Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christmas in July: Silver Bells and Zombie Tales

Silver Bells and Zombie Tales

By Robin Renee Ray

There comes a time in everyone’s life when the stories we are told have us wondering where they originated from. Kendal thought that very thing after he became a man and sought to find out where the tales he had heard and seen as a young child began. With a family of his own now and knowing what he knew, Kendal set out to research his ancestors and the way they had been known to walk the earth after others had placed them into the ground. The one thing he didn’t want was for his children to hear about, what he knew must be fiction. With the Haskell family being shunned for so many years, he had changed his name and left the lands where his forefathers roamed. He was now known as Kendal White.
This would be the first Christmas that he wasn’t there to put up the tree and hang the lights around the house, but it was his only chance to travel and putting together the pieces of his past had been carved into his thoughts, since he left at the age of sixteen. When he witnessed his grandfather after he had died, and the rumors of his appearance filled the small town, he fled. Kendal knew without a doubt that his grandfather was gone; he had seen him run over by the family’s tractor when he got off to work on the front blades. It wasn’t even plausible that he would dig his way out of the grave and haunt the community that held their secret so dear.
“When will you be home?” Cindy asked, putting the last of his things in the suitcase.
“I should be here before the kids get out of school for Christmas break.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“I have to do this, babe. What if the stories are true?”
“That’s impossible, Kendal. People just don’t come back from the grave. Whoever told you these wild stories should be beat.”
“Cindy, I saw something when I was boy. My grandfather died and three nights later I saw him looking in my bedroom window. It was horrible.”
“Maybe it was a nightmare, Kendal. With all the bullshit that your people had fed you by that age, it’s no wonder that you would have nightmares.”
“No, I snuck out one night and went to the graveyard where we had buried him. His grave was all sunk in and there were claw marks in the dirt. A few weeks later, I saw him out by that same tractor that took his life. I can’t explain it, but he was there.”
“Oh Kendal, I love you with all of my heart, but there is no way that the dead can come back.”
“Doesn’t matter, I have to find out more about my family. I love you too,” he walked over and hugged her. “I don’t know why, I just know this is something that has to be done.”
“You call me as soon as you get there.”
“I will. It’s more than likely the only time I will be able to call. Bishop County is so far back in the woods that I doubt that my cell phone will even work there.”
Kendal kissed his wife and son, Ben, goodbye and headed for the airport. Once he landed, he rented a car and drove the last one hundred and twenty miles to Mersey, the town he remembered well. He took the two lane road off of the interstate as soon as he crossed into Bishop County and then down a dirt road that would bypass the small community and would lead him to his family’s farm.
He slowed down by the field his grandfather was killed in, swallowing so hard it hurt. It wasn’t possible, he thought, wiping the tears from his eyes. The fear of the unknown almost choked him. Kendal could see the large plantation style two story home, with its two fireplaces, looming over the barn. The closer he got, the more he wanted to turn around. Yet, his need to know kept him moving forward.
The road turned into the long circular drive that went all the way up to the steps of the porch. White pillars held a balcony that went all the way around the house; pale green shutters decorated the windows and all was in great need of a new paint job. Thoughts of the place looking the exact same way when he was a child, cascaded in a blast of nightmarish views of the walking dead.
After stopping by the barn for a few minutes to build his courage, he continued. Two women came out on the front porch, wearing aprons and wiping their hands. The eldest waved and came down the stairs to meet his vehicle. Kendal hadn’t seen his grandmother since he left and he didn’t recognize the younger woman.
“Thanks be, my boy has come home,” his grandmother said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
Kendal got out and walked around the car and hugged her. “It’s been a long time.”
“Where’s the family? We heard you had a wife now.”
“They stayed back in Georgia. How have you been?”
“Doing real good, honey. Now you grab your things and come wash up. Dinner is almost ready.”
“I won’t be staying long, Nan, I just need to talk to you and then I’ll be heading back.”
“Absolutely not, you will stay at least one night with your old Nanny. You remember little Casey, don’t ya?” She laced her arm around his, and started leading him toward the steps where the young woman stood.
“You’ve got to be kidding me, this is little Casey?”
“I’m not so little anymore, Kendal.” She smiled and stepped down and gave him a hug. “Did I hear right, are planning to just turn around and leave?”
“I have business back at home,” he lied.
“But we have so much to catch up on. You have to stay the night. Nan just made her famous roast.”
“With hot rolls?” he smiled.
“And carrots and potatoes too.” Nan squeezed his arm, then walked up past Casey. “You too kids can grab your things, then ya both can come help me in the kitchen.”
“She hasn’t changed, has she?” Kendal walked around to the trunk of the car.
“Not even a little,” Casey laughed and picked up one of his bags. “Doesn’t look like you were…only coming for a short stay.”
Kendal looked down and snorted out a breath. “Guess I had planned on a longer visit, but to be honest, I don’t know if I can handle it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s nothing, come on before we both get a scolding.”
The furniture was rearranged somewhat different than he remembered, but it was the same pieces that he knew well. It was the rocker in the corner that stopped him in his tracks. It was in the same place and the very chair his grandfather used to set in, when he came in from a long day in the field. Casey noticed his discomfort and walked over and took his arm. They made their way through the foyer and down the hall to the kitchen.
“Just put your things right there and come wash up. Casey put another setting at the table.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She smiled, lowered her head and headed into the dining room.
“Now, tell me about that little family of yours. The rest are gonna be so excited to have you home.”
“My wife’s name is Cindy and my son is Benjamin. We call him, Ben.”
“You named him after your dad,” Nan turned from the sink and set the roast on the table. “You can take this on into the dining room.”
It was getting dark out, when the three took their seats at the table. The one thing that Kendal found odd was that there were three more table settings. He drank his tea while his grandmother carved the roast and his cousin spooned out the potatoes on to his plate. “Who else is coming to dinner?”
“Well, your other family members of course,” Nan replied, shaking her head lightly. “Now don’t go telling me you don’t remember your kin.”
“Who else is left?” Kendal set the tea glass down and rubbed his face with both hands. “I don’t feel right.”
“It’ll wear off,” Nan reached over and put a slice of beef on his plate. “Couldn’t have you leaving us too soon, so Nan, slipped you a little something special.”
Kendal heard the shuffling of feet and turned in time to see his grandfather coming through the dining room entrance, with his father who had died years before his grand did, right behind him. “No,” he moaned, then passed out from the drugs running through his system.

Part 2

It was cold and dark with the stench of death tainting the air. Kendal woke with a massive headache and tied down to an old cot, where, he didn’t know. All that he knew was something had gone terribly wrong and now he was being held against his will, and for what reason, he couldn’t answer. Did I see it? He thought, pulling on the restraints. A door opened and the light exploded the pain in his head into a burst, that almost made him vomit.
“You ready to have that little talk?” his grandmother asked, as she made her way down the basement steps.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because if I didn’t, you’d just run off again. Your family loves and misses you and we want your seed to come home, where you all belong.”
“You leave my son out of this.” He started yanking hard on the ropes that bound him.
“It’s in his blood, just like it’s in yours and your fathers before ya.”
“Untie me right now,” he demanded.
“And what would you do if I did, son?”
“I would leave and I am not your son,” he yelled the last.
“You shouldn’t speak to me like that. It might anger your grandfather.”
“He’s dead, just like my parents and Casey’s.”
“That may be, but you both have your fathers, no matter how dead you may claim them to be.” She pulled a chair over by the bed and sat down. “This is the curse of our people and it will go onto your seed.”
“I swear if you or anyone else goes near my child, I will kill you myself.”
A groan irrupted from the corner and Kendal’s eyes shot from his grandmother right into the empty sockets of his grandfather’s. “This isn’t real!” he screamed. “It isn’t real.” The zombie form of his grandfather sluggishly, step by sliding step, came closer until he stood with a bowed back at the foot of Kendal’s bed. Another shuffling sound came from the same area and out stepped his father.
“They just want to welcome you, son. We’ve all missed you so very much.”
“You’re insane,” he yelled, lifting his upper body up as far as the restraints would allow, and spit in his grandmother’s face.
He had been warned about upsetting the very thing he didn’t believe in, even though he was looking right at him and now, his own father. Skeletal hands reached out and grabbed his ankle, twisting it so hard that the bone snapped. Kendal screamed and passed out.
“You shouldn’t have done that, sweetheart,” Nan said with a calm tone.
“Child,” his grandfather hissed, through a rotted mouth.
“Bring home,” his father said, as he leaned down and kissed Kendal’s forehead with lips that were pulled back so far from rot, that his teeth were the only thing that touched Kendal’s flesh.
“I understand. I’ll find a way to make contact with his wife and let her know that he’s been in an accident.”
Nan waited to leave the basement until the two zombies had made their way back into the corner where they stayed, in two rocking chairs, until the sun went down. Afterwards they did as they have always done, they worked the farm. Well, the best that they could with their debilitating status. Neither Kendal’s grandfather nor father was going to be able to keep it up much longer, with the way they were falling apart. Zombies could only do so much when their ligaments began collapsing, after the muscle tissue withers away to nothing. Many of the family members from the past had already been placed back in the ground, due to their bodies losing limbs and the last of what brains they had, were no more.
“Casey, I want you to go through your cousin’s things and find his wife’s number, then I want you to take his car up to the highway and give her a call.”
“And say what Nan? That we have her husband locked in our basement?”
“You can watch that tone young lady. You just tell her that he needs her and the child, because he had an accident. Not a bad one, mind you, but still one that will keep him from walking proper for a while.”
“You promised that this would end when Uncle Robert and grandpa was finished and put back where they belong.”
“And, what about your daddy? Would you have me put him back?”
“He stays in the barn so he doesn’t have to deal with the way his world is. He never wanted to come back like his father, and you know it. So yes, I would like you to put him back too.”
“Hold your tongue, girl.” Nan reached down and picked up one of Kendal’s bags and tossed it toward Casey. “Your daddy knew long before he passed that he would be back. He isn’t any different than all who fell to the curse before him.”
“That may be true but you could have left him be after he died, you didn’t have to give his deceased corpse the liquid.”
Nan picked up the other bag and threw it so hard, that it knocked Casey back into the kitchen counter. “I told you to hold that tongue. If we don’t get help around here, we’ll lose everything that has been in this family for over two hundred and fifty years. Now dig out that number and do as you’re told.”
“It’s almost Christmas, can’t all of this wait until after? He’s just a little boy. You have Kendal back, your spell worked…his dreams brought him home.”
“And who will take his place after his father is no good to us anymore? In time your father and grandfather will be no more, just like Kendal’s dad. It’s against the rules to bring in outsiders. We need the child to grow up here so he can keep this farm running.”
“What about the wife?”
“I will deal with her when the time comes.”

Part 3

Casey found Kendal’s cell phone which had his wife’s number in it. She had her Nan go back down to the basement to retrieve the car keys, saying she didn’t want to talk to him if he had come back around. The truth be told, she hated the stench that clung to her clothes every time she got too close, to either of the walking dead. As for her father, she kept her distance, not able to watch him rot to nothing but dried leather skin and bones. Casey took the keys without answering her Nan’s second round of instructions and got in the car and drove away.
She waited a few minutes after reaching the highway to hit the number and make the call. If she wasn’t so afraid of what her Nan would do, she would never call and lie about them not being home. But her fear won and she hit the button.
“It’s about time you called. How was your trip?”
“Excuse me, Mrs. Haskell?”
“No, this is the White resident. I would say you had the wrong number but you’re calling from my husband’s phone. Who is this?”
“I’m Kendal’s cousin. This is his wife isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. Where’s my husband?”
“We don’t have reception down at the house and well, we’ve never put a phone line in. Kendal fell off of a ladder and hurt his leg. He said to tell you to bring the boy and come spend the holiday here with us.”
“Are you sure? He has never said a word about wanting us to meet his family.”
“I’m sure…” she paused. “I guess he’s glad to be home and we would really love to meet his family. He’s been gone so long and now he just wants to get caught up.” Her lies were starting to catch in her throat. “He talks a lot about your boy, Ben, all the time.”
“Isn’t there anyway that he can call me? Surely he can manage getting in the car.”
“He was visiting with Nan, that’s our grandmother, and just told me to make the call. He said you would understand,” she said wiping a single tear off of her cheek.
“Well, I guess we could make a trip, but with all of Ben’s Christmas gifts here, we’ll have to make it a short one.”
“That’s what Kendal said, so we thought we would have an early Christmas dinner here before you guys go home. If you can manage, maybe you can bring of few of the gifts with you. He’ll want toys to play with while you’re here.”
“Thank you…”
“Casey, my name is Casey.”
Casey gave Cindy the directions from the airport to the main road that led to the farm house. Right before she hung up she said, “Wait!” Then she swallowed the truth that she so badly wanted to tell. “Have a safe trip.”
Later that afternoon, Nan took a tray of food down to Kendal who was fighting to free himself. “Even if you get loose, they wouldn’t let you get past the bed frame.”
“Please, I need to get back to my family.”
“No need to worry about that, son. Your family is on their way here.”
“No, you’re lying.” He tried to sit up.
“Now don’t go getting your grandpa upset again. And I wouldn’t lie about seeing my great grandson. You best eat and keep your strength up.”
“Go to hell!” he yelled, yanking with all of his might to break the ropes that held him.
“In due time, son.” She held her hand up and stopped her deceased husband from coming back across the room and causing more damage to her next worker. “Looks like we’re gonna have to move you. Can’t have your own kin tearing you up. And if you think of trying anything, I will let them loose on ya.”
“You’re supposed to be my grandmother.”
“I’m just a shell of what you used to know. Nan has gone through a few changes since the last time you were here.”
“If you harm my family, you’ll pay.”
“I guess we’re gonna have to do this the hard way.”
The woman he thought he knew as his Nan, set the tray down and walked over to a table built into the wall and picked up a hammer. She didn’t say a word; she just raised the hammer up and laid it heavy across the front of Kendal’s head. It took the two zombies fifteen minutes to get him up the basement stairs and secured to the couch in the living room.
“Now get, you two have work to do.”
“He looks pretty bad,” Casey said, looking down at the blood that was drying on Kendal’s face.
“He’ll heal,” Nan replied, wiping her hands down the front of her apron. “You get out to the barn and make sure that daddy of yours is heading out with the others.”
Casey looked at the woman she used to love dearly, seeing only the beast that she had become after she died two years prior. Many times Casey wondered why her Nan didn’t deteriorate like the others. She knew her Nan was into black magic but didn’t know how she kept herself whole, when she couldn’t stop the decay in her own children. While walking out to the barn she saw her father stumble out.
“Dad,” she whispered, then turned and went back into the house.
“How’s he looking?” Nan asked while she cleaned the cut on Kendal’s forehead.
“Like they all do.”
“Casey, I’m only doing what’s best for the family and the farm.”
“I know.” She gave her Nan her best smile. “I think I’ll head on up to bed.”
“I love you, sweet pea.”
“I love you too.”
Casey walked with a normalcy until she was out of her Nan’s site, then she rushed down the hall on the second floor, turning to the right to go up to the attic where her Nan kept her personal things that had to do with her practice in black magic. With an innocent child involved, she had to know more.

Part 4

Cindy and Ben took the first flight out and would be reaching the Haskell farm the following morning. She didn’t want Ben to be too tired when they got there so she made up her mind to stay the night in a Hotel and drive the one hundred plus miles when they woke up. She tried several times to reach Kendal’s cell phone to no avail and had a feeling that the girl that had called wasn’t telling her everything. Her heart ached not knowing what had really happened, but felt that he was in good hands since he was with his loved ones.
Meanwhile, Kendal was coming around for the third time, with a different frame of mind. He knew if he didn’t cooperate that he would never have a chance of escaping and stopping them from getting their hands on his child. He closed his eyes when he heard someone coming down the hall from the direction of the kitchen, and then slowly opened them when his Nan sat down on the edge of the couch beside him.
“I’m sorry Nanny, I don’t know what got into me,” he smiled up at her. “I have missed you so much and I guess everything just overwhelmed me.”
“Well, honey, I’m sorry too. I would never intentionally hurt you. You know that don’t you?”
“I know you were doing what you thought you had too. I should have never disrespected you the way that I did. Is my wife really coming?”
“She is and she’s bringing your little boy. He has a right to know this side of the family.”
“I agree, but it might scare him if he sees…Grandpa the way he is. You think we can keep that from them,” he spoke in a low tone, hoping she would buy his sincerity.
“We can manage that as long as he doesn’t go out after dark. Your uncle refuses to come in the basement no matter what I do. That strong will is harder to handle than you might think.”
“Thank you, Nan. You will be taking these off,” he looked down at his hand, “before they get here. I don’t want them to see me like this.”
“I will as long as you know that things can go very bad for them, if you’re trying to fool your old Nan.”
“I was just scared before. Seeing my dad shocked me. You know I knew grandpa was back, I saw him when I was little.”
“Casey and I will make sure that everything is in order before your family gets here. I’ll have her take the tree out of the shed and your dad and grandpa can get the lights up outside. It will be a homecoming like no other.”
I bet, he thought. “I wish I could help…maybe I can help Casey with the tree?”
“Not with that ankle, but I suppose you can hand her the ornaments.”
“Not like this, I can’t even scratch my own nose,” he forced out a laugh. “I sure would love some of that roast, but no more tea like last night.”
“You silly kid.” She gently slapped his arm, then kissed the mark on his forehead. “I’ll go fetch ya some, then get you a bit more comfortable. Nan loves you.”
“I love you too,” he lied again, because he wanted nothing more than to remove her head, but knew he had to keep his cool for the sake of his wife and child.
Casey made her way through the dusty attic, until she reached the door at the very back. It was a room she had not been allowed to go into, not since the death of her father. She felt around the top of the frame of the door and found the key. Casey slide it into the lock, looking back to make sure she was alone, and then turned the key creating an echoing clank throughout the large attic. The door opened and a stale scented breeze wrapped around her.
The room had herbs hanging from the rafters, jars filled with God knows what, lined the shelves and there was one oblong, wooden table at the back. Several bones were spread out on the table with what looked like, a piece of jewelry tided to one end of each bone. Casey picked up the one that had a silver ring tied to it and almost fell backwards. It was her fathers. It seemed that Nan hadn’t been very honest with her. Had her grandmother been the one bringing the dead back to life this whole time and only lied about the family living with a curse? It was something she was going to find out.
“You shouldn’t be in here, Casey,” Nan said, standing in the door way.
Casey jumped and dropped the bone. “You scared me.”
“Haven’t I told you to stay away from my private room?”
“Yes ma’am, but I think I’m old enough to know what’s going on. I was the one who found you in your bed that night…how did you come back, Nan?”
“Maybe I wasn’t dead, not really anyway. The curse has brought me back more than once in the last two hundred years,” she stepped in and closed the door. “And you will inherit it all. That’s why you and your dad have been with me since I…your mother passed away.”
“How did my mother die?”
“We’ve been over this before, child. She was killed in a car accident. You know that.”
“Why do you have my dad’s ring? I thought you told me it had been lost when he died. How did he really die, Nan?”
“Same as your grandpa. Why are you asking me so many questions?”
“I found dad’s ring.”
Nan took a deep breath and let it out slow. “One day I will show and tell you everything, but for now we have things to do before your cousin’s family gets here. I told him, you would fetch the Christmas tree.”
“Kendal’s okay with all of this?”
“I think he just needed to get over the shock of finding out what he saw as a child, was true, and he seems to be much better today. But either way, you keep an eye on him, just in case.”
Casey bent down to pick up the bone she had taken off the table, with every intention on removing the ring. “Please child, leave it be for the time being. You don’t understand what will happen if you remove that from the bone.”
She laid it back on the table and walked out without saying another word. Casey knew something was even worse than what she had been living with most of her life, and she now was determined to keep it from happening to her cousin’s family. She decided to do as she was told until the time was right and she could sneak back up to the little room of horrors.
After yanking and pulling, Casey finally freed the old tree from the shed where it had sat since the year her father died. Her thoughts kept going back to the ring and why it would be tied to a bone. Then she remembered the limp that her father had gained after he returned. What had his own mother done to him? If she was really his mother, that is. Casey dragged the old green plastic tree to the front of the house and grabbed the water hose and began spraying the years of dust away.

The Conclusion

Cindy couldn’t sleep due to the thoughts of her beloved on her mind. She picked up her cell phone and tried a second time to reach him. Ben on the other hand, was sound asleep. The rush of getting to the airport and the flight itself had worn him out. She paced the room for a good ten minutes before lying back down, thinking she should wake her child and complete their trip. She chose to let him sleep and head out in the morning.
Back at the farm, Casey was bringing in the tree, while Nan instructed her zombies to place the strands of big, bulb lights, around the bottom of the balcony and around the front pillars.
Kendal was still on the living room couch, trying to eat the food his Nan had brought him. The one thing he was happy about was having the restraints removed. What he didn’t like, was not being able to stand on his freshly broken ankle. He had tried to stand the moment his Nan went out the front door, only causing himself so much pain that the substance of his stomach almost came up. While eating he got to looking at the photos that were set around the room. He recognized a few of the people, but had no clue who the others were.
One of the photos looked like it came from the eighteen hundreds, but to him that was impossible due to the fact that Nan was in it, though those around her were some of the people he had never known. It would be a question he would ask Casey as soon as they were alone. Kendal could see something different in her demeanor as she worked to get the tree into the center of the foyer.
“I wish I could help you, Casey,” he called out.
“I think I have it, if I could just get it into this stupid holder,” she smiled at him.
“Markus, come help your child put this tree up,” Nan ordered and her father came stumbling up the front steps.
“I’ve got it, Nan. I don’t need help.”
Nan stepped into the doorway. “Let your daddy help you, then he can come back out and help the others.”
Markus stopped behind Nan and waited for her to move aside. His head came up the moment he heard his daughter speak; her head went down the second he stepped through the door. He sluggishly moved toward the tree, causing Kendal to gag when he walked past the entrance to the living room. He slid his plate away and watched as the zombie, his uncle, grabbed the center of the tree and lifted it so Casey could place the holder beneath it. Once it was secure, she turned her back not wanting to look at her rotting father’s face.
“Home,” Markus moaned.
“You are home Daddy,” Casey replied, then turned back around to witness a green gore dripping from her father’s left eye.
“Grave, home,” he moaned again, then turned to head back out of the house.
“I’m so sorry Daddy.” He stopped, lowered his head then continued out the door and off of the porch.
Kendal watched Casey wipe the tears from her eyes. When she noticed that he was staring at her, she hurried down the hall to retrieve the decorations from the room under the staircase. That emotion gave Kendal hope that he could convince her to help him save his family from their grandmother. He couldn’t stand the thought of either his son or wife seeing what he had witnessed, and desperately tried to come up with a plan that would save them the horrific situation.
“They’re almost finished with the pillar lights. I think your little man is going to love it. It has been so long since we had a child running under foot.” Nan smiled as she spoke and Kendal pretended to be amused.
“I can’t thank you enough for doing all of this for Ben and Cindy.”
“And don’t you worry about them seeing the male folk. I’ll make sure to lock the basement and keep them away from the barn. That uncle of yours is just too darn stubborn to stay in the house.”
“How did Uncle Markus pass, Nan?”
“It sounds ironic, but he was killed by the same blades that took your grandpa. He wasn’t as damaged, but the blood loss was just too much. I couldn’t save him, but I was able to mend him enough to keep him from falling apart too soon.” Nan spoke about what she had done, like it was an everyday natural occurrence. To her, maybe it was.
“These are all I can find,” Casey said, as she slid two boxes to the side of the tree.
“That should be plenty,” Nan replied.
“Can I move over and sit in a chair, so I can hand her the decorations?”
“Sure honey, you can use grandpa’s rocker.”
He watched as Nan pulled the chair from the corner and placed it by the boxes. With his arm over the shorter older woman’s shoulder, he hopped over to the rocker, looking up at Casey. Kendal was hoping that she would see the need to talk in his eyes.
“You kids have fun. I have to get some bread in the oven before it gets too late. We can’t let that family of yours coming home and not have a good meal ready when they get here.” She then left them to decorate the tree.
“You have to help me, Casey,” Kendal spoke low enough to not be heard by his grandmother.
“She made you come back, ya know.”
“She placed thoughts in your dreams. I wish you would have never come back.”
“You and me both. Will you help me keep my family safe?”
She looked down at the golden, star shaped ornament in her hand. “I’ll do whatever I can.”
Those words let Kendal know that something horrible would indeed happen if he didn’t stop it, one way or another. They finished the tree and plugged in the lights. The tree came to life and lit the entire foyer. Casey put the boxes away, then came back in and helped Kendal back to the couch. “You have to stop her. You know that don’t you?”
“What are you two kids talking about,” Nan said, as she brought a tray of hot chocolate in and set it on the end table.
“Just talking about how fun it was to get the tree up,” Casey lied.
“It has been a long time, hasn’t it?” she replied, handing Kendal a steaming cup.
“Will I be sleeping on the couch, Nan?” Kendal gave her his best smile.
“It would be hard to get you up the stairs, just to help you back down to the washroom. But I’m afraid you’ll have to be tied back down before we go to bed. Now, it’s not that I don’t trust you, son…”
“I understand. I didn’t really give you reason to trust me. But restraints or not, I won’t be going anywhere. I’m home now.”
Nan pursed her lips together and turned to hide the tears. “You don’t know how happy those words just made me. You kids drink your coco, then get to bed. Casey, you can make sure he’s secure. This old lady needs her sleep.”
“I will Nan, thanks for the hot chocolate.” Casey looked over at Kendal then joined him on the couch.
When Nan was gone Kendal started to speak, but Casey shook her head. She got up and walked to the foyer and waited until she saw the upstairs lights go off. She then looked back and smiled. “She has good hearing.”
“What about the ones outside?”
“They go through the trap door at the back of the house. The only time they come through here is when Nan calls them in for supper. A meal they don’t even eat.”
“Do you know when Cindy will be here?” he asked, scooting to the edge of the couch.
“I would guess tomorrow, but I’m not sure. Your wife sounded like a real sweet woman.”
“She is, and that’s why we have to either warn them to turn around or put a stop to all of this before they get here. We could do it tonight.”
“I don’t know Kendal, she’ll kill me and bring me back just like she has the others. I think she killed my dad. I found his ring up in the attic.”
“Then you know we have to stop her, Casey. What’s up in that attic anyway?”
“Her spells and such. How do we stop her?”
Kendal thought hard on what the young girl could do, being he knew he couldn’t do much. “I think we need to check out that attic.”
“We can’t,” Casey whispered coming back and sitting down beside him. “We’d have to pass in front of her room, to get to the attic stairs. You can’t even walk.”
“I could if I had a crutch or something, and we can wait until we know she’s asleep. We have to Casey.”
“I don’t think I can do that.” She clutched at the top of her blue shirt. “I don’t wanna end up like my dad, and she can do it.”
“How long has she been like this?”
“Forever I think, I don’t even think she is our father’s mother, but maybe their grand or great grandmother. I was there when she died and the next day it was like nothing ever happened.”
“She has to have some sort of records about how this all came about, somewhere around here,” he spoke and Casey looked up at the ceiling. “In the attic, right?”
Kendal had talked his cousin into helping him. She left to find something to make a crutch out of, coming back shortly with a broom that she had wrapped the bristles in a cloth. Casey helped Kendal stand and put the bristle part of the broom under his arm. He took a few steps, making too much noise when he placed the tip of the handle back on the hardwood floors.
“This won’t work,” she said holding him under the other arm.
“It will if you wrap the handle.”
She did as he suggested and the sound was somewhat muffled. “It’s still too loud, Kendal. She’ll catch us.”
“Then we will tell her you were helping me to a bed.”
“And if she finds us in the attic?”
“Then we kill her.” His words had Casey sucking in a deep breath.
“Don’t you understand…she can’t die.”
“Go get me a butcher knife, just in case.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t do this.”
“Casey,” he grabbed her elbow and turned her to look at him. “We have to try. She’ll hurt my family. I don’t care what happens to me, but they are innocent. Hell, I even changed my last name so they wouldn’t be a part of all of this. One day she will have you stumbling around like the rest of these undead creatures.”
They waited another hour before they tried going up the large curved staircase. Kendal moaned every time the pain shot up his leg, causing Casey to become more uncomfortable with what they were doing. She stopped halfway up, letting him catch his breath. He adjusted the butcher knife in his belt, took several deep breaths, then nodded for her to continue. He held in the sounds of agony. They slowly made their way down the hall, and quickly rushed through the door that held the attic stairs.
Both heard a door shut and froze halfway up the stairs. Casey shook her head and started to go back down. Her fear of being caught was over-powering her need to help her cousin. “Wait, where are you going?”
“I can’t, I’m sorry,” she replied and fled down the stairs and disappeared through the door.
“Son of a bitch,” he hissed, and kept hopping and using the broom to make is way into the attic.
Kendal found the room at the back of the gloomy attic. He pushed the door open and grabbed his mouth and nose. To him, the stench was far worse than it was in the basement. He hopped to the table that was covered in bones and right away found his wedding ring; the one that he hadn’t even noticed was gone. He looked down at his hand, as his mind went in several different directions. He was about to pick up the ring, when he heard steps coming his way. He hurried back to the door and leaned on the wall pulling the blade from his belt.
“I know you’re in here son, and I know you mean to stop me,” Nan called out.
He stayed frozen with the blade held high. The knob turned and his deceased father stepped in. He shoved him from behind, knocking the zombie into the table and both crashed to the floor. Nan stepped through, and the blade struck her in the back of the neck. “Get him,” she yelled, reaching back to pull the blade free. Kendal moved to grab the handle so he could strike again, but his grandfather grabbed his shirt and pulled him back.
“Casey, help me.”
“She can’t help you son,” Nan laughed, holding the butcher knife in her hand. “No one can help you now.”

The next morning Cindy pulled up in the Haskell driveway. Nan and Casey stood on the porch, just as they had when Kendal drove up. Nan walked down and invited her in. “Where’s Kendal?”
“Oh, he’s fine. He’s working out in the field with his uncle. That boy just wants to help at every turn.”
Up in the attic the table was back on its legs, with two new bones that had jewelry tied to one end. Casey rubbed her arm that was covered in long sleeves, smiled, and went to the car to help carry Kendal’s family’s bags into the house.
“This is one fine looking young man,” Nan said, as Ben got out beside his mother. “Glad to have the family back together for the Holiday’s.”
“Mom said Santa would be visiting me here.”
“Oh he will, son…he will.”

We hope you have enjoyed Silver Bells and Zombie Tales by Robin Renee Ray and if you did, be sure to check out her other great stories...

Bloodbreeders: Living In Darkness
After Hours

Jade Slate: Hell’s Most Wanted

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