” Kelby, ” my wife was whispering into the dark next to me, ” Kelby, are you awake?”
It was way past midnight, close to three in the morning. I was hoping if I just laid still and kept breathing slow she’d think I was asleep and I wouldn’t have to go through this with Francie again.
” Kelby.” she touched my shoulder and then took her hand away. ” Kelby can you hear me? I had that dream again and it’s freaking me out.”
Freaking her out? I thought. That’s a laugh. Nothing freaks Francie out. It’s not in her nature to freak out.
She used to asleep at horror movies. She’s always asking me how they end. It’s pretty annoying as you can imagine. She likes to hold the popcorn bucket so when she falls asleep the bucket usually slides off of her knees and if I don’t catch it, no popcorn.
It got to be a waste of money, she never saw the entire film and they don’t give away that popcorn as you know.
Francie powered on like it didn’t matter if I was awake or asleep or even in the room.
” It’s that dream where I think I’m dead and then I think I’m awake and bonus- I’m alive and someone, sometimes it’s you or Lily from down the street will tell me, ” But Francie, we buried you yesterday. Shouldn’t you be in your coffin?
And then I wake up and it goes around and around. It’s enough to make me crazy. ”
There’s this little catch in Francie’s voice and I feel like an award winning jerk. She’s scared and I’m pretending to sleep.
I turn over and she has her back to me.
” I’m sorry Francie. I’m sorry you’re having that crazy dream. But you’re awake and this is no dream and you’re going to be fine.”
Francie pulls the blanket over her shoulder and she says to me, ” I’m not dreaming. I know I’m not dreaming. I know I’m awake. And I know this Kelby. You’re not here. We buried you yesterday and you’re in your coffin.”
When I used to go for walks with my Grandfather and his dog Darwin my Grandfather would point out the mushrooms that you could pick and eat and he would point out plants whose roots were so deadly and so poisonous that you’d be convinced that brain or not, these particular plants were capable of being homicidal maniacs too.
Something that deadly, I came to think, were that deadly for a reason.
Just like people.
Sometimes we would go to the back part of his property where we have an honest to goodness family cemetery- most of the markings on the gravestones had been almost wiped clean by the elements.
That patch had been very old and had been neglected for a very long time, it should have been dead but it wasn’t.
One of my Great Uncles had a little dog perched on top of his headstone and it still looked like a dog, it had a sad face and it’s ears dropped down against the side of it’s head.
If I could have, I would have pried that little dog lose and taken it away – maybe put it in a garden where you didn’t have to be careful of which mushroom you picked or which berries you could eat without fear eating the wrong one and having them turning your guts to mush.
In my mind, that little stone dog was still alive- unlike it’s neighbors that were dead or waiting for their chance to do you in.
It was on one of our walks where Grandfather was a little more quiet then usual and I wasn’t as chatty when I first noticed this odd little melody that Grandfather was humming. The tune reminded me of a bat chasing bugs at dusk- it was all over the place but it moved with purpose.
” That’s a funny song, ” I said ” what is it called?”
I thought I had heard him humming something like it before, but it wasn’t the same exact song.
We stopped in front of the Caretaker’s Cottage, a decrepit stone cottage that we called the Witch’s House. The Witch’s Houset was missing most of it’s roof and it’s side door, but not it’s front door.
That door was chained shut.
” It’s not a song. ”
” What is it then? Because it sounds like a song to me. Kind of. ”
” Lillis, shh, listen. ”
I heard creaking and sighing, I heard dry leaves rustling over little stones.
I looked from the cottage to my Grandfather. ” I’m humming the sound the wind makes when it goes through the Witch’s House. ” he told me.
” You really are. ” I was pleasantly surprised. ” So it never sounds like the same song. I get it. Very clever. ”
Grandfather smiled at me and I saw his eyes slide to the left, towards the cottage and when he looked back at me I was smiling too.
” Of course, there isn’t a breeze and there hasn’t been a breath of wind all day. Not a single breath. ”
” Oh you can always hear a breath or two coming from the Witch’s House, Lillis. Always.”