Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself. ~Thomas Jefferson
It took us a while to prepare the camp for our departure. It had taken much convincing on my new friends part to get me to give up my new found home away from home and join them by moving to the safety of Kevin’s backyard. Where it seems, most of the group camps in the safe shadows of the suburban veneer that we all know is as fragile an egg but pure as a sewage plant.
All my questions about the haunted house and its location were segued into another story, ignored or, in most cases; I was told to ask Mikey. When I asked him the only answers I received were “Just wait, let’s get out of here first.” And then he would go back to packing up his equipment.
Frustrated I went back to breaking down my tent, cleaning my gear and trying to get everything packed up. By the time I had all my things packed up, the rest of the group had been sitting around the extinguished fire pit, smoking cigarettes and offering snide bits of helpful advice. I tried to shrug off all the comments and focus on getting my backpack on and my duffle bags in hand. It had been a long three days and I hadn’t planned on taking everything back home with me.
As I stumbled towards the group, who were in various stages of securing their own gear to their bodies and standing up, Little Pi walks over and relieves me of one of my bags. “Thanks man.” I say.
“No problem Skip. I don’t have anything to carry anyway.” He answered.
It took us almost an hour in the early morning heat to get to Kevin’s back yard; we were all tired, hot, sweaty and thirsty. We dumped all of our stuff on and around the picnic table in the back yard and flopped our bodies down wherever we could. No one spoke but the sound of our heavy gasps filled the yard and drowned out the noise of the neighborhood.
“Christ I’m thirsty. Is there anything to drink?” I heard someone ask, I was too tired to look who was talking.
“We have drinks in the house but I’m too tired to go in.” Kevin answered.
Grunts and groans filled the air and then I saw Mikey appear in my peripheral vision, he was walking towards the back door of the house. I lost sight of him as he made his way around the swimming pool. He appeared a few minutes later dragging a hose with cool water streaming out of the end.
“Here ya go you lazy fuckers.” He said with a grin and then added “You all owe me some smokes for this.”
Just seeing the water had an amazing affect on us, we were filled with renewed energy and managed to make our way over to the hose. We each took turns filling our stomachs with the wonderful, life giving and body refreshing water. When my turn came, I took small sips and tried to not drink too much but instead let the water pour over my head to wash away the grime and sweat from the hike. This action also quickly cooled me down and I was in a much better mood when I made my way over to the picnic table and sat down.
Big Pi was sitting there already and he handed me a smoke. “Let’s not do that again.” He commented.
“Not my longest hike, but it was one of the hottest. Shit, I could use a bath or better yet, get in the pool.” I commented.
“Can’t get in the pool.” Kevin said from behind us. “My dad has not shocked it yet, but we can get in the pond.” He offered.
I looked behind me at the pond, there were algae on parts of the surface, bugs were flitting back and forth over the surface, some ducks were swimming in the middle of the water and there were some squirrels and chipmunks scampering around the shore. “Hmm, we can swim in a pond where there is scum on the water, birds are shitting in it and I’m sure the animals have done the same but we can’t get in a semi-clean pool that hasn’t been shocked yet? Now that’s funny.” I said with a laugh.
I guess most of the group didn’t get my humor because the only one who laughed was Mikey. “Yeah, that is kind of fucked up.” He agreed.
Still silence from the crew. We must have sat there for about thirty more minutes before anyone started to move. I was refreshed and hungry and I asked Kev if there was anything to munch on. He got up and motioned for us all to follow him. We assembled in the garage and Kev pulled out some sodas from the refrigerator and handed out bags of chips to everyone.
As we stood around filling our stomachs Mikey informed us we had better get going if we were going to make it to the haunted house. Everyone agreed and we headed out.
Mikey led us and instead of heading out to the street he walked towards the pond in Kev’s back yard. There was an overgrown foot path which led to the back side of the pond. As we made our way through the overgrown vegetation I saw abandoned rusty lawn mowers, bicycles, yard tools and even an old pickup truck. I made a comment about the stuff and Kev informed me the stuff had been there when they moved into the house years ago and the property had once belonged to a farmer before he sold it to developers.
The path wasn’t wide enough for us to travel side by side so it was all single file hiking. Kevin was in front of me and Teresa was behind me. “So, what is this place? What’s the story? And has anyone seen any ghosts there?” I asked eagerly.
“You should talk to Mikey, he knows the story best and he was there when the place burned down… well, sort of burned down.” Teresa told me.
I nodded and tried to make my way up the path to Mikey. As I nudged past each person in the group they all had one thing or another to say about where we were going. “It was bloodbath”, “The cops never found all the bodies”, “There were satanic marks all over the house”, “Someone said it was a crazed mental patient”, “It’s all bullshit” and other mutterings filled my ears. I really did not know what to expect from Mikey and as I came up behind him he turned his head, smiled and said “I was wondering if you were going to get up here.”
“Yeah, wasn’t easy. Everyone seems to have their own idea about this place and what happened. Each story is different but they all seem to think you know what happened.”
“Yeah, I know what happened. Hell, I even got to watch some of the fire.”
“So… what happened?”
“It’s not a really long story, but then it’s not a very short one either. But it is full of crazy.”
“Ok… so what happened?”
Mikey lowered his voice and sped up a little, I quickened my pace to keep up with him. “About five years ago a family built a house back off of Nero Lane, it was a real nice house too. One of the biggest built at the time. Hell the place had a three car garage and they even had a nice boat in the backyard and the house was built at the back of the property so you really couldn’t see it from the road.” Mikey let out a little laugh “I remember we used to go to the site at night while they were building the place and steal plywood and two by fours to help build the ramps at the Pit for our bikes.”
“Anyway, the dad was some big shot in Green Bay and the mom didn’t work. They had a little kid, she was like three or four, and when they finally moved in a bunch of us hid in the woods and watched them. I mean, hell, it aint like there is a lot to do out here so we have to entertain ourselves and watching peoples stuff unload from trucks is about as exciting as watching paint dry… but it was something to do.
“It took them a whole weekend to move in. They had all sorts of new stuff and then they had a huge house party. Cars were lined up and down Nero Lane and they invited everyone from the surrounding neighborhoods to come. My folks went, so did Kevin’s but nobody else really went from our neighborhood. Anyhow, Kev and I hid in the woods again and watched the party. It was a real blowout too. There were three grills cooking steaks, chicken and burgers. Coolers of beer and wine everywhere and music blasting so loud the animals didn’t return for three days after.”
“They seemed like real nice folks and everything was fine with them for about a year or so. Then, one day, the dad starts coming home later and later and the wife, she gets involved in one of the country clubs or something and gets this babysitter to start watching the kid. Now, the mom, didn’t even try to get one of the local girls to watch the kid, she hires this grown woman from Green Bay to watch the kid while she is out doing her Country Club stuff. So the dad comes home almost every night of the week to this Babysitter.”
“Nanny” I interrupted.
“If she was an older woman, she must have been a Nanny. They do more stuff than a Babysitter does and get paid more too.” I added.
“Who’s telling the story Man? You or me?”
“You are Mikey… you are.”
“Good… so the old man comes home to the baby… NANNY everynight and then she goes home. The mom usually got home a bit later. This sort of stuff went on for… hmmm… must have been about six months or so and then one night the dad comes home and no one is there. No nanny, no kid, no wife. I can only imagine he was pissed off.”
“So this stuff starts happening more and more. The guy is not happy at all. One time Kev, Big Pi and I were sitting in the woods looking at the boat and he was in his shed pounding the hell out of something and cussing up a storm. It was some funny shit man. And when the wife came home with the Nanny and the kid he starts yelling and screaming at them. Man, he looked completely nuts so we got out of there as fast as we could.”
“We stayed away from there for about a week or so, school had just started and our folks wouldn’t let us out too late at night. But one Friday night I was headed over to Kev’s house when I saw smoke over the trees so I ran through the woods to see what was going on… when I got to the back of the families property I saw the house was on fire. Damn fire was so hot the boat was melting on the trailer it was sitting on. I could hear people yelling and screaming from the front of the house and I tried to make my way around the property but when I got to the shed I couldn’t go any further…”
“Why not? What happened?” I questioned eagerly.
“Well that’s the really weird part. As I got to the shed, I saw smoke coming out of the windows and near the roof. But what stopped me was the crying.”
“Yeah, it sounded like a little kid or a baby was crying in the shed. It freaked me out. Just the awful wailing noise. It didn’t stop either. Not to take a breath, not to scream for help… just one high-pitched scream of pain.” Mikey stopped walking, his body was shaking and I saw he was fumbling for something. I head a match being lit and smelled the acrid smoke of a cigarette. Mikey straightened his back up and it seemed his whole body shuddered in the now afternoon light.
“You ok Mikey?” I asked quietly.
“Yeah man… I’m good.” He started walking again without saying anything. I turned to look at the rest of the miscreants I had fallen into friendship with and they all had the same look on their face. It was as if they knew what part of the story Mikey had come to. Their heads were down; they refused to make eye contact with me and the woods seemed to be closing in on us. I kept walking, in silence.