Happy Halloween from Linda L Barton

for Linda's story_fixedThis House Possessed

Down the ages, we have all heard stories of haunted houses.  Homes that were once full of love, but through a tragic event, a spirit becomes hopelessly trapped in the house to wander its halls for all eternity.  This, my friends, is not one of those stories.

“Hurry up; I want to sleep here tonight,” Keri said excitedly as she pointed down the hall to the master bedroom.  “Be careful, that headboard and frame has been in my family for over 100 years.

The two men from the moving company both rolled their eyes at her comment.  They have heard claims like that all the time from customers.  Every piece of furniture always seemed to be some valuable antique or had belonged to a dead relative regardless of what it was.

Mike and Keri Beale had recently moved to Louisiana.  It was a difficult decision to leave their lives behind in New York but when Mike accepted a position at a prestigious Law Firm in New Orleans, they decided to jump at the opportunity.  At first, Keri was not sure if she wanted to move, but Mike had told her that they would find a beautiful Southern mansion and make it their home.  Keri had immediately contacted a realtor in the area and had found the home of her dreams.  It was not exactly the most beautiful house at the time, but with hard work and lots of love, one day it would be the perfect showplace for a successful attorney.

Once the moving company personnel had left, Keri walked into the kitchen and looked at the stacked boxes.  “There is no way I can cook anything tonight.”  She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed, “I’d like to order a pizza for delivery.”

***

Mike was surprised at the relaxed atmosphere at the new firm.  When he had first passed the bar and joined the large firm in New York, he realized it was going to consume a large part of his life.  Therefore, when the opportunity to join the firm in New Orleans arose, he had jumped at it.  While he loved all the hustle and bustle of being a top notch Personal Injury Attorney, he longed for the time to begin a family with Keri.

“Dinner’s here,” Mike called out as he stood in the large foyer.  “Where are we going to eat this delicious smelling pizza?”

“In the dining room, of course,” Keri said as she walked to the dining room and waited for Mike to join her.

“I don’t know why, but the delivery guy seemed relieved he didn’t need to come up to the door,” Mike chuckled as he placed the pizza box on the dining room table.

“Really, I don’t understand why.  I love it here,” Keri said as she opened the box and inhaled deeply.  “This smells delicious.”

Mike sat next to her and grabbed a slice of the pizza.  “It tastes great too,” he grinned.

“I wish I could have cooked our dinner tonight, but everything is still packed,” Keri took a bit of pizza and moaned with delight.

“Hey, I understand.  I just wish I could be more help.  I’ll be able to do more this coming weekend.”  Mike put the last bite of pizza in his mouth then grabbed another piece.

“Maybe I should have ordered two pizzas?  You seem exceptionally hungry tonight,” Keri chuckled when she saw the surprised look on his face.

“I am.  I was so busy today that I didn’t go to lunch.  I wanted to get my office organized and go over a few case files.”

CREEK….CREEK….

“What was that?” Keri looked toward the staircase that lead to the upstairs rooms.

“I wouldn’t worry about it.  This is an old house, so we’ll hear things like that all the time.  These old houses have their own personalities,” Mike teased.

CREEK….CREEK….THUD!

Keri looked at Mike, daring him to say that was nothing.

“Okay, maybe I should go see what it was.”  He stood and slowly walked toward the staircase, unsure if he wanted to find out what had made the unnerving sound.

“What was it?” Keri whispered, as she slowly followed Mike up the stairs.

“Quiet, I think I hear something.”  Mike felt his heart beating with such force that he believed it would explode from his chest.  As he topped the stairs, he held his breath and said a silent prayer they would find nothing out of the ordinary.

He leaned forward and looked to his right then to his left.  Nothing.  “I don’t understand, the only thing I see is moving boxes stacked along the wall in the hallway.”

“Are you sure?” Keri said with a sense of relief in her voice.

“Yeah.  Come on, let’s go clean up downstairs.  I’d like to take a shower and go to bed.”  Mike took Keri by the hand and they went back downstairs.

***

An unnerving silence filled the room as Keri lay next to a sleeping Mike.  She could not explain it, but she felt the overwhelming desire to get up and go to the attic.  What is wrong with me?

Keri was sure it was just new house jitters, so she rolled over on her side and after a few minutes, she finally fell to sleep.

***

The door creaked as it slowly opened, allowing entry to its guest.  Stepping inside, she noticed an eerie glow filled the room, giving it a ghostly appearance.

“Come, my child,” the voice beckoned to her.

“Why am I here?” she asked.

“You are here to restore me,” the voice said with a compassionate tone.

“Restore you?  I don’t understand,” she said as fear began to swell up inside of her.

“Come to me, so we may speak.”

She did not know why, but she had the overwhelming desire to do as told.  The floor was cold against her bare feet as she padded her way to the large framed mirror sitting in the corner of the room by the stained glass window.

“Who are you?” she asked as she stood in front of the mirror.

A swirling mist began to form in the mirror.  Then from the mist, the image of a well-dressed older man appeared.

“I am the man who built this grand house.  It is my home, and will be for all eternity.”

“How is that possible?  This house is over 150 years old.  Are you a ghost?”  She felt the room suddenly grow bone-chillingly cold, as the man’s eyes began to glow a vibrant red.

The man laughed at her foolishness.  “No, I am no simple ghost, I am much more.”

She could see that he was not pleased with her questions.  “I’m sorry, I meant no offense.  Please tell me why you summoned me.”

“That will come at the proper time.  For now, I only wanted to introduce myself.  Go rest, for tomorrow you have much to do.”  The swirling  fog then wrapped around the man as he backed out of view.

***

“Keri, wake up.  I’ve already started the coffee and I thought we could spend some time together before I have to leave for work,” Mike laughed as he pulled the blanket off her.

“Sheez, I’m getting up.  I didn’t sleep very well last night,” she groaned.

“Really, I slept like a log.  It must be the fresh country air,” Mike inhaled a deep breath and pounded his hand on his chest.  “Dang, what did you do last night, go running through a dirt field?”

“What?”  Keri looked down at the foot of the bed and saw dirt smudges on the sheet.  “That doesn’t make any sense.  My feet were clean when I went to bed and I didn’t get up all night long.”

“Maybe the reason you’re still tired is because you were sleep-walking,” Mike teased.

Keri did not find his taunts amusing one bit.  Normally, his teasing did not bother her, but for some reason it did now.  “Come on, let’s go have some coffee.  Maybe that will wake me up some.”

***

Once Mike had left for work, Keri decided to go into town and check out the local hardware store.  Mike had told her to hire a painter and other contractors to do the renovation work on the house, but for some reason, she wanted to do it herself.

The little bell attached to the door alerted the proprietor of a customer.  Keri stepped inside of the small hardware store and was amazed at all the different things lining the shelves.  She had never done renovation work before, but for some strange reason, she knew just what she needed.

“Good morning, Miss.  How may I help you today?” the cheerful, elderly man asked.

“I am in need of a few items, please.  I need to know if you have a floor sander to rent.  I plan to refinish the wood floors in my house.  I’d also like to see some paint color samples,” Keri said as she looked around the store.

“You must be new to town.  I don’t believe we’ve ever met.  My name is Bernie and I own this fine establishment,” he held out his hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, Bernie.  My name is Keri.  My husband and I recently moved to this fine town from New York,” she smiled as she took his offered hand.

No sooner had the words left her mouth than Bernie pulled his hand away from hers.  “Oh, you’re the ones who bought that house.”  The look of fear was clearly on his face.

Keri could not understand his sudden change upon learning who she was.  “Yes, we were very fortunate to get such a good deal on it too.  It’s a bit run down now, but I plan to have it back to a grand home again.”

“Did the realtor tell you the story of that house?” a faint voice came from the doorway to the back room.

“Quiet, Martha.  It’s not our place to meddle,” Bernie’s voice was firm but laced with a hint of fear.

“She should be warned,” Martha said firmly.

Keri did not understand why, but the words the old woman said made a deep anger begin to burn deep inside of her.  She turned to face the woman, “There is nothing wrong with my house.  You need to keep your thoughts to yourself.”

When their eyes locked, Martha suddenly grabbed her throat, unable to speak.

“Martha!”  Bernie rushed to his wife and caught her before she collapsed to the floor.

“What have you done to her?” Bernie cried out.  “Leave, and never come back!”

Without saying another word, Keri turned and walked out of the store.  “How dare you speak to me that way. I love my house and it WILL be beautiful again.”

On the drive home, Keri thought back to what had transpired in the hardware store.  “Why did they both seem so afraid of the house?”  She decided to put that all behind her and focus on fixing up the house that was growing on her by the moment.

***

A feeling of contentment as she stepped through the front door filled her body.  She decided to take a short nap before she began unpacking the kitchen items.  “It will be nice to have a real home cooked meal tonight when Mike gets home.”  She walked to the living room and lay on the sofa.  It only took a few moments before she fell fast asleep.

“You did well today, my child,” the now familiar voice whispered in her ear.  “You have begun to restore the life to this house and in time it will once again be the grand mansion it once was.”

At hearing his voice, Keri felt joy surge throughout her entire body.

***

“Keri, I’m home,” Mike called out as he set his briefcase down in the foyer.  “What smells good in here?”

“I’m making your favorite, lasagna, tossed salad, and garlic toast.”

Mike stopped and looked around.  “I don’t know when you found time to cook.  You’ve really cleaned up this place.  Did you polish the floor?  It looks like it’s brand new.”

“I just did a little cleaning, that’s all.  Now, go wash up, dinner is ready.”  Keri grabbed the pan with the lasagna from the oven and placed it on the table next to the salad.  She then put the garlic toast in a basket and set it on the table as well.

“I heard the most tragic news when I stopped in town to fill up my car on the way home.  The wife of the man who owns the hardware store died suddenly today.   They’re saying she had a stroke.  I suppose it was quite a surprise as she seemed to be in good health.”  Mike sat at the table and placed his napkin on his lap.

“Yes, that is quite tragic.”  Keri reached for the basket with the garlic bread and handed it to Mike.

He took a piece and set it on his plate.  “Anyway, they say her husband is quite upset and keeps talking about the evil force that came into the store and killed her.”

“The poor man is just distraught.  It must be hard to have your spouse suddenly die like that.”  Keri could not explain it but knowing that the woman had died seemed to fill her with joy.  “Let’s eat before our food gets cold.”

***

As the moon shone through the bedroom window, a silent voice beckoned to Keri.  “Come, my child, we have work to do.”

The road was dark and foreboding as she slowly drove toward the town.  She knew where she was headed but did not understand why.

“He is waiting for you, my child,” the voice said in a pleased tone.

Keri turned the car down the long driveway and stopped in front of the old house with the wrap-around porch.  She got out of the car and quietly closed the door, surprised at how the dog lying on the porch remained asleep.  The cool night air caressed her skin through her thin gown, but for some strange reason she liked it.  As she stepped on the first step, it groaned, causing her to hold her breath with the fear she would awaken the sleeping dog.

“Do not fear, my child.  I have prepared everything for you,” the voice reassured her.

Keri placed her foot on the next step and was pleased when there was no sound.  She glanced over at the dog and noticed that it was sleeping soundly, so she took the last two steps up to the door.

A dim glow of light came from under the door and she wondered why she was brought here.  As she reached for the handle, the door slowly opened, allowing her to see inside and the man asleep in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace.

That’s Bernie, the man from the hardware store, the words formed in her mind, as she found herself drawn to him.  “Why am I here?” she asked silently.

“You know why.  It is to restore our home to its once beauty and grandeur,” the voice responded.

“But I don’t understand.  How is that possible by his death?” Keri knew what the voice meant, but a part of her did not want to accept the truth.

“The house is dying.  It needs blood sacrifices to survive and regain its lifeforce.  Now do what you must,” the voice commanded.

Keri did not know why, but she walked over to the sleeping man and looked down into his pain-filled face.

“What are you doing here?” Bernie said with a raspy voice as he opened his eyes and looked up into hers.

“You know why I’m here,” she said with no emotion on her face.

“You’re here to kill me just like you did Martha, aren’t you.  I’ve heard the tales about that house, but I always thought it was nothing but bullshit.”  Bernie tried to get out of the rocking chair but found his legs would not move.

Keri did not respond, she just looked at this simple man and wondered what it felt like to know you were about to die.

“I do have one thing to say before you kill me.  Once the house is finished with you, you will die as well.  Anyone who ever lived in that house has died a horrible death.”  Bernie then closed his eyes and awaited his fate.

Keri looked down at the man and smiled.  “Your death will be a great asset to the house.  Thank you for your sacrifice.”

Bernie opened his eyes and laughed.  “Your soul will burn in Hell with that man who built that cursed house.  He was crazy and murdered several people in his quest for immortality.  He finally sold his soul to Satan for the opportunity to live forever.  I grew up hearing the stories about that house, but I never really believed them,  I guess I should have paid closer attention.  The entire town has watched that damn house suddenly appear restored after several strange deaths in the area.  Then those who bought it would die and the house would again sit vacant for years.  Then once the house is run down again, someone new will move in and the strange deaths begin again.  Go ahead, you devil bitch, do what you must.  I’m ready to join my beloved Martha anyway.”

Bernie closed his eyes again, as Keri reached out and touched him on the forehead.  His body quivered as the lifeforce left his body, leaving an empty shell of the man he once was sitting in the rocking chair.

***

“Didn’t you sleep any last night?” Mike asked as he walked into the kitchen and filled his coffee cup.

“No, not much.  I just wanted to get busy on the house.”  Keri reached for her cup of coffee and took another sip.

“Well, I need to get going.  I have an early meeting this morning with a new client.”  Mike leaned over and gently kissed Keri on the cheek.  “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Keri said then she reached for the coffee pot to refill her cup.

***

“It’s happening again, just like it did forty years ago,” Clara, the Post Master whispered as she glanced around the post office lobby.  “I don’t know why the town just hasn’t torn that house down.  It’s cursed I tell you, cursed.”

“You know why they don’t.  Anyone who tries to destroy that house dies a horrible death.  We’ve all heard the stories of what he did in that house.  All that devil worship stuff and sacrificing those people,” Chuck, the feed store owner said in a hushed tone.

“Well, I don’t like it one bit.  Two wonderful people have died suddenly after meeting that woman who bought the house this time.  How many more are going to die before she’s done?”  Clara held her hand to her breast, feeling her heart beating rapidly with fear.

“I don’t know, but I sure hope that I don’t cross paths with her,” Chuck’s voice quivered at the thought of facing the one sent to gather souls.  “Well, I need to get back to the store.  Take care, Miss Clara.”

Chuck gathered his mail and walked to the door, saying a silent prayer that he was not chosen as a sacrifice for the cursed house.

***

Keri stood in stunned amazement at the beauty before her.  She could not explain it, but somehow the walls inside of the house now appeared to have a fresh wallpaper and the wood trim looked to be freshly stained.  “How is this possible?” she asked herself, but she knew the answer.  It was the blood sacrifices made the day before that was restoring the house.  She reached out and touched the wall. “You are alive, aren’t you?”

***

A thick fog had settled in around the small town, making those who understood the events taking place to stay safely in their homes.  Mike had stayed late at the office, so he was glad to see the town welcome sign appear in the fog in front of him.  The last few days had been strained whenever he went home.  Keri seemed distant and whenever he asked her how she was getting the house renovated so quickly, she would tell him that it was none of his business.

“None of my business, what the hell is that supposed to mean?”  Mike did not like the feeling he had growing inside of him each day when he came home.  It was almost as though the house did not want him there, but how was that even possible.

As he turned on the road that led to their house, the fog seemed to grow thicker.  “Damn, I can barely see.  I should have stayed in the city for the night,” he groaned, straining to see through the thickening fog.

She no longer needs you, a voice whispered in his ear.

“WHAT?” the word escaped his lips with such force, nearly causing him to run off the road.

You heard me.  I said that she no longer needs you.  She has me, and that is all she desires.

Mike reached up and rubbed his eyes, trying to clear the thoughts stirring in his mind.  What was happening to them?  They used to be so happy and had such hopes and dreams before they bought that damn house.  When he opened his eyes again, the image he saw sent chills throughout his entire body.

There standing in the middle of the road, surrounded by thick, swirling fog was Keri.  Mike swerved to miss her and plowed headon into an old Southern Live Oak tree.

The blood on Mike’s face from the broken glass felt cold as the night air filled the car.  He reached for the door handle but found the door jammed shut.  “Keri, help me,” his words were a mere whisper.

He tried to open his door again when he heard a sound come from under the hood of the car.  “Oh, God, no.”

The flames engulfed the car, drowning out Mike’s cries for help as Keri stood in silence watching it all play out before her.  She knew she should be sad, but she wasn’t.  She knew this sacrifice would nearly finish the renovation of her beloved house.

***

The morning sun burned through the thick fog, creating a sense of rebirth as the new day began.  Keri had awoken and was thrilled to see the improvements to the house.  Now, not only was the inside of the house completely restored, but now the outside looked as though it was not just freshly painted, but actually newly built.

As she stood in the yard, looking at renovation was complete on the home she loved above all else, she wondered what would become of her now.  She knew there would be questions regarding Mike’s death, but she was in no mood to talk about it.

Come to me, my child.  It is time to join me.

“Yes, I want to be with you for all eternity,” she said as she walked to the house.  “I’m ready.”

With each step up the staircase to the top floor, the house seemed to take a breath, awaiting its final sacrifice.  Her face was emotionless as she opened the window and stepped out on the ledge.

Do not fear, my child.  You will forever be with me.

A strange smile crossed her lips as she looked down and watched the once dead and desolate landscape surrounding the house transform into a beautiful, lush garden.  “You will live again with beauty and grace,” Keri said with a peaceful look on her face.  Knowing her task was complete, she stepped off the ledge into the bright morning sun.

***

Thirty years later…

“Oh, honey, I know it needs a lot of work, but I know I can make it a grand showplace again.”