“Adam. I wish we didn’t have to come,” Melanie said.
“Well, mom and dad said so,” her younger brother answered. This was to be an overnight visit with grandma and grandpa.
They lived in a large farmhouse in Portapique, Nova Scotia. And their huge house was at the end of a long gravel driveway.
"Creepy here," Melanie said.
"It's cool," Adam cheerfully added. Looking at his sister’s face made him change his mind. “I mean, I’d rather be home with my friends,” he stammered.
Five-year old Colin shrugged his right shoulder. And gave his usual toothy smile.
Everyone shared "Hello" hugs. Then mom and dad drove away. Waggling fingers meant, "See you later, alligators."
It was eerie. The ancient looking house lay in deep shadows. An owl hooted. Trees shook in the wind. And the moon’s white face peeked between the clouds.
“So dark here,” Melanie said.
“It’s like having a blanket thrown over your head,” Adam agreed. He liked to make up creative thoughts.
As each child looked at the sky, stars blinked on and off like fireflies.
“What’s the flashlight for, Grandma?” Melanie asked.
He quickly answered, “In case of an emergency. Our lights went out a few times, today.” Colin saw him look at grandma and cover his mouth.
The hallway seemed to go on forever. Climbing the stairway seemed higher than the tree house in their backyard. Grandchildren and adults finally arrived at a large bedroom.
“This is where you boys can stay,” grandpa said. Colin held tightly onto his teddy bear. The ceiling was so high. His little neck hurt just looking up.
“And Melanie,” grandma said, “your room is just next door.”
“Can’t they afford stronger light bulbs?” Melanie whispered to Adam.
She had to squint to see. Shadows were everywhere.
"Me scared," Colin said.
"Not me," boasted Adam.
"Hurry up and get your pajamas on," Melanie suggested to Colin. Sometimes her youngest brother listened. Tonight he did.
Grandma and grandpa made sure the children were comfortable for the night. "Don't let any strange sounds bother you," grandpa said with a wink.
Adams' eyes grew large. Shivers slithered down his neck. The older adults 'yawned' loudly and headed off to bed.
Colin changed into nightclothes then jumped into bed. It didn’t take long to be asleep.
That left Melanie and Adam with little to do. Watch some TV in the family room? With only one channel working, there wasn't much to see.
“Let’s explore this place,” Adam said. The whole building was like a castle. And he loved to wander around old houses.
Suddenly the ceiling lights went out. They sat very quietly. Their breath sounded loud in the stillness. A grandfather clock’s ticking could be heard down the hall.
Trees scraped against the roof. And the children were sure a loose shutter banged noisily in the wind.
“Hey, this is just like a mystery movie on TV!” Adam exclaimed.
“SSSH! Listen!” Melanie said from the darkness. “Something is moving in the hall.”
“Do you think its grandma or grandpa?” Adam asked.
“It might be Colin looking for us,” answered Melanie.
After what seemed like a lifetime, both children got up. They felt their way along the rough surface of the wall.
Melanie's hand found a doorknob and pulled. “It must be a closet,” she said. She got lucky and found a flashlight on a dusty shelf.
“This is just like finding a treasure,” Adam said. Both children stared at the huge room, much larger than the TV room.
Now to find the electrical box, Melanie thought.
A large spider web stared through the flashlight beam. "YAHHH!" Adam screamed. They decided to stay close to each other.
"That shadow moved!" Adam pointed.
"Don't be such a sissy," Melanie huffed.
"It's true, I saw something." Adam moved the beam of light up and down the corner of the room. Nothing. "But, it was there. I really did see it," he whimpered.
Melanie thought she heard something too. But she didn't want to frighten her brother. It sounded like voices on another floor.
Then Melanie and Adam spotted an old set of stairs. They tried to avoid old barrels, a bicycle and piles of boxes. But it was difficult getting around, without making a racket.
"What do you think is in them?" Adam asked.
"SSHHH! Not so loud, you might wake up grandma and grandpa. Probably old newspaper and magazines," Melanie answered.
“Do you think there’s rum in those barrels?” Adam asked. “Isn’t that what pirates like to drink?”
Melanie placed her hand on Adam's shoulder. “Don’t be so silly,” she said. “Grandma and grandpa probably only drink tea and coffee.”
Voices were definitely coming from the top of the stairs.
Adam followed his sister as they went to investigate. It was hard to breathe from the dust. Didn't grandma and grandpa ever clean up here?
Suddenly Melanie stopped. Her brother crashed into her. A shadowy figure about the size of an adult stood in front of them!
It was leaning over the balcony and pulling on a rope. A child's quiet sobbing sounded familiar. Adam shone the flashlight down and spotted Colin. He was crying and holding onto the other end.
“What are you doing up?” they asked. He had been sleeping just a little while ago.
Brother and sister didn’t know what to do. Charge up the stairs or go get Colin? They decided to capture the shadowy figure holding the rope. But, Adam tripped and lost his flashlight. The rope dropped with a crash.
They froze like two icicles sticks. Suddenly the lights came back on.
“Finally,” Adam said. He and Melanie grabbed the rope and pulled. As it came up, pieces of straw and burlap kept falling off.
“Where did Colin go?” Melanie asked.
“And what about grandma and grandpa?” Adam added. “They couldn't still be asleep with all this racket going on?”
They checked down below, still no Colin. Then Melanie and Adam climbed higher on the stairs.
“How many floors were here?“ Melanie asked. Laughter came from all around. It seemed to be taunting them.
It was hard to see clearly. Their only light now was a 25-watt bulb in the hallway. Old family pictures covered the walls. Brother and sister could find no windows to look through.
“Is anyone there?” they called. “Grandma! Grandpa!”
The children hurried up the last few stairs. Then crashed into something. They were left with nothing but air, as a heavy coat fell to the floor. A piece of broken rope hung from the ceiling.
They increased their speed and finally saw some light.
Rushing through the open balcony they breathed in fresh air. And hurried down an outside fire escape.
Shouts of, "There they are!" greeted them.
Three figures stood in shadows beside the barn. They were pointing and waving long sticks. Melanie and Adam jumped from the remaining steps. They had to get away.
Mom and dad were out there somewhere. Later they could return and search for Colin.
Adam needed someone to explain what was happening. He wrapped his arms around himself for strength.
"Ouch, that hurt!" he yelled.
It felt like a porcupine had pierced him.
One of the shadows had whacked him on the backside with a large broom. The wind began to howl. And another figure ran towards him.
“If only I hadn’t dropped my flashlight again,” Adam moaned.
“Never mind,” Melanie said. “Run!” Good thing they had on their new running shoes.
Feet flew quickly as a rabbit being chased by coyotes. Gusts of wind pushed them faster and faster.
Suddenly, their parents drove up. What a tale the children were able to tell. Before you could say, "What's for breakfast?" a decision was made.
Parents and children marched towards the farmhouse. They were like a posse going to rescue Colin.
As they approached, three figures came out of the shadows.
“Colin?” Adam gasped.
One of the darkly dressed figures was grandpa. The other was grandma.
“What’s going on?” Melanie asked.
Then the adults joined in laughing. Then pounded each other on the back. Colin did too. He and teddy were part of the joke.
“Remember?” mom said. “You thought coming to grandma’s and grandpa’s might be too dull. Well, what do you think now?”
The older children just shook their heads and smiled. Then joined in the laughing. After awhile, everything settled down.
Melanie turned to her mom and asked, “May we come back again next weekend?”
- The End –
© Richard & Esther Provencher.