Haunting Catherine Blaque 9
Erin LeFey Copyright 2011
April 23rd, 1947
I woke this morning much later than usual. It set my whole routine out of whack. I know last night I had set the alarm on the table by my bed for 7:00 AM, but it never rang. In this dreary swamp, in a bedroom that faces north, you could sleep all day never knowing really what time it is, even in high summer. Maybe I should move to one of the smaller rooms that face south. There is nothing to confine me to any one of these rooms. No boundaries whatsoever. For that matter, I could turn this room into an art room displaying only the works of art and pieces of sculpture I have inherited over the years that I truly hate. We’ll call it the Gloom Room. I think every old house should have some charming rooms! And with no visitors, I think it only right someone should find me here with some eccentricities of my own. It would at least make my eulogy more interesting…Instead of reading “that lonely old widow in the swamp”, they would refer to me as “the crazy lady in the swamp with the Gloomy art room” – oh and we must think of some more fun things to liven up this old house! It’s our playground after all!
I’ve grown bored with my confinement, yet terrified of the world outside. It’s just not safe for anything. It has been raining a lot this month…you know what they say about April showers…but with the warm temperatures, the bulbs are already peeking up with their bright green stalks. I can’t wait to see some color again from these windows. The winter has been so long. Actually, honestly, I can’t say I always confine myself to the house. In the high noon hours – I do go into the garden just to see the tiny hints of spring pushing their way up through the mud. I never spend more than an hour.
I am sure to lock the house tight before evening, have some happy music playing, and set the stage as if George was coming home every night for dinner. Helena never ceases to prepare a meal as long as I do not step into the kitchen before 6:30. She has her private dinner in there with her husband, I guess before then. Usually, I get dressed, and take a nap in my room until George wakes me up to come and dine with him in the evening. It’s all very usual, and if I stay to the time schedules…everything goes that way. One day, I did deviate…I decided not to nap before dinner and to meet George downstairs. I sat on the couch all evening and he did not come home. Helena did not show up to cook dinner, the music ran out on the phonograph; eventually I fell asleep and had the most horrible dream.
At least I think it was a dream. I dreamed that I went to the door because I saw a light thinking it must be George’s car, although I can’t remember George having a car. I opened the door and standing on the lawn was a mare, saddled and ready to ride. In fact, there was a rose on the saddle with a note. I struggled with leaving the house knowing that swamp creature was probably still waiting on me, even after all this time; but my inane curiosity was getting the better of me…so I shut the door hard.
I ran up the stairs to the bedroom, into the closet and sunk to the floor to think. Crazy thoughts ran through my head. Evening was definitely falling down all around even with the coming Spring. The invitation to ride somewhere was a romantic journey meant for me, which was plain enough to see. What was I hiding from in here anyway? What made my feeble existence so precious? A half mad woman whose house was sinking each day bit by bit into the mud of the swamp. I didn’t know real from imaginary anymore…that was one thing of which I was certain and the last thing I really cared about. I never was one to hide and cower from danger. But Ihavealways been one to dress for the occasion
So after much deliberation, in this hazy dream state, I selected an off-white blouse, wool trousers, my traveling gloves and my mid-length traveling cloak to go with my small heeled leather boots. I didn’t even know I still carried clothes like that in my wardrobe like that anymore, but they were perfect for my outing. I crept down to the hallway toward the stair and heard the phonograph playing an odd selection of songs, hauntingly beautiful, but nothing like I was used to hearing. I stood at the front door for at least five minutes debating on actually taking that next step; once committed there would be no turning back. But there still was a stirring of curiosity within me that said there was always a way back to my sanctuary if things got way out of hand.
I decided to put my fear aside and take those steady steps to the horse. I took the note and the rose confidently in one hand and mounted the mare. Once on the horse, I opened the note.
It read, “Enjoy the swamp like you’ve never seen it.” No signature. The horse started to move forward, so I took her reigns and control. It had been a long time since I’d been on a horse, about twenty years, in fact. It felt good to finally be the one making the decision to move forward into the future, and inside, I was not afraid. A strange sensation was coming over me…there was coldness, an icy chill, a resignation as if I had accepted that whatever was to come from this journey was how it was to be.
Facing the swamp was like facing all of my fears, only I wasn’t capable of feeling fear just then. Inside, was just nothing, a void, blackness…a lack of wanting, no will to fight, and ambivalence. The initial feeling I had when I mounted the horse faded into nothingness. The mare moved forward through no will of my own.
We moved together yet I could not bond with this horse. I did not feel her strength, her soul, or her will. It was if she and I were both draped separately in a veil of muslin guarding us from any influence of the world outside the vacuous swamp. We passed black trees, some standing, others fallen with roots deeply embedded in the muddy filmy mess filled with sticks, moss, plants and shadows. The path we took was only a thin winding sandy line through an orange-red reflection on swamp waters of the setting sun just past the treeline.
The mare and I sauntered on for what must have been fifteen minutes before the sun sank below the horizon leaving us on that thin slice of sand now incandescent in the light of the moon. The trees and plants still hung all around us, engulfing the air in their sad black and silver webs forming a net between us and all the stars now slowly appearing in the sky above. Sounds of the night creatures began to get louder and louder from every direction. But I didn’t stir. I could hear, see, observe all that was the swamp but still feel nothing. Nothing from the outside and nothing, if there was anything, going on inside me. I felt totally void of all time, space, awareness, purpose, and on some level knew that I should not feel this way, but even in the knowing, there was apathy. My horse had changed course and was beginning to head back toward the house again. It was then that I caught sight of him.
Standing about 70ft in front of our path, was the Shadow Man, just watching. I still could not see his face. Surprisingly, even that did not matter. That he was there, did not matter. If he meant me ill will or harm, I felt it was too late and I had already made myself to vulnerable; so why struggle at this point. No one would hear. But he just stood there as we passed. He didn’t even acknowledge our passing. I looked back once, and he was gone.
The horse brought me back to the front door. I dismounted, took her long face in my hands once just to look into her eyes but saw no hint of luster. I patted her on the hind and she trotted away. I walked back up the stairs, into the house and locked the front door behind me.
Suddenly I was hit with a wall of emotion. I fell to the floor in the parlor, crying so hard…for George, for myself, for all we had, all we would never have, for how I can find no direction anymore in my life and all I find comfort in is the ghosts of this house.
I must have fallen asleep there on the floor last night because that is my last memory, but the next one is waking up here this morning in bed, and writing to you, Melinda. Melinda, I really think that you have been gone too long, and this house is much too much for me to keep up by myself anymore…so with this letter, I’m begging you to come back home and help me with things. I know you are the younger sister, and you have your own life with college and traveling, but I do think it’s time that you put that aside and come to my aide for once.
I’m sending this letter out with tomorrow’s post if I can find your current address, or I may just leave it on the counter and Helene will take care of it on her next trip into town. She goes almost every day, I’m sure.
Your Loving Sister,