Genre / Subject / Location
Horror / Land Grab / Restaurant
Saturday, September 12, 2016
Today’s the day I visit our farm before that a$$ from out East sends in the construction equipment. I know it hasn’t been *our* farm for years, but I have to see it again before The Ravine is filled in and the McMansions are built. Fuck Old Man Kreeger (OMK) for letting it be sold out from under him.
(Cell signal here is intermittent; even in this day and age this place is still the boonies. So I’ll be emailing you instead of texting. How retro!)
Speaking of the Kreegers, Doug still runs his family’s all-night diner in Fall River. He even offered to build a restaurant for the gated community being built on our land! Can you believe that? Who would want a greasy spoon next door to a mansion?
I wonder if Mom & Dad’s garbage is still in the Ravine. You were so embarrassed when OMK told you who dumped it there. Mom used that damn Farm Country excuse when we asked her about it.
“Where were we supposed to put a washing machine that didn’t work anymore?” She’d say. “It’s Farm Country. In Farm Country you just bury your problems and hope something new grows there.” Even as a child I noticed the Kreegers managed to ditch their farm’s garbage without creating a landfill, so the Farm Country excuse didn’t fly.
And I still have questions after all these years. The Kreegers seemed so uninterested in farming. Their land and homestead looked practically abandoned, yet they bought our land as soon as Mom offered it to them. (Damn her for that.) I wonder why? And if they were in it for the money from the eventual sale to Stratton Properties, why did it take so long to turn over the property in the end? So weird!
April 14, 2016
Walter Kreeger struggled to open the glass door to the Fall River City Office building. Although there was a large, round button he could have pressed to make it easier, he had determined long ago that such buttons was not meant for him.
Mariana Jimenez looked up from her desk to see a withered old man struggling to pull his wheeled oxygen tank through the door. Though a dirty mask covered his face, she could see from his eyes that it was fixed in a grimace of dismay. “Oh, great,” she thought.
“What’s this business, then?” The old man’s voice cracked as he spat the words out at her. He released the oxygen tank, which dropped back with a clang! and wobbled a few times before resting on its end. Once she stopped watching nervously eyeing the unstable tank, he shoved a wrinkled letter towards her. Mariana took the letter, unfolded it, and read it completely before addressing the man.
“Mr. Kreeger,” She began, summoning her most officious demeanor. “We have been telling you for nearly a year that your property has been seized by the city for a housing development. You have received numerous letters from us warning you of the potential for this outcome, but you have chosen ignore those letters.” The old man’s grimace did not change. She continued.
“We have sent the County Sheriff to your farm numerous times to deliver these letters in person so we would know you had been properly notified. Somehow you were always absent from the property on those occasions.” Mariana turned the letter back towards Mr. Kreeger. “The letter is very clear. As of the beginning of next year you will no longer be welcome on the property in question. All buildings and belongings remaining on the property at that time will be ceded to Stratton Properties, LLC, the new owners of your former farm and the former farm of…” She had to search her memory for the name. “The Murray family.”
Walter Kreeger opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. He stared at the woman behind the desk a few moments more, before grasping the oxygen tank handle and pivoting back towards the door.
“Have a nice day, Mr. Kreeger,” Mariana said drily.
When he reached the rusty old truck waiting for him at the curb, the young man in the driver’s seat got out and lifted the tank onto the floor of the front passenger seat. Without a word he helped the old man into the truck, adjusting the tank so it stood between his skinny legs.
As they were driving away Walter Kreeger finally spoke.
“We’ve got work to do.”
Lisa, you weirdo,
You mention that conversation with Kreeger and don’t even mention how crazy he’d sounded! He said, “I would never leave my entrails all over the land like your Dad did! I always clean up after my work is done!” Entrails? Who says that?
At least Doug wasn’t as creepy as his Dad, even if he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Did you stop by the diner on your way there? I still think they have a meth lab in the back, and that’s how they made enough money to buy the farm out from under us.
Mom really should have left it to you. You would have been great as a farmer! (Wink) Actually, you were always so sentimental about the land, even if you weren’t much of a farmer. You’d get lost in the woods when you were just tiny but it never phased you. We’d all be frantically looking for you and you’d walk out of a field or out of the woods, calm as can be. You’d have lived out there if we’d have let you!
No, I didn’t see Doug. Patty at the gas station said he’s only at the restaurant on weekend overnight shifts these days. And it’s not meth, it’s a still. A big ol’ still in the back, brewin’ up hooch!
Yeah, even though Mom let me have the run of the place after Dad died, she always thought it was weird how much I loved the farm. She hadn’t grown up there, so how could she know what it was like for me? I think I loved it almost as much as Dad had. Too bad I inherited his poor work ethic, too. If I’d helped the hired hands more after he died maybe she wouldn’t have sold it.
“Mom, why didn’t you say anything?” Lisa and Diane paced the dining room, where their mother sat smoking and staring into the front yard. The dining table in front of Christine Murray was littered with bills and shut-off notices. Lisa was furious. “I thought the hired hands were taking care of the fields!”
“They were.” Her mother said after taking a drag from her cigarette. “Apparently they didn’t do a very good job.”
“What is the…” Before Lisa could get any further, Diane cut her off. “Mom, there’s an offer from that Stratton Properties to sell to them. Maybe you should consider it.”
“What?!” Lisa’s ire shifted.
Diane held her sister’s shoulders and explained. “It would cover the outstanding bills and set Mom up so she could get a townhouse in Fall River or something.” Lisa growled in disgust as she walked away from her family and out the back door.
“Ha!” Christine Murray spat out a laugh. “As if I would live there the rest of my life.”
“Well you have to do something, Mom,” said Diane. “They’re kicking you out of here if you don’t settle up some of these bills.”
“I have a plan,” said Christine, and puffed her cigarette.
Don’t beat yourself up about not helping a woman who refused to ask us for help. Mom barely said a word to either one of us after Dad, how were we to know what was needed?
You are right, of course, about Mom. Maybe that’s part of the reason I’m here now. Perhaps the land can tell me something that she couldn’t.
Anyway, this place is so FREAKY! The weather changed as soon as I got here. Fog rolled in and it got so cold. It feels like the sun has set but it’s only 2:30. The fields look like they haven’t been worked in years, as if seed was sown but never grew. Even the woods are hidden in fog. Everything is just gray.
Except for The Ravine. The maples there are in full splendor. It’s the only thing I can see in the fog – a red glow on the horizon.
I wish I could remember more about this place. I remember the woods, clear as day, but I’ve forgotten so much about the farm, and about Dad. I mainly just remember being here alone with Mom after you left.
Ah, god! That sounds so bad but I don’t mean it that way at all! You were the best! I’ve never thanked you for being the best big sister a girl could have, but I’m doing it now!
I LOVE YOU, D! <3 L
Oh, Lisa, you’re making me cry! You made my life at the stupid farm so fun and interesting! I’m so sorry I left when I did, but you got out soon enough, right?
I LOVE YOU, TOO!!! D
May 25, 1992
“Mama, I brought you these flowers…”
Christine slapped the bouquet of white, three-petaled flowers out of Lisa’s hand. Lisa watched them scatter across the living room floor. She was shocked and saddened, but even at five years old she knew it was important not to show any emotion at this moment.
“What is the matter with you, Lisa Marie?” Christine asked sternly. She dropped her knitting to her lap and muted the sound on The Young and the Restless on the TV. “Those are Trilliums, and I’ve told you they are an endangered species! We never, never, never pick those flowers!” She scoured Lisa’s face for signs that her daughter needed further correction. “These could be the last Trilliums on Earth! How would you feel if no one was ever able to enjoy another Trillium because you’d picked them all?”
Lisa bent to pick up the flowers without saying a word. Only her quickened breathing let on that she was upset. Christine simply stared as her daughter picked up the last of the flowers. Lisa hesitated, apparently not knowing what to do with the flowers at this point.
“You might as well throw them away, they won’t do anyone any good now they’re dead.” As Lisa walked slowly to the kitchen, Christine turned the volume back up on her soap opera and took up her knitting.
When Lisa reached the cupboard door where the trash was located, she hesitated. Instead of dumping the flowers there, she took them outside. She walked aimlessly into the back yard, pondering a way to make her mistake right. She looked up to see Diane’s flower bed on the hillside next to the house. With renewed purpose she turned toward the shed to get a trowel and watering can, so she could plant the flowers like Diane had shown her in the Spring.
Just ten minutes later the flowers were planted – more or less. Next to Lisa’s quickly wilting Trilliums, the now weed-filled beds held patches of Purple Coneflower, Wild Lupine, and Black Eyed Susan that Diane had planted several months earlier. As she stood back to admire her work, Lisa realized most of the plants in the bed were not pretty flowers, like the ones on the seed packages Diane had showed her back way back when. Diane had promptly forgotten about the bed, leaving nature to take its course. So Lisa set her five-year-old hands to pulling the nasty weeds and making the flower garden look like the pictures had looked.
In the end the bed looked rather bare, with just the few spindly flowers that had lived – or escaped Lisa’s hands – and the sad Trilliums to fill it. The disappointment of her mother’s reaction to the flowers forgotten, Lisa now looked forward to showing Diane her hard work.
It was less than an hour later when Diane was dropped off by the school bus. Lisa waited, jumpy with anticipation, at the end of the driveway for her.
“Diane! Let me show you what I did!” Lisa grabbed Diane’s hand and dragged her towards the back yard. Diane heaved a sigh that showed more irritation than she actually felt. It was nice to have someone happy to see her when she got home from school each day, and Lisa usually had some project going that she was eager to show her sister.
The now nearly empty flower bed was obvious as they approached it, so Diane had time to consider her response. It was only when she saw the wilted Trilliums that she began to feel more sorry for Lisa than impressed with her initiative.
“See!” Lisa said, holding her hands out in front of her towards the flowers. “It was full of ugly weeds and I pulled them all out so we can see the flowers now!” She turned back and grabbed Diane’s hand in both of her own. She looked up at her sister with an equal amount of pride and hope. Diane did not disappoint.
“Oh, wow, Lise!” Diane knelt in the grass next to her sister. “This looks so good! I’d completely forgotten about it, and look how you can actually see the flowers now!” Lisa giggled and released Diane’s hand to pick up a discarded weed and toss it a few feet further away from the bed. As she did, Diane realized that Lisa had simply tossed the weeds outside of the bed, so the ground around the cleaned-out garden was strewn with plants.
“You know what, though,” Diane said as she stood up. “We should probably throw these weeds in the compost pile so the grass here looks pretty, too.” Lisa’s face dropped as she realized she’d only done half the job. “It’s okay, though!” Diane quickly said, putting her arm around Lisa’s shoulder. “You go get the rake and put away your tools,” She pointed to the trowel and watering can. “And I’ll put my bag in the house. Then we’ll rake these weeds up, lickety-split!”
“Okay!” Lisa grabbed the watering can and trowel and set off without a second thought. As Diane trotted to the house, she laughed to see Lisa running and trying to keep the big watering can, with just enough water in it to make it awkward, from bouncing off her body and splashing her with water.
Walking through the woods I saw a couple of our signs were still up! Can you believe they’re still here 30 years after we made up names for all those places? “Bittersweet Lane” itself is sliding down the hillside, but the sign for it is still nailed to that aspen tree. The “Tented Elm” where we spent many an afternoon has finally fallen off its base, but once again the sign is still there.
One weird thing, though: there were a couple signs I didn’t recognize. One was in that valley by Tented Elm, nailed to a dead oak. “Death Valley” it’s called.
And there’s an actual signpost at the foot of the sledding hill by The Ravine. “The Fall” is all it says. The paint is newer and really sloppy. Would kids from Fall River be out here painting random signs…?
I’m taking a quick trip up the road to see the Kreeger place before I head for The Ravine. Wish me luck!
What are you hoping to see there, besides sad, creepy Doug in his sad, creepy farmhouse?
September 13, 1991
Sunny aspen leaves drifted to the ground as Lisa and Diane walked the well-worn paths through their woods. Though the strip of trees between the fields of their farm was not large, it was secluded enough to create a retreat for the girls. On this day, Diane had not asked to accompany her sister on one of her jaunts; she had simply followed when Lisa left the house after their father’s funeral.
Lisa stopped when she reached the big elm that had recently been cut in half by a lightning strike. The top half had fallen over in just the right way to create an open space beneath it where the girls could sit and talk. Even though Diane had fifteen years to Lisa’s five, the sisters had always been close. Diane was happy to be the emotional support her sister needed in a family whose parents had never shown much affection.
Dad had come close, though. He was pleasant and even chatty with both girls, but never really played with them or talked to them beyond superficial inquiries. And he had always been out somewhere in the fields or the woods, doing his work.
Still, his sudden death would be hard for Lisa to cope with. She had followed him around the farm like a puppy. Diane wondered if he’d even noticed Lisa was there all those times. But then she realized, the only time she’d seen her father get really angry was when he was trying to get Lisa to stop following him and stay home.
“Why didn’t Momma get a big stone with Daddy’s name on it like the other ones in the cemetery?” asked Lisa. She picked a dead leaf off the elm and crushed it to dust before picking another.
“She probably did,” Diane answered. “It takes a while after someone dies for them to make it.” Diane had grabbed a stick and was drawing with it on a patch of ground she’d scraped free of leaves.
“Oh.” Lisa wrapped her tiny hand around a bunch of branches and drew her fingers down to pull all the leaves off at once. She held them in her clenched fist for a moment before opening her hand and letting them drop to the ground. Suddenly she grabbed Diane’s hand which held the stick.
“We could make a stone!” Lisa said excitedly. “Or a sign! We could put it here on the farm and it would say his name and it would say The Murray Farm like he always called it!”
“Well…” Diane hesitated to ruin Lisa’s enthusiasm, but she knew her mother would disapprove. It would be good for her sister to have a project to keep her busy, though. “How about if we start with signs for all our places on the farm, all the places in the woods that we’ve named?” Meaning all the places their mother wouldn’t see.
“Oh, yeah!” Lisa took to the idea immediately. “We could paint signs on wood like the Kreegers did!” The Kreeger farm was surrounded by hand-painted “No Tresspassing” signs.
“Great idea, Lise! Let’s start with this place. What should we call it?”
The bridge over the creek has been replaced, thank god. *Rickety* does not begin to describe the deathtrap that used to be there.
The Kreeger place is…disturbing is probably the best word for it. I find it hard to believe someone with a home as messy and overgrown as that owns a restaurant, of all things. And I could tell that the fire pit in the back yard was raging, just like always, even though no one was around. I’m embarrassed to say I used to wish it would catch their house on fire so they’d have nowhere to live and we’d be rid of them.
(Don’t worry – I didn’t get any closer to it than the road!)
When I crossed back over the creek I looked up to see if The Ravine was still visible from the bridge. You can’t even see it now, you just see a mass of red-leafed trees with a trickle of water dribbling out of it. Remember when that creek used to roar out of The Ravine in Springtime? I wonder if it’s washed away all of our *entrails* yet.
I’m eating my late lunch at The Fall (as it is now known) then onward to The Ravine!
“Keith, when is that tractor going to get fixed and out of my yard?” Lisa’s mother started in on Lisa’s father as soon as he walked in the door. Keith Murray ignored his wife’s question and sat on the bench by the door to remove his mud-covered boots. Her mother’s unanswered questions contined from the kitchen, unceasing.
Lisa looked up from her secret space under the dining room table to see if daddy would talk today. Through the archway to the mud room where her father sat, she watched his face. When he finished with his boots he stood to remove his jacket and hang it on a hook. He paused before sitting once again and staring off into space.
Lisa watched the change happen, as she had many times before. Daddy closed his eyes, then opened his mouth wide, so wide. His eyes flew open and he made the strangest faces Lisa had ever seen – as if his face was brand new and he had to stretch it out to get it working. As his face contorted his hands clenched and unclenched. Finally, he shook his head as if to clear it. After that his eyes softened and a smile spread across his features. “Yay!” Lisa thought. “Daddy is talking tonight!”
Is anyone else there with you? There’s nothing for miles except our old farmstead and the Kreeger place. Creepy fog, overgrown farms, and mysterious signs. Should I be worried?
I never told you at the time, but I thought the woods were really creepy most of the time. When I was there with you I suppose I saw it the way you would, so any creepiness turned to magic, in a way. But I always felt like something out there was watching us. Watching me.
Seriously, though, maybe you should go back another day, when it’s bright and sunny and you have a baseball bat with you.
May 5, 1999
The Tented Elm protected Lisa from the misty rain, as she knew it would. She pulled blades of long quack grass and began plaiting them into the web of braids draped along this side of the elm’s trunk. The interior of the “tent” was decorated with natural adornments which Lisa had fashioned while sitting inside her haven. She hummed a tune they were working on in Chorus, and did not hear the approaching footsteps.
She was aware of his smell before anything else; wet, earthy, and sour. With a gasp she saw dirty brown work boots just a few feet from where she sat. Doug quickly bent down and ducked his head under the elm’s dead branches.
“Whatcha doin’ in there, Lisa Murray?” He put his arms out in front of him and dove into the tent proper, landing in front of Lisa with his feet still sticking out in the rain. He rolled on his side and assumed a saucy pose. “Pretty private in here, isn’t it?”
Lisa hardly knew what to do. Doug had rarely ventured to the Murray side of The Ravine. The sisters had tried to keep their hideway a secret from everyone, but especially from creepy Doug. “What are you doing on this side of The Ravine?” said Lisa. “This is OUR land!”
“Oh, relax!” Doug said, and laughed lightly. “We’re all family here! Your land is our land, and so on and so forth.” He grabbed the plait out of Lisa’s hands and began to unravel it.
“Doug, go find your own tree! This one’s taken!” Lisa moved away from Doug and grabbed more grass to start a new braid.
An uneasy silence lay between them. Doug carefully unraveling Lisa’s work while she tried to concentrate on a new braid.
When Doug found a particularly wide piece of grass, he flung the other bits of braid aside and laid it between the bases of his thumbs, pulling the grass taut and holding the other end between the tips of his thumbs. He put his lips to his thumbs and blew.
A deep quacking noise broke the silence. Doug laughed and continued to make the grass quack.
“Oh my god, just stop it!” Lisa yelled. “Why are you even here? Just go away already!”
“Fine, ya little piss-ant.” Doug rolled to his hands and knees and crawled to Lisa until his face was inches from her own. She was terrified, but by now she was an expert at hiding her feelings. The smell of his breath nearly choked her. She looked down to her braiding as if he wasn’t there. “All I want to know is where your sister is.”
This gave Lisa a shock. Had Diane even spoken to Doug in the past few years? She thought not. Diane had avoided the woods and fields that Lisa found respite in, and had not even crossed the creek bridge in that time. Doug had driven to school the past couple years, so they wouldn’t have seen each other on the bus, either.
“Diane graduated early, dumbass,” Lisa said as nonchalantly as she could. “She’s at college in Ohio now.” Out of the corner of her eye Lisa saw Doug frown.
“What?” He said, and sat back down. “I thought she’d keep working at Shroeder’s, or whatever.” He began to pick at a blister on the palm of his hand.
Now it was Lisa’s turn to laugh. “Why on earth would she stay around here? She hates this place almost as much as I do.”
Doug looked up quickly, then leaned towards Lisa to poke his finger in her cheek. “Don’t lie, Creepy Murray!” shouted Doug directly into her ear. “I seen you, Creepy! I seen how you stand at the top of The Ravine and stare at it for hours!” His voice died down to a whisper. “And I know why!”
“I don’t know what your talking about!” Lisa eyes grew wide as she swatted Doug’s hand away. “Diane’s gone, so just get out of our woods!”
“Ha!” Doug barked a laugh and crawled out from under the elm. “So the pretty one moves away and the creepy one gets to stay!” He poked his head back into the tent. “Hey, that rhymes!” He grabbed a handful of grass and tossed it towards Lisa. “See ya, neighbor!” Then he was gone.
The mist had turned to a steady drizzle. Drops of water percolated through the branches to fall on her head as Lisa covered her eyes with her hands. Tears wetted her palms as she took slow, deep breaths to calm herself down.
OMG, D, don’t have a cow. I’m fine.
And who says I didn’t bring a bat with me? And some matches? And maybe a book of spells to call forth demons from the earth to haunt those who would build million-dollar homes on small family farms they swindled people out of?
And I’m so sorry! If I’d known how much you disliked our woods I wouldn’t have dragged you out there so much! I understand why you say it felt creepy, though. I guess the creepiness just felt like home to me after spending so much time out there.
You are a riot and you are a sweetheart. Please take care.
June 13, 2001
Doug Kreeger had always favored the dark of night. He didn’t like to stay up late, though. Rather, he was a very early riser. The mother he could barely remember had even called him “her little night owl.”
After his mother was gone and his father’s interest in his well-being had waned, he continued to wake while it was still dark. As soon as he’d get home from school on a typical day, he’d quickly do his chores and eat supper, then flop into bed, exhausted. Come two AM he’d be wide awake and ready to go.
Whether brutal winter or sweltering summer, those early morning hours would find Doug tramping the fields surrounding his home. At least once a week he would walk to Fall River. A few times he went as far as Millwood – which was eight miles away. Upon reaching these destinations he would turn right around and start back.
He wandered onto Murray land, too. And the Sharp Farm on the other side of the Murrays. In the light of day he respected legal boundaries, but during his “special time” all the world was fair game.
At the Murrays’ he spent time in “their woods,” as Lisa liked to call it. He laughed at the sappy names for their favorite spots, which they’d posted on wooden signs nailed to the trees. Sometimes he crouched at the edge of the woods and watched the Murray home for an hour or more. Most mornings, however, he ended up at The Ravine.
He never approached The Ravine from the Murray side; it was always from the Kreeger side. As bold as Doug was in his nighttime journeys, he was still afraid to venture where he’d seen Mr. Murray way back in 1989. But despite his fear, something drew him, again and again over the years, back to The Ravine.
He’d stand at the top, one arm around a slim tree trunk to keep his balance as he’d lean out over the sloped ground. By this time his eyes would have become accustomed to the darkness, so he’d just stare at the ground beneath the old appliances on the Murray side, as if waiting for the earth there to burst open.
If he watched closely enough, he thought, maybe he’d see something. Something that was not supposed to be there. Something that would show if Mr. Murray had ever returned to this spot, as Doug suspected he had.
Maybe he’d see what Mr. Murray had buried there so long ago, under the washer. Maybe he’d see if there was anything under the fridge, too, or under the old wringer sink with the broken crank.
Then he would know if Mr. Murray was like his dad.
Don’t freak out, but I think someone’s out here with me. I keep hearing sounds but no one’s there.
And The Ravine – it’s changed! Even though the sides of it used to be full of the old garbage that Dad dumped there, there was still an openness to it. Now it is completely overgrown with bushes and vines and flowers, of all things. Trilliums are everywhere, remember those? Mom said not to pick them because they were endangered. Well they’re not endangered anymore. They’ve taken over the undergrowth. White, three-petaled flowers peek out from spiky bushes that I don’t recognize. Vines that are almost black choke every tree.
I don’t like it.
I remember that convo with OMK. Did I ever tell you what I noticed about The Ravine after that? The Kreegers’ side of it was pristine – no junk. Our side was full of old appliances and broken dishes. Even now, their side is less choked with bushes and flowers than our side. Now I remember looking at all that junk littering our side of the The Ravine and thinking, “Entrails. That’s the entrails of our life. That’s what’s left of Dad, and what will be left of us someday.” I remember now that’s why I suddenly wanted to stop playing here – not because of what OMK said, but because of what it made me think about.
Now I need to see those entrails. Don’t ask why, I don’t know why.
July 10, 1993
Part of the reason Doug avoided actually going into Fall River on his early morning wanderings was the fear that his Dad might see him. After all, his father worked overnights at the diner, and who knew if he ever got the bug to wander about like his son did?
But on this night, Doug was feeling bold. He’d been wandering about the countryside for a while now, and no one had ever caught him. Why shouldn’t he venture into the town to see what he could see?
Though a couple of dogs threatened to give him away, Doug made his way through the cobbled streets of the old town unseen. He entered a few yards to look at cars or peek behind the house. Nothing specifically caught his interest, but he was thrilled overall to feel so much freedom.
He was surprised when he found himself nearing his dad’s diner. Steeling up his courage, he crept forward. “Let’s see what Dad is up to,” Doug thought.
There was only one car parked behind the diner, his dad’s old pickup. As he neared the building, though, Doug was surprised to hear more than one voice through the screen door at the back of the kitchen.
“It’s not a bad life, if you don’t mind the travel schedule.” It was a youngish man’s voice Doug heard, definitely not his father’s voice. Then his father spoke.
“Must be hard traveling at night, all by yourself on a bus like that.” Doug was shocked to hear the note of concern in Walter’s voice. That measure of compassion had never been directed at Doug, that’s for sure. His confusion continued as his dad offered the man a slice of lemon pie, a specialty of his, he said.
“When has Dad ever made pie?” Doug thought. Mrs. Heinen made the baked goods for the diner and delivered them each morning at 6 am. By this time of day there would have been nothing left from the previous morning’s delivery.
Doug’s musings were cut short as his father entered the kitchen. Doug fell back against the outside wall next to the screen door, praying his father had not seen or heard him. Apparently he hadn’t, as Doug could hear his father roll out the red, two-wheeled cart that was used to bring in deliveries. He chanced another peek through the screen and saw his father pulling a heavy blanket from a duffle bag on the floor next to the cart. After that came a roll of duct tape.
Doug’s confusion only grew when he heard a heavy thud from the dining room and saw that his father didn’t react to the sound with concern. He reacted instead with what looked like relief as he closed his eyes and just stood in the kitchen, unmoving. Doug now saw new emotions on his father’s face: satisfaction, joy, even? He was so unused to the idea of his dad experiencing pleasure that he was very nearly sick. Eventually, Walter headed back into the dining room, where Doug could not see what was happening. What he heard, though, was his father grunting with effort.
Within a minute his father’s back appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. As he shuffled backwards with small steps, Doug saw that Walter was dragging a body.
The kitchen’s fluorescent lights cast a sickly glow over the man’s face, making his wide, dead eyes and open mouth appear more sinister than shocked. Spittle frothed at the man’s lips, and Doug saw long scratches where he had clawed at his own neck.
Walter, in the meantime, was humming, something Doug had never heard his father do. He watched in shock as his father took the duct tape and quickly strapped the man’s arms and legs to his chest, making the body into a more compact form. It was only later, after he’d returned home, that Doug had another of the night’s many realizations. He realized that Walter had done this taping job so quickly because he was well and truly practiced at it.
The body was then wrapped in the blanket and positioned to be wheeled out the back door on the cart. That was when Doug realized he was in danger of being caught. He tiptoed around the side of the diner to the front of the building. Before creeping away, he saw that the sign on the front door had been flipped to read “Closed.” He took off down the street and ran most of the way home.
Later, when his father arrived home and fired up the burn pit behind the house, Doug’s final realization that night caused him to vomit over the side of his bed.
When I look to see if someone is following me, all I see is a glimpse of movement in the trees. All I hear is a slight crunch of leaves, so I can’t tell if it’s my imagination or reality.
It’s not my imagination, though, and I think the person following me is Doug.
How could you not think Doug was creepy, by the way? Oh, that’s right. You left me there with Mom on one side and the Kreegers on the other side. Like the Ravine!
Doug didn’t really come out of his shell until after “the pretty one” – his words, not mine – left the scene.
August 17, 2016
“My dad died.” The nurse on duty at Lodge County Hospital gasped when she looked up. A tall scruffy man stood before her with a much older man cradled in his arms. The older man did appear to be deceased to the nurse, even though he still had an oxygen mask strapped to his face.
“Oh!” She jumped up and came around the nurse’s station. “Bring him in here, sweetheart.” She lead the scruffy man to one of the open emergency stations. Though the scruffy man laid the old man down on the bed with great tenderness, the scruffy man’s face remained stoic.
Half an hour later the death of the old man, now known to be Walter Kreeger, was confirmed to have been caused by complications from emphysema. When asked about making arrangements with a funeral home, the young man, Walter’s son, Doug, signed away all rights to the body. He ceded his father’s remains to the County to do with as they saw fit. “I can take care of everything else myself now,” was all he said.
Lisa, you’re funny. Stop playing. I don’t know what you’re talking about with Doug. He was a big oaf, nothing more dangerous than a cow.
Call me, okay? Something about this is not right. I’m worried about you!
Cows kill more people per year than…oh, nevermind.
I just realized that I’m not scared of whoever else is here anymore. I’m supposed to be here. So I’m going in.
That was the last message sent from Lisa’s email account. Below are texts from Lisa (and a typical example of Diane’s texted responses), which started eleven minutes after her last email was sent. Punctuation and capitalization have been added for clarity to Lisa’s texts.
Someone really is here. Now I can almost hear them breathing. They won’t come out when I call.
Animals, I tell myself, just animals. Like a cow, maybe.
God, what’s that smell? Flowers mixed with rot. Death and life, but not in a circle-of-life kind of way.
Don’t worry. I’ll be fine once I get to the bottom of The Ravine.
LISA!!! Answer your phone!!!
August 23, 1989
On one side of The Ravine, a boy of eight stood stock still behind a tree. The man who lived close by had not seen the boy when the man had dragged the big bundle down into the ravine. The boy (whose name was Doug) couldn’t remember if the man’s name was Mr. Murray or Mr. Murphy.
It was an odd time of day for the boy to be out. Usually he woke when it was pitch black outside. Tonight he had not been able to get to sleep, though, so he had wandered outside. Now it was nearly sundown, golden light filtering through the trees on the man’s side of the ravine. “Never again,” the boy thought. “This is not my special time. My special time is the only time I should come out here again.”
The man grunted loudly and the boy chanced a peek from behind his tree. He saw the man pick up the shovel he had flung into the ravine before he had carefully descended with the bundle. The man began to dig.
The last rays of sunlight were streaming between the trees when the man finished digging. The boy had sat down in his hiding spot to wait for the man to finish and had nearly fallen asleep. The sound of the shovel hitting the rocks in the creek brought the boy to full consciousness again. He rolled up to his knees and peeked out.
The man was stuffing the big bundle into the hole he had dug. At one point a woman’s shoe dropped out of the bundle and rolled into the creek. The man swore and retrieved it. After stuffing the shoe back into the bundle, the man grabbed the shovel again and used it to pull the surrounding dirt back into the hole with the bundle.
The man had barely filled it back in when he reached over and pulled a nearby washing machine over it with a bang. The man shook the machine a bit to make sure it would stay where it was. Though it looked precarious to Doug, it apparently satisfied the man, as he grabbed his shovel and headed back up the hill.
As he passed through the trees on his side of the the ravine, the man did not see his three year old daughter standing behind a tree, less than a dozen feet away.
But the boy did.
Saturday, September 12, 2016 – FINAL
What follows are the last voice texts Diane received from Lisa, the first of which was received twelve minutes after the previous text. The lengths of time between voice texts have been indicated in italics. Diane’s responses are removed for clarity, though she continued to call and text her sister, both while receiving these messages and for several hours afterwards. She called the police to report a missing person when Lisa had not responded in any way for more than eighteen hours.Punctuation and capitalization have been added for clarity.
Oh, the things I am remembering, Diane.
I dreamed about The Ravine. Many times. I didn’t tell you that, either. Irons and ironing boards, washing machines and refrigerators, all coming to life as I sat in the creek at the bottom of The Ravine. The water would be roaring like in Spring, but I didn’t feel it. All I could feel were the machines huddled above me.
They’d start rolling down the slope, slowly at first, then picking up speed. I was rooted to the spot and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) run away. I watched as they rolled down the hill towards me, getting larger and louder as they approached.
The last time I had that dream was when you were home after your college graduation, and you woke me up because I was screaming. Remember that? The dream had ended the same as always: the machines rolled down The Ravine towards me until the door opened on the washer and it swallowed me whole.
On that night, it was only once I was surrounded by the silent darkness inside the washer that I realized I was screaming. I told you I’d been dreaming about the storm, the one that had delayed your flight. You were so touched. I couldn’t tell you I’d had a nightmare about The Ravine, of all places. I couldn’t tell you that I’d been having it almost every night for years.
I couldn’t tell you that once during those years I told Mom, “hey, I think I have allergies, because my throat sometimes hurts when I wake up.” And I couldn’t tell you that she’d said, “No, it’s because sometimes you scream all night. You’ve been doing it for a while. I tried to waking you once but you just started up again an hour later. That’s one of the reasons I sleep with earplugs.”
— 12 second pause. —
I’m inside The Ravine now, not yet to the creek. The washer is still here.
So is Doug. He’s standing at the top on his side of it, silhouetted black against the gray fog. Red leaves fall from the trees overhead. He hasn’t said anything. He just watches, like he always has.
— 35 second pause. —
And now I’m here and now I know that there’s something inside the washer. I’m sitting in the creek bed looking up at it and it looks…brighter, somehow, than everything else. And the Trilliums surround it, almost holding it up, if that’s possible. I feel like I’ll see one of those flowers twitch and the washer will slowly tip, then come crashing down The Ravine towards me.
— 19 second pause. —
The stench of the flowers is making me sick. Diane, you…
Why do I smell Dad? It smells just like Dad.
— 27 second pause. —
I don’t have anything else to say but if I stop recording I’ll…
That’s not true, I do have more to say.
— 9 second pause. —
I remember Mom said that in Farm Country you buried your problems. Even though our entrails aren’t buried very deep, I can see they’re growing. I guess she was half right.
— 27 second pause. —
I look up at the sky and the Fall leaves are bright, just like the washer. No fog up there. Blood red sky to cover our entrails.
Maybe I’ll just open the washer. Open it and let whatever is inside devour me.
— 23 second pause. —
I will become part of The Ravine and will haunt those bougie bastards who build their houses here.
(Laughter, then inaudible)
— 30 second pause. —
Just kidding, of course. I’m only here for one reason.
Anyway. Bye, Diane.
— 27 second pause. —
I’ll call you after I open it.
— 30 second pause. —
I’ll even send a photo.
Diane believes Lisa is still alive somewhere.
Douglas Kreeger was questioned twice regarding Lisa Murray’s activities of that date, before disappearing himself. Before leaving he completed the sale of his own farm to Stratton Properties, LLC. Demolition on his farm and the former Murray farm is scheduled to begin in the Spring.
The Lodge County District Attorney considers Douglas Kreeger the primary suspect in the disappearance of Lisa Murray. So far attempts to excavate the Kreeger and Murray properties have been blocked by the courts at the behest of Stratton Properties, Inc. The Lodge County Examiner recently posted an op-ed by Diane Murray which accuses Stratton Properties of trying to hide what occurred on that land in order to protect their investment.
The case is still open. Lisa’s body has never been found.
Copyright 2022 by Melani Weber