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The Ghouling of Helen

It’s late, after a night shift at the library, Helen is walking towards her car, when out of the corner of her eye, she senses a movement.  She half turns; sees a man standing there.  A flash of light sparks off a knife in his hand.  He moves towards her, a half smile on his face.  She hurries toward the car.  It’s the last one in the park; he follows her…  When she gets to the car, she sees the front window has been pushed in; the car is a mess.  She contemplates getting in anyway, but knows she can’t…  He gets closer.  She starts looking around for a weapon to swing at 
him… there’s nothing…  She backs up against the car and prepares to fight to the last…
     Suddenly the man stops.  His expression turns to one of horror; his face blanches, he drops the knife in shock and runs.  She turns, wondering what caused him to do this.  What she sees will haunt her for the rest of her life.  Oozing sores, twisted limbs, skin looking like it’s flaking off as she watches. Then the image is gone, leaving a greying man with a cane standing outside her personal space, looking at her in concern.  
    He consoles her, seeming to know exactly what to say.  He asks her if she needs anything, water, a taxi, a towing service.  He offers her his phone to use, always solicitous but not invasive.  She begins to doubt what she saw.  She leaves, with thanks…
     She reports the crime, and tries to get back to a semblance of normality, though being overly careful.  She sees the man with the cane again walking past the library, but because no eye contact is made, she will not speak to him out of embarrassment.


     Two days after the attempted crime, she receives a suspicious card at the library.  Thinking it a threat, she arranges leave, reports this incident, and goes to Adelaide to visit her parents for a week.  
A day after she gets back, before she was going back to work she finds another card on her door.  A quote from "The Raven" and the words "Welcome Back Helen" on it.  She goes into a panic.  This person knows where she works, knows she has come home, knows where she lives…  She goes to stay the night with a good friend; she can’t face being home.  She goes there carefully, backtracking and going the back ways to throw anyone following off the trail.
     Four o’clock that morning, there is a knock at the door.  The friend goes to see who it is.  Someone wants to speak to Helen.  Helen goes when she is called - it is the man with the knife.  He says he has been sent to apologise.  He looks frightened out of his mind, nervously looking over his shoulder.  Helen doesn’t notice this right now, however; she too is frightened out of her mind.  She has been followed here, too.  She tells him to get out. 
     She calls the police again.  They find another note, complete with freshly severed finger, at the bottom of the path.  The note says "Apology Not Accepted".  The friends do not sleep, instead thrashing the events through until the dawn.
     Helen is totally rattled.  She doesn’t know what to do, where to go, except back to work, which she throws herself into. What else does she have?  If she isn’t safe anywhere, at least she’ll be in groups of people here.  So far, nothing bad has happened when she is in a group. 

     However, late night shifts are hard to avoid; eventually she must do one and has work to finish after.  She is more confident this time - she moved her car up close to the library before dusk, and the work has to be done…
     When the library is deserted, however, the terror begins. A disembodied voice follows her around the library, speaking of fear and how it can end…  Lights go on and off with seemingly no one operating them…  She manages to get to the nearby police station and reports this next incident, seriously doubting her sanity, feeling she is not being believable anymore.  How could she be?  No one was there!
     She goes home.  Nothing happens for a while.  Security at the library is increased (no sign of outside technology was found, let alone anything to activate the lights by remote)… 

She starts to live again… until a parcel arrives on her doorstep. It’s an old book; a rare book.  A note is with it.  On one side it says "A Taste", on the other, there is an address and time... Inside is another note, saying "Please Return".  She takes it to the State Library, where they flip - it’s from the restricted collections no one gets into!
     Something not normal is going on here…  But inside the terror (Not even the ultra-protected SLV is safe from this person), there is a curiosity… She wants to know what is wanted of her… what she has done to warrant the attention. 
She decides to go.
     The house is abandoned, the street is well-lit with street lights.  She goes in, chocking the door open after her. A voice says, "There is a torch beside you."  Sure enough, there is, and it works.  The man with the cane is sitting quietly in the darkness.  They talk - she wants to know what does he want?  He counters, parries, but he doesn’t mean any 

ill (well… comparatively). 
     He wants her to join him; he needs her, but won’t say what for, telling her she is a bright girl and can work it out for herself.  She insists she is average, no special qualities; he insists otherwise, but no more.  She starts to guess what he is; he laughs and says he is no god…  He asks if she will take what he offers.  What does he offer?  "Life", he says.  Time to learn, to know.  She can only read so many books in one puny lifetime; what if that time was extended?  She could learn more…
     She accepts his offer, realizing what he is, she offers her neck. "Oh no," he laughs, producing the knife from the man that first night to slice his arm.  "Do you accept?"  She whispers, "Yes".
     The man with the cane disappears.  The monster from that momentary flash the first night is in his place.  "Still?" he laughs at her horror.  "Still." she insists, despite her revulsion.
     She drinks… 
     The blood is like fire, burning her throat.  She asks what she has done, what he has done to her.  He doesn’t answer.  He tells her to live life as usual, and to meet him here again next Sunday.  For now, it is over.