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Running from tragedy in her past, romance writer Jessica Talmadge moves to Eastern Tennessee. Despite warnings from local residents of a malicious ghost that haunts it, she buys an abandoned house that she believes will be an ideal place for her emotionally wounded daughter to recover from the trauma of finding her father’s body after his suicide. Upon moving into the house, Jessie discovers that the warnings were well founded. She experiences strange “visions” in which she sees the sinister history of the house as mental movies running through her mind, and soon the visions become erotic encounters with a mystery entity that resides in the house.
Unknown to Jessie, a deranged paramilitary fanatic, who had kept hidden for twenty years a horrifying encounter he had had with the entity the night his lover was murdered there, is plotting to destroy the house to defeat what he thinks is the antichrist that his preacher is predicting will come soon. His plan of destruction coincides with Jessie's recognition that the entity in the house is real. She flees with her daughter and nanny just in time to escape, but upon marrying again and moving to California, she learns that she is pregnant and that she is permanently bound to the ghost she had bought with the house in Tennessee.
Jessie retired after watching the opening monologue on The Tonight Show, and by midnight she was asleep. Then right away, she was dreaming again. She was somewhere in a vaguely familiar place, walking down an isolated lane in fog up to her waist. Below her waist the fog was so thick she couldn’t see the ground, but above it the night was clear from the light of a waxing half moon, which gave the low-lying fog bank an Arcticlike appearance. It reminded her of a B-rated horror movie, where the audience sat transfixed, tensely expecting to see Frankenstein or the wolfman come stumbling through the fog out of the dark woods that lay off to her left.
She came to a place she recognized—the Barclay house, her house, standing above the fog on the hill that sloped up from the lane. It was the house as she had first see it, before the remodeling began, and it looked ominously mysterious. At once, she thought of the lines from an Edwin Arlington Robinson poem:
There is ruin and decay
In the House on the Hill:
They are all gone away,
There is nothing more to say.
She desperately wanted to go home, back to the apartment, because she had not felt a fear like this since the night she had seen the boogeyman in her room as a child. She wanted the security of a sheet and blanket that she could pull over her head and wait for the sense of dread that had sunk deep inside her chest to go away, but a compulsion she couldn’t understand forced her to walk on, up the hill and onto the porch that had been torn away and replaced by the new one. Hanging from the ceiling was the body of a woman, the back of her dress ripped open and flapping in the wind like a flag. Somehow, seeing the body didn’t increase the fright that had already numbed her to the bones. It looked as perfectly normal as would have a light fixture hanging down. She just looked at it a moment, then went on.
As she continued toward the door, she mouthed the prayer her mother had taught her to say when she was scared: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Although she knew it was silly nonsense, somehow it gave her a sense of comfort to repeat it.
The door in front of her was standing open. A night chill made hair prickle on her neck and goose flesh crawl up her arms, yet she couldn’t resist the compulsion pulling her forward. Although the house had sat above the fog lying around it like a bank of snow, somehow the inside was boiling with it, as if low-hanging clouds had suddenly enshrouded it.
The compulsion drawing Jessie forward took her up the stairs and down the hallway to the room that she knew would be her suite when the remodeling was completed. There were no lights on in the house, yet she could see as clearly as if a full moon were penetrating the roof, and she saw a couple passionately copulating on a bed that was surrealistically sitting alone in the center of the room. Then the fog cleared suddenly, as if sucked away by a vacuum, and she saw the mystery man of her dreams hovering over a woman writhing in the throes of orgasm.
When her orgasm had subsided, the woman turned her face to Jessie and laughed. It was… Sybil McIntyre.
Instantly, Jessie felt a jealous anger raging inside her. This woman—who had intruded on her life today—had gotten permission to come out here so that she could steal her mystery lover away. That was unpardonable....
Then she heard screams coming from far away. A moment passed before she realized that she had sprung up in bed and had awakened herself with frantic screams.
She was unable to sleep the rest of the night. Something was going on that she couldn’t understand, and for the first time, she found herself having misgivings about buying the Barclay house. If it was having this kind of effect on her life now, what would it be like when she and Quincy moved into it?
Farrell Till has an undergraduate degree in English and religion, a master’s in English, plus 90 postgraduate hours, and has over two decades of experience teaching college writing and literature. He has had hundreds of articles published on freethought and religious criticism and has lectured coast to coast on these subjects. This part of his writing career was known well enough for mystery writer Jane Haddam to refer to him by name in True Believers when she was developing the character of Edith Lawton (page 27). Lawton aspired to compete with the “heavyweights” in this field of writing, and Till was one of two “heavyweights” that Ms. Haddam mentioned to present this aspect of Lawton’s frustrated writing career. For three years, he wrote a humorous column for Free Inquiry magazine, and he has had short stories published in different Midwestern university literary magazines. He lives in Canton, Illinois, with his wife Sandra and loyal dachshund Tuffy.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 447
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