by Savannah Hendricks
She reluctantly stood up, and made her way down the hall to the thermostat. It read sixty-six degrees. Lucy flicked the plastic cover with her middle finger; the cheap tan needle wiggled.
“There is no way its sixty-six degrees in here, feels like two degrees. Damn winter.”
Lucy shuffled back to the couch and plopped down. She let out a scream, jumping back up.
“What the hell?” Lucy looked down to see ice cubes sprinkled over the couch. A small, but evil little laugh echoed around her. The laughter was the same she had heard the first day that she moved in.
“This better not be some Christmas ghost of the past crap!”
Lucy grabbed a bowl from the kitchen and scooped up the ice cubes from the couch.
“Unless you are taking me to the Bahamas for Christmas leave me alone!” Lucy yelled.
At first, Lucy didn’t know what was going on, maybe she was simply hallucinating or maybe she had gone crazy. Yet, when things like ice cubes on the couch happened, it clearly was beyond anything she could possibly explain. She had been dealing with what, or whoever was doing these tricks since she moved in five days ago. Apparently, not all historic houses were welcoming.
Lucy focused on the television. The weatherman had just started giving the forecast.
“Current temperatures are in the low thirties tonight folks, with snow arriving Friday, perfect for Christmas…”
She looked around her living room, nothing resembled that Christmas was a few days away.
Lucy looked down at her triple sock covered feet. She could hang a sock from the fireplace mantel if she wasn’t wearing all of them. Lucy stared out her living room window to the evergreen trees covered in snow. Then she thought of the butcher’s knife in her kitchen drawer. Lucy smiled.
She made her way to the kitchen and went to open the drawer. But it was stuck. She pulled, and pulled some more. With one last pull, she nearly flew backwards with the drawer in hand. Lucy examined the inside.
“Bubble gum,” Lucy questioned as she picked at the sticky stuff inside the lining of the drawer. She slid out the knife.
“This is gonna be for you if you don’t leave me alone!” Lucy yelled.
Then she heard evil little laughter in the distance. The same one she had heard following the ice cubes. This time it was followed by the noise of a coin dropping. Lucy spun around, knife ready in hand. On the counter behind her was a gold coin, spinning. She slammed the coin to a stop with her palm. The laughter stopped, but the goose bumps on her arms remained. She rubbed at the goose bumps. When she looked down for the coin again, it was gone.
“Leave me alone,” Lucy stated, her hands shivered as they pat the now empty counter top where the coin once spun.
Tears welled in the corners of her eyes, fear was taking over.
Lucy’s black boots crunched the snow as she made her way to the smallest evergreen in the yard. She eyed the perfect tree to put up for Christmas. Maybe making her house feel like Christmas would send away whatever was haunting her.
The tree was probably about six feet tall, she thought. Lucy took the butcher knife and swung low and quick. The knife stuck in the trunk. She pried it out and swung again. She continued to swing away at the slit she had created. The top of the tree started to lean and stretched the bark. It snapped and Lucy dived out of the way and into the snow. The tree smacked the ground, the trunk rested on the stump.
She pushed herself up; snow shoved into the top of her turtleneck. She chopped at the last little bit of the tree that was still attached. As Lucy went to grab the tree, she heard car tires with snow chains coming down the street. It was the mail carrier dropping off today’s letters and no doubt, bills. Lucy crunched through the snow to the mailbox. As she opened the box, the sound of metal sliding apart filled the air around her. She reached in and pulled out the stack of mail. Lucy watched in terror as a small furry rodent ran out from atop her pile of mail and up her arm. She screamed from the depths of her gut. The mail she was previously gripping flew in the air. Lucy lost her footing and her butt thumped on the snow below. She heard a sharp, evil giggle nearby, but with her neighbors not close enough, no one heard any of the commotion.
Shaken up, Lucy retrieved her scattered mail among the snow. When looking up she saw something low move by the front window. With every step towards the house Lucy sped up. She reached the porch and peered through her windows, but saw nothing moving through the lace curtains. The front door squealed as she pushed it open. Inside the television commercials were the only noise she could hear. No evil laughter, no spinning coins. She took a deep breath, rubbed her forehead, and then headed back outside.
Lucy leaned the newly trimmed evergreen tree up against the wall, snow still stuck to some of the branches.
“No ornaments and no stand.” Lucy laughed. “Popcorn always works I guess, and the wall will do.”
Lucy made her way into the kitchen to start popping enough corn to string the Christmas tree.
Three long hours later Lucy stood back from the tree, the popcorn string hanging carelessly in all the wrong places. Although very country looking Lucy thought. She clicked off the living room lights and made her way to her bedroom. The loose floorboards creaked as she made her way down the hall.
Lucy jerked straight up in bed. She heard the evil little laughter again. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadow move in the hall. She tried to move her feet, but they wouldn’t budge. She threw back the layers of blankets to find her feet tied to her foot-board. As she attempted to untie the knots, the rough rope pricked through her socks to her ankles.
A busted nail later, her feet were free. By the time Lucy reached the hallway, the shadow was long gone. She flicked on the light switch. The light illuminated the hall, but not the darkness of the rooms beyond it.
“Whoever you are go away! Stop messing with me!” Lucy’s voice trembled as she made her way back to bed.
She wrapped herself up in the quilt, creating a tiny ball with her body. Tears streamed down, wetting the pillow below.
Lucy woke to a beam of sunshine coming through the window. This time her feet were free. But the light of day didn’t make her house feel anymore safe. In the kitchen, Lucy grabbed a small pot off the rack and started to make some oatmeal. She went to turn on the television when she noticed a change with the Christmas tree. The popcorn string she had hung last night was all but a few kernels now.
“What the…,” Lucy said.
She walked around her house, checking all the window and door locks. She plopped down on the couch and simply stared at the once again bare Christmas tree.
“What’s burning?” Lucy asked, sniffing the air. “Oatmeal!”
She darted to the stove and swung the pan off the burner.
“Damn it! I can’t do this! I cannot do this anymore. Either I’m crazy or this house is. I can’t even make freaking oatmeal!” Lucy sent the pot flying into the sink, the noise mirrored her shriek of frustration and apprehension.
She left the burnt oatmeal on the stove and grabbed her laptop. She started her research with the realtor who sold her the house. She located the website after a few clicks. OFFICE CLOSED the site read. Lucy sighed. She pondered what else she could do. History, Lucy thought. She typed a few search words in and a site popped up. She wrote down the address to the local historic society located at the Trentway Museum, she would go as soon as they opened their doors in an hour.
“I have questions regarding the house I purchased. I’m experiencing strange…things,” Lucy told the director.
“And your address?”
The director’s eyes widened and she scratched her neck, not bothering to even look up the address.
“Before you bought the house it sat empty for a few years,” the director said. “Everyone in the area knew of the rumors so it was up to an out of towner to buy the home. There had been many stories about the family who first built the home back in 1875, all the way to the last owners. So let me guess, you have a story to tell too.”
“Do you not believe these stories?” Lucy asked.
“No, because, they were stories about, leprechauns,” the director stated.
“Leprechauns? Those little green guys with the…,” Lucy stopped. “Evil laugh.”
“There have been ghost rumors surrounding the house for thousands of years.” The director got up and headed to a file cabinet. She pulled out a folder with Lucy’s address on the tab.
“Ghost?” Lucy questioned. “I thought you said leprechauns?”
“Ghost leprechauns, I guess to be more accurate to stories,” the director stated.
Lucy giggled out of disbelief and thought, what could be worse than a ghost, but a leprechaun’s ghost.
The director placed the file in front of Lucy and left the room. Lucy opened the folder and found a stack of article clippings. She carefully read the top article.
“We would experience these weird things, like damage to our household items. We would sleep and wake up to find parts of our bodies tied up to our bed,” Gloria Powel said. “At first we thought our kids were playing tricks on us, especially the spinning coins, but it was happening to them too.”
“We couldn’t explain what or who was doing this,” Todd Powel said. “We heard laughter and saw shadows but, never found a thing.”
Lucy’s mind flashed back to the laughter, shadows, the coins, and all the tricks. Knowing now that she wasn’t alone. She was living with the worst of the dead there could possibly be. Lucy left the file on the table and went to look for the director. She found her sipping out of a travel mug in the hall.
“I know I’m a first time home buyer, but isn’t it against some real-estate ethics law?” Lucy asked. “I wasn’t told about the history of my house before I purchased it.”
“You should take that up with your realtor,” the director said.
“I can’t. The office closed and I couldn’t find her in a search.”
The director started to walk away, when Lucy grabbed her arm. “What am I supposed to do with my house?”
The director looked at Lucy’s hand wrapped around her arm then into her eyes.
“Make friends with them.” the director laughed. “We can’t go losing more citizens – especially young ones like you.”
Lucy let go of the director’s arm.
“There is always another option,” the director hinted.
“Another option?” Lucy asked.
The director headed to her office, leaving Lucy alone to think.
Lucy slammed her truck door closed and placed her hands over her face. She breathed deep. She needed to do something, but making friends was not the answer. Lucy decided to go to the library and do some research, she wasn’t sure what research, but she needed to start someplace. Just maybe being away from her house, in the calmness of the library, would help her thought process.
Lucy had a few hours to look around before the library closed. She started in the non-fiction section and began scanning the spines for a title that caught her eye. When a book on home remodeling stood out on display, Lucy knew exactly what she had to do. The book contained instructional information about fixing faulty wiring. She figured if there is a way to fix it, then they must have a few pointers on what to not to do. Lucy grabbed a scrap piece of paper and a miniature pencil. She started taking notes, as she couldn’t have the book checked out on her record.
Lucy could take very little with her or it would look planned. She filled a small box with mementos, and waited until the moon was high and bright. Then she headed to her mailbox and dug a hole big enough for the box. In the morning, Lucy made a large batch of sugar cookies. After the last of the cookies came out of the oven, she went to work messing with the electrical house wires. Taking her notes, she put what she learned to good use.
With the plate of cookies, Lucy made her way down her driveway. It had just started to snow and the flakes were large and detailed as they fell on her jacket. Lucy reached the end of the driveway, the snow crunching below.
She gazed back at her home, her lace curtains hanging in the windows, and the Christmas tree she couldn’t see but knew was there. The snow was beginning to collect on top of the wrapped cookies. Lucy saw yet again a shadow behind the curtains. She was unsure if it was the fire building and casting a shadow, or the leprechaun’s ghost.
Lucy crunched her way down the street, not knowing where the side of the road met the street. The neighbor’s house sat farther back on the driveway that Lucy’s home. She headed down the path, thankful for the tree lines to guide her. It had been about five minutes since she left her house, her timing should be perfect.
When the house came into view, it resembled an embossed Christmas card. The Christmas lights hung perfectly around the patio, and a tree all lit up in the front window. Lucy made her way up the steps, and then used the brass knocker.
The door opened.
“Hi, I’m Lucy. I live next door. I moved in last week, but just now got around to stopping by – cookie?”
“I’m Delia,” the lady said, “come in, come in.” Delia took the plate. “These cookies look delicious,” she motioned for Lucy to sit in an empty rocker. “I’ll get some coffee brewing.”
A man on the couch stood up, and shook Lucy’s hand. “I’m Woodrow.”
He grabbed three cookies from the plate Delia had set on the coffee table.
“Woodrow and I were really surprised when we saw someone had bought the house,” Delia commented as she entered the living room.
“Well it’s a beautiful classic home.” Lucy smiled.
Lucy tried desperately to focus on the conversation, but all she could think about was her house. Was it burning? Was this whole plan even going to work? Was the nightmare finally over? Was she going to get caught?
“Lucy?” Delia questioned.
Lucy re-focused. “No kids, and yes I’m a single lady.”
“Maybe you were enough to scare away the leprechaun.” Woodrow laughed.
“You have heard the stories of the leprechaun too?” Lucy asked, focused on Woodrow’s words.
Delia took a bite of the cookie. “Bet the coffee is done.”
“The ghost of the leprechaun. The actual leprechaun died long ago,” Woodrow said, taking a sip of his just poured coffee.
“The stories started from back in 1875 when the land was cleared and the house was built,” Delia stated, looking out the front window. “Rumors say there was always a rainbow that ended in the spot where the house was built. And when the house was built it disrupted the rainbow’s end, disrupting the leprechaun, or maybe multiple leprechauns.”
Lucy looked out the front window too, the snow had stopped. “Have you seen any of these ghost leprechauns?” Lucy said, finally sipping on her coffee.
“Just heard stories from those who have lived there,” Woodrow said. “We know they are most active during Christmas time.”
Lucy set down the mug she was previously cradling to warm her fingers. “Why is that?”
“Those gold coins filled with chocolate that you found as a child in your Christmas stocking are from Leprechauns or so the real story goes.”
Lucy thought of the spinning gold coin.
Delia reached for another cookie. “We have never had a neighbor for more than a month. Most never even got a for sale sign up before the moving truck pulled away.”
“Have you seen the leprechaun’s ghost?” Woodrow asked.
Lucy looked at her watch, ignoring the question. She didn’t want the house fire to look suspicious by any comment she might make. By now, the fire should have spread to all the rooms Lucy hoped.
“I really should get back home. The snow has stopped, but might start piling up more when it starts again.” Lucy stood up.
“We hope you find peace in all this,” Woodrow said.
Lucy looked at him. The noise of the spinning coin and the evil laughter filled her thoughts.
“Merry Christmas,” Lucy said as she opened the front door.
Lucy had barely made it off the front porch steps when she saw the black smoke. She turned around with the fear in her eyes that she had practiced. Delia looked at her.
“What is it?” Delia asked.
Delia followed Lucy’s line of sight.
“Did you forget to turn off the oven?” Delia asked.
“No,” Lucy said, acting in shock. “No, no, no!”
Lucy took off down the driveway, nearly tripping in the snow on her way to the main road.
“We’ll call the fire department!” Delia yelled.
Lucy reached the road, and slowed her pace. When she made it to her driveway, the horror on Lucy’s face was real. She watched as the flames destroy the house she thought she would have spent the many, many years in. It was a while before she heard the sirens in the distance, muffled by the snow, which had once again started to fall in the tiniest of flakes.
Months passed and Lucy’s new house construction was near completion. The last of the snow had melted except for those hidden spots in the corners of the yard. She had decided she loved the land, so she built on the same piece of property. The insurance company covered all of the damage, because the report came back as fire caused by faulty wiring.
The first night back, Lucy laid in her bed, grateful to be out of the motel she called home for many months. She was looking forward to cutting another Christmas tree this year. Lucy felt comfort that the leprechaun’s ghosts were gone with the ashes of the old house. She glazed at the moon outside her bedroom window until she fell asleep.
Within a few hours, Lucy went from sleeping to sitting straight up in bed, grasping for breath; her feet were stuck. Familiar prickles rubbed her ankles. She threw back the covers.
“No,” she screamed, her feet tied to the bed frame.
She heard the evil laughter as she tried to undo the knots.
“It IS the land!”
© Savannah Hendricks, 2016