Authors: Theresa Jenner Garrido
Tags: #Young Adult Horror
The Fourth Trumpet
By Theresa Jenner Garrido
Published by L&L Dreamspell
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Copyright 2012 by Theresa Jenner Garrido
All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright holder, except for brief quotations used in a review.
This is a work of fiction, and is produced from the author’s imagination. People, places and things mentioned in this novel are used in a fictional manner.
Published by L & L Dreamspell
Produced in the United States of America
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* * * *
To Holly, who has been my fairy godmother and ardent supporter.
To Mim, who boosts my creative spirit.
To Janelle, who would have been my manager if she hadn’t moved to Texas.
Andrea pushed through the screen door then winced when it slammed behind her. Add that to her long list of peccadilloes—Aunt Claire’s favorite word for mistakes. Since it was number three on Uncle Mike’s list of don’ts, she was pretty sure both her uncle and aunt were fit to be tied. She’d just slammed the door hard enough to wake the dead so she was in for more trouble. But at the moment, she couldn’t care less. She was mad. So angry, she wanted to add screaming to the list. They had no right to dictate what she did or did not do. College should be her choice—not theirs.
It wasn’t fair. She’d struggled through high school, had barely had enough credits to graduate. Why should she put herself through more stress and anguish by going to college? Her aunt and uncle had insisted she fill out the applications. She had, only to get them off her case. She never dreamed she’d be accepted. The place had to be hard up. Classes started in a month. Orientation was in two weeks. This last argument was because she’d just informed them she wouldn’t be going. She’d applied at the mall for a job in one of the up-scale department stores and planned to work there. End of subject.
Stopping to fan flushed cheeks, Andrea surveyed the scene around her. Brown. Dark green. Touches of amber and burnt sienna. Alien. Missouri in late summer. So different from the South Carolina Lowcountry.
She hated it here. She hated the never-ending oak trees, the pastures filled with grazing cattle, the acres of corn. She hated the smells. One of their neighbors, a mile away by road but a relatively short distance if you crossed Kellermann’s pasture, raised pigs and chickens, and when the wind was right, you could smell them from here. So different from the sultry floral and sea-salty scents she was used to as a child.
A sharp snap had her whirling around, expecting to see her cousin’s grinning face. He’d probably followed her—hoping to soothe her ruffled feathers, coax her back into the house to apologize. No way. They owed
“Berry, I’m not go—” The word was sliced in half by a tremendous crashing through the underbrush to the left.
Andrea awoke with a start. Shivering, she groped for the wool blanket. Couldn’t find it. Her eyes snapped open and familiar surroundings stifled a heartfelt scream. Safe in her own room, not out in the woods alone, facing
Struggling to sit up, she looked around for the missing blanket and found it in a heap on the floor beside the bed. The wadded-up sheet lay at the foot. No big mystery what had happened. She’d had another of her infamous nightmares—the ones that had been the family’s major topic of conversation for the past umpteen weeks. Aunt Claire maintained it was worrying about graduation. Uncle Mike declared it was her fear of the future and taking responsibility. Berry just laughed and muttered PMS under his breath.
The room felt like an icebox. Colder than she ever remembered. Winters in Missouri could be beastly, but this was ridiculous. Aunt Claire usually kept the furnace on low during the night so it wouldn’t be so hard getting up in the mornings, but this was positively arctic. Disgruntled, she swung her legs over the side, got out of bed and did a little jig when her bare feet touched the wooden floor. Sprinting to the dresser, she yanked open a drawer, took out a pair of thick socks and worried them onto numb feet.
she muttered through chattering teeth. Grabbing her robe, she pushed her arms through the sleeves and stepped out into the hall. It seemed even colder out there. And quiet. Too quiet. Usually from the hall at night she could hear Uncle Mike and Aunt Claire snoring. Every time she made a nightly trek to the bathroom, she stifled giggles at the way they snored in a tandem—one breathing in while the other wheezed out. She and Berry used to get up in the middle of the night when they were little just to listen to the comical duet, then laugh themselves silly, faces smothered in pillows.
But no snores came from behind the closed door at the end of the hall. Sliding over to her cousin’s door, she rapped twice then opened it. An almost-full moon bathed the room in a milky glow. The bed was empty. In fact, it hadn’t even been slept in.
“Berry?” she hissed. “Berry? Are you in here?”
With panic rising like foam on a root beer float, Andrea ran to her aunt and uncle’s door and shoved it open. The door hit the wall with a loud bang, making a dent in its wallpapered surface. The big, old-fashioned bed—slept in by generations of Gardners—was empty. Grandmother Amelia’s handmade spread was pulled up without a wrinkle to mar its embroidered surface. Two plump pillows showed no indentations from heads having pressed down into their downy depths.
“Aunt Claire? Uncle Mike?” A weird echo mocked her.
Andrea ran back to her own room and dressed. Her numb hands shook so much she almost toppled over twice just putting one leg into her jeans. She slipped feet into a pair of walking shoes, and pulled on a thick, wool sweater.
After a quick trip to the bathroom, she clomped down the uncarpeted stairs to the first floor. Already convinced the furnace had quit, and the family was already up and eating breakfast, she pushed sprouting fear to the back of her mind.
I’ll explain about the stupid dent later.
Berry would tease her when he heard how she’d overreacted. She could hear him now.
Downstairs rivaled the cold upstairs. No lights seeped from under the closed kitchen door. Nobody sat in the living room beside a roaring fire. The only sound was the tick-tocking of the big grandfather clock in the foyer. She’d never liked that clock’s large, round face with its hideous painted eyes and mouth, and clock hands where the nose should be.
Whenever she visited her aunt and uncle as a child, she’d been drawn to that clock, feeling little ripples of fear snake up her spine. She even mentioned it once to her aunt, who’d promptly scolded her for being silly. She hated that clock—now, more than ever.
Standing in the shadows, it took on a grotesque, human appearance, and reminded her of an old man. Berry had once told her it looked that way because it was really their Great Uncle Fred. A witch cast a spell back in the 1920s, changing him into the towering, six foot, four inch clock—forever trapping the old man in the inanimate form. Poor old Great Uncle Fred. Doomed to count the minutes into eternity.
Of course, Andrea didn’t believe the story, but it’d taken several years to outgrow her horrified suspicion of its veracity. Even today, at the ripe old age of seventeen, she hated walking near the ugly thing. And now, as she stood at the foot of the stairs and listened, its ticking was the only sound she heard in the big house.
Living on three acres in the country meant no street noises—no cars, no people. Their closest neighbor was a quarter of a mile down the road. You couldn’t even see their house through the thick woods that separated the two properties. The isolation made for an almost unearthly silence.
Clenching her fists and holding her breath, Andrea hustled past the clock and into the massive kitchen. Only a cold darkness greeted her. Nothing baked in the oven. Nothing simmered on the stove. The coffee maker was off.
“What is going on, for Pete’s sake?”
Andrea went to the phone and picked it up. No dial tone. She thumbed the on/off button several times. Dead. Then she ran to the light switch and flicked the knob. No lights. Why hadn’t she thought to check the electricity before? Probably because the moon had given enough light, and she’d been too busy looking for her family.
She called again, “Aunt Claire? Uncle Mike? Berry!” Nothing.
Torn between hiding in the pantry or standing in the middle of the kitchen, screaming her lungs out, Andrea stood rooted to one large linoleum square. Frustration welled up. Had to be a logical explanation. Her aunt and uncle wouldn’t just leave without a word or a note.
Of course. A note. There had to be a note somewhere. Aunt Claire always left messages on a white board hanging by the refrigerator. Andrea took two leaps to the board and scanned it for a message. The only words were the ones she herself had written the day before, reminding her aunt to return Helen Peterson’s call. That was all. No note explaining where they’d gone.
Her heart thudded in her chest like she’d run the track at school. Andrea flopped in the nearest chair to think. The wood felt cold and clammy—even through her jeans. “Okay. Okay. Stay calm. Don’t go berserk or you’ll be worthless. Has to be a reasonable explanation for why they aren’t here.”
She wondered whether someone had gotten sick in the night and been rushed to the hospital. No, she would’ve heard the commotion. They would’ve wakened her. No way they’d have left without telling her where they were going. And why.
She blew on her cold hands and flexed them, squeezing her fingers against her palms, to warm them. Deciding she needed a cup of something hot, she got up and flicked on one of the gas burners. It didn’t ignite. It didn’t make the familiar clicking sound. An older model, no electricity meant no automatic starter.
Finding some matches, she again turned on the gas, scratched a match and stuck the tiny flame against the starter. It caught; the burner lit. She filled the teakettle with water and set it on the stove. While it worked its way to a boil, she got down a big ceramic mug and the tin that held tea bags. Selecting an herbal mint tea, she dropped it into the mug then leaned against the counter to wait.
She counted the squares of linoleum three times before the shrill whistle startled her into banging her elbow on the counter. With a muttered oath, she poured the steaming water into the mug, breathed in the peppermint fragrance and sighed. The mug cupped in both hands, she slurped it down, not minding that it burned the roof of her mouth.
So good…so good.
Feeling a little better, Andrea made a hasty search through the cupboards for something to eat. She couldn’t make toast—not easily, anyway—and she wasn’t in the mood for cold cereal. The only thing she could think of having was a can of soup. Since the electric can opener wasn’t working, she had to wrestle with the manual can opener kept at the back of the drawer for emergencies. Caked with dried crud and difficult to turn, she had to wrestle with it, almost slicing her finger, before managing to open the can.
She heated the contents in a saucepan on the one burner still aflame. In three minutes, she was hunched over the table, slurping up spoonfuls of hot vegetable soup. For some reason, she felt the need to hurry. She wanted to get outside and find out what’d happened. First she’d run to their neighbor’s house and see if they knew anything. Maybe their power was still on. Maybe it was only a glitch in her house’s wiring. Maybe everybody else’s was fine.
As she sat sipping her soup, the friendly old moon dissolved before her watching eyes. One minute, it lit up the area, and the next, melted like butter in a frying pan.
Her breath making white puffs of condensed air, Andrea trudged up the long, winding driveway to the main road. The sky had the thick, cottony look of promised snow. Swelling clouds swallowed the once-bright full moon. White ash, oak, and American beech trees thrust scrawny arms out at grotesque angles, fingers reaching and curling like mythological monsters. The world took on a monochromatic scheme of monotonous blacks and grays. Depressing.