Return to site

The Stranger

A Melanie Black Short Story 

· Short Stories by Melanie Black

A connection- some sort of sign of willingness to speak and be heard. Something so natural to the spirit world, yet brazenly bizarre in ours. 

Breaking the bond that maintains their seance circle could be dangerous- to whom, the living or the dead? The answer could be either or both. But...

"The important thing to remember throughout this evening is that you must not release the hands on either side of you until I say with absolute certainty it is time to do so." 

Fingers bounce in the palms of their neighbors; nervous pulsations writhe through their limbs uncontrollably. It embarrassed some and their bodies' response in tune with the slippery ejection of sweat on their palms and other unmentionables. Others fully embrace the oddity they have been placed in and reckon it's to be assumed. 

A glowing orb sits in front of him, the stranger, the one that will lead them through. Alone with their guide and a mystical ball, they hold hands, preparing to listen to whoever joins them. It doesn't seem like enough, or maybe it's too much... too many of them for a spirit to feel comfortable in welcoming itself to their table. One holds their breath, another rocks their sitting bones against the bottom of the chair, while the others simply close their eyes, faining contentment. 

The stranger's voice begins; inviting someone unseen, and for now, unheard. A brave soul desperate to tell their tale - will they come forward? Will their voice be something like nails running down the front side of a chalkboard? Or perhaps the stranger will be the only to understand it? Hope lies in the dark corners of the room, pooling into lavish puddles a person could drown in. 

There is nothing but a soft low hum coming from the closed mouth stranger. Eyes open, turning to peer at one another as a way of asking, "is this to be expected?" 

The nothingness continues as the hope drains itself at the corner of the walls. 

Buth then, the candlelights flicker and fade to blackness as if a pair of transparent lips have blown them out from across the room. They all feel a gentle breeze brush the sides of their cheeks. There is a chill colder than an iceberg touching the sides of the Titanic. Someone shivers and almost loses touch of the opened hand lying palm side up next to them. But contact is not broken- almost, but they saved it. 

The orb at the head of the table changes in dimness. The stranger is shifting his hands. He is taking the pairs he had been holding and connecting them to one another, excusing himself from their ring of trust. His hand jabs at the table where a pen must have been lying from the start. His left hand scrambles to pull the tablecloth tight, making a perfectly taught writing space for its transcriber. 

And then he scribbles, circles at first, but then those circles turn to cursive, flowing in and out of itself. No one can read what he's writing. No one is close enough to do that. A gust of wind roars through the space, threatening to upend the cloth, stealing away a mad writer's canvas. Instead, the stranger's left hand slams down and without opening his mouth, shouts the word, "NO."

Scribbling away, he continues while we all watch in awe until a voice pulls our attention away. 

"Here kitty, kitty. You almost got lost- you know what mother not to stray or you will become a stray. Naughty, naughty." A soft whimper and then a scream. Not from the mouth of the babe they just heard but from the throat of the cat.

"I'm just trying to love you, won't you hold still? Mother says I hug too tight, but then again, can you ever really love someone or something too much kitty? I don't think you can and if you do- they just wait in heaven for you like Papa is. That's how we keep them- you know it is too."

Like a hand pulling back from a mousetrap, the orb's light brightened back to its previous lumens, and the pen was flung from the stranger's hand. Their heads seemed to unanimously rise, as if it had placed them under some sort of eye-avoidance spell. 

"It's time to separate your hands from one another. The spirit has gone," the stranger states with an overzealous amount of confidence. 

They do as we're told. Knowing that they are free to speak doesn't change the fact that none of them knows what to say. Instead, all eyes are drawn to the leader, the stranger searching for an understanding of what was just experienced. 

But, his eyes diverted away and shot straight downward to the cloth he'd been feverishly writing on only a few moments back. 

Above all the loops, hoops, and jibber-jabber he'd first jotted down was a message printed plain as day:



"I loved Papa to death. I loved him so much I cut his heart out so I could always keep it near me. I kept it in a jar until they reunited us in death. I am seven years old. My mother calls me Murder Maisie and I like it."