Updated: Apr 29, 2021
The History of a Man
“Why did you want to come here?” Vanessa asked as they pulled up in front of the town’s hall of records building.
“Because there’s something I want to find,” Alex said getting out of the vehicle. She had her papers of ownership as well as her ID figuring they would likely be needed.
Vanessa came to stand beside her, arms folded across her chest. “There’s something you’re not telling me,” she determined.
“I know.” There was no point in denying it. “Come on.”
“Wait. You’re not going to divulge? Why the secrecy?”
“Because I don’t want to scare you,” Alex said casually as though it were completely normal.
Vanessa’s eyes went wide. “Scare me? Lex, you’re not hurt, are you? I told you it was a bad idea to stay in the house by yourself. Did something fall? Was there a floorboard loose somewhere? Was there an exposed nail? Or could it be, was it the ghost? I was right, wasn’t I? I just knew something would happen sooner or later. But would you listen to me? No. You’re too stubborn and proud to take heed to any warning your friends give. Friends, I might add, who get worried sick about─”
“─Nessa. Nessa!” Alex quickly threw a hand over her friend’s mouth to stop the flow of questions and complaints. “Relax. I’m not hurt. I just had a crazy dream. Okay?”
The look on Vanessa’s face said she didn’t believe her.
Alex sighed in exasperation and removed her hand. “Look. I had a dream. If it was the ghost, I don’t know. However,” she said before she could be interrupted. “However, it got me thinking that I’d like to know more about the history of the house and who lived there. Grandpa never told me anything. What we know is what we’ve heard from rumour and that blank headstone. Something happened in that house, Nessa. I want to know what.”
With a heavy sigh, Vanessa nodded her understanding. “You could have just told me that in the first place,” she said with a smirk.
They found a bespectacled older lady inside drinking coffee out of a mug that said world’s best grandma on its side. She smiled when they approached and was more than happy to retrieve the information they were seeking.
“Here you are, dears,” she said kindly setting two books on the counter. One was quite thin while the other was much larger. “This one,” she said pointing to the thicker tome, “is a record of all the buildings that went up from the time the town was created. I put a marker in here for you.”
“It’s so close to the beginning,” Alex said.
“Well, that house was one of the first, actually. The town was still relatively new the time it was built, as you’ll see. And this one is a journal collection; it includes notes from the first mayor, as well as entries from the diary that was found in the house of the groundskeeper who worked at the manner.”
“Wow. Thank you very much. We’ll bring them back soon,” Alex promised.
The woman laughed. “Oh, there’s no rush. Just be sure to take good care of them. Some of the pages may be getting brittle.”
“We will,” Vanessa said.
Instead of going back to the house, they went to the library across the street. It wasn’t a large building, but at least it was quiet.
The book containing records of all the buildings in the town was the one Alex selected first. “I’m guessing this will have the least important information,” she whispered.
“I’m sure. I’m going to go meet mom for a bit. We’re going to start looking at fixings and doing price comparison.”
“What would I do without you?” Alex said scrunching her nose in a silent laugh.
Vanessa rolled her eyes. “Just be grateful I know your tastes. Otherwise, you’d be at the mercy of whatever my mom thinks is trending. She may be the best mom ever, but she does not have your sense of style.”
“Keep her on a tight leash,” Alex ordered.
“More like a harness with blinders. Text me when you’re done, and I’ll come get you so we can compare notes.”
After a few hours passed, Alex texted Vanessa. She had read everything twice and planned to read them some more on another day. Much of the information was vague. It seemed no one knew a lot, but now she had at least some idea of the house’s history. She wished there was more.
“So? What did you find?” Vanessa asked when Alex got into the car.
“I’ll tell you as we drive. Maybe we should stop to pick up coffees on our way back to the house.”
“You got it.”
As Vanessa pulled onto the street, Alex told her of all she’d discovered. “The house, as the records keeper mentioned, was built in the early years of the town’s development. A man appeared one day and ordered the house’s construction. He had plenty of money, and apparently that was enough for people not to question him. People didn’t care quite as much at the time about background checks. There’s no record of his name or where he came from. He simply had the house built, then disappeared.”
“Wait, what? He disappeared?”
“Then why build the house and spend all that money?”
Alex shrugged. “I don’t know, but he left his daughter there. She must be the nameless lady for no one knew her. She never left the house. The groundskeeper knew her the best, but from his accounts, she never spoke a word.”
“This groundskeeper never asked her about anything?”
“He wasn’t permitted inside the house.”
Vanessa frowned. “That’s so bizarre. Pause. What do you want to order?”
After placing their coffee order and leaving the drive-thru, Vanessa permitted Alex to continue. “Go on.”
“Well, one day he saw the girl in the window of the front room beckoning to him. The way he tells it, she seemed terrified and kept looking over her shoulder into the house. When he came to the window, she opened the panel and reached out to press something into his hand. Then she hurriedly shut the window up again. His handwriting is a bit difficult to read, but he thought she was crying.”
“What had she given him?”
“A key to what?”
“The key to the house. He didn’t know why she would give it to him at first, but he determined later that she had bequeathed the house to him. His guess is that she knew she was going to die and entrusted it into his care.”
“She knew she was going to die? Did she have cancer or some other disease?”
“It’s darker than that. There are several reports all dated with the same date of people claiming they heard screams coming from the house.”
“I don’t like where this is going. I can guess already.”
Alex nodded. “Everyone went to see what the disturbance was. The house was completely locked up, but since the groundskeeper had the key, they were able to get inside. What they found was the woman brutally murdered and lying in a pool of blood.”
Vanessa’s face scrunched in disgust. “The poor girl! What happened? Did they find out who the culprit was?”
“They never found out who did it. The best guess was burglars, but since no one had ever been inside, it was impossible to tell if anything was missing. It’s certain that the groundskeeper didn’t do it, though. According to his diary, he had been at home enjoying dinner with his family. And since he had the key, the mayor said the house officially belonged to him. It’s been passed down to his descendants ever since.”
“Wait, so he was your great-something-grandfather?”
“On my mom’s side, yeah. She would have been the one to inherit the house, but since she passed away before grandpa, it was left to me.”
Vanessa smiled at her with understanding. “And that’s the end of the story?”
“Not quite. The groundskeeper’s diary ends here, but his death was recorded by someone else. It turns out, he died while he was at the house. Some sort of freak accident. There weren’t any details given, just that it was an unfortunate occurrence, or something vague like that.”
“He died in the house!? Lex, that’s terrifying! What if something doesn’t want anyone else living in that house? Aren’t you a little bit creeped out to be staying there?”
Alex waved at her dismissively. “It was an accident. Besides, I can take care of myself.”
“Famous last words,” Vanessa mumbled unhappily.
“Do you want to hear the rest?”
“There’s more?” she asked incredulously.
They were pulling onto the driveway. Already the house looked so much better than when they’d first arrived. It would look incredible once flowers could be planted.
Once the car was turned off, Alex continued. “One day, there were these men who appeared in town. They claimed to be searching for someone on behalf of a distant lord. The man they sought they named a thief, kidnapper, and murderer. By their accounts, they could only have been searching for the man who had built the house and disappeared.”
“The man had killed the daughter of some lord, then made off with her entire dowry and her daughter.” Alex looked at the house, then back at Vanessa’s pale face. “The unnamed woman.”
Vanessa exhaled slowly. “That’s a lot to take in. Do you think they ever caught the man?”
“Who knows? The men hunting him left since he was no longer in the town. Where he went or what he ended up doing, no one knows.”
“That’s some story.”
Alex nodded her agreement, but she wasn’t satisfied. “There’s got to be more. Someone had to know who the woman was. If anything, the woman herself would know.”
“You’re not thinking of trying to ask her via seance, are you?”
“Of course not,” Alex said with a derisive snort. “But maybe she left something behind. A diary, maybe. Or a letter. And if she did, I’m going to find it. For her sake.”
“What does that mean?”
“Would you want to be forgotten?”