Gerald was racked with indecision about whether to tell his parents about the haunting in the room on the third floor. He had never held anything from his parents, and this was a huge thing to withhold. After a couple of days of reflection and talking with his buddy John, he decided to open the floodgates and tell his mom and stepdad about the adventure he and John were involved in. “What are they going to do to me, ground me?” He thought. Carrying a burden larger than what he was built to handle as yet in his young life, it was time to release the stress tugging at his heartstrings.
The following morning, Gerald went to the kitchen and saw the normal scene of just about every morning in his house. His dad was sitting at the kitchen table with only a pair of underwear on and a t-shirt without sleeves (he called this his muscle shirt; some call them wife-beater shirts for some reason unknown to him) and reading his paper. In front of his dad sat a dish with some half-eaten toast, with butter and strawberry jam on it. Off to the side of his dish was a half-drank cup of black coffee. His dad always said he didn’t want cream or sugar in his coffee because it took away from the true flavor. Besides, he had said that black coffee puts hair on your chest. Gerald knew that his dad drank coffee black because that’s how he had it in the Marines during the War. But just in case Gerald decided if he ever drank it, he would have it black just in case he could gain some much-wanted chest hair.
Over by the oven stood his mom in a long blue robe that she wore to cover her silk pajamas. Gerald thought it was funny that no matter how warm it was, she always wore that long, heavy robe until she got dressed for the day. He figured it must just be a “Mom thing.” She was busy making the rest of breakfast, which consisted of eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits, and, of course, orange juice from that frozen tube. She always said that she made his dad some toast first to keep “the old fart” busy while she finished cooking.
Gerald sat down in his chair at the table and wondered if this was normal for a married couple. His long, drawn-out face caught his mom’s attention. “Are you alright, son?” She asked while reaching over to check his temperature with her hand. Holding back tears, Gerald responded, “I need to tell you and dad something.” Robert looked over the top of his newspaper and said, “Well, spit it out, boy.” “What’s on your mind?” Gerald started with a shaky voice, telling them what had happened last Friday night. His voice cleared up as he continued with his story and went on to tell them about the picture, the priest, and the ghostly encounter.
When he had finished, he was amazed to see his parents’ reactions. They weren’t concerned or even the least bit shocked by what he had said. His mom clapped, and his dad said, “That’s a fine story, Gerald.” Is this for an assignment at school? “Good lord,” he thought. They think I made this all up as a book report or something! Gerald cried out, “It’s true!” “It all happened, and you are making fun of me!” This got the attention of both parents. “Umm, son, what do you mean it’s true?” His mom asked in complete disbelief. “I mean it!” “It all happened just as I said!” He replied. “Gerald, it’s not funny to shake up your mom like this!” His dad scolded. “It is true, dad; go ask John and the priest,” Gerald cried.
The way his parents were now looking at him, he figured he was within minutes of going to the nuthouse. However, his parents instead said they would look into what he had told them. His mom even said when she was growing up, they lived in a haunted house for a little while. Robert said he was going to talk to Mr. Johnson and see what he had to say about this. He went on to say that he thought it strange that they weren’t supposed to go in the room upstairs. “Museum, my butt!” Robert mumbled under his breath. His mom said she was going to talk to the neighbor lady and see what she knew about it. “Wow!” Gerald thought. “They are taking me seriously now.” “I guess I should’ve said something sooner.” Gerald knew he would sleep a little better tonight, knowing his parents were going to help.
Gerald jumped out of his chair to hug his mom, and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Thank you, mom, and dad.” “I was afraid to tell you before.” Breakfast was put on the table, and with relief in his heart, Gerald ate without the stress he had when he first came in the room.
After eating, he ran back to his room to get his backpack and put on his favorite windbreaker, the one sporting the Dallas Cowboys logo, and ran out to catch the school bus. His buddy, John, got on right after him, and they talked about things like football, a classmate, Sara (whom they both have the hots for), and finally the big math test they had to take. The conversation about the ghost would not come up all day at school. However, on the bus ride home, Gerald informed John of the conversation with his parents earlier. “Are you insane?” John asked. “You told them?” “Ya, and they believed me.” “Well, not at first, but they do now,” Gerald responded. “My mom is going to talk to your mom about the house.” “Oh, crap! “I hope my mom doesn’t get mad at me!” John exclaimed. “I don’t think she will.” “I think she will understand,” Gerald said. “If not, then I’m sorry.”
Mary, true to her word, called up the next-door lady and invited her over for tea. Ruth Ann said she would like that, and as soon as she finished the dishes, she would be over. Half an hour later, the doorbell rang. Mary opened the door and said, “Come on in, Ruth Ann; the tea is just about ready.” “Thank you for inviting me, Mary.” “I needed to get away from the house today,” she continued. “That husband and boy of mine are keeping me busy with all the messes they are creating.” Ruth Ann replied.
Sitting at the table, drinking tea, and going over the latest gossip in town, Mary said, “Actually, I asked you over to discuss what our boys have been up to.”Uh oh, what did John do now?” She asked. “Well, last Friday, when John stayed over, I think they met a ghost in our house.” Mary explained. She went on to tell Ruth Ann the whole story, as relayed by Gerald. Afterward, she asked, “So what do you think?” Ruth Ann took a deep breath and let it out. “I knew something was up with that house, but I figured since you all have been here for a few months and have not said anything, it must be just rumors.” Mary took a deep breath and asked, “Tell me what you know about this house.”
Ruth Ann started telling Mary all about the rumors of the witch hangings and black magic surrounding the house. “I never believed it to be true, but some of the older folks in the community will swear that things happened here a long time ago,” Ruth Ann went on. “They say this place is haunted by a ghost that was involved in killing a witch by burning her at the stake.” She breathed in deeply. “We have lived next to this house for ten years now, and only once did I have a feeling that something wasn’t right.” “Tell me about it.” Mary insisted. Ruth Ann took a sip of tea and continued. “Well, there was this one day when I was working in our little garden in the back when I felt this strange feeling of being watched. I looked all around and didn’t see anyone. Then I looked up to one of the windows on the third floor of your house, and I swear, I saw… She looked down and slowly looked back up into Mary’s eyes and continued her story. “Well, I saw an old woman in the window staring right at me! It scared the life out of me. Then I figured that there must be someone up there cleaning.”
Ruth Ann continued her story. “A couple of days later, I ran into the owner over at the market and asked if someone had moved in or something. He looked at me kind of strangely and told me that nobody had been in that house for years. I insisted that there was someone there, so he and I walked over to the house, and he showed me the padlocks on the front and back doors. I apologized and said that I was a silly woman and that I just let the sun get to me or something. I later convinced myself that I had just imagined the whole thing.” She took another sip of her tea and went on. “But, sometimes I still get that strange feeling that comes over me.” “Since that one time, I have never seen her again.” She grimaced a little and said, “But now, you are telling me about that room, and I can’t help but believe it must be true.” “Furthermore, I’m starting to believe that I did see that old woman in the window after all!” Ruth Ann explained.
Shaking her head in utter astonishment, Mary found her voice and said, “So, you are telling me that I and my family are living in a haunted house?” Ruth Ann took another sip of her tea and responded simply by nodding her head. “That’s a lot to take in over a cup of tea,” Mary responded. “I’m not sure what to do next.”Will you help me dig up what we can on that old house?” I will do whatever it takes to help you.” Ruth Ann said. “There has to be information about the house and family that lived there at the library.” Mary was nodding her head. “I was thinking the same thing. “Are you free tomorrow to go with me to check into it?” Mary asked. “Yes. “Come over after the kids get off to school, and we will go down there.” Ruth Ann suggested. Mary finished her tea and headed back to the house with her nerves on edge.
Back at home, Mary did some cleaning and started dinner. She couldn’t help but jump a little when the front door opened and slammed shut. She felt ridiculous when she saw that it was just Gerald coming home from school. “How was your day, sweetheart?” She asked. Gerald said it was fine as he headed for his room. “Teenagers, they are all the same,” she thought to herself. About an hour later, the front door opened and closed again. “Hi, honey,” she yelled towards the foyer. No answer. That’s strange; Robert always yelled back, “Hello, beautiful.” Another minute passed, and once more she yelled, “Hi honey.” Still nothing. She never heard him pulling off his boots and throwing them to the floor, the heavy zipper being pulled down on his coat, or a peep from his lips. “That’s strange,” she thought.
Another five minutes went by, and the door opened and shut again. She wondered where he was going. “Robert, where are you?” Thump. Thump. The boots hit the ground. The zipper whispered its song as it was undone. “Hello, beautiful!” Robert yelled. She dropped the ladle down in the pot full of stew she was making and rushed around the corner to see that Robert was just sitting down in his recliner. “What are you trying to do, scare me?” She exclaimed. Robert looked up with a confused look and said, “What?” Crossing her arms and tapping her foot, she said, “You were just here five minutes ago!” Even more, confused now, Robert said, “Wasn’t me.” Then, with a smirk on his face, he said, “Maybe it was the milkman.” She was about to scold him some more, but seeing he wasn’t kidding about not being there five minutes earlier, she dropped her hands to her side and said, “If it wasn’t you, then who?”
Then it came to her, and she yelled upstairs to Gerald’s room, “Gerald?” A few clumps across the floor, then a door opening, “Yeah, mom.” “Is dinner ready?” She gasped, “Come down here.” Gerald came bounding down the stairs. When he saw the anger in his mom’s eyes, he said in a small voice, “What’s wrong, Mom?” Tapping her foot on the floor, she said, “You know the rules! When you get home from school, you aren’t supposed to leave this house without telling me. I’m not going to be wandering around the neighborhood looking for you! Gerald looked at her like she’d lost her mind. “I know that mom, why are you yelling at me?” Now completely puzzled, “then why did you just come back in the door not ten minutes ago?” Puzzled, Gerald said, “That wasn’t me, Mom; it must have been Dad.” A sick look came over her. “If it wasn’t one of you, then who was it?” All of a sudden, fear showed on her face, Robert. “There’s someone in the house!“
Robert, with Gerald in tow, spent the next thirty minutes looking through the house. Nothing was found. “What about the room on the top floor, Dad?” They walked up the steps and saw that the padlock Robert had installed was still locked. “Nobody went in there,” Robert said. Going back down to the kitchen, Robert told Mary that they were the only ones in the house. Mary drummed her fingers on the table. “Maybe I just imagined it?”I think this whole ghost thing must be getting to me,” Mary mumbled. They sat down and ate in silence. “Can I be excused?” Gerald asked. “Yes, son. “Just scrape your plate off and put it in the sink.” When Gerald retreated to his room, Robert asked Mary about her meeting with Ruth Ann. Mary told him all about it, including how they plan on looking at the library the following day for some answers. “She seen an old woman up in that window?” he asked. “Well, at least she believes she did,” Mary answered. “Looking at her eyes, she really believes it now.” Robert shook his head and responded, “I think we are truly looking into a ghost hunt—or should I say witch hunt?” A visible shiver went through Mary’s body. “I’m getting nervous, Robert.”It sounded even worse when I relayed it to you!” Robert nodded his head and replied, “I have a meeting with the owner in a couple of days.” Maybe I can find out something from him.”
That night, Mary had a hard time sleeping. Did she imagine the door opening and slamming shut in anticipation of her husband showing up, or was there something more to it? Mary had trouble sleeping that night with this question pulling at her. She woke up feeling groggy, but she wanted to get to the library as soon as she could to learn more about this old house and the family who originally owned it.
The morning came without a hitch, and Mary was rushing her son and husband out the door as soon as she could. Maybe it wasn’t fair to be pushing them in the morning like that, but she needed to get next door so she and her friend could get to the library. Her inner juices were flowing now, and the faster she started digging up information, the better.
“I guess I will have to get more involved if I’m going to get these people, living in my house, to help release me from my bonds,” Emily whispered in her room. “I allowed this town to stand once, but I won’t make the same mistake this time,” she hissed. “The boy shall be the key to my escape.” Emily decided to watch the next-door neighbor lady a little closer to see what she and Mary are up to. “I shut her up once, but this time, I won’t just let her see me; I will let her feel my fury,” Emily cackled. “This town will pay for their sins as my friend and mentor did on that burning stake!”
Father Metcalf crossed the church floor with the picture of the witch burning in his hand. He mumbled to himself, “Why did the boys have to go into that room?” Why did they have to find that picture and disturb Emily? “Why couldn’t they just leave things alone?” He stopped and looked at the statue of Jesus on the cross and yelled at it, “We did what we had to do! It wasn’t just me; there were others! “Why have you let me live this long, only to have to bring up these memories from the past?” The priest was almost in a panic state, worried that they would find out about his involvement with the witch’s burning. “Who took that damn picture?” he yelled into the church’s empty cathedral. “Did I not ask for forgiveness, God?” “Why are you allowing this to come back and haunt me?” he asked. “She has been quiet for years! “Why did you allow her to wake up?” Tears came to the father’s eyes as he thought,
“This time she will destroy our town and all who dwell within it,” he mumbled. “We won’t be able to stop her again.” He stopped in front of the confessional and yelled once more, “What good is confession if our sins come back to haunt us?” Where are you, God? “Why are you allowing this to happen?” He slowly sank to a sitting position, leaning on the confessional door. Weeping, he spoke with a broken voice, “Help me, Lord!” “Help me stop what is coming to our town.”
Father Metcalf decided right then that he would find the answer with or without God. He would also keep the secret of his part in the witch’s burning. He slowly got to his feet, brushed off his robe, and left the church. When he reached his residence across the street and opened the door, he heard Emily’s voice: “I’m not the only one who will pay; you are just as guilty as I am.” You must pay for your sins as well, Father. “You and all the others will pay for the torment I have suffered for so many years!” Father Metcalf passed out on the floor from sheer terror and would not wake until the moon was high in the sky.
Slowly, the priest opened his eyes. He looked around the room, sure that Emily was there to finish him off. As he looked around, he saw everything was as it should be. There was no Emily, no damage to his room, and nothing out of order. He threw his head back to laugh, and it caught in his throat as he saw the ceiling above. In black and red letters, carved with ash and blood into the ceiling, it read: “God may forgive you, but I don’t!” He gasped and reached for the Bible on the coffee table, but before he could grasp it, the table was flipped on its side by an invisible force and thrown to the far wall, where it smashed! A loud cackle of laughter echoed through the room, and then all was quiet. Slowly, the priest crawled to the other side of the room and retrieved his Bible. Holding the book to his chest, he began to pray for strength and guidance. He continued to pray for hours until he fell asleep on the floor.
Emily knew that she could project her thoughts out of her prison, but her being was still trapped inside these walls. “I have the power for revenge on the others, but it does me little good if I can’t move on to the great beyond. I must find a way to get them to release me. Then I can have my revenge and be released from this place,” she thought. I must get the boy to open my cell, she whispered. “The boy, yes the boy, Gerald will be my key,” she said with an evil grin forming on her face. “Hear me, oh dark one, bring me the boy!”
Gerald opened the front door to his house. It was the first time since they had moved in that he had to use his key to get in. “That’s strange. Mom is always here when I get home from school,” he thought. He went to the kitchen and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, poured a glass of milk, and headed to his room. He sat on his bed and put on the headphones that were connected to his hi-fi stereo and cranked up some hard rock music. The music blaring through the headphones was satisfying. He was listening to a song telling him how he didn’t need no education and how the teachers weren’t treating him right. Eating his sandwich and singing along between bites, he noticed something was wrong with his song. He stopped chewing and listened more intently. “What’s that in the background,” he said to himself. “I’ve never heard that before.” It sounded like one of the backup singers was saying, “You’re the key, boy, come unlock my cage.” He took the headphones off and looked at them like they were a foreign object he had never seen before.
Finally, he reached over to the stereo and flipped to the next song. This is one he knew by heart. one of his favorites. This one told him how he has the right to fight to party. But when the verse came on, it was different. The lyrics were changed. The music blared, saying, “You’ve got the right to the key to release me.” He ripped the headphones off and stared at them on the floor. “What the….” he yelped. He pulled the disc out of the stereo and looked at it. It was his CD, and it didn’t have any scratches on it. “Woah, this is some strange stuff. “I’m going to have John listen to this when he comes over later.”
John called Gerald on the phone and told him that he wouldn’t be able to come over because he was grounded. “What did you do to get grounded?” Gerald asked. “That’s the weird thing; I didn’t do anything.” My mom said I broke a vase in the living room, but I swear I never touched it. “It was like it broke itself,” John said. “Dad said I have to get off the phone now since I’m grounded.” “I will talk to you tomorrow at school.” Gerald hung up the phone with a puzzled look. “What’s going on?” he thought.
Emily giggled to herself. She couldn’t help it. “That should keep that other brat out of the way while I deal with this brat!” “I should be released soon,” she said in an evil tone. “It’s all coming together now!”
Author’s note: I’m going to end Part II here. We have a ways to go yet, with many questions unanswered. Things such as, “What did the women find out at the library?” What part did the priest play in the burning of the witch? Does the owner of the house know more than what he is telling? What does Emily mean by the boy, Gerald, being the key to releasing her? These are all good questions, and I believe some of them, if not all, will be revealed in Part III. Of course, there may also be more questions. I hope you are enjoying this series. If you have any thoughts, please put them in the comments below. I know I can’t wait to find these answers, and I’m happy you are along for the ride with me. Together, we will learn more as I write and we read together. Until next time, remember, we are all in this together.
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