M. J. Holmes (she/her) is a writer, teacher, and grad student. She has work published in I Know That Ghosts Have Wandered the Earth: A Collection of Brontë-inspired Ghost Stories and has an active social media presence on Instagram @mjholmes3. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association.



Every house has a heart
buried deep with the good bones.
The skeleton, ligaments, tendons keep it upright,
but the heart holds dominion over all.

Bradycardia—long thumps sound.
Dust stirs; doors open and close in alarm; windows
gasp. Its fever rises.

Heart pumps out palpitations. The house is
dying. Demons scrape the insides and ghosts haunt the
carcass. Finally, the house bares its remains.


I am the traveler with no packed bags
the lingering cold over your shoulder. 
Some, forlorn, 
notice when the atoms shift in the room 
when they no longer toss and bump in the space I occupy. Dream-like, silent
I reap.

Most of you never know when I pass by. 
Busy lives—cradle to grave—in the blink of an
eye there is a cessation of life.  

But maybe you’ll see me
Right before dawn or as the sun sets—my
shrunken, huddled form. Piebald rolling eyes. 
I feast on shadows and sojourn between worlds. 


Shaking my arm 
a ghost? No. My mother’s grip on my shoulder her hand a claw. 
Where is the unseen terror the something lurking in the shadows or perhaps under my bed. It’s lolling eyes and crocodile grinning jaw and wait. Her finger vertical against her lips a cocked head ear listening to the night sounds.

Get a change of clothes. Your backpack for school. Quickly quickly and quietly. Sleep still in my eyes my hair my chest my dragging feet. 

Stop. My toothbrush. You don’t need it mom says and takes my hand. We stop again and listen to the wind the house settling on its haunches ready to spring the demon that resides and keep going. She pulls me down the hallway into the kitchen. Her keys jingle like an alarm and again she listens shush. Shush. Be still. Nothing and we can breathe and slowly slowly open the front door and slowly slowly cross the threshold and slowly slowly creep into the night air. 

The car expectant in the drive and mom opens the doors with the key so the unlock beep doesn’t sound and pushes me in with my backpack still on and buckles me and runs to the other side and unlocks it with the key and doesn’t put her seatbelt on and roars the car to life and the headlights shine through my parents’ bedroom window. 

Shit she says and puts the car in reverse but not before my father opens the front door and how dare you you get back here before
and we’re backing out onto the street and the lights sweep up the road and we’re floating away from the house. 

I look back and see my dad silhouetted against the moon’s light like a werewolf and I know that ghosts are real demons are real.