Marigold Goes A Visiting: Georgia Ghost Story

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What does a missing cow have to do with ghosts? Find out in this Georgia ghost story written by Julie Ann Wallo.

It was an unusually warm day for late October in the foothills of Georgia. Windows that would normally be shut tight as a drum, were open wide to invite the flow of warm fall air in before Jack Frost made his arrival… That is how it began…

“Mr. McGillicuddy! Mr. McGillicuddy! Your cow is out! Your cow is out!”

“Marigold? I knew I hadn’t seen her in a spell. I figured she was down at the creek or over eating acorns under the old oak tree”, said Mr. McGillicuddy. “You know she’s gentle as a kitten, Earl. She wouldn’t harm a fly.

Which way did she go? I’ll go fetch her home. I wonder how she got out.” Mr. McGillicuddy scratched his bald head.

“Well, sir”, Earl began, “if you don’t mind me saying, your fence is about as rickety as that ole’ barn of yours…”

cows

“EARL! I don’t need any sass from a young whipper snapper like you! That barn is as sturdy as the house I live in!

“Yes, sir. I’d have to agree with you about that, sir.” Earl looked around at the dangling shutters barely clinging to the side of the house. The house leaned to the left. He was sure not to visit on a windy day for fear the house would blow away.

“So, which way did Marigold go, Earl?”

“She’s at the house, Mr. McGillicuddy . I’ll help you get her home, but first I need to find Reverend Mathis and set up some kind of arrangements.”

“Arrangements, Earl?”

“Yes, sirree. The Misses, she’s deader than
a doornail.”

“Mrs. Fletcher?”

“Yes, sirree. Not a breath left in her, Mr. McGillicuddy.”

“Well, what happened, Earl?”


“Well, the wife’s been reading some of those danged ole’ scary books, the kind that keep you awake at night. And, ya’ know…she’s been a little hard of hearing since the termites ate the legs off the cupboard and all the cast iron skillets came crashing down like a mountain of rocks.” Earl answered.

“Yeah, yeah. But what does that have to do with anything, Earl? Sorry as I am about Mrs. Fletcher, I ain’t never heard of anyone passing away from a lack of hearing.”

“Oh, no sir. That’s not how it happened, sir.”

“Well, son, spit it out. What in the world happened?”

“Well, sir. You see…she was smack dab in the middle of one of those scary stories, the ones she gets from Mrs. Jones, that lives twenty-seven fence posts down towards the holler. The Misses, she
was all tied up in the words, gnawing on her fingernails, with her feet all drawn up in the chair. You know how them women folk get…”

“I recon I do. Yeah, so?”

Earl says, “And it’s been pert’ near warm for late October…”

“Yeah, Earl, go on…”

“So, she must have been at a really scary part, ya’ see. That’s when it happened. That cow of yours stuck her head in the window, and let out a long….slow….MOOOOOOOOO. Well, the wife, with her ears half cocked, done thought she’d run up on a ghost. When Marigold said, ‘MOOOOOOO’, the wife heard, ‘BOOOOOOOO’, and she killed right over like a fly smacked with a fly flapper!”

-THE END-

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Spot On The Lawn: Georgia Horror Story

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Georgia horror story of a woman invited to the home of her new suitor – a home with terrifying secrets. Written by Alex Soderstrom.

Driving up the windy path to the home of Mr. Danvers, Grace was awestruck by the sight of pure American beauty, something she had rarely glimpsed in her lifetime. Willow trees, mixed among the towering pines, hung over the road, which lead to the white columns of Robert’s antebellum dwelling. This went far beyond anything Margaret Mitchell could have captured in any number of words or pages. Her host awaited her on the front porch, ready to welcome her in the home and present her with a cold glass of sweet tea as smoothly as he had his invitation for dinner. Grace felt as if she was entering an island of nobility and she was about to isolate herself from the world. To Grace, this was not a terrifying notion. She had chosen to not tell her naturally intrusive cousin where she was going this evening. After the whirlwind of change she had brought upon herself by leaving a man she did not love and a Ohio town that had been her only home, Grace needed her own space. If Robert Danvers wanted to enter into that space too, she did not mind.

georgia-plantation

Her arm hooked around his, their feet moved in step as they took a stroll across the expanse of green grass that was Robert Danvers’s backyard, rows of towering pines acting as natural boundaries of the green square behind the antebellum home. A gentle breeze carried the swooning words of Ray Charles from the record player on the back deck to the ears of the pair. Robert talked about his family’s origins in France and the perilous trip they had made to the New World over two hundred years ago before settling in here in Georgia. As she listened to him talk, Grace could see his bright eyes twinkling, as if they were the first stars to come out amidst the setting sun. The crickets and cicadas began playing the background for Mr. Charles and the pure wonder of a southern evening came to life.

Much better than Ohio, Grace decided mentally, grateful for the first time since leaving that she had found a new home, with a new beautiful face.

In the middle of the yard was a pond, its surface sporadically broken by cattails and the frantic activity of water bugs. The pond was surrounded by breathtaking bronze sculptures, Greek figures acting as protectors of the pond’s quaint beauty. Grace was amazed by the realism of the sculptures; it was obvious they were created by artists of high skill and acquired at an even higher price.


“I buy them from Europe,” Robert smiled. “They are beautiful pieces.”

“Quite beautiful,” Grace agreed.

“True beauty is a fleeting thing,” Robert commented. “It is so tough to preserve it.”

Grace silently nodded, still admiring the beauty of the statues. Robert indicated an open spot at the edge of the pond, between two statues.

“I have a spot for you right here, Grace. Come help me with the food and we will dine in style.”

Grace was all too happy to accompany her gentleman back across the lawn, her head swirling from the unexpected majesty of the evening. Upon entering the home, Robert excused himself to enter the cellar and grab a bottle of wine. After he had descended, Grace seized the opportunity and used the restroom. As she washed her hands, a loud thump resounded from outside the square little room she occupied. Grace exited and slowly approached the door to the cellar.

“Robert,” she called, “are you alright?”

Receiving no response, Grace pulled the cellar door open, revealing the figure of Robert Danvers, which soon collapsed on the floor, blood flowing freely from the back of his head.

Grace’s hand instinctively went to her mouth, which began uttering moans of terror and confusion. Another figure stepped out of the darkness of the cellar stairs and stood over Robert’s body. It was a woman, her appearance as tattered and crazed as her face. Her hands gripped a shovel, covered with splotches of blood. Large sections of her body were badly burned and other parts were covered in hardening bronze.

“Oh God, no!” Grace screamed, paralyzed. “Please, no!”

“Why are you screaming?” the woman hissed. “Did he not have a spot on the lawn for you?”

Grace slowly backed away, her head beginning to spin again, this time with images of the impossibly realistic faces of the sculptures she had seen. Sick realization began making her stomach contort and her brain was fearfully urging her legs to run.

As she began to break into a sprint out of the white – columned home, Grace heard the woman’s screams echoing behind her.

“There is always a spot on the lawn! He always finds you a spot!”

-THE END-

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Let Love In Your Heart: A Scary Florida Story

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Scary Florida story of a man walking alone through the Orlando streets, haunted not by a monster or ghost, but instead a strange song. Written by K.E. Moore.

NOTE: Some adult content.

Max stepped out from beneath the yellow and white marquis to the pattering of rain drops, tapping against his head and seeping into his hair. “Damn,” he sighed, as he threw up the hood of his windbreaker and hunched his shoulders against the harsh Orlando weather. The lights from the movie theater stabbed into the darkness, shattered into luminescent shards by the falling rain before dying like embers on a breeze.

Max groaned at the idea of having to slog through the oncoming torrent, gritted his teeth, and began to walk home.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw poster after poster lit in neon pinks and blues with “Coming Soon” or “Now Playing” emblazoned beneath. Most of them were chick flicks or cookie cutter spy thrillers, the kinds of trash boring people went to see with other boring people.

Not that Max was pleased with the movie he had just finished watching, a midnight debut of yet another beloved comic book hero perverted by Hollywood in some over-budgeted special effects nightmare.

Max had decided this was the last time. Ever.

All around him, Florida’s night life was pouring into the street from bars and nightclubs. It had to be almost three in the morning, and yet the girls in skin tight dresses and young men with square jaws and expensive outfits, flooding the streets and heading to their cars with jackets pulled over their heads, made it seem almost like midday.

Downtown Orlando Florida Night
Photo Credit: ZarrSadus via Compfight cc

Max sneered. He could tell at a glance which people were going home to sleep it off, which people suffered the disappointment of not hooking up with someone, and which people were crawling into strange cars with strangers to spend the night in strange beds, only to wake up in a few hours and slink away in shame. And he hated them all.

Max was a night person—he worked during the night, lived during the night–and these people were anything but. Oh, they would talk about running the night, throwing their hands up in their cars as they bumped whatever crap was being pushed out by music execs these days. They would stumble into the convenience store in the middle of his shift, giggling as they ambled toward gum that barely covered their halitosis, or the rows of alcohol in the back. They thought they were night people, but really they were just visiting. Trespassing.

Up ahead, Church Street glowed with its whitish yellow lights, a haven to tourists. The locals were bad enough; tourists with their fanny packs and travelers’ checks and Hawaiian shirts, their clueless, gullible eyes always searching as they bumble from one landmark to another, were more than Max could handle.

Before he could reach the intersection, Max dipped into an alley, leaving the last fading lights of Orlando’s nightlife for the reassuring darkness. The rain started to seep through his windbreaker and pants, sending a chill through his skin. He didn’t mind. Max had lived in Orlando his whole life; he knew that in fifteen minutes the rain would stop, leaving in its wake the suffocating humidity, wisps and ghosts of steam dancing their way slowly off the cracked concrete. Let the rain pour, he thought, let it keep falling until his worn sneakers carried him to the crappy apartment, where his mother would be stone drunk and passed out in the living room chair and the cockroaches, big and black and territorial, roamed the walls and floors. Let the rain fall until he was finally home.

Being a native, Max could hear underneath the rain. He didn’t think the tourists could. They probably only heard the machine gun patter of water against concrete and maybe their own ignorant jabbering. But he could hear the scurry of rats, the shifting of bums under their cardboard boxes. Hell, Max could hear the damned cockroaches—the kinds of cockroaches people called “Palmetto Bugs” because everyone was too ashamed to admit they were really just massive roaches. That bit. And could fly.

Despite the pests and the smell of urine and the horrible weather, Max did not hate this place. He didn’t love it. But he didn’t hate it. It was all he had ever known, and while there might be more comfortable or less infested or at the very least better smelling places, this was where he was comfortable, where he was safe. The tourists and the clubbers, primped in their fabric plumage and doused in perfume and cologne—that wasn’t safe, that wasn’t comfortable. They were as foreign as any country overseas. But these alleys, painted in piss and humidity, would always be familiar.

Like a shark in familiar waters, Max hooked a left in the dark network of alleys, the salty, pungent aroma of a familiar noodle shop filling his nose. They’d been closed for hours now, but the trash heap behind the weather-worn back door still steamed and smelled of grease and MSG. Max’s stomach grumbled, and he toyed with the idea of taking a peek in the garbage; sometimes the family that ran the shop would throw out whole chunks of meat as big as roasts. His mother’s voice in his head, stern and slurred, stopped him. “We don’t need to go dumpster divin’, boy. We ain’t no white trash!”

Max shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and slouched by.

He took a right, his eyes only just registering the way the rain drops exploded against the black surface of the narrow lane before him, the buildings tall and huddled on either side, looking down on him. The thin sliver of clouds above were purple and electric with the haze of the city’s lights. Max was halfway home, halfway to a bowl of Ramen noodles and the smell of his mother—sweat, gin, and stale cigarette smoke.

Halfway to his room, where he coated the cracked plaster with posters of his heroes, and used his headphones to block out the world. Halfway home to sleep, where he could forget about everything until the next day.

“Let love in your heart,” a voice sang in the night, gravelly and horribly off key. The shape of a man, outlined in rain, shifted in the dark only a few feet away.

Max gasped. Adrenaline flooded his system. His hands clenching, his knees bent as though his body was making plans to run without checking with his brain. You can’t show fear, he knew. Orlando preyed on the frightened. You had to swim its waters like a shark or be eaten. “Scared the shit out of me, bro,” he said, forcing his voice to sound relaxed.

The shape drew nearer, near enough for him to see hints of facial features, matted hair, a nose and cheeks chiseled out of dark stone by a sculptor driven mad by drink and failure. Max could see the figure’s eyes, yellowed, ugly and damned. Those horrid eyes held Max’s as the figure lurched past, leaving an odor of vomit and feces in its wake.

“And let the Lord into your soul,” the figure sang. The voice was strained, every note shaky and off. Max had never heard the song before. But he didn’t need to have heard the song to know that the bum was singing it wrong. The notes, tortured and twisted, bent out of shape, stayed in Max’s ears long after the transient shambled out of sight, taking his song with him.

He stared down the alley, back where he came from, peering into the dark, into the shadows that swallowed the singer whole. It felt like something was waiting for him, watching, smelling him. Sniffing him out.

Max couldn’t afford to think that way. Not here. Not in his waters. He had to be the shark; that or wind up yet another dead-eyed fish, torn apart and crushed in the jaws of another deep sea predator. He shrugged and sneered. Whackos.

Orlando was full of them. He would survive. He’d always survived.

No matter how hard he tried, though, Max found himself craving light again. As much as he hated to admit it, he wished he was back out in the main streets, amid the other people his age showing off, desperately seeking the attention of the opposite gender so they could feel better about themselves when they slogged back to their dead end jobs in the morning.

The off key melody played over and over in his head, the gravelly voice resonating in his bones. He no longer felt safe—these waters no longer felt like they belonged to him.

The rain stopped.

That was Florida. The rain came without warning and left without so much as a thank you, have a nice day. The rain stopped and left Max alone in the dark, the staccato patter replaced by a silence as thick and tangible as cotton.

He could hear his own breath in his ears, his heart pounding, a snare drum drilled into his brain. He realized that this was all probably because his hood was still up and he lowered it. There was some relief—he no longer felt walled in by the sound of his own breath, but the silence still permeated everything.

Max needed to get home.

Embarrassed, he started walking faster than normal. Screw that, the bum unnerved him, so what if he picked up his pace. It was late, he had to get home. Who, in the great cosmic scheme of things, really gave a shit?

“Let love in your heart,” another voice croaked and Max jumped, his hands balled up in fists before him.

“And let the Lord into your soul,” sang an old woman. She was plump, collapsed against a wall, her skin the color of sadness, her eyes tired with years of disappointment. To Max, she barely looked real, like one of those strange animatronics you see at Disney World. She stared at him accusingly, like he had failed her somehow.

Max scowled back, and began to pick up his pace. Screw this. Screw all of this. Max decided to get the hell out of the alleys. Sure, it would probably add an extra ten minutes to his walk home, but he no longer wanted to be stuck here with these freaks. He didn’t want to be stuck in the dark with that crippled, mangled melody.

“Let love in your heart,” the woman sang after him as he walked as fast as he could away from her. The song sounded like an accusation. No. It sounded like a condemnation.

Don’t run, he told himself. Don’t run. But despite his commands, his knees started to bend and his gait revolted, transforming his fast walk into a stilted half-jog. Max needed light. He needed the stupid people, the empty, useless, boring people. Max needed the minnows so he could be a shark again.

Another left and a right, and up ahead Max could see traffic lights and cars sluggishly prowling Orlando’s rain-coated streets. Steam wafted up from the concrete, swirling around Max like a specter, grasping at his ankles, tugging him down, down into the pavement, to stay there, trapped forever.

He sped up even more.

“Let love in your heart,” another bum sang, a wizened old white man turned bronze with a gin blossom nose. He pulled a swig from a bottle wrapped in brown paper bagging, and reached out and rested a hand on Max’s shoulder. “And let the Lord into your soul,” he sang, alcohol breath and broken notes washing over Max in a putrid wave.

Max brushed off the old man’s hand like it was a spider and hurried towards the main streets. Everything would be better when he got home.

Leaving the alleys felt like walking into a grocery store on a hot summer day, the way the air conditioning swirled around you, plunging your skin into the cold. Store fronts here were lit, even if they were closed, and there were even a few people, normal people, meandering about, squeezing the last precious few moments out of Orlando’s night life before they were forced to head back to their beds and sleep until it was time to do it all over again.

Max could breathe again.

He checked the street signs at the intersection, grateful for real street lights. Home wasn’t too far. Ten minutes at the most. He just had to make it for another ten minutes.

A relieved smile on his face, Max strolled along the sidewalk. He’d cross the street ahead, turn left, a right, and there would be home, an old motel refit to serve as cheap apartments. He was even thinking he might unwind with a little playstation before sleep. His mom bitched about him being online, but the old hag would be passed out by now. She would never even know. Yeah. Play some playstation, get some sleep.
That’s what he needed.

Max even waited for the light to change at the crosswalk before crossing the street; he was feeling that much better. The shark was back in its waters.

Parked at the curb ahead was a beat-up old sedan. Max could make out the shadows of two people huddled together and he rolled his eyes. “Come on,” he hissed to himself, “really?”

As he neared the car, he noticed that the windows were rolled down. He could hear the giggles of a girl, soft, alluring.

When he drew even with the car, he cast a glance in through the window. He couldn’t see the girl in the back seat. But he could see the guy, his face illuminated by the neon sign of a gun store, his hair stylishly tousled and held in place by product. He seemed completely focused on the as yet unseen girl until Max drew perfectly even with the vehicle. Then the man looked up, looked right into Max’s eyes.


Those eyes were dead eyes, lifeless eyes, the eyes of a shark as it patrols its waters, mindless, only conscious in the most basic of definitions of hunting, and eating. Plastic eyes.

“Let love in your heart,” he sang off key. Max froze, his feet welded to the sidewalk in fear, his ears ringing.

There was movement, and Max saw the girl’s head rise into view, her chestnut hair falling over exquisite shoulders in a beautiful waterfall. Arched eyebrows and dark eyes held him as her lips, full and crimson, sang the second half of the refrain.

“And let the Lord into your soul.”

Her voice was soft, sensual, and yet the notes were still wrong, still mangled. Moments before, she had laughed a symphony of ecstasy, but now that pretty voice was stretched taut along sinew-snapping tones, like a fine violin out of tune.

The couple stared at Max, dull, stupid, and hungry. At once he got the sense that they wanted him, craved him, and yet were not capable of basic sentient understanding. As he stood there, the only thing Max saw in their eyes was death—his own.

Desperation overcame him, blanketed him, seeped into his pores and entered his bloodstream.

Max ran.

Behind him, he could hear the car open and shut, dull thunks in the empty night.

Another street to cross. This time he didn’t bother to wait for the lights. Screw the lights. He had almost made it to the other sidewalk when a car came skidding around the corner and almost slammed into him.

He fell against the hood of the car. It was red. A sports car. Its horn blared through the night, and Max cringed. ‘Shut up!’ he screamed inside his head, ‘You’ll bring them here!’

The driver, a middle aged man, leaned out the window and glared at him. Max was ready for him to yell, to shout, “Get out of the fucking street, kid!” but those words never came.

Instead, the motorist sang in wretched notes, “Let love in your heart.”

Max didn’t wait for the refrain before he started running. Even so, the words, that horrible non-melody, chased after him, “And let the Lord into your soul.”

Home, he just wanted to be home. That’s all he wanted. He just wanted to be home, damn it.

But as he ran, people oozed from everywhere. Every storefront, every alleyway. They were singing in unison, each off key, each in a hideous, discordant chorus. “Let love in your heart.”

He turned a corner. His street. The run-down apartment complex in view. Stupid palm trees with Christmas lights stood like sentries on either side of the driveway. Max glanced over his shoulder to find the street packed with people. The bum chiseled out of dark brown stone. The old lady. The man with a gin blossom nose. The couple from the car. The driver that had almost run him over. Nameless faces. Blank faces, with dead eyes. Walking after him, singing, more like chanting.

“And let the Lord into your soul.”

Max’s feet landed on the walk that led into the complex. The pool, still lit at this hour, glowed blue-green and yellow, sending a haunting light dancing along the fronts of all the apartments crowded around it. All he had to do was climb the stairs and he would be there.

Behind him the crowd sang, an unholy choir, no one in key with the other. The words like shackles reached out for him, “Let love into your heart. And let the Lord into your soul.”

His chest was burning as he tried to gulp in air, his legs stinging from the lactic acid as he took the stairs two at a time.

Giant cockroaches scuttled to and fro as he disturbed their nocturnal wanderings, and he didn’t care. Everything would be okay once he got home. Once he slid his key into the lock, slipped by his alcoholic mother, and closed the door of his room, shutting out the world and that crazy fucking song.

Max was already fishing for his keys, the jangling noise they made as he pulled them free more musical than any song he had heard in his life. His fingers fumbled through them, finally selecting the right one as the crowd singing that horrible song reached the palm trees with the Christmas lights.

“Let love in your heart.”

Max’s free hand wrapped around the door knob as he guided the key towards the keyhole. He was shaking, and the tip of the key scored arcane symbols uselessly into the metal of the lock.

“And let the Lord into your soul.”

The key finally slid into the dark recess of the keyhole, and Max was about to push it in when he felt the door knob turn in his hands. The door swung open.

Max stared at his mother. She was barely more than a silhouette; the room behind her was cast into darkness, the only light inside the apartment coming from the kitchen beyond. Even in this dim light, though, Max could see her dead eyes, gazing at him, but not comprehending. Fish eyes. Plastic eyes. Judging him, condemning him, without even acknowledging him.

“Let love in your heart,” she half-sang, half-whispered.

He felt it before he saw it, hot, so hot, a stinging in his chest. Pain branched out from the center of his torso, rendering his brain slow and witless. He looked down.

His mother’s hand was holding something. Something dull and dark, but glinting. The darkness was already closing in. The word knife drifted across his consciousness, and in the dim light, he could see a crimson blossom spreading onto his shirt, exploding slowly. Blood. His blood.

The pain was exquisite, terrible.

No. Sharks don’t get stabbed. He was a shark.

Max felt the energy seep from his muscles, his knees unable to support him. He was going to drop to the ground.

Dead eyes.

Max looked into his mother’s dead eyes, the only light left in this rapidly shrinking world.

She glared at him. Judged him. She was drunk, had to be drunk. He could smell her. But she stood there, with her knife buried into his heart, and she watched him as he died, and sang.

Max’s mother sang. “And let the Lord into your soul.”

-THE END-

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Into The Valley Of Darkness I Go: A Kentucky Ghost Story

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Kentucky ghost story of one man’s terrifying Halloween drive into Spooknite Valley. Written by Benjamin A. Fouche.

To this day, I will never forget the horrifying experience I had. Nor will I ever stop dreaming of the darkness that lurks in that one Valley. Kentucky is a beautiful state; the gorgeous rolling mountains, the creeks that flow in the ravines between the hillsides and the colorful autumns. You would think it was a peaceful place – but no, not at all. Even in good old Kentucky there is a place where fear dwells, just waiting to frighten the curiosity seekers.

Spooknite Valley Road Kentucky Ghost Story

How do I know this you ask? Well, the madness all began years ago during the month of October. It was a cold and windy evening. The leaves crackled under my feet and the dark gray clouds swirled above orange and yellow mountains. I remember waking up that morning wanting an adventure and boy, did I get one that night. One I’ll always remember…

The golden sun was falling and the pale-yellow moon was rising. I was in my truck driving down a country road that was my customary route during peak-season. As I continued on, I began ascending what most folks call “Knoll Mountain.” The leaves from the trees that hung above the road were falling as I drove by. I remember looking down the beautiful hollows below the road full of red, yellow and orange leaves. So on I went, driving up that steep mountain. Eventually I began to descend down the hillside and into an area folks call the “Crow Creek Crossroads.” The crossroads split into four different roads: Peek Drive, Henry Road, Ground Hog Road and Darkened Drive. All the folks around here travel on each road – that is, except for Darkened Drive. The name certainly fits it, but there’s just something else about that one road. People around here have claimed hearing strange noises coming from the woods that follow along that road. They say at night you can hear ghoulish howling and the echoes of knocking. Of course, on an evening like this, I just couldn’t resist driving down that road.

So now here I am driving down that road everybody calls “haunted.” With darkness falling upon me, and being alone easily creates premonition. The trees were leafless as I drove by them and I could see the sun falling behind me in my rearview mirror. Sure, I wanted an adventure, but nothing like what was about to happen to me. Suddenly, I drove past a sign covered in Virginia creeper and a dark road leading into the woods. I stopped the truck and put it in reverse. As I slowly drove backwards I was looking into the woods. My heart honestly felt something calling me… calling me to go in. I backed up so that I could read the sign – it had two words that aroused my curiosity: “Spookinite Valley.” That road already had a frightening name, but the name on the sign was even more ominous. Soon enough, the sky was becoming a darker gray and the wind began to pick up. What was I thinking?

Off down that dark road I went, venturing into what I had no idea, but it was going to be my worst nightmare. As I was driving down the road, out of the corner of my eye I spotted this tall hairy creature! I stopped the truck and began rubbing my eyes. Did I really just see that or was it my imagination? I remembered trying so hard to picture what I had just seen on the side of the road. When I turned around, the creature was long gone. I decided to continue on and forget about what I saw. Off I began, heading farther into the shadowy heart of Spookinite Valley. The trees I passed were so tall and gnarly. To the left of me was a mountain elevating upwards and it was thickly wooded; a perfect place for wild animals and maybe other strange creatures.

The sky was almost a pitch black and dark mist stretched over the pale-yellow moon. Let me tell you, the atmosphere there in Spookinite Valley is just perfect for Halloween. I continued on as my headlights shined a few yards up the winding road that ran along the mountainside. Without warning, my headlights showed me something I did NOT want to see. I immediately put the brakes on and there in front of me was a dark floating figure! The bottom of its ghostly cloak was ripped and swirling in the wind. I remember seeing these very bright orange-glowing eyes and I was frozen in absolute terror! The entity stared into my eyes and I couldn’t move! That exact moment in time seemed to go on forever, when suddenly; the specter vanished without a trace. At that point I knew there was something supernatural about this dark valley. First it was the creature at the side of the road and then this dark apparition. I knew I had to turn around – something inside me was telling me I needed to leave, but I also remember there was this unnatural feeling telling me to continue on down the road. The sinister feeling was stronger and so I reluctantly continued on in Spookinite Valley.

As the night wore on, a storm began to roll in. Flashes of lightning lit up the clouds far in the distance. I remember when my headlights shined on the edge of the road; I could see very large pumpkins. Some were a ghastly orange and some were a ghostly white. All of a sudden, to my left in between two mountains I saw this dark, old, tall house with four great columns in the moonlight. All of the windows were pitch black and it seemed to be abandoned. The front yard was covered in leaves and so was the driveway. The part about the house that didn’t make sense was that it still seemed pretty well kept up. The windows were wavy, but they still weren’t shattered. The two doors and columns were nicely painted, although there was a bit of weathering. The bricks seemed old and faded, yet there were not any cracks. The shutters weren’t even crooked. Someone had to be taking care of that house – but who?

I remember glancing up at the three windows at the top. I had a feeling that I would see someone peak down at me. Suddenly, I began to hear a ghoulish howl! It’s almost just like what the folks back home said. The storm was very near when I saw the leaves twirling violently in the front yard. When I looked back up at the house, I saw a man holding a candle in one of the windows. He looked directly at me with his skeletal face! Here I am, all alone in my truck in this valley with a spooky name. As he’s looking at me he began to grab his head and then pulled it right off! He then placed it on a plate, but I knew the eyes of his head were still staring at me. As with the hooded figure, I was frozen in fear. As my eyes are locked on him, he blows out the light. Finally, I shook the fear out of my head and out of nowhere came this carriage with absolutely no horses! I could hear the clopping noises you hear horses make as it was coming at me, down the driveway. At that point, my arms were trembling and a cold chill crawled down my spine. I quickly took off down the road, but the dark carriage followed me!

I was driving as fast as my truck would go, but the problem was that it was going to run out of fuel. Did I really need to waste my truck’s fuel on evading something that was probably just a ghost? The fear was all too much for me, but I decided to just go slower and it would probably vanish or something similar to that. Without warning, as I was looking in my rearview mirror, I saw this eerie man wearing a tall black hat on the seat of the carriage! Like the apparition in the window of that old mansion, he had skeletal like features. He had one green eye and one purple eye; both were glowing brightly through the darkness. Unfortunately, the ghostly carriage was getting closer to the tail end of my truck. I had no choice, but to drive as fast as I could – it was my only chance of escaping Spookinite Valley. Suddenly reality struck and I knew that my fuel tank was empty – my truck just stopped right there in the middle of the lonely road. The good news was that the carriage had vanished into the darkness of night like I was hoping.

I’ve camped plenty of times and I live out in the wilderness of Kentucky. So I’m used to being out in the woods by myself at night. The only obstacle was the fact that there were too many unexplainable “things” I encountered. I opened my glove compartment and took out my matches. I reached under the passenger seat and grabbed my old oil lantern. I lit up the lantern and began walking down the road. I remember one of the worst parts was remembering that home was back the way I had just come. I didn’t know how far the road continued on and where else it would lead me. The best way to get back home was to go the way I had just come from. Unfortunately, this meant I’d have to walk past “the house.” Without a choice, I walked along the moonlit road with a lantern in my hand. Suddenly, I noticed a dim light coming from the forest to what was now the right of me.

What can I say? I was desperate for help and thought it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to see whom it was. So I crept over to what I discovered was an old gravel parking lot. There was a path leading through the heavy woods and at the end was what seemed to be a Victorian era-style home. I also remember seeing a sign that said “The Inn.” I was thinking that the place must be an Inn that was occupied by actual “people.” So down the trail I ran, hoping the people could help me and explain to me what was going on. Suddenly, without warning, a huge hairy beast ran across the path and into the brush! I remember smelling something very similar to a skunk when I was trying to gather my thoughts together. I hurried to the old Inn and tried to open the door, but it was locked! “Let me in! Let me in! Hurry!” I yelled as I banged on the door. When I turned around, I could see the shadow of the creature stretching out from the forest! When I turned back to the door it slowly opened and there to greet me was an elderly man. “Please do come in – the storm is approaching us,” he said slowly.

I bolted right in the door scared stiff! He closed the door and locked it. He then turned to me and said, “Hello, welcome to our Inn. What brings you here and what were you so frightened about?”

“There’s a creature out there! It crossed my path! Literally!” I said to him.

“Oh dear, I’m terribly sorry.” he said to me. When I got a better look at him, I could see his eyes were hollow, but there was a yellow glow coming from them.

“Um, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what’s wrong with your eyes?” I asked in a scared voice.

The old man chuckled and then said, “I get that a lot from guests. Never mind my eyes, what brings you here?” he asks me eyeing the lantern in my hand.

“Well, you see, I was just exploring this road because of the name that was on the sign. You might not believe me, but I’ve seen terrifying things here in this valley!” I told him about all the weird encounters and explained how my truck ran out of fuel.

He understood and spoke to me. “Yes, do you want to know something truly scary? Spookinite Valley is labeled haunted and even worse; the Inn you and I are in is indeed haunted. I’ve taken care of this place for a long, long time and I always encountered spirits. The house you drove by has been long abandoned and nobody should’ve been in there. Mysterious creatures also lurk the mountains around us – I know that for a fact. I don’t doubt for a minute that what you just saw outside this Inn was one of those creatures,” he told me quietly.

“Do you have any fuel for my truck?” I asked him nervously.

“I’m afraid not. Oh, the storm is already upon us.” He told me this as rain began pounding on the roof. “You may stay here for the night; tomorrow I shall help you find fuel for your vehicle.”


The night I was about to experience was the most horrifying night in my entire life. He took me upstairs and down a hallway to a room. I’d be staying in that room for the night. My strange host gave me the key to my room and told me something that made me feel even uneasier than before. “Just remember to check your windows and make sure they’re locked. We’ve had some guests that have complained about something entering their room through the window late at night. I shall also warn you that the spirits that roam this Inn can unlock your doors from the outside. Don’t panic if this happens; for they are just curious spirits.”

I thanked him and locked the door. To be quite honest I was a little more terrified of him, rather than the “ghosts” he mentioned to me about. As I went over to check the windows, with a flash of lightning I saw this horrible face stare directly at me through the window! I fell to the floor in shock. After a while, I picked myself up off the old wooden floor and locked the window. I also closed the draperies. I threw myself in bed and turned off the old hurricane lamp…

I suddenly awoke to the noises of scraping – it was coming from the wall behind me. I sat myself up and put my ear up to the wall. The scraping noises were definitely coming from the room behind me and all I could tell myself was that it was a ghost; what else could it be? I dozed off into my sleep, when once again I was awoken by a noise. Although, this time, it wasn’t a scraping noise, but rather several voices:

“I’m going to see if our guest is asleep.”

“Alright, but what if he isn’t? What if he sees you?”

I remember the third voice was the most ominous, deep, otherworldly voice I’d ever heard. “Please, please, both of you stop worrying. If the guest sees you it doesn’t matter. What matters is that his fear rushes out, just as we want it to. In order for IT to happen, we must keep up this fear; understand?”

“Yes Master. Certainly.”

I was petrified in fear! What was I supposed to do now? At this point on, I knew my feeling about the Host was right. He was just all a part of the little set up. How could I not have known by just looking at his appearance? I was fooled and now I had to escape somehow. I quietly got up and the doorknob was wiggling. I quickly walked up to the window and opened it. I climbed out of the window and down to the ground. I could hear the door open above me, so I had to sneak away as quickly as possible before who knew what was going to happen. I tiptoed beside the Inn’s wall, making sure nobody was following me. The rain was splattering on me and the wind shook the trees beside the Inn. Through the darkened clouds flashed lightning and shortly after that, I could hear the booming rumbles of thunder. I was cold, I was wet, I was in the storm, but I still was safe away from those creeps that ran the Inn. I was back on the road once again, only wanting to get back home. It was going to be a long walk home, but I had to do what I had to do.

As I was walking on the opposite side of where the mountains followed along the road, I could hear continuous knocking, echoing through the forest. I can only imagine what the creatures in the forest looked like – the scary part about the knocking was that it actually began echoing in my head. KNOCK – KNOCK – KNOCK … Despite the knocking sounds, I was more concerned about the strange beings at the Inn stalking me. I remember looking behind me at least every few minutes. Continuing on, the heavy rain gradually became lighter until the storm was gone. The wind was still strong, but at least the heavy rain and loud thunder was over.

Soon, I began to pass the old house. I stopped myself from continuing on – did I really want to pass it by foot? It was already horrifying enough passing it in a truck, but with no vehicle to escape and the only transportation to rely on being my feet, did I really need to? I pondered for minutes wondering whether I should go around it through the forest or just make a run for it. Finally after a few more minutes, I decided to go around it through the woods. I would have a better chance of whomever dwells in the haunted home not seeing me. So into the woods I crept, quietly…

The leaves were now wet from the rain, so I wouldn’t have to worry about making a whole lot of noise. The only thing that comforted me was telling myself that the old man at the Inn was lying about “creature lurking in the mountains.” Then, my conscience started questioning me – what about the knocking? What about the creature that was to the side of the road? What about the beast at the entrance to the Inn? What can I say, I couldn’t lie to myself. Now, I was trying to be even quieter seeing the back of the house through the trees. Hopefully whoever was in there couldn’t see me. Without warning, a monstrous creature came lunging at me! I screamed as loud as I could at that moment and scampered through the woods in a state of panic! I could hear its footsteps behind me. So many thoughts were rushing through my head at that exact moment. Where was I supposed to go? Would the creature capture me or would I escape? Where would be the closest place for hiding? I turned towards the house while I was running and my first instinct was to hide in the house. I ran right around it to the front door. To my surprise it was unlocked, so in I sprinted. Right before the creature could get in, I slammed the door shut! It echoed throughout the entire house and this scared me even more so. I felt a little protected in the old mansion, after all, the odd old man said this house was abandoned. Although I had seen an apparition in the top window, at least it was just a ghost. Well, at least that’s what I told myself.

I was in what appeared to be the foyer of the house – from where I stood, there were three doorways – one straight-ahead, one to the left and one to the right. Which doorway did I decide to enter you ask? Well, I just had to pick the door that was straight ahead. I pushed a large cobweb to the side of me as I entered. I must admit, it was pretty typical, especially for a “haunted manor.” Adventure is what I was looking for and so here I was, right in the middle of it. There was a fire burning in the fireplace and many old chairs were lined up against the wall. That place must’ve been filled with guests at some point, long ago. I wish I would’ve come to common sense at the moment of being in that room, but unfortunately I didn’t. I was too tired, too cold and very afraid. I rested on a chair next to the fireplace and fell fast asleep…

Like earlier at the Inn, I was awakened by the sound of something. Or should I say “someone.” I heard several footsteps upstairs and many voices. The voices however were NOT coming from people. Why was I too foolish to have known; if there is a fire burning, then there are creatures lurking. I had to leave the house –the creature outside had to have been long gone. I quickly walked back into the foyer to find the doors locked! Somebody locked them while I was asleep. Maybe they knew I was there. Maybe they were watching me as I helplessly tried to unlock the two great big doors. I immediately stopped trying to open them when I was aware of the loud noises I was creating. Like how I escaped the Inn, I had to find a window to open. There were two windows in this room, so I tried to open both, but they were jammed. How could this be, what could I have done to deserve this unfortunate night? I was about to go into a doorway on the left, when I heard footsteps echoing from it. I quickly walked over to the room on the right and saw that there was a staircase straight in front of me and a doorway to what was now the right of me. Since the voices and footsteps were coming from upstairs, I decided to check the windows in that room, so I tiptoed into the room. I didn’t want whoever was on the same floor as me to hear my boots against the hard wood floor. Even then, the old wood floor still creaked and I had to be extra careful not to completely step on one that would squeak loudly.

From what I remember, the room I had entered was the master bedroom of the house. There was a large canopy bed with red velvet curtains, a cobweb covered bookshelf, a velvet chair and a very dusty mirror. I heard not one sound in the room; the silence was foreboding. There were two windows in this room. One was overlooking the front yard and the other window to the left, was facing towards the side of the house. I quietly struggled to open the window to my left, but it was locked. I noiselessly tried to open the window facing the front yard, but it too was jammed. To my right, was a doorway leading back into the foyer. Across from it was another doorway, but that would lead to where the footsteps where echoing from. What other choice did I have? There were too many voices coming from upstairs, so I slowly snuck into the other doorway in the foyer. This room appeared to be a kitchen; there was a stone oven, several cabinets, and a table in the middle of the room. The floor was made of stone thankfully (is this upstairs or downstairs?), so nobody in the old, dark house could hear the floor creak. This room was also very similar to the Master Bedroom – the windows and walls were in the exact same “L” shape. I had trouble once again opening both windows. This left me no choice, but to go into another mysterious doorway, which was now straight ahead of me.

This room was what seemed to be another staircase. At that moment, I then realized the two halves of the first floor were identical; the living room and foyer were the only two rooms separating them. My only option now was to try and climb out the windows at both staircases. I ran up the other staircase I had just discovered, to find the window locked; once again, this was not a surprise. I doubted the other staircase window would be unlocked, but I had to try. Through another doorway, I crossed through the living room and into the first set of stairs I had discovered. I quietly began stepping up the stairs, so that the voices I heard wouldn’t hear me. The window was indeed locked, where was I supposed to go now? I felt hopeless at this point, but I unexpectedly had an idea! I could find an object in the house and shatter the window’s glass! So, back down the stairs I went, into the living room. I picked up the fireplace poker and oh, did I ever feel such hope and joy. I struck the window with the end of the fireplace poker and it shattered! As I dropped it down and was about to crawl through the window, the glass rebuilt itself! I fell back in disbelief and I remember shaking my head back and forth repeating the word “no.” How could this be? How could the window simply repair the shattered glass by itself? It was pure magic.

I knew at this point that, if one window did this, all of the windows would. I had no choice, but to look around upstairs and see where the voices were coming from. Were they ghosts or were they more horrific creatures? I didn’t care anymore; I was so frustrated, that nothing mattered to me more than escaping this house. I had to confront whatever was upstairs. I ran up the stairs, regardless of my loud stomping. I found myself at the end of a hallway. It looked as if the hall turned to the left and continued on. I don’t quite remember – I just wanted to leave and went in the other direction. Down the hallway I ran and with a sharp turn, into another one. However, this Hallway was different – there was another staircase and this one seemed to lead to the third story. The voices were also much louder now and I could hear them echo from up the stairs. I was so furious; I just wanted to come face to face to whoever was up there. I began stomping up the stairs, when the voices quieted down, until there was once again a menacing silence. I continued up and saw that there was a trapdoor above me. I roughly pushed it open and entered the room…

I couldn’t believe it! I dropped my jaw! I must’ve turned white! I couldn’t move! I was stuck in a moment of terror! There in front of me, was a long table going down the middle of the room. There were many chairs around the table and in those chairs were these, these… As I’m telling you this story, I’m trembling. H-Horrible creatures! At the very end of the table was the hooded apparition himself, only this time, I could see his face. His face was rough-looking pumpkin with a Jack O’ Lantern style face. A dim yellow light glowed from the center of his eyes. All of the creatures froze too and it was their eyes on mine. The phantom at the end of the table put his long dark index finger over his ominous mouth and said “Shhhhhhh…” I tried to scream, but my voice was caught in the moment of fearfulness. They all began laughing slowly at me – they knew I was helpless…

I woke up gasping for air! I was in my bedroom, I was in my cabin, and I was home! It was another beautiful morning in Kentucky. Oh, how I was so relieved it was only a nightmare – yet it seemed all too real. I remember feeling the coldness from the wind. I remember feeling the wetness from the storm. I remember feeling the uneasiness. What had really happen? It was over, and that’s what mattered. To this day, every evening when I’m rocking myself in the rocking chair on my front porch, I ask myself three simple words, “Was it real?”

-THE END-

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I Told You So

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Creepy South Carolina story of a single father trying to keep his young daughter away from a spooky construction project up the road. Written by K.E. Moore.

It was about a year ago when I moved my daughter and myself out of Charleston and into Goose Creek, partly to get away from big city life, and partly to put the… business about her mother behind us. Between the crime, busy streets, and bad memories, I felt we could trade up the concrete and street lights for tall grass and trees adorned with Spanish moss. My boss, understanding the tragedy our family had suffered, promised to work with me, allowing me to telecommute as long as I didn’t stray too far from the home office.

I found a house that backed right up against the Goose Creek reservoir, far enough away from the naval base to grant us the tranquility we were looking for. It was a gorgeous two-story house made to look like one of those old plantation houses, though admittedly a little more modest in size.

But the three bedrooms were enough for Chelsea and me. I got the master bedroom, and converted the smallest into my office, and Chelsea, well, she just loved her room being as it was twice as big as her old room with hard wood floors and a window looking out over the reservoir.

We spent a whole day in old clothes painting her room pink. I’m not sure if we got more paint on ourselves or the walls for all the horsing around we did. It didn’t matter. It seemed like the first time either of us really laughed in a long while. I can still hear her giggles echoing through the house.

There, surrounded by the steamy summer humidity and the dizzy paint fumes, we were happy, the two of us. Goose Creek seemed like the new beginning we both needed after her mother passed on.

Well, the summer came and went, as summers do in the South—hot, and muggy. When a breeze came off the reservoir, it would be something of a relief, but summer in South Carolina was summer in South Carolina which means lots of shade, iced tea, and showers just to keep the film of perspiration at bay.

Chattahoochee River at Dusk, Georgia

School came, riding on the winds of autumn. Chelsea was nervous of course, and even started to cry a little on the first day of school. After losing one parent, I knew she didn’t want to let go of me, but it only took her a week or so before she was coming home every day with a big bright smile on her cherubic face. A smaller school meant fewer bullies, and, it seemed, more kids eager to make a new friend.

Before we knew it, we had slipped straight through a mild winter and were staring down another summer. A whole year had passed and we had carved out a simple, pleasant life for ourselves.

I was excited to have my little girl around the house during the day, but there was one huge obstacle: work.

When most people hear telecommuting, they think it’s all waking up when you want to, doing your work at your own pace, and, only putting on proper clothes if you really feel like it. The reality of telecommuting, at least for my employer, was not so grand, and working from home still meant full work days, client calls at all hours of the day, and being checked on by the boss on a regular basis via webcam.

This, however, was another benefit to Goose Creek. I felt comfortable letting Chelsea go out and explore or ride her bike, or walk to a friend’s house. I made a point of making sure she stopped back at the house for lunch every day, and we had a long discussion about how far she was allowed to roam, and that she wasn’t to play near the reservoir while I was working. Chelsea didn’t fuss one bit; this was the most freedom she had had in her life.

And so it came to be that one day in mid June that my little girl walked in the house at half past eleven. Her pink t-shirt and shorts were cleaner than normal and her auburn pony tail wasn’t half as frazzled as it was on most summer days. She met me in the kitchen with a quizzical look on her face. She climbed up onto one of the stools by a big window facing the street and asked, “Daddy? What are they doing at the end of the street?”

I turned to look and frowned. “I don’t know, Chel-bear. What does it look like they are doing?”

Chelsea shrugged as she pulled her plate close. I had made tuna sandwiches and iced tea, and she had taken a big bite and was still chewing when she said, “Dumfkno. Lookth like diggin or somefin’.”

“Manners,” I said in that stern way that comes as second nature to parents.

She swallowed her bite and repeated herself, more clearly. “Looks like they are digging, but I don’t know why.”

It was my turn to shrug. “Probably just road work or something,” I said before biting into my own sandwich.

“Can I check it out after lunch?” she asked.

“Well, I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Chel-bear. Could be dangerous.”

“I’ll be careful, Daddy, promise.”

She had put on her big-eyed expression, the one that is supposed to melt a father in place, and one that I had fought hard to build up a resistance against. At the same time I remembered when I was her age, and how I probably wouldn’t have even bothered asking my parents. When I thought back to the trouble I would get into I wondered how it was I ever made it to adulthood.

Finally, I relented, but only a little. “You can ask the men – if there are any that aren’t too busy. But that’s it, understand? You aren’t to cross any boundaries or touch anything. We got a deal?”

Chelsea looked at me at first like she was going to try to haggle with me on the terms; she did that sometimes. She thought better of it and with her big bright smile nodded and said, “Deal!”

We finished our sandwiches and tea, and Chelsea hurriedly washed up before dashing out of the house, the screen door banging loudly in her wake. I carried myself back to my office, checked in with my boss, and forgot all about the road work Chelsea had brought up at lunch.

It wasn’t until Chelsea brought it back up later on in the evening as I threw some burgers on the grill for dinner. “There wasn’t nobody there when I went to go look, Daddy,” she said, pouting a little.

“Anybody,” I corrected her. She scowled that scowl that said I knew what she meant. It was her mother’s scowl.

Ignoring it, I told her she could try again in the morning after breakfast, and that combined with the burgers topped with lots of ketchup seemed to satisfy her.

I suppose I half expected her to forget about the whole thing. Maybe I didn’t expect anything at all. It just wasn’t something that was registering on my radar until the morning came and Chelsea could hardly wait to rush out and see what was going on down the road. She was half out the door when I had to call her back to remind her to brush her teeth, and after a perfunctory scrubbing she gave me a half-hearted hug and bolted.

Strange, I thought, and I found myself following her footsteps out to the edge of my front lawn if only to get a better look at what had captivated her so. I looked down the road in the same direction Chelsea was jogging, and saw nothing more than a pile of rubble heaped up on the side of the road. There weren’t any road signs or rope, just a mound of black and gray rocks. It seemed harmless enough, but at the same time I felt a sense of apprehension creep up through my gut and latch onto my spine.


“You be careful and remember what I told you, Chel-bear!” I hollered after her. She looked back over her shoulder and smiled at me, her hand giving me the thumbs-up, before returning her attention to the rubble pile.

I shook my head and made my way back inside. I had a web meeting with some new clients I had to prepare for.

When I got back to my office, I discovered that I could actually see just a sliver of the rubble pile from my office window. I couldn’t afford to pay it any mind what with my meeting, but when I logged off of the group video chat, I grabbed a cup of coffee and found myself staring at the heap.

Chelsea was nowhere to be seen, probably off to go visit one of her friends no doubt, the allure of the rocks already worn off. But it was odd. If it was road work, there should have been some orange somewhere, a sign or something. And there should have been workers too, with day-glo vests and hard hats.

But there was no one there.

I was about to put together a report for my boss on the meeting when movement from the rubble stopped me hard, fear swiftly shooting down my throat and forming a solid, heavy, pit in my stomach. There was someone there working after all, but it was all wrong.

It’s a pretty long street, so I couldn’t be sure exactly of what I was seeing. But day-glo is pretty unmistakable, and this guy wasn’t wearing any at all. In fact, it looked like his tall, gaunt frame was dressed in black from head to toe, long sleeves and all. That bit I found odd—who would dress like that in this heat?

Odder still was his hat. He looked like he was wearing one of those old stove-pipe hats like Abe Lincoln wore. I didn’t even know they made those anymore outside maybe costume shops and elementary school classrooms. But there he was in all black with a stove-pipe hat and a shovel slung over his shoulder.

That’s what I thought I saw anyway, right before the curious figure disappeared behind the pile. I was in the middle of debating with myself on whether I saw what I thought I saw when a chime from my computer informed me that my boss needed to chat with me. The noise startled me so much that I spilled coffee all over a stack of my reports, ultimately pushing the image of the dark stranger out of my mind so I could focus on the newly burgeoning coffee crisis along with the numbers and contractual obligations and everything else that came up in the meeting.

At lunch, Chelsea informed me that, again, to her disappointment, she didn’t find any men working at the site. But she did have something new to share. “Daddy, there’s something strange about those rocks.”

“What’s that Chel-bear?”

“Well, I don’t think they’re rocks at all.”

“Why’s that?”

“They’re all smooth and shiny. I’ve never seen any rocks in the wild as smooth and shiny as that,” she said, putting on her facial expression that declared to the world that she was an expert on the subject of the smoothness of natural rocks.

I frowned. “You didn’t go messing about in that pile, did you Chel-bear?”

“Of course not, Daddy. I was just looking. And when no one turned up, I went on over to Teresa’s. Her daddy just put up a tire swing!”

For a moment I contemplated telling her about the man in the black clothes and stove-pipe hat, but then thought better of it. I didn’t know what was going on down the street but I figured the less curiosity I could encourage about the subject, the better.

There was no more thought or discussion of the rubble at the end of the street until that evening. It was too hot to cook, so I made a quick salad and cut up some left over chicken for dinner and the two of us were eating on the back patio when Chelsea said, “Whatever they’re doing, they’re definitely digging.”

“Oh?”

“Mmhm. There’s a big old ditch just on the other side of the pile,” Chelsea said.

“Did you ever find someone to tell you what it’s all about?” I asked.

Chelsea shook her head, clearly frustrated. “No. But I aim to find out,” she declared.

I think now, if it weren’t for the new client and all the extra hoops my boss was making me jump through to make the new contract work, I would have put an end to things then and there. But as it was, I had to spend the evening running numbers as Chelsea watched TV, and the rubble pile was, yet again, pushed aside.

I didn’t even think about it again until a few days later at lunch when Chelsea announced, “Daddy, I think those rocks are broken up tombstones.”

“Now what in the world would make you say a thing like that?” I said as my fork hovered between my plate and my mouth.

“Well, like I said, they’re all smooth and shiny, and I think I saw some writing on some of them.”

“I think one little girl’s imagination is running away with her, is what I think,” I said pointedly.

Chelsea responded with her patented scowl.

I was about to forbid her from looking into the pile any further, but I again remembered my youth, and realized that sometimes the quickest and surest way to make sure a kid does a thing is to forbid her to do it. So I let the subject drop.

We went back to our normal routine. Chelsea running out the front door, me slogging back to my office. Again, I spared the heap of rocks another look. The ditch, the man in black, Chelsea’s assertion that they were crumbled up tombstones, it all just kind of balled itself up into one tiny knot of unease in my stomach, but then I stared at the mound and thought, Hell, it’s just some rocks. Maybe the neighbor is digging them up to lay a new driveway. There were a ton of completely rational explanations, none of which were the least bit worth being scared of.

And that was all I thought about that until Chelsea came back home for supper with a big gray black hunk of something in her hand. She thrust it into my hand as I looked on, dumbfounded, and with a triumphant air, she put her hands on her hips and said, “I told you so.”

I looked down at the hard, heavy, mass in my hand. It was indeed smooth and polished on several of its sides, rough and irregular on others, and it was mottled gray and black, kind of like those fancy counter tops you sometimes see in newer kitchens. And there, on one of the smooth, glossy faces, was a carved upper-case T.

“For one, Chel-bear, this doesn’t prove a thing. This could’ve come from a statue or a plaque, or a sign or anything. Just because someone carved some letters into a rock don’t make it a tombstone,” I explained. “For another, I thought I said you weren’t to be messing around with that pile? I made myself very clear; you were allowed to ask whoever was working what they were doing, and that was it!”

I didn’t yell at Chelsea often; she rarely ever needed it. But when I did yell at her, she always looked so wounded—so hurt. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said in a small voice, and I… well, hell, I just gave her a hug and sent her to go wash up for supper.

I hoped the whole episode was over. I wanted it to be over. But when Chelsea came in for lunch the next day, any thoughts that the mystery of the rubble pile was a thing of the past were completely ruined.

“Daddy, that work. It has to do with dead people, I’m sure of it.”

Caught somewhere between inhaling my soup and spitting it back out, I ended up in a violent coughing fit that only made my temper worse. “Damn it Chelsea! I thought I made myself clear! Now this has gone on long enough, do you understand? No MORE!”

“But..”

“No buts! You seem to have forgotten, young lady, that I am your FATHER! Is that clear?”

Her eyes wobbled in a pool of fledgling tears. Normally, that would have been enough to get me to at least calm down, but there was something about this whole business that just… I don’t even know how to explain it. What I do know was that by now I was yelling, “IS THAT CLEAR?”

She didn’t answer as tears spilled down her round cheeks and her lips quivered. Chelsea opened her mouth, almost as if to speak, but then, a glint of defiance shone through the tears and in a flash she pushed away from the table. There was a single searing moment where contempt flashed in her eyes towards me, and then I was watching as she ran out the house.

I was about to chase her down when my phone rang. I considered ignoring it, but if I ignored even one call from my boss, I could lose the telecommute privileges. Hissing curses under my breath I checked the phone and answered it.

I should have gone after her. I know that now. But next thing I knew, I was chained to my computer, hunting down all the technicalities my boss needed to make this new contract work.

The time for Chelsea to come home had come and gone. I was already worried when she stormed out of the house, but when the sun had started to get bloated and red and she still wasn’t home, I felt myself on the verge of panic.

Outside, the shadows began to stretch and deepen, and the rock pile down the road took on a strange, dark, mysterious quality. Unsure what to do, and knowing I couldn’t call the police when she had only been gone for a few hours, I started looking through the list of moms in my address book.

I bit back the worry in my voice as I called one after another, trying not to let the fear show even as I asked if they had seen my daughter. Each call ended up being a different variation of the same theme. No, sorry. Chelsea hasn’t been here today. Is something wrong?

I was about to call the fifth mom when I heard the back door swing open and slam back shut.

“Oh, thank God,” I breathed, not even bothering to hang the phone back on its cradle. “Chel-bear, honey, I’m so glad you’re…”

The words died in my throat, my muscles locking up as I turned the corner and stepped into the kitchen.

Pure, soul shattering, terror poured over me as I stared at the thing in my kitchen. It was a man, or at least once was a man, though how long ago was impossible to say. Where there should have been skin and eyes, there was now only bone, caked in black soil, eye sockets empty as they stared blankly back at me.

His clothes were once fine, a black tuxedo, maybe, or at least a good suit. But the shirt had been torn to shreds, revealing his ribcage, mottled gray with rot and earth. Underneath, I could make out shriveled, blackened organs, turned hard and formless with time, held in place by clumps of fetid soil.

One hand clutched a stove-pipe hat, almost as though this thing was too polite to wear it indoors. His other hand rested on the shoulder of my baby girl.

Chelsea. Her skin was ashen, her hair, limp, and her eyes empty, almost as though they had been as hollow as those of the corpse beside her. That dead, empty gaze turned up to me, and in a small voice I could only just recognize as belonging to my daughter, she said, “I told you so.”

-THE END-

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