Distilled Spirits (Ghost story contest entry)

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urkelbot666

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« on: 04:29:23 PM 09/17/17 »
Distilled Spirits
By Urkelbot666

     The rose bushes on the east side of the house were completely out of control. They were already in rough shape when we bought the house, and my wife and I both hated them. However, what I hated more was the thought of wrestling with about a hundred stalks covered with thorns and spines, and so the rose bushes remained where they were.
     The excuse I used was that I had found a recipe for homemade rose petal wine, and I wanted to use my D.I.Y winemaking kit to make a batch before we got rid of the bushes. One September my wife went to visit her sister for a few weeks, and she delivered the ultimatum. "Either have the roses gone when I get back, or have a bottle of rose petal wine waiting for me." So wine it was!
     I dug out my winemaking kit, a little unhappy that I hadn't misplaced it at one point, and been able to take my time looking for it as an excuse to avoid the roses. In any case, there was no getting around it now, so I grabbed my work gloves and a pair of shears and went outside. The roses were worse than I had remembered. I snipped off several blooms and plucked the petals away, tossing them into plastic bag. Grunting and swearing the whole time, I waded into the sea of red blossoms and thorns to snip more buds.
     Eventually I had half filled the bag, and decided that I was fed up with getting poked and scratched. Not to mention that when I got to the center of the rose patch, it was starting to get really, really cold out. I'd never actually been in the middle of the rose bushes, and despite my bleeding scratches, looking out from there, I couldn't help but appreciate the color and fragrance of the flowers.
     By that evening, I had the rose petals simmering with water in a saucepan. I strained the pink liquid and tossed out the wilted petals. After adding sugar and yeast and letting the rosewater cool, I transferred it to one of the bottles that came with my wine kit, and capped it with the airlock stopper for fermentation. Now it was just a matter of keeping the yeast active with warmth and waiting for it to turn into hooch. I stored the bottle in my closet with a lamp shining on it for warmth.

     I read somewhere that people can't feel pain in dreams? But that's horseshit. The night I made the wine, I dreamt something about the rose bushes that I can't quite remember, but it ended up turning into a kind of sleep paralysis or something. I felt like I was conscious, but I couldn't open my eyes or move or wake myself up, and I could feel the stinging from all the cuts I got from the bushes. They were aching and stabbing, and I couldn't do anything about it. Then I had the sensation that little wires or strings were wrapping around me in my sleep, encircling my arms and legs and throat until I couldn't breathe. Mercifully I woke up at that point.
     It was too late to sleep more, but too early to start the day yet, so I decided to check on the wine. I lay down and stared into the closet where it was fermenting. The light shone on it and I could see the tiny bubbles from the fermentation rolling up the insides of the glass. You're not supposed to touch the bottle or disturb the process, but I wanted to make sure that the stopper was still tight on the bottle, so I gently pressed down on it while gripping the bottle. It was freezing cold. The light was shining on it, throwing a decent amount of heat, and I could see that the yeast was working in the glass, but the bottle just felt so cold.


     The process is supposed to take about two or three weeks to complete, so I figured I'd just let the wine do its thing in the closet. After a few days, I started to notice that the cuts and scratches on my arms from the rose thorns weren't healing up normally. I thought that maybe I should bandage them up to help them heal so I slapped Band-Aids on a few and gauzed a couple of them up.
     The odd dreams came back a few nights, but not as vividly. There wasn't as much pain in them, but I felt I could hear choked breathing noises, and muffled sounds that could have been a voice. I awoke a few more times to the feeling of being unable to breathe. I never knew which nights the dreams would come, so I started to get anxious around bedtime as the days progressed.
     About one week into the fermentation process, I once again checked the wine to see how it was doing. It was still bubbling away in the closet, but the glass of the bottle was now frosted with tiny ice crystals. The lamp was still putting out plenty of heat, not to mention that it was nowhere near cold enough in the closet to explain this. I thought that maybe this was something to do with the winemaking process, maybe some chemical thing that I hadn't read about, but that seemed unlikely. I threw a few towels around the bottle to see if that helped.
     Over the following days, on a few mornings I was finding small amounts of soil on the floor. Little clumps of dirt and roots in places where they could not have easily gotten. I wasn't bringing in any dirt on my shoes, I was sure of that, and this was too much for me to have not noticed.
     
     The third week after I started the wine, things had gotten significantly more disturbing. The wounds I had gotten the day I clipped the rose petals still hadn't healed, and every day I had to scrub them, as they would consistently be crusted with dirt and bits of root and leaves. I woke one morning after another strange dream coughing and unable to breathe at all. I fell from the bed onto the floor where I choked up a large clump of wet soil. When I looked up through tearing eyes I could see the light of the lamp in the closet and a stain coming from under the door.
     I crawled over to the closet door, still gagging and coughing, and opened it to see that the wine bottle had shattered and the pink fluid was all over the carpet. After getting my bearings, I threw on my boots, grabbed my shovel and stomped out to the rose garden, driven by some compulsion I couldn't explain. I stalked to the center of the cluster of bushes and started digging, tossing soil all around me.
     After several minutes, I struck something that was neither a root nor a rock. I dug around it a bit and leaned in to see what I had hit. The sun was coming up by that point, and the world was an ashy gray. What I saw in the garden was a badly decomposed skull, its jaw ajar, locked in a frozen scream.
     Since that day, I have not had any more nightmares of choking, and my scratches have healed entirely. The local police hypothesized that the skeleton in our garden could close a case that was decades old. I never got to give my wife the rose petal wine she wanted, but thanks to the police investigation and forensics teams, those damned rose bushes are finally gone.
« Last Edit: 09:09:45 PM 09/18/17 by urkelbot666 »
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LionOhDay

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« Reply #1 on: 07:08:26 PM 09/18/17 »
I really enjoyed your story. I think the cuts not healing and the cold + soil is a really fun haunting. ( I wondered if he was going to turn into a rose bush or something of the sort )

However I do think it just being a dead body in the bush is a bit of a let down, ( which may just be due to word restraints ) I don't know what you could do instead but it just being a dead guy isn't as impactful.

( Maybe have it be a baby/child or if you wanna be cheeky have the dead man have been a wine maker. )

Keep up the good work man it was a lovely read!

urkelbot666

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« Reply #2 on: 08:16:06 PM 09/18/17 »
Thanks so much for reading the story! I'm glad you liked it :D I agree that the ending probably could have made more of an impact, for this I was more concentrating on describing the strange events occurring, and leaving certain things vague, and up to the reader. That's one of the reasons that there is essentially no information given about the person who was buried I wanted it to relate more to what happened to the victim, than who the victim was. Another reason was certainly word limits. I have a really hard time with keeping myself from yammering on about details and stuff x3 I was partly glad for the 1,300 word limit here though since it was a great way to practice pruning down my writing ;3
Thanks again, I was actually about to read your story!
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