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Just beyond the veil

J Campbell

By Joshua CampbellPublished 5 months ago 19 min read

Emily sighed as she stood in the doorway of her childhood home.

She hadn't wanted to move home like this, but it seemed silly to leave the house empty after her father's death. When she opened the door, the familiar smells of her childhood had assaulted her, bringing a tear to her eye as she remembered all the good times she'd had here. Christmas mornings, birthdays, nights spent on the couch as she and her dad watched whatever was on tv. The old place meant a lot to her, and she had hoped that something like this wouldn't happen for a good long time.

Dad's dementia had taken him quickly, and the old house was all she had left now.

Emily had lost her mother when she was very young. In a way, that was a blessing. Emily had been too young to mourn her or even miss her, and her dad had filled the gap easily. He had never shied away from the tasks he didn't know how to do, and, to Emily , he had always been the best dad ever.

When she'd gone to college the year before, she had worried about leaving him by himself, but he assured her he could manage.

When he'd gotten the diagnosis from his doctor the year before, he hadn't wanted to tell her at first. It was nothing for sure, he'd said, and they would have plenty of time left. Emily didn't need to worry about him, not when she had school to worry about. He downplayed it for three months, but Emily began to notice little changes in him that worried her. He couldn't remember what year it was. He forgot that he was retired now. He called her late sometimes, wanting to know why she wasn't home from school? It didn't come to a head, though, until the police called her after he tried to go to work one morning at an office his company no longer owned.

Emily had taken a break from school, but his decline became a free fall. Gone was the loving man who had always been her strength and guidance. Her dad forgot who she was, calling her by her aunt's name more than hers and fighting her over simple things as she "tried to boss him around because she was older."

Emily had been out grocery shopping when he passed.

In the end, dementia hadn't gotten him.

He had hung himself in the living room, for whatever reason, and the neighbors had called an ambulance when they saw him in the big bay window that looked out on the front lawn.

Emily remembered that day as she took boxes out of her SUV. In retrospect, she should have known something was amiss. It was the first week of October, Dad's favorite month, and he had been doing a little better. He brightened up as they set up the Halloween decorations. Emily remembered him calling her "kiddo" again and ruffling her hair like he'd done when she was little. He'd been doing better, he'd seemed more lucid and more in the world, and on the day she'd gone out for groceries, he'd told her there was a program he wanted to watch and that he'd be okay. She thought about insisting but decided it would probably be fine. She told him she'd be right back, and when he told her he loved her, she smiled for the first time in a while.

When she'd gotten the call, she'd been unable to answer them as she slid to the fetal position in the soup aisle of Publix.

No one could have said why he did it, but he was gone, all the same.

Now she was left with nothing but a big empty house full of memories and questions.

"Need a hand, Emm?"

Emily turned, knowing the voice. It was Glen from across the street, and she shifted the box in her arms as she pointed back toward the SUV. Glen was no spring chicken, but he gladly grabbed a couple of boxes and walked them into the house.

"It's weird being in here without Frank." He commented, catching himself a moment later and apologizing, "I'm sorry kiddo. I know that no one knows that better than you."

"It's okay," Emily said, "he's at peace now. I know he hadn't been at peace for a while."

Glen set the boxes down in the dining room, and as they went to get more, he commented that it was weird to see the yard so empty.

"I don't think I've ever seen it lacking its usual ghosts and ghouls this close to Halloween."

Emily nodded, "I know, but it seemed inappropriate to keep them up."

She had taken them down the day of Dad's wake. Emily had returned from the wake, looked at all the tombstones and ghosts, and couldn't take it anymore. She had taken it all down as the flood light presided over the yard and just tossed it into the garage. If some of them broke, then that was just too bad. Emily had been happier for their passing once they were put away, and she had gone to the funeral in a much better mood.

"Think you might put them out again before Halloween?" Glen asked.

"Maybe," Emily said, but in her mind, she doubted it.

It was nine days till Halloween, and the last thing on Emily's mind was decorating the yard for a bunch of kids.

Emily thanked Glen for his help, and as the door closed behind her, all she wanted to do was go to sleep.

Just the act of moving her things in with the intention to stay was more than she could bear. She decided that tomorrow, she would start moving her dad’s things into the garage and putting her own stuff up in the house. It would be hard, but she knew that it would go miles to making her feel better about staying here full-time. As she had moved boxes into the living room earlier, she had smelled the Old Spice that her Dad had always worn and kept catching the hints of old cigar smoke from his recliner. They were comfortable smells, smells of her childhood, but now they only filled her with insurmountable sadness.

As she snuggled down in the guest bedroom, the place she had been sleeping since she'd come to live here, she hoped it would get easier as she cleaned out the old house.

She hoped that maybe there would be some answers somewhere amongst Dad's old things as well.

* * * * *

Emily was packing things into boxes when she heard the knock on the front door the next day.

It had been a rough morning, but Emily felt that she was making progress. The living room had been packed into two kinds of boxes; Keep and Donate. Most of Dad's stuff was going to be donated, his knick-knacks not really fitting in with her stuff. The Billy Bass, the fishing trophies, and the last of Mom's precious memories figures had gone into the donation box, but the pictures and some of the other things were staying. They looked a little odd next to some of Emily's things, her Funko's clashing with Dad's ceramic ducks, but some of these things were such a huge part of her childhood that she couldn't bear to get rid of them. The mallard with the green stripe was one they had painted together, and the transition between Emily's childish painting and Dad's smooth brush strokes evident.

She had cried over that duck, the plaster threatening to shatter as she clutched it to her chest.

The duck's fragility had been saved by the knock on the front door.

It was Glen again, and Emily remembered that he had agreed to take some boxes to the Salvation Army for her.

When she opened the door, she was surprised to see that the Halloween decorations were again set up in the yard.

"I'm glad to see you're feeling better. I was surprised to see the yard set up again. Did you have a wild hair last night?"

Emily looked out at the yard, but as she shook her head, Glen must have realized that this wasn't her doing.

"Weird thing for kids to do. Can't imagine anyone on the block would just break into your garage and set up your Halloween decorations."

He took the boxes, and said he’d bring her a receipt, and Emily thanked him as she closed the door. With the door between her and the real world, Emily felt herself give in to the creeping sense of trespass. The whole thing freaked Emily out. She assured herself that she was making too much of it, but she knew she wouldn’t be comfortable until the decorations were put away again.

She set aside her unpacking as she cleaned up the ghosts and gravestones, putting them in the boxes as she slid them into the crawl space over the garage. She must have been more tired than she thought last night to miss someone moving around outside all night. As she closed the little door in the ceiling of the garage, she wondered if she should call the police? They had technically broken into her garage, though Emilly doubted if it was locked in the first place. She decided to let it slide this time and got back to setting up her living room. It was getting late and she knew that soon her thoughts would be on dinner.

* * * * *

When someone knocked the next day, Emily looked up from her lunch and found Glen on her front porch again.

She had been too busy to check the lawn that morning, going straight to work on the kitchen as she moved in her appliances, and as she saw the tombstones and ghosts had returned to their usual spots, she felt the dread rise in her throat. She was absolutely going to call the police this time. She had locked the garage, locked the crawl space with the padlock her Dad had always used. If the kids dragged them out this time, it would qualify as breaking and entering. Glen smiled as she opened the door, but he looked uncomfortable this time as he stood wringing his hat in his hands.

He looked like someone delivering bad news, and Emily wasn't sure how much more bad news she could handle.

"Hey, Emm, just coming to make sure everything was okay?"

Emily thought about brushing him off, but decided to be truthful with him, "You know, Glen, not really. Someone keeps breaking into my garage and setting up my Halloween decorations. I can keep a sense of humor about it, but it's getting harder and harder as time goes on."

Glen nodded, "I can imagine. I'll see if anyone has picked up anything on their cameras so we can see who's doing it. Some of your neighbors, though, had mentioned something in the house. I know that people mourn in their own way, but I just thought I'd make sure that you were feeling well."

Emily gave him a questioning look as she grew tired of his beating around the bush, "Glen, why don't you just come out and say what's bothering you."

The old man looked a little offended, but he tried to brush her briskness off, "Someone said you had a silhouette in the front window of someone hanging. I like to think I know you better than that, but I know that grieving does weird things to people, and I just thought I'd come to make sure you were okay."

Emily gaped at him, "I can assure you, Glen, I haven't had anything like that in my window. It's sick, and I would have thought you knew me better than that."

Glen and her father had been friends since Dad had moved into the house, and Emily had grown up with Glen's daughter and son. The families had been close, and Glen had even come over to help her with her father a lot as he went downhill. For Glen to ask her if she had done something like that was extremely hurtful, and he seemed a little more at ease by her answer.

"I told them they were wrong, that you wouldn't do something like that. I'll let you be, Emm. I just wanted to make sure that everything was okay."

Emily waited till he had gone back to his own house and went to take the decorations down again. She packed them in their boxes, bringing them inside as she put them in the coat closet. Let the kids look through the garage for them now. They wouldn't find anything, and maybe this would dissuade them from this game. She wasn't sure why they had chosen her house for this anyway. Dad had been well-loved by the kids in the neighborhood, and his house had been a mandatory stop for any kid looking for good candy. She thought again about calling the cops but decided that hiding the decorations might be enough this time.

She went back to sorting through things, but she just couldn't recapture the mood she'd felt. She just kept going back to busybody Glen and the dumb kids who couldn't leave well enough alone, and she just got madder and madder the longer it went on. She finally tossed an old blender into a box, shattering the attached pitcher, and growled as she went to get her keys. She was going out. She wanted to be anywhere but here. She climbed into her SUV, and as she looked back, she did a double take, unable to believe what she had seen.

It had only been for a second, but she had seen something swinging from behind the curtains in that second. It had been a man-shaped thing hanging by the neck, but as she scanned every inch of the thick curtains, she couldn't find anything that looked anything like a swinging body.

Maybe what Glen had told her had gotten into her head, Emily thought, trying to put it out of her mind as she pulled out of the driveway.

She came back after dark, having spent time with some college friends as she vented about the situation. They all agreed that it sounded terrible and thought Emily should have called the cops after the first time. Emily hadn't hung out with her friends like this for a while. Usually, she was on a time limit and spent the whole time looking at her watch. It was nice not to constantly worry about her Dad, but that made her feel guilty again.

As her lights fell across the yard, she could see the Halloween decorations once again spread across it.

Emily came angrily out of her car, taking three or four steps for the door, when the lights in the living room came up, and Emily felt her legs wobble ominously.

Behind the thick curtains, the lights looking soft and inviting, was the silhouette of a swinging body.

She stood there for a full sixty seconds, watching as it slowly swung to and fro, and when the outline of the head seemed to turn in her direction, she loosed a loud scream and backpedaled.

Emily stumbled back to her car, her legs feeling only about half under her control, and she drove her car halfway down the street before she took her phone out and called the police. They told her they would be there in a few minutes, but when they asked if she felt safe going back to her house, she told them that she didn't and wanted someone to meet her down the street. They said they would, and when a blue and white drove past her, another pulled up next to her to see if she was the caller?

They questioned her about the break-in, but halfway through her statement, the officer's radio told him to bring her home.

"Is the residence secured?" the officer asked, still jotting some notes.

"The residence is locked and shows no signs of entry. We need her to come let us in so we can search the house."

"That's impossible," Emily breathed, "I saw something hanging in the living room."

The officer agreed to come back with her, and Emily tried not to hyperventilate as she drove home.

Some of the neighbors had come out to see the show, and she could see Glen peeking out his window as she pulled back in and came shakily from her vehicle. The living room lights were off, the house looked dark and brooding. Emily felt her eyes creeping to the window as she walked across the lawn. She opened the door with the key, letting the police go first as they searched the house.

The house was just as she'd left it. The living room was devoid of anything that could have cast a shadow like that. Nothing was taken. No windows or doors were forced open. The only thing that had been moved were the decorations, and the police seemed disinterested in the whole thing. They left after searching the house, saying they would ask her neighbors if they had seen anyone lurking around her home.

As they pulled away, Emily stood in the yard and watched them go. She could feel the way her neighbors looked at her as they shuffled off to bed, and it felt like bees crawling across her skin. They thought she was making things up, playing it up for attention, but how could they think such a thing? She had cared for her dad for nearly a year, even sticking it out through the rough times, but it seemed that now the real horror had started.

As they all went inside, the lights came on behind her, and the shadow cast across her was dreadfully familiar.

Emily walked back to her car, called her friend, Nina, and asked if she could stay with her.

She would come back later for her things, but, for the moment, Emily just wanted to be anywhere but here.

* * * * *

Emily put the last of her boxes in the car and took one last look at her childhood home. The Halloween decorations were still there, looking a little windblown and lame next to the new addition to the yard. The realtor had been very interested in getting her hands on the house and saw no reason why it shouldn't sell quickly. When Emily told her about her father's suicide, the realtor told her it wouldn't stop most buyers.

"You'd be surprised how many people want to live in a possibly haunted house."

The thought of selling the house made her deeply sad, but she hadn't even been able to come back until the sign was there. Nina had offered to come back with her, but Emily had said this was something she had to do on her own. Nina had said she could live with her until she sold the house, her having just lost her roommate. Emily was happy for the invitation and had gone to the house early in the morning to get her things. Most of it was still packed in boxes, but she wanted the few things of her dad's she had chosen to keep. The painted ducks, the family photos, and other things from her dad's room. The rest could be sold with the house for all she cared. It would likely raise the value of the place, but she would just as easily cut the price if they didn't want it.

She heard the leaves crunch from the fence line and looked up to see Glen walking over.

"I'm just getting my things and leaving," she said, closing the door and standing her ground.

"Good," Glen said, his usual fatherly tone gone, "I think that would be best."

Ya, Emily thought, his messages had made that pretty clear.

Glen had been another part of the reason she hadn't been back. He had called her the day after, wanting to know why the police had been there and why she had left that awful thing up in the living room? He had been patient with her, they all had, but that thing was in poor taste and downright disrespectful to her father. When she hadn't returned his call, he called the next day and told her that he was going to use his key to take the thing down and that her father would be ashamed of her. It seemed that the neighborhood had turned on her, and now she was a social pariah. Well, good for them, Emily thought. She was leaving, so they could think what they wanted.

"Are you planning on taking down the Halloween decorations before you go? I wouldn't want any of the local kids to accidentally wander over to your house expecting candy."

She knew what he was referring to, but she didn't bite.

"I paid the realtor extra to stage the house. I'm not coming back."

Glen nodded, clearly unhappy, as he turned to leave.

Emily let him go, looking back at the house for a final time before leaving.

Despite the hour, she could still see the slight outline that would haunt her dreams from behind those thick curtains that had graced the window since she was young. She had been in the living room many times, trying to find anything that could have explained the shadow cast there, but there was nothing. It was as if that moment were frozen just behind the curtains, and if Emily could get beyond it, maybe she could save her dad before he took himself out of the disease's path.

The realtor pulled in as Emily was looking at the house, smiling and waving as she told Emily the good news.

"I've got three interested parties already. They love the neighborhood and can't wait to see the property. It looks like you might be shed of the place sooner than expected."

Emily told her that this sounded great.

As she climbed behind the wheel, she watched as the realtor picked up the Halloween decorations and hastily tucked them under her arm.

The for sale sign seemed to wave goodbye as she pulled out of the driveway for the final time.

As she watched her cleaning up, Emily wondered how many times she would clean up those same decorations before finally giving it up as a lost cause?

She wondered how many times the neighbors would call her about the one decoration she couldn’t clean up, before she too finally lost her mind?

It seems her Dad’s final legacy would be what swung behind the veil, no matter what the neighbors thought.


About the Creator

Joshua Campbell

Writer, reader, game crafter, screen writer, comedian, playwright, aging hipster, and writer of fine horror.

Reddit- Erutious


Tiktok and Instagram- Doctorplaguesworld

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