Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hallowed Ground - A Short Story

Here's a short story that I wrote about a year ago.  I originally submitted it in a Writer's Digest contest. 

Hallowed Ground
I never would have purchased this house if I‘d known it was built on an Indian burial ground. 
I was new in town and looking to start up my home remodeling business.  The way I saw it, the best way to advertise was to purchase something in town, fix it up and use it as an example of my trade. I met up with a local realtor and she took me to see the “fixer uppers” in the area.  We viewed over a dozen homes, but nothing seemed to resonate.  
It wasn’t until I ventured out on my own that I spotted it; an old, run down wooden house just outside of town on County Road 305.  There was no for sale sign out front, but from the looks of the place, it had long since been abandoned.  A few coats of paint on the outside and some upgrades on the interior, and I could have it looking like new in no time.   I placed a call to the realtor.  “You don’t want that house,” she told me and then went on to say something about it being haunted.  I laughed it off and told her I didn’t believe in that type of thing and asked her to contact the owner for me.  A few days later she called to say the owners had passed away some years back and none of their children ever came forward to claim the place so it was deeded to the state.  And the state was more than willing to sell it to me. 
We settled on a price and I moved in.   The first couple weeks were like any other; I assessed all the work to be done, drew up some plans and bought supplies.   And then the nightmare began.  One night I woke to the sound of a woman crying.   Thinking someone was at the front door I rushed over to it and thrust it open, but I found nothing.  No sign of anyone, and the crying had stopped.  I convinced myself that it must have been a dream, until the next night, when her cries turned from a soft whimper to a long and drawn out shriek like the sound of a train slamming on its brakes. 
From then on it occurred every night, sometimes for hours.  I wondered what would happen if I never went to bed at all.  So the next night I lit a fire, sat down in the chair in my living room and waited.  A few hours passed and nothing.  Aside from the creak of my rocking chair on the plank wood floor, all was silent.  As the hours ticked by my eyelids started to feel heavy, and I was just about to nod off when I noticed the embers in the fire ignite. 
I opened my eyes and there she was, kneeling in the center of the living room floor.  Her arms were crisscrossed in front of her, and as she sobbed she rocked her body back and forth chanting the words mitawa wakanheja.  I called out; trying to get her attention, but it was as if she was unaware of my presence.  I reached my hand out to her, but my fingers passed right through her shoulder and I collapsed on the floor.  I squeezed my eyes shut and when I opened them again, she was gone.   I sat for a moment in silence.  Could I have imagined the whole thing?  Maybe I just needed sleep.  I grabbed the poker and pressed it into the fire.  A heavy gust of wind shot out and hurled me toward the wall.  And there in the fire was the smoldering face of a man in an Indian headdress.  I snatched my keys and ran out of the house. 
That night I stayed at a hotel.  After checking in I went down to the lobby and got on the internet.  I typed in some key words and clicked on a link and there she was.  A photo of the woman I had seen.  Standing beside her was the Chief and their three children.  I learned that my property had once been their home.  In a battle to protect it the tribe was annihilated, and the bodies of the dead were buried on the same location where my house sat today.  And the words she chanted: mitawa wakanheja meant: my children.  It was then I realized the house didn’t belong there.  No one did.  The land needed to be returned to its rightful owner. 
And that’s why tomorrow I’m setting the house on fire.


  1. Great story, Cheryl! And I LOVE that old photo.

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