THE SHED (continued)

It's on about 9:30 in the evening, been raining two days and nights and the curbs were holding plenty of rain water.
The phone rings and my youngest son carries it to me saying, "It's Mr. Hess, from the haunted house." I laughed at him but he didn't have a smile on his face.
"Mr. Hess, how can I help you?", I asked in my kindest voice, considering it was after nine at night, and like I said I hate late night phone calls. "You can get up here and refix that damned roof!", he blared at me. "It gave way and trapped some animal or something. The whole back shed is getting wet and that animal or whatever keeps yelling and hollering all night." I was flabbergasted. I'd fixed that old coots roof nearly three years ago, I guess. I was surprised that he figured it was my fault it finally gave way. Hell, I told him back then he needed to replace some of the rafters. "Ok, me and the boy will be out to tarp it tonight. I can fix it when the rain stops." As I handed the phone back to Nate I said, "Come on, get your boots on." He stood there holding the phone, shaking his head no, a look of disbelief on his face.
Now Nate is a big boy of 13. I mean he is big for his age. He has worked well with me for years now and there is nothing he wouldn't do or at least try. He's a boy any man would be proud of, but the look on his face just threw me a curve. "What?", I asked. He jumped like I had just woke him up. Stammering , he said, "I , I, I'm not going to that old house. It's haunted and is full of demons." Again by the look on his face, I knew he wasn't joking, he believed that stuff. he had heard. "How many demons have you seenup around old man Hess's place" I asked. "He's enough!", Nate replied. There is something really creepy about that old man and his house. He is too old to be moving around the way he does. "What do you mean too old", I asked. Nate went on to try and explain, like any long winded kid with a story to tell. But I got to admit he brought up a chill in me when he got to the part of their school project on historical buildings in the town. Seems Mr. Hess's was one of the premier buildings, dating back to the mid 19th century, around 1856. Well Nate went on, "Remember when you fixed that roof of his a couple of summers back and I helped you? I got to talking to Mr. Hess and commented on his big house and him all alone in it. He said he moved into that house when he was five years old." "So?" I asked. Nate went on, he said as soon as his grandfather and his daddy finished building it they moved right in, brand spanking new, it was. "Indoor plumbing and all!", "Nate, that would make him 150 years old.", I stated. "Yea!", said Nate. "See what I mean?" And there's more about that place that scares me, Nate said. Just because it is big and creepy and Mr. Hess had to be mistaken about moving in back when it was first built. hell., he was only five or so he says. I could tell Nate felt what he had to say was highly important. He interrupted, "When you were on the roof and I handed stuff up to you from inside that shed, remember? I could hardly breath in that shed room, even though the roof was opened at the time, and Dad it was freezing in there." "A spring house below" I explained, that is why it felt so cold down there. "Well I don't care what it was, it gave me the creeps then and just the thought of it still does." Nate said.
Well, I promised that he didn't even have to go inside, just help me drape a tarp from the outside, that's all, just to stop the rain. I'd get Ralf to help me tomorrow. Reluctantly, he agreed and went off to get his boots and rain gear, as I explained the situation to my wife, who seemed constantly busy with her own projects as she always did come the fall of the year.
We left just as the rains picked up and the sky danced, off in the east with lightning. Too far off to hear any thunder, but the wind told us it would be upon us soon.
As we approached town the road crew had flares set up and a road block erected. Norbart Jennings sat in his pickup directing what little traffic there was. "High water", he shouted. "Take the ridge", he called. The detour took us up and over the high road which travels the ridge of the hills that surround our town. "These roads flood, we are all in trouble", I joked., trying to lighten Nate's mood. He turned, his dark eyes shining in the dash lights. I could see he looked troubled.
As we descended the slopes on the East side of town the rain continued in torrents. The sky danced with increased lightning to the east and now faint rumbles of thunder could be heard.
Mr. Hess's house sat upon a small rise just beyond the town line. No trees graced the hill it sat upon. As the lightning flashed the immense residence silhouetted against the sky. One window was alit with a pale yellow light. It looked like he was using a bug bulb in his lamp.

As I maneuvered my pickup through his lane gates the wind gusted crashing the right gate against my fender, scratching down the side, like fingernails on a chalkboard. Nate came to life with that, he jumped about a foot. Pulling around back my headlight illuminated a shabby crabapple tree, the only sign of life behind that yellow window.

I backed up to the shed turning on my loadlight. I could see pieces of rafter piercing the angry sky where they had caved in. The lawn was littered with 3 year old shingles that were cast to the winds as the rafters fell in.
Hesitantly Nate opened his door, turning to look at me, he asked "Can we hurry and get this done? This place is freaking me out." , "Ok", I replied. Get me that 8 foot ladder, I said, sliding from behind the wheel. As the ladder landed against the wall of the shed a huge crash of thunder sounded as if the wall itself was protesting. As I scampered up the ladder I called to Nate to toss me the tarp, but hold onto the tag line. I was on top of the shed wall as the wind picked up, waiting for Nate's return. The sky was now a constant strobe of light and thunder rolled back and forth from east to west. A crack of light and sound exploded in front of my face and the lonely crabapple tree burst into flames. I could feel the hair on my arms stand up under my slicker from the lightning.
"Nate! I called, are you alright?" I could see him crouched alongside of my truck. I strained my hearing to catch his reply but what I heard from below me inside the shed was a mournful cry. It sounded like an injured cat. Startled by the sound I lost my footing and seated myself on the wall, Gene Autry style, like jumping onto his horse, only I had no saddle. I grimaced in pain and could only sit there perched on the wall for a moment. Nate was still crouched beside the pickup. I listened for the sound again but this time it sounded like an adult female in serious pain. "Who's there?", I shouted, sitting on the wall in the pouring rain, the only light from my feeble loading light.
Now I'm sure mans reaction to certain things is what kills him and I nearly shot off that wall when Nate grabbed my arm and shouted "Just me." Even today I think he did that on purpose, pay back for dragging him up there on a night like that. Luckily, like I said he is a big boy and strong enough to stop my flight off of that wall. "Come on Dad, screw this place, it's just a shed, not even part of the main house." Nate pleaded. Still a little disoriented I asked if he had the tarp. He hauled it over to me, standing on the ladder. We looked into each others faces in the dim light and the white strokes from above and I thought I understood everything my son was asking, then a cry like a banshee startled us both into action. "What's that?", we asked of each other. Come on I said, standing with the tarp, reacting more than thinking. I scurried along the wall trailing the tarp end behind me, the wind caught it just right and it sailed down over the chasm in the roof. Nate secured his end from the ladder as I pulled the hooks tight on my end. The hole was finally covered and secured. "Now?, Dad?" he called. He was down the ladder in a heartbeat. I joined him on the ground, grabbing the ladder to load it. Looking into his face, I asked, "We can't leave that hurt creature in there, can we?" "Yes", he replied and started for the truck. "Just let me have a look",I asked. "Throw me the flashlight", reluctantly he obeyed. "Wait in the truck if you want", I called over the noise of the storm, but he backed even closer to me and just said, "Alone?"
We entered the old door, paning the light across the wet interior. The fallen rafters stood cluttered on the far noth end. The tarp above flapping against the wind, but it's tenting keeping out the rain. The rafters extended through the floor, which surprised me because I knew the floor was concrete. No basement or crawl space as near as I could remember. It must be an old well I thought. Moving closer into the beam of my light I could see well enough to count the nails if I had a mind to. Nate grabbed my arm and asked "What's that?" Bringing to my attention a glowing coming from below. We nearly jumped into each others arms when a blood curdling scream rose from the now glowing pit. I moved closer. "Oh Hell!" Nate called. "What?", I asked, kinda startled by his words. "That's Hell Dad, the real thing, look!"

As we looked into the pit, shapes as human as any shape could be twisted and turned, outstretched bones of arms, the clawing fingers, scratching at the embers of rock wall trying to claw their way to freedom. Where we stood a tormented face of a woman looked at us, mouthing the words, "Help!", but making no sound. Flames danced from the tips of her fingers as she stretched her hand towards us. Her naked body was dressed in a shimmer of heat, like the mirage you see on the highway in the heat of summer.

Suddenly a true figure of Satan rose up from below, making a terrible hissing noise, that got louder as he approached.

We tried to move away from the brink but could not. It was like our boots were glued there. His hands raised above his head as he rose on the current of heat, grabbed the woman close to the top now and shot her up past our faces. "Oh thank God", she said as she landed on the concrete next to us. Nate looked at her in amazement as she lay at his feet. "Jesus Christ!" was all that escaped his lips. As the words left Nate's mouth, the Satan figure recoiled away from us. He was noew on the same level, hovering over the open pit. "Hissssss", he said, knowing we looked at him frightened but bewildered. He said, "It is time. hissssssss your time is up." Nate punched my shoulder, "He wants old man Hess", Nate almost sounded joyous. Trance like I pointed to the door that lead to the main house. "In there", I said. Nate was repeatedly punching my shoulder and back to get my attention. "Dad!, Dad!", he kept saying. I looked at his excited face and said, "The woman here said you have to invite him inside." On that,Nate jumped forward and opened the door. The eyes of the devil twinkled with delight, as he moved toward the door, his movement was enough to bring me back from astonishment. I jumped forward and tackled Nate from the demon's path, tumbling us both inside the house across the kitchen floor. As we rolled across the floor wrapped together I said into Nate's ear "Never let the devil touch you or he will mark your soul." I have no idea where I ever heard that but it just came out that way.

We were scampering away from the path of the Satan thing, further into the kitchen area, when we heard refusal shouts from the old man. "No, I'm not done, I've more to offer." The devil appeared in the doorway from the parlor dragging the protesting Mr. Hess along.

"She's the last that you delivered and she's no good to me, you stole her against her will." The devil creature looked at Nate and I staring in disbelief from the floor. Pointing he said, "No good to me either." Then he flung the helpless Mr. Hess into the pit. He turned to the cowering woman and said, "Your God awaits you." And with those words she disintegrated into a ghostly figure and began to rise. "Thank you ", she said, as she rose. I could have swore I heard a faint mutter escape her lips as she ascended........................ "Close the door to Hell on your way out!"
Copyright 1999 D.McDermott


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