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The Halloween Project 2019: Good Bones - Part 2

The next three weeks found Andy in any of three places; Police Department, Public Library, or asleep and dreamless in her own bed. The police offered less than nothing. They dusted and diagrammed, photographed everything, checked with neighbors. The detective in charge began to toss suggestions that perhaps Rob had fashioned his own disappearance. Andy struggled to not swear at the officer. The Public Library was a much better source of history and information. Their new town, Miskamet, was a hotbed of myth and legend over the centuries. Witches had been tried and punished in the 1600's, and much of their legacy had survived. Cult activities, strange religious sects and ghost stories were rampant in the personal journals that she read in a far alcove of the library's oldest wing. Charlotte Blaney was correct on one account. Manasa Cutridge and his entire family had disappeared, but not 100 or even 150 years before. They had actually vanished in 1794, ten years after Cutridge built the house. One autumn week they were regular neighbors and worshiping churchgoers, the next they were gone; clothing, utensils, even farm animals left as if the family had stepped outside for a walk through the lower field. It was a night three days later, the darkest of hours, Andy still twisting in troubled sleep, that Rob returned. She snapped awake abruptly and saw his outlined, shadowy figure, back to her, sitting on the edge of the bed. She snapped on the bed table light. Her whisper barely pierced the silence, "Rob?" He turned slowly and Andy gasped not of fright, but from concern. "Rob!" She gathered him in her arms. Even in the dim light she could trace his gaunt appearance, the deepened lines caked with dust, eyes rimmed by redness and bags. "Rob!" She exclaimed again. He remained silent. Later, dawn edging the kitchen window, Rob showered and changed, sitting with a cup of coffee, Andy tossed questions. He was slow to answer, haggard in voice and manner. "But where were you?" "I don't know, Andy, I just don't know." "Were you kidnapped?" A shake of Rob's head. "You look terrible. Were you fed? What happened? It's been almost a month!" Rob shrugged and turned to look out the window. Then he said, "I know things, Andy. Things I shouldn't know. And I have messages, or maybe more like commands. Things I," he stopped, "things we have to do." "You're not making sense," Andy replied. "I know. We don't have much time or it will only get worse. He'll take us. He'll take us both this time. Forever. We have to go to the basement. Now." "Rob, you're scaring me. You're really, really scaring me. Whatever has happened to you has affected you badly. I'm calling the police and I'm calling 911 right now. You need to go to the hospital." Andy was surprised how quickly Rob moved and snatched her wrist, holding tightly, holding her fast at the table. "Do you love me?" he began, "Do you trust me? I promise you we can call the police and 911 as soon as we're finished. In the basement." She could not answer. No words came. Andy searched his eyes and recognized the Rob she loved. "Alright," and then again, "Alright." They descended the steps hand in hand. When reaching the bottom Rob leaned and took a pickaxe and small spade from where they rested against the wall. He moved to the farthest northern corner of the basement. Hefting the axe he brought it down sharply on the thin layer of concrete that had covered the floor for the last 50 years. It splintered easily and in a few minutes, beaded with sweat, he grasped the spade and dug in the hard earth beneath. A foot down in a widening hole he came upon the first bones. Slightly exposed were fingers, carpals and a boney wrist, small, a child's hand. "Oh my God!" Andy gasped, covering her eyes and face with both hands. "The children are here. And Manasa's wife. Innocent. Murdered," Rob said, "and over there..." he pointed to the south corner, "Manasa." He moved quickly. "We don't have much time Andy." Again the pickaxe, then the spade and within another space of time an opening revealed bony structure, the front of a skull, brow and eye sockets. A low howl began, first with deep resonance, then rising into decibels of a higher pitch. "Rob! Rob! What is this?! What is happening!" Andy yelled above the wailing. "He murdered them all! His own family, wife and children! And buried them there," he pointed to the far corner. "But how did he end up here?" she cried out. "Someone found out, I don't know who. Someone who paid him back for his madness, his insanity. And placed him here." A screeching wind rose. Andy's hands moved from her mouth to her ears. It rebounded from wall to wall, encompassing the stone basement, growing louder each second. A man's cursing, malevolent epithets, battling against the screeching sound of children's' voices. Rob began to shout, inches from Andy's face, "He's returning! He wants more! He wants us! But the children are trying to fight him. They're not strong enough. They need help. They need us." "What?! What are you talking about? What do they need?!" Andy yelled, trying to reach above the deafening crescendo of screeching wails. Rob grabbed Andy by both shoulders and fell to his knees pulling her down. Her face was an inch from his when through the maelstrom he screamed, "They need bones! Good bones! Innocent bones!" He leaned back and dropped both hands. Reaching, he grabbed the pickaxe with his right hand, flipped it 180 degrees so the flat blade extended downward and placed his left hand on the floor. With a quick precise blow, arcing through the sound and wind circling the basement, he brought the blade down, severing his pinky and ring finger from his left hand. His wedding ring skittered across the floor, spinning wildly, and dropped into the hole then into the eye socket of Manasa Cutridge's skull. Rob screamed and strained, his neck extending toward the ceiling. He reached down, grasped his fingers and tossed them in the hole. The wind and sound quelled for thirty seconds, then a pained shriek followed, a single moment of near silence and the high-pitched howl began to rise again. "It's not enough! God help us, it's not enough!" Rob shouted. Through the erupting violence and babel of screeching voices Andy looked at Rob. She saw his eyes and heard his plea. She loved him. She trusted him. Andy raised her left hand to his view, splayed her fingers as wide as possible and placed her hand flat on the concrete. He looked at her for just a moment and then brought the pickaxe blade down again. The same two fingers snapped, almost surgically, from her hand. Her wedding band remained on the stump of her ring finger. The pain came a millisecond later. She screamed above the ear crushing wails of the basement. Rob tossed the fingers into the hole. The competing cries, screams and freight train volume reached a crescendo and silenced. Only Andy still sobbed, anguished heaving escaping her lips. The basement, stone-walled and grey, filled with other silences. Above them in the kitchen they heard a barking dog. #

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