1922: A massacre at Winterhaven estate. Blight continues to lurk; waiting to surface
Here she was again, walking down this dark corridor searching for the way out. Every time she found herself in this house, the layout was different. Just enough was recognizable for her to navigate through the hallways but the rooms were always different.
Tonight the room she entered was expansive. It was empty upon entering but as she scanned the room, things began to appear like boxes and toys. She could hear a soft crying off in the distance that unnerved her. It wasn’t a good sound. She knew she was about to discover something she didn’t want to find.
There in the dark in a back corner of the room was a row of baby carriages, four in all. Each seemed to contain a baby. Some were quiet and others were crying softly as if they had given up long ago of anyone coming to their aid.
A great sadness washed over Sophie and she frantically looked around for someone to help her rescue these children. That’s when she saw the woman sitting zombie like in a theater chair staring at a screen before her. The black and white film was of a man and a woman swinging on a porch swing.
Why wasn’t the woman tending to the babies? They were in desperate need of food, cleaning, and love…so much love. The pain overwhelmed Sophie and suddenly she felt as if she was being dredged up from the bottom of a very deep pool of water. She was trying to catch her breath, flailing all the way up. When she realized she could yell out, a set of hands grabbed her by the arms and she heard a voice.
“Sophie! It’s just one of your dreams! Everything is ok. The kids are fine. Wake up!”
The voice was that of her husband Jax. He was used to this routine but he wasn’t fond of it. He figured that he had lost a lot of quality sleep over the years just trying to ease Sophie out of her dreams.
“I’m so sorry!” Sophie whispered. “That was a bad one. I hate dreaming about babies.”
Jax pulled her close to him and brushed her hair off of her face. “You know it’s ok. I’m used to it by now.” In his gruff, half-sleep voice, he said, “Just try to go back to sleep.”
Sophie laid there in the dark, not sure if she wanted to try to go back to sleep. She really didn’t want to go back to that place. She searched her memory for what could have taken her to such a dreary place and then the old Benton home entered her mind. It was a listing she was given late last week and one she wasn’t thrilled to be saddled with.
Delbert felt the hair on the back of his neck rise as he steered his 1929 Erskine sedan down the gravel road that led to the Benton estate. He quickly shrugged off the spooky feelings and quietly told himself that everything would be fine. It had to be. This was his only solid chance at a stable home for his tiny daughter. Della was his world and she was all he had left to remind him of his wife. Della slept soundly in the back seat unaware of the strange new world they were entering.
Delbert had tried for months to find work that would support himself and Della. He couldn't stand the thought of another family raising her. When his well meaning family suggested that he find a new wife to care for Della while he went back to work, it crumbled his heart a little more.
After breaking his back on a well site the year before, he came very close to losing his Della. She had just lost her mother the year before and Delbert was doing all he could to be two parents to her. His business partner told him that he had to choose between being a wildcatter and a father but he couldn't do both. He chose fatherhood and on the day he was set to leave the business, he shattered his back in a well blowout. What would've taken another man a year to recover, Delbert forced himself to heal in four months time. Of course, the harsh treatment that he gave his body would forever cripple him somewhat. That didn't matter. Della mattered and he couldn't lose her, too.
As he came closer to the main house, he passed a small cemetery enclosed in a wrought iron fence. He couldn't help but notice the four little headstones all in a row. He had heard the stories in town how Mrs. Benton lost her entire family in one afternoon but he just couldn't imagine how she had the strength to continue in this world. The one person in her life that she should have been able to trust most, took everything away from her and without warning.
Again Delbert reminded himself that he couldn't dwell on gossip and that he had a job to do. He needed this job to be permanent so Della could have a real home and be able to sleep in a real bed instead of the backseat of a car.