Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast originally appeared in the e-zine Spaceports and Spidersilk. It's an imprint of the Canadian publisher Samsdot Publishing for spooky children's stories. (What can I say, I have good luck with Canadian publishers.) I've decided not to polish it at all, and post it the way it originally appeared, even though my writing style has improved since 2008. So here it is, I'd love to hear what you think.
GHOST BED AND GHOUL BREAKFAST
The car rattled as it crossed the train tracks. Ben and Josh awoke.
“Look,” their father said. “We’re at the haunted mansion”
Ben rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Look how old it is. I bet it’s full of ghosts.”
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” Josh said. “Is Little-Baby-Benny scared?”
“Don’t call me that. I’m only two years younger than you. I’m not a baby.”
“Stop fighting,” their father said. “I don’t want arguing to spoil our stay here.”
“Let’s go in,” their mother said. “I’m excited to see this place. It won the award for best haunted bed and breakfast.”
The mansion stood in a cleared area of forest. No other houses could be seen in any direction. The full moon lit up the night sky, and the house’s shadow seemed to stretch a mile.
When they got to the door, it creaked open. Ben and Josh jumped back and gasped. The man who answered had skin as pale as the moon. His eyes were sunken. They looked like empty sockets.
“Welcome to the Lunar Mansion,” he said. His voice croaked as if he had to force the words out. “Please, come in from the cold.”
The dimly lit corridor had candles hung in all the light fixtures. A short, stout woman sat at the desk.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m Edith.” She stood to greet them, and her wooden leg thumped and scraped across the floor with each step she took.
Ben’s dad rushed to her. “Don’t strain yourself,” he said, reaching to help her.
“I’m alright,” she said. “I’ve been walking like this for more years than you can imagine. Otis, show these people to their room. They must be tired.”
The pale skinned man gestured for them to follow.
The hallway’s thick carpeting looked as old as the mansion itself. Black and gold squares ran from wall to wall. The walls themselves had patterns of gold. It looked exactly as Ben had imagined a haunted house would look.
“Are there any ghosts here?” he asked Otis.
“Of course there are ghosts,” Otis said. “This wouldn’t be much of a haunted house without them.”
“Don’t be stupid, Ben,” his brother hissed from behind him. “There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“Here’s your room,” Otis said. “Enjoy your stay.”
He shook hands with each of them. Ben thought he had never felt skin as cold or as clammy as Otis’s. He felt compelled to wash his hands, as if they were coated in slime.
Apparently the entire family thought Otis’s hand felt just as nasty. They all washed their hands before examining the rest of the unit.
The foyer opened into a sitting area with a kitchenette. Three doors stood at the far side of the room. One led to a bathroom. The other two were the bedrooms.
Unlike Otis’s hand, the room was incredibly clean.
“Isn’t this place great?” Ben’s dad asked his family. “It’s so old.”
“The people running it give me the creeps,” Ben said. “I think they’re ghosts.”
“Quit with the ghost stuff, already,” Josh said.
“Why?” Ben asked. “Am I scaring you?”
“No. It’s just silly. I don’t know why we had to come here. Mom and Dad know there are no ghosts.”
“Let’s go exploring,” Ben said. “I’ll find a ghost. Then you’ll have to believe.”
“There will be plenty of time to see the mansion tomorrow,” Ben’s mom said. “It’s bedtime now.”
The boy’s bedroom had two beds. One was next to the window.
“I get the one by the window,” Josh claimed.
Then a large black spot slammed into the window. They could see the beady eyes of the bat as it snatched a moth and flew away.
“Unless you want it,” Josh added, hesitantly.
“I think bats are great,” Ben said, climbing into the bed by the window.
No more bats came to the window after the lights went out. A few could be seen flying through the air, though. Ben tried to stay awake, waiting for ghosts. Whenever he thought Josh had fallen to sleep, he would say, “Did you hear that?” Josh would wake up, tell Ben to be quiet, and then try to fall asleep again. But before long, both brothers drifted to sleep.
Just before sunrise, a loud groan caused both boys to sit bolt-upright in bed. The mansion started to shake, and a ghostly light filled the room. The light came from everywhere at once.
“What is that?” Ben asked Josh.
“I don’t know,” Josh answered. Fear flowed through his voice.
The noise and shaking stopped. The brothers heard the door to their parent’s room open. They jumped out of bed, and found their parent’s in the sitting area.
“Did that noise wake you two up, as well?” their dad asked.
“Yes,” Ben said. “What do you think it was?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “It must have been a ghost.”
Then they noticed something different from the night before. The walls all had large cracks. But that wasn’t the only difference. Spider webs hung from all the corners and in the chandeliers. It looked as if the room hadn’t had an occupant in years–maybe decades.
In the hallway, the carpeting had torn into fragments. The walls were cracked plaster, yellowing with age. The gold-pattern from the night before didn’t exist.
“What’s happened here?” the boy’s mom asked.
“I don’t know,” their dad answered, “but we should get outside. This place looks like it’s going to fall.”
Outside, the taillights of a train faded from view far down the tracks.
“Look,” Josh said. “That explains the noise we heard. It was just a train. I still don’t know what happened to the walls, but I’m sure it can be explained logically.”
In the misty gray light of early morning, the outside walls looked worse than the inside ones. Half of the house had fallen. The boards showed signs of rotting. They had collapsed long before last night.
“Look at this,” Ben said, with wonder. He pointed to the train tracks they had crossed the night before.
They had just seen a train on the tracks. Yet the tracks had rusted away to barely recognizable chunks of metal. They jutted out of the overgrown grass like iron stalagmites. Once they had crossed over the driveway, and turned toward the mansion. They were completely missing where the mansion stood. If not, the mansion would have rested directly on top of them.
“Was the train a ghost?” Ben asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m going back to the car,” Josh said nervously.
He turned to run, but he tripped. Ben, along with his parents, rushed to Josh. They helped him to his feet, and saw what he had tripped over. Ben brushed the weeds aside, and uncovered an old, flat tombstone.
The tombstone read, “Here lie Edith and Otis: the final caretakers of the Lunar Mansion.”
About the author:
Eric Price lives with his wife and two sons in northwest Iowa. He began publishing in 2008 when he started writing a quarterly column for a local newspaper. Later that same year he published his first work of fiction, a spooky children’s story called Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast. Since then, he has written stories for children, young adults, and adults. Three of his science fiction stories have won honorable mention from the CrossTime Annual Science Fiction Contest. His first YA fantasy novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, received the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval. Find him online at authorericprice.com.
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