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Excerpt from Secrets in Oak Creek

On impulse, she turns the car around and follows the now familiar lane, curious to take another look.

As she slows down, Emily surveys the farmlands on either side of the small country road. She deeply inhales the smell of corn bouncing weightlessly on the warm breeze. A childhood memory floats into awareness, taking her back to when she loved running through endless rows of corn. She remembers when she would stop running and then stand quietly between the rows—not moving, just listening. On some days, the warm wind would whisper her name, beckoning her mind to float to enchanted places in far-away, mystical lands.

She recalls the tingling of her spine when the wind rustles the stalks around her, telling a different story. With her heart hammering fast, she can barely catch her breath. Her feet are rooted to the ground, imagining the rows parting for a faceless shadow that is coming for her. When the spell finally breaks, and fear releases its icy grip, she runs, pumping her legs until she emerges unscathed from the field of corn, feeling safe once again.

Emily smiles at the memory of her childish games as her gaze sweeps the seemingly endless stretching cornfield that is adjoining the property she sees.

She slowly pulls her car to the shoulder and stops where she can view the home between the massive trees in front. Turning off the engine, she sits and watches the home for a few minutes.

You would have been a beauty once, she thinks along with a twinge of nostalgia.

Today, she can clearly see how it may have looked before, her gloomy feelings from just a few days ago replaced with visions of happier times. Windows now boarded up would have gleamed in the early afternoon sun, white wicker furniture on the front porch inviting visitors to sit a while. Lush green Boston ferns in ornate urns would flank the solid oak front door while children played a game of chase with a cute black and white dog. Yes, definitely a dog, she decides.

As if pulled by unseen strings, Emily opens her door and steps out onto the road. Just a quick look, a little bit closer. She hesitantly walks toward the overgrown gravel drive.

She tentatively steps on the drive, and the house comes into view from its side angle. A couple of steps lead up to what appears to be a service entrance. She heads to the front yard where the front porch is badly sagging, barely held up by the once stately Doric columns. A whiff of musty, stale air assaults her nostrils.

Disgusted, she turns away from the crumbling facade. Abandoned, apparently a long time ago—what a pity!

As she turns away, Emily is keenly aware of the eerie stillness around her. Just as the wind in the cornfield softly sighed such a long time ago, the old house seems to reach out, whispering an invitation to explore its long-forgotten interior.

Emily hesitantly steps up two concrete steps, halting on the small landing of the side entrance.

“Hello!” she calls out as she knocks on the door, cocking her head, listening closely. She doesn’t expect anyone to answer, but still. “Hello? Is anyone here?” she repeats. Ignoring her gut’s warnings that she has no business being here, she knocks a second time—and almost jumps as the door opens a small way, rusty hinges shrieking loudly, interrupting the quiet.

Her pulse races as she pushes her hand lightly against the door. She leans forward, glancing around the interior and is immediately assaulted by the same musty smell she had noticed earlier, only stronger.