HIDDEN COMMUNICATION • by Oonah V Joslin

“It’s cold in here. You should light a fire.” Sara shivered, hoping for a cuddle.

“Not until that chimney’s swept.”

Joe was always so practical, but a date stripping wallpaper wasn’t what she’d had in mind. “How many layers of wallpaper are there, for goodness’ sake? Oh look, Joe. There’s something here.” Her interest peaked.

Hallo. The wallpaper was yellow flowers and the lettering was blue crayon.

“I wonder who wrote it?” said Sara. “Looks like a child’s writing.”

“Well whoever it was couldn’t spell ‘Hello’.”

“Oh Joe, don’t you think it’s mysterious and romantic finding a message like that?”

“It’s hardly a message, Sara. It’s graffiti on an old mouldy layer of wall paper from dear knows how far back. My great, great aunt might have written it herself when she was just a kid. Bet she got a right ticking off too. These walls aren’t going to take paint, you know. I’ll most probably have to re-plaster.”

“You could repaper.”

“Repaper? After stripping all this? You okay in the head? Come on — time to knock off. I’m ravenous.”

“Lend us your marker.”

“What for?”

“I want to leave a message back and see what happens.”

“You’re puddled. Comes from hugging all them trees.”

“Oh give over, Joe. It’s a bit of fun.”

“And what if you get an answer? Would that be fun, would it? You’d be scared shitless, I’ll bet.”

“Tut.” Sara snatched the marker and wrote ‘Hello, I’m Sara’ under the message.

“Okay, I’m outa here. You coming or what?”

“You don’t have an ounce of romance in you, Joe.”

***

Sara followed Joe into the room a few days later. “What the hell…?”

The original message now said Hallowe’en.

Joe, that’s this weekend,” she said. “What do you think it means? Do you think we should come and find out? Maybe we’ll get the rest of it.”

“Yeah, why not. Maybe the ghosts’ll throw us a party,” he said.

“Joe! Here, give us that pen again.” She wrote, ‘We’ll be here,’ on the wallpaper.

“Well I’m not stripping any more then,” said Joe. “I think I’ll get that chimney swept so we can have a fire. It’s too cold to work in here anyway.”

Joe locked up.

***

Hallowe’en, and the house looked really spooky. Sara went into the room first. She wanted to see whether there was any new message. There was. It said, ‘I’ve got your number.’ Before she could react, her phone buzzed.

“It can’t be.” she said. “Ghosts don’t use modern phones, do they?”

“What? You think they use old-fashioned ones, then?” said Joe.

“It’s a text. It says, ‘dining rm’”.

Sara made her way there with Joe hot on her heels. She gingerly opened the door and was greeted by an overwhelming s h r i e k of noise — popping sounds, explosions and voices – TRICK OR TREAT; followed by general hilarity. Sara’s heart thumped. Over twenty people all in costume — a whole party, eats, drinks laid out — even champagne on ice.

“What’s with the champagne?”

“New message here for someone called Sara,” said Joe. “Will you marry me?”


Oonah V Joslin is Managing Editor at Every Day Poets.  Credits include 3 Micro Horror prizes, an honorable mention in The binnacles Shorts Poetry comp 2009, Inclusion in several anthologies, A Man of Few Words, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and 2009 and Toe Tags.  Read her at Static Movement, The Shine Journal, A View From Here, The Ranfurly Review 10FLASH Quarterly and many other places. Oonah reads some of her poetry here. Other work including her Novella, A Genie in a Jam, can be found at Bewildering Stories. The list is updated in The Vaults at Parallel Oonahverse and on her Facebook.  Oonah’s ambition is to have a book published.


This story is sponsored by
Debi Blood — No Satyrs were harmed in the production of The Glendale Witch.

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  • fishlovesca

    Nice little story.

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  • This story’s a sweet start to Halloween sure enough. How do I know that? Because I’ve seen the writing on the wall. Fun story Oonah.

    😉 scar

  • Great piece of misdirection – was expecting Sara to be dragged kicking and screaming to Hell.

    I felt Joe’s non-reaction when the message changed to ‘Halloween’ didn’t quite ring true (perhaps he should have acted a bit unnerved), and in the third paragraph shouldn’t the word be ‘piqued’, not ‘peaked’.

    Anyhow, an entertaining, engaging read.

  • Dee Streiner

    I expected screams and blood splatter, also, but you made me say “Awwww”! Very nicely done, Oonah.

  • ajcap

    A very sweet story, I enjoyed reading it. The ending made me smile, I didn’t see it coming.

    #4 (Paul) is right though. The lack of reaction from Joe should have tipped me off.

  • Rose Gardener

    I was hoping for something spooky, but the romantic ending wasn’t a huge disappointment either.

  • A pleasing take on the Halloween theme–perhaps some candy corn? Four stars.

  • A Halloween romance story, cute.

    I liked Sara’s sense of adventure with the mysterious note (she was ready to take it for a ride), and as for Joe, you had to admire him for wanting to propose in front of their friends (albeit in an unusual manner). He’s a character. I liked both of these people. Well done. Three pushing four stars for me…+

  • jennifer walmsley

    Lovely story.

  • It just proves that underneath all that shyness guys are really romantic. (But only to Sarah’s?)

  • vondrakker

    Very good !!
    Never saw the end coming.
    A treat to read !!
    Thnx Ooonah
    5 stars

  • Oh, yes – this story was MAGIC! I enjoyed the dialogue especially. Short, sweet, believable and straight to the point. I liked your two characters very much. You brought them to life.
    Well done you.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thanks Paul – kinda dashed that off at a rewrite stage straight onto email :-/ It will get changed.

  • fishlovesca

    I noticed the “My interest peaked” sentence and was going to mention it, however so many people use it nowadays as a variant of “My interest was piqued” that I didn’t bother. It has the same intrinsic meaning.

  • fishlovesca

    Excuse me, I should have gone back to the sentence. “Her interest peaked,” “Her interest was piqued.”

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Quite

  • This was a real surprise. There I was looking forward to something gruesome or just spooky if you please, this being Halloween month and all…But my mushy heart was thrilled!:)

  • a good happy unforeseen joke to finsih it off!
    well done

  • This is fun and a nice idea. When I read it through for a second time, though, I got seriously distracted by the mechanics of the messages. Was Joe managing to write underneath the old wallpaper (it’s Sara who first discovers the writing, after all)? If the messages weren’t coming from him I’m not sure he’d been so ready to dismiss them.

    Personally, I’d be very reluctant to set foot inside a house in which ghostly messages were appearing on the walls, on Halloween. I thought more could have been made of the tension leading up to the surprise ending.

    An entertaining enough tale, nonetheless.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    It’s easy enough to peel paper back off a damp wall and re-attach it, Dan.

    Thanks to everyone who read today and for your kind comments.

  • Gretchen Bassier

    Very cute and unexpected story, but I would have liked to see something unusual happen with the message first, before Sara decided to write on the wall – something to make her think the message had a supernatural element. Loved the surprise ending! 🙂

  • Guess Joe did have an ounce of romance in him! This was really sweet.

  • JenM

    Lol, I thought “something” was asking Sarah to marry it. I didn’t realize it was Joe until I read the comments. Cute story, though.

  • I love romance– and this was cute, sweet, and short.

  • Marion Clarke

    Nice wee story, Oonah! :]