“These Dead Don’t Die!”

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         Sam Flint’s the name.  You must be the Dan Britton that bought the Bolton place. I see you’re curious about that fenced in tree house. Most new people in town are. All us old timers—that includes younger people as well-- from around here stay away from this place. As for me, I own a piece of property over here. It’s worth noth’n. Inherited it, don’t you know. Nobody in their right mind would touch it, be’n where it’s near the tree house. I just come over to check on it, every once in a while. Only in the daylight!


         That big old tree, over there with that tree house, is said to be more than two hundred years old. They say it was planted by some weird, old character. Nobody really knows for sure.


          The tree was nearly one hundred and seventy-five years old when the Graves’ house was built in its shade. They built the tree house at the same time. The big house was burned down one year later on Halloween night. That was exactly twenty-five years ago tonight! Never found out who did it!


         Nobody knew the Graves—strange name—or even remember them. Kept to themselves, don’t you know. I guess the only one who seemed to know about them was the Old Witch Woman—that’s what we called her—and the strange thing is, she disappeared twenty-five years ago, the very night of the fire and murders. Did I mention that the Graves' two daughters were strangled in the tree house? As for the Old Witch Woman, she looked like she musta been nearly a hundred years old. Lived off by herself someplace. Nobody knew where. Well, that’s another story.


         Funny thing about the Old Witch Woman, nobody in our  town knew her or wanted to for that matter. Ugly as sin! Kept to herself too, don’t you know. Rumor had it that she burned the Graves place down with them inside and committed those tree house murders of the two daughters. That don’t make no sense to me. Can’t picture that old lady climb’n up the ladder to the tree house and then strangling two healthy young girls. There was somethin very strange about those two girls, so it was said. Not many people ever saw them though.


         They say there was some sorta grudge between the Graves and the Old Witch Woman. They could never prove she was the one who did it though, accord’n to what I know. She be’n a little old lady like that. Besides, she just up and disappeared that Halloween night. That’s our town’s big mystery. The way most people around here see it, who else coulda done it? Not her, I say.


         Lots of people in our town, me included, still remember the big fire that burned down the Graves’ house with both the mother and father of the two girls inside. Twenty-five years ago! Where does time go? Funny thing though, about the fire. Those flames reached right into that big, old tree and right up into the tree house and never burned so much as a leaf or scorched the tree house paint. They discovered that when they removed the bodies of the two girls. How do you figure that?


         Whoever murdered the two girls inside that there tree house is the one who, they are pretty sure, burned down the Graves’ house with the husband and wife inside; probably killed them first. They think it was a robbery. Killed the girls, most likely, in case they saw somethin. How could they see anything, they be’n in the tree house?


         There it is, you can see the tree from here, behind the tall fence. Big, ain’t it! If you look straight up, about twenty feet you can see the tree house. Looks like it start’n to fall apart, be’n it’s twenty-five years old and no repairs done to it. Never could get over how big it is. It’s big enough to live in. That’s what they say the girls did. Don’t make no sense to me but they say that the two girls lived in the tree house and not in their regular house.

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         Funny thing about that fence; paid for, so they say, by some sorta secret society. They pay extra, I hear, so there’s no questions asked. Sure keeps everybody out. Like there’s somethin to hide. That’s all anybody knows, from what I hear. Must admit, I don’t know too much. Most of it gossip, don’t you know.


         I gotta tell you, my friend, I don’t believe in ghosts or spooks or any of that kinda stuff, me be’n a grown man and all. Be’n its Halloween tonight, I’m not take’n any chances. Once it’s dark, I don’t go anywhere near this place. Not me! Not the neighborhood kids! Not nobody! There  are some who say they seen strange lights com’n from that there tree house on Halloween nights. There are those that say they even heard scream’n and howl’n come’n from there as well. I heard tell, from them that knows about such go’ns on that it’s the ghosts of those murdered girls. Not that I believe that. Still—


         You’re new in town so I’d advise you to do what I do and everybody in town does. We stay away from here after dark! If you got any kids keep them far away from this place. Why take any chances, don’t you know.




         Dan Britton held a large pumpkin in each arm. He pushed open the unlocked front door of his house with his foot. “I’m home!” he called out cheerfully to his, yet unseen, family. “Time to carve the pumpkins and decorate for Halloween!”

         “We thought you would have been home a half hour ago.” said Nora Britton as she came down the stairs carrying a hamper full of soiled clothes.

         “Would have been except for meeting a local character by the name of Flint—Sam Flint—over by that fenced in tree with its tree house. Strange man.”


         “Sam Flint. Warned me and my family not to go near that tree house after dark tonight. There is some local superstition about strange lights and screams. They believe it’s ghosts. Ghosts!

         “Never you mind about ghosts. What were you doing over by that spooky place?” asked Nora, putting down the hamper.

         “Curiosity my dear wife. I heard so much about it and tonight being Halloween, I wanted to take a look. Didn’t see any ghosts.” replied Dan, placing the two pumpkins on a table.

         “You know what they say about curiosity don’t you?”

         “Something about curiosity killing the cat. Do I look like a cat?”

         “Not exactly.” replied Nora. You look more like somebody who has to do some Halloween decorating.”

         The shouting and laughter were heard before nine year-old Jenny came running into the room, trailed by her sister Ricky who had just turned thirteen.

         “You two have these two pumpkins to carve into funny faces and not a lot of time to do it if you want to go out trick or treating tonight.” said their father.

         Nora turned to Ricky. “Don’t you think you are getting a little too old to go trick or treating?”

         “Oh, I’m just going to watch out for Jenny.” replied Ricky with a sly smile. “If people want to put candy into the bag I’m carrying, I wont stop them.”

         It was already dark by the time they finished dinner. Jenny was getting into her fairy princess costume, preparing to go out with her older sister for an evening of trick-or-treating, otherwise known as loot gathering.

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         Dan decided that it didn’t hurt to warn his two daughters not to go anywhere near the fenced in tree and tree house. It wasn’t very likely they would since it was on the other side of town where there were no houses. “There’s nothing to worry about.” he thought. Besides, this thing about lights and screams coming  from the tree house and seeing ghosts on Halloween nights was just silly.




         Ricky knew about those stories of lights and screams coming from the tree house and people claiming to have seen ghosts. She didn’t believe a word of it. She was the adventurer. “We each got a pretty good haul of candy and cookies.” Ricky said to Jenny, as she finished off her second cookie.

         Jenny pushed back her fairy princess mask in order to finish off her third candy bar.“Our bags are full. I guess we should go home.”

         “I have a better idea.”

         “Like what?”

         “Like going over to take a look at the tree house.” replied Ricky. I’ve never seen it at night.”

         “Not a good idea. Too scary.” answered Jenny with a mouth full of candy. “Besides, we were told not to go there.”

         “I just want to take a quick look. Don’t be a big baby.”

         Just a quick look and then we go home?”


         They passed groups of costumed children, some accompanied by parents, going from house to house, trick or treating. By the time Ricky and Jenny reached the other end of town both the houses and costumed children were nowhere to be seen.

         All that met their eyes, in the moonlit darkness, were a few, derelict buildings and overgrown lots. Not one person appeared.

         “I don’t like this!” complained Jenny. “I want to go home!”

         “Don’t be such a big baby. It’s just a little bit further. We’ll take a quick look and then head home.”

         The huge tree with its ominous looking tree house loomed up before them, bathed in eerie moonlight.

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        " O.K., we saw it! Let’s go home!”

         “I want to get a closer look.”

         A wind came up, causing the leaves in the huge tree to make strange, rustling sounds that could almost be taken for whispering.

         “That tree is talking!” Jenny cried out. “Don’t you hear it?”

         “That’s just your imagination working. It’s only the wind blowing the leaves of the tree.” Ricky assured her sister.

         “No! It’s talking to us!”

         Ricky suddenly had a puzzled look on her face. “Now, I hear it too!”

         Jenny walked up to the fence. A calmness settled over her, erasing the fear she was feeling. She turned to her sister. “They want us to come in.”

         The same calmness came over Ricky as she joined Jenny at the fence. “We can crawl under the fence. Behind those bushes is a crawl space we can get through.”

         “How do you know?”

         “Something just told me.”

         Gone was any fear. All the two sisters knew was they had to climb up into the tree house.

         They stood before the ladder that led up, into the tree house. The rustling of tree’s leaves seemed to whisper the word “climb,” over and over again.

         Jenny went first, closely followed by Ricky. They found themselves stepping on to a shaky, wooden porch with a low wooden railing that ran all the way around the two-story tree house. A closed, wooden door with clouded windows on either side, stood directly before them.

         Both Jenny and Ricky heard the two voices. “Enter!” the voices commanded.

         As if in a dream, Jenny turned the dull, bronze knob and pushed the door open revealing a semi-dark room. The door closed behind them. Directly in front of the two girls was a stairway that disappeared above them, into darkness.

         The ghost appeared at the top of the stairs. 

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        Jenny and Ricky stood motionless without reacting as the image of a young girl floated down the stairs toward them.

         The door to an adjoining room opened revealing, what appeared to be, a ghost of another young girl with the face of a skull.

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         “Your bodies belong to us now.” said the two macabre figures in unison with voices that were not human.  

         Jennyand Ricky just stood motionless, as if in a trance, before the two underworld ghouls.

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         “Ten minutes before midnight we will enter your bodies and escape from this place we have been imprisoned in for twenty-five years.” spoke the unworldly voices of the two ghouls. As they spoke they changed into identical, horrifying bodies of the underworld ghouls they were. “One hour and you both will be ours and we will be free at last!”




         “Where can the girls possibly be?” a very worried Nora Britton. questioned her husband. “They should have been home an hour ago!”

         “You know how kids are. Time doesn’t mean anything to them. Probably at some friends house counting and eating their loot.”

         “Do you think so?”

         “I’m certain of it. So stop your worrying. As a matter of fact...” Dan was interrupted by a loud knocking at the front door. “ A little late for trick or treating.”

         “I’ll get it.” said Nora, rising from the sofa. She opened the front door and cried out. “Oh my God!”

         “What is it?” exclaimed Dan as he rushed to join his wife at the front door. “Who the hell are you?” was all he could utter when he saw who was standing in the open doorway.

         “My nameis Krattoria. I am High Priestess of the Black Circle Coven of Witches.”

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         “Aren’t you a little old to go trick or treating?” said Dan after recovering from the shock of seeing Krattoria. “Great costume and mask.”

         “We have no time for wasted talk. I am here with the hope of saving your daughters’ lives.

         “Has something happened to Jenny and Ricky?” Nora cried out.

         “Not yet. There is less than an hour to act to save them.”

         “Wait a second! This can’t be for real! It’s just some Halloween prank being played on us.” exclaimed Dan.

         “I assure you Mr. and Mrs. Britton, this is no prank. The underworld ghouls are holding your two girls in the tree house. At exactly ten minutes to twelve they will take over their bodies and you will never see your daughters alive again.”

         “There were four of the ghouls. Two entered the bodies of the Graves parents and two into the bodies of their daughters. It was I, using witch's fire, who burned down their house with the two parents in it. Except, they weren’t the real parents. The real parents were already dead. They were the underworld ghouls in the dead bodies of the parents. Only witch's fire can kill them. Otherwise, these dead don’t die!”

         “Whoa! Slow up! This isn’t for real!” shouted Dan, half doubting and half believing.“ Are you saying you are a witch? A real witch? Why would a witch want to help us?”

         “The underworld ghouls are our sworn enemies. They would be yours as well if you knew about them.” replied Krattoria

         “Nevermind that!” broke in Nora, frantically. “What about our girls?”

         “When I burned down the Graves house with them in it.” I used the only thing that would kill underworld ghouls and that is witch's fire. I tried to use it against the tree house but it was protected from the outside by the ghoul tree. I used my magic to strangle the two girls. They were already dead. That did not kill the two underworld ghouls that occupied their bodies but did lock them into the tree house until they could find other living girls’ bodies too occupy. They required similar aged bodies they had before in order to escape from their imprisonment in the tree house. Now, they have your daughters.”

         “How can we save our girls with so little time left? How do we save them, if that is at all possible?” Nora cried out frantically.

         “There is only one way and very little time to do it.”

         “What way?” questioned Dan.

         “Witch's fire must be gotten inside the tree house. It will only burn from the insideout and those two underworld ghouls will burn with it.”

         “And what happens to our girls if such a thing can be managed?” asked Dan, still dazed by the unreality of this whole business.

         “They can be saved only one way.” replied Krattoria. “And--that way may not work.”

         “I’m willing to do anything!” exclaimed Dan.

         “It isn’t you that will have to place the witch's fire inside the tree house and rescue the girls.”

         “Not me? Who?

         “Your wife. The mother of the girls!”

         “I’ll do it! But—how?”

         “What we must do we must do quickly! There is not a moment to be lost if we are to act in time to save your daughters and destroy the underworld ghouls.”

         “What must I do?”

         “Can you endure pain? That is the first thing you must do.”

         “For my daughters? I can endure anything!” replied Nora, near tears.

         “You are wearing a locket around your neck. I will hide the witch's fire inside the locket. I can tell you, the witch's fire will burn your neck.”

         “Do it!”

         “I will open the fence for you so that you can pass through. I don’t know how you will be received by the ghoul tree. It could kill you! There is only one chance it won’t.”

         “One chance? I don’t like that at all!” replied Dan.

         “I’ll take it! what is it? exclaimed Nora.

         “I removed this wedding band from Graves woman’s finger, rather the underworld ghoul’s finger, before the fire. Wear it! It could fool both the ghoul tree and—very briefly—the two underworld ghouls holding your daughters. That should give you enough time to open your locket with the witch's fire and cover you and your daughters with my witch's cape. The cape will protect all three of you, long enough to escape the tree house and the ghoul tree.”

         “How much time do we have?” questioned Nora.

         “Barely enough but enough if we move fast,” answered Krattoria.



         They arrived at the fence with less than five minutes to spare. Nora was in pain from the witch's fire inside of her locket, yet she barely noticed it. The fence was peeled back and Nora raced through towards the ghoul tree. She held out her hand with the ring and the tree let her pass. The ladder was climbed in seconds and Nora found herself standing in front of the wooden door. She fingered the locket and it burned her.

         Now, she held the witch’s cape in one hand and with the other turned the doorknob. Nora flung the door open and there, before her, were her daughters and the two underworld ghouls preparing to take over Jenny’s and Ricky’s bodies and make their escape from the tree house.

         Nora hurled her locket, containing the witch's fire, against a far wall and watched it explode into a billowing fire. Almost at the same time she flung Krattoria’s cape around the three of them and hurried out of the burning room, shepherding her daughters. Nora had to hurry her daughters down the ladder as the fire was almost upon them. Jenny and Ricky, now themselves again, grabbed their filled trick or treat bags they had left at the base of the tree.

         The two underworld ghouls stood confused and uncertain as the witch's fire engulfed them.

         By the time Nora and her daughters reached the fence where Dan and Krattoria waited, the tree house and the ghoul tree had exploded in flames.

         All Jenny and Ricky remembered about that Halloween night was all the candy and cookies they had collected.

         Nora and Dan did not forget. And every Halloween night after that, whenever they saw a silhouette against a full moon, they would smile and think of Krattoria.

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 © robert 2014