Castle Roland

Shadow of a Soul

by MultiMapper

In Progress

Chapter 1

Posted: 30 Apr 15

The Shadow of a Soul

By MultiMapper
Copyright © 2002-2012 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Destination - Hell

11:11am... 111° F!

{She moved us to hell!} I thought to myself as I looked at the bank sign repeating the time and temperature.

"Oh you're awake. We'll be there in just a few minutes. I just called your grandfather and he's going to meet us at the house." Mom said cheerfully.

"Great." I said with my sarcasm turned up full blast as the car pulled out of a parking lot and into the street.

"Try to think of this as a new beginning. Maybe you'll be able to make some friends here." Mom said in a cheerful voice that was verging on perky.

"Does this place we're going to live have air conditioning?" I asked hesitantly.

"Not exactly." Mom responded quietly.

"What does 'not exactly' mean... exactly?" I asked suspiciously.

"It'll just be better if I show you when we get there. Don't worry, I just know you're going to love the new house." Mom said with a big happy smile. All the teeth were present and accounted for.

"You won't believe how big it is." Mom continued in a bubbly voice.

{Right. It's probably some run down shack in the middle of the desert.} I thought to myself.

"It's been so long since I've been here. Everything's changed so much." She said as she looked around.

I looked out the window.

Holy Shit! You can see the heat!

I mean, you can actually SEE the fucking HEAT!

It's rising up in waves from the pavement.

As I looked around I noticed that there was no grass, just clumps of weeds that looked like dried out, sun baked straw.

No trees.

I looked around to be sure and confirmed that there were no trees anywhere. It was barren, desolate and completely hostile to every living thing.

As we continued down the road there were fewer and fewer houses and more... nothing.

{The bitch is insane.} I said to myself as I looked out over the nothingness.

"That's where we're going." Mom said with triumph and made a left turn.

I rested back and closed my eyes as I thought, {Four days ago I was at home. There was grass, trees, a lake or stream within walking distance in any direction...}

"That's the road to your grandparents house." Mom said with excitement.

{I care.} I thought sarcastically as I made a show of looking at a dirt road that led off to nowhere that could be seen.

"It's just been too many years since I've been here." Mom said in fond memory.

I glanced around to see that we had left anything that could remotely be called civilization and were traveling down a perfectly straight road that seemed to continue on into infinity.

The car swerved and I turned my attention to the road in front of us.

It looked like a dried out piece of hedge was being blown across the road by the wind.

"I haven't seen a tumbleweed in years." Mom said with a delighted giggle.

I looked at her with horror as I thought, {Tumbleweed? I always thought that was something someone just made up for the old Western TV shows!}

I looked behind the car to see the tumbleweed continue on it's merry way across the road.

"Here's our turn!" Mom said with joy.

A dirt road. More of those tumbley weed things and... A cactus! A real cactus!

Not the kind that looks like a man with his arms up, but the other kind, the ones that are about the shape of beaver tails and covered with spines.

I was distracted from any further thought as the car bucked and rattled down the uneven dirt road.

"There it is!" Mom said with delight as she pointed into the distance.

And there it was.

Like the house on the hill in 'Psycho', the huge ancient structure stood out as the only feature on the baron landscape.

It was huge! I've seen smaller hotels than this place.

"Dad's been coming by every few weeks and checking on the place, keeping it up until one of us kids wanted to take it over." Mom chattered happily.

"No one's really lived here since granddad died in '78. But whenever one of us kids comes to visit, we usually end up staying here."

As we continued to drive, the house seemed to get bigger and bigger.

"Dad says that we lost the smokehouse year before last to a twister, but he just bulldozed what was left since no one used it anyway." Mom said as we finally pulled up in front of the house.

Some old geezer who I'm guessing is my grandfather ran to the car to greet us.

Mom opened her door as he said, "Patsy! You made good time. I bet you're pooped."

"When I hit Wichita Falls last night I knew I had to drive straight through. I thought I was going to have to stop in Lubbock, but there was no way I could stop and sleep when I was only two and a half hours away." Mom said happily as she stood and pulled grandpa into a hug.

"I've got the master bedroom fixed up for you so you can rest. I didn't know which room Little Markey would want so I left the rest be." Grandpa said seriously as he led mom away from the car.

{'Little Markey'. Oh yeah, that's just what I need.} I thought as I opened my car door.


Scorching, hell-fire, heat.

I fought to catch my breath as I felt my skin draw up tight as a drum. A prickly feeling washed over me as I stepped out of the air conditioned car.

"Come on in the house Markey. Your grandmother sent over a gallon of sun tea for y'all." Grandpa said with cheer from the porch.

I closed the car door and walked toward the house.

After two steps I noticed that I could feel the heat from the ground coming up through the souls of my shoes.

After stepping up on the porch I turned around to look at the view from my new home.

Flat as far as the eye could see in every direction.

No trees, no other buildings, no color... nothing.

There was dirt and scraggly weeds all the way to the horizon.

I truly AM in hell.

The temperature inside the house was considerably cooler.

"As soon as you called to say that you were coming I came over and started getting the place set up. I checked out all the swamp coolers and put all new pads in 'em... well, your cousin Joe Bob took care of that part, but I supervised." Grandpa finished sheepishly as he led us through a big entry hall.

Joe Bob? No way. Nobody ever really named their kid Joe Bob... did they?

"Thanks for taking care of that Dad. How's cousin Joe Bob doing now? I heard that he was out of work for a while." Mom asked with interest as we walked into a huge kitchen.

"He got a good job over at the plastics plant on the South side of Odessa. Lindie was all worried about him working around hazardous chemicals, but with a little one on the way they can't afford to be too choosey." Grandpa said seriously.

"Another one? How many does that make?" Mom asked as she pulled some glasses out of the cabinet and started filling them with ice from the freezer.

"This'll be number nine. You'd think they would've figured out what causes that by now, wouldn't you?" Grandpa said with a chuckle as he went to the refrigerator and pulled out a gallon jug of tea.

Mom smiled and shook her head as Grandpa handed the tea to her.

"From the looks of it, it won't be very long before Little Markey's gonna be givin you some grandkids." Grandpa said with a sly smile at me.

"Dad, he's only fourteen." Mom said in a warning tone.

"Like I said..." Grandpa trailed off with a smile.

Mom handed me a glass of tea and I was shocked by how cold the glass felt in my hand.

"Well, I've got to be gettin back to the farm soon. As nice as it is to have you here, the chores still need doin. It looks like it could get hot today so I want to be sure all the livestock have plenty of water." Grandpa said seriously, then took a long drink of tea.

I took a careful sip of the iced tea and stopped in wonder.

I didn't even realize I was thirsty, but the cold sweet tea felt like the most wonderful thing I'd ever tasted.

"Your mom is going to expect you to come over for dinner tonight." Grandpa said before taking another long drink of tea.

"Dad, I've been driving for almost thirty hours. Once I hit that bed I doubt that I'll be getting up for a long while." Mom said seriously.

"Okay Patsy, I'll tell your mother. Do you two have enough food for tonight?" Grandpa asked curiously.

"Yeah. We packed enough food for two families. We'll be fine and I'll go shopping tomorrow." Mom said seriously.

"Well just remember not to buy any eggs. We'll be providing all the eggs you'll be needing." Grandpa warned.

"I'll remember. Now if you'll excuse me..." Mom said shyly and hurried out of the room.

"Well Little Markey, how are you liking West Texas so far?" Grandpa asked as he put an arm around my shoulders.

"I guess it's okay in a post-apocalyptic way. But, would you please just call me Mark?" I asked hesitantly, not wanting to upset him.

Grandpa looked at me seriously for a moment, then broke into a big smile.

"You've got a deal Mark. I'll tell you a secret if you'll promise not to spread it around." Grandpa said in a whisper.

I nodded.

"I have little kid names for all my kids and grandkids. I only stop calling them by their kid names when they've got the balls to stand up to me and ask me to stop. I was afraid you was gonna grow up to be a wussy city kid but you've only been here one day and you've already proved to me that you're gonna be fine no matter where you are." Grandpa finished with a proud smile.

"Thanks Grandpa." I said as I pulled him into a hug.

"Welcome home." Grandpa said happily as he held me.

"Sorry about that, I've been needing a pit stop since Seagraves." Mom said shyly as she walked back into the kitchen.

Grandpa smiled as he said, "I have to be going now Patsy. I'll be by to check on you and Mark first thing in the morning. I'll bring fresh eggs with me so you'll have something for breakfast."

"Thanks Dad. It's really good to be home." Mom said and walked over to give Grandpa a great big hug.

"Sometime after you've rested we'll sit down and have a long talk about the divorce and your plans for the future." Grandpa said seriously.

"Yeah. We'll do that." Mom said quietly.

Grandpa pulled out of the hug and started walking toward the door as he said, "You two remember to stay inside for a few days until you get used to the West Texas weather again."

Mom chuckled and said, "From the look on Mark's face when we arrived, I don't think that's going to be a problem."

Grandpa smiled at me and said in a gentle voice, "Just give it a fair chance Mark. Don't let first impressions guide your life."

"Okay Grandpa." I said seriously.

Grandpa opened the door to go outside and I could see waves of heat radiating up off the parched earth.

"Yep, it looks like its warming up." Grandpa said with a smile, then closed the door behind him as he left.

"Mark, I really need to get some sleep. Would you mind bringing in the ice chest and putting the food away?" Mom asked with the most exhausted look I've ever seen.

"Sure mom. I'll take care of it." I said as she led the way to the stairs.

"While I'm sleeping you can pick whichever bedroom you want and either take a nap or start moving in." Mom said as she climbed the wide staircase.

I followed her until we reached the top of the staircase and she said, "That's my room. Wake me up if you need anything."

"I'll be fine. Go to sleep and I'll see you in the morning." I said seriously.

Mom pulled me into a quick hug, then hurried into her room.

I decided not to put it off and went downstairs to get the ice chest.

When I opened the front door, I couldn't believe how hot it was outside.

I've heard about it being so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, but I swear that if I had a sidewalk, I could fry the whole damned chicken on it.

I hurried to the car and opened the door.

The temperature inside the car must have been twenty degrees hotter than outside.

My original plan had been to unpack everything from the car while mom was sleeping, but in light of this new development the plan was downgraded to just grabbing my backpack and the ice chest.

By the time I wrestled the ice chest free from the back seat of the car and got it to the porch, I was drenched in sweat.

When I walked into the front door of the house it was like walking into paradise. The cool moist air was gently blowing from the vent pointed at the door and I just had to stop and take a few seconds to enjoy it.

Eventually, I sat the backpack by the staircase and went to the kitchen to put away the food.

We just had some sandwiches, vegetables, soft drinks and a couple apples. Nothing too complicated but more than enough to get us through one night.

Besides, there were chips and things still in the car, but they would be fine out there until later.

On impulse, I poured myself another glass of iced tea and took a long drink before heading upstairs.

The first room was for a girl. Not just any girl, but a foo-foo girly girl.

The next room was okay but... well, I just wanted to look at the rest. There was basic bedroom furniture and some really boring landscape pictures on the walls. If there weren't any better rooms. It would do.

The room beside mom's was a nursery. All the toys and things had been taken out, but there were still scenes of nursery rhymes painted in murals on all the walls and a crib without a mattress set up in the corner. I toyed with the idea for a minute. The old faded out murals and stuff were kind of creepy and cool. but the deciding factor was the connecting door to my mother's bedroom.

In a word, 'no'.

I walked past my mom's room and checked out the next room which was some kind of study or library or something.

I'm not much of a reader, but with the entertainment possibilities that I've seen around here so far... it could happen.

The next bedroom was... plain. The walls were bare. Plain beige drapes covered the windows. There wasn't one ornamental thing in the entire room.

I left that room quickly and hurried to the next to find the door locked.

That piqued my interest.

Let's see... A big new house, an afternoon with nothing better to do, a complete lack of parental supervision and a locked door.

You do the math.

It was an old lock, but still good enough to keep me out.

I started by feeling above the door facing, in case it was one of those 'to keep the kids out' things.

No luck.

My next thought was to check in the desk drawers of the study.

My reasoning was that desk drawers are the place where useless crap that doesn't belong anywhere else ends up. Keys fit very well into that category.

Again, no luck.

I thought about it for a minute, then decided to do a brief search of the downstairs rooms to check the most likely places.

After looking through the kitchen drawers and coming up empty, I walked into a room that appeared to have once been the back porch of the house, but had been enclosed and made into a sort of a combination mud room and pantry.

I looked around and didn't see any likely places where a key might be kept.

As I turned to go back to the kitchen to try my luck in the cabinets, I noticed a key hanging on a nail all the way at the top of the door frame.

Bingo. Out of the reach of children. In a place where the adults could remember where it was. It had a good shot at being the key I was looking for.

I took the key and hurried upstairs to see what was hidden behind the door.

I put the key in the lock and had to jiggle it before I felt it give a little.

I applied just a little more force and the slide bolt slowly released.

I turned the knob and walked in to see what was so important that it needed to be kept locked up.

No one had been in this room in years... decades.

There was a layer of dust covering everything that was nearly a quarter inch thick.

I took one step in and noticed that there were cobwebs draping over everything in the room.

Something suddenly struck me as being the most unusual feature of this room.

All the other rooms had been emptied. There were a few general pieces of furniture in place, but the personal things were all gone.

Whoever had lived in this room had left everything here. There was even a book still opened on the desk.

I looked at the room in general and felt that of all the places that I'd been in the entire house, this is the one place that I could really call home.

A strange quiet wheezy sound caught my attention and I looked over the door to find that the cooler vent was turned off to this room.

Okay, I'm not really good about thinking things through before I do them.

I don't choose to do stupid things, but sometimes....

Well anyway, I opened the vent.

Let's just say that the layer of dust that was laying on top of everything was now a cloud.

I quickly ran through the room and pulled back the drapes.

The bright sunlight shining on the swirling dust must have been playing tricks on my eyes because out of the corner of my eye, I swear that I saw someone standing there, just a foot away from me.

It was so real that I did one of those full body flinches that nearly stops your heart.

When I looked at it straight on, I could see there was nothing there, but let me tell you, it spooked the hell out of me.

The need for 'dust free' air was quickly becoming more important to me, so I diverted my attention to opening the window.

The latch on the window was ancient and must not have been used for half a century so it took a little effort to get it to release.

But finally the thing gave way and I was able to move on to my next challenge. Getting the window to open.

I'm just glad no one could see me because I used every combination of pushing, pulling, tapping, nudging and anything else I could think of to try and get that stupid thing to open.

Let me just sum it up by saying that I probably used each of the seven basic ballet movements at least once before I was able to convince the window to give a fraction of an inch.

Once it had given me that much, there was no stopping me.

With a blast of effort that would make Hercules proud, I forced the window open.

I took in a deep breath of fresh, albeit searing hot, air.

Then I turned and surveyed the work that I would need to do.

Dust. I would need to go over every inch of the room and thoroughly wash it.

Not just wipe down but a full, hot soap and water, wash.

Every surface, every item, every corner... nooks and crannies too.

I looked around the room and tried to decide if it was worth all the work.

I had almost talked myself out of it. (I can be a bit lazy at times) When I realized that if I didn't take this room, I'd have to choose one of the others.

None of them even remotely felt like a home. They were as impersonal as motel rooms.

This room had character and a history of its own.

With that decided, I went downstairs to dig through cabinets and the mudroom for the supplies I would need to do a thorough cleaning job.

Don't look at me that way. I know how to clean... (just don't tell my mom, she thinks I'm helpless).

I lugged two buckets of hot water upstairs. One with soap and the other with clean water.

Then I brought up a broom, some cleaning rags and a couple brushes to help me get into little grooves and things.

Finally I started to clean.

It was like each new thing I cleaned revealed another treasure.

The pictures on the walls were of places I've never been, but somehow each of the scenes was so peaceful and held such warmth that I fell in love with each one.

When I looked at the pictures, I got the same feeling that I do when I think about home.

I'm sure the wallpaper was very colorful when it was new, but the colors had faded to the point that the pattern seemed to be made up of shades of gray.

I don't know why exactly, but I find that soothing and wouldn't want to change it.

My next big surprise was when I opened the dresser at the foot of the bed.

There were still clothes in there.

I didn't really mess with them too much because... I don't know, it just felt like I was messing with someone's personal things.

I went through all the dresser drawers and made sure there weren't any rats or spiders or anything in there and then I just kind of refolded the clothes and put them neatly away.

The toys on the dresser turned out to be toy soldiers. I used the smallest brush and cleaned them very carefully.

Someone had taken the time to carve each one of the soldiers by hand.

I don't know about antiques and stuff, but something as old and beautiful as the soldiers must be worth a bundle.

Not that I'd ever sell them... I mean, they're not mine.

Okay, this is really freaking me out.

Well, let me start at the beginning.

I was cleaning up the room, trying to get it ready to move into.

There was all kinds of really cool stuff in here and I was really getting into it.

Then I decided to start cleaning the desk...

I dusted off the top and cleaned it the best I could with a dry rag before I started cleaning each thing as I took it off.

I dusted the book, the one that was open on the desk. Well I sat it on the bed while I was wiping down something that I think was used to hold ink when the book just kind of popped open.

I mean, it was there on the bed. Closed, then all by itself it opened.

I guess the smart thing to do when something like that happens is to run out of the room screaming your head off and refuse to go back into the room... ever.

Me, I'm not smart. Well, not when it comes to common sense stuff like that.

I looked at the book and read the page.

I guess I wasn't really paying attention when I dusted it, because I didn't even notice that this wasn't a printed book. It was like a notebook.

The writing on the page was handwriting.

Okay, I'll just tell you what it said, then maybe you'll understand.

They came again last night, just like every night this week.
They frighten me, they tell me secret things that no one knows.

Tonight when they come, they're going to ask me to leave with them,
They say that they will only ask this once, and never again,

I'm afraid of the unknown, but I will make my choice with my heart,
I may find peace or pain in the unknown, but here I find only loneliness,
I'm afraid of what I don't understand, and yet, I can't find a reason to want to stay.


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