methow grist 2011-2014 archive



The Calling

The voices came from everywhere yet he could see no one. Passing from shadow to light, then shadow again, always a blur. The feel of running, searching, always searching. Finally in the light, there he was. Noooooooo!

As Craig sat up in bed the sweat-soaked sheets pulled from his body like shedding skin. His breath was coming in short gasps, his eyes were frankly looking for something familiar. It was not the first time he had this dream, this nightmare as others would call it. But he would never call it a nightmare, for this day, as sweat blurred his vision he knew it by its rightful name. He knew it to be a calling. He knew that this day had dawned differently, that this time the calling would not go unanswered. He must return to the old farmhouse outside the small town of Winthrop at the foot of the Cascades. He must return to the place of his youth.

The tedious drive up I-5 bore no effect on him. The crossing of Stevens Pass that held so many happy memories of deep snow and fantastic scenery was only recognized at the most extreme fringe of thought, but as his car turned up the Methow Valley he broke out in a cold sweat. His usual excursion through the country town of Twisp before covering the last few miles to his parents new home would not take place, for the old homestead lay on the back road.

How many years had it been? (How many?) His lips formed the words, but no sound came out.

The beginning of the back road ran parallel to the river--the very river the farmhouse sat by. It seemed to beckon to him, willing him forward with almost gleeful anticipation. Only his white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel controlled his shaking hands.

Guiding his car down the hill of the long driveway, he stopped at the barbed-wire gate. It was late afternoon as he flung the gate open and stared down the remainder of the driveway past the aging walnut trees to the old house by the river. There had been three trees in his youth. Many a walnut fight he'd had with his elder brother Dawane. Other times it would have brought pleasing memories, but the calling burned in his mind.

The desire to cut and run swelled inside him like some berserker gone mad, but the calling would never allow that. He knew it would never give him peace. With great effort he dogmatically wiped the clammy palms of his hands on his pants, then drove the remaining distance to the front porch.

The old house was in total disrepair, with windows cracked or busted altogether. It seemed a lifetime since he'd walked the floors. The front door had been left open, maybe by a curious passing fisherman headed for the fishing hole down by the barn. A breeze that passed through the house as easily as through a tree bore evidence of a rampant rodent population.

In years gone by, his mother had sat on the porch reading, his brother doing the same, while he sat in the middle, bored stiff as his mother's wringer washing machine made its chug, chug sound by a makeshift close line next to the driveway. A subconscious smile formed at the corners of his mouth but disappeared instantly when he heard the voice.

“Craig, get your boots on. Mom said its time to change the sprinklers.”

A cold wave of horror washed over him. His skin crawling, Craig leaped onto the porch, and burst through the door yelling his own name, “Craig! Craig!” and chasing voices from room to room. Light from broken windows flickered on his face like the jerking frames of some silent movie.

“Jay, go tell your father it's time for dinner.”

“Mom! Jay!” Craig yelled. He ran into the kitchen only to see its dilapidated state. “What's happening?” he screamed.

A baby cried, and he could hear his brother Dawane trying to calm it.

“Dawane. Help me!” he pleaded.

Suddenly there were other voices he didn't recognize. “Mary I'll have to go to town tomorrow to talk to the vet. One of the horses is sick.”

An elderly woman admonished her cat from a creaking rocking chair.

“Craig! Craig!” He yelled into an empty upstairs bedroom. Craig fell back on the hall wall, his legs weak, sweat-soaked, tears blurring his eyes as his mind burned. Then he saw something that sent him into blind terror: specters of people moving every which way, all seemingly out of time from each other. Some were going to bed, as others were getting up. One looked out the window, while others played kick ball in the very hallway he was in. Then all of them were talking at once.

Craig lurched forward, and slammed into the door jam. A black dizziness came over him. Voices filled his ears, consumed his mind. He stumbled, fell, rolled down the flight of steps. Head bleeding, he leaped to his feet and ran panic-stricken for the door. Crossing the porch, a board under his feet busted and he went down again, slamming his head hard into the dirt of the driveway, and did not move.

He didn't know time: hours, days could have gone by. Dried blood caked to the side of his head. He was standing, staring at the house when someone shook his shoulder.

“Hey mister, you alright? You’re trespassing, you know.”

“They’re still here.” The words came from Craig’s mouth mechanically.

“Who's still here?” said the stranger. “Are there more inside?”

“Time can leach away its outward appearance. Silence them to most, but cannot destroy their presence. They’re still here!”

“Who's in the house?” demanded the stranger.

“Do you own this house?” was Craig’s response.

“My name is Del Pruitt, and yes I own this house!”

“When you’re done with it, when you’re ready to let it go, don't tear it down. Burn it.”

“What the hell you talking about! Who's in that house?” yelled Del.

Craig looked him in the eyes, and said “Old Lady Bean, John and Mary Banes, my family, others I don’t know. They all lived here.”

Craig faced the house and repeated “They’re still here.” His voice was distant, barely audible. His mouth dry, head shaking slowly side to side, Craig turned toward his car.

“Get the hell out of here you crazy fool,” Del shouted after him. “Get out and don't ------“


When ‘freed’ left Craig’s mouth Del heard a familiar voice. Turning, he looked passed the broken glass window into the house, and saw a shimmering specter of himself.

“Nooooooooo!” Del sat up in bed and the sweat-soaked sheets pulled from his body like shedding skin.


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