When I was seventeen, that’s when it all began and when it did we got a hefty dose of a horrifying scary! We thought we’d never survive…
I was carrying a box from the back of the half empty Uhaul into the old farmhouse my parents decided to buy when my dad had his midlife crisis. He said he wanted to grow his own crops and live off the land again. My dad grew up on a farm in southern Ontario, Canada, but his family had moved to Boston when my dad was my age. My grandfather had inherited his brother’s farm and property after he had died in World War II. The family sold the farm once my grandfather passed away from leukaemia two years afterwards.
The farm house was boarded up when my parents bought it. It had been a foreclosure and the previous owners had left town or abandoned the house, or something like that.
It sat on a huge lot with 55 acres of mostly fields and some wooded areas. The house was big, white, and in need of a good paint job but most importantly the foundation and frame were still in very good form. The wrap around porch is something my mom always wanted. At about four and a half feet tall, two focal windows, main floor and top floor, were the biggest windows of the house. They were directly set in line with the porch stairs. The rooms were big with hardwood floors and the dining room had the original chandelier. The walls were all original cedar and oak and were all ornately decorated as well.
I carried the box to my room and put it down on the desk with a thud. The Iowan mid July heat was getting to me. I’d been carrying boxes since seven a.m., along with my brother and dad. We were all dead tired by mid afternoon.
I crashed out of exhaustion on my naked bed mattress that was still on the floor. Coming from Boston, I thought I knew how hot and humid the summers got but this – this was in a league of its own. It was a dry heat, more like an inferno! It had been a particularly hot and very dry summer. I had closed my eyes for a second but a second turned into thirty minutes.
Dad’s voice called out to me from the bottom of the stairs, startling me awake.
“…Calvin! Hey son…you alive up there?”
I lifted my addled head; I wasn’t quite familiar with the new surroundings yet. It didn’t take long for me to come to my senses and drop my head back. I grunted.
I answered my dad with a white lie and told him that I was just unpacking a few boxes to take a break from being out in the sun. I don’t think he bought it.
“Well when your Majesty is ready there’re some more boxes to unload”.
“Great,” I said under my breath. I couldn’t wait to be finished!
I got up and started to leave the room when an eerie feeling came over me. I also felt a sudden chill followed by a deep growl that came from nowhere. I stopped and looked in the direction of the walk-in closet. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of movement retracting into the darkness of the closet. I thought for sure that the door had been completely closed when I came in. It was now opened halfway…
I dismissed it telling myself it was just my tired brain-that it must have been heat stroke.
We finally finished unloading around five o’clock and just in time for dinner.
Mom made some southern style baked chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy for dinner. We spoke of what needed to be done around the house. My registering to the local high school for the upcoming school year also came up as a topic. The conversation was all over the place.
We heard Grace, our Golden Retriever walking in the hallway. The click, click, clicking of her paws on the hardwood floor told us that she was coming to join us in the kitchen.
The clicking stopped short of the kitchen archway.
“Grace, come…” I called out while the rest of family were busy discussing my brother’s future.
I called for her again. Still nothing.
I got up to go see what she was up to only to find an empty dining room. I called for her once more and she came bounding down the stairs.
Ok-that was a little strange!
Again I shuddered and felt a cold spot. I could actually and momentarily see my breath. I shivered and looked around. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.
I turned to go back into the kitchen and waived Gracie ahead of me. I couldn’t shake the creepy feeling for the rest of the evening.
The next morning was no cooler. Though it seemed like it was a thousand degrees in my room the night before, I was so exhausted that I was comatose the minute my head made contact the pillow.
I made my way down using the back staircase that led to the kitchen in the rear of the house. I pored myself a bowl of Cheerios with milk and sat on a creaking wooden chair. The seven a.m. sun spilled it’s early morning rays through the kitchen window directly above the sink, and bathed the kitchen’s soft blue walls in a soft pink and orange glow. Still not completely awake, what started as a bite of my cereal turned into a yawn. At that instant my dad walked in. Still in nothing but his Jockeys he said his usual “mornin”, pored himself a cup of coffee and sat at the head of the table.
“Boy, you had a late night last night” he said to me while reaching for the cream.
“What do you mean?”
“Well…you were making enough noise to wake the dead. What were you doing, unpacking?”
I looked at him quizzically and he must have seen the look of confusion on my face.
“Wasn’t that you?”
“That wasn’t me.” I said as I took a bite of my Cheerios.
“Must have been Randy then…”
As if on queue my brother entered the kitchen. At eighteen and 6’2″ he towered me by two inches. He was the quintissential definition of an all American baseball player. He had been drafted by the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines, a Class AAA team in the Pacific Coast League and affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. This, along with the want to relocate, appealed to my parents so they decided to move here.
My brother was definitely a ladies man. Back in Boston he had girls throwing themselves at him and his wavy golden locks. I expected it would be no different here. Randy heard his name being mentioned and asked- “what must have been me?”
“Weren’t you the one making all that ruckus last night?”
“Me?” my brother asked in a surprised tone. “Hell no! I was out like a light at ten which is ironic because I fell asleep with the lamp on.”
“Well what do you know!?” I piped up. “You actually used the word ironic in it’s proper context!”
My brother gave me a look that could not be mistaken for anything else but to say – smart ass!
As much as my brother excelled in baseball, I equalled him in academics. I liked to kid around with him once in a while, making fun of him when I could but not in a condescending way.
After breakfast we cleaned up and proceeded with the next task; to go and take stock of the fields.
Mom got up around nine o’clock and by then dad and I were outside examining what would eventually be corn and pumpkin fields soon. Randy had gone to town to run some errands for dad. Mom, still in her house coat, walked onto the porch and stood for a second. Once she spotted us she started walking in our direction with a look on her face that both my father and I recognized.
“Oh boy…” my dad said under his breath.
“I wonder what we did…” I added.
When she reached us she stopped dead in her tracks, stood for a second, and looked at us like we were supposed to know why she was upset.
“Well what do you have to say about the mess you boys left me in the kitchen!? Do you take me for your personal servant? What the hell happened in there?! It looks like a tornado went through the kitchen…”
Both my dad and I looked at each other wondering what she was going on about. We stood there befuddled. We didn’t understand what she was going on about because we had cleared our dishes, washed them, and even unpacked and put away everything except what we knew she’d want to do for herself. We even cleaned and wiped the walls as a surprise for her. Never in a million years did we expect this reaction.
“You don’t like how we put the dishes away?” my dad grasped.
“Put away!?” she retorted “what in Blue Jesus’ name did you put away?”
When my mom invoked Blue Jesus you knew that she was pretty upset, fuming even.
“You guys are going to march right on in there and clean up that disastrous mess you left!” It wasn’t a request, it was an order.
Something wasn’t right. Why would she come out here and start yelling at us about a mess in the kitchen? My dad and I gave each other another confused look and then started walking after my mom.
We stepped in through the back door and directly into the kitchen.
“What the…” my dad said quietly, incredulously. We were stunned and couldn’t believe what we were looking at.
“Holy Hannah!” I exclaimed.
We were in shock, disbelieving what we were witnessing. All the cupboard doors were opened but not haphazardly, they were all opened exactly halfway. The dishes were all over the kitchen. On the counters, on the floor, on the table, and even atop the cupboards. Most were smashed while others were just half broken. The refrigerator door was wide open and food was spewed and splattered all over the kitchen, walls and all. The apple and blackberry sauces were smeared all over the walls. Even the mashed potatoes from the previous night’s dinner covered the walls and windows. Some of the utensils were all over the floor but what was more disturbing was the fact that some of the utensils were deliberately and vertically dug into the table to form letters. It’s what they spelled out that shocked us. It spelled out an obscenity that read…get the fuck out.
End of part one
By Ari Ben-Ami