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Jay Seate

Jay Seate, Author of Dark Illusion

Jay is a writer who stands on the side of the literary highway and thumbs down whatever genre that comes roaring by. His storytelling spans the gulf from Horror Novel Review’s Best Short Fiction Award to Chicken Soup for the Soul. His tales and essays may incorporate hardcore realism, fantasy, horror, or humor featuring the most quirky of characters. His longer works can be found online at Amazon and B&N.


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Dark Illusion by Jay Seate

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Dark Illusion by Jay Seate
Sam Collier laments about having lost his wife to cancer and his son to college. He dabbles with photography, keeping his mind occupied, until strange things begin to happen. Objects move and reconfigure. His photography changes in ways that can’t be explained. A young woman, Sara, comes into Sam’s life. Her peculiarities are both a turn-on and a dilemma. As he seeks outside advice, his and Sara’s relationship deepens to the point that she is the catalyst in his life. While enduring her mysterious ways, he can’t ignore the escalation of bizarre events that eventually snare both his friend and his son. Questioning his own sanity, Sam finally confronts the girl who has become his lover and confidant, then tries to hang on to what is left of his reality, as his vision of the universe must change. The desires of raging spirits are not easily satisfied.

Word Count: 26024
Buy at: Smashwords (all formats) ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Amazon
Price: $4.99 

Dark Illusion

Chapter 1

In the beginning, I only saw little things from the corner of my eye—a glimpse of something here or there, slight movement in an adjoining room. I had always been a skeptic in matters relating to the supernatural, but for the curious mind, the unexplained demanded investigation. Doing so initially found everything to appear untouched. Normal.

Later, my sanctuary lost its subtlety. Inanimate objects brazenly found new homes around the house. I would’ve bet my ass either progressing age or—God forbid—Alzheimer’s, was the culprit. Could I be sliding into senility like a dinosaur into a tar pit? What a kick in the butt if my mind turned to cottage cheese so soon after my loss.

My name is Sam Collier. The year is 1990. I have a grown son and a dead wife. Is there no sadder transfer than desire given over to pity? I watched Connie wither and die. I was at her bedside when her eyelids closed for the last time and remember how alone I felt when her casket was lowered into the ground.

My son, Tyler, was off at the state university, and I spent many nights touching Connie’s place in bed, wondering how people managed to watch those they care for fade from their lives.

After the initial shock, I handled the guilt and remorse phases pretty well, but twenty-five years of marriage still left a load of what ifs, and why didn’t Is to sort out. They sometimes spun around in my head like an old, scratchy 33 1/3 LP.

Sadness lingered, however. I supposed it happened to all men in their mid-fifties. A time when one looks back on things he regrets or wishes he had done differently.

Had I done right by my wife while she was here? Had she picked the right man to share her shortened life with? Had I picked the right woman? These questions had crossed my mind over the last few months. And sometimes it seemed there was an attempt from somewhere to provide answers—a message from spirits that passed in and out of unfocused dreams, their names lost to the past.

At any rate, the time had come to do something for myself. Way after friends and neighbors stopped bringing pot luck goodies to go bad in the fridge, eleven months after Connie’s passing to be exact, I decided I’d pushed bureaucratic pencils around long enough, and took an early retirement. Having slain the job-dragon, I began to think of the future rather than the past. Without a female waiting in the wings or a social group to fill the void, I pondered my new bachelor status.

I thought of calling old acquaintances from years past. Maybe I’d climb into my old black Jag and drive a few hundred miles to pester them. I could return to my hometown to see if the houses where I’d spent a portion of my gangly youth still existed, and if they harbored the same residents. I could still remember parlors where I used to sit, my neck itching from a fresh haircut, waiting for some ingénue to descend a stairway so I could take her to a high school dance. It might be a kick to find out what happened to some of them.

In the end, I never made the calls or took the trips. These people had their own lives going on. I didn’t want to be the widowed intruder. The time had come to connect with simple pleasures: taking long walks with my trusty Nikon, and setting up a darkroom to play in. If that bored me, I could always work a few hours buying and selling ball cards at the neighborhood nostalgia shop.

Actually, I’d always been drawn to the image of a man alone like a Raymond Chandler character that had a single room apartment, a bottle of cheap hooch, an occasional dame, and a personal sense of justice. This could be me, but with a comfortable home, a well-stocked bar, the hope of getting laid occasionally, and my own set of screaming liberal views by which to live. Modest ambitions, I thought.

But then, stuff started happening. The plants moved. Large silk ones scattered through my sun porch and living room. I mean the fucking philodendrons changed places with the ferns. I’m pretty compulsive. When I get something the way I want it, I’m not likely to change it. It’s some kind of delayed stress syndrome, perhaps, either from Connie’s passing, or a hallucinatory reaction from having this sudden free time. I kept worrying about Alzheimer’s although I hadn’t a clue as to what happens with diseases of aging.

I wasn’t frightened as much as puzzled. Often, Connie and I had watched movies where things went bump in the night. Mystery movies were fun, and Connie had a sixth sense about who-done-it. But we especially enjoyed spookers, relishing in the horrible performances and ridiculous plot twists. In real life, we would’ve been checking in at a Holiday Inn the first time a house moaned, or an object flew across a room, we thought.

So what to do when you come home and some force has seen fit to redecorate? I soon discovered that you don’t go to the Holiday Inn. Too gutless. Just like in the movies, you stay and try to figure it out, or refuse to acknowledge what happened.

I said to my house, “Listen. I’ve never been in therapy and I don’t feel like going through any psychobabble at this late date. So please, house, don’t rearrange any more shit. I’ll cut down on the late-night TV super gore if you’ll quit fucking with me.”

It seemed to work for a while. But then, something happened that scared the happy-crappy right out of me. It was damned subtle though. Some of my desktop mementos changed places.

I used to prefer that Connie dust around my gems rather than move them. Imagine the effect on someone as compulsive as I when my lifelong treasures started to slow tango during the night. Discovering these subtle changes proved more horrific than if they’d been tossed in a corner willy-nilly.

One evening while seated at my desk, I looked at a small hand-carved wooden totem I’d purchased in Canada. My blood felt frozen in my veins when I saw that the creatures had reconfigured themselves. The hawk at the top had repositioned himself to the bottom, supporting the frog and the serpent.

I sat there trembling. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. When I reopened them the figures had returned to their proper order, but I knew what I had seen.

Then I found something that wouldn’t change back. The railroad cars on my Lionel train, preserved since childhood and preciously guarded through my son’s youth, had not only changed positions, but also switched logos and decals. I closed my eyes again and counted to fifty this time, until my eyes watered. The new combinations still existed. And finally, the chessboard across the room from my desk, more for display than for gamesmanship, was playing a game of its own. The white queen stood on a center square as if to start a game, an impossible move of course. I returned the piece to its proper space just once. After that, I tried to ignore its improper placement.

Standard poltergeist stuff? Maybe so, but at least I’d ruled out Alzheimer’s. It struck me that the preservation of my possessions was the least real thing in my life. I’d better have something more tangible than treasured things.

Maybe all I needed was more fresh air. A lot more. Plenty of that in my neighborhood near the Mile-High City. And if I moseyed home one day and the light bulbs had changed from soft white to disco blue, it would be time for a brain scan before I lost the nerve to go home altogether.

In the days that followed, I spent considerable time on excursions to the foothills, shooting uninspired rolls of black and white film and thinking about my house. Some creepy shit had been going on that could challenge the sensibility of anyone. Yet I remained Sam Collier of Golden, Colorado, college grad, and with a reasonable amount of my mind intact. There had to be rational explanations somewhere. 
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