I have lived in Montana my entire life. I'd only ever been anywhere near the east coast once in high school so I'd obviously never heard of Burkittsville. When I got the letter requesting my presence there, I actually had to do a google search. While researching the small town, I couldn't help but see a lot of peculiar webpages all linked to the supernatural in some way. Every town has its legends, I thought. As a Private Investigator, I had only ever worked cases in Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Washington, occasionally Minnesota and once, a bizarre care in Oregon. To now be asked to go to all the way to Maryland was a strange request, especially to happen so suddenly through a letter. I had a lot of information online about who I was and what I worked as so perhaps, I was appealing compared to east coast P.I's. Either way, it intrigued me plus I had the money, no problem. I packed a bag, grabbed my laptop and hard drive and decided to visit Burkittsville, Maryland.
The flight to Baltimore was uneventful. It gave me time to review the facts of the case and go over the requirements of the client, which were unusual to say the least. Normally I would never accept a case without a thorough vetting of the client - criminal background checks, credit history, personal references, and so on. The works. At a bare minimum I need the person's name. This time I had none of those. What I did have was $10000 in cash, in an unmarked envelope with a handwritten letter bearing GPS coordinates to a location in the woods just outside Burkittsville, Maryland. Looking it up online, I see that it's a location off the main road into Burkittsville. Way off. In an area called the Black Hills by the locals (though official state maps don't call it that). The letter, which was vague and oddly worded, also designated a time and date that were quickly approaching. My rental car's underpowered engine complained loudly as I pushed it down those winding Maryland two-lane roads to make the rendezvous early. I prefer to arrive early to scout things out and see what's what. And if things smell fishy, I'm outta there. Always trust your gut, that's my motto. Just taking this weird case has broken several of my long-standing professional rules. But I was intrigued. Enough to throw caution to the wind and hop a plane to Maryland. Let's just hope it was worth it.
Burkittsville was dead. I parked my rental car next to a small group of shops. I couldn't tell if the town was quaint or boring. I checked my watch. It was 4PM; the time specified on the letter was the next morning at 10. There was movement in one of the shops. The general store. There was an old man, his face wrinkled and decrepit, pulling down on the store's window blinds. It was clear this town don't have too many visitors nowadays. I decided I'd find a motel as close to this Black Hills area as possible, on the edge of town. After that, I'd go to the Black Hills to see exactly where I'm wanted. I got in the car, pulled out a small travel book I had bought in a gas station miles back and looked for motels. I couldn't help but think this place was like someone's memory of a town and that memory was fading.
Burkittsville, it turns out, hasn't got a motel. Nada. This burg doesn't even rate as a one-horse town. One stop sign. No traffic lights. Six hours to kill and no place to stay. Just great. No stores open. No people on the streets. Nothing to keep me company but noisy crickets.
An hour passed as I drove aimless around the town going in circle after circle. The town was visually pleasing. When the boredom took hold of me, I decided to head to the Black Hills just to get a look at where I was wanted the next morning. The road there was eerie as the night skies began to form. It seemed as if darkness occured almost instantly as the road went under trees and hid in the shadows. A uneasy feeling settled in my stomach as I parked at a pathway.
The meeting place was a dilapidated log cabin quite far off the main road. The shack looked as if it hadn't been used in ages - a slowly rotting relic of the previous century. The front door was unlocked and slightly ajar, and out of curiosity I stepped inside and fumbled for the light switch. No power. As I suspected. The bits of fading daylight coming through the dirty windows revealed shabby furniture covered with torn and yellowed sheets. A kitchen table with one chair. The layer of thick dust and dead insect remnants on the floor was undisturbed except for where I had just walked over it. I'm positive I heard a rat inside one of the walls. Scratching.
This place gives me the creeps. Tempted to decline the job and walk away right now.
I could not understand why anyone would want to meet here. Even if this was relevant to whatever this case is related to, why would someone make this a meeting point? The cabin was disturbing. A small home like that completely abandoned and left to rot. It had an eerie vibe. I couldn't help but think it would be easier for me to leave right now but curiosity was all I had at this point. Why someone from here would contact me, a P.I. at the other side of the country to meet at this place made me feel quite uneasy but I can't help but wonder. I walked away from the cabin and back to my car only to find a note on the windshield of my car.
The note was written with a childlike handwriting. I strolled back to the cabin and made my eyes look everywhere. I went towards the back of the cabin scanning the side of the crumbling building. On the left hand side, there were strange markings carved in the wood. I couldn't tell if they were bizarre letters or symbols but they were all over this side. Fascinated, yet a little more freaked out, I pulled out my notebook and started copying them. My feet wandered towards the back of the cabin while I was still sketching the last carving. I looked up and couldn't believe my eyes.
An oblong hole in the ground about six feet long and two feet wide - perhaps four feet deep - with a neat pile of damp soil next to it. A short-handled shovel on the ground right beside that, it's blade covered with matching dirt. As if the unknown digger had just finished his task and walked away moments before. I could see no impressions or tracks on the ground where the person might have stepped while making this hole. Closing my notebook with hands that trembled more than a little, I approached the grave and peeked over the edge of the hole. There was something in there. Not a coffin or a body. Something else. A metal box?
My mind began to consider the carvings on the cabin then, and though I could not read them, I instinctively regarded them as a warning. My eyes darted back and forth, scanning every corner of the property and every shadow near me. Was I being watched? Hunted? Was this grave meant for me?
I grabbed the metal box, put it under my shaky arm and walked briskly back to the car. I scanned the windshield and surroundings for another note. Nothing. I dropped into the driver's seat and checked the pathways near me for any figure. The box was a rusty steel box with a three-digit combination needed. I obviously never had it.
There was still hours before I had to officially be here, despite someone already knowing here. It was time for a stake out, I wouldn't be needing sleep. And I knew I'd have to be prepared.
I sat in the car with the radio on while I waited for the meeting, listening to the soothing sounds of static - my radio could pick up NOTHING way out here in the sticks - and turning the box over and over in my hands. I wondered what was in it. Who put it there. The combination to the lock.
Actually, with the right tools I could probably avoid the lock entirely and just smash the damn thing open. It couldn't be that tough a nut to crack. I tried a few random numbers on the lock... and got nowhere, of course. And when I was sufficiently annoyed I dropped it on the front seat, got out of the car, and went to the trunk seeking the tire iron that I assumed (correctly!) was back there. I then snatched the box off the front seat, set it down gently on the rough pavement, and bashed it open with one mighty blow.
Three objects spilled out onto the road. I picked up and examinined each one, then set them on the hood of the car in a neat little row.
The first was a ring. A pentagram ring, smallish in size. A woman's ring. At least that was the impression I got as I held it. The second was a broken necklace with what looked like a large tooth on it. A tiger's tooth perhaps. It looked valuable. The third was an empty crumpled-up food wrapper. Power Bar. Oatmeal Raisin. The smell of it made my stomach growl.
The hood of my car was my seat for a good half hour as I thoroughly examined the three objects. The wrapper confused me. What significance could it possibly have with the two items of jewellery. Did the three objects belong to someone?
The pentagram ring had small carvings on the inside. I couldn't tell if it was symbols or a different language. My mind made the connection between that symbol and the symbols at the side of the house. They were definitely similar, whatever they were. The necklace I couldn't find anything on. It was unable to go back together. The tooth could have easily slipped off but it hadn't. It had been clearly been placed in the middle of the broken chain.
I even decided to investigate the box taking out a flash-light and attempting to find maybe another symbol, any sort of message.
The steel box hit the ground hard as I heard footsteps near me. Towards the house.
A man was standing there in front of the house. One moment I was alone by my car and the next this guy was just standing there. In his right hand he held a large black book that I assumed to be a bible. That and the shabby black suit he wore gave the impression of a preacher. Someone of importance. At least around these parts. He motioned towards the house, then turned and walked toward it without a word.
Bringing the box and its creepy contents with me, I walked quickly to the front door. I turned the knob, gently pushed the door forward, and stepped inside. The sight that greeted me when I looked up left me wide-eyed and speechless.
This was not the same room I had explored earlier on my own. The power was on now and so were the lights. The new illumination revealed a neat and tidy cabin interior free of dust, cobwebs, dead bugs, or any clutter whatsoever. The shabby furniture was now uncovered and appeared as though brand new and never used. The kitchen table had four chairs around it now instead of just the one; there were two decorative placemats with floral designs and a centerpiece adorned with colorful wildflowers. It was as if the place had just been cleaned top to bottom and I had just missed the cleaning crew leaving. The preacher stood at the kitchen sink with his back to me as I entered the room. Maybe it was a trick of the light, or the confined space of the cabin, but the man seemed much taller now than he did outside. But I might have been imagining it. He turned slowly with the black book in his hands and locked eyes with me.
I introduced myself and asked if he was the client. The man nodded, closed the book, and set it on the table. His eyes never left mine. And though it didn't occur to me until later, I never saw him blink. It was unnerving. And when he spoke, it was in a voice that did not match what I expected. A monotone whisper - barely audible - that forced me to stand closer to him so I could hear. Something I was reluctant to do. The man made me nervous.
Amongst a group of other whispers, the one coherent whisper. Who's listening? Before I could ask any questions, the man moved to the other side of the room and picked up a collection of paper from under a bookcase. He walked back over and dropped them in front of me on the table.
The documents were a jumble. A mass of papers thrown together without any semblance of order. The one on top looked important, so I began to read that one. A police report. Missing person. Fifteen year old girl. Last seen entering the woods near Burkittsville.
"My daughter has gone missing. Our only child. My wife has been dead ten years and she is the only family I have left..."
"Wife has been dead ten years. Buried out back. Promised her I would protect our child. But I failed. It seems the witch was stronger than I was..."
I moved to the window and looked out in amazement. In place of the fresh open grave I observed earlier was now a grass-covered mound of dried earth marked with a cheap and weathered headstone. Looked like it had been there a decade at least. No muddy shovel nearby. No footprints.
I nodded and reached out to pick up the papers on the table. As I did so I realized that I was still holding the metal box that I had removed from the grave out back. I held it up to the light, intending to question the strange man about it, and was shocked into silence yet again. The box was not a box anymore. It too had changed from when I last looked at it. Instead of a box, I held in my hand a tin can with sharp rusty edges. The top had been cut away partially and was spotted with blood - mine. Seems one of the sharp edges had bitten into my fingers and I had failed to notice until just now. I looked inside and saw it was empty. The three creepy objects were gone. The tall man looked at the can I was cradling in my hands, then back up at me. His face gave nothing away, but his eyes betrayed his thoughts. He was clearly amused by my puzzlement. I got the impression that I was being tested - and I wasn't really sure if I had passed or failed.
"Please, look through everything here. I have more papers. Do your investigating. I'll be back same time tomorrow."
And with that, the man was gone. I didn't know what to think about him or the strange box, or even the papers. He did seem like he had been through all this before and was just looking for someone to believe him and hopefully give him answers. I went over to the bookcase and scanned in more detail. I could see more paper bundles. There was also a bunch of newspaper clippings and dusty old looking books. I took everything and dropped them on the table. It was time to educate myself.
Last Edit: Sept 18, 2014 2:16:15 GMT -6 by bw.asylum
It seemed like I was there for hours, pouring over documents and absorbing the fragments of information in front of me. But when I looked up at the window the sun did not seem any lower in the sky. And though the strange man had left the room, it felt as though he was still there somehow. I felt unseen eyes upon me at all times. It was unsettling. When eye strain required me to take a break from reading, I would stand at the window and look out at the old grave. I wasn't sure why but that mound of dirt kept drawing me back. Curiosity got the better of me and I headed outside and toward the back side of the house. I got a better look at the sky here; the sun was much lower than it appeared through the window from inside. There was maybe an hour left until dusk. As I turned the corner to the backyard I stopped and cast a glance at my car still parked out by the road. Through my weary eyes the car seemed impossibly far away - I knew better, that it was the same distance from me that it was before. A trick of the fading light I suppose. I shrugged my shoulders and turned the corner.
There was a flash of white light before my eyes - sunlight reflecting off metal perhaps - then an explosion of red agony in my forehead as something struck me in the face. Hard. I caught an image of that crazy preacher standing over me, shovel in hand, evil smile on face. Then everything began to spin and faded to black.
Slowly the world stopped spinning and my eyes tried to open. My skull was still on fire and there was something wet in my eyes. Blood probably. I went to wipe it away and found that I couldn't move. I wasn't restrained in any way I could sense. My muscles simply would not obey me. I was on my back. The ground was damp and cold under me. I didn't know how much time had passed since I was bashed in the head by that lunatic and his shovel. Could have been hours. I blinked my eyes rapidly and was able to finally see where I was.
The grave. I was in the grave in the backyard.
It was as I had first seen it. Freshly dug and waiting for a body to bury.