The Onion House, Part One
Supposedly one of the more haunted properties in all of San Antonio, a city well known for haunted houses. The Onion House once sat on a thousand acres of land, but has since dwindled down to thirty-six acres. The Leon Valley Preservation Society is in the works to restore the property from its dilapidated state and turn it into a museum for those who would want to know more about the men who settled the wilds of Texas when they were still wild. Sitting back in its own hollow behind a screen of tall, gnarled trees and a hotel, the old two story building is a site that many teenagers dare each other to sneak onto and spend the night.
To prove you spent the night, all you had to do was take three pictures: one at sunset, one at midnight and one at dawn. All in front of Gregory the Gargoyle, a stooped statue that sits near a large expanse of limestone covered in scorch marks, all from former campfires. Walking out from behind one of the trees, I check my watch: about an hour until sunset.
I don’t even know why I’m here. The kids that are staying the night aren’t really close friends of mine, at least not in any traditional sense. I mean, I take all of the same honors classes with them. I’m in the band with the boy’s girlfriends. Hell, I’m the only guy in the Northside Independent School District that plays the flute. The girls all play the flute, save for one, who plays the clarinet. The boys are all on the football team, two running backs, a linebacker, and the second string quarterback; an eclectic bunch of semi-brainy students who are all choosing to break the law in an effort that I’m not exactly comfortable with.
“It’ll be fun Mike,” Alexis had said to me, tugging on my arm as if to entice me further, “This is our senior year and none of us have done anything crazy yet.”
“So you want to go to the Onion House on the off chance you’ll see a ghost?” I’d replied.
I remember the smirk on her beautiful face, her pale complexion and long red hair making her emerald eyes smoke beneath her lids as she looked at me. “Stop it. You know that if you come then we’ll see something!”
That had been the closest that any of them had come to outright saying it. You’re a Gypsy and a Native American, so you’re more in touch with the spiritual side. And while this was true to some of my relatives, I really wasn’t like my grandmother, at least in that regard. It’s true I have her eyes, and that she’s taught me a good deal of supposed spells and curses, so I can deal with the “white devils” at school better.
Likewise, my grandfather hasn’t taught me anything having to do with the dead, except in how to honor them. While he is a shaman to our people, the only things I’ve learned from him are stories and first aid. The latter might be useful tonight if we get bitten by a snake, but for the most part I’ll be virtually useless for any calling of the dead.
That’s not to say I didn’t look up how to call the dead in one of my grandmother’s journals when she was sleeping. She has one, old leather bound journal, which she doesn’t let anyone read. It’s full of the direst curses, the foulest hexes and the most disgusting spells the Romani have to offer. I’d flipped through the pages, past the entry on how to summon Lamia’s and how to curse an object to bring misfortune to others.
I’d read over them briefly, but I’d not taken notes as I did when I came across the section with the words “Contacting the Dead” scrawled atop the page. Writing it down in Romani so my friends wouldn’t be able to read any of it, I’d folded up the paper and shoved it in my pocket before sliding the journal back beneath grandmother’s mattress and slipping out of the Vardo. The few cousins that had been lingering close by had all asked me what I was planning on doing tonight, and being fellow Romani I saw no reason to lie to them.
“I’m going with some friends from school to the Onion House,” I’d said.
That had earned a few whistles and claps from my younger cousins, those in middle school, but my older cousins had all taken on serious expressions.
“You aren’t going to try and stir anything up are you?” One, Boldo had asked me. Boldo was a stout college student learning how to be a doctor. It’d been his insistence that had gotten our Caravan to all but quit smoking. It was also due to his collegiate aspirations, as well as those of a few others, that had us settle down in a trailer park, bringing our wagons and Vardo’s to a stop for the last six years.
While the older Romani weren’t ones to stay in one place for too long, it meant that we’d grown a reputation as folk healers and palm readers, something the people of San Antonio seemed thrilled to have.
I’d looked at Boldo and smiled. “Nothing like that, they just want to get creeped out so they can have their girlfriends hold them tight.”
“So what do you have to do with this?” Boldo asked.
I gulped and thought for a second, before shamefully looking down. “Two of the girls going tonight are single. I thought I might have a chance with one.”
Boldo had smiled, showing his white teeth, before slapping me on the back. “Then here,” he’d said, reaching into his pocket to pull out a Ziploc baggie of tangled, colorful herbs. “Be sure to be the one to bring this, and you’ll be the life of the party!”
“Isn’t that Uncle’s?” I’d asked, taking four ounce bag from Boldo and quickly sliding it into my hoodie.
Boldo waved his hand. “Uncle grows the stuff, he won’t notice some missing. I was planning on taking the rest of the boys out tonight to have some fun, was going to invite you along. But you, with a girl? Now that is a miracle in the making!”