche. You craft a story so cleverly and entertainingly. Loved this one. I look forward to more.

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22:29 Aug 19, 2023

Thank you Ty. Yes I do enjoy creating little labyrinths in my stories with a secret hidden at the centre. Some work out better than others. Glad this one did the trick for you!

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Chris Miller
21:37 Aug 18, 2023

Very interesting ideas, Derrick. Cosy elements combined with creepiness and outright horror. Good work!

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08:55 Aug 19, 2023

Thanks Chris. Hopefully didn't veer too far away from the cosiness lol I brought it back at the end. Can't help myself always seem to go towards something spooky or wierd in my tales.

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