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THE SKELETON KEY GHOST STORIES: SWEET DREAMS, MADELINE

THE SKELETON KEY GHOST STORIES: PINK
November 24, 2002
THE SKELETON KEY GHOST STORIES: BLOOD
November 24, 2002

THE SKELETON KEY GHOST STORIES: SWEET DREAMS, MADELINE

 An early, gloomy autumn morning never stopped Madeline from playing outside. She opened her eyes and yawned – still a bit tired, but bounded out of bed, got dressed and never even got a bite of breakfast before she went running into the woods with her dog, Barley, who was equally excited. Madeline never noticed until she was deep in the woods behind her folk’s house that she had two different shoes on. But she merely laughed this off like most things and ran through the crisp fall breeze.

It was 1935 – a Sunday- and she never had a care in the world. She looked at the bright leaves on the birch trees and she thought the trees looked like they were on fire – the leaves were so bright, and every now and then and ember fell slowly to the dead tan grass below. Over the old wooden bridge and creek, through a small clearing, just her and Barley.

Time flew like it always did on the weekend. She heard the train whistle blow and right after that, she heard her mother calling her for lunch. She raced her little puppy back to the house. Both adventurers were hungry and Madeline was getting cold anyway. A little of Mother’s hearty soup and she’d be ready to go again, clear till dusk.

Madeline ran up the stairs, skipping the first and third, and laughed as she watched little Barley clumsily climb up one at a time, working those little back legs as hard as he could. Madeline picked him up, brought him inside the warm house and plopped him in front of his food bowl, before plopping herself at the table in front of her bowl of soup and glass of milk. Ready to dive in, she looked around for her spoon until her mother reached over, put one in her bowl and kissed her daughters forehead. Her mother paused, kissed again and then put her cheek to Madeline’s head. She told her she felt warm, but in reality, Madeline was burning up.

She let her finish her soup and then broke it to her easy that playing for the day was done. Her Sunday was to be spent now back in her pink pajamas, in bed and maybe a little drawing if her fever went down.

She slid into bed under extra covers and now only now was glad to be there. She started feeling really weak and her stomach was turning. She closed her eyes tight and felt the heat on her eyelids. Her mom sat with her for a while, petting her head and occasionally Barley’s and then got up to contact the doctor down the dirt road.

Madeline loved her doctor, but usually refused to admit she needed one. Not this time. Her willingness to quit playing outside for the rest of the day made it clear to her mother just how bad she must have felt.

Madeline dozed for a minute, with Barley by her side of course, and then woke up and slowly peeked her head up and looked out the window. She could barely make out the dark, slim shape of her kind doctor walking down the dirt road. She watched his grab a leaf off a nearby tree, watched as he nearly stumbled as he crossed a little stone bridge, but as he got closer, he seemed different to Madeline in a way. He was wearing a hat, a black one; in fact his clothes were completely black and kind of reminded Madeline of the pilgrims she saw in her schoolbooks. She let her head fall back onto her pillow, disappointed that she’d have to settle on a different doctor this time and wondered wear her usual one was.

His three knocks on the door were faint, but Madeline knew it was time for that gross medicine and looked at Barley with envy – but the little puppy was still fast asleep.

Then her door opened.

The doctor’s hat was covering his face at first, but he moved with a grace to Madeline’s bedside and only then could she really see him. She froze, all the while wondering why her kind mother would let someone like this into her house –her room. She stared into his pitch-black empty eyes dug into his pale and wrinkled face.

Madeline closed her eyes and slowly faded away, holding on tightly to Barley’s little paw. Madeline died.

……………………………………………


It was just a bad dream, and neither a nightmare nor an early morning, gloomy autumn day ever stopped Madeline from playing outside. She opened her eyes and yawned – still a bit tired, but bounded out of bed, got dressed and never even got a bite of breakfast before she went running into the woods with her dog, Barley, who was equally excited. Madeline never noticed until she was deep in the woods behind her folk’s house that she had two different shoes on. But she merely laughed this off like most things and ran in the crisp fall breeze until she remembered her dream from the night before.

It was 1935 – a Sunday- and she was a bit scared of the similarities the more she realized them. She looked at the bright leaves on the birch trees and she thought the trees looked like they were on fire – the leaves were so bright, with every now and then and ember falling to the dead tan grass below them. Over the old wooden bridge and creek, through a small clearing, just her and Barley.

She loved the woods though, especially this time of year, and soon forgot about the silly dream and let time fly as her and Barley played and played.

The train whistle blew, and then she heard her mother calling her for lunch. She raced her little puppy back to the house. She was hungry and little scared and was getting cold anyway, though she prayed there wasn’t soup on the table.

Madeline ran up the stairs, skipping the first and third, and then picked up her little puppy, brought him inside the warm house and plopped him in front of his food bowl, before plopping herself at the table in front of her bowl of soup and glass of milk. She looked around for her spoon until her mother reached over, put one in her bowl and kissed her daughters forehead. Her mother paused, kissed again and then put her cheek to Madeline’s head. She told her she felt warm, but in reality, Madeline was burning up and suddenly not so hungry anymore.

She couldn’t her finish her soup and then heard her mother try to break it to her easy that playing for the day was done. Her Sunday was to be spent back in her pink pajamas, in bed and maybe a little drawing if her fever went down.

She slid into bed under extra covers that she brought up over her nose, barley peeking over them. She started feeling really weak and her stomach was turning from fear now, more than anything else. She closed her eyes tight and felt the heat on her eyelids. She kept them closed this time falling asleep for a few minutes. She couldn’t help it.

She woke up. Shaking now and very slowly, she picked her head up and looked out the window. She could barely make out the slim shape of her kind doctor walking down the dirt road and was momentarily relieved. Then she saw the lone leaf hanging over his head and was filled with horror as he plucked it off the nearby tree, she started to cry when he nearly stumbled as he crossed a little stone bridge, and as he got closer, he seemed familiar to Madeline in a way that made her stiff with fear. He was wearing a hat, a black one; he was completely in black, in clothes that looked just like the pilgrims in her schoolbooks. She let her head fall back onto her pillow, and just as she heard the three knocks screamed like she’d never before to her mom, “Don’t let him in my room mommy! Don’t let him in my room!”

The little puppies head popped up in a flash. She was holding on to his little paw tightly. She heard her mom tell the doctor that maybe it was a bad time and then the front door closed shut. Madeline’s mom came into the room looking worried and confused and sat on the bed and put her hand on the small hand of her daughter. All the while, Madeline was staring outside at the black figure who just before reaching the little wooden bridge, turned to her and waved his arm over his head.

She wrapped her arms tightly around her mother, looked once more and he was nowhere in sight.

…………………………………………


Madeline was my grandma – the sweetest lady. She and my grandpa died a few years back. Her house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, as was the house she lived in down the road from there with my grandpa. A few things were salvaged from the storm: the china was muddy, but unscathed; some of my grandpa’s model ships survived and so did a box in the attic with a few of my grandma’s drawings. Some of those drawings are ancient and some aren’t. As for the one of the man dressed in black, holding a bright orange leaf? I have no idea how it’s remained in such good condition.


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