July’s House Part One
The house had been sitting there for well over a hundred years. Windows looking like squinty eyes, the door a gaping and toothless mouth.
You could almost see the ghosts around the thing. God knows what was in there. July sighed. He wouldn’t be around much longer himself… Sure hoped he didn’t get stuck here in this place. He shook his head and headed on into town. Consequently, he had a will to prepare.
The Lawyer’s Office
The waiting room to the lawyer’s office was hot and humid like everything else down here. It was too bright for one thing because the sun was beaming in through dusty windows with no covers. A decrepit ceiling fan squeaked in agony every time it completed a round and it wasn’t even doing much.
July positioned himself across from an old window air conditioner hanging dangerously from one of the windows. Though it had seen better days, it gave off a little cool breeze in July’s direction. Nevertheless, beads of sweat were popping up all over his wrinkled face.
A fat lady in a flowered dress held a baby in one hand and a fan in the other. July glared at her feeling like she was stealing all the air with the fanning. The baby looked hot, cranky, and about to blow any minute. July was too old for that, he wished the lawyer would come on and he did. He called in the fat lady leaving July alone in the waiting room.
The man laid his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. The house came into his mind almost immediately only he saw it like it was when he was a child. The brightly lit windows, all the people on the porch playing music and barbeques on Sunday. He used to love that house.
He thought about playing hide n seek in the dark with his cousins. The frogs and crickets were so loud out there. Mosquitos that would carry you away. July shook his head, eyes closed. One lone bead of sweat rolled off his forehead and splatted on the dusty wood floor.
Dream at the Lawyer’s
In his dream, he was running. Running through the swamp behind the big house, looking for his cousins. Looking for anyone. He was calling them, names that belonged to people who’d been dead a long time now.
No one answered.
The little boy found himself in front of a huge old water oak, Spanish moss pouring off its branches. It spoke to him. In a deep, deep voice it said, “July… July you better run now little boy…” and July heard crashing in the bushes behind him.
He ran. Then he was at the house. He was terrified, pouring sweat, panting for breath, calling for his Momma with no answer. Daddy! No answer… The lamps were all still lit, lights were in all the windows but no one was there. Crashing in the brushes. The oak tree’s voice telling him to run… Someone was there. They had their hand on his shoulder shaking him…
What to Do With a Haunted House
July woke with a start and stared up at the lazy ceiling fan. The lawyer was asking if he was okay. To answer, July thought he was nodding yes. Starting to come to, he sat up straight and looked at the lawyer.
The lawyer looked concerned. July told him he was fine, just fell asleep. Had a bad dream. Must’ve been, the lawyer said, you was calling for your Momma.
The two men went on into the lawyer’s office and got to work on the will. When they came to the issue of the big house, July had to stop. As a result of all the strange and bad things that had happened there, he really didn’t know what to do with it. Lord knows he couldn’t leave it to any of his family. Bad juju… What do you do with it? The lawyer suggested they skip it for now and July agreed.
Burn it Down
There it was. Sitting there, looking at him. He stopped at the house again on the way home. Moss had taken over the oaks in the front yard. Eventually, it would kill them July thought. The grass was knee-high and full of beggar’s lice and sand spurs.
Sagging in the middle and falling in, the front porch was a mess with the stairs having disappeared long ago. Sad. Similarly, looking at this made July sad. Incredibly sad, like he couldn’t live anymore. He couldn’t ever get rid of that house. Never. Mumbling to himself, the man didn’t realize he was slowly walking towards the house.
July shook his head and came to about 2 feet from where the porch steps used to be. He quickly started walking backward, back towards his car. Never taking his eyes off the thing, he jumped in, slamming the door and rushing to lock them all.
He was shaking. Damn house. Damn, son of a bitchin house. All in all, he thought he should burn it down. Just be done with it altogether. He put his hands on the steering wheel and shook his head.
I just might someday… Just might… he thought.
Escape from the House
The old man woke up in the middle of the night. This was not unusual, but where he was sure was strange. He was standing in the kitchen of the old house.
It was dark and empty. July stood there in his pajamas with fear creeping into his guts. He was afraid to move but he figured he better get out of there quickly.
Looking at the floor, he noticed there weren’t any footprints. Currently, he was leaving footprints all over in the dust but none were coming from any doorway. He had no idea how he had come into the house. Walking slow and cautiously he made his way to the front door.
House Got Him Again
About midway through the living room, he felt something watching him. It seemed darker in here, he couldn’t see a thing and he wondered why he hadn’t gone to the back door there in the kitchen. Damn house got him again. Been getting him way too much lately…
So here he was being watched by whatever had taken his Great Grandpa, his uncle, his brother, and God only knows who else.
A low growl brought his attention to the corner of the room and July realized he was shaking badly all over. The summer heat didn’t help and he rubbed his sweaty hands nervously on his pants.
Must Get Out of Here Now
He’d been frozen in place but now realized that he had to get out of there. Creeping slowly, not taking his eyes from the corner, July crab-walked towards the door. The growling had stopped but that was not a good sign. Now the old man didn’t know where the thing was.
His hand was on the doorknob and he heard the growl very close, right down to the left of him. As a result of the growl, the man was in a hurry now, and he threw open the door letting in a rush of the hot night air. Something rushed at him from the corner of the ceiling. Flying down towards his back, July felt it burn him just as he flung himself off the front porch.
Pajamas burnt and flapping as he ran, July didn’t look back at the house as cackling laughter filled the air. In fact, July didn’t stop running until he’d reached the old church on the corner in town. He collapsed on the steps and nervously waited for the preacher to come on in to work.
Pastor Willis squinted in the morning sun at the ragged character sleeping on the church steps. The man looked familiar and as the preacher got closer he recognized his good friend, July Foreman. Bit of a mess, but it was him alright.
Sniffing the air around him, the preacher determined July was not passed out drunk. Additionally, he did not know his friend to have any sort of mental illness.
Was he alive? He looked alive but the preacher figured he’d take his pulse anyway just to make sure. Pastor Willis reached out and put his fingers to July’s neck.
July jumped up wide awake almost causing the preacher to break his neck as he fell backward down the steps. Fortunately, he landed on a much more preferable body part, his butt.
After all the apologies, July and the preacher went on in the church for some coffee and serious conversation.
Pastor Earl Willis wasn’t any ordinary Baptist preacher. Subsequently, the Vietnam war had a lot to do with who he was today. July was a fellow veteran and they had fought in the same battles in the Navy. Battles against the enemy and at times, their fellow sailors.
Usually, their conversations were about the V.A., family, the church, or the latest weekly Checkers game. Not today. Today things had taken a turn into the darkness. This morning the preacher’s friend sat before him exhausted and plagued by something only God could help him with.
July stared down into his cup of hot, black coffee. Steam rising from it like the ghosts in that old house. Both men were silent. July didn’t really know where to begin. In essence, he hoped his friend didn’t think he’d lost his mind. The old man took a deep breath and ran his hand over the soft curls covering his head.
Looking at his reflection in the liquid, the ripples on the surface made the deep, dark wrinkles across his face even deeper and darker.
“I was just a little kid when I was last in that house Earl”… July began to talk and he didn’t stop for an hour or so.
Back then most people we knew didn’t have a big, fine house like ours. Two stories, bedrooms for everyone, running water, and a bathroom. Now that was luxury. The old men chuckled.
It was his Great Great Grandpa’s house. Built by him on land he bought at a time when most black folks didn’t have anything, much less land. Great Great Grandpa Drew was smart and he had a lot of money. Where it came from though, no one but Great Great Grandma knew, and she wasn’t talkin.
Pastor Earl nodded his head. He knew how it went… Those old family secrets and mysteries. July continued…
Unwanted Things Found
The house was set back way in the swamp then. Wasn’t no store or highway around and there was a lot more land. Acres more. Mostly swamp though. Anyway… The house was way back in the swamp and farther back in there, some kind of hut or shack. He had found it once when he was a kid and it had scared him.
Pastor Earl asked him what it looked like.
It was an ugly thing made out of palmettos, sticks, and what looked like animal bones. Might have been human bones… That’s what he thought when he was a kid. There were shells on the ground around it and a little skeleton of some poor creature. He hadn’t seen a door.
Additionally, it was down near the creek as far as he could remember but he never went down past the house into the swamp again. When he was a kid, it was the only thing that scared him about that house.
Death of Uncle Joe
His parents had moved him away when he was about 10 and he wouldn’t return to the house for many, many years. When his Grandpa died, he left the house to his Uncle Joe, a banker from Cincinnati. After years of bad luck, it was all Grandpa had left and Uncle Joe was rarely there. It started the decades of the disintegration of the house.
Later, after he got back from the war, he heard about his uncle’s death. They said he killed himself down by the creek behind the house. Shot in the head and found lying halfway in the water with the gun still in his hand. It was strange, the man had no reason to commit suicide and left no note or clues.
Death of Brother John
The house then went to his brother John. John wasn’t the most well to do individual but he wasn’t all bad. July had been home sometime now and had offered to help John fix up the house many times. Nevertheless, it was always refused, and the house just got worse and worse.
Finally, the call came that John had been found down by the creek like Uncle Joe. Only it wasn’t a gunshot this time. Joe had hung himself from one of the trees that stretched out over the water.
By the sheer process of elimination, the house went to July who was the youngest and last one in line. Unfortunately, by this time, July didn’t want anything to do with the bad luck house. It felt bad, looked bad and he didn’t think he had the money to fix it up anyways.
Want to Go Explorin’ July?
When July was done talking the preacher shook his head. Sounded like some kind of pagan stuff to him. Already he was getting a good idea what might be July’s problem. He asked if he had told anyone in his family about the shack in the swamp.
Never Spoke of Again
July told Earl that he brought it up at dinner that very night and asked Great Great Grandpa Drew about it. Grandpa Drew got really mad and told everyone never to go near the place. Great Great Grandma slammed her fork down on her plate and left the room. Grandpa went after her and that was the last time any of it was talked about again.
Pastor Earl thought they should go down there and do some exploring. July wasn’t sure he agreed but he’d rather go with the preacher than getting dragged out there alone in the middle of the night. They decided July would get some rest, clean up there at the church, and they would head out that afternoon.
The pastor’s office had a nice bathroom and a couch. Near the Sunday School room were donation boxes. In essence, July had everything he needed. It wasn’t long before he was napping on the pastor’s couch.
A Padlocked Box
It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when the two men got out to the property. The sun was going down behind the house casting weird shadows over everything. Pastor Earl took one look at the house and it gave him the willies. He shook off a chill and patted the Bible in his pocket.
July led the way, and they went around the back of the house to go in the kitchen. The screen door fell off in July’s hand. As a result of this, July reminded the preacher to be careful, the place was falling down. Earl told him that was an understatement.
They went on in, floors creaking and groaning under their feet. From room to room, July noticed Earl saying a prayer at each one. It didn’t seem to help because the atmosphere just got heavier and heavier as they continued on.
Up in the attic, they found a bunch of stuff July didn’t remember being up there. Old toys, clothes, and boxes of stuff belonging to people long dead.
Inevitably the preacher tripped over something as it was getting darker by the minute. Turned out it was an old wooden box with a padlock. July swore he’d never seen it before.
About the same time they were examining the box, a low moaning started floating through the house. It sounded female but the preacher thought it was the wind. Either way, they decided it was time to go. Taking the box, the men made it down the stairs.
By the time they reached the kitchen the moaning had all but disappeared. Maybe Earl was right, maybe it was the wind. Needless to say, they both felt better with the back door so close.
Something crashed upstairs followed by another and another. It seemed to July the crashes were getting closer to them and both men scrambled for the door. A huge crash from the back of the kitchen sent them running out the house and into the darkened yard.
They stood there, panting and looking at the dark windows, open door, and silent house. Nothing. They watched as the door slowly swung shut all by itself. Earl looked at July and told him that he had a problem here.
He handed July the box and suggested maybe, all things considered, that he should open it at the church. July agreed and he was up there with the preacher at sun-up.
A Compass, A Bell, and A Key
Pastor Earl sat across the table from July with the box in between them. Needless to say, though they were curious, neither one of them wanted to be the one to cut off the lock. Finally, July did it. Snip with the bolt cutters and the lock fell with a dull clang to the table. July cautiously opened the lid.
Inside the Box
Letters. Old letters on fragile paper. They looked way older than the house. Underneath them was a bell, a compass, and a small key with a heart made out of bone. The wood at the bottom of the box was warped like it had been sitting in water. Pastor Earl said a prayer under his breath. July let out a low whistle and asked him if he knew anyone who spoke French?
The French teacher at the high school owed the preacher a favor and said she would translate the letters for them. Favor or no, it was two days before she would get them back to him. July had hardly slept at all. Every time he closed his eyes now he dreamt of the house, the swamp, or worse.
Translation of Letters
All three of them sat around the table in the church kitchen. The teacher had two stacks of letters, the originals, and her translated versions. She looked at July and told him he had some interesting history here. His Grandpa Drew was quite the wild man.
It turns out the letters were from a woman in Haiti where Great Great Grandpa Drew was a revolutionary. She wasn’t from there though. It seemed she was a French noblewoman living there with her family.
An Ill-Fated Romance
There was a romance between Grandpa Drew and this woman though it was hard for the teacher to make out what happened. In the middle of it all the letters just stopped. The last one ended with this woman, Colette, writing Drew about how she couldn’t wait to feel his arms around her the next day…
The teacher assumed that the revolution started and afterward, Drew was given a ship, a big haul of Spanish gold, and swift passage out of there. Colette was left behind.
Well, July knew where the money came from now. What did any of this have to do with the haunted house though? He rubbed his eyes. He was gonna have to find that old shack. Or at least, where it used to be. Maybe something was there, after all, he still didn’t have many answers that would help him with the house.
Pastor Earl was really involved now. Needless to say, he really didn’t want anything to do with any of this anymore, but his friend needed help. Regardless of his fears, he knew he was the only one who could do that. With a sigh, he agreed to go with July to look for the shack.
July was happy the preacher was coming along with him to explore the property. He sure didn’t want to do it alone. It was Thursday, they made arrangements to do it Saturday morning.
Making it Through the Night
It was dark except for the light of the moon. Moss, leaves, and branches dripped silver water and a foggy mist rose from the ground. It smelled terrible, like death, and strange noises kept the old man on his guard.
Creeping through black water, slimy things squished between his bare toes, and things slithered over his feet. The water was over his ankles, and he didn’t know how deep it got but he walked on.
Above him in the trees was a different light. Pale green and pulsing like a heartbeat. It seemed to follow him, or was it pushing him forward? He couldn’t tell but he knew it was there.
Bone Key in a Dream
Something was coming into view. Rising from the mushy ground was a big round hill. July’s heart started beating faster and sweat beaded on his face. He knew what the thing was. Suddenly the bone key with the heart appeared in his hand. His feet moved him towards the palmetto shack against his will and he shook with fear.
They gonna find me down here by the creek too, I just know it thought July. Still, he continued on. Around the front of the shack, he found a door. Lifting his hand he went to insert the key in its lock.
As soon as he did this a woman’s scream started in his head. It filled his brain and he clapped his hands over his ears but it didn’t stop. Falling to his knees, tears streaming down his cheeks, July woke up sitting straight up in bed. He knew he was too old for this. It was 5:00 AM. Given the circumstances, July decided to go ahead and put on the coffee.
Finding the Swamp Shack
Finally, Saturday morning arrived. Earl showed up at July’s house early and they headed out to the property. Along the way, July told Earl about his dream and Earl told July about some things he’d found out.
A Mysterious Stranger
Things about a strange, dark-skinned, French woman who showed up in town about a year after July’s Grandpa Drew. She stayed in town working as a French tutor for a while and then disappeared.
There was no record of her after that. Two things stood out about this woman. She had blue eyes and secondly, she was tall, well over 6 feet. Additionally, she was extremely well-spoken in French and English.
The preacher asked July if he knew when his grandfather had married his grandmother? July didn’t know but she always seemed mad about something. He’d never known his Great Great Grandma Marie very well. The woman was odd and kept to herself even at family gatherings.
Strange, Hot, Swamp
They got to the property and headed for the swamp. A big fat moccasin was there to greet them. First, the snake eyeballed the men while they stood dead still, then it slipped off into the dark water. The preacher shook his head and mumbled: “get thee behind me satan”…
The swamp was strange today. As if the moccasin wasn’t enough, something felt evil. The thick air made it hard to breathe and the preacher was getting winded too easily. Huge mosquitoes sunk their syringe-like beaks into him every chance they got.
“Daggone July!” He yelled to July. “It’s like Vietnam in here!” July agreed but they continued towards the creek.
It wasn’t like when he was a kid. They could hear the traffic from the highway and see the light poles. The sun broke through in spots chasing the evil away now and then. July figured this was God helping because Earl was there. It made him feel better.
The creek bed was littered with beer cans, plastic bags, and other random trash. A partially submerged old broken plastic chair stuck out of the water like a skeleton. There was a terrible smell in the air, just like in July’s dream but here, it probably was coming from the dead animal up the way. The decomposing mess laying on the side of the creek was a buzzing cacophony of flies. Earl and July decided to venture into the trees, away from the noxious mess.
Ghost in the Trees
Pastor Earl was in the lead, hacking at a palmetto with his machete when July first saw her. An outrageously tall black woman in a long white dress, damn near floating through the trees. She appeared and disappeared like a mirage in the distance. He grabbed the preacher’s shoulder and pointed but she was gone. Earl doubted him but July knew what he’d seen.
Not long after this, Earl found the shack. A small hill rising from the ground, slimy with swamp fungus, and almost buried in vines and Kudzu. It was still here. It was impossible.
Key in the Door
If July was scared of this place before, his fear was indescribable now. His hands were shaking badly so he stuck them in his pockets. There was the key. All bony and evil, there in his pocket like in the dream. He looked over at Earl. Pastor Earl. He looked okay.
Earl was not okay. At the moment all he could hear was a woman screaming in his head. It came and went, fading out and coming back loud and sudden. He had been saying the Lord’s prayer to himself over and over for the last 5 minutes.
Both men approached the front of the shack and there was the door. Just like in July’s dream. July had the key. Here was the moment of truth. What they had come for. July heard Earl saying something about not treading into danger, but it was too late. The bone key was in the lock and more than that, it was turning itself.
A Small Black Bag
Click, click, clock… The lock was loud and smooth as the tumblers inside fell open. July and Earl watched with their mouths open, both wishing they could run like they were 15 again. Click, click… click… The doorknob turned as well and with an almost musical creak, the door swung wide open.
The smell almost knocked them down. The stench of death and decay fell all around them. Consequently, July turned and threw up a little outside the doorway. Looking up, he saw the woman again. Floating through a sunbeam, she looked magical, enchanting. His feet were moving.
July! July! Earl grabbed July by the shoulder violently shaking him. July! July blinked and came to. He had just about taken off into the swamp after some dang spirit. Thank you, Lord, for Earl! Earl patted him on the back. They looked at the door to the shack. It was dark in there… They approached it slowly.
Attack By Spirit
Though it wasn’t that big, it looked much larger inside. Spiderwebs and an old wicker bed with a stained mattress were the focal points of the room. In a corner was an ancient dressing table with a mirror.
It was beautifully carved, and they could see it was definitely an antique. It was dusty and green with mold, but it looked great for being in a swamp for at least 70 years or so. A lace doily left on it had all but rotted into dust.
The preacher let out a low whistle. “Bet your answers are in there,” he said with a nod towards the dressing table. Bout that time the door slammed shut. Immediately the mildew and mold filled air began to choke the two old men. Pastor Earl had his machete out and started hacking at the walls.
They fell away easily and in the light of day, the shack’s secrets were all revealed. They had been standing on bones and shells. Thousands of bones of all kinds and the shells were not from anywhere local.
The walls were mildewed dark brownish red, almost black and they were crusty. July claimed he was pretty sure it was blood. The pastor said he might be right. This was a devil’s den. Nothing human lived here. The preacher grabbed his Bible and read Psalm 26 loud and strong. This bought July enough time to search the dressing table.
The Old Dressing Table
He didn’t want to but he had to lay his hands on the greasy wood of that thing. It looked like it was writhing under the dust and mold. His reflection stared back at him from the gold glass of that old mirror. It smiled at him. He knew he wasn’t smiling. The reflection’s eyes began to roll around and its tongue darted in and out from between grinning teeth.
July blinked rapidly and tore his eyes from the mirror. Jerking open one drawer, then another, July found nothing. All four were empty. Crazy laughter filled the swamp outside. The preacher began to read the Psalm again, louder this time and with forcefulness.
July flipped the dressing table over and found a hidden panel. It fell right open after he hit it with his hand and a small black bag fell out onto the floor.
Music filled the air. Music like from a music box with a ballerina in it. The soft, tinkling tune was replaced by a terrible crying. Great sobs and moans coming from the deepest grief. It brought tears to both men’s eyes.
Escape from the Swamp Shack
Pastor Earl fell to his knees and started praying from his heart, talking directly to God Himself. July grabbed the bag and the bone key from the door. As a result of this, the door started swinging wildly and would have hit him if he hadn’t been quick enough.
Branches and leaves started blowing around and the wind started whipping like a hurricane around them. July grabbed Pastor Earl up off his knees and they headed for the creek.
As Fast As You Can Go
The old men were slower than they wanted to be, but God was with them. They saw the woman in the trees many times. She howled and wailed at them. At one point she turned the day into night. It became dark like midnight before they finally got out of that swamp.
They hit the yard of the house half running, half hobbling. July knew he was gonna be hurting in the morning, but he guessed he was lucky that he would be alive in the morning…
As a result of being blinded by the sun, they stood there blinking, catching their breath. The preacher noticed all the windows and doors to the house were wide open. July didn’t care.
At that moment, an ear-piercing woman’s scream came from the swamp reminding the men they weren’t in the clear yet. They made it to Earl’s car and jumped in, locking all the doors. Earl said a prayer of thanks and they took off back to the church.
A French Riddle
That old round table in the church kitchen had seen and heard a lot of things, though never anything like what it was about to see and hear.
July pulled up a chair and sat down heavily. He put his head down on the table and closed his eyes. The preacher put on some coffee and went to wash his face and hands. When he got back, the coffee was ready and July had the bag and key from the shack on the table. In addition to this, he had added the bell, compass, and letters from the house. After pouring them both a cup he joined July. Silently they looked at everything.
Contents of the Bag
July picked up the bag and dumped the contents onto the table. An eyeball fell out first and rolled right off the table into the preacher’s lap. Earl let out a yell as a result of this, and jumped up fast causing the eyeball to fall to the floor where it rolled over to the baseboard and looked at them. July went over and picked it up with a paper towel discovering it was glass. Instantly he had a memory of his Uncle Joe and his glass eye. Uncle Joe had one too, golden-brown like this one…
After Earl recovered, they checked out the other items from the bag. A metal button from a Levi’s jacket. It, like the eyeball, reminded July of someone. His brother had a Levi’s jacket with buttons just like that one. In addition to the button and eyeball was a small pair of spectacles like Grandpa Drew used to have, an earring, a small enameled rose pin, and a stone pipe.
July didn’t recognize the earring or pin, but the pipe was really familiar. It was his. He picked it up with a shaky hand. The pipe had disappeared about a week ago, just before the episode where he woke up in the house.
Along with these personal items were some kind of weird rocks, a feather, some tiny bones, and a big chunk of hair with black resin-like sticky stuff dripping off it.
The preacher wouldn’t touch anything, and he was worried about the eyeball touching his leg when it fell. Earl examined his pants carefully looking for any of that black stuff. Needless to say, he thought he might have to replace his old table as well. Looking at the pile of evil soaking into the wood, he shook his head.
“Well July, here’s your problem.” Pastor Earl pushed away from the table and set about making some coffee. At this point, July went to wash his hands and use the toilet. “You’d think that stuff would just spontaneously combust here in this church…” July could hear the preacher grumbling to himself from the bathroom.
An Unreadable Poem
Back they went to the issue at hand. July wore the church dishwashing gloves to gather the stuff off the table and he put everything into a big ziplock baggie. As he cleaned up, a piece of paper fell to the ground. Consequently, his eyes weren’t what they used to be; he must have missed it.
Picking it up, both men looked at it to see what it was and both of them read the strange poem printed on the thick yellow paper.
Il y a une boussole, une cloche et une clé.
Souviens-toi de moi pendant que tu es en mer.
La cloche est d’appeler, la clé de nos cœurs.
La boussole pour toujours me trouver…
Man… Of course, it was written in French.
Ms. Favor Helps Again
Pastor Earl decided they needed to get out of there anyway. July finished cleaning up and Earl wiped the table down with Holy Water. Additionally, they put the baggie of evil stuff in a storage box outside behind the church.
July stuck the paper in an envelope and put it, the bell, compass, and key in his pocket.
A Poem Deciphered
Ms. Favor was more than happy to see July and the preacher knocking on her door. She had been wondering about their situation since translating the letters. Pastor Earl apologized for them dropping by without calling, but he explained that it was sort of an emergency. Once they were settled in Ms. Favor’s cozy cottage, July produced the poem they had found. She translated it quickly.
There is a compass, a bell, and a key.
Remember me while you are at sea.
The bell is to call, the key to our hearts.
The compass to always find me…
“Well, that is so romantic!” Exclaimed Ms. Favor. The two old men sniffed at her. That romance had caused July a world of trouble.
At this point, they were all hungry and decided to finish their conversation at the local diner over lunch. Ms. Favor looked at July sitting across from her in the booth. “Obviously, they were dealing with a ghost and a curse,” she stated matter of factly.
Pushing her glasses up on her pert nose. Additionally, she thought a great romance was involved as well. “Yup,” she nodded her head as she took a sip of her sweet iced tea.
What July Knew
“Yeah,” the preacher said slowly, enlightened. It did appear that July’s Great, Great Grandpa Drew had a relationship with a mysterious French woman who followed him from Haiti. “Here’s where you come in July.” Earl looked over at July and so did Ms. Favor. July swallowed his potato chip in order to speak. He thought about it and realized he knew extraordinarily little about his Grandparents. In fact, he’d learned more in this past week than he’d known in his whole life.
If he had to guess, July figured Grandpa Drew found some other lady in between Haiti and South Carolina. Subsequently, that lady was his Great, Great Grandma Marie. When Colette arrived here and was rejected by Grandpa Drew, she cursed him.
Earl was inclined to think that given the key, bell, poem, and stuff; Colette was already trying to put a root on Drew. It was obvious she was into some kind of witchcraft or some wicked business.
Curses and Ghosts
So there it was. Curses and ghosts. Ms. Favor made a joke about it not even being Halloween yet… The preacher and July tried to laugh a little for her sake, but neither found the situation funny. July had to live with it, and it looked like the preacher was gonna have to fight it off for him.
July picked up the bill and they headed out to the preacher’s car. The ride to Ms. Favor’s was short and quiet with everyone lost in their own thoughts. The two men thanked the teacher again and she told them if they needed anything to let her know. As well as letting her know the outcome of their situation. They promised her they would and rode on back to the church.
Another Nightmare for July
July needed a nap. This had been the longest Saturday of his life and it was only 1:30 in the afternoon. Pastor Earl wanted one himself just then, and went over to his house adjacent to the church. July stretched out on the couch in the Pastor’s office and shut his tired old eyes.
It wasn’t long before he was dreaming about his Grandpa Drew and who he guessed was Colette. He was sure it wasn’t Grandma Marie. It was night and they were dancing in the swamp to the tinkling bells of a music box. Fireflies flew around them like twinkling stars, and they were so tall and dark. His white tuxedo and her lace dress glowing against their beautiful skin.
July watched them like an intruder. The woman’s long, full, and curly black hair fluffed out around her shoulders and ran down her back like webs. The way they danced was hypnotic. He had never seen his Grandpa look so handsome, so debonair. Though his tuxedo was all white, July could see military medals embossed on the fabric. Shadowed ribbons and fringe stood out white on white.
A Beautiful Face
Finally, they turned so he could see the woman’s face. She was beautiful, moreover, she was glowing. A long, sharp, and fine nose decorated an ebony face with high cheekbones and bright, beautiful eyes. Lashes so long they looked like shadows highlighting the golden-brown of her iris.
July couldn’t break his gaze. Frozen in his dream he began to really want to wake up. The couple turned to the chiming music, slowly, slowly. As the man desperately waited to see the woman’s face again it seemed as if everything was moving in slow motion. He also desperately wanted to look away and leave this place.
Can’t Wake Up
The slower they turned, the closer he got to seeing her face again. The music slowed and dragged. Likewise, the fireflies slowed, lazily bobbing on sluggish wings. The old man waited, waited, and they turned… He could see her ear and the side of her cheek. Her eyelashes. Then her nose and the edge of her luscious red lips.
As she turned fully towards him, he noticed something wasn’t right. Her eyes were green, glowing at him. They were evil, menacing now. Her mouth gaped open at him in a silent scream, full of razor-sharp fangs surrounded by bloody, dripping lips.
The man was frozen with terror. He watched as the creature began to tear his Grandpa to pieces, blood spraying out like a mist, hanging in the air.
Praying in the Chapel
July woke himself up with his screams. Alone in the church, he scrambled up off the couch and into the chapel. There and then, he fell down and prayed God would help him get rid of the curse, this thing. He prayed for his Grandpa Drew, Uncle Joe and Brother and anyone else this thing may have gotten.
Pastor Earl found July in the chapel praying hard with tears running down both cheeks. They finished out the prayers together and the preacher helped his friend to his feet. “We are gonna beat this thing July” … “We are going to get it,” Earl said this assuredly and strong, so July believed him. On top of that, Earl had a plan.
Pastor Earl’s Plan
The preacher’s plan was a little sketchy. First, they were going to stay in the front yard of the house. Under no circumstances were they to split up or go into the swamp. Second, July was going to stand there, read the poem and ring the bell while Earl watched the compass. July was supposed to stick the key in her heart when the spirit came for them.
After hearing all this July just stared at the preacher. “Why do I gotta stab it in the heart with the key?” July was not real happy with this idea; Earl reasoned that it was July’s Granddaddy who started this mess. Wouldn’t do no good if he tried to stab it. Probably go right through it.
July sighed and agreed. Additionally, he agreed to do this at night. In the dark.
Executing the Plan
The two men showed up at the house around 8:00 that night. Earl said a prayer over them, and then they made sure no one was in the house or around the property. After making sure they were alone, July took his place in the yard with Earl not far from him.
It was so quiet out here. You would think you could hear the sound of the cars from the highway, but no. Nothing. Not even a frog or cricket. July noticed no mosquitos were biting or buzzing either. It was a strange, dark night with no moon and no fireflies or stars.
Ringing the Bell
Cautiously July lifted his hand and slowly rang the bell. Clang… Clang… The sound was loud, traveling across the yard. Then he did it again, and started reading the poem out loud. It was English, not French, he hoped the spirit didn’t mind.
At length, a wind began to blow from the swamp. It shook the tree branches causing leaves to rain down on the preacher and July. Sticks blew at them, and dirt as the wind picked up.
July kept ringing that bell as he finished the poem. He was frantic now, clang, clang, clang… Simultaneously, Earl shouted to him over the noise, “here she comes!” July heard him start praying loud and powerful.
A weird moaning sound came from the tree line. The moaning sound grew closer and closer until it wrapped around the two men deafening them. July started really clanging that bell and the moaning sound fell away, turning into a tornado spinning across the yard.
On account of this, July and the preacher were hit with all kinds of debris from the yard. Earl prayed at the top of his lungs and the spinning tornado began to turn into something else entirely.
First, it was her legs forming under a white dress of spinning clouds. Then her body and arms, finally her hair, flying around a perfect head. She set her bare feet down to the ground toes first and glared at July.
July didn’t waste a second and plunged the key into the heart of the ghost standing before him. He didn’t know why, but for some reason, he also turned it. The heart in the bone began to glow bright red, like a neon sign and the spirit began to scream wildly and cry.
Storms from a Ghost
Her tears became a great slashing rainstorm with flashing lightning and fierce screaming winds. The body became cloudy in the air before July and Earl. Rapidly the woman fell apart leaving nothing behind but rain dripping from the trees and a gentle breeze. A lone frog started chirping not far from them and it wasn’t too much longer before an entire choir was singing loudly.
Pastor Earl let out a loud “Whoop!!” And fell to his knees praying and thanking God. July joined him and a full 5 or 10 minutes was spent just praising the Lord and Jesus.
Subsequently, it was well after midnight now but neither of the old men was tired at all. July poked around the yard with his flashlight and finally found the key. He put it in his pocket with the bell, compass, and poem. Looking up at the house it looked peaceful for the first time since he was a child.
A few bats swooped through the new, clean night sky. Bright stars twinkled through the tree branches and moss. The air smelled fresh and clean. July knew the curse was over. In fact, on account of all this, he thought he might just move into that big old house. Turn it into somthin worth leaving his grandkids someday.
As if Earl could read his mind, he patted July on the shoulder, letting him know there were a lot of folks in the church who could help fix it up. July nodded.
Unexpectedly, he turned to Earl, grabbed him up and hugged him tightly, thanking him for everything. The pastor patted his friend on the back and told him it was all gonna be alright now. July stepped back and wiped a tear off his cheek, all things considered, he smiled and agreed.
July’s House Part Two
A little over a year later it was Christmas at July’s. The house that is. The whole place had been redone with help from the church. Not having to pay rent somewhere else gave July the money to get all new windows, doors, and a new porch among other things.
Consequently, it was a good thing July’s house was big. Church and family made for quite a crowd, especially with all the little kids everywhere. July was inside the house, parked near the fireplace with an audience of children. He was happier than he had been in a long time.
The Wood Box Returns
Behind him on the mantle was a wood box and it caught the attention of one of July’s grandsons. “What’s in the box Grandpa?” July tried to play dumb, “What box son?” The boy sighed knowing the game, “the wood box behind you… with the lock.” You know…
Now July sighed. Nosy kids, he thought as he pulled the box down and produced a little key from around his neck. The opening of the box was better than Santa Claus at the moment and the kids gathered around trying to see everything at once.
July took out the bell, compass, key, and the poem. Passing them around so all the kids could see he told them the items were part of a story. A long story that would take all night to tell. He promised to tell them at New Years when they could stay up all night long.
Back to the Lawyer’s
Later that night with his family sleeping soundly all around him, July knew exactly what to do with this old house and land now. It was what he always wanted to do. That little boy down there happened to be his oldest grandson and July decided that night to leave him the house and land. Both of them now unencumbered by ghosts and curses. As he snuggled down into his new comforter and pillows, he made a note to head to the lawyer’s soon after Christmas…