Authors: Rick Hautala
Tags: #horror novel
Necon Classic Horror #17
Cover by Kellianne Jones
A digital edition published by
Necon E-Books at Smashwords
This Edition Copyright 2011 Rick Hautala
Cover Copyright 2011 Kellianne Jones
To the memory of two very dear lost friends ...
Ruth Black and Lillian Standley ...
I hope this won’t start sounding like a list of “thank yous” for an Oscar, but I want to acknowledge the people who have helped me with this book ...
Detective John Chase of the Westbrook, Maine, Police Department, answered some very unusual questions about police and detective work without batting an eye. His willingness to discuss his work not only helped me, but actually suggested lines of action the story could take.
Mike Kimball, who, along with three to five phone calls a week to urge this book to completion, started the whole thing off by telling me about E.V.P. (electronic voice phenomenon) and those voices from the “violet world.”
Bill Barry, who carves a mean-looking walking stick, conjured up the
Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
for me, which helped inspire the cemetery scene.
Dave Hinchberger, who runs the
, constantly gives me and my writing some major boosts ... I’m just glad he doesn’t pass his phone bills along to me.
My trusted manuscript readers — Chris Fahy, Kathy Glad, and Mike Feeney — who, with their support and brutally honest reactions, make my books much better than I could make them alone.
And Brian Thomsen, my editor at Warner, who makes my manuscripts bleed, is taking my “rough cuts” and turning them into polished stone.
Also, I have to mention the section entitled “How to Raise the Dead” in Jacqueline Simpson’s book
Icelandic Folktales and Legends
. Those three pages are perhaps the scariest I have ever read, and if you scout them out yourself, you’ll see why!
And finally-as always-I want to thank Bonnie, Aaron, Jesse, and Matti because they not only created the time and space for me to write; they also created the necessary distractions that pulled me away from it from time to time
There’s something quieter than sleep
Within this inner room
It wears a sprig upon its breast,
And will not tell its name.
— Emily Dickinson
A sick person pining away is one upon
whom an evil spirit has gazed.
... Another incident, which the reader may find curious, albeit inconclusive, concerns the arrest and subsequent execution of one William DeBarry, a brewer of ale in the village of Dunbane, Scotland. According to the Magistrates Records for that year, A.D. 1579, DeBarry was apprehended by a group of enraged citizens in the cemetery behind St. Jude’s Cathedral. Long reputed to be a wizard and servant of Satan, he apparently was engaged in the disinterment of a corpse, in this case the body of his son, Jonathan, who had died the previous winter. DeBarry was taken to the local magistrates, who acted swiftly and, within a week, tried and convicted him of ‘witchcraft, most foul and heinous.’ Like many reputed witches and warlocks of that era, he was burned at the stake in the village square.
Unfortunately, the records of his trial and subsequent execution have not survived in their entirety; but portions have, and from them we can reconstruct the scene.
DeBarry, a widower of some ten years, had been an object of suspicion and mistrust for many years in the village. He had a reputation as a man not to be crossed and, on several occasions, according to the fragmentary trial transcript, had overtly threatened his neighbors with ‘curses foul and damnable.’ One Harold 0’ Keefe, another local brewer, testified that, through DeBarry’s ‘evile Spells and Sorcerie,’ his ale had not fermented properly for the past three years, thus destroying his longstanding reputation as a brewer.
When first the populace, carrying torches, prayer books, and crucifixes, entered the graveyard, DeBarry was observed sitting within a crude and unholy design which he had inscribed upon the ground with white powder at the foot of the grave of his deceased son. At five points of a crudely drawn inverted pentagram, the symbol of Satan , black candles burned, dripping, so said several witnesses, wax ‘as red and thicke as blud.’ Also, within the unholy design were, ‘assorted instruments of Evil,’ although the chronicle fails to specify exactly what those implements were.
The boy’s coffin had been exposed and thrown open. Grave vestments were cast about on the ground where DeBarry sat, cradling the pitiful corpse of his son in his arms and rocking back and forth on his knees. Several participants testified that he was muttering the Lord’s Prayer backwards, in Latin. The air was heavy with sulfurous fumes, and several eyewitnesses attested that they heard and saw the shapes of demons and devils, lurking in the shadows on the tombstones of the Christian-dead.
The magistrates hesitated not in convicting DeBarry as an ‘Agent of Satan and Servant of the Beast.’ Throughout his trial, he spoke little other than the oft-repeated accusation, ‘Had you not interrupted me, I would have had him back!’
DeBarry was taken in chains to the town square, where he was burned. His ashes were removed to a sewerage gully on the outskirts of town, where they were spaded under, and the ground sprinkled with salt. Local tradition maintains that, even unto the present Nineteenth Century, the only vegetation that will grow on the spot is a rank weed with small, red flowers, known locally as
Practicing the Black Arts,
published by Frederick and Cole, Publishers, 1872.
Late Night Visitor
Stinging pellets of ice beat like tiny bullets against Elizabeth’s face as she raced up the steps to the front door of the darkened house. All around, the night hung as if the storm clouds, heavily laden with snow, were pressing down on her, smothering her. She felt as though she had to fight her way forward, futilely batting her arms against sodden, clinging blankets that slapped her heavily, holding her back. In spite of the inches-thick cushion of snow, her shoes clacked loudly on the wooden steps. Due to her exhaustion, the stairs seemed to telescope outward, multiplying to dozens instead of the seven she had counted from the ground.
Finally, she reached the relative shelter of the doorway. She pressed her weight against the door and fumbled for the doorknob. There was no time for the formality of knocking. She was desperate! She had to get inside the house and out of the storm. Her hands were chilled and didn’t want to work as she struggled with the latch.
Was the door locked?
At last, after what seemed like long, sludgy minutes, she heard the tumblers click, and the door swung inward with a heavy, rusty-hinged groan. With an explosive sigh of relief, Elizabeth stumbled into the chilled darkness of the house.
Tendrils of melting snow water ran down her face and neck, and under her coat, making her shiver wildly as she looked around the deserted house. It looked as though no one had lived here for years. The strong aroma of stale air, of dust and decay, reinforced that impression. She could hear the storm outside the house, moaning softly, like the sound of someone in pain.
“Damn!” Elizabeth muttered. Her chattering teeth diced the single word into tiny pieces.
She was slightly surprised that, even with the lights off, she could see the distinct outlines of three closed doors in the entryway, hovering like rectangular slabs of black marble in the gloom. One was to her left, one to her right, and one in front of her. The feeling of confinement, of being trapped in a box, was almost overwhelming. She found the wall switch and madly flicked it several times. Nothing happened. Of course the power was off. Even if someone was still living here, the lines were probably down this far out in the country.
Elizabeth knew she couldn’t spend the night here in this icebox of a house. Although the place seemed vaguely familiar, she didn’t know who — if anyone — lived — or
lived — here. Besides, she knew she couldn’t stay here long. She had to leave ... had to get to where she had been going. As she glanced frantically around the dark house, Elizabeth was filled with an almost overwhelming sensation that she had forgotten something ... something important. If she stayed here, she knew something she was supposed to do wouldn’t get done.
Either that, or else something
But what was it? she wondered as bone-deep chills wracked her body.
In her panic to flee the broken-down car she had left more than a mile back on the snow-choked highway, what she was supposed to do had entirely slipped her mind. Maybe, she reasoned, it was just that, after struggling through the cold and the darkness, it had simply eluded her. She knew that whatever it was would come back to her as soon as she got warm and dry ... as soon as she started feeling a bit more secure.
the hell, if it was so damned important, couldn’t she remember what it was? She took a few tentative steps toward the closed door to her right.
Why was she so sure something
would happen if she forgot ... and what could it be?
... Or was there something she
forget ... something bad, something horrible she was
Trembling from both the cold and her own disorienting sense of uneasiness, Elizabeth reached out toward the door on her right. With a little effort, she turned the knob, swung the door open, and, leaning forward, looked into the room. It was much smaller than she had been expecting, and — surprisingly — it was a bedroom, not the living room or dining room she had been expecting to see on the first floor.
Against the far wall, between two lace-curtained windows, was an old four posted, canopy bed. Beside the bed was a nightstand with a large, shaded lamp. The heavy bedspread draped to the floor, looking a sickly yellow in the gloomy light, and vague lumps of antique furniture-two tall bureaus and a slouched chair-stood along the walls to the left and right. Also on the left, Elizabeth could see a black rectangle that must be the bedroom’s closet door. The windows were both open a crack, and snow drifted like gritty powder onto the sill and floor. The storm wind whistled as it stirred the curtains.
Looking up, Elizabeth was unnerved that she couldn’t see the bedroom ceiling. The walls simply stretched up and seemingly outward, as though the room had larger dimensions above the floor. The odd angles of the walls were lost in the darkness overhead. For all she knew, they extended all the way up into the storm clouds. Although she couldn’t see them, Elizabeth felt heavy clots of black cobwebs wafting like funeral lace in the upper reaches. and the walls seemed almost to drip with darkness, as though they had been splattered with gallons of thick, black paint that was still sliding down to the floor in inky puddles.
As she glanced around the room, not daring to enter, the walls seemed almost to shift position, expanding and contracting like the fretwork of breathing lungs. As they seemed to press in close on her, Elizabeth was startled by the sensation that she was about to be crushed between them, as if between colliding boulders. Aware of the burning ache in her lungs, she pulled back from the room, as though it held a deadly threat.
For several seconds, Elizabeth hesitated in the doorway, not knowing if she should enter and look behind the closet door, or else move into another part of the house. A growing sense of desperation, of imminent danger, was coiling up inside her gut like an over wound spring. It was obvious there was no one in this small room, but that didn’t stop her from calling out.