The Haunting of Mr. and Mrs. Cooper
Part II of the short story, The Girl of His Deams
By, Austin J.
It is Christmas Eve, and tears roll down her eyes as Allison drives away from the apartment. It was over, James Cooper, her husband had cheated on her, god knows how many times as far as she knew. But even as she drives farther and farther away from the city, in the back of her mind she knew that something was wrong.
The moon had just crested over the horizon, marking the end to another day, and soon to be the beginning of yet another Christmas. She pulls up Sunnyside road towards the Christmas tree farm. Allison retrieves the saw from the trunk of the car and prays that maybe James had gone to bed so she could surprise him with a decorated tree, just like the ones in the passing neighborhood. Maybe she was wrong about all of this, and just maybe, James still loves her as much as he claimed.
She keeps that in the back of her mind as she climbs the hill to the tree farm. As she reaches the top, she brandishes the hacksaw which glistens in the cold night and then spots the ladder. It had been erected on a large oak tree on the border of the tree farm. Her eyes scan up the ladder which reaches an old, moss covered wooden platform about two stories up. As soon as Allison gets a good look at the platform, she jumps slightly. Two people, hand in hand sit at it its top, overlooking the city below.
Allison contemplates quietly whether she should say anything, but decides to stay silent, and instead, creeps towards the base of the oak. As she gets closer, she can hear them speaking in muffled voices.
"What time is it? Is it Christmas yet?" the girl's voice says.
"Yes," there is a pause, "it is Christmas." A familiar male voice responds.
Standing right under the platform, Allison waits for the next word, and a few seconds later, the conversation resumes.
"Thank you for doing this for me" the girl speaks again. Then there is silence.
Allison waits, shivering in the cold, unprepared as she only wears a light down jacket and sweats. She looks down at her watch, confused as it only reads 9:45pm. After a few moments she looks away realizing that the familiar voice was that of her husband, James. She considers calling out to him, however, what if she could catch them in the act, the girl and James. Minutes later, with not even a rustling of tree branches, Allison decides to investigate the oak tree.
She climbs the rickety ladder to the platform's surface. As she reaches the top, all she finds is a blue windbreaker which she quickly recognizes as her husband's.
She looks around the platform and the tree line that separates the tree farm from the neighborhoods but finds nothing.
Still shivering, and quite perplexed, she puts on the blue windbreaker which is warm to the touch and cries out to the still night.
"James!" she screams, "where are you!?"
Suddenly, the wind picks up, brushing through the trees, making an eerie whistling noise. At first, Allison ignores it and begins her descent on the creaking ladder. However, as the wind picks up, she notices the eerie whistling has turned into a whisper. She stops on the middle of the ladder, her ears pricked to listen for the words. However they are masked by the rustling of the trees.
"James!?" she cries out once again. There is no response.
She climbs the rest of the way down the ladder and practically sprints down the hill to her car. The car comes into view and a person leans against the vehicle, their arms crossed and one foot rests on the fender.
"James" she sighs in relief, "What are you doing?"
However it is not James, and she is shocked to hear the girls soft spoken voice once again.
"James is mine." she says in a whisper.
"Who are you?" Allison tries to get a better look at the girl, however the car's shadow conceals her face.
"You know who I am." She steps out from the shadow, her golden blue eyes glisten in the moonlight and her perfectly curled brunette hair blows in the whispering wind. Allison recognizes her almost immediately.
"What were you and my husband doing up there?" Allison gives her a concerned look.
The girl smiles but doesn't say anything.
"Well, can you at least tell James I still love him?" she looks up at the night sky and then back down at the girl, who is no longer standing there.
"Hey!" Allison cries out to the empty night, but there is no response. She makes her way to her car just as the wind blows one final time, whispering a barely audible sentence that Allison can finally make out.
"He is mine."
Allison drives frantically back to the apartment, hoping that this was all some strange delusion and that her husband was still alive. She pulls up to the car pavilion and waits a moment, trying to process all that just occurred. After a few minutes she walks up to the apartment door, twists the key and enters.
The apartment is silent as she shuts the door behind her. A full glass of orange juice sits at the kitchen table. She walks over to it and dumps it in the sink. She notices the medicine cabinet is open as well and finds a pill bottle, tipped on its side, resting on the counter.
"James?" she looks around the kitchen and living room. James lies motionless on the couch. As she looks down at him in surprise, she notices a handful of the red pills in the open palm of his hand.
"James!" she leans down and shakes his shoulder. "James! Wake up!" But James doesn't move, however she notices he's still breathing. Allison digs through her pockets, trying to find her cellphone. She flips it open and dials 911. The line rings twice and then the soft toned girl's voice answers.
Allison pauses for a moment in confusion.
"Hello?" the girl's voice says on the other line.
"Um, I think my husband, James is, I'm not sure, but he is lying on the couch and I can't seem to rouse him. I think he took-"
"He's fine." The girl interrupts her. "He's with me now."
At this, Allison drops the phone to the ground and her eyes widen. She hears the girl hang up on the other end of the line with a click and the apartment falls silent again.
After a moment, Allison bends down and picks up her cellphone. She dials 911 again, but there is no response. She paces back and forth, watching James the entire time, praying that he will awaken.
Hours pass. She stops pacing and sits down in the chair adjacent to the couch. As she begins to nod out towards the evening, James finally stirs.
"James!" she rushes over and helps him sit up. James looks down at the pills in his hand.
"I thought I took these." He stares at them, not even looking at Allison.
"James, what the hell is going on!?" Allison shakes his shoulder.
"I, I fell asleep. But I guess it didn't last."
Allison begins to cry. "Oh James, why would you ever try such a terrible thing?" she anxiously taps her foot on the ground repeatedly. "What was going through your head?"
"I wanted to dream, forever. Once you left I thought for sure it was over. But I guess I changed my mind, I don't really remember it. I was just, dreaming…" he finally looks up at her and reaches out to take her hand. Allison instinctively hesitates at the gesture. "The dream was different though, something about it was different!"
She takes his hand. "What were you dreaming about?" she asks.
Allison pieces it together. "Was she the one with the curled brown hair and the golden blue eyes?" she pauses. "The one I met in the car the other day?"
James doesn't say anything for a minute. He lets go of her hand and looks out at the window.
James stands up and walks to the kitchen, pouring another glass of orange juice. Allison follows him, watching him very closely.
"You know it's not what you think, Allison." He turns to her for reassurance.
She looks down at her feet and shuffles them. "I know." James approaches her, his arms reaching out to embrace her. She retreats slightly.
"You don't believe me?" he steps back, takes a swig of the orange juice and then sets it down on the kitchen table.
"I don't, I don't know James." She looks up at him with a single tear dripping down from her eye. "I want to believe you, but, everything is just so strange." She glances at the ground again.
"So believe me," James says in a desperate tone, "Allison I would never cheat on you and you know that. Never in my whole life would I do such an awful thing. This girl is part of a dream, a figment of my subconscious, nothing more."
"But I've seen her, twice now. I called 911 and she answered. She spoke to me, told me these stories that you were her lover and that you were hers, not mine."
"Then she is lying." As James finishes the sentence, the door swings open and the cool winter's air sweeps through the apartment, leaving a lingering whisper for both of them to hear.
James rushes over and shuts the door forcefully. "I know this all sounds very strange, and believe me it is. But somehow this girl is in both my dreams and the real world. She won't leave them and the worst part is, when I dream, I love her. But when I'm with you, you are-"
Allison interjects, "I know, I know." She pauses. "But I feel as if there is something you aren't telling me. What were you doing with the framed newspaper article? Why did you take it?"
"Because I was reminiscing on the crash, on the person who died." He lies.
"Because I was curious and wanted to reread it again, just to jog my memory. And why are you wearing my windbreaker, Allison?"
"I was cold and found it on the coat rack before I went outside." She lies.
"Will she come back?" Allison finally breaks the silence as they sit at the table. James gets up to pour another glass of orange juice.
"I don't know." He says in between a drink. "I haven't actually seen her outside of my dreams."
Allison reaches over and cautiously pulls the curtains from the kitchen window.
"Well I have, and I'm worried it won't be the last time I see her."
"Allison, I'll be honest, I don't know why or how she is communicating with you outside of my dreams. However I do know one thing about the girl. She won't harm you."
Allison sits back in her chair and takes a good look at James, raising one eyebrow in the process. "Are you sure?" she asks.
"I am sure."
That night, while Allison rests her head against his chest, James dreams about the girl. The oak tree with the platform, the beautiful girl and the city scape shining bright on the snow covered hills.
The girl gasps, "It's beautiful!"
"Yeah," James sighs, "Long ago, I used to sit up here and watch the sun set and the moon rise. I watched as the city would slowly light up and shine bright in the night." The girl grabs his hand and they interlock fingers. To his surprise, her hands were quite warm to the touch.
"You're not too warm?" he asks. He looks at her as she smiles.
"I'm fine" she looks to him, one side of her face illuminated by the moonlight, her brown perfectly curled hair blowing ever so slightly in the wind, her golden blue eyes wide with happiness, while the other side is shadowed.
"James." The girl turns towards him and gives him a stern look.
He looks at her questioningly, "Yes?"
"Allison must die."
James wakes in a start and sits up in his bed. Allison lies motionless next to him, breathing ever so quietly. He looks around the dark room, but all he can see are the shadows of the furniture illuminated by the moonlight and the clock which reads 11:52am. He flips on his lamp at his bedside and almost screams when he sees the picture next to his laptop. Inside the frame is a picture of him with his arm wrapped around the dream girl. She now occupied the space where Allison's smiling face used to be.
"Hey," Allison says groggily as she roles over to face him. "are you alright?" James just stares at the picture. Allison shuffles around so she can get a better look.
"What the hell!?" she immediately sits up in the bed.
"This is not good." He turns to face her.
Her eyes widen. "Why?"
"Because she told me you need to die." James finishes the sentence in barely a murmur.
"The girl. In my dream the girl said 'Allison must die'".
Allison grabs his shoulder firmly. "I thought you said she can't hurt me."
"Honestly I don't know." He turns back to the picture.
"Who is she James? Who is the girl?"
James hesitates for a moment, still staring at the picture. Then without saying a word, he reaches over and flips open the laptop on his nightstand. The webpage of the article is still up. He begins scrolling down the page while Allison remains silent. As he nears the middle of the article, he stops scrolling.
Allison leans over to get a better look at the picture of James and the one of the girl next to it.
"She died in the accident. That's who she is."
She doesn't say anything and just gazes at the picture for a whole minute before finally speaking up. "Why does she love you?" she pauses, "I mean you did-"
James interrupts her, "I know I did, and I don't know why. All I know is that she loves me, so now she wants you out of the picture." As he finishes the sentence, there is the faint sound of someone knocking on their apartment door downstairs.
James begins to climb out of bed.
"James, what the hell are you doing?" Allison reaches out and grabs his arm forcefully. He looks at her and then back to the staircase.
"She won't hurt me." He starts down the stairs. Allison keeps silent and waits for the familiar click of the door opening.
James lightly tightens his grip around the handle, pauses for a moment, and turns it. The door swings open and knocks him back as the wind rushes in. He gets back on his feet and cautiously approaches the front porch. He makes his way outside a few feet. From the porch light he can faintly make out the car pavilion around the corner and the steps leading to it, but there is no one there as far as he can see. That is when he hears screaming coming from inside in the loft.
"Allison!" he turns as the apartment door slams shut. He runs to open it but the deadbolt is locked shut.
"Shit!" The screaming continues as he looks around for some way to get inside. He spots the decorative potted plant next to the stairs to the pavilion. James hoists it up over his head and throws it as hard as he can at the kitchen window which shatters on impact. Allison cries out to him once again and he hears commotion from inside.
"Allison! Hold on!" he clambers through the window, catching his hand on a piece of glass on the window frame in the process. Blood gushes from the palm of his hand but he doesn't stop running through the living room and up the stairs to the loft. The screaming stops as he reaches the top and to his surprise, he finds Allison sitting on the bed, staring at him with a single scratch on her cheek.
"Hey, are," his vision begins to blur from the blood loss and he stumbles slightly, "are you okay?"
"I'm okay, she's gone now." Allison doesn't take her eyes off him. James takes a seat next to her, breathing heavily.
"Well, what happened?" he asks anxiously.
Allison responds in a voice much too calm for the situation, "She came up the stairs and told me she was going to take me."
He raises an eyebrow. "Well, she didn't do anything, did she? Except for the small scratch on your cheek." He touches her cheek where the cut is and to his surprise it is quite cold.
"Allison, are you alright?"
She smiles. "My name isn't Allison anymore." She looks at the clock next to the nightstand which reads 12:00am, then looks back at him and whispers in his ear.
"It is Christmas."