Serial: Home is Where the Haunt Is [Part 1] (A Haunted Cottage Mystery)

Home is Where the Haunt Is – Part One  by Audrey Brice

Soggy rain. Big, fat drops splattered onto his head and neck. At least his jacket was weather-proof. There wasn’t much of an overhang on the cottage so it offered little protection from the wet. Especially since the wind blew the rain sideways. Despite the damp, he squinted, shielded his eyes with his hands, and looked around. Remote, deep in the mountains of Vermont, the cottage stood at the top of a narrow, winding road half way up Deer Creek mountain. All around him, trees as far as the eye could see. Sopping puddles accumulated in the parking area. With a sigh, Ken slipped the key into the door, turned until he heard the lock give, and then twisted the knob and shoved the door inward. The scent of stale roses overtook him and he scrunched his nose.

“Smells like someone’s grandma,” he said aloud to the deafening silence while heaving two heavy bags of luggage into the dark, cool living room. It was dry as a bone in here. The cottage was bigger than what he needed. It had six bedrooms with a living room, an entertainment room, a dining room, and an eat-in kitchen. There was a deck off the back looking out over into the valley of trees below. There was even an attic and basement and six extra cots. The ad said the cottage could sleep eighteen guests, and yet he was only one. The landlord didn’t seem to care as long as the rental fee was paid. It was the last available cottage he could find on such short notice.

He took a full tour of the cottage, then found himself staring at the open front door, out into the rain. There were bags of groceries still in the Subaru that needed to be brought in. Plus the keyboard and the laptop. With a grumble, he pulled up the hood on his rain jacket, then plunged out into the rain to retrieve his supplies. It took him three trips before he was able to shed his sopping shoes and wet jacket and unpack the groceries into the fridge and cupboards. After cleaning up puddles of water from his shoes in the kitchen and entryway, he set up the keyboard and computer in the dining room and looked out over the rain drenched valley below.

Yes, this was very remote. The perfect place to compose the album.

Actually, there were a lot of reasons he was here. The main reason, to compose the album, was probably a bit of a lie, because he could have composed the album back in Albany. But that meant staying at his apartment, and that meant Vicky was likely to stop by. Nothing like ex-wife drama to keep a man looking for an escape. It’s not even like they had kids or anything. She was just a clingy lunatic who refused to accept that it was over. So he had left, sublet his apartment for four months, and headed up here.

He waited for the rain to stop before venturing out for a hike. Walking had always been his method for getting the creative juices flowing. The scent of damp earth, of life, oozed from everything. It was invigorating. He paused along the path and breathed in a deeply. Glancing over his shoulder, he noticed an overgrown path to the right, hidden by a few bushes that had grown to block its entrance. His immediate thought was to continue on the well-worn path that led up to the summit, but he was never the one to take the easy road. He was a path-less-traveled kind of guy. With a chuckle to himself, he made his way through the bushes and started to follow the overgrown path. On first glance, one might have thought it was a dry stream, or natural run-off paths where the water had come through, carving the worn indentation, but it was too wide. This wasn’t a mere deer trail or hiking path, this had once been a traveled path that was no longer used, and if that was the case, there was something at the end of it. Curiosity got the better of him.

Walking made him forget everything. It made him mindful of the present, and shoved his life in Albany to the back of his mind. No worries or guilt about his mother, stricken with alzheimers, being stuck in that nursing home. And no worries about Vicky and her obsessive visits. He stopped to pull the cell phone from his pocket and look at the screen. There was no signal, and this gave him pause because if he broke an ankle or got lost, he was screwed. Yet despite this better judgement, he pressed on through the sprawling green of the forest.

Whatever was there, at the end of this path, pulled at him, drawing him deeper in.  He was expecting an old hunting cabin at the end of it, in which case there was likely something interesting to explore, so when the path led him to the top of a hill and into a wide clearing of mountain grass, with an old dilapidated cottage at its center, he was a bit surprised. Surreal as it was, his feet kept moving forward despite his reservations. Curiosity spurred him on until he found himself standing at the door.  All around the clearing, thick, lush trees provided a barrier.

This was even more remote than the place he’d rented. But this cottage was old and the roof likely leaking. The porch he stood on seemed sturdy though. Knocking on the door, he waited. Even though he knew no one lived there, he didn’t want to assume. Years of being brought up by strict parents had taught him manners if nothing else.  When no answer came, he twisted the doorknob and opened the door. It wasn’t locked.

The biggest surprise, however, came when he stepped into the cottage and his eyes adjusted to the light. While it wasn’t pristine and new, the cottage looked clean, homey, dry, and… well… lived in. With a shiver of nervousness, he took another few steps in and looked around.

“Hello?” he called out.  A chill rose up his spine.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a woman’s voice answer, “You here to buy Eidolon Cottage?”

Whirling toward the voice, he gasped. The woman stood in a back doorway that appeared to lead to the kitchen. She wore what looked like a fifties house dress, but more importantly – he could see right through her.

He wanted to run, he did, but his feet held him fast in place, refusing to move no matter how hard he willed them.

“Well don’t stand there gawking, let me show you the place,” the semi-opaque woman said. She motioned him back toward the pristine, fifties kitchen.

As if her beckon controlled him, his legs moved him forward by their own accord. In his mind he tried to justify what he was seeing, make sense of it.

“We redid the kitchen last year,” she said. When he didn’t respond she said, “Well, you’re not much of a talker are you?”

Finally, Ken found his voice. “I, I can see right through you.”

“Well no kidding. I’m dead.” She said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, and led him out of the kitchen and into the living room area, then down the halls. “It only has two bedrooms, but you would only need one room for sleeping and one for your music, right?”

He let out an audible gasp. How did she know? “I’m renting the cottage down the road.”

“I see. Did you come to see the Eidolon or not?” She put her hands on her non-existent hips.

“Yeah. How come…?”  He thought about the outside and how it looked like the cottage was falling apart with loose boards and a roof with at least two visible holes.

“Well, the outside does need some work, but I keep the inside well enough.” Her explanation was nonchalant.

“And do you plan on living here?” He almost bit his own tongue. He was actually talking to this woman, this spirit, as if he were really going to buy this cottage. Then it struck him that this was the retreat he’d had in mind when he wanted to get away. This was the cottage he really wanted, and that thought alone scared the crap out of him.

“Well, all old houses have their spirits, don’t they?” She smiled and moved to the side as he checked out both of the bedrooms. They were small, but they’d do. There was a bathroom, too, which explained the clearing.

As if she could read his mind she said, “Leach field is in the back, but don’t expect anyone up here to pump it. You have to pump it yourself. No getting a car up here either. It’s a walk.”

“I’d put in a drive…” he said absently, running his hand along the wood panels of the walls. It had more of a cabin feel, but everyone this way called them cottages nonetheless. “Why is it called Eidolon cottage? Named after a family member?”

“Something like that,” she said, leading him back into the living room. “There’s no dining room, but it has an eat-in kitchen.”

“How much,” he asked, almost laughing out loud as he did. Here he was, in the middle of the woods, in an old cottage, and he was hallucinating. Maybe there were old mines out here emitting gas. Or maybe he’d tripped and hit his head. Either way, this couldn’t be real, but on the off chance it was, it didn’t hurt to get a price.

“Well for that you’d have to ask the owner. He owns that monstrosity down the hill that you’re in right now. I’m sure it won’t cost much. There’s a reason he built down there and didn’t bother renovating up here.”

“Yeah, and why’s that?” He almost didn’t want to hear the answer.

She shrugged. “Not big enough I suppose. Should I expect you again?”

He nodded, then watched as she vanished into a thin wisp of smoke, and with her, everything else faded, too. For the first time he saw the cottage how he’d originally expected to see it. Falling apart and ravaged by at least fifty years of neglect. It probably wasn’t even safe to be standing in there. Another cold chill slid down his back, and then it was gone.

He stepped outside onto the porch, and into the sunlight. Wiping his eyes and looking around, he started back down the trail. The mind fog he was experiencing caused him to not notice much of anything on the way back down the path. Now, the album wasn’t important. Nothing except Eidolon cottage filled his thoughts. He knew then and there, he’d be back.  After all, he’d forgotten to ask the ghost her name. ~

Watch this blog for more installments. To be continued…

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About Steph

Steph is a prolific writer and bestselling author of thrilling erotic romances, occult thrillers, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. She also dabbles in romantic and fantasy fiction. In 2016, three of her titles (Ascending Darkness, Lucifer's Haven and Temple Apophis) were nominated for the Summer Indie Book Awards. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at swordarkeereon@gmail.com

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