The Old Haunt
by Dawn DeBraal
Rainy closed her eyes, and let the feeling wash over her. She’d met Anton in a séance, after hiring a woman to remove spirits from her house. The sudden knock, the sound of the house settling, was more than that. She sensed them, heard them at night. She knew when she bought the house they were there but not who they were.
Anton came through during the exorcism. Madame Follett gave Rainy a message from him. He had died in her house of diphtheria in 1905, and his spirit never left. He was waiting for his wife to meet up with him. During his illness, she’d run out in the night to get a doctor, and had never returned.
Anton had no concept of time. Now, one hundred and fourteen years later, he was unable to move on without help. Through Madame Follett, he asked Rainy to let him stay where he was comfortable. Rainy would not know of his existence unless she wanted to. He needed to figure out how to leave on his own but at the same time, wanted to find out what happened to his wife. Rainy could feel his presence. Her instinct told her she didn’t have anything to fear from him, and she felt sorry for the man, so she agreed he could stay long enough to find his own way to leave this world.
There had been several owners to the house on Elm Street. Rainy was able to buy it cheaply only because the last owner gave up trying to get what the house was worth. It was an old Victorian home that had a reputation for being haunted. New owners never seemed to live there very long before the beautiful home was back on the market. Each time it sold, the price went down instead of up. The house was a showpiece to the period. She was honored to live there.
Rainy had found Madame Follett online. It was she who came to perform an exorcism on the house. Madame was able to rid the home of several spirits before stopping short of banishing Anton when he begged to stay. At least now, Rainy knew who her haunter was. She no longer felt the others when the séance was done. Only Anton remained.
It came slowly, the change between Anton and Rainy. She began to talk to him. First, in her mind, and then she found herself speaking out loud to him. One morning, Rainy was missing her car keys and was going to be late for work. She panicked.
“Anton, I need your help. I need my keys,” she said in desperation. She felt a slight breeze on her neck, pushing her from the left. She walked to the right. Entering the kitchen, she felt the breeze again. Turning around, she spied her keys on the shelf above the sink. She would never have thought to look for them there. Rainy was the type of person who put her keys on a hook in her purse or the key holder. She grabbed them, and held them to her. Closing her eyes, she thanked the spirit for his help.
When Rainy walked through the door that night, she wished Anton a good evening. The hall light came on by itself. A little unsettling, but she still thanked Anton. It was like having a home monitor that knew commands. At that moment, Rainy realized she was uncomfortable with Anton in her house. When he had been quiet, it was easy to forget he was around but now that he interacted with her, she had to deal with that reality. She was regretting ever asking for his help.
Rainy felt strange dressing and undressing in front of Anton. She took her bath and got dressed in the dark. As the months dragged by, Rainy talked about everything in her life, knowing Anton was listening. She felt they were growing closer, and thought she was a little off for accepting this situation.
Anton found ways to communicate too. Something moved, a sound. Rainy smiled, knowing he was acknowledging her story. She spent the lonely hours with him instead of doing things with friends. She enjoyed the fantasy that was Anton until she saw the pencil on the desk writing on a pad of paper. She couldn’t believe her eyes and walked over to the desk, looking at a note the ghost had left for her.
“Good evening, Rainy,” said the note. Rainy’s jaw dropped along with the letter.
“This is too much. Please, leave me alone,” Rainy cried out. She was afraid to be there in the house with him.
Rainy left for a few hours. She should have never called on Anton in the first place; it was her fault. She treated Anton like a friend who lived with her. How could she be upset that he had responded? Rainy bought a bottle of wine and a take-out dinner home. She poured herself a glass, and ate her supper in silence, grateful that Anton was holding his end of the deal by not trying to engage her again.
A week went by, and Anton kept his word — not a sound or a peep from him. Rainy was curious at what she could find about Anton in courthouse records. Perhaps she could help Anton cross over by giving him the information he desired.
During her lunch hour, she went to the courthouse and talked with the Registrar of Deeds, who helped her pull the history of her property. The house was built in the 1870s, with the first owner staying in the house until they died — the home sold to Anton and Suzanne Mueller, in 1901. Then the house was sold in late 1905, after Anton’s death. Rainy purchased copies of the deeds. It was fascinating to read the history of ownership. In the last one hundred years, no one had lived in the house very long before it went up for sale again.
The next day, Rainy went down to the local newspaper office, and looked up articles from Milltown in 1905. She found Anton’s obituary. His wife, Suzanne, died the day before him. She was hit by a car crossing the street in front of the doctor’s office the night she had left Anton alone. Suzanne died trying to get help for her husband. By the time the authorities found out who Suzanne was, Anton had already died in their house. Rainy found the article of Suzanne’s death and her obituary. She copied the articles.
When Rainy came home from work that night, she told Anton she needed him to listen but still didn’t want to hear him. She read off the history of the house owners from the Registrar. Then she pulled out his obituary, which showed Suzanne had predeceased him. She read the article from the Gazette. The story of Suzanne being hit, crossing the road near the doctor’s office, and read her obituary. If Anton heard her, he didn’t acknowledge it. She told him she was sorry for his loss but that Suzanne had probably crossed over already, and was most likely waiting for him on the other side.
Rainy called Madame Follett a few days later to arrange another appointment. She was determined to help Anton cross over, for she no longer wanted to live with a ghost in her house. It wasn’t fair for Anton to be stuck in the old haunt on Elm Street. She knew if Anton stayed much longer, she would grow too fond of him to let him go.
Madame Follett came to her house. She polished off the crystal ball, setting it on the dining room table, and started her chant. Rainy asked the medium to seek out Anton again, and help him move on from this world. Madame Follett found Anton right away.
“He is here, and he realizes now that Suzanne will never come back to this house. Anton wants to find her, and is willing to move on.” Madame Follett said she opened a gateway to the afterlife, adding, “Anton has asked for a moment with you before he passes.” Madame Follett told Rainy to go to her bedroom, and lay down and be open to Anton’s contact. Rainy thank the woman, letting her out the door.
Rainy then went to her room and lay on the bed, open to everything that was about to happen. She breathed slowly in and out with her eyes closed. She found herself feeling relaxed. She was hovering near sleep when she saw him.
Anton came out of a cloud of mist, dressed in period attire. They looked at one another silently. He had seen Rainy from the first day she walked in the door of her house. She had never seen him before. His hand came out toward her, and she took it. They drew together in a hug. She sensed his gratitude, and saw a bright light open near them. Anton let Rainy go as he stepped into the light, turning one last time, and raising his hand in goodbye. The light portal closed behind him.
Rainy found herself crying. She was glad to help Anton move on to find his beloved Suzanne but he wasn’t able to tell her, without Madame Follett’s interpretation, how he felt.
Rainy stepped away from her vision, knowing there was no Anton. The house truly felt empty. She walked to the dining room, not sensing him anywhere in the house.
Standing in the study, Rainy noticed the notepad on her desk. She crossed the room, and held it up. In Anton’s old-fashioned handwriting:
“Rainy, in over one hundred years, no one has made me feel alive like you have. I am so grateful for your help. Thank you.”
She held the note to her, and silently thanked Anton for taking the time to let her know how he felt.
Rainy left the lights on when she stepped into the bath that night, letting the hot water caress her body. Alone, at last, she relaxed in the tub.
The noise made her jump. Anton. Was he back? She grabbed her robe, and padded into the living room where she thought she’d heard the sound. There didn’t appear to be anything out of place. She could feel her heart beating wildly in her chest.
“No,” she said under her breath, instinctively knowing the house was empty now of all spirits, and she needn’t be afraid.
At that moment, Rainy decided she needed to get herself a cat. Someone to blame for all the things that bumped and creaked in her house.
Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband Red, a slightly overweight rat terrier, and a cat. She has discovered that her love of telling a good story can be written. She has published over 200 stories in many online magazines and anthologies. She was also Falling Star Magazine’s 2019 Pushcart Nominee.