The Halloween Homecoming.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The Dark And Suspenseful
Seasonal tales from beyond the shadows.

Submitted: October 27, 2018

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Submitted: October 27, 2018

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A new beginning, just a new beginning! Walter Crowley kept repeating the same words over and over in his head; it was his way of coping with a situation he feared. He had almost finished packing the last of his worldly goods in the back of the old station wagon. It was a meager amount of possessions to represent sixty years of living, a lifetime of memories that fitted in eight cardboard boxes. The majority of these had been accumulated since he had retired from the navy; Walter had joined the navy fresh out of high school. Even then he had to lie about his age to get in, mind you back in those days there was not much emphasis on background checks.

Walter still had a crystal clear image of the morning he left home to go to sea, his old man hung over and stinking of stale booze as usual, never even said goodbye. His mother sporting yet another black eye cried softly to herself as he walked away, it was the last time he was ever to set eyes on either of them. The old man’s penchant for drunk driving got them both killed in a car wreck, the hovel they called home was repossessed and demolished to make way for a shopping mall. With no living relatives that he knew of, the navy was to become his new family and home. That was until he reached the age where they kicked him out, since then he had survived on his meager pension and what odd jobs he could pick up.

It was a frugal existence he had long grown disillusioned with, the city was a harsh place and more so when you were old and alone. For all intents and purposes Walter looked at himself as a man without a home. A strange occurrence was soon to see Walter packing his belongings to leave the city and state, thanks to a letter from the legal representatives of a relation he was not even aware he had. A woman he had never heard of had bequeathed him a house and small inheritance in a place he did not know existed, a strange situation indeed and one he had found hard to accept. Walter closed the trunk of the car and took one last look around; even in the short years he had lived here the neighborhood had deteriorated badly. Then with a mixture of fear and excitement, Walter drove towards his new beginning.

Three days later a tired and disheveled Walter pulled the car to the side of the road overlooking the town of Ravenhill, sleeping in the cramped car had left him sore and stiff so he got out to stretch his legs. The town below him nestled in a shallow valley surrounded by wooded hills on all sides; Walter could have just as easily been standing in the English countryside. The streets were narrow and tree lined, the buildings were all picturesque red brick structures. It was as if time had forgotten Ravenhill, it looked like an oasis of civilization from a bygone era. Walter returned to the car and set off down the winding road to the town, on nearing the town he had a strange feeling it was not his first time here.

The large black bird perched atop the road side sign, seemed to stare at him malevolently. Even when he stopped the car right beside the sign it never moved. The sign read “Welcome to Ravenhill. Population 5400 souls”. The Raven continued to hold his gaze as if curious as to why Walter was here, the longer that bird stared at him the more uncomfortable he felt. Walter leaned hard on the horn; even then the bird took the time to shriek at him before taking leisurely flight from its perch. For a brief moment he had the urge to turn the car and leave here, but it was too late now. He had traveled so far he needed to rest, and besides he had nothing left to go back to.

Driving slowly down the main street was a strange experience for him, the passing pedestrians all looked to be dressed in old fashioned clothes and everyone one of them stopped to stare as he passed. He eventual found the law offices he was looking for; if the inside of the offices were anything to go by then they were not exactly busy. He could easily have steeped back in time when he entered the offices of Jeremiah Scroop attorney at law. The small man with the wire framed glasses, sat behind an enormous oak desk that dwarfed him. Before Walter even spoke the man was on his feet and shaking his hand as if they were long lost friends, his broad smile never quite managing to reach his beady eyes.

The small man was busy searching through an ancient looking filling cabinet, and Walter sat looking at his surroundings. Every surface in the office, including the old Bakelite phone on the desk had a fine layer of dust resting on it. He vaguely wondered to himself how Jeremiah Scroop managed to carry out his business without disturbing that dust, when the attorney spoke behind him Walter almost screamed. “Here we are Mr Crowley the file that concerns you.” The man sounded quite pleased with himself at finding the file, as if he was expecting the file to have been lost. Jeremiah returned to his seat behind the desk and placed the file between them, the faded cardboard covers looked brittle with age.

The attorney placed his elbows on the desk and made a steeple shape with his hands, there he sat in silence as Walter wondered what the hell was going on. The man had a strange smile on his face and looked like he was in some kind of a trance; the silence in the dusty old office was beginning to make Walter nervous. For one terrible moment he wondered if this was all some kind of an elaborate hoax, if it was he did not know what he would do. He had driven half way across the country, worse still he had given up his lodgings and there was nothing to go back to. The new beginning he had used as motivation suddenly appeared hollow, and once again he felt just a foolish old man.

The sound of the little man clearing his throat on the other side of the desk drew Walter back to the present; the expression on Jeremiah Scroop’s face had changed again and he looked every bit the professional. He leaned forward and pulled the file back towards himself, and with a somewhat comical gesture he opened the file. “This is the last will and testament of Mabel Jones. Late of Conifer drive, Ravenhill in this county, you Mr Walter Crowley are named as sole benefactor of her estate”. The tone of the attorney’s voice had suddenly turned solemn, and it sent a cold shiver down Walter’s spine. Jeremiah fell silent again as if he was waiting for the gravity of his words to sink into Walter’s mind.

From the moment he had entered the office, Walter felt the whole situation had the feel of a pageant about it. Now he just wished the man would get on with it, the smell of musty paper and dust was beginning to make him feel ill. But it was not even the smell that bothered him most; it was being in such close proximity to this strange little man. Walter was beginning to feel trapped in here; it was as if he was suddenly far from the real world outside. Mind you ever since the episode with the raven; he had wondered if Ravenhill had any relationship with the real world at all. The sound of papers shuffling interrupted his muse; the attorney was examining the remaining contents of the file. Whatever information was contained on those sheets of paper appeared to displease the attorney, as he muttered away under his breath.

Walter left the office with a growing sense of shock; in his hand were the deeds to his new home, and a cashier’s cheque for almost twenty thousand dollars. The feeling that this whole thing was not real was overwhelming by now, with each passing moment he half expected to wake and find it was all a dream. Outside on the sidewalk Walter turned to thank Jeremiah Scroop, who had accompanied him to the door. The expression on the attorney’s face had changed once again, this time the small man neither looked welcoming or professional. Instead of the broad smile he now sported a scowl, and the deadpan stare in those beady eyes were reminiscent of the raven he had encountered on the outskirts of town. Walter could not seem to find his voice now and just waved at the attorney, the small man gave a curt nod before turning on his heels and going back indoors.

Conifer Drive was located on the side of the hill overlooking the north end of the town; here the houses here were hidden at the end of long driveways and surrounded by trees. Walter eventually located the post box that carried the name M. Jones in faded letters, the gate hung from rusted hinges and the drive way was overhung by low tree branches. The branches scraping on the side of the car made an eerie screeching sound, and the rutted surface bounced him around in the car like a rodeo rider. The journey down the drive way seemed to take for ever, and Walter wondered if there was any house here at all.

Either side of the drive way was covered in dense wood land that blocked out most of the daylight, he was just beginning to think he was in the wrong place altogether when he rounded a curve and the house suddenly appeared. It stood in a large clearing surrounded by giant ancient conifers, the house itself looked far older than those in the town. It was a large two story wooden building that looked in dire need of a coat of paint; otherwise it looked in fairly decent repair. The whole feel of this place gave him the impression that this particular house predated the town by some bit, the silence in the clearing was suddenly broken by an ear splitting screech.

Walter had to fight the instinct to run blindly into the cover of the woods, he looked furtively around the clearing seeking the source of that unnatural sound. It was only when the sounded was repeated that he recognized it, it was the same sound that the raven had made earlier that morning. Walter instinctively raised his eyes and found himself staring at the raven perched on the chimney stack, the dark pools of the bird’s eyes held his gaze and Walter had the creepy feeling it was the same bird. The creature and the man stood staring at each other like some strange Mexican standoff; it was the raven that finally broke the status quo. The bird suddenly launched himself from the roof and swooped towards Walter, for a moment he thought the bird was attacking him but then it changed course and flew off towards the woods.

If the attorneys office looked dated then the inside of the house his new home, looked like he had experienced a time warp. Everywhere he looked there was dark wood paneling, the carpet had a strange mosaic pattern and was worn through to the threads. And to his dismay there did not seem to be any electricity. A good generator and the cost of wiring the place would take a good chunk of his monetary inheritance. Still the building appeared structurally sound and it was his, it was not as if he didn’t have time on his hands to fix it up. Walter threw open all the windows to air the place out, and then he took to exploring his new abode. The interior of the house looked as if whoever lived here had just upped and walked out sometime last century, a thick layer of dust covered everything.

 The upstairs section of the house consisted of three rooms; the main bedroom which he presumed was that of his late benefactor, contained a doubled bed with iron frame and brass bed knobs. An ornate oil lamp rested on the bedside locker which was of dark wood, a huge wardrobe of the same wood took up most of one wall. The clothes that hung in the wardrobe were all black and of a size worn by a large woman, they looked as if they were last in fashion during the puritan times. The drawers in the bedside locker contained folded underwear and some strange trinkets; the only art on show was a large oil painting that hung above the head of the bed. The painting depicted a group of naked people dancing around a raging bonfire; the scene was set in a clearing in dark woods. At first sight the subject looked a frivolous one, but Walter found the painting mildly disturbing.

 Perhaps it was the dark shades of paint used in most of the painting, or the fact that the blurry naked figures appeared grotesque and misshapen. But he found himself staring at it in an almost hypnotic way, the painting was obviously very old and original but it somehow looked familiar to him. The longer he looked at it the more detail that was revealed to him; the main figure in the circle was a woman of obese proportions. This woman had huge pendulous breasts that appeared smeared with blood, and behind her the dark figure of a goat stood upright with glaring red eyes. Walter wiped the dust from the small brass plate attached to the bottom of the frame, the title of the strange painting was “Samhain Ritual” but no artists name appeared.

Walter pulled his gaze away from the painting to find the room was darker, outside it was dusk. This bothered him as it meant he had been staring at that painting for two hours or more, the house felt much colder as the late September evening air brought the temperatures down. Walter moved quickly around the house closing the windows, he needed to find oil for the lamps before it got too dark. He eventually found what he was looking for in the space beneath the stairs, the area had been shelved out and the oil and other liquids in jars had been neatly stacked. A shed out the back was stacked to the rafters with wood, it was old and dry but he had the stove in the living room going in no time.

The ornate oil lamps illuminated the room with a pleasant glow and the wood fire in the stove made the room feel cozy. The walls of the living room were lined with bookshelves, dusty old tomes that appeared ancient. He was hungry now and the growling sounds of his stomach, competed with the crackling sounds of the wood fire. He cursed himself for not remembering to get groceries when he was in town, but it was too late now and he would have to suffer the hunger pangs until morning. He walked around the room looking at the books; he needed something to read in order to take his mind off his empty guts. A large portion of these old books were not even in English, and those that were all appeared to deal with different aspects of the occult and other esoteric themes.

Walter finally chose a thin volume dealing with the history of Ravenhill, and surrounding areas. The town itself was founded in October 1692; little information was supplied about where the original settlers had originated from. A list of surnames of the original settlers did appear, and out of this list of approximately eighty names two of them stood out. They were Jones and Scroop, Walter vaguely wondered if his benefactor and her attorney were direct decedents of the original settlers. He became even more curious when he came across a reproduction of a painting in the book; it was of the first mayor of Ravenhill and his wife. Walter Jones and his wife Mabel Jones stared sternly from the page, he was a thin man with a huge nose and she was a grossly obese sour looking woman dressed in black.

Walter stared at this picture with a growing sense of unease, something about the image niggled at his mind. He could not get it out of his head that he should know this couple, and then it suddenly came into his mind. It was the woman he had seen before, strange as it seemed Walter was convinced it was the same woman with pendulous breasts that appeared in the painting upstairs. The heat from the stove was making him sleepy now and he put the book down, he drifted off to sleep in the fireside chair with the image of the fat woman in his mind. Walter drifted almost immediately into a dream filled slumber, dreams that caused him to cry out in the night.

It was daylight when he woke again and a howling wind outside drove cold rain against the window pane, the weather here quickly went from autumn into an early winter. The old attorney had warned him that he could expect snow from mid-October, the weather outside matched the form he had awoken in. Greyness hung over him and brought a feeling of foreboding with it, his sleep had been disturbed by the strangest and if he was honest disturbing dreams. Dreams that even now in the light of day troubled him, dreams filled with violence and obscenity the likes of which he had never experienced before.

The images from these dreams now haunted his waking mind and made him feel nauseous; the obese naked woman featured heavily in these dreams as she ate human flesh and seduced him. Rousing himself from the chair he put on his coat and headed for the car, he would only drive himself to distraction sitting there going over those terrible images in his mind. Besides the hunger was making him feel weak, and he had a lot of organizing to do in town. He needed to open a bank account and check out the local builder suppliers, he also needed to try and get to know the town he would be living in.

The wet weather had left the streets of Ravenhill all but deserted; even the only bank in town was devoid of any customers bar him. The cashier led Walter down a short hallway to the mangers office, she had been polite and helpful but had seemed to avoid eye contact with him at all times. When she showed Walter into the mangers office the woman appeared relieved to be shot of his presence, she all but ran from the room closing the door behind her. The appearance of the mangers office gave him the impression that Ravenhill did not hold much store in modernization; it was reminiscent of old Scroop’s office minus the layers of dust. Like the attorney the bank manger welcomed him as if he was a long lost friend, the manger was short and stout with a ruddy complexion. For some unknown reason Walter had the impression that the bank manager was somewhat nervous in his company, the stout man rushed through the business transaction without even asking for proof of identity.

Ten minutes after entering the bank, Walter was back on the street with an old fashioned deposit book showing the balance of almost twenty grand. He would have to wait a week or so for his cheque book to be processed, but he had withdrawn his small savings before leaving the city and would have enough cash to tide him over for a while. His meager pension would stretch further here than it did in the city, but he would eventually have to pick up some odd jobs in Ravenhill. Walter went and collected groceries and visited the local hardware, any of the locals he came in contact with seemed almost fearful of the outsider. All in all integrating into the community here was going to be more difficult than he had envisaged.

The following few weeks Walter kept himself busy fixing up the old house, on the odd occasion he went into town the people appeared actually scared to talk to him. The nearer it got to Halloween the colder it got, the predicted snow arrived two days before Halloween. The  wood burning stove was the only method of heating the old house, and he would have to replenish the wood shed. So the morning before Halloween, Walter took his chainsaw and trudged through the snow to the woods at the back of the house. He had only gotten a short distance inside the woods when he spotted them, small footprints and who ever had made them was in their bare feet. Walter had a disturbing feeling that the foot prints were those of a child or young adult, anyone in their feet would be suffering frost bite by now.

 It was the soft whimpering sound that finally led him to her, she was a young girl in her early teens and she was naked as the day she was born. She was curled up in a dry patch beneath a big tree, her body convulsing from the cold and covered in scratches from the undergrowth. Walter took off his jacket and wrapped the girl up like a parcel; she weighed hardly more than a medium sized dog. But even in her emaciated state he was struggling badly by the time he got her back to the house, he just about managed to get her to the fireside chair. The girl seemed to be in some kind of trance, and just sat there shivering as he stoked up the fire.

The girl wolfed down the beef broth and handed the bowl back to him for more, the next one she ate at a more leisurely pace. All the time her frightened eyes never left him as he filled the old galvanized tub with hot water, when the bath was full she threw the coat off and stepped into the steaming water. She did all this without any sign of embarrassment, as if she was accustomed to grown men seeing her naked. Walter left the room to get a towel and something to dress her in; she had not uttered one syllable since he found her no matter how many times he questioned her. The girl dried herself and put on the long johns and his old plaid shirt, the only distinguishing mark she appeared to have was a strange symbol tattooed on her right biceps.

 The girl sat silently staring out the car window on the drive into town; it was as if she had accepted whatever faith awaited her. It was only when they pulled up outside the police station that she showed any emotion, even then it was just a look of sadness and a strange sort of resignation. The police officer seated behind the desk looked suspiciously at them when they entered, by the time they reached his desk another officer had appeared from somewhere in the back. Somewhere in the middle of his explanation things seemed to take a turn for the worst, he was in the process of telling the story of how he found the girl. When the officer standing next to him pulled his billy club and everything went dark.

Walter woke to the sound of someone groaning, it took him awhile to realize that someone was him. His head was pounding fit to burst and there was dry blood on his shirt, he reached his hand to the back of his head and tenderly touched his fingers to the source of discomfort. A lump the size of a golf ball with a cut on it told him exactly where the billy club had made contact; he now turned his attention to his surroundings. It did not really come as any surprise that he was in a jail cell; he had heard a lot of stories about rural cops before. The small cell had no window and he wondered how long he had been out, he had no idea whether it was day or night. Eventually one of the officers arrived and stared through the bars at him, the cop had a strange expression on his face as if Walter was some kind of a rare and unusual specimen.

The cop left again without having said a single word, Walter lay back down on the narrow bunk and eventually drifted off to sleep. He was awoken again sometime later by the sound of keys rattling; he opened his eyes to the sight of a cop standing over him holding a steaming mug. The coffee tasted strangely bitter but he was glad of the warmth it brought, he had no sooner finished the drink when he began to feel drowsy again. The room suddenly began to swim in and out of focus, and he had a nauseating feeling of falling a huge distance into darkness. His mind seemed to drift in and out of consciousness over the next while, and a part of his mind wondered if the cop’s billy club had done some serious damage to his brain.

 The sound of voices chanting in a language he did not understand drew him from the darkness; he opened his eyes to the blinding light of a large fire. It took him a moment to take in his surroundings, he was upright in the open air and his hands were bound somehow. The fire before him was lit beneath a huge iron cauldron; the source of the chanting came from beyond his line vision. He strained his eyes searching for the figures that had begun chanting again; intermittently he could make out a pale blur in the darkness beyond the fire light. The chanting ceased and an eerie silence descended, this silence was broken only by the crackling of the fire and the bubbling sounds coming from the iron cauldron. A light breeze blowing across the clearing brought a strange scent with it; whatever was bubbling in that cauldron had a faintly familiar smell.

Turning his head to either side Walter discovered he was bound to an X shaped wooden frame, and even more disconcerting was the fact he was stark naked. He should have been terrified beyond belief, but his mind seemed strangely devoid of any strong emotions. It suddenly dawned on him that he had been slipped something in the coffee, the whole thing felt as if he was just a disinterested observer. Movement in his peripheral vison made him turn his head to the front again, he watched as a small naked figure filled a carved wooden bowl from the cauldron. The figure then approached him; if his mind was working right he would have been shocked to see Jeremiah Scroop standing naked before him holding the bowl. But his altered state of mind seemed to accept the situation, as if it was perfectly normal.

Scroop held the steaming bowl aloft and offered it to Walter, the pieces of meat in the liquid looked vaguely like pork. But a strange symbol tattooed on one piece of the meat was readily identifiable, a detached part of his mind screamed out in horror as Walter consumed the meat of the girl he had found in the woods. But the remaining part of his mind excelled in the ritual, by the time they had anointed his breast with her blood Walter was a changed man. When his bonds were released he danced with the rest of the Ravenhill coven, in fact he took charge of the ceremony. When the raven swooped down and landed on his naked shoulder, he knew he was now the leader, just like his ancestor Mabel had been before him. Walter had finally come home.


© Copyright 2018 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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