Snippet of Ancient Spirits, Book 3 of the Cotton Family Series

For those of you who are dying to know what happens to Lucy, Maddox, and Vieve in the 3rd book of the series, due out this Summer, here’s a snippet of what’s in store:

                 We sat across from each other – senses heightened and fully prepared for ritual. The tablecloth was set, the pillar candles were placed in a diamond shape to honor the four watchtowers, and the antique hourglass was stationed in the middle. A wooden offering bowl presented a ration of smoldering tobacco from the summer’s first harvest. Lighting the candles, we called in the elements and our ancestors, and in Old English asked for one of the house’s restless spirits to join us.

                But this time was different. There was no draft from the floorboards. No tremors penetrating the walls. No sounds of a freight train derailing in the parlor. I was shocked. Typically the spirits liked to make a big entrance when summoned. The silence was quite unnerving. Vieve gazed around the room then back at me. We waited patiently for a spirit to speak. The grandfather clock tick, tick, ticked away.

“Alright, maybe no one wants to talk.” I leaned forward to blow out a candle when an invisible hand grazed my bare shoulder. A wave of goosebumps shot down my arm. “Who is it?”

I spun around in my chair to see who was standing behind me.

“Huh? What’s going on?” Vieve looked puzzled.

“Someone grabbed my shoulder. There’s a spirit in this room with us. Right now. It just doesn’t want to talk.”

“Who’s there? Reveal yourself or you’ll be sent back immediately.” Vieve’s voice rang as clear as a bell through the confusion.

A stuttering, soft voice called out from the corner behind the piano. The same corner I’d encountered Elias’ spirit a few days before.

“This is…this is Dollie.” A small shrill voice giggled softly after introducing itself. For a moment I imagined I was at the Overlook Hotel and soon the room would be filled with rivers of blood.

“Dollie Cotton?” It seemed redundant to ask if she was indeed a Cotton, but from time to time wandering spirits who weren’t a part of the family would visit the plantation. You truly never knew who exactly you were speaking to in that house.

“Yes. Mama says it’s bedtime. Mama says I have to get my rest, if I want to feel better.” It was the winter ghost from the second floor. Sadly, she believed she was still alive. Sick, but alive. The spirit made a crude, hacking sound as if a gunky mucus was trying to escape her tiny, stricken lungs.

“Dollie. You’re mama is not here. She died. She’s on the other side. Where you should be.” Surprisingly, tears began to form in the corners of my eyes. I truly felt bad for this child who for centuries had been separated from her family. Lost in a world of nothingness.

Vieve shook her head aggressively. “Don’t tell her that, Luce. She’s going to freak the fuck out.”

“It’s time she knows. It’s only fair.”

“At least ask her some questions first,” Vieve whispered. “Try to get some info out of the girl.”

I nodded in agreement.

“Dollie. How old are you, Honey?”

“I’m six years old. ‘Bout to be seven in a month.”

“Do you know why you’re here?”

“I live here. With Mama and Papa. And Granny.”

“No. Your Mama and Papa are dead. And you are, too.”

Silence was followed by faint sniffles from the dead girl crouched in the corner.

“I’m not dead.” I had to strain to see, but I could just make out a head of brown curls shaking back and forth. Little Dollie stood looking down at the ground, sucking a translucent thumb. With her other hand, she held a porcelain doll tight to her wheezing chest. Behind every sob was a wet, painful cough.

Vieve clenched her fists and set them on the table. “This isn’t going good, Lucy. You’re going to piss her off before we can get any information out of her. I’m telling you. We’ve done this before.”

“Okay. Okay.” I rose from my wooden chair and crept slowly towards Dollie’s ghost. With each step I took, Dollie Cotton cowered and slunk backwards further and further. “Dollie. Did you ever hear your Mama talk about a bad ghost?”

“Yes. She calls him the Devil Man,” another moan and a splutter. “She says not to listen to him because he’s a liar. And he can hurt me.”

“Your Mama’s right, Dollie. He is evil. And he can hurt you. What else do you know about him, Sweetie?” I stopped six feet short of Dollie’s corner and knelt down to her level. Her piercing black eyes followed my every move.

Silence again. Her unearthly form flickered, and for a brief disappointing moment, I thought we’d lost her. The sound of crying relieved my doubts and confirmed she was still in our presence.

“She says,” sniffle sniffle. “She says the ghost won’t leave us alone because he lives here too. I heard Mama say to Sister that she can’t get rid of him. She tried. But he’s too strong.”

“Did she ever tell you where he’s buried?” I held my breath.

More of the mind-numbing silence. It liked to have killed me.

“Dollie? Are you still here?” The emerald sand in the hourglass was nearly spent. A few grains were left, glowing brightly in the top receptacle. We had mere seconds left before we’d lose contact with little Dollie. Vieve’s fingernails dug into the tablecloth worriedly. She braced herself for another failed séance. I refused to let that happen.