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The Bruce Mansion

by Edward Reubens

part 2 of 4

With this knowledge in hand, James set his mind to a task that he would not reveal to anyone at the time. Through a back door on the north side, one that had a very weak lock, he illegally entered the Bruce Mansion and stayed the night. If you could have seen the fever he had for this dead girl, his decision would not have surprised you.

The front door of the Bruce Mansion is in the center of its east side, facing Main Street. Inside, most of the rooms are along the north and south walls. These two sides are separated by a hallway and an adjacent set of stairs leading up, both of which run east-west.

James, without the use of his brain, somehow managed to decide correctly in which of the upstairs bedrooms to wait out the night, because, if you haven’t figured this out already, he was hoping to see his ethereal crush, the enchanting Norma Bruce.

He sat on the bed, which was clothed with period sheets, blankets, etc. Getting bored quickly, he fell asleep. It was some time in “the freaking middle of the night” — as he told me later — when he awoke to the sound of movement downstairs.

There were definite and distinct footsteps, which made the old wooden floor downstairs creak. James panicked, thinking he had been seen breaking in. Frozen on the bed, he listened intently to the commotion downstairs. It wasn’t long before he heard voices, and he knew someone would be searching each room.

His next reaction was to hide. Quietly he sat up on the bed, placing his feet on the floor. He snuck to the window and peered through the curtains. No cops on the south side of the house. Opening the curtains a bit to let in some street lamp light, he desperately looked around for a place to hide. Instinctively, he turned toward the closet and immediately halted.

There she was, standing in front of the closet and staring directly at him!

He no longer regarded the noises downstairs. For time unmeasured they gazed at each other, all the while his fear turning into fascination. His heart pounded, first from the fright of seeing the undead, then from the awe of seeing his reason for dreaming.

It wasn’t long before fear completely left him. After all, she was not a scary person. She did not look on him as if to curse his eternal soul to damnation. Her look was a gentle and pleasantly quizzical one, like a child studying a rainbow, he said.

At length she seemed to accept him, and the beginning of a bond was made at precisely that moment. It was a bond experienced by few people; a bond between two souls, one embodied, the other not.

A feeling of carpe diem swept over James as he extended his hand toward her. She acknowledged the hand. With movement as graceful as an angel’s, she extended hers. The two hands slowly reached for each other. Their eyes constantly connected. James’ heart beat like hard rain on a tin roof. His hand quaked.

But, of course, it was not to be, not on this night.

There came a knock on the door. Hesitating, he turned toward it. Then, fearing he let her out of his sight too long, he turned back. She was still there, but she too was looking at the door. She had heard it! Apparently this spirit was highly capable of perceiving and reacting to the living. She looked gravely worried.

The knock continued. It was neither harsh nor threatening, but constant; one solid rhythm. Her concerned look grew more desperate. Moving to the door, she bent down toward the knob and made as though she were locking the door.

The knock persisted.

James had nowhere to hide, and he fully knew the closet would be the first place that even he would look. Oddly, he was not worried now. He was at peace. Approaching the door, he stood next to her. He tried to manipulate his expression to look like one of assurance, that he had to open the door, that he would be all right. Most likely unsuccessful at this, he opened wide the door.

Darkness there, and nothing more!

The knock ceased immediately upon the opening, and there was no one there. No one could have moved that fast!

James was duped for a brief moment, but when he heard footsteps going down the stairs, he, too, began to fear. The stairs were directly in sight, and even in the dimmest of light, it was clear there was no form on them.

Then, as the footsteps approached the bottom, another set started on the way up!

Now James was panicked to the point that his complexion was probably indistinguishable from that of the ghost beside him.

The footsteps grew louder, and they were harsher than the first ones. Again, he could make out no one. Suddenly, in a flash that instantly sickened him, it occurred to James that his girl did not have a talent of perceiving the living so much as he had a talent of perceiving the dead!

The footfalls increased in volume as they reached the top of the stairs. They were now just a couple of feet from his door. James froze solid.

He did not have the presence of mind to operate his body. He was incapable of shutting the door. An unseen feet took one more step toward him, and James knew that there was something, or someone, directly in his face.

Unaware that he was denting the doorknob with his grip, all James could do was fear that something directly in front of him was staring directly at him, while he could not see a thing! Conveniently, he fainted.

It was not until after this and his next sleepover that James related these incidents to me. He said the most surprising aspect of his one true love, was that she was in full color. Her skin was peach, her eyes blue, and her hair blonde.

If her apparition appeared to my good friend at her terminal age, then she would look precisely 16 years, 3 months, and 12 days old. As far as her face was concerned, he noted that she had a perfectly clean, smooth complexion. Personally, I would wonder about a ghost that had otherwise. Her cheekbones were high, and her hair was long and straight.

As I have indicated, I yet believe ardently his retellings. Even now I am looking at the dents in the doorknob he left as evidence of both his truthfulness and his adrenaline enhanced strength.

James awoke early in the afternoon the next day. Not only did he remain in the house, he stayed in that very room until nightfall. For hours that day, he did nothing but replay the previous night’s events in his head.

Trying to make sense out of what happened, he concluded from the ghost’s actions that she knew what was behind the door knocking. If she knew that, then she probably knew what it was that subsequently came up the stairs. She knew, and she feared it.

He was far too wired to sleep during the day but eventually drifted to sleep late that night.

He was awakened by crying. The sobs were coming from within the room, and he was not afraid of them. On the floor at the foot of his bed was his Norma. However, she did not appear to be alone. The curtain remained cracked open, allowing a single beam of street-lamp light to illuminate his love even as it passed through her. She was kneeling, her hands hiding her face. What he could not see but still perceive was someone on the floor with her.

James’ heart was split at this point. He certainly felt the anguish of watching a loved one suffer, but he supposed he was hearing her sobbing voice for the very first time, and he swooned. He was thoroughly disappointed, then, when the crying ceased and an elderly voice whispered, “Why did you let him in?” He knew it was not her voice.

“Who are you?” he asked aloud.


“Who are you?” he insisted, trying keep his voice from quivering.

“Did she not trust you?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Why did you let him in?”

“I did not know. I do not understand.”

The voice returned to sobbing.

“Who are you, please,” he petitioned.

“I am Mrs. Jonathon Bruce.”

“Who did I let in?”

“Did she not trust you?”

Getting nowhere with this line of questioning, he decided to take a risk. “Are you dead?”

The voice responded quite sardonically, “Are you dead?”

At this James held his tongue momentarily. Does she really understand? Does she know she’s dead? Is she mocking me or merely mimicking me? Deciding to throw all of his cards on the table and knowing full well he was about to declare a statement of high import, he braced up and stated as matter-of-factly as he could, “I am alive, you have been dead for a hundred years.”

The voice responded, “Are you dead?”

It didn’t understand!

“Who are you?” he asked again.

“I am Mrs. Jonathon Bruce.”

She did understand.

“You are totally dead. You’re like a spirit without a body.”

“Why did you let him in?”

“Who did I let in?”

“Did she not trust you?”

“Mrs. Jonathon Bruce, my name is James Watkins.”

The voice did not answer.

“Mrs. Jonathon Bruce, I love your daughter, Norma.”

“Why did you let him in?”

James’ patience left him, a frequently exposed shortcoming of his. “Listen,” he raised his voice, “I love your daughter, you know. I would not let anything happen to her, ever! I totally love her! And I totally don’t understand what happened! I don’t understand! Do you get it? I don’t understand. You don’t understand! Nobody freaking understands!”

This time, Mrs. Jonathon Bruce responded, and her answer made him quake.

She whispered, “James Watkins.”

Unquestionably, she understood!

“James Watkins,” she repeated

His knees knocked, “Y..y..yes, ma’am?”

“She loves you, too.”

At this point, James became tongue-tied. Too many responses inundated his mind. He started, he stammered, he stopped.

Suddenly, there came a knock on the bedroom door. Norma, who had her face buried in her hands throughout the conversation looked up at the door in horror. The knock came gently, as on the night before. No one moved or made a sound. When the knocking ceased, the knocker audibly walked down the stairs.

Then came the other set of footsteps.

They marched upstairs just as they did on the previous night. James occasionally did not make the same mistake twice. This was one such time. He did not even approach the door. When the footsteps stopped just outside the door, James stopped breathing. He dared not make a sound, and when he became aware of the beat of his heart, he muffled it with his hands.

Then, the door pounding began.

The entity on the outside of the door banged and banged and banged on it with ferocious tenacity. James stared at the door. The pounding increased. Louder and louder until James was sure the door would come off its hinges, the pounding continued. James let go of his chest and had to yell to be heard, if he was heard, “Go away!”

The pounding continued.

“Go away! Leave! Get out of here!”

It continued.

“Do you freakin’ hear me? Get your freakin’, disembodied, sorry butt out of here, whoever the heck you were!” The pounding continued, and so did James. Nothing else could be heard.

For several minutes the duel persisted. Eventually, James’ impatient anger subdued his fear, caution, and good sense. He approached the door. “You had better be gone by the time I open this door! Do you hear?” he threatened, fully expecting the entity to care.

The noise of both him and the banging completely drowned out the whispers of Mrs. Jonathon Bruce. Were it not for James turning his head to check on his beloved, he might not have heard it. He stopped yelling, to listen. The pounding drowned out the voice. He walked to his Norma and kneeled, knowing without seeing that her mother was still beside her. He strained to listen.

“Do not let in...” he could not make out the last word for the unremitting banging.

“Do not let in what?” he yelled over the pounding, straining to hear the reply.

“Do not let Henry in!”

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2012 by Edward Reubens

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