I could start with it was a dark and stormy night, but in reality it was the middle of summer when that old house on the hill was sold. Every neighborhood has one, built in a bygone area and succumbing to age. Where kids dare each other but no one takes up on the dare. This house was no exception. Mortar and brick with odd wooden timbers decorating the façade. Weeds covered the front lawn, both dead and alive, while trees of an unknown origin began to make the area once again a woodland.
Some say that the house is haunted by those sacrificed to some unknown god, but nothing was ever found.
“I can’t believe I got the place so cheap,” Anima said as she removed the “For Sale” sign from the front yard.
“This place is a dump,” Raymond replied as he pulled out the last of the yard equipment. Raymond stretching, putting his hands near the small of his back. “Ani, are you sure you want to live here?”
“Yes, dad I do. It has charm.”
“It has weeds.”
Anima just laughed, lifting one of the many cardboard boxes, “Give me some time.”
“How long do you think it will take for you to get this house ready to be sold?”
Anima shrugged, “Dunno. Heck, I just might stay here myself.”
“You’re a strange girl.” Raymond laughed as he followed with his own cardboard box.
“Yeah and you love me, dad.” Anima smiled sweetly over her shoulder towards him.
Raymond just huffed, “Have to, it is in the contract.” A smiled matched hers.
“Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. You wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Anima smiled, wiping sweat from her brow as she looked about the grand living room. Cobwebs no longer clung to every surface and the thick layer of dust was now trapped within several rags waiting to be thrown away.
“Not bad,” she murmured to herself. Her smile was short lived when she spied dust and yet another web clinging to the side of the fireplace. “What the?” her question cut off by an audible click as her mouth snapped shut. A brick size portion of the mantle swung out as she dusted. Anima sneezed. Dust billowed out of the small hole. Her eyebrows furrowed together. She raced back to the entry hall and pulled out a small flashlight from her father’s toolbox. The little light delved deep into the hole. Anima’s eyebrow quirked upward when the little light came across something shiny and black.
Anima whipped here head around at the sound. She shook her head dismissing the sound. The object was smooth next to her skin. She was able to grasp the entire object in her hand. Out came a sleek black wooden box. The box did not have dust clinging to it. The bronze clasp had not tarnished with age. There were no markings on the box. Anima flicked open the clasp and on the deep red velvet lining laid a small scroll, yellowed with age. The scroll, once unrolled, held the entire English alphabet along with symbols in rectangular boxes.
“Odd,” Anima whispered to herself.
“Solve,” the whisper called out again. Anima turned her head to take in the room. No one else was in the room. A cool breeze swept through her and was gone.
The house’s interior finally was done, restored to its old world charm. Grand chandeliers sparkled. Raymond had been over a few times to help his daughter restore and upgrade the electric, even going so far as to produce simulated candle glow and flickers in all of the lights.
“So anything been happening?” Raymond asked as they walked outside to his truck.
“The place is just drafty.” Raymond cocked his head at her statement. Anima just laughed, “Calm down, the place is old.”
“There have been rumors, stories.”
Anima held up her hands to stop Raymond from continuing, “Yes, dad, I have heard them. But it doesn’t mean I have to believe them.”
“Besides, it will give the house more character when I go to sell.”
Anima pulled into the driveway of the house. The house looked closer, dark and unwelcoming. A shiver ran down her spine at the sight.
“Should have left a light on,” she muttered.
The summer rain pelted down on her car, the windshield wipers working, pushing away the water. The bright flash of lightening illuminated the house. Its timbered decorations in stark contract to the deep brick. Anima slammed on her brakes, staring up at the house, “No, it can’t be.”
Anima punched her car into park and ran up the steps. She was thankful that the rain had stopped; now the air surrounding her was just muggy. She raced inside and grabbed a small pad of paper and the small black box. Standing out in the middle of the yard, she opened the box and the scroll inside. The angles within the rectangles matched the drawn rectangles and angles on the scroll. The air chilled around her, her skim clammy as she matched the key scroll to the house timbers.
“One step closer,” a voice whispered about her. A cold rush of air surrounded her as she wrote down the last letter. Her hair whipped about her face. The leaves in the nearby trees did not move. As soon as it had started, the breeze died, allowing the humid air to return.
“Enter foundation to rite you find.”
Anima’s heart pounded with excitement. She held in her hand a clue from ages past. Her hands trembled, her legs shaky as she made her way back into the house.
“The Fremas House was built in 1719 during the Freemason heyday, but this house and those who called it home were an unusual group as they took their codes and oaths to extreme measures.”
Anima sat back. Disappointment clearly written on her face. She could find nothing more. It was just the same ideas and comments written in different views and ways. She chewed on her bottom lip, trying to puzzle out the meaning of the phrase she discovered.
“You know that place you have has a cellar?” an elderly voice said over Anima’s shoulder.
Anima jumped. She turned in her chair and stared directly into the palest light blue eyes she had ever seen. “I’m sorry,” Anima stuttered out.
“No need to be apologizing, tis be my fault.” The elderly woman smiled, her wrinkles deepening around her eyes.
Anima could not help but smile in return, “I’m Anima Kemp. I just moved…”
“Into the house on the hill. I am Shannon, which means old soul, just as yours means spirit warrior.” Shannon settled herself into a hard wooden chair next to Anima.
“How do you know about my name?”
“Sort of a hobby of mine. I learn name meanings. It helps keep mind sharp and body active.”
“I don’t know if there is a cellar, but there is a basement.”
“Basement, cellar, both same things,” Shannon shrugged, “Guess I’m not use to new fangled words everyone uses.”
Anima giggled. Shannon looked again at the scribbled note, “So where did you find this?”
Shannon cocked an eyebrow, “Kids these days.”
“No. No, you have me all wrong.”
Shannon stood, “Don’t mind an old lady. It was a pleasure to meet you.” She turned and walked away.
Anima pulled on the light string and a weak yellow wash of light filled the area. The corners were still deep in shadows. She clicked on the flashlight and scanned the room. A musty, earthy scent permeated the area. She had only brought down boxes, both full and empty, but never paid much attention to the area.
“Okay room, which rite are you speaking about?” she said allowed to the empty room.
“Face North. Go from there.” That same ghostly voice was back again.
“Who are you?” she asked to the empty room.
No reply. She shrugged, but followed the voice’s advice. A shiver ran up her spine when she finally found north. “The sun rises to the east. East is right. Maybe it was a wrong spelling.”
Anima turned towards the eastern wall. Only a few wooden shelves remained. She scanned the wall for anything strange. The entire wall was earth. She ran her hands over the wall, parts crumbling beneath her fingers. Her hand hit an edge. She began to brush away the dirt and found yet another brick size box. The box was embedded deep into the wall, leaving only a few inches. Anima found the closing clasp and sprung the box open. Another small scroll fell into her hands. The paper used felt much newer than the first scroll as she opened it. Curved symbols oddly spaced were written on the paper, but nothing more. Anima looked at the opened box, there was nothing else. No way of knowing how to decipher this new code. Even though her heart raced with excitement, a sense of dread began to fill her.
Anima awoke with a start. Sweat glistening on her skin. The small fan at the foot of her bed dried the sweat, leaving a salty film on her skin. Anima crawled out of bed, leaving the lights off and padded her way towards the bathroom. She flicked on the light casting a harsh glow in the small room.
The cool water washed away the film on her skin, but not the dream she woke up from. Bits of it flashed through her mind. Stone alter covered in blood, transparent souls not able to leave. A beast with horns.
“Way too cliché,” Anima murmured to herself with a laugh. “Maybe Shannon is at the library. She could help me out. She knows this area.”
Anima padded out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around here lithe frame. She stopped in her tracks, the towel falling away, pooling around her feet.
“Who are you?” she stammered out as she bent to reach for the towel, never taking her eyes off the stranger.
He stood there, his hands loosely at his sides. His face impassive at the sight of a nude woman before him. He said nothing. Anima wrapped the towel around her once again, making sure it was securely tucked. She was able to get a good look at him, actually through him, but at him nonetheless. He wore a severe suit, possibly tailored she thought. She could not make out the color, but it was dark. Around his waist, he wore an apron so if the jacket was closed it could not be seen. He wanted her to look at the apron for he had left his jacket open.
The apron was white, a stark contrast to his clothing. Symbols were marked along the apron. Anima could make out a snake with wings and a protractor. She blinked to clear her fuzzy sight and the man was gone. Anima shook her head and noticed for the first time that the sun had risen since she first saw the gentleman.
Anima waited as the librarian opened the door. The day had quickly turned overcast and muggy with the threat of another summer storm.
“Morning, miss,” the librarian said as she held open the door for Anima.
“Morning. Does it always rain this much during the summer?”
The librarian shook her head, “No. Can’t recall when we had summer storms.”
A glint caught Anima’s attention. The librarian’s earrings were unique. A snake with wings wrapped around a protractor. “Interesting earrings,” Anima commented.
The librarian push her hair to cover up the earrings and left Anima along without a reply. The computers were up and connected to the Internet. Anima could not get a signal at the house nor was she ready to get the house hard wired for it yet, still other things needed to be done. She chaged her approach to her search and looked for the symbols of snakes and protractors. The Fremas House was mentioned again. That same sense of excitement coursed through her veins. It was extinguished she could not find any reasoning behind it.
“Time for the old fashioned approach,” she whispered. The librarian looked at her with distaste because she spoke. Anima held her hands up as an apology and wandered back into the older records room. She donned the disposable white gloves that were required and found her way back to the records that started with 1720, a year after the house was built. The smell of aged paper filled the room. There were numerous books from that time period, though only one caught her attention “Codes and Symbols”. She took the book back to a reading corral and thumbed through its pages. There was nothing about snakes, protractors or any mentions of the Fremas House. Her heart sank, thinking she had hit a dead end. She continued to flip pages without really reading. One page in the codes section caught her attention. She thumbed through the loose papers in her notebook, finding the latest scroll. The symbols matched. She smiled as she decoded the newest message.
As she finished the last word, the room turned to freezing as she quickly gathered her things, leaving the book open, and ran out the building.
Yep, that Fremas house is a strange place. The “For Sale” sign went back up awhile ago. No one rightly knows what happened to that young lady. Some say she just up and left. Others say the house took another soul for feeding. Maybe folks are right after all; beware of old houses that are up for sale.