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My parents had only been married two years when they bought a small tract of land deep within the West Virginia mountains. When it was cleared, my dad started building a house-our home.
Our Story Begins
Before I had turned a year old, my parents bought a piece of property and began to build a home. The property lay at the head of a hollow on Buffalo Creek, about ten miles away from the nearest West Virginia town. My father and family members worked diligently to build the house as quickly as possible. My parents were determined to finally have a house to call home and not have to pay rent to a landlord for an apartment they were all but happy to dwell inside. The apartment they were working so hard to get away from stood right in the middle of town, in the town of Man. Man is approximately one mile long and at the time had only one traffic light and a handful of police officers. To anyone who passed by, Man could easily remind them of the town they'd gotten to know from watching TV called Mayberry.
The house should have appeared to be doomed from the start. A large tree fell on the house while it was in the middle stages of construction. The house wasn't quite finished when I celebrated my first birthday there in November of 1979. It only consisted of three rooms at the time: a living room, one bedroom, and a bathroom. Our refrigerator and stove sat in the hallway that led to the bathroom. We had no kitchen sink. Mom washed the dishes in the bathtub and laid them to dry on a towel on the floor. Our source of power for some time was an extension cord ran through the window from the neighbor's house next door. Our water came from the same place via a water hose. Our heat was a coal stove in the living room which Dad kept stocked from the coal pile at the mines where he worked. We made do with what we had.
As time went by and money was saved, my dad began adding rooms to the house. The bedroom was converted into a dining area and three new bedrooms were added to the back of the house. The only thing missing was the kitchen sink… and, of course, the kitchen to go with it. Mom was desperate for a kitchen and came up with all kinds of nice ideas for the way she wanted it. Dad decided it was time, but he had one condition. It would be a surprise. He built the four walls to the room first to keep the room hidden. He carved a small manhole at the bottom of the wall the kitchen was to share with the dining room. He would crawl through the little hole day in and day out and do his carpentry in private. Dad had always been really talented with woodwork and everyone knew that whatever it was he was doing on the other side was sure to turn out beautiful. Mom was excited, to say the least, so we found it surprising that she never did try to steal a peek at her new kitchen. As luck would have it, she would be seeing it soon enough.
Best Friends Forever
As far back as I can remember, Mom was best friends with a guy named Ronald. Now, Mom and Ronald never had a romantic relationship of any kind. None whatsoever. The two were raised together as small children. Anyone who has ever grown up living in a hollow can tell you how close-knit children living together in a hollow grow to be. I'm sure you've heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." In a West Virginia hollow, that saying is completely true. Kids spend more time with other kids and their parents than they do their own. Everyone knows everyone else, everyone sticks together, eats together; it's as if all neighbors are members of one large, massive family.
Mom's family and Ronald's family were extremely close. They did everything together so it was no wonder Mom and Ronald grew to feel more like brother and sister than just friends. As teens, Ronald would fend off unwanted suitors for Mom and Mom would catch Ronald's tears when some girl would break his heart. After they were grown and married with families of their own their friendship continued on just as strong.
Ronald married a girl named Angie. Angie was just as good-looking as Ronald and by far just as sweet. They had three children, Sabrina, Tabitha, and Jack. Sabrina was the same age as my older brothers, Tabitha and I were close in age, and Jack was a couple of years younger. Ronald was an awesome person. Rarely did he show anger. Even when he did get agitated, he was so laid back one would hardly notice. His heart was as big as the sun. He worked hard to give his wife and kids everything they needed. Not only them but everyone he loved. If you were in his heart, you could rest assured you were taken care of.
My parents met hardships off and on my whole life long. Whenever they needed anything, Ronald was there ready to do whatever he needed to in order to help out. He was never burdened. He did it because he wanted to. I think it made him feel good to be able to help others. It didn't matter what we needed, if there was a way at his disposal, it was done or as good as gotten. It was nothing for him to show up at our door with bags of brand new clothes for us, or an iron, or food. His gifts ranged from cars to hot water heaters. If my parents so much as mentioned needing something around him, in a matter of days, if not hours, it would be in their hands.
By about 1984, Ronald had fallen into a deep depression. He had developed a love for pain killers that his wife would not tolerate. He would sober up long enough to be allowed back home, only to grab a taste later be thrown back out. This happened several times it seems.
Angie loved Ronald with all her heart, but she could not let her children be subjected to such worldly things. He understood her reasoning, yet his heart ached to the core. Pills were a demon he could not battle and win. When she filed for divorce his depression sucked him in deeper. He attempted suicide several times, but luckily, someone was always within reach to save his life. Until one night…
Ronald came to our house up the hollow in a drunken stupor.
Crying his heart out, he said to my mom, "I'm going to kill myself."
"Don't talk like that," Mom said, consoling her pleading friend. "Don't talk crazy talk. You know it's going to be all right. You've just got to slow down."
"No, it's not," he pouted, "I'm going to kill myself. I'm going to eat me a handful of pills and just kill myself."
"What you're going to eat," Mom told him, "is some breakfast. Lee will be home in just a little Bill and I've got to have him something to eat when he gets home, so what you're going to do is sit here with me until he gets home and eat with us."
Ronald argued with her a little in the way annoying drunkards do, but finally, he agreed to stay and eat. When she put the gravy, biscuits, and fried potatoes on the table he gobbled up a hearty portion and talked no more of nonsense. Mom suspected that food would sober him up enough to keep him from feeling so helpless.
"Are you going to be okay now?" Mom asked as she walked him to the door.
"I believe so," he told her.
He told her he loved her and would see her later, and with that, he was out the door.
Mom received a phone call the next morning by someone telling her he had died. Just as he had foretold, Ronald did take a handful of pain killers, chased them with liquor and gave himself a heaping helping of a good old-fashion over-dose. The sad thing is, he really did not want to die at that time. He asked for help, he reached out for help, but he didn't get it. Ronald had been staying with his parents from the last time Angie had kicked him out. His parents were God-fearing Christian people who also had no tolerance for abusing, let alone even using, drugs and alcohol. His mother made no squabble about it.
She told him up front, "Son, you can stay here as long as you like, you know that. I love you dearly, but you've got to love and respect me just the same. I'll have no drinking in my home nor around my home and I won't house a drunk. You come home intoxicated and you'll sleep on the porch. It's as simple as that."
Ronald agreed to his mother's wishes. Whenever he returned home after a night of bingeing, he made his bed on the porch-swing, no questions asked. This night, however, he woke his mother, banging on the door.
"I…pill…" He staggered and stuttered.
Thinking he wanted a pillow, his mother retrieved one from the nearest bedroom and shut him out in the cold. When he never came inside the next morning, she went to check on him. He was dead. My mother handled the news the way any best friend could be expected. This was the first time I had been introduced to death and I found it rather heartbreaking myself-not because of the loss, sad to say, but because I had never seen my mother so heartbroken. I had never seen my mother cry so many tears in all of my six years of life and it hurt me. Children cry. Parents make the crying stop. Who stops the tears and makes the pain go away when a parent is hurting? I felt awkward and didn't know what to do. Little did I know, I would have to mature quickly and that it would be up to me to deal with those tears.
Not the Last Goodbye
I remember it well. It was the first time I'd ever seen The Wizard of Oz. I sat on my aunt's couch watching TV while my parents attended the funeral at the church across the road. A little black spider taunted me in my peripheral vision. I squalled out like a banshee for someone to take care of that nasty little critter. My uncle came to the rescue and threw the booger outside.
He sat on the sofa beside me and asked me if I knew where my parents were and why they were there. I told him I did.
"Mommy's going to be crying a lot for a while," he told me. "She can't have you acting up or being rowdy. She's going to need you to be really, really good for a while. She's going to be very sad for a very long time. You're going to want to try to keep her happy. Don't give her a reason to yell at you. Do things like keep your room clean and keep up with your stuff, okay?"
I promised I would just as my parents came through the door. I looked up at my parents. They both looked as if they had hit a hurricane head-on. Solemness wore both their faces, though Mom looked exceptionally worn out. Dad looked tired, but Mom looked bad. Pale and lifeless. She moved slowly and spoke in a whisper. I thought to myself how strange. She looked strange even in her eyes. Something just wasn't right at all and I knew it.
"Where's Joanne?" My dad asked my uncle. "Tell her to come here. I think Sharon needs her."
My uncle, with one look into my mother's eyes, quickly retrieved my aunt from the back bedroom of the little trailer. My aunt ran to my mom and pulled a chair out from the table for her to sit in. She pulled another out for herself and sat close. My dad and uncle disappeared from the room so the two women could talk. I faked my attention on the TV screen. I couldn't help eavesdrop. I wanted to know what was wrong with my mom. If that's what happened to people when someone died, I thought, then they need to just quit holding those funeral things. I strained to hear what they were saying in their whispers. I certainly didn't want to look obvious. I knew the moment I did they would ask me to leave the room. I hated when adults did that. How was I ever supposed to learn how to be a grown-up if I never got to see or hear any grown-up stuff?
"I've never felt anything like that before," I heard Mom say. "I could feel him there. I know he's not in his body and that when you die the soul ceases, but I could feel him. I could feel him right behind me. I felt it so strong that I was afraid to turn around and look behind me because I was afraid I would actually see him standing there! Even though I knew I was looking right at him, even though I could see him lying there plain as day, I knew if I looked over my shoulder I would see him there." My aunt Joanne uttered some consoling words then Mom went on. "It felt like him, but it didn't feel like him. It felt mean. Just really mean, like all of his anger he ever felt rolled into one big ball of madness. It felt dark…evil. I wanted out of there so bad! I wanted to turn around and run out, but it was like…like…the doors…" She broke into a violent storm of tears and none of her words made sense to me for a while; then I heard her say, "I knew the doors were going to lock behind me and I wouldn't be able to get out if I tried. I know he wanted me to stay there, but I couldn't."
From Dust to Dust
This feeling was just a foreshadowing of the series of unfortunate events to come. And they came almost instantly. Ronald found his way back into our lives whether we wanted him there or not-and in that form, we most certainly did not. I honestly can't remember what happened first, what the first sign was that triggered the rest. All I remember is a collage of insanity and demons rocking my home from its stable physical, emotional, and spiritual foundation. My parents had joined "the Truth" several years before. My father had studied the Bible, attended theocratic school and held a fairly high position in the congregation.
He knew the holy book inside and out and made sure to teach us what it said about death: "…For dust you are and to dust you shall return" and "For the living are conscious that they will die, but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all." These words are why many people do not generally believe in ghosts nor the afterlife, but rather that when a body dies. Even having been taught that, it was hard to believe when we were having experiences like ours.
Hello, Old Friend
Following Ronald's funeral, our household was never the same. It started with Mom. She would see Ronald everywhere in our house. She would see him standing in doorways. She would see him walking down the hall. She even saw his silhouette in the paint she was brushing on the wall one time. Everywhere—he was. I remember watching Mom trying to function every day in fear of something that was not there. My parents did not believe in things such as ghosts. They always told me that ghosts were not possible because when the body died the soul went back to God.
So then, I wondered, if there weren't ghosts, just what it was that was scaring my mother so badly. I couldn't comprehend her fear when I couldn't see anything there trying to harm her. I honestly thought my mom was going crazy. I believe my father thought it at first, too, and having to deal with her mentality was burdensome for both of us. When Dad was home, he had to stay on top of her. She would see Ronald at any given moment and would have a breakdown. She said she could hear him talking to her, whispering to her, and calling for her. She felt protected, though when Dad was with her.
Once Dad started working long hours again, it was my turn to be the protector. I had to stay on top of her, too. I had to follow her into every room she went into and stay there until she was finished doing whatever it was she was doing. I had to talk to her continuously, it didn't matter what about, so long as there wasn't any room for silence. So long as there wasn't time for Ronald's voice to enter into the conversation. If Mom was doing house cleaning, I had to be right there. If she were using the bathroom, I had to be right there. I had all but given up playing with toys because I had to play bodyguard against some spirit I could not see. Eventually, even I got tired and neighbors had to start coming over to sit with her until Dad got home. It was as if Ronald could only get her if she were alone. The kitchen my dad was working on was positioned in the middle of the house, just off from the hallway that connected the bedrooms to the living room where the front door was located. Mom had the most outrageous fear that she would be alone in the back of the house one day and the apparition of Ronald would appear at the other end of the hallway and would have her trapped with nowhere to run. Because of that fear, she made Dad take down two inside walls so that no matter where she was in the house, she could access the rest of the house from anywhere. Needless to say, the surprise was ruined.
One dreary day about a year and a half into the haunting, my dad was in the driveway working on our car. My mom's brother, Bill was helping him. While the two worked diligently outside, my mother tried to occupy her mid by working puzzles in a puzzle book. She flipped through the pages looking at the artwork until she found a picture that tickled her fancy. It was that of a stereotypical fortune-teller, the kind seen wearing a head wrap with coins hanging from it. It was the cryptogram kind of puzzle where one letter stands for another and you have to decode it to figure out a message at the end. There were two puzzles on the page-a small one at the top and a larger, much longer one at the bottom. The page had a drawing of a fortuneteller on it, which caught her attention.
People in "the Truth" always steered clear of anything that symbolized divination. Without much of a second thought, she ignored the symbology suggesting this puzzle was about to foresee her future and began substituting letters, waiting to see what message awaited her. The first letter was "I." The second was "A." The next was "M." The following word began with "G." She continued until all spaces were filled in, then she read the message. It was a message she couldn't ignore, one that scared her beyond belief. My mother screamed for the men to come inside. Startled by her sheer panic, they ran inside to see what the matter was. They found her hysterical and in tears running around the living room. They grabbed her and put her back onto the sofa, trying to calm her.
"What's wrong with you?" my uncle asked loudly in confusion. "Damn it, Sharon! Stop it! Tell me what's wrong!"
Mom still couldn't answer but threw the book at him instead for him to read for himself. "I'm going to kill you."
Surely, Bill thought, that couldn't have been deciphered correctly. He took a moment to work the puzzle for himself and sure enough, that is exactly what it was meant to say. He couldn't believe it himself!
"Here," Bill said, handing the book back to her, “Do the next one. You know it won't say something cry like that one Here Do the next one!"
Hesitant at first, then giving in, Mom took it from her younger brother's hands and began working the longer one at the bottom. Dad went outside to gather his tools and bring them in from the rain as Bill watched over Mom's shoulder in astonishment. Right before his eyes, this time the puzzle worked up another morbid message-a message that threatened him this time. It read, "Because he came in means nothing. I will kill him, too." Now my uncle was in hysterics as well.
Dad heard both my mother and my uncle going mad and ran swiftly inside. He took the book and read it. Uncontrollable anger took over my father. He had no idea how such things as a haunting could be possible when his religion taught differently and if it wasn't a haunting, but something else, he had no idea how to take care of the problem and make it go away. He felt as if he had no control over his home. He felt forced to sit back and watch his wife lose her sanity to something invisible. How do you fight what you can't see? In a rage, he shredded the pages apart. Suddenly, he ran out the door. Mom and Bill followed. To the creek they went, watching Dad as he threw the pages furiously into the water. Silently the three of them stood there until all of the pages were out of sight.
"That's it!" Dad yelled. "I've had enough! This had got to stop! I'm calling the Elders!"
The Elders were the head clergy of the congregation my parents attended. He called them and told them our story. It was Brother McCoy and Brother Rivers who made a trip to our house the next day. They talked about what had been happening to us in our house. Because the "Truth" taught souls of the dead cease to exist, they believed, too, that a ghost was impossible.
The explanation they gave was that our house had been possessed, demonized. "(The Demon) knows that you are fragile right now, having a hard time dealing with your friend's death," Brother Rivers reasoned. "(It) thinks that by sending a demon to you in the image of your friend, you will weaken even more and he will be able to have you. It's not really your friend coming back to haunt you, you know that." My mother nodded her head, agreeing that was what had been taught to her. Brother Rivers continued. "The objects you have in your home of your friend's are acting as a portal, something for the demon to come to you through. What we need to do first is rid the house of it all, get the image of your friend out of the house. Do you have a whole lot that belongs to him?"
"I have just about everything you could think of in this house," Mom said tiredly. "Everything from pictures and clothes to mail. It's all in here."
"Well, it's all got to come out," Brother McCoy stressed. "Gifts from him, gifts to him, anything at all with his name or face on it. Anything that has a piece of him in it. This will rid you of the physical ties that bind you to him. It's a way to help block the demon from taking on his form. After we round up all those things, we've got to burn them, get them out of here for good. You understand that, right?" My parents agreed to do anything, whatever it would take to make it stop.
My father opened the front door to the house and led everyone inside. They dispersed throughout the house, each taking on a different room to make the work go by faster. They squandered through every piece of paper, every article of clothing, every photo album. Anything at all they found was taken and thrown into a pile on our front lawn. The Elders looked for papers with Ronald's name on them and any items that a stranger would know or certain was his.
Dad gathered all the appliances Ronald had given them and all the tools he had borrowed from him over the years and took them outside. Mom fumbled through the photo albums she kept of her friends and family, looking desperately for Ronald's face. With every photo of Ronald she found, a thousand new tears would flow. She loved him and cherished growing up with him. He was truly her best friend, and after that day, she wouldn't be able to look at his picture and cry. It was hard. All she would have to remind her of his face would be her memories of him. But even thinking of him was out of the question, now. It hurt her badly to have to do this, but she couldn't live like this anymore. It had to be done. It had to stop.
Hours later, when every room of the house had been through shake-down and was prayed over, the four adults met on the front porch and took stock of all their findings. The whole group was silent. The situations spoke for itself. Nothing like this had ever happened before in the Man area, and if it had, it certainly was never spoken of. This was a first for the Elders, as well. All of their religious training was about to be put to the test.
"Now," said Brother Rivers, "We've got to burn these things. By burning them, we rid your home of the influence they bring. The only thing left to taunt you will be your own thoughts. Your memories will tread hard on your mind, but it's up to you to control that. Keep thoughts of him out of your mind. If you allow them to roam freely, the demons will be allowed to, too. When your friend comes to you again in your thoughts and dreams, let him know that you know he's not really your friend. Tell him you know he's a demon and that he has no power over you. Call upon the name of (God) to protect you, and let him hear it!"
Mom didn't say anything, just looked at him, taking in the information. She hoped this all worked because she had no idea how much more of this shoe could take. The death threats in the puzzle were her last straw. Dad poured gas onto the pile and lit a match. Pausing briefly to absorb what was actually taking place, he took a deep breath then threw the fire stick. With a loud "whoosh", the fire swept up instantly. With the heat blazing on their faces, Mom, Dad, and the Elders stood in a circle around the fire.
Aside from the crackling of the burning objects, nothing could be heard but Brother Rivers praying with all his strength for God's blessings of peace and protection to surround our family and home. My parents each said silent prayers of their own, praying for the end of all the chaos to come soon. When nothing remained of the pile but ashes, the gentlemen left. Everyone was certain there would be no more sightings, no more bad dreams, no more of Ronald compromising our daily routines. It was only a week later when that belief was shattered.
My mother and I went to visit my grandparents in Gilman Bottom. As we pulled up in front of the little blue house, I saw my uncle Bill working on his car in the alley. I loved my uncle very much. He had lived with us for a while and he and I had grown pretty close. I decided to stay outside with him and watch him play mechanic while Mom visited inside. "What'cha doin'?" I asked him as I jumped out of the car.
"Tryin' to get this piece of shit to work," he huffed back to me, his voice muffled from being underneath the car.
"Oh," I replied, squatting down so that I could see him better. "Think you'll get it workin'?"
"I don't know. We'll see, I guess." He grunted as he fumbles around on the ground beside him for a wrench that was just beyond his grasp. "I keep tellin' her what I need her to do, but she just won't listen to me." Though he referred to the car as "she," I knew what he meant. "She'd listen to me, I bet," I said trying to pick an argument.
"Then climb under here and fix her for me!"
"I will! Can I?" I sounded as if I actually thought I could do something. He never answered. "Bill! I said, can I? I will."
He still never answered. I squatted even lower to the ground to see what he was doing, why he wasn't taking back to me. It wasn't like him at all to ignore me. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness under the car, I could see clearly what was wrong. The car had fallen off the cinder-blocks and was now resting on top of my uncle. He was laying on his side and the car had him pinned against the ground.
"Bill!!!" I screamed.
I was headed for panic until I saw a calming look on his face that told me I needed to calm down.
"What do you need me to do? Go get somebody?" (Hey, I was only five, I didn't know.)
He closed his eyes slowly and deliberately to signal "yes." I ran into the house as fast as my little legs would carry me. I ran through the front door to find Mom talking on the telephone to her sister who lived two allies up.
"Mom!" I cried. "Hurry! The car fell on Bill!" She looked at me blankly for a second. It didn't register. "Mom! Now! The car fell on Bill!" She dropped the receiver and darted outside.
"Oh, my god!" I heard Nanny scream. She came from the kitchen like lightning. "Get my baby!!! Freddy, go get my baby!"
That was the first time I recall ever seeing my grandmother panic. My grandfather was out the door before I knew it. Knowing it was a situation where children would most likely be told to stay in the house, I started to stay put, but concern for my uncle over-powered my fear of being yelled at by my grandpa at this point and I ran back to the car anyway. As I made it onto the porch, I could see that a large crowd had formed around the car. Men and boys from all over the bottom had come together in an attempt to pry the car off from Bill. As I inched my way out into the road, I saw Mom laying on the ground where I had just been, talking to Bill.
"It's going to be okay, baby," she said to him softly, more so to convince herself than him, I think. "Just hang in there."
I was pushed into the background. The adults were like trees blocking my view and I couldn't see what was happening to my uncle. I could actually barely hear through all the commotion. I pushed and shoved my way back through until I found my grandmother at the front of the car watching anxiously in tears. She saw me and pulled me close. I could hear my mom's muffled voice talking to Bill again.
"Bill, can you talk to me?" she asked. "Little Bill, talk to me, baby," Bill said not a word.
He had lost consciousness from the pressure of the car cutting off his circulation. Mom went hysterical. She jumped up from the ground and onto her feet. She was at the front of the car with us in a flash.
"Get out of my way!" she yelled to everyone as she pushed her way through.
"I'm going to get this damn car off my brother!"
She spread her feet shoulder-width apart and positioned her hands just under the bumper of the car. She squatted, took a deep breath, and stood as solidly as she could. With her adrenaline pumping as hard as it possibly could, my mother lifted that car from her brother as if it were merely a Hot Wheels toy. What several men were unable to do, my mother did alone. She was not going to stand by as a spectator as her brother laid there and died. She knew she had to do something, and she did. She had picked the car up high enough for someone else to fit under the car. Someone from the crowd crawled under and pulled Bill from beneath the car.
Once he was safely away from the car, Mom released her grip, letting the heap of metal crash to the ground. She stood for a moment trying to catch her breath. As she squinted the sun from her eyes, she looked down at her hands. Blood was pouring down her palms and forearms. The sharp edges on the bumper of the car had cut into her fingers. The cuts were raw and deep, down to the bone. Her hands were burning. The sight of the blood was all it took to make her adrenaline-pumped body go limp and nearly faint.
"Sharon!" Nanny gasped. She caught her daughter just before she hit the ground. Now she had two children down. "Help! Somebody help me!"
Two men came running from the mass of people and scooped my mother up. The crowd of people closed around me and I was unable to see what was happening to her. I tried to push my way back through the people, but it was no use. Adults determined to keep me from seeing my mother covered in blood wouldn't let me pass. Ten minutes later there was the sound of sirens blaring as an ambulance made its own way through the mob of people. Two men jumped out and grabbed a gurney from the back. Because my uncle was such a large man in size it took several of the men from the neighborhood to help them lift him onto it. When they moved his body, he let out a heart-wrenching cry that would disturb anyone within ear-shot. I had never heard a sound like that come from a grown man before. I never knew men could cry. Just then I caught sight of my mother climbing into the back of the ambulance. An EMT checked her hands then cleaned them and began wrapping them in gauze. The look on her face was emotionless. Looking back, I realize she was in shock. The whole event that had just taken place was, after all, quite unbelievable.
The ambulance took them away.
When the ambulance pulled away with my mother and uncle in tow, I felt so alone. I didn't want to stay with my grandparents until my father came home. I didn't know why, but something about being there scared me. Something about them scared me. I didn't feel right. Not comfortable, not safe. The hours it took for my dad to arrive to get me drug by so slowly. When he finally got there, I was more than ready to go home to my mom. She was in the front seat of the car. The first thing I noticed as I climbed inside the car was the white sling she was wearing. I had never seen one before. I knew, though, that the killer car had put it on her. It was something I would associate with badness for a long, long time. I was actually frightened by the sling. Sometime later it would be thrown into the hall closet, a place I would refuse to go near from that moment on.
At home that night as I sat in my room playing, I overheard my parents talking about what had happened. She gave him every detail about the story. He just sat in awe listening to her. He didn't know how to respond. He didn't know what to say. I heard her pause for a brief moment, then made the strangest realization.
"Oh, my god!" Mom gasped sharply. "You know what I just realized? That car! The one Bill was under! It belonged to Ronald! Ron gave it to him! It used to be his!" I stopped dead in my tracks.
The whole thought hit too close for comfort. I immediately threw my Barbie dolls down, leaped to my feet, and ran into the living room to be with my parents. I jumped onto the blue velvet couch beside my dad. Like Mom, I felt protected next to him. I listened, wide-eyed as my mother continued her thoughts.
"The puzzle said it! It said, 'I'll kill him, too'! It warned us this would happen! Bill didn't believe it and you didn't believe it, but I knew it! I knew it!”
"That was just a coincidence," Dad muttered.
He was always a skeptic. If it wasn't something he could acknowledge with his five senses or in some way measure, there was no convincing him. The only thing elusive he believed in was God.
"A coincidence!" Mom was astounded. "Was it just a coincidence that the very person who threatened to kill my brother was the owner of the car that almost did!? Was it a coincidence that Bill was singled out to die and it didn't happen to you!?"
"It could have happened to me," Dad said. "I told him I would help him work on it."
"Had you been, I don't think it would have fallen at all!"
I listened to the two of them go back and forth for some time. Personally, I thought it was rather odd that my uncle was singled out and ended up being the person targeted and I fully understood why Mom thought it was ominous that the car was linked to the person, or spirit, rather, who supposedly singled him out with the threat in the first place. I was beginning to believe that all the stuff I heard about ghosts not being able to hurt you was just hosh-posh. Then again, I didn't really know what to believe anymore. Everything I thought to be true had turned out opposite. Men do cry. Children do sometimes have to protect their parents. All dogs don't go to heaven. Sometimes they stick around and torture the mortal shit out of you until your family goes insane! And, yes, the bogeyman does really exist! He was staying in my house! I was now scared, too. If Ronald could make that happen to Little Bill, who else could he hurt? Who would be next? My near miss wouldn't come just yet.
Dream a Little Dream
Dad would compromise with Mom's odd behavior, but he dismissed it more as a nervous breakdown accompanying her grief, an inability to cope and come to terms with a friend's death. He merely thought she was just taking it too hard.
It wasn't until he was pulled into the middle of it by Ronald himself that Dad started looking into the possibility that a haunting just may have been happening. Mom had told Dad time and time again that Ronald had come to her saying he was going to kill her. Many times she woke in a cold sweat, gasping for breath, crying and saying Ronald had come to her in her dream talking about being lonely on the other side and wanted to cross her over with him. What terrified her the most was that the Ronald she had grown up with was a sinister, evil being taunting and haunting her, now trying to kill her and her family along with her.
When Mom spoke of her dreams, Dad would tell her she was crazy. It got to the point where Mom wouldn't even tell him about her dreams. When she'd wake in the dead of night, she'd laid there crying and say not a word of her dreams. Late one night while everyone in the house slept soundly, Mom was taken over by another dream. In that dream, she was riding in a van with Ronald who drove it over a mountain in an attempt to take her life. Just as the van toppled over the cliff, she woke in tears. Dad woke at the same time. Still not considering the seriousness of her dreams, he took her into his arms and cradled her until she drifted back off to sleep. Once she was out, he returned to sleep himself. And began to dream. From the start of that dream, my dad was a passenger in a van driven by Ronald which was going over a cliff. The following morning Dad told Mom how he had finally had a dream with Ronald in it. As he described it to her, her mouth dropped and she cut him off. He had finished the dream she had woken from. She filled him in on what had happened before he’d become part of the dream: She pleaded with Ronald that she couldn't'' die to be with him because she was married and, like he, she had babies to live and care for. Ron’s response, she said, was that he “didn't care,” that he would “bring (us) over, too.”
Winter had come and as our house was still under construction, the water pipes in our home kept freezing. In part due to the inconvenience and the other part due to the terror, Mom started looking for another place to move into for the season, a temporary place for us to stay until the weather warmed up and Dad would be able to operate on the plumbing. She found a double-wide trailer about eight miles down the road, away from the hollow and much closer to town. She and a friend from the congregation had plans to winterize the house and start moving some of our essentials into the temporary place.
Naturally, I wasn’t interested in moving. I wanted to stay and continue playing Barbies. Mom negotiated that I could take a couple along to keep me occupied and we left. Moments later, upon arriving at a family friend’s wallpaper shop, my mother was surprised to receive a telephone call from one of the neighbors up the hollow. The lady on the other end of the line said there was an emergency and she needed to come back up the hollow immediately. When we arrived back out our house we discovered a boulder the size of a car had come rolling off the mountain, destroying our house just as we had left. Had we left ten minutes later, this story would have had a totally different ending and I wouldn’t be alive to write it. The boulder made its entrance through my bedroom wall, taking out the dresser that held my display of dolls where I had just been playing. It smashed through the wall into my sister’s room where her crib was and came to a rest in the hallway by the kitchen my mother was using as her escape route to run from the demon encounters. Its final resting place? Next to the only known item in the home from Ron that wasn’t destroyed in the bonfire: the hot water heater.
Hiding in Plain Sight
While assessing the damage, a lone photo was discovered near the rock-an old Polaroid photo of Ronald hiding half of his face and crooked smirk with one hand and flipping the middle finger with the other. That said it all.
Resting on Holy Grounds
Upon the demolition of our home, our temporary place became permanent. My parents sold the property to the church next door who leveled it to the ground and turned the property into a parking lot. Over the years, members of the church had mentioned seeing someone walking across the parking lot at night when no one was there but that seems to be the extent of the activity. Ronald, or, "the Demon," depending on which way your beliefs sway you, didn’t follow us to the new place. That home brought a new set of stories all on its own.
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