(This is the first story of The Old Mill series. Intro & Table of Contents)
I think it all started when the rumors were flying about the old mill being sold. You know which mill I’m talking about. “The Old Mill” is all I’ve heard it called. And I guess they’re right since it was built in the dawning hours of the nineteenth century. The other mills came long after and have always been occupied. Yeah, you know, boutique shops, artist galleries, small office space for rent, odd businesses and such. Always something happening in those other mills. But not The Old Mill.
I remember when Mrs. Goode died. She must have been 98. Her grandson, I think his name was Burt. I never met another Burt in my life. Anyway, Burt Carter, the Goode was on his mom’s side, tried to sell the place. I attended an open house. I remember all of the murmurs about the cost of bringing it up to code, of sprinklers and such, but I knew the real reason it didn’t sell and would never sell.
It would be impossible to get rid of the stench of hopelessness and despair that permeated the building.
You could gut it to the brick walls and giant beams, but the feeling of horror you get when you enter wouldn’t go away. Never. It was too deep into the fiber.
I’m sure you’ve heard whispered tales told in back rooms about The Old Mill. Most of them are false, of course, but there is enough truth. After the War, you know, the Revolution, the soil was all played out and people could no longer scratch a living out of the hard granite filled dirt and short seasons of this area. Agriculture moved over the mountains to Ohio and then beyond. Those not lucky enough to find other work moved to the mills, and the early mills took advantage of it. Maybe not the bleakness of some English Dickens’ tale, at least most of the time it wasn’t. But then there was The Old Mill.
Ha, I can tell you’ve heard the stories. Good. Galvin used to tell some real whoppers, but his tales had a ring of truth behind them, despite, well, coming from Galvin. He worked there, you know. He was a handyman for Mrs. Goode and had an office in The Old Mill. Yep. I’m sure it was as illegal as hell, but he worked there. Talked about things he saw and heard. What an imagination that guy has.
Anyway, as I was saying, the entire village was taken by surprise when the “For Sale” signs came down and the work trucks started showing up. But then, to nobody’s surprise, the trucks stopped coming and the windows stayed dark. No new industry, no new shops, offices, apartments or restaurants. No nothing. The talk dried up, the rumors stopped flowing. It was forgotten.
But then there was the stench. Not anything you could actually smell, no, it was something you could only feel. A feeling of wretched gloom hung in the air all over town. It was as if it was pushed out of The Old Mill and clung to the buildings and trees of our village. Nobody talked about it, but I could see it in people’s eyes, a melancholy or despondency. But nobody said a word about it.
It wasn’t long before it was the new normal and I no longer noticed it.
But it was there.
And I think that is when it all started.
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A couple of months ago I wrote story, Galvin, that seemed like a chapter of a much longer work. Today I decided to explore how that story might have started. This is what came of it. I hope you enjoyed!