Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
December 23, 1975
To John, it didn’t seem as if it was going to get colder. But to his dismay, it did. The temperature on the train he rode on stated it was 45 degrees, even with the heaters. The train with its beautiful Christmas decorations was an extraordinary sight to see. Garland hung along the windows, with a haze of red and blue lights wrapped around it. The walls were an orangish-yellowish color, giving the interior a comfy, warm feeling. It gave John several flashbacks to his family.
Waking up on Christmas Day, seeing his grandkids and children, eager with excitement to see what Santa brought them this year. Of course, Santa being John, was more with excitement to see his family cheering and laughing with Christmas joy. It warmed John’s heart. Even if he was in his early 30’s, his heart was of a 60-year-old man’s. His smile was warm and comforting. His family used to make fun of him, as his eyes use to crease when he smiled. He no longer takes offense to it, and treats it as a family memory. His thought process was interrupted, as he noticed the snow dancing against the window. The train had stopped. He waited for the conductor to come and tell which stop they were at. He wasn’t an impatient man, so John could wait for hours. The conductor with his blue overcoat and cap came into the room, shutting the door behind him. He adjusted his scarf around his neck and uttered the words with a croaky loud tone, “52 Brookfield, Montana stop is here.”
Hearing the address given made his ears prick up. He was one stop away from being in town and seeing his family. He gathered his suitcase and walked onto the platform. What he noticed immediately about the terminal was him being the only soul there. Empty, cold, and dark besides some Christmas lights hung along the terminal. The train with its horn blasting through the night faded into the snow-covered darkness. Looking around made John uneasy. The deafening silence made his blood run cold. He then started to pace, waiting for the next train to come. His patience was surprisingly starting to run thin. Every little drop of an icicle, or the clanking of the lights brushing against each other, was loud enough for dogs 10 miles away to hear. Suddenly the glowing red lights above gave off an intense haze. “Leave now!” a voice echoed. It sounded as if it was with the wind. And that’s what he blamed it on, until it came again, this time louder. It was groaning, almost moan voice. John through most of his life believed in the paranormal. Just last year was the whole Ghosts in Amityville business with that man who murdered his entire family in cold blood.
“Of course, thinking such thoughts isn’t an ideal thing to do right now,” he said to himself. He began to pace a little faster. The blowing wind that gave ghastly howls began to give him a chill up his spine. He didn’t understand his sense of dread. But then again the world today, would give you this feeling. He tried to blow the feeling off, but yet it continually wrapped itself around him like a blanket. Now his pacing stopped, and he began to listen to the wind. Its whispering howls were nothing short of horrifying. As the wind escalated, the familiar ghost-like voice came back, this time seeming to speak to him directly. “Don’t follow,” it howled. “Don’t follow!” The voice seemed to have others surrounding it. The one that he could understand was crying, “Red roses!” It had the pitch of a little girl, but was still difficult to pronounce, as it whistled with the wind.
His feet suddenly felt the urge to run. But where to? He wasn’t familiar with this part of the state. The red haze from the lights above him, which grew as bright as the sun, now seemed to have died down in intensity, along with the ghost-like voice. That’s when he heard footsteps just behind him. He turned around, white in the face, terrified that he would see a ghostly woman. But it was rather a wrinkly old lady. Close enough. She gave a heartwarming smile, and stuck her hand out, waiting for an unnecessary handshake. He shook it rather uncomfortably. Her hand felt brittle, and the skin was super thin. The bones were penetrating all areas of this woman, and the coat she wore covered her completely. He felt he was shaking the hand of death himself. Finally, she uttered some words, breaking the silence between them.
“Are you alright, sir?” she asked.
“Yes, I’m fine, miss. I’m just waiting for the train into town.”
The woman looked at him dumbfounded. Looking around him, she shook her head in disbelief.
“Oh, you can’t be serious?! Come, come, I have an Inn nearby,” she stated eagerly. She then swung her hand out to a trail just beyond the terminal, which led into a patch of woods just beyond that. The outline of the forest is all he could see from where he stood. He squinted creating the crease marks along the side of eyes, to try and see the trail. The Christmas lights barely gave any illumination to the darkness in front of them. But John still shivered at the statement. He was no fool when it came to premonitions or foreshadowing events. The ghastly howls he heard in the wind gusts, were warning him of this exact event. However, against his better judgment, he began to follow the brittle woman across the platform and down onto the snow-covered trail. It was freezing, and he hadn’t had anything to eat since 7 this morning.
His brain chose to ignore the request to move, but there he was walking alongside the elderly woman down the trail, fading into the darkness.
* * * * * *
The woods enclosed the two souls walking along the trail. The moon was now their only source of light. John was thankful that their walk didn’t need to have conversing with each other to break the silence. The wind did that. It kept coming at them from all sides, seeming to try and knock them down – until it did, as the elderly lady tumbled into the snow and landed right on her back. John quickly picked her up and asked if she was okay. She replied with a firm “yes” while angrily staring towards the wind, which was picking up speed.
Finally, the warm colors of a Victorian mansion appeared. Its bright Christmas lights danced along the shutters and columns on her front porch. For just a two-story building, it looked breathtaking from afar. Just safe enough to walk into and enjoy some company. Just safe enough. The door leading into the house had a beautiful red lit reef hanging along the window. John feeling eager cuffed his hands toward the glass and peered in through the door. The old woman playfully smacked his hands away, as she stuck the key into the door and opened it.
“Very cozy,” John stated as he entered the yellow-colored foyer.
“Yes, it is. I bought the house just for this reason alone.”
“Do you live here alone?” He asked.
“Well I did have a husband who lived here, but h-he-he had… um… passed… a few years back.” She replied hesitantly. She began to cry. Not obnoxiously, just soft simple whimpering. Now feeling pity for the woman, John didn’t want his foolish feelings of cautiousness to overtake his mindset. And so he gave the now weeping woman an awkward hug. Now feeling good about himself, they continued into the house.
Stepping into the hallway, he came to the first area on the left. It was a brightly decorated living area. Some mahogany futons lay near his right side, along with a glass stained table. Straight ahead was the Christmas tree, positioned next to the already burning fireplace. John eventually looked to the woman, who stood uncomfortably close to him. They both sat on the futons and glared at one another. The awkward silence between them was too much. Finally, he broke the silence by asking, “Have you lived here alone since his passing?” She replied with a head nod, still not breaking her gaze. As the conversation seemed to be lightening up, it was once again brought to a halt as the woman asked, “How long do you plan to stay?”
The question just kind of seemed out of place, as she knew who would’ve only wanted to stay for a short while. Probably ‘til the morning. Again awkward silence filled the room. He tried to fix it by asking how much time it took her to put all these decorations up. But before she could answer, the bell of the grandfather clock sitting in the foyer rang out. Finally, he had asked for a bedroom. John was very much exhausted from the five-mile walk they took from the terminal. Growing a very peculiar smile, she ushered him back into the foyer. She then proceeded to pull a podium and a book out of a closet underneath the stairs. For an elderly lady, she seemed rather strong. Sitting the podium down, she handed him a pen to use.
Writing his name down, he could see the guests before him. What struck him most was that the guestbook contained male names only. Surely there had to have been couples or at least women staying the night here. It was odd. The woman was odd. This entire situation seemed odd. But he was tired, and his common sense was no longer working. After he finished writing his name down, he looked up at her. She was smiling. But it was a weird smile. It had such a sinister intent to it. And it gave John that similar sickening feeling inside. Finally looking away from her, she walked eagerly around to the staircase and headed upward to the second floor. Walking up with her, John finally tried to start a conversation.
“So, how long have you been in business?” he asked. She hesitated as her footsteps stopped. He could see her face, it was a concerned look. She seemed to not know what to say. John already felt the red flags growing. But this was one that most people would’ve run from. Seeming to act as if nothing is wrong, she answered, “Well, quite a while now, though I don’t really know the exact number of years.” Before questioning any further they made it to the top floor. It had three rooms. The room on the left was a small staircase leading to the attic, the middle room was the designated room for guests, and the other on the right, was an extra room. She gestured her hand out to the middle room, and put his suitcase inside the darkened room. She flicked the light on and looked at him as he entered the room. Standing in the room, it seemed rather cozy. The bed lay on the right with the window just above it. And in the far left was a simple Christmas tree, giving the room a beautiful green and red tint. “Do you need anything, some hot cocoa?” She asked rather persistently.
“No, but is there a restroom?”
“Not upstairs, but there is a bucket somewhere in here. Goodnight.” She replied quickly. She then closed the door and John heard the sickening sound of the door being locked. He rushed to the door and began to yell.
“Hey, why did you lock the door!? Hello?!” he screamed. This was the final red flag. No longer was he staying here. He began to violently shake the door, hoping it would break from the rusted hinges that held it to the frame. Pounding, and pounding to the wood. The sound of wood splintering was music to his ears.
That’s until the haze of the red Christmas lights on the tree grew in intensity. Brighter and brighter it grew with illumination. Now catching his gaze, John sat in shock and somewhat amazement at the sight unfolding in front of him. That is, until the familiar howling of the wind returned. But now it was more of a metallic, echoing screech. And it came from the red haze in the tree. The haze proceeded to rip itself off the tree, and morphed into a fog-like figure. Finally it grew into the shape of a little girl with a 1940s nightgown on. Along with her hair in a braid, but the ends of the glowing haze were tentacle-like, almost similar to solar flares, except red. The metallic screech now was arranged into the soft voice of a little girl from earlier that evening. John remembered the Christmas light incident at the terminal. Now realizing it was a spirit getting his attention. It intrigued him, but still was terrifying either way. The spirit’s messages now gained composure and spoke clearly now than before.
“Hush, and please shush! For she is listening!” the reverberant voice whispered. “Why do you come here?”
John couldn’t find the proper words to say. All that came out was a soft, “I believe I should ask you the same.”
“Where I stood, you stood,” she answered softly. “Until my body fell into the roses below.”
“Were you killed?” he asked. His mind suddenly had the thought of the elderly lady. It would make sense, since she seems to appear once this strange woman comes and goes. He couldn’t help but wonder if he was to be her next victim. Once more the spirit knocked him off his train of thought, with another possible warning.
“You must be clever, for she believes you to be asleep,” she whispered. The spirit then began to fade back into the tree, along with the glowing haze that accompanied her. But there were still many questions that John had, for the lost spirit.
Realizing why the spirit had left was instantaneous to him, as he heard from outside the door, the horrifying steps of the elderly woman. Where the steps we’re going, was a question he didn’t want to find out. So frantically, he moved the bed from the window, creating a screeching noise from the hardwood in the process. He began to try and lift the window up, but it wouldn’t budge! He looked to the sides, and of course, they were nailed shut. He searched for the bucket then, to see if he could bust the window pane. He got in his hands and knees to look under the bed. He quickly covered his mouth from screaming.
Lying there was a corpse, that of an old man. He could tell by the gray hairs on his blood-covered head. It was wearing a suit. And the body was covered in smudges of wet dirt. It was already stinking profusely, and the skin was already rotting. He then remembered the spirit’s warning, and it gave him an idea came to his head.
Swiftly he pulled the body out from the bed. He then picked the body up from the floor. It was so stiff and empty feeling. It was rather easy to throw it on the bed. Now grabbing the blanket, he began to lay it over the lifeless corpse and headed underneath the bed; well before he smudged some dirt and blood around his face and hands. Just as he slid under, the door opened. The old woman’s veiny bare feet, tip-toed to the bed. From what he could see, the woman was wearing a dark nightgown, along with a white veil that draped her arms and head, covering her face. He swears that he was looking at death himself. Breathing heavily, he waited for a sound to occur. It was abnormally quiet. Then without warning, he heard the sound of a continuous cracking skull. Oh, how it sent chills up and down his spine. But it was nothing compared to the sound of the cover being lifted off the bed. He knew he was caught. That’s when the boney fingers of the woman wrapped around the edge of the bed.
He knew he was good as dead, until a brilliant idea came to him, like a miracle from god. Putting his feet on the underside of the bed, he threw it up into the air, smashing the woman into the wall, and giving out a hellish scream from her. His feet galvanized him as he rushed to the window. The shrilling woman followed quickly behind. She wrapped herself around him, taking a bite out of his neck; as they smashed through the windowpane, and fell onto the roof of the porch below. Glass shattered everywhere, along with the sounds of the wind howling its awful moans. Along with the wind came the familiar glowing haze, except this time it was shining from all over the house. Penetrating any windows; it sent beams of red all through the darkened night. And finally there came the whispering voices of not just the little girl, but other voices. They were all masculine, combining into a weirdly melancholic chant of sorts. Possibly, they were those of the other residents of the house, whom she could have killed, or probably did.
Returning to his dilemma, John achingly rose off the roof, with several pieces of glass embedded into the side of his face. The woman, now groaning in pain, ran swiftly towards him with a piece of glass in her hand, which bled from her grip on it. Trying to flee her was unsuccessful, as he slipped on the icy rooftop. As he slammed back onto his head, she pounced on him, slamming the glass continuously towards any inch of skin she could see. Tearing and slashing is all he could hear, as she sliced several lacerations on the inside palms of his hands, as he attempted desperately to block her death blows. Suddenly, the little girl’s spirit appeared, seeming to get the attention of the old lady. But sadly, not for long, as she was back at it again.
One final laceration on his cheekbone, gave John the adrenaline to toss the crazed psychopath off of him. She then tumbled off the roof, dragging him along, as they both now fell onto the wood railing below. Simultaneously, as the red haze faded, and the wind became less rigorous. Then everything went black.
A few hours later, he awoke. Looking around, his vision was blurry, and his breath was once again calm. He seemed to have landed in a bush. Thankfully, one without thorns. Once his vision became clear, he could make out the impaled body of the old lady, blood dripping from her mouth and nostrils. But when he noticed where the blood landed, he scoffed. They dropped on some white roses planted beside the porch, turning them into red roses. The little girl’s final warning. Rising from the ground, he limped toward the morning rise of the sun. With a layer of fog on the ground, and the crisp cold air dancing on his lacerated face. He walked, toward freedom, like the dead rising from their graves. Freedom from their torment, an utter horrible nightmare, wishing to be awoken from.
Credit: Joseph Menjivar
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