By Sade D. Thompson
© 2019 by the author


Summer was exceedingly hot this year, the days and nights began to boil. Being able to create and think clearly was impossible and I needed an escape from the reverberation of anxiety in the city. A friend suggested driving until my inner voice told me to stop. So I did and there it was. St. Jameson. An easy going, quaint town of warm faces.

For three months, each day offered happiness. Grab the daily post from Joe, order an espresso and chocolate croissant from the café, head to the craft store for supplies and back to my apartment to create. One particular day, the simplicity of my routine shifted in a beautiful way. Walking from the café I noticed a bunch of leaves, brown, yellow and wine colored formulating what looked to be a concentric circle. Triggering inspiration of my newest creation.

My creative space in St. Jameson was an artist’s dream. The never ending view of the shore, floor to ceiling windows and hardwood floor; preferably as it was easier to maintain tidiness. Like any other apartment building, this space inhabited a few peculiar individuals: Lucy and Travis - the young couple who often played double-dutch with the idea of love. Lucy, the fire of the two, orchestrated a symphony of pots and pans every night when Travis, an architect of apologies decided to stay past close at the Lobster Lounge, that one guy who talked too much and apologized even more. Mr. Hampkins — current paraplegic, former college professor — who suffered a horrific accident one evening leaving a cocktail party with his teachers assistant. During the night I often hear his consistent cries of torment. Maybe once or twice, I’m sure he has flung himself from his wheelchair onto the floor in desperation to feel something. Then there were the Simpson twins. A quirky pair of brothers that consistently finished the other’s sentences and thoughts.

September packed its belongings and with a cool and crisp demeanor, October took its place. The blueprint on how I would execute my next collection was complete yet I found myself restless the past few nights. Maybe it was stress. I’d visited the craft store like usual only to find out they were sold out of Phoenix Red and Ash Black, delaying the entire process.

The darkness of the night added to my mental list of worry. The bedside clock read 1 a.m. I headed into the kitchen for a glass of water, digging my heels into the hardwood floor with each creak. The coolness of the water was calming and inviting as I stared out across the street towards the park. Rubbing my eyes and squinting for a clearer focus, I stuck out my neck further to clarify what I thought to be three dark shadows standing shoulder to shoulder, immensely still and starring back at me. My body was immediately enveloped in heat, the hair on my arms pinched my skin like dry needling at its best.

Swallowing a quick breath, I tiptoed backwards to the kitchen, trying my best to avoid the creaks in the floor as if whatever was standing outside would hear them. I grabbed the flashlight with my free hand as I subconsciously still held the glass of water with the other. Shaking, I aimed the flashlight towards the dark of night and clicked. Mr. Hampkins screamed in agony. Startling me, I dropped both the flashlight and glass. The objects acrobatically bounced from my foot to the hardwood floor. As if hot coals, were placed below my feet, I hopped violently throughout the living room.


A thick, brightly colored and warm red liquid began to flow, creating a labyrinth where I stood.

A Phoenix Red, of sorts. Wish I could bottle this up!

Gathering myself, I limped toward the window and noticed the figures were gone.

The easiness I once felt in this quaint town by the shore, had been tainted by last night’s events. In addition to a limp, I continued my daily routine. I ran into Joe and asked if he’d seen anything peculiar.

“Not at all. I’m usually home by six with the Misses. I rest early and rise even earlier, to prepare the papers and all.”

I thought about asking Travis or any of the other townsmen that like to hang out past closing at the Lobster Lounge but I wasn’t mentally prepared for the extensive conversation the Architect of Apologies had to offer so I journeyed towards the craft store.

As I approached, Leonard met me with a warm smile. “Morning! You’re right on time, Phoenix Red and Ash Black just arrived!”

Finally things could return to normal.

Sleep continued to evade me, but for good reason. Late nights were dedicated more to completing my collection and cleaning Phoenix Red off the hardwood floors and less looking out for shadowy figures.

My time here in St. Jameson had come to an end as I packed the last piece to my collection. Despite the hiccup of horror, I was refreshed and ready to return to the city to showcase my work. My head hit the pillow and the sounds of an oncoming thunder storm put me into a deep slumber.

An intense thumping from above my bedroom wall snatched me from my sleep and I jumped out of bed in total confusion. High pitch screaming followed.

Had Mr. Hampkins fallen again? Had Lucy and Travis been in an argument and she traded pots and pans for bludgeoning the wall with a sledgehammer?

Listening carefully, the sound couldn’t compare to the usual outcry. It was continuous and intensified within the walls of my apartment. My entire body stiffened as I look down and noticed my hands and night clothes had somehow been doused in red paint.

Did I fall asleep while cleaning?

I hadn’t been sleeping well but I was certain I cleaned everything up before going to bed. The sound of something massively large being dragged across the hardwood floors could be heard. Suddenly, a loud and continuous bang at the front of the apartment. I coward beside my bed and looked towards the bedroom door. I took a quick breath and walked slowly, placing my sweaty hand on the knob, hesitant to turn. I stood there breathing deeply, horrified of the sounds that consumed my space.

A loud and continuous bang caused me to jump backwards into my writer’s desk. As I tumbled backwards, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and screamed in fear from what my reflection revealed. My face was covered completely in red. I began to scrub at my face, my hands, and my clothes. The banging continued. Someone was at my front door and from the sound of it wouldn’t stop until they got in. The thumping and agonizing cries continued as I reluctantly ran to the front door to see about the chaos.

I leaned into the peephole and pounced backwards at the sight of flames in the stairwell. There was only one way in, no alternate way out of my apartment. I yanked the door open and immediately smoke enveloped me. Gasping, I clutched my chest, my head and covered my mouth. I ran down the stairs and tripped over something. I felt around in the thickness of the smoke and made out something metal. A wheelchair! Mr. Hampkins laid sprawled across the floor, his neck appeared to be broken. I stumbled further down and saw Lucy and Travis. Seemingly, Lucy tried to break one of the windows with a bat but was unsuccessful as she dangled upon shards of glass. Travis, poor Travis. The only clue that it was his dismembered body hanging over the banister, was the illumination from the flames of a Lobster Lounge keychain, hanging from his pants pocket. I gagged from the smoke and the unsightly remains of what was left of my neighbors. Shouting horrifically for help, I collapsed and suddenly three figures appeared in front of me at the landing! Here it was the moment from that night I dreaded. The figures no one heard of or come in contact with. They grabbed my lifeless body and dragged me to the front lobby. A strong blow to my head sent me face first onto the hardwood floor. I blinked helplessly, my eyes swelling with tears and the figures became a little clearer. I could have been seeing double but two of them were shaped exactly the same. The third, met my gaze with a warm smile. At that moment, my only option to escape was to fall into the welcoming of darkness.


Gossip and time grew in St. Jameson and once again, October took up residency in the small quaint town.

“Good morning. My name is Seth and I have a nine o’ clock with Mrs. Doseberry.”

“Yes! Good morning Seth, welcome to the Beckley! We’ve been expecting you. Please follow me into my office. So young man how can I be of assistance to you and...The Canvas, is it?”

Seth sat down his messenger bag and placed a recorder onto the large wooden desk. "My article intends to highlight some of the most eerie events centered around the art world and its effects on pop culture for our October issue. Honestly speaking, I finished a while ago and was prepared to submit to the editors when I heard whispers of a certain anniversary in St. Jameson."

Mrs. Doseberry stared at Seth for a moment, hands placed delicately on the top of her desk, then turned her attention to the left, gazing out the window as to admire the leaves that had recently changed from green to darker tones of earth.

“I drove quite a ways from the city, Mrs. Doseberry. I understand the incident is still fresh, but I was hoping to get an insight from someone who has known this town for a number of years.”

Mrs. Doseberry starred at her desk and began to pick at a piece wood that raised and formed into a bubble. She stopped mid stroke and looked at Seth with great intention. Seth wasn’t sure to read her expression as cautious or stoic. Mrs. Doseberry took a quick breath and began.

“You can still smell the thickness of the fire burning everyone inside. St. Jameson was easy going. A quaint town of simple people and warm faces. He came into town with the heat of July.”

Seth adjusted himself comfortably in the chair and rested his elbow on its wooden arm.

“He said a friend recommended he drive to clear his mind of the city and find a place of peace. We later found out that was a request on behalf of his psychiatrist. Something that began as a simple man who nestled into the simplicity of a town, turned into a rigid and unsettling chill of an October evening. Something triggered that young man. Something dark happened to him that resulted in a domino effect of events. He began asking people about dark figures he’d witnessed lurking about town at night. Many could see him pacing erratically through the window of his apartment but theorized it to be stressed, being an artist from the city and all. Things had seem to calm down until that Tuesday night. A thunder storm blanketed the town and tucked it into bed earlier that evening. Hours later you heard screaming from the buildings tenants and the fire engine. Me and my husband Joe ran down the street and stared at the bright flames that raised higher and higher into the dark of night.

Everyone presumed it to be an accident until reports and details became available. My husband is in charge of the news here so I had a front seat to watching the horror show unfold. That artist had personal quarrels with his neighbors. Butchered and dismembered the young couple because they argued too much, poor Mr. Hampkins was sent on a first class flight from the fourth floor to the third, all the while still in his wheelchair. The audacity! And the twins were found sewn together on account one couldn’t think without the other.”

Seth blanked in disbelief and leaned forward, giving Mrs. Doseberry permission to continue. Mrs. Doseberry shook her head and her eyes popped wider than an owl's.

“Oh! Let me not forget poor Mr. Leonard from the craft store. He could never hurt a fly and always met you with the warmest smile. Was reported dead by Cecil who owns the café, after stopping by to say hello and found him lifeless and cold with a note stapled to his head, 'Phoenix Red and Ash Black discontinued.' It’s going to take some time for this town to heal Seth. It truly will.”

“I was told they caught him at an art exhibit in the city starring at his collection, Blister.”

“He was immediately arrested and proven insane, finally admitted to an asylum. Through the talks of other small towns, I’ve heard every night he screams in agony, too scared to fall asleep and dream the repeated nightmare of what he did to those innocent people, continuously thumping his head to avoid from falling asleep. My husband Joe has a cousin twice removed, who works security at the asylum and says the only thing to calm his lost soul is painting his room Phoenix Red and Ash Black. The horror of it all!”

Mrs. Doseberry slapped the wooden desk causing Seth to jump to his feet.

“Well Seth let me take you on a tour. The town decided to turn lemons into lemonade. The actual building that was effected by the fire is now The Beckley that you stand in today.”

Seth swallowed hard and Mrs. Doseberry let out a chuckle.

“Everything from the wooden floors to the original glass of the windows have been utilized. All donations and tour costs go to the proceeds of St. Jameson and the families affected by loved ones lost in the fire.”

Mrs. Doseberry began to climb the steps towards a display of paintings. A golden sign reading "Blister" hung beside it. Seth noticed to the left of the stairwell, an artistic structure compiled of what seemed to be pieces of a wheelchair. His palms began to sweat and his legs felt lighter. The daring writer from the city soon realized the story that shook a small town to its core was more fact than fiction unlike what he previously assumed. Carefully digging his heels into the hardwood floor with every step, the floor creaked, the hairs on Seth’s arm began to prick aggressively like needle point and a form of heat consumed him.

Had Mr. Hampkins fallen again? Had Lucy and Travis been in an argument and she traded pots and pans for bludgeoning the wall with a sledgehammer?


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