Update on Fall Short Story via Writers Weekly
Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Just heard that I was classified as Honorable Mention with my story in the magazine contest. Here is the story: The prompt for the contest was: The two children were laughing as they tried to catch the red leaves raining down from the sugar maples. A cold wind brought the promise of frost by morning and she shivered as she tried to keep the children on the narrow path. A fall in the river would be dangerous this time of year. When she glanced up, she instinctively reached for the children’s hands. A man, whose untucked shirt was dripping with red, was approaching. As he got closer, he showed a toothless grin, tipped his hat politely, and said…
The Gatekeeper by Elizabeth Cart
The caustic smells were the first thing that greeted Ellie when she followed the realtor through the magnificent rooms. It was an unfamiliar odor that offended her senses. Her children paid it no mind, as they ran yelling, and creating echoes throughout the wide spacious hallways.
The asking price on this home was reduced since last Tuesday, said the realtor. You should consider this best and final. She saw Ellie sniff with a grimace. The realtor spoke quickly. The odor of vacancy always lingers, but that changes after you move in.
The worth of the home seemed greater than the listing price. Still, as she signed papers, in the farthest corner of her mind, the worrisome words resounded, what if there is something wrong.
She walked outside and observed the children, flushed with delight, fall into mounds of red and gold leaves. A meadow sloped unevenly with trails leading toward a river to the west. So isolated, thought Ellie, but affordable. We have to make this work. Still in mourning over her husband’s unexpected death, her eyes watered and a small cry escaped.
After the moving van drove away from her new vintage home nestled in the woods, Ellie retrieved envelopes from the roadside mailbox. She tore opened a letter addressed to her. Trembling fingers held the letter that said, Welcome to 156 Pine View Road. We have been the Watchers of this home for many decades. Your compliance will alleviate any discomfort or anxiety. Trust that we continue to be centurions at your service.
A joke, Ellie thought. My compliance with what? She turned to look at herself in the newly hung wall mirror, and she was pale with fear.
Ellie dialed the realtor. I should have asked. What is the history on this house?
The realtor knew the law, disclosure was imperative. Yet she could not confirm nor validate what she knew. Dread enveloped her. Oh, she said, just some strange, uncanny feelings for some sensitive owners.
Really? Did any of the former owners get macabre letters in the mail? Or do you know of any pranksters targeting new homeowners? Ellie tried to stay calm.
I will certainly look into it. Sounds like spam mail, she remarked, assuming the issue was closed.
Three times a week the Watchers sent letters that seemed diabolical. Her children began to see movement in the house. Nightmares of guns, soldiers and explosions came without provocation. Happy faces turning grim. There was an eerie humming waking them up.
Calls to the realtor hit a wall. Now, wait a minute, barked Ellie. My kids never had feelings like this before. The letters never stop, and I need someone here to investigate what is really going on!
Next morning, while the children were in school, they arrived. The cold wind blew leaves against the front door as a priest, a psychic and a television filmmaker rang the doorbell. Ellie, a woman with no religious affiliation, stared blankly at the threesome, with the realtor trailing behind. I wanted to cover our bases, said the realtor. Ellie imagined scenes of a ghostbuster movie.
The priest was already spritzing holy water and lighting candles. The film guy was setting up cameras in the children’s bedrooms and living room. The psychic was moving through the rooms with closed eyes.
Show me the letters, commanded the realtor. She sat down and was stricken, shaking her head, flipping the envelopes back and forth as if she could discover an answer for this portentous, supernatural harassment.
The psychic approached Ellie. There is a portal here. Very ancient. The house was built on it. So, entities come and go at will. A century ago, there were seances held here. She seemed unfazed as if this information was unsurprising. She continued. The Reverend is sprinkling some oil and a mixture of some elements I brought, sand, salt and Sulphur along all the west walls. Once we force them out . . .
A portal to where? Ellie was now in yelling mode.
God knows, said the psychic. If this does not work, you may have to relocate. Oh, and by the way, there is a gate keeper. I believe it is a grandfather. He is protecting your kids.
The psychic turned to join the filmmaker who was packing up the rest of his equipment. The Priest was already finished with his prayers. The realtor waved goodbye, visibly shaken and counting her losses.
Three days later, ghostly images were visualized on film and Ellie started packing. The children were confused. Where are we going, Mommy? To a smaller, maybe less affordable home, far from here, she answered, fighting back tears.
Please, please, can we just walk one last time on the trail and jump on the leaves that are falling? Ellie reluctantly allowed their final request. They all held hands on the walking trail above the crest looking down upon the dark, mutable waters of the river below. The air was crisp and chilly.
Suddenly, Ellie heard her name called. She turned to look up the grade and a brief image appeared. Her great grandfather, whom she remembered from old picture albums, stood there, dressed in a WWI soldiers uniform carrying a rifle. His jacket and shirt were soaked with blood from a wound. He tipped his army helmet in respect and blew her kisses. She blinked and the image disappeared.