Willow Glen

Reads: 221  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 2

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
In this brief and eerie tale, the owner of a historical property deep in the heart of the Mississippi Delta discovers that history often repeats itself, and that a primitive wildness festers below the thin facade of humanity.

Submitted: October 09, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 09, 2013

A A A

A A A


Willow Glen

 

Hampton Collier sighed heavily and rubbed his hands across the three days’ dry stubble on his face.  He let his gaze wander from the tiled kitchen floor to the mahogany china cabinet sagging in the corner.  An heirloom from his grandmother's mother, the piece seemed strangely out of place in his dingy little apartment, but he just couldn’t seem to bring himself to let it go.

Standing wearily, he walked from his kitchen table to the cabinet, bent down, and with some effort wrenched open the warped double doors below the glass-fronted display.  After a moment’s consideration, he chose a half empty bottle of Bulleit Bourbon, slid his pinky into a dingy Johnny Walker-themed tumbler given to him some years ago by a client and clinked his way back to the kitchen table.

He whispered aloud to himself as the brown liquid slid out of the bottle and pooled up the sides of the tumbler, “Willow Glen…surely not...”  He shook his head.

When construction began in the spring of 1856, the Mississippi Delta was a wilderness; at that time only a handful of brave souls had descended from the hills above to carve out their homes in the fertile floodplain of the River.  Vicious caretakers prowled freely.  Alligators and moccasins infested the waters, bears and panthers ruled the virgin woods and fields.  But the true killers were found in the air; mosquitoes thrived in the boggy lowlands, and malaria ravaged many of the poor souls foolish enough to wander the Delta swamps.

However, history has shown that the promise of vast wealth often proves stronger than the natural human instinct for survival.  The allure of a “cavalier” planting lifestyle was strong in those days, especially for the second and third-born sons of aristocratic clans whose inheritance was slighted by the immoveable pillars of tradition.  The result was, in many cases, disturbingly unnatural, as grand homes slowly filled the wild countryside – a false façade of grandeur borne on the scarred backs of African slaves.

Such was the case of Silas Baird, the third son born to a prominent South Carolina family.  With a wife, Sarah, and more than 200 slaves, Baird set about coercing wealth from the formidable Delta soil.  Tree by tree and brick by brick, calloused black hands forced and manipulated the unforgiving landscape until the mansion he called Willow Glen rested uneasily on the east bank of a large cypress bog.  With its red brick, arched entries and square tower, the Italianate mansion contrasted sharply with the surrounding swamps; in its very contrast paralleling the lavish life of its cruel white masters amidst the miserable existence of its laboring lifeblood.  Following completion of the home, Baird set his efforts to the cultivation of his land, with the aim of generating the vast dynastic wealth denied him at birth. 

On a stifling August afternoon in the summer of 1858, Silas and Sarah were reclining on the side-porch, oblivious to those toiling unceasingly around them.  As the laborers cast knowing glances at one another in the fields, the smell of dead catfish and the creatures feasting among the cypress breaks wafted from the bog across the lawns.  It swirled menacingly throughout the opulence of the porch and whispered into the crevices below the locked parlor windows along the face of Willow Glen…

 

Hampton swung his truck to the right and crunched along a few hundred yards of a loosely-shaped circular drive, his breath catching in his throat as he saw a silver sedan parked there.  He slowly rolled to a stop in front of the looming mansion, whose shadow dominated most of the lawn at that time of the morning.  Taking care to check for moccasins before lifting his booted feet out of the safety of the cab, and consciously averting his eyes from Willow Glen, Hampton stepped out and leaned against the truck’s warm frame.

He considered the bog to the west.  Black crows fluttered about near the water’s edge, uncharacteristically silent.  Hampton could just make out the object of their interest; an alligator gar flopped desperately on the shore.  Known for its ability to stay alive outside of the water for considerable periods of time, the gar held Hampton’s pity for a few moments as he imagined its fate.

“You’ve probably done a lot worse in your lifetime, pal,” Hampton mused as he considered the gar’s elongated snout and dual rows of razor sharp teeth.

After a few moments, he dismissed the scene, reached back through the open window of the cab and pulled from the center console two envelopes.  The first bore an inscription in a woman’s neat handwriting : “Mr. Collier”.  Leaning on the hood of the truck, Hampton shakily opened the envelope and read the simple typed letter for what seemed the hundredth time:

“Mr. Collier,

I would like to speak with you, at your convenience, regarding the purchase of one of  the properties which you presently own.  The property to which I am referring is at 1115 Lakefront Circle, but I understand it is more commonly referred to as “Willow Glen.”

As I will be in town the week of September 23rd, I was hoping that you and I could possibly meet at the property so that I may see it in person (although I have seen pictures and am already confident that this is the perfect home for me!).

Please call me on my cell (number can be found on the enclosed business card) or look me up in the Jackson phonebook and you might catch me at home.

I will speak with you then,

Susan McIlvey.”

 

The second envelope bore no name on the cover.  The letter inside was hand-written:

“Hampton,

Can’t tell you how thankful I am for this!I have the key and will meet you at the coffee shop tomorrow afternoon around 3.  I’ll let you know what I think about the house – maybe we can even start some paperwork?

See you then,

Sue.”

 

Why had she never come to the coffee shop?  He spoke aloud to himself, “Surely not… not after so much time…”

Tossing the documents back inside the cab, he finally lamented and let his gaze drift up to the parlor windows.  Slowly tracing the red brick face of the house to the right, his eyes came to rest on a front door nestled behind triple arches.  His spare key dangled from the lock.  Stepping around the hood of his truck, he walked in between his bumper and the sedan parked in front of it.

Planting a boot on the first of three steep steps, Hampton glanced to his left and noticed a handprint on the inside dust of one parlor window.  The window’s lock was partially open, and above it the handprint became three fingers, tracing upward and disappearing behind the traces of curtain which hung at a height of perhaps seven feet.  He forced himself onward through the center arch, and reluctantly turned the cold iron of the knob, feeling the “B” inscribed on its surface pressing into the palm of his hand.

The door swung inward, and for one crazy moment Hampton had to stifle laughter when it failed to creak like in some cheesy ‘60s horror flick.  Although mid-morning, and anything but airtight, the house was dark and musty.  Hampton clicked on a flashlight and stepped into a once-magnificent foyer.  A grand staircase stood before him, to his left, the parlor with its ten-foot windows and fireplace, and beyond that, the side-porch.  To his right were two bedrooms, and the kitchen was a separate building behind the home.  Upstairs was a center hallway with a single bedroom on each side.

His gaze followed the stairs up to the landing.  A creaking noise interrupted his conscious, and slowly built in strength.  It was rhythmic.  He forced his eyes to turn left into the parlor, following the creaking…

 

Silas Baird snapped awake to the sound of Sarah’s scream.  He bolted upright on the porch’s sofa and saw crowds of people glaring in at him, many of them scarred and disfigured by his own hand.  Silas made for the front door, only to find it blocked by a similar throng of pitiless faces.  The porch door swung open slowly and an eerily silent crowd of men and women streamed in.  Sarah, brandishing a tool for stoking the parlor fireplace, held the mob off long enough to attempt the parlor window.  The lock was half-sprung when she was overwhelmed.  Abandoning his struggling wife, Silas went for the stairs, feet skidding on his heart-of-pine floor, and bound up the first few steps.  Glancing back, he watched as his wife was lifted by the mob, three fingers of her left hand dragging the window as she rose…

 

Hampton Collier could scarcely process the scene before him.  Swinging  in slow, creaking circles from the chandelier in the parlor, feet dangling eight feet above the ground, was Sue.  A crude noose had been placed around her neck.  “Creak…creak…creak…”

Feeling madness creeping in, Hampton’s mind wildly struggled to maintain rational thought.  “There’s no way…there’s no way…how would she have even…why would she be swinging now…”

Panic and a need to flee overwhelmed him.  Turning back to his left, he was surprised to find the door closed.  Built of sturdy cypress, the door was faux-painted to resemble mahogany.  Once again,  Hampton found himself stifling frenzied laughter as he thought of his great-grandmother’s china cabinet and its warped doors.

The laughter caught in his throat.  Rows of faces were staring back at him through the windows flanking the door.  Glancing to his right, Hampton saw that he was no longer alone with Sue.  A room full of men and women gazed back at him from long-dead eyes.  He turned and bolted for the stairs, his boots slipping on the floor.

 

Silas reached the top of the stairs and sensed that the mob below had continued its soundless surge from the parlor into the foyer.He turned right into he and Sarah’s bedroom, closed and bolted the door, and stood in the middle of the floor, unsure of his next move.  Disturbingly, he could feel Sarah’s weight swinging in rough circles below his feet.  He envied her.  He grabbed his rifle from above the mantelpiece and turned to face the door as a single strong kick sent it crashing inward.  He pulled the trigger and heard nothing but “Click!”

 

Hampton bounded up the stairs and unthinkingly swerved to his right, too late remembering that Silas Baird’s bedroom had no door.  Unsure of his next move, he paused in the middle of the room, arms outstretched to each side.

A new noise startled him from his few moments of contemplation.  Sounding vaguely like a toy car or a rolling marble, it moved down the hall and slowly approached the open doorway.  After a brief pause, a man whom Hampton immediately identified as Silas Baird made the right turn into the bedroom.  From his hand dangled a cruel-looking whip, and as he shuffled forward, Hampton realized that its knotted end dragging the pine floor was making the mysterious sound.  A wicked smile spread across Silas’ face.  Outside, the crows began to feast; their cawing rising to a frenzy and drowning out the screams from the house across the lawns. 


© Copyright 2018 BruceDog. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by BruceDog

Willow Glen

Short Story / Horror

A Gar's Smile

Short Story / Horror

Popular Tags