“Where are we?” Annie Pike asked herself over and over. She sat quietly and patiently beside her husband as he piloted their SUV along an unpaved road through the darkest forest she could imagine. Again she asked, this time out loud. “Where are we?”
Joe’s mind was nearing a hypnotic trance watching their neighbor’s pickup taillights bouncing along the rut filled road ahead. The increasing density and changing forestation caught within the vehicles headlights defined and edged every object creating a surreal third dimensional scene from a viewfinders of yesteryear. It held his attention, until Annie’s question.
“No need to worry,” he smiled. “It’s not far, maybe a mile or so.”
“I still don’t understand why we couldn’t have done this at the Casey’s house like we first planned?” she responded. He sighed and changed hands on the steering wheel, the free hand went to her knee, lightly squeezing then caressing through her jeans.
“I told you Moe and I wanted to put Lenore to the test. Come on, you know these people are charlatans. Everything is rigged, the spooky sights and sounds, all wires and tape recorders.”
“How was she going to rig the house for the séance if Carol was there?” Annie glanced at her husband unable to believe he actually thought their neighbor’s new friend, Lenore, was anything but a true Spiritualist.
It was Carol’s husband, Moe, who brought this on and convinced Joe that Lenore was a hoax. Moe believed Lenore befriended his wife only to sell her some hocus pocus and steal what she could from their home. Moe called her a gypsy, tramp and thief.
“So all of a sudden Carol has this new friend, this… Lenore,” Joe pronounced the name eloquently with a wave of the hand, as if announcing the arrival of royalty, “who meets Carol in the market parking lot; just appears outta nowhere, like magic. Did you know she convinced Carol her life is in danger, future bleak and the only way to resolve the matter is through a séance.”
Annie rocked in her seat as the SUV rocked through the grooved earthen road. “No, I didn’t know that she —”
“Can you believe the balls on these people?” Joe interrupted, “preying on Carol’s emotions while sizing up the house and planting sound devices and crap. Okay, we’ll have this séance but at a place she’s never seen and had no chance to rig. We’ll see how good she tells the future.”
Joe’s attempt to discredit Lenore went ignored. Annie asked again. “Where are we?”
Ahead, the bright illumination of the full moon outlined a cabin nestled amongst a backdrop of dark pines, standing like silent sentinels over a sacred sanctuary. “We’re here.”
“Finally,” Annie muttered as they pulled next to Moe’s pickup. Joe rushed inside and flicked on the outside light, allowing the women to view the hunting cabin for the first time since it was a joint investment between the two men. A home away from home where they could fish and hunt, their castle in the forest, private abode, sanctuary and lair. For the first time the wives got to see it.
The outside bulb had already attracted a handful of night insects, fluttering about in its warmth, although it was still humid after a scorching summer’s day. The light illuminated the porches warped flooring stretching the length of the cabin’s front. A screen door centered the front of the structure with one window on each side. A stone chimney peered over the roof’s crest like a cold and empty well.
“Lovely ride in the country,” Carol exclaimed as she left the truck with Lenore at her side. They joined Annie on the porch.
“That was a cow path,” Annie commented. “I thought we’d never get here.”
Carol’s facial expression showed astonishment and disgust of the cabin and the roadway. Lenore silently whisked past them and went in, sitting at a table placed in the middle of the cabin where she sat with hands on the tabletop. She closed her strangely dull black eyes and said, no demanded, “Join me.”
Perhaps it was the dimly lit room, or her dark clothing with bandana wrapped around her raven hair, but Joe whispered, “like the gypsy woman in the werewolf movie.”
Moe giggled until Carol shot an angry glance his way. The women sat at the table with Lenore, each holding a hand with the other opened for their husbands to join them. Joe and Moe looked to each other with amusement then sat, completing the circle. Lenore lowered her head softly murmuring. Annie looked to Carol and shrugged.
“She’s putting herself into a trance,” Carol whispered. The two husbands smiled at each other.
Below the cabin, at the foot of a shrub laced incline, a lake stretched across the scenery illuminated by the full moon. The forest greeted the shoreline with tall pine and birch connected by a maze of vegetation, thick and thorny. A rowboat drifted aimlessly on the still water; its oars locked in the up position.
A young man sat on the floor of the boat, resting against the stern, his arm draped over the shoulder of his high school sweetheart nestled in front of him. He thought of taking her to the deserted hunting cabin atop the hill and having sex, like they had on several occasions. But for now, he was content to gaze at the clear night sky and the many pinpoints of lights, so far away.
“It’s so peaceful, just right for dreaming,” the girl said taking hold of his hand.
“And what would those dreams be?” he asked, although he heard the answer before and hoped she would say something else, anything.
“Dreamt I worked at the Bird Cage and …”
“Are you kidding?” he shook his head disagreeing with her. “No girlfriend of mine is going to work at a strip club. I don’t care if you get a million dollars a night.”
She giggled, “I’m only kidding, I knew you wanted to hear something besides ‘save and start a family.’”
“How’d you know that?”
“I met someone yesterday, a woman, a strange woman, but after we spoke for a few minutes I felt she really had her finger on the pulse of my future.”
“Pulse of your future?” he asked. “What made you discuss the future with a stranger?”
The girl wondered. “I don’t know? It just came out, something about her made me want to talk. I thought she was a kook at first, but she told me things only I knew, and then she said you did not want to get married. I guess she was right.”
He leaned back and looked to the stars, hoping maybe the conversation would change. A lucky guess he thought about the woman’s analysis.
“So?” she asked.
“I don’t want to talk about that stuff,” he said.
“Maybe I should wish upon a star?” she said gazing into the heavens. Suddenly a flash of light crossed overhead, disappearing as fast as it materialized.
“There goes one! Did you make your wish?” he asked.
“Didn’t see it; too fast.”
“You have to begin wishing as soon as you see it, even though it goes away, its okay, as long as you begin when it’s visible,” he explained.
“Who told you that?” she asked.
“My grandpa, when I was a kid.”
“Did you get your wish?”
“Naw, he died anyway; heart trouble. I wanted him to get better. Aww, what does a kid know about those things anyway?” he said, his voice quivering slightly recalling the wish made for his grandfather’s life. She was about to reply to his heartfelt emotion when she spotted a light in the sky.
“There!” her voice echoed across the lakes surface. He looked up expecting to see the tail end of a burning meteor but instead witnessed a pinpoint of light growing in brilliance and size. It wobbled and flickered, as though dangling on a string in space.
“I thought they went away?” she asked.
“I thought so.” He said watching the light brighten and grow from a pinhead to golf ball size and still growing and moving closer fast.
Lenore’s head rose showing her big, black pupils, like marbles set against a bone background. Everyone tightened their grasp of hands. Lenore spoke. “Carol… Carol Manning.”
Moe grinned thinking she could have learned Carol’s maiden name during their discussions. Joe thought the same, and rolled his eyes.
“Yes?” Carol answered. Lenore’s voice became hollow, like a bullfrog in a cave. Everyone sat upright, alert, curious.
“Carmen… seek me… lust …” Lenore slowly blurted out in deep resonance. Carols face turned ashen, her eyes wide in shock.
“Oh my God, Oh Christ no, I don’t believe it …”
“Desire … lust …” Lenore continued.
“What the hell is that?” Moe asked. Carol sobbed. Annie’s mouth was wide open. Joe laughed.
“I’m no expert, ole buddy, but I think a ghost named Carmen got the hots for your wife.”
Moe turned to his wife, “Suppose now your gonna agree this is all baloney.”
Annie was in awe. Carol confided in her about the affair six years ago with a man named Carmen. Her mouth was opened in awe.
Lenore continued. “Roscoe …”
Annie inhaled sharply hearing her long deceased dog’s name. She removed the memory of the puppy’s tragic death from her thoughts, until now.
“Killed … Beau,” Lenore muttered.
Joe looked astonished at Lenore then back to Annie. “You gonna believe her?”
“I had a dog when I first met Joe,” Annie explained without removing a glare from Joe, “it died from a fall down a flight of stairs, a supposed accident. And I used to call Joe, my Beau.”
“I never touched that dog,” Joe denied.
“You son-of-a-bitch, you never liked him because I loved him. You were jealous of a damn puppy?” Annie shouted.
Joe released his grip and threw his hands into the air. “How did this bitch think up stuff like that?”
Lenore’s deep voice boomed again before anyone could think, “Gathering …”
“Yeah, we’re gathered, and all we hear is crap! You just had to have this damn séance!” Moe yelled to Carol, now in tears.
“…for death,” Lenore finished the sentence.
Everyone stopped arguing, yelling, sniffling and looked to each other for an explanation of what they just heard.
“What, what do you mean?” Carol looked to Lenore.
“Yeah, what gives?” asked Moe, releasing his wife’s hand.
Suddenly the cabin light flickered. Lenore lowered her face then raised it again with open eyes. The trance was over. She smiled and stood. “Perhaps you will now believe of those able to speak from the other side.”
Moe still held a negative believe and said accusingly, “That was all lies made up from the past. I thought you could tell the future?”
Lenore walked to the fireplace hearth and stood by the cold ashes of last winter’s fires. “I am a teller of events.”
She waved her hand to the light that went dark instantly. The room remained illuminated by a glow flooding in through the windows, a brightness with growing intensity.
“I told you of past events and of a future event, this gathering of death, and it shall be.”
The approaching roar sounded like a hundred freight trains, shaking the cabin violently. Carol and Annie screamed as Lenore dissolve and drifted up the chimney in a wisp of black smoke.
“My God, it’s headed right for us!” the boy shouted. The girl opened her mouth to scream but went unheard as the thunderous roar past. The boy toppled on top of her, covering against the searing ball of fire catapulting over their heads.
A loud boom followed the explosion. Earth and trees cascaded into the lake by the massive impact, rocking the rowboat side to side, almost tossing the couple into the water. When it finally stopped, they raise their heads to peer at the hill. They gasped in unison at the furrow gouged into the hillside and crater of smoldering earth atop the reshaped hill where the cabin once stood.
“That woman I met told me not to go there with you tonight. It was a place for unbelievers, a place where death would be,” the girl whispered. They held each other tightly, glaring at the impact, never noticing the swirl of black smoke circling the boat until it drifted away, toward town.
Bio: Henry P. Gravelle is the author of several short stories, novellas and novels found in print, Ebook, Kindle and Nook publications. He has also written several screenplays and short plays. Please visit his web site at: www.henrygravelle.com