“Go on,” Daniel said. “I dare you.”
Amy looked into her date’s eyes and let her gaze linger. She was not one to refuse a dare – a thing she had just revealed to Daniel. It was their third date and they spent the time at a carnival enjoying the rides and the unhealthy meal options. Daniel shifted his weight on one leg and returned the glare. His was more playful than Amy’s own menacing one.
“You son of a bitch,” Amy said. She said it while smiling. Daniel smiled back.
The dare was simple. She had to visit a psychic – another thing she had revealed to Daniel at the start of that night’s date. She hated psychics. Maybe hate is too strong an emotion – she did not like them. Amy thought they were all a bunch of hacks taking advantage of people’s emotional turmoil by telling them what they wanted to hear.
“Alright,” Amy said. “But I’m not paying for it.”
“Of course,” Daniel said. “What kind of gentleman would I be if I let you pay?”
The psychic’s shop was a large circular tent with a tip that seemed to point right into the middle of the sky. When the couple entered the space, it was warm inside. There was a small waiting area that was empty and another tent opening inside. A few incandescent bulbs hung dangerously from the tent frames above. They gave off a spooky glow and just enough light to see the items pinned to the canvas around them. Pentagram medallions, creepy dolls, stuffed owls, stuffed crows, and a large stuffed bear.
“This isn’t creepy at all,” Daniel said.
“If I get haunted after this, I’ll never forgive you,” Amy said.
A noise came from deep within the tent and a frightened redhead almost flew out of there and into the carnival outside. Amy and Daniel looked at each other before the man said, “Maybe we should follow her out?”
“No, no, no,” Amy said. “A dare is a dare. We’re doing this.”
A woman appeared at the second entrance and extended her hands to the couple. “Welcome,” she said. She doesn’t look like a psychic, Amy thought. She was older than Amy, probably in her late 40s. Her hair was jet black and pulled into a top bun. She had on makeup and was maybe a bit too generous with her pink blush. She was dressed in a black business suit – the kind you see on females vying for president. “Come on in. I’ve been expecting you.”
“Of course you have,” Amy said. Daniel said nothing.
“Oh, dear. A skeptic,” the woman giggled. “Wonderful!”
They sat around a large round table in the middle of the place. The bulbs in here were brighter but still cast weird shadows on the woman’s face. “My name is Madeline,” she said.
“I’m Daniel,” Daniel said. “And this is -”
Amy cut him off. “I’m not telling you my name. Maybe you can guess it.”
Madeline laughed out loud. “Maybe.” She shuffled a deck of cards in her hands and asked, “So what brings you to my fine establishment?”
“Amusement,” Amy said.
“A lapse in judgment,” Daniel whispered.
“It could be both,” Madeline said. “So, what would you like? A palm reading? Tarot reading? Want to speak to a departed relative?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” Daniel said. “We’re here for her.”
Madeline looked at Amy and said, “Ah. The nameless girl. You probably want something that only caters to you. To prove my realness or fakeness, right?”
“Hey, you are psychic!” Amy said.
Madeline smiled. “I do my best,” she said. She set her cards down and pulled out three long candles. She lit them and set them in the middle of the table. “Someone would like to speak with you.”
Amy crossed her arms. Daniel looked at Amy, a small smirk on his face. She was enjoying this. That was good. The more Amy enjoyed herself, the more he would get to enjoy himself later.
“Who you gonna call?” Amy said and Daniel burst out laughing.
“Oh, you’ll see,” Madeline said. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. She held her breath for a long time before she released it. When she did, it felt like there was a cold breeze in the tent and the smell of pickles filled the air. Amy searched for the fan that was the obvious reason for the breeze. She didn’t know about the pickles.
“Amy?” Madeline said. Though, it wasn’t Madeline’s voice Amy heard. “Amy? Is that you?”
Amy looked at the other woman. Madeline’s eyes were closed but there was a smile on her face. A smile that said, “Do you believe me now?”
“Amy. I miss you so much. Did you bring Greg?” the voice that wasn’t Madeline’s voice said.
Daniel was white, staring at both of the women in the tent. “Who’s Greg?” he asked.
“My brother,” Amy said.
“I have so much to tell you, sweetheart,” she continued. “But I’m not allowed to say much. Just know that I am watching over you two. You’ve both grown up to be such lookers. I told you the acne will stop, now look at you, Your face is flawless.” Amy touched a hand to her cheek. “I’m glad you’re finally dating again. Geoffrey was just horrible. Sorry I wasn’t there when he broke your heart, sweetie. This one looks promising though. Tell Greg to visit. He’s run into a bit of trouble and I think I can offer him a hand.”
“Trouble?” Amy said. “What kind of trouble?”
“Oh, it’s nothing for you to be concerned about, sweetie. He recently needed to help his friend with something and it took a lot out of him. You know Greg, he’s always been a sensitive kid. Tell him to come visit, will you?”
“Okay,” Amy said.
“Oh, and Daniel?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said.
“Your grandfather says not to buy that stock you’ve been looking at yet. Wait a few weeks.”
“Alright. Bye, sweetie.” Madeline opened her eyes and the air stilled.
Amy wiped a tear from one eye. The smell of pickles lingered. “Bye, Mom.”
“That will be 40 dollars,” Madeline said.
“Dude, I’m telling you it was Mom,” Amy related to her brother, Greg. They sat in a fast food shop next to the bookstore where Greg worked.
“Couldn’t be,” Greg said, taking a bite of his cheeseburger. “Mom’s been gone for years and psychics aren’t real.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Amy said. “I went in there on a dare!”
“How is Daniel, by the way?”
“Don’t change the subject. He’s good. In fact, he’s great. I’m going to have that man’s babies someday.”
“Isn’t it too soon to start crib shopping?”
“It’s never too soon,” Amy said. “But you’re not listening. Mom had a message for you.”
“Really? What?” Greg took a long sip of his drink. “That I should stop working at the bookstore and go into marketing full-time?”
“No one cares about your marketing degree, Greg. I don’t know why you keep bringing it up.”
“Because Mom kept bringing it up.”
“For your information, she did not bring up your marketing thing,” Amy said.
“Thereby proving that it wasn’t our mother you talked to.”
“Listen to me,” Amy said. “She said to tell you to go visit. That you had some trouble helping one of your friends with something. She wouldn’t say what.”
Greg froze mid-bite. “Is that what she said?”
“And this is what makes you think you spoke to her.”
“The air smelled like pickles, Greg. Pickles! Her favorite thing to eat. How did the psychic pull that off?”
“I…” he stopped mid-sentence. “I actually don’t know how she did that.”
“Whatever, man,” Amy said. “I gotta go. I’m meeting Daniel for dinner.”
“Say hi.” Greg waved at his sister and waited for her to leave before he had a panic attack.
One week before Greg’s sister told him about her psychic experience, he went to a party. It was hosted by Greg’s best friend, Matt. The two had been friends ever since their first year in college. They were inseparable. They took the same classes and even went to grade school together. Unlike Greg though, Matt had taken advantage of his marketing degree. He could afford a nice condo by the beach. When Greg arrived at his friend’s place the party was in full swing. There was drinking, eating, dancing, and more explicit things happening. Before he knew it, Greg had passed out in the spare bedroom.
In the middle of the night, Matt woke him up. He was frantic and he spoke too fast for Greg to follow.
“Slow down,” Greg told him. “Breathe.”
Matt told him he didn’t have time to breathe. He needed help. Urgent help. The party was long over and there were no other people in the apartment. Matt led Greg to his room where there was a naked girl lying on the bed, her legs spread wide. The girl’s head was turned to the side and her eyes were wide open, unblinking. A trail of vomit led away from her mouth.
“Jesus, Matt!” Greg shouted. “What the hell?”
“Shut up! Shut up!”
“Oh my God,” Greg said. He dry heaved near the door.
“I don’t know what happened,” Matt said. “One minute we were having fun and the next, she was gone.”
“Call the fucking cops, man!”
“What do you mean, ‘you can’t’?” Greg yelled.
“I gave her the pills, Greg! I could lose everything,” Matt dropped on the bed next to the dead girl’s feet. “I need your help, man.”
Greg sucked in a long breath. He thought about his friend. Matt would be there for him no matter what. And it wasn’t like he wanted this to happen. It was an accident, right? No one planned this. He couldn’t let Matt lose everything. Greg inhaled deep once again before he said, “Here’s what we’re going to do.”
They wrapped the girl up in the vomit-soaked sheets and tied the bundle up with a fishing line Matt had in his closet. They took the express elevator down to the basement parking bay and, avoiding the security cameras, stuffed the body in Matt’s SUV. Greg was feeling exceedingly grateful Matt did not drive a sports car. They drove down to the beach, taking care to stop by a food truck and make conversation with the truck operator. They ordered a plate of two tacos each and they made sure to eat it all at the truck. “Act normal,” Greg had told his friend in the car. “You’re taking me away from the house. I was feeling depressed and you know the beach makes me happy.”
“The beach makes you happy,” Matt repeated. “Got it.” He was still shaking as he drove but he had calmed down in time for the tacos.
They parked close to the water and dragged the body to a nearby pier.
“We can’t do this,” Matt said. “We should take her back to the house. Call the cops.”
“Are you serious?” Greg said. Venom in his voice. “You… you know what, I’m not even going to argue with you. Give me that shovel.”
Matt handed Greg the shovel they took from the car. Greg then dug a deep hole in the ground under the pier. “No one ever comes under here,” he explained. When he was done, they unwrapped the girl and tossed her in. “You have to keep your sheets,” Greg said. “If she’s ever found, she can’t have anything linking her to you.”
“Alright,” Matt said.
“You didn’t come in her, did you?”
“You did not release your semen inside her, did you?” Greg said.
“No. No. I used a condom.”
They buried her under the pier and headed back to the apartment.
Greg stood outside the tent at the carnival. He did not tell Matt about the conversation he had had with his sister about the psychic. Matt had enough problems. The body they had buried still had not been discovered but his friend hadn’t been the same since that night. He probably just needs time, Greg thought.
The psychic welcomed him warmly and as he sat down, she said, “My name is Madeline. Happy to meet you…”
“Greg,” he offered.
“Happy to meet you, Greg. You must be Amy’s brother, Greg.” He smiled a fake smile. “Well, I won’t keep you waiting. You’re probably a busy man.” Madeline set down her three candles and almost immediately the space smelled like pickles.
“Greg? You came!” Madeline’s voice had changed once again and Greg thought that it did sound a little like his late mother. “It’s so good to talk to you again.”
“Good to talk to you too,” Greg said.
“Don’t lie, honey. I always know when you’re lying.” His mother always could tell. “That thing you and your friend did wasn’t very nice. That poor woman. God rest her soul.” Greg’s blood ran cold. “I just wanted you to know that I was watching and I do hope you make better decisions in the future.” He teared up. “I love you, son. And don’t worry, I won’t let you get caught. I’m looking out for you – and your friend. I know he means more to you than you let on.”
“That will be 40 dollars,” Madeline said.
Greg looked at the woman seated across from him. How much did she know? How much did she retain when she went into that trance? He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He gave her her money but when he stood up to leave he saw a glint of something in the woman’s eye. Maybe it was nothing. Just his imagination but it disturbed him. That glint. That bit of knowing. He reached out his hand and clamped it tight on her throat. She tried to yell but she couldn’t make a sound. Madeline struggled for breath but Greg’s hand would not let up. She really was a real psychic and his secrets could not, would not, be revealed to anyone.
Prompt: Start your story with someone accepting a dare.
I wrote this a while ago for a writing contest. I didn’t win…. But I could have, yes? Si ndio?