Gothic Story: Jessica - by Nightwind

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Jessica - by Nightwind

It is a dismal and chilly November afternoon in Sea Haven. In actuality, the weather is not at all unusual for this coastal community in November. When cold air from the north meets with that produced by the warmer gulf-stream currents that lie just to the east of the outer banks, the gloom often descends. That's the way it is along the Carolina coast this late in the autumn. The previous summer's warm-weather activities have, by this time, ceased. The tourists, sun worshippers and fair-weather fishermen have returned to wherever they came from. In their wake are boarded up beach houses, sea-food restaurants and small businesses with signs on their doors that say "see you in the spring." For many of those who stay behind in this town of 15,000 – the year-long residents, this is a depressing time.

For Jasmine however, this is the season during which she is most in her element – her comfort zone. She loves the damp, cloudy and chilled weather. She adores the absence of the summer crowds with their noise and constant commotion. Most of all, she loves being able to walk the gloomy streets without being stared at and made fun of by the many judgmental people that neither know her nor have any interest in doing so. "They're ignoramuses," she often tells her friends, "people who can only feel good about themselves by putting down others."

In spite of this philosophy Jasmine, in her heart of hearts, knows that she marches to the beat of a different drummer. Even so, it is her firm belief that there is dignity in being different. It is not a path taken by cowards; rather, it is one followed by those with inner strength – the moral fortitude to stand by one's principles and beliefs.

During the early 90's she was a part of the local goth scene. At the time, Sea Haven had an ambiance that attracted creative people of all types. It was a mecca for artists, poets, musicians and writers. There were places to go where people who viewed life differently could hang out comfortably – places where one could find others of a like mind – real companionship and yes, even friendship. As the years passed however, the town underwent a slow metamorphosis. Hordes of fraternity and sorority types as well as wealthy business people, with their jet skis and expensive boats, arrived in increasing numbers as each new summer approached. Out of their ever-growing presence came a slow but steady exodus of those with whom Jasmine felt compatible. At some point, she herself left home in an attempt to regain that which had been lost.

After spending about six months checking out the scene in Denver, Jasmine went to the west coast and settled in San Francisco for a couple of years. She liked it there and had some really good times, but that city's high cost of living proved to be too much for her and eventually, she returned to Sea Haven.

During the gloomy days of November and throughout the winter months, the sea-side community regresses back to the ambiance of its earlier days. The old gathering places may have changed and many old friends have moved on, but there is the quiet solitude that comes from sitting on the shore and listening to the cries of the gulls and the sound of the waves as they persist in their relentless assault upon both rock and beach. Still, there are a few holdovers from the old days – people with whom Jasmine still shares an affinity and friendship. Like her, they enjoy the gloom of the fall and winter months. In like fashion, they never sold out on their principles – never forgot who and what they are; this, even though the responsibilities of real life and societal expectations imposed upon them a certain…well…reasonable moderation in style and appearance.

Angela is one such holdover, and although she and Jasmine do not visit with one another as often as either would like, their friendship has weathered the years; any time spent together is considered to be a very special occasion. This afternoon, Jasmine is walking along Shoreline Drive, a narrow two-lane road that is lined with various take-out seafood venues, small shops – many of which are closed for the season, and a coffee house and hangout called the Seaside Café. Then, there is a place called Angela's Collectables, her friend's resale shop. Across Shoreline Drive are boat docks, patches of beach amid the rocks, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Dressed in a stylishly-long black leather coat and a red cotton hat, Jasmine makes her way toward Angela's humble but fascinating shop. She loves spending time there, not only because of her friend's company, but because some real collector's items often manage to find their way onto the store's shelves. As a collector of dolls since the time that she was a little girl, Jasmine really enjoys checking out Angela's collection, which has its own very special display area. For the most part, the items found there hearken back to an earlier era; some she suspects, may go as far back as the late 1800's. There are Rageddy Anns, Betty Boops, and various others that succinctly convey the craftsmanship and dignity of ages gone by. Whenever she gazes upon the eyes, clothes and texture of these figurines, she wonders just what type of girl each doll belonged to. How much did she love it? Jasmine wonders. If only dolls could talk, what stories they could tell me!

Angela is sitting behind the counter and looks up as the door opens without warning. A warm smile comes across her face as she gets up to greet her visitor. "Hey there hon!" she says affectionately.

"Hey!" Jasmine responds with equal enthusiasm.

For a moment the two embrace affectionately. It is Angela who speaks first. "Now what's a girl like you doing out on a gloomy day like this?" she asks with a glow.

"I thought it would be a good day to visit one of my best friends in the world," Jasmine responds, "and, I thought that I might be able to get her out of her store for awhile – maybe for a hot cup of coffee or a cappuccino perhaps?"

"Hmm, that sounds like a good idea to me. I didn't take much of a lunch break today and I could use some time out of the store." Her voice lowers a bit as she continues, "sometimes the voices in here – you know, the voices from the past – they're enough to drive a person out for…you know- cappuccino." With that Angela smiles and adds, "Why don't you take a look around while I get the shop closed down. It will only take me a few minutes. Bye the way, I've gotten some new dolls in since the last time you were here. Why don't you just stroll back there and check them out?"

Although filled with anticipation from the thought of viewing the latest additions to her friend's collection, Jasmine attempts the appearance of nonchalance as she slowly strolls toward the back of the store. Soon enough however, she reaches her destination and casts her first gaze upon the shelves, studying the new figurines intently. Suddenly, something catches her attention from the corner of her eye. "Oh my God!" she mutters to herself, "how totally cool!"

With an expression of pure delight upon her face, she walks to the far end of the shelving and picks up a figurine unlike any that she had ever seen – at least in recent memory. While bearing the semblance of a young woman in pain – or even anguish, the doll maintains an ambiance of hipness – of not giving a damn! It is about fifteen inches in length and is wearing a long black dress. From underneath her black and stringy hair dangles a rather long chain from which hangs three pendants - an evermore cross, a raven necklace, and a skull. Still, it's the marionette's face that really catches her attention. It is a white face with bloodshot eyes that are surrounded by a thick layer of eye shadow; black lips are accentuated by two piercings and a nose ring. Running half-way up its calves are black high-heeled boots.

Jasmine can no longer contain her excitement. "Oh my God Angela!" she shouts, "Where did you find this?"

"I see that you've met Jessica," her friend responds from the cash register.

"Jessica? That's what you call her? What an interesting name! Why do you call her that?"

Angela joins her in the back of the store. "I don't exactly know," she answers. "I think that someone might have told me…well…maybe not. I don't remember. As a matter of fact, I don't really remember anyone bringing her in here…I guess somebody did; but you know, I honestly don't remember. She was just… here one day. Somebody must have left her – maybe it was a trick."

Jasmine laughs, "Good grief Ang! Do you mean to tell me that you don't remember how this extraordinary specimen got into your store? You're slipping girl!"

Throwing her hands up in the air with a snicker the store keeper asks, "Are you ready for that coffee?"

With that, the "be back soon" sign is put on the door window and the two head for the Seaside Café.

As it turns out the message on the door eventually becomes less and less accurate as the two women luxuriate on this dark and chilly afternoon with their hot coffees, snacks, and compelling conversation. When they come to a natural pause in the banter Jasmine gives the dialogue a sudden change in direction. "So how much do you want for her?" she asks.

Momentarily confused, Angela responds as best she can. "For who…what?"

"For Jessica - you know, the doll that I was looking at?"

"Oh that!" Angela chuckles with the relief that comes from renewed understanding. "I'll make a deal with you Jaz, you pay the tab here and you can take the little creep home with you."

With that, Jasmine's serious expression disappears and instead, her smile and demeanor take on an almost little-girlish ambiance. "Oh how cool! I love you too Ang."

In spite of her friend's exuberance Angela retains a more serious mood. "When we get back to the shop I want to check my records, because I just don't remember anyone ever bringing that doll in to me." Gazing out the window she adds, "It's beginning to get dark – another afternoon spent in paradise. We might as well head back to the store so that I can close out for the day."

As the two head back down the street the dimly-lit sidewalk is suddenly illuminated by the gaslights. While not truly gaslights, these street lamps resemble their predecessors in design, light output and ambiance. The residents and business people of this unique neighborhood prefer them over the ordinary street lights that illuminate the rest of the community. Mixed with the emptiness of the street, the sounds of the surf and the cold breeze that blows in from the ocean, these lights become co-creators of an almost surreal and magical atmosphere.

Upon returning to the collectables store Jasmine heads toward the back in order to claim her prize. Angela, her curiosity peaked, sits in front of her computer and begins looking over her inventory, purchases and sales records. After a few minutes she looks up at Jasmine, who is now standing before her. "Come here hon, Take a look at this."

Her friend comes behind the counter and looks into the computer screen. "Here are both my doll purchases and those on consignment. I don't see anything listed about your creepy new friend. It would seem that Jessica found her own way here." At that she smiles. "Maybe she was looking for you all along."

"If that's the case," Jasmine retorts, "why didn't she save me the trouble by just showing up at my place?"

"Ah," the store keeper replies, "somebody probably left her here just to be funny. Little did our trickster know that Gelvira, still roams the dark, ethereal streets and neighborhoods of Sea Haven – always looking to add a bit of ambiance to the local environment."

Jasmine's face lights up appreciatively upon hearing the name by which she was once known. It is a name that hearkens back to the ancient Visigoths, which means lofty and true. It's a name that she once took for herself - back in the day. Sometimes she still thinks of herself as Gelvira; this, even though there are very few left in Sea Haven who remember her alter identity.

"And now Gelvira must take leave of her best friend in order to once more walk the dark and lonely streets of Sea Haven – this time, in order to retreat to her dark castle."

The two embrace; then Jasmine adds, "I had a great afternoon Ang, thanks so much for everything."

"Me too," her friend answers. "See you next Thursday?" Don't forget it will be Thanksgiving. Maybe we can hang out some more – maybe watch a good movie or something."

"It sounds good to me. I'll be in touch."

With Jessica in tow, Jasmine walks out onto a dark and almost deserted Shoreline Drive – almost deserted, for no sooner has she walked past the far end of her friend's store than a dark, almost imperceivable figure emerges from the shadows – watching – staring, as her footsteps slowly recede into the night and are gradually absorbed by the sound of nearby waves splashing upon rock and beach; this, along with the occasional sounding of a fog horn that emanates from the nearby lighthouse.. A heavy mist is rolling in from the sea.

The shadowy figure begins to silently follow the pedestrian while keeping at least a block's distance between them – past Central Street – past the coffee shop…

Sensing a presence, Jasmine pauses momentarily and looks around. Seeing nothing, she continues walking - intuition and senses now on high alert. It is not a human threat that she feels. In fact, she doesn't feel threatened at all. Still, she senses that something – somebody is near – observing – following.

Upon arriving home, Jasmine looks around the living room for a good place to put Jessica. "Hmm," she says to the doll as if it was alive, "I think this chair by the fireplace might be just the place for you. What do you think? Can you handle a little bit of light?" Chuckling, she places Jessica in her new spot and then moves to the kitchen in order to warm up a can of soup and make a sandwich.

Outside, the stalker stands idly by the gate. Barely noticeable to the naked eye, the being pauses – held back by fear. It is not a fear of being seen by passers-by in their swift vehicles; more likely than not, they would have to be aware of this visitor's presence to see it – to see him! Oh no, it's the human – the woman that lives in this house – who now has the body of his beloved in her possession; she's the one to be concerned about.

I know she's aware of my presence, he thinks to himself. She walks between the realms; she's got power. Still, I must go in there. I must be re-united before it's too late. I have to be brave. I'll wait until she sleeps – they all sleep. Then I will see my beloved.

Jasmine returns to her living room, puts the soup, sandwich, and a cup of herbal tea on top of the coffee table, then moves over to the fireplace where a grate already stacked with paper, kindling and logs awaits the flick of her lighter. Still convinced that an unknown presence lurks nearby, she watches as the fire begins to take on a life of its own, then steps outside the front door and stands on the small deck silently – not looking for anything in particular, just feeling – sensing. For just the briefest moment she sees a dark distortion by the gate - perceives might be a better word. Nevertheless, even though it appears to have temporarily moved away, she is aware that it remains nearby. She's aware that it has an intention – an intention that will somehow involve her.

"Show yourself," she says in a conversational tone, "show yourself to me so that I can know what you want."

There is nothing else to be seen or heard except for the fog horn blowing in the distance and the waves as they continue to crash upon the nearby shore. After standing in silence for a few more moments with nothing manifesting, the intuitive woman returns to the shelter of her small but comfortable home.

Once more inside the living room, she lights her wall candles and a stick of incense, chooses a CD to play, and then turns off the lights. "This ought to make you feel right at home Jessica," she says quietly while casting a glance at the figurine, "I bet you can handle this just fine; and maybe – just maybe, we'll get to the bottom of what's happening here."

As she settles onto the sofa with her snack, the sound of music fills the air. It is slow and melancholy; yet, dark and beautiful – funeral doom, encompassing the small abode in an otherworldly ambiance. Within a few minutes of finishing her small meal, she reclines against the back of the sofa with feet on the coffee table. The slow but hypnotic beat of the music mixing with the flickering light and fragrance of incense brings her to the brink of trance – only to the brink however, for she knows that it is necessary to stay alert – at least until she confronts that which remains nearby.

After a moderate amount of time transpires there is a slight movement of the door, but it is enough to garner her attention. Gazing toward the entranceway she sees a short but translucently dark figure looking back at her. Sensing the being's caution – its fear of her, Jasmine is able to release any apprehension she may have had. Without moving, she watches as the unearthly visitor inches forward and away from the door.

Although a bit difficult to see clearly, the being appears to be male and about three and a half feet tall. His hair, while long and scraggly, neither hides the multiple ring piercings that line one cheekbone, nor the needle protruding from his nose. He sports a black tee-shirt with an image of a skeleton, surrounded by flames, playing an electric guitar. Above that image is just one word – Metal.

Jasmine perceives his image quite well considering that the light from the fireplace passes through his ghostly form and reflects upon the objects behind him.

He looks almost like a marionette, she thinks to herself, why is he staring toward that chair?

As she turns toward the fireplace she sees it. A similarly-dark form – smoke-like, is emanating from the small doll that she had earlier placed in the chair. The essence quickly takes shape and then stands just to the side of the chair – away from the fire. It is then that the almost incredulous woman breaks the silence with just one almost imperceptible work: "Jessica?"

The figure standing between Jasmine and the fireplace is the spitting image of the creepy figurine that still rests silently upon the unmoving chair. As Jessica smiles at the new figure standing before her, she notices that the spiritual form of her newly-acquired doll is somewhat more opaque than that of its male counter-part.

Suddenly, the two figures move toward one another and embrace. Jasmine is emotionally moved by the extent of the emotion exchanged between the two. Although she hears no words spoken, the woman realizes that this is some type of reunion – that something has perhaps been gambled in order to bring about this joining of the two. The sound of the slow music continues to set an ethereal atmosphere as the two continue in their long embrace. Finally, and while still holding hands, the two turn toward Jasmine. She reaches over to turn the music down a bit.

Although still almost in a state of disbelief, it is Jasmine who speaks first. "What's going on here?"

"I'm fading," replies the male figure in a weak and distressed tone of voice. "I'm losing my essence – my spirit. You took her away. She's here now and I can't live without her- she's all that has sustained me."

"I don't understand," Jasmine replies, truly baffled. "I took Jessica away from you? How are you fading?"

The Jessica figure speaks next. Her voice is stronger than that of her counterpart. "Thank you for choosing to care for me," she begins, "our love for one another – our belief in one another – between Melvin and me, is what keeps us alive. We love one another and that has helped to keep us going. We both need to be cared for. We were born in spirit when our creator put so much love into making us. The others – those who surrounded us in the store…they don't like us. We managed to hold on together, but now… all we feel is despair – impending doom. Lady Death imposes herself upon our relationship."

"But you're together now," Jasmine interjects, "everything is alright now."

"No, you don't understand," Melvin insists. "I must remain near my body; we must remain near our bodies. That's why Jessica appears to be stronger in her presence. Her body is here and she has you, but now that I've followed you here, I don't have enough strength to make it back; and, even if I did it wouldn't matter, because no one there cares about me. My existence is just about ended."

Suddenly, Jasmine gets an idea. "Where is your body now?" she asks.

"It's in the shaft," Melvin responds. It's in the ventilator shaft below the shelves. I fell into that abyss long ago. It's a horrible place."

Jasmine momentarily disappears into the kitchen and soon returns with her cell phone. Within seconds, she is speaking with her friend. "Angela! Thank goodness you were near your phone!"

"What's wrong hon?"

"Meet me at the store. Hurry! There's no time to explain now. Just meet me there right away!"

She turns to the two spirits. "I'll be back soon. Just…just save your energy Melvin. Lady Death may yet go in search of another assignment. "

"The music," Jessica adds; please turn it up a little. It will help sustain him, but you must hurry."

After tending to the CD player, Jasmine exits the house and speeds off in her vehicle toward the collectables shop.

he small parking area at just about the same time.

Angela searches her purse for the key to the store. "What's this all about? What's going on Hon?"

"Just stay with me and you'll see it all. Trust me!"

With the door open and the lights turned on, Jasmine rushes toward the back of the shop and quickly finds the ventilation duct exactly where Melvin said it would be. Peering through the grated opening, she sees nothing. "You got any tools Ang? I need something to pry this cover open with."

Her friend hastens back to the other side of the counter and opens a drawer. "Will a screw driver do?" she asks.

"We can try it." Back in the cottage, Jessica stares at her companion. His presence is diminishing. He is becoming weaker and more transparent by the minute. Lovingly, he gazes into Jessica's eyes. "You've been totally awesome Jess," he tells her in an almost imperceivable voice. "You've kept me from the depths of despair. It''s really been great."

"Quit talking like that," she scolds him, "it's going to work out. Just keep hanging for me."

"Well, just in case it doesn't, I want you to know. And at least you'll be alright. This lady, the one that took you in…she seems pretty cool. At least I can die knowing that you're going to be alright."

Jessica continues holding on to his hand. Still, she can hardly feel it now. She smiles sweetly. "Shh!" is all she says.

With the cover removed, Jasmine reaches into the air duct, which curves under the floor boards about two feet below the opening. There is a sense of panic in her voice. "Damn it! I don't feel anything down here – nothing at all!"

"What are you trying to find anyway? There's nothing down there except dust and spiders."

"I need something longer," Jasmine responds, "a stick – I need a stick or something."

Angela quickly retrieves a yardstick. "Will this do?" she asks.

Her friend simply nods as she extends the stick as far as she can into the air vent. Suddenly she cries out. "I feel it! He's down there."

A very confused Angela watches as her companion works something toward the opening of the air duct. Suddenly, she sees a huge grin spread over Jasmine's face as she produces the Melvin figurine. "A doll? All this is over another creepy-looking doll?"

"It's a lot more than that," responds her excited friend. "Just close up and hurry over to my place," Jasmine shouts as she runs toward the door. Within seconds, she is speeding along Shoreline Drive.

Jessica is crying as Jasmine bursts through the door. "I think he's gone," she says looking at the woman. I can feel him, but I think his essence has already dissipated too much. "What darkness and misery we soulless ones must confront! The horror we all face is to fade into nothingness. My Melvin has just passed into nothingness." With that, she falls onto the sofa sobbing – hands covering her eyes.

"Not so fast," Jasmine responds, as she places the Melvin doll next to the other on the chair. "I didn't dig him out of that ventilation shaft for nothing."

For an indeterminable time no words are spoken as both wait and hope. There is only the music, now turned down to a lower level, Jessica's sobs, and the occasional crackle emanating from the fireplace. A vehicle pulls into the driveway and within seconds, Angela is standing in the doorway.

"Jaz, will you please tell me what's…" Her words are cut short as she sees a living Jessica sitting on the sofa. "What the…"

"Shh!" her friend tells her while pointing toward the chair where the two dolls now sit side by side. "Just look at this!"

Both women watch in silence as a shadowy but almost transparent figure begins to take shape before them. Jessica continues to sob almost hysterically.

"Open your eyes Jessica," her new-found acquaintance tells her. "Look who's coming back."

The sobbing stops abruptly as the spirit gazes in front of her. "Melvin!" she cries out. "You're here."

The somewhat ugly but lovable male figure continues to grow stronger and more opaque as the three look on. When the metamorphosis from near nothingness to a full state of being appears to be complete, Jessica rushes into the arms of her lover while momentarily ignoring the gaze of the two women. Finally, they turn toward the humans, one of whom appears to be locked in a state of disbelief. They continue clinging to one another as Jessica speaks:

"Thank you so much Ms…"

"Jasmine," she hears as a response. Just call me Jasmine. And this is Angela."

Smiles are exchanged all the way around. Then, the newly-united lovers once again turn toward each other and embrace. As they continue holding one another closely, a dark swirling fog envelopes them, slowly obscuring their forms. A moment later, the fog lifts and they are gone. There are only two creepy-looking dolls sitting side by side in the chair.

Angela speaks first. "What did I just see here Jaz? Have I been hallucinating, or did I just see two dolls that were alive?"

"You weren't hallucinating, because I saw it too. And we saved them Ang! We really saved them!"

"I'm still not sure that I know what you're talking about – not really! And we still don't know where they came from," Angela interjects, "the dolls, or the …spirits? Is that what they are?"

"Something like that I guess." I don't think I'll be able to sleep for awhile after all this excitement."

"Neither will I," Angela responds.

"Then, are you up for some soup, and maybe a sandwich?" Jasmine asks moving toward the kitchen. "I'll tell you what I know and maybe we can sort of…well, compare notes."

"Oh, I think it would be wonderful! And after all that I just saw here, I'm all ears."

With that, Angela happily follows her friend into the kitchen.

Written by: Nightwind

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