I made it home with no trouble after the stranger danger incident. Our ‘new' house stood on the corner of 5th and Waltmore St in a quiet suburb. Unlike most houses, which faced one way or another, the person who had built the house had made it so the porch steps faced both of the streets at the same time. Oh, but the oddness didn't end there! The house was built in a quasi-Victorian style that the realtor claimed had been extremely controversial in the 1800s, due to the mayor at the time wanting to portray a certain image of Bedford.
At first, I'd wondered why anyone would get up in arms about a boring old Victorian, I mean they're as traditional as they come, right? Of course, that all changed after we saw the house up close and personal. Mom had been so eager to find a house for us that she'd jumped on the first cheap thing she found. Of course she'd ignored the small notes about the place's history, of course she didn't find anything odd with the realtors lack of pictures. She was a writer, so stuff just sometimes didn't worry her. Fortunately, my brother Nick and I were prepared for anything weird and weird is what we got.
‘The Caraway House' had the shape of a normal Victorian, but it had... Add ons. A large metal doodad that resembled a bird cage sat squarely in the middle of the roof as if it were standing guard. On the upstairs windows, there were small patterns of what looked suspiciously like Nordic runes inlaid in the window panes. Further back on the roof, was a weathervane that must have been rusted in place or something, because it only pointed north in the direction of the forest while the wind was blowing east, or at least I think it was east. Of course, the weathervane was of some weird half goat man thing that seemed to be smoking a pipe, which mom had excitedly identified as a Phooka (The goatman, not the pipe). On top of that, there was a small building that lay a little ways outside the kitchen door. The building would have been pretty uninteresting if not for the fact that phrases were written over the door and under each window in what I could only assume was Latin. It looked as if it had been a stable at some point, then had been converted into a guest house. It was now my Mom's office.
The inside of the house was in fairly good condition, which as my mom raved was uncommon for Victorian Houses which were infamous fixer-uppers. But, there was something subtly off about the interior. Sure, the house wasn't small, but the inside gave the impression that it was far bigger than it should have been. My brother Nick, who sees everything but says little, even commented on it. He had noticed another odd thing about the house that I hadn't even thought to look for. All of the bedroom's corners made a hexagram. This Caraway guy was freak.
I sighed and plopped onto the couch. Nick was sprawled over most of it engrossed in some book whose title I couldn't pronounce. He looked up as I sat down and raised an eyebrow.
"Where've you been?"
"Got lost." Yes, lost indeed. I fought a blush as the memory of that strange man's lips flashed through my mind.
"You have some serious make-out hair going on. Did you get lost in someone's mouth?"
"What?!No," I flailed, sure that my cheeks were good and pink now. "I don't even know anyone here yet!"
"Who?" I said. Eyebrow raised.
"Redhead at lunch today," Nick gently hit me on the head with his book and chuckled. "Anyways, he seemed to like you. And you don't really need to know someone to-"
"Yeah I'm leaving this conversation." I retorted. Nick just laughed and went back to reading. I grabbed my backpack and headed up the stairs to my room and dropped my bag next to the door. I took a moment to look in the mirror. I blushed. Nick was right, I did have make out hair. I hadn't been kissing him that long had I? I grabbed a comb and fixed my hair. Satisfied that I didn't look like I had just jumped someone, I went downstairs via the back stairs the let out in the kitchen and out the backdoor. I stopped at the door of mom's office and knocked loudly. When I didn't get any kind of response, I walked right in.
My mom is solidly built African-american woman who loved to wear long dresses.She was of course a child of the 70-80s but somewhere along the line, she'd taken a stop in international fashion and the rest was history. Her skin was the same color as Nick's. Unlike mine which made no sense. Dad had been just as dark as she was. I shoved aside the irony of being a genetic throwback and tapped mom on the shoulder.
"Did you eat anything today?"
Mom jumped in surprise, I can't believe she had just noticed she wasn't alone. Today, She was wearing her plain blue Yukata and nothing else. Judging by how dirty her feet were, she hadn't bothered with shoes either.
"Oh, what?" she tugged on one of her many braids absentmindedly. Her glasses sat on the edge of her nose at an odd angle due to a crooked arm. She looked like a harassed, and very culturally confused, bird.
"Mom, have you eaten today?" I repeated.
"Yeah, two granola bars, "she said as she yawned and leaned backwards. Sometimes I wondered what would happen to her if she didn't have kids to remind her that the growling sound her stomach made meant she was hungry. Oh well, she'd eaten today and that was something.
"Ok, when are you starting dinner? It's 8:30 already."
"Oh crap," She groaned as she looked at the clock on her computer. How she had not noticed the time was a mystery. "Why didn't you come and tell me earlier, Ad? You know how I get when I start writing,"
"Sorry, guess time got away from me." Mystery guy's smirking face came to mind and I couldn't stop another blush from spreading across my cheeks. Not that his kiss had meant anything. He was just some freak. A freak who knew where I lived, even though we'd only been in town for a week or so...
Mom hurriedly typed something and then shut down her computer. She stretched and then stood. "So how was school?"
"Interesting, I guess."
"'I guess?' I'll take that as a good sign."
"Yeah, Nick's already made a ton of friends." I held open the door for her and closed it behind both of us. The lights in the kitchen were already on. And I spotted Nick already setting our ratty dining room table. I smiled; it was the first familiar scene I'd seen in this strange town.
"What about you, kid? Make any friends?"
Mom made a quick dinner of leftover turkey, vegetables, and curry powder. We sat together around the ragged dining room table that we'd managed to bring with us every time we moved. We had decided it would do better in the kitchen than the huge dining room with its' gloomy corners. I was scooping each of use a bowl of ice cream when mom decided to tell us about what she'd been working on all day.
"This house has some serious history."
"Yeah? One of the kids at school was telling me about it. It isn't all true is it?"
"Yeah, it is. I dropped by the library this morning. That Alexander Caraway was quite the character. Think I might write my next book about him..."
Back in 1860, there had been a huge fire that had almost destroyed more than half of Bedford. Whole neighborhoods had burned to almost nothing, but guess which house hadn't been touched? That's right, The Caraway House. A priest who had witnessed it back in the day had even said that during the fires, the house had seemed to ‘glow with an unholy light that looked almost as if it were cast by the Devil himself' creepy, right? Well after she had read the stuff about the fire, she had dug a little deeper for information about the original owner.
Alexander Caraway had been accused of being a Satanist by the town. He was a writer or so he claimed. The townspeople at the time didn't believe him. He was especially interested in the forest. For days he would disappear and return with strange loads and even stranger company. Once he returned, or so one witness said, with the devil himself all dressed in black and taller than all of the men in town. Everything was related to the Devil in this town, apparently.
He had conducted ‘unholy perversions of science' in his study, which as we had figured out, is where my bedroom now is. None of the records she'd found had detailed exactly what these perversions were, but simply went on to give accounts of the weird things people had heard coming from the house at all hours. Heavy pounding, shrieks, ringing bells, and once, someone had heard a maniacal laugh that had echoed through the whole neighborhood. Nick and I looked at each other.
"Do you think any of it is true?" I asked. I won't lie, I was pretty nervous about sleeping in my room that night.
"Nah, probably just a bunch of unhappy neighbors trying to make the neighborhood weirdo look worse than he really was. They did that a lot during those days."
Mom licked her spoon clean and laughed. "What, Ad? Are you scared? If you want you can sleep with me. You used to all the time when you were a little girl."
"No thanks mom. I think I'll be fine by myself." I wished everyone goodnight and trudged up the stairs. I changed into my pajamas, a t-shirt and a pair of old boxers and crawled into bed. I took one more cautious look around my room. It was the same band posters, same bookshelves. There was nothing crouched at the foot of the bed or in a corner. So I reached for the lamp on my bedside table and was plunged into blackness.
I had been dead asleep when something woke me up. I reluctantly opened my eyes and groaned. A sliver of light blinded me for a moment. I rolled over and curled deeper into my covers. I was on the verge of falling back asleep when a thought groggily came to me.
My bedroom door was closed. My room was dark. Where could that light be coming from? I sat up in bed and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. Across the room, the sliver of light was coming from the wall. Was I dreaming? I got to my feet and shuffled towards the light. It was like a sliding door that was opened only a little bit. I leaned in and pressed an eye against the crack. What I saw was beyond believing.
A man was tidying a stack of papers on an ancient mahogany desk he was as brown as a nut and dressed in what looked like a suit made of newspaper. He was small, I guessed he would be level with my waist. I watched as he picked up an old feather duster with unnaturally long fingers and ran it over a bookcase full of strange doodads and bottles.
"Not a speck left, the new master won't approve otherwise," He mumbled to himself. His voice was like the rustling of leaves. I leaned closer to try and see more of the secret room the man was cleaning but I was closer to the wall then I realized. My shoulder hit the wall with a dull thud and the crack opened wide enough for me to stumble and fall inside. I windmilled in a vain attempt to stop myself but my face met hardwood floor anyways. I cursed as I rose to my feet and rubbed at my nose. When the tears of pain cleared, the little man was nowhere to be found. All that was left was the feather duster. I picked it up and ran fingers of the ancient feathers as I looked around the strange room.
Just like the rest of the house the room was hexagonal in shape. For a hidden room it was a lot bigger than it should have been. Against all odds a window, newly cleaned with shutters wide open, stood in the wall to my right. I walked over to it and was expecting a view of our front yard dully lit by our porch light. What I saw instead was a field of flowers lit by a bright afternoon sun. I walked back into my room and looked out of my window. It must have been around midnight. The twilight painted everything in dull grays and blues. I went back to the secret room's window and this time, the scene outside of it was a forest during midday. Was I going mad? I tried to open the window but it was stuck shut. I shrugged in defeat and moved on to the rest of the room. On a low shelf below the window sat rows of bottles. Each of the bottles, organized in color by a foreign hand I couldn't even begin to understand, had a label written on it a careful hand. I picked one up and tried to read its' contents but it was written in a language I had never seen before. I turned to take in the rest of the mysterious room.
Books were everywhere. Crammed into shelves at all angles, sitting on the floor in haphazard piles, a few were even spread across the beast of a desk that sat in the middle of the room. Carefully, I navigated the maze of books and picked up one that was sitting on the desk. This time it was in a language I could read.
Bedford, the town and its' mysteries
I sat down on the floor with this strange book on my knee and I began to read.
Bedford is built upon the bones of a past so steeped in occultism, that its' now highly religious citizens sought to burn every book and Other who remained. From its' humble beginnings as little more than an outpost between our world and the Shadow Realms, the small valley grew drastically when the health benefits of the place were discovered. Long-time human occupants of the place lived to truly staggering ages. One man, who lived in the forest proper as a hermit, was rumored to be 300 years old and looked by far more tree, than man..
But why is it that Bedford no longer plays host to such a staggering sea of ether? It is surmised that the area's power was cut off from the public due to an abuse so heinous, that it has taken the life energies of the small valley years to reach not even a quarter of its' former strength. No one is sure of what might have transgressed, but it is agreed on by Scholars world-wide that it was not one abuse that created the great scar, but many. The last act, and most likely the most evil, would have been the slaughtering of the Other citizens of Bedford in late 1820, before that, the burning of the archives of writing on anything that involved Casting or mentions of spiritualism. It is an odd fact, I have lately moved into bedfored on the year of 1840, and it appears as if the town has entirely forgotten its' sordid past There are a few reminders for those of us who know how to look. The ruins of the once-famous Half-mirror inn, the small pond, whose surface remains still as glass, regardless of the weather, and of course, the forest itself.
The town is surrounded on all sides by a curious breed of oak. It appears on the outside to be like any other tree of it's' species, but if one were to cut it, the inside tells an entirely different tale. The wood has been so infused with ether that it gives off a curious resonance. When in certain areas of this forest, one enters a state of timelessness. It may appear as if an hour has passed, but outside of the forest, only a few minutes has inched by. Unfortunately for us, this weird phenomenon will, and often does, work in the reverse. A man by the name of William Fletcher once went into the forest to gather broken branches. When he exited, 5 years had past and his family had long since moved away. Not only does the forest seem to stand outside of time, it plays host to a truly staggering amount of Other Creatures. One of the most mysterious, in my opinion, would be the Phooka. I came across him in one of my many surveryings.
He is as tall as man and in his original form, bears the head of a goat. When I came upon him, he bade me greetings in the form of a small child. Had it not been for its' eyes, which always remain golden and bear the pupil of a goat, I would have been in trouble indeed! As my colleague had taught me, I was extremely polite to the creature, shared my lunch of fried potatoes with it, and was awarded with a rather odd hunk of metal. The Phooka told me with it, I would be able to find him at all times, and off he went. I then decided to fashion the metal into a weathervane bearing the creature's resemblance. It now sits upon my roof and lets loose the occasional creak to alert me to the wise thing's location. Even now as I write this passage the weathervane bearing the creature's visage has begun its' quiet creaking.
I jumped as I was jolted back into awareness. I looked around the room to find the noise I had heard but it was quiet. Then it happened again. Almost too quietly for me to hear, the weathervane creaked as it turned on its' rusting axis but I had learned too much today to wonder. Tiredly, I stuck the strange book under my arm and entered my room. I sat it on the bedside table and curled up in my bed.