Friday, September 2, 2011

The Witch's House

As a writer I tend to return to many places from my childhood. I grew up in Southern Illinois. If you are not familiar with the area, you will be surprised to learn that there is a lot of oddities about the place. It is an odd mixture of Native American folklore, Bible Thumping Christians, witchcraft (various kinds), haunted places, natural beauty and more things than I could possibly list.

I was raised in the country. Our nearest neighbor was about a half mile away and the nearest "town" was over two miles away with a whopping 198 people living there. When I was still a pre-teen, "going to town" consisted of driving the nearly ten miles to Wal-Mart and the township of Benton which had about eight, thousand people. In other words, it was small... very small.

One place that frightened me was called "The Witch's House". I'm certain that she was not a witch - mostly certain anyway. It was about a mile from my home and down an old road that was supposed to be paved but most of it was gravel and potholes.
The house was smallish and had a crumbling foundation. The old wooden steps were so warped you could see them bowing when peeking through the thick hedge of stunted trees with gnarled knobs where branches had been hacked off years before. The windows were always dark and the once-white paint was always peeling from the slats of wood that passed as siding.
I have only a few clear memories of seeing "The Witch" outside of her house. One time I walked past her place with my two older brothers. She swept the porch with a tree branch full of green leaves. She paused briefly and looked to us. She had a wrinkled face that reminded me of pale oatmeal, all lines, lumps and white. She lifted one hand briefly and one of my brothers yelled for us to run. We did and I may have even screamed. Later that day my oldest brother told me she was about to hit us with a hex. Me fear never abated.

A couple years later we heard she had died. We slowly gained the nerve to approach the house after many months of walking past the abandoned structure. I can still feel my heart thumping in my chest and the extreme need to take a leak. I actually did relieve myself on the side of the house when we made our way there.

We entered the house through the front door. We were not the first visitors. Either that or she drank a large amount of Milwaukee's Best and Pabst and was fond of leaving the cans on her floor. The place was empty and smelled like an animal's den. Shortly after entering our fear slipped away and we went roaming through the forbidden place. There were some interesting finds like an old crank phone hanging on a wall. My oldest brother removed this and took it home at a later time. There were old post cards and pictures scattered in different rooms too. Dishes and other things were broken and piled here and there.
At some point I was left to wander on my own. I have no idea why, but that seems to have happened a lot when we went exploring. My brother had warned us all to stay out of because the floor was soft. I didn't listen. The floor did feel spongy and loose. I started bouncing like it was a trampoline.
Next thing I knew, the world was dark and I was in chest-deep water. I was scraped all up my arms and stomach too.
I screamed. I couldn't even form words. There was a large light gray opossum sitting on a board and it hissed and growled at me. He looked vicious with rows of sharp and jagged teeth. I screamed louder and he growled louder, lifting one paw up as if to ward me off.
I heard my brothers's calling my name. I see a head in the light from the hole above me. I scream for them to get me out of there. They have no rope and can find no stairs. I was in a cellar under the house and they had to find the entrance.
Luckily, they did find it. But it was locked with an old padlock. My brother took a large stone from next to the well and smashed the lock and a good bit of the door along with it. He waded in and scooped me up. He was always there to rescue me and he was my hero for much of my childhood. He got me out of the cellar and dried me off with his own shirt. Then he rattled off a story as to how I got hurt and we rehearsed it all the way home. My parents never knew we were there until many long years later and we told them of all the adventures we had.

The witches house burned down years ago. It was gone even before I left home. The place now has a couple new houses built back in the woods that was (may still be) dotted with old structures and a few ancient graveyards. Last time I was there had to be close to fifteen years ago and you know something... The forest surrounding that place still creeps the Hell out of me.

Until next time.... READ!

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of the house we always passed on the way to my grandma's and our adventures in the woods with my cousins. My son is hooked on magic the game. I'm blog hopping, trying to build my platform too. Tried to follow, etc. but the links wouldn't let me. I'm at You can vote for my flash fiction there if you like it and enter my chocolate contest to follow me. Open through 9/10.