Lost. Confused. She wandered the small cemetery she found herself in, her own name sounding in her ear…Lucinda. The voice was soft and female. The night's moon hung high in its full glory.
She woke with a start, sweat beading on her forehead. This was the second time she had this dream, this terrifying dream that seemed so real. Her name echoed in her head, as though the bodiless being calling her was in the room with her. Lucindaaa. Pushing her thick auburn hair away from her face, she rubbed her tired eyes and squinted toward the alarm clock next to her bed. It glowed 3 a.m. Damn it.
Her nightmares started not long after her visit to that place. She had heard stories. Rumors of a haunting. But, still, she went. Her friends insisted, saying it would be fun. It was not. The long abandoned structure was situated on an old mining ground just south of her home. Not far enough, she felt. Her friends persisted. Why not go? Come on! We might see a ghost! Not a pleasant notion, she thought. Not one bit. But, still, she went.
Along with five of her friends, Lucinda entered the home of a family long gone, their remains buried deep in the cemetery behind the house. The doors squeaked as she entered.
Once inside, she noted a faint mildew scent mixed with the familiar smokiness of a once roaring fire. Before her rose a wide wooden staircase. To her right, a barely furnished den, and a kitchen/dining area to her left. A large black cauldron hung low in a hearth. As she studied her surroundings, her friends ran about. Opening doors, making obnoxious sounds of Boo, and moaning. She knew better.
"Don't mock the dead," she spoke, shocking herself more than the others.
"Look at you! I didn't know you were such a scardy-cat." Her friends' continual rants bothered her more then she thought they would.
Feeling overwhelmed, Lucinda removed herself from the unease, stepping from the home’s back door. She hoped the fresh air would clear her head. Hundreds of tombstones filled the grounds. All were dilapidated, most were indecipherable. One of the larger headstones lay lopsided before her. Curiosity had her bending to read the cursive etched into it.
The sound of her name had her standing tall once again. Chills ran down her spine when she turned and saw no one there. Her friends teasing her, she was sure. But still, she wanted out of there. She returned to the house, begging her friends to leave. When they refused, she left on her own. She would not stay where she felt so ill at ease.
Unable to fall back to sleep after her nightmare, Lucinda made her way downstairs, turning on the lights as she went. Every little noise had her jumping in fear. Once in the living room, she turned on the television, letting it drown out the creaks of the house. None too soon, it was time to leave for work. She'd never been so happy to go to work.
"Hello, Tele media. This is Lucinda speaking. How may I help you?" She repeated these words at least a hundred times a day. She wasn't sure she didn't say them in her sleep. Her job was boring and sometimes aggravating, but it was a pay check she was happy to have.
"No sir. Your cell phone is not supposed to have a blinking screen. Can you tell me what else is wrong with it?" She had heard it all before from my phone fell in to the toilet to my dog ate it.
"Sir, has your phone been in contact with water lately?"
"Well um, yes." The man hesitated as he talked. "I work with birds and one grabbed my cell and dropped it in his bird bath…"
She drifted off, tired from her nightmares.
"Ma'me, are you there?"
"Well sir, I'm sorry but your phone is not covered for water damage." This is where the aggravation usually began. The man, as if on cue, began yelling. Loudly.
"Sir. Sir. She repeated, then heard the familiar click. Then dead air. It was all part of her day.
About to disconnect herself, she paused when she heard a faint voice emit from the monotonous buzz of the phone. With a start, she recognized the words being said. The words, like in her dream, were soft and drawn out. Lucinda…Lucinda. She dropped the phone, backed away. No, it couldn't be. Hesitation crept through her as she lifted the earpiece that now dangled from the desk. She placed it to her ear. Much to her relief, she heard nothing but a dull dial tone and her own heart beat pulsating in her ear.
While the rest of her day was without incidence, her night was not. Once again, she was haunted by the same terrifying dream. The full moon. The bodiless voice. It would not stop.
Her mind raced as she paced the halls of her apartment. Perhaps it was her lack of sleep or her sheer desperation to stop the dreams, but she came to a decision then and there. She would go back to the haunted house. Back to where the dreams started. Her gut told her it was the right decision, even as her heart thumped with rejection.
The doors were closed, but disappointingly not locked. She had hoped that they would be. Her dreams flashed in her mind as she walked through the house, a hint of familiarity plaguing her as she moved. A creak in the floor had her turning on her heal. Hesitantly, she walked toward the sound.
Now in the den, she saw only a small sitting couch and draped windows. She remembered entering this room in her dream, remembered the curtains blowing from the breeze outside, the sun as it was now, shining bright through the aged glass. Finding nothing inside, she continued outside, to the plot where she first heard her name. The headstone, much like the others, sat crooked. It leaned closer to the ground then it should. Bending low, she read the names etched deep into the stone.
Timothy Boyds Father And Husband
Died March 1850 Age 31
Mary Boyds Mother And Wife
Died March 1850 Age 30
Rosanne Boyds Daughter And Sister.
Died March 1850 Age 6
A sudden sadness crept through as she realized the family of three, including a child as young as six, all died together.
The Boyds' had something to do with her reoccurring nightmare. She didn't know how or even why, but the feeling had her digging deep into her shoulder bag. Pulling out her cell phone, she snapped a quick photo. She'd have to do research, she was sure, and what better than a photo to capture all the information she would need. She would go to the library and, if she found nothing there, she would find an historian. Someone had to know something.
Confident in her plan, she stood, dusting the dirt from her pants. She glanced back once more before leaving the cemetery. Back toward the house, then to the grave. Nervously, curiously, she called out the names written on the tomb.
"Timothy." She paused, holding her breath as she listened. "Mary... Rosanne."
She heard nothing but the squawks of a bird high in the trees. Breathing a sigh of relief, she left with quickness in her step and a task in her mind.
In a matter of minutes, she was home. With her laptop open before her, she typed in the names on the grave staring with Timothy Boyds, then his wife. She found only an old newspaper article; its title caption read Sole survivor:
Coloma, CA March 11, 1850
Three members of a family of four were killed on Thursday, March 5th, by the hands of a man they knew well. Timothy Boyds, Mary Boyds and Rosanne Boyds (age 6) were found dead early Friday morning. Katherine Boyds (age 12), the only witness, told authorities that James T. Childs stabbed and shot her family members, then ransacked her house looking for gold.
James T. Childs and Timothy Boyds, partners, were rumored to have made thousands, as gold diggers. Witnesses say the two argued often and were not surprised at James T. Childs violent actions.
Katherine survived by hiding under her bed, where she was found by her Grandmother later that day.
Lucinda’s heart ached for the little girl. She couldn't imagine witnessing such an event and at such a young age. On a sudden hunch, she typed James T. Childs into a search engine and after a few clicks she found a website which featured old time Wanted Posters. Scrolling down, she did indeed find the James T. Childs’ Wanted Poster. Across it in big bold black lettering, the word Captured was stamped. Beneath that, a single typed line stated that James was found dead face down in a creek not far from the Boyds' home, an apparent victim of a mugging/murder.
Chills ran through her body. Justice, I suppose.
That night's dream started as the others. Dark, eerie. But, something was different, felt different. Suddenly, she was running. She paused at the sound of the first scream. It was close, too close. A little girl rushed past her and she instantly knew it was Rosanne, the Boyds' youngest. She grabbed for her, but missed. She realized then that this was not just a dream, but a memory. Katherine's memory of that fateful day. A screech, then the sound of sobbing, told her her father was dead. Then two pops, her mother and sister. She ran, hid under her bed. She dared not make a single sound for fear he'd hear her. She squeezed her eyes shut, held her breath.
"I didn't make a sound," a soft voice whispered in her ear as she woke. Blissfully, the clock read 7 a.m.
"How?" She paused, her throat dry from the night's terror. "How did you live through that? How did you move on?" She spoke as if Katherine was there in front of her. She felt she was.
She knew now, there was no doubting it, that Katherine had attached herself to her. The question was, why? Once again she opened her laptop, this time typing in Katherine Boyds' name. Coming up empty, she moved on to her local library. She knew where the Boyds' lived, from the newspaper article on their deaths. She'd start there. She would look up old newspaper articles, death notices, marriage announcements, anything to help her find what happened to Katherine. Finally, after three relentless hours in front of a microfiche, she came across Katherine's hometown newspaper.
Reading the third page in, Lucinda found an article titled A Life After Tragedy, which featured Katherine and her family. The article recapped the horror Katherine faced many years before, and told of her life since. It stated that she had met and married Joans Carl, ten years after that dreadful day. The two had three daughters and seven grandchildren. The author spoke of a conversation between he and Katherine, when he asked her if she knew if Mr. Childs had indeed taken gold from her father. She had stated that she did not see Mr. Childs leaving the home, and therefore she did not know if he had found her father's gold. She did, however, insist that her father had not stolen a day in his life, and that every speck of gold he owned, he worked for, and was rightfully his. When asked if she knew where her father hid his gold, Katherine simply shook her head.
Without hesitation, Lucinda typed Katherine Carl into the library computer. Several items appeared, one being the newspaper article, another being obituaries. Finally she was getting somewhere.
According to the death notices, Katherine died three years after her husband, at the age of 68, and she was buried in the Middle Town Cemetery, the same cemetery as her parents and sister.
Lucinda all but ran out of the library. She had to see for herself, had to see if Katherine's grave was indeed among the hundreds of graves surrounding the Boyds'. For no other reason than to see with her very eyes that Katherine was real. To know she existed.
She slowed her steps as she circled the home. She felt eerily calm. Calmer than she expected she would. She would find Katherine, even if she had to read every last tombstone. She prayed she would not have to.
The gravel of the decaying tombs crumbled beneath her feet as she moved from grave to grave. Soon she was deep into the cemetery, far from the Boyds’ resting place. Finally, after what felt like hours, she came across a familiar name. Carl, Katherine’s married name. The headstone, much like many of the others she read that day, was marked with a simple cross. It read Katherine Carl, beloved wife, mother and grandmother. It, like many of the tombs was decrepit and crumbling but, mercifully, legible.
Kneeling, she whispered, "Katherine, I'm here." The air stilled, not a sound was heard. "Katherine, it's me, Lucinda. Katherine, what is it that you want from me?" Her lack of sleep, her joy of finding Katherine, her fear she would never be able to help her, had her emotions running wild.
All at once a gust of wind blew past her, lifting dirt and debris everywhere. Turning to protect her eyes, she spotted an overgrown bush. Its leaves fluttered and fell to the ground. Partially hidden behind the withering shrub, she spotted a pair of decrepit cellar doors, their rusted hinges creaked in the wind.
A faint whisper sounded in her ear. Rosie. Find Rosie.
Katherine was there.
"Rosie, your sister? She's buried with your parents." Her emotions getting the best of her, Lucinda’s eyes began to water. "Katherine, tell me what to do!"
"Please!" Katherine pleaded her last word. "Please."
A second gust of wind had her falling to the ground, the cellar doors creaked loudly. "The Root Cellar..?" She questioned aloud. "You want me to go down into the cellar? Don’t you?"
Hesitantly, Lucinda reached for the rusted handles of the timber doors. With a shriek from its hinges, the splintered doors opened, wafts of mildew and musk rushed passed her. The room below was dark and dank. Slowly, steadily, she descended the steps before her.
Lucinda gasped through closed lips at the site before her. There sitting on top of a pyramid of old bags of grain, sat a small rag doll. Across her tattered dress, the name Rosie was neatly stitched.
"Rosie!" Lucinda cried as she rushed passed years of cobwebs and dust. Reaching high, she lifted the doll from its resting place of more than a hundred years.
Studying the small toy, she noticed the bottom of its dress was coated in a fine glistening substance. Looking around, she saw that her own shoes and the floor beneath them were all covered with the same fine matter. On a hunch, Lucinda poked a hole in one of the bags of grain, and much to her delight, out spilled specks of gold! Glorious shimmering gold!
Each and every bag was filled full of what Lucinda just knew was Katherine’s fathers gold! James T. Childs had not found it after all.
"So this is what it was all about?" She spoke aloud. "You wanted me to find this---" She paused, "--- all of this gold. So, now what do I do?"
Upsettingly, there were no answers for Lucinda that afternoon. Hard as she try, she heard nothing but her own labored breath and the rushed beating of her heart.
Six months later….
Lucinda weighed her options thoroughly, carefully. Her nightmares had blessedly ended and, as far as she knew, Katherine had moved on. All together, the gold added up to an approximate two million dollars. A shocking amount. After a great deal of self debate, she had decided to return all the gold to the Boyds' descendants,. It was an exceptionally tough choice, but the only one with which her conscious would let her live. She again used her research skills and tracked down two of Katherine’s great, great, granddaughters, Lisa and Mary.
Telling a little white lie, knowing the truth would frighten anyone, especially the family of the deceased, Lucinda fibbed that while on a self-guided tour of their great, great grandmother's home, she had found the gold, and felt it only right to return it to the family to whom it belonged.
The two women knew of Katherine’s horrid ordeal, for her story had been passed down through the generations. But, they had no idea that the gold still existed. While hesitant at first, both agreed to meet with Lucinda.
She waited, sitting at the small table inside the childhood home of Katherine and Rosie. She was not entirely sure they would show. Finally, a knock on the door told her Lisa and Mary were there. Opening the door she saw two young ladies and, behind them, stood their husbands.
“Lucinda?” Mary, the eldest, spoke. “This is my sister,” she nodded to her left. “Lisa, her husband, Bobby, and Michael, my husband.”
“Hello, please come in.” Lucinda smiled warmly. She knew instantly that she had made the right decision. The two young families were struggling, she could tell. Their clothes were worn to the last thread and their truck smoked beside the curb. The youngest, her pregnant bare belly peaking from her blouse, held her hand protectively close to her mid-section. It was obvious that they had not had much.
She helped them load the flatbed of their truck and after many thanks and hugs all around, they were off. For her troubles and her good heart, the Boyds' graciously gave Lucinda one of the bags filled with gold. Its stuffing added up to an extremely generous, life changing $50,000.
Alone now, Lucinda circled where she stood. Other than the old rag doll, which now lay on the floor, and a few cobwebs, the cellar was empty.
“I guess there is nothing else to do.” Lucinda bent down, lifted Rosie off the floor. The doll's dress still shimmered with gold.
“Come on Rosie, let’s go home.”
And home is where Rosie stayed, propped high on the sill of a sun filled window.