PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

I was amazed how quickly my dad found a new house for us after he was told where his job was headed. I never really try to understand what anyone wants my dad to do, but he’s a civil engineer, so we’re always moving as he helps build the country. As of now, he’s been put in charge of an entire stretch of highway; a project that’ll take a projected five to seven years to complete. That means we’re going to be settling in long enough to take root, so to speak.

So, he decided we’d best settle our so-called roots here for the time being, to allow me time to make friends and finish up with my last two years of high school. He’d searched through the local papers looking for a place that would be just right but couldn’t find anything. Then he got the call leading him to the house we were driving to; a call which told him it was the deal of a lifetime.

And so, the Donovan’s had a home in Blanco, Texas, the smallest town in the Lone Star State. At sixteen I was being moved away from friends and cute boys to the boonies of Blanco, Texas.

Our great Suburban, loaded to the breaking point with boxes and parcels containing our valuable trinkets and tokens we’re so attached to, teetered along the stretch of lonely road spearing through endless brush land. That’s how my uncle would put it, but my parents would get angry at me for thinking of my uncle, seeing as they don’t get along. I think he’s cool enough, for an adult, but my opinion doesn’t really matter to my mother. She has her own opinions, and her opinions are fact for the rest of the family, as far as we’re concerned.

“Sweetie, you need to watch out who you hang out with in life,” she’d always tell me, usually wagging a finger in my face as if baiting a dog with a biscuit. “People judge you for almost every action you take, every piece of clothing you wear, and every person you choose to hang out with. Your uncle’s not normal like we are.”

“We’re normal?” I would retort, causing her to lose her temper and storm away, usually calling out for my father to “handle your daughter!” He’d shrug and tell me not to hang out with anyone who would pressure me to do things I wouldn’t want to do.

Thanks, Dad.

“Would Uncle Rook pressure me to do things?” I’d asked my dad once, wanting to know why there was such a rift between the families.

“No, just stay away from him. He’s not normal,” my dad had replied in a tone which told me there wasn’t any room for argument. Seeing as my father was generally a fun-loving guy, that tone spoke volumes about the subject matter.

Estranged uncle aside, we pulled onto the barren stretch of road leading to our new home. Like everywhere else I’d seen in Texas, the grass was either dying or dead. The heat was unbearable, making even the surrounding trees (which are few and far between) short and squat, more like tall bushes really.

We’d stopped at the Blanco Market to pick-up food, used the post office, and to notify the electric company we were ready for energy to go to the property. The people of Blanco had welcomed us in a strange way, eyeing us from a distance as the mother or daughter from each family came up to inquire if we were The Donovan’s. Upon learning we were, they’d give us a Big Blanco Welcome by essentially buying groceries for us. Dad was busy on the phone setting our house up, so my mom and I had done our best greeting the steady stream of curious onlookers.

With the assurances of the Blanco County Electric and Gas Company our home would have water and light and, loaded down with all the food we’d need for the next week, we’d piled back into our Suburban and crawled out of town and towards the property.

My dad began to slow as we passed the creaky wooden fence which marked the beginning of the property, turning the Suburban slightly so we could all stare up at our new home as we approached, a low hill behind creating a picturesque appearance in the dying light of the day.

It was a tall house built with a colonial feel to it with a wide porch lining the building, allowing anyone to go the full perimeter without their feet touching soil. A small fence post bearing a worn sign on a rusted chain protruded in front of the two wide double doors leading into the home. The second story was split into a colonial style lighthouse look, with a large domed section set apart from the rest of the second floor, which was more of a traditional style, save of course for the wear and tear the years had plied from the building.

“It’s home!” I said with false cheer, clapping my hands together excitedly. My dad snorted, and my mom told me to shush.

“It’s a piece of crap,” she said, turning to eye my father with a sinister glare. My mom was notorious for liking the good things in life, and when she’d heard he purchased an older home in the country, she’d pictured something that was clearly not this.

“With what we saved buying it, we’ll have some contractors come out and do some repairs. It’ll look brand new after we sink a little money into it,” my dad said with a smile. “At least we don’t have any neighbors to worry about, so Monica can play her music as loud as she wants!”

“She most certainly cannot! I know from experience it won’t get any better if she simply makes it louder!” she argued, giving me a look that was just begging to be egged on.

I smiled a bit. “I don’t know Mom, I can live up in the tower-thing and dad can have it soundproofed so I don’t bother you any…”

“He will do no such thing!” she said, her face beginning to redden in a predictable way.

“Relax dear; Monica’s just pulling your leg a bit,” my dad said, sending me a look the game was over, despite the fact it hadn’t really begun.

My mom hated my music, a talent she said I’d gotten from my Grandfather (which, as he was only her step-father, I couldn’t see how that began to work), his love for music pushing him to spend most of his twilight years playing guitar while making CD’s for people to buy. While in no way famous, he had his own cult following, and since his passing I’d inherited one of his older guitars. Uncle Rook had the rest of them, as Grandpa was his father and all.

We all climbed out of the Suburban, the cool interior immediately giving way to the heat of the day. We’d begun taking various bags of gifted groceries into the house, my dad taking forever to figure out how to unlock the front door with the gigantic brass key he’d been given by the realtor.

The inside seemed hotter and muggier with the stale, dusty air pressing in on us. Two sweeping sets of stairs flanked the walls of the dining room, one set leading to the second floor while the other must lead to the tower. The kitchen was easy enough to find, and the cold blast of air that erupted from the refrigerator once opened had us all laughing pleasantly as we unloaded the food as quickly as we could.

My dad said he was going to try and locate the central air conditioner while my mom and I began unloading the Suburban as much as possible. We’d only really needed to bring our clothes and personal effects, as the entire house came furnished, albeit in a rather grotesque fashion. The previous owner had obviously been into hunting, with dust-covered animal heads jutted out from the walls of the dining room, right next to the kitchen and beneath the tower.

“Sweetie, go check the bedrooms for us. There should be a master suite and a guest room; the guest room will be your bedroom,” my mom said as we dropped stacks of cardboard boxes onto the wide table in the dining room, kicking up a storm of soot and dust.

I laughed as I climbed the stairs, laughing even harder as a grate barfed out a stream of cobwebs and dust before a steady stream of cold air flowed; dad found the AC unit and kicked it on.

“Thank goodness,” I muttered.

The hall upstairs had only a few doors, two of which lead to linen closets and one leading to a small washroom. The door at the end of the hall was the master bedroom I discovered when I pushed the creaking the door open, revealing the large and rather unfurnished bedroom. Sheets covered the bed and a large armoire sat across from it. As I walked across the room to look out the windows to the backyard, a flash of movement caught my eye.

I spun around only to find nothing but the dust hanging in the air and looked about with a tad bit more caution, searching for whatever else was in here with me. I would be my mother’s hero if I ended up killing some big rat living up here.

Moving around the bed to the large armoire, I braced myself as I grabbed the musty sheet, whipping it overhead in a cloud of angry dust bunnies, only to find myself staring into the vivid green eyes of something malevolent. With a hiss it lunged at me.

I screamed.

AN: This is an independent ghost story for young adults that will be released in November 2018. I'll post links when they become available, but feel free to let me know what you think!

Featured Posts