The Ghosts of Midlands Past
By Stephanie Bri
Chapter One- The calm before the storm
There was a small farm house on the outskirts of town. It was occupied by a teenager named Jennifer and her mother, Brenda.
Jennifer’s mother bought the house from her uncle after Jennifer’s father passed away. She wanted to spend her days trying to get it into farm shape, although she lacked the funds to pull it off.
It was a small, one story house. The paint had long faded revealing weathered wooden walls. Inside it had a single bedroom, which Jennifer occupied, and a kitchen. There was a small outhouse that had been upgraded with modern plumbing and added as an extension onto the home. Brenda slept on the back porch on a cot she got from her uncle who sold her the house. She was fine giving Jennifer the bedroom as she understood how important it was for a teenage girl to have her space.
Jennifer spent most of her days cooped up in her bedroom. She spent most of her time either reading books or arts and crafts. She was particularly fond of painting and making homemade jewelry. It was how she expressed herself. She also kept a diary at her mother’s request. It was mostly filled with pages jotting down memories of deceased father.
Outside the farm house was a small, rundown barn that was in need of major repairs. Behind the house next to the barn was a windmill. Jennifer would often take a book outside and sit underneath that old windmill. It of course led to a well that had been the farms primary source of water decades ago. Now it was nothing more than a relic of the past.
Jennifer shared her private space with a single cat. Stripes she named the orange and white spotted cat ironically. Jennifer wasn’t very sociable so her mother let her homeschool. It was a compromise they two came up with follower the death of her father whom she was very close. Jennifer wanted to drop out and focus on pursuing a career as a writer. Her mother kept trying to encourage her to consider going to school but Jennifer insisted once she was done with high school there was no way in hell she was going to continue her education.
The farm house had a few trees in the yard that hadn’t been well kept. The large oak tree was mostly dead with a few leaves attempting to sprout out of its sides. The remaining trees were much smaller and in dire need of loving pruning. The weeds over took the yard and the grass was waste tall all around.
The two women had only moved into the house at the end of May once Jennifer’s tenth grade year had come to a close. It was now late August and Jennifer was trying not to think about school as she told her mother she would make an honest effort.
Sitting on her bed she looked around her rom taking note of her surroundings as she often did. I was her way of remaining in control of where she was. It was a mental exercise she performed in order to ensure she was able to identify where she was. Ever since her father passed she had been leaning more on those mental exercises than before.
She noted the old dual bell alarm clock that sat on her night stand. It was an antique she found in the closet and restored over the summer. The nightstand itself had only one other item, unicorn lamp her father gave her for her seventh birthday. It no longer functioned but she kept it close by as it reminded her of her dear dad.
She continued to take mental stock of her room. She noticed the pile of dirty laundry on the floor beside her bed. She often just kicked this under the bed in the morning in a futile attempt to avoid her mother’s ire. Sitting directly across the room beneath the lone window was a rusty old metal desk her grandmother had used as a sewing desk year ago. On the desk sat a typewriter she made her mother get her. Sure she had a tablet and a functional smart phone like all the other kids her age but she felt a kinship to old things before her time. In a way she felt like she had been born into the wrong era. Next to the typewriter was her diary. That was all she kept on the desk that was far too large for just those two items. To the left of the desk was a closet door. Inside it was where she kept her clothes on hangers. She didn’t have room for a chest or any other furniture. Her bedroom was rather tight. The house as it was originally built had a master bedroom but a tornado destroyed that side of the house and the family boarded it up and pocketed the insurance money so that Uncle Brandon could open a cat fish restaurant. It wasn’t the smartest investment he ever made but it was far more profitable than the old decaying farm house the girl and her mother occupied.
Her cat, Stripes sat at the foot of her bed purring as he often did. She reached down and scratched her faithful companion on the chin eliciting an affectionate response from the feline. Jennifer was growing bored with the idea she would soon be digging back into her studies. She was looking for anything to distract her from this thought.
“Oh Stripes, if only father were here, he’d find some way to liven up this ghost house my mother moved me into,” she said.
Stripes kept purring as a cat does. Suddenly something out of the corner of her eye grabbed her attention. The windmill began to move.
“That’s odd, the wind doesn’t appear to be blowing,” Jennifer said to her cat.
She decided it was worth investigating in order to stave off her boredom. She grabbed her flashlight, backpack and put on her hiking boots. It was still light out but she wanted to see if there might be something in the well causing the movement. She pushed her way through the brush as she made her way to the old windmill. Stripes stayed in the house.
As she made her way to the windmill she stepped into a mud puddle splashing dirty water all over her dress.
“Oh yuck,” she said.
Despite the minor glitch she moved forward. Once she arrived at the windmill she could see it was still moving ever so slightly. She examined the area around her and saw nothing out of the ordinary. She leaned over the well and shined her flashlight down into the darkness. She could make out nothing that would cause the windmill to turn on its own.
Then she noticed a reflection when she shined her light just so. She pulled out a candle from her backpack, lit it and lowered it down the well in the bucket. Once it was down there she could see the shiny object. It looked like one of those over-sized skeleton key’s she often saw in old horror movies. She decided to climb down the well carefully to fetch the key.
“Here goes nothing,” she said to herself.
She used the bucket and rope to make her way down into the well. Once she was inside she grabbed the key. It was a rusty iron key the size of her fist. The handle was in the shape of a skull. Naturally it gave her goosebumps. She quickly stuck it in her pocket and began to make her way back up the well. Suddenly there was a strong wind that blew a tree branch into the well, knocking the rope loose stranding her in the old well.
“Oh great just what I needed,” she said under her breath. She knew her mom was not in ear shot so chose not to waste her breath yelling upwards to deaf ears. Instead she fumbled through her backpack to see if she had anything that would help her get out. She did have a spare rope but it wasn’t long enough to get her back up nor did she have any idea how to go about it. As she looked around she noticed the bricks the well was made out of had several cracks. She figured she could climb her way up the side of the well.
“It’s worth a shot,” she said to herself.
Jennifer slowly began climbing up the side of the well. It had rained recently so the stone bricks were all wet. It made it difficult for her to get her grip at times. After about fifteen minutes of struggling she found herself halfway up the wall with no more sizable cracks she could rely on to continue her climb. Knowing she came all that way she stopped to see if she could solve her problem on her own. She knew her mother would be getting worried soon a suppertime neared. She just wasn’t sure if her mother would come looking for her. Besides she didn’t have a lot of faith in the woman ever since her dad passed away. Jennifer was very close to her dad. They two did everything together. It wasn’t like she didn’t have a relationship with her mother.
She pushed those thoughts aside.
“Get a grip Jennifer get out of this well before you return to hating on your mom,” she told herself.
She looked over and noticed the rope had gotten stuck on a brick that was sticking out of the wall. The thought if she could reach the rope she might be able to throw it back up towards the top of the well and get herself out of her current predicament.
She leaned over as far as she could but to no avail. It was just beyond her reach. She tried to fling the strap from her backpack towards the rope in an attempt to pull it closer to her.
Finally as she noticed the sunlight fading away she turned to what she figured would be her last resort. She pointed her head towards the sky, cupper her hands over her mouth and began to scream as loud as her lung would allow.
“HELP! Mother, HELP me I am in the well! Can you hear me?!” she yelled.
As her arms and legs began to tire Jennifer realized her voice was not going to carry as far as it needed. She gulped, looked back down and decided her best bet would be to get to the bottom and see if she could find a dry spot to sleep for the night. It was better than falling to her death once her muscles gave out.
Deciding it was hopeless to climb down she knew what she had to do. She closed her eyes counted to three and leapt towards the rope reaching for it with all her might. She managed to grab it and slide her way back down. She immediately stuck her hands into the cold water in a vain attempt to sooth the rope burn she gave herself.
“Well Jennifer it looks like you’re camping in a well tonight,” she said to herself. “I hope this is better than the boredom of being safely in your own bedroom.”