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Incident #003: The Macabre Sphere
In passing the milestone of one week within Pest House, I could no longer put aside the task. I had to get back in touch with Sycamore if I was to remain in their good graces.
On multiple occasions, it had been made clear to me that revenue generated by my work would only afford so much room for eccentricities.
However, I found myself with no transportation to speak of, having discreetly "misplaced" the vehicle of a prior guest who would no longer have use for it.
On foot, and with no passing motorists to flag down, it took me what I estimate to be an hour before I located the nearest resident of this rural community. This was due in no small part to a variety of empty houses as opposed to the actual distance.
Note to self: Estimation isn't doing it for me. Dedicate more attention to finding your watch. See if you can get the Trader to swap it back to you for something less useful. Suggest pinecone "hedgehog" knick-knack from den as it will not be missed.
The only resident I discovered was one Leonard Cook, an elderly man with a limp who at one point may have been a farmer or something of the like. However, his small white dwelling at the end of the road seemed to be in poor repair, betraying multiple decades of low or perhaps no wages.
Mr. Cook at first seemed suspicious of my intent, preferring to call me "Buddy" and "Pal" even after my name was given. However, upon explaining I was simply looking for a working land-line, he became more at ease and welcomed me into his domicile.
The interior of this home was surprisingly well-kept and decorated with items that had, at one point, been of some quality. A well-aged portrait from the Civil War era caught my keen eye upon passing through the living room, and I have no doubt that it was an authentic historical item.
Given use of the kitchen telephone, I was strictly admonished for my first attempt at dialing a long-distance number. However, when I offered payment to cover any charges, the call was then allowed to proceed.
In speaking with Sherri Walsh of Sycamore, I discovered that several higher-ups had been attempting to contact me with respect to my next book and their concerns as to my ability to hand it over in the near future.
I told her to assure them I would have another best-seller for them as soon as I felt I'd covered the research. I was then informed that someone had been sent to check up on me, though I calmly insisted I'd seen no such person.
Upon hooking the phone, Mr. Cook inquired as to the whereabouts of my residence. I stated plainly that I had taken up in the old Pest House, and that I could use a car ride back.
Mr. Cook appeared to freeze in place, as if the mere mention of the residence had rendered him blind, deaf, and mute. Within moments, and just as blindly, he was searching for a chair upon which to deposit himself.
Mr. Cook kindly requested that I not return to Pest House on that night or any night following. I graciously declined his request.
Mr. Cook insisted that I not return to Pest House, and once again I declined.
Striking his fist on the solid wooden kitchen table, Mr. Cook demanded that I not return to Pest House. For a third time, and seeing no point in this exchange, I vehemently declined his request.
With a speed and determination I'd not yet seen in the hunched, white-haired old man, Mr. Cook jumped from his seat, knocking it over with a clatter. Almost immediately and without any opportunity to avoid him, Mr. Cook stood within inches of my face and thrust a boney pointer finger into my ribs.
I could see by the trembling of his chin and moisture gathering in the corners of his dull and faded eyes that he had more than a passing feeling about the true nature of Pest House.
I bid Mr. Cook farewell, placing payment for the call on a nearby table. As I attempted to leave, however, he retrieved something from a nearby room and returned post haste.
Slung under one of Mr. Cook's thin, dark arms was a shotgun. He bid that I sit and listen to what he had to say, and given the circumstances I obliged. You see, I had no proper reason to believe the weapon was not loaded.
The man repositioned his fallen chair, and we both seated ourselves at the table. Mr. Cook inquired as to whether or not I would like a drink, but I assured him I was fine and bid him say what he felt had been so important.
Mr. Cook explained that, many decades past, he had lived in this very house along with a wife and young daughter. Generations of his family had lived in the area, and the one common thread throughout his upbringing was a stern insistence that he go nowhere near Pest House.
At one point, as I understood it, he had followed a baseball onto the Pest House's property, and received some sort of reprimand from his Grandmother which included the branch of a willow tree. When I requested more information on this incident, I was rebuffed in no uncertain terms.
Mr. Cook's wife had come to the area with a Military family. For this reason, he explained, she was both skeptical of local legends and headstrong in her ways.
It was for this reason that she did not heed his urging about Pest House, and instead made it a point of ridicule toward him.
At one point, Mrs. Cook had been out gathering flowers to dry for arrangements she would sell at the local store. It was a second source of income that the family desperately needed as a drought hit the area and farming work suffered.
She had spotted a single purple and white flower on the grounds of Pest House and, thinking nothing of local superstitions, collected it for use in her hobby.
Over the next few weeks, Mr. Cook noted a marked decline in Mrs. Cook's health. The only Doctor for miles had no concept of what could be plaguing her, and recommended that both Mr. Cook and their daughter treated Mrs. Cook as if she had a contagious condition.
Mr. Cook expressed to me a tremendous sadness in his heart related to the fact he couldn't kiss or hold his wife as, months later, she expired.
I offered my condolences while also asking how this related to our current difference of opinion. Mr. Cook stated that while Mrs. Cook withered away, her features becoming sunken and her bones showing through disappearing musculature, the flower she had collected only flourished and grew larger.
Before I could interject that there is nothing supernatural about a growing flower, Mr. Cook reminded me that she had cut the flower at the base and, without roots, water, or sunlight, the flower continued to thrive while lying on a counter.
At this point, I noticed that between Mr. Cook and I there was a jelly jar with a purple and white flower jutting out. I observed no roots or water within the glass container.
Mr. Cook seemed to think that this flower might, somehow, contain the soul of his deceased wife. I insisted this was most likely not the case, but given the room for doubt within this unlikely course of events, I could not bring myself to fully dispute this concept.
Note to self: Avoid any flowering plant life anywhere on grounds.
Sensing that the story had concluded, I asked Mr. Cook to allow my exit. Instead, he placed the shotgun on the table, barrels distinctly angled in my direction, and let out a heavy sigh. I believe he had not told this story to anyone previous.
In the quiet moments before he spoke again, I deduced the reason he did not consider our conversation over. The girl.
Mr. Cook seemed to go into a nostalgic place as he told me about his daughter, how she was exactly like her mother. To hear his anecdotes, I would conclude that this child was quite disobedient and in need of discipline. Conversely, Mr. Cook appeared proud of the tales he imparted.
When I insisted that I had to get going before it became too dark to safely travel back, Mr. Cook lost this haze of nostalgia and once again regarded me with a cold glare. He remarked upon my rudeness, which I assume to be a misinterpretation on his part.
As the story began, Mr. Cook found himself less and less capable of controlling the child after his wife had expired. Though she was not yet ten years of age, she would sneak out, disobey, and commit various petty crimes such as stealing sweets from the aforementioned local store.
Despite Mr. Cook's insistence that she go nowhere near Pest Hose and his blunt indications that it had killed her mother, Mr. Cook suspected his daughter had been sneaking over to play in the abandoned structure. He had no reason to suspect this, other than the fact she seemed likely to disobey anything he requested of her.
Upon one occasion where the child had left during the night and could not be located, Mr. Cook traveled to Pest House under lantern's light.
He indicated to me that he had brought this very shotgun with him as he patted it fondly.
Mr. Cook arrived at Pest House to find the doors open, and called out to his daughter. Though she did not reply, he entered the residence and began to search its dark corners for any signs of her.
He explored the ground level, then the second floor, finding only disrepair and assorted furniture much as I had encountered. He was about to give up his search and return to calling for the girl outside when he heard her laughter emanating from behind the cellar door.
Calling loudly, now, Mr. Cook flung open the cellar and quickly descended the rotten wooden steps until his feet found the bare dirt floor.
As Mr. Cook focused his lantern's light and swept the expansive underground room, he seemed to catch nothing but old crates, stone walls, and the occasional vermin one might have expected. At one point he believed he had found the child's shoes, but immediately realized they were simple large mushrooms growing large in the dank blackness.
Calling to his daughter again, Mr. Cook rounded a barrier of crates and saw something he would, in his words, "Remember 'til the Devil takes me".
In one corner of the cellar, far from where had come in, his daughter knelt in the dirt. She was facing away from him, and holding the hands of some unseen entity.
As Mr. Cook raised his lantern's light to the thing, he claims to have felt the presence of absolute Evil grasping at his very soul.
There, before his daughter, resided a perfect orb of complacent, neatly folded human hands.
As he described it, this macabre sphere was covered in a checkerboard pattern of the hands, and though they seemed to be disembodied they neither bled nor appeared to decay. In fact, the hands would have seemed as normal as ours had they not clustered themselves in an impossible ball.
In that moment, Mr. Cook screamed his daughter's name and rushed to carry her away from that thing and from Pest House itself. As he approached, however, the orb opened itself up, exposing only an unending and impossible tunnel of outstretched hands within. Seemingly under some sort of trance, the young girl entered the thing and, within a hundred small embraces, was carried back into the fleshy corridor.
Before reaching the hands, Mr. Cook dropped the lantern at his feet. In that kitchen, with no request from me, Mr. Cook showed me where the sudden burst of flame had all but taken his leg, causing a permanent limp.
With his light source destroyed, and in incredible pain, Mr. Cook searched the Pest House cellar until daylight. He found no sign of the hands, and no weakness in the walls where they had seemed to take her. Even after returning with digging tools and a group of relatives, nothing but Earth could be found on the other side of the stone.
Well and truly sure that he had convinced me not to go back to Pest House, Mr. Cook finally lowered the shotgun. After I agreed not to set foot on that property again, he showed me that the weapon had indeed not been loaded after all.
I offered more condolences to Mr. Cook, and we shook hands before I departed his residence. I stated that I would continue up the road until I reached the highway, after which I would have no trouble finding a ride back to civilization. He offered to call a ride for me, but I declined saying I had caused him enough trouble for one day.
Mr. Cook watched from his front step as I departed his driveway and turned down the road. We exchanged a wave, and he returned to his home.
Despite the chill of night, I had no choice but to wait until the cover of darkness arrived before making my way back past Mr. Cook's residence, to Pest House.
After a very brief glance into the cellar in question, I noted no unusual appearances or events.
The only point of interest was a series of hundreds, more likely thousands of fingerprints left in years of dust on all visible surfaces.