some doors should not be opened!
The whole thing started many years ago, way back in 1965. My brother Sean and I and our friend Blimp Hanlon were out one sunny Saturday but we weren't just walking around. We had to go to our friend Nelly Washburn's house and make sure it was ok. Nelly was away and she had asked us to do this. The house was a big brick two-storied affair set on a large lot with a kind of cobble stoned area at the back of the house where Nelly parked her car. She always parked her car in a big wooden garage that stood there. It was painted white and had 3 big doors at the front of it so I guess if Nelly had had 3 cars or maybe a truck and 2 cars or whatever she could have parked them all inside the garage. A small tool shed also painted white stood beside the garage. Anyways, as we were walking by the side of the house by the coal chute my brother Sean came to a sudden halt.
"Listen!" he whispered.. "There's something down in Nelly's coal storage room!" (they burned coal in their furnaces way back then.)
We pressed our ears to the coal chute lid and sure enough I heard a thin, questioning meow.
"I'll bet it's Marty!" I said. "I haven't seen him for three days!" Marty was my cat and I cared about him a lot.
"But Nelly Washburn is in hospital." said Sean. "Her house is locked up , including the lid on this chute. How could Marty have got in?"
"Maybe through a broken window or something. Anyway we've got to go in there and get him. He'll starve if we don't!"
"Katy, you know Nelly doesn't want us down in her cellar. She left strict instructions about that.. We're just supposed to water the plants and check the mail in her box while she's away."
"I don't care. We have to go downstairs and see if he got in somehow. "
"You and your dopey cat!" said Blimp. "What kind of name is Marty, anyways, for a cat?"
"What kind of name is Blimp, if it comes to that?" I shot back." It makes you sound like some sort of Zepplin."
"I'd rather be called that than my real name." he retorted hotly.
"Never you mind, my lass!"
"Let me guess. Alphonzo? Abercrombie? Dumbrowski?"
"Give it up. You'll never guess." said the fat boy.
"I hate to butt in, you two, but are we going in or not?" asked Sean. " And are we going downstairs as well?"
"I guess we'll have to." said Blimp reluctantly. "You said Nelly left a key under an overshoe in the back porch, in case of emergency. I guess this qualifies as such. Let's go in and get it over with."
We climbed the back porch ,found the key and I opened the door.
"This will be the first time we've ever been in here alone." said Sean."I feel kinda funny about it."
"You don't believe them stories, do you?" Blimp asked him.
I pricked up my ears. "What stories ?" I asked curiously.
"At school they say a mean dog won't cross these lawns after dark."
Sean's eyes widened.
"Oh come on, that's just gossip because of what happened to Nelly's husband Neil. Just because they've never solved his murder, people in this town think Nelly is some kind of wierdo. It isn't fair." I said crossly. I unlocked the inner door and we trooped inside.
A deathly stillness hung over the house, which was dimly lit through curtained windows. The air smelt stale and shut-in. Somewhere a clock was ticking.
Directly in front of us, the cellar door stood open, just a crack.
"I wonder why Nelly doesn't want us going down there." said Sean, swinging the door wide.
"Her husband was a teacher/writer. Maybe he kept his files down there." I said as I flicked the light switch. "Burnt out. Drat."
"We'll just have to manage." said Blimp.
We crept down the wooden steps into the gloom. Midway down we heard that quavering yowl again. This time it sounded more hopeful. Even so, I could feel the hairs prickling at the back of my neck.
"Cripes, I never heard Marty sound like that before." said Sean doubtfully.
"He's scared." I said. "And probably hungry too, the poor thing. We're coming, Marty!"
Another yowl, coaxing us onwards.
Through a dusty window high in the wall came light enough to see that we were in the furnace room. The furnace itself, a bulky old monster festooned with cobwebs, sat squatting in the shadows. Soot-blackened pipes reached upwards like tentacles into the raftered gloom.
The bricks in the walls were a curious chalky-blue colour, which ripened to a cheesey green around a little low white wooden door that we could just make out behind the furnace. There were two or three stout planks nailed across the door.
"That must be the coal room." whispered Sean. "You don't suppose he got in there, do you?"
"How could he?" snorted Blimp."The chute outside was locked."
"Why would Nelly Washburn board up this door?" I wondered, walking up to it and testing how solid the planks were nailed. Very firmly, indeed.
"She must have had a pretty good reason." said Sean. "I've got to be honest here; this place gives me the creeps."
A low, cat-like whine came from beneath the door. I crouched and said:" Marty?" There came an answering purr, throaty and contented.
"Oh, just great!" said Blimp, ploughing a hand back through his slicked back hair. "He is in there. It figures somehow, dopey cat. How are we supposed to get these planks off?"
"We'll need something to pry with." said Sean. "I wonder if Nelly has any tools out in her shed. I'll go and see."
"I'll come with you. " offered Blimp.
"No, you stay here with Katy. I'll only be a moment."
"Oh, all right." said Blimp.
"What's the matter, lion heart, are you scared or something?" I needled him.
"Not of that pin-headed cat, I'm not." he retorted."I'm just not so sure that's all that's down here."
"Oh, quit trying to scare me. Archibald?"
"Not even close."
"Get serious, Kate. I said you'd never guess my real name and I meant it, and thank heaven for small mercies. Cripes, there'd be no living with you if you ever found out. I wonder what's taking Seanathan so long."
We heard the back door bang and my brother came clattering down the steps brandishing a hammer.
"This should do the job!" he said cheerfully.
"I'm not sure we should open that door, Mackleby." said Blimp. "I got a bad feelin' about this."
"We don't exactly have a choice!" I told him testily. "Go ahead, Sean."
Sean thrust the claw of the hammer behind the uppermost plank and bore down.
"She must have used four inch nails!" he grunted."Hey, look at this, you guys. There's some kind of queer lettering burned into these planks. You can only see them up close. I can't make out what it says. Must be in some other language."
"It's probably a curse." muttered Blimp darkly.
"You've never liked my cat!" I told him accusingly.
"You have to admit it's been real peaceful around the neighbourhood these last three days without him followin' us around all the time." he said.
"Oh pooh." I said, withering him with a glance.
By now Sean had managed to pry the top two planks loose. The third came free with a splintering crack and the little door yawned open into darkness.
We dithered at the threshold waiting for our eyes to adjust to the gloom. I for one expected Marty to come shooting out between our feet. When that didn't happen I knew something was wrong. Everything had gone deathly quiet again.
"Where is he?" I fretted. "Maybe he's sick! Marty?"
"There's something sitting in there!" whispered Sean. "I can't quite make out what it is!"
The hair at the back of my neck was prickling again.
"I can see it too." I said peering into the room.
It was a chair, that was all. An old cane-backed rocker sitting there by itself in the dust and the darkness.
"Hanlon, you're our resident smoker; have you got any matches?" asked Sean.
Blimp fumbled in his pockets and pulled out a pack. He struck one briskly and by its flickering light we could see that aside from a pile of coal beneath the gaping black maw of the chute protruding from the wall the rest of the room was empty. There was no cat to be seen anywhere. There was no coal either, but then it was summertime.
"But he must be here! " I cried. " We heard him!"
"We heard somethin' alright." said Blimp. "The question is, what?"
"Whatever it was it must still be in here." I said peering around as the match expired in a sulpherous wisp of smoke.
Blimp struck another.
"There's only this old chair." said Sean, moving to touch it.
"Seany don't." I said.
He asked "why?" but I shook my head. Something just didn't feel right in that room.
"Can you feel that cold draft?" asked Blimp giving a shiver. "This place gives off bad vibes and it smells rank too, like somebody's dead or somethin'. I suggest we depart, forthwith and pronto."
"Amen." said Sean, picking up the hammer.
"But what about Marty?" I stammered. "We can't just leave. He may be down here somewhere and can't get out."
"Don't kid yourself, Kate." said Blimp. "If he got in, he can get out again. I wouldn't put nuthin short of armed robbery past that cat! What should we do about these planks, do you think?"
"Oh, let's just stack them here against the wall. I'll explain to Nelly when she gets back. I still can't figure out why she'd take the trouble to barricade this chair in here but that's her business. I guess. Maybe she was afraid the rats would get in through the chute or something. I don't know."
"Don't you think we should nail these boards back up again?" asked Sean dubiously.
"No, its four thirty. We've got to get going if we want to make that pizza in time for the tv movie."
That night they were showing a Vincent Price movie on television and we had planned to make a night of it.
Accordingly we found Nelly's plants in the kitchen window, watered them , locked up the house again returned the hammer to the shed and with many a backward glance on my part anyways we set off up the alley towards Blimp's house.
The alley was flanked with flowering lilac and caragana hedges and the fragrance was heavenly. I nibbled a few of the little yellow flowers on the caragana and found them as sweet as always, a special summertime treat that came around each year and didn't cost anything. Finally we reached third avenue.
At the corner we ran into Jake Beckert's black dog Jacko and so of course I had to stop and exchange salutations. Jacko is a particular favourite of mine, a labradour retriever.
"I wouldn't get too close to him Kate." said Blimp. "That dog has a bad rep round this town. He's dangerously unpredictable."
"And he's always scrounging in garbage cans." said Sean, "The pooch is a mooch!" He giggled.
"That's because Jake Beckert doesn't bother to feed him properly. He's too busy drinking down at the Healey Hotel." I threw my arms impulsively around the big dog's neck."You're OK, aren't you boy? You just need a friend."
The big dog sat, whined and thumped his tail.
"Oh please, spare us the mushy stuff." said Blimp, glancing at his watch impatiently. "Hey, we'd better haul ass. I have to do a bit of scrounging myself if we're gonna make pizza. I just hope Mrs Dunlop isn't standing guard in the kitchen when we get to my place.
"Oh, is your Grandma away?"(Blimp's parents were divorced and Blimp lived with his Grandmother. Sad, but true.)
"Yeah, she took a flight down to Oregon to check on my Aunt Jane. She's not doin' real well from what I can gather. I couldn't go because of school so I've got a baby sitter. Don't say anything Kate. Not one damn thing." He waggled a blunt forefinger in my face.
"Never you mind." he said."It's not all that funny. She's a real dragon. And the food is bad, too. Her specialty is boiled cabbage and soggy wieners. Unbelievable. I used to think it wasn't too bad but after three days it's gettin' monotonous. If it weren't for my friend Tony down at the Akropol Cafe I'd a withered away already."
I laughed and Blimp was forced to glare me into submission.
Up on Dufferin Avenue Jacko left us, trotting off presumably to continue his rounds through the neighbourhood.
We reached Blimp's house and went in through the front door. The dreaded Mrs Dunlop, who couldn't be all that bad the way I saw it, was watching a soap opera in the living room with her feet up on the sofa. Blimp introduced us and left Sean and me there to distract the old lady while Blimp slipped into the kitchen to do a little discreet plundering, as he put it. I noticed him pick up his old knapsack from the hall closet on his way out of the room. While Sean and I were chatting with Mrs Dunlop Blimp was rummaging in the kitchen cupboard for anything he could find that would taste good on our pizza. He later showed us a tin of pineapple chunks, one containing tomato sauce, half a packet of bacon filched from the fridge and a green pepper that had seen better days. He had also found a carton of fresh mushrooms which he felt would serve very nicely. The sound of our approaching voices brought his foraging to a hasty end. He had just time to grab his jar of secret spices and cram it into his pocket before we entered the room with Mrs Dunlop right on our heels. Blimp was crouched innocently retying his shoelace with his knapsack slung down by the back door when we came round the corner into the kitchen.
Blimp told us later that when he heard what we were discussing he realized he had made a great blunder leaving us alone with the talkative old lady. Mrs Dunlop was just saying" Well, I've always called him Wally but I understand his given name is-"
"We'd better shove off you guys!" Blimp blurted, scrambling to his feet. "Bye Mrs Dunlop. "I'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm sleeping over at Sean and Katy's house tonight, remember? My Granny said it would be alright. She said she'd tell you about it ahead of time."
"That's all right, dear. Mind you be a good boy, and I'll have a surprize waiting for you for lunch tomorrow when you get home."
"Yeah, swell, thanks Miz Dunlop , I can hardly wait." he mumbled. He grabbed my wrist."Come on, Kate, Sean, we gotta fly." He practically dragged me down the steps and bundled me out the door. Sean pulled it shut behind us.
"What's your hurry, WALLY?" I asked him mischievously. "Wait til I tell the kids at school! Hoo boy! WALLY! You have GOT to be kidding!"
"She's got you, man." said Sean, clapping Blimp on the back in sympathy.
Blimp protested weakly. "That's only my second name, although God knows it's bad enough! My first name is ten times worse but the old dragon don't know that one yet, so there's no use going back to pump her! Kate, I swear to Christ if you ever tell anyone I'll...."
"You'll what?" I said, dancing ahead of him just out of reach.
"Wally Wally two by four
couldn't get through the bathroom door
so he did it on the floor
Wally Wally two by four!"
Blimp aimed a kick at me but missed me by a country mile.
Sean patted Blimp on the shoulder. "Don't feel too bad, she was bound to find out sooner or later."
"C'mon WALLY! Let's go build that pizza!" I yelled, giggling.
Blimp's head hung low and I started to feel sorry for him so I shut up. After a bit the glower faded from his face and he started looking cheerful again.
"You be nice or I'll put red hot chile peppers on your portion of the pizza, Katy Anne." he said, giving my shoulder a tap.
I hated it when he called me that. But I tried not to let it show.
"You wouldn't dare!" I told him sweetly. "You'd have to revive me!"
"Don't count on it." he said darkly but there was a twinkle in his eye.
Harmony was restored.
We reached home,(Grampa Mackleby's house) and went in through the back porch, kicking our shoes off on the mat. Mrs Carruthers, Grampa Mac's housekeeper met us in the kitchen. She was wearing her best dress, low shoes and some kind of sweet perfume. Sean had reminded me earlier that she was going to a dance at the Elks Club that night. Her date was picking her up at seven. Grampa Mac was away at an Editor's convention in Regina so we would have the whole house to ourselves for the evening! After saying hello Mrs C began laying down the ground rules.
"I don't mind you usin' the kitchen provided you clean up after yourselves. But mind, I don't want tomato sauce splashed up and down these walls.You behave yourselves and no fightin'. Those curtains above the sink there have just been fresh washed so go easy on them when you're washin' up. And mind you turn the stove off when you're finished."
Blimp grinned at her. "Yes, Ma'am, we'll be extra careful. I'll be making my special Marvello Sauce. The ingredients are secret. I use spices I gathered beneath the harvest moon last October."
Mrs Carruthers cocked a dubious eyebrow.
"It all sounds very tantalizin'." she said with a smile." You'll have to be after saving me a slice, a good big one. There is half a salami in the refigerator that you're free to use up and you'll find all the flour and other ingredients you'll need for your crust in the bin there. Also, Sean, there are some cokes in the old fridge downstairs. Mind you shut that door firm now, you know how unreliable it is and your Grand dad with never the time to fix it. Ah, that'll be the doorbell and my young man. He's 65, would you believe it? And still ready enough with his legs to trip the light fantastic with the likes of an old girl like me! Talkin' of age, Katy, you're oldest so you'll be in charge. Now, Sean, I don't want to hear any squawkin' out of you! No fightin', as I said. I should be home by midnight. Be sure both doors are locked before you go up to bed and Blimp, I've laid out the sleeping bag and pillows and such like for you in Sean's room up in the attic. I never want to be climbin' those stairs again tonight and me off to a dance too pooped to get out on the floor! We'll be down at the Elks Hall and I've left the telephone number there by the phone. Have fun now and enjoy your show."
"We will, thanks. We'll be all right here." I told her.
As she was leaving a few drops of rain hit the sidewalk. The air had turned warm and muggy and glancing up I noticed that the sky above the house was dark with mounting clouds.
"Sure, and don't it look like a storm moving in." said Mrs Carruthers. "You might want to nip upstairs and close the windows in the bedrooms. And if there's lightning mind you unplug the television set, show or no show."
"I will. Have a good time!" I said. We waved as the car drove away.
"Boy," said Blimp with a shake of his head," she covers all the bases, doesn't she."
"You bet she does." I said. "That's why we have her, so Grampa Mac doesn't have to worry about us."
"And now for the pizza!" said Blimp, leading the way back to the kitchen. "What we need," he said grandly, and brandishing a finger," is for someone to take charge. I see myself as a kind of natural leader, as you may have noticed. I'll be the Chef and you two can be my swabbies. Swabbie One, fetch me a can opener, Swabbie Two, peel me a grape!"
We pelted him with mushrooms.
"There's gratitude for you. This is mutiny!" he roared, taking refuge behind the chopping block. "Now settle down!"
Outside, the rain was really starting to fall. Freshened air came in through the screened window above the sink fluttering the curtains and every now and then I heard a sulky rumble of thunder overhead. I loved the smell of the rain, even then. I still do.
We soon settled into the task at hand. Blimp was unpacking his foodstuffs on the kitchen table.
"Here is some mozzerella cheese I found in the fridge. It's a bit dry but it will have to do. I'll cut the mouldy bits off and grate up the rest for sprinkling on top." I said.
" I can fry the bacon." offered Sean, rummaging up a cast iron frying pan.
"And I'll slice up the salami and vegetables." said Blimp, brandishing a knife. "I've also got to get my sauce on the go. I don't want you humble swabbies learning any of my secrets so I'll have to ask you to turn your backs whilst I season the brew!"
"Oh brother, listen to this guy!" said Sean. "Give me a break!"
Blimp took the jar of special spices from an inner pocket , unscrewed the cap reverently and made several passes over the sauce pot mumbling mystic incantations as he did so.
Soon the spicey sauce was bubbling merrily atop the stove. The smell of the garlic and oregano and whatever else he had in there made my mouth water.
But as the rain fell more heavily outside I began to worry about Marty my cat again.
"I asked Dr Beswick next door if he had seen Marty" I said" and he said Jacko probably scared him away, He said Jake Beckert should keep Jacko on a chain and not let him roam around the neighbourhood like a scavenger but I don't agree with that. A big dog like that needs exercise. And something to eat now and then! And then I asked Mrs Hare down the block if she had seen Marty but she was too busy hunting for a blue sweater gone missing from her clothes line. She thought maybe Jacko had dragged it off. That poor dog gets blamed for everything! She did admit she'd chased Marty out from under her pines last week but she said she hasn't seen him since he scrambled over her back fence when she took the broom to him. I wish she wouldn't do things like that! And now Marty has been gone so long I'm afraid he'll starve."
"He's been getting so fat lately that I don't see that you need to worry about that." said Sean as he blotted the bacon with a scrap of paper towel. He put the bacon into a green bowl and set it aside on the counter.
Meanwhile Blimp, humming to himself, was rolling the dough he'd made out onto the chopping block. When he had it the right thickness and texture he beckoned imperiously at me and I took him a large round pan and helped him press the dough out onto it just eager for his every sign of approval, ha ha!
"Now it's time for my marvellous sauce!" he said, rubbing his hands with glee. "Just wait til you taste it! Swabby One, bring the sauce hither to me, I pray thee!"
Sean turned off the element and carried the steaming pot gingerly over from the stove.
"Gangway for a Hanlon original!" he said, setting the pot down on the chopping block.
Blimp held up his hands for silence.
"Swabby One, fetch me three spoons."
"Aye aye, your highness, or should I say "your heiny." Sean handed him the spoons and Blimp issued one to each of us.
"Swabbies One and Two, taste the sauce."
We did so, carefully, for it was very hot. And besides, I didn't trust Blimp.
There was a moment of silence, out of respect for the sauce.
Then Sean said in surprize :"It's actually not that bad!"
Blimp put a hand up over his eyes, paused for a moment to recover himself and then said:"Swabby Two, here is a ladle and there is a spatula. Take said utensils firmly in hand and spread the sauce evenly over the crust. Try not to wind up wearing half of it."
I got a certain amount on my shirt but I guess that was to be expected.
"Now comes the creative part!" cried Blimp, whipping out his red chef's hat. He put it on at a jaunty angle and as we three crowded round to garnish the pizza with the toppings the hat wobbled atop his head like a vast red tipsy balloon.
First came the salami, then the sliced green pepper, then the pineapple and bacon and finally the mozzerella cheese was mounded on top.
"What we have here is nothing short of a masterpiece." said Blimp grandly. "Let us now proceed to the oven and bake it off."
This we did with great ceremony. Soon the kitchen was filled with the savoury aroma of baking meats and melted cheese.
Finally it was time to take it out of the oven. Sean, meanwhile had taken down the green glass goblets we had won tossing dimes at the fair.
I cracked a tray of ice cubes . Armed with plates and serviettes we trooped downstairs to have our feast. Blimp, of course, carried the pizza, his vast hat still wobbling like a rooster's comb atop his pointy head. It was nearly time for our movie. I hurried to the down kitchen and got the cokes from the fridge.
The best laid plans, however, don't always pan out.
We had no sooner fired up the old black and white RCA in the corner than we heard a crackle of lightning right over the house. The flash lit up the basement window.
"Oh Oh," said Sean. "I think we're in for it."
All the while the wind blew freshening air in through the screened window and I could hear the rain dripping off the side of the house. More thunder rumbled sulkily and another flash of lightning made the basement lights flicker.
The smell of the rain was still heavenly.
"I think we'd better unplug the set." I said with a sigh, going to do so.
"Oh no!" cried Sean. "What about Vincent Price?"
"Let's tell ghost stories instead." I suggested. "Blimp, how about cutting the pizza?"
"With pleasure!" he said, brandishing his trusty blade. "Seanathan? A quarter portion?"
"Get serious, Hanlon. That thing"s the size of a wagon wheel. Are you trying to kill me?"
"Coward. Take this smaller piece then. Katy? Say when."
"That's plenty!" I said. " Holy Moley, I'll never eat all that. I'll bust outa my britches!"
"You never know til you try." he said, handing me mine on a plate. "Have some coke. And I'll have some too. Now who shall tell the first ghost story?"
"I know one." said Sean with his mouth full. "Remember the story Grampa Mackleby told us about the WikiWalk?"
"Isn't it always supposed to bring bad luck to talk about that thing?" I asked him warily.
"Not only that." said Sean ghoulishly. "It's actually supposed to attract the creature."
"Aw come off it Sean." snorted Blimp. "There's no such thing."
"Can we really be sure? " said Sean. "Grampa Mac sure took an interest in it. He interviewed Nelly's husband Neil when he was still alive. Neil was a sort of expert on
the thing. Anyways, Grampa Mac's newspaper ran a story about it a few years back, based on local legends and folklore."
"How does the story go exactly?" asked Blimp, setting down his drink. " I suppose it's safe to ask, down here."
"Well, about thirty years ago there was a series of mysterious disappearances centered around Falcon Lake, not too far from here. Men, women, even a few children went missing. In each case the person was last seen walking with a close friend or relative, who, when questioned later by the RCMP, denied the fact altogether.
Rumours started. Old legends were revived of a mythical creature said to haunt the area from the olden days of covered wagons and settlers. Tales of the Wiki Walk, tall and thin,hiding in the thicket just beyond reach of the firelight, calling out to the children at twilight in the voice of a friend."
"What did the thing look like anyways?" asked Blimp.
"In it's natural state it was supposed to resemble a sort of giant praying mantis, with a queer little knob of a head cocked to one side and spindly clutching fingers."
"What do you mean by "in it's natural state?" "Blimp asked him warily, eyes narrowing.
"Well, that's just it," said Sean. "The WikiWalk could supposedly look like anything it wanted to look like. That's how it lures it's victims away, so the story goes."
"And your Grandpa believed in it?"
"Well, he did a lot of research at the time, talked to some of the natives in those parts. Neil Washburn told him a lot of stuff too.
I don't know what conclusions he arrived at. But people actually were disappearing. Someone or something must have made away with them. And then, abruptly,the whole thing died out. People said the WikiWalk had gone away. But no trace of the missing people was ever found."
The hair was prickling at the back of my neck.
"Do you know what I 'm starting to wonder, you guys?" I asked them. They shook their heads. "I'm wondering what Neil and Nelly Washburn's interest in old legends has to do with a boarded up room down in their cellar."
There was an uneasy stillness and I could hear the rain dripping outside.
"Do you think the two are connected, Kate?" Blimp asked me.
"Well, let's just say, what if they are? Why would Nelly board a chair up inside a dark little room down in her cellar?"
"What are you getting at, Katy?" asked Sean.
"OK, I'll spell it out for you. What if that old cane-backed rocker wasn't really a rocking chair at all? Remember. when we left Nelly's house we left the door to that
cellar room open?."
"So what did we let out? What can make a sound like a cat when there is no cat? What was really in that cellar room? And more to the point, where is it now?"
My two chums looked at me wide-eyed. Blimp cleared his throat uneasily.
The telephone rang sharply upstairs, breaking the spell.
"I'll get it." Sean said, and jumping up, he ran up the stairs. After a moment I heard him talking to someone.
Then of all things, the damn doorbell rang.
"Katy, can you see who that is, please?" yelled Sean.
"Come up with me Blimp, in case it's the boogeyman."
"Yeah, right." said Blimp, heaving himself to his feet with a grunt.
Together we thundered up the stairs. We passed Sean talking on the phone in the kitchen and we pushed through the swinging door out into the hall. The hinges
squeaked behind us. I could see straight through the glass inner front door to the outer porch door which had a screen. A figure was standing on the front step under the lamp. I recognized Mrs Carruthers and thought, with a pang , "oh shit, we haven't cleaned up the kitchen yet!" "She must have forgotten her key, Blimp." I said. "Sean," I yelled,"Mrs C is home early!"I ran and opened the inner door. Blimp was right behind me. Mrs Carruthers smiled in at us looking rueful as I moved to unlock the outer porch door. Mrs Carruthers had a funny look on her face. Maybe she had to go to the bathroom, or something. I heard a rumble of thunder very close by.With my hand on the sliding bolt I heard the door from the kitchen squeak open behind us. I glanced over my shoulder, past Blimp.
Sean was standing there with a look of frozen horror on his face.
"It's Mrs Carruthers I"m talking to on the phone. " he said shakily. "Oh my God, Katy, don"t let it in!"
But it was too late. My fingers had automatically turned the little knob.
There was a blinding pink flash and a loud concussion which knocked us to the floor. Every light in the house went black. Lightning had struck one of the big
poplar trees outside! There was a strong smell of ozone in the air.
Moments passed as we clung to the floor in the dark with only a thin outer screened door between us and whatever it was out on the step.
"Katy..." I heard it crooning, in Mrs Carruther's kindly voice,"Katy, be a good girl and open the door now. I want to get in!"
"Go away, you horrid thing! " I screamed. And now my eyes had adjusted to the dark and I could see the outline of something tall and spindly hunching forward eagerly, pressing up against the screen, bulging it inwards.
"Let me in dear....I'm hungry and I want to eat..." Its fingers seemed to flutter as they scrabbled against the screen; I could hear it slobbering and drooling out there on the doorstep and I wanted to scream again and keep screaming.
From out of the darkness Sean jumpled over me and slammed the inner door and flipped the dead bolt.
The thing outside seemed to melt away..
"Now the back door, quick, before it thinks of it!"
Blimp and I scrambled to our feet and together the three of us raced through the kitchen to make all secure.
Then we held a council of war.
"You were right, Katy." said Sean, ploughing a hand back through his hair. "There is a WikiWalk. Neil Washburn's research must have attracted it and somehow he and Nelly trapped it in the cellar of their house."
"Yes." I said. "Remember those queer signs and squiggles burned into the planks across the door? They must have been some sort of charm or spell to keep it locked and dormant inside."
"And we let it out." said Blimp glumly. "Now it's after us. Just great. What are we goin' to do?"
"From what I can remember Grampa Mac said that only the loving sacrifice of a friend can dispell the WikiWalk. I'm not even sure what that means." said Sean.
I had gone over to the window and stood now looking out at the caraganas at the side of the house. As I watched through the rain pelting down I saw a thing like a walking stick peering out slyly from behind the poplar tree closest to the house.
"Hey you guys, come and take a look at this!" I whispered.
In a moment they had joined me at the window. Blimp swore softly.
"It's still out there." moaned Sean. "This is bad news, Katy. It knows your name. I'm kinda scared."
"I''m scared too." I admitted. "But don't worry Sean, that thing is not getting in here. We've just got to remember to keep away from the doors no matter what we hear. Why don't the two of you go on up to bed? You'll be safe up in the attic. I want to clean up this kitchen before the real Mrs C gets home. By the way, what did she say when she called?"
"She just wanted to make sure everything was all right here at home. Boy, if she only knew! Maybe we should call the police, Katy."
Blimp snorted. "They'd never believe us." he said bitterly.
I went over to the window again and looked out.
"I can't see it. Maybe it got tired of waiting and went away."
"We should be so lucky." said Blimp. "C'mon Sean, let's help Kate clean up this mess. Fair is fair. Well, would you look at that? Things are looking up!"
The lights had come back on.
It took us well over an hour to clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes. Then, after a nightcap of hot chocolate, we trooped up the stairs to bed. I said good night
to the boys outside my room and watched them climb the stairs to the attic. When they had closed the trapdoor, I went into my room, closed the door and got into
my nightie. After brushing my hair I climbed wearily into bed . The instant my head hit the pillow I started worrying. What if the WikiWalk got Mrs Carruthers when she came home? Should I telephone her at the Elks Hall and warn her? But she would never believe me. I could tell her there was a prowler outside in the shrubbery, but then she would tell me to call the police. Well, maybe that was what I should do anyways. Let them deal with it. The soundness of this plan appealed to me. And then I thought of my poor tabby cat Marty out there somewhere in the rain, perhaps huddled under someone's back steps, lost, alone , and miserable.
Suddenly, in the midst of my worrying, I heard a sound. A plaintive, pitiful sound from the lawn beneath my window. I threw back the covers and scrambled out of bed. I ran over to the window and peeped out and there, so help me, out on the front lawn was my very wet, miserably unhappy looking pussy cat! I might not have seen him for three days but I would have known him anywhere. Marty had come home!
My first thought was to tear downstairs and let him in. But then I had another thought. If Sean or Blimp were to hear me going downstairs to open the door they would almost certainly try to stop me. As if I didn't know my own cat when I saw it! I would just have to creep downstairs without them hearing me and let Marty in. I eased open my bedroom door and tiptoed down the stairs to the front door. I opened the inner glass door and stepped out onto the porch. All the while I could
hear Marty mewing piteously outside. Without hesitation I unlocked the screen door and stepped barefoot out onto the wet front step. There were bits of wood and bark scattered all over the front lawn and I could smell the sap from the poplar tree. Such a poignant smell like a stab of sadness through your heart reminding you of younger days and the fun you all had together. I have always liked that smell .The towering poplar nearest the street had a rough white groove blasted all the way up one side where the lightning had split it.
But these details were only secondary. It was Marty I was focussed on and there he was just a few feet away on the drenched lawn.
I crouched down.
"Come on Marty, come here boy!"
But Marty backed away playfully like he always did.
"Come here silly, you're soaking wet! We've got to get you inside quickly. This is no time to play hard to get."
But Marty backed farther away, acting coy.
"Stubborn! You just want me to get my feet wet. And there are probably worms all over the sidewalk. Yick! Oh well."
I tip-toed gingerly down the steps and out onto the lawn. The grass felt cool and slippery between my toes. The drizzle wet my bangs and they strayed into my eyes as I advanced across the lawn towards my wayward cat.
"The lightning must have spooked him." I thought. "Look at the way he's arching his back! And his eyes look so queer--all glittery. Maybe he's caught a cold!"
"Come here Marty, we're wasting time. Sean and Blimp will be awful mad if they catch me out here."
It's funny how things look different at night. Even Marty looked different somehow, as I drew closer to him. He was bigger than I remembered him and his back was humped.
And now the cat reversed his strategy. Step by step he crept towards me. And his eyes, I couldn't stop looking at them. They were crazy and wild looking.
"He looks like he's stalking a mouse and the mouse is me." I thought distractedly.
And then it began to dawn on me and the hair prickled at the back of my neck. This wasn't Marty at all....
I was out on the lawn in the dark and noone knew where I was. I started backing away.
And now the thing that looked like Marty began to whine coaxingly like it was calling me. It crept closer and closer. And the eyes, those crazy glittering eyes.. I'd heard that coaxing whine before in the afternoon down in Nelly's cellar. I should have known then what it meant.
Stepping backwards, I slipped on a piece of wet bark and fell.
The cat-thing leapt towards me as it swelled in size and I screamed.
At that moment, out of the darkness, a great black dog ripped between us with a ferocious bark.
It was Jacko!
I scrambled to my feet and ran towards the house. I threw one terrified glance back over my shoulder.
And now, it seemed, there were two dogs out there on the lawn whirling and snarling and fighting and tearing at each other with savage fangs. And they both looked exactly the same.....
I regained the safety of the porch and slammed the door shut against the night. The noise brought Sean and Blimp thundering down the stairs. In a flash they took in what was happening but we were all three powerless to stop it.
"It's Jacko, Blimp!" I said frantically. "The WikiWalk will kill him! We've got to do something!"
He gripped my shoulders". Which one is he?"
"I don't know! I can't tell them apart! A minute ago one of them looked like Marty!" "
"I kinda wondered what you were doin' out here in the middle of the night. Anyways, there's
nothin' we can do." he said. " He's doin' what he has to do. You've always stood by him and now he's standing by you. Let the chips fall where they may, Kate."
Well I"ll tell you it was pretty hard to stand there and leave it at that but I felt so helpless. I can still remember how I felt...
It was soon clear enough that one dog was mastering the other. The battle ended with the victor's fangs buried in the weaker dog's throat. The vanquished animal jerked spasmodically and lay still. The victor dragged himself towards the house, swayed and toppled over. But which was which?
Warily we ventured out on the lawn. We approached the fallen animal closest to the house which lay panting for breath, its battered chest heaving.
Suddenly a voice hailed us from the darkness of the yard next door. "What in thunder's going on over there?"
"It's Dr Beswick!" I cried. "Please help us! Jacko got in a fight with another dog and he's hurt bad!"
Blimp caught my eye. "Are you sure you've got the right dog?" he asked me quietly.
I knelt by Jacko and cradled his head in my lap.
"I'm sure." I said, stroking the big dog's head. He whined softly.
Jacko was breathing raggedly. His side had a big gash in it, wet with blood.
Dr Beswick knelt beside the dog and made a swift examination. Then he rose stiffly and said:
"I'll just go and fetch my medical bag. We may be able to save him. What happened to the other dog? Where is he? Did he run off?
Blimp jerked a thumb over his shoulder.
"He's lyin' over there." he said , looking at me and putting a finger to his lips.
Obviously we could say nothing about the WikiWalk. Who would have believed us?
"I don't see any other dog lying anywhere on this lawn. You must be mistaken. Well, I guess maybe your eyes deceived you. They do that sometimes, you know."
When Dr Beswick returned he set to work stitching up Jacko as best he could. Finally, the elderly doctor rose to his feet.
"That's the best I can do in these conditions. H e has lost a lot of blood and needs to rest and recuperate. " He looked at me."It seems you've adopted him. What your Grandfather will say I can only imagine. Try to get him to eat something tomorrow. Perhaps we can carry him to your garage. At least he'll be in out of the rain. I'll help you. If you have an old blanket we'll fix him up a bed. I'll telephone Jake Beckert tomorrow and let him know where his dog is, through frankly I doubt he'll care. :And on Monday you must see that he's taken to the Vet. I think he opens his surgery at nine in the morning.
That must have been some fight." he said. "I'd like to get a look at the brute that inflicted those injuries. Where did you say he was? Over here somewhere?"
You guessed it. We looked all over that yard with the aid of Dr Beswick's flashlight but no sign of another dog could we find. There was a pile of what looked like burned cinders but that may have been part of the poplar tree . We couldn't be sure and Dr Beswick went home as perplexed as we were.
Jacko recovered slowly over the next two weeks. Mrs Carruthers helped us nurse him but she was adamant she was not having "that great hairy dog underfoot for evermore." Jake Beckert was in jail for petty theft so Jacko couldn't go home. Beckert's shack down by the creek stood empty for the time being. He probably didn't even lock his door when he was taken away.
In the end, it was Blimp who solved our problem. "I 've always wanted a dog." he told me one day." and my Grandma loves animals. Do you suppose I could, well, kinda adopt him or somethin'? I'd take real good care of him, and with my cooking expertise he'd fatten up again in no time. I mean, I'm not gonna feed him anything spicey or nothin'. What do you say, Kate?"
Well, what do you think I said?
And that's how Blimp came to have his dog. And they're both still going strong together and getting in and out of scrapes most every day.
Only one thing remains to be told. One morning the front doorbell rang and there was Mrs Hare from down the block standing on our doorstep. She was carrying a cardboard box. In it, atop her long lost blue sweater lay Marty and four black and white kittens and one little tabby. Mrs Hare had apparently found them while sweeping out her garden shed.
Marty has since been renamed Martina.
And Blimp?l guess he should stay Blimp, no matter what his real name is. Ane that's what really happened, all those years ago.