Amber comes home from a business trip and just wants to have some wine to relax. The ghost has other ideas.
Amber Just Can’t Catch A Break
Over the last three weeks, the house had been still, besides a few random glitches with the HVAC unit. Don and Amber thought this was typical for a new construction. The engineer hadn’t figured out what caused the random cold spots. Their mackerel tabby, Chester, also hasn’t had an episode since the kitchen incident. It’s now two weeks before Christmas.
Amber pulled her white Santa Fé SUV into the driveway. It was a shiny new one and contrasted the gray sky above and green of the house, like a pearl trapped in sand along Puget Sound’s shore.
She had to make an emergency visit to a big advertising client’s office. Their Google campaigns had failed to deliver on sales. That’s stressful enough during the peak of the holiday shopping season, but she convinced them to put more money in Bing. And that helped them reach their goals. It was another victory for her digital advertising career.
She walked in the house and dropped her keys into a wooden teak bowl and headed toward the kitchen. Upon hearing the sound of keys clanking, Chester ran downstairs to meet his fur mom. He met her at the kitchen island and began to rub across her legs. Amber loved to hear the deep motorcycle hum of a happy kitty cat. Although, she didn’t look forward to taking a pet fur brush to her black Elie Tahari pants.
“Hi, little boy,” she said. “It’s only been one night, but mommy missed you more than anything.”
She picked up Chester, petted his head and gave him a long smooch on his temple, then set him back down on the floor. It had been an eventful week at work with client visits, last-minute campaign hiccups, and planning for the year ahead. She wanted a little treat. That meant wine. A Cabernet Sauvignon, of course.
She reached for a bottle from the rack by her fridge and then slid a glass from the suspended holder above the sink. That was an expensive upgrade to the house, but, she thought, they were going to stay here for thirty years, why not install it?
Amber gave a five-second pour, which filled the glass an inch from its top. She thought it was a bit too much, but reflected on the past month. All that exercise to get her abs back. Holding back at Thanksgiving. Her discipline to kick box and get extra cardio in. Fuck it, I’ll take the healthy pour, she thought. But just one glass.
The wine had a heavy texture. It coated her mouth like a handmade quilt and comforted her like her grandmother would on cold, dark nights. Berry flavors popped across her taste buds. First, black currants. Second, black cherries. Third, raspberries. And it finished with a hint of cigar smoke.
Amber held it for a few seconds, smiled, swallowed, and put the cork back in the bottle. This night would be about slow sips and trashy TV with her kitty. Don wouldn’t be home until tomorrow. Then he’d take over the living room TV to watch college football games.
Or so she thought.
As she picked up her phone to text her hubby, the screen went black. The battery had almost died: It flashed a lightning bolt icon for low power. Amber thought that was odd because she charged it on her way back from the airport. She opened one of the island’s drawers to find a spare charger.
After plugging it in, the phone wouldn’t charge. Maybe a circuit breaker popped, she thought. That didn’t make sense because all the appliances had power. She set her wine glass down on the white-and-gray marble counter.
Chester, who had sat between her feet, now began to stir. He didn’t meow. He didn’t look crazy. And he didn’t want to be next to Amber. He bolted for the stairs.
Amber wanted to see what was wrong with Chester. He’d been so good since he last had an anxiety attack before Thanksgiving. But as she turned to go after him, her wine rack crashed to the floor, like it got flipped by someone. Amber jumped from the clanking sound and gasped. Luckily, the thick bottles handled the fall and none of them broke. She bent down and put the oak-and-black steel rack back up and started to put the bottles in their spots.
As she did that, there was a creaking sound. One she had heard before, but couldn’t quite place. At first she ignored it, then it happened again. This time it was closer, louder, and right behind her.
KRISH! KRISH! KRISH! KRISH!
The sounds came in rapid fire order. Amber stood and turned toward the sink. Wine glasses slid and shot from their hanging rack to the island, shattering as they hit it. Little, star-like shards glinted as they sprayed across the cherry oak floors. One-by-one they flew, four rows of six glasses each, like baseballs from an automatic pitching machine.
All the glasses had flown off the rack in a minute, if that. Amber found herself crying, leaning against the fridge again. She just looked at the pile of glass and the bottles of wine on the floor. This time shock didn’t come over her, but confusion. Her brows furrowed as she tried to make sense of what happened. It wasn’t the cat; he was upstairs. There was no one in the kitchen with her. Glasses don’t throw themselves across the room. She thought she might be hallucinating.
She picked her phone off the counter and noticed it had its charge back. Minutes ago, it seemed dead. Amber pressed the home button and began to dial Don. As she went to grab her glass of wine, it cracked.
Each tiny break grew across the glass like a spider knitting its web. The wine dribbled out and pulsed down the stem. It formed a deep red puddle on the counter.
Like a freshly cut wrist.
In Part 4, the couple’s web cams capture the ghost terrorizing Chester.
Ed. Note: To keep the couple’s privacy, we’ve used pseudonyms. This story is inspired by events at a home in Snoqualmie, Washington, so treat it as fiction.