I remember the night I saw the old lady, out in what most would consider the ‘Boondocks.' Her name was Margret or something like that. After that I never saw her again. The story behind it is actually a bit amusing.
My father and I had gone out to check some pipes when our truck got stuck in the mud. He was really mad and probably said a lot of things you probably shouldn't hear at my age. The only upside was my chance to explore the forest.
I’d been there multiple times before, walking through the trees and exploring wildlife. Most of my family advised against going into the forest. They said there could be a cougar or something. Yeah, a cougar in the middle of Illinois. I don't think so.
I remember my father trying to push the car in a fit of blind rage, but it wouldn’t budge. Eventually he just gave up and told me to wait for him to come back as he left for the house. It was less than ten miles away, probably about an hour’s wait for me. It pissed me off, but I realized an hour wouldn’t be too bad.
I got bored after about ten minutes and walked down the trail into the wooded area. I had gone there before, both alone and with friends.
I kept close to the river so I could return any time I wanted. Fortunately, I had my iPod with me, so I could listen to my favorite music while I was walking.
I remembered my iPod saying it was at about 7:40 p.m. when I last checked it. My father wouldn’t come back for a while, but I was still getting a bit creeped out by the fact that the sun set so early in the middle of August. My mind went off to different topics before I came to the end of the river.
I had never gone this far, so it came as a shock to me that it even existed. It was basically just a large pool with a few trees growing out of it. I think I saw a turtle, but other than that none of the little fish that lived in the river came out here. This struck me as odd, because the stream would carry them here if nothing else. I looked up and noticed something else I had never known existed—a house at the end of the river.
It was on top of the hill overlooking the little gully, what appeared to be a nice place to put a house. It looked like it had been there for ages without any kind of maintenance. I didn’t see any telephone lines anywhere, so apparently these people lived off the land. Whatever floats their boat, I guess. At first I thought it was just the red sunlight over the hill, but after a few fleeting moments I found out there was a light on inside.
My better judgment was seriously going against going up to it, but curiosity got the better of me. Besides, I had time. I walked up to the door and knocked. I’m not a very strong boy and I was only twelve at the time, so it really surprised me when the door almost fell off its hinges. I cringed, afraid some crazy hillbilly would come out with a shotgun and blast me down.
Almost a minute after knocking down the door an old lady began walking down the hall, her walking stick tapping along the floor. Something about her sent shivers down my spine, but I didn’t know what it was at the time. She tried to greet me, but apparently she had lost her hearing so I could barely respond. She didn’t know sign language either, so I just made primitive hand motions to alert her that I also acknowledged her. She invited me inside, telling me the door was fine and she would just replace it later.
I walked inside to find a surprisingly clean house. The place looked like it were early 1900s era, probably before the world wars. Even accounting for this, it was still old as dirt. This isn't to say that I could compare it; there wasn’t a speck in this place. She didn’t appear to have other family members or even a pet. She was just alone.
She walked me into her kitchen. I noticed by then that she had no television and an old radio that didn’t work when I fiddled with it behind her back. I soon realized it had no way to get power; there was none in the house.
She had an old gas stove, something that I was sure to stay away from because I figured it would blow at any second. As the old lady…Mary, Mary was her name, showed me around her house, I noted the odd way things were arranged. For one, there was no food in the kitchen but an apple with a large bite out of it. It looked fairly new, like she had just went to eat it but went to see who I was. Yeah, that had to be it.
She invited me to sit with her on the couch. I did, not wanting to be rude to the obviously senile woman. I sat down, expecting her to offer me something. It never came. After a short amount of time that seemed to last forever she finally broke the chilling silence.
“You should go, honey,” she said softly. I stared for a moment, confused on why this woman wanted me to just up and leave after inviting me inside. Plus, it was a bit chilly outside, making her remark seem even more sinister.
“Why do you want me to leave, ma’am?” I asked as politely as possible. I knew she probably couldn’t hear me, but she quietly responded to my surprise, “You should go before Jerry comes.”
My mind swirled with questions. Who was Jerry? Why did I need to leave? Maybe this old woman thought she had a husband coming back, but that seemed highly unlikely based on her age. Probably one of those sad stories of someone going senile and wasting away because they wait for someone who was never coming back.
I thanked her for the hospitality and left, still a bit ticked that I had to leave but happy to have met the crazy old thing. I remember her saying something as I left, but it was much too soft to hear.
I returned to the truck just as the sun went down. My father was just coming down the road with my mother and the other truck, so I had arrived just in time to avoid a lot of yelling. We hooked the old truck up, got it out of the mud, and left. I told my family about the woman and the strangely clean house. Neither of them knew anything about an old lady in the middle of that part of the forest, but apparently they were worried because dad called the sheriff to check out the house.
The next day we went out there—the Sheriff, my father and I. Even though it was almost noon, the sky was still a menacing shade of gray. As we approached the house, whose door was still knocked down, I almost swore to seeing something going on near the house.
We entered, but we weren't inside for two seconds before things got freaky. We found the lady, or at least her remains. She was just a sack of bones by then, sitting on the same couch I left her. She apparently had been there for quite some time. Her body was preserved, but I don't know how.
My father freaked out, but nowhere near as much as I did. I know what I saw. I saw her move and I heard her talk. When I left there she was not a body. She was very much alive.
They took the body to a funeral home and tried to identify her. She was a pretty old lady, something around ninety years old. Her name was Mary Ellington. She had lived out there with her family of fishermen. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until they researched a little further.
She had two kids, but one died at an early age. The other one was named Jerry Ellington, the boy who she told me was coming the previous night. They had lost all records of him after he left his job in Chicago as a gravedigger. I figured he had somehow told his mom that he was coming home and just never did.
That was…a week ago? I haven’t thought too much of it until today. As I was digging into a nice apple, I suddenly had a horrid thought.
No matter how you preserve a body, it will eventually decompose. But this woman was in great shape despite the fact that she was pretty old and dead for at least a month. My family had driven me to think I was just having some sort of daydream or I saw the house and made everything up. But like I said before, I saw that woman alive.
I’m pretty interested in the supernatural. I read stories about them, most of which are fake. I look up accounts of people seeing dead relatives or getting abducted by aliens. It was just a fun pastime up until now.
Why would I see her ghost? Was she just trying to tell me about her sad, lonely life? Just trying to have a friend? Recalling my short conversation, one line comes to mind.
“You should go before Jerry comes.”
Who was this Jerry? Why did I need to leave? I doubted my original conclusion that she had gone completely senile and began thinking of other possibilities. I’m still trying to find the answer to this one question:
Why was the house so clean?