(Note – this is part 1 of a two part chapter)
Bill pulled into my driveway at almost exactly 8:30. I was out of the door before his truck came to a stop. I climbed in and set my travel mug next to his.
He almost immediately started talking about a neighbor of his that I didn’t know very well. It was typical small town gossip and complaints. He had barely gotten out of my drive before I picked up my mug and sipped my coffee, just nodding at the appropriate places and saying, “A-huh,” when needed. I only half noticed that we were headed up to Amesbury Center until we turned to take the road that avoids the main village.
“We’re going to the Goode Mansion, aren’t we?” I asked.
Bill smiled. “Ay-yup.”
I had wondered why he asked me to come with him; now I knew.
A car with Massachusetts’ plates was at the mansion when we pulled up. A man in his early 30s walked over as we got out of Bill’s truck.
“Morning, Bill. How’re you today?” the man asked.
“Not too bad. How was the drive?”
“Great. Nobody on the road at that hour on a Saturday morning.”
“Hey Sean, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Gill Baxter.”
“Nice to meet you Gill. I’m Sean Goode. My dad owns this dump, but I’m the one who takes care of it.” Shaking his hand, I could tell that he was proud of his “dump”.
“My pleasure, Sean. It’s a great old house, a lot of history here.”
“Yes, there is.”
“Anyway, Sean,” Bill said, “did you see the new shed? It was delivered on Tuesday. I made a bit of a ramp and stuff, but haven’t done much else. Wanted to get the OK first.”
“Yeah, let’s go look.”
Next to the house was a good size pre-fab shed, the type that the big-box hardware stores sell. After only a cursory glance, we walked over to the carriage house. I got the chills, which intensified as we drew closer. It felt like something was clawing at me, trying to drag me in.
“You were right, Bill,” Sean said after we’d walked around the structure, “the place is in pretty poor shape. I don’t think it will fall, but that hole in the roof worries me. If water is getting in and beams start to rot…”
“Someone told me it had collapsed over the winter. I was surprised to see it standing when I came to check it out. That’s when I called you about the shed idea. I think we need to get all of the tools out of here.”
We went into a side room off of the main building. It looked newer; I figured it was an addition put on during one of the renovations. Bill opened the double doors wide and latched them into place so they wouldn’t swing closed. There were three mowers and various other equipment and tools in the room. An arctic wind seemed to blow out of the main building, but the cold was more psychological than physical. After a moment, I decided that it wasn’t a wind blowing out as much as a vacuum sucking the heat of life inward.
Shivering, I started to pay attention to the two men.
“I did a quick inventory on Monday,” Bill said. “I figured out what size we’d need and I think it should all fit nicely.”
Bill walked around touching different pieces of equipment, as if double checking his earlier inventory.
“So Bill,” I asked, “do you take care of the lawn up here?”
“Well, yes and no. Someone comes in with a tractor twice a month from May through September and does the main mowing. I come up every week with a couple of kids and do the trimming and such. Nothing too fancy, just enough so it doesn’t look totally abandoned.”
We walked back out towards the shed.
“Even with a lawn tractor the lawn would take me forever and I don’t have the money to buy a real commercial mower, so I don’t complain that I don’t have the main mowing contract. But what little I do still takes us a good three hours a week. Anyway, you two wait here, I’m going to get the truck.”
In a few minutes Bill backed the truck up close to the shed. In the back were a couple of heavy duty shelves. The three of us got the boxes into the shed and had the shelves built very rapidly. As Sean and I put the empty boxes back in the truck, Bill took out a cordless drill and a few packages with wall hangers, the type that’s used to hang tools.
“You guys go ahead and start moving stuff over, filling the shelves while I do this, OK?”
We nodded. Bill took his level out and started to work as we moved stuff over from the carriage house. After he was finished we moved the tools and finally the three hand mowers.
I didn’t say anything to the other two, but every time I was in the carriage house I felt a presence from deeper inside. A few times I thought I heard screams, but neither of the other two seemed to notice. The arctic chill felt even colder than when we first went in. With us all moving tools and equipment, though, it didn’t take long to clear everything. It was a nice spring day and was warming up, so the chill of the carriage house didn’t bother me too much.
We were finished and Bill was closing the doors to the shed when he stopped and looked flustered. “Damn. We forgot the rakes and stuff in the main building.” Both Bill and Sean acted a bit strange, not looking at me or each other. “Hey Gill, do you mind going in the main carriage house and grabbing the rakes and such?”
“No, not at all.”
Something was wrong, but the other two didn’t want to say anything.
As I went into the outer section of the carriage house, the breeze coming out of the black hole of the main building was even worse than before. It wrapped around me and tugged at me, as if anxious that I enter. Ignoring the creepy feeling, I walked into the next room. Even though the double outside doors were wide open, little light made it into the carriage house itself and my eyes didn’t want to adjust.
I took a couple of steps into the complete blackness and heard a floorboard creak. Turning towards the noise I saw a man. Either he was catching a stray bit of light from outside or was glowing from within. Not bright, but enough that he stood out in emptiness.
The man was dressed funny. I assumed it was early 19th century, but it wasn’t the type of clothing I remembered seeing in museums or in books. I guessed he must have been a grounds keeper. He was carrying something, in the dark I took it to be an old mussel loading gun. But what caught my attention were his wild, staring eyes.
I have never seen anything like those eyes. The unblinking eyes grabbed me, pulled me and shook me. I could tell they had seen violence and brutality. They had seen horrors beyond imagination, and by looking into them, I could feel those horrors burn into my brain.
The man took a step closer. One side of his head exploded bloodily leaving a chunk of his skull missing. I could see the brain, though it was heavily damaged by whatever had destroyed the skull. The gore dripped out.
I backed up a step and the man followed, his head reforming, but his eyes staying the same, unblinking, drilling holes into me.
I realized that if he took another step that he would be between me and the door. I took a step towards the door, which made me angle closer to him than was comfortable. He backed up and faded.
Before the man was totally gone, I felt something behind me. Close behind me.
I whipped around. An old lady was standing there, her hand almost touching me. A young woman, perhaps not a woman but a teen, was also there with a baby in each of her arms. Two toddlers where at their feet.
All of them had the same awful eyes as the man.
The woman dropped her hand but stayed were she was. Her head exploded, similar to the man’s head, rotted, and then reformed. The eyes, though still watched me, even when the skull around one of them was missing.
I stepped back, involuntarily. I heard the floorboards creak behind me. I risked a quick glance over my shoulder.
The man was there again. Another man was behind him, a man that was charred, as if his body had been burnt in a fire.
The old woman moved a step closer. I could hear screaming in my head. All of them, screaming, the teen mother the loudest, but the cry of the babies even more upsetting.
The babies. I couldn’t stand to watch the babies, with their huge staring eyes full of pain and misery. Those eyes tried to seize me, to pull me in, keep me.
I heard a step behind me, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of the woman and children. Their pain and misery soaked into me, their stares clutching and tearing at me.
The young woman with the babies stepped closer. She still screamed in my brain as she came within arms length and then closer. I could feel the man behind me. I heard the floorboard creak and groan under his weight.
A hand fell heavily on my shoulder.