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First Line provided by @WritersDigest
“When Jeff and I bought this house we didn’t know it was haunted,” Ann said to her friend Marie.
“Honey, did you know anything about it at all?” Marie retorted, pursing her lips to show off her new vibrant lipstick, “What makes it haunted?” They entered the dining area and Ann started preparing them some drinks while Marie looked around, “And why would you stick around for fifty years even after figuring it out?” she added, as a crash sounded upstairs.
“The realtor mentioned the previous owners had died in the house, but you know Mark–he knew that meant he could get a deal. Everything seemed completely ordinary at first. It’s an old house so you expect strange noises during the night.”
Marie wasn’t listening; she couldn’t take her eyes off the strange portrait above the crumbling fireplace just off the foyer.
“Most believe it’s a butterfly pendant,” said Ann. “But if you look closely, it’s a knife. And the headless doll belonged to her 7-year-old daughter that drowned in the pond out back. Creepy huh?” whispered Ann.
The eyes in the fireplace portrait appeared to follow Marie around the room, “Creepy” she muttered & followed Ann into the kitchen, “It’s a bit like the Mona Lisa. Like she knows something I don’t.”
Marie moved away from the portrait. Marie couldn’t help but notice how dark and dank the kitchen felt, giving her a chill up her spine. “Ann, why did you call your husband ‘Mark’?” asked her friend, Marie. “Isn’t his name Jeff?”
“What are you talking about?” Ann said, face blank, “I didn’t say Mark. That was the name of the previous owner.”
Marie’s heart started to pound. She knew Ann had said Mark, but her friend’s face frightened her. “How about we go out on the porch with our tea?” said Marie.
Ann remarked “Sure, that is a fine idea”.
Marie led Ann out onto the porch, looking back at the creepy portrait every couple of seconds as she went.
“I was looking at that mark over the left eye of that creepy guy in the portrait. The X. Skin doesn’t rip that way.” The scar above the left eye did not look correct. Thankfully the porch did not offer a view of the creepy portrait.
The minute they left the house, Marie felt the atmosphere change. The porch felt happier, warmer, even in the cool of October.
“So, do you want to tell me why you feel the house is haunted?” asked Marie.
“Oh, sure.” replied Ann.
“How about you start with that portrait above the fireplace. It’s rather creepy.”
Ann laughed, “Oh that old thing? We left it up there as kind of joke, but now I think we keep it there because neither of us want to admit the truth.”
“The truth?” Chuckled Marie, “Come on now you don’t actually believe this house is haunted do you? How does the truth relate to the portrait? He isn’t a relative of yours, correct?” asked Marie.
“No, he isn’t.” replied Ann.
Ann wished her sister-in-law would leave. Marie was asking too many questions. But Marie wasn’t going anywhere. She was concerned about her brother and his wife.
“But then, the other night, just as I was ready to climb into bed, it all began. The tv in my bedroom turned itself on and instead of static a voice softly called my name. Scared, I called for Jeff who was brushing his teeth in the bathroom. As he came in, the tv turned itself off and the room went quiet.
“Why do you look so scared?” Jeff asked me, “And was I imagining this, or did you just call me Mark?”
“Of course I hadn’t.” Ann quickly told Marie, fidgeting with her teacup, “I know my own husband’s name.”
Marie nodded. How could Ann know of Marie’s hidden agenda? All she knew was that she was feeling more and more uncomfortable.
Marie sat in thought, “Well you did say Mark when you were in fact referring to Jeff. You also said he was the previous owner. What a strange mix up? Don’t you think, Ann?”
“But I didn’t say Mark!” Ann insisted, her hands trembling, “I said Jeff!”
Just then they heard a little girl scream and a loud crash that seemed to rock the house.
“What was that?” Marie asked.
Ann remained in her chair and Marie was sure she heard her say “Oh god, not now, please … Not now.”
Marie stared at Ann, “Who was that?”
Ann kept her eyes closed, her knuckles white on her cup handle. “Julie.” she whispered.
‘I would have thought the blood curdling screams coming from the empty attic would have given Jeff a clue,‘ thought Marie.
Slowly they crept up the stairs. And suddenly a shot rang out.
“Who is Julie?” Marie asked.
“One of the ghosts here. Her father shot her in the kitchen for trying to make her mother breakfast in bed. He then shot the mother and then himself as the legend goes.” Ann said staring into her cup. She sighed, “She was such a pretty little girl.”
Marie was frozen in her seat, not wanting to believe, “You have a picture of her?”
Ann looked up and stared at her, “A picture? Why would I need that? I see her everyday.”
This was too much for Marie to process all at once. ” So let me get this straight. There is a dead family in the house and the girl appears at will …. And you’re okay with this?”
Marie’s throat tightened as she thought, ‘Not again…’
Ann looked up at her friend, “Julie is the nice one. There is another one that does mischief and even Julie is afraid of him. She says that he chases her all over the house and sometimes he almost catches her. She throws something at him and he leaves. She keeps coming to me, asking for help, calling me…” Ann swallowed, “Calling me ‘Momma’.”
“Momma?” Marie asked, “But, why? You’ve never had children.”
Ann shook her head, “I don’t know. But it breaks my heart.”
As Ann said this, Marie heard Julie crying. The sound began as a mild sob and escalated to a wail as though someone was hurt. Just then, they heard a tiny little voice from inside the kitchen, “Momma? Momma, are you there? I’m scared, Momma.”
It was then Marie saw Julie appear in a window with tears in her eyes whispering, “Mommy, he hurt me, Mommy, save me please.”
She was dressed in old-fashioned clothes, like those of a century ago. She really was a pretty little girl, with short blonde hair and pretty blue eyes that shone brightly in her translucent face.
Without saying a word Ann and Marie ran outside. Under the window where Julie had appeared they saw something. There was a shiny silver key underneath the window. Ann picked it up.
“What does this unlock?” she asked aloud.
“Let’s find out.” Marie replied with a sense of curiosity in her voice.
” No, you mustn’t,” Julie said. “He’ll be mad at you, Mommy.”
“Where’s Mark, Jeff or whatever you’re calling your husband? We need to figure this out before anyone else shows up.” said Marie
There was a hiss, and then Julie’s voice squealed, “I don’t like you, go away!”
There was a great gust of wind that pushed Marie. Ann may not have been a mother, but Marie had three kids and she knew a temper tantrum when she saw one.
She got her balance, put her hands on her hips and spoke to the empty air in her best mom voice, “Young lady, that is enough!”
Suddenly the wind stopped and Julie stood there confused. Ann never scolded her before; in fact no one ever did.
Marie took a breath and relaxed her mom pose just a bit, “Now, what does this key unlock?”
Julie, still confused, turned to Ann, “Momma?” she asked.
Ann smiled weakly at the girl, “Answer Marie’s question, Julie.”
She contemplated going against Ann. As she slowly played with her grey gingham dress, she looked up smiling, “My daddy’s vault was originally owned by him.” Julie pointed to the picture over the fireplace, “Anyone who dares to open it dies in 3 days.”
“And where is the vault, dear?” Marie asked. She thought the vault might hold some answers. They always do.
“I can’t tell you Miss Marie… He is listening. And he doesn’t like me telling anyone his secret.” Julie’s face lightened, “I can show you my room if you’d like.”
Marie leaned down to whisper in Julie’s ear “Honey, is your Daddy the one chasing you and scaring you?”
Ann already knew the answer, “Don’t, Marie. You’re going to make him mad at both of us!”
“Well, HE doesn’t sound like anyone I want to poke a stick at.” said Marie. “Do you recall a vault on the blueprints?”
Julie ignored Marie’s question in attempt to change the topic. Her father was listening. He always told her to guard the secret. Julie knew she could never tell anyone about her dad finding the same key. And that he went insane trying to find the vault only to wind up roaming the hallways chanting, “I will find it for you.” Three days later her dad killed both her mother and her. But now her mother was here! And Julie knew she wouldn’t let anything happen to her ever again.
Ann shook her head in answer to Marie’s question, “I’ve only seen the blueprints once, but I don’t remember any vault.”
“That’s because the man in that picture Miss Marie thought was watching her hid it and never put it on the prints.” Julie said.
“Well,” Marie sighed, “I guess we’ll just have to look elsewhere.”
“No!” Julie screamed. She stomped her foot and the whole house shook behind her, “I won’t let you hurt my Momma!”
“Okay!” said Marie, “Man, is she a little pushy. Let’s think, where would a man, slightly crazy, build a vault in his house?”
The noise alerted her father who materialized in front of them. He grabbed Julie and hoisted her into the air. “Go away!” He screamed, “That vault is mine. The general said so and no one else will have it. As for you, Miss, you have said too much.”
“Momma!!!” Julie screamed. Then both ghosts disappeared in a rush of wind that knocked Ann and Marie on their backs.
Ann was on her feet first. “Julie?” she called, “Julie where are you?” There was no answer.
They knew they had to work fast. Julie was in trouble. They had to save her. Little did they know they had to save themselves
Just then they heard Jeff’s voice “Honey, did Marie arrive ? I saw her car out front and…..”
Before he could finish his sentence he saw his wife on the floor. Jeff rushed to her side and glaring at Marie, he demanded to know what happened. Jeff froze as his attention was drawn upward. Marie and Ann had not seen the ghost hovering protectively above them. It was Julie’s mother, Claire. She had returned. Jeff let out a high-pitched scream like a schoolgirl on the playground.
The ghost looked around, confused, her long blonde hair floating around her, “Where is my Julie? Where is my baby?”
Claire looked at Ann sadly, “You were supposed to be watching her. Where is she?” Ann’s face filled with guilt.
“Your husband took her.” Ann said, lowering her eyes.
“What?” Claire’s voice rocked the room her aura glowed in her anger.
They all looked at each other, mouths gapped open,”The vault, ” shouted Ann to Claire. “Where is the vault?”
“Who are all these people?” shouted Jeff.
“Dude, your house is haunted!” Marie shouted back, “Where have you been, genius?”
“I’ll show you where the vault is only if you destroy it, but you must promise not to open it.” Claire said.
Suddenly the house began to rumble, things began to fall off shelves and they all heard a booming voice.
“ENOUGH!!!!! No one will be touching my vault!”
A smartly dressed general with stars and all the trimmings stepped in front of them, “Touch my vault and you all die.” He said glaring at Claire. She shivered for she knew what death meant to a ghost. Eternal pain
Marie, always the mouthy one, spoke up first, “Oh for crying out loud, who are you?”
“Where I come from women need the permission of their husbands to speak. Step aside.” He floated down to Jeff held out his hand and said “Sir, I am general Mather Ruferhagen of the Queen’s court in England.”
All Jeff could do was stare and squeak. Marie smirked, “I’m sorry, it appears that my brother is unavailable at the moment so it looks like you’ll have to talk to me.”
The kitchen was getting pretty crowded and still no Julie. “Listen everyone, earthbound and not, all we want to see is Julie.”
“Ah yes… You mean the brat. Well naughty little girls need to be taught a lesson but if you must.” Mather snapped his fingers and Claire’s husband emerged holding Julie by the nape of her neck.
“Julie!” Both Ann and Claire cried out in unison. The little girl was tied up, blindfolded and it seemed she couldn’t hear them
Mather chuckled, “The maternal instinct to protect, how cute. Now hear this. You touch the vault I kill the child.”
Jeff whispered to Ann, “Aren’t these people already dead?”
“Undead,” Ann answered, eyes fixed on the general. “Bona fide living dead.”
Jeff then asked the general if he could at least tell him what was so important about the vault that he had to take hostages. While they were talking Claire floated over to Marie who was still holding the key.
“It is the portal to the underworld. Mather made a deal with the devil and everyone who owns this house has to become a slave or face hell. Don’t let your friends fall too. You have to destroy it and free Julie and me. Please?”
“But, how do I destroy the vault?” Marie whispered to Claire.
“All you need to do is burn salt,” Claire instructed, “Make a circle around the vault and light it.”
“And where is this vault?” Marie asked, “We have not been able to find it anywhere on the blueprints of this place.”
“Wait a minute!” Jeff shouted, as the results from his Google search finally appeared, “Is salt flammable?”
The general floated to Jeff, “Why do you want to know that? I hope you and your little friends are not trying something funny. Anyway, you all have 4 hours to hand over your souls and forget this nonsense about my vault.”
Then Claire’s husband and Mather disappeared, taking little Julie with them.
“Yes, it can. Trust me,” Claire begged. “I’ve to go be with Julie now. From what I gather, you will find the vault if you follow the grape vines. Go around the house”
“Remember how the caretaker kept up about how not everything about the house is on the blueprints?” Jeff beamed like he just won the lottery “There’s a door around back. I saw it the other day. Didn’t think much of it ’til now. Look, it’s not on the blueprint, either.”
“Are the vines alive or is it just me?” Marie felt an evil presence in the vines reaching out for her.
Ann’s pendant began to glow briskly. She ripped it off and flung it, still flaring, on the grass.
Jeff picked it up, “There’s no heat,” he said, touching the tip of the § shaped pendant, “What’s it made of?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Ann said.
“Just answer the question, will you?”
“It’s silver,” said Ann.
Marie nudged Jeff, “That § symbol. It’s on the blueprint, isn’t it? I could swear I saw it there. Ann, where’d you get this?”
“Grandma gave it to mum, mum passed it to…” She shrugged, “But I sure never seen the glow before.”
“Can’t you see it?” Jeff exclaimed.
“See what?” the ladies asked.
“IT called us!” Jeff said, “The HOUSE. It wanted us here,” Jeff said, “See how Julie called you ”Mother” and you got this… this… LINK!”
The § took the form of a scythe and Jeff cut a track through the evil vine to the lip of the vault.
“Ladies?” Jeff proclaimed, “Your vault, madams. Did anybody bring the salt?” Jeff said.
“I got it,” Marie replied.
“Let the ritual begin.”
“I’m done. Anybody got a match? Don’t tell me we came this far to back out?” said Marie.
“Not at all,” Jeff replied as Ann gave the matches to Marie.
“Oh no, you are the descendant therefore you have to do it.”
Ann said, “Put the key in the hole.”
“You suicidal?” Marie said.
“I didn’t say open it. Insert it and leave it there.” Ann said.
Marie did as told, “Now what?” she said.
“My pendant, please?”
Jeff nervously handed it to her.
“You sure about this, Ann?” He asked.
Jeff gave up the pendant which had regained its § shape. Ann bowed and touched the tip to the salt on the ground. It fizzled like soda and caught. There was a rumble behind the vault, fierce and agonized.
“Someone’s coming through!” Marie said.
“Not on my watch.” said Jeff.
He reached for the key and got knocked down as the vault flew open. The whoosh almost blew out the smolder of the salt. Ann flung the § at the beast. It yammered and was sucked back into the vault as it slammed shut. The smolder became a flame.
“Everybody step back!” Jeff yelled.
The flames licked the walls of the mansion and climbed it.
“Julie is free! Julie is free!” Ann and Marie sang. Jeff whimpered. “What’s wrong, Jeff?”
“How do I explain to the insurance company I torched a seven million dollar mansion because it was haunted?” Jeff said.
Ann said, “I think that’s laying it on a bit thick.”
“Yada, yada, yada,” said Jeff. And this time they all laughed.
Contributors to this week’s #storyfriday are (in order of appearance):
@WritersDigest @Phoenix_EM @AVChrista @pixiesnstardust @JewishBook @BrianKlems @MattSupplee @somerscom @Vero_leblancfogisbeautiful AuntieHugs megydavis mauied92 origtracy inktomni sapreno cassidy44139sunspot11 @TheChenaultGrp @shaqyl @VaChicklet @Eneh_Akpan @queenb787
Minor editing (punctuation, capitalization, etc.) was done before this story was posted, to allow for easier reading. No words were removed from or added to this story after its original posting on Twitter except where indicated with red and then only to promote continuity in the story.
Thanks for the great story guys! The next week’s story should be up shortly.