Sunday Sample: a ghost story for a cold snowy night
Patience, I Presume
The power went out when Prudence Lowe began reading chapter two of Hope Trueblood. The darkness startled her and the book fell to the floor with a thud. Her bedroom window rattled in the wind bringing St. Louis its first snowfall of the year. She knocked her hairbrush and several makeup bottles off the vanity while searching with gloved hands for the power outage candle. Frugal to a fault, her father kept the house colder than a morgue throughout the winter.
When she lit the candle, the tri-fold mirror displayed three Prudence Lowes looking back at her. Chances were none of them were less prudent than she, for here she was on a snowy night with nothing but a candle for writing a procrastinated book report.
“Read and report on an old book,” her college English teacher announced three weeks ago, demonstrating that she was faultlessly cruel.
Hope Trueblood, rescued earlier that evening from the downstairs crypt her father called a library, lay face down on the floor. Her second floor bedroom with its canted bay window was not only cold but drafty, and those drafts made the candle flicker enough to bring the book’s golden egg-shaped illustration, “Hope Trueblood” and “By Patience Worth” in and out of the dark. The book seemed to breathe or have a heartbeat.
Prudence felt an unpleasant jolt when she picked up Hope Trueblood. Static electricity or something else, the current that flowed through her black leather gloves was colder than snow. She was colder than snow, too, and was certain one of the Prudences in the vanity mirror was frowning at her.
Ha, for the rest of the story, you’ll have to beg, borrow or buy the book. The story was inspired by the real St. Louis spirit who wrote books through a Ouija board, Patience Worth.
“Patience, I Presume” appears in Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories, an anthology of scary short stories published last fall by Rocking Horse Publishing. It’s available in paperback and on Kindle; it’s free to subscribers of Kindle Unlimited.