Black Petals Issue #88, Summer, 2019

A Place of His Own
Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Place of His Own-Fiction by Dorian Sinnott
Blood on the Riviera-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Chapter 13-Fiction by A.M.Stickel
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Chapter 14-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Chapter 15-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Conclusion-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Red Dress-Fiction byTrisha McKee
The Dead Are Not Lonely-Fiction by A. L. Hodges
The Taxidermist is Hatching-Fiction by Michael Mulvihill
This Isn't You-Fiction by J. David Thayer
Love River Forever-Poem by Hicham El Qendouci
Fire Rages from Her Fingertips-4 Poems by T. B. Kelley
Sheepsquatch-3 poems by Richard Stevenson

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A Place of His Own

 

By Dorian Sinnott

End of the line

 

 

 There’s something ominous about railroads. In the light of day, they’re nothing more than a busy route, transporting goods and people through the countryside. Onlookers line the rails, waving as each carrier car rattles by. This continues until sunset, until the last train makes its way through the fields, and silence overtakes the land. But at night, when the tracks go still, whispers can be heard rising from beneath the framework. Stories of lies, betrayal, and deceit. Revenge. The people of Petersburg have come to know these stories well, and heed their warnings. The Winchester family wouldn’t have it any other way.

At the turn of the century, Robert Winchester had bought up most of the stocks in the Beeding and Petersburg railroads. Within only a few years, he was sitting on a gold mine—a gold mine he knew would last his family generations. Newly wed and in need of a home where he and his wife, Mary, planned to raise a family, Robert had an estate built in the middle of the Petersburg village. While only he and his wife took up residence in the house, it was large enough for multiple families to make use of the living space. And that’s why, at Mary Winchester’s request, her brother Jacob moved in.

Mary and Jacob had always had a close relationship. The two would spend time together whenever they could, laughing over tea and good books—or the stocks. More money was falling into their laps as the rails expanded across the country, and people from up north began to head west. Robert, with the new wealth that continued to pour in, decided to build a home at the far end of the property. Although smaller than the main house on the estate, a good two or three families could still reside within and have enough room to barely come in contact if desired. Robert suggested Jacob move in once it was finished—a place of his own. But Mary objected. She wouldn’t have Jacob, her dear brother, taken from her, even if it was simply across the property. And so, the newly built home became the servants’ house. And Jacob remained with Mary

Petersburg is a small town, surrounded by endless fields of northeastern corn. With nowhere to go and not much to do, gossip and rumors are quick to spread. Through the fields, through the village, and through the church all the locals attended each and every Sunday. When Mary Winchester began to show that she was with child, the rumors became louder.

“I hear she’s been sleeping with her brother, her own brother!”

“The child isn’t Robert’s… The poor man doesn’t know, though.”

“How could a man be so blind? In his own home!”

Robert overheard the rumors, but wouldn’t believe them. Mary was faithful to him. And she assured him that the child was his.

In late October, Isaac Winchester was born. Isaac grew up with unconditional love from his mother, father, and uncle. He was taught the finer things in life—raised with the belief that he and his family were privileged beyond their wealth, and that one day, the stocks, the railroad, and the estate would all belong to him.

This, of course changed, when Robert decided to adopt when Isaac turned 15.

Mary no longer could bear children. Her pregnancy with Isaac had been complicated and, since then, no matter what they tried, nothing worked. Robert had always dreamed of a large family, a multitude of heirs to continue the family name. While the blood line would eventually die out, he believed that the name itself was something worth living on. And besides, he would assure himself, Isaac is of my own blood. His linage would be more than enough.

And so, newly adopted William and Peter were given the Winchester name. Biological brothers, six years apart, the two of them had a close bond that was inseparable—much like Mary and Jacob’s, Robert had noted. Perhaps that was why he was so drawn to them.

  William was around the same age as Isaac, which put strain on the talk of inheritance. Robert mentioned giving half the shares promised to Isaac to William, causing competition. Yet, despite their indifference to each other, the two grew to tolerate one another—for the sake of their father. Peter, on the other hand, won deep love from Isaac. The two developed a bond as if they were brothers-by-blood—much to William’s distaste. But he tried not to let it show. It was the least he could do to show he was grateful for the Winchesters welcoming the two of them in.

  The tolerance in the family lasted for quite a few years, until Mary fell ill. As she lay dying, she asked that she speak to her husband in privacy, stating that he needed to know something before she passed. Robert was never the same after that day. He became distant and cold, and when Mary finally did succumb, he took to the parlor for the majority of his days. The stocks and railroad seemed to no longer interest him—and he never brought it up to his sons again. A few months later, he, too, passed away.

   The Winchester will was supposed to divide the estate amongst the three brothers, Isaac and William sharing the majority of the stocks, and Peter getting just enough to build upon as he grew older. However, that wasn’t what Robert left to the boys.

  William earned his share of stocks, as did Peter, but Isaac was not included. This baffled and upset him, as he was heir to the Winchester estate—by blood—and knew he had seen the will initially when his father created it. But now, he had been stricken from it, without warning, or reason. Or so he assumed.

   Mary Winchester had indeed had an affair with her own brother. She kept it well hidden from her husband, though the people of Petersburg easily saw through her veil. It wasn’t until her death that Robert learned the truth, and saw that the boy he had raised from an infant—from the day of birth—was Jacob’s. Enraged by his wife’s betrayal, he had removed Isaac from the will. To Robert, he was a reminder of infidelity, and not someone that should carry on the Winchester name. Thus, the estate was left solely to Robert’s adopted sons: William and Peter.

  William, having endured the years of Isaac’s ridicule and disdain, took advantage of his new inheritance, and banished Isaac from the home. He sneered at his adoptive brother’s misfortune and offered the servants’ house on the other end of the property as an option for his lodging—only after Peter begged he stay. Enraged by his brother’s greed and pride, Isaac took the offer, and moved promptly, leaving the mansion he had been born into behind him.

  William denied Isaac any sort of key to the house. He would be allowed over for dinners—as a guest—but only at William’s discretion. Doors, Isaac was told, will keep you out of my house. As long as you don’t have a key, you can’t get in without my blessing, and my hand. While Peter argued that Isaac was family and deserved a rightful place in the house as often as he pleased, William denied it.

  “He’s no family of ours,” he’d say. “He doesn’t share our blood…or Winchester’s blood.”

 

  After a year of living in isolation on the opposite end of the property, Isaac decided to confront his brothers. He knew that he could at least get through to Peter, but William was going to be harder to convince. As the day turned to evening, Isaac headed over to the mansion, lantern in hand, to discuss his living conditions and, as he hoped, passage to the house.

  William wasn’t home when he arrived, but Peter was there. And, of course, upon seeing his brother on the doorstep, he immediately welcomed him in.

  “I don’t understand William,” Peter confessed. “You’re our brother, regardless of blood. We should all be together.”

  Isaac agreed and explained his distress at living in the servants’ house—away from the only home he knew, the home that had been his mother’s. He’d had a place in the will once, a place he had seen and been promised since birth. William, he said, never had a place. Isaac saw that Peter was going to agree, yet also defend his biological brother’s position, but amidst their discussion William returned home.

  The Winchester house was filled with nothing but threats and hollers that night. Isaac lashed out at William, spewing his hatred for him and his tainted blood—blood that should never have belonged in the estate. In return, William spat back that Isaac was worthless, something that his own father had seen. William was the prized child now—the chosen heir to the fortune—and Isaac was acting infantile in not seeing it and letting it go.

  But again, Isaac demanded that William give him what he deserved. “This is my mother’s house!”

  The slap that stung Isaac’s cheek echoed through the halls. William wasn’t going to have any more, and let his brother know it. This home isn’t yours, he snarled. Not anymore. And from this day on, my doors will always be closed to you…

   

  The next morning, the authorities were on the doorstep of the estate, a few items in their hands: Isaac’s watch, wallet, and an envelope. The police said they had found the belongings beside the train tracks just east of the village, near the crossing where the Beeding and Petersburg lines connected. William said he knew the lines well: they were the two his adoptive father had stocks in—he would frequent that location, watching the trains come in with the boys when they were younger.

  But, Isaac’s personal items weren’t all the police found.

  What was left of Isaac Winchester was mashed into the tracks, making it impossible to decipher who he was had it not been for his identification. His entrails, as the authorities said, were strewn all the way to the next county, down the Petersburg line.

  Peter had already burst into tears upon hearing this information. William, on the other hand, stood with a straight face and took the belongings when they were offered.

  “The only thing we can’t understand,” the police said before leaving that morning, “is that your brother was obviously run over last night. But, you say he was here until when?”

  “About eight.” William said.

  Everyone in Petersburg knew that the last train made its way into the station at sunset. No trains in autumn ran past 6 pm.

   

  Once William was able to get Peter to calm down, he went through the items the police had fetched from alongside the tracks. All had been carefully removed and placed where they would be safe—as if Isaac had been awaiting his fate. The wallet and watch made sense to William, but the envelope, addressed to him, was unexpected. Peeling it open, William read the letter he found carefully inserted inside.

  “I don’t need your doors any more to get into my house.”

  William scoffed and crumpled up the paper quickly after that. In his opinion, Isaac had gotten what was coming to him. The years of torment and disrespect he had for his adopted brother finally caught up. While the threat left goosebumps across William’s skin, he ignored it and headed to the parlor to begin his daily routine.

  Isaac’s burial was held a few days later. The authorities had managed to scrape what they could of him off the tracks for the coffin. We’re certain there’s more, they told William and Peter, but with how gruesome it was, there’s no way we’ll ever be able to get all of him up.

  Peter stood beside his brother’s coffin as it was lowered into the ground, tossing a single rose on top. William, on the other hand, stood off in the distance, watching with disdain. When the others had cleared out, he approached and stared down into the hole where the coffin now rested. From his pocket, he removed the crumpled letter Isaac had written to him, then dropped it in.

  “Keep your threats,” he hissed, and sealed his adoptive brother’s grave with a wad of spit.

 

    The family fortune continued to flourish over the years and, in time, William married—Isabelle Proctor—a young woman from Beeding. Together, they had a son, Benjamin, whom William loved more than life itself. Peter remained at the estate, unmarried, to help care for Benjamin when William and Isabelle were away on the rail lines, looking to further invest in their stocks. Benjamin came to love his uncle and the lavish lifestyle he was born into. And, the east wing of the estate, where he took up residence.

    When Benjamin turned ten, that all changed. He appeared one night at the foot of his father’s bed, trembling and nudging him awake. William was frustrated by his son’s childish behavior and sudden “fear” for the east wing of the home. He ridiculed the boy and beckoned him to go back to bed. But when Benjamin pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his nightshirt pocket, William’s blood went cold.

    It was covered in the soil used to bury Isaac all those years ago, but even beneath the dirt and dust, the words could be seen.

    “I don’t need your doors any more to get into my house.”

    In that moment, William felt the same fear as his son, who said, “Uncle Isaac is angry…”

    William had never told Benjamin about Isaac—the true heir to the Winchester estate. He’d removed as much evidence as possible of his adoptive brother’s existence from the home and never spoke his name. Yet, each night, Benjamin would come into his father’s room, pale and trembling, telling him that his Uncle Isaac was growing angrier and angrier. He doesn’t let me sleep… He keeps watching me.

  

   Peter was convinced that Isaac’s return was due to not being given a proper burial. The authorities had said that they couldn’t get all of him off the tracks—leaving pieces of him behind and unable to rest. William just brushed it off and told his brother it was foolish to believe in spirits. He explained that Benjamin most likely found what little was left in the house of Isaac’s and was making stories up. The east wing was Isaac’s quarter of the house, he would say, so it’s likely something of his was left behind. Of course, that didn’t explain the crumpled note that was retrieved from the boy. But William continued to deny his adoptive brother’s return.

  A few weeks later, in the night, William and Isabelle awoke to the sounds of Benjamin screaming. They rushed to their son’s bedroom, only to find him in the hall—a bloody corpse. He’d been torn apart, entrails stretching the length of the east wing. William vomited at the sight, sheltering a sobbing Isabelle’s eyes. Down the hallway, written upon every wall and door, he could make out scribbled text—in Benjamin’s blood.

  I DON’T NEED YOUR DOORS ANY MORE TO GET INTO MY HOUSE.

  The doors in the east wing corridor violently threw themselves open, and Isabelle screamed.

 

  A few months later William was found dead. He had been in the parlor, where he spent most of his time, seated in his chair with a look of terror on his face. There were no wounds to be found on the body, making the authorities believe he died from a sudden heart attack. He was taken to the Petersburg Cemetery and buried alongside his adoptive father—a plot he had chosen years before.

  Peter, emotionally distraught after the death of his biological brother, decided to head west. He told Isabelle he could no longer live on the estate—there had been too many deaths there: his adoptive mother and father, Isaac, Benjamin, and now William. With no heirs of his own, Peter put the land up for sale and promptly gathered what he could. Isabelle agreed to join him, and later married him. The two took the first train out in the morning. They would have left sooner, but Peter reminded Isabelle that no trains ran after 6 pm.

   

  The house remained vacant for years, until, in the late 50s, an elderly couple moved in. They admitted to hearing noises from the east wing of the house: doors opening and closing, and the occasional creaking, but they ignored it. It’s an old house, they told themselves, and old houses do that. It was only after they began to hear the shouting and things thrown around—shattering—that they moved out. They claimed two young men were always arguing, and they couldn’t sleep at night…

  Another family moved in not too long afterward, with a teenaged son. The boy took up residence in the east wing and would complain about hearing the arguments through the night, as well. His parents only questioned him, however, when he started sleeping in his car at night.

  “This is Isaac’s house,” he would tell his parents. “He’s not happy. He wants us to leave.”

  The family thought their son had been watching too many scary films, but when they found him dangling from the ceiling fan in his bedroom, note pinned to the front of his shirt—“This is my home”—they believed him.    

 

  A couple of years ago, a husband and wife moved into the estate, looking to turn it into a bed and breakfast. The town denied their request because there wouldn’t be sufficient parking, and the estate had become an historic landmark—only one of the homes surviving from the turn of the century. Thus, the couple made the mansion their home. They always found it odd, however, that their children never visited—stating that they hated the house. When you’re gone, we won’t sell it, they said, we want absolutely nothing to do with it.

  But the couple continue to live there, content with the lavish life the estate offers. They claim, when questioned, that they hear noises from the east wing, but the hollers have long since calmed down. They said, surprisingly, they seemed to vanish after Peter Winchester was brought back to Petersburg after his death in the west, to be buried alongside his brother William. William’s soul must have gone to rest once his brother passed on, they’d say. The two boys are together again, and that’s all that matters.

  Yet, the strangest thing about the couple always comes up when they are questioned about the house: How did you come to own it?

  “Oh, we’re not the owners,” they always say. “We’re simply the caretakers. Master Isaac owns the estate. It was his mother’s house, after all. Now, it’s a place of his own.”

    

  The people of Petersburg say that if you wander near the tracks late at night, after the trains have stopped running, a cool breeze follows you, taking you to the crossroad where the lines meet. If you stand there long enough, looking through the darkness, they say you can feel sorrow rising up from the tracks.

  If you turn and look over your shoulder, you’ll notice a well-dressed young man standing there, removing his wallet, watch, and an envelope from his pocket. He’ll join you at your side, staring into the nothingness. And he’ll speak not a word.

  In the distance, the sound of an approaching train will rise up. You’ll feel the tracks tremble as the young man steps out, only to be clipped by the oncoming engine that appears out of nowhere. There are no cries as his body is mashed beneath the wheels, but some say there is laughter. Once the train passes and you look at the tracks, there is nothing there—no body, no blood, no remains. And there is no train. Yet, you can still hear it, rattling along the tracks, into the night.

  If you long for a peaceful walk to Beeding, feel free to cross over the Petersburg tracks at the crossroads. You may look twice, both ways, before crossing the tracks if you must, but it’s not necessary—even if you hear the sound of wheels along them. Remember: no trains run after 6 pm.

End of the Line—everyone out!

 

 

Dorian Sinnott, dorian.sinnott@gmail.com, who wrote BP #88’s “A Place of His Own,” is a graduate of Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program, currently residing in the beautiful and historic Kingston, NY with his two cats. He spends his weekends cosplaying at comic cons up and down the east coast, and herding cats for his local animal shelter. Dorian’s work has appeared in Coffin Bell, Spill Yr Guts, and The Hungry Chimera. 

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