Friday, March 23, 2007

Short Story: OUIJA by Cheryl Kaye Tardif


© Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Last spring, while packing away my aunt's belongings at her lakeside cottage, I discovered this letter in a box of old party games…
February 13, 2004
To Whom It May Concern:

If you found this letter, it means I'm dead.
Plain and simple.
And if I'm dead it's not by natural causes, I can assure you. I'm writing in haste cause I know I don't got much time.
It’s after me!
What, you're asking. Well, I'll tell you.

It all started with that gawdforbidden Ouija board. The board that my best friend and I found in her attic.
Liza and I had been friends and neighbors for more than 45 years. We even buried our husbands within 2 years of each other. And no, we didn't bury them in the backyard.
Let me make somethin clear, first off. I'm not crazy. I'm of sound mind. Maybe not sound body though. I'm not crazy and neither was Liza. I'm as sane as you, whoever is reading this, and what I'm about to tell you is true. TRUE! Not one word is a lie.
My phone rang a few nights ago.
"Liza," I said. "It’s 3 o'clock in the gawddamn morning!"
"You gotta come over, Sharon. Quick!"
"Why do I have to come over now? Can't it wait until morning?"
There was silence.
I sat up in bed and turned on my lamp. "Liza, you there?"
"I hear voices," she whispered. "There's someone in my attic."
She sounded scared, more scared than I ever heard her before, and her voice gave me a chill up my spine.
"Maybe you should call the police," I said.
"No, it's not that kind of voice."
Aw crap! There was only one other kind of voice that Liza heard.
Ghost voices.
"Be right over," I said.
Liza had been hearing ghost voices all her life. She heard when little Jimmy Barton called from Mr. Porter's well. The police found his body the next day. Jimmy had somehow fallen in and drowned…three days before. Liza also heard Mrs. Morgensteen calling to her one night to let her cats outside. When my friend got to the old lady's door, she could smell something rank and awful. The police found Mrs. Morgensteen dead on the floor. The newspapers said she had been dead almost a week.
Anyways, I have to tell you this so's you can see I'm telling the truth. So you'll believe me when I tell you what happened next.
After Liza called, I dressed quickly then stepped outside. There was a full moon and a fog had settled over our lane. I remember thinking how strange the weather was.
Ghost weather.
Crossing the street, I walked down the sidewalk to the corner. Liza lived less than a block from me. When I got to my friend's house, I saw her lights were out. Everything was black. The least she coulda done was put the porch light on for me. So in the glow of the moon I crept up toward her front door, not knowing if I should ring the bell or walk right in.
The door opened with a groaning creak and I jumped.
“Don’t scare me like that!” I hissed, then stood with my mouth open.
Liza Plummer, from 1842 Walker Lane off Aurora Lake, looked like death warmed over. My friend’s thin gray hair was a mess, her eyes were sunken in like she hadn’t slept in a month and she was wearing her natty old housecoat, the one she refused to throw away.
Liza’s a packrat. Can't let go of anything.
"Its coming from the attic," she whimpered.
We closed the front door and made our way upstairs. In the ceiling of the hallway there was a trap door. That's how you got to her attic. Using a broom, we hooked the rope handle and pulled it toward us. The trap door opened and―lo and behold―a set of steps appeared, ending almost two feet off the ground.
Now Liza and I, we aren't in the prime of life anymore. She's 58 and I'm 61. So getting up the first step took a bit of trying. Liza refused to go ahead of me so I put my foot in her hands and she boosted me to the first step. Then I leaned down and hauled her up behind me. A few minutes later, we were up and poking our heads into the pitch-black attic.
"Dontcha got a light in here?" I asked her.
She reached into her housecoat pocket and then passed me something. "Use this."
I flicked on the flashlight and we held our breath, waiting for the light to reveal some hidden evil, some specter from the past. We didn't see nothing except cardboard boxes piled in one corner and an old, empty picture frame leaning against the wall.
The floor was lined with boards and I tested one with my foot. "Can we walk on these?"
Liza nodded and clamped her hand on my arm, her fingernails digging into my skin as I took a step forward. I kicked at one of the boxes and it slid to the floor with a crash. Its contents tumbled out. Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders, Yahtzy and some other games.
"For crying out loud,” I huffed. “There's nothing here. No voices."
"B-but I heard someone up here,” she said. “I swear I did.”
"Well, there's those Poker chips you was looking for last month."
Liza swallowed hard. "How’d they get here? I'm never in my attic."
I rolled my eyes at her, thinking that maybe she came up to her attic lots of times. Maybe she just didn't remember. She’d been having a lot of memory lapses lately. Some days I wondered if she was suffering from Old Timers Disease.
“Nothing here,” I sighed, patting her on the shoulder.
It was when we were putting the games back in the box that we did find something.
A Ouija board.
"It's eeee-vil," Liza said, refusing to touch it.
I scowled. "Whatcha mean, evil?"
"It's the devil's board game."
When Liza said this, the attic grew colder than the cemetery in the middle of February. I looked down at the Ouija board, then picked it up. It appeared harmless enough. Wasn't too heavy either. I don't know what got into me but all of a sudden I was overcome by curiosity.
"I wanna see it," I said stubbornly.
I took the game downstairs, much to Liza's dismay, and put the box on the scratched coffee table. I turned on a lamp then pulled out the board and set it on the table. Tipping the box, I watched a small piece of wood tumble to the floor.
"What's this for?"
Liza explained how you rest your fingers on the wood and ask the spirits a question. She told me that the spirits would push the piece of wood and spell out the answers on the board. I thought, this I gotta see. But Liza wanted nothing to do with it. So me being a good friend and all promised to make her favorite carrot cake if she played the game with me.
We put our fingers on the wood and stared into each other's eyes.
"What should we ask it?" Liza’s voice trembled with fear.
"Who are you, Great Spirit?" I asked in a spooky voice.
I tried hard not to laugh at the horrified expression on my friend’s face while we waited for an answer. Nothing happened. I was gonna take my hand off when all of a sudden the piece of wood shot out from beneath my fingers.
"Liza,” I scolded. “You pushed it."
My friend shook her head, her face whiter than bleached cotton.
I rested my fingers back on the wood and we waited again. We were mesmerized when it moved across to the A.
Then it moved to the T. Then the A again.
Liza leaned forward. "You think it's Natalie Brown from down the road? You know, the lady who died last Sunday."
I shook my head. "Dunno. Let's ask it another question instead."
Me and my big mouth.
I asked the board if it had a message for us. When we read it, Liza and I gasped. Then we shoved the board into the box and stuffed it under the couch.
You're probably wondering what the Ouija board said.
Bobby Truman was the only Bobby T. we knew. And the very next day, he was hit by a train when his truck stalled in the crossing. He was only eighteen years old when he died.
The day after that, Liza phoned me and said we had to get rid of the Ouija board. She couldn't have anything that evil in her house. So I met her on the corner and we took the board to the dumpster behind the laundromat and left it there. That was that!
Or so we thought.
Later that night I got a phone call. Liza was hissterikle. "Come over, quick!"
When I got to my friend's house, I saw that every light in her house was on.
"What's going on?" I asked when she pushed me into her living room.
And then I saw it.
Right there, in the middle of the coffee table, was the Ouija board.
"Jesus Murphy!" I muttered. "Why'd ya go back and get it?"
Liza swore up and down that she never went back for that board. It had just showed up on her table after suppertime. It still smelled like garbage and laundry soap.
"We have to find out what it wants," I told her. "Then maybe it'll leave you alone."
When we asked, the board came back with…DEATH SERENA U.
Serena Underhill was a girl I taught piano to. She was only 16.
I stared down at the board then said to Liza, "Pack it up."
We left her house just after 8. She was holding a plastic bag with the board in it. She held it out in front with her fingertips as if she was holding fresh dog crap. We walked four blocks down to Ling’s Noodle House and shoved the bag into a trashcan just before the garbage truck came. We stood there and watched as all the trash was compacted.
The next day Serena Underhill drowned in Mears Creek.
And by suppertime the Ouija board was back on Liza's table, reeking of sesame oil.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Liza went out and got back that board. I admit it. I was thinking the same thing. So when she called me that night, I went over and got the board. Then I took the bus to the ocean by myself. I walked along the boardwalk on the water's edge and flung that Ouija board out as far as I could. I waited while it was dragged out to sea and I stayed there until I saw that gawddamn board sink into the ocean.
Half an hour later, I got home and found Liza sobbing on my front porch. In her hands she held a sopping wet Ouija board.
Oh my Jesus, and all that's above! I was more than shocked. For the first time in my life I was deathly afraid.
Realizing that we had no choice, we sat at my kitchen table with the board between us.
"What on God's green earth do you want?" I yelled.
My fingers tingled as the wood slowly slid across the board.
I thought of Ursula Bigelow or Ugene Pierce.
The wood stayed where it was.
"U?" Liza moaned. "What does that mean?"
We waited for the board to spell more but the wood didn’t move.
Liza bit her lip. "We asked what it wants. I-I think it wants us."
Suddenly the room vibrated and we heard a wicked laugh echo through the house. We snatched back our hands and watched the wood race around the board.
"We gotta get rid of this thing," I said.
"We tried that!" Liza cried. "But it just keeps coming back."
When I glanced at the fireplace in my living room I got an idea. We built us a fire and when it was blazing hot we fed it pieces of the box.
"Put another log on the fire," I sang bitterly, tossing the wood piece into the flames.
Together we threw the Ouija board into the fire and watched as it slowly crumpled on the edges. When it ignited, we let out a sigh of relief. Me and Liza stayed there, arm in arm, watching the letters slowly fry until the board turned to ashes. And then the smell hit us. The stench of rot and decay was awful―like an Easter egg long forgotten after Easter.
That was the night before last.
Yesterday morning, I found Liza on her front lawn―dead of a broken neck. Beside her lay the Ouija board with one small scorch mark on its edge.

The sky is blood-red over the lake and the air tastes like death.
I have to hurry. I don't think I got much time left. The board said both of us, so I know it’s coming for me next. I’m so afraid but I have to try to get rid of this thing one last time and I have to let everyone know the truth. I was the one who opened Pandora’s Box. I’m the one who needs to close it.
Just so its clear, Liza and I tried throwing the Ouija board in a dumpster and a trashcan. I threw it in the ocean and when that didn’t work, we both watched it burn in the fireplace. Each and every time, the gawdawful evil thing ended up back at Liza’s.
Then again, Liza never could throw anything away. A pack rat. That’s what she was.
And my best friend.
I'm writing this letter and watching the Ouija board burn. This time I soaked it in lighter fluid, and when it's done burning I'm gonna take the ashes and bury them by the lake.
When we asked it that first night what its name was, we should have waited. Actually, we never should have asked in the first place.
I know now that only one other letter was missing and that if I held a mirror to it, the word would read backwards―the devil of all evils. SATAN!
He’s coming for me. I can feel it in my bones. It’s all my fault. I was curious. And you know what they say about curiosity.
I have to get these ashes to the lake.
Be back later…I hope.

Sharon Kaye

On February 13th, 2004, my aunt Sharon was found lying near Aurora Lake, her gaping eyes frozen in fear and her hands blistered and burnt. The coroner said she drowned. But I think something else killed her―something insidious and older than time.
While packing away my aunt's belongings at her lakeside cottage, I discovered this letter in a box of old party games. Curious, I read the letter and then reached into the box, pulling out something damp and slightly scorched.
You know what they say about curiosity…


Copyright © 2004 Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Previously published in Silver Moon Magazine

Check out Cheryl's suspenseful novels: Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Old Rock & Rollers never die – in fact they’re finding it kind of tough to even ‘fade away’

If your memories of a youth, happily misspent like mine, include lazy days and blissful nights listening to all of the great songs of the 60’s & 70’s, then you might want to join me in raising our voices in one collective but heartfelt cry directed to all of those fantastic bands that made up so much of our young lives. And it is simply this: “Hey guys, we loved your music back then, and still do. But please, please … leave us our memories!

OK… let me back up.
My wife and I were channel surfing the other night and when she passed an old B&W clip of a ‘60’s - British Invasion’ rock band, I said, “wait, back up!”
It was one of my favorite songs and it brought back all of those great memories from forty years ago. After a few moments we were finger poppin’ and singing right along with the great old song – feeling all ‘groovy’ and ‘gear’ and ‘fab’ once more until… The clip suddenly switched to a – a bunch of old guys. They had gray hair. They were balding. They had potbellies. They looked like … ME !!! Eeeek !!!!
“Whoa – what’s up with this?” I turned to my wife in bewilderment and asked, “Who the bleep are those old dudes and why are they messing up that great old song?”
Well as if in direct answer to our rock & roll conundrum, another old guy (say, there are a lot of us aren’t there?) came on the TV and said “ Say Beverly (that seemed to be the name of the rather patrician looking woman posing as an aging hipster who was standing next to him and attempting to muster up the long forgotten look once brought on by rock & roll mesmerism) wasn’t that great?”
Well no actually it wasn’t – but we continued to listen.
“Yes, Bev,” he said smiling at her, “that was the ‘XYZ@%^*XX’ doing their unforgettable hit from 1965.”
“Hold on a second,” I said to the wife. “What is he talking about? And why are those old guys doing that great old song and trying to sound like the …” Oh-oh. I turned to her with a growing sense of horror as it slowly began to dawn on me. Those old guys with grey hair, pot bellies and whiskey-hoarse voices brought on from decades of screaming out those familiar lyrics were, that great old group – all grown up. Really, really grown up. Maybe grown up and out and looking ‘rode hard and put away wet’ as my old concert-going buddy from the wild old days used to say when we woke up the next morning and had the bad judgment to look in the mirror.
“It’s really them, isn’t it?” I said to my wife, mentally begging her to contradict me. No such luck. She just nodded solemnly and said “Yup.”

As we would have said back when that song, that band, and me were hip, cool and – young, “Bummer!”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against aging Rock & Rollers and former pop stars. In fact for a very short time and in a very limited way, I was one myself.
All right let me amend that while my wife who is reading this over my shoulder, rolls around the floor with helpless laughter, the optimum words in the above statement are ‘short time’ and ‘limited way’. I, like probably millions of our generation, belonged to a rock band. Actually several rock bands. And as typical of that era, we always had a tough time keeping any band together for more than a few months or until we got the cash from our first paying gig and had to decide whether to spend it on badly needed new equipment or blow it on a beer bash.
Yeah … Well why do you think all those ‘garage bands’ sounded like they were about to blow a speaker? ‘Cause they were!
Anyway even with my glancing brush with fame and fortune, I have an undying soft spot for all musicians, aging or otherwise. In fact, when the old crew and me get together and fire up the old Fender amps, nothing is more fun. Friends come over and we all drink beer and sing and jam - just like the old days.
So then “why” you ask (and you do. don’t you?) am I being such an old curmudgeon about the formerly rich, famous and talented, giving concerts and croaking out their old songs on late night TV? What’s the difference between me and my old buddies wailing away for friends, and the aging rock stars singing (or trying to) their old songs?
Well there’s one big one … Outside of a dozen-college campus’s, we weren’t famous!
No-one has been playing our few original songs for the past 40 years and connecting them with memories of their own youth.
Come on, be honest. Which would you rather do, run into you’re your ‘first love’ at the supermarket in sweats, or keep that memory as it was?
I thought so.
Well it’s the same way with music isn’t it? And especially for us – the generation that came to be defined by music.

So as one old rock and roller, let me make this heartfelt plea to my richer and much more famous brethren, maybe this is the time to just kick back and ‘let it be’. Take up gardening, fishing, golf – bird watching! But please – please… Leave us our memories!

Rock on.

Ric Wasley
Shadow of Innocence
Kunati - April 2007

New from Kunati Publishing: SHADOW OF INNOCENCE - The Newport Folk Festival provides a groovy backdrop for this fun and exciting mystery set in the music and drug soaked sixties. The Baby Boomers and everyone else are sure to enjoy this appealing mystery featuring a pair of musician partners in love and danger. Don't miss Shadow of Innocence! From Kunati Publishing. Available now for pre-order at; Amazon

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Total Write-Off! Update

A Total Write-Off! is a fast-paced and fun television series where two teams of writers match wits in a writing showdown as they compete to create short stories based on spontaneous audience suggestions. With comedian Barbara North as host and ringmaster, it's a hip Whose Line Is It Anyway? meets Just for Laughs for both wordsmiths and fans of the written word.

Edmonton mystery author Cheryl Kaye Tardif is one of the contestants!

13 x half-hour TV series

  • Now airing on Access on Wednesdays at 9 pm MT.
  • Canadian Learning Television - starting March 14th at 6:30 MT: 8:30 ET and you can WIN PRIZES!!
  • BookTelevision - starting March 16th at 6:30 MT; 8:30 ET

Produced by Panacea Entertainment

Rave on about Waking Spirit!

Waking Spirit: Prose & Poems the Spirit Sings

Written and published by Shirley Cheng,

ISBN: 9780615136806 paperback; 9780615138930 hardback

Rave On!

Below is the review I received from Kirkus Discoveries, a review service offered by Kirkus Reviews. I've heard that Kirkus Reviews are very tough reviewers, so I was thrilled to receive such a positive review...

"An inspirational miscellany from one of the braver souls on the planet. The author of a number of works in genres ranging from memoir to short fiction to poetry, this motivational speaker is seldom at a loss for words to celebrate life and promote her indefatigable character. Here, Cheng collects a menagerie of lyrics, haiku, short personal essays and even briefer aphoristic words to live by--all on the theme of leaping over seemingly insurmountable hurdles, a subject with which this author is well-acquainted. Though plagued from infancy with near-fatal juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and then blindness as a teenager, Cheng continues to tackle on the page all life has to offer, enlisting but her two index fingers, the aid of a screen-reader program that reads back what she's composed and her indomitable will.

Cheng's prose statements detail a few of her tribulations, offering philosophical insights on suffering, though never with a hint of self-pity; her poems, particularly the vivid haiku, turn more to objects of the natural world that delight her.

For those ready to be eased of their burdens, Cheng provides a lift."

Here's one excerpted from the review from ForeWord Magazine CLARION Reviews:

"This book is an amazing read by an amazing person. While shops and shelves are piled with inspirational and self-help books written by people with disabilities, only luck can lead the reader to an author capable of transporting them to a world outside the normal and understood. Shirley Cheng is one of these lucky finds, driven as she is to help others understand the lives of the disabled.

Cheng is one person who has never allowed her differences to dictate her attitude towards life. She not only appreciates life as a gift, but expresses gratitude to her mother for her positive outlook on life, and to the existence with which her Heavenly Father has blessed her. No matter what, Cheng views her life as an opportunity to make the most of, and views her differences as giving her a unique outlook on life.

Waking Spirit is a collection of poetry of different types including haiku, quotations and essays that embody Cheng's positive attitude towards life and strategies for dealing with adversity. Her writing is very accessible and enjoyable as she "shows without telling," without arrogance or preachiness.

This book is an expression of joy, of wonder, and of passion for life. It teaches simple truths and lifelong lessons that are often overlooked in the current complex world."

More excerpts:

Constantly our Great Creator blesses us with a gift to remind us why life is so special and worth hanging around for. Hellen Keller was one of those gifts, and now the world is lucky enough to have blind and disabled Shirley Cheng take up Helen's gauntlet, and remind us of how special life can be and what a courageous survivor is all about. Shirley Cheng's new book Waking Spirit is a masterpiece and you would be making a wise decision to take time to read its poignant contents. Shirley proves the motto of the world Positive Thinkers club holds water through the centuries of time. "The Positive Thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible." That is what Shirley is all about!

--Ken Bossone, President of World Positive Thinkers Club

Her wisdom and captivating writing style reveals a rare beauty of the heart. Humorous haiku blends effortlessly with devotional selections as quotes sing a wisdom we want to hear and live.
The positive energy in Shirley Cheng's books is refreshing, real and inspiring. I hope you will invite her writing into your heart to experience the beauty of love's transforming energy.

--The Rebecca Review, Top Ten Reviewer

Shirley is an excellent thought provoking writer and poet with a charm and intelligence that would make anyone envious. Shirley's ability to see life in such a positive way has left a lasting impression on many of her readers, myself included. Her inspiration and never ending strive to see all good in life is rare and commendable and should be used as a definite positive thought when one feels that things are just not fair in their lives. Her age and illness has never stood in her way of succeeding and embracing everything that life has to offer.

--Dorothy Lafrinere from

Shirley's poetry, which spans a variety of meters, tones, and topics, is always eloquent and heartfelt. For me, the highlights were the short and simple poems that described daily scenes, endowing them with a new sense of importance. The way Shirley cherished the small pleasures in life encouraged me to slow down and enjoy a trail of ants, or the birds flying overhead. I feel that she has helped me open my eyes to a different world, one that is intricately laced with simple joys. Additionally, I particularly liked inserts of "A Moment With Shirley," which are gems of comfort, advice, and inspiration. It felt like I had a best friend, providing me with encouragement.

--Jennifer Tao, 17, Be the Star You Are!

Available for pre-ordering at

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are You a True Best Friend?

Excerpted from my monthly newsletter, Inspiration from a Blind, to which you can subscribe via

Be your own true best friend and you will become a true best friend of the world. Now what do I mean by that? Let us dissect it together, shall we?

First, what do you look for in a friend? What qualities attract you? Do you want someone who is honest, sincere, fun, and loving? Do you want someone you can trust and with whom to share laughter and tears? Then those are the qualities you need to have in order to attract yourself. Others will be attracted to you, too.

Second, you need to accept yourself. As we all know, no one is really flawless; we have some faults one way or another. Acknowledge those faults, but do not be held back from them. As long as you honestly know that you are a good person with good intentions, then everything is just fine. This will attract others to you, too. (Please note the word I used is "honestly.")

Third, What do you think of those who pick whom to be nice with? You know, the Sarah who is only nice to the popular girls and mean to the girl next door. Is that person really whom you want to be friends with? And what do you think of Mary who is nice to everyone she knows and meets? Does she sound like as though she'll make a good friend? So, which person's trait would you like to have yourself?

Now put those three together, and you get a true best friend. The keyword is true. You have to be true to yourself, then others will find you true, too. Like Mary, be nice to yourself and others around you. You won't get many true friends if you prefer to be Sarah.

In other words, dance with your heart! When you dance with your heart, you are dancing using your heart and you are dancing together with your heart, and in turn, you become a dancing heart. A heart that dances teaches true lessons, so dance with your heart to guide others to follow in your dance steps.

This, of course, by no means will make everyone like you, but this will make you feel better about yourself and the world. I know all this because--you guessed it--I am a dancing heart!

I am dancing as I share this great news with you:
I have accepted the position as a board member of the World Positive Thinkers club after its president, Ken Bossone, kindly offered me this opportunity. Needless to say, I am absolutely honored and delighted. I will do my utmost best in representing the club's mission, which is to spread positivity to the world. I, along with more than 500 other members, including Oprah Winfrey and Nancy Reagan, represent the vital element--positivity--through everyday positive actions and attitude, setting a positive example for the society. You may visit the club at

On March 16, I will hold my third book signing at my local Borders Books, Music & Cafe (1820 South Rd, Wappingers Falls, NY) at 7:30 p.m. Invitations will be sent to those in the area, but even if you aren't from Dutchess County of Upstate New York, please by all means e-mail me if you'd like to attend. I will sign four or five of my books and take pre-orders for my forthcoming release, Waking Spirit: Prose & Poems the Spirit Sings (I am accepting orders from as well).