Full Moon—September 29, 2012
Sunset Beach, NC
Katherine floated up through the small pine box, through the hard, packed dirt and then through the tall dry grass. It always felt weird passing through the wood, but she loved going through the grass. She imagined how it might tickle if she still had a body.
The newer inhabitants of the cemetery had an extra barrier in the lead of the crypts before coming through the wormy soil. But she had been here so long that a lead liner hadn’t been required.
The light coming from the cottage instantly caught her attention. The old house had been empty for months. But now the lamps were lit and there was a golden yellow glow coming from every window. Someone walked past a window. It was a pretty young woman, tall and thin with long brown hair. She was carrying a big box from one room to another. A girl was here! She was moving in! They had another chance! A chance to make someone listen—to understand what had happened.
She forced herself to go back down to get her brother and sisters. If only they didn’t scare this one away.
Piper was pulling books out of boxes and shoving them onto the shelves of an old oak bookcase. Her knees were stiff from bending, her back achy from all the lifting and carrying. Just one more box and she’d take a break. It was time to grab some dinner anyway. She squinted at the tiny clock over the kitchen stove. Nine thirty—a heck of a time for dinner.
From the window over the sink, she rubbed her lower back and looked out at the cemetery that sprouted from the ground not fifty feet from her back door. It was for that reason, she was sure, that this beautiful little house had stood vacant, while homes in the surrounding community were snatched up before “For Sale” signs sank into the sod.
She’d been lucky to find it and it hadn’t bothered her a bit to discover that the house came with its very own family graveyard situated where most peoples’ back yards boasted swing sets, barbeques or picnic tables.
Her eyes were drawn to the willow tree that was so large it created a canopy over the most prominent of the tombstones. The long branches were swaying in the early fall breeze. As she watched, the wind kicked up and whipped the branches back and forth so frantically that it looked like they were violently flaying the black granite headstone.
Then the overhead light in the ceiling fixture flickered and the crystal owl figurine she had just placed on the window ledge not an hour ago, tumbled over the sill and crashed into the sink. She stood, staring unseeingly as the noise of it shattering against the stainless steel sink jolted her from her reverie.
She inspected the damage. Hundreds of tiny glass shards winked rainbow prisms up at her as the light above the sink continued to blink on and off.
Darn! That had been her favorite piece of crystal. And she knew she had carefully set it away from harm, back from the edge of the sill. The light blinked once more then went out. She felt as well as heard the back door rattle in its frame as the floor shook.
Great! Her first night in her new home and this had to happen—a storm, strong enough to thrash branches around, take out the electric, and bang the back door.
She’d heard from a neighbor while moving in, that the place was haunted, and that was why the house was back on the market at regular intervals. But she didn’t believe in ghosts. Everything in her life so far had been easily explained. She didn’t believe in bad luck or bad karma either—she had just made some bad choices. Like choosing her last apartment over one that had been in better condition.
As she wiped her hands on a dishtowel, the garbage disposal suddenly came to life. It scared the bejesus out of her! She threw herself back from the sink with such force that her back hit the opposite counter. The sharp edge rammed into her back, her already sore back.
Just as suddenly as it had turned itself on, the disposal shut itself off. Then the light came back on—full, bright, and glaring in its intensity. With her hands steadying her from behind, she stood against the counter and listened. Everything was eerily quiet. There was no wind, no rain . . . no storm. It was a little creepy and she felt the beginning of unease . . . the unmistakable honing of senses putting her body on alert. Everything tingled with awareness as she waited.
After a few moments, she pushed off and walked back to the sink. The glass pieces had been chewed up and spun around leaving a sparkling film of glass glitter against the sides. She turned on the water, and using the sprayer, cleaned up the mess, being careful not to cut her fingers on the diamond-like dust as she moved some dishes aside.
Sighing at the loss of a treasured memento, she made herself a ham and cheese sandwich without mustard or mayonnaise because she’d forgotten to purchase condiments at the store. She washed each bite of the dry sandwich down with a sip of warm Cheerwine soda because the icemaker hadn’t had time to make ice yet.
Even though it was still early for her, she knew she couldn’t tackle even one more box. Her arms were weak from all the exertion and were now covered from wrist to inner elbow with what she could only attribute to a rash caused by the constant abrasion of cardboard, so she trudged up the stairs to take a hot bath.
Being able to soak in a hot bathtub took more work than she’d expected. She had to scrub the tub out first before filling it. The previous tenants must have left in a hurry, as they hadn’t taken the time to clean anything. But it was worth the effort. The moment her body settled into the hot, steamy water she felt her muscles easing and relaxing. The soothing hot water was an incredible balm for her sore muscles. She closed her eyes and tried to contour her body to the shape of the old-fashioned, claw-footed tub.
Savoring the peaceful quiet and enjoying the rising steam on her face, she sighed with pleasure.
When she heard the plop, plop, plopping sounds of something hitting the water, her eyes jerked open. Small balls were falling from the plaster ceiling into the water. Muddy brown and hard, like clods of dirt, they hovered from several feet above the water before landing with loud and unequal plops and splashes. At first, she thought she was dreaming. It was the solid thunking against the sides of the tub and then the one that landed and rested on her navel that finally convinced her otherwise.
Eyes wide with horror, she stood and reached for a towel. She was gasping and crying as the tempo of the plops and splashes picked up pace and rained down on her.
The pelting continued as she turned in circles clutching the towel to her and whimpering until there was more dirt in the tub than water. Her feet stuck to the muck on the bottom as she tried to step out.
Then the toilet on the other side of the room flushed and she jerked her foot back into the tub.
“What the Sam Hill is going on!” she screamed.
It was then that she looked up and noticed lines forming in the fog of the mirror attached to the medicine cabinet over the sink. One silver line joined another until she could see large block letters forming. The shaky writing was similar to a child’s as each letter appeared, as if written by an invisible finger. Piper read the words out loud: NOT KONSUMPSUN
Chills ran up her spine and she felt goose bumps pebbling her flesh. “What the—?”
Then the mirror opened and closed a few times before it was slammed so hard that the glass shattered in the frame. Pieces of it broke off and fell into the sink, while others fell to the floor, breaking into even smaller pieces. The shower head, on a long pipe attached to the tub, began spurting out hard streams of water and she was drenched with water as the curtain used to enclose the tub was pulled around and around on its metal rings in quick circles. She was closed in, feeling the cool water cascading over her towel-clad form when she heard the voice. It was clear and distinct, childlike, yet practiced as if this was not the first time these words had been spoken.
“Papa did it. First he did it to Margaret Ann, then Elizabeth and Mary. Then me. Connor found out and Papa killed him. Victoria came next. Momma didn’t know so she kept birthing babies. The twins were next. Help us.”
The shower suddenly stopped running and the curtain stopped circling. Piper could hear the metal rings rattling and then settling in place. The water from the tub began draining, and as the mud was being drawn loudly into the pipe it made sucking noises. Soon the mud clogged the hole and silenced the slow moving vortex.
Piper stood shaking, clutching the towel to her naked, dirt-streaked body and shivering. Yes, she was cold, but that wasn’t why her flesh was pebbled with goose bumps. The voice had an ethereal quality to it and her mind raced to place the names she had just heard. They were familiar, yet not. And then it came to her. Seven little grave markers instantly flashed through her mind. She remembered them from the day she checked out the house, mostly because the children had died so young, and there’d been so many: Margaret Ann, Elizabeth, Mary, Kathleen, Connor, Victoria, and twins Holly and Nicholas, who had been Christmas Eve babies. Those were the names of the children who were buried in her back yard. Eight children, all with the same last name, all under ten when they had died. One couldn’t help but wonder.
As if in a trance, she dropped the towel, turned slowly and reached to turn the shower back on. She rinsed her hair and her body and watched the remaining mud at the bottom drain out with soft gurgles as she shifted it and swished it around with her foot. Then she gingerly stepped out, watching out for glass shards, as she reached for a fresh
towel and tiptoed out of the bathroom to her bedroom. As if being quiet was going to make a bit of difference to her ghost.
In her room, she found her bathrobe and put it on. Then she went to stand at the lone, unadorned window. As she stood there toweling her hair, she stared out at the cemetery. Except for the willow branches swaying in the light breeze, all was still. The tombstones were shadowed and eerily lit by a full moon. She stared for what could have been hours, lost in her thoughts trying to piece things together. Every once in a while, she felt her scalp tingling, as if someone was combing their fingers through her hair with the absolute lightest touch.
She went over her day, trying to make sense of things. She had taken her usual jog on the beach that morning while waiting for the moving van. She remembered sitting on the bench at the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island and writing in the journal, excited about her new house on the mainland. She thanked the Kindred Spirit for answering the prayers she’d been leaving in the box. There was no doubt in her mind that K.S., as she referred to the mystical spirit, had somehow arranged everything for her.
She’d gotten back just in time to see the moving truck turn the corner and from that moment on, every thought was directed toward the move, trying to make the transition as smooth as possible, for she had to get it all done today— tomorrow she had to get back to work. She couldn’t afford to devote another day to moving. From the moment the movers had left she’d been unpacking, sorting . . . reminiscing. Each knick-knack had a story and she had to stop to let it unwind in her head as she placed each item in its new home.
Then chaos had taken over. When she finally stepped away from the window and turned toward her bed, her long hair was dry and silky smooth. It usually took hours to get it this soft and dry, as it was so thick. It was a task she dreaded because it was always tangled after washing.
She gently pulled back the covers, thankful that making up her bed had been one of her first priorities. As she eased into the bed, she reached for the light switch on the wall above the night table. It was an old house and electricity had been added after the fact, so the switch was located at the end of a conduit that housed the wiring. She had to turn the toggle to break the connection and shut off the light. As she did so, the room went dark. She let out a soft sigh and relaxed into the smooth sheets. Then she heard the naked bulb above her pop and she was sprayed with fine bits of glass.
In a rage, she violently threw the covers off and, after shoving her feet into her slippers, she stomped over to the window. In one jerky motion, she threw up the sash then leaned out and screamed, “I’ll help you! Just stop breaking all my glass!”
She waited for an answer but none came. She slammed the window shut. Walking back to the bed, she felt around for the edges of her comforter. Moving slowly in the dark, she gathered the corners together and placed the whole bundle in a corner. She shook out her hair and brushed at her skin, surprised to find there was no glass on either her or her robe. How could that be? It had rained down on her like a fine mist when the bulb had exploded. Climbing back into the bed and using the top sheet to cover her, she laid her head on the pillow and closed her eyes.
The next thing she knew, it was morning. The sun was shining through the open window and a faint breeze was ruffling her hair. She heard birds singing as she closed her eyes to the bright sunlight. She flipped from her side to her back and found herself staring up at the ceiling—at a light bulb, a full, dust-coated light bulb. Had she dreamed everything last night? Had she been so tired she hallucinated? How did the window get opened again? She distinctly remembered closing it last night.
She looked over for the comforter in the corner. It wasn’t there. Her eyes moved around the room and settled on it. It was folded in thirds resting at the bottom of the bed. Sweet Jesus, what in the world was going on?
She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. Then she looked around the room. The boxes were gone. The things that had been in them were either neatly stacked on her desk or scattered on her dresser, haphazardly for sure, but placed in the general vicinity that they would normally belong. Had she unpacked in her sleep? Ignored how tired she was and continued unpacking into the night and then forgotten about it?
Slowly, she pushed the sheet aside and stepped out of bed. She walked around the room looking for traces of glass, staring at each figurine on the dresser and trying to remember when she had placed it there. She had no idea how some of them had gotten there. She shuffled into the bathroom.
It was clean. There was no mud—wet, splattered, or caked-on anywhere. The tiles were immaculate, in fact, they gleamed. Clean towels were hung on the rods. Moving to stand in front of the sink, she noticed that the mirror was whole and spotlessly clean. She looked at the woman staring back at her. Was she going insane? Had she drunk too much wine? No, she didn’t think she had even brought any wine with her. That wasn’t it. Shaking her head, she walked back to the bedroom and got dressed.
When she walked into the living area, she should have been surprised to see everything had been unpacked, but she wasn’t. If she couldn’t explain even one of the paranormal things happening, several more added to the mix wouldn’t help things.