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I grabbed my keys in a hurry, dashing from my empty, former bedroom. The quiet, empty house reflected somberly on my years living beneath its roof; countless laughs, smiles, fights, discomfort, pain and love. Grateful as I was to leave, there was the slightest amount of sorrow wedged somewhere in the depths of my heart. As much as I would miss this place, I didn’t even stop to think twice as I locked the door behind me, hopefully for the last time. Once I was outside, I paused for a moment to take in the breezy late afternoon air. I could finally feel the wind of freedom pushing at my wings, and I adjusted the position of a thin, worn box under my arm.
Taking the stairs in two jumps, I ran out to my car with an air of excitement about me, face flushed with my breathlessness and my dark hair whirling about, uncontrolled in the wind. My shabby silver 2000 Nissan Altima was packed with everything that once cluttered up the tiny room I had dwelt in for the most turbulent part of my life. Laughing in my glee, I pulled open the driver’s side door and plopped myself down onto the cushioned seat. With care I placed the frayed box down beside me, the picture and words long since faded from unknown layers of dust and years of sunlight. Pushing the key into the ignition, I turned to look out of the passenger side window, taking one last look at the mint green siding of my house before saying goodbye forever.
Mechanically I placed Brand New’s “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” into my car’s CD player. As I pulled away from that driveway for the last time, I sang along to the music blasting from my speakers. The speakers were blown during Junior Prom last year when dad came to pick me up—a little less sober than I would’ve expected. He still hadn’t bothered to replace them yet, but right now I didn’t care so much. The familiar suburban area that I’d spent almost five years of my life in faded away to Brand New’s “Millstone” pulsing from my car. I passed streets that I had hoped never to see again, Windsor Park Drive, Pulaski Street, and others that held memories that I couldn’t forget even if I tried. I glanced at the old run-down mill complex I passed that held the majority of my memories briefly before returning my attention to the road ahead of me. The mills had been a symbol of freedom to me, a milestone so to speak. The dilapidated structure had served as something of a sanctuary to me, a place I had always talked of running past but never dared to do; and now I drove past with more confidence then I had ever before. The remainder of the suburbs passed by me in a blur and in a short amount of time I pulled onto the highway.
Driving on the highway always made me terribly nervous, yet I always seemed to drive better listening to the soft anger of Brand New with the sunlight drifting lazily through the passenger side window.
“I used to be such a burning example, I used to be so original—” someone in the left lane cut me off and I jumped in fright, tapping my breaks. I shook my head angrily, taking the next exit, the curses subsiding and I started the song over again.
The road was much quieter, one that hardly anyone knew about. I tried not to look so closely into the forests that lined the sides of the road so I wouldn’t get lost in thought and hit a telephone pole. I hated driving sometimes because I couldn’t admire the scenery unless I was extremely comfortable with the area I was driving in, and by then the scenery shouldn’t be that interesting. Just as Brand New began the next verse with “I used to pray like God was listening, I used to make my parents proud,” I found the street I was looking for, the one without a sign.
This was my little secret; the narrow dirt road made me wince as I pulled onto it, and maybe that’s why no one ever ventured here. That and the fact that the forest on either side of the rock wall-lined road was downright creepy. Of course, that didn’t scare me in the least bit; I loved the seclusion of this secret road I found. My tires pushed rocks into the road with continuous chorus of snaps as I took my time driving down the road. I hated driving over objects that made a great deal of noise; I had this ridiculous paranoia that my car was going to be damaged by any size bump in the road. Even though the nameless street had an outlet, no one usually used this as a cut-through. The one house on this road had strong rumors of being haunted, but rumors never scared me.
As I pulled into the circular driveway, the garden in the middle immediately called my attention. The large rock in the center of the garden was overgrown with a flowering vine that ran untamed with the same thorns and weeds that also choked the garden. It was something I had sworn to fix up when I had the time. I pulled up behind the white pickup truck that had already been parked in front of the walkway that led to the front door.
The small house had surprisingly low rent for a waterfront property, but who was I to complain? Along with a garden – which was probably stunning at one time— there was a wrap-around porch that I had sought for in a house for longer then I could recall. The ad in the paper had said it was a “fix-me-up with great potential”. Granted, everyone who moved in beforehand mysteriously sold the house about a week later so the place stayed on the market for a long time. It was a charming house, really. My eyes briefly scanned the peeling siding that could’ve used another coat of white, and I began a mental To-Do list that consisted of painting and gardening amongst other much needed duties.
Bees hovered complacently around rose bushes in front of the three story house and I walked around back, fumbling for my keys that I swore I put in my pocket. The lilac bushes in the back that had already bloomed and died in mid-May now swayed gracefully in the wind without their flowers. I took a moment to take in the sight of the ocean; a small private beach that had been hidden in a little cove. Even though there were virtually no waves, it still had relaxing and beautiful qualities.
'What a steal,' I reflected, amazed at the price and the fact that no one had taken the excellent offer sooner. I resumed my original trek, turning away from the pleasantries of the salt water and moving to the back portion of the porch. There was a mess of blonde hair visible from the hammock, swaying gently back and fourth. The sea breeze lazily sent the curls into the warm air as I walked quietly up the old wooden steps. I smiled, stopping to watch her breathe for a little. I began to walk around her, finding my keys to be in the other pocket, and just as I silently opened the door, there was a soft whisper of a “Hey” coming from behind me.
“Hey,” I replied, turning to the blonde as she stepped off of the hammock.
“Did you get it?” Her voice was thick with weariness. I nodded in response, explaining that ‘it’ was in the passenger seat of my car. She stumbled off, half asleep, to my car, and I made my way into the kitchen. Inhaling the clean air, I took in the sight of the virtually spotless kitchen—my kitchen. Even though the appliances were from the 60s and the stick-on tiles were pealing and the flowers in the vase that sat atop the glass-top table were dead, I was finally happy. Of course, it could’ve been the cheerful yellow paint and delicate yellow curtains floating on the breeze, but that didn’t matter.
I set to work looking through the white cabinets for something to begin dinner with. Not to brag, but apparently I had inherited this incredible talent of whipping up a decent meal with just about anything. Much to my dismay, the cabinets were empty.
“Did you forget to go shopping?” my voice rang through the house just as she entered through the front door.
“No. Had to pay the bills this week.” She sighed, setting the old thin box down on the table. I smiled softly, reassuring her that we had just enough to get by on and that I really wasn’t hungry tonight. She looked at me skeptically, but said nothing. The setting sun cast an eerie light on the room and I looked down at the box on the table.
“So. You want to try it?” I motioned to the box with the frayed and faded edges. She nodded hesitantly, as though unsure of herself, and I went to a drawer for some candles. There were three small white candles and a lighter in my hands, and I could see the slightest bit of fear in her eyes as I removed the wooden board from the box.
“Are you sure you want to try it tonight? I mean, you haven’t even unpacked the car yet.” Before I even had the chance to remind her that she had promised me, and I was going to hold her to that oath, the white panchette clattered into place on the board without the outside influence of either of us. We both jumped and I sat shakily down, the sky suddenly blacker then I had remembered. With shaky hands I lit each of the candles.
“You okay?” I asked her, voice wavering. She put on a brave face for me and vigorously nodded. I cleared my throat and placed the index, middle, and ring fingers of both hands on the triangular planchette, indicating that she do the same. Reluctantly her fingers faced opposite mine and I cleared my throat.
“Are there any spirits in the room who would like to speak with us?” I could feel my heart pounding as the next ten seconds dragged on. Very slowly the planchette moved across the board and settled on 'Yes'.
“Don’t take your hands off.” I whispered, and cleared my throat. “What is your name?” The response was quicker this time and I fought to keep my composure.
'Ephraim Winchester.' The planchette hovered on the ‘r’.
“How old are you?” A shaky voice piped up and my companion looked at me, hazel eyes wide and unsure. The planchette paused and moved quickly all of a sudden.
'Attic.' Puzzled, I glanced at her and shrugged.
“What do you mean?” The planchette trembled violently and skittered around the board, dragging our hands quicker then we could keep track.
'Attic. Attic. Attic. Attic. Attic. Attic. Attic.' The both of us were thoroughly freaked out and let the planchette go. The plastic moved on its own, as if unfazed by the sudden withdrawal of hands on its back. There was a loud bang coming from upstairs.
“What was that?” her voice was higher then usual, and my own wide eyes locked with hers.
“I don’t know,” I shuddered visibly as the banging became more frequent and louder as time drew on. There was defensiveness inside of me that sprang up, for this house—my house, regardless of whatever fear I was feeling at the time. Not to mention the responsibility I felt for protecting said house, as well as insuring everyone who dwelt within it was safe.
“I’ll go check,” I said finally, my voice wavering as I slowly stood. Before I could make the journey across the kitchen and into the small living room area, trembling hands nervously gripped my arm and I looked down at hazel-eyes. There was a wordless understanding that passed between us, an urge to be careful and a promise to be safe. I could feel her desire to come with me as she began to stand, and I shook my head—a signal that I thought it best she stay in case Ephraim Winchester decided to say anything other then her feverish 'Attic, Attic, Attic' mantra.
Leaving her alone in the kitchen with the racing planchette, I walked with a quickened pace through the small living room, past the front door and turned to face the carpeted stairs. I walked, unafraid of the noises drifting from what I assumed to be the attic, armed with nothing but a flashlight. Spirits couldn’t scare me: I’ve faced them before. The first flight of stairs was no problem for me, two small empty rooms and one tiny bathroom. We still didn’t know what we were going to make out of the rooms, considering we really had no need for all of the space provided in the house. But none of that was on my mind as I hesitantly scaled the last of the second flight of stairs.
To the right of me was the large master bedroom with disgusting wallpaper that we had planned to replace with a nice rustic red paint. I passed by the larger bathroom and finally looked ahead of me, noticing the open attic ladder at the end of the hallway that seemed to be ready for me. I knew that it was closed the last time I had ventured up here.
Without thinking, I climbed the ladder while shining the light into the foreboding attic. The clattering stopped as soon as my foot was over the last of the ladder rungs. I froze, listening carefully while scanning the attic with my flashlight. For whatever reason, I was compelled to look to the far right corner, and I shined the light on a large, dusty, wooden container. Something in my mind told me it was a coffin, but that seemed a bit farfetched. I shivered, not necessarily willing to go any closer to the thing. But before I could even make a move to remove myself from the attic, the coffin trembled violently. I felt myself drawn to the coffin, as though under a spell of sorts. My feet began to move on their own accord, toward the accursed thing.
Something seemed to whisper 'set me free' and my hands found the cover as the flashlight clattered to the floor. Everything in my mind screamed at me to stop and turn back, but my body refused to cooperate. With horror, I watched as the heavy cover slid to the floor with a loud bang. There was a muffled “Are you okay?” traveling up from the first floor, but I could not answer. At that instant, a fleshy cold hand shot out from the darkness of the coffin and grabbed my wrist. I saw the face of Ephraim Winchester, in perfect condition, with bloodshot eyes glaring at me with a violent hunger, and I screamed.