An excerpt from

Voices from a Distant Room

Cia didn’t know what had awakened her. The night was quiet, unusually hushed; the insects and night birds eerily silent. Feeling a chill, her first thought was to get up and close the window. Instead, she pulled up the covers and turned over to snuggle with Will. Touching an empty bed, she opened her eyes, surprised to see him sitting up, his eyes still closed. It was then that she saw the vaporous cloud shimmering in front of him. In stunned silence, she stared as it slowly morphed into the translucent shape of a woman. As though in a trance, Will began to extend his hand to the indistinct figure that swirled and shifted just beyond his reach. Not knowing if she was awake or if this was another nightmare, Cia tried to scream. When no sound emerged, she tried to move forward to wake him but found herself unable to move, as though some invisible force was holding her in check. The apparition floated closer, a skeletal face crowned with snaking tendrils materializing out of churning mist. Seeing spectral fingers reaching out to Will, Cia lurched forward and, with a scream, freed herself from the unseen, vise-like grip. As Will opened his eyes, the wraithlike figure recoiled in fury and with a shrill shriek of rage, began to dissolve into formless mist. But not before pointing a long, withered finger at Cia as well.

Barely awake, Will blinked before lying back on his pillows. Cia moved next to him. “Will? Are you all right?”

When he didn’t answer, she saw he had fallen asleep. Feeling the cold abating and the night sounds return, she let him be. Although her conscious mind told her there was no way she’d be able to sleep, she was suddenly overcome with exhaustion. When she woke up again, it was almost noon. Her first impression was that it was another lovely day, her second that she was alone in bed.

Trying not to panic, she threw Will’s shirt on over a pair of shorts and walked quickly through the house. After calling his name without any response, she ran outside, relieved to see him sitting on an old log at the edge of the pond, sketchbook in hand. Putting her hand to her throat, she waited until the thudding in her heart subsided. Moving quietly, she walked up behind him and kissed the back of his neck. He grabbed her hand. “I tried to wake you. But you appeared to be in a deep sleep.”


She sat down next to him. “How long have you been up?”


“I don’t know. A couple of hours. It was a weird night with strange dreams.”


Dreams? “Tell me.”


“I don’t remember much except that I was in a darkened room. It was cold, and I was looking for something. Then I saw some sort of vision. A woman, or maybe a girl, who wanted to tell me something.”


“What did she look like?”


“I couldn’t see her very well. It was foggy.”


“Were you scared?”


He put down his pencils. “No. It felt like she was someone I knew.”


She squeezed his hand. “It wasn’t a dream.”


“What are you saying?”


“I saw her as well.”


He raked his hair with his fingers. “Tell me this isn’t happening again.”


“We have to go see Sonny.”


He looked confused. “Sonny? What does she have to do with this?”


She took his hand, pulling him to the car. “It’s a little hard to explain. You’ll see when you get there.”

Fortunately, Sonny was in the store helping a young couple pick out some homemade jams.   When she finished ringing them up, she came over and gave Will a peck on each cheek.


“Sorry I missed you yesterday.” She glanced at Cia. “Uh oh. I know that look.”


Cia steered her away from three women who were browsing. “I want you to show Will the journal,” she whispered.


Looking surprised, she whispered back, “Don’t tell me it’s happened again.” When Cia nodded, she shook her head. “With Will?”


“Yes.”


“This is unbelievable. I’ll get it.”


The shop was busy, the few café tables occupied by couples drinking coffee and reading newspapers. Sonny beckoned them into the kitchen where she brought out coffee and tea along with a plate of warm scones. Will watched her go to a darkened stairway.


“Where is she going?”


“To get a journal that was found in my house. I mean, the house that burned down before the cottage was built.” She explained about Sonny, her grandfather, and their history in the town. Sonny returned with the journal, and making sure Charlie had everything under control in the store, she sat down next to them at a well-worn pine table. Cia unwrapped the oilskin covering and found the page she wanted. “Start reading from here.”


Will glanced at her with unspoken questions before looking down. A few minutes later, he stopped and shook his head. “This is incredible. If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.”


“There’s something else,” Cia said, pulling out the small sketch she had carefully placed between two pages. “Look at this.”


“Bloody hell,” he whispered, taking it. “From what you first told me, I was afraid this had something to do with that accursed inn. This, however, appears to be something else.”
“I agree. I heard no whispers last night. It was almost too silent.”


“Do you understand what this means?” When Cia nodded, Sonny, who was looking more uncomfortable with every second, stood up. “I’d better check to see what’s going on in the shop.”
Cia waited until Sonny left before turning back to Will. “When I first saw these pages, I wasn’t sure. I think Cecily was our, ah, visitor last night.”


He looked at her in disbelief. “How can you know that?”


“I saw her once before. When I told Sonny, she found this journal. I’m sorry. I should have told you sooner.”


“What may be more important is how you came to buy that particular house. It can’t have been coincidence. You must have felt something. Or maybe it was waiting for you.”

She shivered. “Please don’t say such things. Remember, that’s not ​the original house. And no, I never felt anything special. That is, other than liking it.”


“And last night was no dream.”


She shook her head. “No. It wasn’t. Not only that, but when I tried to wake you, something held my arm as if to stop me from touching you.” She sighed. “When I finally woke you, she pointed at me before disappearing. By the time I could move and speak again, you were in a deep sleep.”


“Did I say anything?”


“Only that you were tired.”


“When did you see this . . . her, the first time?”


“Last spring. When I returned from London. There was also another figure, at least part of one, behind her.”


He stared at the drawing. “Do you think those apparitions were you and me?”


“Don’t you?” she whispered. “Maybe she’s looking for the ring Mr. Williams promised her.”


“This book dates from 1800. The inn was one thing, but this, this has to be tangible proof that we’ve been together in past lives.”


“It’s nice to know we’ve loved one another before. And yet you must admit, it feels a little weird.”
He turned to her abruptly. “Is there some place we can make a copy of these pages and the drawing?”


“I’ll ask Sonny. The library has a Xerox machine, although I’m sure it’s closed on Sunday.”


“I want to take the copies to show McKenna the next time I see him.”


She looked surprised. “McKenna? Why do you need to see him again? Didn’t you get all the answers you wanted? Besides, I thought we agreed this has nothing to do with Scotland.”


He took her hands in his. “It mentions a ring, Cia. That means it has to do with the sapphires, which again comes back to Callanish. Do you know anyone else who has evil entities and heartbroken ghosts interfering with their lives?”


“Very funny.”


“Still. I feel I need to go back.”


“Just to see McKenna, right?”


He shook his head. “To Callanish as well.”


She backed away. “No, Will. I don’t like that idea at all.”


“It will be all right,” he said with a grin, as though trying to take the edge off the moment. “I promise I won’t stay at the same inn again.”


“This isn’t a joke. Assuming there is or was an inn at all. But why go again? What do you expect to find?”


“That’s what I don’t know. I’ll only stay a couple of days.”


She stood up. “No. I love you, and I don’t want anything to happen to you. Callanish scares me.”


“We’ll talk about that later. Right now, let’s see if we can find a copier.”

Sonny was talking with a couple of customers in the shop, and Cia waited until they left. “The only other copier in town would be at the police station,” she said. “I know the chief. I’ll give him a call.”


By the time they returned to the cottage it was early afternoon, and Will went straight to the bedroom to look for any signs of ghosts. Cia followed him. “Stop saying that; you’re creeping me out. The voices are bad enough, but ghosts?”


“It shouldn’t. Aren’t you at least happy to know we’ve loved one another before?”


“I’m not sure ‘happy’ is the right word. And if we don’t remember, what’s the point?”


“Only that the stories may be true, and our love really has transcended time.”


She hugged him. “That’s almost too much to grasp. I wish you didn’t have to go back Tuesday.”


“I’ll only be a few weeks, Cia. And when I come back, I’ll bring the other ring to you.”

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