Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Short Story...
Copyright JO Janoski

Winterburn Street had its repository for vile creatures of the night, make that ghosts, to be exact.. On the flat part of the road, nestled above one hill and just before another giant slope--on that flat in-between area, a dull gray mansion stood, far back from the road surrounded by rough grass and hidden by the wide branches of nearby trees. The house terrified me. When walking down Winterburn alone, I always crossed to the other side rather than go too close. 

It had to be the loveliest street in Greenfield. Well, to my youthful mind it was. Elegant maples lined the sidewalks from the bottom all the way to the top of the sloping, rollicking road. In the fall, I  loved to walk to school, stomping on yellow dried leaves, feeling them crunch under my feet in a satisfying crackle. Autumn and walking along Winterburn Street always brought out curious energies in me.

A feeling of heightened excitement overtook me every October. Perhaps it was generated by the deep blue skies or the red, yellow, and orange leaves all around. I don't know, maybe it was the cooler, crisper air. In any event, October was a time of deep awareness, the kind of luminous perceptions that shot out in sparks--indicating that any moment things could blast out of control. Maybe it was the Halloween thing, when every child's knees knocked in fear of goblins and ghosts coming at the end of the month.

You see, this mansion housed the ghosts of two sisters who had died years ago but still haunted their old home. For as long as I could remember, tales of the evil sisters were told and retold every year at Halloween. Nope, I wasn't going anywhere near that place. The ladies were known to step outside in daylight even, carrying hatchets, ready to make mincemeat out of intruders on their property; which I, incidentally, never intended to be.

You can imagine my trepidation when my brother challenged me to do exactly that one October afternoon. We were walking home and he paused by the wrought iron gate surrounding the grounds.

"Let's cut through here today," he stated.

"Are you kidding?" I asked.

"No. It will save us some time. I want to get home. I have a lot of homework."

He was right, you know. It would save time. The other side of the grounds edged Minnesota St. which met with the alley behind our house. It was a wonderful shortcut, but one I had always avoided. But today, Mom would be angry if I didn't arrive home with my brother, as directed. What was I going to do? 

"Aren't you afraid of the ghosts?" I asked.

"Nah. There's no ghosts there!"

"Yes, there are. Everybody says so." I felt myself growing cold in fear. Things weren't going my way.

"Well, I'm taking this shortcut. You can do whatever you want." With that remark, he pushed open the gate and slipped through. I watched him starting up the walk. He would have to pass by the house to get to the other side where the grounds met Minnesota St. 

I scanned the area taking it all in at once.  If I didn't leave soon, I'd never catch up. My brother was getting farther and farther away. My teeth chattered as I slipped through the gate; I turned toward the mansion and started in that direction.

As the house loomed closer, I cringed at the gray stone walls and spooky, skinny windows. Its black, sloping roof looked like something out of a story book, a scary story book. My brother had gone a distance, and I needed to catch him if I didn't want to make the trip alone. Taking larger and larger steps, soon I broke into a full gallop. What a sight I must have been!

Running, I raced toward him...and the house. A movement at the door! It opened revealing blackness inside. A pale, wrinkled face appeared.  One of the sisters!

"Get off my property!" she screamed. Her dark eyes, glaring with menace, met mine; I cringed at their power.

I flew to the safety of  Minnesota St, propelled by my pounding heart, passing my brother with ease.  I should mention I never took that short cut again, and I was never able to outrun him again either.

A year ago, I returned to Winterburn St. after many years. Alas, the city has cut down all the trees that lined the road; and the mansion--torn down and now an apartment building sits on the property, which now opens up with a proper road to meet Minnesota St. It is all quite civilized, but I'll always wonder what happened to those ghostly wicked sisters.

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski

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