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The Last Weekend at Home

A middle aged man returns to his childhood home and uncovers a dark history

By Iris HarrisPublished about a year ago 19 min read
Top Story - April 2023
The Last Weekend at Home
Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. I should have noticed it earlier, but I was too obsessed with my own dashing looks to even consider it. If I had not been so fixated on my chestnut colored hair, dreamy chai colored eyes, and strong European features, I may have been able to stop what eventually overtook my life. I may have been able to avoid being chained to a reality that mirrored what I had grown up in. If only…

Thursday

I was sitting in my office, looking over the latest profit numbers, when my cell phone rings. It’s my childhood chum turned real estate broker calling, most likely about the house.

“Jeremiah! Good news,” he starts, cheerful as always, “I found a buyer for the house. They are offering around1.3 million,” Andy is resilient when it comes to selling.

I currently own my childhood home in Texas. It’s a white 5 bedroom, 4 bath home with 10 acres of land. It has been in my family for generations, and the reason from my hesitancy to sell. However, two years ago, my parents had gone on a trip together and had not returned. Eventually, they were presumed dead. Fortunately, they had their will prepared before they left and I inherited the house. I had not planned to sell it, but with my career being out of the state of Texas, it only made sense to relieve myself of the financial toll of homeownership.

“Tell me more about the buyer?” I responded.

“Well, they are a happy family: husband, wife, and three kids. They saw the house and knew it was perfect for them. The husband commented how the space would help with their growing family,” he assured.

After a brief moment of thoughtful silence, I agreed to sell after I meet them first. “I’ll fly down after work tonight and meet you on Monday.” We hung up. I had a trip to prepare for.

Friday Evening

As I exit the black Uber car, I stand in front of the immaculate white house with the wide porch running completely around it. I remember my friends and I ran on it often. The groundskeeper I had hired definitely kept their end of the bargain to maintain the rustic appearance and a picture perfect groomed green lawn. I breathe a sigh of relief and head up the staircase leading to the wooden door with an oval glass window.

I enter the house and instantly become wrapped in a flood of memories: holiday dinners and various parties. Parents’ arguments and mom’s tears. The spoiled childhood of an only child makes me embrace all memories as they come to me delicately. While I reminisce, an overcoming sensation of eyes watching me floods my stomach. I glance quickly around the entry hall, expecting the groundskeeper to be staring back at me. It is empty, but the feeling of a presence lingers over me. I eventually dismiss my suspicious and walk completely through the house.

Several hours and a hot shower later, I begin to settle for the evening. I stand in front of the mirror, brushing my teeth, staring at my reflection when my toothbrush falls from my hand down into the basin beneath me. My reflection has a subtle change to it. The outline of my physique remains the same, but my face looks as handsome as ever, except…the skin tone under my right lower eyelid is slightly darkened. I blink numerous times, expecting the color to return to normal, but the purplish black remains stained.

“What the?” I mutter mindlessly. I toss water over my face, expecting to wash off grime I may have missed from my shower earlier. When I reopen my eyes, my skin tone has returned to its pale colored self.

“Thought so,” I conclude and return to brushing my teeth. Minutes later, I am in dream land.

Saturday

“We’re still on for Monday, right?” Andy's excitement permeates through the phone.

“I guess,” my response lacks enthusiasm.

Andy seems to pick up on it right away. “You’re not having second thoughts, are you?”

“Well,” I begin. I consider keeping the house, especially with my childhood still brewing within the walls. I realize it would be a selfish request from a thirty-eight-year-old, plus my financial adviser would not be pleased. “I know I need to sell.”

“Of course you do. It’s not like you’re going to return to Texas to reside anytime soon, right? Besides, think of the money you make.”

Money is always nice. Since I have no interest in starting a family of my own, money has been a charming consolation. It almost seems like I have been enslaved by my love for the green-colored notes.

“You’re right! We are talking over a million. I’ll be ready,” I proclaim and disconnect the phone.

By Clem Geiss on Unsplash

I decided to use the remainder of my Saturday to examine the grounds and hop on the hydrostatic riding lawn mower that was resting in the nearby wooden shed. According to my parents, there were more than ten acres to the property before my grandparents took ownership, but it was never disclosed how much land, or what it was used for. I assumed it was for farming. My grandparents passed away before I was able to confirm my hypothesis.

Regardless, the land was still beautifully kept by the groundkeeper, I noticed while driving. The lush, vibrant green grass stretches like a welcoming comforter. Surrounding the area were well-groomed trees, guarding the grounds like giant oak soldiers. All in a line formation. The spacious area would have been prefect for agriculture, but my family used it for elaborate parties and even entertained the thought of converting the land to a private golf course. Once I graduated from high school, I was never told what they made the land into. Somehow, they had managed to retain the integrity of the soil.

Halfway into my ride, I spot a figure near the end of the property line. Considering there were no other homes near mine, it was peculiar to see a person standing inside the area. Perhaps they were lost and just needed to be redirected, so I continued to drive closer with caution, regretting not bringing a rifle with me. As I near the stranger, I notice he is African American, wearing an aged cowboy hat. I stop my tractor roughly thirty yards away from him and notice he is also wielding a whip with numerous strands stretching from the handle. My stomach churns uncomfortably.

I summon the courage to speak first. “Excuse me, but are you lost?”

He stares in my direction, practically motionless. No words flow past his lips.

“I say, sir, are you lost?” I try again, agitation growing every second his presence remains. Yet, he is a silent statue, glaring back at me. Anger festering in his eyes.

“Sir, I am going to ask you to leave. You don’t belong on this land. This is my property.” I demand, contemplating whether to approach him or not.

“No!” His defiance to leave shakes me. Rumbles deep through my heart, wringing courage from my soul. Who is this guy? I fall from the tractor, struggling to resist falling unconscious. Seconds later, I am gripping the side of the John Deere and steadying myself in an erect position, simultaneously catching my breath.

“Listen,” I gasp, “you need to leave, now.”

“No!” He retorts angrily. “Now you listen, boy. You got work to do. Git to it!” He bursts into a sprint, heading directly towards me. I try to command my legs to run away, but fall to my knees instead. The man quickly is mere feet from me and raising the whip over his head, preparing to strike down hard on top of me. I flinch, bracing for the inevitable impact.

My eyes shoot open to darkness around me. I am in bed, sweat pouring profusely and soaking my sheets like cheap paper towels purchased from a big box store. My respiratory system has been working overtime as fear sucked any oxygen I had. I rub my hands over my face, trying to convince myself it was just a horrible dream, or maybe a borderline nightmare. I slide out of my bed, making a mental note to change my sheets before I reenter. Mindlessly, I walk towards the bathroom and stand near the basin. My left hand touches the faucet lever and freezes. I have locked eyes with the man in the mirror. It is the same reflection as before, but the dark spot under my left eyelid not only returned, but worsened. My left-hand glides to touch it, and I notice my wrist reflecting on the silver glass for the first time. Pinkish-red abrasions circle my wrist, as if it was bounded tight enough to pierce the skin. However, the reality-me has completely clear healthy wrists.

“What the hell is going on?” I mutter to myself, seconds later my unscathed reflection returns. Fear clutching at my face.

Sunday Morning

Andy checks in via face timing with me. “Yo, Jeremiah, how’s the house looking?”

“Fine, but…” I pause to consider if informing Andy about the recent hauntings are worth the effort. “You’ve been trying to sell this house since my parents’ death, right?”

“Yep, it’s been a challenge, with the price tag. Not many people have that kind of money. COVID changed a lot.” Andy has a point.

I dove right in. “Did they mention anything about the house? Any strange happenings?”

He shakes his head. “Not that I know of. I’m just sorrowful to see them go. I know they must have done something with the land after you left for high school. The groundkeeper you hired had a lot of landscaping to do to return it to its original look.”

Curiosity blossomed. “What do you mean?”

“No one really knows. Your parents refused to have anyone in the back after you left. Only when you came for visits were people allowed, for the parties and such. Of course, the trees kept everyone’s view blocked too. They were definitely up to something. We may never know because they left for that trip and vanished.”

I was stuck with a mystery that may have extended beyond the reality I am in. I thanked Andy and disconnected the phone.

Half the day had already passed. I gazed back out the window to the vast green land beyond it. The dream from the previous night, fresh in my mind, made me wonder if people were squatting on the land. Maybe my dream was a premonition of some potential defect to selling the property. I pulled out a rifle from the gun cabinet and loaded it. Time to make the rounds, for my protection. The lawn tractor roared to life, but I kept the speed slow to detect any unusual activity.

After a few minutes circling the center portion of the land, I arrived at the far end of the property. Everything was as I expected. Relieved, I make a U-turn to head back to the house, but slam on the brakes to freeze at the sight in front of me. The whole field is covered in white fluffy flowers I recognize instantly: cotton. Automatically, I clutch the steel of the rifle and dismount the tractor.

“What is this?” I breathe, confusion strangles my mind while I am working out where the cotton came from. The white plant blankets the entire property. I rub my eyes to ensure I’m not dreaming. Accepting the twisted reality, I spun back towards the tractor to come face to face with my mom.

Her face is thinner, tanner, and sunburnt. She is wearing a plain white shirt with a heavy khaki skirt, instead of the most modern fashionable dress she usually dons. Though she did not show many signs of aging, her face has distress painted on it, and she quickly clutches both of my arms. She shakes her head vigorously, rapidly moving her lips. I can determine she is trying to relay an important message, but every word her lips form never flies past them, stuck deep in her throat. A couple of minutes later, a deafening scream escapes her blocked esophagus, surprising me. My hands instantly shield my ears, hoping to muffle the high-pitched menace.

I jolt back awake, nearly falling off the tractor. As I find strength in my legs, I twist my neck back and forth, searching for my mom. Her presence vanished, along with the cotton field. I conclude, it must have been another dream, though it felt so real. What was she trying to tell me? What did she mean by “no?” I carry the questions as I drive back to the house.

Sunday Night

By Vincentiu Solomon on Unsplash

I spent Saturday avoiding all mirrors in the house, especially the bathroom one, for fear of what my reflection may show. To ensure I would not be able to see it, I covered newspaper over the reflective glass. However, while I was concealing my reflection, I noticed more scars and bruises had been added to its collection. What was causing this peculiar phenomenon only baffled me the longer I pondered it.

I slide into bed, ready for a peaceful night. Darkness becoming my company. Outside Crickets providing a pleasant lullaby for my slumber. I lie listening to the rhythmic chirping, wishing I knew what they were singing about. Rather it was the excitement of selling the house, or the Texas heat, sleep continued to elude me, leaving my eyes to wonder mindlessly. My only hope for sleep was focusing on the crickets. Every minute of the song, hinted at a subtle intrusion. My ears tuned in to the odd sound embedded within the chirps. It was metallic. The sounds became more prominent and identifiable. They were chains, clanging and echoing, gradually drowning out the crickets. I bolt up into a sitting position and glare out the window. The chains appeared to be below my bedroom window, near the front door. Seconds later, they enter the house, reverberating throughout the halls. I open my nightstand drawer and pull out my hand gun. Any intruder in the house would soon be meeting a bullet. I hear the chains crawling up the stairs and down the hall to my room, approaching with every breath I take. My hand steadies at the door, ready to fire if it should open.

Suddenly, breaking glass shouts from the bathroom. I swing my arms towards in that direction, expecting a full body to emerge passed the threshold. Wind flows into the room, brushing my cheeks instead. I contemplate turning on a light, but decide on keeping my element of surprise and quietly exit my bed. Tiptoeing towards the washroom, expecting my assailant to appear, ignoring any threat from the hallway. I pause on the side wall, near the wooden doorway.

“Who’s there?” I whisper, not really hoping for a reply.

“Boy, I told you, you gots work to do!” A deep male voice thunders behind me and I feel the sting of nine lashings pierce the skin on my back, blood burns out. I spin around to lock eyes with the black man I saw the previous day. Anger pouring from his face, he throws a heavy chain around my neck, thrusting me to the stiff dirt ground. My bedroom gone, the stars taking pity from the sky above.

He mumbles inaudible words while dragging my body viciously across the rocky terrain. Each bump striking my skin; the blades of grass slicing my face. The velocity increases and the pain intensifies. The speed is too much for me to stand. I noticed I have lost my hand gun, making the self-defense option obsolete. He finally stops in the center of the field, a sea of cotton. Strength drained from my body, I remain lifeless as he hovers over me. A nine-tails whip in one hand, the chains from my neck in the other.

“You dare ignore your work, boy,” he utters as he strikes me repeatedly. Each lashing more painful than the other. When I have reached my breaking point, I scream.

The echoes of my voice wake me up from the nightmare; my bedsheets drenched with the fear induced sweat. I quickly scan the room for safety, simultaneously regaining control over my breathing. The room is empty. The chirping of the crickets have returned. I reach for the nightstand light, pulling the strand to luminous comfort. The light floods the room, then I realize my sheets are not covered in sweat, but in crimson blood. I force the covers from me, kicking wildly and thrusting them to the floor, practically jumping out of bed as well. Shaking the queasiness from my body, I look back at the stained sheets, bracing for the sight, but a puddle of white laughs back. I rush into the bathroom, desperate for a glass of water, flicking on the light in passing. The floor is clear with no signs of broken glass. There, clawing at the uncovered mirror, is my reflection.

I stand in front and the reflection quickly mimics my motions. My face has a definitive black eye. My lips, suffering from dryness, are also bruised. Red strikes replace the color of life from my cheeks. I turn around to show my back, which is slashed and bloody from the whipping. Terror grips the inside of my stomach, as I examine the abuse I endure from the reflective glass.

Eventually, I return to bed, but the horror of the nightmare prevents sleep from returning to me.

Monday

Andy arrives at the door. I recognized his silhouette through the glass curtained pane on the front door. Two dark figures follow him. When I open to greet him, there were two African Americans. I immediately feel tense.

“Jeremiah, these are the Carters,” Andy beams. “They are excited to see the house.”

Mr. Carter extends his arm for a handshake, accompanied by a warm smile. I reach for his hand and stare at the tailor – made grey suit. Though I am unable to place the brand, I know Carter spent well over a grand on the outfit. I lower my head towards his wife, whose outfit complements her husband’s with an off-grey colored Prada dress and the evident red bottom Louboutin heels. The smell of money emanating from the couple. Despite their economic status, I remain weary of the duo, especially when they enter the house.

We spend the next two hours touring the house, the land and casually discussing development potential. Andy is leading the conversation, I am just watching the visitors cautiously. The Carters express their love for the property and enthusiasm to make a purchase; Andy is ready to draw the papers and make the deal official, per my consent. Once we return to the parlor, I am left with the decision to sell or keep the property. I look through the room and notice the apparition of my mom hovering over Andy, she’s shaking her head.

“No,” I politely conclude. “Look, I am sure you are both very nice people, but right now, I think I may just keep the house. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”

Andy’s jaw drops. The announcement pierces his hope of a major commission and leaves the Carters take aback. He blinks several times, searching for the appropriate follow-up words. “Ok, wait. Jeremiah, surely take at least a few more days to think about it.”

I shake my head again, staring at my mom, mimicking her face. As if channeling her through an astral plane, I strengthen my stance. “No, sorry.”

Andy eventually guides the Carters out of the house and speaks to them in private for a few minutes before returning inside to me. “What the hell, man? I thought you wanted to sell the property.”

“I do. Just not to them.”

“What?” A look of puzzlement is painted on his face.

“Look, I’m not selling my place to a couple of blacks. I don’t care how rich they are. They don’t belong on this property. My parents would never be happy with that, God rest their souls.”

“Money is money. It’s the twenty-first century. We don’t have time to be racist. Who cares who they are, there were willing to pay almost TWO million for this house, you know. You didn’t even let me negotiate for a higher bid.” Disgruntlement has replaced any respect Andy may have had for me.

“I don’t care! I’m not selling my place to a bunch of Negros!”

Andy silences himself. Eventually, he states if I change my mind to call him, he might be able to salvage the deal and excuses himself, slamming the door as he exits.

By Andrea Davis on Unsplash

I stand alone in the house again, pondering if I made my mom proud of me. I spent most of my life avoiding black people, just like my parents had. Similar to the generations before me, I was taught not to trust black people. Our house was built on the backs of slaves, and I believe my parents wanted the house to stay in white hands. My attention was suddenly taken by a noise emitting from the bedroom.

Once I return to the bedroom, the noise continues from the bathroom. On the floor of the bathroom, the newspaper I had replaced on the mirror flutters slightly by the breeze. I walk in cautiously to determine the cause. In the mirror, I no longer see my reflection, but my mom. An approving grin stretches from check to check. Have I done it? Saved my family’s legacy? I close my eyes and exhale slowly, releasing the stress of the weekend. Forcing the black man’s face, the whip, and the chains out of my thoughts, hopefully forever. As I am trying to rebalance my life, I can still hear the chains clanging in the distance and shudder. The sound becomes closer, along with the sense of imminent danger. I reopen my eyes to the same black face that has been haunting me all weekend, mimicking my movements and frightful expression through the mirror. I try to run, but my legs refuse to obey, keeping me cemented in place as the man’s arms shoot out from the mirror and clutches my throat. As I gasp for air, his iron clad grip closes my airway and I pass out within seconds.

Sunlight surrounds me, blinding me when I regain conscience. I am looking at a familiar malnourished face. My mom in a plaid cotton dress and shackled wrist is caressing my head.

“I tried to warn you,” she cries.

“Warn me, what are you talking about? I didn’t sell the house.” I reassure her.

She shakes her head. “You were supposed to sell. Your father and I were taken by our mirror apparitions two years ago for the same reason, refusing to sell the house. An offer came in, but we were not going to let our family’s home fall into black hands. They don’t deserve it. In fact, we had continued the tradition of slavery. We had a handful of slaves still working on the field in private.”

How could they have slaves? “I never saw them,” I add.

“Of course you didn’t. You weren’t ready to inherit the house. Once you graduated, we went and captured a new batch of them heathens to work on the field. We started with cotton. We were content with that until we started being visited by the apparitions. They were trying to tell us to sell as well. But, think of how much we were making with the cotton. Even with offers, from various black folk.

“Anyway, when we didn’t sell the property, we were pulled into this reality where white Europeans are the slaves, and Africans are the owners. I realized then just how awful slavery is. How torturous and inhumane being someone’s property is. Especially, when I lost your father. He died out on the field because of these harsh conditions. I cried for weeks, but _they_ didn’t care. Still whipped me and expected me to keep working. No time for mourning. Crying cost them produce.

“I stood by the mirror when I could, and occasionally, I was able to see you. So, I tried to warn. I tried to get you to abandon what we had been raised to believe. To treat all people equally, regardless of their ethnicity. I didn’t want you to be trapped like your father and me,” tears were streaming profusely down her cheeks and she wrapped up her sorrow speech.

It took my a few minutes to thoroughly understand my situation. I was beginning to piece the mystery together.

“So, you and dad were taken by your mirror-selves and then made into slaves, just like our family has done for decades?” She nodded.

“Then, my mirror image showed me what would become of me should I not change my attitude towards blacks?” She agreed again.

Finally, a new thought occurred to me. “If I have swapped places with my mirror self, then, what is it doing?”

Mom assisted me up and towards the mirror. That’s when I noticed I was also chained to the floor, matching my mother.

“When we switched places,” my mother began, “your father’s image called for an attorney to help produce the will, ensuring you would inherit the house. You were the last of our lineage, and it was essential to have you come to the house to capture you. Now that you’re here with me, I don’t know what mirror-you has planned. I was unable to work that out.”

We stood before the mirror and there I was, in the same position I was currently in: standing, hunched over a sink. I watched as the image deviate and raised its unfettered left arm. In its hand there was my cell phone. Who is he calling?

“Hello? Andy?” I can hear the reflection-me begin. My eyes widened in horror. “Yeah, call the Carters back. I’ve changed my mind. It’s time to correct the wrongdoing my family has been conducting for decades with the ownership of this plantation house. I need to let it go, and they are the perfect family to sell it to.”

As mirror-me makes the statement, a smile of relief spreads over his face and he gazes back toward me. It was, with that sinister grin, I realized that our exchange was a permanent one. It will put an end to our family’s twisted dynasty. If only I had noticed the subtle change earlier.

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About the Creator

Iris Harris

An aspiring novelist. I enjoy writing ghost, horror, and drama. Occassionally, I dabble with some essays. You can find more of my work with the link below:

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Comments (16)

  • Rachel Deemingabout a year ago

    I thought this was great - tense and gripping all the way through. Well deserving of Top Story.

  • MARIE ODEMS about a year ago

    AMAZING WORK KEEP IT GOING !!!

  • L.C. Schäferabout a year ago

    Very good, kept me hooked to the end 😁 Is it groundkeeper or groundskeeper? 🤔

  • Samuel Oforiabout a year ago

    That was awesome

  • Martha Ballabout a year ago

    I love how you pieced this up by time of day, such an engaging read

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  • Dana Stewartabout a year ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Furkan Ö.about a year ago

    Extremely gripping. I like your style

  • Muhammad Aliabout a year ago

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  • JBazabout a year ago

    Congratulations, what a brilliant written and thought out story.

  • Congratulations 🎉

  • Great Story❤️😉👍

  • Donna Reneeabout a year ago

    Huge congrats on this top story!! ❤️❤️

  • Leslie Writesabout a year ago

    Great concept brilliantly executed. 💖

  • Naomi Goldabout a year ago

    An American horror story indeed. This was terrifying, and kept me invested the whole time.

  • Donna Reneeabout a year ago

    Wow!!! This was so powerful!! I think your story is one of the few I’ve read for this challenge that really hit the whole “alternate reality bleeding in” part (or however that was phrased!). Really excellent! ❤️

Iris HarrisWritten by Iris Harris

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