Happy Thanksgiving to one and to all! Today is the day when we gather with friends, families, loved ones and strangers to express our gratitude for the blessings in our life. We’ll eat like kings, we’ll tell tales, and celebrate the traditions carried by our loved ones before us.
It’s a special day that reminds us that life is good, but I challenge you to take a moment out of each and every day to stop for one moment, take a deep breath and whisper to the universe, “Thank you.” Whether it’s when you see a lady bug on a blade of grass or when your cat decides to take a nap on you when you’re trying to get up in the morning, give thanks for that moment out of your troubles, a moment of peace.
Drink the sunsets, dear readers, tell the ones you love just why you do. They’ll be grateful for the love that you share too. If you’d like a place to express your moment of thanks, please feel free to use the comments section to spread that good cheer to fellow readers!
I cannot express how grateful I am for the support I receive from you. Thank you, dear readers, and I’ll write again soon!
Things were getting desperate. After that night where I slept on the couch, my best friend Victoria was scheduled to come over and hang out before we went out to dinner. As I stood at the kitchen sink, looking over the sleepy street before me, I knew, without doubt or solid evidence, that if I turned around fast enough, I would see it.
The dark shadow lurked in the corner of the kitchen behind me as if chained to the hall. It stood there watching me. Without direct interaction, it told me that it was frustrated, confused, angry. Angry that I was there, but I ignored it. I knew that if I acknowledged it without knowing exactly what I was dealing with, that I could feed its power over me, so quietly, I carried on with washing my dishes.
Victoria arrived just after dark and the second her Chuck Taylors crossed the threshold, it was obvious that she felt it too. Of my suspicions that we were not alone in this house, Victoria was completely unaware. I purposefully did not tell her because if it was as I suspected, Victoria would confirm it. Like me, she’s very attuned to other presences if they should happen to be in the room.
We walked through the house and the entire time, her eyes were wide, her body stiff, mannerisms that I had grown very accustomed to myself while in that house.
After a while, the pair of us opened a grapefruit IPA to toast this new independence. We stood at the foot of the dining room table, directly in line with the hall. It was the most uncomfortable experience that I had yet endured in that house. It was plain that both of us could sense it standing in the hall like a belligerent adolescent. Though we said nothing about it, both of us kept our peripherals on the hall.
It wanted us out, so we respectfully bolted.
The minute we locked the front door behind us, Victoria took her first real breath, like she was breaking the surface after a dive that went too deep.
“How do you stand it in there?” She exasperated. “I couldn’t breathe. There’s someone in there!”
“I know,” I said calmly, but not feeling calm at all. “Where did you feel it watching us?”
Without hesitation she answered, “From the hall and it is pissed.”
There was no better way to say it.
Victoria has numerous of her own spirit stories, but she told me that there was no way that she could ever sleep or be at ease in that house. I knew only too well what she meant.
The next morning, I sent an email to my local parish’s priest. I did not know what else to do.
I asked the Father to come and bless the house, to which he agreed. I spent the week in wait, but, to my disappointment, the priest did not honor the agreement. Driving up the freeway back to my house, fro m church where he and I were supposed to meet, I felt a courage fill me that rarely had reared its head. It was a resolute determination to take this thing head on myself. I was not going to let this unseen terror destroy my peace. Blaring down the highway, I vowed that I would pray that negative energy out from that house.
Bursting through the door, I held tight to my rosary and as if in a trance, repeated over and over again throughout the entire house, “Peace and love fill this house!” If any of the neighbors passed by, I’m sure they thought me a lunatic, but I repeated it over and over for well over twenty minutes before I felt like I could stop. My words echoed in my head and the house felt quieter, lighter, much lighter, but not empty. It felt like the spirit was chased back. Like the wickedness had been thwarted, but it’s presence lingered. It was enough for me at that moment and it allowed me enough peace to get through the afternoon.
That night, I had dinner with my friends Jason and Elizabeth. Elizabeth went on home after, but Jason came by to pick up some important documents in the evening. At one point, we went through the hall to grab those papers from the second bedroom, but we stopped dead. It felt like we walked through a veil of smoke.
“Do you smell that?” I asked, sniffing the air in the center of the hall.
Jason’s crinkled brow intimated that he had.
“It smells like smoke?” he asked.
Nodding, I confirmed, “Like cigarettes.”
Neither of us smoked and as far as we knew, no one in that house had in over thirty years. There were no windows in the hall, no vents. A chilling sensation ran down both of our necks.
I quickly checked the bathroom. No smoke, no smell. Jason checked the old room of the gentleman who lived there, no smoke, no smell. We both checked my room and the same was the case, but just as I was about to check the front of the house, Jason went in to the third room.
The second he stepped inside, I felt an overwhelming sensation like someone was standing in the room screaming, “GET OUT!”
Immediately, I called to Jason, “It doesn’t want us in there, we need to get out of there, right now!”
Grabbing Jason by his shirt sleeve, I pulled him out of the room and we stopped dead for a moment in the hall. The door to the third room closed shut.
We stood silent for a moment, trying to process what happened until again, there was the smell of cigarettes, isolated strictly to where we stood in the hall.
Jason had had enough. He charged in to the living room, me right beside him. We decided that we had to talk to it, to tell it what was going on and that would be enough to calm down whatever was clinging on to this place. Hoping that this would make it leave us alone.
I slowly lowered myself to the couch while jason began to speak, “We know you’re here. My name is Jason, I’m a friend of the gentleman who lives here. We are taking care of him. He is sick and currently can’t live at home. Until he can return, this is Sarah and she is here to take care of this house.”
“Jason,” I interrupted. “Look at Kitty.”
Little Kitty had been playing, carefree and adorably at the foot of the chair by Jason, but now she sat cold, erect, frozen in fear, looking at the hall. Her immensely dilated eyes stared into the face of the person that we could not see.
To this day, it chills me to think of what that pour cat could see that we could not. Whatever it was, it terrified her. Kitty bolted from her spot to hide beneath the roll top desk, something she had not done before and never did again.
Jason and I nearly lost our nerves seeing this, but he continued, “I know that this is new for you and that you’re concerned about your friend, but we will keep you updated on his progress and all we ask is that you leave Sarah and her two cats alone. Let them live here in peace. Thank you and God bless.”
It took a minute, but the room felt lighter, so much lighter! Like it hadn’t as long as I had been there. A tremendous weight was taken from that house, but it wasn’t completely gone, not for a while at least. There were several more conversations like this to follow and the spirit always let us know when it was time for an update, but for the most part, the spirit held true to her end of the bargain. With the clues that we had gathered, we determined that this was the spirit of Scotty’s sister who was watching over him. It made sense that his sudden removal and the entrance of a stranger in his home would seem like an invasion to her.
Toward the end of my eleven month stay in that house, after months of peace, I felt the spirit intimately communicate with me once more.
It was a warm night. It had been another long day of packing up my items and distributing them between my parents’ house, where I was moving, and my storage unit. I had taken a shower and was getting ready for bed. My hair was already dry and I was just about to put on my pajamas when suddenly the distinct touch of a finger running up my spine removed me from my peaceful evening.
The frozen touch chilled me and I knew the question being asked, “What’s going on, Kid?” But I ran out of the bathroom before I answered. I sat on the side of the bed to decide what to say, when the symbol of peace that I had attached to the door of my room for the past eleven months, slipped from its spot right before my eyes.
Quickly, I explained that I was preparing to move and that the house would soon be sold. I explained that the profit would help to ensure the proper care that her brother deserved.
The night was still.
The next day, a week earlier than planned, I packed up the cats and took them to my parents’ place. The lightness had returned, but that was the last night I spent in the house on the hill.
The third room, exactly as it was for twenty years. All of the photos used in this post were taken in 1994. Everything in the photos was EXACTLY where and how we found them when we initially started to clean the house in the summer of 2016.
In the process of trying to hunt down the sound that had shattered my first night in the new house, my friend Jason made the comment that as long as nothing happened this following night at midnight, I would be fine. Having seen more haunted, paranormal shows than is probably healthy in my time, I authoritatively said, “No, witching hour is much later, it’s between three and five in the morning.” And that’s where I went wrong.
Surely the events of last night could be explained. Surely there was some rational explanation. Granted, the idea of the paranormal was no foreign subject to me, but this was my ship. It couldn’t be sinking.
Jason, Elizabeth and I set out on an investigation to de-bunk the mystery of the sounds that afternoon. We searched high and low, shaking and moving any object we could imagine, and eventually we found it. However, rather than set my my mind at ease, I became even more rattled.
As I was leaving the restroom in the master bedroom where I was staying, the inside door knob told me it was he! The rattle I had heard was the knob. The door knob had rattled in the night as if someone was frustrated, trapped, and couldn’t get out.
After I shared this frightening discovery with my friends, Elizabeth taped over the knob so that it could not make noise in the night. Eventually, after several hours, Elizabeth left for the evening, but Jason stayed to install the smoke detector.
The very kind neighborlady came over and I shared with her the adventures I had endured during the night. She gave me a great big hug, told me to call her if anything happened and assured me that I could stay at her house if anything happened.
Jason finished his chores and then it was time for him to go. I didn’t want any of them to leave, but a slumber party for adults in the middle of the week seemed a ridiculous proposition, so Jason left and it was just Kitty and me.
I prepared for bed, played with Kitty, then left the door to my room open, so she could come in and out if she was comfortable. Having another heartbeat in the house was a great comfort, even if she wouldn’t cross the threshold into the room.
It took a long time for me to fall asleep. It was so cold! It was September, and it was absolutely freezing in the room. No matter what I did, I could not warm up. Even when I tuckered down after a hot shower to sleep, there was no relief.
Though I knew that I was perfectly alone, I could not shake the feeling that someone was standing at the foot of the bed, touching my feet, telling me, “You’re in my bed.”
Ignoring the unmistakable feeling of being watched, I focused on Kitty who was still meowing incessantly at me. Eventually, Kitty curled up in a ball just outside the doorway and likely stayed there probably until the middle of the night when…
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP
An alarm went screaming off from the kitchen. I BOLTED out of bed thinking it was the fire alarm, but it was not.
It was the digital alarm clock on the kitchen table, flashing brightly 1200AM.
Picking the screaming thing up, I ripped its cord from the wall to silence the howler. The lights on its face went black, but it fulfilled its mission of waking me up and proving me wrong.
After this incident, I realized that I was not welcome in the master bedroom.
I quickly ran to the back of the house to grab the photo of my grandma and me, my Crucifix, a flashlight and a blanket. At that moment, I could not be paid enough to sleep in that room.
I closed the door for the night and proceeded to nest on the couch that was probably thirty years older than me. Content and happy with my decision, my little protector Kitty perched on the back of the couch, curled up in a ball and continued to watch over me.
Kitty had been warning me since I arrived at the house, so I finally took her advice. With the standing lamp on, I spent the night on the couch facing the hall. The light and the change of scenery was a slight comfort, but I knew without seeing it, without fully believing it, that something was standing right in the hall, facing me too.
Left side of photo, the hall.
Until next time dear readers, for the exciting conclusion of The House,
I had recently learned a new phrase: “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”
This phrase came streaming into my forethoughts at 1:17AM after a third, unexplainable rattle split the silence of the night. As my heart raced and I tried to take deep breaths and remain calm, I half joked to myself as a part of that calming attempt, “My one stipulation for staying in this house would have been that it wasn’t haunted.”
There was something off about that back room where I was staying my first night in the house I was to look after for the next several months. Perhaps it was the single, bright white light that had a sterile, illuminous glow. Maybe it was the ducks on the wall that looked to be flying for their lives. Perhaps it was the way the cat that I was fostering would sit in the hall before the bedroom as if to collect me and return us both to the safety of the living room. At that moment while the rattling was disturbing my sleep, I wanted those reasons to make more sense than the two deaths that had occurred in this home. None of these reasons had really occurred to me when the opportunity to stay in the house rent free had originally been presented.
“I have a plan formulating,” a dear friend had said as we stepped into her husband Jason’s car. We were on our way to visit Kitty, a sweet, but timid cat whose owner was no longer able to take care of himself in his home. My friends had been charged with the task of taking after the home, but between providing the care for this elderly gentlemen and their own lives, the house was an imposing and titanic task. My friends had been trying to convince me to foster Kitty for weeks, but being that I was a typical Millennial living at home, that prospect was beyond my control. My parents and I already had Bella Tuna Todd and did not need another cat, but my heart broke when my friend, Elizabeth, told me that morning that her contacts who had wanted to adopt Kitty backed out.
Elizabeth wanted me to go to the house that she and her husband were the caregivers of, to fall in love with Kitty, so to have one more go trying to convince my parents. After one evening seeing the house and visiting Kitty, who was wonderful and did not yet know how to play, I received an email from my friend that described her plan: if I was willing, my cat Bella and I could move into the empty house to care for Kitty. I was ecstatic. Even if just temporarily, I would have a place to have on my own.
Several weeks of cleaning the house that had endured decades of neglect later, I was just about ready to move in. Knowing the odd history of the house, my friends asked me to stay there for a few nights to ensure that I would be comfortable prior to uprooting Bella. I knew that two people had passed away there and that the gentleman who had lastly called this place his home abruptly left, but I had my experience with the paranormal, and this didn’t intimidate me. The house had character and it was the house that the neighborhood children avoided, as its facade was run down, the trees overgrown. It didn’t have a washing machine, there was no cable, the second bathroom didn’t work, and the crumbling, faded pink wallpaper from the sixties screamed to be put to rest, but none of that bothered me. My one stipulation was said as a joke; that as long as it wasn’t haunted, I would be fine.
All of this flashed through my mind at 1:15AM when the first rattling shattered my pleasant sleep. The sound had erupted from the bathroom, but I could not for the life of me remember drawer handles inside that would rattle if the house shifted. Before I could fully process the happening, it happened again.
Directly behind me.
There was nothing but a wall behind me and certainly nothing that could rattle.
Feeling sufficiently unnerved, I crawled out of bed to grab my knife from my bag. It was my first night in this house and I didn’t know what to expect, so I ensured that I was prepared, but I was prepared to face the living, not the dead.
While crawling back into bed, staring at the dun colored curtains glowing from the green nightlight in there room, I realized that Kitty had not stepped a paw into the back room, my room. She had stood in the doorway as if beckoning me to come out of there as I prepared for bed. In retrospect, I should have listened. There was something in there that she could see that I could not and it genuinely scared her.
Several other inexplicable sounds disturbed the night, but none so loud as those first three. Rationally, I knew that this was my first night in the house and that there were bound to be sounds that I neither recognized or knew, but the feeling that I was no longer alone began to grow.
Stubborn and determined, I decided to write this off to a first night in a strange environment. I had to go to work in the morning and needed to try to return to the comfort of sleep. It took some time to pass out, but eventually, I forced my fears aside and ignored the meows of Kitty in the hall, which I knew was her begging me to leave that room.
Actual photo of the room.
Stay tuned for next week’s chapter in this, your Halloween read, and my true story nightmare.
Good day to you all! Are you ready for your first short story of the season in this new blog site? If you are familiar with the former Reading Escape blog, then you know that Halloween themed stories come aplenty in October, so here we are! Today’s short was inspired by a Tweet from none other than J.K. Rowling that I scrolled past while sipping my coffee this morning:
The following is a complete work of fiction, but one inspired by the photo she snapped and the Tweets regarding the spider she has posted, so thank you J.K. Rowling for the spark you provided today, for your imaginative literary works, and most of all, for all of the wonderful charity work that you support. Hopefully this will provide a theory to at least one string of your questions regarding the webs. Enjoy!
Why the Web
It was half past nine in the evening when the author decided to put down her pen and call it a night. The day spent at her craft had been productive, but not so much as she would have preferred. It was rather frustrating writing for a deadline and it had been a long time since she had achieved her daily goals. Most mornings had been spent stewing over a paper in search of inspiration rather than creating and typing. Her fingers danced on the keys nonetheless, albeit more to that of a militant march than to a sprightly, energetic tune.
After standing and stretching from her desk, she tucked pages of idea-covered leaves and napkins into a heavily used manila folder. She took the final sip from an exhausted cup of cold tea before turning out the lights. In the dark, the author left the room and enclosed the writing room for the night behind a pair of French doors.
From atop the door frame, a pair of spiders watched with intrigued blinking eyes. They were absolutely captivated by this woman who appeared to have extreme moments of brilliance inside the room, but as of late had been enduring much longer stretches of creative frustration in that small space. Day after day they watched her enclose herself in the room for hours and hours at a time. She was a marvelous spectacle to them and tonight was the night they were determined to see what kept her attention inside.
“C’mon,” the blue hued spider said to its mate. “Let’s have another look-see.” Without waiting for his friend, the blue spider began to walk briskly down the seam of the doors.
“But we’ve never made it through before,” the grey spider reminded, deciding to repel down the door with a long silver thread. “She always keeps that door closed even when she’s in there.” Bounding down, the grey spider furthered, “And even that one time when she did have it open longer than a minute, we lost our nerve, thinking we’d be squished if she saw us. If only we weren’t afraid, we could see what the source of her emotions must be!”
The spiders had a long line of theories as to what kept her so entertained and so busy. The theory they were both willing to agree to was one they hoped to see tonight. Magic. It was the only thing that made sense to the spiders.
“Well, let’s have a look and see if maybe this time, she did not close these properly,” the little blue was determined that this would be the night when they would finally see their theory come true.
The spiders finished the long trek, arriving atop the patina handles of the doors.
“If only we could figure out how to open these, Blue!” the grey spider tugged with all of his might at the gargantuan handle he stood upon, but alas, the little one was not strong enough to make it budge.
Blue was not joining his friend to help open the doors. He was in deep concentration, looking through the glass at the area in the room that captivated the human the most. After a long while, Blue suggested, “Perhaps the opposite should be true, Grey.”
“Eh?” Grey stopped his new efforts of jumping on the handle in attempt to make it move.
Blue continued his thought out loud, “Didn’t you see how frustrated she was today?” Grey nodded and crossed the handles to stand beside his friend. “Maybe whatever she had that was in there making her happy is slipping away?” Blue continued.
The spiders contemplated this idea and simultaneously pressed their faces against the window looking into the room, peeking their eight tiny eyes inside.
Upon the desk they so desperately wished to explore lie a very simple spread; a keyboard, a white framed box that, although asleep now, glowed like the sun while she was inside. They had often suspected that the box was the source of the magic, but there were times when the human would grow very annoyed with the box, even yelling at it at times, which was most peculiar. The pair had softly deduced that surely the magic must have come from something else.
Above the desk was the most curious thing of all. Contained inside a glass box was a slender wooden stick with a pair of half moon shaped spectacles trapped inside with it.
Blue pointed at the box and said, “Those things must be of great importance to have them in her direct line of sight.”
“She does look up at them for long stretches of time,” Grey agreed. “Do you think that box may be the source?!” Grey was hardly able to contain his excitement with this thought.
“Yes,” Blue said contemplatively, as though not thoroughly convinced. Rubbing his chin, the gears began to fall into place for the little spider. “Perhaps also that the magic is simply within!”
“Within?” Grey questioned, looking back at his friend.
“Yes, of course!” Blue was inspired. “The magic is inside the room and I’ll bet it grows upon itself. That’s why she closes the doors, to keep it inside! Surely it regenerates to have stayed so long, but it must be escaping somehow. That must explain why she’s been so frustrated lately.”
“Because it’s not all in there!” Grey speculated. “But why can’t we see it?”
“We can’t see it because it must be really small,” Blue held up his forefeet and pinched them together to demonstrate the type of micro sized magic bits he was envisioning.
“Do you suppose it can fit through the doors?” Grey looked to the seam between the doors that neither he or his friend could fit through. “We’ve always felt a breeze coming out from in there.”
“Yes!” Blue shouted. “That must be it. That’s the magic escaping. “We should help her keep it in there. Let’s seal the cracks of the door so that the magic will stay inside and she won’t have to be frustrated any more! We’ll make it so nothing can escape our silver lines!”
“Righto, let’s!” little Grey rejoiced, jumping up and down. “Then perhaps when she sees how helpful we’ve been, we won’t have to fear her squishing us when we do make it inside!”
“Precisely!” Blue exclaimed. “Why don’t you start at the floor and work your way up. I’ll start at the top. We’ll meet in the middle and tie off our knots!”
The spiders set off to work and labored all through the night. They toiled to produce the most elaborate security system a spider ever made. They knew for certain that no magic would be able to escape tonight. When they finished tying their intricate knots around the handles, they ascended to the top and celebrated, for they knew they had done their human right. Though the spiders were exhausted, neither could sleep from the thrill of their excitement.
In the mid-morning light, their favorite human emerged. She was armed with her steaming cup of tea and a paper tucked between her elbow and side.
At first, the spiders giggled giddily at their chore as they watched her approach, but then their stomachs filled with butterflies as they awaited her reaction.
The woman stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes entrapped by the webs.
She looked left and right, all up and down the door, analyzing the silvery strings that seemed to bind together the entryway. The location of this web was curious, but beautiful all the same. She peered behind the handles, trying to see if the creator of the web was anywhere to be found. The second to last she wanted to do was to disturb the eight-legged artist. The last thing she wanted was to be bit by the spider as revenge for ruining its web.
From up above, in their micro voices, the spiders cheered her on to take down their wall of web to enter the room they restored with magic.
“Well, there is work to be done,” the author sighed. She used her paper to delicately clear the web away. “Sorry, spider,” she apologized, feeling terribly guilty for destroying the spider’s work.
The spiders did not mind. They watched delightedly as the human entered the room, closed the doors behind her, and took her seat. They patiently waited on the hall-side of the doors, looking in through the windows. Surely the room was loaded with magic by now and she would be happily working again any second!
The author adjusted herself in her chair before the now glowing box and instead of opening the paper, as was her norm, to glance the headlines, she let it sit instead beside her cup of tea. She stared back at the doorway for a long while, contemplating the webs.
The spiders grew nervous. “Have we fouled up?” Blue asked Grey, but then, something remarkable happened.
The author burst into one of her old moments of brilliance, sliding her fingers across a page with pen locked in hand. It was not long before the pen was left behind and across the keys of the keyboard, her fingers danced rhythmically for hours.
The spiders jumped up and down and danced for joy! Their nets had worked and the magic had remained inside.
From their great excitement, the pair made a pact to carry on their new routine for the rest of their lives to keep the author happy, so that someday they could safely traverse the room, to also enjoy the mirth of the magic inside.
Every morning for many weeks to follow, the author returned to the writing room to find the web stretched across the handles of the doors. It made her smile every time, though she was not exactly sure why. The spiders knew, of course, and they watched her from above inside the room. They were filled with a glee they assumed was the same as hers, inspired by the magic within the room. They watched her happily at her craft in plain sight, for they knew that if they were spotted by her now, they would only be greeted with appreciation.
Not so long ago, a great many of you joined me for countless adventures at the former blog site with Weekly Reads. Can you believe how far we’ve come? We’re begining to glimpse the big leagues!
Best of all, I can scarcely believe it myself, that it’s finally happened and now it’s time for you to know too: we did it. With your encouragement, your follows, your likes, your retweets, I finally have an honest-to-goodness page turner for you to have on your shelves or coffee tables at home.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me formally introduce you to the tale of Gertrude Kemenova and Samuel Maison of Legrette in my first printed works, The Animal Court.
Relations between the ruling class and the working public have all but failed. Government corruption is rampant and the king is oblivious to the snakes within his council. The king turns to his brothers for aid, but rivalry among royal blood proves to provoke old hatreds.
One crusader for the people remains, but as the only lady within the king’s court, no man is willing to listen.
The infuriating stagnation in progress beckons Gertrude to retreat to her idyllic country life, if only to hide in the comforting arms of her own skeletons. However, she knows that unless she can help enact rapid and drastic changes to tame the beasts within their government, the country she loves will be lost to the animal court.
If you have enjoyed their stories before, and for those of you who think you know Gertrude, let me assure you that time changes all. Dear past readers, I invite you to reacquaint yourself with the story of Gertrude Kemenova and the Animal Court, particularly those of you who are suffering from Game of Thrones withdrawals (trust me, I’m right there with you!) and need a new story to escape to.
The Animal Court is the second edition to The Feasts and Follies of the Animal Court. The story for some of you may feel familiar, but much has changed. So, dear readers, let’s take a step back in time with Breyton Malleus, to return to those days before the obligations to the greatest duties they never wanted, consumed their everything.
A sigh at sunset may mark the end of a day, but it also means a breath of new life will soon be rising. Welcome to the revised and revamped Reading Escape, where you may find a way to evade the troubles of your time.