I thought I’d post the first chapter of my first novel here today. It’s a haunted house story. I hope you enjoy it and, as always, comments are welcome.
~ CHAPTER ~ 1
A cold wind blew and it rained steadily, leaving everything shrouded in a misty veil, the day of the funerals. It was an unusually wet September in New England with one storm after another battering the area. The marble headstones emerged from the fog to stand in streaky shades of gray and pale pink as they rose out of the neatly trimmed grass in the Ravensdam Cemetery. But this wasn't a funeral in that pristine, orderly cemetery where loved ones were laid to rest in peace. It was a funeral for three in the Haversham family plot deep in an age old forest; a place some three hundred years old set on uneven ground and covered now with thickets and briers. This was an unkempt graveyard behind scrolled iron gates rusted and creaky from the elements; a resting place known only to a few although rumors of its existence persisted in the towns and villages nearby.
The only mourner at this funeral was the brother and uncle of the deceased. He was a well to do business man from Boston. This was apparent in the custom made suit and top hat he wore. A long, black trench coat with the collar turned up against the rain hung almost to his polished imported shoes. He stood somberly looking down at the graves of his sister and his niece and nephew as the vicar said a few words over the plain wood caskets.
The gravedigger, a well-muscled black man, stood back in the thickets his forearm resting on his shovel; as he mopped his face with a soiled white handkerchief. He wore faded jeans with holes in the knees and frayed at the bottom. His wet shirt hung over a nearby gravestone. Rain ran down his muscled chest and fell onto the ground. His eyes were huge in his face with whites showing all around as he looked over his shoulder wishing for a speedy service so he could be on his way. He could feel the spirits hovering here causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end.
The rain came down in a constant cold drizzle and didn't let up the entire time. It seemed a fitting day for a place such as this where it was incessantly quiet as the excess water gathered in the low spots forming muddy pools. The only sound was the splashing of the rain as it hit the standing water. Mist hung in the trees and around the old markers adding to the dreariness of this painful ordeal. Merrill was in a depressed mood having lost the last of his relatives.
As the vicar finished speaking and stepped back, Merrill cleared his throat and threw three white roses into the new graves. He had decided he would sell the three-hundred-year-old mansion, located on these grounds. It had been erected by his relatives in the sixteen hundreds. He would not be coming back to Haversham Hill, letting the legacy and all the legends die with his sister and her children. For years he had tried and was successful in separating himself from the spirits that lingered here and from the lifestyle his sister lived. So this was the last of it then.
Slowly he stepped away and back to the forest path, pulling his coat closer against the wind as the gravedigger finished his work. He didn't look back when the gates clanged shut behind him, but he heard the shovel make a dull scraping sound as it dug into the mounds of dirt.
Stepping quietly he maneuvered his way around the pools of water and back to the house, his shoes tapping gently as they touched the packed wet earth. His intention was to dispose of any personal items that would cause needless family embarrassment and brand his sister for what she was. He wanted to make haste back to Boston and wouldn't be coming this way again.
The gargoyles looked at him knowingly as his shoes clapped across the wet boards of the old porch. Their evil faces glared down as the wind sent a shower of fall leaves skittering by. Merrill pulled the collar tighter around his neck and ducked his head down against the chill as he reached the door, pulling it open to reveal a different world than his own. This was a world of dark, evil forces that seemed to hang thick in the air around him.
He worked quickly, his thin frame moving easily through the darkened rooms, as he pulled books and papers on magic from the shelves and cupboards. His long fingers removed jars of unknown items along with implements and candles that his sister used in her craft. All these items came to rest in a pile on the wood plank floor. He worked room by room gathering things to join the pile that was getting higher as the afternoon wore on. He was hoping the weather would clear so he could carry out his plan of burning everything that could link the family to witchcraft.
It thrilled him when the rain clouds lifted and he was able to light the fire at dusk. He stood huddled against the chill with his overcoat held snug as he watched the flames flicker and dance in shades of orange and yellow. He was satisfied of a job well done as the pile was gradually being reduced to black ash. He felt contented he found everything and didn't think he missed anything in the secret hiding places deep in the house.