#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Isabelle’s Imp

Gargoyle Statue

“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call.” Mr. and Mrs. Henderson exchanged a wary glance before giving me a wave and hurrying to their car. I shrugged my shoulders and closed the heavy oak door, being certain to slide the dead bolt in place as they had instructed me to do. I took a deep breath and checked my phone. No texts from Evan. Annoyed, I tossed the phone onto the kitchen table and decided to raid the fridge.

Babysitting had its perks, especially when the parents insisted on going out after the kids were already tucked into bed for the night. I hadn’t worked for the Henderson’s before but I’d heard rumors that their kids were a handful and I should be prepared for the worst.

I shrugged my shoulders and grabbed a tub of rocky road ice cream and searched the cupboards until I found a bowl. How hard could it be to watch kids who were already sleeping? I laughed a little to myself before scooping out a more than generous portion of ice cream and putting the tub back in the freezer. I went back to the fridge hoping the Henderson’s had the decency to stock chocolate fudge, or at the very least butterscotch syrup. After the argument I’d had with Evan, I needed an indulgence to take my mind off things.

Kicking the fridge door closed, I stuck the spoon in my mouth which was covered in more chocolate syrup than ice cream. I grimaced, coughed and ran to the sink to spit.

“What the …”

Giggling interrupted my thoughts and I spun around expecting to see one of the Henderson children but there was no one there.

“Jason? Jenna?”

I sighed and looked back at the mess I’d made. That chocolate syrup must have been seriously out of date, I decided as I tossed the contents of my bowl in the sink and rinsed everything down the drain. So much for my ice cream indulgence.

I grabbed a packet of potato chips and headed off to the living room to see if the Henderson’s had any good cable stations. If I couldn’t drown my sorrows in ice cream then I might as well get lost in something sappy on the television for the next couple hours instead. I stopped at the table to grab my phone but it wasn’t there.

“I could have sworn I’d left it there,” I mumbled to myself, now completely confused.

Giggling.

I spun around to catch them but again, no one was there. Enough was enough. It was time to pay these little rugrats a visit and let them know who was in charge tonight. I had never been one for practical jokes and I sure wasn’t going to stand for it from two kids under ten who were supposed to be sleeping.

I opened Jenna’s bedroom door first and peeked inside. The nightlight illuminated the room enough that I could see the little girl curled up in her toddler bed with one thumb in her mouth. I stood over her debating whether I should call her out on the pretend sleeping act but if it was an act, she was so good at it, she had me fooled.

Fine, I decided, it must have been Jason so I headed over to his room next and opened his door quickly, hoping to catch him off guard. But to my confusion, I found the same scenario in his room. He looked much too peaceful to be pretending.

Putting aside the strangeness of this place, I headed back downstairs. That’s when I caught sight of something scrambling across the hall at the bottom of the steps making its way from the kitchen area to the living room leaving a trail of potato chip crumbs in its wake.

“Hey!” I shouted, probably a little louder than I needed to.

I didn’t remember the Henderson’s telling me they had a pet, but then why would they? I was only here to watch the kids. I skipped down the steps and turned the corner to the living room, not sure what I would find there. The TV was on, the sound blasting, the empty potato chip bag discarded in the corner, but there was no sign of whatever I’d seen hustling to get in there.

Clicking the off button on the remote, I felt goosebumps cover my arms. I know I hadn’t turned on the TV and since I’d just confirmed both of the kids were sleeping, then who did that leave? What kind of pet used the TV remote?

If that weren’t creepy enough, I then spotted my cell phone as the screen flashed with an incoming text message on the other side of the living room window. I looked all around me.

“Who is there?” I said in barely more than a whisper.

The only sound was the tick tock of the grandfather clock in the entry way and a faint giggling that seemed to come from the coat closet. I swallowed hard and walked over to the window, unlocked it and retrieved my phone. Apparently, I’d been having a conversation with Evan, unbeknownst to me, while I’d been checking on the children. Scanning our messages history, I was going to have a heck of a lot of explaining to do. My skin crawled as I scrolled through my contacts for Kate’s number. I remembered her once talking about babysitting for the Henderson’s.

“Hey, Isabelle, what’s going on?”

“Kate,” I said trying not to let my voice come out as shaky as I felt.

“Is everything okay?”

“I’m babysitting for the Henderson’s.”

“Oh,” she said and then there was only silence.

“Do the Henderson’s have a pet or something?”

I heard Kate take a deep breath, which was only making me feel more nervous about the whole situation. I wanted to bail but I couldn’t just get up and leave with two children alone upstairs, no matter how crazy this house seemed.

“Not so much a pet,” Kate said at last, “More like an imp.”

“An imp?”

“Yeah, I mean, maybe not. I never really saw it myself but Mary said she did once when she was sitting for the Henderson’s. It’s why they only ever go out at night after the kids are tucked in bed. They say it’s safer that way. I’ve been told if you think the imp is bad, you should see the kids.”

“I see,” I said, but I really didn’t see at all. I’d read a couple stories with imps but never thought such a thing actually existed “Am I in danger?”

“Probably not.”

“That is not very reassuring.”

“Stay on his good side and you’ll be fine.”

“Right…” Hopefully all those potato chips went some ways toward appeasing him.

I hung up the phone feeling more uneasy than I’d started. I heard the giggling from the coat closet again. With a deep breath, I moved toward it, not sure I had the guts to face this thing but if this babysitting gig was going to work out, we were going to have to come to some sort of understanding.

**

Writing this story has inspired a new book! Currently brainstorming and outlining. Eager to start writing!

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me. 🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.

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#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – The Bannik in the Bathhouse

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According to Wikipedia, the bannik is the bathhouse spirit in Slavic mythology. It was believed, among other things, they had the ability to predict the future. If they caress you, it means good luck, but if they scratch your back, trouble lay ahead.

“Stop it,” Abigail giggled.

Jeremy had her pinned against the wall and proceeded to cover her in kisses despite her protests.

“I can’t wait any longer,” he complained, caressing the long silk strands of her blond hair and letting it tangle around his fingers as he planted feather light kisses against her neck.

Abigail gave him a gentle push, forcing him to let her go free. He collapsed onto the bed and propped up on one elbow as he looked at her. The look in his eyes was pure lust and fire and she wanted desperately to crawl after him and give in.

“It’s been a long, tiring day and I want to get cleaned up.”

“I’ve missed you.”

“I won’t be long. Promise.”

Abigail dug through her suitcase looking for her toiletries bag and a fresh change of clothes, something that would entice Jeremy when she returned. She wasn’t surprised at all when Jeremy came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He was nothing if not persistent.

“I could come with you.”

“Not this time.”

“Seriously,” he said, “You shouldn’t go alone. It’s dark out there and we’re in a secluded area.”

“I can take care of myself. You know that. You, stay here and keep yourself occupied. Just, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep because I have plans for you when I get back.”

“I’m counting on it,” Jeremy said letting her slip from his grasp.

Abigail gave him a wink and grabbed the key to the bathhouse. When they’d made the reservations for their romantic getaway at the odd bed and breakfast, she had thought the idea of having a separate bathhouse to be quaint, but now that it was dark and she was tired, she was starting to wish they’d settled for the Holiday Inn instead. This place had history, though, and it was close enough to some great hiking spots she and Jeremy wanted to explore, if they ever managed to get out of the room, that was. She also had a pretty good idea this was the weekend Jeremy finally expected to propose.

The bathhouse was much nicer than Abigail had expected. The area was lit almost entirely by scented candles and as soon as she entered the steamy room, she relaxed. Everything about this weekend was going to be perfect. She let the thick terry cotton robe slip from her shoulders and drop to the floor and stepped into the bath. The quiet was such a contrast to the usual noise that surrounded their little apartment in the city. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, already feeling the tightness across her shoulders ease.

The thud of something hitting the floor brought her attention away from her daydreams and back to the bathhouse.

“Is someone there? Jeremy?”

It must have been her imagination, she thought, or perhaps a bottle of moisturizer slipped off a shelf. She let her thoughts trail back to Jeremy waiting for her back at the room and smiled. She would make sure it was a night they would not soon forget. Already her stomach felt jittery as she contemplated it.

Her smile quickly faded when she caught a glimpse of a shadow forming in the steam. She sat up abruptly, holding her arms over her chest.

“Who is there?” she called out. “Jeremy, it isn’t funny to scare me.”

Retracing her steps, she tried to remember locking the bathhouse behind her. She was almost certain she had but would it have been enough to stop someone determined enough from opening it?

“This bathhouse is occupied,” she said.

The form in the steam wavered and returned but didn’t respond. It was close enough now that she could almost reach out and touch it. She leaned forward, convinced that her imagination was getting the better of her and she was seeing something that wasn’t really there.

Abigail reached over and grabbed her robe as she stood up and quickly slipped into it. A strange feeling came over her, a foreboding of the future, as she stepped out of the bath, and in her vision she saw Jeremy standing over her, covered in blood and shouting words she couldn’t comprehend. On shaky legs, she made her way back to the changing area and went for her bag but it wasn’t where she had dropped it.

Frantic, she began searching the small room, convinced now that someone had come in and stolen in while she was preoccupied.

“Of all the things,” she said out loud, “who would want to steal my clothes?”

The figure of a small man with long hair and a long beard materialized out of the steam. Abigail screamed and stepped back, feeling for the doorknob just as the creature’s claws reached out to strike her back.

Danger.

She struggled to unlock the door, flung it open, and ran back toward the room.

“Abigail? What’s wrong?”

Jeremy caught her in his arms before her legs gave way.

“The bathhouse. There was a … man …”

Jeremy sighed and held her tight. “I warned you not to go there alone, Abi. Didn’t you ever hear of the bannik?”

“No,” she said trying to regain composure. She needed to report the incident before another one of the guests suffered the same.

“Trouble lies ahead.”

**

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me. 🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!

Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.