A Ghost Story.
Written by, Miranda Tusinac
-English Major/ Creative Writing Minor at
Youngstown State University
There once was a lady, with no family to call her own.
Resided in the same town that I have made my home.
She lived in a little cottage, by the lake.
On a beautiful day, they burned her at the stake.
Lydia Mae walked down the cobble stone driveway towards her new house. Walking passed the sold sign in the yard, she bent down and brushed off the dirt on a stone next to the front door, which adorned an Est. 1763 carving. Gazing up, she inspected her new home, making sure it looked just as it did in the pictures.
“Stone siding with a worn fish scale roof, a red door with an antique brass knob, ivy encircling my original window panes, yep, this is perfect”.
Lydia was in awe that a beautiful house by a lake could be so affordable. She took out her vintage skeleton key, and helped find its way toward the door, sticking it in the slot ever so gently, until she heard the snap of the lock. Her pale hands, gently pushed the black curly strands of hair out of her face. Giving a deep sigh of anticipation, she turned the knob and took her first steps inside.
“Finally, a place to keep me away from the world, where I can write with no interruption”. Her new home away from home was situated right by Lake Mortimer, and was quite a while away from all the other houses in Rogues Hollow.
“Hey babe, did ya see the year this place was built? It’s surprising there’s no termites!”
Lydia closed her green eyes and shook her head, almost forgetting about Bill when she stepped in the house. She turned around to see him struggling in his scrawny frame, handling a box awkwardly as he came through the door.
“Honey, if the stuffs heavy, just wait for a moment till I’m done looking around.”
Bill half dropped the box on the grey wooden floors and plopped on the plaid couch adjacent to the door.
“At least this place was already furnished, are you sure there’s no catch about this house?”
Lydia looked at her husband, who was slightly disheveled from the nine hour drive through country roads, and told him again what the realtor said.
“I guess the old man living here before went to a nursing home, then died. He didn’t have a family, so everything came with the place.”
Bill, finally remembering the story, ran his fingers through his red hair, and began to scratch his neck.
“Well, sounds good to me. Are ya sure you want to stay out here all by yourself? I could take a vacation and shack up with you like a horny teenager.” Lydia looked at her husband with a sad smile and shook her head.
“No, I’m fine. Let me stay her and be at peace with my writing. The deadline is in a month, if I don’t finish this one, my publisher might pull the plug.”
Bill lowered his head for a moment, thinking real hard about something he knew he shouldn’t say.
“Alright babe, if that’s what you really wanna do. I’ll stay here for the night though. How bout I get us some groceries real quick, I thought I saw a little shop back in town.”
Before she could say anything, Bill was already out the door.
She walked farther into the living room, looking at the little details that the past tenant left behind. Old photos of him holding a fishing rod with his latest catch, stained yellow with age in their frames. A fireplace that was not today’s standard in safety, looked upon the couch that her husband already broke in.
“No phone, no television; perfect.”
She took some more steps to the right and she was in the kitchen, which was outdated, but still in good condition. The little breakfast table was on the opposite side of the wooden countertops, and a cute little cat clock adorned the wall above it. Next to the fridge was a door that led to the stairs, which were narrow and squeaky. Each step taken, another cracking noise was made, making Lydia cringe with every move. Right at the landing, there was a small bathroom with a claw-foot tub and all the necessities, and to the right, the only bedroom, which was complete with a queen size bed and desk that adorned a typewriter.
“It’s exactly how the realtor described it! Oh how wonderful.”
Lydia anxiously walked into her new room and began taking it all in. A Remington typewriter was one that she always dreamed of. She felt its buttons and curves, anticipating the urge to write in the near future. She looked at the priceless furniture in the room and was amazed at how beautiful everything was. The bed had an antique wrought iron frame, and a down comforter was folded neatly at its foot. To the right of the bed next to the window, was a black dresser that had a golden marble top with a whimsical mirror connected to it. Lydia walked towards the dresser and started to open its drawers. After looking to see that the first two were empty, she crouched down and opened the third. There she found an old photo album that was made of a red velvet; the coloring dull on it from the air. A faint whisper touched Lydia’s ear and chilled her to the bones. She felt the warmth of someones’ breathe, but before she realized it completely, the feeling was already gone. Without being able to speak she stood up and glanced at the mirror, making sure no one was behind her.
“It must have been my imagination, these old houses make some weird sounds.”
The calm silence made her breathing quicken. Lydia put the album back where she found it, and walked towards the steps, planning on waiting for Bill to get home in the living room.
The sound of turkey sausage sizzled as Lydia attempted to make breakfast. She may have been on the best-sellers list before, but cooking was not her forte.
“Honey, when I came back last night, why did you seem so out of place? It was like you were off on another planet.”
Bill tried to make simple talk, knowing that his wife had many moments of eccentricity. Lydia, trying her best to cook for her husband, let out a deep sigh as she remembered that she didn’t spam the skillet.
“Well, I don’t know Bill. It just felt eerie when I was by myself. I just, felt a presence, if that makes sense.”
Holding his coffee mug close to his mouth, Bill chuckled a little.
“Hun, it’s just because its a new place. And if there is something here, maybe it’ll make a good writing session. Ya know? Like a ghost story or something.”
Scrapping the half burnt meal into her husbands plate, she shrugged her shoulders gently.
“Well, I don’t know, I guess your right. It’s probably just me being overly intuitive though, maybe it is just a story, itching to be wrote. I mean I even started rambling to myself, that’s always a sign of my creative juices flowing right?”
Bill, scornfully looked at his plate, but began to dig in and with a mouth of food, continued. “Well, whatever it was that freaked you out, just use it to your advantage. Write something! You’ll have a lot of time after today, since your sending me back to the city with a tail between my legs.”
Lydia sat down by her husband and stared out the window across the room by the sink, not even listening to his words. She looked out at the lake, being comforted by the sparkling diamonds that the sun created on its surface.
“You’ll be fine and I’ll be fine. It’ll be nice to be by ourselves for awhile.”
After giving her husband a kiss goodbye, Lydia watched him drive off in their yellow station wagon. She walked out of the front door, with a pencil and paper in hand, and went towards her back yard, where the beautiful waters awaited her. After sitting on a rock next to the shore line, she looked up at the beautiful willow tree shading her from the sun’s rays.
“Oh, how beautiful. I was so silly last night to be afraid of this place.”
Lydia, stopped herself for a moment, and laughed a little.
“I really need to stop talking aloud when no one’s around.”
When her thoughts started to become clear, Lydia began to brainstorm on her piece of paper.
A woman, mid thirties. Living alone after her husband kills himself.
Finds solace in her love of painting. Begins to connect with him, with her art.
Suddenly, Lydia begins to feel a tingling sensation in her right arm. It moves down to her hand and her fingers grip the pencil harder. Her brain becomes detached with the movement of the pencil and slowly, jagged motions begin to imprint the page.
Me, n tihs plac
sho u mhy fce—-
The pencil broke, and a shard of it cut Lydia’s hand. In a panic, she stumbled back to her house, holding the crumpled paper in her fist, and went towards the stairs. Walking up the squeaky steps, she bolted into the bathroom. Shaking, she doctored her wound, which was merely a bloody splinter. The ghostly note fell from her hand onto the floor, speckled with droplets of red. She felt violated, like someone was momentarily inside her being. Her head pounded, and only one thing went through her mind.
“ I need to look in that album.”
With those words, Lydia walked to her bedroom, wishing that she wasn’t in her new home any more. Walking towards the dresser, she bent down to the third drawer, tugging on it with all her strength, until it opened. Just as before, the album welcomed her touch. She let her hands glide on the velvet and her fingers flowed down its spine. Lydia sat on the side of her bed, and began to flip through its pages. Sepia toned photos adorned each page. Some of toddlers sitting on chairs, others of women, looking blankly into the camera. No expressions at all, just eyes that were hiding all the knowledge of the world. On the last page, Lydia knew in her heart that it was the face that the being wanted her to find. A woman, standing next to the lake, right by the willow tree. Her hair, beautiful light curls that were loosely pulled out of her face. She looked sad, and her eyes told a story of horror. Lydia saw fear in the woman’s soul, and she couldn’t really pinpoint how she knew so matter-of-factly. Then, she felt the hot breathe on her skin again. A small whisper, as faint as a timid breeze.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Lydia began to realize how much time had passed. She looked out the window, and watched a car drive down the street, its headlights blinding her eyes in the dim light. She quickly put the album back in the drawer, and tried to compose herself.
“I must be going crazy, only a couple days alone and I’m already hearing voices.”
Lydia listened as the car drove down the gravel road; still in shock of all that happened. She pushed herself to start walking, and made it into the living room, just as she heard her cell phone ring. Confused as to why Bill left her phone, she answered.
“I thought I said I wanted to be away from civilization for three weeks. That meant, no T.V.,no people, and no cell phones!”
Bill laughed nervously, but continued.
“Hey honey- I just wanted to tell you I got back home safely. And yes, I know. I just didn’t want to leave you out there all by yourself. What if you got hurt or something?”
Feeling ashamed of getting angry, Lydia tried her best at an apology.
“You know how I am Bill. And we’ve been married for 10 years, I thought you would like a little break too. I am kind of glad you left the phone, but I’m not going to use it much.”
Sighing with relief, Bill continued.
“Yea, you know that’s right! Now I can leave the tribune and go crazy with all the friends that I no longer talk to! Lydia, I would have stayed.”
“No, no. It’s fine love. We’ll see each-other in know time. Bye.”
“Wait! I forgot to tell you something.”
Lydia was startled, but made a grunt for him to continue.
“So, at work today I found something crazy out about the place you staying at. I guess that old man who lived there, Edgar I think they called him, well his wife disappeared after they moved in, like a few weeks after. He stayed ever since. The police had suspicions of foul play, but could never find evidence.”
“That doesn’t make sense at all!” Lydia began to say, a little louder than she anticipated. “What do you mean Lydia? I mean, it makes perfect sense.”
She wanted to shake Bill and make him understand, hating him for being so stupid, wishing he could have been the one that felt crazy.
“Because, it’s someone older than that, who’s making contact with me. Like from the 1700’s or so.”
Bill tried to console his wife, but it was no use.
“Babe, you think you’re hearing voices now? Maybe I should come back. You know how you get when you start a story.”
Lydia stood up and started walking towards the kitchen.
“Bill, I haven’t been able to write since I got here. Listen I’ll send you a picture of who’s trying to talk to me. She wants my help for some reason, you’ll see, I’m not making this up. It’s right here, I’ll show-”
Lydia sat slumped over by the dresser, her voice trailed off.
“What is it Lydia, what’s wrong?”
“Bill, I’m fine. I just got worked up. I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you, night.”
Without listening to her husband’s farewell, Lydia stared at the dresser drawer, that had nothing inside it’s shell. The album was gone.
“Lydia, I’m not going to work today. I think maybe we should spend some time together. I’m worried about you sweetheart.” Bill looked at his wife who laid next to him in bed, the peaking sunlight gliding across her face. She opened her eyes and looked at him, but it was not her husband. A monster laid next to her, grabbing her face with its claws, and tearing into her flesh.
She woke up screaming as her alarm clock chimed its wake-up ring. The past two weeks had been without interruption. No ghosts of any sort, and Lydia was quite fine with all of the quiet time. With calls from her husband being at a minimal of two a day, she was content. Writing had been good as well. Nothing was finished, but at least there were words on the pages. Then she let her mind wander, remembering moments that were engrained in her being.
“I’m fine. I think I might just be overloaded with ideas for a story, that’s all.” Lydia touched her husbands cheek and then turned the other way, not wanting to look at his face, not wanting him to see her so insecure about everything. They were so young, and he loved her unconditionally. She was the unemotional freak who never knew how she felt.
After a moment of deliberation, Lydia got out of bed and began to throw on some fresh clothes. She didn’t care how she looked anymore, no one saw her anyways. Talking to herself as usual, she began to plan her day.
“Lets see. I’ll have a bagel, then maybe coffee. Then I’ll write with no breaks until Bill calls.”
She wrote for a long while, stopping only to position herself better on the wooden chair. Nestled up with her comforter, she felt the happiest since she got there. Lydia loved to write, even when it was just with a pencil and paper, and she loved her work. It was safe and easy to believe in. After a couple hours, her eyes began to droop, and she rested her head on the stack of paper next to her, letting the pencil in her hand slowly slide up her palm, to her fingertips, falling down with a silent thud.
A woman with an eloquence that would shatter all the hatred in the world, looks towards the lake, as the fog engulfs its area. Her long blonde hair shines as the sun starts to set, while in the background, screaming is all she hears. First, soft cries, then loud shrills fill the air. The beautiful lady, with tears in her eyes, begins to laugh uncontrollably. Cackling as loud as the screaming. Until everything goes silent. She looks behind her, crying tears of blood. Her white night gown; torn and ripped, showing her frail body. Her golden locks; falling to the ground, as fire starts to burn her from the inside out.
Lydia screamed, as she awoke from her nightmare. Her body soaked in sweat, still seeing the lady in her mind.
“Only a dream. It’s only a dream.”
After calming down, Lydia walked towards her typewriter, pulling the blanket around her petite frame. She sat down at the desk, and combed her hands through her tangled hair, waiting for inspiration. Each click of the buttons, made the paper come alive. She began to write the story of a woman, grief-stricken by her husband’s suicide, a story that haunted her sleep for years Her nightmares were worse once she started living on Mortimer lake, but she credited that for being away from home. As she wrote, the only image she could see was the beautiful lady, as the flames consumed her. Suddenly, she heard something crash down in the kitchen. As if someone picked up a heavy object, and chucked it at the wall. Startled, Lydia jumped from the seat, letting the blanket fall to the floor. She cautiously moved towards the steps, hoping the cause was one that could be explained. Dreading to know the truth of the matter.
As she walked into the kitchen, she saw that the cute cat clock was in pieces on the floor. Its insides were scattered as if they were mauled by a bear. Lydia bent down to pick up the remnants of the clock and as she did, she found an old picture interwoven within the pile. “Oh my God!” Two people standing next to the lake, by the willow tree. At first glance, she could tell the young man was the handsomer version of Edgar in the fishing pictures. Beside him, a pretty lady, with short coarse brown hair. The lady looked at Edgar, with a twinkle in her eye, and he looked up to the sky, frozen in a laughing stance. “They were happy, he didn’t kill her. He was waiting for her to come home.” As she spoke of her revelation, Lydia heard the typewriter upstairs begin to click continuously. She held onto the picture, and ran to the bedroom. Walking slowly towards the desk, the clicking continued as clear and legible words began to encompass the paper;
Let her be, let her be.
She tries to get you,
And already has me.
With the last period, the typing stopped. Lydia stood in the room alone, but felt the presence of many. “I need to get to the bottom of this. If I don’t, I’m going to go mad.” A hot breathe on her neck again turned into a whisper. “Don’t tell. He’ll make you leave.” In Lydia’s mind, the voice was right. “I need to find out this story. Bill can’t know anymore of what goes on.”
Bill stood by his word and called her. They made small talk, like any couple that’s been together for so long and never has anything new to say. Husband to wife; work was the usual. Wife to Husband; Just wrote all day, nothing else. Lydia served herself the pre-cooked pasta and canned Ragu sauce dinner she made, shaking slightly from nervousness. Sitting down in her chair after fidgeting around the room for a moment, Bill saw a chance to see how his wife did during the day alone.
“So, what all did you get done with your novel today?”
Lydia swirled her pasta with her fork, not even trying to eat.
“Some, but nothing worth continuing.” He listened to her long, quivering sigh, and knew she was stressed, and told her how much he wanted to see his wife back in the city, wondering how their relationship could change so much.
“Honey, I think you should leave that place, I don’t think it’s working out. You just, sound so distraught.”
Lydia, remembering what she decided earlier, tried to compose herself.
“No, really I’m fine. I think I just needed to write it all out, and I did today. So I’m good, Love, don’t worry so much.”
Lydia managed a laugh and her naive husband fell for it.
“O.K. but if you need anything, please call me.”
As they both finished saying their goodbyes, Lydia thought about their life together. She knew that he cared for her unconditionally, but couldn’t for the life of her feel the same way. She knew she could trust him, but something was missing in her life.
She laid in bed, for a moment Lydia thought she heard Bill begin to snore, then remembered she was alone. She couldn’t close her eyes. All she thought of was the two women in the pictures, wondering what she could do to help.
Lydia awoke to the sound of her alarm. Sitting up on the edge of the bed she looked at the clock on the dresser. 6:30 am. After a moment, she stood up, and began to put on a pair of jeans and an oversized brown sweater. She knew that her Thursday was going to be a day committed to finding out as much as she could about the two ghostly women. Pacing the room, Lydia tried to think of what to do.
“Lets see, lets see. I remember seeing that little museum a few miles down the road. I’ll get my Schwinn and try to find out if they have any town records of some sort.”
Hurrying down the stairs, she bolted out the door and walked towards the side of her house, where her vintage-style bike awaited her. She looked out towards the lake for a moment, and saw the fog that consumed all of its entirety. For a second, she thought she saw a body start to emerge from the watery depths, but after blinking her eyes a little, the image was gone. Jumping on her bike, Lydia rode towards the street, not stopping until she made it to her destination.
As she parked her bike next to the edge of the brick building, she put her hands on her knees and took a deep breathe.
“I haven’t rode that fast for awhile.”
After composing herself, Lydia walked towards the front door. It had stone carvings around its frame. Looking up at the doors border, she noticed that there was a distinct scene. It was an image that made her look away in horror. A woman, tied to a long pole, while the onlookers cheered. Her face, an image of horror, as eternal flames flickered at her feet. Lydia looked away from the scene, realizing how similar it was to her dream. She began to walk away from the steps, not wanting to see what was inside, but an old woman opened the front door and yelled out to her. “Honey! Are you okay? It’s 8:00, were open if you wanna come see everythin’.” Lydia hesitant to look back at the the woman. On the front steps, an older lady stood amidst the fog; she was on the heftier side and wore colonial attire. “Ma’am, is this a museum?” Her voice quivered as she spoke. The lady chuckled at Lydia’s meekness and answered. “Oh, well not just any museum honey. This here’s a historical museum of Rogues Hollow. The Mortimer Lake chapter. We have all the history of the first pilgrim settlers of our small town, the indigenous people that inhabited the lake, and Elisabeth Abbe, the killer of Rogues Hollow, .” Lydia’s curiosity grew and with a hint of urgency, followed the woman into the building.
After stepping through the doors, Lydia looked around at the quaint buildings interior. In the dimly lit room, she inspected all of the pictures. Most were images of old historical maps and people dressed in tribal outfits. There were also some biographies printed on the walls. Most were just the lives of the pilgrims that inhabited the area.
“Ma’am, where are the ones of the lady you said was a murderer?”
Lydia looked at the old lady with urgency. The woman frowned, but continued.
“Oh, Elisabeth Abbe you mean? I keep ‘em behind the counter. A little too gruesome for the school children that come her for field trips.” The woman sighed, and sluggishly walked towards her desk, grabbing a big binder, and came back to Lydia.
“Here ya go sweetie, now these are for the squeamish, I’m just tellin; ya now.”
Lydia flipped through the pages. Some showed gruesome images of the dead, sitting in an upright position, others on gurneys. All of them had two things in common, they were all women, and they all had a disfiguration on their face. Lydia felt sick as she walked from each picture, first seeing one woman on a metal table, with her eyes gone; showing empty dark sockets where they used to be. The next, a woman sitting in a wicker chair, hands crossed, her face missing lips; making her teeth and decaying gums visible. Looking away in disgust, Lydia managed to ask the old lady, now sitting at the welcome desk by the front, what happened to all of the souls in the pictures.
“Well, like I said, this book is all about Elisabeth Abbe, the killer of Lake Mortimer.” The lady looked up at Lydia, with a sad expression, and continued.
“During the 1700’s, Miss Abbe lived in a little cottage by the lake. She was just a quiet young lady, until her daddy died, the only family she had. Something snapped in her, and she went insane. Soon, young women began to go missing, after a week or so, they would turn up dead, always missing the prettiest feature on their face. After finding some of the victims’ extremities around Elisabeth’s cottage and the shoreline, the townspeople went to confront her. All of the parents, lovers, and friends of the women that were killed went to her house, and found Miss Abbey in her living room, practicing some sort of witch craft. They all became enraged and, without a proper trial, took matters into their own hands. Burning her and burying her ashes in an unmarked grave, far away from the cemetery her father rested in.” Lydia took everything in, then began to ask questions.
“Well, how did they know she was guilty of the crime?” The lady, looked at Lydia surprised. “Well, they never did find out for sure. But she was their only suspect. And after she died, many said that they saw her ghost walking around in the early morning by the lake, laughing and chanting something awful. It’s only a myth though nowadays; I myself never witnessed it and I’ve been here my whole 71 years of livin’. There was one disappearance, in the 60’s I think, but that is said to have been a murder by a husband, nothing to do with Miss Abbe.”
Lydia stood there for a moment, with a glossy look in her eyes.
“But, what if she was innocent, how could they-”
“Ma’am, it was a long time ago, a sad historical fact and nothing more. Would you like to see the lady and her cottage?” Without an answer, the old woman slowly walked towards a picture, and took it off the wall. Blowing on it to get the dust off, she brought it over for Lydia to view, and placed it in her hands. Lydia looked at the picture and lost it. She began to tremble, and images of her dream encompassed her mind. Dropping the image, she bolted for the door. There, under the broken shards of glass, the young, beautiful woman with golden locks; Miss Elisabeth Abbe. She stood there, next to her little cottage, one that had a willow tree in the back yard.
Riding her bike as fast as she could, Lydia tried to make sense of the museum.
“Your name was Elisabeth and people called you a monster. Are you really though?”
The cool, dewey air brushed past Lydia as she picked up speed. After a few moments, her surroundings looked unfamiliar and she realized that she was going the wrong way. When Lydia began to turn back around, she caught a glimpse of an old cemetery in the distance. Going forward again, she squinted her eyes to get a better view through the fog that was still very present. She got closer to the cemetery, and noticed that it was set on a hill, with an old wooden gate surrounding it. Lydia got off her bike and walked towards its entrance, her heart pounding loudly in the silent air. Placing her hand on the wooden gate, she pushed the wet wood forward and stepped inside. All of the tombstones were very worn down. Some were toppled over, others were engulfed in moss. She walked further through the cemetery, seeing some dated back from the 1600’s.
As the morning dew started to subside, she got to the other side of the hill, where the cemetery ended and a forest began. Standing at the edge of the forest, Lydia became disheartened by the outcome of her endeavors. Looking at the cypress and willow trees that made up the forest, she thought of how odd the two were paired together. Then, as if the hot breathe was on her neck, she heard a voice, beckoning for her to follow.
Please come into these woods. No harm no harm, only good.
As if in a trance, Lydia began to walk into the wooded abyss, stepping on tree limbs that snapped under her shoes. The voice no longer talked, but began to hum an old lullaby tune, and Lydia followed the music until her foot hit a hard stone. Looking down, she saw an eroding marble tombstone. Lydia bent down, and brushed the dirt off of its surface, showing a flat, unmarked grave.
As she took in all of her surroundings, images started to pop up in her mind, and the world around her became sepia toned. No longer was she in a forest, but in an open field. A group of angry citizens cheered and Elisabeth began to be tied up against her will.
“I’m innocent, innocent I tell you!”
Miss Abbe screamed but her cries were drowned out by the all the hatred of her peers. Then, she looked at Lydia, with a sincerity that was pure. As the townspeople lit a match, Elisabeth pleaded to Lydia, “You know what happened, set me free.”
Lydia fell back on the cold ground and realized that she was still in the forest. She got on her feet and began to run all the way down the hill and to her bike. She knew what had to happen, and now she just had to wait for the sign.
As Lydia struggled to ride her bike home, she heard a car behind her, slowing down to her speed.
“Lydia! What the heck are you doing?” Bill parked their car on the curb and walked over towards Lydia, who was glad for a moment of rest. “Hey there, I just wanted to go on a little bike ride, that’s all. Wanted to check out the area, try to find a place to set my story. What the hell are you doing out here? You’re supposed to be at work.”
Bill looked at his wife, and sighed in relief. “I had to see you. It seems silly, but I feel like we’re losing each other. I called off work today and already have my story done for this week’s paper. Let me stay the night. Here, let me get that bike in the trunk, I’ll drive you home.”
With a smile and a nod, Lydia handed over her bike and walked over to the passenger door. Sitting down on the beige seat, she slumped into its form, feeling for a moment as if their old beat-up car kept her away from all the horrors of the world. Thinking that if she wanted, if she happened to say the word, Bill would take her home with him.
They drove silently towards the house. Lydia looked at Bill, for a moment feeling comforted by his presence. Thinking that maybe this time away was what she needed. She couldn’t help but think about the horrible revelations ahead, and hoped that her feelings about Elisabeth were right. Still though, Bill made all of that seem like it was an ancient fear, and somehow everything was back to normal in the universe.
“Bill, when we get home, lets just lay in bed together, like old times. We can have some cereal, then just hold each other, till we fall asleep.”
Turning into the driveway, Bill turned the key and the car stood dormant. Looking towards his wife, he smiled and grabbed for her hand. “I could do that everyday of my life.”
Lydia looked at Bill lying next to her, sound asleep and snoring. She took her hands and gently ran them across the wrinkles slowly forming on his face, then touched her own with tears in her eyes.
“I hope we grow old together. I hope I’m right about everything.” Lydia finally knew that she did love him. She rolled over and looked at the clock; 3:32 am. It was so silent, even the dead seemed to whisper. Lydia took a deep inhale of air, and exhaled as she laid back into her spot. She wanted to have a night where she slept peacefully and didn’t scream in her sleep. Praying for nothing to taunt her through the night, Lydia drifted into oblivion, only awakening to the soft voice of her husband. “Lydia, I’m leaving soon for work. I didn’t want to wake you up, because you looked so comfy. Just wanted to say I love you, and I’ll see you when you come home this Saturday.” She smiled, realizing things felt normal and serene.
“I love you too, Bill. I’ll see you at home.”
After hearing Bill leave, Lydia got up out of her bed and began to get dressed, throwing some old jeans and a hoodie on. Going into the kitchen Lydia stopped in front of the window. Looking outside, she noticed the thick fog on the lake, almost hiding the waters completely. As she continued to look, a figure began to form. Not just a bird or tree, but a human shape.
“This is it!” Lydia hurried towards the door, but was stopped by an icy coolness on her face. A meek voice tried to speak, but cries only came through. After the initial shock, the voice was gone, and trailed off into nonexistence. Lydia ran out the door, leaving it ajar, and went towards the lake in her bare feet. As she moved closer, the image began to resemble a woman. Long, curly blonde locks draped over her slender frame. Her white dress loosely covered her, as she continued to emerge from the watery depths.
“Elisabeth! I see you. I know you didn’t do it, I knew you were in pain.”
Maybe the woman she saw was just a sad soul that felt lost, like she did. Everything was clear now, she knew that she could feel emotions and passion for others, all she had to do was let Elisabeth know that she believed her. As Lydia drew closer, the lady in the lake continued to stare. Her face did not change in emotion, a somber coolness was felt throughout Lydia’s core, but she persisted to go closer. As they both came face to face, no words were spoken. Lydia looked at the woman’s face, not as pretty as the pictures, but torn and burnt. Her eyes translucent and cold. Lydia held onto her feelings and with slight hesitation, began to speak.
“Miss Abbe, please, tell me of your struggles. I want to help you so much.” Elisabeth stared at Lydia, and cocked her head to the right, making a cracking noise from her long underused bones. Then, a smile; hideous and grotesque, consumed the dead woman’s face. The menacing look of a killer. Lydia stepped back in horror, but it was too late. With one swift grab, the evil ghost pulled Lydia into her grave, her screams being drowned out by the deep waters below. A woman stared in the window of the kitchen, her brown hair coarse and short, silently screaming at the scene, vanishing as the last bubbles in the lake subsided. Lydia’s cell phone began to ring, with Bill awaiting her voice on the other line. After moments of it’s monotone sound echoing in the house, all became silent.
Little Miss Abbe, ghostly and cold.
Awaits in the waters for the young and the old.
Give her a moment, she’ll drown you out.
No one will hear your cries,
Even if you shout.
Written by, Miranda Tusinac
-English Major/ Creative Writing Minor at
Youngstown State University
As I sit, I sense that something is not right
And I, bewildered, stand up in a fright.
You see, the air is still and sound enslaved.
I fight for my soul to be still and brave,
But in all my courage I cannot withstand
The sudden screeching in my ears as I
Hold up my hands. Look! Over there, it is
He, who has haunted, yet only I see.
I plead with him, for a little silence
For sleep is all I need. Yet all’s defiant
As he haunts me once more.
Bewitchingly Brooding entrapment, that I can’t ignore.
As he leaves now, the sun rises and then
There’s time now to rest, till darkness comes again.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
A group of local actors and independent film crew have taken their love of film to the next level as they prepare to take audiences to The House on the Wrong Side of the Tracks.
The House on the Wrong Side of the Tracks is a psychological horror flick produced independently by area veteran filmmakers Arthur Collins, Amanda Baker and Mike Petrucci, with newcomers Eric Sopko and Alec Drake. Collins, Baker and Petrucci have worked for Schotten Film Works, a local production company responsible for films like “Dead Life” and “Bloodlock,” horror flicks which can be found in retail chains and on Netflix.
The film, which contains R-rated material, marks the directorial debut for Collins, whose past experiences have been operating the camera and acting.
“This film was shot in 24 hours. The scenes were loosely scripted, with much of the dialogue being left up to the actors. It was like playing cowboys and Indians as a kid. You knew what was going to happen in the end, but you just made it up as you went along until you got there,” Collins said.
The film also marks the acting debut of Amanda Baker in a leading role. She also has spent most of her time in the business off camera, working as a makeup and effects artist.
“I play a character named Liz,” said Baker. “She’s in a relationship with Alec’s character, Nathan. Liz is the weak kind of girl who gets infatuated with a guy and swept up in a bad crowd. She questions the terrible things Nathan and his friends are doing, but she follows along anyway.This is my first lead role and I really had a blast pouring my emotions into this character.”
The synopsis is one of terror and macabre. A group of young “low-lifes” decide to break into an older couple’s home and try to burglarize and terrorize them, all while catching the crime on camera. The plan backfires when they find the older couple to be far more twisted than expected, with the hunters quickly becoming the hunted.
“They plan to break in this house where they think it’s just some old slow people that they can mess with and get the better of, and they’re sadly mistaken,” said Collins.
Petrucci added that the a portion of the film’s concept was influenced by actual events from his experience in his career covering news for a local television station.
“It’s loosely based on a true story that happened around here,” said Petrucci. “There was this story that I covered for the news, and I always used to think about that case and think, ‘You know, what if it would have ended up just a little bit different? What if those people were able to get the ultimate revenge?’ Because it was terrible, and it was the kind of case that just sticks with you.”
The story centers around the characters of Nathan and Liz. Nathan is the protagonist, leading Liz and Ray, played by Eric Sopko, into the crime spree that ends with gruesome consequences and enough twists to knock the viewer from the edge of their seat.
Collins said the movie fuses elements of shock and horror from a range of styles and influences and uses unique camera techniques and perspectives to tell the story. The House on the Wrong Side of the Tracks was shot from a first-person perspective, similar to that of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, with a bulk of the story being improvised by the actors.
“We consider it a kind of cross between A Clockwork Orange and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, done in Blair Witch style,” said Collins. “The camera gets passed around depending on who is seeing what, which is a lot different from most movies where just one person is operating the camera.”
Drake weighed in on why he feels the movie will be a hit and connect among fans of the genre, and how fun it was to do the fast-paced, cut-throat production style.
“I think that people will really enjoy it,” said Drake. “It’s bursting with enthusiasm all the way through. It was a lot of fun to work on. I have a lot of improvisational experience but a 24-hour project like this, not so much. I’ve never done anything quite like this, but I think this project was pretty unique to begin with, so I don’t know if I’d ever have the opportunity to do something like this otherwise.”
Baker said the film’s use of the technique of leaving the most gruesome scenes up to the imagination of the audience gives it a more authentic appeal.
“It’s so much about how many special effects they can shove into a movie nowadays,” said Baker. “And how shocked they can make the viewer. Arthur didn’t visually show everything. There’s a scene with me behind a locked door, and you only get the insinuation of what could possibly be going on behind that locked door.”
The film was produced on a budget solely from the cast and crew themselves.
“I turned my house into the set for this movie,” said Collins. “Most of the scenes took place in my basement, but my whole house was used. There was also a fake corpse in the upstairs bathroom for a month that looked really nasty.”
Collins joked about having such odd and grotesque props throughout his home.
“I hoped that if any point in time I would have gotten broken into, it would have been during that time,” said Collins. “Just so they would warn others not to go there.”
The film is going to be officially released on November 10 at the Calvin Center for the Arts in Youngstown. A teaser trailer, which contains R-rated material, can be seen by clicking here.
A short story.
Written by, William R. Soldan
-English Major/ Creative Writing Minor at
Youngstown State University
As the truck crested the hill, the enormous steel wall that surrounded the central sector was visible in the distance. “Dispatch, this is Ramsey,” the driver and older of the two men said after punching the button of the transmitter built into the dashboard. “Richland’s just up ahead. Estimated arrival, twenty minutes. Over.”
There was a stutter of feedback, but then a woman’s voice, devoid of emotion, came through the speaker. “Copy that, Unit Six. Transmission received. Over”
Ramsey ended communication with another punch of the button and said to the younger man, “This shouldn’t take too long.”
“And what is it we’re doing again?” asked Collins.
“Just a glitch in one of the communication panels. It’s how they contact us if there’s an overload in one of the towers’ automated compliance features. We make weekly rounds to do preventative maintenance, but sometimes something breaks down before we get there.”
Collins was a new hire and, like most new hires, had soft, unlined features and an eagerness to prove his merit. He reminded Ramsey of himself when he was fresh on the job.
“How long since you left the Institute?” Collins asked the older man.
“Well,” Ramsey said, thinking. “I guess it would have to be going on thirty years now.” He gazed down at the dashboard, as if hardly believing it had been so long. “What about you, kid? I hear you have a real knack for fixing things.”
“It always just sort of came natural to me,” Collins said. “Ever since I was a kid. I even graduated top of my class.”
Ramsey turned to the young man. “Maybe I’ll just let you handle this one then.”
Although Collins had shown great aptitude in even the more complex technical repairs, this was his first trip out since being hired on at MobileTech, and he was noticeably nervous. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe I should just stand by and assist you. You know, until I get my feet wet.”
Ramsey laughed and waved the young man’s modesty away with a gesture of his hand. He sounded just like he did on his first trip out. “It’s just a routine adjustment,” he assured Collins. “Nothing you can’t handle.”
“We’ll see,” the young man said.
As the two men and the truck made it to the bottom of the hill and proceeded along the pitted asphalt road that divided the barren landscape, the young man peered out at the desolation, having never been this far beyond the smoggy confines of the south sector. The expanse of dry, rocky terrain was a new sight to him. Save for the dunes and intermittent mounds of discarded metal, there were miles and miles of choked earth in every direction. Staring out at this desert, he asked, “Do you remember it?”
Ramsey looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“The world before,” the young man elaborated.
Ramsey reflected for a moment. “I was just a boy then,” he said. “It seems like a lifetime ago. I guess when you get to be my age, you tend to forget about the ways things used to be and just try to keep sucking air as long as possible.”
“What was it like?” Collins insisted.
“Well, besides there being trees everywhere back then and life outside the Frame, it wasn’t all that much different than it is now.”
“There was life outside the Frame?” Collins asked, as if the idea of life—of anything— outside the Frame was impossible. “But how?”
Ramsey looked amused. “Look kid, before the war wiped it all out, there was life everywhere outside the Frame. There were states, countries, hell, continents—all full of life. But when the Rich finally seized complete control and dismantled the government, they built the Frame and all the sectors. The nation’s most elite all gathered, forming the center. That’s why those of us in the outer sectors call it Richland; it’s sort of a little joke.”
The young man looked at Ramsey, eyes wide, wanting to know more. “But what happened to everything else?”
“The Rich soon realized, when the resource wars were over and they had managed to destroy all competing superpowers, that they still needed people like us—people with technical know how—to help run what they now controlled. They needed skilled labor. That’s when they formed the Institute. And those who tested high enough to get into the Institute, people like you and me, were guaranteed job security for life. They had researchers and technicians toiling away, inventing things that would help them live forever; and now, after nearly half a century, they have everything they could ever need. They’ve developed serums that reverse the physiological breakdown of aging and eradicate disease; they’ve created devices that do everything for them, from dressing them to transporting them around their homes. They literally don’t have to lift a finger anymore.”
“What about those who didn’t pass the test—to get into the Institute, I mean?”
“They could no longer find jobs, since everything requires institutional certification, and eventually fled outward into the Fringe. I guess most of ‘em scavenged and survived as long as they could before disease or starvation killed ‘em off.”
The young man leaned back in the passenger seat, as if trying to process what he’d been told. Ahead, Richland was getting bigger as they approached, an enclosed fortress rising from the dust. “So now it’s just us and them?” he asked.
“Like I said,” Ramsey replied. “Things aren’t all that much different. They have control and the rest of us help them keep it because it’s just too hard to fight ‘em. They’ve made immortality a reality for themselves, and the rest of us…well, we do our part just so we can live at all.”
They had reached Richland’s boundary. The road, which had been rough and bumpy, now became smooth. Soon there were tall steel posts flanking either side, upon which were mounted surveillance devices, ominous chrome orbs that shimmered in the relentless sunlight.
“There’s one thing that I don’t understand,” Collins said, juggling all this newly acquired information. “If they have all these things, why do they still need us? I mean, if they’ve developed everything they could ever need, why do we still have jobs?”
“You see,” he told the young man, “as newer, more efficient machines were developed, production of them was also largely being carried out by machines. But no matter how efficient machines may seem, there will always be a need for people like us to keep them functioning properly. After all, a machine is only as efficient as the person who created and programmed it. The machines that manufacture the other machines were developed by people. That’s where we come in; we repair what is essentially human error.”
Collins nodded his head. “I guess that makes sense. But why wouldn’t they want us to live forever so we could continue to keep things running smoothly?”
“It’s an old mentality,” Ramsey said. “The Rich don’t want the rest of us to have what they have, so they keep us in positions that ensure we stay right where we are. They make sure we have enough to get by, sure, but not enough to get ahead. And their guards,” he nodded toward the lookout towers that lined the top of the wall and the steel-reinforced huts that lined it at ground level, “they make sure we don’t stray from our duties.”
The guards, who were stationed around the perimeter of the central sector, as well as throughout its interior, were human, so there would never be a need for repair. Yet they had been trained to follow orders. Their orders were simple: Protect the central sector and keep those in the outer sectors in a state of compliance. And in return they too would live forever.
At the gate, Ramsey put the truck in park and pushed the button on the door that lowered the window. Outside, there were four guards, each armed with disintegration rifles. When Ramsey stated their business and handed the work order to the guard closest to him, the man looked at the slip and then back at Ramsey with a stone expression, while one of the other guards radioed central command. “Waiting for confirmation,” the guard said in a flat, guttural tone. He then placed his hand to his ear and a moment later produced a rectangular pad with a digital screen. “Thumbprint identification,” the guard ordered.
Ramsey placed his thumb on the screen and after a moment there was a beeping sound and an electronic voice issued from the pad. “Identification confirmed. MobilTech repair. Unit Six authorized.”
The guard closest to the gate punched in a code on the touch-screen key pad on the post beside him. The gate slid open, and after it came to a clanking halt Ramsey put the truck in gear and drove into the interior of Richland.
As they drove down the main road, Collins was amazed at the sight. The inside of the central sector was pristine; there were dozens of sleek towers, tall as sky scrapers, each seeming to be made of crystal, and lining the avenues that ran between them were trees. Collins had never seen trees before, and he was awestruck by their beauty. There were also ornate bridges linking the towers together, and nestled beneath some of them were still ponds shining like glass.
“That’s where we’re headed,” Ramsey said. “Straight ahead.”
“So these are where they live, huh?” Collins said. “It’s incredible.”
“Yep. It’s a sight alright.”
“Where’s the communication panel?” Collins asked.
“The grid that powers the panels in all the individual units is on the sub-level, but based on the information we received from the grid’s built-in diagnostic scanner, the glitch is in the panel of one of the upper units. All other units are functioning properly. We’ll have to take the transit tube from the lobby to the—” He consulted his clipboard. “Twenty-third floor.”
Ramsey pulled the truck up to the main entrance and got out; Collins followed the old man’s lead.
Gathering their tool kits, they proceeded inside the automated sliding glass door, where they were met by another mass of guards.
After going through yet another identification confirmation, they were ushered toward the transit tube, which ran up the inside of the building from the lobby all the way to the terrace on the roof. The tube was clear glass, so they could see out into the courtyard that stood between this tower and the next. The entire way up to the twenty-third floor, Collins marveled that there could be such a place. He had grown up surrounded by the soot-covered structures of the south sector, and after witnessing the desolation that lay beyond its borders, Richland seemed almost mythical. As he saw Collins looking out through the glass, that’s when Ramsey decided he had better brief the young man before they entered the unit. “Look,” he said. “There’s still one thing I haven’t told you. I was hoping when they sent us out here that all we’d have to do is repair the glitch from the grid and not actually go into one of the units, but when they insisted you ride along with me, I had no choice but to comply.”
“What is it?” Collins asked.
“When we get up there,” he paused, thinking of how to word what he was trying to say, “you’re going to see something that I hoped you wouldn’t have to see. Not so soon anyway.”
“What,” Collins urged.
“The Rich have been living in this self-contained little world for a long time, growing more and more dependent on the things they’ve had created for them. What I’m trying to say is they’re not the same as they once were; they’ve…changed.”
“Changed?” Collins repeated.
“They don’t look like us anymore. They don’t look like people anymore. As they grew more accustomed to having everything done for them, even the most basic things, they began to waste away, physically. They’ve managed to develop the means of cheating death by eliminating their risk of disease, and their organs can all be regenerated through serums…but their constant inertia has caused their muscles to rot, leaving them looking almost inhuman.”
Collins face was mortified.
“Doctors from other sectors come and give them protein injections to try to counteract the atrophy, but they can’t seem to detach from their reliance on all these…these devices. Their units are equipped with droids and thought-controlled appliances that wait on them hand and foot. They don’t even have to chew their own damn food!”
Ramsey stopped for a moment to compose himself before continuing. “All I’m saying is that what you see up there is probably going to shock you, even after being given a heads-up. I was the first time I saw one of ‘em for the first time. Normally we can do our work without seeing them, but sometimes we’re not so lucky. Just keep a level head and we’ll be out of here before you know it.”
When they reached their floor, a set of guards was there waiting. Leading them to the unit, they walked in sync with one another, not speaking. When Collins, in an awkward attempt to mask the apprehension he felt finally said, “It sure is nice around here,” neither of the guards so much as nodded in response.
The unit was located at the end of a long corridor. When they reached the door, one of the guards placed his thumb on a screen similar to the one that confirmed Ramsey’s status at the main gate and again in the lobby.
There was a whirring sound as the locking mechanism within the door was deactivated, and the door swung open.
Inside, a large foyer opened up into an even larger room. There were oil paintings of verdant landscapes on the walls and in the center of this larger room was a fountain with a stone sculpture of a nude woman holding a jug on her shoulder in the center. Out of the jug flowed sparkling water that splashed onto a rock and trickled down into a big ornate basin.
“The panel should be in the next room,” Ramsey assured Collins. “Should be a quick fix.”
That’s when the owner of the unit spoke. “Gentlemen, thank you for coming so promptly.” The voice was watery, as if spoken by someone with fluid in his lungs. “I so hate to be out of touch for too long.”
The two repairmen turned, and there, in an alcove to the left of the room was one of the Rich. He sat upon a hovering device that looked like an easy chair with an array of buttons and knobs on both arms. Out of the back of the chair was what appeared to be a number of tubes which inserted into a band around his head. He had the face of a human, but it was hanging slack on his skull. His body—what was left of it—rested on its floating seat, limp and lifeless, wearing a silk robe that hung open, revealing a doughy torso. The man’s skin was like putty, draped across his frame, and his hands and feet dangled from the chair, swaying grotesquely as it hovered in small circles in the mouth of the alcove. He looked, Collins thought, like someone had deflated him, leaving only the fleshy sac of his body.
The young man tried to stay calm.
“If you could just direct us to the communication panel,” Ramsey said, “we should have you back up and running right away, sir.”
The thing in the chair said, “Certainly, gentleman. Right this way.”
Collins realized the thing’s mouth, or rather the flaps of his lips, just hung there as it spoke. In fact, it wasn’t even speaking from this festering maw; it was transmitting its thoughts through the tubes and somehow projecting them through a speaker in the arm of the chair. That’s how he also appeared to be moving about—by directing the hovering device with his mind.
He showed them the panel that was malfunctioning and said, “The guards will show you gentlemen out when you’re finished.” Then he hovered off into another alcove on the far side of the room in which the panel was located. A door, made to look like a wall, with a painting of mountains on it quickly slid shut behind him.
Collins proved to be every bit as handy as he claimed, replacing one of the fried circuits in the panel with dexterity and precision. Ramsey had offered to take the reins, thinking the young man might just want to stand by, but it turned out the only thing that was keeping Collins from breaking down in a fit of terror and revulsion was the distraction of fixing the panel.
As they descended toward the lobby in the tube, Ramsey said, “You did good in there, kid. You know your stuff.”
But Collins couldn’t hear him. He was far away in his head. Looking out at this beautiful city, his throat became dry and he started to tremble. So many towers, towers full of those things.
The young man’s mind slowly began to unravel as he faced the reality of his position in life: tending to the needs of the monsters that ruled the world.
Written by, Miranda Tusinac
-English Major/ Creative Writing Minor at
Youngstown State University
When I looked upon you,
while you sat on the stone by the lake,
I knew that soon
you would be in my arms.
The moss encircling your body,
matched your eyes perfectly.
I almost couldn’t contain myself.
soon you would be mine.
But I had to wait, until late.
When it was dark
and no longer would I be seen.
Suddenly, you left your perch
and I walked behind, as you went towards your home
my steps walked towards your destiny.
I grin at the thought of it now!
Remembering your golden locks
engulfing all other beauties.
You, my pet, are exquisite.
And all the more beautiful dead.
Yes, finally in the alley way
we danced our first.
You cried at our beauty
and I licked away your tears.
Ardent ecstasy was all I felt
as you pushed me playfully away.
Laughing, I grasped you, my love,
and held you close.
that your breath was faint.
An angel asleep, my highness!
I carried you to our home
Once just my flat
now yours too.
Sweetheart, but you were shivering and cold,
so I took the liberty of bathing your milky skin.
As we lie in bed now,
I say to you how lucky you have made my life.
And until you decay
Till rot do us part,
You will be my passion
And when we’re through
trust me, my pet,
You will be a hard one to outshine!