My Brother Tom, a short story by Spud Murphy

My Brother Tom

Fiction

My Brother Tom

 

This story took place back in January this year. It was about a year since my husband and I first met and went on our first date together. We fell madly in love and we married 3 months later.

My brother Tom died last year at my house while I was at work. We had been doing some work on the roof and there was scaffolding covering the outside of the house. I was still living at home with our mother and the poor woman discovered his body in the bad yard. He had fallen, or jumped, from the scaffolding. 

At work I received a phone call from my uncle telling me to get home as quickly as I could. He wouldn’t tell me why but I could hear my mother crying in the background. Deep down I think I knew that Tom was gone, he had been in a bad place for a long time with drugs and a failed marriage, he’d moved back in with us following the break up and he just couldn’t seem to get his life on track. He’d get a job and mess it up and get fired or fall out with a boss, he wasn’t using drugs but it always seems to loom above him that he could relapse after one bad decision. 

My Brother Tom, a short story by Spud MurphyIt could all be traced back to when he was in highschool and he got blamed for a crime. He was hanging out with some rich kids and they all broke into their headmaster’s house one night while drunk and stole an xbox and some money. Us being working class we couldn’t afford a good lawyer and Tom was sent to juvie while the other kids got off with warnings. 

During the trial it was made look like Tom was the ringleader. We all know it wasn’t true, poor Tom was a pretty impressionable kid at the time and he certainly wasn’t the leader. If anyone was going to be the fall guy it was Tom. He had been a bright, shy kid, we were always suspicious that these rich jocks were only hanging with Tom because he could help them with their homework, or he was probably even doing it for them, but he seemed happy with them. Anyway, they turned on him and he had to serve time in juvi. When he came out he was never the same again and wouldn’t speak about what went on in there. 

Anyway, I’m getting off the point. I drove home as quickly as I could, only to walk into what seemed like a horror movie. My younger sister was there, she was crying hysterically. She was being held by my mother. My aunt Therese and Uncle Matt were there and what seemed like the entirety of the local police force. The pathologist was present too. I remember almost having an out of body experience as they bagged up Tom’s body and placed him on trolley before putting it into the ambulance. This was hard to take, if he’d been placed in a hearse it wouldn’t have looked so bad, but since tom history of drug arrests they wanted to rule out an overdose. We didn’t even realise at the time we could’ve said no.

Weird Ghost Stories

I am the youngest of the family and Tom dotted on me. I loved him dearly too. My mom was nearly 42 years old when she had me. Tom was 42 when he fell, or jumped. It’s hard not to feel like he wasted the last 16 years of his life. Yes, he can blame the rich kids, but he was in the house that night, he didn’t have to be there and he sure as hell could’ve gotten his life back on track in those 16 years that followed….I’m sorry, that’s heartless, he was an addict after all he had it tough, I just wish I could have helped more or that he could’ve helped himself more or gotten the help he needed. It’s hard not to get pissed off thinking about it.

Months passed by and life went on and seemed to get back to a normal rhythm and before we knew it it was the New Year’s Eve. I met my husband while I was at work. I was a waitress in a bar and Dan was at a party. We hit it off immediately, he took me out on our first date the next day. He was slightly hungover after the festivities but I knew within the first minute that I’d be spending the rest of my life with him.

I even introduced him to Amy, my daughter. Her daddy had died in a car accident five years ago and while she was shy around strangers she just seemed to like John instantly. Well 2 weeks from our first date he got down on one knee and popped the question. That weekend he moved in with me and Amy and Mom and I thought I couldn’t have been happier. We were soon married and then that’s when the weird stuff started to happen. 

I came home from work one day and my husband was as white as a ghost. I asked what was wrong and he sheepishly tells me that things around the house had been moved. I thought he was joking and said something like, Oh, did Mom get out of bed before 11am this morning? He didn’t laugh.

That night I woke up suddenly and could hear what seemed like a party going on in the living room downstairs. The alarm clock read 3.33am. My mom had left during the day to visit her sister two towns over, nobody else was there with us, even my daughter who was at a sleepover. I’d thought we’d have been in for a night of romance and wine (but Dan was still a bit freaked out.)

I couldn’t make out what was being said in the room below us, but there were voices for sure. I was too scared to even move. Whoever was down there, I certainly didn’t want them, or him, or it to know that there were people sleeping above them. I prayed it was just burglars looking to steal something to sell for dope and and they’d leave quickly. It seemed like it went on for hours, but when I looked again at the bedside clock, it read 3.38, only five minutes had passed. What was happening?

The next morning I got up and went to work like I always did. During the whole drive I was just going over the previous night in my head, wondering about what had happened and what it could have been. Nothing was stolen, the room was as we left it and there’s no way it was a dream. I couldn’t have imagined it, just couldn’t have. 

I finished work and collected Amy from school. We had dinner, I helped her with her homework, Dan played some tea party, dolly stuff with her and when she went to bed we watched some TV. I told John about my experience from the night before. He said he’d not heard anything but confided in me that he thought the house must be haunted. 

“Stuff has been moved around now for a while” he said “and I’d always just thought it was your Mom, y’know, her house her rules kind of thing and thought nothing of it, but then it was stuff I knew she wouldn’t move, like how books were arranged on shelves, what way the potted plants faced and things like that”. We sat in silence for the rest of the night, but we held hands until we went to bed.

During the night I was awoken by Dan kicking and struggling in the bed. He seemed like he was trying to scream and was moving like he was wrestling something. I was so scared and I couldn’t make out if he was dreaming or what was going on. It was incredibly dark and I couldn’t see very well. I tried to turn on my bedside light and it didn’t work. I jumped out of bed and turn on the ceiling light and it wouldn’t go on either. The only light I could use was the flashlight on my phone.

Finally Dan starts screaming my name and tells me he’s been trying to wake me up for ages and he’d been screaming my name. Just then I saw Amy was standing in the doorway and she was petrified with fear. When she saw me she let out a scream ‘Tom!’ she shouted ‘Leave Dan alone!’

Creepy Ghost Stories

We darted out of the room, put on our coats and ran to the car. That night we stayed in a local motel, the night clerk gave us a funny look as we checked in, us all wearing our pyjamas but we weren’t in the mood to tell him what we were running from.

Dan told us he’d been awoken during the night and something had seized him and he’d been trying to fight it off. He said it was almost impossible, whatever he was fighting was invisible. I asked Amy why had she shouted ‘Tom!’ She had barely said a word since we ran out of the house and was still as white as a ghost. “Because he was fighting with Dan, I could see Tom on top of Dan, couldn’t you?”

The next day I couldn’t go to work, I called in sick. My boss wasn’t happy and accused me of lying so I changed tact and said, I’m sorry Geoff, it’s Tom’s birthday today and I just can’t face the world”. At that he said, sorry, he understood and wished me well for the day.

I called Mom and told her what had happened, she got her sister to bring her to our crumby hotel. That night she and I returned home, leaving Dan and Amy in the hotel.

We sat around for a while, we didn’t really know what we were aiming to do. I decided to make some tea and my Mom went for a shower. After 20 minutes or so I thought she was taking a little too long so I went to get her. The shower was running but she wasn’t in there, she was sitting on her bed, naked, soaking wet, with her back to me. I called her but got no answer.

I walked closer and saw over her shoulder that she was holding a photo of Tom. I touched her on the shoulder and she jerked quickly. ‘What am I doing here’? She asked, “last thing I remember I was getting into the shower…..I think, I think I heard Tom’s voice…”

That night neither of us got much sleep, but nothing happened. The next morning my mother had an idea 

“It must be that Tom has returned and that he’s trying to protect you ‘You remember how he was always jealous and protective when you got a new boyfriend. God, you’ve picked some losers over the years honey and he was always there to help pick up the pieces when your relationships went to shit’

“Dan’s a great man, I said “Amy loves him and all of you guys have accepted him, I love him, if it is Tom he should be able to see that…

“Maybe he doesn’t see it, maybe you need to tell him.” she said

….But How?

We wait until nightfall, it just didn’t seem right to do it during the day. We turned off the lights and set up in the living room. ‘Cover all the mirrors’ my mom said ‘it’s an Irish tradition, to make it easier for the spirits to travel.’ I did as I was told, other than having a pretty common Irish surname, this was the first time I could remember us ever doing anything because it was Irish other than drinking green beer on St Patrick’s Day. We lit however many candles we could find and waited.

Not too long after we both felt a chill in the room and some of the flames flickered. Yes, it could have been a draught, but I certainly felt a shiver go down my spine. I wasted no time.

Tom, Tom if that’s you please give us a sign. A photo of Dan and I taken on our wedding day flew across the room and smashed into the fireplace. Mom and I both screamed.

“Tom, please, Dan is a good man, I love you Tom and I miss you. You were a loving and caring brother and son and we all miss you dearly. You will always have a special place in all our hearts. Dan isn’t here to replace you. I love him and he loves me and Amy too and my heart is big enough to love you all. I wish you weren’t dead Tom, I wish you’d gotten your life in order and life had been kinder to you but please don’t take out any anger you have on Dan and me. You’re really scaring me and Mom and Amy.

Creepy Ghost Stories

Silence

Then, on the mantelpiece above the fire, Mom’s waterford crystal vase began to, it’s difficult to explain, it kind of started to vibrate….then more intensely until finally it flew off the mantelpiece and smashed against the opposite wall.

Mom stood up now….Tom Dwyer, you listen to me bucko. I’m your god-damn mother. I loved you Tom and I miss you every single day and god-damn it you broke my heart, we tried our best to help you and though we’re poor we always loved you and cared for you and you were my baby boy, I miss you so much”. She started to cry.

But Tom, you have to listen to your sister, Dan is not the bad guy here, you’re scaring all of us and he’s a good man who loves your sister and your niece and even an old, cranky bitch like me

Please Tom, I said, let us live in peace. We’ll always love you and for as long as any of us are alive your memory will be too.

The flames flickered and the room felt warmer all of a sudden. If it was Tom, he was gone.

 

This podcast originally appeared here