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Subject: {ASSM} The House at the End of the Street 14/18 (mf ff msolo fsolo group inc 1st oral voy mc nc bon toys humil magic)
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<1st attachment, "Chapter14.txt" begin>

WARNING: This is a work of erotic fiction. It contains depictions of
nudity and graphic sex.

Author: A Strange Geek
Title: The House at the End of the Street
Universe: Haven
Summary: 4 teens find a mysterious house that can grant them great
power. Will they lose themselves in sexual revelry, or will they turn
from the darkness in time? Or does the house itself have an agenda ...

Part: 14 of 18
Keywords: mf, ff, msolo, fsolo, group, inc, 1st, oral, voy, mc, nc,
bon, toys, humil, magic

Copyright A Strange Geek, 2006

Feedback welcome! Please email me at astraYOURngegeek@comMINDcast.net
( lose YOUR MIND to email me )

Or to send anonymous feedback, use the form at bottom of HTML version:

http://www.asstr.org/~A_Strange_Geek/novels/TheHouse/Chapter14.html



---------------

For Melinda, some Sundays were doubly frustrating.

It was bad enough to be dragged to church and sit through a boring
sermon that she would not remember more than five minutes after it had
concluded, but Sunday was the day that friends and relatives would drop
by to visit. Melinda was forced to sit through these tedious sessions
still in her good Sunday clothes, and woe to her later if she
misbehaved in the slightest. This was compounded by the fact that
Heather was exempt from these, as her mother felt she was mature enough
to have her own things to do.

At least one thing had changed. Heather used to give Melinda a smug
grin as she left her baby sister to her fate. This time, her smile had
been almost sympathetic.

When her mother bid goodbye to the last of their visitors, Melinda
launched herself from the couch and hurried out of the room.

"Melinda!"

She stopped and sighed, rolling her eyes before whirling around. "What
it is, Mom?" she asked a bit sharply from the hall.

"Come back in here, Melinda, I need to talk to you."

Melinda bit her lip nervously. She recognized that tone of voice. /Aw,
shit, what did I do now?/ she thought despondently.

She stepped back into the living room, walking with heavy footsteps
just short of stamping. This drew an immediate look of disapproval.
"What is it, Mom?" Melinda asked, forcing her voice softer.

Penelope Sovert -- or "Penny", since she hated the name Penelope --
just looked at her daughter for a moment, hands on her hips. A hard
expression was set on her otherwise gentle, oval-shaped face framed by
dark red hair, drawn into a ponytail behind her head. She extended a
single arm and silently pointed to the sofa.

Melinda sighed and dropped like a stone onto the cushions. There was no
need in pretending to be nice. It was obvious to her that her mother
was mad at her for something.

Penny looked at her daughter and folded her arms. "Melinda, I got a
call last night from Mrs. Conner."

Melinda's eyes widened a touch but she remained silent.

"She's very concerned about you and Jason, it seems."

"Huh? Why?" Melinda blurted. "We're not doing anything wrong!"

"Are you sure of that?"

"What?? Of course I am!" Melinda cried, though her cheeks grew warm.

"Then why are you blushing?"

"/I'm not!/" But her cheeks just grew redder.

"Melinda, you're a little young to have a boyfriend right now."

"Most of my friends have boyfriends already!"

"I'm not their mother. I'm /your/ mother."

"Yeah, don't remind me," Melinda grumped before she could stop herself.

"Melinda Ann, that's enough," Penny said firmly. "Don't talk back to
me."

"You let Heather talk back to you all the time!"

"Melinda, we're not talking about Heather now, we're talking about
you."

"Well, I don't want to talk about me," Melinda said adamantly. "Jason's
a ... a friend. That's all. He's not doing anything wrong."

Penny appeared to pause for a moment.

Melinda silently fumed. She hated being forced into the position of
defending Jason. She was supposed to be angry with him. He didn't stop
Richie, and he took advantage of her. If he had at least even /tried/
to make her cum, she would not be so upset.

"I just don't want you ... well, trying anything that you're not ready
for yet."

Melinda blushed even more furiously at this. "I'm not," she said in a
small voice.

"Just like you're not going off on your own on days that you're
supposed to stay with your sister?"

Melinda gave her mother a stricken look. "How did you ... but ...!"

"No 'buts', Melinda. I told you I don't want you off on your own, so
this will stop now."

Melinda gasped and jumped out of her seat. "C'mon, Mom! No!"

"Don't shout, Melinda. Okay, you don't want to hang out with your
sister, that's fine, but starting tomorrow, on days I'm working, you
stay home here."

"That's not fair!" Melinda wailed. "Stop treating me like a baby!"

Penny swayed a bit and her eyelids fluttered.

"I'm old enough to do something things on my own. It's not like I even
leave the neighborhood here. I just hang out, that's all! What's wrong
with that?"

Penny swallowed and raised a trembling hand to her forehead, taking a
deep, shaky breath.

Melinda stopped and stared at her mother. "Mom? What's the matter?"

Penny stood still for another moment with her hand on her forehead.
After a few more seconds, she steadied. Her hand no longer shook as it
dropped from her head. She let her breath go in a single, smooth sigh,
her body giving one last small shudder before growing still.

"Nothing's the matter, Melinda, dear," she said in a decidedly sweeter
tone of voice. Her lips curled into a pleasant smile.

Melinda's mouthed dropped open. "Mom ... a-are you sure ...?"

"You know, Melinda, you're right," she said. "I /have/ been treating
you unfairly."

Melinda just gaped, speechless.

"I'll stop doing that right now. You can keep going out during the week
on days that I'm working."

"You ... you mean that?"

Penny smiled and nodded.

Melinda felt a chill. The look on her mother's face was just like what
she would see in the others at the house. "Mom, are you sure you're all
right?" she asked in a small voice.

"Never better, dear."

"You don't ... you don't feel funny or anything like that?"

"I did for a moment, but not now. Can I do anything for you? Anything
at all?"

A small smile came to Melinda's lips. "Anything?"

"Anything."

Melinda was not sure why that particular thing came into her head, but
she had barely formed the thought in her head when her mother spoke
again.

"Wait, I know. Would you like me to make those chocolate cupcakes of
mine that you like so much?"

Even though she knew her mother was just echoing her own desire,
Melinda stared in disbelief. "On a /Sunday?/"

"Sure, why not? Anything for my wonderful daughter."

"Uh, sure, Mom, that would be great."

"I'll started on that right away," Penny said. She stopped in front of
Melinda and touched her cheek lovingly before heading straight into the
kitchen.

Melinda stared at her mother's back until the woman retreated out of
view.

Her skin felt flushed, and her sex tingled madly. Her emotions barreled
through her head in a torrid rush. She had just used some of that power
from the house on her own mother. She felt at once elated, spooked, and
guilty.

Is this what it would be like if she had the power all the time, her
mother treating her more in the way that Heather was treated? For a
just a brief moment, Melinda craved more. She wanted to see what she
could really do with something like this. She could finally have some
of the things she always wanted. She could finally have her own room!
Privacy at last!

Grinning, Melinda started towards the kitchen. As she grew nearer, she
heard the sounds of pots and pans being moved about beyond the door.
She was just raising her hand to push open the swinging door when she
hesitated.

Her smiled slowly faded and she lowered her hand, backing away from the
door a step.

Was that too much too soon? Wouldn't she have to control her mother for
awhile to get her to do those things? It could take days or even weeks
to get what she wanted. She couldn't see herself doing that. Something
about that idea creeped her out.

Melinda sighed. No, she had to let go. She couldn't do this to her
mother. She'd stop.

She paused, then smiled to herself and turned away from the kitchen.

/Well, I can at least let her make the cupcakes first,/ she thought.



Jason had trouble focusing on anything that day.

If Saturday morning had been bad, the afternoon had been worse. It had
been as if his mother had been waiting to pick up their argument from
right where they had left off. This time, Jason's father had done
nothing to intervene. Worse, Jason had sensed silent, seething anger
from him, as if the man somehow knew that his son had controlled him.

Jason felt stupid. Of course he would know! Just like Melinda, Heather,
and Richie all knew afterward that they had been controlled, having
remembered the actions they took and how they were powerless to stop
it. If he didn't think Jason was responsible, he knew something strange
had happened, and he had not liked it one bit.

Now it was Sunday, and Jason spent much of the morning languishing in
his room. For once he wished his parents were churchgoers. At least
then he would have had a chance to see the others. Maybe Melinda would
have talked to him, and he could have convinced her not to be mad at
him anymore.

Jason was a mass of conflicting emotions and thoughts. He still felt it
was wrong to have this power, yet he didn't trust the others with it,
either. He felt compelled to return to the house, to watch the others.
His own forays into using the power he could keep in check, he was sure
of it.

Walk away from it. That was the "right" thing to do. But would Melinda
do the same? Or would she keep going back? Could she not be trusted to
do the right thing either? Worst of all, Jason still liked her very
much. If he didn't go back, would she ever want to give him the time of
day again?

He needed answers, but he did not even have anyone of whom to ask the
questions in the first place.

Except one.

Jason sighed in resignation and dropped into his seat before the
computer. He called up a map-finder service, and looked up the Sunny
Hills Nursing Home. He tapped his fingers impatiently as the computer
sent the map to the printer. He snatched at the sheet barely a second
after the printer had ejected it.

The home was only a little over two miles away, right up Green Avenue,
in the northeast corner of the town. He hastily folded the map and
thrust it into his pocket as he burst out of his room. He was down the
stairs, through the garage, and on his bike before his mother noticed
he was heading out. He ignored her indignant shouts from the front door
and pedaled away as fast as he could.



Richie had lapsed into sullen silence by the time his mother drove them
back home after church.

/Well/ after church, Richie realized with resentment. He had been
forced to wait around in the car while Sandra flirted with a man that
had to be ten years her junior. It had been obvious where the
conversation had been leading, for she had playfully slapped a hand
from her body three times. Each time she had let him get a little
further, until the last attempt she had let him fondle one ass cheek
briefly before finally batting his hand away.

After walking into the house, Richie said in a low voice, "You're going
out again."

Sandra looked at her son, giving him a small, humorless smirk. "Oh, now
whatever gave you that idea?" she said in a sarcastic tone of voice
before heading up the stairs.

"You were out all afternoon yesterday!" Richie countered, chasing after
her. "And the evening!"

"Yeah? So?"

"Would be nice if you stayed home. Like you did Friday."

Sandra stopped just past the top of the stairs and spun around. She
regarded Richie with an angry look in her eyes, but a trace of anxiety
flickered in them as well. "That wasn't my idea," she said flatly.

Richie said nothing.

Sandra's eyes narrowed, her muscles tensing. She knew something odd had
happened that night. Her rationality told her that her son could not
possibly have been responsible for it. Fear told her something else.
"You wanted me to stay home," she said.

"Yeah, I guess I did."

Sandra remained silent for a moment, as if daring him to confirm the
unthinkable.

"So why can't you stay home today?"

Sandra continued to hesitate, as if expecting something to happen. She
sighed and forced herself to relax. "You don't need me here today,
Richie. You've got plenty to keep you occupied."

She turned and quickly headed into her bedroom. Richie tried to follow,
but she slammed the door shut in his face.

"What about dinner tonight?" Richie bellowed through the door.

"I don't know, Richie! If I get home in time, yes."

"How long does it take to fuck, anyway?" Richie muttered in a low voice
as he turned away from the door.

He trudged down the hall to his own room and quickly changed out of his
Sunday clothes, anxious to get into something more comfortable. By the
time he was done, he heard his mother's door open already. He popped
out of his room in time to see his mother trot past him. All she had
done was fix up her hair a little, change into a very short skirt, and
slip on some black stockings.

"What, already? You that desperate?" Richie said, blurting out the
words before she had a chance to reach the stairs.

Sandra stopped and glared at him. "Watch your fucking mouth,
smart-ass."

Richie ignored this and stepped up to her. She flinched slightly, and
he saw worry cloud her eyes briefly. "That's what you look like to me,"
he said. "Couldn't go two days in a row without getting laid?"

Sandra laughed. "Yeah, like you're one to talk. I can guess what you've
been doing every morning. And don't give me that fucking innocent look,
either. I know you haven't been at the park to play ball in nearly a
week."

"But at least I'm home for dinner, which is a lot more than I can say
about you!" Richie shouted.

"Stop being a little fuckwit and get over yourself!" Sandra screamed
back. "You're fourteen. Stop acting like a big baby!"

Sandra started down the stairs, Richie glaring at her back.

"I don't want you out late, Mom," he declared loudly.

Sandra stopped at the bottom of the stairs. The hand on the banister
trembled.

"I mean it."

She took a deep breath and let it go as a rattling sigh. Her fingers
curled reflexively until the knuckles turned white.

Richie felt the rush again, and the sudden, abrupt arousal. "Let him
fuck you all he wants," he said. "But don't stay late. I want you to
make dinner tonight."

Sandra's hand relaxed. Her mouth stretched into a serene smile. "Of
course, dear," she said in a soft voice. "I would love to do that. May
I go now?"

Richie slowly grinned. "Sure, Mom."

Sandra nodded once and headed towards the front door.

"Just remember what I said, okay?" Richie called out, and started back
into his room.

"Of course, Richie," she said, though he was already out of earshot.
"Let him fuck me all he wants, and be home to make dinner."

She quietly let herself out the front door.



Melinda heard the door to her room click shut. She looked up just as a
hand abruptly snatched the magazine she was reading from her hands.

"Hey!"

"Shut up," Heather snapped, throwing the magazine to the side. Her eyes
flicked over to the small plate on Melinda's night table and the
chocolate cake crumbs scattered over it. She picked up the plate and
stared at it for a moment, as if needing to convince herself it was
real. "Fuck, she even let you eat in our room??"

Melinda just gave her sister a smug smile.

Heather put the plate down with a loud clatter, casting a dark look at
Melinda that made the younger girl's smile fade. "All right, just what
the hell is going on?" Heather hissed. "What's wrong with Mom?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do, you little snot. She's sitting in the kitchen looking
really freaked out about something. I've never seen her like that."

"Freaked out?" Melinda said in a low voice, giving Heather a wary look.
"What do you mean?"

"She looks like she saw a fucking ghost. She keeps looking at the bowls
and stuff from the cupcakes she made and shaking her head."

Melinda bit her lip. "Uh ..."

Heather narrowed her eyes. "You /do/ know what's going on, don't you?!"

"No!" Melinda cried, eyes wide. "I don't!"

"Fucking liar."

"Heather, please, I ... I didn't do anything, okay?" Melinda said in a
quavering voice. "I mean, I didn't hurt anyone."

Heather paused a moment, still staring at her little sister, trying to
sort out what she just heard. "So you did do something," Heather said
in a low, dangerous voice. "You did something to Mom, didn't you?"

Melinda swallowed, stricken and quivering.

"You did the same thing to her we do in the house!" Heather said in a
shouting whisper. "Mel, how /could/ you?!"

"You would have done the same thing! She was going to make me stop
seeing Jason! Then I couldn't go to the house anymore! I had to do
something!"

Heather snatched the plate up and threw it into Melinda's lap. "Yeah,
and I suppose cupcakes were critical to that plan, huh?"

Melinda's cheeks burned. "What's the big deal?" she said sullenly.

Heather dropped her head into her hand. "Mel, you can't do things like
this ..."

"Oh, yeah? And if it had been you and she told you that you can't see
Brad anymore, what then, huh?"

"Never mind that. Why do you care if you can see Jason? I thought you
were pissed off at him?"

"I am," Melinda said in a softer voice. "Sorta."

"Look, you can't do this anymore, okay? Not to Mom."

"You're just jealous that I can do it and you can't!"

Heather snorted. "Yeah, right. So how'd you get the house to give you
that power, Mel? Beg? Shed a few crybaby tears? Make it pity you?"

"Shut up! You're the one that wanted to bring Brad into the house so
you could boink him the way you wanted. Or do you want to try to get
the power too so you can do it yourself?"

Heather could not help but flash a brief but smug smile at this.

Melinda's mouth dropped open. "You've already done that!" Melinda
squeaked. "You have!"

"That's not the point, Mel ..."

"Like hell, it's not! You have a lot of fucking nerve, telling me what
I can't do, when you've done it yourself!"

"/But not on Mom!/" Heather said through clenched teeth.

"Oh, yeah? Why not?" Melinda demanded.

Heather almost told her. She almost told Melinda what she had seen
happen the week before. Heather had tried to catch her mother at it
again, but Penny knew she was being watched from the start, and had
kept her time with the reverend short. The look on the woman's face
when she had seen Heather watching her had been one of annoyance.

Whatever was going on with her mother, she didn't need Melinda making
it worse.

"Because I don't do it," Heather said, not knowing what else to say.

"You don't have to. She gives you everything you ever want. Everything
for Heather, she's the ma-TURE one," Melinda said in a mocking tone of
voice. "What if I want something now and then, huh? I can't go running
to Dad for everything. Mom treats me like a baby. Just like you do."

"Then stop /acting/ like a baby. You want everything your way, don't
you?"

"Oh my God, just listen to yourself! Heather, what did I just tell you?
You already get everything your way! I want the same thing here that I
want at the house. I want it to be my turn for a change. Why is that so
bad?"

Heather paused for a moment, dropping her gaze. "All right, I
understand," she said in clipped tones. "But don't do it this way,
okay? Let me talk to Mom. Maybe I can get her to ..."

Melinda sneered. "Oh, yeah, sure, how generous of you. Then I'll owe
you another favor. Nice try."

"Melinda, I didn't mean that!"

"And maybe I don't need you to do it anyway, since I can just get
things from her myself now!"

Heather stared at her little sister. "You can't do that, Mel! You ..."

"Shut up, Heather! Just shut up! No more! Don't tell me what I can't
do. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of just being your 'baby sister'. I'm
tired of you getting all the attention. I'm tired of you calling me
'Mel' or 'runt'. And I'm tired of you. So, fuck you, Heather. Fuck you
/and/ Mom!"

Melinda was sniffling back tears. She reached over and picked up her
magazine, putting it between her and Heather.

Heather resisted the impulse to pull the magazine away from her sister
again. She uttered a small and barely audible sigh before standing up
and heading slowly out of the room.



"You want to see /who?/"

Jason resisted the urge to cringe at the critical look that the nurse
gave him. Already he was so nervous he had to keep his hands in his
pockets so they wouldn't shake, only to realize that made him look too
much like the kind of kids they would much prefer to keep out of a
place like this. He forced himself to take his hands out and clasped
them tightly in front of him.

"Elizabeth Jellison, ma'am," he said, trying to keep his voice steady.
"Please."

The nurse's lips tightened into a small, humorless smirk, her gaze
raised imperiously over the top rims of her glasses. "She is not
expecting any visitors," she said crisply, drawing back as if wanting
to put more distance between herself and this boy.

Jason was unsure of what to do next. The nurse -- a hard-faced,
weathered woman with frayed, graying hair drawn tightly into a bun
behind her head -- did not look the least sympathetic to anything he
might say. "I'm s-sorry, ma'am," Jason said meekly. "But I really would
like to see her, please."

Behind her, a younger nurse with long, raven hair glanced over to Jason
with some interest.

The older one regarded Jason for a long moment before uttering a sigh
and turning towards her computer. She clicked a few times with the
mouse and read silently. "Miss Jellison has been suffering from bouts
of dementia for some time, mister, ah ..."

"Jason. Jason Conner."

"It is unlikely she will even know you are there, Mr. Conner."

Jason looked crestfallen. He should have realized this might happen.
Why else would she be in a nursing home unless she could no longer take
care of herself?

"You're not even family," the nurse continued loftily. She shook her
head. "I'm sorry, Mr. Conner, but ..."

"Oh, come on, Agnes, let Lizzie have a visitor."

Both Jason and the gray-haired nurse named Agnes turned to the younger,
black-haired one. "Lizzie?" Agnes said sardonically.

"Yes, Lizzie. She likes to be called that."

"And how would you know?"

"Because she told me, Agnes," said the younger one in a tired voice.
"She's more lucid than you give her credit for."

Jason remained silent. He was very, very tempted to try to see if his
power would work here. Just a small nudge, that's all. That wouldn't be
so bad.

"Maria," Agnes said in a voice of forced patience. "Who makes the final
decisions about the care of our residents here?"

Maria sighed. "You do."

"Yes, I do. You'd best remember that. And if I say she cannot have this
boy as a visitor ..."

"But her own family never visits anymore! She shouldn't have to be
alone all the time."

Agnes gave a suffering sigh. "Really, Maria, I expect more from you
than this. Compassion is one thing. Rampant sentimentality is quite
another."

Jason's hands curled into fists, and he trembled in frustration.

"I don't think it's being sentimental just to have someone to talk to
for a bit."

"As I have stated already to this boy, she is beyond the capability for
such things. Furthermore, I ..."

Agnes stopped.

Maria lifted her eyes and gave the older nurse a puzzled look. "Agnes?"

Agnes blinked rapidly a few times and shuddered once. She took a few
short, deep breaths.

"Are you all right?" Maria asked.

Agnes let go with a slow, soft sigh. "Of course I am, Maria," she said
in a far more friendly tone of voice. "Please take this nice boy back
to see Miss Jellison, if you would be so kind."

Jason's hands relaxed and let his breath go as a ragged sigh.

Maria blinked in surprise. "Uh ..."

"You were right, Maria. She could use a visitor to brighten her day."

"Um, yes. Yes, of course."

/No need to stay in the room,/ Jason thought hard. /You can trust him./

"Oh, and Maria," Agnes said as Maria stepped out of the nurses'
station. "No need to stay with him in the room. You can trust this
boy."

Maria looked completely nonplussed at this. "Uh ... okay ... um, Jason,
is it?"

Jason just nodded, too anxious to speak.

Maria managed a smile. "Follow me, please."

Jason nodded again silently and fell into step alongside her.

He hated having to do that. At the same time, however, his body
responded to the rush of power the same as it had before, by stirring
his loins uncomfortably in his pants. He quelled the urge to think of
anything that might remotely sustain this, to the point of averting his
eyes from Maria's rather attractive body.

Fortunately this proved easier as he advanced further into the
building. He still recognized the smell from the last time he had
visited such a place. It was a horrid combination of antiseptic and the
musky odor of impending death.

It was not the same as a hospital. When Jason would sometimes visit his
Dad in the hospital back in the city, he would pass by the emergency
room and catch all manner of vile and terrible odors, from sweat, to
blood, to vomit. Yet that was tolerable to him. It seemed to dissipate
quickly, and he promptly forgot about it. After all, many people went
home from places like that. They got better and left.

But the air at a nursing home was different. It was leaden and
suffocating. The smell was not so much that of sickness as it was of
decay and hopelessness. No one came out of a place like this. Anyone
that actually left always came back in time, to linger and fade away.
Perhaps not always forgotten, but in the state that some people were in
when they passed on, they might have well been.

Places like this gave him the creeps more than a cemetery would.

"Are you a friend of hers?" Maria asked.

Jason jumped. "Huh? Oh, uh ... yeah, you could say that. Mutual friend
between us."

"Anyone I know?" she asked with a smile.

"Probably not." /And please don't ask anymore,/ he thought. He had to
fight the urge to use the power again.

"I'm glad you've come. She really doesn't get any visitors anymore."

"Was what the other one said true? Is she ... well, going senile?"

Maria sighed softly. "She's not a well woman, of course, being
eighty-eight," she said. "She's mostly withdrawn, not senile. Frankly,
you're lucky my supervisor was in a good mood today."

Jason glanced at Maria. He could tell from the look on her face that
she didn't believe that. Even she knew something strange had happened.

"Here we are," Maria said as they stopped outside a closed door. "Now,
when we go in, wait just inside the door until I rouse her, so you
don't frighten her, okay?"

Jason nodded wordlessly, his heart pounding.

He hoped the place would be different from the rooms in the nursing
home back in the city. Perhaps in a small town like this it would be
better. Yet when Maria opened the door, his hopes were largely dashed.
The room still looked plain, stark, and cheerless to him, save for
small bits of color in the form of flowers on a table near the bed, and
some pictures of what he assumed were her family.

And there was that persistent smell of decay and death.

Maria walked swiftly across the room towards a wizened, drawn-faced old
woman sitting hunched over in a wheelchair. Her hair was wispy and
white, clean but unkempt. Her hands were gnarled and ancient, the
fingers knobbly. Above and in front of her, a television played, but it
was unlikely she was looking at it at all.

Maria bent down. "Lizzie? Oh, Lizzie, I have a nice surprise for you."

For a heart-stopping moment, Jason thought the woman was dead. Finally,
however, she stirred, uttering a weak moaning sound.

"Someone is here to see you, Lizzie."

A soft grunt and an agitated shuffling of feet greeted this.

"Now, Lizzie, be nice," Maria said softly. "You don't get many
visitors, and he was anxious to see you."

Maria stepped off to one side and smiled, gesturing towards Jason.

The old woman lifted her tremor-ridden head. Jason flinched as
Elizabeth's gaze came to bear on him.

The eyes that looked at Jason appeared incongruous in that head. They
were sharp and clear, like those of someone a fraction of her age. As
the woman got a good look at Jason, her head stopped shaking, and her
eyes narrowed to slits. This somehow magnified their intensity and made
Jason suddenly very nervous.

"This is Jason Conner, Lizzie," Maria said. "He says you two have a
mutual friend."

Elizabeth stared at Jason for another few silent moments, her ancient
and cracked mouth working, her eyes hardening further. "I have no
friends," the old woman finally spoke, her voice like brittle
parchment.

"Oh, now that's not true, Lizzie. I'm your friend, aren't I?"

Elizabeth just made a grunting noise. Her eyes never left Jason.

"So is it okay if Jason stays? You can call me if you have any
problems."

The old woman looked away from Jason long enough to gave a resigned nod
to her head.

Jason swallowed. He should be relieved that Elizabeth was willing to
talk to him, but he was anything but.

Maria smiled. "I'll check in later." She left Elizabeth, and as she
passed Jason, she whispered quietly to him, "Call button near the bed.
Ring if you have any trouble with her."

Jason wanted to know exactly what Maria meant by that, but she was
already closing the door behind her as she left. He turned back to
Elizabeth, who was fixing her cool gaze on him again. He forced himself
to step closer.

He got halfway across the room when Elizabeth's eyes widened and she
barked, "That's close enough, boy!"

Jason froze.

One corner of her mouth turn upwards in a twisted expression that
looked almost like a snarl. "I don't want it," she said.

Jason blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"What you have. What you carry. I don't want it. I never wanted it."

"I don't understand. I'm ... I'm not sick if that's what you mean."

Elizabeth made a derisive noise and looked away. Her breathing was
labored and she wheezed slightly. "Stupid boy," she muttered.

Jason sighed. This wasn't getting him anywhere. "Miss Jellison," he
said. "I ... I wanted to ask you about something."

She did not appear to be listening.

"It's about someone I think you knew a while ago. Someone named Mara."

Elizabeth's head whipped around, and Jason staggered back a step at the
intense alarm in the woman's eyes.

"/Never!/" she said in a ragged hiss. "I won't! I won't do it for her
again!"

Jason stared, wide-eyed, shaking his head. "I'm not ... I mean ... I
don't understand ... I just want to know ..."

"Oh, you already know, boy! I can see it!" She raised a hand, and
extended a single withered finger towards him. "Your aura. The
darkness. It's there."

Jason's heart raced. "D-darkness?"

Elizabeth's lips curled into a nearly toothless smile. "Don't believe
the old woman, eh? Senile old biddy, she is, hmph?"

Jason swallowed. "I-if you mean you used to be a witch ..."

"Used to be? /Used/ to be? You don't /used/ to be things like that,
boy!"

"Look, I-I just need to know about Mara Sanders and the house she used
to live in."

Elizabeth's eyes turned to ice.

"Did she sell it to anyone? Did someone own it after ..."

He trailed off when she gave him a cackling laugh.

"Boy, Mara never sold it because she never /left/ in the first place."

"What?" Jason said, looking at her in abject confusion. "But ... but
she died in 1969, didn't she?"

"Died? What is death, boy? What do you know about it, hmph? Nothing! I
do. She knew I did. Damn her. /Damn her/."

Elizabeth had curled her hands into fists and shook them on the last
two words, and now she appeared winded, breathing heavily and
laboriously for a few moments.

"Do you want me to get the nurse?" Jason asked, desperate for the
excuse to leave.

Elizabeth shook her head violently. She paused, and then raised a hand.
She gestured to him.

Jason crept closer to her. She grew impatient and gestured more
frantically. Finally her hand lashed out and grabbed his wrist with
surprising force and pulled him in, making him yelp in fear and
surprise.

"You listen to me," the old woman said. Her eyes flickered over and
around his head. "It's there, the darkness, but it's faint. Get rid of
it."

"I don't understand."

"Leave it be. The house. /Leave it be./"

"But what is it? I need to understand. What is it doing? What does it
want?"

"Why must you know this?" Elizabeth insisted. Her voice was desperate.

"I just have to, that's all."

"You're foolish. Utterly foolish. Like I was."

"I don't under ..."

"/Stop saying that!/" Elizabeth spat. "You don't have to understand!
Just do it!"

Jason sighed despondently. This was getting him nowhere.

Elizabeth's expression softened and she let go of his wrist. Her hand
was trembling again. "Fine," she said simply. "If you must know. The
house, then. Mara is still there."

"But she died."

"Her body died. Not the rest of her. That was my fault."

"Come on, you can't be serious," Jason blurted. "You can't tell me
she's a ghost."

Elizabeth gave a short laugh. "No. Not a ghost. But you won't believe
what I tell you anyway, so that's all I will say."

Jason was beginning to wonder if Elizabeth Jellison really were just a
senile old woman after all. Yet if he left now, he would feel like he
would be going away empty-handed. He had to see if he could get
something useful from her.

"Miss Jellison, I read that they thought Mara was ... well, mentally
disturbed."

"Disturbed? Hmph. Yes, disturbed. You can't go through what she did and
not be."

"What happened to her? I couldn't find any record of her before 1967."

Elizabeth nodded. "That's when Mara Sanders was born."

Jason frowned and shook his head. "No, she wasn't."

She glared at him.

Jason wanted to cringe but held his ground. "She was 30 when she died
in 1969. She could not have been born in 1967."

"She was born in 1967, boy. I was there. I know."

He was about to protest again when he paused, looking intensely
thoughtful.

"Okay, wait," he said. "So ... so she was a ... a spirit or something
after 1969? But not before 1967? No, that doesn't sound right."

She cackled again. "Even when it's right?"

Jason shook his head. "Then I /really/ don't understand."

Her eyes became hard again. "You cannot have a spirit when your body is
nothing more than a shell."

The way she said this made his blood run cold, and a shudder passed
inexplicably through him.

"Mara ... the /real/ Mara .... died a long time ago," Elizabeth said in
a softer, more somber tone of voice. "Much longer. 1957."

Jason looked up. "Wait, you don't mean Mara Lake?"

Her eyes widened. "Ohh, Mara Lake," she whispered. "Lake. Yes. I had
not heard her real name in years."

"But ... that's a different person, right? She died in 1956."

"1957, boy."

Jason shook his head. "No, it was 1956."

"Don't tell me what I know!" Elizabeth spat. She sighed. "Fine. We're
both right, in a way. She started dying in 1956. She was dead by 1957."

Jason did some quick math in his head. "Miss Jellison, are you saying
Mara Lake and Mara Sanders are the same person?"

"Oh, no," she replied, shaking her head. "No, boy. The lovely girl that
was Mara Lake was lost. Gone forever." Her voice grew strained, as if
she were fighting to say the words. "Boy, it was horrible. Nothing was
worse. She wanted to get away from it at first. But then ... the
memories. Of everything she did! Of ... o-of everything she was forced
to do ... too much for her ... then she never wanted to get away.
Easier to stay. Easier to cope ... that's when Mara Lake died."

Elizabeth's face suddenly grew anguished. She lifted a shaking hand to
her temple. "And now Mara ... sh-she does it ... all because of her
nightmares ... her visions ... m-my fault ... the h-house is my fault!"

Tears tricked down Elizabeth's wrinkled face, and she turned away from
Jason, sobbing.

"I'm sorry," Jason said in a shaky voice.

Elizabeth shook her head. "It's not you," she said in a small, forlorn
voice. "I should have done something but I didn't."

Jason was burning with more questions, but he was afraid of upsetting
her further. It was obvious that this woman did not think in terms with
which he was more familiar. It was clear to him that there was one
person named Mara, and that something happened to her in 1956 or 1957,
and she "reappeared" on the scene in 1967.

And if he understood Elizabeth's convoluted logic correctly, whatever
happened to her was so bad that it was as if Mara were an entirely
different person in 1967 than she was in 1957. Hence, Mara Lake had
"died" and Mara Sanders was "born".

He knew what question he had to ask, even though he was very much
afraid of the answer.

"Please, Miss Jellison, I have to ask you one more thing. What happened
to Mara between 1957 and 1967?"

Elizabeth sniffled a few times and took a deep but wheezing breath. A
small shudder passed through her frail frame as she rasped, "The
Loner."

"The what?"

"The Loner. He happened to her." She slowly turned, her eyes bloodshot
and glistening, and edged with anger. "And the others."

"Others? What others?"

Elizabeth opened her mouth, but the strength rapidly drained from her
face. Her eyelids sagged and her head drooped. She shook her head
slowly. "So tired," she mumbled.

"Miss Jellison, who is the Loner? What ...?"

"No more. No more, boy," Elizabeth said in a pained voice. "You've ...
y-you've made me remember too much ... I wish I was half as senile as
they think ..."

Jason was frustrated. He felt like he had some answers right at his
fingertips and now she refused to talk to him anymore. For a very brief
moment, he considered forcing her to continue talking to him.

Her eyes suddenly blazed. "That's it, isn't it?" she growled. "So easy
to get what you want. So quick. Don't have to work for anything. You
just get it. Everything your way."

Jason's heart hammered and he backed up a step in fear. Did she know
what he had been thinking just a moment ago?

"Get out," Elizabeth said, making a slow, feeble slashing motion with
her arm. "Don't come back here. Don't /ever/ come back here."

Jason nodded and quickly let himself out.



The silence at the table was unnerving.

Richie glanced over to his mother again. She was staring morosely at
her plate, pushing bits of food around with her fork. She had eaten
barely half of the meal before settling into this deepening funk. She
had been nothing like this while preparing dinner. She had gone about
her task with a cheerful smile and a spring in her step, even humming
to herself.

"Um ... Mom?"

"Yes, Richie," Sandra said in a listless voice without looking up.

"Are you okay?"

She paused a moment and let her fork drop to the plate. "Just a little
sore, dear."

Richie looked confused. "Sore? Why?"

Sandra raised her eyes. They were tired and dull. "My ... date ... was
a little enthusiastic," she said acidly.

Richie couldn't help but grin at this. "Did you enjoy it?"

Her gaze wavered. "Yeah, I guess I did," she said tonelessly. "Just ...
it was just ... a little much."

His grin faded a bit. "Well, this is what you like to do with guys,
right?"

Sandra said nothing.

"I mean, that's why you went out. That's what you go out with guys. To
... to get laid."

"Yeah, I go to get laid," Sandra said bitterly, her voice rising. "But
I get laid the way way /I/ want to get laid. You understand me,
Richie?"

"So, what, you mean this time you didn't?"

Sandra just stared at him. "You really don't know?"

Richie looked blankly at his mother.

Sandra made a disgusted noise and shook her head, pushing herself away
from the table. She winced slightly at the twinge from both her
openings as she rose to her feet.

"What?" Richie demanded.

"Nothing. Nothing, okay? Just finish your damn dinner."

He gave her a nonplussed look as she grabbed a beer out of the
refrigerator, slamming the door hard enough to loose one of the magnets
from it and send it clattering to the floor.

"Just ... stay away from me tonight, okay, Richie?" Sandra said, her
voice now more pleading than angry. "Just leave me alone. Please."

Before her stunned son could respond, she rushed out of the room and up
the stairs. She slammed the bedroom door behind her.
<1st attachment end>


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