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In the Valley of Shadows

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A Curious Day in April

Maggie had been a widow now for several years, ever since her logger husband had fallen 70 feet to the ground while topping out a tree.

Now, well into her sixties, Maggie’s days were fairly lonely. Her daughter, who was married to a small businessman, stopped by for a lunch or coffee every week or so. Her grandson, Gary, stopped by a couple times a month to help with some maintenance issues, but his young family and job consumed most of his time.

It was early April. Damp, heavy gray-white clouds and patchy fog hung over the town on a Thursday. A work day, and there were few cars on the residential streets. Maggie’s day started around 7 am. An oatmeal breakfast and listening to the ‘sounds’ from the basement where her husband used to turn out wood oprojects from his lathe and table saw. Probably just the settling of the house or a few mice, at worst. Maybe she should get a cat and complete the stereotype of an old widow living alone.

The Ladies Auxiliary’s bake sale was the coming weekend at the community hall, so Maggie began her Cherry-Chocolate brownings and Sugar-Ginger cookie receipes she was going to contrubute, when she realized she was out of a couple ingredients.

It was a 70-foot walk out to her small garage and her little white Chevy. After backing out, Maggie got back out of the car and closed the door. Turning, she was just in time to see an old man walking a shaggy dog coming from the west. She had never seen him before. Probably a new resident of the trailer park a block over.

As she drove the five blocks through the fog to the store, the town seemed unusually quiet and empty, even for a work day. Probably just the weather conditions. That did not explain the oddly distracted clerk when she came up to the checkout. It was as if the woman didn’t notice her until she cleared her throat.

An hour later, Maggie was just putting her bake sale contributions in the oven when she glanced out the kitchen window and saw a movement behind the small garage and bushes of her soggy, April garden. Likely just a large dog.

The doorbell startled her. Walking into the living room, a new sensation came over her. She had never been hesitant about answering the door, but this day had her spooked. It turned out to be the mailman with the seed package she had ordered from Gurney’s.

As the small mail truck pulled away, she felt like the last woman on Earth. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was now afternoon. Maybe a sip of McNaughton’s and water would help her nerves.

Ten minutes later, nerves a little calmer, Maggie stood in the living room and watched as a black car cruised slowly by. Signs of life at last. But this wasn’t the sight she was hoping for. The car had an odd, retro appearance from the fifties, but not quite. She had lived in the fifties but had never seen a car like this. It was as if you were describing a car to someone without ever seeing the vehicle, and then expecting that person to build an exact duplicate. What really was different? The orange/yellow headlights.

Her baking now out of the oven, Maggie turned the TV on. Soap operas and CNN. She left it on, but cut the sound in half. A companion at least, sitting there in the corner as she read a mystery novel. Restlessness, though, wouldn’t allow her to read more than a page before getting up and patrolling the house.

Checking the basement, all was quiet. It was just as her husband had left it, which brought a flood of memories. She fled back up the stairs just in time to hear the phone ring. Going to it gladly, she expected to hear one of her friends on the other end. Instead, there was just dead air, but not exactly. The receiver produced and odd clicking and humming noise. Asking if anyone was there brought more of the same odd noises, and she quickly hung up as if the phone had suddenly turned into a snake.

Fleeing to the kitchen brought into sight the house next door. They had found the body of an elderly, drunken widower there two weeks earlier and now the small, 1920s-era house had an unusual, sunken-in appearance.

It was just then that the strange man and his shaggy dog that Maggie had seen when heading to the store walked by again, looking at her all the way.

Turning to follow the man from the living room window, Maggie thought she caught a glimpse of someone looking into the south window. Hurrying there, she saw no one.

It was dinnertime, and Maggie had fixed herself a microwave dinner. The doorbell rang. After a moment of thinking about it, she went to the door. It was her daughter, and suddenly, all was right with the world. The bake sale the next day, a tonic. Things were... active again. There were people, noises, sounds, friends... and life.

The memory of that peculiar day stayed in the back of Maggie’s mind, but all was well now.

There have been reports of people who felt for a time that they couldn’t be seen by others. It was as if they had opened a door into somewhere else, but had not stepped through... into a curious land that Rod Sterling called “The Twilight Zone.”

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

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