Have you ever been driving down a familiar road and notice a landmark that stands out to you? In the city you know where you are by the intersection or by your favorite stores and coffee shops. However things are a little different on country roads. When driving down an unnamed path you rely on natural landmarks like a unique looking tree or an old truck on the side of the road. For me on the highway leading home my marker was an old stone windmill. It had been standing there in a field on the side of the road since I was a small child. Not once in all those years did I ever see someone manning those fields. No tractor tilling the land, no lonely farmer with sweat on his brow. I always assumed it was simply abandoned and never bothered to ask about it. Yet despite my lack on connection I always noted the lone windmill every time I passed it, it was a strange enigma that baffles me to this day.
The windmill became a subject of many rumours at my local elementary school. Stories and legends went around and around, each more over the top then the last. Some say it belonged to an old farmer who killed his family and then hung himself from the rafters. Another story was that the building was alive. If you ever witnessed the old and rusty blades make a full rotation then someone you love would die. Eventually the allure of the mystery became two much, so a group of my friends and I decided to see if the rumours were true. In the warm summer sunlight we ventured forth because none of us would dare to come at night. Every step towards the stone structure filled us with a strange sense of dread. The wind was completly still as if even God feared those blades moving. We entered the shadow of it’s looming structure and even the August heat couldn’t stop the chill from running down our spines. Just as I reached for the rotting door a massive gust of wind blasted us and we heard the groaning of the ancient blades turning. We all ran with our metaphorical tails hanging between our legs.
As I entered adulthood and moved away from my country home the windmill vanished from my thoughts and my memories. As real fears such as bills and building careers rose, the imagined fears of youth seemed meaningless. That was until my father took ill and I had to drive back to his country home to see him. Driving those old deserted roads was like traveling backwards in time. As pavement turned to dirt and streetlights turned to the cold light of the full moon I felt like I was leaving my adult life behind. I was that little boy looking out the school bus window again. I felt joy and nostalgia blowing through me, that was until I saw my familiar landmark. Jutting out of the earth like a man made mountain was the lone windmill. With it’s stone base and metal blades gleaming in the moonlight it looked just as it always had. You would think that as an adult it might seem smaller somehow but no it still towered over me both figuratively and literally. 17 years it had been since I had lain eyes on it, yet the fear awe of it slipped over me like a familiar robe.
Before I knew or understood what I was doing, I had pulled off to the side of the road and got out of my car. Questions whirled around and around in my brain. Why did this windmill draw me in so much? Why did it draw my attention every time I passed it? But the most important one of all was why was I so scared of it? Sure as a child the rumors and abandoned nature of it all made it seem scary but why after all these years was I still so afraid? I knew that I had to get moving to see my father but I also knew I had to settle this once and for all. It was the mystery of it all that kept drawing me in. All I had to do was go inside and my fear would melt away. All I would find would be an old dusty windmill and some vacant cobwebs. Once I saw that I could move on with my life and close this silly chapter forever.
I went back to my car and grabbed my emergency flashlight. With a determined nod I made my way towards the dark shadow of the landmark. As I moved forward I was brought back to that day as a child. I could feel that same dread sweeping over me. The idea of approaching this structure at night would have had 10 year old me diving under the covers. However I was no longer the cowardly child but a full grown man with an understanding of the world and what was real. If that was the case though then why did I find myself shaking so much? I looked up at the stagnant blades against the light of the moon and dreaded them moving, I could feel my spine just waiting to tingle and shiver. I shook my head instead of my body and trudged forward. This would end now one way or another. I grasped the cold handle of the old wood door and pushed it open.
A grating sound of the degraded hinges squeaking could have woken the dead. I felt my heart pounding despite my best efforts to be brave. Slowly but surely I lifted my flashlight to the doorframe and with a sense of relief I saw exactly what I thought I would. There was old rotting floor covered in dust and in the corner was a dirty web with a solitary spider sitting in the middle. I chuckled at my fear and moved to turn around to leave when I heard a loud creak. I almost dropped my flashlight in shock. Memories of running back to the road flooded my mind and every instinct I had told me to do just that. However I was not a child and would not resort to fear and irrationality.
I turned back and began inching my way inside praying that the rotting floorboards would withstand my weight. I placed my foot on the ground and heard it groan but it held true. I let out a sigh of relief and began shining my light around the room. It was bigger then it looked from the outside but almost completly empty. There wasn’t so much as a rat roaming the floors. “Then what the hell made that creaking noise?” I asked myself. In answer the sound rounded again from above me. Slowly I raised my flashlight until it fell upon a pair of dead and blank eyes staring back at me. My blood went cold and again my instincts told me to run but my legs would not move. Instead I moved my arm up illuminating a haggard face of an old man. My light continued up to his arms which were splayed wide by two pieces of wood. His torso bore cuts which looked like ruins engraved in his skin. The legends of the hanged farmer rang in my mind but I knew that this wasn’t that. That old man would be nothing but bones and dust by now and yet this body was fresh maybe a few weeks gone.
I knew I had to call the police, this man’s family deserved at least a little bit of peace. I lowered my light to grab my phone but as I did I caught another foot hanging at the other end of the room. I shakily rose my arm to reveal the hanged corpse of a young woman. Her body was fresher, maybe only a matter of days. I continued to shake knowing and dreading what I had to do next. I forced my arm up and as it rose my jaw dropped. Strung from the bar of the windmill were dozens of corpses in different stages of decay. All the corpses had some sort of unknown symbol carved into their stomachs. Slowly the bodies swayed almost in unison and dark realization hit me. Inverted crosses, they were made into inverted crosses. I shone my light a little higher and on the ceiling above me, drawn in blood, was a pentagram. I could feel my roadside burger threatening to come up as the stench of death hit me. How I had not noticed the stench when I came in was beyond me, maybe I hadn’t wanted to smell it.
It was in this moment that I discovered what terror was. Not some made up child like fear, not some adulthood anxiety but true unadulterated terror. Every bone in my body turned to lead, my blood froze to ice and my heart beat like pounding drum. At once I was that 10 year old boy all over again and I ran out of the room as fast as I could. As I made it to the field outside when I heard a sound that stopped me in my tracks. The windmill’s blades began to move. The creak was almost deafening in the silence of the night. That was part of what made it so shocking, there was no wind whatsoever. I found my heading turning on it’s own accord towards that rusty, grating noise. The blades slowly turned a full 360 degrees and then stopped as if they had never moved.
All rational thought had left my body and all I wanted to do was get out of there. I jumped in my car and pelted down the dirt road as fast as my car would take me. Even after several minutes I still found myself panicked. I kept checking my rear view mirror half expecting the windmill to come rising over the hill like a giant movie lizard. Finally when I turned down the road to my father’s home I felt some relief. That was until I pulled in the driveway and saw my younger sister standing on the porch crying. It turns out my father passed away not 15 minutes ago. Had I came straight there I would have been there when it happened. Instead my sister faced my father’s dying breath alone as he whispered about the winds blowing for him. I missed saying goodbye to my father and that guilt will haunt me for the rest of my days.
I told the police about what I had found at the windmill and they did a full investigation. The bodies were connected to several drifters and missing persons in the area. They found bone fragments scattered around and they believe that this had been going on for decades. They are investigating into the murderer but I doubt they will ever find them. If their lair is discovered they will simply move on to a new one. For there are so many other abandoned buildings out there, so many dense forests, so many dark caves. How many landmarks do people see everyday on their commute, always being noticed but never questioned. What dark secrets might they hold?
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