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KILLING TIME

LEXI BROWN 1911- 1923

By Leeza CooperPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 21 min read
4

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. It was far away, but clearly visible through the hospital window. Nor did a wood of elm trees laden with snow obscure the flickering light. She looked at it in the evening, and it was still there, undiminished, in the morning. Like a spider in its web, her eyes were drawn to it, even when doctors and nurses were at her bedside, fussing with tubes and dressings.

But now the time had finally arrived, and the past had collided with the future. Everything that had happened was now dangling precariously in space, suspended in another realm by cords of bittersweet half-forgotten memories of her mother, some joyous, many malevolent. Sometimes the malevolence was so powerful, so strong, that she felt its grip on her throat, even within the safety of the hospital.

But time was on her side, as it always had been, because it had never really existed in the first place, the gypsies reminded her of that. Since her mother had died mere days ago, she had completely lost track of time and she was now too exhausted and traumatized to validate its existence.

As she made her way tentatively across the cold forest floor she was conscious of treading ever so lightly so as not to alarm any of the dangerous animals that followed her deeper into the woods.

The air around her was filled with the softest of snow cascading down through the tall elm trees. She understood that its beauty was fleeting and transient, and within its core it harbored an unforgiving and unapologetic potency. A light sprinkling and it’s just a fleeting memory; but turn your back on it, ignore at your peril, and it’ll bury and suffocate you.

She was lost in the dark, but she kept her eye on the candle in the window, on the cabin which she’d seen a thousand times before in her dreams.

It was the same candle as always, burning brightly in the window, dancing around and around like a wood nymph, teasing her to come closer and closer as it mocked her with its magic secrets and its beguiling charms.

If she had not seen it with her own eyes, perhaps she too wouldn't have believed it existed either. No matter how much she had tried to explain her story to those around her, none of them believed her. In fact, it had only caused her more pain and more suffering. She remembered the horrified look on the nurses’ faces as she stumbled and staggered from her bed, blood pouring down from the needle dangling out of her arm as she dragged her leaden, exhausted body towards the hospital window. She had to get to the candle.

Suddenly a branch snapped under her bare feet sending a barking cry out into the night dissipated by the canopy of the trees but snapping her out of her caution.

Leaning against a nearby tree to support her weary body, she inhaled its earthy woody lifeforce, it's sweet musky perfume. She drew on its palette of beautiful aromas to refuel her spirit. The woods were alive with bloodthirsty creatures, their bony fingers dangling off the branches as they reached down to pluck her from the forest floor. The night was rent by the moan of the wind, the howl of a wolf, the bark of a dog, the scream of a carrion bird. Every sound of the forest felt as though some malevolent being was grasping her throat. She struggled to breathe.

She hugged the tree tightly against her body to stop herself from fainting, willing it to give her strength. She was alone and vulnerable, starkly visible in the moonlight to predators and yet its roots provided a semblance of warmth by grounding her.

Gathering all her strength she willed herself to stand back up and continued on towards the old wooden cabin, carefully pushing back the thorny snow-covered foliage blocking her path, her eyes mesmerized by the tiny dancing flame in the distance.

Since her mother had died, her soul had been hijacked by the twinkling light in the window and it had consumed her very existence whether she was awake or asleep.

Ever since she could remember she had never been herself, her life with her gypsy mother had been tumultuous and rocky, some even said cursed. Her mother was black and she was white; well, maybe she was more like beige, with those huge brown eyes that negros have, and that was only half of her problems. Fitting in anywhere was never going to happen, she was a lost soul, a half-cast, an embarrassment to society.

After the nurses carried her gently back to her bed on the day of her collapse, the day the police had informed her that her beloved mother was dead, she was more determined than ever to prove that her mother’s tragic death was never going to determine her life, nor be her enemy, the thorn in her side, the knife in her heart. No! She was going to capture whoever or whatever was responsible, and unleash a fire storm of revenge so great that they would wish they had never been born.

She would learn how to harness the evil spirit world that had stolen her mother from her, she would feed on its iniquitous power, cultivate it and make it grow, she would command it to expand into a thousand knives of bloody vengeance, an army of stealth and silent but deadly arrows, a plethora of unforgiving swords that would lead to the death of the person who had killed her mother.

Despite her gypsy family's warning that the woods were absolutely forbidden and out of bounds, she had escaped from the warmth and safety of her hospital bed, dressed only in her nightgown, fur coat and slippers.

“I'm going to find out what happened to my mother. If they won't tell me what happened to her, then I will go find out for myself. I will not give up looking for her until I find her,” she thought to herself.

Lexi Brown was well aware of the hospital gossip and the horror stories that spread amongst the town folk about how the woods were full of evil forces, and that they harboured the souls of dead slaves and convicts from 300 hundred years ago. And she knew from her mother’s gypsy friends that the Angel Tree in the centre of the woods was home to giant vultures who feasted on the bodies of slaves hung from the branches. Despite the horrendous stories and her fears, she would avenge her mother’s spirit even if it meant that she, too, could meet her own demise.

Steam rose from her breath as she puffed and panted from the adrenaline coursing through her veins, but there was no turning back now. She had already committed to stepping out from the wood's canopy and into the icy pathway that led to the front door of the cabin. Whoever was responsible for lighting the candle after all these years was a complete mystery to everybody in the town, and as far as she was concerned it was far too coincidental. Surely it meant that its burning flame coincided with the death of her mother a mere few days ago.

She could see the candle clearly now, it was bigger than she imagined, perhaps it wasn't a candle at all? And if not a candle then what? What else could light up a room with a red and green glow that danced about like the navigation lights from a ship.

Suddenly she slipped and fell, her feet leaving the ground, and her head cracking onto the icy path making a sickening thud. The only movement that told her she wasn’t too badly injured was the rising and falling of her chest. Blinking, her eyes quickly adjusted as she tried to focus but her vision was murky and she couldn't get up without falling over.

Squinting through what little vision she had, she could see that she was attached to a rope and it was now beginning to tighten all by itself around her ankles. Fear coursed through her body as her mouth refused to work. She tried to scream but no sound came out. She was prostrate in the snow, all alone, in the freezing cold woods.

Reaching out to find a branch or a tree or anything that she could use as a weapon all she could feel were planks of an old wooden floor beneath her. There was no snow, no snow at all. It was gone.

The rope around her ankles yanked her harder this time and she was suddenly flying across the ground towards the cabin at lightning speed. Desperately waving her arms about, she tried to find something to stop her from being sucked in a slip stream towards the candle.

She could feel the skin on her tiny delicate arms and legs being torn off in large shreds as she drew closer and closer to the cabin. Her flesh was burning, searing through her clothing, and yet her heart was frozen in fear. Then suddenly and without any warning, the front door of the cabin swung open and she was pulled inside with such a mighty and ferocious force that it completely knocked the wind out of her, and then it slammed shut.

“You filthy little disgusting creature, how dare you step foot on my ship!” Lexi slowly looked towards the voice that threatened her and what she saw made her heart stop beating immediately.

She had never seen such a grotesque looking being and he only had one leg, the other one was clearly a stump poking out from under a garment made of dirty rags. Lexi felt her whole body begin to convulse by the putrid smell of his body as it wafted towards her in the wind. Suddenly the room lurched violently to the left and then to the right flinging the evil entity across the deck and out of sight. Then she was suddenly drenched from head to toe in a huge dousing of salty water.

Was she still asleep, would the cold water wake her up, was she still tucked up in her nice warm comfortable hospital bed, and was it all a terrible horrifying dream brought on by the shock of her mother’s recent murder?

“Girl, girl, come here!''

Lexi looked around to see where the young man’s voice was coming from.

“Over here, quickly, come here”!

Suddenly she saw him, hiding under some old, tattered sails near the edge of the boat. Should she trust him, run to him, believe him that he wasn't going to hurt her. What choice did she have? She had no idea where she was or how to get back to where she came from.

"Move girl, now! hurry before that old bastard pirate comes back and slits your throat and feeds you to the sharks”!

Finding her knees Lexi scurried her way quickly across the old wooden deck over to where the young boy was hiding. Every inch brought tears to her eyes as the salt water seeped into the open bloody wounds on her arms and legs.

Reaching the security of the canvas sail canopy she collapsed next to the young boy in tears, her stomach lurching from the rise and fall of the boat. She felt his arm around her shoulders as he pulled her into him for safe keeping.

“It's ok, girl…it's ok, I got you”.

Lexi looked up to see she was being tightly embraced by a young negro boy, she assumed that he was a slave, she had heard all about them in her history class at school. He was probably owned by the pirate that captured her and pulled her violently across the forest floor through what seemed like a portal. That was the only logical explanation she could think of for what had just happened to her. She had heard of these holes between dimensions before many times when her mother’s gypsy friends described them in infinite detail. Many nights were spent huddled around the campfire as they shared their wild and magical stories about their travels to other worlds and galaxies, and even back in time to when the Angel Tree in the woods nearby was a place of grossly morbid and sadistic torture.

She wondered how it was possible that anybody could take such a magnificent entity and turn it into hell on earth. She paid attention to everything that interested her and provoked her spirit, she was a bright little button, well…that is what her teacher Mrs Williams told her.

But it was her adopted gypsy family that told her of the folklore surrounding the Angel tree, and that there were many ghosts who were stuck, trapped there, floating miserably between dimensions unable to move forward or go back.

These negro ghosts of former enslaved people appeared sometimes as angels around the tree and sometimes they would whisper and cry out or even sing in their Gullah language. Lexi had traveled on foot with her gypsy clan around most of the south and these people resonated with her, there was something deep and meaningful about them and the Angel Tree.

Once after her father had run far away and abandoned her and her mother, leaving them all alone to fend for themselves, she sought refuge underneath the tree's bow and cried and cried for what seemed like an eternity. Lost and alone wondering how her father could do such a horrible thing, and how on earth was her poor mother going to provide for them both now. How could her mother defend a half cast child such as herself from the nasty town gossipers, their ugly rumors and disgusting judgements? The townspeople spoke behind her mother’s back about how a well-respected affluent white man could impregnate a black women, let alone think of marrying one.

“Who are you, why are you helping me”?

Lexi stared at the boy, he looked a few years older than her, she estimated about fourteen. She stared at his arms, their shiny black skin, and the dirty rags that hung from them. He smelt of oil and fish.

“I’m Wesley, just call me Wes, and you are”?

“I’m Lexy, and I’m lost…one minute I was creeping through the woods towards an old cabin, towards the bright candle in the window and the next minute I was caught in a rope by my feet and dragged onto this grimy deck of a ship. I'm not sure how I got here or how much time has gone by, and I always know things like that”.

Lexi didn't own a watch, but she never needed one; she could tell the time by reading where the sun was in the sky, and by the stars, the shape of the moon, by the sounds of the animals that pierced the night, and if she was ever lucky enough to go and visit the seaside, by the tide on the shore.

“You're not lost Lexy, you're just misplaced, we’re all misplaced here, that's all”.

“Where is here?” Lexi turned her head away from Wes to vomit. The feeling came over her so quickly there was no warning. Wiping her face with the cloth Wes held out to her, she apologized in embarrassment.

“Don't be embarrassed, nearly everyone who comes here is sick the first few days, until they get used to it”.

“I don't ever want to get used to it, I want to leave, I want to leave right now! How long have you been here Wes, you're worrying me, it sounds like you have been here for a very long time?

All of a sudden Wes grabbed Lexi by the face and put his hands firmly over her mouth. There was a terrified look of fear on his face as he looked into her eyes as if he was trying to communicate to her to not make a sound. She could hear the ocean lapping at the hull of the boat and the clanging of the ropes which tethered the sails, but nothing else. And then as she sat quietly she heard it, that same horrifying scraping, dragging wood on wood sound of that evil man who had pulled her into the cabin. There was no mistaking the sound his wooden leg made on the ground.

“Little girl, oh little girl, I know you're here somewhere, you stupid little girl, and when I find ye I am going to show ye what we here on my ship do to those who meddle in things that aren't yer business”.

His voice was rough and gravelly like he had spent too many years in the salt air.

Shaking like a leaf Lexi peeked through the tiny crack in the canvas. Seeing her evil abductor properly in the early morning light for the first time she could see that he was indeed an ugly old filthy pirate. He looked exactly like the pictures in her library books, unshaven, dirty, foul and evil.

He was an animal who not only robbed unsuspecting people at sea, he also stole innocent little girls and boys from their homes and their family to work on his filthy, stinky, rotten ship. He had obviously been stealing slaves for years, perhaps even centuries, hundreds maybe thousands of black slaves had wound up prisoners on his ship.

Behind him was gathered a group of them huddled together in fear, shaking and shivering, awaiting his next barking order, whatever it was, and as she watched on in fear he grabbed one of them and threw them down roughly onto the deck.

Next he grabbed the man's hair and yanked his head backward with such a mighty force she was certain she heard his neck snap in two. She couldn't see his face, only his emaciated body and the filthy rags which hung from him. He went limp and fell to the ground moaning and groaning like an injured animal.

She felt her vomit rising back into her mouth at the sight of him, and it took all her strength not to heave right then and there, but she knew if she did they would both be caught, and then most definitely sliced up and thrown overboard.

Wes held her tighter to try and comfort her. He was brave, she could tell, she could feel it in his heart as it beat loudly through his chest. She was sure she could hear it, even over the crashing waves and the yelling of the evil pirate, and the crying and wailing of the terrified slaves. There was something familiar about him but she couldn't remember how, the way he made her feel, the way he understood her uniqueness and her ability to read time and accept that although she didn't understand what had happened to her, she knew that something profound was occuring, despite the ugliness of it all, there was also something precious about their collision and happenstance, and they both knew it.

Then it happened, the blood, fresh warm blood began to appear on her hand and arm again, just like in the hospital when she leapt from her bed to run to the candle in the window, when the needle sprang from her arm allowing her vein to spurt blood all over the place. She looked at her blood covered hands and then she looked around for the candle, the green and red flickering light to try and gain her bearings, make some sense of the blood running over her fingers and up her arm. She saw the light on top of the ship, there was the light, she recognised it now, but it wasn't a candle at all, it never was, it was the light on the pirate ship. Catching her breath at the realization of the truth that the cabin in the woods was indeed a portal, and that she had transcended into another dimension and time, she was both astounded and terrified. But what was the fresh warm blood running through her fingers all sticky and pungent, what was it, if not her’s, then who's?

And then it happened, the head, the severed head without a body, rolled underneath the corner of the canvas like a gigantic bloody egg with its insides spilling out of the crack, splattering the pair of them in its vile contents. If it wasn't for the blood curdling screams of the other slaves then she would most definitely have been heard vomiting up what was left inside her stomach.

Wes didn't flinch; he had obviously seen it all before, and was doing his best to hold her hair up and kick the decapitated head out of her sight. He was having a hard time with it, it wouldn't move, but he just kept kicking and kicking it, desperately trying to get rid of it. She couldn't help herself, she had to look again, it was like a train wreck you don't want to see but you look anyway, and that's when she saw its face or what was left of it. Its bulging eyes were frozen, petrified and hanging out on threads of flesh, and its mouth was open and moving up and down as if it was trying to say something. She looked on in horror as she realized it was her father’s head.

“Lexi, Lexi,” whispered Wes, “are you ok, it's gone now.”

Wes shook her back to consciousness, brushing her face with his hands. He held her until she could speak.

“The head’s gone, the danger has gone now, Lexi, the pirate has left in a row boat to go to shore, we have a little time, wake up, wake up.”

Lexi opened her eyes and looked at Wes, tears of fear and shock were falling from her face.

“That…that head…it was my father,” she gasped.

“I know, I know, Lexi, I know everything. I know who your father was and what he did, and what he didn’t do. I can only assume the evil old pirate killed him to get to you, thinking that he meant a great deal to you. I know he was your father by blood, but he certainly wasn't a real father. Right now, you must try and forget what you just saw and focus on other things. I know it's difficult but please try. Not everything here is good, Lexi, as you can see, but this is where the past meets the future and karma shows its true face. It’s where we sit and wait for our chance to right wrongs and help others if we can, and it's also where some die and never come back. Remember Lexi, what time is it?”

“Is that a question or a statement Wes”?

Realizing the tone in which he had spoken to her didn't match that of a question, she looked at him inquisitively, awaiting an answer.

"What time is it…Lexi think”.

Lexi lay there silently for a minute trying to understand the meaning of his words. Her mind was traumatized from what she had just witnessed and her thoughts were all muddled up.

“The tree Lexi, the Angel Tree”.

Suddenly she sat straight up like a startled animal in the woods, eager to see who was watching or following her.

“Oh my god, no, it can't be, surely it can't be!” She looked at him closely, and asked, “Are you, are you, are you the ghost from the tree, the boy who when I hugged the Angel Tree years ago, crying when my father ran away and left me, are you the boy who asked “what time is it?” and then I looked at the sun and it was 4.44pm…confirmation that the angels were watching over me.

“Yes Lexi, that's me, I'm that boy”.

“I can't believe it, I never forgot that whispering voice, or the time. I was all alone, mother was working in the corn fields and I ran to the Angel Tree for reasons I never understood, but I do remember feeling comforted after hearing your voice. I knew you were real.”

“Come, quickly, hurry, follow me,” said Wes. “It's time, I'm going to take you to your mother now.”

Wes dragged her up to her feet and out from under the canvas hideout. The ship was empty except for the aftermath of the recent slaughter and a flock of birds who were feeding feverishly on its deck. Untying the last rowboat from the ship, Wes ordered her to get in and then he followed her.

"Where are we going Wes, where is my mother”?

“You will see, you will see, everything is going to be ok, I promise you, I’ve got you Lexi”.

“Why Wes, why do you care about me, why”?...

“Well let’s just say one day I am going to marry you Lexi Brown, that’s why”.

‘I'm sorry; I'm really confused; how can you marry me if this isn't even real time, and you’re from a different dimension, a different year, if I were to guess I would say more than a hundred years ago at least”.

“Never try to understand it, just accept it, just remember time does not exist Lexi, just like your mother and the gypsies told you. We are all here killing time, just some of us are better at it, that’s all”.

The next thing she knew she was sitting all alone in the little row boat as huge waves crashed down around her, flooding it and filling her mouth with salty water. Choking and spluttering she looked around her desperately trying to find Wes. Where did he go! What just happened, how could he just vanish into thin air?

“Wes, Wes’, she screamed out over the wild angry ocean, she looked over the side of the boat to see if he had fallen overboard without her noticing, she couldn't lose him too. As she frantically searched the water she was thinking about his words, “I am going to marry you one day Lexi”.

What did he mean, how could he marry her, he wasn't even here, and now he was drowned, or was he lost, or was he too just misplaced? Was it possible that the boy who had spoken to her at the angel tree, the ghost, was he there especially for her, to save her, to save her mother too, did he know their fate, and was he always destined to save her?

Looking down into the cold choppy water, her heart sank in defeat. She saw his body floating by lifeless and limp, and there were no bubbles of air coming from his mouth, his arms and hands were crossed over and resting on his heart, but he had a little smile on his face as he floated past the boat and then disappeared underneath the waves until he was gone from view. She then collapsed, alone, terrified, unconscious, grief stricken, dehydrated, and spent.

‘Lexi, Lexi, wake up, wake up”. Her mother was shaking her profusely. “Let's get out of here, now run, let's go”!

“Mum, mother, how are you alive, you died, you were murdered”!

With no time to process what on earth had exactly happened to her or what was happening, Lexi obeyed her mother immediately and got up as quickly as she could. She felt the dried blood on her arms, she felt the cuts and bruises on her legs, it was real all of it, all of it had happened she was certain. Her mother used all her might to push open the old cabin door and together they ran as fast as they could through the oak tree shadows, along the snow-covered ground, past the thorny bushes, past the wild animals and their hungry mouths, and past the huge Angel tree.

“Wait mother wait, please wait, I have to see something”.

“What Lexi, what’s so important we have to stop, we need to get out of here now and never ever come back! It's dangerous and neither one of us should have ever come here! I should never have followed your father, I should have let him go to his death, his karma”.

Lexi ran to the Angel Tree and wrapped her arms around it while tears ran down her face.

“Wes, Wes where are you, come back, come back to me.”

She was the only one there, she couldn't see anyone or anything except for a few birds chirping nearby. Looking towards them desperate for some answers she thought about asking them. It seemed silly but she asked them anyway. “What do you know about my Wes, please tell me, I beg you”.

“He must be real, he must be, I know he is”.

One of the little birds flew over to her and wagged its tail dropping a little white feather at her feet.

“Huh! Well, fancy that, if I didn't know better, I’d say you just gifted me a feather.

Picking it up she placed it into her pocket for safekeeping and that's when she felt the rag, the very rag that Wes had given her on the boat.

Wes, Wes, my angel, you’re real, I knew it, I just knew I wasn't dreaming or mad or crazy, you are real! Sniffing its aroma of oil, fish and fresh blood she smiled.

‘Hey Wes,” she asked the tree, “what time is it?...

By Leeza Cooper

monster
4

About the Creator

Leeza Cooper

Leeza Cooper, a devotee, artiste, creator of published literature & poetry; Studied Degree CU, founder/president of Wheels & Dolls SMC; raising funds for DV, lover of travel, nostalgia & anything vintage.

Ms Australia International 2023.

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Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (6)

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  • Theo Kougi2 years ago

    Great Read Leeza!

  • Steve Tamma2 years ago

    Captivating reading.

  • Bernie Pannell2 years ago

    Hey Leeza! What time is it?... Great story, such detail! Well done, I hope you do well!

  • Sound of Gugu2 years ago

    I don’t do fan. But if I was to? It would be you. In my heart, I know you are one of the most amazing woman to enter my life. Expect to win and win big. God bless you.

  • Andrew Johnson2 years ago

    I really enjoyed how much it demanded of me was an engaging read.

  • James Joyce2 years ago

    Hello, I'm Joyce, and I love reading fiction...especially horror and ghost stories. This story by Lisa Cooper is spell-binding. I didn't think it was a horror story at first, but then, after a couple of minutes, I realized I was in a frightening world, with a terrified young orphan girl who was trying to make sense of the world. And when she got close to the cabin and the rope grabbed her leg, and she was pulled into another world...on a ship no less with pirates and frightening ghosts...I was riveted to my chair. It's such a brilliant short story, that I read it twice to make sure I had got everything that the author was saying. Well done, Lisa...a brilliant story. And thank you for frightening a 70 something woman...best wishes, from Joyce

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