Southern Ways – Part 6
Liz’s words echoed as I drove home from Sea Island. What message could a spirit possibly have for me? All of this seemed so superficial. It’s not like I had any powers or connection to Dahlia or Clementine. Could I transfer this apparition to Liz? She’s the person with all the knowledge and power.
Understanding a portion of the history proved advantageous. At least I could figure out what my part in this would play. I decided I wouldn’t tell my husband. He was much too closed-minded in his views to accept that a dead, burned-out witch was stalking me.
I extended the séance invitation to Liz since a member of my group backed out. We considered her to be an essential asset to the group. The offer to have a driver come pick her up sealed the deal.
When I pulled into the driveway, my cousin’s car was parked in front of the house. I checked the time: 3:15 p.m. There had been no accidents on the I-95, so the drive unfolded smoothly. I parked my SUV behind him and checked the windows before venturing toward the front door. I checked the front windows. The sinister face I had seen the other day wasn’t in sight. I walked in. Ralph’s golf bag was in the foyer, which leaned on the bottom step and railing.
“Ralph? I’m back.” I called out. Nothing. Someone had put the day’s mail in Aunt Rosie’s large bowl on the foyer table. I flipped through the envelopes. Junk.
“Are you here?” He could be in the bathroom. I walked into the kitchen to fetch a bottle of water. Emma had organized everything so well, which reminded me to speak to Ralph about the help.
My stomach growled, and I realized I had eaten nothing all day. There was plenty of leftover food. I opened the refrigerator. The containers were all labeled and I seized the one that read ‘roast beef.’ As I closed the door, Ralph yelled out, “Boo!”
The plastic Rubbermaid bowl fell out of my hand and landed on the floor.
“What the hell?” I yelled.
“Why so jumpy?”
“Why are you being an idiot?” I shot back as I picked up the bowl, grateful it hadn’t lost its lid.
“Apologies. I intended to pull a little ghost trick on you.”
“I’ve had enough of ghosts this past month, thank you very much.”
He caught sight of the roast beef, and asked, “Anything else in there worth eating?”
“Check it out yourself.”
“Which stuff was drugged?”
“I assumed it was the tea. Do you suppose the food was, too?” I looked at the piece of meat I held in my hand.
“In retrospect, I’ll wait until I go home before I eat anything.” I said.
“Here, I’ll take it. I’m already home.” He grabbed the roast beef from my hand and shoved it into his mouth.
“What was so important you needed to talk to me about?” He said with his mouth full of food.
For a second, my mind went blank. What did I want to discuss with him? “The help, for one. They asked me if you would keep them on or let them go?” I said out loud.
“Keep.” He said as he put another slice of roast beef in his mouth. His chewing annoyed me.
“Were you aware your mother practiced witchcraft?”
“Somewhat. Rosie liked to dabble in lots of different things regarding the occult.”
“I presumed you were not aware our ancestors had connections to voodoo, the occult, and witchcraft? It never occurred to me until I started the research and, of course, after I met Liz at your mom’s funeral. And whatever caused us to become part of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I laughed out loud.
He stood there, staring at me.
“Huh?” He mustered with a look of confusion on his face.
“Didn’t you encounter something odd last night?” I asked.
“Was that a performance piece?” he asked. “That was all planned?”
“By an unknown individual. We have yet to discover who is behind it.” I explained.
“Seriously? Hell, it crossed my mind someone had sprinkled magic mushrooms on the food to relax all the tight asses who showed up. It’s common knowledge most of those people disrespected us, right?”
“No. I always believed the community liked Aunt Rosie after all the money she and your father donated to the city.”
“Until they found out about Dahlia.” He said.
“Dahlia? Are you familiar with her?”
“Sure. That spirit has been a fixture in this house since I was a boy.”
“What? Why didn’t you mention her to me? Why did you think I was going through all those photo albums of your mothers? Reminiscing?”
“I had no idea what you were after. Why didn’t you tell me?”
He had a point. I refrained from telling him why I was examining the books. I figured he’d think I was losing my mind. It was a relief he was knowledgeable about it.
“Did you know about Plate-eye?”
“Yeah, those creepy shape shifters? My mother cautioned me about them when I was younger. I used to see things in my room at night after the nanny tucked me in. Mom gave me a small burlap pouch with some stinky stuff in it. Placed it under my bed, in a shoebox.”
“I’m so glad you are acquainted with all this. I’m guessing you’ll have no problem with the séance we are conducting here next week, then?”
“Hell, no. I welcome it. Whenever mother held a seance, it kept them at bay for a while. But, may I ask? Why are you engaging in a supernatural ritual?” He asked.
I hesitated to tell him the whole truth, just in case he was involved. “Ralph,” I said, “I don’t think your mother died of natural causes. Somebody or something triggered her heart attack. The desperation in her voice when she called me-I can’t get it out of my head. To bring her peace, I need to comprehend this.”
“So, she can rest in peace, or you?” Ralph’s voice showed hesitation for the first time. “Well, keep me informed. Is that all you needed?” I felt like he was about to dismiss me.
“Um, for now.” I said.
“Great. I need to get going. I have dinner plans tonight with my golf buddies. Lock the door when you leave.”
“Sure. Have fun.”
I wandered over to the parlor, where my latest stack of photo albums still lay on the coffee table. It seemed pointless to keep going through them now that I had discovered Dahlia. Despite that, I had gained a wealth of knowledge about our family’s past.
Positioned on the edge of the couch, I snatched the last album I had reviewed before I departed to visit Liz.
As the sun set, unfamiliar shadows filled the parlor. I tried not to let it spook me too much. To avoid another encounter of the eerie plate-eye, I closed the book, left Ralph a note, and secured the house.
We had a week left before the séance. My job was to call everyone to get solid ‘yes’s’ out of them. Dahlia’s message needed to get through. The suspense was became unbearable. You would have believed she would have unveiled it to my aunt. On the flip side, her actions could have led Aunt Rosie to experience cardiac arrest.
The morning of the séance marked the day gray and cloudy. I had confirmed all twelve of the women for that night. We were ready. A slight breeze rustled through trees as I walked over to the graveyard. Fall in Savannah was usually a repeat of spring, but instead of the leaves coming to life, they fell to their death.
As I approached the fenced-in area, I opened the gate and walked over to my aunt’s headstone. On top of the grave marker were small stones. It’s customary for individuals who visit the burial site to either place flowers or small stones at the marker, so loved ones know someone has been there to pay their respects.
Frankly, I was surprised to see the dozen or so pebbles. Not aware of anyone who may have visited formally or who had announced their presence on our property, I chalked it up to it must have happened during the funeral. In my mind, I acknowledged I should eliminate any change for error.
“Tonight’s the night, Aunt Rosie. Twelve of your closest friends will sit around a white candle, summoning you to join us. Tell us what you have learned in the afterlife and who, if anyone, is responsible for your death?” I paused, in hopes to feel her presence. Only the chill in the wind crawled on my skin through the opened cable-knit sweater I wore. My arms enveloped my chest and stomach.
“Okay, then. I’ll have to wait until this evening and hope for the best. See ya later.”
My feet crushed the brown foliage scattered on the ground, and like when I was younger, I kicked them as I walked back to the house. The fog, typical of Savannah’s cooler days, gave a foreboding feel, like in the old time horror movies. I shivered, and hoped no evil was about to happen.
I looked back at the cemetery one last time, half hoping I’d see a ghostly figure. There was a noticeable calm in the spirits during the previous months. Maybe they knew we were having a séance, and they had saved their material for our gathering.
Ralph decided to stay in his bedroom, with a bottle of red wine, rather than sit in. Fine by me.
Roxanne turned up an hour before anyone else. She arranged the seating, set out the candles, and checked the space for bugs or recorders. I set up a charcuterie board, opened three bottles of cabernet to allow for aeration, and got out red and white wine glasses. They were placed on the counter before going into the dining room. We closed the heavy drapery for effect.
After completing our tasks, Roxanne and I poured ourselves a glass of red wine and sat in the parlor.
“Well, this is the place where I initially encountered the manifestation of Dalia,” I disclosed to Roxanne. I sampled the wine and watched her reaction over my glass.
“Not surprising. Your aunt regularly came across her in this house.” She crossed her legs and continued. “It happened frequently, and Rosie would call me in the middle of the night, frightened. I tried to explain to her she had no reason to worry. Dahlia meant her no harm, but your mother’s sister insisted I come by the next morning and sage the house.”
“Would you?” I inquired.
“Every time.” She took a sip of wine.
“Did it work?”
“For a while. But it always came back. We tried to contact Dahlia several times, but she never appeared.”
I questioned why Dahlia’s spirit wouldn’t appear when summoned, given her knack for popping up unexpectedly. “Could it be a plate-eye?”
“Ah, yes. Those plate-eyes are tricky little bastards.”
“So, in order to keep you informed, I’ve also stumbled upon one in this vicinity. It has beady little evil eyes and a devilish smile.”
Roxanne looked at me in surprise. “Wha…”
The doorbell interrupted her mid-sentence.
We both stood up to greet our guests. I sensed a major revelation was about to occur this evening.
As I welcomed my best friends, they both stood there smiling, a bottle of wine in their hands. “For afterwards,” Betsy said as she pushed past me. “Now, where are the glasses? I’m dying for a drink.”