Though these events happened more than thirty years ago, they are forever etched in my memory. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the not-so-innocent...
I loved spending time at Aunt Dorothea's house in the country--It was a chance to get away from my immediate (and quite dysfunctional) family for awhile, to be rid of the hustle and bustle of living in the city on a major highway, where semis and eighteen wheelers roared past at all hours of the day and night, where I could actually hear myself think.
One hot summer evening long ago, I was there spending the night. I must have been then about ten to twelve years old, well past the age when children don't differentiate between the "real" and "unreal". The air was sticky hot and humid, as Georgia summers tend to be, and I had not long retired for the night in a spare bedroom on the front of the house. I recall at the time that I was wide awake, perhaps from the excitement of being away from home, perhaps because country bedtime is earlier than city bedtime, possibly because of the stifling heat, and maybe because I just plain wasn't sleepy.
At any rate, I was in the bed just kind of tossing about, trying to get used to a strange bed when I was aware of a door to an adjoining bedroom slowly beginning to open. I sat bolt upright in bed, more curious than frightened, though I admit that my heart was racing. The door opened ever so slowly, in fact it seemed as if it was happening in slow-motion. I think I sat there in bed holding my breath as I waited for the door to reveal its mystery, the only sound being a deafening cacophony of crickets, June bugs, July flies, and the like.
Eventually the door opened enough to reveal the slight figure of an ancient woman, and while at my age I thought forty was old, this woman looked much older than that. In the semi- darkness I could still see fairly well, for the moon was shining in through the windows. At once she gave me a little wave, and I waved back. While she was still several feet away and in faint light, I thought I could see her smiling. Then the door began closing as slowly as it had opened.
I continued sitting upright for awhile, wondering who she was and why she was there in Aunt Dorothea's house, though it was not unusual for company to stay over on these hot summer nights. I think I eventually decided that she was just another guest and after some time I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning we were up bright and early, as folks in the country tend to be. At the breakfast table I casually enquired to Aunt Dorothea about her "guest" in the other bedroom. A few chuckles were uttered and then the reply "Why, you must have been dreaming. No one was in that bedroom. (That room is not used)". I was insistent, but after being put off a few times simply let the matter drop. But I never forgot...and I KNOW I was wide awake!
The bedroom that the woman had come from was also quite strange--no matter what it was like in the house, how hot or whatever, that room was always cold. There was a very old photograph of an old couple in that room over the mantelpiece, and their eyes seemed to follow me about the room. I said to Aunt Dorothea one time "That photo is of Thad's (her husband) parents, isn't it?" and my mother was there at the time and she said "no" but Aunt Dorothea agreed with me, that yes, it was the long-departed parents of her husband, and that room had been their bedroom. I knew it was them! But how? Even my mother, Dorothea's sister, did not know who they were.
Some years later, after her husband had passed, late one night Aunt Dorothea's house caught fire. She had been asleep but fortunately awakened in the nick of time, and she had been sleeping in that same bedroom. She escaped with her life and only the few items that she had in a suitcase that was next to the bed. Why did she have a suitcase packed and at the ready? Did someone or something awaken her in time, since the fire had spread to that room by then? The smoke must have been thick as molasses! Yet the smoke inhalation, which kills most people long before the fire, didn't effect her. Though an investigation was carried out, it was never determined what had caused the fire. The house pretty much burnt to the ground.
Today, many years later, the property having been sold long ago, a modern-day farmhouse stands in its place, and it looks as if Aunt Dorothea's house was never there. Since she died some years ago, I may never know the answers to my many questions about Aunt Dorothea's house of unrest.