“Let me get this straight, Adelaide. Your boyfriend is married, but not to you, you’re having a recurring nightmare at a recurring time, you’re writing in your sleep, and your iphone is haunted? All this in one week?”
Addie sighed. “Yeah, except it feels closer to 4 months than just a week.”
Sophia leaned back in her chair and chuckled softly, even as her concerned gaze swept over her daughter, taking in Addie’s pale face and haggard appearance.
“You never did do anything on a small scale,” she commented lightly. “Not even when you-”
“Tell me about Hell’s Home, Mom.” Addie interrupted brusquely. She knew she’d suffer a month of guilt trips for her rudeness, but Sophia’s reminiscing would have to wait.
“Remember that story you used to tell me? About how Hell’s Home is supposed to be the gate that opens the crossroads? The place of everywhere?”
Sophia’s smile faded and she shifted uneasily. “Honey, that’s just an old ghost story. It isn’t true, you know that.” Sophia got up and began to clear the last of the dishes from the table.
“So what are you going to do about your married boyfriend? What’s his name again?”
“Mom. Please.” Addie insisted quietly. “I need to know.”
Sophia’s shoulders slumped as she sat back down and stared down absently at her folded hands.
“It wasn’t ever a good place to be, not for any length of time, Hell’s Home. When the settlers first staked it, no natives came to fight them for it. They wouldn’t come near it. Claimed it was inhabited by spirits that had never walked as humans and the place for the dead. Of course that didn’t scare the settlers, they just laughed and went on with life.”
“But things kept happening. They said time was weird there. It would stretch out for the longest or it would pass in what felt like seconds. Fires would start as if by magic and would destroy everything in their path, crops failed, livestock died, children disappeared. The settlers were desperate. The story goes that an arrangement was made.”
An arrangement with who-I don’t know. I do know those big iron gates that stood at beginning of the path leading into the woods were part of that agreement. The same gates the contractor guy demolished a couple of months ago.”
“What happens if the gates are taken down?” Addie asked and shivered, despite the heat.
Sophia shrugged, not looking away from her hands.
“The story never said. Hell on earth maybe? I don’t know. Look, why don’t you stay with me and your Dad? I know he’d love to have you around and I’d love to introduce you to my neighbor’s son.”
Addie was up and kissing Sophia before she could stop her. “Thanks Mom, maybe later. I’ve got to run. Love you.”
Addie had one more stop to make before she could call it a day. When this was all said and done, she was taking a break. Going on vacation was usually so much work, but this year it was going to be different. She would make sure of it.
For now though, it was time to rattle Aaron Stimple’s cage. He had some splainin’ to do and he’d better be fast when he did.
Hell had even less patience than Addie and a lot meaner and scarier motivators.