Well Specters, since we are half way to Halloween, I thought I would post an original short story of mine to mark the occasion. I call it "The Haunted House". Enjoy!
Have you ever seen a haunted house? You know the kind I mean; the old, run-down house at the end of a street with its windows boarded and shutters falling off, and the paint peeling and the front porch sagging. Weeds choke the once beautiful gardens; the brick path is riddled with cracks. Hideous ivy climbs the side of the house, growing into it like some horrible infection. A tower looms over the center of the house, a wrought-iron fence winds around the over-grown yard. It’s the sort of house that, when you were a child on Halloween night, wearing your plastic mask and carrying a pillowcase full of treats, standing out in front of the house beneath the autumn moon, you knew, you just knew, was haunted.
All the other kids told all sorts of stories about it, didn't they? They said people actually used to live in that house, many years ago, long before you were thought of. It was a man and a woman who lived there, they would whisper, a flashlight below their face to make it even scarier. They tell you, as you sit huddled in your friend’s tree house, that it was a husband and wife. The woman was beautiful, the man was handsome. They were happy together, so the stories go. Until she died.
The funeral was well attended, the husband consoled by his friends. But his grief consumed him; it was too much for his mind. He’d had his struggles with many things, drink among them, but everyone thought his wife had tamed him. But this was too much. He was frequently seen drunk in public, flitting between quiet and furious at a moment’s notice. He took another wife a year later; poor thing, not even 18 yet. She was so sweet, so innocent. But he beat her. Blamed it on the bottle. And afterwards, he always came crying back to her, saying he was sorry, saying he would never do it again. And she believed him every time.
Within a year she was dead. The doctor said her heart gave out, but many suspected otherwise. They said the man had finally done her in, killed her with his bare hands. But no one could prove anything. He started courting another pretty young thing. Depending on which version of the story you heard, her name was either Sarah or Susan; let’s call her Sarah. Sarah was so sweet, so trusting, just like her predecessor. They were married fairly quickly, spur of the moment. But just like last time, it went bad fast. He started to hit her, just like last time. The people in town decided something should be done about this. They, however, never got the chance to act.
One night, late in October, Sarah ran screaming from the house into the street, dressed only in her night gown. She was being attacked by her husband when something unseen, something invisible had clawed out his eyes. He thrashed and screamed, and suddenly started to choke on something. By the time the police arrived, he was dead. Lodged in his throat was his wife’s wedding band, buried with her when she died.
The house was boarded up, but no one wanted to buy it. Who could blame them? Sarah, for as long as she lived, which was a very long time, said it was a ghost that saved her. Most couldn't help but agree. And so the house sat there, growing dark with age. Children threw rocks at its windows. The said a woman in white with a shadowy face and blue glowing eyes could be seen from the top window of the tower. And the house sat alone for many years, and the neighborhood children grew up with it as their “haunted house”.
But as they got older, and the challenges of life wore them down, they lost their belief in ghosts. It stopped being haunted and became an “eye-sore”, a problem for re-sale value. But you always had a certain nostalgia for it, I know. It was your tradition, after all, to stand out front on Halloween in your costume and wait to see the ghost in the tower window. But you never did. And so you too lost some, but not all, of your faith.
And now it’s Halloween again. You've come back after all these years. You've moved back to your old town after your divorce, your marriage in ruins, and your mind in a state of despair. You wanted to re-kindle your memories of Halloweens past to boost your spirit, and with no children of your own, you thought you’d carve a jack-o-lantern and hand out candy. But as a cool breeze caressed your shoulder and darkness fell, and no children came, you found yourself drawn to the haunted house. You stood at the gate and looked up towards the window, hoping to see the ghost. And after all these years, you finally decided to go inside.
You opened the rusty gate, walked up the old brick path, stepped onto the creaky porch, and forced the warped front door open. You stepped inside and saw the furniture draped with sheets, and cobwebs festooning the chandelier. And as you walked through the darkness, you learned this house that has always been haunted.
Because after all these years, I can tell you that while you didn't see me, I always saw you from my window in the tower. You weren't like the other children; you weren't cruel or disrespectful, you didn't throw rocks at my windows. I know life has not been kind to you, and I know love has not been kind either, but I see you now as a man, and I long for you. After what my husband did to those women… I could never love him again. And so I ask you now, as the moon rises on this Halloween night: will you join me in my haunted house?