“Mom”, said little Mikey, who was about to celebrate his twelfth birthday on October 31st, “has grandpa always been like he is now?”
Maggie looked up from washing the dishes and slowly reached for the dish towel to dry her hands. She was startled by the question from her son who, before today, never asked or talked about his grandfather. Even since that night about twenty years ago, he’s remained speechless and spends his days in a rocking chair either outside on the porch or in the living room.
She looked at her son who was making a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich for an afterschool snack. She said, “Mikey, why do you ask now after all these years?”
“I was walking home with one of my friends and we passed by that old empty house that sits off the road over yonder on Elm Street. The wind started to blow and the leaves were falling off the trees and he asked me if I knew the story of the Old Elm Street Ghost Story. I told him I’d no idea what he was talking about.”
“This is the second year I overheard my father talking to his brother about your grandfather entering that haunted house on Halloween a long time ago,” he said to me.
“I asked him what he was talking about and he said:”
“Your grandfather was a boozer my dad said. One night at the tavern, Halloween night, somebody bet him he couldn’t enter the old haunted house and stay inside for thirty minutes. Anyway, he took the bet and went to the haunted house. A few of the men followed him and they stopped at the foot of the hill up to the house. He went in shouting for the ghost to show itself. Then my father said they heard a blood curdling scream and then all went silent. The watchers ran back to the tavern and told the story. I guess your grandfather was found the next morning sitting with his back to the giant Elm tree at the entrance to the road to the haunted house. Some town’s people took him to your house and that’s all I know Mikey,” said Chad.
I thought it about time I heard the true story from you mom,” he said while sitting at the table taking a giant bite of sandwich.
She sat down opposite him and brushed away nonexistent crumbs off the red and white checker board table cloth. She knew he was watching her closely and probably was expecting a white lie or two. “Mikey,” she said looking directly at him, “I’ll tell you the truth. It’s true your grandfather went to the haunted house on Halloween night many years ago. It’s also true he was found by the big elm tree. Since that morning he’s not said a word about anything to anybody. He just stares straight ahead of himself and even though his lips move, nobody can hear any sounds coming from his mouth. We took him to many doctors and they all said he had something happen that shut down his ability to talk and when they tested his hearing, they found out his hearing was fairly normal. I think what they didn’t say was he was scared out of his pants and his brain shut down.”
Mikey had finished his snack and was looking at his mother with curious eyes. She saw her son with jam on both sides of his mouth and struggled not to reach over a wipe his mouth. Then Like a boy he reached up with his arm and wiped his mouth with the sweat shirt he was wearing. “Mom, I’m going to try and talk to gramps. Before, I was scared to be close to him, but now I’m not scared anymore. I’m going to show him my baby pictures and my school pictures up to now. What do you think?”
“I like that idea and I’ll find the picture albums while you attempt to speak to gramps,” she said while standing and moving off to the living room.
Mikey went outside and even though it was cool out, gramps was bundled up and slowly rocking back and forth in his old wooden rocking chair. He seemed oblivious to the cool wind blowing. Mikey zipped up his coat and walked slowly over to the porch railing facing his grandpa. He saw a withered old man with pure white stubble on his face. Grandpas’ eyes were pale blue and with the wind blowing, a little watery with the occasional tear running down his craggy narrow face. His stare was straight ahead as if expecting a visitor. Under his long narrow nose, like always, his lips were moving but not a sound came out. Mikey moved closer and once in front of him, went to his knees and said:
“Gramps I’m your grandson, Mikey. I want to talk with you like other kids do with their grandparents. I want to hear stories about the past here in Graysville. Mom said your hearing is fine and that we all know you can hear my words. You know my birthday is coming very soon now. I want a present from you gramps. I want to hear you say my name. If you can’t talk right now, just nod your head or squeeze my hand.” Mikey took hold of his ice cold hand and waited for a squeeze or while staring at his face, a nod. A few minutes passed and sadly, neither gesture happened.
But Mikey did not give up. He stayed on his knees until they hurt so bad he had to move. After he stood up, mother came out and said, “Time to come in dad and Mikey. It’s turning cold out.” Mikey saw her grab gramps hands and pulled him up. What he wondered was how did gramps know to stand up? This intrigued young Mikey and he thought that with patience and hard work, maybe, just maybe, he could get gramps to say his name.
After dinner Mikey did his homework and then read a few comic books that were starting to fall apart after being read so much. He gave it up and went to sleep thinking about his speechless grandfather. Usually Mikey had the same dreams most kids his age had, but this night was way different. The dream did not occur until early in the morning when he had to use the bathroom. After that chore was completed, he went back to sleep and that’s when the vivid dream occurred.
In the dream he was inside the empty haunted house his grandfather went in that fateful Halloween years ago. The only difference was light coming through the broken windows indicating daylight and not darkness. For some reason he was drawn to the kitchen area. He could hear the sounds of his walking making the old wooden floor creak, but he never felt scared. Mikey stopped in the doorway and stared with amazement at the pristine clean kitchen. No way, he thought; this kitchen should be full of dust, cobwebs and broken chairs. However, the table and chairs were perfectly fine and the rest of the counters and sink spotless.
Mikey was about to holler out to the house when an apparition appeared from the washroom. At first it looked almost human but then, as Mikey told his mother later, it formed and reformed as it walked into the kitchen. Mikey felt brave and said hello, but he received no answer. The next thing he heard and saw was his mother telling him it was time for school. It was when he was eating breakfast that he told his mother detail by detail about his dream.
“What do you think Mom,” after he told his dream story.
“I think it’s normal for kids to dream. I also think that your dream is brought on by your sudden interest in your grandfather. Never mind son and eat up and get to school. School work is important,” she said with hands on hips watching him gobble his cereal. He hurried and on the way out he passed by his grandfather in his rocker. He looked him in the eye and said, “Morning gramps, I’m your grandson Mikey. I’ll see you after school.”
On the way to school, he stopped at the bottom of the hill near the big elm tree. He looked up at the forlorn old house wondering if he should venture a look see after school. Brad walked up and said, “You thinkin bout taking a peek inside Mikey?”
“Not sure yet, but let’s see how it goes.” They turned and continued on to school. Mikey was silent with Brad jabbering on about wanting a new bike and what they should do on tricker-treat night. Finally they arrived at school and entered their classroom.
School day was normal and after school Mikey left for home to see if his grandpa would speak a word or two. However, just as he approached the old elm tree, beside the road to the haunted house, he stopped and stared. As he looked and pondered,
Brad ran up all out of breath. He said, “Whew, Mikey, why didn’t you wait for me?”
Still looking up at the house, Mikey said, “I seem in a dream world and the house is pulling me towards it. I think I’ll take a look. I’ll see you later.”
Brad with his mouth hanging open watched his friend slowly walking up the hill to the scary old house. He wondered if that would be the last time he saw his friend. He swore he would stay here for at least a half an hour. He went to the old elm tree and leaned against to wait.
Mikey was closing in on the old wooden steps when he thought he heard a door close. He took his first steps up the stairs hearing the old wood groan and moaning under his feet. At the door, he tentatively reached out for the door knob. It felt loose to the touch but the door opened easily, like it had been recently oiled. As he stepped in, he felt a slight breeze behind him. Mikey felt a little scared, but not overly so. The door he left open and as he walked carefully to the kitchen, the door swung shut quietly. He never heard the door shut.
Like in his dream, the kitchen was spotless. Only this time the table was set for four. A big pot was emitting a pleasant aroma from the stove. A green salad sat on the counter. No other sounds were heard. The silence was deafening. Mikey was having trouble believing what he was seeing. He opened his mouth to give the house a hello when he saw coming out of the laundry room the same apparition as in his dream: a constantly changing form that slightly resembled a human.
What Mikey heard, but later could not remember, was an inhuman voice telling him to sit down and have some dinner. Mikey did as ordered. The apparition picked up the pot and sat it on the table. He removed the lid. Then with his hands he reached in and withdrew the main course. Mikey screamed when he recognized his grandfathers’ head with open eyes looking at him.
Brad heard the blood curtailing scream. It made the hair on his neck and arms stand up. A sharp pain rose up his back. It was all he could do not to run away. Then he heard it again. A scream like he had never heard before. His breath was becoming ragged and he felt just a little dizzy when he saw Mikey come out the door. He tried to ask him if he was alright, but nothing came out.
Brad saw Mikey slowly walk down the stairs and descend the hill. He waited at the old elm tree. Brad watched in horror seeing the pale white face and vacant eyes looking at the old tree. He moved aside and saw his school friend sit down leaning against the old elm tree just like in the story that was told of Mikey’s grandfather when he was discovered after entering the haunted house long ago on a Halloween night. Now years later, on the same day, Halloween, Mikey remained sitting against the elm tree until his mother and some friends came to take Mikey home.
It was Thanksgiving Day when Mikey’s mom came to terms with her son’s situation. Her only desire was that his condition would someday be removed from his being. She had Mikey’s favorite turkey dinner in the oven. She prayed that the smell might bring him out of his mental condition that was, most assumed, identical to his grandfather’s condition.
Both Mikey and his grandfather sat in rocking chairs in front of the warm fireplace enjoying the crackle and the wonderful feeling of being at home. Grandfather said, telepathically, “Mikey, you always wanted to talk to me and now is the time to continue our experiences.”
“Grandpa, I’m so lucky to have experienced the apparition like you did. As soon as humans can communicate without talking, we can share our vast knowledge of things unbelievable to present day people. Meanwhile we have each other. I’m told we can expect some company in the future. I hope it’s a female.”