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by Russell James
Description: Doug and Laura thought they bought Galaxy Farm, but the old house is possessing them instead.. Doug and Laura Locke are New Yorkers who need a fresh start, so they move to Galaxy Farm, an old thoroughbred stable in Tennessee. There Doug finds inspiration to write his epic novel and Laura renews her love of teaching. They also rediscover the love that first drew them together. But the home has many secrets. There's a graveyard hidden at the property's edge, and tragic deaths stalked the previous owners. Doug has become entranced by the abandoned taxidermy he discovers in the attic. And Laura falls under the spell of the ghosts of twin girls she meets in the old nursery. Only a local antiques dealer senses the danger. She has gruesome premonitions of horrible events to come. She knows she must convince Laura of the threat before the dark force in the house can execute its plan. But time is short, and something seems to be very wrong with Doug?
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: November 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [321 KB]
Reading time: 194-271 min.
"Son of a bitch!" he yelled at the Tennessee countryside. Immediate and overwhelming pain arced up his arm like a lightning bolt. Dale Mabry was certain he just flattened his finger.
He dropped the mallet next to the For Sale sign he had forced into the cold earth. His bare hands already stung from the forty degrees temperature and that amplified the effects of the hammer's impact. He shook and then inspected his finger. It was rooster red and the nail had a white sheen destined to turn a dark, dead purple.
"Serves you right, dumbass," he said to himself. "Shouldn't be out here at all."
It wasn't just because he was underdressed for the March morning in jeans and a flannel shirt. Something inside him had nagged him from the start about putting the Dale Mabry Realty sign on the old Galaxy Farm property. But with the market stinking like a hog pen, he'd rationalized that any sale was a good sale. No matter who bought. No matter what sold.
Barren oaks swayed in the wind against the slate-gray sky. The breeze kicked up the stale scent of dead, moldy leaves. Dale had pounded his business equivalent of a tiger's marking scent where the Galaxy Farm gravel driveway met two-lane US 41. The driveway went a half mile uphill and formed a loop in front of the farm's large main house. The structure still caught the eye, as it had for over one hundred years.
The house listed as a six bedroom, four bath, but that did not do justice to its forty-five hundred square feet. The sharply peaked steel roof of the white two-story Victorian jutted into the pewter sky. Two small attic dormer windows watched out over the valley. An inviting covered porch embraced two sides of the first floor. The foundation beneath it was two feet tall, made of hand-laid dun boulders mined from the base of the ridge. From the corner closest to the road rose a round turreted room with windows around both stories. Like an aging cinema beauty, she looked stunning from afar.
But she showed her age in closeups. Her later years had been hard. The iron racing horse weathervane at the turret's peak rocked back and forth with a wailing screech in each gust of wind. Threadbare white curtains floated like spirits in the windows, unable to shield the rooms from daylight. Black paint peeled off the shutters around each window in long lazy arcs.
To the right, a low rise blocked the bottom half of the main barn, hiding its similar stone foundation. Its roofline and monochrome paint scheme matched the house. A cupola burst through the center of the curved roof, glass on every side, filthy from lack of care. The cupola was large enough to accommodate the farm's master as he watched over the acres of his domain that stretched down along the far side of the ridge.
Even with the grass in winter's death grip and the dry weeds overgrown along the split-rail fence line, the place had curb appeal. Dale wished he had the money to replace the sagging old mailbox at the entrance. If he kept the gate under the weathered Galaxy Farm sign locked, any looky-loos would have to go through him for a closer inspection. That would be warning enough to go in and make sure any remnants of the previous owners weren't around. Sure as hell wouldn't want to explain any of that to a prospective buyer. The bank wanted this place to move fast, and any wind of its history would stop a deal dead in its tracks.
There were folks in town who didn't think it right, Dale helping the bank sell the Galaxy. The two big Moultrie, Tennessee, realtors refused to list it. Half the small town thought it was safer to let it sit empty. Dale figured screw them. They didn't pay for his daughter's dance lessons.
A sharp bang came from the house. Dale saw the screen door on the main entrance swing open and shut in the wind.
"Well I'll be..." he muttered. He stuck his throbbing finger in his mouth. He wasn't in the mood to go tempt the house. Not out here alone. But a good gust would tear that screen door clean off the frame and he'd be blamed.
He trudged warily up the driveway. Desiccated leaves crunched under his boot heels. He knew he had locked that door. With a new barrel bolt. From the inside.
Dale stepped on the porch and a feeling of dread came over him, thick and black and heavy as lead. The hairs on the back of his neck quivered. He'd been to the house twice before--with Darrell from the bank to inspect the place, and with Billy to walk the survey. But never alone. There was strength in numbers. Having another live person there kept you from thinking about the Galaxy Farm legends.
He grabbed the wooden screen door as it swung open again. The barrel bolt on the inside of the door was missing. Four neat white screw holes were still in the door, the grooves from the screw threads still crisp and clear. The door didn't tear open. Someone removed the bolt. Dale smelled something metallic that made him want to gag.
A dead rabbit lay in the threshold. Its eyes were wide with terror and still glassy, as if it had only been dead for moments. All that was left of its neck were two jagged edges of slick red fur. The wet blood pooled between the doors and dripped out onto the porch. Above the rabbit, finger-painted in blood on the base of the door in crooked, slashed letters it said-- NO SALE DALE.
Dale leapt off the porch. The screen door swung shut with a muffled thud as it closed against the dead rabbit's limb. The realtor sprinted for his truck as if he were still a Moultrie High running back. As he ran through the front gate, he pulled it shut behind him. He closed the lock on the clasp in a flash. His heart pounded against his chest. With steel bars between him and the rabbit, he looked back up at the house.
"Big joke," he rationalized. "Guys in town playing a big joke or trying to scare me out of selling this place. Yeah, that's it. There ain't no ghosts. Just wives' tales. There ain't no ghosts." He caught his breath and tried hard to believe what he said.
Dale climbed into his silver Ford F-150. He fired up the engine and Johnny Cash came through the radio singing Ring of Fire. With another wall of Detroit steel between him and the house, Dale calmed down. It was some prank, he thought. Had to be. Vernon Pugh, probably, getting even for the bank taking the house.
Something moved in the distance behind Dale.
A gray figure stood in the second-floor window of the turreted room. It turned to face Dale. Dale's heart stopped cold. The man raised his hands over his head and struck the glass. The thump rolled down the hill like the echo of a battle's first shot. The figure vanished.
Chill bumps raced from Dale's neck down his arms. He turned and squinted hard at the empty window. A gust of wind blew and one of the window panes flexed. The sunlight flicked off the hazed surface. The glass banged in its frame.
"Jesus, Dale," he said, shaking his head clear. "Why don't you just scare the shit out of yourself? Let a damn rabbit turn you yellow."
He snapped the Ford's heater to high. Heat blasted from the vents and he rubbed his throbbing finger in it. He prayed some out-of-towner, or "outsider" as the locals called them, with a bucket of cash would cruise down US 41, fall in love with this dump and pay his commission. It would have to be an outsider. No one in Moultrie would touch the place.