The smell wasn’t so bad. At least, not to me or my husband. But maybe we’re used to it. Maybe our neighbors could smell it on the breeze. But our nearest neighbors were a quarter of a mile away, separated by manicured lawns, lush gardens and an acre of woods. And who would suspect a young married couple, living in a posh gated community filled with gothic mansions, would have a hoarding problem?

Okay, it’s not just your run of the mill hoard. There’s no trash. There’s no floor to ceiling boxes or bags of new clothes or thrift store castoffs. You could walk through our house without any problem. But for the kitchen. Our old, dark, kitchen built with huge square gray stones and high ceilings covered with soot from decades of cooking on the old cast iron stove. There were no modern appliances in our kitchen. The water was hand pumped from the nearby creek and we used wood to fuel the oven and candles to see by. We did have a refrigerator and a freezer, but those were kept outside in a shed, hooked up to the house. There was no electricity in our kitchen.

Our Victorian mansion was one of the oldest in Virginia, dating back to the eighteenth century. It was built just after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The monstrous building was painted white with blood-red shutters and pink gingerbread trim.  The fencing around the front porch, balconies and verandahs were laced with intricate black iron grapevines.  But the kitchen was a bulky, separate structure, built some fifteen feet away in the back yard.

The most peculiar thing about our kitchen, though, was the wide, deep pit in the center of the floor.  It may have once been a well, or a trash chute for all we knew.  I used to worry about falling in to the cavity when we first inherited this house from some long lost second cousin.  But there was no need to worry any longer.  For you see, the hole was now filled with dead bodies.  Over flowing, actually.  The mummified arms and legs, heads and torsos, peeked up past the lip of the hole like a grotesque blossom. 

The hole got so packed we started shoving the bodies in the corners of the large room, and some even up in the wooden rafters of the ceiling.  I got used to gray, curled fingers brushing the top of my head when I walked over to the sink.  When they wouldn’t fit in the tight spaces, we made them fit by any means necessary. You couldn’t walk in to the kitchen without tripping over a head with crispy, matted hair.  And you knew when that happened the expressions on their gaunt, eyeless faces would be full of rebuke.  As if our guests wanted to know how dare we treat the dead with such disrespect?  Oh, if those gaping, toothy grins could talk!

I bumped in to George a few minutes ago, while I was getting our mail down by the road.  He wanted to come up for a visit.  When I refused, he expressed his regret we haven’t had a party in several months.  Our parties were “to die for”.  His words, not mine.

“George, we’re having some repairs done to the house,” I responded, unsure how to dissuade him, yet also growing exited at the prospect of entertaining our friends.

“Well, I think you should throw a Halloween party again.  The one last year was frightfully fun!  Although I haven’t seen Frank and Libby since…”

I had smiled and promised we would see what we could do. 

As I closed the gate behind me and walked up the curvy driveway, the trees flanking each side swayed in the wind.  Dark clouds were quickly rolling in from the south.  Flipping through the mail, I came across a flyer.  Chills danced down my spine and my breath caught in my throat.  This was no ordinary flyer advertising lawn services or gutter cleaning.  The name of the company was Entombments, Incorporated.  Their tagline read, “Let the professionals rid you of your corpses.” 

I often fought off pangs of guilt, concerned our guests’ loved ones were suffering, not knowing what happened to them.  But part of me had no ill feelings at all since the guests in our kitchen were responsible for their own demise.  And one very, tiny part of me was worried we would be found liable as the deaths occurred on our property.  Could we possibly be jailed for not reporting the deaths to the authorities?

Reading the flyer further, Entombments, Inc. promised discrete removal and discrete notification to those in mourning.  Humm.  This was exactly what we needed. 

Inhaling the crisp, stormy air, my step quickened and adrenaline coursed through my veins.  We may very well have a party in time for Halloween after all!

~To Be Continued~

Copyright, Shannon O’Brien 2011

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