Chapter 28: The back forty
“How much farther?” Alex asked. At first Aaron did not answer.
“Don’t you think it is getting too dark?”
“Come on; we need to get moving.”
“Listen, man, you don’t get it,” Aaron hissed. “This one isn’t like your girlfriend back at the house.”
Alex stopped dead; Aaron ran into him with an “oomph.”
“Chloe is not my girlfriend.”
“Yeah, ’cause she is dead.” Aaron snickered. “’Bout the only way you could get a girl to put up with you.”
Alex’s retort was drowned out by the mournful cry filling the air. The sound was all around and in them. The weight of sadness it held settled in his chest. A tear ran down his cheek; his heart swirled in a whirlpool of despair. His shoulders slumped under the burden of crippling depression.
“Alex, you OK?” Aaron’s hand was on his brother’s shoulder. “Come on, man; what’s the matter?” Alex saw the fear in his brother’s eyes, but all he could do is shudder as a sob racked his body.
“Murder,” called a mournful cry carried on the wind. “You left me here.” Alex stumbled forward, blinded by tears. Aaron pulled on Alex’s arm to no avail, trying to return to the house. “All I wanted was to go home. Why wouldn’t you let me go home?” She continued to wail.
Alex pushed through the low-hanging branches into the darkness of a small clearing, Aaron muttering at his side, “We can’t even see the house. Dad won’t be able to help us.” Alex was oblivious to the protests.
“I want to go home!” Leaves burst into the air in an icy blast. Branches and twigs scratched their faces and outstretched hands. An old bottle flew past Aaron’s ear. He followed its flight.
“Edgar,” he muttered.
“Murderer!” an apparition shouted. She stood in the clearing, pointing an accusing finger at Aaron. Her face was gaunt with deep dark-set eyes. The blood stains reflected silvery in the emerging moonlight.
“Please,” Alex whispered. The ghost turned slowly. She stared as if just noticing Alex. “Please, we want to help,” he choked out through his tears.
“Help? Help! Help!” the figure screamed, volume increasing with each word. Aaron pulled Alex back. The wind was swirling around the pale form in the center of the clearing. “I screamed for help! I begged for help! No one came!” The two men ducked behind a fallen tree. The wind became a roar, yet they could still hear every word the apparition spoke, her frantic anger matching the howling wind. “I never sleep; I never eat; I never get tired; I…just…am!” she screamed. The crash of a large branch rocked the log they hid behind.
“That wasn’t us,” Alex shouted. “We just want to help.”
“All I wanted to do was go home. I worked at the diner. Every Tuesday that drunken bastard would come in to bother me. I told him I had a boyfriend. I told him I was true.” Several rocks flew past their heads. “He killed me! I woke in this clearing cold and scared. My head hurt.” The wind began to die down. “I was leaving work. There was someone behind me. I knew it was Edgar, and then I woke up here.” She was pointing to something brownish white uncovered by the blowing and swirling wind. “I could see his silhouette from the moon.” She was gazing up at the sky. Alex and Aaron dared to look as the wind was barely a breeze. “I heard the gun and felt a burning in my chest, then in my head.” She looked over at the place where a bone was visible on the ground. “I fell,” she whispered. With a wave of her hand, the remaining leaves and dirt flew away, revealing most of a skeleton. “I’m still here! Days have passed, years, and no one came to find me.” Her attention was fully back on the pale faces of the two men barely visible over the rotting log. When she started speaking, her voice was quiet and calm. “He buried me.” The air became deadly calm except for the frantic whispers of Aaron attempting to get Alex to run. An angry blast of icy wind and white-blue flame erupted around her. “I’m still here!” She screamed, “Why am I still here!”
Aaron gave up on his brother and broke for the house. Alex slowly stood up to face her. Skeletal in appearance now, she resembled more the thing in the grave than the woman who had appeared first. The eyes were black holes surrounded by loose-hanging skin. Her teeth were exposed; the hole in her head was seeping something black and putrid. “Animals took my hands and feet; they ate my eyes; I could feel the insects eating me.” The ground became scorched around her as wave after wave of burning cold pulsed outward. “I felt it all.”
“What did he take?” Alex called in a last effort to avoid her wrath.
“He took my life!” The wall of ice fire slammed Alex to the ground. Every exposed area felt the burn of biting cold. “I was cold, so cold. Cold is all I ever feel.” She threw another wall of ice at him. Her hands stayed spread in front of her. The wind and the cold died away. Alex tried to catch his breath, tried to inhale any warmth he could. “My ring,” she stated simply. “It was two small pearls: one white, one gray. When I died, he pulled it off my finger. It was gone before the fox took my hand.” She was hovering over Alex now, her face a mask of confusion. “I died for my ring?”
Alex scuttled away from her. “You died so he could live. He made a deal with the devil. He needed your ring to…to…” He could see the anger beginning to creep back into her features. “I think, bind your energy to him.”
Silence met this statement. Her head was cocked to one side, a look of dawning spreading across her features. “His grandmother was a witch.” She began to take on a more human appearance again. Alex slowly got to his feet; holding his hands up, he stepped tentatively over the log. She was muttering something as he approached. Alex could only make out the words killer and dead. He was very close to her now. He could see the detail of the holes in her body, the dirt covering her clothing and the name embroidered on the dress, “Brenda.”
“Brenda?” Alex whispered. The reaction was immediate.
“Yes? Do I know you?” Brenda asked. She smiled at him; it was a kind smile.
“Your name is Brenda, Brenda what?” he asked holding out his hand.
“Brenda Rhodes, and you are?” She held out her own hand, and the air froze. She was staring at their hands, almost touching. Alex closed his eyes, shaking his head slightly as he realized his mistake. “Murderer!” she screamed as the wind rose. Heavy hands slammed down on Alex’s shoulders, yanking him backward. Alex could hear his father screaming at Brenda from the other side of the clearing. Ducking low, avoiding the flying debris, Alex and Aaron ran for the house. They could hear their father crashing after them.