Tag Archives: Olivia Hardy Ray
Suddenly he noticed lights, as if coming from a house. Thinking he might finally be off Fox Hollow Road and onto something that would take him into town, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Shit,” he said, as he got closer to the house. “Looks like a frigging dead-end.”
He slapped his hand on the steering wheel. He decided to knock on the door and ask for directions as he stopped the jeep near the driveway. It was quiet, desolate. He took a deep breath and confronted his fear. “Get hold of yourself, man,” he said.
Nick stared back at the farmhouse. It was familiar, which was not unusual. At every turn in upstate New York there was a farmhouse.
“A compelling sight,” he said.
The house was stately and white. Lace curtains moved with the wind, like the porch swing. He could hear the creak. The house stood against the night in shades of grey, like an old postcard photograph picked up at a flea market. Nick could see bicycles lying on the grass. A dog lifted his head from the porch and stared at him. Nick felt strangely nostalgic.
He’d assumed years ago that he’d been raised in Phoenicia, New York, because that’s what it said on the hotel register when he checked out of the room he’d awoken in, with no memory at all of how he had gotten there. Phoenicia, New York, was another small town within biking distance. He must have been on a lot of country roads in his childhood, staring at houses just like this one. He never went to Phoenicia, though, it was too frightening to confront a past he couldn’t recall, but he’d insisted on buying a second house in New Kingston after finding the town on a Google search for vacation homes. Had he subliminally chosen to be near Phoenicia?
He didn’t have any answers, perhaps he never would. Perhaps he didn’t want them. As he stared at the house, it drew him in, engulfing him in a black and white fantasy, like an old film. He couldn’t have any connection at all to this farmhouse. New Kingston wasn’t written on the hotel register.
Nick stared at the house for several more minutes before the image faded, simply drifted off into the night, leaving behind a phantasmal mist. Nick drifted into the ebbing image, falling into a mindless stupor, as if inebriated.
“God,” he cried out. “What the hell is happening to me?”
He struggled to escape the blank plateau into which he had fallen, but he couldn’t. It was as if his thoughts were being gripped by a distant hand. He suddenly felt floated right up to a shadowy shape in the sky.
“Leave me alone!” he shouted.
His head fell sharply to his shoulder, an action that seemed to come from somewhere else, another person―another body.
“Stress can cause people to black out,” Jenna once told him.
“Yes, of course, that’s it―stress,” Nick whispered. He looked back at the house again. The noise returned, overbearingly loud―the drill into concrete…deafening.
Quickly switching the radio back on to fight the noise, he thought about screaming out for help. The sound hovered above him, precariously close.
He turned the radio up louder. Nothing but static―Damn.
The noise continued…threatening to use its power…devour him. It was directly over his head, so very close. He felt lifted by it, lifted up to someplace far, as far as space.
“This is madness,” he whispered. “This is impossible.”
He had spent his entire adulthood distracted by the ordinary pressures of survival. He never considered himself particularly introspective, not much caring to delve into the remnants of feelings hidden beneath the debris of inconsequential information―feelings his wife insisted were vital links to his mental well-being. Nick never questioned his life after waking up in a Chelsea hotel with no past. He walked out into the city and survived. Surviving took up all his time, owned his thoughts. He didn’t need to know the rest, the forgotten past. The only choices he needed to make were the ones he faced in his profession as a circulation vice president for a major New York newspaper. It took twenty years, but he finally had an executive’s salary.
He didn’t want to know his inner life. The dreams he had over the years had been too disturbing to probe―images of violent anger, blood everywhere he looked, murders he could not explain.
“My inner life is uneventful and average,” he’d told Jenna when they first met. “I can’t devote much time thinking about it.”
And then, years later, new torment, new dreams…monsters haunted his sleep, metaphors for himself, he surmised.
No, Nick did not want to find his past or obsess on any uncomfortable emotions, especially not with his dreams, blood on his hands, a dead child at his feet…a battered woman.
“Am I insane?” He looked out into the night and shook his head. “Am I?”
He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. He switched the radio back off and listened for the quiet stillness of night to return, soft and melodic. He listened until all he heard was the wind.
As he stared back at the old farmhouse tears came into his eyes. He suddenly wanted to leap from the car and run to the front door, as if he belonged there, behind the majesty of its silent repose.
I’m home. Mom! I’m home, he wanted to shout.
His eyes blinked as the lights in the farmhouse flickered. He switched the radio back on. He needed the music to ground him, but the static had returned with an irritating repetition. He tried to find a clear station. He was agitated. He wanted to get the hell out of there. He knew that by now the only general store in town would be closed and he’d have to deal with the supermarket for a
lousy quart of milk. He hated the supermarket: big, cold places…so why the hell can’t I get off this damn road and make it to the goddamn general store?
“Shit,” he said, switching off the radio altogether.
The lights from the house flickered again, as if an electrical storm was passing over, but the night was clear. Nick backed the jeep up, deciding he would leave the way he had come in…no need to ask for directions. As his breathing returned to normal, he was grateful for its steady rhythm. He was making rational decisions like his old self. It had all been imagination, just imagination.
As Nick backed up the jeep, he noticed a man at the window of the old house peering through a torn shade.
“What the hell happened to the lace?” He whispered as he stared in awe at the tattered blind. He quickly thought of his wife and the look in her large dark eyes as she gave him that half parted smile and suggested therapy. How the hell would he ever explain any of this to her?
He sat quietly. His eyes drifted back to the house. He looked quickly for the dog. All he saw was a tired old porch―empty…no porch swing. No dog.
“Shadows playing tricks,” he said. The oblique shape in the sky expanded and lowered itself closer to the Earth.
This is my magic, my ability to see spirits, or to feel them. But is it evil? Is it harmful to anyone? I think not. None of us were of the devil, and Reverend Parris’s slave knew it. Yes, Tituba knew it. The children knew it too. I begged Father to take me to New York to escape the madness of murders around us, but we could not leave the farm, and Father did not believe that any harm would ever come to me. My brothers swore they would protect me, but I knew better. I knew I would be named a witch and taken to the tree. I could not sleep at night or enjoy the sun as it burst upon me in the mornings.
Soon enough, they served me my warrant as I lay in the field praying that God would see fit to help me. Ann Putnam had accused me. She hardly knew me, but she had seen me in Andover buying wheat and grain for the farm. My brother James tried to shield my face from hers when she fell on the ground before me and writhed at my feet. She pointed and held her side in pain.
“She torments me!” she screamed.
I fell into my brother’s arms and wept.
“Look into her eyes,” she called to all who listened. “They are of the devil, green as evil’s slime.”
I turned from her accusations, but she would not desist.
“Begone, witch,” she called.
And the townspeople came and stood around me. They looked into my eyes and said, “Yes, it must be so.”
“She accuses everyone that comes to mind,” I pleaded.
“She is weak and stupid,” I heard my brother say.
I took his hand. I knew that I could not prevent my fate, surrounded as I was by fools.
I hated the insidious evil that had inflicted the village. God, cure them, I prayed. They have surely gone mad.
I knew the truth and tried to speak it, yet none would hear it. There was only one other that knew as much as I did: the Reverend’s slave girl, Tituba. Yes, Tituba knew. She recognized the darkness and made a pact with the devil, and the devil saved her from the tree. I made no pact with the devil; I swayed by my neck in the August sun.
You might as well know the truth. It was the slave girl that told the children stories of witchcraft. That is true. The stories came with her from the slave ships. They were a part of her heritage. But it was Thomas Putnam that used the Arawat to incite the children.
“Give them your magic,” he told her. “I will see you safely removed from Salem when the time is right.”
And why should she not survive in a land that sold her kind like meat at the village square?
“What will you have me do?”
He bent down close and held her face firmly in his hand. “Fill their heads with the nonsense that is in yours.”
So Tituba planted the seed in the minds of the children because Thomas Putnam bade her to do so. The ignorance and cruelty that surrounded her was fuel for the devil’s fire. Do not blame the slave girl. She believed she would save her own soul by recognizing evil when she stood in the presence of it.
I will tell you where the evil thrived in Salem. It was in the child, Abigail Williams, and in the deviousness of the town leaders. They should have destroyed the girl right off and recognized the vindictive plan behind Thomas Putnam’s perfidious handshake.
What wickedness there was. Surely, both were the devil’s prey. Tituba knew this. She also knew that none would accept that evil could dwell in a child’s soul. Yes, Tituba knew better, and she saw the devil’s presence in the child the day she followed the girl out to Crane River.
It was an afternoon in late spring. I learned of it as I sat in jail awaiting my trial.
Tituba had watched as Abigail Williams held a child’s puppy, a sweet thing named Lark, under water, despite the poor dog’s struggle for freedom. Tituba had fallen to her knees in fear as Abigail held poor Lark down by his neck and sang a church song as she did. The puppy yelped and whined for air, but Abigail continued to sing and to giggle and to hold the poor dog down until it was silent.
Tituba watched quietly as the child dragged the dog’s poor limp body from the water and poked it with a stick. The sweet brown hair was matted and wet, the eyes still open in fear. Then Abigail sat by the dead puppy and sang. Certainly, the child was the devil’s own, and Tituba knew it. Anyone who was not of the devil would have known it.
Later that evening, Tituba went out to Porter’s Hill with fresh chicken blood and called forth the witches of light. She asked for protection against the white man’s evil. She called forth the witches, but it was the devil who answered her call.
The next morning, when Tituba awoke, she began to tell Abigail tales of witchcraft.
“Drink this potion,” she told the child. “And the devil will come to you. You will have the power of Satan’s sword.”
Quickly, Abigail drank the chicken blood.
Soon, under Thomas Putnam’s instruction, Abigail, believing herself infused with the power of Satan, convinced the other children to follow her lead, and they pointed their fingers at Putnam’s enemies.
“There is the presence of the devil in this town,” Thomas Putnam told the courts. “We must cleanse our streets.”
“Nay, we must cleanse our souls,” they cried.
The entire town fell under Thomas Putnam’s control. Under the name of God, Putnam served the devil. Abigail was only possessed with her own meanness. She was a perfect vessel for the devil’s insidiousness. The other children were only pawns in Urbain’s game to upset the pious and sacred God-fearing village of Salem. Yes, Urbain Grandier, the devil’s own disciple, was having his day once again. Urbain had a perfect conduit for his plan. But Abigail Williams had no real power. She was no better a witch than Tituba. You must remember that once the devil’s servant was through with Abigail and Putnam’s insatiable hatred, he cast them all aside and left Salem.
I thought that the devil came to Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 because there was too much of God to be found there. I thought he came because Tituba called him and the child Abigail could receive him. But he did not come because of God or Tituba…or even the demented Abigail. He came because of me. For many of your centuries, I did not know that. But I know it now. The devil rejoiced in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. But the devil always rejoices. Your world is shrill with the devil’s laughter. He continues to make fools of us. Perhaps he always shall.