Be sure to check in next week for our week-long festival of Halloween; five new horror stories to be published between Monday through Friday. The main site has a nice brochure which advertises the soon-to-be released stories along with a brief synopsis.
Today's featured writing was originally published last year during Halloween week. A little secret on the house that is described in this story; it's based on a small experience I had many years ago as a cable TV installer.
It was the second Wednesday of the month which could rightfully be called "disconnect Wednesday". You see; on this day of the month, it was my duty to drive around with a stack of work orders which dictated that I disconnect service of those customers who neglected to pay their cable TV bill.
Late in the afternoon I pulled my cable van up to an old, historic house that was surrounded by overgrown trees and uncared-for landscaping. The place had to be vacant! And whoever lived there before incurred hundreds of dollars of overdue cable TV bills.
"Strange..." I thought. "Why did they let these people continue to receive service when they didn't pay?"
I received my answer once climbing up the telephone pole and trying to locate which cable was connected to the house. There was nothing but a spaghetti-mess of cable that was intertwined and tangled in the tree branches. The infrastructure was old, and it was impossible to identify which cable belonged to which home.
Then I looked back at the old house and could see a face watching me through one of the upstairs windows. I knew at that moment it was a ghost who pleaded with me not to disconnect the service.
I climbed down from the pole, loaded my equipment back in the van and wrote on the work order, "House is haunted... Had to get out!"
Have a great weekend! Remember that next week is Halloween week; one of the greatest holidays of the year.
In a quiet subdivision at the middle of a wide cul-de-sac is a small, cottage-like house that sits on five acres of property. It backs up to a small forest. Upon passing the home for the first time, one might not even realize that it is there, for the cottage-like house is covered by two acres of mature trees with only a narrow, gravel drive that leads to the parkway of the home. And not many people conceive the notion that someone could be living there. It usually isn't until a girl emerges from the narrow drive—either getting her mail or driving off in her car—that someone realizes the home is occupied. Those who initially see her immediately take notice that she appears so young—maybe in her late teens—and so attractive with her long, radiant, red hair; crystal, blue eyes; pale skin and a thin body.
This is what Brandon immediately noticed the first time he laid eyes on her. Having just moved into the subdivision and taking a leisurely bike ride on a late, Wednesday afternoon; he turned down a tree-lined street which ended at the wide cul-de-sac. And right there in the middle was a large space of trees with a narrow drive that Brandon assumed to be a path to the forest. But then there was the posted sign, "Private property! No trespassing!"
Suddenly, a young and beautiful girl with radiant, red hair emerged from the gravel drive. She startled Brandon who had slowed down to examine the property.
"Oh, hello!" he said. "I had no idea people were living here. Sorry about that!"
But she only glanced over to his direction for a brief second with no apparent interest, and continued with her business of getting the mail. Despite how beautiful she was, it was an awkward encounter for Brandon. He could only peddle away and momentarily look behind to see the young and beautiful girl walk back up the drive with the mail.
It wouldn't be the last time he saw her. As luck would have it, Brandon encountered her in the produce department of the grocery store about a week later. After reaching for a bag of apples, he looked up and saw the beautiful, red-headed girl over by the lettuce. They locked eyes, and Brandon sensed that she recognized him. But then she quickly looked away, probably out of nervousness.
Now intrigued by this young girl who lived at the edge of the forested cul-de-sac, Brandon deliberately rode his bike down her street on a late afternoon in hopes for another encounter. He slowed down while passing the large area of trees that is dissected by the gravel drive. But she was nowhere in sight. Realizing that initiating another encounter would require patience, Brandon simply peddled off. Then, while not more than 200 feet from the property, an old, Ford Taurus drove past Brandon. Inside was the young and beautiful red head who immediately recognized Brandon. And she apparently possessed some telepathic abilities, as this time there were feelings that the two had a shared destiny.
Seriously interested and nearly spell bounded by the young and beautiful girl; Brandon made up his mind to learn all he could about who she was, and find a way to introduce himself—maybe even work towards striking up a romance. But how in the world could he do that? The girl had a way of isolating herself and avoiding people.
It wasn't until Brandon struck up a conversation one Sunday afternoon with an elderly neighbor who lived across the street from where he lived. Margaret lived in the neighborhood for nearly forty years; moved in shortly after getting married, raised her family and stayed after her husband died. This afternoon, Brandon enjoyed a lengthy conversation with the woman. And he suspected that she would surely know about the cottage-style house that is buried behind trees.
"I go for bike rides throughout the week." Brandon began. "Usually I follow the same route and turn down a cul-de-sac. At the end of the cul-de-sac is a small house buried behind a good couple of acres of trees. At first I thought it was an entry to the forest. What do you know about that house?"
"You've seen Stephanie, haven't you?” asked Margaret.
"The girl with long, red hair?—that's her name?" asked Brandon.
"Yes, and she lives there all alone. She should be about twenty-years old, now, and lost her mother, Andria, when she was only sixteen. You see, when Stephanie was only two-years old, her father left them for another woman and never returned. So Andria was left to raise Stephanie. She had to get a job and eventually worked as a secretary at one of the insurance companies here in town. Then when Stephanie was only thirteen, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. All the chemotherapy wasted her body away; so much that she could no longer endure the treatments. The cancer spread, leaving Stephanie's mother to spend what little life she had left in the terminal stages. It was then that poor Stephanie was forced to quit school and care for her dying mother at home. By the time she reached sixteen, Stephanie was an orphan with no relatives to care for her."
"The state didn't do anything?" asked Brandon.
"Now that's a very interesting point, and just one of the many things that make Stephanie and that house so fascinating. The state did go in and investigate, but people seemed to be dragging their feet while deciding what to do with her. By the time Stephanie reached eighteen, there was no longer a need to decide what to do with her. She was of legal age. But there's more! The phone company, electric company and gas company have all tried to go in there and turn off their utilities because, obviously, a young girl is not able to pay for these things. But they have some sort of trouble. Either the infrastructure is too old to fool around with, or they don't have her connections mapped out correctly. It's too much trouble for them. Some people like to say that Stephanie's mother, Andria, is still watching out for her. You see; although she's about twenty, Stephanie remains a young girl who lives at home with her mother. That's what people say."
So fascinated and spell bounded with Stephanie; the more Brandon encountered her and continued to learn, the more he grew increasingly in love with the young girl. But what he could do? The home was so isolated, and she was rarely seen in town. This is why he began hanging around her property in the late evening hours.
Brandon rode his bike on a late Friday evening with a backpack on his back. Inside was a small mirror that one would hang—perhaps—on the wall of the foyer to check one's appearance before stepping out. It was a strange item to bring on a first date.
"First date?" you might ask?
Yes, considering how challenging Stephanie was, Brandon actually considered this evening a first date.
Upon approaching her house, Brandon slowed down, and then slowly walked his bike along the wooded perimeter of the property. He walked past Stephanie's house, and then resumed walking until some distance in the wooded backyard—nearly at the entrance of the forest behind her property. The mirror was removed from the backpack, placed on the ground against an old tree; and then tilted up in such a way so that when Brandon sat down, he would not see his own reflection. Once seated, he gazed into the depths of the mirror. The light of the Moon shone through the forest to provide just enough light. For all practical purposes, Brandon had created a portable psychomanteum to be used near Stephanie's house. He would use it to enter the other realm and call out to the young girl.
About an hour passed as Brandon continued to gaze into the depths of the reflected world. Again the mirror was tilted at an upwards angle so that he would not see his own reflection. He concentrated and hypnotized himself to believe that Stephanie's house could be seen in the mirror, just some distance away to be able to clearly see it.
"Stephanie..." he called out in his mind. Stephanie, come out. Come outside and see me. I wish to talk to you." Brandon imagined his thoughts could be merged into hers, and used them to initiate a strong desire for the young girl to come outside and see him. "Stephanie, come outside. I wish to meet you. I wish to talk to you."
Suddenly, the outline of a face could be seen in the mirror. As the moments passed it began to reveal more and more facial details. Was it Stephanie in the mirror? Was she answering his call and initially joining Brandon in the other realm to get better acquainted.
"Stephanie, is that you?" Brandon asked.
But, no! The face that now revealed clear details was that of an old woman with long, white hair; crystal, blue eyes; and wrinkled skin. She was ghostlike and apparently no longer of this world. She smiled at Brandon with a wicked Cheshire cat grin, and it wasn't done out of friendliness. Instead, it was frightening and aimed to reveal a terrible danger that one should be afraid of.
"Let me tell you something..." the old woman began. “You better get the hell off my property and leave my daughter alone. And if you ever try to initiate contact with her like this again, I will do something to you. I will take care of you, and you will not like what's going to happen. She is not for you. You stay away from her. Now, leave!"
Startled out of the dreamy state, chills ran up and down Brandon's spine. It was definitely a warning and something not to take lightly. The woman who appeared in the portable psychomanteum was clearly Stephanie's deceased mother. And she did not want Brandon further attempting contact with her. Believing his first date with the young girl to be unsuccessful, Brandon packed up and left for home.
Beautiful, young girls who have reached the age of nubility do have the inconvenient number of eighteen invisibly labeled on them. It's a reminder that no matter how pretty, intelligent and mature a girl might seem; she still needs to reach legal age to be courted by an adult male. But don't be so quick to believe that you simply need to wait for her to reach eighteen-years-old. In some cases she still needs to finish high school. And many times, the family expects her to go through college. Even in her twenties, the family watches out for her and has high expectations as to who can date her. That eighteen... twenty... twenty-three year old girl who is certainly of legal age to court is still just a young girl living at home, and under strict rules.
You might say, "Bah! I'm not worried about what her family thinks. Once she turns eighteen, I have nothing to worry about."
But it isn't jail that you should be frightened of. Rather it's what the family can do. Many times Father or even brothers know people who can take care of you. Perhaps you might be abducted by a group of police officers, and taken to a secluded area to have your skull and ribs cracked open with brass knuckles. Or maybe a large and muscular hit man might have a nice chat with you while pummeling your face. As for Brandon; he had a very, rare challenge when it came to the young girl he was in love with. You see, the dead apparently had a way to reach its hand through the veil, and do something awful if Brandon pursued her.
But what could he do? No matter how much Brandon tried, he could not forget about young and beautiful Stephanie. And if he didn't know any better, the young girl was telepathically calling out to him—haunting Brandon's thoughts and provoking intense feelings through vivid fantasies. If that weren't enough, Brandon encountered Stephanie one afternoon while leaving the subdivision. Just as he sat at the stop sign and waited for traffic to clear so he could turn, Stephanie entered from the opposite direction in her Ford Taurus. She turned her pretty head with long, red hair and locked her crystal, blue eyes onto Brandon's. It had a way of beckoning to him.
“Where have you been? Why have you given up so easily?” she asked.
The encounter was all the fuel necessary for Brandon to begin thinking of a solution to defeat Mother's grave warning.
Brandon peddled his bike on a late, Friday evening with a backpack on his back. Just as on the previous date with Stephanie, there was a mirror packed inside. But he also brought with a plastic Baggie full of salt. This would be the weapon to chase off Stephanie's mother. You see, whenever something unwanted attempts to enter the physical world; it can easily be discharged and neutralized with the use of salt. Brandon could simply throw salt at the mirror if the image of Stephanie's mother appeared. Then he could refocus on tuning into Stephanie's consciousness.
Brandon walked his bicycle along the side of the property, and through the backyard until reaching the area of the previous date. The mirror was set on the ground in such a way so that Brandon would not see his reflection while sitting down. Finally, he sat on the ground and gazed into the depths of the mirror. But this time he kept the Baggie of salt before him in the event that Stephanie's mother appeared.
"Stephanie..." Brandon called out in his mind. "Come outside... I want to see you... I want to meet you... Come outside and join me." As he called out to the young and beautiful girl of his desire, Brandon concentrated on seeing the imagined reflection of her house in the mirror. Soon he could see the windows and back door of the cottage-style house. It would only be a matter of time before she finally emerged.
"Stephanie, I'm here. Come outside and see me." Brandon continued to concentrate on the back door of the house, opening. But then, just as he saw what appeared to be light from inside the home shining through the opening back door, the frightful face of Stephanie's mother appeared. She glared at Brandon with a fearsome face.
It was no problem for Brandon. He simply reached for a handful of salt and whipped it at the mirror.
"Aaaaagghhhh!" Stephanie's mother cried and screamed in agonizing pain. "You threw salt in my eyes! You will pay for this!"
The image dissolved so that all that remained was the depths of the mirror. Brandon would have to concentrate and bring the image of the house back. After fifteen minutes of focusing, he could finally see the back of the house as before.
"Stephanie... I'm here... come outside and see me..."
The back door of the house slowly opened. And for the first time since attempting these dates through the mirror, Stephanie emerged and stood near the house.
"You've come outside!" Brandon exclaimed. "I'm so happy that you finally allowed yourself to be moved and come for me."
Stephanie remained still and silent. It was as-if she were unsure, and close to retreating back inside.
"Don't be frightened." urged Brandon. "I won't hurt you. I am only here to get to know you. I feel our connection and the destiny we share."
A feeling was transferred to Brandon from Stephanie; a telepathic message that she simply needed to take her time and get comfortable before proceeding.
"Don't worry..." reassured Brandon. “You can take all the time you like. I am just so happy that you came outside to visit me."
Suddenly, the face of Stephanie's mother emerged from the corner of the mirror while calling out. "Stephanie! Go back in the house! It's not safe out here!"
Frustrated with the dead woman's interference, Brandon reached for another handful of salt and threw it at her face.
"Aaaagghhh!" she screamed while melting away.
And as for Stephanie, she began to retreat back to the door.
"No!" Brandon begged. "You can't listen to her! Please stay! I'm safe!"
But like a good girl, Stephanie listened to her mother and went into the house where it was safe.
"Damn-it!" shouted Brandon. "Curse that dead woman! She's ruining everything!" Brandon was so upset that the image of Stephanie's house disappeared from the mirror. The needed energy and concentration for the portable psychomanteum was now gone. This, of course, meant the end of Brandon's date with Stephanie for the evening. But at least it wasn't a complete failure like last time.
Several weeks passed before Brandon attempted another date with Stephanie. It was partly due to his need of not wanting to come on too strong to the young girl. But it also had something to do with a sad feeling of disconnectedness. You see, early in the courting of Stephanie, Brandon felt telepathically linked to the young girl. She haunted his thoughts and had a way of transferring fantasies onto Brandon. But since the last date which was rudely interrupted by Stephanie's, deceased mother; that connectedness seemed non-existent. It was as-if Stephanie heeded her mother's warning.
This is the point where many men sadly give up on a girl that is fallen for. But some men realize that giving up is the ultimate means to failure. Sometimes it only takes one more try to finally break through and make it all happen. Would Brandon quit and give up? Or would he fight for the young woman he loved and convince her to meet him again?
Now autumn and the middle of October, the late evening air was chilled enough to cause numbness to the hands and face. But Brandon didn't care. He rode his bicycle to Stephanie's house with a backpack containing a mirror and—this time—an entire 26 ounce container of salt. Walking his way through the side of the property was not so inconspicuous like in the summer. Leaves had fallen from the trees which made the nerve-racking crunch sound when stepped on. Still, Brandon pressed on and walked slowly to the special spot.
Before setting the mirror into position, Brandon cleared a large area of leaves with his feet and then poured a heavy amount of salt on the ground in a complete circle to surround him. They he stated while walking the inner circumference, "This circle prevents any intrusion from Stephanie's mother. Only Stephanie and her house will be seen in the mirror—not her mother. Stephanie's mother is not welcome in this place."
Satisfied that a clean space was established, Brandon sat down at the center of the circle, and then positioned the mirror in such a way so that he would not see his reflection. He took a deep breath in and exhaled the sadness with the intention of Stephanie feeling it. He gazed into the depths of the mirror and cried out, "Where are you Stephanie? Where did you go? Surely you won't let your mother come between us."
Brandon concentrated for nearly twenty minutes on bringing the image of the cottage-like house to the mirror. Eventually it began to take shape so that he could finally see the back of the house with clarity. "Stephanie, come out. I know this is what you want. I know you are just scared and being a good girl who obeys her mother. But you cannot deny our connection and shared destiny."
After five minutes, Stephanie's face and upper torso could be seen through one of the back windows of the house—probably her bedroom.
"Stephanie, is that you?" Brandon asked.
She remained motionless and only looked out.
"Of course it's you!" Brandon exclaimed. "I'm so glad you've decided to give me a chance. I promise I am not here to hurt you."
Stephanie only remained at the window, and transferred an unsettling thought that Brandon had a lot of work to do if he wanted to prove himself.
"Don't worry, Stephanie. I am willing to work for you. Whatever you need I will prove that I'm not a bad person."
Just then the crunch of leaves could be heard from several feet away. It was the recognizable crunch of someone taking a step. Distracted, Brandon shifted his attention away from the mirror and outside of the circle. And much to his delight, Stephanie was physically standing some feet away.
"You've come out into the night to join me!" Brandon exclaimed. Stephanie was no longer a ghostly image in the mirror, but here with Brandon in the flesh. Perhaps the image in the mirror only revealed Stephanie's hidden feelings. It might have only revealed that she needed time to trust him. But she was apparently willing to take the necessary steps to meet Brandon.
Brandon began to slowly stand up. "Let me know if you feel unsafe. I'm just going to stand up so we can talk. I'm Brandon. I'm sure you've thought a lot about me in recent weeks."
Of course it's proper to shake someone's hand when first meeting. Being the case, Brandon stepped out of his circle of safety, and carefully approached her.
Stephanie smiled with a wicked Cheshire cat grin; the same sort of grin that her mother made. It was a terrible reminder of the dead woman's warning. But Brandon would overlook this. Through time he would learn to love that smile.
Finally close enough, Brandon held out his hand. "It's nice to finally meet you."
Stephanie took hold of his hand, and then spoke in her deceased mother's voice; the same voice that Brandon heard from the mirror. "I warned you to leave my daughter alone and to never come back." The fool he was; Brandon should have never stepped outside of his circle of safety. A strong gust of wind began to blow; with it the chilled air of autumn that felt more and more like a freezing arctic blast. Stephanie's entire face and body morphed into a skeleton with long, white hair.
"I warned you stay away from my daughter."
Brandon froze out of shock and fear. In that instant, his hair turned nearly as white as Stephanie's mother.
"Didn't I tell you that you would be punished?" Her skeletal hands raised and gripped around Brandon's throat. And although the bones of her fingers penetrated his neck in a means to choke him, Brandon died out of fright.
Mother would spare nothing at protecting her daughter.