On the eastern end of town, just past the aged chapel but just before the creek, is Howells abandoned farmhouse. The blood red paint had chipped and dulled to rust in the forsaken seasons, losing the luster of love. The grass grew high, swallowing stones and the bottom of broken tractors. Every kid in town knew about the farm, and knew to not go there. Stories were whispered of the late owners, Ralph and Helena Howell, and their sudden departure late in the night. No one ever saw them leave, mind you, but they must have. The police arrived one day to find the house vacant. They searched high and low, thinking the poor couple must have fallen ill, or worse, been murdered, but no one was ever found. The furniture was still there, collecting dust and spiders. There was even food left in the cellar. But strangely enough, all the pictures were taken off the walls. Not a single photo of the Howells was left in the entire house. At least, no one could find one.
It had become a tradition; a right of passage, for the bravest kids to sneak in and find a single photo of the Howells… and of the handful of children who tried, none had succeeded. Every one of them said the same thing… The lumber skeleton was exposed with rot on the inside, and the furniture was peculiarly stacked in the four corners. Garbage and debris had soiled the interior along with webs and dust. And there, in the center of it all, was an empty living room decorated with a circle of ash and char that burned into the old wood floors. Within the circle lay a pile of rocks, mocking the shape of a man, as though it outlined a body that once rested within its borders. There were noises too. Everyone heard them, the scratching from within the walls, and a hollow voice calling them in the distance. Nobody knew what had occurred in that dreadful place, but all who visited were in agreement that the house was most certainly haunted.
But today, it’s Katrina’s turn. Katrina wasn’t the fastest kid in her class, or even the prettiest, but she was the most determined. When playing baseball, she always gets a base hit. Every Single. Time. Even when the pitcher tries to beam her with the ball. She has to hit the ball herself. She taught herself how play the piano, just so she could win a talent competition that she didn’t have a talent for. And word had it that Katrina went four whole days without eating a single thing to protest her bedtime. As far as willpower was concerned, she was a legend. And today, the legend of Katrina would collide with the mysterious Howell’s farm.
Katrina arrived with a group of children in the mid afternoon. They all wanted to be witness to the spectacle of Katrina’s victory.
They cheered her on as she walked up the long path to the house alone, screaming. “You can do it, Katrina!”
But as the hours passed, the children began to lose faith in their friend. One by one they all began to leave. All except Katrina’s closest friend, Allyson. That was until the eastern sky dimmed from an impatient sun.
“KATRINA! We have to go NOW. It’s getting dark.” Allyson yelled, staring into the evening sky. The air had become split. In the east the sun glowed orange hot, leaving pink and purple trails that arched up all the way to a heavy blue barrier, where the first stars of the night began to appear like silver scales in a deep ocean.
Katrina poked her head out of the house to see her friend sitting on the dirt road just past the crumbled driveway. “I have to find a picture. You can go if you want.” Katrina announced with determination.
“You’re insane! You can’t stay here alone. It’s going to be pitch black in 30 minutes.”
“No. I have to do this.” Katrina continued on with a deep breath.
“Because… It’s… I don’t know…”
“What’s going to happen to me? I’ve seen the house. There’s no one here. No one ever comes here. Besides, won’t it make for an even better story to find it in the dark?
“I can’t leave you here!” Allyson stomped.
“Then stay! Or better yet, come in and help me.” Katrina returned, smirking at the thrill of leaving her scared friend outside in the dark.
“We have to go.” Allyson demanded.
“Nope!” Katrina continued to fish through the festered belongings within the dusty farmhouse.
“I’m going to tell!” Allyson threatened.
Allyson stormed off, rushing towards the pink and orange skyline that became thinner and thinner until both were out of sight.
Katrina remained in the home until the nightshade turned everything cobalt and the temperature fell to an uncomfortable cold. The coarse breeze moved through the walls with little obstacle, causing the entire farmhouse to shift and bend. As much as she hated to admit it, the house had become too dark to search through, and despite that, Katrina had already searched it through many times. If there was a photograph surly she would have been the one to find it. Too proud to give up, but too smart to keep looking, Katrina came to the realization that there might not be a photograph to find.
Following the cold wind out of the house and into the high grass, Katrina listened to rattle of rusted chains and tools clanging in the yard. The high moon poured white milky light over the land. Katrina stepped slowly, taking a moment to drink in the fullness of the sight. It was eerie, empty, and still somehow beautiful.
It was then that that a soft scrapping noise could be heard. A low, almost hollow voice called from nearby, beckoning. Katrina stopped moving to hear it more clearly. It wasn’t the chime of rusted tools in the yard. This noise of scrapping was coming from the well.
She walked cautiously to a stone well, hardly even peaking from the wild lawn. The closer she approached the more clearly the sounds became, and soon she could distinguish a moaning. It was human and sounded to be in great pain. She looked into the black pit and called down.
“Hello? Is someone in there? Do you need help?”
“Help” the moan mimicked, almost as if echoing Katrina’s concerned tone.
“Okay… Okay… Stay here. I’ll get someone.” Katrina turned in a hurried step to race off and call for help, when something grabbed her foot and caused her to fall with a heavy SMACK against the ground. Dazed, she reached back to find her foot tangled the metal snare. It was a chain. Katrina fumbled around to free herself, when the chain pulled tight, leading deep within the well. Frantically she rushed to get the chain loose, but it pulled tighter and tighter, dragging her up the stone cylinder, and into the mouth of the well. She held on to those stones with white knuckled strength, as her lower body vanished into the dark below.
“Help!” She screamed. Then, with one last large tug, the chain tore her from her grip and claimed her body as she fell into the well.
There was no water. Katrina landed in a thick mud, absent of the pool of water she expected to be below. There were no walls, but an open cavern, dark and void on every side; Only a single moonbeam shinning in from the hole above.
“Oh, my farside child. You shouldn’t have come here. “A voice curled with sinister delight. “ Long dark fingers with clawed tips stretched out and tapped on the stone walls. Stepping into the sliver of light shining down within the well, he showed himself. He was oil black and scab red, like the raw skin under a pealed blister had swallowed his entire form. His fang-filled face winced in discomfort as though the slightest motion caused great pain. He was a monster.
“My God! What are you?”
“From many places… from unheard spaces, I am the Greigle.”
“Let me go!” Katrina cried.” Please.”
"Oh, I will let you go... but first you need to give me something."
"What?" Katrina said, trying to keep herself from gagging at the sigh of such a horrid devil. “What do you want?”
"Did you find a photograph in the house?"
"All of this for a lousy picture? No, I didn't find it, okay. Now let me out of here you worm!"
"The deal was you'd give me the picture."
"But… But... I didn't make a deal with you." Katrina shot back.
"Then be cursed! Mah-hal-amick-e-nah!" a serpent, whose body was hardly as tangible as a shadow, slithered from the lips of the Greigle n the well and into Katrina's startled frame.
"What? What was that?"
“I have cursed you, child.
“But... There was no photograph. I didn't make a deal." Katrina shouted in disbelief. Knowing she had done nothing wrong. "Take the curse back!”
“There is no taking it back."
"I'll go back up and find the picture for you. Just let me go!"
"You can go, but a curse like this can’t be undone. From now forward those who you surround yourself with will be held in endless torment. Car crashes. Cancer. Hearts will fail. Skin will rot. Everyone around you will fall apart. Accident after accident, they will all be your fault.””
“What do you mean it can't be undone? There’s nothing I can do?”
“Absolutely nothing.” the Greigle stated, pleased in his unjust scheme.
“And everyone I’m around… My mom, my brothers, the bus driver, my class at school… Everyone will suffer because of me?” Katrina contemplated with deepening and rational thought.
“Terribly.” The monster grinned devilishly.
“Then I will stay here... With you! May the curse you gave me be your curse as well.”
“But you’ll never see your family again.” The Greigle tried to persuade her.
“I’d rather die alone than bring pain upon anyone I love. You did this to me… So I’m doing it to you.”
"You can't do this to me." the devil pleaded, looking for an excuse to convince Katrina out of her decision. "If you do this, you'll die."
"Then we die together you wretched creature."
She had made up her mind. Nothing more could be done. There Katrina stayed, arms crossed in the bottom of the well, staring into the eyes of evil. Her jaw set. She was not moving.