Listen to Robyn tell her story:
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The sign said “For Sale by Owner.” I wasn’t looking to buy a home, but without thinking, I felt myself turn the steering wheel onto the gravel driveway. It was the kind of driveway you’d never notice if the sign hadn’t been there. Thick forest stretched on at either side in shades of bright orange and golden amber. The house was not visible from the road and I must have driven half a mile before I saw the house.
It was an early October day without a cloud in the sky; just cool enough for a sweater. Jack and I were going for a drive that day. The windows were down and Jack hung his head out the window. With his mouth open and tongue hanging out to the side, he let the wind wash over his golden fur and flap his ears.
When I reached the end of the driveway, I cut the engine and stepped out of my car onto fallen leaves that covered the ground like moss on a stone. Jack let out a loud bark and I opened the back door to let him out.
The house was small for a Victorian. Sort of like the builder wanted a cottage and a Victorian and mashed them together. It was old; probably built before the Civil War was even an apple in Lincoln’s eye. We stood there looking at each other; the house and me. The murky windows that seemed to follow me were trimmed with blue shutters. Some of them were loose on their hinges and they clattered against the house in the early autumn breeze. The white paint on the siding was chipped and cracked, exposing its worn, earthy color underneath.
The house didn’t look lived in, but it had a presence. I walked up to the rusted gate that ran along the yard and opened it slowly. It made a creaking sound that made me grind my teeth. Jack gave out a little whine. Our feet shuffled through the leaves as we wandered into the yard. It was a perfect autumn day. The kind that makes you feel alive. I gave in to a sudden burst of energy, and took off running. Jack gave chase, following close on my heels, barking.
Suddenly, we heard a loud bang coming from the direction of the house. We both froze and looked up. The door that had been closed only a few moments ago was now swung wide open. A dread poured over me that maybe we were being watched. Jack looked up at me and within seconds, he took off running toward the house. I chased after him as fast as I could, but Jack was faster. I called out to him, but he just kept on running like he’d seen a squirrel. He sprinted up the porch steps and into the house without stopping. By the time I reached the steps, the door slammed shut. A panicky fear coursed through my veins. It prickled at my neck and in my fingertips. Panting, I reached into my pocket for my cell phone. “No service! You’ve got to be kidding me!” I hollered out again. “Jack!” Every fiber of my being told me not to go into that house, but I couldn’t just leave him. The nearest neighbor must have been at least a mile away.
I climbed the crooked steps slowly, feeling my pulse quicken with each step. When I reached the door, I put my hand on the old, rusted knob. I swallowed hard and decided to count to ten before entering. When I reached eight, I felt the knob twist underneath my hand. I quickly let go, watching, wide eyed, as it turned. I thought to myself, this can’t be happening. My mouth was dry and my hands were clammy from sweat. The door slowly creaked open and I peered into the darkness. The darkness inside was unlike any darkness I had ever known. Perhaps it was my fear that made it appear darker. But it was heavy and thick. And it was cold. It was quiet too. No sign of Jack. I hesitated before stepping completely into the house. “Jack?” I called. Then I heard a floor board creak above my head. I glanced up and it suddenly felt like the house was getting smaller, shrinking right before my very eyes. I was terrified, but I knew that I had to go up there.
I crept up the stairs, grasping the railing. The old boards groaned under my feet. As I neared the top of the steps, I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. There was a dark, narrow hallway to my left. At the end, I could make out the outline of a door. I moved forward mechanically, as if my body had taken over in spite of my fear. One foot in front of the other, I reached the door. I was too afraid now to call for Jack, and even if I wanted to, my voice would not have let me. I watched like a bystander as my hand turned the knob and pushed open the door.
Light filtered through the only window in the small room. Dust particles danced in the sun. I heard something move in the corner. It was Jack…and something else. Someone else. A woman about my age with piercing eyes peered back at me from the shadows. I could see she wore a long, black mourning dress. I stood frozen. She lifted her hand to offer me something. I opened my hand and she dropped something shiny and round into my palm. In that moment, I closed my eyes and breathed out. When I opened them again, Jack and I were standing in a clearing where a house used to be. I looked down at my hand, and in it was a single, silver ring.
When I looked closer, there appeared to be an inscription. It said “Remember me”.
Congratulations to our second place winner of our annual Ghost Story contest!
Robin H. Moore
Robyn Moore is a Halloween enthusiast who lives in New England with her husband and four cats. She is an Executive Assistant by day and a Halloween doll maker by night. She was published in the 2012 winter edition of ”Stuffed!” magazine. You can find her work at www.foreverfall.etsy.com.