This is a spooky excerpt from my novel The Vanquished and the Surviving, which I anticipate publishing on my new Substack, Whimsical Words.
Vincent saw under the gaslights a raggedly dressed person who was about the same diminutive size and age as he. When he peered at her, she ran away, sliding on the cobblestones, so she had to grab a lamppost. Vincent wondered why she was out alone, a girl his age. It was futile to try thinking about a stranger when Nathaniel kept returning to the forefront of his mind. Yet he preferred to focus on his present surroundings to blot out the horror.
He staggered up and stood on the cobblestones. More than anything he wished to go home, although he had no idea what direction to take. He walked very quickly, his shoes pounding against wet stone while the rain whispered in his ears.
He sensed a presence to his right: the wind wasn’t the only thing whispering. The ghost of a lost newsboy murmured in his ear. Vincent shivered and walked faster. The newsboy kept up the pace, as did a little girl on his left. She asked for change. When he turned and looked at her directly, she asked again. He blinked and didn’t believe she was a ghost. He glanced back at where the newsboy had stood seconds ago, but that little ghost had vanished.
The little girl spoke more clearly. “Please, sir, a guinea? I have a family to feed.”
Vincent replied, “Does your family know where you are?”
“No, I fear not, sir. But ’tis nothing to trouble yourself about, sir. I’ll go home tonight.”
Vincent stopped in his tracks and stared at the little girl. His mind conjured an image of her running into this same street; horses and a hansom cab trampled her.
“Oh, no, you poor creature.” Vincent slowly shook his head. “You never made it home that night.” The girl’s round, brown eyes looked up at him sadly, and she frowned. As he gazed back at her, she faded. He saw through her, before she disappeared entirely.
Vincent took a deep, shaky breath and resumed walking. The boy specter on his right reappeared and continued walking with him. Accustomed to ghosts, Vincent didn’t feel nervous about the newsboy. Vincent had more corporeal problems. He began to run forward, the direction in which the carriage had not…