THEATER OF THE MIND - This story is a work of fiction. It bears no resemblance to any truth whatsoever. It is fiction, for your enjoyment, but only if you dare read further.
Call me Wayman. The name means wanderer. The story I will share with you unfolded many years ago during the time when I, living up to my name, wandered far and wide, in search of whatever was on the horizon. This story I shall tell you has haunted me since those days. I shall tell it to you as it happened. Indeed, it is an unbelievable saga told by this wanderer, who has never taken a night's sleep without the memory of a strange situation into which he fell.
As I said, it was years ago, in a place far from here that trouble fell through on my door. Perhaps it is better said that it was I who walked through the door of trouble. My tale, every word of it true, is deep, and dark, and filled with the macabre. If such stories trouble you, keeping you awake during what would be your sleeping hours, read no more.
It was during my traveling days when I had no particular place I called home. The closest thing to any such place was my automobile, which had served me valiantly for years. It was without radio or any of the modern conveniences usually associated with automobiles.
One autumn evening far from where I am writing these words, I was traveling across the countryside of a distant place. It was then, without any foreshadowing, the engine of my old car coughed. As I touched the accelerator, the dials on the dashboard began to turn erratically. The engine sputtered, coughed again and then lurched -- almost violently. A wheezing wound trembled from underneath the hood of my car, and a plume of smoke blew from it. The engine had died.
I turned the key off. For a few moments, I sat, cursing the car, but not getting out from behind the wheel. I was alone in the car. Out the window was a wide expanse of meadow that appeared purple in the darkness. Sunset had been a couple of hours before. What light was present came from a moon that hovered, shining its silver cast through the leafless trees that stood like black witches, their bony limbs reaching toward the purple sky.
I turned the key to the car, but the vehicle uttered no sound at all. There was no indication of an ignition. I left my driver's seat and peered under the hood. It was but a tangle of wires and hoses, which ran like a spider's web. I knew nothing of cars or their mechanics, so I lowered the hood and looked for help.
The road in front of me was muddy and deeply rutted. It had never been paved. I theorized so little traffic used the road, so what was left was just a trail large enough for a car or small truck to fit on it. The sky darkened even more as the moon slipped behind a bank of clouds. The night was foreboding. An owl screeched somewhere in the darkness. I heard its wings flap overhead as it chased its meal, which ran through the darkness, seeking refuge in the brush.
The jacket I wore was loose around my neck. As the wind increased its pace, I tightened my collar. I pulled my hat down farther on my forehead. There began a sprinkle of rain that turned into more of a torrent. In the darkness, I had never felt more alone as I followed the trail of my own breath as it pulsed from my lungs on an evening that turned colder with every step I took.
Then in the distance, I thought I saw something, only to decide that it was nothing. I remember whatever movement it was seemed strange. No, nothing. Just the wind rustling the branches of trees, which caught the glint of the moon that seemed to play hide-and-seek with the passing clouds.
But then the movement appeared again. There was no doubt about it this time. It was something moving. Perhaps there could be someone who could help me out of my plight. Here I was on a dark stretch of road that bore no sign announcing its name. My car was now almost a mile away. Still, the movement of what seemed to be a light drew me toward its location.
Drawing near, I saw that it was a candle. Someone was moving in the distance. However, the candle, as it moved perpendicular to my position, would disappear, only to reappear a few seconds later. It was obvious someone was walking with a candle, yet its light was not wide enough to illuminate a face.
As the wind blew stronger, the clouds broke briefly. The moon shone through enough to illuminate what seemed to be a structure in the distance. The wind also brought a sheet of rain, which began to pour at such an uncomfortable rate. I tried to shield myself against the leeward side of a large tree.
Lightning struck, followed by the rumble of thunder. Seconds later, there was another lightning strike as its jagged edges, like a pitchfork, illuminated all around. For a brief moment,
the building was illuminated and it was obvious whoever carried the candle was moving from room to room with the light pouring through the windows, only to disappear behind the stone walls of a large gothic house.
It was old and Victorian in its architecture. Its walls were of sturdy stone. It reminded me of castles I had seen during my travels in many parts of Europe. There were no lights visible to me other than the strange candle that moved slowly from window to window.
If I were to be helped, it would have to come from that building. Closer now, i could discern its shape better. It was even more massive than I had first thought. It was shrouded in fog, which hung heavy, even hiding any walkway that may have led to the large front door. The door was black in color, though it was obvious it had not seen paint in years, perhaps decades. The chimneys of the castle -- and there were several -- pointed toward the black sky. There was the smell of smoke and a trail of it spiraled from one of the chimneys. The other chimneys stood cold and silent and were devoid of any smoke.
I approached the front door of the house, which seemed to have equal-sized wings stretching from its center. The black door, thick and massive, rising to perhaps the height of two men if one stood on the shoulders of the other, was as cold and foreboding as the entire house. The knocker, dripping now with rain, was sturdy. I reached my gloved hand for it to announce there was a visitor, a wanderer, who was in need of help.
With the knocker in my hand, I pulled it toward me to push it toward the deep dark wood of the door. However, before I could rap on the door, it moved. Someone was inside and was opening the massive portal. It creaked as it opened slowly. Lightning struck again and its light illuminated the cobwebs that clung to the door and its jam. They broke loose as the door opened fully, showing only a single candle in its holder, flickering in the wind as the person behind it tried to shield the flame from the draft.
"You are a wanderer," said a bass voice, which came from behind the candle. "You are in need of help, I suppose," it added. The speaker's words were slow and drawn out with each syllable of his statements taking large amounts of time. Then the voice fell silent as the candle was lifted toward the speaker's face.
"Yes ... I am," I responded, the hesitation in my voice evident. "My car down the road ..."
I did not finish the sentence as the one holding the candle interrupted my explanation.
"Your car is broken," he said, his breathing very heavy as he drew out the words. "There is no help anywhere near for your vehicle on a night like this," he said. "Come. Come inside and sit by the fire," he invited. "You are cold and here you will find a ..." he paused. ".... a warmth to take the chill out of your bones."
I stepped across the threshold into a darkness that was almost as deep as the woods I had just left. I followed the one holding the candle, which silhouetted his figure. His face was turned away from me as he walked with a slight limp toward another part of the house. There was a large spiraling staircase in the foyer of the great house. At the top of it were windows that peered down like eyes to the first floor. When the lightning struck, its flash filled the windows and cast shadows of the staircase on the wooden floor on which we walked.
The one who led me walked slowly to a large room where there was a fireplace -- its light and warmth spilling from its hearth. "Be seated here, my weary wanderer," he said. "The master is elsewhere in the house. He knows of your appearance at the door and will join you in due time," he said, motioning to a large dusty upholstered chair that smelled dank.
"Thank you," I said as I prepared to ask more about those who lived in this massive structure. But the one who opened the door turned quickly and walked away, obviously feeling no need to engage me in conversation further. As he moved into the darkness, he turned quickly and brought the candle up to his face.
The single flame of the candle emitted its light on the face of an old man whose eyebrows seemed to cover the upper part of his face. He had a mustache and beard, though the hairs on his chin grew wildly. However, it was his gaze that I caught with my own eyes. His eyes, black and deep, seemed mysterious and frightening. He grinned, showing uneven teeth that had yellowed with age.
"Make yourself at home, you traveler. We do not often have guests in this house," he said with a smile in his voice. "You honor us with your presence."
With that, he turned and disappeared into the darkness of the house. I heard his footfalls on the stone floor and listened as the wooden staircase creaked as he ascended into the darkness.
Lightning struck again as the rain intensified. There was a rumble of thunder following the lightning. Other than the weather outside the great house, all was silent inside save for the crackle of the logs in the fireplace that
burned. The flames cast strange shadows against the opposite wall. I saw my own shadow looking back at me.
It had been a tiring night. I closed my eyes, cupping my hand over my face, rubbing my eyelids for a moment. When I opened my eyes again, there were two shadows on the wall -- mine and another one, which was a few inches taller than my shadow.
"Good evening and welcome to my home," said a voice, which came from a man dressed in black. From inside a neatly-pressed jacket was the neck and head of a man who offered a strange smile. His teeth were even in a smooth-shaven face. His hair was neatly trimmed. He offered his right hand, which I took into my trembling hand. I noticed his skin felt cold to my touch.
"I am the master of this house, and indeed, you are welcome here, being the traveler whom you are," he said. His language was precise and he delivered his words in a baritone voice.
I tried to summon words to speak. They were slow in coming as a strange feeling swept over me. "My automobile broke down," I said. I wanted to add more to my statement, but the master cut me off with his own words.
"Yes, yes, yes, I understand, " he said, my hand still held in his cold clutch. "There can be no help for you tonight because of the weather and the darkness," he said. "So, Wayman, you must stay here in this." He paused before taking in a deep breath, "In this humble abode of mine."
"I never gave my name. I never said my name was Wayman."
"Of course you did, my friend," he responded without hesitation. "But that is of little consequence. It is your name and you are with friends. We welcome you on a cold and dank night. We have so few visitors. You honor us with your presence."
" Ahh," I sputtered like my automobile engine had done when it had stopped. "I would like to be on my way, but I don't know what way to travel," I added.
"The evening is long, my friend, and morning will come soon enough," said the master of the house. "We will get you help once the sun rises." The master laughed a very quiet but mysterious laugh. He invited me to warm myself by the fire. "Someone will come and escort you to one of our many rooms here. You will be comfortable during the long night," he said.
With that, the master of the house turned quickly and left the room. The light spilling from the hearth caught his image as he disappeared into the darkness. He walked in the same direction as the man who had opened the door, bringing me into this massive house. I stood alone again, feeling the warmth of the fireplace. It was the only place that seemed warm in the house. I watched the dancing flames in the fireplace. A log had burned through the split in the fire and sparks from it lifted up the damper. The room was quiet except for the crackle of the burning logs. And the sound of my own breathing.
A few minutes later, the servant reappeared. "You may call me Ivan," he said. His gaze was cast downward, avoiding eye contact with me. "Your room is prepared for you. Please follow me," he said. He turned quickly, gesturing with the candle in his hand for me to leave the room. The candle provided just enough light to see a few steps in front of us. We walked from the great room toward the same staircase I had seen when I entered the massive house. Ivan took me to the second floor of the house and led me down a long hallway. We passed several closed doors until we reached one where a thin slice of light slipped through an open door.
"Here, sir," said Ivan. "Everything you will need for your stay are here," he said, opening the door wide enough for my entry. Once I crossed the threshold, Ivan pulled the door shut, offering his goodnight, which was mumbled just as the door closed.
My room was almost as dark as the great room I had just left. There was a candle burning on the nightstand. Next to it was a set of towels. In an adjoining room was a bathroom. I turned the faucet and brown water poured from the spigot for several seconds before it cleared. I let it run for a minute, but it never seemed to heat anymore.
I left the bathroom and lay on the big bed, which smelled dusty. It creaked as I crawled onto it. I decided to not get under its blanket, but to simply relax on the covering. There were windows on one wall. I looked through them but could see very little of the outside. I held the candle to the misty window pane, where there was a constant tapping. It was a branch from a tree growing next to the great house. With the lightning strikes, the skinny branch caught the light from the sky, which was reflected on the rain-west wood. It pointed at me as if it were a witch's gnarled finger.
The fog still hung heavy on the countryside. The wind had increased and it rattled the window, which was never firmly secured, even with the latch. The constant scratching by the branch was torturous on me. As the wind blew, the scratching of the branch became incessant.
The room was dark and heavy as the candle's flame flickered. The draft coming through the window
made the flame dance. I pulled the candle closer to the bed and lay my head on the soft bed. I was so tired. I tried to stay awake, but the harsh evening had consumed so much of my energy. I felt sleep getting its foothold in my body. It was cold, even with my coat pulled tightly around my neck.
Eventually, sleep overcame me. The wind howled wolf-like, the lightning zigzagged in the dark sky, and the ensuing thunder rolled like boulders tossed down a wooden staircase. As the branch scraped the window and the wind rattling its panes, I fell into a deep dream. In it, I was falling down a long dark hole that had no bottom. In the dream, there were roots from trees growing from the walls of the hole. My body bounced along them. The scratching sound continued, even in my dream.
I broke out into a sweat, even in the cold room into which I had been ushered. The candle's flame continued to dance in the draft as the wax burned left a trail down the sides of the candle. In my dream, I heard a voice. It was that of a woman who hummed a strange melody. It was a change in my dream. But then it sounded so real. It was far from dreamlike.
I realized I was awake. My breath was heavy and labored as if I had been running. Still, I could hear the humming. I was wide awake and the sound I heard was no dream. It was a human voice, now singing a lilting song. I could not understand the words, but it was a voice -- that of a woman. Her sound emanated from nearby.
I crept to the door of my dark room and I saw a slice of light coming from a door slightly ajar down the hallway. Holding the candle, I walked quietly toward the room. Inside was a beautiful woman seated in front of her vanity. I could see her only from the back. She peered into the mirror and brushed her hair. It was long and lustrous. The woman, dressed in a white gown, hummed a song, singing some of the words, as she brushed her tresses.
I could not understand the words she sang. They were foreign to me, but her voice was beautiful. So was she. I looked at her reflected image in the mirror. She appeared to be a woman in her early 20s. Her lips were painted and her cheeks were rouged. With dark eyes, she observed herself as she brushed her hair. I was entranced with the image of her as she sat at the vanity that held two candles, between which she had positioned herself.
The candles flickered in this room, but not as much as they danced in the room I had just left. There was a warmth in her room, which she occupied alone. Across the threshold, I observed her, unable to take my eyes from her beauty.
"Come in," she said in soft voice that startled me. I had no idea she saw me, but she had. "I need your help," she said in a voice that was both alluring and exotic. I could not control myself. I fought hard against taking a step into her chamber, but it was as if my feet had minds of their own. I tried to voice reluctance to her request, but my throat would not release my words. It, too, had fallen into only what I could call her spell.
Yes, it was a spell. I knew that, yet I had no ability to withstand it or her. I walked toward the beautiful woman, dressed in white, who combed her long locks as she continued to view herself and me in the mirror. "No, no," she said sharply as I walked to stand at her side. "Stay behind me," she said as her voice again falling into a softness.
I could not see her directly. I could only view her face from its reflection on the mirror, which was large enough to show her entire body as she sat in its gaze. "Brush my hair," she said, her voice almost whispering. "Please, please," she added.
Over her shoulder, she handed me her brush, the back of which was studded with many small rhinestones. The brush itself glistened as the candlelight fell onto the rhinestones, which flashed with its movement. It was the most beautiful brush I had ever seen. Strands of her hair were in its bristles and their soft feel fell against my wrist as I touched the top of her head, pulling the brush back from its highpoint and letting it flow through her lush straight hair that cascaded almost to the small of her back.
"That feels wonderful," she purred. "It relaxes me. Please, do not stop." I continued to brush her hair while staring at her image, which stared back at me. The mirror held both our images -- she dressed immaculately in white and I clad in my rumpled black coat and pants.
The two candles that were on the vanity and the third which I held in my left hand burned quietly now. I pulled the brush from her hairline and felt it flow effortlessly to the end of her tresses down her back. The beautiful young woman in the great house began to hum again, singing a strange song that stuck to me like a refrain in the first act of a musical show, but remembered well into the second act and even after the show's end.
As if I were in a dream, I felt I was falling. Not like the falling in the dream I had had, but falling into a deep abyss of love. The more I brushed and looked
at her reflection, the more enamored I had become with the woman. Yes, I grew to love her. I was drawn to her and could not resist her.
I was but a traveler in an unexpected stopover in a strange house, but those thoughts left me as the only thing I could think of was her beauty and what I felt was an undying love for this mysterious woman who had beckoned me in some strange way. For the first time that evening, a warmth overcame me and I was at peace, unaware of a change of events that would take place in the strangest place I had ever visited.
Her hair smelled of lilac. It gleamed as she stroked it, moving her head gently, enjoying every brush bristle's touch. Lightning continued to illuminate the sky. Each strike sent flashes of white light through the windows of the room. The light caught her white gown, which sparkled. It was filled with rhinestones and sequins that ran along the gown's neckline and flowed down its sides.
Each lightning flash made the woman seem to glow in the room. After a while, I grew to want the lightning for the image it helped create. I was falling deeper in love with this woman -- this woman whose name I did not know. I asked about her name, but she simply stared deeply into the mirror at her own image, her eyes unblinking and steadfast into that on which they were focused.
So enamored with the entire scene that played like a drama in front of me, I did not hear the footsteps approaching in the hall. The door was pushed open violently and in it stood the one who called himself the master of the house.
He extended his arm and pointed a menacing finger at me as his words leaped from his mouth. "You! You!" shouted the master. "How dare you come into this room!" His words were hard and hot like a cannonball fired from the wall of a fortress. It was a fortress from which they emanated. The entire house was a cold fortress that guarded some secret. There could be no other explanation. The master, the ugly servant, the mysterious house itself, the woman. All of it seemed against all the rules of life or nature I had ever known.
Not wanting the master to know how intimate I had been with this woman by brushing her hair, I hastily hid the brush in my coat pocket just as he lunged at me. I sidestepped his attempt to grab me. He swung a fist, which caught me in my ribs. I stumbled into the mirror, wincing from the pain the master of the house had inflicted.
Through it all the woman continued to stare into the mirror. As I was pushed closer to the vanity, I caught its edge, seeing another huge fist strike me in my face. The blood spurt from my lip and I tasted its warmth spill into my mouth. It was then I could see the woman's face without benefit of the mirror. I was aghast at her ugliness. This was not the woman I had seen through the mirror. She had been beautiful, yet there was no change in the person seated at the vanity.
This woman who I could see face-to-face was old and horribly haggard. She appeared to be more than a 100 years old -- toothless with deep crevices in her face. Her hair, once long and luxurious, had now turned to grey where it grew. Mostly, her skull was patched. Still, she smiled a ghastly grin into the mirror.
As the master lunged toward me to grab me by the throat, I kicked him in his groin and then wheeled and kicked again, pushing the heel of my boot into his jaw. He fell backward. It gave me just enough time to sprint from the room. In the darkness, for the candle I had once carried, had been snuffed out and lay dead on the floor. I stumbled down the hallway. Finding the staircase, I fell down it, half running, half tumbling. Its stone steps cut into my body, but I ran as I had never run before.
At the front door, through which I had entered earlier that evening, I bolted, dashing headlong through the brush surrounding the house. I found the muddied trail in which I followed to the great house, only now I was headed in the opposite direction, running for where I had left my automobile.
Lightning struck again and the rain grew heavier. The lighting, like a devil's pitchfork, splintered the sky, giving me only a momentary picture of my surroundings. Through the darkness I stumbled. The chill outside created steam from my own breath. Every time I inhaled, I felt the pain from where the master had hit me and from where his stone staircase had punched me repeatedly as I tumbled down its snaking way.
In the distance, i could see my car. For a moment, as the lightning flashed, the windshield of the car caught the light. Yes, that was it, I thought. If only I could get it to start to get me away from this horrible place. My boots were muddied from once wandering through this muddy land and from running from the torment of the great house -- that dark gothic structure. The mud was so caked on the soles of my boots. I had little traction. Still, I ran. Out of breath, I ran. Bleeding and hurting, I ran. Deathly afraid, I ran through the stand of trees with their low-hanging branches.
car was nearby. It was within sight as I struggled to remain on my feet. If the master or his ugly servant were chasing me, I could not tell. The sound of the wind and lightning and the pelting rain would obliterate any sounds of someone chasing me. But they must be chasing me. The master of the house had followed me down the hallway. I could hear his steps echoing mine as I sprinted down the staircase and fled through the thick door of the front of the ghastly house.
In the thick woods, my shoulders struck the trunks of trees as I fled. I looked over my shoulder to see if, indeed, someone was trailing me. Nothing but darkness, but that was no proof I had escaped their clutches. When I turned my head forward again, I struck it full force. The limb of a tree, like the arm of a haggard witch, caught me in the head. I felt dizzy. My legs became rubbery. But I mustn't stop now. Not now. I felt blood pulse from my head as it drained into my eyes. Blinded now, I tried to continue.
Then everything went even black. I was out, oblivious to anything else around me. I felt the strength leave me. I fell into a ravine. Its water splashed around my head and torso, but I felt nothing more. The black of the night grew even blacker. I felt myself falling yet I was prone on the ground. I could not run, not even stand. "God help me," I cried, the words slurring from my blood-filled mouth. I felt the blood pass over my lips as it flowed to my chin. The deepest darkness I had ever witnessed encompassed me. I passed out, unconscious to this world.
The light was bright. I opened my eyes slowly, but its intensity was too much. I closed my lids again only to struggle to reopen my eyes, which seemed swollen. Where was I? I could not remember. I fought to regain my senses, but nothing seemed to fit.
"He's coming to," said a voice. It was a woman's voice. I could feel the warmth of a hand under my neck. "Yes, yes, I see," said another voice, this one of a man. "Give him time. Give him time," said the man.
Slowly, I opened my pained eyes. The light was coming from a window in a small room. I was under sheets and a blanket. I was not dressed in my clothes. It felt as if I was in a gown. Everything smelled fresh in the small room on which I tried to focus.
"Doctor, he has opened his eyes now," said the woman. She was dressed as a nurse with hands soft and warm.
"I see," said the man with an approving voice. With his face close to mine, I saw his smile. I had never seen him before. "Welcome back, my friend," said the man. "I am the doctor who runs this small clinic. You have been away for a few days, but you are back now."
Over the next hour, I was brought back to a stronger consciousness. The man, indeed a doctor, told me how hunters who were spending the night in the woods had happened upon me. "They brought you here to us after they realized you were not dead," said the doctor. "By the time you arrived here, you were nearly gone from this earth."
The doctor chuckled. "But you are back now and I think you will make it," he said assuredly. The nurse smiled and helped make me more comfortable in the small bed. Over the next several hours, she explained how the clinic had operated as a small operation in the community. She and the doctor told me about the extent of my injuries, which they had attended, assuring me there would be no lasting effects. "What you need is a good rest, my good man," chuckled the doctor, who added the hunters had found my automobile and had it left in the hands of a mechanic who vowed to repair it "like new."
As I grew stronger in strength, I told the doctor and nurse my story. By then, others in the community had been called because of what was called my "unbelievable" story. Yet, there was a part of those who gathered -- farmers, hunters, even clergymen -- who were intrigued by my tale of the master, his ghoulish servant, and the mysterious woman whose beauty was seen only in the mirror and in no other way. I told them of the huge house with the staircase. I recounted how I had stumbled upon it and had sat by the fire only to be ushered to one of the rooms in the large structure.
As I told the story, more people gathered around me in the small room in the clinic. By then, I had strength enough to sit up and eat the warm soup that had been prepared for me. My head wounds had been treated and I wore bandages that covered the top of my head. Though I had teeth missing from the fists of the master during our fight in the woman's bedroom, I could still speak, albeit with some pain.
Those who heard my strange tale listened intently, asking questions here and there, but generally allowing me to tell my story.
"Yours in an interesting story," said a voice that came from the back of the gathering. It erupted from the throat of an elderly man who was dressed in the clothes of a farmer. He wore a brown hat that matched his coat of the same color. His boots came nearly
to his knees. The man wore a thick mustache, which he stroked quietly. "The place you have described does not exist," he said. He paused for several seconds before he added, "at this time."
"What did he mean by that?" I thought.
"My friend, somehow you have traveled back in time," he said. "I know of the history of this small community for I have lived here all my life. My father lived here and his father before him and his father before him," he said. "That house," he continued, "as you described it did exist but burned to the ground more than 100 years ago."
"Yes, yes, yes," murmured another in the crowd. By now there were a dozen people in my room, all listening to my story.
"He is right, my friend," voiced the doctor.
The old farmer continued. "There was a strange man who owned that house and lived in it alone, save for a few servants who lived there, too. Lonely he was. So lonely, he want to a far land and found a young wife whom he married and brought back to live with him in that lonely house. The story has it that she was a singer of sorts, who had the voice of an angel. He wanted to posses not only that woman, but that voice."
"On the night she arrived, there was a fire and the place burned to the ground. One of the maids had seen how the new wife loved to sit in front of the mirror and brush her hair. It was then that night she somehow knocked over the candles, which she kept burning throughout the room. The draperies caught the flame and spread. It was a windy night and the wind fanned the flames even more. All the servants got out of the house and fled to town," said the farmer.
He recounted how the victims in the fire were the master of the house, his wife, and the one servant. The story was told by the surviving servants. For generations, it has been handed down. The farmer said the place was haunted by the spirits of the dead. The master of the house had loved the woman so. He did not want to share her beauty with anyone else. He was even jealous of the mirror that would gaze upon her body. He had wanted no one else to see her.
"She was for his eyes only," said the farmer. "At least, that is how the story has been told."
The doctor furthered the story. There were no descendants, so the land just turned to meadow. The house had been destroyed, saved for stones that were part of its foundation. The townpeople tried to use the stones to build smaller buildings and a bridge across the river, but the stones, themselves were haunted.
"They were cold and never warmed -- not even by the sun," said the doctor. "Those who used them to build their own houses died horrible deaths, usually by fire," he said, his voice rising in intensity. "So no one goes there anymore. No one has bought the land. It, too, is haunted by the master and his wife and their servant," he added, his voice taking an unusual gruffness.
So it is apparent when I happened upon that house that night my automobile had trouble, I had stumbled into another time. The story has haunted me for years now. I have told the story many times, but most people do not believe it. They contend I must have dreamed such an insane tale.
Still, the people of that small town know it to be true. And, so, too, do I. I know it was not a dream nor something from my vivid imagination. I know it to be what happened to me many years ago in a place far from here. I know it was no dream because several days later when it was time for me to leave the hospital, reality hit me in the face just as hard as had the master of the house.
People in the clinic celebrated my recovery. As they brought me my traveling clothes, I donned them happily, ready to go to the mechanic and retrieve my automobile. As I slipped on my overcoat, I reached into my pocket and there it was. It had been there the entire time.
My fingers reached around it and even before I pulled it from the folds of my coat pocket, I knew what the item would be.
I stood in front of the small mirror on the wall in my room and brought the item to my eyes. It was a hairbrush accented with many rhinestones. They sparkled, catching the glint from the morning sun of a new day.