This is a short story to introduce a series called, strangely enough, Old Houses.
Old houses talk of bygone days. They creak when they sway in the wind as their heavy wooden timbers flex. The rain and humidity makes their proud dark woodwork expand and contract ultimately loosening the secure hold it once boasted. They have outlived their builders and many of their second, or fourth or even seventh owners. Summer nights with soft music and quiet talk over carefully prepared meals punctuated with drinks to celebrate important lasting accomplishments were enjoyed. People built them and loved them or bought them to raise families that have all grown up and moved away or fragmented and disappeared. Happy voices and songs would echo from halls and rooms on holidays and birthdays and anniversaries. Christmas trees and beautiful cards with snow covered scenes were displayed and crepe paper streamers and cakes with candles marked festive occasions. Little feet would run from room to room with glee playing hide and seek and a dozen other children’s games with little regard for the past or the future. Decorations heralded the holidays with decreasing frequency in the passing years as their time would slowly wind down. Old houses hold secrets that their builders and owners have left with them for safekeeping. The despair of a lost soul that walked darkened lonely halls in the wee hours of the morning. The sole surviving sick and dying spouse that has left this world with only the old house to witness their passing. Their foundations have supported the floors walked by generations of people that have either added something to this world or have sullenly taken and left. Some are truly missed by those old houses and some are not.
The house was built on Vanden Street around 1923. Legend had it that the builder and first owner was none other than the tall, thin right Reverend Isaac Jones and his young wife, Sarah. Reverend Jones believed deeply in the Orthodox Christian faith and spoke a blessing over the building site as was done traditionally with the word and water. The construction of the new house took almost two years to complete, including the removal of the blackened hulk of an older house at the site. It was said that the old house had caught fire in the middle of the night in December of that terrible winter of 1906 taking the lives of the entire household as well as those of a family visiting from Chicago. Deep snow and freezing cold temperatures prevented the fire department from fighting the blaze that quickly engulfed the structure. It was not possible to identify any of the bodies recovered from the home two days later and all were buried straight away after a simple Christian ceremony. A plot in a portion of the little cemetery on the hill was provided in the belief that relatives of these people would surely come looking for them in the spring and they could then be exhumed so their earthly remains could be properly cared for and finally taken home. There were no stones to mark the resting places of the dead, but the locations of the graves were carefully noted and the records stored in a nearby church for safekeeping. But no one came that next spring or the one after to inquire about the whereabouts of the unknown family and memory began to fade. In 1909, the church burned to the ground destroying the records and forever sealed a dozen poor souls from ever resting in a marked grave.
Last edited by FMJ; 04-15-2017 at 08:17 PM.
The new house had a large parlor and sitting room that would provide ample space for the families of Reverend Jones’ small flock to congregate and attend prayer meetings in those days. There in those rooms, they would pray earnestly, they were baptized and souls were saved. They would pay their last respects to their dearly departed often laid to rest in simple pine coffins with the deep ringing voice of the stern Reverend Jones preaching the memorial. They always dreamed about the day when they would build a new church that would bring their small congregation new life in God’s house but times were hard.
In the spring of 1925, Isaac was overjoyed when Sarah told him she was with child. Sarah believed she would give birth in late November or December and she set about preparing a nursery and sewing baby clothes. Women from the church held a shower and donated things she would need. The summer passed to fall as Sarah’s pregnancy became evident. As the leaves began to change, a chill autumn wind announced an early winter as the young couple prepared to welcome their first child. A thick white blanket of snow fell in mid November muffling all sounds as the ceaseless wind piled up drifts that closed the roads. In the second week of December, Sarah went into labor and Isaac went to get the midwife to help with the birth. A day later, despite her best efforts to bring the child into the world, Sarah began to hemorrhage and ultimately died in childbirth followed soon after by her infant daughter. The right Reverend Isaac Jones was overcome with grief at the loss of his young wife and child. Against the advice of friends, the Reverend preached the eulogy over his own wife and stillborn daughter in the parlor of their new house. Sarah was buried with her infant daughter in her arms in the little cemetery on the hill. It was said that afterward, the Reverend Jones withered and died of grief the following spring and the house sat empty for several years.
When Trisha and Charles bought the old house on Vanden Street in 2014, it had definitely become a fixer-upper. Years of neglect had taken a heavy toll on the once stately structure with roof leaks causing structural water damage. A city housing inspector made it clear that he would not issue an occupancy permit until the structure was repaired and brought up to code.
The estimates to renovate the old house to repair the damage were higher than the new owners had anticipated or could afford. They had only planned to invest enough to boost the value of the old house and then “flip it” for a profit before moving on. Their idea of renovation only went as far as new windows, a few plumbing fixtures and landscaping; definitely not major structural repairs. They complied with the letter of the law where it was visible and cheated everywhere else. Little by little, the old house began to look more acceptable and eventually barely passed a code inspection. Trisha and Charles asked for and were granted an exemption from the housing board to live in the house while they continued to repair it. Once safely out of the inspector’s scrutiny, Charles proceeded to unceremoniously rip apart the remaining solid portions of the structure for materials to make slip-shod repairs on the rest. The truth be told; Trisha and Charles were by all appearances, law-abiding citizens by day but pathetic, Satan-worshiping vermin by night.
Trisha had been born into a well-to-do family and had never wanted for anything while she was growing up. Her parents doted on her catering to her every whim and spoiled her terribly.
When her childhood rebelliousness became uncontrollable tantrums, her parents decided that a Catholic girls school would provide the structure and discipline they were unable to enforce. Trisha was baptized and raised Catholic believing in God, but evidence surfaced at school that she was involved in witchcraft. Despite several warnings of dire consequences and punishments she suffered at the hands of the nuns, she was again discovered by a priest at midnight performing a black mass within a pentagram complete with black candles and a blood sacrifice. The priest was shocked and bewildered by her unrepentant behavior and sought the advice of the Bishop. After reviewing Trisha’s entire record, the Bishop felt no recourse but the Anathema. She was brought before the sanctuary bound and gagged where the Bishop and twelve priests with candles formally pronounced the rite of excommunication. The Bishop concluded the rite by closing the Bible and ringing a bell while the priests snuffed out their candles while intoning, “So be it, so be it.” Summarily excommunicated by bell, book and candle, expelled from school and unable to tolerate life at home; she struck out on her own. It wasn’t long before she met a kindred soul in Charles whom also had a rebellious streak and they began to concoct schemes to make easy money.
Trisha discovered a website on the internet to get information about witchcraft and eagerly responded. The couple found a coven in the area; was accepted with open arms and began participating in rituals. Charles was delighted to become an acolyte; wielding a knife to sacrifice animals and collect the blood for the coven’s unholy rites.
On Sunday, June 21st of 2014, Father’s Day fell on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and Feast Day of the coven. Trisha and Charles planned to celebrate the high Satanic holiday in the parlor of the old house with a blood sacrifice within a pentagram ringed with black candles followed by an orgy of sex in the pool of spilled blood.
As the time for the ritual approached, Charles smiled in anticipation as he watched the dark roiling storm clouds gather outside. The bright flash of lightning and the roll of distant thunder promised more than just a summer shower. What more fitting weather than a thunderstorm could he ask for on a high Satanic holiday? Fitful gusts of wind began to blow leaves about in little circles out on Vanden street as the time grew short. Trisha heard the first patter of raindrops on the window of the parlor as she tethered the animal they bought at the farmers market within the black pentagram. At the appointed hour, Trisha and Charles lit the black candles and entered the pentagram naked to begin the ritual. While reciting in unison the words of praise and adoration for their lord Satan, Charles slaughtered the animal and offered the blood for their lord’s pleasure.
Outside, the storm continued to build in intensity. The patter of raindrops increased to become a constant drum that poured down on rooftops overflowing gutters and poured into the street in the vain attempt to wash away the foul stain that both obscured the light and blinded men to the truth. Lightning flashed in strobe succession as loud peals of thunder shook the windows and walls of the old house continuously.
The ritual concluded, Trisha and Charles prepared to consummate their foul union lying in the congealing pool of blood within the ring of guttering smoking black candles. In their passion, they did not feel the vibration as the storm grew in intensity. In the throes of their ecstasy, they did not perceive the threat as the wind began to hammer and batter at the roof and walls of the old house like a thing gone mad with vengeance. They did not see that final bolt of white hot fury stab down from the heavens to crash through the roof and sever the remaining structural supporting end of the massive oak timber in the attic like a matchstick.
With majestic grace, the jagged timber tipped downward freed of its last restraint and headed earthward with ever increasing speed shearing through plaster ceilings and oaken floors with righteous abandon. The great broken oak timber became a sharpened spear upon which the tortured grieving soul of the right Reverend Isaac Jones plunged straight through the pentagram and the entwined writhing bodies of the Satan worshipers on the floor of the parlor in the old house.
The news reported that a lightning bolt apparently set fire to the house consuming the entire structure despite the ferocity of the storm. Witnesses said that the flames that poured from holes in the house roared, burning with an intensity that could not be quenched by the combined efforts of three companies of fire fighting equipment. Despite their efforts, the old house burned to the ground and no bodies were ever recovered.
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