Nearly three weeks had come and gone, and the house remained quiet.
Molly still whispered and on occasion her light giggling fits broke out to a full hardy laughter, but never enough to rile her mother, or raise even a single eyelash. She could be heard carrying on conversations, even moments after Abby had just checked on her, and found her alone. Her mother said nothing, denying what she knew was true.
Abby’s dreams had fallen off sharply. Once or twice a week she found herself daydreaming while sitting in the large blue chair, reading to Molly, or while gathering the laundry off the clothes line that ran from the just outside the kitchen window to the pulley that hung from the trellis, where David parked his car. Oh how she loved the fresh clean scent of country dried sheets, but almost always her steady state had become twisted with a nasty thought, or unpleasant image that invaded her otherwise placid interior pressing down on her like the weight of the world. They ruffled her, scared her, and left her wondering what the message was they were trying to telling her.
David had all but forgotten about the dead man who hung swaying from the hangman’s noose, out in the back field where the old oak tree stood. He forgot about the laughter, the mocking, continual verse of Ring A Round the Rosie, the old rope swing that pumped up and down, as if a child’s thrusting leg propelled the swing higher. They all slipped away to a distant memory, charged, and written off to fatigue, and now after three weeks without a single vision he convinced himself those things were just that.. fatigue.
Neither Abby, or David ever spoke about the things they had seen, the things they had heard, both lived in denial of the others fears. Without words they seem to know what the other was thinking, and neither one of them wanted to acknowledge what they thought had happened, in fear of scaring the other.
It was Wednesday, September 22, the first official day of fall, and it felt like it. Temperatures had fallen back into the upper thirties under the constant bluster of a northwest wind. It ran the length of the Long Lake and battered the house. David thought to himself, “I wonder how many times this old house proudly stood her ground against such a fierce wind?” He had laid there in bed, listening to the wind whipping the lake into a frenzy, whistling through the pines, and rattle the windows. He laid there staring at the clock, unable to sleep. It was 1:32AM
He laid there so long staring deep into the darkness, that he failed to realized when the images he had conjured in his head had become part of a dream. He slipped further into trace without recognizing that he in fact closed in on sleep. No sooner had his droopy eyes finally surrendered, closing firmly with the weight of sleep, was he jolted awake by the sound of breaking glass, or was it the wind chime, that lulled him just minutes before, only now, silently refusing to offer so much as a peep. “Had it finally slipped away from the holding hook, and crashed against the house?” David question in his foggy near sleep state.
Abby flailing in fright, shook David from the rest of his somber state. “HONEY? HONEY? DID YOU HEAR THAT?” she said in an excited voice. From out of the darkness of the bedroom, he grumble under an unintelligible breath. “DAVID? DAVID?”, she repeated frantic like “DID YOU HEAR THAT?”
David replied, “ Yeah, I am awake, I think it was the wind chime that hung on the back porch” Abby clutched his arm, trembling in fear, she asked “What makes you think it was the wind chime?” “Well I don’t hear it anymore.” “Before it was so loud it had kept me awake”. Her nerves whittled away knowing her husband was probably right. He laid there until she fell back to sleep.
Unable to go sleep himself, he got up.
David found his old leather chair in the dark of the study. The nightlight that shined weakly in the hallway provided enough light to maneuver throughout the room without stumbling or knocking over anything the presented itself. The chair with its soft smooth surface held the night cooling. He had always enjoyed the peace of the late night, the time when all the world held quiet and allowed his mind to free itself from the stresses that surrounded him. It was usually the time when words flowed from his pen like the water dripping that pinged in the stainless steel of bowl of the kitchen sink. He had always wanted a study that afforded views of the lake, but the kitchen stood between him and his simple little wish.
The study laid on the east side of the house, just off the grand foyer, facing the back fields. The true orientation of the house, laid out the study to the back half of the old Victorian, but that wasn’t wholly true either. The house was bound on the east by the backside of the orchard, the lower back fields, a worn carriage path, complete with a stonewall that surely would had to have separated his property from that of a neighbor at some period in the house’s 100-year-old history, the small burial yard that Abby and Molly had discovered, and beyond that the property stretched out into far fields, before surrendering to the growth of the approaching forest. On the south, the rutted driveway opened up to the front porch, that wrapped around to the west and offered long stretched views of the lake. The north side of the house faced a thick stand of pine, oaks and maples, growing ever closer to the house.
David sat slouching in his high-backed chair, and gulped down a shot of whiskey. He watched the long reaching arms of tree shadows flutter about the floor, driven to dance by the silver cascade of light from a harvest moon and northwest bluster. From the corner of his eye he caught movement in the window. A shadow, black as the ink in the well of a quilled pen, darker than the night it’s self hidden under a moonless sky. The movement stood off to the side of the window in the distant apple orchard brought to life only when the wind pushed the clouds and opened the sky to the bathing of the moon’s glow, back-lit by the emptiness of the fields behind it. David blinked, and it was gone.
He rose from the chair, and moved closer to the window. He stood just inside the curtain clothed jam and peered out. He searched the orchard, back and forth from tree to tree, but his eyes found nothing just the soft shimmer of the moonlight.
He returned to his chair, and poured another shot of whiskey, before drifting off to a light slumber.
A glint of light offered up by the moon was just enough for David to see the glowing gold face of the grand father clock that stood, quietly, motionless like a soldier guarding Buckingham Palace. It was 3:49am when he woke in a cold shiver.
A whisper groaned so soft it barely registered at first, louder and louder it grew until it droned out the sound of his heart beating so heavy it echoed in his ears, until it strangled out all the other noises of the house. The angry tone floated across the room and ran the length of his body, prickling at the small of his back, it wrapped him in icy fingers that gripped tightly, scratching at the nape of his neck.
Frozen words nipped at his ear, as if someone stood over him, with the touch of death, hissing incessantly. The buzz was deep and low, almost throaty and hoarse as it rang over and over inside the walls of his twisting mind.
“she’s a child, she won’t resist” the voice offered.
“just hold her head down until she stops” it continued
The image of a crow, filled his head, its black coat, and evil eyes cawing out a nagging screech. Feasting on the bones and body of the bloated dead, picking the decaying flesh from the soft underside of a rotten corpse, a child, whose body laid floating just below the side of the old wooden dock, hung in place by a shoelace twisted around a reaching root that sipped from the lake.
She wore the light pink slippered pajamas that Abby often dressed Molly in when the weather turned colder. He recognized the pjs almost immediately, but was sure that the images in his head had been placed there to convince him or push him to a murderous act.
David sat frozen in the chair unable to move.
He prayed amidst the constant chatter, and encouraging chants of murder.
He prayed hard, reciting the 23rd Psalm over and over..
“yea, tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”
“I will fear no evil: For thou art with me:”
“Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
“thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”
In a last strangle voice, he shouted “be gone you devil”.
The dark shadow dissolved before him, taking the words, images and dread with it.