A Place of His
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
Robert overheard the rumors, but wouldn’t
believe them. Mary was faithful
to him. And she assured him that the child was his.
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.
changed, when Robert decided to adopt when Isaac turned 15.
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.
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
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
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
“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…
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
Everyone in Petersburg knew that the
last train made its way
into the station at sunset. No trains in autumn ran past 6 pm.
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
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
“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
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote BP #88’s “A Place of His Own,” is a graduate
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.