Thursday, June 5, 2014

House of Hollow Wind (Mini Blog-Series Part 1)

House of Hollow Wind
A Gothic Novella Written by Stacy Lynn Mar

I was half-dozing when, at last, the taxi driver brought the vehicle to a swift, bumpy stop.  I’d been dreaming of graduation, and the smiling face of my mother.  She couldn’t stop telling me how proud she was as she hugged me over and over again.   

“Ma’am, 875 Hollow Wind Road.”

My eyes snapped open and I tried to push the dream out of my thoughts.  Besides, graduation was already over and my mother was never coming back.  I rubbed my eyes and attempted to stretch my legs.  I had been riding in the back of the cab for over four hours, stopping only once to eat and use the bathroom at a greasy mom and pop restaurant. 

A light snow was beginning to fall and the old farmhouse was barely visible through a thick cloak of fog that had suddenly fallen across the atmosphere.  I pressed my face to the window for a better glance at the rustic old house where I’d spent the better part of my childhood.  Time had not been kind to her exterior, or else my grandparents had neglected to make repairs over the years.  The paint of the once sunny-yellow structure was peeling as if trying to heal from a long sunburn.  One of the gutters had crumbled to the ground, which could explain some of the paint damage.  Several window panels hung loose in the upstairs, left to their own devices as they danced wildly in the winter wind.

I hadn’t been to visit my relatives in over seven years and the dilapidated condition of the farmhouse took me aback.  My grandmother had mentioned in her letters that grandpa had been sick for some time.  I reasoned with myself that making menial repairs to the house was probably the least of their concerns with grandpa so deathly ill.  What with Aunt Helen still disabled and grandmother wasn’t getting any younger, it was no wonder she’d written me all but begging me to come stay for the winter.    With no other family to speak of and nowhere else to go, I had readily accepted the offer to stay until a good job position opened in the city. I’d just graduated from nursing school and grandmother had urged me to at least spend the winter months at the farmhouse on account of grandpa’s lengthy illness.  Grandpa had financed my education and all my years of boarding school, so I felt I owed him at least that much.

My own parents had left this world on a rainy day ten years prior.  They had both died upon impact in the same accident that permanently disabled my aunt Helen.  Being only twelve years old, no one had ever told me the gory details of my parents’ death, only that my parents and Helen had been returning home after attending a local concert and having drinks with some friends at a nearby diner.  Helen had no recollection of the accident and it was speculated that she might have fallen asleep at the wheel.  I had been sent to boarding school shortly after the funeral of my mother and father, a bleak day in November I’d struggled to forget over the years.  The town had made a spectacle of the event with news reporters and pictures of my tearful twelve year old face, clutching the dress coat of my grandpa.  Back then I’d been too young to understand, but as I’d matured over the years I couldn’t help but feel that the loss of my parents had been exploited, my own pain marketed for the sale of a few small-town newspapers.

“Excuse me ma’am, I can take your bags to the door if you’d like.  I hate to rush you but I have a long drive ahead of me.”

I shook my head as if that would allow me to dismiss the most unpleasant memory of my whole life.  I quickly grabbed my suitcases, paid the driver, and shut the door behind me.  The outside lights suddenly came alive, throwing parts of the driveway and porch into shadow while others were lit against the fog in a smoke-like haze.  I momentarily thought someone was coming to the door to greet me, perhaps grandma or Aunt Helen.  After a couple more footsteps, I foolishly realized the lights must be censored and the very house, itself, looked to be sleeping. 

The climb up the drive was a steep one, especially with two heavy bags in tow.  The wind had picked up and stung my eyes as snowflakes tangled themselves in my lashes.  I was nearing the porch when I noticed a sudden movement in my peripheral vision.  Something black had inched it’s way from the nearby woods, as if careful of my presence, and was slowly slithering towards me.  The wind began to blow wildly, dislodging fresh snow from the tops of sycamores and pines, whipping clumps of snow through the air and around me.  The whole world was one big, white shadow and for a moment I was so disoriented I was unsure which direction led toward the door. 

The dark shadow leaped towards my legs and I let out a yelp.  I was about to forget about the luggage and make a lunge for the door when finally I saw it slowly creep open.  For a moment I’d been speechless.  Could that graying, frail woman really be my grandmother?  I hadn’t much time to ponder.

“Well come on in here, child,”  grandmother called.  “It’s coming a blizzard out here, you’ll catch your death from cold!.”  And then, as if to put my fears at ease, “Don’t you let Shadow spook you, she blends right in with the dark, but she’s about as harmless as a teddy bear.”

I watched as she ushered Shadow, a beautiful black lab, into the house and then came to the steps to take my bags.  Several minutes after a long series of hugs and hellos, I found myself warming in the cozy kitchen as grandmother tinkered with a tea pot that looked to be about as old as she was.  A feeling of nostalgia and longing momentarily took over me as I looked about.  Nothing in the kitchen had changed from the childhood kitchen of my memory.  Even the dusty, red lace curtains were the same.  A collection of eloquently-decorated tin cans still lined the shelves the length of the wall above the counters, providing a unique blend of advertising ephemera ranging from Tollhouse cookies to Foldgers coffee.  And grandmothers’ antique curio cabinet was still stuffed with invaluable gas lamps dating back to the 1810’s.  At one point I’d known the minute detail of each one, yet now they looked like a delicately placed display of glass on iron.

“It’s so good to see you, my dear Aubrey.”  Grandmother smiled, though it never reached her tired eyes.  “Wayne has just been so sickly this past year.  Started with his stomach and now he’s having spells where his legs are weak.  They just go numb, he says.  I’m afraid he’s all but confined to the bed at this point.  And the doctors…why, they have no idea what is wrong.  Cancer, they think.  But you know Wayne, won’t consent to a hospital stay if his life depended on it!”

“I’m so sorry, grandmother.”  I knew nothing else to say, it’d been so long since I’d seen grandpa and I was too tired to offer much comfort.

“And Helen, you know, she can barely walk,”  she raised her eyebrows as if for emphasis.  “I can barely depend on her to do more than help prepare his food and feed him.  You know, she’s waited on him hand and foot since he fell ill.  A godsend, that girl has been.  Though it’s been hard on her with Vanessa running off the way she has.”

At this news I sobered a bit to the drowsiness that had been falling across my consciousness since before I’d arrived.  In recent letters and phone calls, grandmother had neglected to inform me of this news of Vanessa.

“But what do you mean, she’s ran away?”  I asked, fidgeting with my tea cup, already dreading the drafty feel of this house without the light spirits of my cousin to cheer me up.  I recalled my childhood, how even on my dreariest days, Vanessa could manage to make me smile.  She’d been my best friend and my only confidant in the weeks after my parents’ passing and I’d been looking forward to spending the winter catching up with her.  We would light bon fires with the local kids, cuddle up with our novels and hot chocolate in front of the fireplace and switch stories about our current lives.  Now, it seemed, those hopes were dashed.

“Well, there’s not much to it,” Grandmother said with tears peaking from the corner of each eye.  “She and Keith, her boyfriend, had a falling out with Wayne a couple of weeks ago.  She came home late from curfew, as usual, and a quarrel ensued.”  She paused a moment, wringing her hands as if trying to pull the right words from the invisible well of her palms before spreading them before her on the table.  “The next morning she was gone.  Left a note and said she’d call us soon.  We haven’t heard a thing since!”

Grandmother went on to explain that the local police refused an investigation, stating that as an adult the age of nineteen, Vanessa had every right to disappear if that is what she wanted to do.  Of course, aunt Helen had been beside herself with worry, even placing expensive ads in the local paper as well as those in neighboring towns.  So far, no one had heard anything from Vanessa and Keith.

“Why, if it weren’t for her preoccupation with Wayne, I think Helen would have lost her mind by now!”  Grandmother gushed, throwing her hands open as if to drive her point home.

I could understand the plight of Helen, as Vanessa was her only daughter, born out of wedlock to a man who abandoned them both once he heard of Helen’s pregnancy.  Of course, Vanessa never longed for a father figure or the love of a family.  Grandpa Wayne had stepped up to the plate in the regal, headstrong way he usually did things and declared that he’d partake in the legal responsibilities of Vanessa.  As I sat there nodding over Grandma’s too-black coffee, I reasoned that perhaps Vanessa could no longer take the oppressive rules and expectations of this rigid household.  Perhaps she’d desperately struck out on her own, knowing her only option was to run away in the night, unseen.

We both drank in silence for a few more moments, my eyes growing heavier and heavier against the florescent light that hung on a naked bulb above the dining table.

“Oh dear,” grandmother said, raising from the table and patting my shoulder.  “Here I am just rambling along, and you must be exhausted.  I’ve got your old room made for you, the one you shared with Vanessa…but of course.”  She stopped abruptly and looked to me with tears in her eyes.  “Let’s just get you some rest."

The room was a relic of my girlhood, I thought to myself as I looked around.  Still draped in dark maroons and golds, fully furnished in rustic-wood finishing, with the double beds adorned in Grandma’s vintage patchwork quilts.  I instantly felt at home as I pulled down the covers and turned on the antique lamp that occupied the small dress stand between the two beds.  Grandma bid me goodnight and, exhausted from the series of events of the day, I laid down for a moment to rest before running my bath in the adjoining bathroom.  

Part 2 Coming Soon!

**NOTE:  this is my first, ever, attempt at a longer piece of work.  This blog is a labor of love and has grown as dear to me as all the wonderful authors and readers I've met via the internet.  I wanted to make this first gothic novella free to you, the readers and contributors to this blog.  Please don't hesitate to comment or email me concerning edits or any other helpful advice.**

                                                                                House of Hollow Wind Part 2>>