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All subject matter is copyright protected, unlawful use or making copies of writings are subject to prosecution.
Copyright Nathan Ashe 2009.

The Tale of Mary Vole

By: Nathan Ashe




     My story begins in the year of our Lord, 1887, in the county of Sussex, England. This area is dotted with forests and grasslands and scattered about are many small villages. A very pleasant and beautiful place to be. Of course I am prejudiced for the fact that I grew up in this area. My name is Roger Hartford and I am compelled to relate my story to you of a night that changed my life. The hour of midnight was approaching on a dark and stormy mid-October night. The lightning was flashing furiously like I never seen before and the thunder was rolling across the countryside. As a child I remember this country road could be very treacherous during a thunderstorm. The wind was howling and blowing like a lost soul crying in the night. I was fearing that my carriage would be turned from the road. A fog was beginning to roll across the moors. I knew that I would have to hurry to get to the safety of my grandfathers manor on the edge of the dark foreboding forest. Most of the trees are by now barren and the twisted branches and limbs appear to be the arms of the lost souls that are crying out in the night. It was not only the treacherous road that was on my mind. I would recall a story that some say would chill the soul of even the most fearless of men. As I pulled my collar up to protect myself from the cold and damp air. I thought of the story told to me so very long ago. The men in the local pubs talk of the tale of Mary Vole.

     Nobody is really sure when the story begins, some believe it was just before the Crusades and some think it to be after. One thing everyone who tells the story agrees upon exactly where it begins. They all know that it is just before the road leading to Hartford manor by the old abandoned well, where I grew up as a young boy. One would think these to be likened to the rantings of madmen or the idle chatter of old ladies gossip. True they may be thought of this way, but believe me the story never at anytime is at all different from the rest. The winding road leading to Hartford manor runs alongside the cliffs rather close to the edge I might say. In the dark unless there is a full moon it would be foolish for any other person to attempt to reach the manor. I had traveled this road many times in all kinds of weather, which is why I am daft enough to attempt it in a raging thunderstorm. As I near the road to the manor I decided to stop at the pub in the small town along the main road, so that I could warm myself with some ale at the fireside.

     As I entered the pub the fog was getting thicker, so I decided to wait out the storm. All eyes were on me as I entered, some knew me because they worked at the manor. Although the inside was dark and dreary it had a certain warmth and coziness amid its rustic décor. Being dimly lit the hearth in the middle of the room put out a warm amber glow into the dark room and the shadows that it projected seemed to dance about. The candlelit chandeliers dimly illuminated the massive beams that held the roof in place. As I sat drinking my ale and warming myself, I noticed a weary old man sitting across the room. His face was gray and weathered, his hair was white as the snow as was the neatly trimmed beard that he wore. His clothes appeared to be outdated like those of the beggars seen on the streets of SoHo. He appeared to be either an old soldier or perhaps a sailor. Nobody else seemed to notice the old man, it was as though he was oblivious to all but me. A strange feeling came over me not like I ever felt before. A feeling I don’t know if it be dread or sorrow or maybe it could have been pity; whatever it was it was an overpowering feeling.

     I had never seen him here before but then again I hadn’t been out to Hartford manor for many years. As a young man I was schooled in some of the best institutions that London had to offer, then it was on to Cambridge for my higher learning. There was a short period after school that I traveled. Then afterward my employment took me to the American Continent. I had all but forgotten the story of Mary Vole. As much as I tried the story and the alleged sightings still haunted me deep within my soul. The thought of ghostly visions and haunting are best left to children and the people that spin these yarns. I had just about put them off as folklore of old and never gave it a second thought. Then came that fateful night in October I changed what I believed if only to ease my own mind. I will now relate the story of Mary Vole.

     After finishing my ale I felt compelled to go over to the table feed my burning curiosity about the old man sitting alone. Walking over to his table I could feel a sense of all eyes in the tavern watching me. Looking around it was strange but not a single person was watching. It was as if the old man and myself were not even there. I stood at the table nervously and said; ”Excuse me sir, I saw you sitting here alone and thought I might be neighborly and ask if I may join you?”. He slowly looked up at me, his dark eyes though cold and steely looking, still had the look of sadness and dread, the lines of age were carved deeply into his face and his hands were large and strong but wrinkled with age. He seemed to project an air of dignity and elegance. In olden days he may have been a nobleman or a soldier. He appeared to be a tall rugged man compared to my average size. He spoke with a deep and raspy voice; “You may join me my fine friend”. a feeling of ease came over me as we just sat there in silence for what seemed to be an eternity.

     He asked me if I knew the tale of Mary Vole. I then began to tell him what I knew, it was during the days of Richard the Lionhearted. A young knight under Sir Lancelot happened upon a village that was located on the spot where my grandfather’s manor is now sitting. In the village was a young maiden with flowing blonde hair that shined like the Holy Grail, eyes that were as blue as the sea and glistening like the sun. her skin was smooth and fair  as the finest of silk. She had a big wide smile that would brighten up even the gloomiest of days, which are plentiful in England. Mary could be called the fairest of maiden in the county of Sussex. One afternoon as young Mary was at the local well getting water, the young knight rode up on a steed that was sleek and as black as the night, a very majestic animal. Mary who ran a stable herself was in awe of this animal and took to him immediately. She approached the knight who sat high on his steed and said; “What a magnificent animal you have sir”. She was stroking his mane as the knight dismounted.

     The knight was tall and well built, his shiny black hair was neatly trimmed, as was his beard. Mary looked like a child compared to him, for Mary was a petite girl. Although there was such a difference between the two they’re

Eyes locked in a fixed gaze for a long time. It was apparent that the arrow of Eros had struck both of them. They fell in love immediately, though the knight knew he would be going off to war with King Richard.  It didn’t matter to young Mary any time they had together would be savored like fine wine. As the days went by Mary would meet her knight at the well in the center of town, they would go for walks along the edge of the cliffs and through the fields. The people from the village saw how happy Mary was, she would have a smile and a happy greeting for all that she met the towns folk would listen as the knight whose name was Sir Charles would tell stories of the many campaigns he would embark. All admired him, for he was a true English gentleman. He would help anyone in need and all thought Mary and him might wed before he went off to war.

     Then came the day and a dark cloud came over Mary, it was the day she was dreading although she knew it was imminent. Sir Charles had to leave vowing his undying love for her. She was deeply saddened, but as they were saying they’re good byes she told him that she would wait for him to return. They kissed long and hard then he mounted his steed and rode off looking over his shoulder and waving to her. Mary stood there and watched until she could see him no more. She sadly walked back to the village to her home, which was not to far off the main highway and a few meters from the road that now leads to Hartford manor. As the days passed Mary’s smile slowly returned and the anticipation of Sir Charles return kept her going. She was the same old Mary, but everyone could tell she missed her knight. They tried to keep her busy so she wouldn’t worry, but it was to no avail. Word of the campaign would reach the village, but no word of Sir Charles was heard. She kept her hopes up that something about Sir Charles would reach her, but it never did.

     The years passed and Mary waited faithfully putting off any suitors with whom she would encounter politely declaring her undying love for Sir Charles. She would occasionally make trips to London in hopes  of word from somebody there who would possibly have reliable news of the campaign. It would prove to no avail, there simply was no word of Sir Charles. She never gave up hope and grew old never knowing what ever became of her knight. Mary lived to be ninety years old waiting patiently. After her death the villagers began telling stories of her restless spirit wandering the countryside around where Hartford manor now stands. She was seen as a transparent but recognizable form. They say she is still waiting for Sir Charles to return and that her spirit wont rest until they are reunited. Merchants on the way to the markets report of seeing her standing just off the highway just looking blankly oblivious to anyone else around, she could be seen at any time of day or night.

     I don’t recall as a child ever seeing her, but then as a young lad I don’t know if I did or did not see her. A lot of the women wore white and most of the women had milky white skin. All I remember were the stories I would accidentally overhear or perhaps deliberately overhear, as most lads like to do. Grandfather didn’t think that a young child should be listening to such stories. I looked at the old man, he was listening intently although his dark piercing eyes were staring blankly forward, I asked him if he was al right, but he just nodded. Then I asked him what he thought and after a long silence he looked at me and said, “
My thoughts shouldn’t influence what you believe, there are things that mortal man does not understand. If I believe that such tings are possible that would be my opinion and any other person should draw his own conclusion fore with what is or is not believable”. I was taken aback by his response, and actually didn’t know what to say for fear of not having an intelligent return. I just had to ask him one more question no matter if he thought me to be ridiculous. I worked up the nerve and asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?” half expecting a loud hearty laugh and mockery at such a suggestion, he just looked at me with those dark piercing eyes smiled and quietly said, “My boy there are things that are unexplainable, things that are best left alone. Do I believe in ghosts? I believe there is something or someplace beyond this plane. Our soul merely crosses the barrier at the moment of death form this life to another. If that means we are ghosts then yes I do believe in ghosts”. I felt really ridiculous and eh sensed my discord and told me not to let it distress me I was not foolish for asking an opinion.

     I politely excused myself and said I was going to get another ale. I asked him if he would like one, but he refused. As I was going over to the innkeeper I looked over at the old man, he was just sitting there blankly looking at the fire. When the innkeeper handed me the ale I asked him if the old man was a regular patron to the pub. The innkeeper looked over at him and said, “I have never seen him before in fact, I don’t recall seeing him come in”. Upon returning to the table I sat down and we just sat there in silence as I finished my ale. I told the old man that I was going to head out and try to get to the manor and put all these thoughts out of my mind. Being the gentleman I offered the old man a ride in my coach, which he accepted since he said he was to meet someone. I told him that I could only take him as far as the road to the manor and that the next town was eight kilometers from there. He might catch another ride from there as the road is well traveled. He said it was all right that he had traveled on foot many times before. We went out the door, it had stopped raining and the full moon cast a bright light on the countryside the stars were shining brightly but the air had a bit of a chill to it, so I turned up my collar and then I noticed that the old man didn’t have a coat. I thought that was strange, as anyone knows the October winds can be like cold razors cutting through you at this time of year out on the moors. I offered him a blanket that I had in the back of my coach. He thanked me and said  that I was very kind to be doing this for a perfect stranger, but he said he didn’t need it, that he was used to the cold night air.

     We climbed up onto my coach and started out onto the highway, the horses were moving at a steady gait as we rode in silence thru the night. I looked over at the old man and noticed that he was just looking forward in what seemed to be anticipation. After a while we were approaching the road to the manor. I turned onto the road and brought the carriage to a halt. The old man climbed down without any problems and thanked me again for my generosity and company. Across the road a short distance away along the highway was a small shelter for wayfarers to rest. I noticed what appeared to be a woman rather pale in appearance but that could be the moonlight, it makes any light color sort of pallid besides most of us don’t get a lot of sun in England. I asked him his name and as he looked up I said, “My name is Roger Hartford” he smiled and said that his name was Charles. I started to go down the road then came to a dead stop. I heard him call out “MARY, I HAVE RETURNED!” I turned around and saw them embrace, then they turned to me and smiled as they slowly faded away. Now any time I turn down this road to the manor, I have a smile on my face and think to myself that Mary Vole and Sir Charles are finally together again and when anybody asks me if I know about the tale of Mary Vole I tell them that it is not just a tale or folklore, it is a story of true love that continues even today in another world. That is the tale of Mary Vole.


ãCopyright Nathan Ashe 2004



The Curse Of Barclay House

By: Nathan Ashe



     Dark ominous clouds roll across the sky, and plunges the land into an eerie inky darkness. They obliterate the guiding light of the nighttime orb. A strange calm and unsettling silence is broken by a bright flash of lightning that strikes the ground followed by a loud rumbling clap of thunder. A storm of forceful magnitude suddenly ensues all to familiar to those who live in the region. It is not a fit night to venture out on a journey of any length. The road through the forest can be treacherous enough at night for a lone traveler, what with the wild denizens of the woods and a haven for highway robbers. Still if one is caught traveling the highway through the woods and nighttime falls, the only recourse would be to keep on going. The storm fiercely rages on and the wind howls through the trees, a lone carriage can be heard rolling in the distance. As if driven by fear the steady gait of horse’s draws near. The carriage comes into sight; black as the night they are only distinguishable by the dim glow of the carriage lanterns.

     One such unfortunate soul who had been caught on the highway at night and in a raging storm no less was Anton Burke. From Boston to Spring River, Connecticut was a two-day journey by carriage. Anton had made this journey only one time before, this time a disturbing letter from his fiancé prompted his trip. Not fearing for his own well being, Anton instructed his driver to hasten the journey as humanly possible. Anton a stockbroker in Boston met Laura Barclay while she was on holiday in Boston one summer. Laura was of average build and was a beauty like none other that he has ever seen. Her hair was a shiny chestnut brown, and eyes that sparkled like the most brilliant of emeralds. One would be mesmerized by her beauty, as was Anton. Although she was like an angel and exuded a vivacious brilliance; this young beautiful girl however had a sad dark side that she couldn’t reveal to her soon to be suitor. For two weeks while she was in Boston they were together everyday. They went to the theatre, and restaurants, they would take long walks and just enjoy each other’s company.

     The time came for Laura to return to Connecticut, and Anton vowed to write her as often as he could, and he would try to come up and visit her in Connecticut. Sadly Laura waved goodbye to young Anton as he stood there watching the carriage slowly go down the street. Laura turned forward as a tear ran down her cheek. Anton watched until the carriage was out of sight, he then walked back to his apartment a few blocks away. The weeks passed and there was no letter from Laura. Recalling that she was slightly pale when she left, he thought maybe she had fallen ill. Finally he decided to make a trip out to spring River and see if he could find Laura. Upon arriving in the sleepy little town he found it strange that nobody would help him find the Barclay Estate. Outside of town were many estates sprawled across the countryside. He knew that he didn’t have enough time to go to each one so he continued to ask someone to help him. A couple of days passed and finally one of the shop owners told Anton to forget Laura Barclay and move on, the family was cursed and there could be no future with her, that was all he could say and went back to his shop. In despair he resigned himself to knowing that no one would help him so he returned back to Boston. There was something about her that drove him to almost madness; it became an obsession with him. Days, nights and weeks passed and all he could think about was his Laura.

     Many letters he sent expressing his desire to spend the rest of his life with her. Four months later he received a letter from his beloved Laura. The letter read:


          My dearest Anton,

When first I met you I fell in love with you. Your kind and considerate and any young lady would be lucky to have you. Unfortunately I can have no future with you, it is difficult to explain but my family is cursed. Our home is cursed and in disrepair, we are the last of the Barclay family. I’m sorry you couldn’t find me when you were here; we avoid the town at all cost. We must go to one of the surrounding villages for our needs. The people of Spring River shun us they say we are evil. Meadow lane east is only a mile long so we never see anyone; it is so lonely and desolate.

These last months I have thought of you everyday. Your warm smile, your tender touch and the cute laugh you have. It was wrong galling in love with you, knowing that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life with you. Whatever time I have left I will cherish the two weeks we spent together.


                   Yours forever



A sinking feeling of gloom encompassed his very soul; depression filled his lighthearted spirit. Everybody noticed the change in Anton, they all provided moral support but Anton knew he would have to find some sort of answer. He now had a clue where to find Barclay Estate, he had to find meadow lane east, it was a mile long and it had to be the only house on the road. An insane force drove him into making another treacherous trip to Spring River. This time he would find his beloved Laura no matter what cost of however long it would take. So he packed a couple of bags, hired a carriage and began his long trip to Spring River.

     The autumn days were winding down; all the leaves from the trees had fallen to the ground. A cold wind was blowing as evening fell under a gray and gloomy sky. Anton was approaching the town of Spring River, Connecticut as a fellow traveler was going in the opposite direction. They stopped and he asked the wayfarer if he knew where Meadow Lane East was. The strangers eyes opened real wide, he crossed himself. He told Anton not to go there that nobody goes there, that it is cursed. Anton tells him that it is imperative that he gets there. The stranger just shakes his head and tells him when he gets to town it will be the next and only road he could go east on. Before Anton can thank the traveler he has already gone quickly away. Anton tells the driver to continue and they start going toward town. He pulls up his collar to shield himself from the cold.

     The carriage approaches Meadow Lane East; Anton sees an old Indian sitting in a cart pulled by donkey standing still across and down the road from Meadow Lane East. The carriage turns down the road as Anton turns to look back where the Indian was and he was gone. Meadow Lane East is a quaint country road normal by all standards until about a half mile down. The horses started acting strange, they were rearing up and the driver couldn’t handle them. At about a quarter mile they stopped and wouldn’t go any further. Anton got out of the carriage and was looking around. There was a wooden bridge going over what was once a small river. The land was barren the trees were all dead, ahead was Barclay Estate. He looked up at the driver and said,” This cant be the right place”. The driver says that he’s traveled the highway many times and this was the only road east until Hartford. Then he tosses down Anton’s bags, and turns the carriage around. Anton picks up his bags and starts toward the estate as the carriage disappears.

     Sir Thomas Barclay Laura’s great-grandfather came to the states and settled in Connecticut in the winter of 1809 from London. After settling his family in Spring River a few months later, Lord Barclay bought the land on Meadow Lane East. It was a large old graveyard that was basically abandoned and left over grown. The area was filled with beautiful trees and wildlife. A crisp clean river divided the land and Lord Barclay’s property. Work began on Barclay Estate the following summer and in the spring of 1812 the Barclay family moved into the huge estate; Laura’s father a writer spent most of his time in the study. Lord Barclay set up a Carthage company in town that was run by his family. In 1814 Sir Thomas’ brother James fell ill with a strange malady, and died within a few months. The family had no idea that this what was to be the start of what everybody would say was a curse. The town’s people believed that because the house was built on an old graveyard that this was why the Barclays would be cursed. From 1814 up until 1846 this illness claimed the lives of all the Barclay’s. The only ones left were Laura’s father Thomas, her mother Lily, Laura and they’re housekeeper Anna. Laura was born in 1852 and lived at the estate ever since. Although the Barclay Carthage Co. was sold in 1846 Laura’s father retained controlling interest with fifty-two percent of the stock. The house fell into disrepair shortly before Laura was born. The vegetation started dying off, as did the wildlife. Once the family started dying the local tradesmen believed the Barclay’s were cursed and so they would not set foot on the property.

     The road leading to Barclay estate curved south ended at the front of the estate. Once an ornate wrought iron eight-foot fence surrounded the house. Sections had rusted and fallen from their crumbling cement base. A massive stone archway with a faded rusted banner ran across the top of the stone pillars it spelled “Barclay” it greeted whosoever would visit. One of the gates was rusted solid partially open and the other gate leaning open with the top hinge rusted completely away. Anton stood and looked over the outside of the massive structure, he could see some really bad cracks in the stonewalls. He couldn’t believe his Laura lived in this place. From the outside one would think it was abandoned. He walked up the crumbling stone walkway to the main entrance. Each door was five feet wide by ten feet high; the right door had a huge doorknocker. The left one fell off apparently a long time ago and was lying on the ground. Anton knocked on the large oak door, after a few minutes a stout gray haired lady in an apron appeared and with shock asked his business. “I’ve come to call on Miss Laura Barclay,” he said. A brief conversation ensued and he was instructed to wait in the library. While waiting in the library he was pacing nervously, unsure of what to say to Laura or her father. He was amazed at how plush and elegant the inside was in contrast to the exterior of the estate. While waiting he could feel a slight rumbling thru the house.

     Lord Barclay was in his study working, when the housekeeper knocked on the door. She came in and up to his desk. “Miss Laura’s suitor is here sir, in the library waiting,” she said. He thanked her, as she left lord Barclay just sat there stunned for a moment in disbelief. He couldn’t understand how Anton was able to find the estate. He got up and went down the hall to the library. Anton was pacing nervously when the doors opened and lord Barclay walked in. for a moment they just stared at each other. Lord Barclay looked down the hall then closed the doors. “You must be Anton Burke,” he said. They shake hands, “Laura talks of you all the time”. Anton can’t help noticing how pale and gaunt Laura’s father looked.

     Lord Barclay suggested they go back to the study, where he offered his unexpected guest a brandy to take the chill out from his travels. They sat and talked for the good part of an hour. “Laura spoke of a family curse”, he said, “Surely none of you really believe in curses?” Lord Barclay looked blankly at him for a moment then got up and walked over to the window and looked outside as he spoke,” You saw the area outside as you arrived”, he started. It used to be green with beautiful maple trees, forest animals used to roam the area. We had a nice pond just outside by the gate. My grandfather built the house on what was once a cemetery. Oh they carefully dug up the graves but they were so old there was nothing left but bits of rotted wood. There were about twenty that were still in tact, they were respectfully transferred to a new graveyard about a quarter mile down, there’s a small path you may have seen on your way up here. Lord Barclay goes back and sits down. Anton asks him why they didn’t just build where they moved the cemetery. Lord Barclay poured more brandy as he continued: when they surveyed the land a very deep well was discovered. They said the Indians must have used it. This was the first home to have water pumped in. When the town got gaslights we had a line run to the house. Anton says, “It still doesn’t explain the supposed curse”. Lord Barclay with a sullen look try’s to explain. No one knows for sure if it is a curse or just a case of bad luck, with all the rain and snow that we get how else could we explain the river and pond drying up or the grass and trees dying off only on our property.

     Anton rubs his chin and says, “I see your point”. He tells lord Barclay that if he takes Laura away from here, she might have a chance at a real life. If all of them left this place the so-called curse might end. Lord Barclay tells him that they cannot leave; below the house is the family crypt. He says that they are doomed and this is where they must stay. Anton in frustration gets up leans on the desk and expressed his love for Laura, and that he should take her away from this mad house. Lord Barclay calmly warns him that for his own sake he should leave, because if he stayed it would only bring despair. To see Laura deteriorate would only cause him much sadness. Lord Barclay begged him to heed his warning, but Anton simply stated that if he stays it would show his love for Laura, lord Barclay said, “For the last time I beg you to go”. With this last warning the house began to shake. It is your decision to stay, and then whatever happens is your fate.

     The housekeeper Anna was with the family since Lord Barclay was a young boy. Her mother worked for the Barclay’s also, they were like family. Anna came into the study and asked if Anton would be staying for dinner. Lady Barclay walked in as Anna had asked him, Anton saw how pale and dark her eyes were and reeled. Lord Barclay told Anna that he would be staying a few days; she looked at him with pity and shook her head as she walked out. Lord and lady looked at each other, then Anton apologized for his reaction. He told her she didn’t look well. Lady Barclay said, “You should have taken my husbands advice and gone. Its for your own good”. She turned and as she left she said that she would let Laura know that Anton was here. Lord Barclay tells Anton that lady Barclay’s illness is progressing different from himself and Laura. She is extremely sensitive to daylight; even a gray gloomy day provides no comfort. She is up all night long and her windows are painted black so she can sleep in the daytime.

Anton sat back down as lord Barclay was pouring a second glass of brandy. He picked up the glass and took a long drink. Anton just looked at Lord Barclay for a moment then said,” Surely there are doctors, specialists. There has to be someone who can cure whatever it is”.

     Lord Barclay shook his head and said, “Through the years my father, my grandfather, aunts, uncles all saw doctors to no avail”. Anton tells him that Boston has some of the finest physicians in the country. He says he will take Laura and when she is cured he could persuade Lord and Lady to come to Boston. Lord Barclay with a sterner look tells Anton to listen and heed what he says. He tells him that he knows the stages of the illness that there is no specific pattern and nothing can be done. Lord Barclay tells him to spend a couple of days with Laura then say goodbye and go back to Boston before Laura takes a turn. Anton stands firm and says, “Lord Barclay I respect your convictions, however Victorian they may be, but I will not leave without my beloved Laura”. Lord Barclay’s expression returned back to sadness. He turned to the window and softly said, “So be it”, as he drank his brandy. Laura entered the room looking very pale; she looked at Anton with a sad smile. Her father finished his brandy and got up to leave. He kissed Laura on her forehead then turned to Anton and said, “Remember what I said, there is still time”. With that he walked out of the study closing the door behind him.

     The darkness of night had fallen over the land, a rumble of thunder in the distance could be heard, and a faint glow of lightning was seen. Laura led Anton to the settee by the fireplace. A fire was burning and the room was bathe in a warm amber glow. Laura looked seriously at him and asked him if he really and truly loved her. Anton professed his love for her enthusiastically, he went to embrace her but she put her hand on his chest to stop him. She tells him that if he truly loves her that he will go and remember her as she is now. He looks at her then kisses her softly and says, “Nay, my love for you is true. To stay only shows how much I love you”. A faint smile comes over her sadness, she says, “You really do love me”. She kisses him then tells him she will show him his room. They leave the study and go to the foyer to retrieve Anton’s bags, Laura takes a candlestick off of table by the stairs and lights the candles. They slowly ascend the stairs to the second floor just as the building shakes more intensely than before. To Laura it is a common occurrence but she notices the concern in Anton. She tells him the house has been doing that for as long as she can remember. Only as of late it has been more intense. He asks her if an engineer has been asked to inspect the building. She says quite a few times since 1840, and that the house has sunk three inches. They would attribute it to the house was settling.

     They came to a room, Laura opens the door and they go in. it is dark and dreary, it had a gloomy feel to it. Laura turned up the gaslight and blew out the candles; the room had a musty smell to it as if it hadn’t been used in years. Laura tells Anton he can open the French doors and let some fresh air in. Anton sets his bags on the bed as Laura goes to leave. She says that he can get settled and that dinner is at seven. Laura smiles and closes the door as she leaves. Anton stares at the door a moment then looks around the room. He thinks that maybe it was a mistake to come to this wretched place. A house as elegant as Barclay estate should be warm and comforting not dark and filled with gloom. He was determined though to try and persuade Laura to flee this place with him.

     As Anton was walking down the stairs the clock in the foyer was striking seven. He walked down the hall to the dining room as Anna was bringing in a cart with soup on it. He entered the dining room and took his seat across from Laura. All thru dinner everyone was uneasy, Laura tried to avoid Anton’s pleading eyes. Every time Anton brought up the subject of leaving the estate, Laura would bring up her trip to Boston in order to avoid talking about leaving the estate. After dinner was over they took coffee in the parlor by the fireplace. The evening went by very uneasily there was a tension in the air. The clock was striking ten, as a storm was raging fiercely outside. They all decided it was time to retire for the evening. Anton had a hard time sleeping and was sitting up in bed. The midnight hour had arrived and he heard what sounded like sobbing outside of his door. He put on a robe and opened the door, as he stepped into the all and in a loud whisper called out, “Who’s there”?

     Lord and Lady Barclay both came out of they’re room which was adjacent to Anton’s and Laura came out of hers which was opposite of her mother and father’s. Anton asks them, “Good Lord! What is that”? Lord Barclay tells him that it was the restless spirits. He asks where it comes from and Laura tells him, “It comes from everywhere and nowhere specific”. Lady Barclay says it will subside shortly and they should all go back to bed. The three of them watched as he went back into his room, he was also aware that they were watching him. Laura asked Lord and Lady Barclay if she should have told him what the sobbing meant. Lady and Lord Barclay shushed her; Lord Barclay said that it was best that he didn’t know. Laura agreed but she felt that he should know. Anton was lying down just as he was nodding off he heard Lady Barclay walking the halls.

     The sun came up bright and was beaming in the bedroom window. Anton awoke and saw the sunshine and said to himself that last night must have been a nightmare. He got up just as a knock was heard on his door. Anna entered and told him that breakfast would ready in twenty minutes. He thanked her and got himself dressed. Anton bounded down the staircase smiling; he was thinking he would find Laura happy and ready to go back to Boston with him. His happiness was short lived though, as Anton entered the dining room his shock brought him back to reality. Laura and Lord Barclay were looking more pale and Laura had slightly darker eyes. She forced a smile as Anton came in the room. During breakfast Anton mentioned that he heard Lady Barclay moving about the corridor last night. “It is as I have told you yesterday, Lady Barclay cannot tolerate daylight!” lord Barclay tells him. Anton looks at them nervously, thinking that he offended his host. Laura quickly speaks up noticing the awkwardness of the situation. She suggests that they take the carriage into the town of Briarwood just north of Spring River.

     Behind the house is a stable there is one horse and carriage, the Barclay’s hire a boy from Briarwood to work the stable and drive into town when they need to go into town. After breakfast Laura has the stable boy bring the carriage around to the front of the house. Laura tells the stable boy that they will go into town by themselves. The carriage was approaching the highway Laura reached into a box behind the seat to get a blanket. The autumn wind was blowing cold as Anton maneuvered the carriage onto the highway. He noticed the Indian again on the other side of the road. Anton tells Laura that he saw the Indian again, then they both turn and he has vanished. Laura asks if he was just imagining it. Frustrated he says, “I don’t know what’s real anymore”, they then continue on. Anton again tries to talk her into going away with him. Madness begins to show in her demeanor and she snaps back at him. She tells Anton to quit badgering her about leaving Barclay estate, it will never happen. He is shocked and tells her he wont mention it again. They arrive in Briarwood and stop at the general store, Anton ties the horse and watches as Laura stops at the door and takes an orange out of a bin and puts it in her bag. Anton walks in as Laura is walking up to the counter with her list of supplies, just then a seven year old boy runs up to the counter in front of her. Anton smiles he thinks it’s cute, but his expression turns to horror. Laura grabs the little boy by the ear and hits him on the side of his face so hard it sends the boy across the room. She snarls at him, “Don’t ever run in front of me again”. Anton couldn’t believe this was his sweet, loving Laura. They got their supplies and left, on the way back Laura just looked forward with a smile and said, “It was nice to get out, I think the fresh air did me good”. She turned and kissed him on the cheek. Anton kept looking forward afraid to say anything to her. She just let out a maniacal laugh that would chill anyone’s soul, as they turned on to Meadow Lane East. He works up the courage to say something, He says,” I hope that little boy is okay”. She turns and looks at him then she says, “What little boy?” then turns and looks forward.

     It was mid afternoon Lord Barclay was in his study working to beat a deadline with his publisher. Anton decided to go in the library and see if he could find a medical reason for Laura’s behavior. He found a book on dual personalities and started reading it. After a while Laura comes in back to old passive self. He quickly puts the book down, as she takes his hand and says, “Come with me, I want to show you something”. Anton stands up and follows Laura. They go thru the kitchen to a small sitting room, there is a fire going in the fireplace. Laura takes a torch and sticks it in the fireplace to light it. They go through a doorway to a dark passageway and down a stone stairway. Anton asks what is this place? Laura tells him that it is the passageway to the catacombs. They get down to where the family crypt is. She lights a couple of torches, as the room lights up Anton can see the different tiers of burial space. Laura tells Anton that the vault in the middle is the resting lace of her great grandfather Sir Thomas Barclay. He goes over to see a couple of coffins that caught his interest. “What are these marks on the coffins”, he asks. A look of fear comes over her face; she tells him that they are scratch marks. She says that the family thought they were dead, but the illness made them catatonic. Anton just says,”Oh my God! They were buried alive?” She tells him that it only happened to her two great aunts. We better go I feel faint she tells him. They put out the torches in the chamber and head back upstairs. Laura closes the door, puts out the torch then turns to Anton. She tells Anton that the sobbing he heard the night before meant that another death in the family was imminent. Laura says that it is dinnertime and they should go to the dining room.

Laura Barely ate anything and Anton noticed that the darkness around her eyes was darker than earlier in the day. Later that evening Laura was resting in the parlor. Anton could see her breathing was not normal; after she had dozed off he went to the study to talk to Lord Barclay. Anton walked into the study and sat down, Lord Barclay looked at him knowing why he was there and poured two glasses of brandy. Anton tells Lord Barclay that Laura is looking worse and he begged him to talk Laura into going to Boston. Lord Barclay says that Laura is too weak to make such a journey, besides she would never agree to go. Anton stands up and says, “You are all insane! You sit here and just wait for death!” he calms down and tries reasoning. “Medicine has come a long way since the forty’s. There has to be a cure for your illness”. Lord Barclay calmly tells him that it is a curse, and they had gone to doctors in Hartford two years earlier. The doctors after months of tests told them that there was nothing physically or mentally wrong with them. Anton took a drink then looked at Lord Barclay, “Laura told me what the sobbing meant”.

Anton got up and left the study knowing that his attempts to take Laura away were futile. He resigned himself to getting some sleep, and leave in the morning. He realized that they planned to stay in the house until the end. Lady Barclay and Laura were having tea in the parlor when Anton walked in. he wanted to spend his last night with her. They sat had tea and talked until almost eleven o’clock, then told Laura that he was leaving in the morning. Although saddened Laura was glad he was moving on. She said to him, ”I’m glad Anton, you will find someone. Always think of our time together in Boston”. He holds on to her and whispers to her, “I will”. He kisses her and they gaze into each other’s eyes a moment. She then tells him she is tired and would like to go to bed. Anton helps her up to her room, she has weakened thru the evening and walking was difficult for her. They were going up the stairs as the house began to shake again, it was more intense than the last time. Laura didn’t even look concerned as Anton looked around and noticed that some of the plaster had fallen from the ceiling. Laura noticed his concern and told him that Anna would sweep it up. Again he heard the sobbing of lost souls, she just continued up the stairs like it was nothing.

They get to Laura’s bedroom door and stop; as she turns to Anton she is looking paler. She tells him that it’s a good thing that he's leaving in the morning. She says that she is glad that she got to see him one more time. He asks for the last time to please leave with him in the morning. She smiles at him and kisses him and as they embrace she rests her head on his chest and softly says, “Please just remember me as I was in Boston”. Anton knows now that this is the last time he will be with her after he leaves. He says that he will never forget her that a part of her will always be with him. With a smile on her face she starts to turn, but Anton stops her and gives his Laura a big kiss, he tells her that he loves her. She runs her hand across his cheek, and says, “I will love you thru eternity”. Laura turns and goes into her room and Anton slowly goes to his room to pack up his bags. Anton puts his bags by the door as someone knocks on it. He opens the door and Lady Barclay is standing there. Lady Barclay asks him if she might talk to him for a moment. Anton motions to her to come in, she walks in and sits in a chair. She tells him that it’s a good thing that he leaves, Laura is deteriorating very quickly and he should remember her as she was. He tells Lady Barclay that Laura told him the same thing. She tells Anton that their carriage will take him to Briarwood where he could hire a coach back to Boston. She got up and left, leaving Anton to have some sleep before his journey.

It was shortly after midnight when Anton woke from a restless sleep. A heavy feeling of gloom had pressed on his mind, he couldn’t figure out what it was. Just then Lord Barclay knocked on Anton’s door and entered the room bearing the news that Laura had passed. Although he knew this would happen it was still a shock and disbelief that she so suddenly died. All he could do is cry out her name. Lord Barclay tried to calm him down but to no avail. Anton ran from the room and to Laura’s bedroom. He knelt down at her bedside, as Lord and Lady Barclay stood at the door and watched helplessly. After a while they quietly closed the door and went to their room. Anton knew he could not sleep so he kept a vigil by her bedside throughout the night. He eventually dozed off sometime in the early morning.

At dawn under a gray and bleak autumn sky, morning was much more gloomy. Lord Barclay knocked on the door and came in. the knocking arose Anton, as lord Barclay entered and went over to him. Anton could see that Lord Barclay looked paler than before. Lord Barclay told Anton that after breakfast they would set up the parlor and they would bring Laura downstairs. Anton in shock says, “Are you mad? We should call the mortuary so she can be prepared properly”. Lord Barclay calmly told him that this is the way that they bury they’re dead. He says, “We have been doing it this way since my grandfather Sir Thomas Barclay”. Anton tells him that he still thinks it is barbaric. All through breakfast Anton barely touched his food all he could think of was his beloved Laura. Lord Barclay told him that they would take her down to the crypt that evening. They were finishing up as Anna was busy upstairs preparing Laura’s body. She put on one of Laura’s favorite white Sunday gowns and fixed up her hair. Lord Barclay called in the stable boy to help Anton bring Laura downstairs. They first went out to the shed outside the kitchen and brought in a coffin that was there along with two others. Anton reeled when he saw Laura's name already etched into the lid. They put it on a table that was set up in the parlor, and then went upstairs to get Laura.

Anton kept a vigil by Laura’s side through out most of the day. He was hoping that by some miracle she would show some sign of life. He thought after all Lord Barclay was no physician, who was he to determine she was dead. He decides to call Lord Barclay on it. Anton goes and sits by Lord Barclay; he asks him how can he be so sure without a doctor that Laura is dead. Lord Barclay trying very hard to remain calm tells him that the malady that affects them is unpredictable. They have all the signs of being dead. He says, “I held a mirror to her nose and checked for a pulse”. He tells Anton “You have to let go”. Anton then comes back, “I saw the two coffins of her aunts, the blood and scratches in the wood”. Lord Barclay tells him that they were the only two cases that were only catatonic. They also had no indication of life. They came to, but they were already mad and dangerous, “We found them dead a couple days later. That’s why if you noticed the door to the crypt is so heavy and double bolted”. The anguish was to much for Anton, he stood up and walked back over to Laura shaking his head as he quietly said, “You’re are all insane”. He stood and looked at her and cried out, “She is alive! I tell you I saw her breathing!” Lord Barclay hurries over and checks for a pulse. He tells Anton that it is only his grief causing him to imagine things that he sees. Anton quietly sits down and rests his chin on his hands. The day passes and night falls, Lord Barclay tells the stable boy to put the lid on the coffin. He then instructs him to make sure the nails are at a forty-five degree angle. Anton looks up at him and asks, “Why at an angle”? Lord Barclay looks and tells him that he knows why, Anton buries his face in his hands and says, “Oh God”. As the stable boy nails the lid Lord Barclay goes to open the door to the crypt. Anton is in shock he can’t believe this is really happening.

The stable boy was at the front end and Anton took the back end of the coffin. Using a torch to light the way, Lord Barclay led them down the passageway to the crypt, followed by Anna and Lady Barclay. Anton was not thinking of this heavy burden, but of the time he spent in Boston with Laura. Down thru the passageway they came upon the family crypt, Lord Barclay lit the torches on the walls. There was no service, no ritual they just placed Laura in one of the open crypts. Anton noticed something different from the last time he was down there. He noticed that one corner of Sir Thomas Barclay’s tomb was lower that before and there was also a low spot right there. Anton felt a little uneasy like someone was watching. What they all couldn’t see were the ghosts of all the Barclay’s that were buried there. After a while Lord Barclay suggested that they all go upstairs. He pulled Anton aside and told him to meet him in the study. Anton stayed behind a short while as the others started to go, he then put out the torches and followed before the light was completely gone. He closed the door and went to the study to see Lord Barclay.

In the study they sat by the fireplace, Lord Barclay told Anton that he knows how he feels. He tells him that he is welcome to stay until he is over his grieving. Anton says that he would stay a few days there was no hurry now anymore. Anna comes in and tells them that since nobody really ate anything, she put something together for them. Lord Barclay thanked her and suggested they go and get something to eat. They got up and went to the dining room, as they did the house began to rumble not even concerning Lord Barclay. They entered the dining room as Anna was picking up some items that fell off the small tables in the room. Anton asked Lord Barclay about the rumbling; he said that Laura told him that the engineers said the building was just settling. Lord Barclay said, “If that’s what they say then that’s what it must be”. Anton looks at him and says, “You don’t really believe that do you”? Lord Barclay just looks at him.

It was approaching the one o’ clock hour in the morning, Anton had a hard time getting to sleep all he could think of was Laura. The thought of her down in the crypt, not sure of whether she was truly dead of just catatonic knowing where she was haunted him. It was one of those states that one is half awake and half asleep. Not being sure if your dreaming or it is real. He could hear Laura calling him faintly, but as he sprung up in bed he could hear the sobbing again only more intense echoing thru the hallway. Then he heard commotion in the hall, thinking that it was Lord and Lady Barclay he just laid back and the sound died away. Eventually he was able to fall asleep and he began to dream. The hallway was all foggy and misty, in slow motion he was walking up the stairs. He could hear screams as he got to the top of the stairs, he heard Laura calling him. He is walking down the hall; he could see his door on the right. He keeps walking but the door gets further away. Thru the fog Anton could see a glowing white figure and out of the fog Laura is floating toward him with her arms stretched out beckoning to him. As she approached her features become clearer. Her burial gown had blood on it. Her fingernails were all bloody, Anton could see her face was a ghastly chalk white and her eyes were all black and sunken in. she kept saying, “Why did you bury me alive?” He woke up in a cold sweat as the morning sun shined into his room. That day he had to satisfy his curiosity so he went down to the family crypt afraid of what he might find. He didn’t bother to light the torches on the wall. He walked up to where Laura was laid t rest, only to find everything, as it was the night they interred her. With relief he went back upstairs and decided to leave for Boston the next day. Anton had the stable boy take him into Briarwood to hire a coach to pick him up in the morning.

That night he was awakened by a loud pounding sound and screams; Anton sat up thinking it was a hazy dream but he heard the screams echo through the house. He could hear a faint crashing sound. The shock suddenly hit him, “Oh God, Laura!” he ran downstairs to find that the door to the crypt was wide open, he forgot to throw the bolts to lock it earlier that day. He took a torch and carefully crept down the dark passageway. He was horrified to find Laura’s coffin open, the bloody scratch marks on the lid and side. In terror he ran up the stairs, through out the house he could hear maniacal laughter echo. Carefully through the dark hallways he moved looking all around. He found the stairway and bounded up. He found his way upstairs to Lord and Lady Barclay’s room.

Anton banged on the door; Lord Barclay opened it and pulled him in, then shut the door and locked it. Anton grabbed Lord Barclay by the collar and said, “You buried her alive!” Lord Barclay broke loose and said, “You were there too, if you remember”. He looks at Lady Barclay; she gets up and goes to Anton. She tells him that he should have gone when Lord Barclay told him to go. She tells him that its not to late now, that he must flee right away while he still has a chance. The house starts rumbling and doesn’t stop. Lady Barclay says, “Go now while you can, the beginning of the end has just begun”. Plaster started falling from the ceiling; pictures were falling off the walls. They could hear Laura yelling Anton’s name. The fireplace in the bedroom started crumbling and some embers fell out and caught the rug and drapes on fire. Anton grabbed a blanket and tried to put it our. Lord Barclay stopped him, and said that it was no use and to save himself. He tells them to come with him, but they tell him they cant. Lord Barclay says, “You know we cant” and pushes him to go. Anton looks at them and leaves into the hallway, the gaslight fixtures were falling off the wall and flames from the gas lines were shooting out. At the end of the hallway beams were crashing down and burning. He ran down the stairs thinking to himself that he had to leave this cursed place.

The first light of dawn was coming up as the house was burning furiously. Anton made it down to the foyer as the building started to fall he started pulling at the front door, but the shaking of the building caused the doors to jamb. He turned to find another way out and saw Laura at the other end of the main hallway. She was as he saw her in his dream, her burial gown was stained with blood and her fingers were all bloody from scratching at her coffin lid. Her face was more gruesome and hideous from the madness that had taken over her. She kept coming toward him asking him, “Why did you bury me alive”? Anton saw that the parlor wasn’t on fire so he ran in, things were falling plaster was falling from the ceiling. He picked up a chair and as he raised it up, he saw Laura standing in the doorway. She called his name, and then suddenly a ceiling beam in the foyer fell on top of her. He smashed the window and jumped out just as the parlor ceiling crashed down.

The sun was starting to shine as Anton stood on the road looking at the building burn. Suddenly the old Indian was standing next to him. The Indian said it wasn’t their ancestors he had heard. They moved the graveyard but the builders knew there was another graveyard below it. Anton looked at him and asked, “There was another graveyard?” The Indian said, “It was my ancestors you heard sobbing but they are at peace now” Anton turned to him but the old Indian was gone. He turned to watch the last of the building burn; ending the Barclay family forever. After a short while he turned to start walking for the highway. He crossed the bridge as his carriage pulled up. He got on and as the carriage turned and started away, the driver said to him, “No luggage?” Anton turned to look back, and then settled in and said to the driver, “No luggage” as the carriage went down the road. 



©Copyright Nathan Ashe 2009




 By: Nathan Ashe



     The mid summer sun was shining bright at noon in the small Midwest town of Crest Hill, Missouri with a population of about 1500. The town sits about a quarter mile off of route 74 just west of St. Louis. The area is mostly farmland except for the sawmill that provided the lumber for the surrounding area. Jake was one of the local farmers, he stood about six feet and was stocky built in his early forties. He would occasionally come into town around lunchtime since the café was the only restaurant nearby, located on Main Street. Robin was the daytime waitress working the breakfast and lunch crowd. She was an average size girl of about thirty-eight or thirty-nine, golden blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Robin always had a smile and was very out-going. She had been there only about a year and got to know Jake real well, and she would always flirt with him when he came in. Her main goal was to get Jake to ask her out. This had been going on since she met Jake and was determined to go with him, but Jake being the gentleman he was would always let her down easily.

     Main Street ran east and west, the diner sat between the corner pharmacy and the florist shop. Main Street was a two-lane street with diagonal parking in front of the shops. There is only one stoplight at the intersection of main st. and Missouri ave. Missouri avenue was the road that took you to route 74, the heart of downtown was two blocks in either direction. Inside the modern diner it had a warm homey feeling and out of towners felt comfortable and welcome when they would come in. Roomy booths lined the south and west walls of the diner and tables filled the center and along the windows. It was well kept and clean the favorite spot for Jake and his then fiancée Connie who was killed by a wreckless driver twenty years earlier.

     Shortly after noon the door opened and Jake walked in. Robin was at the counter talking to Dan the cook and owner of the diner. Dan was a short stout black man from Mississippi in his early sixties. As Jake walked past the counter he smiled and nodded as Dan indicated to Robin that he was coming in. Robin looked over as Jake settled into his regular booth; Robin smiled, fixed her hair and straightened her apron. Dan just walked back into the kitchen shaking his head. Robin walked over and greeted him, ”Hi Jake, the usual”? He looks up as Robin hands him a menu. Jake smiles and say’s “How ya’ doin’ Robin”? She could see that although he was friendly and smiling; something was troubling him. She tells him that she’ll be right back with his coffee. After a couple of minutes Robin comes back with a cup and a pot of coffee. She says, “I’ll be back to take your order”.

     Jake is looking over the menu, he has a funny feeling that someone is watching him and looks around. He turns back and Robins standing there with her order pad. She asks him if he’s all right, Jake says that he thought someone was there. She says “Nobody else is here, it’s always slow this time on Thursday”. Robin suggests that he’s been working to hard and needs to go out and have some fun. She tells him that she is off on Friday and says that maybe they could get together. Jake smiles at her and tells her not to waste her time with him, that there are a lot of guys out there. She tells Jake that she’s not going to give up. With a pained look he says, “I guess your not”. She asks him what he would like for lunch, Jake hands Robin the menu and orders a BLT sandwich with hash browns.

     She starts back to put in his order, as she walks away a figure of a woman is standing in the aisle behind Jake just watching. Again Jake has a feeling that someone is watching him, he turns around just as Robin gets to the counter and looks over where Jake is. There is nobody there; the figure of the woman has vanished. Dan is standing by the counter eating a sandwich. Robin gives Dan the order Dan looks at her,” He turn you down again”? He asks. Robin looks down and nods, then with a look of determination she says that she was going to keep trying. Dan takes the order and goes back to the kitchen. Robin picks up the coffee pot and starts to go back and give Jake a refill. She approaches Jake; he has his hands folded and his forehead resting on them. Robin starts to refill his cup. Jake looks up and she ask’s him if he’s okay, Jake hears someone call his name, when he asks Robin if she heard that. She says that she didn’t hear a thing; Robin says that his order will be right up and walks away with a concerned look.

     A few minutes later she returns with his lunch. Dan is at the counter again and he finishes his sandwich. Robin looks over where Jake is and says,” Something is troubling him, and I’m gonna find out what it is”. Dan tells her to give it up, that she is just wasting her time. Robin tells Dan that she will get Jake to open up to her. Dan wipes his hands on a dishcloth then turns Robin toward him. “Listen, Jake has had a hard life. His fiancée died in a tragic accident twenty years ago today. He never got over it, never married”. He tells her, she is taken back by that revelation and asked Dan what happened. Dan looks out the window as he starts to relate the story. It was a warm sunny day just like today; there were a few people out and about. I could see them clear as day. Connie was a petite young girl with shiny chestnut colored hair and the most sparkling blue azure eyes I have ever seen. She had the sweetest disposition, always a good word for anybody. Except for the gray in his hair Jake hasn’t changed much at all, he always had that baby face.

     Twenty years ago they came in around lunchtime. They sat there right where Jake is sitting now. They was happy as two folk could be. I remember as little ones they was very close, and as they grew up they were inseparable. Connie had to leave and do some errands after lunch. Jake come over to the counter after she left, and told me about his plans for the wedding. He’d always take the time to sit and talk with me a spell. He was so happy and looking forward to his marriage. Jake had bought some property and was gonna build them a house. Connie was to pick up her wedding dress that afternoon.

     Dan puts his head down “Po’ miss Connie, never got to pick up her dress”. Robin asks him if that was they’re last time together. Dan tells her that Jake never got to see her before she died. “Po’ fella got the news later that evenin’”. Dan continues the story as Robin listens intensely. I saw the accident over there, he points out the window to the dress shop. It was just across from the diner. The intersection could be seen from the counter, later that afternoon some where’s between two and two-thirty it was rather hot so there wasn’t too many peoples out.

     I remember seein’ her cross the street at the intersection and walk over to the dress shop. She no sooner got to the store, when we all heard the loud noise. It was one of them old hot rod type automobiles comin’ up the street real fast. We all looked and saw the car was out of control; it ran up the curb and smashed into the store window. Po’ miss Connie was standin’ right there. Killed her and the driver instantly. The impact was so powerful it throw’d her thru the window to the back of the store; her neck was broke. Robin say’s “Oh that’s awful, when did Jake find out?” she asked. Dan tells her what he knows from talking to Jake’s friends. Well he says, from what I was told, Jake had a big dinner prepared. Connie was supposed to get there at six o’clock, he knew she would’ve called if she was gonna be late. Six o’clock came and went, about six-thirty he called her best friend Mary and asked if she was there. Mary said she wasn’t and said she would have Connie call if she hears from her.

     A few minutes later he got the call from miss Connie’s mama that she was dead. He never was the same again never married. “That’s so sad” Robin says as she looks over at Jake. He is standing by the jukebox and play’s the song that was playing twenty years ago. I never took that record out of the jukebox, he says. Back at the booth Jake is rubbing his eyes, when he looks up Connie is sitting across from him. He is startled then thinking it is twenty years earlier he tells her that he didn’t think she would make it. Connie says, “We’ll never be apart again, I promise”. Jake says he will get her a cup of coffee, he motions to Robin but she is filling salt and pepper shakers and doesn’t see him.

     Jake gets up and goes over to Robin and asks her for a cup of coffee for his fiancé. She looks over at the booth he was sitting at; there is nobody there. Robin says “Your fiancé?” Jake looks at her puzzled, and says “Oh didn’t you know that I was engaged?” Robin starts to ask him about the accident then says okay and gives him a cup and pours the coffee. He takes the coffee and thanks her as he starts back to the booth. Robin looks again and sees the booth is empty except for Jake. Robin calls Dan over and tells him what happened, he looks over and says “That po’ boy’s hurtin’ real bad”. He shakes his head and goes back in the kitchen, while Robin continues her work occasionally looking over at Jake.

     Jake puts the coffee cup in front of Connie, they are talking to each other as if it is twenty years earlier. Connie is sipping the coffee; Jake asks her what took her so long to get there. Connie says “Come on, you know I had a lot to do today”. He remembers as he has his forehead resting on his hands, meanwhile Robin has come over to refill his cup. She looks over at the cup on the other side of the table and sees that it is still full. She shakes her head and asks if he needs anything. Jake looks as if startled out of a dream. He tells her he must have dozed off. He goes to introduce Connie then notices she’s not there and suggests that she went to the ladies room. Robin asks if he would like dessert. His demeanor changes, he's like a whole different person. He tells Robin he would like a piece of Dan’s homemade apple pie for Connie and himself.

     Robin fills his coffee cup and says she’ll be right back. She walks away looking perplexed. Jake looks back and Connie is sitting across from him. She says, “I miss you so much when we’re apart, I feel so lost”. Robin returns with two pieces of pie and set one in front of Jake and the other one where Connie would be if she were really there. Connie is just sitting there smiling at Jake. He says “Where are my manners, Robin this is Connie”. She looks over at the empty booth and plays along with him by introducing herself. Robin and Jake look at each other for a moment; she then turns slowly and walks away as Jake watches her. He looks down and chuckles a little bit. He looks back and Connie is eating the pie. He smiles and starts eating his pie. Connie sips the coffee and puts the half empty cup down. She takes his hands and stands up as if there wasn’t a table there. Connie wraps her arms around him, as his spirit stands up and they embrace each other she says, “It’s time for us to be together forever just like we planned”. He says “Yes forever” they’re spirits float upward and disappear.

     Robin walks over to leave the check, she sees him slumped over thinking he dozed off calls to him. There is no response, she checks his pulse then looks over and sees that the pie on the other side of the table hasn’t been touched. The coffee cup also is still full; she looks up and then wipes a tear from her cheek with a handkerchief. Robin then calls to Dan as she sits opposite of Jake. Dan comes out and asks “What ya’ need”? She tells Dan to call the firehouse. Dan sees Jake and says that Connie and Jake are finally together. Jake has a smile on his face.




ãCopyright 2007




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Do not fear the dark, embrace it.