Updated: Jan 14
The House Isn’t Haunted
The house didn’t stand alone on top of a hill. It wasn’t lost deep in the woods where no one could see it. It wasn’t even the last one at the end of the cul-de-sac. The house stood proudly amongst its neighbors looking different, but altogether normal. It looked as if a Victorian house and a log cabin had gotten together and made a baby. It was a fascinating sight to behold and to any unsuspecting passerby, it was just an elegant, but normal house.
The yard looked immaculate. Two large, round Copper Beech trees stood proudly in the front yard. Their deep red-purple leaves were eye-catching during the warmer parts of the year, but when winter and its cold arrived, the leaves fell away to reveal twisting, pale branches. The neighborhood kids all stayed away from that house once the leaves fell away. They feared the branches would come alive and try to grab them.
They said it happened before.
It didn’t help that ravens loved to nest in that tree and watch the people as they passed. No matter the time of day, there were always at least two ravens in the silver branches, staring out into the world in unnerving silence.
Melody understood why the neighbor kids warned her to stay away from the place. As the new kid on the block, they all warned her of the haunted house, but try as she might, she just couldn’t get the place out of her mind. The lady who lived there looked nice. She smiled at anyone who caught her eye.
Murderer or not, Melody envied the woman for her looks. Tall, thin, long blonde hair, and bright blue eyes. On top of being beautiful, she was cool. She rode a sleek silver motorcycle and wore a white leather jacket with a feather-like pattern in the stitching.
The young girl wondered how someone so amazing like her would still be living alone, or why people were afraid of her. She took it on herself to find out and spent most afternoons after school sitting at the nearby park, watching the woman come and go.
She didn’t seem to have a normal job. She came and went as she pleased, and she often returned with someone riding with her. The pair would go in the house together, and then she would eventually leave again all on her own.
Melody watched a lot of people enter that house, but the woman was the only one to ever leave. Her friends all claimed that the woman must murder the people, but that couldn’t be true. Right?
Once, she caught a glimpse of the interior of the woman’s garage and spotted an arsenal of swords, axes, and round shields hung on the wall. Seeing all of those sharp weapons, Melody began to believe what the neighborhood kids had told her.
Something was definitely going on with that house. As much as it terrified Melody, she couldn’t stay away from the place. She just kept coming back to watch the strange woman, trying to figure out the mystery of the house. Where were all of the people going?
The desire to solve that mystery grew within Melody with each passing day until she couldn’t take it anymore. She’d wait until the woman left, and then try sneaking into the house.
One Friday after school, Melody seated hid within a bush and waited for the woman to make her appearance. It didn’t take long for her to hop on her bike and disappear down the road. Melody waited until she couldn’t hear the roar of the bike's engine before she made her move. She darted across the street and headed straight for the front door, but it was locked.
She headed for the backyard, not noticing that sitting on a branch, hidden amongst the leaves of the Copper Beech tree were two ravens, watching her with beady black eyes.
Melody found the backdoor to be unlocked and sneakily let herself in. The house seemed normal. It didn’t feel like a haunted house owned by someone who killed lots of people. There was a well-stocked kitchen, a fancy dining room, and a nice living room. There were lots of wood carvings and colorful artwork everywhere.
On one wall, there was a box with silver cufflinks that had a pretty pattern carved onto their faces. Resting on a table below that was a picture of the woman and some man Melody had never seen. Melody wondered what happened to him. Did the woman kill him?
A large, watercolor painting above the couch caught her attention. It depicted a giant tree on a sunny day. Some of the branches held little structures in them. Others held different animals like goats and squirrels. A rainbow out from one of the buildings to all of the other ones. Eight stars sparkled in the bright blue sky.
Melody became so fixated on the picture, that she didn’t even sense the presence behind her. “You know, it’s not nice to break into someone’s home.”
Her sudden appearance affected Melody in the predictable way. With a yelp, the girl spun around and fell backward onto the couch. The woman stood before her with her hair down, and her helmet tucked under one arm.
“I’m sorry! Please don’t kill me!” the girl begged, raising her hands and curling in on herself.
The woman set her helmet down and knelt before the girl. “Hey, it’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you. Why would you think that?” There was genuine concern in her voice. The woman knew her neighbors were suspicious of her, but she didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. She limited her interactions with everyone to help keep them at ease. It was easier to keep her distance. It made work hurt less.
Melody unfurled and looked at the woman with confusion. “All the kids say this house is haunted. I’ve seen you bring hundreds of people here and none of them ever left. And I’ve seen all of the weapons in your garage!”
The woman hummed for a moment and nodded her head as she thought. “The ravens were right, you really have been watching me… Melody, right?”
The girl blinked at hearing her name come from the stranger’s lips. She nodded.
“I’m Brigida,” the woman offered her hand, and Melody gently shook it.
“Don’t worry, the house isn’t haunted. That would be ridiculous,” Brigida laughed, and Melody joined her. Then, with a completely serious face, the woman added, “I am.”
Melody’s brain skipped a beat. “Wait, what?”
Brigida rose to her feet and put her hands on her hips. “I could go for a snack, how about you?”
She went to the kitchen without another word. Melody jumped to her feet and followed, repeating her question. The adult ignored it and instead pointed to a seat at the kitchen counter. Melody took it as the woman rummaged through her pantry until she pulled out a sealed bag with foreign writing on it.
Leaning against the counter, Brigida tore open the manufactured container. “Here, try this.” Brigida held out a thin square somewhat-translucent green piece or something.
Melody carefully took it and studied the item for a moment with a raised eyebrow. It had a strange smell that reminded her of something, but she couldn’t figure out what.
Meanwhile, Brigida grabbed a piece for herself and instantly popped it in her mouth with a smile. “Don’t worry,” she stated after chewing, “It isn’t poisoned.”
With a deep breath, Melody put the item in her mouth. Immediately, her face scrunched up and she gagged.
Brigida chuckled. “Not a fan of seaweed, huh? It’s an ancestral thing for me.”
“I’d rather have broccoli,” Melody choked out. She shivered and looked at Brigida with a serious face as the woman chewed on another piece. “Poison would have been nicer.”
Brigida covered her mouth as she snorted. “You’re too funny. You know, I’ve met all kinds of people through my work. Except for politicians. I’ve never once met one of them.” she laughed and pointed a finger at the girl. “You’re something new. Something special.” She ate another square and thought for a moment. “Children usually see the spirits of the dead, but you’re a little old to still be seeing them. Plus you’re the first to have noticed my armory. I’m willing to bet there is some magic in you.”
There was a lot to break down there, and Melody didn’t know where to begin. She figured she'd start with the last thing the woman said. “There’s nothing magical about me.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve done something impressive here today. With proper training, you could go on to do great things. Just look at the Stars.” Brigida grabbed another piece of seaweed for herself, then offered the bag to Melody, who shook her head.
“I’m confused,” the girl admitted. “What are you talking about?”
Brigida set down her snack and straightened up. “The people I bring home, are ghosts of people who died honorable deaths. I help them move on.”
Melody cocked her head and her leg began to bounce in excitement. “How do you do that? Is magic real?”
The woman smirked. “Oh, it’s very real. As to the how, I’m someone who walks the line of relativity between life and death. I’ve done it since I was sixteen. I’m a Valkyrie.”