This gothic ghost story is set on the shores of Lake Superior. It is a traditional ghost tale with a northern slant and unusual twist.
The crow called twice as Vincent stepped out of his rusted-out truck and gazed up at the massive, sandstone structure. Though he had not seen the house in almost twenty years, it remained the same as he remembered it. No crumbling pieces had fallen from the squared corners, no stones had cracked or chipped, or even showed signs of wear. The house had not been touched by time.
Vincent had expected something to be different, some form of decay, some signs of weathering, since he himself was so different now from when he lived there as a child. More cracks appeared on his own face than on the face of the house, and while his shoulders were hunched from the burden of living, the house stood in defiance of all that attempted to weaken it. He knew eventually that the house would give, though how long it would take he couldn’t guess. He only knew that to the ravages of time, all things gave way, sooner or later.
He took a deep breath and closed the door of the truck. It was the first full breath he’d managed since rounding the final turn of the winding, secretive driveway that led from Arrowhead Road to Harlow House. Once his truck had crept around that final bend and the house had come into view, his heart had danced to a new beat, an irregular jazz rhythm, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, and an overpowering heat emanated from his body. As the truck crept closer and closer, his breaths grew shorter and shorter until they became the feeble gasping wheezes of a dying man. He was nearly light-headed from lack of oxygen by the time his truck rolled to a stop.
Although Vincent had been able to control his breathing and calm his heartbeat to a steady waltz, his body still radiated an uncanny heat. A bead of sweat rolled down his back, causing him to shiver. He took a deep breath, finally filling his lungs, and could smell the damp north woods—the rich scent of life, hinting of the autumn to come. An imperceptible wind moved the clouds slowly, each one blocking the sun long enough to allow the chill to penetrate the air. Once the cloud drifted away, the sun again warmed the ground, teasing the land with a false sense of lingering summer.
Vincent surveyed the place that had been his home for three summers. The facade of the house was overgrown with vegetation creeping in from the extensive yard and gardens. Vines snaked along the trellises and walls, wrapping themselves around porch balusters and supports, inching across fences and pathways, climbing up the walkway light posts–which he remembered shed only a meager amount of light into the inky darkness of northern nights. Weeds grew between the old, slate pavers forming the path from the driveway to the front door and covered the walkway to the east yard where the garden sprawled out in a maze of overgrown rose bushes, flowers and fruit trees. Shrubs that should have been trimmed to a man’s height stood two or three times as tall, and just as wide. They were like unruly and intrusive inhabitants, peeking into the second floor windows of the house, some covering the first floor windows completely. The greenery seemed intent on taking over every bit of land the house possessed. The grape vines, which had been lovingly and tenderly cared for by his aunt, had withered and died without the ample sunshine and watering they needed to thrive. The maple trees in the front yard had grown taller and wilder, their branches stretching across the driveway like long, green fingertips, creating a living canopy which allowed only dappled sunlight to spill through. In the west yard, the ancient oaks now held their branches out in an embrace so complete that they encompassed the whole of the sky, covering the ground in a cool, deep shade.
Yet the house was unchanged. It nestled in among the gardens, the lake, and the cliff. The harsh climate had not taken its toll on the hearty, red sandstone blocks carved long ago from the craggy landscape upon which the house was built. It belonged there, solid, immovable and silently comfortable upon the rocky earth.
It had remained steadfast over time. Invincible.
The crow called again, closer this time, startling Vincent from his state of observation into a state of motion. He took two hesitant steps toward the house and an uneasiness passed through him, beginning at the back of his neck, then running down along his spine into his legs, causing them to tremble and weaken. He stumbled, then regained his balance, telling himself to shake it off–it was simply his legs reacting from the long drive.
He took a moment to reaffirm to himself that he’d made the right decision to change his life when the opportunity arose, and he was still intent on following through with it. No matter what. For although Vincent was weary of the lonely struggle his life had become, he was also hopeful for what it could be. He took another step forward, then another, his legs becoming more steady, his resolve solidifying, the uneasiness passing.
If only, in that moment, Vincent Everett had turned and walked back to his truck and drove away, back down the snake-like driveway, back to his simple and quiet existence in the city far away, deciding it was not a good idea to start his life over in a place where it began again once before. If only he had decided to sell the one-hundred and twenty-three year old sandstone house left to him by his Aunt Eleanor instead of leaving nearly everything behind and moving into it, he would have escaped the most horrific moments of his earthly existence, yet also the greatest.