The pungent smell of marigolds wafted into her nose as she propped them against the gravestone. They were her father’s favorite, so she figured she would get enough for the entire family. Her chest ached as she placed a bouquet on Richard Deluca’s grave. She knew he wasn’t coming back.
The dead did not return.
Next to him was Charlie Deluca, her brother. She brushed the leaves away from the headstone and placed the flowers down. Losing them at the same time had left a hollow place in Katie’s heart. Loneliness burrowed its way into her life and bloomed like a moon flower.
She tucked a brunette strand of hair behind her ear. “More than anything I wish you both were here. Aunt Bess died and left the Manors to me; I bet you know that already though. I’m headed there now but I’ll be back to visit soon. I love you both more than life itself. Oh, Charlie you should know Ben is safe.”
Katie whispered a prayer to a God she was sure no longer existed. After a while, she stood, stumbling slightly as she did. She turned and made her way back to her car. She had stopped by on the way to her new home, unable to drive straight there.
Something, something deep in her chest she couldn’t pinpoint, was telling her not to go. Telling her to get in her car and drive away.
Katie got in her old car and warmed her hands against the barely hot heater, slightly relieved that she had gotten this out of the way. The anniversary of their deaths was fast approaching.
She looked back at her driver’s side mirror. Her heart stopped. When she looked again, there was nothing but cold fog. She shook it off as her mind playing tricks with her eyes.
When Katie looked back in her mirror, she swore she could see her father standing there, as clear as day, hand extended, fingers curled as if telling her to come back. Falling out of his mouth were flies. And they all seemed to fly toward her.
Katie gagged and pulled her car onto the shoulder of the road, acid sloshing against her throat. She opened the door and emptied her stomach. Green vomit splattered onto the toe of her shoes. She grabbed water from her car, rinsed her mouth, then poured some over her shoes.
Sighing, she placed her forehead against the steering wheel, taking a few deep breaths before getting back on the road. She continued to drive with a pounding headache settling in the back of her head. The closer she got, the faster her heart raced and the more the sweat beads gathered on her forehead.
Tingling erupted around her neck. Red welts appeared on her skin. She lifted her necklace and flinched, pulling back her fingers instantly. It was hot. She picked up her water bottle with one hand and pressed it against her collar, feeling the metal cool under it.
Attention diverted, Katie didn’t see the sign showing 1 mile to Winchester Falls. She noted the time on her dashboard. The sun outside was setting.
As the burning on her collar subsided, Katie rounded the final few corners to her new home. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, but she was also excited. She put down the water bottle. She looked up just in time and swerved off the road onto the grass.
Breathing fast, Katie placed a hand against her chest, swinging her neck around to look back at what caused her to drive off to the side of the road. Her jaw slacked, her heart pounding against her ribcage, begging to escape. She could feel its outline on her palm.
It was as if the fog was avoiding the figure standing in the middle of the road. Begging her to see.
Katie’s mother died when she was seven years old. She didn’t remember her but kept the only picture her father gave her inside her purse. She saw it every day and had memorized each hair on her head.
Knowing that her mother, just like her brother and father, was dead, buried, and gone. Katie’s world came crashing down when she saw her mother standing in the middle of the road, one hand extended as if telling her to come, eyes sad. Flies poured out of her mouth, swarming toward her.