Windows Into Hell
By Dan L. Hollifield
The breeze through the shattered windows was warm, with the smell of
honeysuckle and wisteria blossoms mingling with the smoke from my
cigarette and the cordite tang from my pistol. I could see the plume of
smoke twisting up from my hand, to snake through the air and slowly
disperse on the wind. I holstered the Mauser, still warm from the twin
shots I'd fired through the door's window panes, as I walked to the
door and looked out on the shards and splinters of broken glass that
now littered the warped floorboards on the wide porch outside. The
fragments of glass glowed eerily for a few seconds as the spirits of
long dead slaves escaped their silicon prison. Something rather like
fog gathered around the broken glass, then faded from view. The curse
was lifted, its victims free, and the ruins of this old antebellum
mansion could now rot in peace. I grunted vaguely, lost in thought,
then sighed aloud.
"What am I," I said, disgust plain in my voice as I crushed the fire
from my cigarette against the sole of my left shoe, "a weirdness
magnet?" Without another word, I walked out of the formerly haunted
house and made my way through the tall weeds and briers that separated
me from my car.
My name is Douglas Simon Daley, my friends call me D-Day. I'm a private
investigator. I used to be a regular Joe, but over the last decade or
so I seem to have become a nexus for the paranormal. I don't like it
much, but it pays the bills.
As I drove home, I wondered how I was going to write this one up for my
files. The case had started normally enough, but then, all of them do.
I'd gotten a call from a farmer who'd bought some land that used to be
part of a Civil War-era plantation. He'd hired a crew to demolish
the old house there, so that he could clear the land for planting. They
quit the first day, claiming that they'd been run off by ghosts. So had
the next crew he'd hired, and the next, then he'd tried to tear the
place down himself. He saw the ghosts too, and ran away. No one else
would take him seriously. But I could hear the fear in his voice. I
believed him. I had to believe in ghosts. After all, I'd been hired by
one once. But that's another story.
After the phone call I'd looked up newspaper accounts about the house.
My computer had found loads of references about the haunted house in
the local paper's online morgue. A few hour's reading gave me a pretty
good history of the place. It'd been built about seventy years before
the war. The plantation owner had been known for whipping his slaves. A
lot. He'd killed several of them that way. There was even a write-up
about the curse laid down by one of the elderly victims. Evidently he'd
been a tribal witch-doctor before being taken into slavery. With his
dieing breath, he'd declared that the plantation owner would always
remember his victims, that the house would bear witness, that the
owner's torment would only end with his death. The slaver had died,
driven insane, decades later in a madhouse. The family heirs sold
the place and moved out West. After that, the house never stayed
occupied for long. Every buyer left soon after moving in, declaring the
place to be haunted. There was also a lot of detail about the
construction of the house. One article noted that the window glass had
come over on the same ship as the plantation's first slaves. That
writer had waxed poetic about how those windows had witnessed the whole
sorry spectacle of the plantation's history. Another linked article
detailed a theory that stone temples and tombs could soak up psychic
energy from the people who used them, then play back ancient events
like a recording...
I drove out to the house the next afternoon. After threading my way
through the briers that surrounded the place, I finally stood on the
front porch. The warped and sun-baked wood of the railings was rough
under my hand. The weed-choked yard was silent. No birds sang, no
squirrels chattered. No breeze cooled the chill sweat from my skin as I
shivered in spite of the sun's heat. The smoke from the cigarette
dangling from my lips tasted like crap as the bile rose in my throat. I
turned the cold brass doorknob and went inside. The whole house shook
with echoes as the door creaked shut behind me.
I looked around. The years hadn't been kind to this place. Wallpaper
peeled in strips from the moldy plaster walls. The staircase had fallen
down. The floor sagged and had rotted away in spots. Dead leaves
littered what was left of the floor. Only the front doors still had
glass in their frames. The rest of the windows gaped like empty eye
sockets in a skull. I turned to go back outside. That's when I saw the
I could hear screams and the crack of a whip. I could smell sweat and
blood, woodsmoke and pigpens. I saw an old black man, gray-bearded and
bloody, screaming hateful words as he struggled to stand upright, then
choking as he fell to the ground, dead. More screams, more visions,
more pain and hate and misery. The whole thing played out before my
eyes like a scene from hell itself.
I don't remember drawing my old Mauser, or firing two shots through the
wrinkled antique glass panes of the front doors. But I saw the glass
explode outwards as the 7.63 millimeter bullets struck... Then there
was silence, and a feeling of peace settled over me.
Outside, I could hear whippoorwills begin to call out their plaintive
song. I lit another cigarette, one-handed, as I slowly stopped shaking.
Copyright © 2007 by Dan L. Hollifield