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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest · #1274137
A gardening journal sheds light -- or casts shadows -- on Adelaide's new house.
Cobwebs hung from the rafters in tangled mops. Adelaide carried her bucket of rags and Windex to the nearest window and wrestled it open. She watched as Jerry played in the yard below. "Honey, stay where I can see you, okay?" Jerry smiled, waving a yellow Tonka truck.

Adelaide surveyed the room, painting the walls a light olive with her imagination. I'll put his bed between those two dormers, hang some little wooden airplanes from the ceiling. She eyed the third dormer's window-seat. We could keep the seating and build in a toybox . . . maybe a bookcase. She smiled as if the renovation were complete, grabbed her bucket, and went to work on the windows.

Muddy trails streaked the glass. She rinsed her cloth then wiped away the sludge. In every corner of each pane was a carved rose and above each tiny rose a name. Emily, Caroline, Marie . . .

Adelaide scrubbed on, rewarded each time with a delicate little treasure. The last window, though, held but seven roses -- twenty five less than the others. She rested on what would eventually become a toybox . . . or bookcase. She puzzled over the roses, and lack thereof. Her heels bumped against the window-seat with a hollow "thud". That's a good sign. Kneeling, she studied its construction. A boards hung loose and she tugged; it snapped.

Adelaide fell in the tight alcove, knocking loose a bundle from the ledge above. The package landed beside her. Scrambling upright, Adelaide pawed herself wildly. Sure that no spiders had attacked, she picked up the bundle. Carefully, she untied the string binding, wondering if this was something of the salesman that had designed the house and gardens.

Inside was a cracked, leather journal. Embossed, in the center, a gilded rose. Loose papers were crammed inside. A great many were scorched. Some had been crumpled or torn, then smoothed. Adelaide sifted through a couple of pages, trying not to crack the fragile leaves between her fingers. The handwriting was thick and scratchy, ink smears destroyed most of the writing.


         Tabitha Rose -- (27 days)

          A precious, tight bud. Pale and sweet. A scent as gentle as twilight kisses.


         Rose Marie -- (17 days)

         Delicate, tender, fully blossomed. Stems both long and smooth.

Adelaide took the ledger downstairs and began lunch. As she tore the lettuce for hamburgers, her husband, Dave came in. He spied the gardener's diary; he was almost giddy. "Ya know, Addie, no one's been in this house in nearly sixty years. The real-estate lady said the only other person to live here was a witch." Adilade cocked a brow. "Hey, I'm just repeating what I heard." Dave smiled sheepishly. "At the library, I spoke to the lady in records. She said if every town has a haunted house . . . we own the ringer.

"Apparently, the gent that built the place was a loner. Off on business all the time, didn't like folks around. There's a girl here, though -- just shows up. By the time anyone wonders where the old guy's at, she's known as 'The Witch' and no one dares to bother her." Dave paused, then smiled. "He could be buried here."

Adelaide sliced tomatoes in silence. "She was young and dumb; I mean, really dumb -- like couldn't speak "dumb". And disfigured: blind in one eye, hobbled, horrible facial scars -- like Freddy Kruger . . . probably answered to the name Lucky." Adelaide rolled her eyes but grinned despite herself. "In thirty years she went to town, like, maybe, a dozen times." Dave made a cuckoo sound and twirled his finger around his ear. "The records-lady said -- admitted -- as kids, they'd dare each other to run to the gates, and scream 'Burn Witch! Burn!' If she came out with her kerosene lamp, and screeched back --"

"That's horrible!"

Dave surveyed the floor. "Yeah . . . but they were just kids. Small town, crazy lady on a hill . . . She probably had a thousand cats, too . . ." He winked.

Addie waved a fork at him shamingly, "Hush, now, and eat your burger." She headed out the backdoor to call Jerry. Dave pushed his plate aside and picked up the ledger.


         Mother lashed my back with rose vines for messing the sheets. She says the Devil will
         blind me for my sins. I'll blind her!


         Jasmine Rose -- (2 days)

         Beautiful. In full splender. Diseased. Scarlet whore!


         I plucked one. I plucked a rose. Snatched it, held it tight. Wilted overnight.

Dave noticed a page in different lettering. The ink was black, not rusty-brown as the others, and the writing both neat and graceful:


         They call me a witch, so be it. My flesh is cursed. My soul doubtful. I chained him as he had chained us, my sisters. I bled him slowly.

         I am sorry I could not save you. My name would not have been the last scrawled meaninglessy in this perverted journal or carved in his windows. The innocents saved will make my eternity in hell worthwhile.

         I shoved thorns beaneath his nails. I drug vines across his stem, and eyes. I inflicted upon him every torture and viloation he imagined upon us and more so. He will not harm another! I write this here, where, if your souls be trapped, you might find your freedom through his blood.

         I did not lay him to rest near you. He deserves no rest. He is but ash in the fields. Rest my sisters. Though I knew so few of you; I love you all, dearly. I mourn your loss. I will stay as long as I'm able to give you comfort, what little comfort as may come from a monster such as I. Bless y--

"Jerry . . . go show Daddy the bone, then WASH your hands! Okay?!"

"Look Daddy, think it's a dinosaur bone? Look how long it is! I found it by the roses."

Dave shook his head. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he gently took the femur from his son.

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