Stories from the Village of Hawthorne (The town in Snapshots In Time)
The morning sun shone on the front porch of the shop as I dragged buckets of flowers outside.
My knee was swollen and an ugly shade of purple, thankfully I knew it wasn’t broken. I’d had enough fractured bones to know the difference between a nasty bruise and a cracked bone. Even without my patella being broken, my pain was real, and I was already wondering if I was going to make it through the day.
Lucky for me, it wasn’t tourist season. I knew I wouldn’t be that busy, so I had brought the book that I had found the night before. The shop was open, and I was sitting on my work stool (really it was an office chair set to its highest level). I had my knee elevated on a stack of crates that were waiting to be picked up by the moving service. I reached over to grab a soda out of the mini-fridge and read the title again.
The History of the House with the Cemetery
By Amelia Hawthorne
On the inside cover was a hand-drawn floor plan of my house and shop. Each room had a little circle dot with a number inside. Some of the rooms had multiple number dots. Then pages for each level of the house and the shop. I shivered and turned the page.
The book was old; it smelled of vanillin and, oddly enough, chocolate. I knew there was a reason why old books smell good, but I couldn’t remember what it was. The table of contents was composed of little dots with numbers and beside each one there a title, like The First Ghost, Clatter in the Kitchen, or The Banging in the Bedroom. But the numbers weren’t in order as they should be. I turned to the first chapter, and in the dot was the number 16. I searched for the number on the floor plans and it was actually outside of the building. I looked out the window and found the spot on the floor plan that looked to be the building’s front yard was now a road that ran between the village and the cemetery. My shop was on the side of the road leading to the cliffs. My front door didn’t open to a view of the ocean. It opened to the view of a road and the cemetery.
I sat up straighter and changed the ice pack on my knee to the heating pad, twisted an ice-cold bottle of Diet Pepsi open, and took a drink. My mother would say, “Nobody drinks Diet Pepsi at 9 in the morning.”
Mom was obviously wrong. But I digress.
I flipped through the first few pages again and settled in to read when I noticed some very faint writing on the inside cover. It had faded, but the pencil writing could be seen if you held the book up to the light, just so.
I, Amelia Hawthorne
Do solemnly swear
That the events in this book,
are true and accurate.
And just underneath that, was her signature in beautiful calligraphy and the year 1896. This book was that old? I flipped it over in my hands, shrugged, and opened up to the first chapter. This was what I read
Number 16: The First Ghost.
Our clapboard house sat downhill from the captain’s house on the cliff. The fire from the lighthouse would light up fruit trees that mama planted when the night was clear, but usually, the nights were dark, the fog almost sucking the warmth from the fire that was burning in the hearth. Mother thinks I’m being maudlin or singing a maudlin song, but in truth, this place makes me uneasy, unsettled, and well quite frankly spooked. And here’s why.
One night, I was lying in my cot, trying to sleep, but the night sounds were keeping me awake. Everything just seemed louder, out of focus. I thought perhaps I was ill or was suffering from some mania. The noises became louder, I looked towards my parents and they were putting a puzzle together under the gas lamp, my mother smiling and touching my father’s arm when he made her giggle. They couldn’t hear what I was hearing. I pulled the pillow up and around my ears, blocking out the sound. Secretly, I was thankful that the sounds were not in my head. You could end up in an asylum for just about anything these days and hearing voices in your head would definitely do just that.
I squeezed my eyes shut and practically cracked my head like an egg squeezed in a piece of cotton with the tightness of the pillows around my ears, I counted to 100, and when I slowly released the pillow, the sound was gone; the crackling from the fire was no longer booming in my ears. I let out a heavy sigh of relief and opened my eyes. Two inches from my face was the brown visage of an old man with red and green paint on his face. His eyes were black as the night sky, his teeth were grey and rotten, and he smelled of earth and death. It grinned.
I jumped, slamming the book shut. Did I just hear a scream? I was embarrassed to say that I just stood there with my mouth hanging open for a few seconds before I swore out loud and shoved the book into my bag.
The day went by fast. The book was in my tote bag and hadn’t come out since I finished reading the first chapter this morning.
I was locking up the shop, and I looked up through the glass window to the cemetery across the street, I shivered slightly. The minute I got upstairs I was going to cleanse my fears by diving headfirst into a rom-com.
I flipped the sign from open to closed on the door. I looked at the nail jutting out of the door frame above the window that that sign hung from. I would need to find a solution to that little…
The face staring back at me through the glass was not my reflection, it was the reflection of the Native American ghost that I just read about.
I too screamed.
Stay tuned for more stories.