|Return to Destiny
Author: ThoughtBubble PM
When two orphans are taken into the house at the end of the block, the residents of Aushbarry Lane are left horror-struck. 'Beware the masked lady,' they whispered. 'Beware the demon-eyed man. God have mercy on their young souls.'Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural - Words: 2,415 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 09-21-12 - id: 3059980
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Chapter One: Sanguine
The people who lived the quiet town of Letterfeld came from long lines of overachievers, socialites, and rather ambitious tightwads, and every new generation was brought up to be the same. However, none were more so than the residents of Aushbarry Lane, a picturesque neighborhood situated at the edge of Letterfeld with large, beautiful homes accompanied by green, well-kept lawns. Those that kept four-legged companions made sure that they were of the highest pedigree.
The folks of Aushbarry Lane were proud, hypocritical, and took particular pleasure in one-upping each other, especially when it came to materialistic possessions.
"Say, Patrick! What do you think of my new boat?" would ask one accomplished neighbor.
And Patrick, seething with envy and eyes hungrily roaming over his neighbor's impressive, shiny new boat, would laugh goodnaturedly after a moment or two and reply, "It's very nice, John. Almost as nice as the yacht I bought last week!"
Then the two would yuck it up like the two good friends they pretended to be before going back into their respective houses, John grinding his teeth in frustration and Patrick hurriedly writing a check in his study for a yacht he didn't actually own, not caring if it drove him further into debt.
Such were the games they played with one another. Snide comments about Sarah's new hairstyle were carefully wrapped and hidden in elaborate stories about Margaret's absolutely ridiculous hairdo ―"I just can't believe she left her house looking like that!"― and all the ladies pounced on the topic like ravenous hyenas while Sarah smiled through her teeth and joined in, even though she knew perfectly well they were talking about her and not Margaret, who had worn her hair the same way for the past several years.
So it wasn't surprising that they, who valued perfection above all else, would grow stone-faced at any mention of the old dilapidated house at the very end of the block. They themselves never brought it up.
But every now and again, some poor fellow from out of town who didn't know any better would make a seemingly harmless comment about it and then realize they had stepped on a land mine.
One such instance fell during the holidays when Dolores was hosting her annual Christmas party. Most of the neighborhood turned up bearing secret Santa gifts as well as several relatives who lived in the city. Patrick entertained by playing Christmas carols on the piano, so the house was filled with sounds of merriment and goodwill.
"You know, Dolores," simpered Martha after more than a few cups of eggnog. "I simply love this neighborhood― not to say the rest of Letterfeld isn't stunning, mind you, but I find this hurp, this block positively lovely! I've imagined myself living here many times, in fact."
"Have you now?" said Dolores with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. She brought her cup of tea up to her lips and took a tentative sip.
"Of course! In fact, I had been planning to ask my George and the kids what they thought of my idea, but..." Here, Martha trailed off, looking thoughtful. "it's that old house at the end of the block. Dreadful thing's just rotting away, isn't it? Bit of an eyesore if you ask me."
At this, the whole room fell silent. Patrick hit a wrong note and faltered before finally stopping altogether. Other out-of-towners frowned, confused at the sudden stillness and began muttering amongst themselves. The residents of Aushbarry Lane, however, were fixing Martha with frigid stares.
Dolores stiffly put down her saucer onto a nearby table without taking her eyes off her cousin. "It's a historical building, Martha. We can't get rid of it even if we wanted to." Her voice could have frozen beer.
"That's right," added Patrick, who had begun to feel sorry for Martha, who was starting to look increasingly distressed. "It was here even before Letterfeld was founded."
Then all at once, the room relaxed, and conversation, however tentative, resumed. Afterward, Martha and the others were sensible enough not to mention the old house again, and began to visit less often during the following years and eventually, stopped coming altogether.
The fact of the matter was, no one was quite sure how the old place came to be. There were no records, and as far as everyone was concerned, it had never harbored a single resident.
It really was a wretched-looking house. It might have been handsome once, but years of neglect made its peeling, dull paint, broken shutters, windows turned yellow from age, and rotting front porch look quite drab in comparison to its larger, grander neighbors. The lawn, though vast, was dead, dry, and overgrown with shriveled weeds.
The adults liked to go about their lives pretending it wasn't there, but the children were almost beside themselves with curiosity. Safely out of earshot from their stubbornly oblivious parents, they gathered at the local park under the pretense of playing hopscotch and whispered excitedly amongst themselves.
Patty, a freckly eight year old with rather large front teeth, had the most to say about the old house. Her stories changed every time they asked, but seeing as she lived next door, none of the other children tried to question her on their authenticity.
"Whenever the moon is full," she whispered, eyes glittering mischievously, "you can see a lady walking by the window!"
"I heard that if you go up to the front door late at night and hear someone crying, a demon will snatch you away and eat your heart!" said Melanie, another girl who had a habit of adding her own two cents to every discussion, even if no one wanted to hear it.
Several children shivered. Patty, not to be outdone, cleared her throat loudly. "Well, I know something about that old place that none of you don't!" Mistaking her peers' looks of exasperation for rapt, undivided attention, she squared her shoulders in self-importance and began her tale.
Though many of Patty's stories stemmed from her vivid imagination, aside from a few details, this particular one turned out to be quite true.
A few years prior, the residents of Aushbarry had had enough of the old house marring their perfectly pristine neighborhood. Some suggested renovating it, but it was clearly cheaper to just tear the whole thing down and put something more productive in its place.
On one horrifying occasion, a contractor had ventured inside to see if there was anything to salvage, but after only a few minutes, there came a terrible, hair-raising screech that was heard throughout the neighborhood. It shattered all the windows in the vicinity and made everyone within several yards start hallucinating, screaming at horrors only they could see.
The poor man had stumbled out onto the front lawn a few moments later, ashen-faced and covered in blood. He was immediately rushed to the hospital and treated for large gashes on his lower back that required several stitches but was otherwise okay, if not a bit shaken. The neighborhood, frightened and confused, whispered rumors of demons or evil spirits residing in the old house. The contractor absolutely refused to tell anyone what had happened to him and quickly left the town of Letterfeld soon after his release from the hospital.
After that, no one went near the old house, except the children, who had taken to lobbing rocks at its already shattered windows, and even then never went beyond the front lawn.
Many people tried calling paranormal groups, priests armed with holy water, and mediums, but upon arriving at the site, they simply turned around and flat out refused to offer their services. They all stated the place was forsaken and had unspeakable evil dwelling inside...
Time passed and eased their frightened minds, for nothing of the sort ever happened again, so everyone went back to ignoring the house and stopped talking about it altogether.
And their shallow, pretentious lives might have gone back to normal had it not been for one thing: the old house began to change.
The transformation was gradual, and it would be several months before anyone saw it finished, but the end result was something of beauty. Gone were the broken shutters, the decaying front porch littered with dead leaves and cracked flowerpots. The shabby front door was taken down to make way for a handsome mahogany entrance with a half circle of stained glass adorning the top. The much larger, newly installed front porch was given a splash of soft cream colored paint that matched the rest of the house, which sported dark red accents. The lawn (vast, dry, and dead) was the last to change. It was covered in weeds one day, then became a healthy green expanse the next.
The neighbors were almost beside themselves. For the first time in a long time, they talked freely about the house. They weren't too enthusiastic, though, for who had the courage and diligence to remodel the entire dwelling? None of them ever saw the changes taking place, for that matter. They just simply came to be.
The aging mailman who frequently passed through Aushbarry said a young woman had taken up residence, but no one believed him. Losing his touch, they said. Should've retired ages ago.
It wasn't until a hazy midsummer morning that they realized there was truth to the old man's words. A few children accompanied by their parents were on their way to the park when they noticed a young woman stepping out of the house and begin sweeping the front porch.
She was quite a sight to behold. Not that she wasn't beautiful, because she was very much so, but her entire being spoke of another age. Her clothes were rather strange: a frilly mop hat resting on light, honey brown hair ending in large ringlets that sat on small shoulders, a long, coffee colored dress and short-sleeved, button up blouse covered by a plain, simple apron, and stout, sturdy shoes.
The strangest of all, however, was a silvery gray mask covering the top half of her heart-shaped face, and as far as anyone could tell, she went about her chores with her eyes closed.
Needless to say, the rumor mill ran faster than it had in years, and all anyone could talk about was that strange woman.
"She came out of nowhere, she did."
"Do you think she was the one who fixed the house?"
"All by herself? Doubt it."
"Her clothes are terribly old fashioned, aren't they?"
"I wonder if she's married..."
"The children are quite taken with her, they are."
"Not my child, that's for sure."
"I don't think she'd be a good influence on them."
"Then that settles it. None of us will go near that woman, especially not the children."
A few weeks passed. The youngsters were itching to ask their new neighbor questions at first, but even though the novelty of having her around had worn off, they were still drawn to her. It might have been the kindly air she always gave off or the tiny smile tugging at the corners of her lips, as if she had a secret to tell...or the fact that she was always baking something delicious.
Their parents never let them out of their sight, so it was nearly impossibly to get close to the young woman. It wasn't until Joshua's folks had an argument that diverted everyone's attention that he took his opportunity to slip out of the house unnoticed.
Taking his favorite red ball with him, he quickly made his way to the strange lady's house, but upon arrival, found himself extremely disappointed. She was nowhere to be found. He paced back and forth in the vain hope that she would appear, but she didn't.
In frustration, he ran up to the front porch and threw his ball at the front door, making the nearby windows rattle. He didn't know why he was so upset, but he felt as if he had been promised a trip to the theme park and winded up in his cheek-pinching aunt's house instead.
Joshua stared at the front door, chest heaving slightly. There was just no way she could ignore what he just did. She just had to come out. She had to.
But the front door never opened. Not even so much as a rustle from a nearby window curtain.
Feeling cheated out of a great story he could have told his friends, he turned on his heel and walked away. He had been so sure...
Joshua had just gotten down to the end of the walkway when something in the wind made him stop. The breeze picked up, carrying the scent of grass, roses...and something else. It smelled very old.
He glanced back over his shoulder and saw his favorite red ball that he had forgotten in the strange woman's hands. She looked back at him expectantly. The tiny smile on her lips was there as always, and she held the ball out for him to take.
Heart racing, he made his way back cautiously, never taking his eyes off her. Now that he was this close, he could smell cinnamon and other sweet things on her hands as he took his ball back. He wondered why she wasn't mad at him.
After a moment or two, when he was sure she wasn't going to start yelling at him, he finally spoke to her.
It wasn't a very dramatic statement, one that would revised into something much more daring in his retelling, but for the moment, Joshua's mind had fallen into a hazy stupor.
"Hello, little one. Did you come for a visit?"
He could only nod dumbly, and yet something in the back of his mind nagged at him. He tried to dismiss the thought, but it persisted, if somewhat dimly. Images of bright-eyed, envious faces as he bragged to his friends bolstered his ability to speak.
"What's your name, miss?"
Her smile faltered somewhat, and the air suddenly grew still. It was difficult to make out her expression because her eyes remained closed, but Joshua thought she looked rather sorry he had asked. The nagging voice in his head suddenly rose to a warning.
"Lucy, my dear child. My name is Lucy." She wasn't smiling anymore.
-End Chapter One-
A/N: Feedback and constructive criticism are welcome. Drop a review and let me know what you think, m'kay?
Until next time.