We may have even gotten that started before lunch, if it hadn't been for the carousel in the nursery. It had caught both our eyes, carved entirely of wood, and apparently hand painted, though the colors were now muted by age. "Do you suppose it still works?" Lori asked.

I shrugged my shoulders, "Only one way to find out," and I carefully wound it up.

With- in seconds, we were watching miniature boys and girls riding miniature horses, up and down, and all around in a circle. We pointed out to each other different things we noticed, such as a few kids were obviously stretching for the brass ring, which if grabbed, would win them a free ride. Here, one child clung to the pole with one hand while clutching a cone of cotton candy in the other. Here was a little girl, with a gigantic bow on her head and one to match on her dress. We were entirely enchanted by it. It finally wound down, and we decided to stop for lunch. 

"That last room shouldn't take too long," Lori stated.

"Nope," I agreed, "Neither should the cellar."

"Cellar!?" Lori's voice squeaked on the end, her eyes wide. 

"Just gotta knock down some webbies and stuff. No big deal." I took another bite of my sandwhich. " You want to take upstairs and I'll do the cellar? Save time." I know Lori hates cellars, with a passion. She thinks rats are plotting how to get her in every corner, and every web contains a venomous spider. Except for the lipsticked mirror, we hadn't seen anything even remotely scary so I thought it was safe to split up. 

I paused on the landing and looked out the window, as I was descending the stairs. I could see large grey and black clouds rolling towards us. "Storm's brewing!" I yelled up to Lori. She yelled back that she hoped it held off until we were done. Neither one of us really wanted to spend more time here than necessary. 

I picked up a flashlight on my way to the cellar door, along with a bucket of rags and the dusting wand. I made sure that I clomped down the stairs, so any furry beasties could run and hide. I am not afraid of mice or other rodents, but I've no urge to get bitten by scarying them either. There was one hanging bulb near the base of the stairs and one at the top. They offered little better than no light. Holding my dusting wand like a jousting stick and twisting slightly from left to right, I cleared the stairwell of the worst of cobwebs as I descended down into the blackness. My flashlight's narrow beam revealed the usual basement mess. Piles of old newspapers and magazines stood like festering pimples on the floor. Rows and rows of canning jars graced the shelves of one whole wall. Here stood an old chest. Over there an ancient wringer washer, my mother had referred to as a mangler, because if not careful while wringing out the wash you could mash your fingers in it. Webs festooned most things like bunting from some Halloween party of old. I began in one corner and worked my way around the perimeter, feeling grateful, that I just had to knock out the worst of it, and not haul things out. A small wooden chest came crashing down off a shelf, and popped open. I assume it was not properly balanced and my dusting efforts had knocked it over. I stooped and shined my light on the contents; wee shirts, and swaddling clothes. Tiny spoons and other baby paraph in alia. Emily's preparations for the child who was never born. I felt a sadness creep over me, as I gathered the items up and placed them tenderly back in the box, along with a deep longing. I sighed and thought about poor Emily. Again I wondered about what happen to her, if she had murdered her philandering husband , or was she set up for the fall by ome unknown person.

The slamming of the basement door, shook me out of my revelry. "Hey!" I cried mounting the stairs two at a time. I tried pushing the door open, but it refused to budge. "Hey, Lori! Not funny girl!" I felt fear creeping up my neck as I began pounding on the door and lunging against it. I knew it wasn't Lori who had closed it, nor some errant wind. I pounded hard, kicked and screamed at the wooden obstacle. I finally backed down a few steps and threw myself at it. Suddenly, I found myself laying prone on the kitchen floor, as if someone had thrown the door open suddenly. From above me, I could hear things crashing to the floor, and heavy footsteps, as if a struggle was taking place. I stood up, and was assaulted by muted screams. Oh! My God! Lori! I ran full tilt thru the dining room, and grand parlour, bounding up the stairs, yelling her name. My only answer was the screaming, and cries of my friend.

As quickly as I rounded the top of the stairs silence fell abruptly. Close at hand, I could hear thunder rolling, and see that the bedroom door was closed. "Lori?" My hand was shaking as I twisted the knob and eased the door open. "Lor?"

The room was in shambles. Bed clothes torn from the bed, bric a brac hurled about. The vanity mirror smashed . "Lor?" I stared about, with my heart jack hammering in my chest. "Lori?" I strained my ears and could hear muffled mewling, as a small, scared child would make. I found her hiding in the wardrobe, amongst the musty gowns, squashed into a corner she huddled. "Lori?" I kept my voice as soft as I could. I reached in and touched her. "Lor? It's me, Sweetie. It's Jan. It's OK, I'm here." It seemed to take her an eternity to lift her head and look at me. Then with a small cry, she literally hurled herself, into my arms, clinging to me, as a drowning person might a lifesaver. "Lori, what happened?" 

"Out," she gasped, "Out, now, " and she began pulling me towards the door. Her face bore hand prints as if she had been smacked, and her clothes were torn. Jesus Christ, what had happen? The questions would keep until we were at least down stairs, out of this room which felt as warm as an icebox. Again, I had the uneasy feeling of being watched as we made our way to the stairs. Behind us I heard the door slam shut. 

Almost as if on cue, a large clap of thunder sounded, and the bellies of the clouds split open, issuing forth not rain, but golf ball sized hail. Lori, issued a small cry and I jumped at the sound, as we ran for the front door. Jerking it open, we both stared in dismay, as hail bounced everywhere, making a horrible din as it pounded on the roof, and smashed into my car. It was coming down so fast, and furious, we could barely see the car a mere three feet from the door. I glanced back nervously up the stairs. Who or what lurked there, I didn't know, but it seemed content to stay there, behind the bedroom door for now. I drew a deep breath, common sense was arguing both sides of the fence. We were not safe in the house. It would not be safe out in the car either. I stared into Lori's face, she had gone into a form of shock, and was incapable of helping me decide what to do. I don't know how long we stood in the open doorway, watching the hail pelt the ground and anything else in it's way, before Lori began to tremble. Instinctively, I led her away from the open door and into the back parlor. I laid her down on the sofa, and undid both sleeping bags laying them on her like quilts. I scanned her for symptoms as best I could. Her pulse was rapid, and her breathing shallow. She seemed unresponsive, her eyes blankly staring. The red marks on her face were fading, and I didn't see bruises forming. I closed the double doors on either side of the room, and ran the broom handles threw the door handles. A crude but effective barricade. I dumped out Lori's purse looking for the cell phone. Did 911 exist out here in the boonies? I flipped it open, and dialed. Static and a low beeping filled my ear. Low battery. Damn! How many times did I tell her the thing needed to be kept charged? Now what am I suppose to do? Paniced thoughts, like scurrying mice scampered through my head. Calm down, I ordered myself. 
I heard something thump on the floor above. I stared upwards as if I could penetrate the ceiling with my eyes, and see who was there. My mouth felt dry. Lori whimpered.

The hail's constant banging was diminishing, but now thunder rolled and lightening was cutting its jagged patterns. I stoked up the fire, and cursed myself for having dropped the flashlight somewhere. I sat on the edge of the sofa, and stroked Lori's hair. "C'mon, Lor...snap out of it." Minutes ticked by, each one seeming to last an hour, while I wrestled with myself as to what to do. "I guess we have to wait out the storm," I spoke to Lori. "Then we'll haul ass to town. Get the sheriff or someone to come out here." I jumped with each flash of lightening, every crash of thunder. I got up and paced from one entry to the other. Would those handles hold if someone really wanted in? Stop it. What if it wasn't a someone but a something that had attacked Lori? Stop it! Can you lock out ghosts? STOP IT! I screamed inwardly at myself. Control. Total, complete control of yourself. Going to pieces wasn't going to help Lori or myself. Stop feeding your fears, dammit! I breathed deeply, and caught a soft scent . I sniffed again. Lilacs? Why on earth would I be smelling lilacs?

Lori stirred, mumbling. I went to her saying, "I'm here, Lor. You're OK. Talk to me ..." She blinked once, twice. "Jan?" She sat up uncertainly.

"Lor!" I cried out hugging her. "God, you had me scared, Girl."

She gazed about the room curiously. "Just us here, Jan?"

"Just us chickens. Why?"

" I thought I heard a woman telling me to wake up," She smiled weakly at me. 

"I've been saying that for a while now, Lor."

"Wasn't your voice," she frowned, " besides she smelled like lilacs."

"She did?"

"Yeah ...and you smell of cleaners."

"Gee, thanks. You feel ok?"

She grew pensive, and gingerly touched her face. She turned towards the window." We can't leave in that. Can we?" She nodded indicating the storm. I didn't answer. "We got any beer left?"

"I'll see," I smiled at her sounding like the old Lori, as I rummaged in the cooler."Here, you go," I tossed her a can. She popped it open and took a long pull. "What happen up there, Lor?"

"You'll think I'm crazy."

"No, I won't. Haven't I always believed you?"

She nodded, and began her tale.

" I know this is going to sound totally crazy," Lori began between sips of beer. " But, shortly after you left the room, I got the feeling I was being watched. I know, you think I'm sort of paranoid at times. Sometimes, I think so too, so I tried to shrug it off.

I started cleaning the mirror, and this one smudge kept coming back. Only each time it got bigger. I was really rubbing it, when I thought I saw someone behind me. I turned, but I was alone. The room seemed to be getting colder. And that feeling of not being alone, got worse. Then I felt someone touching my hair, and face. I tried to run, but the door slammed shut! I couldn't open it! And- and I started screaming for you, Jan. Only you didn't come. Then all hell broke loose, in there. Covers being yanked off the bed, things being thrown -I was being grabbed and slapped! Only, I couldn't SEE anyone!" She drew breath, as a tear trailed down her cheek. " I remember hearing voices, only I couldn't hear what they were saying really. Just loud, angry sounds. I was slapped so hard, I fell to the floor. Something was on me, tearing at my clothes. I distinctly heard two words, 'bitch' and 'whore'. I kept screaming for you. Finally, I managed to crawl into that closet ... God, Jan, have I gone crazy?"

I tried to smile at her. "No, I don't think so. I don't know exactly what is going on, but I'll get us out of here as fast as I can." Just then, a thin red volume flew off the table and onto the floor, causing us both to jump. 

"What's that?" Lori gasped.

I didn't need to pick it up, "Emily's diary."

"Emily?"

It was my turn to do some explaining. I showed Lori the yellowed newspaper with the account of Jonathan's gruesome death, and told her what I had read of Emily's journal. "Do you think she did it?" She asked after confirming this was the same head she had seen in the oven. 

"I dunno but something sure isn't right here." another roar of thunder shook the windows. "You ok?" Lori still seemed very pale and shaken to me. 

"Yeah, just don't leave me alone. OK?" I nodded. "Maybe, you're suppose to read more of that?" She nodded at the book in my hand.

"Maybe.." I flipped it open and looked for the passage where I had left off.

continue