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Fantasy Drama Fiction

My first thought about dying was the blast that filled the air at the same instant that I felt a sharp, stinging thud to my chest. I’d been shot by accident.

Blackness engulfed me. I remember that. Like Alice, who fell down the rabbit hole or to be in pitch dark while thinking, What is happening to meWho will look after my son? Then nothing.


Gradually, I could see light, first as a glimmer at the end of a tunnel. My legs felt like lead. The light became brighter. A hazy face peered. Whose face? Then, my eyes were assailed by blinding light. Light all around me. A glow emanated from above. I looked around the room. Where am I? What light shines so radiantly from the ceiling? 


I saw her. She sat on a chair beside me. A small girl. She stared at me solemnly. 

“I love you, mama,” she said as her green eyes blinked and shimmered. With tears? She looked like me. How could she look like me?


I lay on a bed. Something beeped in a rhythmic pattern. A tube stuck into my arm with a clear bag full of fluid leading to it. How strange. Where on earth could I be? Curious and more curious.

I felt the pain. A dull pain in my bones and a feeling of nausea. It seemed different to the burning in my chest, which had vanished. A feeling of dread descended. A premonition that all was not well. Am I facing death all over again? The little girl and I stared at each other. I felt overcome with weariness. Should I close my eyes? . . . Why can’t I open my eyes?


How long have I been asleep? I must have nodded off. Gingerly, I open my eyes. I stare at a woman in the bed while sitting on the little girl’s chair. I close my eyes tight and reopen them. I’m still here, and she’s still there. There is a noise, but it has changed. One single, never-ending beep. I check over myself. I am a child. What is going on? Am I a ghost? Have I jumped from the skin of the woman who looks like me into the body of the girl who also looks like me?

Some people rush into the room. A woman grabs my hand and leads me out

“I’m so sorry, Victoria. We had no idea your mummy would pass so soon.”

I looked up at her. She had tears in her eyes and resembled the woman in the bed. Her sister, maybe? I decided to say nothing until I could figure out what was going on, apart from that ‘mother’ had just died.

***

The next few days passed as a blur. I had been taken back to a spacious, modern farmhouse. My room was set up for a little girl. It had been a long time since childhood, but any little girl would have loved the pink girly decorations and fine furniture. The bed reminded me of a princess’s bed. All in pink with a scatter of contrasting cushions. This is where Victoria lived before I woke up in her body. Her mother had been suffering from an illness called cancer. We had lived here with my Aunty Ruth and Uncle Jack for years, and they had looked after us both. They loved me, Victoria Rose Trent.


For the funeral, a lady named Pauline, dressed in maid’s attire, clothed me in a black satin, frilly dress and did my long black hair in a Pollyanna style. 


My Aunt gave me flowers to throw on my mother’s coffin. Many stood around her grave crying. My Aunt took it worse. She clearly loved my mother, Rose. I couldn’t bring myself to shed a tear. It would have been hypocritical. I remained silent, even when others spoke to me. It was accepted as normal behavior after the shock of losing my mother. I really didn’t know what to say. I had the cuteness factor on my side, which helped. Sympathy for me poured out from everyone present.


Back at the house, they held the after-funeral party. Lots of wine flowed. Lots of fine food had been put out on tables. Many people arrived to offer their condolences. Friends of my Aunt and Uncle, as well as extended family members. Especially ones who knew my mother, Rose

“Why, Miss Victoria is the spit and image of her mother,” said one older lady I was introduced to. A great Aunt.

Someone else said, “She’s a dead ringer!”

I felt my cheeks burn as I looked down. Dead ringer? What sort of expression is that? I’m not dead, I thought.

“Haha. That’s an old expression that means very little these days,” said Uncle Jack. “In days of old, before they had modern methods to check the death of someone, they sometimes had people wake up in their coffins. To prevent the awful possibility of burying someone alive, they used to bury them with a string on one finger. The string led to outside the coffin and onto a bell. After burial, someone had the graveyard shift, waiting in case the bell rang. If it did, they would have to dig the person out. When they walked into the town, people would get such a fright, seeing someone they thought was dead and gone. They were literally called dead ringers. The phrase came to mean someone identical to anyone, even after the practice was abandoned. Modern medicine can accurately confirm if someone has died, now-a-days.”

Mmm. I am a dead ringer? Someone who hasn’t really died. Except that this lost soul continues to find a new home.


I heard someone asking about my father. Turned out he had been in prison for many years. My mother, Rose, had visited at the beginning of his sentence but had stopped seeing him years before. My Aunt and Uncle didn’t think much of him. Marcus Trent. The name meant nothing to me.


A couple of years later, it came to mean more, but not in a good way.

***

My Aunt and Uncle told me my father would visit. He had been paroled two years before the end of his sentence. They dressed me up to the nines. Not a wrinkle or a hair out of place. Like a show pony to be displayed. But to look my best? Or so that they could show off their affluent lifestyle? 


The moment he walked into the room, I recognized him. Apart from when Rose, my mother, had died and I transferred to Victoria, he had always been the cause of my deaths in one way or another in the past. Panic gripped me, and I ran and hid behind the nearest sofa.

“My child is frightened of me?” said Marcus.

“What do you expect? She’s been through so much, with Rose dying. She doesn’t know you. You’ve hardly been in her life. After her mother died, she was an elective mute for several months. She hasn’t been the same child since her mother passed,” said Aunt Ruth.

“What did you tell her about me? Can’t I even see her?”

Aunt Ruth gently coaxed me out to present me to my father.

“We won’t force her,” said Uncle Jack.

I hung back, and when I looked up at Marcus, my body trembled, and my throat constricted. I buried my face in Aunt Ruth’s skirt.

Marcus faltered. “Thank you so much for the funeral bulletin you sent me. I can see how much my daughter looks like her mother. . . I loved Rose.”

“Was it love that got you involved in your father’s crimes again? To not be around for Rose or Victoria when they needed you?” Aunt Ruth was on the verge of tears.

Uncle Jack spoke. “We shouldn’t speak like this in front of Victoria. The visit is over. Can’t you see, she doesn’t even want to look at you.”

“She’s my daughter.” 

“And she always will be, but you have nothing to offer her,” soothed my Aunt, “and for the past six years we have been her family. She’s been traumatized by her mother’s passing. You need to leave her be.”

“Can I write to her then?”

“Yes, but keep it simple. We’ll check that any cards or letters are appropriate and show respect for her life with us.” Uncle Jack spoke firmly.

“What about when I am settled? Can I visit her then?”

“Only if she wants to see you. It should be up to her.”


Marcus stammered before he left. “I really did love Rose. You have no idea how much I regret everything that happened. I will return.”

I resolved to never see him again, though he seemed genuinely pained. Had he recognized me? Or did he simply believe that I was his daughter? After all, I am the mirror image of Rose, albeit a younger version.

***

For many years, he dutifully sent cards. Just the same message each time. Reassuring me of his love. Saying how much he missed my mother. Stating that he was working hard and keeping out of trouble. Promising me that he’d always be there for me. Most heartwarming, but I always just threw them in the trash. Ghosted him. Gradually, the cards became more and more infrequent. If he ever rang to come out for a visit, my Uncle told him I wouldn’t see him. I cherished his love for me, but I was still uncertain who he thought me to be. Keeping him in the dark kept us both safe. 


My Aunt and Uncle treated me as their own precious child. I’ll always be indebted to them for the comfortable life they gave me. They saw the artist in me and sent me to study art in college, among other things. It was the first time in my ‘lives’ that I had pursued learning. 


I took steps to never feel helpless again. I learned kickboxing, and though they were horrified at my choice, they respected it and realized I could never be a damsel in distress. They acknowledged that as I seemed to attract unwanted male admirers, with my focus on pursuing a career, it may be a helpful skill to protect myself from the unscrupulous. In the past, bearing children had been my doom.

I arrived home one summer break to another letter from my father. My Aunt and Uncle hadn’t opened this one, from what I could see. They must have concluded they could trust him. I expect they reasoned I’d throw it in the rubbish.


My dear daughter Victoria,

It has been some time since I wrote. I trust that life is treating you well and you have been studying hard. I want you to have a better life than I had. Make better choices.

I have moved out into the country to a house where I lived before. Before I married your dear mother and had you. I met a lady, related to the people who used to live there, and I now work for her. She has told me many interesting things about what happened after I left this place long ago. Do you remember the name, Laurena? It is her elderly daughter Connie who lives here. We have worked hard to get her ranch in good repair and be productive again. 


Over the summer, we will have a group of girls coming here. We run a boot camp for wayward young ladies. Their parents send them here to rough it and have their harsh edges smoothed. Lots of horse trekking, gardening, and doing chores. It’s been hugely successful the last two summers and a lot of fun. I’d love you to join us. More as an example of how to behave. You could take them out sketching. The scenery here is fantastic. There’s an old ghost town nearby that used to be a little town called Cool Springs. There are lots of spectacular scenes to draw. Your folks have told me how well you are doing at Art School.


Please let me know if you would like to come this break for a couple of weeks. I know your mother would approve. I’ll arrange your travel and drive to the nearest airport to pick you up.

Your loving father, Marcus. 

P.S. Dear daughter, please respond. If I don’t hear from you this time, I will believe you don’t wish to ever see me again. Please forgive me for leaving your mother and you when you were a baby. I loved your mother very much. I beg you for this final chance to make amends.


Tears smarted my eyes. How I had tortured him for all those years. I sat and gaped at the letter, unable to move. He thinks my mother, Rose, would approve? Why has he mentioned about Laurena and Cool Springs? He’d feel at home working at the ranch house he lived in before. As for Cool Springs, I’ll never go there, derelict or not. It’s the place where I was shot to death all those years ago. He knew about it. Why did he mention the place to me? I can never return. Or is it a test? I could simply refuse to go there because it’s a ghost town? Too scary. It could be fun to finally see him and let him be a father. He’d have to respect my feelings at his place of work, with others around . . . I will go. Nothing can possibly go wrong. The letter has been written without any red herrings or specific comments for the eyes of Rose Trent only. I am merely her daughter. I’ll go discuss my holiday with Uncle Jack and Aunt Ruth.


October 27, 2023 07:46

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5 comments

Mary Bendickson
19:37 Oct 30, 2023

It is a ghost mystery and could have fulfilled the prompt. Good luck story.

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02:53 Oct 31, 2023

Thanks Mary.

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07:48 Oct 27, 2023

Oh dear. Can't submit the story because I realized that the prompts are only about Halloween. This is not a Halloween ghost story.

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08:29 Oct 28, 2023

I think you could have submitted it? Was it all specifically Halloween? I didn't have time In the end this week but if I did I wouldn't have had a Halloween connection! This is such a deep mystery. I'm not completely sure I understand it. There is obviously a reincarnation thing going on and these two have met in many lives and the end result has always been Mark killing 'Rose'? Is Victoria possessed by her mother's spirit after she dies? Or is it someone else? As you say, curious and more curious! The opening was very well done in describin...

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03:11 Oct 31, 2023

Thanks a lot, Derek. I had been too busy to write stories for a while. And I also felt a bit fed up after one of my earlier stories wasn't accepted. Mainly because I called it Part 2 despite the fact that it is definitely a stand alone story. Didn't get anywhere appealing and stating that. So I will save time this week and resubmit it with a different title and a few tweaks. This story has the characters living different lives by becoming different people. The characters come up with different strategies to cope with their transitions. If yo...

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