Short Story
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                                            By Jason Campbell

Christina Hilda, her mother and father were Dutch immigrants who moved to
Wyoming in the United States in 1939; just between the tail end of the Great
Depression and the head of WWII.  Christina was 16 years of age.  To mild
curiosity, she was never enrolled in public school at nearby Portersville.  As a
matter of fact, she was little more than a rumor to the townspeople.

The old farm was in a rural area.  The only persons ever seen in town from
there, were the mother – Aletta and her father – Henry.  Outsiders wasn't a
word used by the Porters community, but if there were a word...  After all,
making friends is one thing, but the family was never even seen at church.  

Story has it that a delivery truck once came, driven by the owner of the feed
store – Carter Simms.  Carter would have been about late 30's at the time.  
He came calling out of social kindness and that troublesome thing..curiosity.  
He knew Mr. Hilda always picked and dropped the seed and produce himself,
but what could it hurt?  

As he approached the door, he saw a  beautiful young woman in a soft pink
dress sprint across the field and into the barn.  The first, and only one of two
sightings of Christina Hilda.  Henry, furious that he had the store calling,
exclaimed to Carter that he had given strict instruction that he, himself, pick
up and drop off at the store.  Mr. Simms was told fervently to never return to
the property again. And he didn't.

Portersville had flourished with the War effort and immigration, but the plains
areas remained desolate and still.  As time went on into the 1960's, the town,
for a time, seemed to forget they had ever heard mention of Christina Hilda.   
Oh, you could hear a speculation or two:  Old man Hilda beats her and keeps
her in the cellar.  They work her like a mule.  She's too beautiful to be let out
of her father's sight.  He loves her like he does her mother.  No one knew for
sure what went on out there for all those years, and for the most part, no one
minded much until the summer of 1969 when both Henry and Aletta were
believed to be deceased.  

Mr. Hilda had been making his routine trips to market alone for the past few
years leading up to 1969.  Most town folk believed that Mrs. Hilda was either
bedridden or off to Saint Peter.  Given that Mr. Hilda didn't have words for
anyone, it was left to gossip to what had become of his wife.  Mr. Hilda's visits
ceased summer of '69 as well.

The next few months led into an abnormally warm Wyoming fall season.  
Jimmy Simms, son of Carter Simms, Owner of Big Leaf Feed & Seed headed
out to the Hilda place to try and close the account.  Carter had taken ill and
passed just spring, and Jimmy had taken over the business.  No one knew
what Jimmy would find, but curiosity weighed as heavy as the bell atop the
Portersville Assembly Church and most of the towns people seated below it.

That afternoon came and went.  Evening fell deep and by morning Jimmy's
wife and the store's patrons began to have serious concern.  The town
descended on the Hilda farm by afternoon.  They found no one.  The old
farm house full of belongings, it looked like the Hilda's just woke up one day
and walked off the porch and straight up the dusty eye of a rare Wyoming
twister.  No sign of Jimmy here, not even his pickup.  The town’s people left
the house that day, but the Sheriff made several return visits over the
following days.  Eventually the outcry from Jimmy's wife and the town in
general, led to the good Sheriff riding out one afternoon with a deputy and
his brother-in-law to board the house up.  And it sat that way – an unwanted,
confusing, ward of the nearby community, for another 18 years.  Then I was
called in.


Many miles outside the city, the early morning fog was heavy.  The house on
the hill at the end of the overgrown drive appeared as a grey spot above the
field.  It seemed to stare down at me with the contempt of abandonment, that
only these old houses know.  The trees that lingered in the yard were sad
and without leaves.  I could see the boards that covered the windows and
door on the first floor more clearly as I pulled up the hill.  

The report read:
Felton County
Public Facilities Resource Department
September 1987
Walter Smith
Field Inspector/Supervisor
Fifth District

White colonial style _____1100 sq ft
16 acre______________Built 1920's
Cellar or Crawl Space___________
Occupied_________Yes    No    Unknown

I needed to gain entry.  A rusty, squeaking sound began to saw a rhythm into
the silence.  A rooster weather vane atop the barn, covered in reddish
brown.  It was jerking back and forth as if skewered to the roofs peek and
covered in rusty blood.  A chill crept up my arm and onto the back of my
neck.  I turned back to the house.  I made my way through the dry waist high
grass to the back.  And there's what I'm looking for, narrow stone staircase
going down into the house.  Barely visible behind the brush.  No one likes
dark unknown spaces, but once you kick that first foot forward, you own it.  

I put my boot down on that first misshapen stone step and was taken by an
immediate and overwhelming feeling of euphoria.  Whether the step, my knee
or my mind itself gave, I do not know. The house swallowed me like a Venus

I went headlong through the cellar door, missing the next 5 steps and falling
through the door.  The wood gave like paper mache.  Tiny splinters filled my
face and hands.  I landed on a moist dirt floor.  I lost the flashlight;  it was just
in my hand.  It didn't matter, I couldn't move.  I was completely paralyzed,
save my eyes -- that were swaying like a metronome.  My chin was angled
down into the hard clay, head tilted to the side.  I could just see a perfect box
of light behind me over my feet, made by the doorway above.  There was a
steady breeze pulling towards the opening.  The cool air was heavy and
stale.  An insidious panic began to possess me.  

Time went by with only the sound of the dreaded rooster.  The door light
shrank to a small box and then a square, finally down to a pebble.  I had just
realized the perpetual roosters cry had stopped when I saw a new light steal
out from somewhere opposite the doorway.  A pulsating, warmer light...a
candle?  A candle.  I tried to speak.  I wanted to say, “Who are you?”, “Help
me!”, “PLEEASE.”  But what came out, was just a long coarse breath.  

Shadows began to draw over me.  Panic wrenched me into a seizure, but my
body could not respond.    My mind filled with white noise.  A hissing sound.  
Not a snake.  Human.  Louder, close.  Closer.  I felt warm breath on my neck,
as the hissing drew up to me.  I began to drift into a fear evoked
unconsciousness...then...a deep throaty female scream rose like a phoenix
behind me crashing through my ears and the cellar floor.  

About Jason Campbell

Jason Campbell is a
freelance fiction writer
concentrating on the
short story format since
2009. Jason submits his
work to literary
magazines nationwide.
He lives and works in
Bloomington, IN.