This is my Friday Frights tale for this week. The theme this month is Witches, Goblins, Ghosts and Ghouls. This tale took on a mind of its own. Enough to where it will become a novel in 2016. I hope you enjoy it.
Quarter Moon Haunts
The old farmhouse seemed like such a pleasant place to rent. No one is around for a mile in any direction. The road it sits off of isn’t paved, but it’s passable enough. In most weather, that is.
But heavy snow adds a whole new complexity to the situation. This year, the snow has fallen to twice the normal levels. And the cold: the temperatures have hit all time lows for January. A solid week of twenty below zero.
This area of Sussex County, New Jersey has many homes constructed in the late 1700’s. Mine is one of them. Sure, it has charm, but the plumbing then and the plumbing in this day and age are miles apart. My water pipes all froze. Were it not for the fact that I filled the tub with water and filled old milk jugs with water as well before the deep freeze, I would not be able to bathe or have drinking water now. And, I have plenty of canned goods. Country folk know how to survive.
The wind whistles through the cracks present throughout the house. Pretty much, I live in the living room. That is where the fireplace is. I have an ample supply of wood. I won’t freeze.
Sitting in my recliner in front of the fire, I watch the flames swish around with their patterns of color creating a dance of allure and mystery. At night, the fire is my only light, the power lines having blown down in the first day of the tremendous storm to hit this area. No matter. I am a writer and can write by hand on a tablet as well as on a computer. Later, I’ll transcribe what I have written. For now, there is no need for a computer.
Solitude. Yes, I definitely have it here. A single man living within the majesty of no constraints on his time is in a heavenly place, but . . . but something is not quite right. Even now they call to me: voices; soft, but insistent.
I’m not daft. The voices are real. Even before the storm, before the isolation, the voices were there. But, they were not as close, nor did I get as near as I do now to where the center of the ethereal pleadings fall upon my ears.
My writing pad and pen are put to the side for now. Closing my eyes to remove any visual interference with my thoughts and with what I am hearing, I allow myself to come under the spell of what creeps through the room, feeling the touch of what is beseeching me, tasting the agony of what happened so many years before, and absorbing the aroma of hatred and a need for revenge.
The pressure forces itself upon me as it always does, driving me crazy, pulling me to where it wishes me to go. No way can I resist the force.
I put on my heavy clothing and boots and venture out into the cold. The snow has stopped falling, but the chill in the air is horrific. Aagh, I dread this trip , but I have no control over it now.
The damned wind nearly knocks me off my feet as I trudge across the huge porch, new snow drifts having formed since the last time I had to make this trek. Fuck, just once I wish I could simply venture outside and do what I have to do, but no, Mother Nature says otherwise.
Forcing my way through the snow and wind, I make it to the outhouse. The door opens easily. It shouldn’t. There should be a wall of ice greeting me, barring me from entering, but there never is. The double seater is always ready for me, wanting me to get in easily. Why?
I sit down quickly, not wanting the jewels to freeze, merely wishing to attend to business and get back inside, but leaving the quarter mooner is not as easy as entering it. A pressure, somewhat like some wonky sort of force shield, keeps me away from the door when I’m done, and the voices talk to me with words I do not understand. And yet . . . and yet, every time I venture out, the word recognition appears to become easier.
The words, the pressure, follow me back inside the house. I toss a couple more logs on the fire and grab a cold beer from a chest filled with snow. Hey, a man’s ‘gotta have some way to relax, doesn’t he. Yes, I stocked this place up good for the winter. Back in October, I started my winter prep. I’m set ‘til Spring. At least I hope I am. The way this winter is going, it might be a long ways off.
A crescendo of voices surrounds me, speaking into my right ear first and then my left. But . . . but the languages are different, and the mixture digs into my brain, a cacophony of sound driving me to the very limits of what I am able to handle. The beer drops out of my hand, spilling onto the floor, and I jerk about in the recliner attempting to understand what is happening to me.
My chest is assuaged by a force so powerful I am afraid the end is near for me, pushing down on a heart that is already engorged to its limits and beating wildly, and I am powerless to take control of the situation.
The force, or maybe it is more than one, and I wrestle for what seems hours, but who can keep track of time in a situation like this? My strength wanes and . . .
* * * *
I come to, lying on the floor, soaked in my sweat, and freezing because the fire has gone completely out. An odor permeates everything in the room, one that I know well, but it’s impossible! That can’t be! But it is.
The fucking shit house! I am smelling the defecation from the old quarter mooner. It’s . . . it’s in the room. But how? I crawl to where my logs are stacked and light a match. The burning sulfur-laden sliver of wood shows me what I suspected but which I still can’t believe. It sits in front of the door leading to the porch. How does an outhouse just up and walk inside?
Cautiously, I start up a fire and stand by it to warm up. I’m chilled to the bone and need to raise my temperature so my brain can function right. Yes, that’s it; that’s what’s wrong. This is all some sort of hocus-pocus caused by hypothermia. Get warm; move about; that’s what I have to do.
The outhouse is my total center of focus right now. I can’t take my eyes off it. Unless I’ve gone completely over the edge, the damned thing is staring back at me, or . . . or, is something inside waiting for me?
It wobbles from side to side. Voices, the same as before, come out. But this time I understand them for what they are. The door is flung open. An old Dutch guy, looking like he came out of one of Washington Irving’s tales, is seated on the wooden throne, staring at the roll of toilet paper in his hand with some sort of amusement, as if he wonders what it is. A dark skinned hand reaches over from the other side and snatches it out of his hand. The door slams shut once more as they fight among themselves for something they are confused over anyway.
This is my chance to get out of here. But how? The only door is blocked and all the windows are sealed shut by thick ice. And where would I go anyway? Everything is still shut down due to the storm. My clothing is still wet. I would freeze to death before I got to anyplace safe.
Yeah, right. Even if I did run off, then what? Would I run down the road shouting, “Beware, the shit-house is coming, the shit-house is coming.”?
Damn, I am going crazy! A Dutch ghost and what appears to be a Native American one fighting over a roll of ass-wipe. And I’m caught up in the center of it all. Isolation and the cold have taken their toll on me. My tale remains by the side of my recliner. It pales in comparison to what weaves through my house.
The outhouse door slams open and the Dutch ghost comes flying out. The Indian ghost sticks his face out and shakes the roll of paper in our faces. Pulling his pants up, the Dutchman looks at me and says, “Don’t just stand there. Lets get that paper thing out of his hands.”
He runs to the quarter mooner and tries to pull the door open, but the Indian locked it. I rush to the other side and open up the other door-this is a deluxe model-and run inside and grab the paper.
What the hell am I doing? I’m taking sides in an argument between two ghosts who tried to kill me just a little while ago.
The two of them go at it tooth and nail for awhile until they wear each other out. I shake my head, not quite knowing what to do but knowing now that I’m not going anywhere. Laughing out loud, I say, “You guys are too much. Have a beer.”
They stare at me as if I’m crazy. “What is this beer?” the Indian asks.
I laugh. “Your little Dutch buddy knows what it is.”
Popping the top, I hand him the bottle. I guess ghosts can drink beer. If not, I’ll find out in a hurry.
He takes a swig and smiles at me. I hand his partner in crime one. He takes a whiff of what I’m offering him and breaks out in a huge smile. These guys are in my camp now.
Going into the dining room, I grab a couple of chairs and bring them in to the living room, and motion for them to have a seat. I grab a beer for myself, slide into my recliner, and sit between them. The spirits are happy. They enjoy the warmth from the fire and the taste of the cold beer as well. I don’t know how many beers we drink, but when I wake, the sun is high in the sky and my partners in crime are long gone, and so is the outhouse. Stepping outside, I see it is back where it belongs.
* * * *
Spring finally comes and my pipes thaw. Power has long been restored, and I have been able to restock my dwindling supplies. My landlord arrives one day and tells me I am the only tenant he has ever had that lasted out the winter. I smile at him when he goes on and on about how strange people are, complaining about seeing ghosts and all. But he smiles the most when I tell him I want to buy the old house for twice what it’s worth.
The house and surrounding woods are beautiful this time of year. Every night, I sit on the porch swing and bring out a cooler laden with longnecks. Side by side we sit, as we all tell our tales to each other. I learn a lot about the old Dutch and Native American customs, and they get to understand what makes me tick as well. I publish their stories and create quite a name for my historical friends.
Many a reader immerses themselves in the tales of Mike VanTassel, and Running Deer. They are legends in Sussex County now. Those are the names I sign when I autograph their books.
But most importantly, every evening when their spirits emerge from the quarter mooner, we share some beers and swap some tales.
They are my friends . . .