“It’s a great opportunity. C’mon, you know it is. We have talked about it long enough, now is the time, now is the chance.”
Walker looked at Asha and watched her misgivings fade away as he is talking. They have dreamt of opening a specialty shop in a small town for so long. Finding a small town to settle in and try to start their family once again has always been on Walker and Asha’s minds, especially since suffering from multiple miscarriages due to stress from family and city life.
Walker laid out a map of Rhode Island. New England. How many years have we talked about leaving everything behind to move to a quaint New England town, open shop, and start life over? Walker thinks to himself as he looks at Asha studying the map he laid out.
“What town did you find with this ideal shop?” Asha asks Walker.
“Right here, Prudence Island. It is part of Rhode Island located in the Narragansett Bay.” Walker points to a small land mass located between the ‘heel’ and boot’ of Rhode Island’s shape. “C’mon, Asha. Now is our chance.”
“Okay! Let’s do this!” Asha says as she looks up at Walker.
Walker looks at the smile beaming back at him from Asha and knows this was the right decision. Walker jumped up in the air then grabbed Asha into a huge twirling hug saying, “You made the right decision, Babes; you’ll see. Nothing will go wrong as long as we stay focused and follow our dreams!” As Walker watches Asha laugh at his overzealous excitement, he noticed a strange look that crossed over Asha’s face. She must be thinking about how she is going to break the news to the family that they are finally making their dream become a reality? He shakes off the moment of insecurity at the look he saw and left the room to make the necessary phone call leaving Asha to sit and work through whatever was going on in her mind.
Sitting at the table, Asha was trying to understand and reconcile the intense foreboding feeling and gut wrenching instinct she felt as soon as she heard Walker’s say Rhode Island. To take her mind off of this sensation, Asha thought back to the first time she met Walker. She just started college and was still feeling home sick after a week away from everything and everyone she knew. Upon Asha’s arrival at college, she found that her parents signed her up for the Buddy Program. The program was created to help new freshmen “buddy up” with an upper classman in the same degree program for the first semester while they adjusted to college life.
Watching all the new freshmen partnering up with their buddies, Asha begins to feel self-conscious over the fact that no one was heading in her direction. As she was about to give up and leave the room, Asha witnesses the tallest man she had ever laid eyes on walk into the room. Standing at 5’11”, Asha did not run into many people who she would consider tall. Women were always shorter than her and men were her height or shorter. As Asha watched this man walk toward her she could not stop staring. This man stood 6’5” with shoulders that stretched the width of the doorway he walked through.
Walker Tiegs’ appearance commanded all eyes to look at him when he walked into a room so he was used to people staring at him, however, he never felt drawn to another person’s presence until the moment he set eyes on Asha. She remembered Walker telling her that he was immediately smitten by this beautiful “Amazonian” woman standing in front of him. Asha’s looks were the opposite compliment to his. Walker’s hair was wavy blond and his eyes were a soft brown, whereas, Asha’s hair was straight, jet black in color that shaped her striking ice blue eyes.
The first introduction between Asha and Walker was all they needed to know their futures were intertwined in ways they both looked forward to exploring. Throughout the next four years of Asha’s college life, Walker and Asha spent every moment together planning for their future together. A future they both always believed in and still do.
Breaking free from her musings on the past, Asha turns her mind to how she is going to break the news to the family. With the latest mental breakdown of Asha’s mother, she was afraid of how the news of moving to Rhode Island, thus putting hundreds of miles between them and the rest of the family, would affect this latest episode.
When Walker finished his call, he walked in to the room where he left Asha and said, “We have a problem. The shop I found on Prudence Island is already sold.” Asha let out a long sigh and said, “Now what?” Walker had sold her into the idea of making their dream come true and can see the total devastation on her face, even if she could not express it in words.
“It is not all a loss. There is a shop with an apartment above it available in our price range, except it is in Exeter. The agent said the owners are desperate to sell the property,” Walker says, “The only downfall is the location of the shop.”
“What downfall?” Asha asks hesitantly.
Walker grabs the map of Rhode Island without a word and begins to look for Exeter. After finding what he wanted he placed the map on the table next to Asha and pointed to a place on the map. Asha looks at where Walker is pointing and looks up with shock and surprise in her eyes, “A cemetery! No wonder the owners are so desperate to sell!” Walker just shakes his head and says, “We can make it work, Asha. Just think of it as a new twist to our specialty shop, it will work.” Walker watched Asha look at the map again, nod her head yes, then walk off to their room as if she was being chased by the devil himself. We will make it work. I will make it work for us, Asha and I, and our future family we so desperately desire but have been denied so far. I need to get her away from here for her own sanity. With this thought in mind, Walker calls the agent back to let him know they want the deal to happen.
Today is the grand opening of A. & W. Antiquities, Asha thinks to herself as she stands next to Walker. She could not believe it is finally happening. After agreeing to the final sale on the shop with the apartment, the process went quickly and Asha and Walker found themselves planted in the state of Rhode Island. The move was rather uneventful and, as the weeks went by, Asha’s feeling of foreboding faded away.
Living next to a cemetery did give the location of the shop the ambiance Walker was hoping for when he was talking Asha into buying the property. Living in the rural town of Exeter, RI off of Purgatory Road was a completely different world than what Walker and Asha were used to living because they were both from the city. The town was very quaint for a New England town, but Asha’s first experience on Purgatory Road was late at night. Having no street lights and lots of hills on this twisted road, Asha could understand why the owners were so desperate to sell the property. Between the spooky road (along with the spooky name) and a house placed right next to a cemetery, Asha’s previous foreboding instincts came back in full force. This is a good move. It is the right thing, she thinks to herself, since the move, I feel whole again, well, as whole as I can be from the losses we have suffered.
Asha noticed that Walker started taking on the easygoing air of the people they met in downtown Exeter. Settling into a rural lifestyle as a business owner had its perks; however, Asha was not settling in as well as she made Walker believe. Almost as soon as she set foot into the shop, Asha felt strange. As if she has been here in another lifetime. Now, THAT is crazy thinking, Asha! Pull yourself together. Remember, you are not your mother. Her problems are not your problems. Just focus on the fact that this was the right move and everything else will fall into place.
Within a matter of six weeks’ time, Asha and Walker were moved into their upstairs apartment and had the shop set up to their liking awaiting the grand opening where their heart and soul would be put on display for all to peruse and hopefully buy. Among the antiques, Asha also displayed a different artwork she created. This display is the one that made her the most nervous because these paintings were a part of her very soul. Asha did not realize that the cemetery would be her main source of inspiration, but she found herself drawn to an unusual headstone of a little girl who died too soon in life.
Asha was drawn and repulsed all at the same time whenever she looked at the headstone. It made her feel like the face of the girl etched in the stone looked right through her soul to her very essence and it scared her. Asha’s mind told her it was just her own crazy imagination, yet her heart and soul told her this is dangerous territory and if she kept going to the gravesite, she would surely die herself. Asha shared none of this with Walker. The reasons she did not share with Walker were simple and selfish: Walker was so busy getting their home and shop set up that Asha did not want to burden him with her feelings she was having and Asha also did not want to tell Walker because a part of her did not want to share her silent treasure she found in the headstone. As far as Walker was concerned, he was just happy she found inspiration again to start painting, something she stopped doing after the second miscarriage. Asha shivers at this last thought, the second miscarriage, I should think of it as my sanity test because if I was going to go crazy like my mother it would have happened at that moment I lost the baby.
“Honey, are you okay?” Walker asked, startling Asha out of her musings.
“Yes. Just thinking about how quickly we put all this together.” Asha smiled at Walker to reassure him she was fine.
“We did do an amazing job at setting everything up so fast. It just validates that we made the right decision to take this chance. The chance for our business to become a reality and the chance for us to start fresh. I am so happy we are here and life could not be any better. In this moment right here, you and I are all that matters, Asha, everything else is unimportant.”
Asha looks at Walker and feels her heart swell with such love, a love she never knew could exist. He was her soul-mate. Her life partner. Her best friend. Her husband.
Nothing will ever take that away from me. We will be together until the day we die, no matter what I have to do. Asha suddenly feels this sense of over-powering possessiveness for Walker that it scared her. She is not used to feeling such strong emotions. She has taken pride in the fact that she is even keel when it comes to her emotions and it seems ever since they moved to Rhode Island, well, if she was honest with herself, ever since she became fixated on the headstone, her emotions seem to take over her mind more and more. What is wrong with me, she thinks to herself, I need to get a grip.
Walker watches his wife’s face transform from a look of sadness, to love, to determination, then finally to anger. He has noticed a change in Asha since they made the move. At first he thought it was great that she was wandering out and about to get a feeling for the new town they have chosen for their home, but more and more lately, he has noticed she spends most of her time at the graveyard by their house. He always reminds her that she needs to be careful when painting so close to the woods because the wild boar appear at any time. Although she shrugs off his concerns, she still insists on going to the cemetery. After each visit she seems different, as if something is changing inside her, and it shows in her artwork she has been painting.
The paintings, at first, had lots of color and a vibrant feeling and now, each return visit from the gravesite, the colors become more muted and darker, not just in color but in imagery. Gone are the vibrant flowers and trees surrounding the backyard of their property, now those flowers and trees are replaced by abstract images that, if stared at too long, begin taking on a demonic shape and feel. Walker has noticed that the pictures are now strictly of the graveyard and surrounding woods, specifically around a headstone with a child’s face in it that has become the focal point in each new painting.
Walker cannot place what it is about the paintings that give him a sense of dread. At first he chalked it up to the change in the colors being used in the paintings, now, he knows it is the content found inside the pictures that are causing the sensation. The content makes me feel like I am witnessing the artist dropping into a dismal abyss from the once normal, sane life she lead, Walker thinks to himself. Immediately, he felt his body cover over in goosebumps right after that thought. I need to get it together. Asha is not going crazy. She is still the same woman I fell in love with back in college. Walker shakes off the feeling of falseness in his thoughts about Asha. He loves her and she loves him and they are starting on this new adventure together as one unit. Thick and thin. Better or worse. They are a team and that team is invincible.
Where did it go! Where is it at! I need to find it before I get lost again. What is that noise? Forgetting about the object she was just searching for, she looks at her surroundings for the first time. She is in some dark, musty place. As she moves, it feels as if her feet are being sucked down into some muddy sludge. Ahead of her she sees a light. Fear grips her. Her feet are moving on their own no matter how much she screams in her brain to stop. As she moves toward the light, she hears a noise behind her. It seems to be rushing toward her. She tries to move faster but panic begins to take over. Just as she reaches the light, she sees the object she was looking for and reaches down to pick it up. Bracing herself, she turns to face whatever is rushing toward her preparing for the worst. As her eyes adjust to the darkness, she sees the form of a young child. The child is so familiar to her but she cannot place why. As she watches the child she notices the child is changing. What…NOOOO! Who are you and why are you chasing me? DON’T TOUCH IT…GIVE IT BACK!!!
Asha jerks awake with a scream on the tip if her tongue when she feels a hand on her chest. Her body cannot stop shaking and her heart is gripped with such fear that she is afraid she is on the verge of a heart attack. As her eyes focus, she notices Walker standing over her, concern etched on every part of his face. His hand rests on her chest, yet the thought does not reassure her mind. His hand on her chest makes Asha afraid, as if Walker was intentionally pushing on her chest to harm her. He wants to kill me.
Asha is startled by this thought. She sits up and brushes Walker’s hand off. His look of concern immediately makes her feel guilty for her earlier thought. She smiles a shaky smile and says, “Bad dream.” Walker looks at her and says, “It seemed to be more than just a bad dream. You were thrashing so hard in the bed and mumbling to yourself about finding some object.” She looks at him, sighs and snaps, “Fine. Nightmare. Happy?” Walker’s eyes had an immediate flash of anger in them and then the anger was replaced by concern.
“Honey, I am sorry you had such a bad dream. Would you like to talk about it?” Walker sits down next to Asha and puts his arm around her shoulder and pulls her to him.
“I don’t really remember what it was about,” she lied, “I only remember I was looking for something.”
The lie came so easy. She has never lied to Walker in all their years together, yet, she still could not shake the feeling that he meant her harm. She knows it is a crazy notion, but she also knows to trust her instincts.
You are crazy, you know Walker would never harm you. He loves you, she thinks to herself.
Of course he loves me, she answers herself, he is the only one I know that will always be there for me.
With a sudden flair of anger, Asha thinks, but if I find out he has my object I was looking for, I will personally rip his heart out of his chest and feed it to the wild boar!
As Walker walks to the bathroom, satisfied with her answer about her dream, Asha watches him walk away with a murderous glint in her eyes and a maniacal smile on her lips.
As Walker goes to the bathroom, he is very confused as to why Asha is deliberately lying to him. More and more he is noticing that his wife, who he felt was the closest to him, is becoming more of a stranger who shares his bed. Over the past few months, he has noticed that Asha has spent less and less time helping him in the shop and more time at the cemetery. It is as if having to break away from that damn headstone physically hurt her.
He does not understand her fascination with the freakish headstone of the little girl. Where she finds inspiration (if you want to call it that) he finds desolation. He feels her artwork, though still impeccable, has continued to delve deeper and deeper into the dark realm of madness. The customers love it. He has noticed that as soon as she has a new piece of work, someone is there wanting to pay top dollar for the art. While he likes the money, he hates seeing her fall deeper into the madness that calls to her.
After waking Asha from the throes of her nightmare, Walker has two thoughts: first, he sees nothing but distrust and hate glowing in her eyes toward him and the second thought was of the sadness he felt in his heart. Gone are the dreams of starting over and trying for the family he thought they both desired.
The sadness permeates through his entire body because any time he brings up them trying for a baby again, Asha’s entire demeanor changes and her eyes go dead. Thinking about her look this morning, he is almost grateful they have not tried to get pregnant because he is beginning to think the only place safe for his wife is an insane asylum, like her mother.
I heard him on the phone again. Talking to some doctor. I know he thinks I am crazy. Maybe he is right, but I know that once I find that object I won’t be lost anymore. Does he understand this? Of course not! He just sits back and judges me like I am less than him. I don’t understand what the hell I saw in him. He serves no purpose in life. All he is doing is taking up space in the world. The world would be so much better if he were dead. Once I find that child and get my object back, I will do just that, rid the world of his useless existence.
Walker has finally given up on trying to save his marriage and his wife. Asha is not Asha anymore. Over these six months, she has changed into a person he does not know. Each trip she takes to the gravesite of that freaky headstone with a child’s face, she seems to come back a little crazier than before.
Walker has noticed that she is always walking around talking to some non-existent child she claims visits her at the gravesite. A child he has not been able to find no matter how many people he inquires with. No one in town has a young child like Asha has described to him. Asha tells him she is visiting with the child when Walker asks her why she spends so much time at the cemetery. Asha tells him that she is helping the child find something she lost and the child wants to learn how to paint. Yet, Walker comes up empty when he searches for the child in the cemetery, in fact, the only thing he can find is the overwhelming validation that his wife has gone crazy.
Asha is walking hand in hand with the child. Asha thinks back on when she first met the little girl. She thought it was just a dream, yet when she made her trip into the graveyard to her favorite headstone, she saw her again. The little girl was sitting on the grave in front of the headstone that had captured Asha’s interest.
“Hello. I saw you in a dream, at least I thought it was a dream. What is your name?”
The little girl just sits on the grass without looking up.
“My name is Asha. I am glad to meet you. You resemble the image of the child’s face on the headstone you are sitting in front of. Is it your sister? Where do you live? Are your parents close by?”
The girl continues to sit without looking up.
“You give a new meaning to the word ‘shy’,” Asha giggles nervously because of the strange behavior of the child.
“I am going to start painting like I always do. You are welcome to stay and watch. I will not bother you anymore.”
Asha looks down at the little girl holding her hand. How they have come so far. Asha does not know the girl’s name because she has never spoken. Even though they have never talked, Asha knows the girl’s every thought and desire. She and this child have an unusual connection and Asha believes it is this connection that will help her find the object she has been searching for all this time. Asha believes this haunting little girl holds the key to finding the object which will help her find her way back to who she used to be.
Asha starts walking toward her usual spot she likes to paint at when the little girl stops. The sudden lack of motion causes Asha to stumble. When she looks down at the little girl, she sees she is pointing to something in the woods. It is a light. Upon further viewing, Asha sees the object she has been searching for all these months. There, in the woods, under the strange light, she sees it. Asha begins to run toward the light without glancing back. If she had glanced back, she would have seen that the haunting little girl no longer existed. In her place was this grotesque creature with nothing but malice and death in its eyes. Asha would have seen this creature begin to move.
Walker sits in his living room wondering when the police will stop asking their stupid questions and begin searching for his wife. Asha has been missing for a week now and the police search is no closer to finding her than they were on the day he reported her missing.
“When are you going to stop asking the same questions and start looking for my wife!?” Walker demanded of the officer.
“We just need to verify some information from you, Mr. Tiegs.”
“Like I said before, the last time I saw Asha she was walking toward the graveyard to go paint for the day. She was walking in a strange way. One of her arms had all her supplies while the other had her hand held down toward her side as if she was holding onto someone’s hand.”
“See, it’s that last part we are having issues with, Sir,” the officer continues, “Why would your wife be holding her hand out as if she was holding someone’s hand yet there was no one walking beside her?”
“I TOLD you, dammit! She has been insisting there is a little girl that visits her at the gravesite. I assume, in her delusional mind, she thought she was holding the hand of the imaginary child she claims to see. I know it sounds like I am the crazy one, but ever since we moved here, probably before, Asha has been slowly dropping into insanity. With her family history, the doctors I have spoken to believe her descent began after the last miscarriage. We so desperately wanted a child that, after not being able to carry to term, the doctors believe Asha’s mind broke and created this child to fill the empty hole left in her heart from the miscarriages.”
Walker stands up, disgusted with the police’s lack of action, frustratingly runs a hand through his hair and looks at the officer, “Either arrest me or get your sorry excuse of a police force and go look for my damn wife! In her unstable mindset, anything could have happened!”
I found it! I finally found it! Who would have known the child was right when she pointed me to the woods. She must have been my guardian angel because I cannot find her here in the light.
What was that?
That noise, I recognize it. It must be her.
Asha turns toward the noise, while she clutched the object in her arms, she looks away from the light into the darkness behind her. How did it get so dark so quickly? I must be further in the woods than what I originally thought. Asha notices movement in the darkness. I cannot wait to show her my lovely object. I know she is going to love it just as much as I do.
Waiting in the woods, Asha suddenly beings to feel unsure. She looks at her surroundings and realizes the light has been swallowed up in the darkness of the woods. She suddenly remembers her dream she had so many months ago. She realizes that it wasn’t a dream after all, it was a premonition.
I’m going to die and Walker will never know how much I truly loved him! How can this happen? I cannot let Walker believe I hated him. I cann…a searing pain cuts off Asha’s last thought in her head. The last thing she will remember are those eyes, the eyes of death itself as her body is torn to shreds.
April 29, 2016