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 ghosts.

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