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STORIES

The House

The first time that I saw the house, was the only time that I ever went into it. There are places in this world, of which, you know immediately that you do not want to enter. The house was one of those places. Maybe it was the way that the trees were bent, or the way the thorns on the roses pointed. Perhaps it was nothing that you could detect with your eyes. The house appeared somehow to just be wrong. I still marvel that I ever actually went into that house.

Looking back, I suppose that I had no choice but to go inside. That particular morning, there had been an early frost. My sister in law had fallen down her back steps, badly twisting her knee. After a trip to the emergency room, we were directed to the office of Dr Cross, for a special knee brace. Dr Cross was rumored to have been the town drunk at one time, thus he no longer practiced medicine. Instead, he owned a business where he custom made braces, prosthetics and crutches. Dr Cross had chosen to house his business in a once beautiful home that was 150 years old. When we arrived that morning, and went into the house, we found ourselves in a type of parlor. The walls were a blend of cheap paneling and old floral wallpaper. A smell of mold and mildew, mixed with leather and sawdust, assaulted our noses. A fireplace did nothing to warm the room.

Dr. Cross stood behind a counter, that was on the left side of the room. On the wall behind him, were shelves, stacked haphazardly with all manner of boxes and gadgets. Dr. Cross put aside an artificial leg that he was sanding and polishing. He ushered my sister in law down a long narrow hall. I was left across the room, to wait beside the fireplace. As I stood facing the mantle, I looked to the right, and out of a curtainless window. I thought it odd that daffodils were blooming in the yard, because it was not their season.

On the wall to the left of the fireplace, hung an ancient painting in a dark frame. It was of a ship at sail. The water surrounding the ship was choppy and gray. The sails were ragged and torn. As I looked at the painting, I began to feel colder. Then I began to shiver. Pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace, I looked at the other walls of the room. There were no other paintings or wall hangings of any kind. The only furniture was a shabby sofa and two straight chairs. I sat on the edge of one of the chairs, only to stand back up and pace some more.

t seemed like an hour since Sissy had been gone, but when I looked at my watch, it only showed 15 minutes. The longer I waited, the colder I got. A dark sense of foreboding, and a terrible pressure began to descend upon me. Gradually, it became hard to breathe. I sat back down, positioning a chair so that I could see down the hallway. As I struggled to breathe, I began to count my breaths, but I kept losing my place. There was no sound.

My hands began to shake and I broke out in a clammy sweat. My eyes kept wandering to the painting of the ship. Every time I looked at it, it became harder to breathe. I felt that I would never be warm again. I knew that I had to get out of there, but I didn't want to leave my sister in law. Just before I began to pass out, she came limping up the hall and announced that she was ready to go. I don't remember leaving the house. My first memory was of standing outside, gulping great lungs full of cold air. Finally I was able to get into the car and drive my sister in law home. On the way, she remarked at how she didn't understand why Dr. Cross picked that old house for his office. She said as how she thought that it was awfully spooky or something.

Years passed and I was lucky enough, by accident, to be introduced to a lady who was a type of town historian. She knew of the house and, through the years, had made a study of it. It seemed that the original Cross family to live in the house consisted of a sea captain and his wife. There were conflicting stories of the captain's first name, so he was commonly referred to as Captain. His wife was Elena. The story goes that one night Elena smothered her husband to death while he slept. She then fled north with her lover. It was told that after that happened, several days passed before the body was discovered. Elena and her lover were never found.

There was a bad storm brewing on the day that the wrecking crew finished tearing down the house. I stood across the street and watched as the dark clouds made ready to pour. When the last of the house fell, the wind howled and the sky opened up. Lightening streaked and the thunder was deafening. As the storm gained momentum, I kept standing there. Before I walked away, I wondered if the Captain was finally free.

Shelia Nobles



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