For my friends and family at the Haunted House.
I’m writing this story for the House of the Setting sun which happens to reside in Greenspring West Virginia. I’ve worked there for nearly five years and it’s become more of a second home to me, rather than a place of business. The founder and leader of the Community Involvement for Kids – Saundra Stinette – is my inspiration for this short story of a young girl who grows up in Greenspring. The story was originally written by Saundra, although it was only a page long; I’ve decided to revise it slightly with a few more twists and a couple of bells and whistles.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2010 by Mako Ruu
All rights reserved ®, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
“You can’t touch me! Not with my shield up!” A young girl dashes through tall blades of white country grass, she’s running from a boy who’s perched to tackle her into the mud.
“Your shield is useless against my death ray!” The boy raises his hands toward the young girl, firing wildly into the air, pelting her with an array of death beams.
Clutching her chest, the girl is struck to the ground, choking off death and dismay with a spell she managed to conjure up, one to heal all wounds.
“Sadence Rene Williams! You get up off that ground and get inside right now! It’s time for supper.” A loud maternal voice calls out over the ocean of white grass that ungulates in the mid summers breeze. It’s June and the heat of summer is nearly upon the little town of Greenspring West Virginia.
“Awww but Maw! We’ze just getting to the good bit.” Sadie coos out placidly, trying to buy a few more moments of her climactic battle with one of the neighboring boys.
His name is Timmy, she would say, when everyone around the area referring to him as Tommy; though this injustice is passed by in the eyes of an adult, but to a child who’s only just now coming into himself, a name is the most important thing in the world.
It lets you know who you are, where you stand in society. And for someone to mistake that with someone or something else, it’s just confusing.
“You come on inside now, child. Paw put on some supper and we’ll be having you on time tonight!” Normally Sadie is very late to dinner, you see. She has such an over active imagination that she’s normally lost in the world of her fantasy and wonderment.
With tales of Dragons and Mummies, or perhaps a rampant Ogre that she and her closest mate Timmy need to slay before it reaches the town. (Though it’s normally just the old rotten oak tree down near the border line to the Phillips Farm.)
However, with all of this excitement, of course come the adolescent scenes of a normal twelve year old girl; holding hands and chased smooching under Boo Raddly’s apple tree while no one is looking, or lifting a few cents from her mother’s bureau and going down to the Mercantile for a set of raspberry lollipops for herself and Timmy.
“Yes ma’am.” Sadie began to walk back toward the farm house; she would only look back a few times at Timmy, who stood lugubriously in the field of grass watching as she disappeared from his sight down and around the hill, unsure if he would ever see her shining face again.
To be young and in love was a wonderful thing; even if you did not fully understand the feelings that were taking you over; knowing full well the illegality of loving someone so much who’s so close to you in line with your relatives.
Timmy and Sadie were cousins, you see. And they frequently reminded themselves of it when speaking of their future. Sadie wanted six children; three boys and three girls; and they would help tend to the farm work while Timmy went away to his job in the Lumber mill near Queen City.
Timmy saw two children, a boy and a girl, with a dog and a white picket fence. And he would sit on the porch until the sun went down sipping tea with lemon while he whittles little figurines to sell at the Harvest festival to bring in a little extra windfall in the off seasons.
But whatever their case may be, fourth cousins through marriage were far enough to wed without any physical problems; but the amalgamation of their love was still considered taboo due to the fact that it was legally close enough to be cousins.
“You ought not to be so dirty, Sadence.” Sadie’s father sits at the table, preparing a meal with a large loaf of freshly baked bred. “It’s un-lady like.”
“Not like I roll around with the hogs, Paw.” Sadie is handed a plate of food from her mother. This was an old time, and had old traditions. And it was always tradition, as long as Sadie could remember, that if you sat at the table, you would be eating bred and butter with your meal.
Another such tradition was saying grace. They would all bow their heads respectfully and pray thanks to God and Jesus for the meal they were about to eat.
“Would you like to say grace, Sadence?” Sadie’s father has massive hands; years of farm work had forced them to be strong and rough with white specks of callused skin along the palm and up along the fingers. But he was respected because of this, and Sadie would often compare her hands to her fathers. (Praying caused her to look at them.)
Her father had wispy little pikes of hair that studded from his cheeks and the exaggerated slope of his chin and face. They were the color of salt and pepper and if he would ever so rarely lean to give Sadie a kiss they would prick and tickle her soft cream white skin. A sign of old age, most people would say; but to Sadie it was a sign of wisdom.
Though she played in the fields with Timmy and the Bennett boys, Carl and Ricky; Sadie’s hands were much more delicate like that of her mothers. With soft white and pink skin and nails that came out past the tips of her fingers. And it seemed however much she would chew them down; they refused to stay down, and grew so almost every week.
“Yes Paw” Sadie helped her little brother bow his head. Jonah was excused from not praying because he could barely form sentences, so he was allowed to play and giggle at Prayer time. But by the time he would be Sadie’s age, Jonah would be praying as well.
“Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”
The family joined in an Amen.
“That was lovely Sadie, where did you hear that?” Her mother began to pour some fresh lemonade that she was working on this afternoon. The family had fifty five acres of land in which to grow on, and some of the threes produced lemons.
“I dunno it just came to me.” Sadie replied as she sipped at the overly sour lemonade. Fresh or not, her mother never puts enough sugar.
“How was your day at work, Paw?” Sadie’s father works all day in his fields and being a farmer is a full time job. Sadie often tries to help her father work, but gets in the way or is discarded for being too small or meekly to be of much help on a farm.
“Got the back ten in with corn this morning.” Her father is eating, and breaks his speech to finish, as it is impolite to speak with a mouth full of stew.
“I’m going to need your help tomorrow putting in the tomatoes. So go to bed early tonight.” Most children would be upset to be working all day; but not Sadie. She enjoys working in the fields with her father, planting vegetables and harvesting them is one of the brighter times of her summer.
“Yes, sir.” Sadie only smiles, trying not to smile and remain quiet while eating.
“This stew’s awful good.” Sadie says after her mother refills her father’s lemonade.
“I picked this doe last Tuesdee. I’m afraid she’s startin’ to turn.” Sadie stirs the last few bites of venison stew in her bowl a few times before her father speaks again. “Gotta use the meat up a’ fore it goes bad.” The father gazes as a piece of greasy meat on his fork.
“When are we gonna get an ice chest, Paw? They say it can keep your goods froze up all summer.” Sadie is finished with her stew, now. And she stands up to wash her dish.
“When we got the money for one.” The father is having another slice of buttered bred as all seems slow and dim on the farm.
“May I be excused, Maw?” Sadie dries her hands on her dress.
“Go and finish up with your studies, now.” Maw and Paw have a mid meal chat about the farm as Sadie goes up into her room in the back of their house and picks out a text book.
The public school is a bit far off, and it’s a decent walk from Sadie’s house in to town. So she mainly does a lot of her studying at home, and shows up when she can. Paw is always using the cart for farm work; so Sadie can’t always make it to school.
However, the only thing she really believes that she needs to know is how to work on the farm; numbers and big fifty cent words won’t help you when you have to plant and harvest on time. At least, that’s what Sadie believes.
“Psst! Sadie!” Timmy is at the window of her bedroom.
“Timothy Andrew Phillips you sneak! You know better’n’ta look through a ladies room window!” Sadie throws her pencil at Timmy.
“Don’t use my full name, Sadence Rene Williams!” Timmy drags out Sadie’s full name as if it were a form of torture for her to hear it.
“Never minding that, Timmy! You ain’t a’posta look through a young ladies window!” Sadie is trying not to shout.
“I’ll let you know when I find one! Hahaha!”
“Timmy you sneak!” They chortle in unison with each other.
Timmy is standing on the large soap stone that took them an hour to roll up the hill to Sadie’s house. It was a discretionary tactic for when Timmy wanted to sneak over, or Sadie wanted to sneak out. The window is quite high off the ground, and Timmy is so very short. And a big box would have been too obvious a thing to place there.
“I gotta finish my studies. Gimme back my pencil!” Sadie is lying on the bed adjacent to the window, on her stomach looking out at Timmy. Her point of view is higher, and she can get a better look down the hill and toward the town.
“You ought not’a thrown it at me, then!” Timmy throws the pencil into the room.
“Quick! Anthony Bennett is on his way up here. If he sees you he’ll tell my Paw!”
“I better get going then.” Timmy bounces off the rock; heading around the back of the house toward start of the tree line. If he can make it before Tony shows up he will be in the clear.
Anthony Bennett is the eldest of the Bennett boys, and frequently takes it upon himself to split up Timmy and Sadie. Often times telling their parents of their adventures or mischief to get them grounded. Tony is hoping for the day that they will shout “I forbid you to see one another!”
But that doesn’t let Timmy or Sadie keep them apart. Sadie knows full well why he’s been trying to be an in-between in their relationship. Tony Bennett has been after Sadie Williams ever since he started high school at the fancy private university in Queen City; and the entire town knows it.
“Sadence, come on out here, now.” Sadie’s mother is calling her. By the sound of her dosset tones things look bleak.
“Yes Maw?” Sadie makes it into their living room. It’s almost a quarter past six now, and the sun is just starting to make its way back beyond the tree line at the edge of the valley.
“Sadie, sweet heart,” Her mother sounds almost worried. “Tony here has just come to ask if you would accompany him to the Gentlemen's Court this Sunday at the high school in Queen City.”
From what Sadie can tell, her mother is put uneasy by Tony Bennett; as much of a model young boy he’s turning out to be; there’s just something about him that places them both on pins and needles.
However, Sadie’s father disagrees. A good standing with the Bennett’s is a fantastic way to earn a little more social standing in town.
“Well, Maw. I was just telling Timmy this after noon that we’d head down the Potomac and catch some channel cat.” Sadie is making up stories and excuses; Timmy is deathly afraid of channel cats since one nearly bit his toe off last summer. (It was just a sucker bite, she kept telling him.)
“It’s been a few since he’s had it and he’s casting an awful taste for em Maw.” Sadie gazes over to her mother, who seems to nod in agreement. But her Father is sitting patiently on his big red recliner that they fished out of the creek when it fell from a train heading north.
“Well, then, I suppose you’d be gone all day.” Maw looks to Paw, who looks to Sadie. His hands at the side of the reclining chair breathing uncomfortably.
Sadie’s heart leapt into her throat as she watched her fathers deciding vote on future events. Despite Maw and Sadie teaming up, Paws vote was absolute.
“That Phillips boy has been taking a liking to you, Sadence.” Paw stuffed his pipe with a bit of sweet weed before looking up at Tony, who has been silent the entire time.
“Supposen’ you all is just good friends I imagine.” The smoke filled the air in the house with a thick blanket of sweet and pungent mint.
Paw drags the pipe a few more times.
“But iff’in you all is fixin heading down the river for some cats; supposen I could fry some up for supper tomorrow.” Subconsciously Sadie has triggered a taste for catfish in her fathers mind. For some reason she had forgotten that for all of his life he’s been partial to a good fried catfish dinner once and a while; the kind with fried potato chits and a strong heaping of collard greens and yellow rice from the market, a real banquet.
This was a good sign, tomorrow was Saturday and it would give Sadie an entire day alone with Timmy to go fishing. She had some particularly nasty chicken livers saved up buried in a tub behind the house for just such an occasion.
“Supposen that fancy private school ought to have more dances and courts through the rest of the year. You’ll go another time, Sadie.” Paw tapped his pipe on the tray next to his chair, stamping out the smoldering pipe tobacco as Tony looked down at Sadie with a sense of defeat. His eyes seem to burn I’ll get you Sadence Williams...
“I’d be gettin’ a new dress, Paw.” Another tactic Sadie had to use, though Tony forced her hand. Even her best Sunday dress was covered in holes and dirt and was in a very poor state of disrepair. And Sadie knew that they had no money for a new dress, so that would not only help keep her away from Tony, but give her Paw a reason to keep her home.
After all, a young impressionable girl can’t be seen in public with a gentlemen caller wearing a tattered old dress with holes and non matching stitch work.
“Do right.” He Father clicked on the radio next to the chair and leaned back to listen to the seven o’clock news show that bored Sadie to tears.
Afterward Sadie was on her way out the back door and down the tree line toward the Phillips property fence that stretched for nearly a hundred acres in either direction. The cool night breeze hitting the back of her neck as the sun began to sink behind the tree line as far back as White Horse Mountain.
“Hi sweet pea!” Sadie picks up a little girl who seems to be only about three or four years old. Her podgy fingers reach for Sadie’s face for a kiss.
“Sadie!” She cries out fervently as though she’s a returning mother from far and long away. Sticky Kisses, Sadie thought to herself rubbing honey from her cheek.
“Is Timmy home?” Sadie squeezes the little girl as though she were a stuffed animal, throwing the little teddy bear up over her shoulder as they headed toward the house.
It was a surprising thing to believe that such an adorable little girl with little blonde curls could belong to such a strong and dark figured family. Timmy had short wispy hair that was as dark brown as the rich wet earth of a well kept field.
His mother and father were the same, deep, deep dark chocolate black hair and brown eyes with thick broad shoulders. They were paired for each other in looks, but personality was a different story.
Timmy’s father worked at the Lumber Mill in Queen City, and his mother worked at the local Mercantile in the next town over. But they were both hard working dedicated parents and gave Timmy and his brothers and sister a good life. (It was merely perplexing to see a young blonde with curly hair living with a family of straight haired brunettes.)
“Timmy is upstairs.” Sadie walked into the foyer of the large two story house, setting her little teddy bear down on the ground to scatter off into another room.
“What are you doing here, Sadie Williams?” Timmy’s older brother came to the door, by the looks of things he was going hunting.
“I’m here to see Timmy.” The older boy shrugged carelessly before heading outside and down the hill. By the time Sadie turned back around from watching him, Timmy was coming down the stairs.
“Hey goat roper.” Timmy shoved Sadie’s shoulder as he walked past her out the door. He was carrying a rucksack over his shoulder.
“Where you going pig licker?” Sadie followed him outside and down the hill into their front yard. The cows cried out from behind towered fencing along their property line near the edge of the forest. Sadie noticed that they were heading there.
“Paw told me to milk feed the calf that was born the other day.” There was a small premature calf that was born the past Wednesday; Sadie and Timmy were present for it’s birth and named her Sally after an older girl that works at the Mercantile who teases Timmy on occasion.
“She still ain’t eaten?” Timmy held the fence open for Sadie.
“We figured she’d get hungry enough and just feed from her Maw but she’s been rejected from em. If we don’t get her fatter she ain’t gonna survive.” Timmy approached the little cattle Sally. She was lying on the ground; her body seemed nearly emaciated in the summer sun as she lay motionless on the grass.
“Aw no, Timmy.” Sadie’s eyes filled with tears as they approached the dead body of the calf.
“These things happen, Sadie.” Timmy sighed as he had to shake Sadie’s arms off from around his as he knelt down by the calf.
“She was real sick and she wasn’t feeding.” He pets her head gently.
“She was just a baby, though.” Sadie walks back toward the fence, there are tears in her eyes but she feels that she shouldn’t cry in front of Timmy; though each time she says that she ends up bawling her eyes out in his arms for an hour.
“Looks like a coyote got her.” Timmy spreads the tuft of hair along her neck, revealing two puncture wounds along the jugular and some torn flesh.
“He must have sensed she was sick and not eaten her, though.” Timmy walks back toward Sadie now, she’s crying gently at the loss of a young baby cow. Something her father would try and talk her out of, saying that it’s God’s natural order of things to live and die; but Sadie is still just a young girl, and death brings tears regardless of how trivial it may be.
“Let’s make her a grave, Timmy. Please, can we?” Sadie cries solicitously
“Of course we can, lets get some shale rock.” Timmy smiles, heading up the hill toward the back of the house and the extra shale they had left over from when they had finished building the back walk way.
It didn’t take them long to make a small grave stone out of the thick slabs of shale behind the house. They wrote the name Sally along the front by carving into the rock with a pocket knife Timmy had on him. They made sure to write underneath a sweet little comment that made Sadie smile when she read it a second time. “She was a good little calf.” Was all it said.
“I gotta get back to the house, Timmy.” Sadie stood up, dusting the tiny specs of shale and grit from the front of her dress.
“Alright then; do you want me to walk you over, it’s getting dark.” Sadie looked up at the amber red sky as the sun set behind the mountains. She smiled to herself as she took Timmy’s hand in her own.
June was a wonderful month for truant children to be caught outside past eight o’clock. It took the sun so long to set that even past eight there was still more than an enough eerie twilight to navigate in the forest road they had to take to get back to Sadie’s property.
“I suppose it’s only gentlemen like to walk a lady home.” Sadie squeezed Timmy’s hand as they reached the tree line near his house; it wasn’t unnatural for Sadie and Timmy to walk hand in hand, however tonight felt different for some odd reason.
For the last couple of weeks Sadie has been taking a notice how Timmy has grown up. For the longest time she was taller than he was; but now it seems he’s starting to grow, and they’ve equaled up a bit. She’s noticed his face filling out, and his eyes are setting deeper and they stare longingly into nothingness when he’s working or concentrating on something.
And Sadie has taken notice of something else… The way Timmy looks at her when they’re together.
“Will you marry me, Sadence Williams?” Timmy leans against a tree at the line at the start of Sadie’s property line.
“Why yes I will, Timothy Phillips.” It was a game that they had begun to play when they were younger. Finding that liking each other was a natural thing that came of its own accord. But this time it was different; it felt different. The question and the response had real weight to the feeling and Sadie’s stomach knotted up. It was as if the words actually meant something, and they gazed at each other for a moment before coming closer.
Sadie’s lips were soft, and hot; and although they were walking through the forest in the summer’s eve, she was cold to the touch, shaking violently. Timmy remembered thumbing the silk dresses of his mother and aunt at a random occasion when fingering through Sadie’s bouncing curls as they shared their first real passionate kiss.
Up until now it had only been kissing on the cheek, or a frightened peck on the lips near the river when sharing a heartfelt moment; Sadie would always move in first and ‘accidentally’ make her way to Timmy’s lips.
Although this type of kiss was so amazingly different, that Sadie was nearly taken aback and lost control of herself, cooing placidly into a sigh as they came apart, breathing heavily and wet at the mouth.
No words were exchanged when they parted ways that evening; Sadie merely walked backwards watching Timmy’s blank expression as she made her way to the base of the hill. She almost tripped a few times before turning around and bolting up the rough soap stone toward the back of the house, catching hell as she let the back screen door slam on the way to her room.
“Where have you been, Sadence? You’re all dirty again!” Maw comes into her room.
“Timmy’s new calf died, Maw. We was making it a grave stone, that’s all.” Sadie turns out her dress and reaches for a night gown in the corner.
“That’s sad to hear. Is he gonna be okay?” Maw sat at the bed, using a brush she grabbed from the bureau to comb through Sadie’s hair.
“I think so.” Sadie couldn’t help giggle to herself.
“I’ve never seen a dirtier little girl.” Her mother pawed through her hair, removing bits of leaf and twig that had gotten stuck somehow, straightening it out in their nightly routine.
“Maw I ain’t a little girl no more!” Sadie protested raucously as she threw herself down onto the bed and sprawled out over the entire mattress. (In almost a tantrum fashion.)
“Well then, we’ll start calling you young lady, then.” Maw leaned in and kissed Sadie on the forehead before putting her lantern out.
“Night Maw.” Sadie sighs out in the darkness; there’s a grin stretched from ear to ear that nearly covers the entirety of her face.
“Good night,” Her mother whispers, “young Lady.” Maw had to stifles a laugh as she closed Sadie’s door; though only slightly to let a little light inside from the fire in the living room.
“Good night Timmy” Sadie shut her eyes, resting her head on the soft cotton pillow her mother had sewn for her the month before.
“Good night Sadie.” Timmy whispers quietly to himself before falling asleep.
The children’s dreams are filled with thoughts of each other, and scenarios that would play out in the following days or years. Whether or not they would catch any decent catfish, or perhaps go to the town court this August with each other. (As if anyone would care.)
And it was like that for the reminder of the year. Sadie and Timmy grew infinitely closer to one another over the course of the summer to come, and by the time it was harvest season they had both grown physically and emotionally. (Though Sadie less physically than emotionally, having complained when Timmy outgrew her in height.)
Timmy had taken a part time job with his father at the Lumber mill, though it was only custodial works, he made decent wage for his hours worked, and that helped to supplement their family’s income.
Sadie, protesting his new job, would often pack lunches for Timmy and meet him at the end of his shift outside in the back of the mill. Taking rides from anyone who would tote her into Queen City, often times catching hell from her mother and father about hitch hiking into town; beguiling her with stories of stranger danger and wild animals that might not think twice to snatch up a young girl.
Tony Bennett and his younger brother got into a fight with Sadie at the end of August, and they all got a sitting down with their parents. Especially since it was the two boys against one girl, and she managed to chip one of Tony’s adult teeth, and fracture the wrist of his younger brother. Sadie merely had a few bruises and part of her dress was torn. As much as she was punished, though – her Father had given her a smile with his eyes that seemed to say Atta’girl, Sadie. (He taught Sadie to fight when she was ten; thinking it important for a young lady to defend herself.)
However, things had started to change in about Mid September when a rise in strangers coming through Greenspring to head into Queen City began to spark rumors and whispers in the town about escaped convicts off the farm.
“I heard that Conner Gavin was seen heading toward Greenspring from back in Springfield.” A local woman was gossiping with the mercantile store clerk when Sadie and Timmy came in to buy some salted pork jerky.
“Conner Gavin the mass murderer?” Sadie approached the older woman; it was Misses Kelly; a kind old lady who ran the bakery and gave Sadie and Timmy the broken cookie scraps that couldn’t be sold in with the rest.
At the time, Conner Gavin was the worst thing to happen to the state of West Virginia. He had murdered fourteen people in one stay making his way from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas. However, having killed two cops in Winchester, the authorities finally caught up with him and sent him upstate to a maximum security prison. Apparently having heard Misses Kelly’s testimony, he had escaped and was loosed again in West Virginia.
“Yes, they say that he escaped off a train when they were moving him to the new prison upstate.” Misses Kelly had worry in her eyes; one that Sadie had not seen since three winters ago when her husband Alfred had passed away from consumption.
“Well, someone ought to warn the sheriff.” Timmy stepped forward, he was a little taller than Sadie now, and his new height advantages left him with an overwhelming sensation of confidence like his older brother.
“We’ll go warn him; come on, Timmy.” Sadie took Timmy by the hand, rushing out of the store without her pork jerky, a treat that would ultimately have to wait. The little town of Greenspring was quite literally only a few roads and one man could enter town and be gone in the time it took to walk one of the streets and cross the Potomac.
“Slow down Sadie, I’m sure he’s not even gonna come around here.” The local sheriff wasn’t actually the sheriff, you see. Greenspring was considered unincorporated and the towns’ denizens were all waiting for its population to boom like Queen City had previously a few decades ago.
They had just opened the Mercantile a few years ago and before it was there it was a book store that Sadie and Timmy used to frequent as often as they could.
The local sheriff, as he demanded he be called, was one of the new comers to the town. Robert Ellsworth had an array of weapons at his disposal; including the new sought after Winchester that was nearly as much money as a brand new house. He was a good man of well social standing and a lot of money backing him.
“We can’t take that chance, Timmy. Do you want a man like Conner Gavin stealing me or some other little girl off?” Timmy squeezed Sadie’s hand a bit tighter at the thought of losing Sadie.
But as they made the corner of the main street which had yet to be named, they stopped completely and gazed up at a massive Clydesdale horse which bucked when they startled it.
“Whoa there, Bessie.” A man called out from atop the horse as Sadie and Timmy realized that they were too late. Conner Gavin was in chains behind a trail of five men on horses, all packing law enforcement revolvers and lever guns.
“Stay out of the street there, miss.” The man tipped his hat to Sadie and Timmy before leading the trail of massive horses past them and around the corner toward the way into Springfield.
“Look at him… “Sadie whispered
“Yeah.” Timmy was staring him down standing half in front of Sadie.
“He just looks like the kind of sneak who’d slip a knife in your belly so much as look at ya!” Sadie took a few steps back when Conner walked past them. He looked up and winked to Sadie, a sadistic smirk stretched across his face.
“Damn his eyes!” Timmy shouted at Conner, guarding his precious Sadie from harm.
“Back there boy! Out of the way!” Timmy and Sadie were shoved off by the last horse, having to step into the grass along the road. If not for the law Timmy would have thrown a rock at Conner Gavin that afternoon.
“I guess we had better go tell Misses Kelly that Conner Gavin is in custody.” Timmy turned back to look down the road they had just come from. There was the silhouette of a man walking along side of the road with a rucksack thrown across his back.
He was difficult to see, and he had his head down, from this distance it was hard to see details about him, but the way he walked made it seem as though he was another vagrant coming through town to try and find work, or just passing through to Queen City.
Regardless of who this new drifter was, they had to rush back to Mercantile to alleviate the stress on Misses Kelly’s wild overactive imagination, (which at times was worse than Sadie’s).
Timmy and Sadie can remember one instance where a wild dog roamed into town, and she told people it was a giant wolf that tore her chickens apart, and tried to break her door down and bust into the house to kill her.
Upon inspection, Sadie and Timmy discovered it was a coy dog puppy who had wandered into town and knocked over the old cookie and cake trash that Misses Kelly had discarded the evening earlier.
Mister Peffermyer kept the coy dog and named him Fletcher after all the caster oil he needed to pass three chocolate cakes and a vat of sugar cookies.
“So you see Misses Kelly, the Springfield boys have Gavin in irons. They just walked past main street outside of the Sheriff’s place.” Timmy was talking to Misses Kelly as Sadie purchased a couple of strips of salted pork that the children would enjoy later that evening on their walk up the Potomac in search of decent catfish.
But this time of year it was too cold for fishing, and the night temperatures would drop to nearly forty degrees. In hind sight, it was most likely a plot to get away with each other, considering that neither of them brought fishing poles.
“Are you cold? You’re shivering.” Timmy puts his overcoat over Sadie’s shoulders as they walk down the banks of the mighty Potomac; it’s waters where a rusted iron color from all the rain they’d had the week before and the sound of river toads croaking their last before hibernation littered the air with recalcitrance of the winter to come.
“A little, but I’ll be okay.” Sadie had sat down on the banks of the river, taking another large bite of the salted pork. It was un-lady like, but then again she didn’t consider herself to be a lady.
And if you’ve ever eaten one of Gatterburoughs salted pork slabs, you would have trouble eating the entire thing in one sitting as well. In fact, Timmy didn’t even take more than a few bites before wrapping it up in his handkerchief and setting it aside for later.
“I don’t know how you can eat that stuff.” Timmy was watching Sadie chew a large piece, and her cheek on the right side was puffed out so that when she turned to face him, her eye was shut and she could hardly smile.
“It tastes good, that’s how.” Sadie smiled, though her mouth was full.
“I guess everybody is different.” Timmy laughed, looking up at the dark amber sky of September as the oak and pine tree swayed gently in the coming autumn breeze.
“There goes one!” Timmy shouted as he pointed upward toward the sky, calling out as a shooting star raced across the heavens and toward the horizon. At the time, the children had no idea that the Earth passed through the Leonid meteor field in August and didn’t come out until mid October.
But that wasn’t important to them at the time; all that mattered was a romantic night of watching shooting stars on the bank of the Potomac River in a burning red tawny sky of September. The rest of the world didn’t exist to them, and it became apparent to everyone who knew them intimately that love was in the air.
“You gotta make a wish now!” Sadie pushed Timmy onward, as if to encourage him to make a wish.
“Alright, alright lemme think.” Timmy closed his eyes as tight as he could and pictured Sadie in a wedding dress with a bouquet of flowers in her arms; he lifted her veil and kissed her passionately under a congregate of white doves.
“I got it! I wished for – “Timmy was cut off by Sadie’s hand.
“You ain’t a’posta tell anyone!” Sadie secretly wanted to know his wish deep down inside, but she knew that if he told her it wouldn’t come true.
“If you tell someone your wish won’t come true!” Sadie tackled Timmy to the ground and smothered his head into the grass.
“Ah!” He shouted out, although being a little taller than Sadie now, his new height proved futile to her tomboyulean (almost Herculean in fact) strength.
“Don’t you want your wish to come true, dummy?” She pinned his shoulders to the dirt with surprising force.
“It already has.” Timmy smiled before Sadie realized what she had done, her face was red and she kissed him violently beneath the skies of a celestial orchestra.
“Where have you been Sadence? It’s nearly a quarter to eight.” Her Maw was at the back door waiting for her to come up the stone steps toward the back yard. She was holding in her arms a load of laundry that she was going to take in before it got too dark.
“I was out watching the shooting stars.” She gazed up at the sky and wondered what the white band of milky like stars were that went across the sky from one end to the other.
“They were talking about capturing Conner Gavin! You should have come home right away, Sadence!” Maw turned back around toward the kitchen, hearing something.
“Sadence, get in this house right now!” Her paw sounded angry.
“Yes Paw.” Sadie shouted back obediently as she made her way up the back steps and into the house past her mother.
But what she saw next was a startling sight. There was a strange man sitting on the couch next to her father and they were staring up at her.
“Yes, Paw?” Sadie asked meekly as the strange man in black stared her down.
“Why are you so late, Sadence?” The man next to her father said nothing.
“I was watching the shooting stars with a couple of the kids from town, Paw.” Sadie stood in the door way, feeling the black eyes of the stranger piercing threw her body as he said nothing. He didn’t move, and it seemed like he wasn’t even breathing; perfectly still like a marble statue of a normal enough looking man in this late twenties.
He had long shaggy brown hair and a cold white complexion with deep dark eyes and thin eye brows. There was dirt caked in under his fingernails which extended some distance more than Sadie’s own had from gangly white fingers. His face was sucked up like he hadn’t eaten in a few weeks, and he has his eyes pinned to Sadie. His nose turned when she came closer as if he was scenting the air.
“Well, go get in bed. We’ve got some work to do in the morning.” Sadie was breathing heavily; the sensation of this strange mans eyes burning in her chest was almost unbearable, and she was nearly in tears by the time she was able to turn away from his gaze and head toward her room.
“Forgive my daughter; she thinks she’s a boy.” She could hear her father laughing, but the man next to him said nothing as she closed her door all of the way. There was an overwhelming sensation of fear and paranoia surrounding her house now that this strange man was here.
Sadie’s mother enters the room, sitting down next to her and straightening out the back of her night gown before producing a brush.
“Maw, who is that awful man?” Sadie leaned back to look up at her Mother.
“Sadence! That’s a terrible thing to say.” Sadie’s mother hit a knot in her hair.
“He’s here working with Paw for the harvest. Since we needed an extra hand on the farm, he’s gonna work for his meals and board here.”
“I don’t think he should stay here, Maw!” Sadie cried out.
“I don’t see nothin’ wrong with him, Sadence, you quit with that.” Her mother was adamant on the subject, but Sadie’s guts were still twisted. And Sadie always followed her instincts. Once when the Bennett boys wanted to take Timmy and Sadie down to the river to fish, she got the same feeling, but no one listened, and the youngest Bennett boy Ricky almost drowned right to death not an hour later.
“But he looks so evil Maw. Worse than Conner Gavin did. And he was staring me down right there next to Paw!” Sadie turned around to look up at her Mother, who was focused on brushing Sadie’s long light blonde hair.
“Now you stop that talk, Sadence. Some people can’t help the looks that the good Lord has given them. You know better’n’ta judge people based on their looks.” Sadie’s hair is finished now, and her mother ties it with a ribbon.
“But Maw!” Sadie cries meekly, her stomach still in knots.
“I won’t have anymore of that kind of talk in this house Sadence Rene!” Her mother stood up off the bed, kissing Sadie’s forehead before putting her lantern out and heading back into the living room.
Sadie tossed and turned in her bed, watching the light that crept in under the door; and on more than one occasion, late into the night, there were dancing shadows of foot steps that stretched ghastly across her floor like the fingers of Satan reaching in for her soul.
Once she heard what she thought were whispers coming from in the kitchen, but listening deeply to them only revealed the loud ringing in your ears when there’s nothing but silence surrounding you.
The morning came too slowly, and even the comfort of first light did not settle Sadie’s stomach. Having only gotten a few hours of sleep all night, she was in no spirits to sit at the table and share a meal with a strange lilting man.
“Eat your pancakes, Sadence. We have a lot of work to do in the field.” Paw was reading through the paper about the story of Conner Gavin, and her mother was at the sink washing up.
Sadie had nothing to say to the strange man who sat adjacent from her across their wooden table; his eyes were pitch tar black and they focused on the cup of coffee he nestled in his hands, still full to the brim as if he’d never thought to drink it.
“We’re going to be doing some picking, Sadie. I need you to run baskets back and forth for me today.” Paw set the paper aside, taking another mouthful of pancakes.
“Yes, sir.” Sadie replied obediently watching the man stare at his coffee.
“Ain’t you gonna drink that?” She asked almost sarcastically.
“Sadence. Watch your tone.” Her father corrected her almost immediately.
The man lifted his eyes to Sadie, then the cup to his mouth, sipping quietly and said nothing.
“Sadie I got you some new tethers for your shoes, sweetie.” Maw handed Sadie a pair of laces that went to an old set of leather boots she got from Timmy - who had finally grown out of them – and decided Sadie needed a new pair of boots, but couldn’t afford to buy them for her. (‘Nothing wrong with hand-me-downs,’ Sadie reassured him.)
“Thank you Maw.” Sadie sat stringing her new laces in while the man with the black eyes watched her carefully.
He had no distinguishing features about him that Sadie could gather out from a quick glance – and it hurt her stomach to stare at him for too long.
“What all are we bringing in today, Paw?” Sadie rights herself in her chair; she had only eaten a few bites of the first pancake her mother made for her. Something about this man had made her stomach seem to flip flop and she was no longer hungry.
“Depends on what’s ready, supposen.” Paw stood up from the table and walked toward the sink, setting his plate and cup into the basin before heading outside.
The man took his eyes from Sadie momentarily to watch her father leave the house, and followed him in suit, followed by Sadie.
“Sadie, be careful in the fields honey.” Her mother calls to her with a smile.
Last year in harvest Sadie was helping her father pick some of the vegetables when she had come across an Eastern Diamond Back Rattler. A snake that, at the time, Sadie did not realize was deadly poisonous and almost picked it up.
Luckily her father had caught her in enough time before she reached out for the snake. In the years before they had hunted for other snakes, which where less dangerous black rat snakes, in the back fields.
Someone in town had told them if you put them in your basement it will take care of rat problems; which at the time, was a huge concern for farmers with seed and vegetables in the root sellers that rats could get into an contaminate.
“We don’t kill what we can’t eat.” Sadie’s father reassured her as he took her hands from out of the snakes striking distance, (although just before bashing it and making it into lunch).
After which Sadie learned to tell the difference between poisonous snakes and non-poisonous ones; and how to capture them without getting bit.
A pair of hands helping her grab a basket of vegetables mid day startled Sadie, and she was nearly taken aback, half expecting the strange black eyed man to be staring down at her with daunting hungry eyes.
“Need a little help?” It was Timmy, he had come after his shift late afternoon to see if she was able to leave and go for a walk.
“I’ve just got the few to bring up to the house.” And he helped her, which he had always done since they were children. Even though Sadie’s father could not afford to pay Timmy for his work in the fields; just being with Sadie was enough of payment for him.
“Well, lets get them into the cellar so we can go.” Timmy helped Sadie by carrying a basket for her, which left only one back in the endless rows of vegetables that someone could easily duck away in and not be spotted again until it was too late.
“Last one.” Sadie sighed out quietly, despite it being chilly today she had to run her hand along her forehead to alleviate it from the moisture that was gathering at her brow.
“What are you doing!?” A voice shouted out, fast and hard as both Timmy and Sadie jumped on their heels and nearly fell backward, spilling the contents of the basket into the dirt.
“Anthony Bennett! You sneak!” Sadie cursed a string of unprintable words at the eldest of the Bennett boys who had been hiding in the rows of corn.
“What a mouth on you, Sadence Williams.” Tony stood with his hands akimbo.
“You ought not’a jumped us like that, you sneak!” Sadie was busy picking the vegetables up and placing them back into the basket, hoping that they were not bruised or damaged.
“Easy now, I just came by to see that strange drifter who’s been seen around here, is all.” Tony knelt down and began helping Sadie and Timmy place the Vegetables back into the basket. (Tony had come around and began treating Sadie with respect when she had throttled him and his brother in front of the Mercantile.)
“He gives me the creeps with his creepy black eyes.” Sadie reached for the basket, but Timmy had already had it in his arms; his new muscles had popped up when he lifted the weight to his chest, a sign that he’d been working hard at the lumber mill.
“What about him?” Sadie asked, having to take her eyes away from Timmy’s new arms to talk to Anthony.
“We’ze just heard some stories about him in Queen City.” Tony went on. “That a strange drifter had been seen with odd looks and what not.” Anthony walked with them through the rows of corn toward the house.
“What does that have to do with anything? I hear all kinds of rumors working at the Lumber mill.” Timmy had to shift his weight to pass up Sadie in the rows, which was apparently walking too slow for him.
“They say he ain’t right. That he almost never talks, and that he’s been seen stalking around town at night.” Tony looked down at Sadie, for the first time in her life she saw in his eyes a glint of paranoia; and she could feel from him a sense of wanton protection.
“They said that about Misses Kelly, and she turned out okay.” Timmy walked first into the root cellar and gasped. Sadie followed up behind him and saw the drifter standing in the middle of the room, who had just put his arms behind his back.
“You scared me.” Timmy said; his eyes never left the drifter while he set the basket down and walked backwards toward the stairs, taking Sadie’s hand.
The drifter’s eyes only flinched lightly before he turned around and headed up the stairs toward the kitchen.
“See what I mean!” Tony took Sadie by the shoulder, he’s creepy and you shouldn’t be alone with him.”
“I can take care of myself, Anthony Bennett.” Sadie shrugged her arm out of Tony’s grasp before walking back up the cellar steps and onto the porch. Her father was sitting in his rocking chair while enjoying a bit of sweet weed.
“You did good today, Sadie. Tomorrow your mother and I are headed into town, I expect you to be on your best behavior.” He took a long drag on his pipe, looking out over his field with a satisfaction that only a farmer could understand.
The prospect of growing something, and harvesting it, making your living off of the land and treating it with respect and dignity. Knowing that at any moment all that you have created could be destroyed or taken away, and you would lose everything. Growing life and sharing it with others after months of hard work was the kind of sensation that only came with being a farmer. Ingrain into the very soul of men since before we were men, planting only seeds of grain to make bread; now planting fruits and vegetables of all sorts and shapes.
Sadie knew this and respected it very much, and when she thought of it gazing up at her father’s satisfied look, her heart felt warm.
The room was all gold and white, with high walls that gleamed like enamel, and a roof, high above, clear and glittering like diamonds. Sadie wore a green velvet dress and carried a gold fan in her hand. Her hair, twisted into a knot that spilled into curls, made her head feel strangely heavy every time she turned to look behind her.
“You see someone more interesting than me?” asked Timmy. In the dream he was mysteriously an expert dancer. He steered her through the crowd as if she were a leaf caught in a river current. He was wearing all black, like a shadow, and it showed his coloring to good advantage; dark hair, lightly creamed skin, white teeth. He’s handsome, Sadie thought, with a jolt of surprise.
“There’s no one more interesting than you,” Sadie said. “It’s just this place. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She turned again as they passed a champagne fountain: an enormous silver dish, the center-piece a mermaid with a jar pouring sparkling wine down her bare back. People were filling their glasses from the dish, laughing and talking. The mermaid turned her head as Sadie passed, and smiled. The smile showed white teeth as sharp as a wolf.
“Welcome to Happiness.” Said a voice that wasn’t Timmy’s. “To bliss.” He said.
Sadie found that Timmy had disappeared and she was now dancing with the drifter, who was wearing white, the material of his shirt a thin cotton; she could see the black stains of his ichor burning through it like blood on a sheet of paper.
There was a bronze chain around his throat, and his hair and eyes looked more gold than ever; she thought about how she would like to paint his portrait with the dull gold paint one sometimes saw in Russian icons.
“Where’s Timmy?” she asked as they spun again around the champagne fountain. Sadie saw Tony there, with her mother and father, both of them in royal blue. They were holding hands like Hansel and Gretel in the dark forest.
“This place is for the living,” said the drifter. His hands were cool on hers and she was aware of them in a way she had not been of Timmy’s.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “What do you mean?”
He leaned in close. She could feel his lips against her ear. They were not cool at all. “Wake up Sadie,” he whispered. “Wake up. Wake up.”
She bolted upright in bed, gasping, hair plastered to her neck with cold sweat. Her wrists were held in a hard grip; she tried to pull away, then realized who was restraining her.
“Yeah,” was his reply, “you were thrashing about and screaming something about me when I came to your window. I think you were having a nightmare.”
“Where are my parents?” Sadie sat out of bed and placed her feet on the ground; there was a cold shiver than ran up her leg as she looked down at two fresh spider bites on the inside of her thigh just above the knee.
“They went into town. I thought I would come get you and we could go for a walk.” Timmy walked toward the door from her room and into the kitchen. “I’ll give you some privacy to get dressed.”
It was all gone, she couldn’t remember a thing. Last night she heard her father’s words echoing in the back of her mind. “We’re going into town.” He said over and over again in a repeating loop that she had to force herself to stop mentally.
The rest of the night was a blur after she had saw the drifter in the root cellar and felt such a strange wave of dizziness take her over.
“Timmy?” Sadie asked. “What happened last night?” She came into the kitchen and saw that the hanging clock on the wall had read quarter past ten in the morning.
“You told me that you weren’t feeling well, and that you were going to go lay down.” Timmy was fixing a plate of grapes that he’d produced from a satchel flung lazily over the back of a chair. Something he carries around before a long hike or during an afternoon picnic.
“I don’t remember.” She picked ambiguously at the grapes.
“You feelin’ any better? “ Timmy asked, “I felt bad cause I was gonna walk you down to the river last night.” Sadie felt the blood rush to her cheeks, the last time he walked her down to the river she nearly lost herself in their kiss.
“I’m feeling fine.” She interjected as Timmy pointed out that she looked flush with a quiet laugh.
“Well git then. We’ve got some apricots to pick. You promised.” Timmy laughed as he began to push Sadie toward the back screen door; but something deep down inside of her felt as if she needed to cry out, to search for something, but for what, she had no idea.
“Well if it isn’t Sadie Williams and her little friend Timmy Phillips.” Tony and his brother Carl were sitting at the banks of the Potomac with their lines in the water. What they were going to catch this late in September was a mystery to Sadie; most of the trout in this part had either died or moved on.
“We’ze just on our way to pick some fruit, Tony Bennett. Don’t you dare think of nothing.” Sadie shot Tony a look with her mean face that seemed to say. Don’t.
“I was just funnin’ you Sadie Williams.” Tony flicked his line back, reeling in a sun fish. This kept his attention from Sadie and Timmy as they walked down the dirt path a few hundred yards from where Tony and Carl where fishing.
The old path with finely packed dirt so thin and crystalline that it was like walking on flour. If it wasn’t nearly forty degrees outside, Sadie would have taken off her shoes and enjoyed the supple crush of the beaten path.
“I wonder if it’s too late to get some pears while we’re out here.” Sadie gazed around at the few fruit trees that still had over grown from the property line of the old Jefferson farm.
“There might be some left that haven’t fallen, yet.” It was an old fruit plantation that spread through most of this area; left over from the early seventeen hundreds that belonged to a rich white family with a few dozen slaves.
Sadie’s older cousin Oral would always tell her about it whenever he would come into town; bringing her gifts of clothing or a new set of colored pencils that he purchased in Queen City.
“I’m in the mood for some peaches.” Sadie giggled placidly as they reached the boarder of Greenspring. They had to cross a small creek to get over to the Jefferson plantation. But there was a secret path that only Timmy and Sadie knew about where an old hemlock had fallen a few years ago, creating a tree bridge for them to walk freely across. (As everyone knows how large and crooked hemlock can grow, which make them sub par for bridge making and Sadie nearly tripped twice a year ago.)
“I’m in the mood for brined corn, myself.” Timmy hugged his coat as the wind took an awful breeze through him and went past down into the hollow.
“You say the weirdest things sometimes.” The children laugh.
“I guess we’ve been together so long I can say weird stuff and not worry about what you’re gonna do to me.” Timmy helped Sadie up onto the log that spanned across the small creek. This time of year it was about three feet deep, but it flowed quickly because of the slant of the hill it was coming down, and if you were to get caught in it you’d be swept away before you could catch yourself.
“Be careful, dummy!” Timmy shouted. Sadie’s foot almost slipped, the leather platted shoes she was wearing weren’t the perfect choice for crossing a slippery hemlock tree, which was known for its smooth flat bark with hardly any knots or protrusions.
“I’m fine, Timmy! You don’t have to worry about every – “ Sadie was cut off as she slipped from the Hemlock, her shin caught the side of the tree and slid down it firmly tearing the skin open from the top of her shin to the start of her knee.
“Sadie!” Timmy called out, reaching to grab for her but it was too late; she had fallen into the creek with a hard splash into the icy speeding water.
The water rushed over her head, even though she could stand in it, she was being pulled into the current from the side of the hill; her finger nails digging into the side wall of the eroded shale run off, breaking her fingernails and cutting the tips of her fingers open.
Timmy, was the only thing that Sadie thought as she felt the smack of rocks and branches all up and along her body, trying to hold her breath as long as she could.
“The river is like a bear, Sadie.” Her father’s words replayed in her head; from an early age she had learned to be careful with the river, if she was going to be fishing by herself.
“If you relax and let it take you, it will spit you back out somewhere eventually.” He would tell her. “But if you fight it, it’s going to kill you. Stay calm and try to reach the shore, don’t scream and for God’s sake don’t panic.”
She could feel the creek spin her around and she hit the ground hard, sending a jolt of pain up her neck and into the back of her head. She had come out at a spot where the water was pooled calmly enough to come to a stand and she looked down at her bloody hands and knees, Timmy was crying up the hill in the distance.
“Sadie!” He was shouting, rushing down the hill and falling onto his back as he tried a baseball slide down the hill and into the gully where she had been taken by the creek.
“Oh my Gosh Sadie!” He rushed her almost too hard, and scooped her up into his arms, squeezing her as tight as he could without hurting her. She was covered in blood from her knees and hands and there was a swelling knot forming just behind the braid in her hair.
“I thought you were dead! You were flopping around like a doll in a dog’s mouth.” He kissed at her face; getting blood onto his cheeks and into his mouth, but it didn’t seem to matter to him. All that was important was that his Sadie was still alive.
“I think I need to lye down.” Sadie was consumed by darkness, and the last thing she heard before feeling the ground on her knees was Timmy screaming her name.
“She gonna be okay?” Timmy asked quietly. Sadie’s eyes felt as though they were glued shut, and it was a chore to get them open again. The room that surrounded her was white and pure, and she could smell herbs and alcohol tonics in the air. The only thing that went through her mind was Mister Peffermyer and his hospital in the back of his parlor.
“She’ll be okay, I think. But I’m going to keep her here until her parents get back from Queen City.” Jonathan Peffermyer, the local medical man – who – for the longest time, regarded himself as a shaman. It wasn’t until he had gotten a medical degree that he formally called himself a doctor. (Though everyone still referred to him as Mister.)
“Can I have some water?” Sadie asked. Timmy looked down at her startled as she sat up on the divan she had been carefully placed upon.
“Here you go.” Mister Peffermyer had already had a glass of water ready for her when she came to.
Holding the glass to her mouth to sip, Sadie noticed a cacophony of faces in the windows surrounding Mister Peffermyer’s medical parlor. It seemed as though the entire town of Greenspring has all come out to see if little Sadie Williams was alive or dead.
Sadie almost felt a tinge of joy as she’d be the talk of the town for at least a couple of weeks. “Are you okay?” interrupted her drink.
“I’m fine.” Sadie mustered, moving her feet to clean blue carpet in the parlor, stretching her legs out. The pain in them had faded and the only sensation she could feel was a heart beating thump in the nape of her neck.
“You nearly died, Sadie.” Timmy embraced her again; he was more emotional than Sadie was.
‘This ain’t the first time I fell into the river, Timmy. Jeez Oh Pete’s.” She laughed wrapping her arms around him, though a sigh of relief pent over her heart as she – for the first time – the indestructible girl – felt a very human chill rise up her spine.
“Let’s get me back to my house, Timmy.” Sadie stood up nearly effortlessly; the only creak in her knee was from a bandage that was tied too tightly around what her father would call ‘just a flesh wound.’
“I don’t think you should be without an adult, Sadence.” Mister Peffermyer stood between her and the door, mending something on a table near the window.
“Your house is almost next to mine, though. I think I will be okay.” She smiled a faint smile that she had to stomach. Sadie wanted to feel safe in her own bed, and Mister Peffermyer wouldn’t keep her from going home.
“Well, then; I suppose I can’t stop you. “ Mister Peffermyer added. “But if you feel any worse, have Timmy run and get me, alright?” The always overly protective parental figure, Mister Peffermyer. Wanting to heal and to help the children of Greenspring since he had lost his in a fire two years ago. What am I thinking? Sadie asked herself. Never a mean thought in her mind.
“Alright.” Was all she said.
“I wonder where my parents are.” It was nearly past seven when Sadie and Timmy came back to Sadie’s house. It was empty and there weren’t any lamps lit. (Which Timmy corrected upon entering the living room.)
“I guess they’re not back from town, yet.” Timmy held the lamp up while lighting the other two in the living room.
“But the cart is here. And Big John is in the stables.” Sadie replied. (Their horse was named after Sadie’s uncle John who was very massive, and also raised horses.)
“I wonder if they’re in bed early.” Timmy looked around the living room, nothing was out of place.
“Jonah isn’t in his room.” At that moment, Sadie felt her stomach lurch upward into her throat. Both of the children had spun around when they heard what sounded like soft howling coming from somewhere in the house.
“I’m scared, Sadie.” Timmy whispered as they entered the kitchen, listening for the sound again. “I’m scared of Ghosts.”
“I ain’t; come on, what if it’s old Mister Belleflurre.” A mean wicked old man who would often beat the other children of the neighborhood for so much as setting foot in his land. By law, you were allowed to defend your land from minor trespassers, but only if you used non-lethal force with an implement no thicker than your own thumb.
He had caught Sadie one night walking along the edge of his property, trying to avoid entering it to get across to the Phillips property. (It was the land in the forest path that they frequented so much.) And he threw a stone at her which struck her in the head.
A bleeding crying ten year old girl rushing into her house is a sight for a protective set of parents, who, upon hearing of Sadie’s misfortune immediately called in the Law from Springfield to settle the debate once and for all.
The ruling favored Sadie and her family and Mister Belleflurre was forced to serve community service and pay the Williams family a hair shirt of ten dollars.
This of course infuriated the old Frenchmen and he threw himself onto the judge at the time, and was hung for killing him with a vicious blow to the neck with his oak walking stick. After that, everyone reported his ghost walking Greenspring and throwing phantom stones at them.
“That old codger can rest in peace for all I care, Sadie Williams.” Timmy had Sadie’s hand in hers and he was squeezing tightly, mostly unafraid of normal things like snakes and coyotes, but a ghost seemed to scare the courage out of him.
“Yeah but wouldn’t it be fun just once to see a ghost?” Sadie turned the corner into her parents room, Timmy was in tow as they opened the door. Shards of moon light struck through the window and into the ground like the blades of Angels, faintly illuminating the area.
“No.” Timmy was shaking, he was apparently very frightened and Sadie thought it might be funny to jump and scream to scare him. But just as she poised to strike, they heard the cries again.
“That sounded close.” Sadie turned to Timmy, looking back at him before tip toeing into her room.
And there was darkness there.
“I don’t want to see a ghost, Sadie. Let’s just go back in the living room now.” Timmy had let go of Sadie’s hand and was walking reluctantly into her room.
“Oh don’t be such a tad pole.” Sadie made sure to say it with a laugh so it was less of an insult, but it still stung a little.
“Ghosts ain’t something to meddle with! I ain’t afear’da snakes or spiders. But ghosts ain’t natural.” There was a shake in Timmy’s voice.
“Fine,” Sadie whispered, “I’ll go check the root cellar myself, then.”
“And leave me all alone up here!” Timmy almost shouted, but was shushed by Sadie.
Sadie meant to say something, but there was the cry again, this time in her room it seemed louder, and Sadie knew immediately why. The cries where coming from the root cellar.
“Come on, let’s go. It’s probably just Tony and his brother trying to scare us.” Sadie left the house onto the back porch and saw that the root cellar door was open. A wave of panic swept over her as she reached the bottom of the soap stone steps and down the hill to the opening of the cellar.
There was a dank smell in the air, one that Sadie had not recognized. It was a strong coppery smell mixed with sweat and the moisture of hot breath after you’ve been running in the heat without something to drink.
“Something is wrong.” Sadie’s heart felt like it had fallen into her stomach as she heard the cries again, it wasn’t something she immediately recognized, but it felt almost familiar.
“I heard it, too.” Timmy had become suddenly brave; he seemed to have had the same feeling that Sadie was having.
“That sounded like,” There was a long pause in her speech, long enough for another of the cries to pierce the night again. “Jonah!” She called out, rushing the root cellar.
It wasn’t what she had expected to see, the drifter was standing in the cellar holding a sack of vegetables in his arms, and she came to a stop at the bottom of the steps. Timmy was at her side, holding his ground half standing in front of Sadie.
“Go get Mister Peffermyer.” Sadie whispered to Timmy as he looked deep into her eyes, studying her carefully.
“Go now.” She whispered, though her pitch was emotionless and she didn’t move her eyes from the drifter.
Timmy said nothing and left, catching the attention of the drifter, who, when hearing Timmy leave the cellar, turned around in the blades of the moon light gaze up at Sadie coming down the cellar steps. There was only darkness in his eyes, and he wasn’t holding a sack of vegetables… He was holding her little brother Jonah.
“No.” She thought she called out as a white wash of sound came over her ears and everything when black inside her head.
Sadie screamed once as he went down, the drifter’s jaws clamping shut over her little brother's shoulder. Blood flew into the air like the spray of paint from a broken can, splattering the muddy cellar wall with red. The drifter lifted its head from the toddler's limp body and turned his black, lupine gaze on Sadie, teeth dripping scarlet.
She didn't scream. There was no air in her lungs that she could have dragged up to make a sound; she scrambled to her feet and ran, ran for the mouth of the Cellar and the familiar amber lights of the sky, ran for the safety of the real world. She could hear the man growling behind her; feel his hot breath on the bare backs of her legs. She put on one last burst of speed, flinging herself toward the stairs -
The drifter’s jaws closed on her leg, jerking her backward. Just before her head struck the hard cement stairs, plunging her into blackness, she discovered that she did have enough air to scream, after all.
Timmy was half way to Mister Peffermyer’s house when he heard Sadie scream loudly, he told himself that there was nothing he could do, he had to keep running, had to do something, get an adult or get a gun.
“Timmy, what’s the matter?” Mister Peffermyer was sitting in rocking chair on his front porch sipping sweat tea.
“It’s Jonah! The Drifter! The man he did something! He was doing something! I heard Sadie screaming!” Mister Peffermyer ran into the house almost before Timmy could finish yelling up to his porch from the grass, returning with one of the newest Mauser’s that Timmy had ever seen, sporting the all new bolt style loading mechanism.
“We have to save her!” Timmy started running back toward the Williams house, on his way spotting the mercantile owner and his hired man Frank, who had apparently over heard and where brandishing lever guns of their own.
“What happened, boy?” Sheriff Ellsworth was on his heels, jogging along side of Timmy as six people with high powered fire arms made their way to the Williams estate.
Timmy told Sheriff Ellsworth what had happened with him and Sadie, how they had come home alone, found no one, and heard odd screams from the Cellar and went to investigate, upon which finding the drifter holding her brother Jonah.
“Good lord, boy.” The Sheriff was first into the house, rushing into the living room with his revolvers in front of him and Frank the hired man quick on his heels.
And there was darkness.
“Sadie!?” They shouted through the house, frenetically searching the house for any signs of the young girl or her family.
“Someone check the cellar!” Sheriff called outside, not surprised to see that three quarters of the town had shown up with their rifles and lanterns.
“I knew that drifter was no good when I saw him!” Misses Kelly had even turned up, to Timmy’s surprise, brandishing her late husbands Winchester. The giant 45-70 lever gun looked like a walking stick in her tiny frail hands.
Someone called out, and Timmy ran into the house, tripping over the end table and into the living room, landing hard onto his stomach. “Gahk!” He coughed out, skinning his wrists on the hard wood floors and catching the break in the wood with his fingers.
“You alright, boy?” The Sheriff helped him up off the ground, keeping his eyes around the living room as the other men searched the house.
“Where is Sadie?!” Timmy shouted out, his mind was flashing of images of her deep dark eyes from when he seen her last, wondering if he’d ever see them in the bright summer sunshine again.
“We ain’t find no one, sir.” Frank had come out of Sadie’s room; there was a yelping German shepherd at his side that he was trying to control with a length of braided rope.
“Old George here ain’t sniffed nothin’ either.” Frank pulled the dog across the living room and into the parent’s bed room, yelping loudly at something that seemed to be bothering him.
Timmy ran out the back door and down the steps onto the hill that led to the root cellar, spinning on his heels and nearly crashing down the steps into Mister Peffermyer.
“Poor child.” Was all he heard when he entered the root cellar; that same copper dank smell of sweat and blood filled the air and he gazed down at the owner of the Mercantile hovering over something lumped up and contorted on the ground in front of him.
And there was darkness.
“And though the body remains, the spirit lives on.” The Priest shut his Bible and crossed the air over the coffin in front of him. Timmy was standing beside it with his hands in front of him holding a bouquet of wild flowers that he had picked earlier this morning.
I wish it was me instead. Was all Timmy could think as he tossed the bouquet of flowers over Sadie’s coffin and tears began to stream down his face.
Sadie had looked so white and pristine laying there in her little wooden box coffin; the head stone wasn’t even finished, yet. She was laying in a white dress with white shoes and white stockings, covered in garlands of flowers and fresh herbs. Her eyes were shut, but she only appeared to be sleeping, her red lips perched and swelling as if she would sit up and kiss Timmy on the mouth, shouting ‘Gotcha!’ and everything would go back to the way it was.
But that wasn’t the case, and Timmy knew it. Just like the little calf had died and it wasn’t going to wake up again, he kept telling himself that she was really and truly dead. And when he thought this, his heart sank deeper and deeper into his chest.
These things happen, repeated in Timmy’s head, hearing himself comfort Sadie when they had discovered the calf lying dead in the field, emaciated and drained of blood.
Then Timmy noticed something that he hadn’t before, something that twitched in his eyes but he couldn’t recall the memory. Just as they closed the coffin around Sadie, he noticed two puncture wounds in her neck with a bit of torn flesh just like in the cattle.
And there was darkness.
The next two nights Timmy didn’t sleep at all. His mind was too busy thinking of Sadie, and each time he wanted to sit up, he began to sob and his body would not let him.
The moon had begun to show through tonight, and Timmy gazed out of the window and wondered what Heaven might look like, wondered what Sadie would be doing if she were there. No, he told himself, Sadie is there, he had to confirm. Not if.
Just as he was about to lye down he heard a tiny pricking sound at his window like the sound of a pebble tapping the glass ever so lightly.
With a groan, Timmy sat up in bed and gazed out into his front yard, looking down at a young girl in a white gown gazing up at the window with a hand full of small rocks.
Sadie… was the only thought going through his mind, but she was dead, he had stayed and watched them burry her completely, and finally rested a single rose on top of the loose dirt they had piled onto her grave.
“But you’re dead.” He whispered to himself, opening the window to look down better at the girl. Perhaps it was just another neighboring girl come to console him.
“Come downstairs, dummy!” Sadie called up to him from the front lawn and tears streamed down Timmy’s face. I’m not scared of Ghosts anymore. He thought to himself.
She was standing in the beams of the moon light in his front yard where the giant walnut tree was, hiding in the darkness created by its shadow with blades of light from the full moon shining brilliantly onto her white gown.
She was glowing, hauntingly white and pale with an ethereal aura of white beams surrounding her as if she were walking through mist.
“But you’re dead.” Timmy cried out, he was sobbing now, holding his hands out for Sadie as she reached for him, her thick full lips were swollen and seemed to be the most defined characteristic about her now.
“Oh be quiet.” She giggled softly to herself as he walked closer, stains of tears on his night shirt as he stepped into her arms and she embraced him tightly.
“My little Timmy.” She whispered while stroking his hair gently.
“Sadie if you’re a ghost I’m not scared.” He sobbed into her bosom, crying loudly as she held him, consoling him almost. Sadie was cold as ice, and hard as iron as he began to caress her bare skin with his fingertips, wondering how a ghost could be so soft.
“It’s better now.” The little Nymphet whispered quietly, kissing his mouth and tasting hot salt and sweat while she held him closely to herself. Timmy had almost recoiled but wasn’t strong enough to fight Sadie off, he was never stronger than her, so why now should he be concerned.
Sadie’s tongue was soft and tasted of milk and honey, drawing back with a line of saliva that dangled between them and stuck lightly to the front of her gown. Timmy gazed between them, noticing that Sadie’s was covered in filth and clots of wet dirt and there was mud caked in under her fingernails as if she’d just clawed her way out of her own grave.
“I love you.” Was all she said before sinking her fangs into his throat.
And there was darkness.
I’d like to thank Saundra and the others at the haunted house for giving me the best time I’ve ever had in my life. Without them this story could not have been possible.
Working at the haunted house has been a joy and a pleasure, and I gladly look forward to literally the rest of my natural life working there.
Some people ask me, “Why do you work so hard for free?” And I tell them one thing that I was told when I was a child.
“If you find a job that you love doing; you’ll never work a day in your life.” And I haven’t. It’s been nothing but fun working at the haunted house – and yes – even though we do work very hard and there can be drama at some times.
It’s worth the fun and satisfaction you receive on Halloween night as you’ve watched the last group of the year go through the house and you sigh a sigh of relief. We all joke and play and have a great time, but we know that in a few months in March it’s time to start again.