Forgotten by S williams

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short ghost / haunted house story.

The Forgotten,
On a tree lined street full of ordinary houses, one sits empty. Inside that home light slipped past drawn blinds. Nothing moved except the swirls of dust which hung in those few strands of light. Its walls had absorbed over thirty years of memories. Some of those memories were like a contaminant, leaching something caustic into the air. A sensitive person could feel it as it made the air seem heavy.
Any given day a barely audible sound would penetrate that vacant house. A sound faint and yet it reverberated through each room of the home. It originated out in the backyard; out in the shade underneath an old willow tree. Out where there was a patch of bare earth that the sun never touched. There in the shadows and soil, emanated a quiet sobbing.
Anthony’s was a little Italian restaurant and pizzeria, located in a strip mall. Most of their business was delivery or take out. They had only a few tables for the occasional dine-in guests. It wasn’t a fancy place. However it was perfect for John and Jean; they had quick service, served wine, and were close to home.
John couldn’t remember the last time just the two of them had dinner together. He reached across the table to put his hand on his wife's. “I am really sorry we don’t do this more.” Jean replied with a smile, “John you need to make time for Maggie too, she needs her dad.” Jean maintained her smile, attempting to hide the weight behind her words. “My boss is looking, once we hire a new guy I should have my Saturdays back.” Jean frowned...she had been hearing that for months. It was a sore subject and she wanted to talk about something else. “I am going to view another place tomorrow.” Jean hoped for a hint of enthusiasm back from John. “That’s great, tell me about it.” John replied taking his hand back and reaching for his glass. He seemed attentive, Jean thought, so she told him what she knew from the newspaper listing.
They had been looking for their first home purchase for over a year. Finding a property they liked and getting an acceptance proved to be a lot tougher than they had expected. John’s job didn’t help either. He worked for an engineering firm that took on more than they could handle. His work left him with little spare time even on the weekends. To speed up the search they decided Jean would do all the looking. If she found something she really liked, then John would view it too.
Before Jean could poke a fork into her pasta, she heard the dreaded sound of John’s cell phone. Some urgently needed files back home on his laptop meant dinner would be rushed. The dinner conversation moved from pleasantries to a stern silence. Back at home while getting ready for bed, John did his best to convince Jean things would get better. Giving him a kiss, she told him she “hoped so” before turning out the light.
This side of town was a bit older Jean thought, while she drove past ancient looking trees. It was still a family neighborhood though. On the way over she noticed a plastic slide and other evidence that children lived on the block. Maggie got excited when her mom pointed at the toys in yards. She was very outgoing for a six year old and always smiled at the prospect of new kids to play with.
Jean pulled into the driveway. The ad had said, “Charming single story with three bedrooms.” Jean didn’t feel “charming” as she glanced around. She wasn’t sure what she felt looking at the plain beige stucco facade. “This one’s got a big backyard Maggie” she mentioned, enticing the tot while unbuckling her. “Can we get a doggy now” Maggie responded. She said it as though some conditions of a past deal had been met. “Let’s see if we like the place first, sweetie.” Jean said helping the little girl out of the car. They walked to the front door where Jean pressed the doorbell. A pretty chime rang not like the jarring buzz of their old place.
An older woman with short hair, wearing a pantsuit answered. Her transition from serious to big welcoming grin was too noticeable. “You must be Jean, I’m Martha” she said extending her hand. After shaking Jean's hand Martha bent down and gave Maggie an obligatory “why aren’t you just the cutest?” she then invited the two in to show the property.
Jean had come to learn; six year olds are not much help when looking at houses. Confirming with Martha she couldn’t get into any trouble, she let Maggie go explore. Maggie went running through the house. It was the middle of the day and Martha had opened the blinds, but the house was still quite dark. The previous owners had planted lots of tropical plants and trees around the sides of the house. Those plants had grown large through the years cutting off some of the natural light.
Maggie found what she was sure would be her bedroom. Loudly she announced her discovery to her mother who yelled back from the living room “that’s great honey.” The little girl was looking at the perfect spot for her doll house when the room became very cold. Turning towards the closet door, the mirror caught her eye. In the reflection she saw something that wasn't there before. It looked like a small figure standing in the hall. She didn’t move, trying to focus on what it was. It looked like a person but their features were missing, blurred. She turned around to see it better but nothing was there.
Maggie wasn’t sure what she saw and went to tell her mom about it. Stepping into the hall a feeling came over her. She felt she had to get out of the house fast. The panic made her feet feel heavy and the hall seem longer than it was. She ran into the living room where her mom and Martha where coming in from the back yard. “Sweetie, go see the back yard it’s huge.” Jean left the glass door open for Maggie and stepped aside. Both women watched with amusement as the little girl bolted out the door.
Outside wasn’t much better as she still felt a need to escape. The sides of the house and borders of the yard were a shady blue from the high plants and fence. She walked out to the middle of the grass were the sun hit the yard. It felt ok there and she waited. Maggie stayed in that spot for over twenty minutes, afraid the whole time to even look back at the house. Maggie was about to start screaming for her mom when she heard her call, “Come on Maggie it’s time to go.” Inside Maggie couldn’t wait for the grownups to say their goodbyes.
Maggie’s screams made it hard for the other two to talk. Jean excused the child’s behavior by telling Martha it had been a long day. Martha nodded with a false understanding. She told Jean as she saw her out there were others interested, and she better make a decision quick. Jean half heard Martha through Maggie’s yelling to leave. She told Martha she needed to talk to her husband and would be in contact. Maggie settled down as soon as they were back out front. On the way home Maggie sat in her car seat unusually quiet.
Not able to get Maggie to talk about what had her so upset, Jean's thoughts moved to the house. She liked the house; it was in their price range and had the room they needed. On the way home she made up her mind that she wanted John to see it. Calling on her cell, she set up an appointment for him to view it.
The next day John saw it on his lunch break. He liked it well enough but wasn’t enthusiastic about it. He decided they would offer a little below asking. If their offer was accepted it would be a bargain, if it wasn’t he wouldn’t lose any sleep. Thinking they should have been more aggressive, Jean wasn’t happy with John’s plan. The day after they made an offer, they received an acceptance. Both were pleasantly shocked.
Moving day came and went without issue. Before she would go back into the house, Maggie had to be bribed with the promise of a trip to the dog pound. Inside the feelings of panic didn’t come back. Digging into her boxes of toys made the new place exciting again. Maggie adjusted to the new house quickly. Jean got settled in as well but started to have some sleepless nights. 
Eyes opening, something was odd. She was in the kitchen but too short to see the counter tops. The house was quiet, where was everyone? Going into the dining room her glass table was gone, replaced by a dark wooden one. The hardwood flooring was now shag carpet; it felt odd on her little toes. Sitting In the middle of the living room was a hospital bed and various pieces of medical equipment. She could hear a weak breathing from the bed and could see a face. It was an old man with oxygen tubes coming out of his nose. He looked to be sleeping. She had never seen him but felt loving towards him. Jean reached out a little hand that wasn’t hers to touch his face. Someone screamed from behind her, “What are you doing!” It was a woman; her tone was wretched and hateful. The voice filled her with a fear she had never known and yet expected. Hands grabbed her arms from behind; Jean sat up in bed. Her heart was beating so hard she felt it in her temples.
At breakfast she was still thinking about the dream. The voice was in her head, it bothered her deeply. Trying to shake it off, she looked to Maggie. Jean told Maggie it was Saturday and asked her what she would like to do. “I am done.” Maggie pushed the cereal bowl away. “Can I go play in my room?” She said ignoring her mom’s question. Jean thought it was an odd request. After making sure she didn’t want to go to the park, she excused the little girl to go play.
John was at work and Maggie was off to her room, Jean was left by herself. She decided to put away the last of the odds and ends. After a few minutes she went to take a box to her bedroom and check in on Maggie. Poking her head in, she saw Maggie sitting in the middle of the floor with her back to the door. Maggie had her teddy bear by her and another stuffed animal in front of her off to the side. She seemed to be talking to the toy. “Hey sweetie, are you having fun?” Jean asked. Maggie’s face turned to concern. The little girl bent to the side as if watching to see where something was going. “Yes mom.” She said without turning. While leaving to go to the master bedroom, Jean heard her daughter whisper: “it’s ok, you can come back now.”
Jean turned back to see if Maggie was talking to her. “Let’s go out back and play.” Maggie said holding her teddy while sprinting through the door. Jean stepped into Maggie’s doorway; something fell next to her feet. Looking down, it was the stuffed bunny she thought Maggie had been speaking to. Worried someone would trip she bent over and picked it up. It was warm in the house but oddly the toy’s fabric was very cold to the touch. Jean placed it on the bed and got back to putting things away. Throughout the day when Jean watched Maggie, she appeared to be playing with an imaginary friend.
Dinner time came with John absent again. While eating, Jean decided to ask Maggie if she had a new friend. “His name’s Justin, he’s four. He’s doesn’t talk very good yet.” Jean was put back a little by the details. Maggie had a good imagination but this was different. “I saw you playing but I didn’t see Justin, is he a pretend friend sweetie?” Jean asked while trying not to show the concern she was feeling. Maggie didn’t seem to act as though she found the conversation the least bit odd. The girl sat enjoying her mashed potatoes. “No, he’s not pretend. He likes to hide.” Maggie said looking up and a bit serious to her mom. Jean asked, “Is he shy?” doing her pretend serious face back. Maggie whispered, “He’s hiding from the bad lady.”
Jean asked her daughter more about the bad lady and Justin. Maggie was vague but said the bad lady used to live in their house. While talking Maggie started asking about her Dad and why he was never around. Jean felt herself using John’s own excuses but without the conviction he had. Usually Jean would be saddened by this conversation, at the moment she didn’t mind a change of topic.
That night Jean had the awful dream again. The dream was always the same. It started out in the kitchen, ending with the bone chilling voice and hands grabbing her. While trying to get back to sleep, a pitter patter in the hall startled Jean. It was the sound of little feet scurrying, a sound she knew well. She felt sadly nostalgic; she hadn’t heard Maggie’s footsteps sound like that for a long time. She looked at John, he was sound asleep. Jean jumped up to go check on her little girl. She found Maggie sleeping sound in her bed. There was no evidence she had been up. Out in the hall on her way back to her room Jean heard the sound again, behind her.
 “Is that you sweetie.” Jean softly called out. Walking back past Maggie’s room she peeped in again only to see Maggie hadn’t moved. A bit confused she decided to check the rest of the house. “Could it be an animal?” she wondered. Suddenly she jumped when she heard a knocking come from the living room. She paused in the dark at the edge of the hall and listened. Thump, thump, thump. She knew that sound, it was her mother’s antique wooden rocker. Many times she had to ask Maggie not to rock in the chair. If Maggie rocked too hard, it caused the back of the chair to hit the wall. Thump, thump. Her mind was telling her it was nothing but a part of her feared there was an intruder, or something else. Hesitantly she peered around the corner. At the same time she reached for the light switch and turned on the light. In the other corner of the room was the rocker and it was rocking just like when Maggie was playing in it. She watched it for a moment letting her eyes adjust. Then suddenly it stopped.
Jean convinced herself it was just her imagination and turned to go back to bed. Seeing a little figure in front of her, she stopped. “Sweetie what are you doing up?” she started to realize it wasn’t Maggie before she finished the sentence. In front of her was a small boy wearing a brown corduroy suit. The kind of suit from embarrassing children photos of the late seventies. His face was covered by a plastic Halloween mask. Jean bent down to address the child from eye level. “Are you Justin?” Her voice shook as she spoke. The boy turned around. Jean could see the mask was held on by a thin elastic string surrounded by patches of hair and bare skull. He ran as only a toddler can, awkwardly but endearing. Before the end of the hall, he disappeared into the air. Jean put her hand to her mouth to cover a gasp.
Jean went to the kitchen. She pulled a bottle of red wine from a little rack they kept on the counter. She knew she wasn’t delusional, and nothing she felt told her the boy was a danger to her or her family. But she didn’t know how much more of this she could take.
The next morning was Saturday. Waking up she couldn’t believe the clock when she saw it was nine a.m. It had been a long time since she had slept after eight. Walking through the living room she found Maggie watching her cartoons. In the kitchen while making coffee she heard noise from the garage. Peeking in, she saw it was John. He had a ladder out and was leaning against a stack of boxes taking a break. “Hey, you’re not at work.” Jean said, legitimately surprised. “I have been feeling bad. I know I haven’t been around much or helped with the move. So I decided to get the holiday boxes up. When I was done, I hoped we could take Maggie to the park or something.” “That would be great.” Jean was astonished. John walked over and held Jean. “Well, I was going to go in this morning, but then I saw the empty bottle by the sink. Looks like someone had a late night and I am sorry if I am the reason.” Jean told him apology accepted while giving him a big hug. She didn’t want to talk about what she had seen. Having her late night solo drinking on John’s conscious suited her fine. She was happy to know he still cared; she had had her doubts.
“Hey check this out.” John said turning around. He grabbed a small box from the top of a large one. “I was up in the rafters checking to see if that old piece of plywood was strong enough to hold our stuff and found this.” He handed her a box the size of a department store shirt box. It was very old and faded by time and moisture. It had a cellophane window on top but the contents were hidden by a layer of dust. Moving back to Jean’s side, John took a rag and wiped the top. “Cool, huh. It’s a Halloween costume, has to be really old too. I remember coming home with one like this when I was a kid.”Jean felt her heart sink as John’s words and actions revealed what part of her already knew. On the bottom were the words “Little Vampire” and looking at her through the window was the same face she had seen the night before. She handed the box back to John. “I need to go check on Maggie.” Jean said hastily. Before going back inside she gave John a kiss on the cheek and told him again thanks for being home.
Jean had one of the best days since moving in. Jean, John, and Maggie made it to the park, spending time like a real family. It helped subdue Jean’s dread that was building with the approaching evening. At dinner she held back from talking about Justin to Maggie. She didn’t need John thinking she was crazy; he didn’t have a very open mind about such things. But she needed to know more about what Maggie was experiencing. Putting Maggie to bed that night, she asked if Justin ever visited her after bedtime. “Oh no, he has to be in bed before dark. Or the bad lady gets mad.” “Well if you see him again, you come and get me ok? Mommy needs to talk to him.” “Ok mommy.” Maggie seemed elated with her mom’s acknowledgment of Justin.
John had finally succumbed back to his office and lap top. But Jean didn’t mind, they had a great day. She took some of Maggie’s dirty clothes to the garage. On top of the washer John had left the costume box.  She picked it up and opened it. The mask was white plastic with a poorly painted vampire face. Under the mask was a black plastic cape. She lifted the mask out of the box to examine it. She couldn’t explain why but as she held the frail plastic, she felt a strong urge to put it on. Jean pulled the elastic strap down and brought the mask to her face.
She was back in the dream, the child again reaching for the old man. The voice was frightening as ever, her little heart was pounding. The hands dragged her to the bathroom flipping her around. The face before her was contorted by an irrational anger. A brunette woman about Jean’s age was screaming at her an inch from her face. “You don’t go near him you little bastard.” Jean heard a trembling voice that wasn’t hers say: “Sorry Ms. Alice.” “Sorry is not good enough.” The woman said furiously. She then pushed Jean, who fell backwards. Jean felt a jolting pain as the side of the tub slammed against the back of her head. She was lying on the floor unable to move. All she could see was the base of the toilette. Jean could hear water running. Then the hands picked her up. She could see the face again it was calm but the eyes were vacant. She felt cold water as she was put in the tub. Still unable to move she watched the face disappear under a cloud of red. She could feel her lungs involuntarily struggle for breath and fill with water. She was dying, and then the real her started to become lucid again. She remembered being in the garage and putting on the mask.
She fought against the paralysis with everything she had. Finally succeeding she pulled the mask off. Jean found herself sitting on the floor against the washing machine. Her skull was throbbing. She felt a little blood and a bump on the back of her head. There was blood on the corner of the washer as well. She put the mask back in the box and put the lid on it. Not wanting Maggie to get a hold of it, she put the box on top of the cabinet above the washer.
Jean went inside to her bedroom, taking a seat on the edge of the bed to think. She knew these things were real. There was no doubt in her mind that a child was killed in the house. She had to do something but didn’t know what. She couldn’t call the police until she knew more. On Monday after taking Maggie to school, she decided to call the listing agent. She wanted to see if she could get any info on any previous owner. Martha was not much help, she said the seller was an attorney working on behalf of a trust and she didn’t know who the original owner was. Hanging the phone up, she felt stuck. Going to stand up she saw some mail on the table. It was in the spot where John leaves his keys. Jean figured he had probably meant to drop it in the box on the way out. Picking it up she noticed John had wrote “not at this address” on one of the envelopes. It was from Sunny Acres retirement community and addressed to a Ms. Alice Stone.
Jean looked up the retirement home online, they were close. She almost called but didn’t know what to say. She decided to figure that out on the way down there. In the garage on the way to the car she found the mask. It was on the floor next to its box which had fallen. She didn’t want to get rid of the mask but didn’t want to leave it, so she shoved the mask into her bag and threw the box into the garbage. 
Sunny Acres looked like a large apartment building. The lobby consisted of a single receptionist desk and a few chairs. Past the desk down a short hall sat two elevators. It was a shot in the dark but somehow she knew she was in the right place. “Hi, I am here to see Alice Stone.” “Are you a relative?” asked the gray haired lady behind the desk. The receptionist looked as though she might be a resident as well. “Yes, my name is Martha. I’m her niece.” Jean wasn’t quite sure why she lied but it worked. After a quick call the lady told her the room was number 612 on the hospice floor.
The elevator opened to another desk, where a woman with black broad rimmed glasses was going over paper work. She lifted her head to ask Jean if she needed help. Jean said she was there for Ms. Stone and the woman pointed down the hall to her right. As Jean walked down the hall she felt it looked like a hospital floor with a false façade. All the professional decorating did little to hide the cold institutional feel. Finding room 612 in the middle of the hall, Jean hesitated before knocking. She didn’t know what she hoped to achieve but she knew she didn’t have any other ideas. She needed answers; she needed to be able to sleep again. Jean knocked on the door and waited. Part of her expected that horrible voice but instead heard a very weak “come in”.
Inside smelt like hospital disinfectant. The room looked like a normal apartment except for the bed in the middle of it. An old gray-haired woman lay with her head to the side. She was straining to see who it was coming in. “Come in and sit down.” Jean took a seat next to the bed. The woman rolled her head over to see her. She was very old but Jean knew that face, it was burnt into her brain forever. The old lady looked at Jean quizzically. “Who are you? I don’t know you. Are you a bill collector? I know you’re not my niece; I don’t have any kids either. Don’t you lie to me.” “No Ms. Stone, my name is Jean. I think I moved into your old house, over on Euclid Ave.” So you bought the old place. What do you want with me?” “I have been having some strange experiences and wanted to see if you know anything about a boy that may have lived there, named Justin.” “How did you…” the old lady looked stunned but only for a second. “So that’s what this is about. I always knew this would come back to haunt me. That boy was a curse on me.” The woman’s face turned from concern to almost a grin, her voice although still weak had hints of its former self. It was giving Jean the chills. “Did you find something in the back yard?”
 “No, I didn’t.” Jean said disturbed by the sudden omission. Alice turned her gaze away from Jean “I don’t care anymore, my life is gone. They can’t take away or do anything to me now. Not even my dignity, I lost that when I couldn’t make it to the bathroom any more. Well what is it? What the hell do you want?” “I just want to know anything you can tell me about Justin.” “Justin. I’ll tell you all about the brat. I don’t know why it’s any of your business, I don’t care.” Her voice had almost its original wretchedness now. Jean no longer wanted to be in the same room with her, but she had to stay, she needed to hear. “If you must know, my late husband knocked up some tramp just before we met. We got married late in life, especially his. It was my second marriage. He says he didn’t know about the boy. I guess she was a real party gal, in to the drugs. One day she shows up on our door step with this boy and says Richards the father! She’s crying, really turning it on. Leaves the boy there, we never saw her again, not a word. Well I had made it clear when we got married I didn’t want kids of my own and I sure as hell wasn’t going to take care of some whore’s kid. I didn’t even think it was possible for Richard at his age, that’s one of the reasons I agreed to marry him! He liked the boy from the get go, I could see it in his eyes. Oh, did me and him yell and scream at each other. We had some fights after but that was the one and only time he ever threatened divorce. I wasn’t going to give up everything I had worked so hard for, not to that little bastard.” She turned her face back towards Jean. “You should have seen him around that boy, always wasting money on him, defending him, it made me sick. When Richard fell ill about a year later I wasn’t sorry at all, by then I hated him and that boy. In fact, Richard getting sick would have been a blessing if it wasn’t for that boy.” Jean stayed silent but knew the old lady could see the discomfort in her face. She thought a confession like this would have been remorseful but the old lady seemed to be relishing the story. It almost seemed as if she actually thought Jean should have felt sorry for her.
“Well one day the boy was running around the house with this stupid mask on. Richard had got him it for Halloween. He was running around the house getting into things he shouldn’t and I had had enough.” Lying there looking at Jean from her pillow Alice smiled a gloating smile. In a scornful tone she asked, “So do you know what I did? I killed that little son of a bitch. Drowned him and buried him in the yard. Richard was as good as dead himself by then, so there wasn’t one person on earth who knew or cared about the little brat. No one came looking, well not until you.” “I have one more question, Alice.” Jean said solemnly while standing up. “Well what’s that it’s almost time for my nap.” Jean began pulling the mask out of her bag. “Do you remember this?” “Where did you get that I thought I had thrown that out.” The old woman’s face turned to concern. “I want you to see something” Jean said pulling the elastic string out so she could slide the mask onto the old woman’s head. Alice put up a feeble fight until the mask was on, then her arms went limp to her sides. Jean stood back slowly coming to grips with what she had down. After a few minutes of complete silence the old woman began to convulse. She made gasping and gargling noises before finally laying still. Jean retrieved the mask and left as quickly as she came. All the way to the elevator she thought for sure someone would stop her. But while looking into the open doors as she passed and watching the employees and residents, she realized something; this was a place people were sent to be forgotten. When someone did find Alice, a new vacancy was marked in a file somewhere and that was it.
Back at home Justin became Jean and Maggie’s secret friend. If Maggie got in trouble for making a mess, she blamed Justin. Sometimes she was telling the truth. Jean did her best to make Justin feel welcome. He was still shy around Jean but there were times when she knew he was there. Justin inspired Jean to do some research into the paranormal. She found a local psychic online who specialized in helping lost souls find the other side. Jean scheduled him to come out for a consultation when John and Maggie were out of the house. She was skeptical at first, purposely being vague. All she told him was she thought there was a ghost in the house. It took an hour of trying to coerce Justin into talking to him, then as if from the air the physic new Justin’s name and age. After he appeared to be communicating with Justin, he went into what Jean thought was a bit of theatrics. He described a light and told Justin where he could find it. Speaking like he was talking to a very young child, he encouraged Justin to go to the light.
Jean thought it all was a bit of showmanship until Maggie came to her the next day. The girl said Justin had come to her to say good bye, saying his dad had come to get him. She told her mom he didn’t have the mask on and that he was really happy.” He’s a cute kid, mom.” Maggie said sounding surprised, Jean giggled and smiled at her daughter’s description, as tears rolled down her cheeks.
The dreams didn’t come back and a new happiness was felt in the house for weeks. Until the night when Jean woke to a feeling of panic and fear, she sat up in bed. She was trying to calm herself when Maggie screamed from down the hall. She ran to her daughter’s bedside to find her sitting up crying. John came just behind Jean and asked from the doorway what was wrong. Jean picked Maggie up hugging her and asked as well. “We have to leave; we have to get out of the house!” Maggie said hysterically. “Why sweetie, why do we need to leave?” Between tears Maggie answered, “Because she said so.” “Who sweetie, who said so?”Jean asked while rocking Maggie to comfort her. Maggie pointed behind her dad: “Ms. Alice.”
The End

Submitted: November 10, 2010

© Copyright 2020 Swollenguy. All rights reserved.

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