TALES OF THE MISSING TRAVELERS
I drove home from work as the blizzard encompassed everything in its path.
The radio blasted sad AM songs as it was the only station that I could get. I needed the sound of any sort of music to calm my anxiety as I crossed the old Livingston bridge. Through the woods to my house, I went traveling along Riverview Rd toward Boston Heights.
How the bridge was even still crossable was beyond me. It was a tiny two-lane thing and had rusted rails sticking up from the sides. Inspections were supposedly done every year, but no idea how they passed. I drove under the meager 25 mile per hour speed limit, barely hitting 15.
I secretly said a prayer to myself as I passed a motorist speeding at least 45 miles per hour. I felt my tiny car shaking from the wind as the car sped by. I didn’t blame the motorist when I really thought about it. The area was often referred to as Helltown and honestly, it creeped me out.
“Moron,” I muttered to myself.
When I was finally off the bridge, I was back on the little country road where my tiny cape cod was. I pulled into the long driveway and parked my car into my small one-car garage.
I got out of my car, closed the garage door, and unlocked the door to my home. Stepping inside my German Shepard, Boss, greeted me excitedly. He had been asleep most of the day on my couch. Laziest guard dog I ever owned.
I opened the back door and let him run around while I took off my coat and settled in. There was a loneliness about my home since Adrienne had passed away, my companion of fifteen odd years. I still hadn’t become fully accustomed to her absence. We had moved out here in the middle of nowhere to escape the judgment of a small town.
We were two women who had fallen in love, but she was nearly fifteen years younger than I was and because I had never been a beautiful woman, nor had I ever looked my age (I looked a bit older than I actually was) people would comment that she was my daughter. We decided it was better to live away from town and our families, there was still the ridicule, but less so as we lived in our own world. I again found myself seeing her in everything around me. Adrienne was beautiful and feminine, like a flower always in a dress even in winter. She had long blonde curly hair that was still a mess. Adrienne spent her days working from home on her paintings. She sold many of them, and her earnings helped pay our bills.
I still recalled the first time I met her. She was at a house warming party for a mutual friend of ours, Henry, who had just bought a house upstate. He introduced us and my own shyness was apparent when she smiled brightly up at me like a teenage schoolgirl, only she was in her late twenties. I was forty-two at the time carried myself awkwardly in oversized dress pants and a polo shirt for comfort. I had not planned to stay long, so I had not given meeting someone a second thought.
Adrienne and I hit it off, and she was the yin to my yang. The day she found out she was sick, it still stung whenever I thought about it. After thirteen years together, something as dumb as ovarian cancer took her from me.
My gut told me it was time to eat, interrupting my loneliness after the long drive home from my job in the city. I rummaged around the fridge and finally settled on the ribeye at the bottom of my refrigerator.
I prepped the steak for dinner by marinating it and set it out on to the counter. As I prepared my food to be eaten, I noticed a calm, sort of quiet that settled over my house. I stopped what I was doing and looked out the back door for Boss. He was nowhere to be seen, and so I opened the back door to call out to him.
“BOSS!” I yelled
Finally, I heard the tiny bells on his collar as he ran up the steps of the back porch and into the house past me. He had something in his mouth, which I was able to identify as a leg from a baby doll. Probably the little girl’s doll that lived next door. They had moved abruptly two months ago just before fall. I thought it was strange because they left in the middle of the night with no explanation. A family member had reported them missing and sent the police to their house. They left all of their belongings, uneaten food at the breakfast table, and oddly left their vehicle.
The Mason’s were a sweet family. They had built the house next to me from the ground up two short years ago. It was so big and beautiful it put my own home to shame. They had a water view that faced the little lake at the end of our short lane. To take such time and care to build the house and then to leave made it all the more strange to me.
Adrienne had spent a lot of her time watching them build the house. I recalled her updates to me each day when I returned home from work.
Holding her from behind to kiss her cheek, she had raised her head up at me. “They are putting the deck in today, Sylvie. It has been really cool watching them build it from the ground up.”
“If only we had the money they have. It is such a big house, and I’ll miss our view of the lake.” I had said irritated.
“I had not thought of that.” she had commented.
Adrienne would have been very shocked to know they left that big old house.
The Mason’s and their two small children were our only neighbors. The husband and wife were a young couple: Dan and Marcie. He worked in the city, and she was a stay at home mom. She spent her afternoons homeschooling her two children. Sometimes they would have us over for dinner, or Adrienne would drink wine with Marcie in the late afternoon before I returned home from work. I didn’t mind that Adrienne had other friends. I still couldn’t believe that both Adrienne and the Masons were gone, and I was all alone on this empty road.
I decided to be helpful and shovel the snow from our little road. I still felt a neighborly responsibility to ensure that the Mason’s drive was cleared of all snow and ice, in case they returned. Maybe I was hoping they would expel me from the loneliness I felt every night when I came home to an empty house and street.
I cleaned up my house and washed the dishes from the night before. I decided my steak had marinated long enough and turned on the broiler. Boss stared up at me from his spot on the kitchen floor, waiting for me to throw him a piece of meat. I cut a piece of fat and tossed it in his direction. He looked up greedy for more.
“One piece is all you get for now.”
Boss barked at me, licking his lips.
“Oh no, you don’t! Backtalk will get you nowhere, pup.”
I smiled at his spoiled demeanor and cooked the rest of my meal.
I settled in at the kitchen, turning on the news, and there was a story about a woman that had gone missing on one of the hiking trails near my home. I figured it was no doubt because of the strange weather we had lately.
The story from the news lingered in the background of my mind. I was glad that I didn’t have to leave my home for the rest of the weekend since it was Friday. The thought of going out on that snow-covered, dark, and isolated road gave me the creeps after that story on the news.
Instead, I readied myself for bed, taking off my clothes and settling into my new favorite pajamas – they were Adrienne’s. I had lost so much weight in the last year I slipped right into her old faded pajama pants and top with ease. If she were still alive, she would laugh at me for all of my weight loss caused in part to my depression from missing her so much.
I turned in for the night, pulling the covers nearly up and over my head as I cuddled myself. It made me feel close to Adrienne as I held the cloth against my skin. How I missed her in these dark hours, and my only refuge was the darkness of night where I could sleep and dream of Adrienne.
It was late when I felt it brighten my room. It was as though someone turned on a light in my bedroom. It woke me from a dead sleep. It flashed twice, and then my room went pitch black again.
I sat up in my bed and turned on the light next to my bedside.
I got up figuring I would at least use the bathroom. I sat on the toilet, one eye open, and did my business. When I was finished, I washed my hands and stumbled back towards my bed, but not before stopping in the hallway to see Boss staring at something beyond the hall. I walked towards him and looked at him.
“Hey, buddy, what is it?”
Boss remained fixated on something just at the end of the hallway. I walked towards the end of the hall and peered down my steps, which lead into a small living room. There was a blinking light that was coming from outside.
I walked downstairs and looked out the front window towards my lonely street. There was something on the other side of the woods. It was a yellow light that blinked every five seconds. I figured it was one of the salt trucks on the next street over. I didn’t think anything of it or the strange fact it was so bright. Instead, I took my tired body back to bed.
The next morning I woke half-naked wearing only my pajama bottoms, and I was sleeping on the couch. I woke topless to a cold breeze that was coming from the front door. It was cracked open a bit, but not too noticeable. I stood, gathering my thoughts and shut the door, locking it.
I ran upstairs to my bedroom and looked for my pajama top. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I decided I would look for it later and hopped in the shower.
That afternoon I was in my yard shoveling more snow for what seemed the 80th time in twenty-four hours. I happened to see something blowing in the wind that caught my eye. Something was hanging from one of the Mason’s evergreen trees. It dangled near the top of the tree some twenty feet in the air. I walked closer towards the Mason family’s property line, and then I walked through their wooden gate. I kept going until I reached the tall evergreen. When I got just under the tree, I realized with ultimate perplexity that my pajama top was what was flowing in the wind like a beacon.
I had no idea how that had happened. Perhaps I had begun sleepwalking and decided to throw it up and see how high it would go. I pushed the “why” into the back of my mind, and went to get my ladder.
I found it harder to steady the ladder in the ice and snow, but eventually, I managed to stabilize enough; I was confident I wouldn’t plummet into the snow.
I crawled up the ladder and managed to just barely reach the pajama top when I heard my name startling me.
It was as though someone was whispering in the wind. I felt an icy chill go down my back, but it had nothing to do with the temperature. Either way, I felt uneasy and wanted to get the top as fast as I could and go home to lock myself inside my house. I grabbed the head, but it was stuck to one of the branches, and as I quickly pulled it, I heard it rip.
Shit! I muttered to myself.
I managed to collect the ruined top and get down from the ladder in one piece.
I wasted no more time outside, and instead, I gathered myself and went inside my house, warming my body up with a cup of tea.
I was sitting on the couch watching some television program for no more than an hour when the electricity went off at my house. When it did, I saw a woman looking at me from the other side of my window. It could have been Adrienne’s twin. Yet, as soon as the electricity went off, it was back on in a matter of seconds, and the woman was gone.
I stood up and went towards the window.
There was no one outside. I grabbed my coat and walked out.
I looked down, and there were footprints in the snow. It was remarkable they were the footprints of someone’s small, bare feet. I called out into the cold. “HELLO?”
The only sound that met me was the wind. In the distance, the waves from the lake hitting up against the shoreline.
I walked back into my home and soon it was time for bed again.
I seemed to fall asleep the second night of the blizzard faster than the night before.
I dreamt of Adrienne that night. In the dream, she was staring across our property, looking at the Mason’s house. I put my hand on her shoulder.
“What are you looking at?”
Adrienne said nothing; she only pointed towards the Mason’s house. There was a bright light so bright it covered the house. It was more brilliant than the sun and seemed to lift the entire house off the ground. I felt something touch my shoulder in the dream waking me out of a dead sleep.
Black eyes met my own until I rubbed my eyes blinking quickly. I turned the bedside lamp on and looking around. There was nothing there except Boss, who was looking at me.
I went to get out of my bed when I saw someone walking in my hallway. I felt my body grow stiff. I was breathing, but my chest wasn’t moving.
I heard the floor to my house creaking, so I knew it was definitely not another dream. I stood up and peeked into the hallway. I didn’t see anyone, but then I saw her.
Adrienne was standing at the end of the hallway smiling at me. Her long curly hair and that sweet smile.
It had been so long since I had seen her. The last time I had seen her, she had no longer had that long beautiful hair. She was pale, bald, and lifeless as though Adrienne were an alien.
I had fought with her over the chemo treatments. Adrienne didn’t want them, but she was stage four. I was afraid of her dying if she didn’t do it. Adrienne was adamant about going the holistic route. In the end, she died anyhow.
The funeral was a depressing affair, more so than any funeral I had ever been to. Adrienne’s family was always in denial about who she was. I was asked by our mutual friend, Henry, who was close to her family, to bring specific items to the calling hours. They wanted photos of her, which I took great care selecting.
When I arrived, the funeral had actually begun an hour earlier than I was initially told. I walked over to Adrienne’s mother, who sat on a chair across from Adrienne’s casket.
“Hello, I brought the photos you requested. Sorry, I’m late. I could have sworn that you said it began at 1 o’clock.”
Her mother sat there and refused to look at me. Instead, she took the photos and handed them to Adrienne’s brother. He looked at me empathetically.
“Thins changed at the last minute.” she finally said.
One of her friends came over to her. “Oh, Margerie, I’m so sorry about Adrienne. Is this your other daughter?” the woman asked, looking at me, smiling at me.
I smiled back, awkwardly.
“No, this is only an acquaintance of Adrienne’s.”
Adrienne’s mother had been so dismissive of me. I walked away angrily.
I found my friend, Henry, as he was coming into the funeral home.
“That woman!” I said, clutching my fist.
“Sylvie,” Henry embraced me. “I’m so sorry.”
“She referred to me as “An Acquaintance of Adrienne’s. A fucking Acquaintance! I took care of her daughter for over ten years, and in the last year, I bathed her, gave her medicine, wiped her tears, held her hand during her chemo, and this is the thanks I get?”
“I know you are angry, Sylvie, but we can’t expect everyone to care about us as much as we do ourselves,” he smirked.
The words cut like a knife, but he was right. Some people would never understand the love we shared, and I didn’t expect them to.
I stood in my hallway now, looking at the apparition of my dead lover. I knew it was impossible.
Was I so filled with grief that I was now seeing things? I watched as the apparition turned and walked towards the stairs. I followed until I found myself outside.
There was a light illuminating the apparition of Adrienne. She stood in my yard, and above was a towering machine. It was on four poles like legs, and in the center beneath was Adrienne waving me towards her.
I stepped towards her, and the light went out.
I woke from my bed, this time I was utterly naked hanging off the edge. It was still dark outside, and I stood, my legs barely working. I felt the urge to move towards my bedroom window.
I opened the blind, and that is when I saw a ship hovering above the Mason’s house. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the ship. I wanted to go towards it, but I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see Adrienne smiling at me. She communicated with me through her mind.
NO SYLVIE, YOU MUST STAY HERE, FOR NOW.
I stared into her bright eyes, and then they flickered until I saw them turn black, then back to bright blue.
I found myself being tucked into my bed by Adrienne’s apparition. I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning I woke fully clothed. I looked around thinking that it must have been some sort of strange dream.
I got out of bed and went to make coffee. The sun had come out finally, after the last two days of a whiteout.
Standing in my kitchen, I heard it then.
There was children’s laughter coming from outside. I looked out to find the Mason’s two children playing in the yard.
They were back. I put on my coat and boots and walked outside.
I met Dan Mason in his driveway carrying firewood.
“Hello there. You guys were missed.”
“Oh, really?” he asked, confused.
“You had been gone for two months.”
Dan looked at me and smiled. “Well, we had our duties.”
As he walked away from me, I saw his two children and his wife Marcie stop what they were doing in the snow, and all turned to look at me. They only stood saying nothing. It was as if they were waiting on some sort of cue from me.
It was odd after they had disappeared, they were here again as though nothing happened.
I have no idea to this day what happened the weekend of that blizzard. The strange lights occasionally appeared over my house, and I still had visits by Adrianne. Although, I know it isn’t really her.
It creeps me out when it happens, and after each visit from Adrienne’s apparition, I’m left with a warning that I need to get the hell out of here. So, I have been looking at homes in another state, somewhere warm.
You see, my neighbors do odd things at odd times of the day and night. I have been trying to deal with all the strangeness. However, as I type this, Dan and Marcie are outside watching my house. They do that sometimes, and I pretend not to notice them. So far, they haven’t done anything to hurt me.
The number of missing people near that forest by my house has tripled since the Mason’s came back. Some were tourists visiting the beautiful skyline near the opposite end of the lake. I think there is a correlation between their original disappearance and the missing people.
I don’t feel as safe here anymore because, between you and me, I am convinced that the family that magically appeared after two months aren’t the Masons. I don’t think I want to know who or what they are.