Thanks for your patience as I work through my computer issue. Here is Chapter 24. HINT: Linda isn't as vapid as everyone thinks :)
If you are just catching up, see the CHAPTERS section to read the Prologue-Chapter 23 before proceeding to Chapter 24.
Otherwise, read from the word go :)
The dreams had started for Linda the week before she left with her parents to visit relatives in Bangor, Main that summer before senior year. The dreams were fairly innocuous in the beginning. All she saw was a field in front of a large, stone castle. There was no sound and no wind and her vision was hazy so she couldn’t quite make out any real details of the castle. As she tried to walk through the fields to get to the castle, it was as though she were wading through quicksand instead of in a field of grass. This was something that occurred every night over that week prior to the Parker family vacation.
Linda had spent the evening before her family left with Jimmy. Jimmy’s parents had gone out for the evening with Linda’s parents, the Matthew and Liz Blake, and a couple other families in town. Jimmy’s younger sister, Amanda, was also gone for the entire night staying a girlfriend’s house. As always, ever since their first real night together, Jimmy and Linda took as much advantage as they could with the few hours of freedom they had. She had fallen asleep in Jimmy’s bed after they had used it to express their wild desires for one another. Linda had had the dream again, only this time she was standing closer to the castle. Much closer, though she still couldn’t quite describe it in detail as there was still a haze about her dream. She was gently shaken awake by Jimmy telling her that their parents would be coming back within the next hour. As Linda rose from Jimmy’s bed to dress herself, she thought about telling Jimmy about the recurring dream but stopped herself. The thing was, she didn’t really know how to describe the dream. Nothing really bad had occurred so it wasn’t exactly a nightmare, but it also wasn’t one that anyone would really wish to enter into everynight.
The only thing that happens is me staring at a castle that I can’t see very well, she had thought. It really wasn’t anything. Just a little…offsetting?
Linda had thought about asking Gail about it as she knew that her friend had been doing a little reading on dream interpretation. And Dorothy read the writings of people like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe who also wrote about dreams. But something was also keeping her from confiding in her friends and she would soon figure out what that was. Sort of.
Linda would purchase the dagger that would surprise all her friends and lead to the altercation with Gail three months later on the third day of her family’s vacation in Main. Even Linda wouldn’t exactly know what it was that drove her to that dagger or even the antique shop it was sold at. Her friends were right. It wasn’t something Linda would have typically paid much attention to, let alone purchase. The strange dreams had continued and even elaborated on themselves when Linda and her parents had stayed at Linda’s grandparents from her mother’s side.
Eva Parker was of Norwegian heritage and there was even said to be some Viking ancestory. The house of Linda’s grandparents was quite large and dated back pre-civil war. The house was dark and much of the décor boasted the Norwegian Viking heritage. There were also many paintings of the ocean with ship vessels on them, some of them in the middle of a sea storm. Statues and figurines of many mythical sea creatures, such as the Selkie, were spread throughout the house and there was even a replica of a Viking ship hanging on the mantle above the fireplace.
Linda knew that if given the chance to come up, Gail and Dorothy would have a ball exploring the house, checking out the paintings and statues of creatures and sea legends they had both read a lot about. As a little girl, Linda loved to explore the house, especially during a thunderstorm. Her favorite stories were about the Selkie, the sea sirens, and mermaids. Even as a child there was something about the whole femme fatal story that appealed to her along with the romance that came along with a beautiful, alluring woman who would sing or just make herself visually appealing to the sailor of her desire. Of course, she also loved the fairytales that told of the beautiful princess being rescued by her handsome prince. Those stories had left a lasting impression on a young Linda. Something that she would carry with her into her late teen years. Howard Parker had always referred to his daughter as his ‘princess’ as Linda was an only child. Linda had also learned from her mother that men are attracted to physical beauty first before anything else. So best to make yourself appear as presentable as possible so you will be sure to get him, Eva had told her daughter, then you can entertain him with other charms later. And that’s just what Linda did.
As she grew, Linda began to replace her fairytale stories with reading columns about attracting a potential suitor. For as long as Linda could remember, it had been her life dream to find a handsome, caring man to fall in love with and get married to, which during her sophomore year, she had found in Jimmy. When it came to having ‘marital relations’ with someone, Eva had given her daughter “the talk” when Linda’s menstrual cycles began at age eleven. But unlike what Liz had told Dorothy, Eva hadn’t really made any specifications of waiting until marriage to Linda. The advice that Linda had gotten from her mother was that if she was going to have such relations with a boy, just make sure that there wouldn’t be any ‘getting into trouble.’ Linda also learned a great deal from Bernice, who had already begun necking with boys from the eighth grade, though that was also the year that Bernice’s liking for Carl was in it’s early phases. Like Linda, Bernice had also developed earlier than many of the girls in their class. It had been very awkward for both girls at first. They were beginning to acquire attention from boys that neither knew what to do with at first. Bernice had made friends with some older high school girls who, by night, were getting into the liberated flapper lifestyle of the 1920s. They were sneaking off to some of the jazz clubs and speakeasies in town as well as around New York City. Bernice, who appeared older than her eleven and twelve years, had managed to go with a group of the girls a time or two and get into the clubs. Linda remembered the day she, Gail, Dorothy, and some other girls from school had sat listening to Bernice tell of the clubs and some of the things that the older teens and adults would do. Of course, some girls balked at Bernice for being ‘less than respectable.’ If that did bother Bernice, she never showed it and simply wrote the girls off as being jealous.
Linda had to admit that at that time, she admired Bernice, her confidence, and the fact that she didn’t seem to care about what other people thought of her (which was also a trait of Gail’s that Linda liked). Linda had very much wanted to be that way, to be loose and free and living life according to her own rules. But the more Linda watched Bernice, the more she realized that Bernice’s life and choices weren’t what Linda wanted for herself. Linda would be happy using what she had to land one special boy she could be with and who would be her prince, just like her childhood fairytales. And she had found that with Jimmy. Tall, dark, strong, and handsome Jimmy Kratz.
One month prior to her visiting her relatives in Maine, Jimmy had mentioned an interest in marrying Linda after high school to her when they were sitting in Jimmy’s new car in an area that overlooked the town of Plains one night. The hill was a popular area for young people to venture to and explore their hormonal desires without being under the watchful eyes of parents. It was frequented by Jimmy and Linda (Reginald and Gail had also been venturing up there pretty regularly). Linda would always recall her first time being romantically intimate with Jimmy as being one of the most wonderful nights of her life. They had gone to a more secluded area of the hill top that night. In the last few times they had been together prior to that, Jimmy and Linda had gotten to very heavy petting. He had gone as far as reaching up her skirt with his hand, rubbing between her legs outside of the material of her panties and touching the ample flesh that was underneath her brassiere while his tongue explored deep inside her mouth. Jimmy had been able give Linda that small spasm between her legs that Bernice had told her about during their freshman year after she had gone all the way with a senior named Brian Stapp. Linda could also feel Jimmy growing hard between his legs as he brought her hand down to that area so she could touch him. She and Jimmy had been doing all those things together that night inside of Jimmy’s car, but things began to take a different turn when Jimmy pulled his lips from Linda’s and mentioned that he had a blanket in the trunk of his car. He then asked her if she would like for him to spread it outside so that they could lay on it. Linda could feel the butterflies in her stomach increasing but she had said yes.
That night had been a beautiful, starry night. Linda lay on her back with Jimmy on top of her. She was able to see the black sky lit up by a million stars as Jimmy caressed her body, moving his mouth down her neck and chest. She was getting lost in her own wave of desire as she felt Jimmy’s lips on her stomach. Jimmy had spread the blanket on the side of the car that faced away from the other cars that sat in the distance at the top of the hill. It was as though she and Jimmy were in their own universe where only they existed. She could see Jimmy casting aside his shirt before he moved his hand up her thigh to that part between her legs. He began to do his usual rubbing outside of the material of her panties, but then began to slip the tips of his fingers inside the thin satin. Linda had let out a gasp as Jimmy began exploring there, feeling the wetness that he had caused. He then positioned himself so that his right leg was between both of hers, allowing his arousal to press against her thigh.
“Are you alright, honey?” Jimmy asked her.
Linda looked up to see his eyes filled with love and concern for her. She also saw something else. A touch of a primal lust. Linda hesitated before nodding.
“I love you, Jimmy,” she said.
“I love you too,” he answered, leaning down to give her lips a soft kiss. He then rose back up, looking down into her blue eyes before he asked, “Do you mind if I try something? If it hurts, I’ll stop.”
“What do you want to do?” Linda asked.
Jimmy looked over to where his fingers were still inside of her panties and then back to Linda. “I’d like to make you feel really good,” he answered. It was then he began to slowly allow his fingers to enter her. “Please stop me if it hurts,” Jimmy said.
Linda nodded as she began to feel a wave of dizziness over her. She allowed him to insert his fingers further, a little at a time, and let out a small cry as he began to gently move them around.
“Linda…my baby,” he whispered against her forehead. She grasped his shoulders in response to him working to loosen where she was still very tight.
Linda was enjoying adjusting to Jimmy’s movement when she heard him say, “Linda…I’m aching to express how much I love you.” Then, he took a breath and said, “Would you like to go all the way with me?”
Linda’s breath had caught inside her throat and her heart began to race even faster than before as she tried to comprehend what Jimmy had just said to her. Of course it was something she had thought about and anticipated happening eventually. But she hadn’t been fully prepared for the time for it actually arriving.
“Baby…” Jimmy said in response to her silence.
“It’s alright, Jimmy,” she said catching her breath, “I just…”
“We don’t have to right now,” Jimmy said, “if you want to wait a little longer, that’s fine. I just really want to be with you, Linda. It would be my first time too.”
Linda was eventually able to agree to Jimmy’s proposition that night. He had asked her if she had wanted to go back to his place as his parents were out for the evening; but as nervous as Linda was, she found that she was too aroused at that point to move anywhere and well, so was Jimmy. The first time for Jimmy and Linda had been outside, in a secluded area of the hill that overlooked the town of Plains beneath a night sky filled with stars. There was something about being naked outdoors with Jimmy that was truly liberating for Linda.
The morning after, Linda had been bursting at the seams to tell Dorothy and Gail of her first time with Jimmy and did so at the sleepover at Gail’s house (where Dorothy also revealed her crush on Carl). Linda had begun to plan her and Jimmy’s wedding and would even practice writing different versions of what would be her new name. Linda Amber Kratz. Linda Kratz. Mrs. Christopher James Kratz. She had even written “Linda Kratz” by accident on her biology final at the end of junior year. Linda knew that she would miss Jimmy terribly when she would go to stay with her family in Maine for a week. To her, a week away from Jimmy was an eternity. But missing Jimmy would be the least of her worries as the events over the week prior and during her family’s vacation would unfold.
When Linda was visiting her family in a rural area near Bangor, the house seemed different to her. The darkness that had once been part of its charm for her now seemed almost threatening, and she couldn’t understand why. Her grandparents and aunt who lived with them behaved as they always had toward her and nothing was out of place in the house.
This is my grandparents’ house, Linda had thought. Why am I feeling as though I’ve walked into a stranger’s house?
She had walked the corridors of the old gothic Victorian before dinner on the first day after she and her parents had arrived, looking at the nautical paintings and statues placed throughout. Linda had felt out of place, as though the atmosphere had changed.
Perhaps I’ve just grown up, she thought, recalling the nights she’d been having with Jimmy since the beginning of May with a smile playing on her lips. That was when Linda felt something brush her ear. It was a feathery touch, but just enough to make her turn her head. Linda stood alone in the hall, gazing about her surroundings.
“Just a draft,” she told herself as the flesh on her arms began to rise. She decided to return to her bedroom so that she could freshen up in the washroom before supper. Linda had gone no more than two steps when she felt the light brush by the side of her face. She brought her hand up to her cheek when she heard what sounded like a whisper.
Linda tried to once again tell herself that this was somehow merely a draft, but the more she listened, the more it sounded like a voice.
She called out tentatively, “Mom? Dad?”
The whispering continued and she called out to her grandmother and some of the servants employed by her grandparents. The only answer that Linda received was the continued whispering. She looked around the corridor again and her gaze fell upon the large statue of a Selkie, the beautiful woman who was in the process of shedding her seal skin in exchange for her human form. As a child, Linda had been fascinated by such creatures as the Selkie, Mermaids, and Sirens. She usually found the Selkie to be one of the more tragic creatures as many of the stories told of human males stealing their skin and forcing the woman beneath the seal skin to stay with him instead of allowing her to return to the water where she belonged. Linda had found this particular statue very beautiful as a little girl and she would sometimes pretend that the Selkie was able to speak to her.
As Linda walked closer to the statue, it seemed different, almost as though it were of flesh and blood instead of marble. The more Linda looked at it, the more it seemed to come to life and the more pronounced the whispering became.
After pretending it could talk to me when I was little…it’s actually talking to me now?
Linda stood transfixed as the Selkie continued whispering to her, but she couldn’t understand what was being said. But she felt drawn to it, as though it were trying to lure her closer.
But I thought it was the Siren that did that…
Linda began to feel her heart race as the whispering began to surround and envelope her. She was rescued (and Linda would truly believe that ‘rescued’ was the correct term) by her mother wrenching her from what seemed to be a state of hypnosis to let her know that supper was ready.
Later that night, Linda had had a restless sleep as she dreamed of running through a dark labyrinth to the sound of beautiful, ethereal, vocalizing ringing in her ears.
Almost like a Siren…
She had awoken to find herself lying underneath the Selkie statue. No matter where Linda moved, the Selkie never seemed to take it’s eyes from her and Linda could feel it’s eyes in her back as she moved with swift steps to her bedroom, locking the door behind her.
On the second night, Linda had gone to sleep only to find herself walking along the shore of the ocean. She was able to hear the same vocalizing that she had heard inside of the labyrinth. The waves churned and tidal waves rose in the distance, outlined by a horizon of what looked like dark thunderheads. The strong breeze blew around Linda, disturbing her hair and nightdress. She could feel the spirit of her Viking ancestors on the water. She could hear their voices and while she couldn’t make out what was being said, she could feel their warnings. It was then she felt a pair of arms slip around her waist.
He had found her here! Linda smiled at the thought of walking along the ocean’s shore with Jimmy and maybe casting their clothing aside and going into the water together. Linda placed her hands over Jimmy’s forearms, but stopped. The arms she felt weren’t Jimmy’s. She looked down to see a pair of more feminine forearms. Chills began to form on Linda’s body as she turned to see the face of the Selkie staring back into her eyes. Linda wrestled herself away as she stared at the creature that had come to life from being a statue.
“Don’t run from me Linda,” the Selkie said before Linda was wrenched from her sleep.
Linda had awoken the following morning, the third day of her vacation, to see the early morning rays streaming in through the curtains of the large picture window in her bedroom. She glanced frantically around the room to find it empty and for that, she was relieved. Linda would do her best to avoid the Selkie statue for the remainder of that week.
On the third day, she had needed to get out of the house. Linda had her grandmother’s chauffer drive her to a small part of town where she would have him drop her off for an hour. Since the Depression had hit, the area wasn’t nearly as busy as it had been in previous years, but Linda had decided that she preferred the quiet at that moment. She walked around before stopping at a drugstore soda fountain for a chocolate soda. She thought about Jimmy and how grateful she was to have him. She thought of the hazy castle, the Selkie, and her dream of being out by the ocean. Has she really heard the Selkie whisper to her in the hallway? Or am I just going crazy? Linda wondered how her friends would react if she were to tell them. She had known of the folklore and stories surrounding the Fleming Orphanage and of Maxine going stark, raving mad. Linda slurped down the last of her soda, hoping that wasn’t happening to her. She still had a half hour left when she walked back out onto the sidewalk. What had eventually brought Linda to that antique store, she would never really be able to explain. She had gone inside, not even looking for anything in particular, but it was as though there was some sort of magnetism drawing her to the area. And it was that magnetism that had taken her right over to the dagger.
The dagger sat in a glass case, still in its worn, tattered sheath. Linda stared at it, as the rest of the world seemed to disappear around her. She could no longer hear the sounds of people on the sidewalks and automobiles on the street. The silence was almost deafening for her and at that moment, she and the dagger were all that existed.
Linda was wrenched from her trance at the sound of a voice saying, “It’s almost as though you two found each other.”
Linda snapped her head around to look at a rather odd looking middle-aged man with the darkest eyes she had ever seen. Almost like coal rocks or even onyx stones…
There was something about the man’s gaze that left her feeling uneasy and her first impulse had been to run out of the store and not look back. Yet, there was something terribly familiar about him…Weren’t Maxine’s eyes black when she went crazy?
“I just made tea in the back, dear,” the man continued. “Would you care for some?”
Linda stared up at the man, fixated on his eyes. They seemed to have the same hypnotic effect that the dagger had. She was able to tear her gaze away and stammer, “No…no thank you. I just had a soda at the drugstore. I should be going. Thank you.”
“Wait,” the man said. “Don’t you want the dagger? I’ll give it to you for a low price.” Linda turned around to see the man smiling at her. It was a friendly smile, but at the same time, it wasn’t. She could feel her skin beginning to prickle as she turned to look at the dagger cased in the glass. It seemed to beckon to her. Linda heard herself say, “How much?”
The man grinned and walked over to the glass case. The rest of that visit had been a blur for Linda. She barely recalled the man taking the dagger out of the case so that she could make the purchase.
Linda had stuffed the dagger into her purse and turned to leave the store as she muttered a ‘thank you’ to the salesman.
“Oh and Linda,” the man called after her. Linda came to an abrupt stop and slowly turned her head to look behind her. I don’t remember telling him my name. Did I? I don’t remember…
The man was standing behind the counter, looking back at her with a Cheshire Cat grin. His black eyes seemed to almost glow in the noonday light. “Feel free to bring your friends next time. Especially Jimmy. And dream safely.”
All Linda could do was stand there as her surroundings began to spin. She finally managed to turn, run out of the store, across the street, and down to where she was to meet her grandmother’s chauffer. She never once looked back.
After that, Linda’s dreams would become even more bizarre than before. She would be at the ocean and see a girl with long, dark hair. The girl’s back would be to Linda, but when Linda would get her to turn around, a black hole would be where the girl’s face should have been. Linda would also shove the dagger into the back of a drawer in her closet.
I really should have Jimmy break that and toss it in the garbage, Linda had thought. But the dagger would stay in the back of Linda’s closet until it the time came that Halloween for their trip up to the Fleming Orphanage.
Linda now sat in her last period history class, waiting for the final bell to ring. They were studying European history and were currently on Romania. Linda found the lesson on Vlad Dracula to be horribly disturbing and didn’t care to pay much attention to it.
Jimmy and I are getting married right after graduation. Why do I even need to know this stuff? But maybe it’s also this type of thinking that allows for Gail and Dorothy to not really include me in more intellectual discussions…a lot of what they talk about is enough to make my head hurt. But still…it would be nice to be included…
There were times when Linda wished that she were more like Gail or Dorothy and that people would take her a little more seriously. But Jimmy loves me even if I’m not an intellect like Gail and Dorothy.
Gail’s accusing words of having nothing but air between her ears from a couple nights ago still bothered Linda. Yes, Gail seemed genuinely sorry and the Fleming property seemed to have a weird affect on everyone. But that didn’t mean that the words still didn’t hurt. The incidents since going up to Fleming Orphanage had also caused Linda to start thinking again of what had happened early that summer. She would also be willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that she had not mentioned her name to the man who sold her the dagger. And how had he even known of Jimmy? Linda felt a shudder travel down her body. She also didn’t know why she had brought the dagger that night to the Fleming property. In fact, that was the first time since the beginning of summer since she given the dagger any thought.
Dorothy cut herself on the blade and then all those strange things happened…
Linda shook her head as she stared down at her history book without really seeing it.She and Gail would be going to Dorothy’s after school to give Dorothy her missed schoolwork. She was certain Carl would be there. Jimmy and Reginald were also going over a little later.
Linda tapped her pencil, mechanically turning the page in her textbook with the rest of the class and what she would see would make her blood run cold in her veins. It would be the portrait of Anton Alexanderescu.