Setting: Summer 2012. Envision a stunning old mansion on the outskirts of picturesque Sleepy Hollow. It is beautifully constructed in Victorian architectural style with impressive arches, soaring steeples topped with delicate spires and perfectionist details that would make any great artist feel inferior. The inside has the allure of a fairy tale castle, decorated with the most delicate of fabrics and carefully selected natural wood and stone. When entering the grand living room, the centerpiece is a striking stone fireplace with a large hand carved mahogany mantel, and majestic picture windows with views of the beautiful Victorian rose gardens outside.
This manor truly exceeds every visitor’s expectations – with the exception of one very ugly thing … something of an eye sore …
On the antique fireplace mantel stood proud an old and very ugly tree root. Norma, the live-in housekeeper, had been instructed over the years to never touch it, and to never throw it out. Mrs. Dudley, the 90 year old owner of Briarwood Mansion, said that it had been given to her by her deceased husband back in 1861.
Every afternoon, when Mrs. Dudley relaxed next to the fireplace, she would say: “Norma, in those days my husband was a cowboy in Montana. When he asked me to be his wife, he said, ‘Agatha, my love, take this tree root as a symbol of my never ending love for you. Always keep it close to you, and we will be together through the ages.’”
All Norma could think was, “Blah, blah, blah, how can an unsightly twisted thing like that have anything to do with eternal love – that’s rubbish!” But Mrs. Dudley insisted that within it lies a secret. A secret so dark, she did not dare speak it from her red painted wrinkled lips.
That summer, sweet old Mrs. Dudley died. Norma had found her lifeless body draped like a forbidden blanket across the rocking chair. Beside her lay a note. Written on it was the name of an attorney. After a brief phone conversation, Norma found out that she had inherited the mansion … but under one condition … she was to keep the tree root – FOREVER!
Norma picked it up, looked at it with disgust, and uttered, “I’ll burn it! No way that I will keep this around the house! Besides, no one will ever notice that it is gone.” Having said that, and with a heavy heart, Norma threw the root into the burning fireplace.
… Blackout …
… Complete Blackout …
Norma shook her pounding head and seemed confused.
“What happened?” She thought out loud.
Everything around her had changed. It was most unusual, the furniture, paintings, even the clothes she was wearing were different – and dated. The only object which remained familiar was the old tree root which had magically resurrected itself from the ashes, and was now sitting proudly once more on the hand carved mahogany mantel.
Looking through the large window, Norma could see a strangely dressed man standing in her rose garden. Not recognizing the gentleman, she stepped near the pane and shouted, “Hey! Get off my property!”
He turned his handsome face towards her, then lovingly replied, “Well, I see you are finally awake, my Dear. How was your slumber?”
“Such audacity, who does he think he is?” She mumbled loudly.
“Excuse me? Who are you?” She furiously asked.
“I am Walter. Walter Dudley, your beloved husband.” He replied with a devoted smile.
If it hadn’t been near the end of June, this bizarre happening could have been a great April Fools’ Day joke – but this was summer!
Norma’s throbbing head simply couldn’t make sense of the situation, so she ran down the hall into the powder room to splash cold water from the wash basin into her face. That’s when a mysterious voice eerily chimed through the room …
“Normaaaaaaa … NORmaaaaaaaaaaaa …”
Spooked, she quickly turned around only to find that no one was there. While grabbing the towel to dry her face, Norma glanced up and piercingly screamed in horror as it was NOT her own reflection that stared back at her in the mirror. NO – it was Mrs. Dudley!
Terrified, she pulled on her face and the skin on her arms … but there was no mistake … Norma was no longer Norma. She was now trapped inside of the youthful body of Mrs. Agatha Dudley!
At that very moment of ghastly discovery, the nearby window flew open and with the wind the mysterious voice echoed once more:
“She who gets rid of the old tree root becomes Mrs. Dudley back in 1861 for all ages to come!”
Congratulations to our first place winner Petra La Victoire!
Petra LaVictoire is an author, copywriter and aspiring Life Coach. Some of her work has been published in “The Fallen Leaf Anthology 2010″ and newsletters. She is currently writing her second novel.