Clang Clang

If you would like to read the previous parts to this story, here they are:

Part 1: Knock Knock
Part 2: Who’s There?
Part 3: Knock it off

As always, thanks for reading!

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“Dad is acting funny,” Faye said, sniffling. Must be the dust in the room. Kate knew she wasn’t crying. “Is it his medication again? You know, acting up?’

“The antidepressants? Hmm. Could be.” Kate could pretend with the best of them, especially if it meant protecting her sister.

“You could check.”

Kate nodded.

They both wanted logic to swing in their direction, but rummaging in dad’s medicine cabinet was a possibility so remote, Kate had no words. Not even on a good day would Kate stake a claim in any area of the house that was clearly labeled dad’s, like his bedroom. The garage was also off-limits, not that Kate ever had a need to go in there. Talk of antidepressants was welcome conversation, comforting even. They dare not mention the knocking lest it start the whole ordeal again. The risk was too great. They tried to ignore it, swallow it whole, and spit it out, undigested. But it gnawed at them in the pits of their stomach like tiny beasts with ruptured claws, tearing away at their insides.

Their breathing slowed in an effort to recoup from the rush of adrenaline, their body temperature chilling at an alarming rate. Faye searched her closet for sweaters, while Kate had her eye on the sweating beads on the window. She opened the window to look at the drop, a flow of warm air brushing past her face. The thick wisteria branch could hold Faye, she thought, as she stared at it, but she might need to be there to catch her.

“I have a friend on medication,” Faye said, sitting on her purple, fairy comforter, snuggling with a stuffed animal. “She wants to be off of it,” she nodded, scooting in closer into corner of the wall. Faye rambled while Kate fretted over a spotty plan.

She held Faye’s hands, “Do you think you can slide down that branch on the side of the house?”

“Out there?” Faye pointed to the window, and squeezed her eyes shut. “That’s high, Kate. Five stories high.”

“It’s two.”

“Two, whatever.”

“Faye, look at me. You can do this. I’m not asking you to jump. Listen.”

“What about the window downstairs? Did it open?” Faye spoke to Kate, inching further into the corner.

“I don’t know. Never got there.” She pulled Faye over to window, not bothering to explain her run-in with their dad. Not now. She opened the window, pushed out the screen, which dropped ruthlessly, bouncing off the concrete on its arrival. Faye stared at Kate wide-eyed and gasped.

“We don’t have a lot of options, Faye,” she said, pressing into her side. “I know you can do this.”

“You go, first.”

“That branch won’t hold me.”

“Just jump. It’s only two stories.” Confusion stirred in her eyes. “Let’s talk to dad.”

Kate thought she detected frost in the corner of the window. “I just want to get the hell out of here. We can do this, Faye.”

Beyond their door, they heard a muted pounding.

Clang, clang, clang, clang.

(Pause.)

Bam, Bam.

Kate and Faye exchanged a glance, shivering.

“It’s not outside,” Kate whispered. “It’s in our house. I can’t tell where.”

It could be in the basement, except they didn’t have one. It sounded like it could be under water or behind walls, layers of them. It had a familiar tone, like an instrument badly tuned. After a louder burst, Kate could hear the clanging ring, ring, ringing. A chiming, delicate enough, but with a rough edge. Where had she heard it before? It had to be the garage. She envisioned her dad with his tools. A hammer.

Hammering, hammering…like a nail. Setting it in the wall, and then with a bit more punch, bam, bam into the wall. But it wasn’t a wall, it was steel.

The banging stopped as suddenly as it began. Faye shrugged her shoulders with a look of fresh innocence that sparked hope inside of Kate. I will take care of her, no matter what, she thought. The knocking was not at the front door, but it had been grating nonetheless. They collapsed in the middle of the floor exhausted. Their plan full of loose ends; their dad a mystery, no phone, no jumping.

They rested until they could hear themselves breathe again. But only for seconds. A tide rolled in, crashing beneath them with tsunami strength, tossing them around the room like toys in a Cracker Jack box. The bed popped off the floor and slid toward them, wedging them against the dresser. A picture crashed to the floor, spraying glass inches from their faces.

“Earthquake!” Faye screamed. “It’s got to be.” Living in Southern California, it wasn’t out of the question, but neither of them had felt such a strong tremor before.

“Maybe. Maybe. Are you okay?” Kate asked, lying almost on top of Faye, sloping at a downward angle.

“I want out of here, Kate.”

A light tapping at Faye’s bedroom door and they both jumped, already rattled enough.

“Girls.” It was their dad. He knocked again lightly.

Kate caught her breath. “Yes.”

“Girls. Why don’t we watch the rest of that movie.”

Kate looked at Faye stunned, shrugging her shoulders, while Faye shook her head “no, no, no.”

“We’re a little tired. I think we’re just going to bed.”

“Kate, you know how important our movie night is,” Kyle said.

Kate fell silent, hoping he’d go away, but she heard his labored breathing through the door.

“I’ll be waiting downstairs,” he said.

Kate thought she heard whistling.

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc

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Knock it off

The first two parts are here:

Part 1: Knock Knock? 
Part 2: Who’s There?

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What do you mean it’s a dead-end?” cried her sister, who now more than ever wanted an exit when just seconds ago her life depended upon staying put.

“I mean it won’t open,” Kate said, standing up. She tried it again now that she was more composed, that lapse into irrational fear, she told herself, would only scare her sister into frozen-solid state with all forward movement suspended indefinitely. She had seen it once before at Faye’s piano recital. She had practiced the piece non-stop until everyone in the household hummed the tune subconsciously. Really, it held the family unit in one piece, the glue so to speak, however temporary it felt. There was no back-up, and they rallied behind Faye so that it became too much pressure. She had called it stage fright, but Kate knew better. Faye was as tough as nails usually; she just had a soft spot for practicality, for common sense, and that was fuck all right now. Kate could only stare at the solid oak door before her.

“Let’s check the other door. A window?” Faye looked up to her.

“Okay,” said Kate, out of breath for some reason. Being near the door had drained her energy, and she dragged behind Faye.

Buzzing ahead, Faye ran smack into their father, who seized her shoulders and squeezed at them. “Stop. Not so fast.” One look into his piercing slits of eyes, and Faye ran up the stairs to her bedroom.

“Faye, stop,” Kate called after her, while Kyle collapsed his chin on his chest, silent. The plan to investigate another outlet was now up to Kate, who shifted unsteadily on her feet, weaving around her father. He gazed up at her when she bumped him. A few more steps, and it occurred to her that he blocked her at every turn, seemingly preceding her actions, a foreshadowing of sorts.

Had she stopped moving, would everything come to a screeching halt? Her mind felt pinned against the wall, and her body shuddered under cold, iron weight, pressing, suffocating, as her legs felt ready to buckle under her.

And then there it was. Their eyes deadlocked. She stared into two dark liquid voids and all she wanted was to break free from him. With only inches between them, she jumped into a run, hoping it was enough to outpace him. astounded she needed to at all. With the easiest route up the stairs, she knocked at Faye’s closed bedroom door. fooling herself she could comfort her. The door or window would have to wait, and her phone was downstairs, too. Somewhere.

“It’s Kate. Open up, Faye.”

“Knock it off,” Faye said, biting her lip. “Don’t knock.”

“Sorry.” Kate gasped, and held her sister tight. “We’ll be okay,” she said, kissing the top of her head.

“The knocking stopped,” Faye offered. “Right? I don’t hear it.”

True, it had stopped, but something was askew. Kate looked up into the corner of the ceiling where it was cracked and warped with water damage. Askew, and not air tight.

photo credit: JonathanCohen via photopin cc

Who’s There?

This is a bit rough, but here is a bit more of “Knock Knock.” I will take the rest of the month to finish this. It may be novella length possibly. 

Thanks so much reading. It means the world to me!

If you like to read the first part, here it is: Knock Knock.

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Kate rushed towards the door with her dad’s arm caught in her midsection. Her arms flailed like she was singing a hallelujah chorus, pushing, pushing, and then she surrendered to her knees.

 “Just answer it. God, he’s probably gone by now,” said Kate, hastily.

 “Who? Who’s gone?”

 “I don’t know! Whoever.” She threw open the door. Again the familiar absence like an empty seat to unpopular event. The storm, or whatever it was, had rolled by.

Disappointment set it and all three hobbled back to their seats before the large-screen TV, stilled to a couple ready to embrace or ensnare, an interpretation up for grabs. Kate’s mood hungered for an embrace, while Kyle was punching at the bit. Faye un-paused the movie to a couple embracing followed the woman delivering a fierce slap to the guy’s face.

Kate sighed.

A knock. Another knock.

“Not again.” Faye shivered.

All eyes on the door, twitching uncomfortably in their seats. Kyle grabbed a bat out of the closet before looking in the peep-hole. He opened the door to his neighbor Roy, a likeable fellow who usually minded his own business, sipping a coke.

“Hey, there,” he said, swallowing again. “Just wanted to let you know, I’m having some guys over tomorrow to do some work on a fence.”

Faye and Kate wandered to the door to get a glimpse of him and waved politely, content this was a familiar person at their doorstep, even though they rarely saw him. They resumed their TV watching positions on the couch.

“Oh, sure,” Kyle said. It was difficult to look past him without staring at his wide chest. “You haven’t been over before, have you? Uh, tonight,, I mean…earlier?”

“Me? No,” Roy shook his head. “Just got home, in fact,” he said, feeling the need to prove his innocence.

With the momentum of movie-watching suspended, Faye looked for more snacks in the kitchen, while Kate did what she had been aching to do all night, call her boyfriend.

She dialed. “Hi,” Kate said, breathlessly. Faye always knew she was talking to her boyfriend, Jake. “Jake the Rake,” Faye called him, because it annoyed the hell out of her sister.

Faye mouthed to her, “The Rake.”

Kate waved her hand away at Faye, who sat the kitchen table eating a cookie with milk, eyes milling about the room. A sudden flicker outside held her gaze steady, and there in the window in the darkness was a floating head, his eyes aglow and his mouth upturned in an ever-widening grimace.

Screaming, Faye dropped her milk, the glass crashing, splashing white liquid all over the floor.

“What happened Faye?” Kyle ducked his head in the kitchen. “What is it with the milk tonight, huh? You guys can’t keep this stuff in the glass.”

“It was a head!’ Faye paralyzed with fear, pointed out the window.

“Huh?” Kyle wandered over to the closet to return the baseball bat, intent on his next task of cleaning the kitchen floor.

“Oh, Faye. What have you done now?” Kate sauntered into the kitchen, glowing from her recent exchange with Jake. “Oh, honey,” she started mopping up the mess with a nearby dish towel.

Meanwhile Faye’s skin resembled a pasty, milky white, stuttering and pointing at the window while her sister had only Jake on the brain, replaying their conversation in her mind. She had mentioned the knocking to Jake, but they had quickly re-steered the conversation to tomorrow’s plans.

“Look, look, look,” she whispered, barely audible.

“C’mon. Let’s just watch the movie. And no more milk for you, young lady,” Kyle said. He patted her on the head.

Faye clutched her dad’s hand, spooked. She knew what she saw, and it’s not like you saw a floating head everyday. It had a mealy quality with a cut down one cheek, and it smiled at her. Removing herself from the kitchen, she temporarily erased the moment from her mind, craving solace in the blankets of the couch. It was her wild imagination at work, her dad always told her. She threw the blankets over her head.

“Pass me that pop corn will you?” Faye said, peeking from under her blanket.

“All out,” her sister teased. “Looks like you ate it all.”

They rejected the idea of getting up, and sat there, popcorn-less, and the possibility of a movie an unending task with little reward.

“It was just Roy at the door, kids,” Kyle announced, ruffling the blanket on Faye’s head. “He’s a nice guy.”

Indeed, Roy’s appearance marked an end to the door knocking. A human had appeared on the other side. The next time someone knocked, another one would take his place. Or, maybe he’d return with more information about the work over at his house. A stony silence fell upon them as if they were now depleted of energy, or maybe it was the chili settling in.

Except for Faye, shaking under her blanket. When once again, they heard a sharp at the door, Faye belted out a sudden scream.

“Faye, no. It’s okay,” Kyle came to her side, and held her. “We’re not even going to answer that. We’re watching a movie, and don’t want to be bothered,” he said to Faye, following by a quick once over of his surroundings. “I have my eye on you,” he said now to the walls. This did nothing to restore Faye’s confidence. Kyle told her to breathe, and breathe again. Faye nodded at him, and forced a smile.

Then like a soft rumbling of horses galloping closer and closer, an incessant pounding ensued.

“We’re not answering it, girls.” Silence. “Do you hear me?” Kyle focused on the door. “We don’t want you here.”

In response, a clicking sound on the other side of the door.

Click, click. Fingernails on glass.

A shuffling of a deck of cards. A bridge of fluttering wings.

Randomizing. Merging. Finalizing.

Rolling over, and a thinning slice, slice, slice.

Rolling, slicing.

Rolling, slicing.

Cut. Cut. With a knife.

Again, each time louder and heavier. Cycle, repeat.

Faster, rolling and slicing, tumbling on top of each other, until it is one massive distorted wall of sound trampling upon the door.

“Make it stop,” Faye said. “Answer it. Open the door.” She covered her ears with hand, and belted a piercing scream.

“No. Ignore it,” Kyle said.

Kate called her boyfriend, but lost her signal. She pounded the phone against her palm and then threw it at the floor.

“A lot of good that’s going to do,” Kyle said, his frustration showing through. But then the knocking stopped. They all looked at each other, and froze, afraid to make the slightest sound lest it start the whole cycle again.

“Maybe it wants us to pound back. Maybe that’s what it wanted,” Kate offered, and as ridiculous as it seemed, no one dared dispute it.

“Shh,” Kyle laid his chest on the floor and looked under the door for shadows.

“What are you doing, daddy?” Faye spoke up, and latched on to Kate’s hand.

“Nothing there.”

“Right. Really? C’mon, dad. How can you say that?” Kate said under breathe, close to blowing her stack. “We all heard it.”

The longer they stood in front of the door, the closer they huddled together, shuffling into a circle.

“Why don’t we just leave the house,” Kate said. “We could call the cops and just, just, we could go. They could bring guns.”

“And shoot at what?” Kyle paused. “And tell them what? An invisible psycho is knocking on our door?” As soon as he said it, he wanted to take it back. He had to be tough for his girls, but what he didn’t tell them was that his body temperature rose the closer he got to the door; startled by droplets of sweat falling to the floor, not knowing what they were at first. So far, his girls had shown no sign of the onslaught of heat. Faye even shivered as if she were cold.

“I want to get the hell out of here, dad,” Kate said. “Get your keys, and let’s go.”

“The floating head,” Faye screamed. “I’m not going.”

“There is no floating head, Faye,” Kate said calmly. “Your mind is playing tricks on you. That’s all.” She pulled Faye into her belly and held her there.

Faye pulled away. “I’m not going out there.”

With all the confusion, no one mentioned that the knocking has ceased. Kyle’s head felt like it was on fire, smoldering with each passing minute of silence. In the kitchen, he searched for his keys, raking the counter clear with his arm. No keys, no wallet. No keys in the living room. He paced madly to the back of the house, tossing clothes and papers in searching, but not really looking at anything. His brain on fire, his mind adrift.

Kate turned off the TV and tried her phone once more, and nothing. “Dammit.”

Her father’s shrieking could be heard from the back of the house, and then it sounded like he must have turned on the shower. Fear gripped her insides, gnawing at her to flee, try the door. Go ahead, try it. Turn the knob, and everything will be fine. It was the ultimate test. If she could open the door with no interference of any kind, then the force had left them. If she heard one more knock it might send her over the edge. She hesitated before reaching out, and reaching again. She had to know.

She clutched the knob, and turned it, and got nothing. She turned it again, and tugged at the door. She slapped the door with her palms until they burned and she fell at the base of the door, tears streaming down her face.

“It’s a dead end.”

 

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Haunted Places: A Tour of Preston Castle

Recently, I visited the Preston Castle in Ione, California in Amador County for a historical tour. During the month of October, the Preston Castle also offers a thrilling haunted house and overnight ghost tours. This is not surprising considering it is believed to be truly haunted. Not only is there an unsolved murder in its past, but at least 26 suspicious deaths that occurred on the premises.

I found its history fascinating. The Preston Castle, formerly the Preston School of Industry, opened its doors as a reform school for boys in 1864. It is one of the oldest and best-known reform schools in the United States.

Preston Castle 144
The very first class at Preston. They look a bit grim.

Juveniles were sent to Preston instead of the nearby prisons of San Quentin or Folsom with the goal of rehabilitation, and thus, this amazing construction of the Romanesque Revival style architecture was envisioned and realized. Boys, aged from 12-24, were not named as prisoners or inmates, but were referred to as wards of the state or simply “wards.” Their crimes ranged from burglary to murder; orphaned boys also ended up here.

In 1890, the state of California purchased 230 acres (at only $30 per acre) for the Preston School. The plan included 77 rooms in all. The school was divided into three areas: academic, military, and industry trade. Everything they used at the school was produced onsite, including the butchering of animals for meals and the sewing their own clothes. Wards picked a trade to master such as agriculture, farming, printing, brick laying, plumbing, carpentry, or baking. The goal was for the wards to be productive members of society once released.

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Sitting on the steps with my son. It’s hard to capture the entire Castle in a photo.

Did you think you saw a man hanging from the top of the building? You did.

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Don’t worry. It’s just a prop for their Halloween Haunt.

Since the tours began, many visitors have cited strange sights, disembodied voices, slamming doors, and fallen objects. Paranormal events have also been documented on the Ghost Adventures TV show. I’m glad I decided to watch the creepy episode after my tour.

Take a look inside.

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Does it not look a bit spooky?
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I’m not going up there…

Because next year the deed for a 55-year lease will be in the hands of private citizens, this may the last year they open their doors for tours and their haunted house. Today much of the Castle is in complete disrepair.

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In many spots, whole floors are missing. Believe me, this tour requires a guide for safety alone.
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Once a staff apartment. It’s seen better days.

Preston Castle closed its doors in 1960, and in the years that followed the slate roof, considered to be of value, was torn off for monetary gain; the castle was vandalized and exposed to the elements. All except this room…what was once the hospital.

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Infirmary Room I. According to Ghost Adventures, this is a hot bed of paranormal activity.
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The ceiling, not exposed to the elements, is in good shape.

When our guide took us to down to the basement to the kitchen, she paused, then announced, “If there’s any reason why this place is haunted, it’s probably because of what happened here in this kitchen.”

Preston Castle 225

She then told the story of Anna Corbin, the Head Housekeeper on staff, who was believed to be murdered by nineteen-year-old ward, Eugene Monroe. She was found with a burlap sack over her head, tied with a cord around neck, and blugeoned to death. Eugene was tried three times and finally acquitted, and so Anna Corbin’s murder was never solved. Eugene Monroe was later incarerated in Oklahoma for the murder of another woman.

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A memorial now stands in the pantry.

It must have been a rough place with all the documented attempts of escape. While the goal of rehabilitation did not take hold in infamous serial killers, Gerald Gallego and Caryl Chessman, many more went on to live productive and successful lives.

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Others left their mark by etching their names into this wall.

Only eight acres now remain of the school campus, including the Castle and the Fire House, which are listed as California State Historical Landmarks and are on the National Register of Historic Places. The rest of the surrounding area is home to the San Quentin Prison and the California Youth Authority Detention Center (now closed). Most of the acreage has been sold for homes and an accompanying sprawling golf course.

My tour guide remarked, “It’s a state town.” She questioned whether the restoration effort is worth it, but added, “People have a vision about this place.” The hope is to restore the Castle to its former glory and possibly convert it for extension programs for nearby college campuses.

No matter how it is restored, I have a feeling it will still be haunted.

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