Death Lives In A Haunted House

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I know this house with the missing windows, the door that only locks from the outside, the yard chocked with sand and weeds.

It’s a warm house, this house with no windows. The wooden stairs plunge  down to a basement that is painted a dull blue and there is a clutch of skeleton keys hanging from a hook shaped like a lady’s hand in the kitchen above the sink. I think one of the fingers is missing.

The water still runs, rusty and fetid from aged pipes, the electricity still flows up and down rotted copper wires and the radio in the basement works sometimes.

The House with the missing windows, the one with the well used stairs that lead to the basement with the dirt floor where there is one chair sitting in a  dark corner festering with spider webs,  was never a nice house.

It has always smelled of death and decay and the attic roof always leaks  when it rains and rats seem to come from miles around just to decompose in it’s walls.

A lady named Miss Giuliana  Coffin died there.

A few times.

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The Party You Are Trying To Reach

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A week after his wife, Leah Frost ran over a dog- wich was actually a euphemism between husband and wife for ‘the woman you hit with your car and dragged for almost a mile down a gravel road’  Sal Frost was nearly driven to running over and dragging his wife down a gravel road when Leah  started to hear the ringing phone.

Sometimes the phone- which she said had one of those oldfashioned ringtones- and not one of the new ones that you could download on your cellphone that sounded like chickens or maniacal clown laughter or something by Mozart- rang while she was in the bathroom washing her hair, or when she was reaching for a carton of cranberry juice out of the cooler at the grocery store and sometimes it seemed to come from right beneath her feet when she was in the kitchen pouring herself another glass of wine ( which she did a lot of since she ran over ‘the dog’)

On these occasions, if he was around she would grab his arm and whisper frantically ” can you hear it Sal? Can you hear that phone ringing?

After the millionth, it could have been the billionth time for all he knew at this point, Sal looked at her with a look that shouted, “if I hear about that phone one more time…just one more time Leah I’m going to put you in the same ditch with that “dog”…do we understand each other? Are we clear on that?

They did understand each other. Perfectly. So instead of saying anything about a ringing phone Leah’s eye would twitch like crazy and on some occasions the entire left side of her face would twitch and Sal would glare at her and she would not say a word.

He didn’t care if that drugged out dingbat he was married to went into a grand mal seizure as long as she shut the hell up about that ringing phone.

“Really Sal? “He would ask himself as he would watch his wife  standing by the mail box or smoking one of her several packs of cigarettes a day.

Did you really sign up for this?

And when he considered his wife’s talent for scoring a smosgasbord  of pharmaceuticals on a monthly basis from one of her several Doctors  that had in all probability led her to running over ‘the dog’ and he wondered…

What the hell was life going to be like when she hit 70 in a few years? Would hitting the big seven-oh slow her down? He thought not. In Leah’s universe there was still plenty of time left to run over ‘dogs’ or overdose on whatever the hell she was taking that week and would she do it in the privacy of their home?

Oh no.

She’d probably do it at the Opera like last time, or at the art museum like the time before or the three or four times it happened at poetry readings. For God Sakes.  Who the Hell OD’s at poetry readings?

His wife. That’s who.

Sal looked up and wished he had the nerve to walk into her bathroom and start opening bottles in her medicine cabinet and start throwing the contents back into his throat until what was left of his life was burned out of his bones once and for all.

After one such thought- and there were several like that around the Frost household now days Sal was outside when he heard…faintly from the back yard a phone ringing.

Not one of those new ringtone that sounded like robots or singing birds or cats meowing.

It was an old-fashioned ringtone it was deep and rich and trilled as it ended, briefly before starting back up again.

He walked slowly to the back of his house and he could hear it- it was louder but not by much. He walked all the way to the fence line and there…it was louder here.

It was coming from the house next door.

The old abandoned house next door with among the other messages and spray can artwork on the walls was something written on the ceiling. It said,

” We’re so cold here.”

But he could hear it ringing now, it was non-stop and it was so loud.

So he walked into the house through a side door that led into a kitchen with a sink and a wooden chair in the center of the room and one the window ledge there was of course…

a phone.

And it was ringing.

The wires were neatly coiled next tot the phone and  the receiver was off the cradle and yet…it was ringing Sal noted with wonder.

Sal walked over to the phone lifted the receiver to his ear and a calm, cool women’s voice asked hin if he would accept the charges.

” Wh-what?”

” Person to person call from Riversleigh Manor to Mrs Leah Frost, will you accept the charges?”

” Who is this? “

” Sir. I have a person to person call from Riversleigh Manor to Leah Frost. Will you accept the charges?”

Sal looked around the kitchen, could see the writing on the ceiling in the next room and the phone, the dead phone sitting on the window ledge in front of him. ” My, my wife isn’t here. This isn’t our house. I…I…”

” Sir. I have…”

” Fine I heard you. But how can a house be calling my wife person to person?” It occurred to Sal nobody should be able to call into a dead line and nobody should be able to answer it. But at this point Sal wasn’t tracking those little details.

” Sir I have a person to person call from Riversleigh Manor to Leah Frost. Will you accept the charges.”

Sal nodded. ” I mean yes sure. I’ll accept the charges.”

” Thank you sir. Riversleigh you may proceed with you call.”

Sal never saw the face of the person who rammed their fist through his back and into his ribcage. Never felt the hand yank his heart out and let it fall to the dusty floor.

And Sal was way beyond seeing anything anymore when  a small foot, a woman’s booted foot stepped on it.

” I’m sorry Riversleigh.” The Operator said over the dead receiver. The party you are trying to reach is no longer on the line. Shall I try again?”

And then a voice, neither male or female, cool and dry whispered over the line.” No. No that’s fine. I’ll try again later. Only next time I do believe I’ll call direct. “

Senza Fine

Photo By: Ostephy

Photo By: Ostephy

ONCE upon a time

a little old lady who smoked too much and drank too much and swore too much  met  the Devil on the path that led into the deep dark woods behind her house.

It was just before sunset when she saw the Devil, who did indeed have horns and eyes like a wolf’s and a head of long black hair that smelled faintly of tomatoes leaning against a Maple tree covered with flaming red and orange fall leaves.

Her name was Enid Oddworte and the Devil didn’t tell her its name but the Devil fancied Enid. She felt it in her dry aged bones. So it didn’t matter to Enid what its name was.

All she cared about was that in all of the world  the Devil wanted her kiss.

But everyday the Little Old Lady said no.

“Why would you want a kiss from me?” she asked in her wine  soaked voice as she took a long hard drag off of her cigarette. Then she  blew a thin line of smoke over her shoulder and tossed her thin dark hair out of her watery dark eyes and smiled.

It was not an honest smile.

The Devil shrugged and it’s tail twitched from side to side, just like a cat’s. ” I don’t know Enid. I just know what I want. And what I want is a kiss from you. I would give up Hell, I would give up trying to get back into Heaven I’d do anything for a kiss from you.

Enid, who was usually a little drunk on her nightly strolls would walk away leaving the Devil with nothing more the  the scent of unfiltered cigarette smoke and expensive perfume.

And it’s heart-because the Devil did have one. Sort of. Would ache just a little at the sight of her carefully picking her way back to her house in her platform shoes.

Then one day Enid said yes.

Yes she wanted a kiss from the Devil.

So she kissed the Devil’s slightly warm lips and the heavy scent of her cigarette smoke filled the woods behind her house and the smell of tomatoes and dark wet earth chased it.

Then the Devil put it’s hands on Enid’s shoulders and it pushed her back.

It’s Wolfish orange eyes blazed and she could see herself in them, burning.

Enid looked up at the Devil and whispered, ” I’d give it all up for you, if you asked.”

The Devil asked. ” What would you give up for me Enid?”

” My soul, my heart my life. I want this moment with you to last forever…”

” Mio ” the Devil said. ” My name is Mio Andira. And you Enid are my true love. I can deny you nothing. Nothing. If you want this moment to last forever. It shall. For you my love.”

And because The Devil- whose name is Mio Andira, was good to its word -Enid’s moment with her one true love on the trail that led into the deep dark wood has lasted forever.

You can see it for yourself- every day just after sunset- you can see Enid unable to leave the trail- unable to go back to her house or forward into the deep dark woods.

She is rooted to that spot, the very same spot where Mio Andira declared its love to Enid.

But she is not alone.

 She has two things with her…because indeed Mio loved her-  she has his kiss that still burns just a little on her lips and the endless scream- the one that started when her true love promised her forever

and gave it to her.

It Ended Here

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When I was little my  family told story about a girl who used to live in my Great Grandmother’s House.

She disappeared one day, the story goes, and the neighbors were sure her Mother had something to do with that and that her Father was the one who buried her in their basement.

That’s why my Great Grandmother got the house so cheap, that story apparently drove the price down.

In addition to the neighbors who insisted that there the story was true  didn’t mind sharing it with anyone who was thinking about buying the house did as much as put a toe on the property.

Here’s the thing about my Great Grandmother- should put her toes wherever the heck she wanted and so my Great Grandmother bought the house- for next to nothing despite the story –  and as the years went on my family would talk about how they should really dig around down there to find out once and for all if that story was true.

My six year old self used questions about the girl.

 What was her name? What grade was she in and did she like cats? Did she like McDonald’s french fries and of course…

” Is she a ghost?” I used to ask hopefully.

” No. ” I was told

” But she could be buried down there, right?”

” Could be.” I was informed.

Just before she unexpectedly died I was over at my Great Grandmother’s house. I was in her sitting room playing these little glass animals you used to get for free in boxes of Red Rose Tea when I had a great idea.

Why don’t I just put the little animals back on their shelf and go dig that girl up? I’d never seen a real human skeleton before and I figured this was my last chance to see one- it was an odd feeling but I remember just knowing I wouldnt’ be back again.

So I put one of the little animals ( it was a dog ) in my pocket for company and headed to the pantry where the door to the basement was.

I went into the kitchen and opened the basement door and was halfway down the dark  stairway to the basement when I remembered to turn the light on.

So I ran back up the stairs and straight into my Great Grandmother.

” What are you doing down there? ” she asked.

” Nothing. ” I said with disappointment.

” You were going down there after that body, weren’t you.”

” Well…”

” Your going to break your neck running up and down those stairs in the dark. I don’t want you going down there again. Am I making myself clear? Those stairs are dangerous.  You could get yourself killed running on them like that.”

I stared back at her and didn’t answer.

My Great Grandmother’s eyes, which were green and I swear to God they glowed like a cats, took in the look on my face.

She walked to her kitchen table, pulled out a chair and carried it to the kitchen window that overlooked her backyard.

” Come here. “

I walked over to the chair and she lifted me up and stood me on it. Then she pointed to a small group of her favorite rose bushes that she had planted years ago just after she moved into her house.

I looked up into her face.

” Now stay out of the basement. Mind me. Those  stairs are dangerous.”

I hopped off of the chair and before I could ask she said, ” Yes. It took a long time.”

My Great Grandmother died a little while later. I still have that little glass dog. And her house was actually moved years later. I guess it was some kind of architectural wonder. I can’t remember if it was because of who built it but it had something to do with it being built to look like a ship inside- which was true.

The basement I assume was filled in when they redeveloped the property and put two new single story homes where her beautiful Victorian styled home used to be.

But the Rose garden is still there.

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In Memory of John Doe

 

When I would travel alone,  upon occasion I came across towns in the process of dying.

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The houses were empty, the stores were empty nothing was really locked or boarded up…except for the Churches, sometimes the schools. I always wondered about that.

One Summer my motorcycle died in the middle of a town with no name. I’m not kidding about that. There was a sign that said ” Welcome ” and that was it. There were no street signs or stop signs or billboards. The houses and buildings didn’t have numbers on them.

The roads weren’t lined and the parking lots weren’t lined either.

This town out in the middle of nowhere was, I thought wryly a ” John Doe.”

” You know who gets called John Doe ” a little voice whispered in my ear ” unidentified dead people, corpses that get stacked in the back of a morgue somewhere until the county foots the bill to bury them. That’s who get’s called, ” John Doe ” .

I tried to start my bike and it clicked and did nothing, right out in the middle of a town I had just named ” John Doe.”

” Start! ” I screamed because I had tried everything else, ” start or I’m leaving you here. I mean it! Turn over you son of a bitch or I’m leaving you here!”

I took a breath. I tried to not panic. And then my bike roared to life.

And then I roared out of town and I didn’t stop until I came to a logging town where the Diner served breakfast all day long and the waitress- a large round lady with a head of red, red hair piled high up on her head called me ” Punkin “.

Sometimes I think about John Doe- dead and anonymous on the side of a highway that is, as I write this probably being taken back by the hills and I wonder about it.

I wonder when and if I should go back.

Because I’m sure it’s still there.

Waiting.

A Family Reunion

 Grahame Taskill was sitting at his Grandmother’s kitchen table; he was rubbing his left eye to stop it from twitching. Grahame’s eye always  began to twitch a full week before  he went home to see his family for his annual weeklong visit and for the entire visit his eye never stopped twitching for longer than a few minutes.. He spent so much time rubbing his left eye that he would have nightmares about it popping out of its socket and running down his face where horror upon horror it would run into his mouth and when he woke up he would practically  break his neck ( he had already broken his big toe ) because for some strange reason when he would dream about his runny eye he would run straight for his bathroom to get a towel to put on his face to keep his other eye from popping and without fail in a desperate effort to save his eyes  he always ran into the wall right next to the bathroom door.

“So Nan, you want this ghost guy-“

“ His name is Mr Bibas and he’s a very talented psychic Grahame, he can actually reach ghosts. They understand him. They listen to him.”

“Okay. You want this psychic to come out here on Saturday to talk to Aunt Leatha “

“That’s right.”

” Because she refuses to talk to you now. “

Grahame took his finger away from his eye and it actually stopped twitching, for about an entire minute. “Uh-huh. Nan, you and Aunt Leatha never really talked when she was alive. So. I’m just wondering why you want to talk to her now. If I remember right you put a bird batch up next to her grave.”

“ So?”

“ Wasn’t she deathly afraid of birds?”

Nan was the picture of innocence itself. “ You’re acting like I danced on her grave Grahame.”

“ I’m thinking the only reason you haven’t done that is because of the poison ivy that’s growing all over it. It’s funny Nan, nobody can figure out where it came from. Nobody remembered there ever being poison ivy up here until it showed up on  Aunt Leatha’s grave.”

“ You don’t say.”

“ I just did.”

“ Well. I just want her to know that we need to let all this silliness between us go. The entire family will be up this weekend and I think it would be good for everyone to see me and Leath bury the hatchet-“

Grahame ignored the way his Grandmother forced herself to keep from grinning  when she mentioned her sister and the word ” hatchet” . “ It really is as simple as that Crackers.” She said calling Grahame by his childhood nickname.

“ Let it go Nan, let her go. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s bad enough you and Aunt Leatha hated each other, but you two enjoyed hating each other way too much. Does it bother you even just a little that most of us know how to poison, dismember and hide a body because of the way the two of you used to talk about each other? “

Nan nodded and with that slow and gentle nod sympathy and empathy showed on her face and too bad they didn’t bring a map because , as Grahame would tell you, Nan’s face was unfamiliar territory to those two particular emotions. “ It was a disgrace the way me and Leatha carried on in life. Besides, look at what that did to you kids. You’re all a bunch of twitching eyes and stutterers and  when the family gets together the pharmacy in town runs out of antacids and I have a sneaky feeling I know where it’s all going.

“  So Mr. Bibas is going to come out on Friday night and have dinner with us and after desert he’s going to hold a little séance in the library and me and Leatha are going to patch things up.”

“ She’s dead Nan. There is nothing to patch up. She has moved beyond this stuff and you should too. “

” Mr Bibas knows what he’s doing. He talks to ghosts all the time and they listen to him. ” Nan argued.

“ Forget it. “ Aunt Leatha said from the hallway as she strolled by the kitchen door and both of Grahame’s eyes began to twitch uncontrollably

 “ I’m not interested .”

Don’t Look Up, Whatever You Do

 

” Whatever you do Hendry Coin, don’t look up. I mean it. ” his Father told him when he was a boy. ” If for any reason, any reason at all you have to cut through the woods behind the house don’t look up into those trees.”

“Cause the Witch will get me right?” Hendry said.

” If you’re lucky she will only get you to cut her down and  then she will only chop you up and cook you in the big iron pot she keeps just for that reason in her kitchen. The problem Hendry is if you see her first. You will start screaming and you will keep screaming until every star in the heavens burns out.”

” That’s sounds like a long time Dad”

” It certainly is  Hendry.”

 

The problem with the trees behind the Coin House is that they used to hang people from them. And the thing of it is, the people they used to hang were accused of witchcraft and out there in the town of Stonecrop, unlike in other towns were innocent people were hung or burned at the stake for witchcraft the people out in Stonecrop were witches.

That’s right.

They weren’t wise old crones, they were the type of people who would cut deals with the Devil and in most cases they won.

And in the cases were they did not they would end up hanging from a tree behind the Coin’s house where they would swing from their ropes until one of the other witches got a hankering  for some  Witches bread and decided to save the trip to the town cemetery and head over to the woods to get the spice that gave their bread that something extra the witches enjoyed so much.

So Hendry, who was a good kid and did as he was told not because he was afraid of ending up in a cast iron pot slowly simmering over a fire  but because Hendry adored his Dad never would have never done anything to disappoint him. That was the reason he never had a bit of trouble back there in the Woods.

Over the years he saw weird things and heard strange sounds but nothing bad ever happened to Hendry or his kids ( he grew up to have seven of them ) or his Grandchildren ( 10 of those ).

One year Hendry decided to cut through the Woods to get to the new road that led into town when for the first time ever he found himself in a bad spot.

Hendry was walking along when he heard a creaking sound and then a little popping sound and somebody said ” hello there ” in a dusty sounding voice.

 Hendry turned around but he did not look up- however there was no looking away from what in front of his face.

There were feet hanging in front of his face, and the feet were encased in worn black leather boots and were tied together at the ankles with heavy white twine.

He reached out and grabbed the feet to stop them from swaying and turning which was creeping him out because there was no wind, no breeze in the woods.

There never was.

So Hendry was standing there holding the black leather covered feet in his hands when he heard a voice, a woman’s voice from above his head say:

” Cut me down Hendry Coin and I’ll make you a meal you will never forget. Well. One that I will never forgot anyway. I am so hungry Hendry. Cut me down. Cut me down and anything, your darkest wish your brightest hope I can give that to you. A pound of flesh Hendry, that’s all we’re talking about here. That is all it would cost you. I’m quite handy with a needle Hendry. I could even put together a little something for you to slip into once you’ve paid that nominal feel. The rewards Hendry- think about it.”

Hendry told the witch, ” You know, in all these years of walking- and to be perfectly honest in my younger days I would run through these woods- I never had any problems. I figured I never had any problems with the tree witches because I always did what my Dad told me. “

“Is that right Mr. Coin? And what did he tell you?”

” Don’t look up, whatever you do.”

” And why did he tell you that Hendry?”

” Dad said that if I saw the witch first something really bad, something worse than death would happen to me.”

” That is the dumbest thing anyone has ever said in these Woods Hendry. And let me tell you. Some very strange things have been said in these woods…but that is hands down the weirdest thing anyone has ever said to a hanging witch. Honestly old man, do you really believe there is anything worse than death? Because let me tell you. And I am speaking strictly from experience here, there is nothing worse than death.”

” I suppose you’re right. My Dad was a good guy, a very kind and practical man but he wasn’t what you would call overly educated.”

” Well. There you are.”

” Yes. Here I am and there you are and what the heck is that above you head?”

He felt the feet push down as the witch looked up and Hendry couldn’t help but smile a little when the screaming started.