Su Lierz is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and an active member of SouthWest Writers (SWW), located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She volunteers by interviewing other authors for the SWW Website, has served on the SWW Board, as well as their 2022 Anthology Contest Committee, and participated as an anthology contest judge in 2022 and 2023. Her essay “Twelve Days in April” appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology.

She was a finalist and a finalist/runner up in the Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Both awards were presented by author David Morrell.

In 2022 one of her narratives was selected and published in The Surrealist Dreamers of New Mexico visual art exhibition.

Su loves anything ghostly, ghastly, and paranormal and is currently working on a collection of short horror stories for publication.

by Su Lierz


My boss calls me into her office as Marta, the custodian, exits. I see Marta tuck a small fold of cash into the pocket of her smock.

Francine, recently promoted to assignment editor, has a scoop she wants me to follow. She’s taken her usual bath in parfum who-knows-what. Its bitter concentration singes my nostrils and coats the back of my throat. She motions for me to take a seat.

“A source told me that a local antique shop, the Collector’s Asylum, has some strange goings-on. You need to investigate.”

Marta as a source. Really? I look at the custodian through Francine’s picture window—a large pane of glass separating her from staff and the true grit of reality. Marta empties waste baskets along the corridor of low-walled cubicles. I jockey my attention back to Francine. “What? Theft? Discrimination?” Francine must have forgotten I sat in on Marta’s interview. I know the woman’s employment history. She’d worked one day at this shop. What could Marta possibly know?

“Nothing like that.” She taps a red acrylic fingernail against the door jamb, then closes her office door.

“Well?” I splay my hands in front of me, palms up. “What then?”

Francine shuts the blinds, darkening the room. “According to my source, the place is haunted.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. I let out a sigh. Call Ghost Busters then. A burn spreads over my face.

Francine places her hands on her boney hips.

“Can’t you rerun something from the morgue?” I ask. “We’ve repeated pieces before.”

“Meg.” She walks to her desk and slaps her palms against the cluttered surface. “This is your assignment. And it runs on Halloween. I thought it might make a nice addition to the haunted house segment you completed last week. Show some gratitude.”

“Francine…I’m a seasoned journalist, not a newbie.”

Francine wiggles her fingers at the sides of her head. “Falling on deaf ears! You have the weekend to write about the haunting. Anything. I don’t care if you make something up. Have it on my desk early Monday.” 

What Francine wants is a filler piece, knowing damn well that I write features. Always have, until she came along. I remind her of this.

“You getwhat you get, Meg. If it’s good, I’ll consider you for profiles. Just bring me a story.”

We competed for the same editor’s job, and even though I was acting editor for almost six months, increasing online sales nearly fifteen percent, Francine interviewed on her back with the editor-in-chief, Alden Wickstrom. I’ll wager this wasn’t the first time she’d played “twat de jour” to get what she wanted. I keep my thoughts to myself and leave.

Marta stands by the supply room unpacking reams of paper. She worms a finger in my direction. All of four feet and some odd inches, she stands on the tips of her orthopedic shoes and clutches my upper arm. She draws me in and whispers, “Things float there.”

I recoil.

She cups her hands on my shoulders and pulls me in. “Don’t take pictures. Sometimes they follow you home.”

I straighten up, not sure what she’s said. Not because of her accent. It’s just too farfetched. The conversation ends.

At my desk, I Google the Asylum’s hours. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I’ll use this afternoon to get what I need. I really don’t want to spend my Saturday listening to overwrought employees tell dubious ghost stories.

During my drive, thoughts drift to Marta and the crazy shit she told me. I’ll leave the shadows and levitation to David Blaine, thank you very much. Yet I find myself giving weight to her words.

As a reporter—and a skeptic—I’ve written about the paranormal; been invited to séances and ghost hunts. Never bore witness to anything supernatural. However, I’m left unsettled. There was something in the tenor of Marta’s voice. I shake it off.


I travel down Southern Boulevard and recognize the shop. During my early years in Albuquerque, I went there looking to furnish my house. Never found a thing. Maybe today will be different. Back then it was an upscale consignment shop called Dejado Atrás. Below the sign, in script, was the English translation “Left Behind.”

Gravel crunches beneath my tires as I pull into the lot and park. Business doesn’t seem to be doing well. It appears the entire place has been left behind.

The building’s raw. Galvanized steel walls surround the exterior. Cream-painted siding, once pristine, gapes intermittently bleeding rust from the seams. Interior lighting, barely visible, gives only a vague impression that the place is open. I take a few pictures, then go inside.

A bell rings announcing my arrival. I avert my gaze from the woman at the counter. She barely acknowledges me. Our glimpses at each other are so cursory I doubt that either could pick the other out of a lineup.

The inside is cavernous, the atmosphere dark and heavy. What light there is casts illusory shadows. I cruise past the counter. To my left is a corridor of stalls mimicking rooms from homes long ago. Each is sectioned off with high walls offering a hint of the past. A labyrinth of aisles streams to my right. The rows grow exponentially, like a hallway in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, zooming out of reach. My heart races. Dizzy, I look back at the entrance, still close enough to leave if I need to.

Stagnant air adds to the stifling heat. I undo the top button of my blouse.

Mixed with a host of “seconds” are pricey antiques, the sole survivors of private lives. The Collectors Asylum is right. For whatever reason, I’m reminded of an indoor Mercado without tapas and tequila. (Now I know what I’m having for dinner tonight).

There’s too much inventory for me to remember once I’m writing. Tapping my camera icon, I select video, then hold my phone in front of me to document as I walk. It will also record any snappy repartee I might have with myself.

I come to a large room reminiscent of a home library and note the musty smell of old books, the breakdown of paper and glue that comes with age and neglect. Even in our arid climate, what moisture we have can still be the enemy.

A worn, brown leather chair snuggles against a walnut bookcase. Seat indentations remain prominent. Wire spectacles lie on a table next to a stack of leather-bounds about astrology, alchemy, and natural magic, all pseudoscience, foreign to me. I examine the one about natural magic, turning the delicate pages of scritta paper. For a moment I feel transported to another world.

A whisper breaks my concentration, but no one’s there. I shake my head and let out a laugh. The decrepit building’s acoustics are teasing me.

In my pursuit of Casper, I pass a host of rooms before stopping. Merchandise on display is randomly placed together; collectibles sharing space with rusted gasoline cans and splintered Coca-Cola crates. I’m caught up in the awe of other people’s belongings, intrigued as to how they came to be at a place like this. Before, when I came here, I thought of this as junk. But these items are more than discards; they once meant something to someone, and they’re filled with history. Their past pulsates with energy.

A hint of rose scents the air. I search for the origin until something pinches my thigh. Surveying my surroundings, I see no one. Little footsteps scuttle away. Someone’s child is bored, and I’m the recipient of a prank that I’m not finding funny.

Fatigue envelops me. Lost in these curiosities, I’ve allowed my focus to narrow. The time on my phone indicates under an hour before they close. Over two hours have passed, and I’m not even halfway through.

Time constraints force me to skip ahead. I keep an eye out for the little trickster. I’m drawn to a corner room at the back of the building. It yawns so I step inside. I spy all the elements of a child’s bedroom.

Children’s clothing lie on an old dresser: a white cotton dress yellowed with time, an eyelet bonnet, and fingerless gloves. A mirror, desilvered and cracked, leans against the wall. I’m here to write a ghost story, so I envision ethereal images contained within and give out a wry snicker. “Through the Looking Glass,” I say into my phone, as I continue to hold it in front of me.

Heat blankets me even though it’s late October. An odor, dank and sour, accompanies the rise in temperature. I undo another button on my blouse. Silk plasters against my skin. Pinching the collar, I fan my neck and face, relishing the relief.

A black and white photo of a young girl hangs on the wall. She wears a white dress. I look back at the dresser, and again to the picture.

Leaning in, I aim my phone, squaring the lens, ready to snap, but I don’t. In the portrait, the girl’s feet rise off the floor. Her legs sway side to side. “Dear God.” I stumble and hit the dresser. My arms flail. Spinning around, I look back at the picture. The photo is empty. The girl is gone.

The temperature shifts from suffocating-hot to ice-cold. Perspiration freezes, squeezing my flesh as it tightens.

Marta’s words loop through my mind, Be careful. Sometimes they follow…

Dizziness returns and the room tilts. I grab for anything to balance myself, but everything’s out of reach. I bend, panting, and brace myself on my knees to keep from falling. A faint echo surrounds me. Frenzied, I bolt upright and see nothing.

But I sense it. Hear it. Feel it.

The air grows denser, then nonexistent, creating a vacuum. I try to flee, but I’m stuck to the floor. My breathing arrests. Eyes ricochet left to right. I claw at my throat struggling to breathe, losing the grip on my phone. It clatters to the ground, and the room floods with air. A harsh, croupy sound fills the void as I cough and gulp for oxygen.

I scoop up my phone and back out of the room. Another wave of cold hits me. To my right, I lay eyes on a woman down the hall, seemingly unaware of my distress. I turn and take off in a sprint toward the exit. Every few steps I look back, then move faster. Passing the woman, I look behind me again. A fingerless glove drops from her hand. It flutters, arcs, and falls to the floor.

No one’s at the counter. I fly out the door. The bell chimes.

Halfway to my car, I hear the bell again. Pointing my phone, I yell, “Stop!” I scan the parking lot, but I’m alone. The door slowly shuts, setting off another jingle.

The car door is stubborn. I fight to get inside. Marta, still in my head, Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes they follow you home. The door releases.

After heaving my phone and purse onto the passenger seat, I jump in and back up, jamming the brakes. My bag flies to the floor. Get hold of yourself! Tires spin spreading a pall of dust as I peel from the lot.

Breathe. Get hold, get home. Have a drink. Fucking calm down!


I throw my bag on the kitchen table and pull a bottle of Stoli from the freezer. A glass from the cupboard isn’t long behind. Tapas and tequila will have to wait. I open my laptop, pour a drink, and try to relax. The neck of the bottle rattles against the rim of the glass. The vodka goes down like lava. I pour another and down that too.

Brushing the hair from my face, I say, “You let Marta into your head. You let her in. You don’t even believe in this crap.” Except, maybe I do.

I upload the photos and video clip from my phone to my hard drive—as well as a thumb drive—and sift through the parking lot pictures. Moments later, I start the video. The footage jerked as I circled the interior of each space. For a second time, the enormity of the shop’s contents overwhelms me.

When I come to the place where the scent of rose wafted and something unseen had made itself known, I pause the video, reach for the Stoli, and put away another shot. Something more to soak up my nerves. I start the recording again.

Fast-forwarding, I come to the spot where I cross into the child’s room. I slow the video and glimpse the dresser, the clothing, the mirror, the picture, all from the safety of my home. Seconds tick. Heat and oppression threaten to consume me again. I lace my cold hands around the nape of my neck.

Spellbound, I watch. I had captured the sway of the little girl’s legs, the blur when I stumbled, the deep resonant sound of my gasp, and an almost imperceptible laugh of a child as the oxygen drained from the room. Hands over my mouth, I relive the experience and hear my harsh intake of air.

I jerk around and canvass my kitchen. Nothing’s here. For the first time I think, Is filming a video the same as taking a picture? Of course it is! I force myself to watch.

The camera glimpsed the woman as I ran past her, but it wasn’t a woman. It was a mannequin. The fingerless glove dropped from the mannequin’s hand. A figure, apparitional and child-like, swooped it up, waved it, then tossed it aside.

I slam the lid to my laptop. I don’t need to see anymore.

With Stoli in hand, I walk to the sink and pour what remains down the drain. I say in my best Baltic accent, “You, my Latvian friend, are not helping.” I stare out the window into the dark, searching for reasonable answers to unexplainable questions. There are none. I fold to the floor and weep. And for the first time in years I pray.

That’s when the tapping begins.

At first I think something’s rapping at the window, then I look back at the kitchen table. The lid to my laptop opens and shuts, opens and shuts. Fingertips, tiny and misty white, jimmy the lid.I try to scream, but my throat constricts. The fingers evaporate as I smack the lid closed.

I flit from drawer to drawer in the kitchen. After sifting through random contents, I grab the duct tape. Wedging my laptop between my legs, I press tightly. The frayed edge of the tape tears easily with my teeth. The lid opens but barely. I bang it shut, ripping the tape and sealing each side.

I’m scarcely done when my cell crashes to the floor. Spider-like appendages slither from the sides and inch the phone in my direction. I smash it against the tile with my foot. The legs curl, then vaporize. I repeat the process of taping, covering my phone and thumb drive together. Pulling a backpack from the hall closet, I throw it all in and zip it shut. Whatever this is, I want it out of my house.

In the garage, I open my trunk and toss in the backpack. It needs to stay there until Monday. But what about Monday? How do I get rid of this stuff after I meet with Francine?

Thunder cracks. A late-afternoon monsoon hammers the roof, releasing a musky scent. Large drops splatter the windows. An idea spills into my thoughts.

I mine the garage for something heavy and cast a paver into the trunk.

Once inside, I make a bed on the couch and sleep with the lights on.


I arrive at the office early on Monday, disheveled and out of sorts. The newsroom is vacant. I go straight to Francine’s office and let myself in, close the door and pull the blinds shut. Sliding a chair to the corner, I sit with my back to the wall. And wait.

Francine fumbles the key before realizing the door is unlocked. She enters. “What are you—” She throws her coat and satchel on her desk, not taking her eyes off me. “You look like hell.”

“We need to talk.”

“When I said first thing Monday, I—”

“Take a seat.”

Francine smirks but obliges. I relate recent events before asking for her computer. She pulls the laptop from her bag and places it on her desk.

For the first time since Friday, I open the backpack and pull out my phone. As I rip off the tape, I half expect something to crawl out. I startle when the thumb drive falls to her desk.

“Have you lost your—”

I knee the back of her chair, reach around her, and jam the thumb drive into her laptop. Then start the video. Her impatience grows as I anchor myself behind her. She fidgets, trying to nudge me out of the way.

I latch onto the sides of her chair, shoving her forward. “Watch.”

“I don’t—”


She doesn’t resist.

When we reach the end of the video, I walk to the front of her desk.

“Am I free to move now?” Francine asks.

“I won’t be doing this story.”

“I get that you have a problem with me, Meg, being your boss and all. But when I tell you to chase a story, I expect you to do it. Are we clear?”

“Fuck you, Francine. Fuck you and anyone who looks like you.”

“Listen here—”

I jab my finger at the screen. Spit flies from my mouth. “You, you didn’t see the picture? The child? The glove? The door? It opened on its own.”

Francine scoffs. “Yes, so what? I also saw your camera jerk so many times I needed a Dramamine. Tricks of the eye.”


“Pranks, Meg. They knew someone was showing up. They’ve probably seen your photo next to your byline. And the glove? Please.” Francine stands up giving a condescending sigh. “A rotted, flimsy piece of fabric. It’s an old building. Old buildings have old heating and cooling. It got caught on air current.”

“I couldn’t breathe!”

“You got yourself into a frenzy. You hyperventilated.” She walks to the front of her desk. “What I need, no, retract that.” Francine maneuvers closer. “What I expect from you is to go back—”


“—and interview the owner. Get their take on things.”

Absolutely not.”

“Call them then. Interview them from the parking lot for all I care. Just do it.”

I stand pat shaking my head.

“Fine. I’ll do it.”

Before she could say any more, I grab the backpack and cell, and make for the exit. I tell her what she can do with her filler story, as well as the promise of a profile. Halfway out the door, I include that I’m taking the rest of the week off. My defiance might lead to unemployment, but I don’t give a shit.


In the parking lot, I open the trunk and sling the backpack inside. I unzip it, retape everything, and shove in the paver. Then I drive.

I park in an open space area off Alameda and walk to the bridge over the Rio Grande. It’s well past morning rush hour. The rains have left the river high and muddy. It will do well to conceal what I’m sending it. I look around for people.

Alone on the bridge, I wait for a lull in traffic. Seconds later, I heave everything over the side. The pack descends into the murk. I head back to my car. I want to get home. I want to shower and sleep.


Tuesday evening there’s a knock at my door. It’s Alden Wickstrom, the editor-in-chief. His hands tremble as he reaches to take mine. Blood tinges his palms and saturates the cuffs of his sleeves.

“Francine never came in this morning. When she didn’t answer her phone, I went over. Let myself in. Found her on the floor, dead.”


“Looks like she choked. They…they don’t know.” He falls against the door. “It was awful, Meg. Scratches all over her neck and so much blood.” Alden runs his hands over his ashen face. “Police are there now with the coroner. Said they’ll know more later.”

I offer my condolences. He doesn’t seem to know anything about my run-in with Francine. At least he doesn’t mention it.

“Meg. I…” He looks at his shoes before making eye contact. “The paper needs your help again.”

“You want me to take over Marta’s job now?”

“Who’s Marta?”

I shake my head. “She’s the woman who cleans your office every single day, Alden.” He could get angry at my sarcasm. I’ve seen him get mad over less, but he wants something.

“Assignment Editor. Job’s yours if you want it.”

I hesitate, then tell him no, a word he’s not used to hearing. “I’ve set my sights higher.”

“You got another offer?”

I don’t answer.

“Give it some thought. Take the week off. Take two. Just consider coming back.” He opens the door. “Oh. Almost forgot. Found this on her desk. Took it before the police arrived.” He places a manila envelope on the table near my door, FOR MEG written in black marker across the front. “Thought it might be important.” Then he leaves.

Whatever it is, it can wait.


While taking a long soak in the tub, I contemplate my future computer use and the prospect of rebuilding my contacts. I dunk my head under the water trying to drown the idea of such a daunting task. I had never thought of technology as my adversary. A future without electronics isn’t doable. Still, I’m in no hurry to replace my phone and laptop. How can I be sure what happened won’t happen again?

I wrap my hair in a towel and put on a nightshirt and thick socks. The temperature has plummeted in the house. Thermostat reads 50, so I check the furnace in the garage. Something’s not working. I’ll figure it out tomorrow. A cozy fire will have to do for warmth.

I fill the kettle with water for tea, hoping this helps me sleep. Toasting my hands near the flame on the stove reminds me of less complicated times—childhood, camping, roasting marshmallows—and take comfort in these old memories.

Steam rises from my cup, and I give it a little blow. Nestling onto the couch, my eyes are drawn to the envelope. I avert my attention but find myself looking back repeatedly. What the hell, just rip off the Band-Aid and see what’s inside.

It’s my building pass. I must have left it in Francine’s office.

I start to lay the envelope back down but see something and angle the packet. A black thumb drive falls out. It undulates, then leeches onto my palm. I shriek and try to shake it off, but the silver connector splits into fangs and pierces my skin. I scream as I rip it from my flesh and toss it across the room. It streaks away.

Locking myself in the bathroom, I run water over my hand, and flinch. Squeezing the open wound, I cry out in anguish. Blood oozes and trails down the drain.

I search the medicine cabinet for something to wrap my hand and find nothing. Collapsing to my knees, I rummage through shelves below the sink and find an Ace Bandage. My palm throbs as I apply pressure.

Nauseous, I stand and face the mirror. It mists over. I fight the impulse to vomit. Balling my injured hand, I wipe condensation from the glass. The room fades in and out. Behind me, a shadowy little girl steps out. I gasp.

In a hollow whisper, I hear, “Hello Meg.”