Maddie Ann s Playground, p.1
Maddie Ann’s Playground
By Mackenzie Drew
Stonehedge Publishing Company
Copyright © 2007 by Mackenzie Drew
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. All characters are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I would like to dedicate this book to my husband, my children, my parent’s, my childhood friends (you know who you are) and my baby cousin, Shealynn Maine, who is no longer with us.
~”Lord protect me from my friends, I can take care of my enemies .”~ Voltaire, 1694-1778
Claire Barton heard what the elders said about Old Creek cemetery. “Keep far away from that place. The devil lives there and he will kill you.” Was the old legend nonsense or did the town folk actually know the truth behind it? She had to give it deep consideration before she included her friends in her Halloween night escapade.
Surely, she did not believe the legend? She laughed at unrealistic tales. Ghosts, witches, and demons did not cross her mind. She had fire in her belly, a high-spirited individual, who craved cheap thrills.
As she thought more about it, she did, after all, agree to do this to get a date with Mitch Styles. He told her she could have him if she spent the night with the dead. How could she resist? She wanted this guy since the second grade and now that he offered himself to her, she wasn’t about to turn him down. She reasoned with herself that it was just a cemetery and things like that didn't really happen.
While that thought stirred through her mind, she rushed to her locker to grab her books and waited on her friends to get out of class. With time to spare, she caught a glimpse of Mitch. Captain of the football team for Emerson High, he looked so desirable in his letterman’s jacket. She lusted over his hazel eyes that complemented the wavy blond hair that snuggled his ears. His smile, the famous smile she dreamt of often, revealed deep dimples in his cheeks. She wondered what her life would be like if only she had him for herself.
Her mind digressed from her surroundings and she jumped when Jennifer tapped her on the shoulder.
“Whatcha doin’?” Jennifer shoved her books in the back of her locker and slammed the door shut.
Claire sighed. “Waiting for you guys to show up. Why?”
“I saw you looking at him. Please tell me you’re not considering asking him out? You know how much I despise him,” Jennifer said.
Claire huffed, rolling her eyes. “Why do you hate him so much? I mean, my Gawd, Jen, look at him.” She almost drooled as she fantasized being in his arms and making out with him.
“Let’s not talk about Mitch. We have plenty of time to discuss your love life, but right now, we need to find the other girls and hurry to the park.”
Claire snatched her bag from the bottom of her locker and followed Jennifer out to the parking lot. Before getting in her car, Claire caught one last glimpse of Mitch. She watched as he climbed into his red Suburban with his loud friends. She couldn’t take her mind off this guy. His looks and spunkiness revved her hormones to overdrive. Perhaps she yearned for his popularity. Whatever caused the attraction, it made her mad with lovesickness.
“Is everybody ready?” Claire asked. She wanted to flee before the traffic became murder.
“As ready as I’m gonna be,” Lisa said. She squirmed between the girls.
“Good, because we have a party to plan,” Claire added.
As they pulled out of the school parking lot, she cranked up the music as they drove toward the City Park.
“You know girls, we’re bad. I mean, think about it for a sec. I believe we have the trashiest mouths out of the rest of the girls at school. I dunno why we do things we’re not supposed to,” Jennifer wondered. She eyed her friends in the backseat with a guilty look.
“Hey, Cravens, speak for yourself. I know my mouth isn’t as venomous as yours. Just ask anyone,” Kari retorted laughing.
“Come on you guys, it’s fine if we’re different. That’s what makes us so unique. I prefer unique,” Claire added.
The Wisconsin fields rolled past the joyful group in the convertible like flying carpets of green. The smooth hum of the powerful Ford engine alone prevented silence as the miles flew by.
Claire pulled into the park at a speed far too fast and hit a speed bump that raked across the bottom of the car. To her dismay, she noticed a police car parked up the way prompting her to sink in her seat.
“Crap, I hope the police didn’t see what I just did,” she said trying to see up over the dashboard.
“If you don’t watch where the hell you’re going, that will be the least of your worries,” Kari intervened.
Claire sat back up in the seat and parked by a sheltered, wooded area to hide the car. After catching her breath from the scare, the girls piled out and made a mad dash around the lake and straight up the dirt path to The Rock. Off to the side facing a vast open field, sat a huge boulder sat where the girls shared their secrets and dreams. “The last one up is a rotten egg,” Liz shouted down to the girls below her. She didn’t say much, but when she did, it was usually because the girls ignored her.
“Oh puleezzzze, as if we still fall for that crap. We're not ten anymore,” Kari said as she scrambled up The Rock.
Liz’s smile slanted. Claire knew she hated Kari’s smart attitude because it always spoiled the moment. Her miniskirt hiked up her thighs as her feet took hold.
Kari went up behind her. She snagged the hem of her hoodie on a sharp piece of rock, leaving a hole in it. “Dang it, my mom just bought me this,” she complained.
“Come on girls, quit your whining,” Claire said. “We don’t have much daylight left, so let’s use it wisely.”
“Does anyone have any new ideas for the Halloween party, or should we throw another lame bash like last year?” Jennifer asked. “If it were me who had to decide, I’d say we should do something daring.” She looked straight into Claire’s surprised eyes and grinned.
“Gee, Jen, I don’t know; would you like to plan this yourself? I’ll arrange it and that way, I don’t have to worry. Shoot, I’ll sit on my ass and watch you do it all.” Claire crossed her arms and gritted her teeth, her hair falling in her eyes as she glared at Jen.
Lisa broke the tension between Claire and Jennifer before they said something they’d regret. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her designer jeans. She batted her eyes as if to be funny and said, “Since we want to do something different, I say we invite some college guys like we wanted to do last year but didn’t.”
Claire shook her head. Annoyance coursed through her.
“What’s wrong with inviting an older crowd to hang out with?” Lisa asked, crinkling her nose.
“Hold on. You know my mom will not allow college guys’ to the party, so why even bring it up,” Claire replied, certain of herself.
Jennifer shifted her gaze toward the others, and said, “These ideas sound corny. Claire, you have to admit that. I say we do something we’ve never tried.”
Claire looked into Jennifer's scheming dark-as-midnight eyes and threw a thick lock of blonde hair over one shoulder. She leaned back away from the others, shook her head, and zipped her lips. Jennifer took the hint to shut her mouth.
“Wait a minute, what’s wrong with the way we’ve always done it?” Tina ask
“Because it’s boring,” Kari added. “We do the same crap every year. We dress up, eat until we’re so fat we can’t breathe, dance with the same nerds that we’ve danced with year after year, and have nightmares from regret.”
Claire decided she knew best. She’d throw the party however she saw fit, and if her friends didn’t like it, they didn’t have to come.
The sun started to set behind the woods across the field. Jennifer scooted to the edge of the rock, dropped her purse to the ground and climbed down. As she reached the bottom, Claire nudged her aside letting the other girls go ahead. “You just about blew it. Try to keep your mouth shut next time,” she said and walked off.
Jennifer grimaced from Claire’s insult, needing to be alone to think about stuff that bothered her. In the distance, she watched her friends gather in the car while she stopped to look in the lake. She gazed around her surroundings and saw an old rowboat tied to a long pier that swayed back and forth in the water. Moving a little closer to take a better look, a glassy film skimmed the top of the water and displayed the waning colors of the sunset. As she took in its beauty, she heard a gentleman’s voice as it called to her so pleasantly.
“I’m over here, Jennifer. Come to the water so you can see me,” he said.
Fear raced through her heart. Her throat tightened. “Who said that?”
“I need to see you, my love.”
She did not want to do this. Why did he need her and why the urgency? “Who are you,” she shouted. “Why do you want me to look at your face?” She inched her way towards the demanding voice.
Just as she knelt close to the water, a rotten muck stench wafted into her nostrils. She covered her nose and fell back on her hand. Oh God, she mumbled and then raised herself up to look back into the water. Suddenly, the wavy reflection of her face vanished and she saw a beastly man with dark black eyes, jet-black hair, and a disturbing grin reach for her.
“You belong to me, Jennifer,” the fiend whispered. “I will take you back…someday soon, and then we can live together again in our beautiful mansion. It’s our destiny, my beautiful.”
Jennifer shook her head in denial. Warm tears rained down her face. She tried to speak, but nothing came out. Her gaze fixed on the unreal man in the water.
“Why must you torture yourself in such a way? The more you fight it, the worse the situation becomes for you. Now relax and let me do what I’ve come to do,” he said softly.
As his arms reached further out of the water, Jennifer recoiled. Her heart slammed against her rib cage. She balled her fists and a sudden wind emerged from her lungs. “Noooooooo….” She fell to the wet earth as her body weakened. “Oh god, please help me,” she sobbed. “Make it go away.”
The man rose from the water and walked toward her. He reached down and lifted her to stand on wobbly legs. “I demand you listen to me Jennifer. I’m your husband, K….”
“Jennifer, my Gawd, what’s going on down here?” Claire grabbed her from behind and embraced her. “I heard you screaming from the car. What happened?”
Jennifer pulled away and watched the spirit fade into the mist that hovered over the water. She placed her hands on her face and cried. “I don’t want to talk about it. Just get me out of this place,” she said.
Claire lowered Jennifer’s hands. “Your eyes are all red and puffy. Why are you crying? We’re not going anywhere until you tell me what happened to you.”
“A man came out of the water after me. Now get me the hell out of here before he comes back,” she yelled.
Claire shook her head and helped Jennifer up the path to the car. When they got in to leave, she placed her hand on Jennifer’s arm, and said, “We will talk about this later, so try to calm down, okay.”
Jennifer saw the sincerity in her friend’s eyes. She meant well she was sure of, but it did not ease the pain she caused her. Here lately, Jennifer noticed Claire’s frequent mood swings and how she snapped at her for any little thing she did. Was Mitch the instigator who influenced her attitude change or did she do this unintentionally?
Not only did Jennifer question her and Claire’s friendship, she wasn’t sure about spending the night in an old abandoned hospital. The idea felt all wrong. Who in their right mind would sleep where people have died on Halloween night? Freaks came to mind, those who worshiped the dark side and she was far from being a pale face, a nickname the kids from school called them.
Doing as Claire suggested, she slumped down in the seat to relax, but the encounter with the strange man from the lake still frightened her. Before she got comfortable, Claire pulled into a gas station to let the girls off.
“See you all tomorrow,” Claire said waiting for them to pile out. “Make sure you bring a change of clothes and a sleeping bag.”
The girls waved as they drove off leaving them in a convenient store parking lot. The car became silent. Jennifer stared out the window.
“I didn’t mean to be so straightforward, but I’ve been under a lot of stress and I haven’t had time to resolve my problems,” Claire said. “I hope you’ll forgive my insensitive attitude.”
Jennifer patted her on the arm. “I’ll live Claire. I take things the wrong way instead of trying to understand, and you’re right, I do have a problem keeping my mouth shut.”
Claire looked as though she wanted to add something, but held her tongue.
Jennifer looked at the unfamiliar road. “Claire, where are you going? I thought we agreed to check out the abandoned hospital.”
“I know but I wanted you to see this place first. I think you’ll like it better. It’s the old cemetery at the edge of town. You know…the one about the legend.”
“No, I guess I never paid any attention to the town’s old stories. So, what about it?” Jennifer asked putting her hair up in a ponytail.
“You remember the Watson family that buried their dead in that graveyard. You know how creepy they are.”
“Oh, God, yes, I remember.”
“Well, according to legend, no one goes out there anymore. Some of the people even said they saw ghosts in that cemetery.”
“I don’t have a good feeling about this, Claire.”
“Come on, let’s just go take a look, scaredy-cat,” Claire said and pulled into a convenience store. “You wanna grab some chips and a soda?”
“I’d like a Coke if you’re buying.”
Claire smiled and got out of the car.
The harvest moon sat deep in the night sky bathing the underbrush in its amber glow. Jennifer got comfortable in the front seat of Claire’s car, gazing out at the shadows mingling among the cornfields in front of her. As her eyes set in a fixed glassy stare, she noticed a shabby farmhouse behind the gas station that sat up on a hill surrounded by shriveled trees. What she could see of it, the aged porch leaned to one side and a dim light burned inside the downstairs window close to the front door. Chills crept up her spine by the looks of the old place. Her imagination ran amok.
She heard crackling sounds from the dried cornhusks as they swayed in the wind, and each time they crackled, she blinked and huddled further down in the seat. This time, fear affected her differently as a child’s laughter chimed overhead. She shivered. Gooseflesh rose to the tip of her spine and spread up into her face. Her teeth chattered and as the fright coursed through her, she muttered, “For the love of God Claire, hurry! This place gives me the creeps.”
Jennifer’s mind went into a deep place as she thought about the cemetery. A sudden rap on the driver side window startled her. The minute she rolled down the window, a musky stench wafted in her face. A girl stood outside the car wearing a beige gauze dress that hung loose around her ankles, and she had on old leather laced up boots. Her long brown hair hung in matted braids, and dirty rings covered her neck. The word 'homeless' came into Jen's mind. Where did she come from?
As a scream stuck in her throat, Jennifer asked, “Who…who are you?”
“I’m Maddie Ann’s cousin, Alisa Kay. Stay away from the cemetery! I’ve come to warn you; you’re all going to die.”
Jennifer chuckled, not believing her for a minute, and slid over to the driver’s side, sarcasm in her voice. “Did someone put you up to this? Let me guess, Claire, right?”
“Please, listen to me, I don’t have much time. They know you’re coming, and they want to kill you, just like they did….”
Jennifer interrupted. “Just stop. I don’t understand any of this. For that matter, I don’t even know you. Get away from the car. I have no money to give you.” She started to withdraw away from the window.