Raven wanders the woods, searching. She is desperately hunting for someone that eludes her. She has made this pilgrimage for years without realizing the reason. She only knows that there is knowledge to be obtained, and wisdom that she is not in possession of…and that alone drives her.
Her once ebony tresses now hang in stringy clumps around her face as if shutters upon a forgotten windowpane allowing no light to shine within or without. Her weary eyes can barely see through the strands of darkness. Her cold heart is empty now, void of feeling. Where did life go? She shares a common bond with the girl in the church but has no idea how their lives are entwined.
Raven knew the history and she understood the little girl…the brave girl, who fought with all the strength she had. But, in the end, her strength and will were not enough. The child succumbed to the evil-the evil that took her life. Today is the anniversary of that little girl’s death.
In late 1987, a mother lost her only child to a ferocious wolf pack on the place where an abandoned church now sits. After the tragedy in ’87, no one wanted to return to the services there at the tiny church because of the atrocities that occurred. So the church has sat vacant of its occupants for many years. It sits today as a giant tombstone to the memory of a little girl who was lost forever.
No one knows the complete story as to why this mother was out in the woods with her young child. And why no one from town has seen this mother since. But everyone knows the outcome-a child died at the claws of hungry wolves. There are tales told by the elders in the village that those wolves were more than just ordinary wolves. Raven concurs with their beliefs. Traces of the child’s blood along with at least a dozen claws were found and investigated with no significant results. Those treasures still fuel the fire of the villager’s nightmares. Raven fingers the golden talisman dangling from her neck-a reminder of her motive and eternal fascination for this annual pilgrimage.
After the incident, it is said that the girl’s mother, buried her dead child somewhere on the grounds of the old church building. The grave is unmarked and the location long since forgotten. The story that is told is about a ghost, a child ghost, who searches the church, calling out for her mother. And on the anniversary of the day she was killed, the girl returns. Her sweet child voice can be heard for miles. Sadly but not surprisingly, her cries go unanswered.
Raven listens intently, as she does each year on this day. She wonders as she walks deeper into the woods whether the girl’s mother ever made her way back to the horrific place where the tragedy occurred or did she choose not to remember. Raven wonders why she cares so about this little girl? Why is she so obsessed with making this yearly journey…a journey that always yields nothing.
The tunic she wears is difficult to hike in as she makes her way along the rugged path. Lifting and pulling it up over the broken limbs begins to exhaust her. She continues on in silence listening for the voice.
Raven hears the sound of leaves rustling gently on the tired trees above and around her. Leaves swirl around her feet as if dancing with her to a music she cannot hear. She does not want to be distracted. The wind picks up and Raven looks to the sky to see it darkening as the shifting clouds totally envelop the full moon. Night and complete darkness will be upon her soon. The sound of dried leaves crunching beneath her feet as she walks begins to annoy her senses as she continues on more hastily now as time is not on her side. Although her ears fill with the sounds of the forest, still, she listens intently for the girl’s voice. She knows that voice.
Desperate now, as if the sound of that voice is her fuel to move forward, Raven stops walking to hear more intently. Standing amongst the ancient trees, Raven feels a part of the forest. And something deep in her heart tells her that she is.
As if a bedside alarm, Raven is violently shaken from her thoughts by the disturbing sound of annoying voices ahead of her on the trail. The voices laugh loudly as if they are playing a silly game. And as if on queue, the sound of the girl’s small voice permeates her soul. She hears the child. Is she here in the woods? The voice appears to be calling out to the others, her newfound playmates. The voice that Raven recognizes filters through the trees. She instinctively knows it is the one that she has been searching for. Raven, along with the voices ahead of her on the trail, blindly follows the voice that beckons to them.
She curses her luck as she runs through the forest. Raven finally hears the voice of the child that she is searching for, only to have the moment interrupted, if not completely disrupted by silly young teens on a ghost hunt. These young ladies know nothing of the pain and reality of this place…of this site…of this little girl’s demise. They only want a “Halloween-type scare” and Raven is in a frantic search of life… her life.
Moving faster as she moves along the pathway, she catches her dress on a branch laid across her path. She pulls at the fabric trying to release it quickly and sees blood. It is dried blood smeared on the hem. She notices that her once white hem is almost entirely torn away and stained. She can see her pasty leg underneath and she is wearing no shoes. Startled at that sight, she looks more intently at her feet. They too are smeared with blood. Where did all the dried blood come from? She searches her arms and sees scratches there. The scratches are deep ones but Raven is in no pain. She has no clue as to their origin.
As if an innate sense, Raven knows exactly where to go to meet the child. She must enter the small church in the clearing. The closer she gets to the church, the louder the little girl’s cries get. Does the child’s voice come from a tomb somewhere in the church? Raven runs frantically ahead in desperation.
As she attempts to enter the church, she sees that the wooden door is fastened tightly with a bar. She lifts it with both hands and she pulls at the handle on the door. It will not open. With determination, she wills her body to slide her through the cracks around the doorframe. Walking into the dark chamber, the impending night makes her trek even more difficult. Raven walks slowly towards the altar. She notices that the stone floor has sunken down near the front of the ancient church.
The room is dark. Her eyes try to adjust. The large worn stones on the floor of the sanctuary are cold and foreboding as she walks across them. The ice there catches her off guard as her bare feet tread carefully. Looking at her feet and realizing how cold she is, she still cannot believe that she doesn’t wear shoes.
Drawn by a force that she cannot control, she continues on.
She hesitates but knows she won’t refuse the steadfast pull to her heart. It is as if she is a lost ship on the sea of life and the child’s voice is the beacon showing her the only way. She peers into the hole where the stones have sunk into the earth. It is dark. She hears the voice again but this time the voice is loud… so very loud that the ghost child could be standing right next to her.
“Mama where are you? I can’t find you!” the child’s earsplitting voice sings out as if a cymbal crashing in Raven’s head. Raven covers her ears.
Even more desperate now, the determined woman continues digging for the lost child. She knows she is very near. Raven pulls some of the stones away, making a bigger hole for her body to slip through. The sound of the child’s voice continues to echo in the tomblike place while she digs.
As if discordant music, the playing voices from the woods, have successfully entered the back of the church. Raven, now on her knees, turns to see three teens staring at her. She growls as she opens her mouth…and nothing else but distaste comes out. She hears the child again. This time, the voice is afraid…afraid of the teens that are making their way to the front of the church where she is. Raven pulls and scratches at the stones, bloodying her fingertips. There is no pain. She finds she has a strong desire and urges to protect this child that hides beneath the stones.
“I am here, Mama. I am here!” Looking to the approaching teens and back again at where she is scratching she suddenly stops as she sees words written on the stone she is pawing. She carefully brushes the stone with her bloodied hands. Darkness tries to cover the words etched there. But Raven sees.
A freak accident
Opened the door
Evil was enacted
My fate became yours
In loving memory of my sweet daughter
Shuttering at the words etched there. Raven stands in shock and disbelief. Her wolf-like silhouette fills the shadows of the church. Turning slowly, but intently, she sees the thrill seekers behind her…each face desperately looking in anticipation like the pack of wolves ready to devour their prey. Opening her mouth without reservation, she screams out to the mother that never comes. “Help me, Mama, please help me.”
The teenagers, having found the ghost they were searching for, don horror-stricken faces as they look to the urban legend that they laughed about for years. She was staring at them and shrieking in un-known tongues- ones which they could not understand.
As stunned as the band of young people are, Raven is even more surprised. She sees her reflection in the shadows and suddenly realizes that her own voice had been calling out in the woods. Her own voice was the one she recognized. And it is her own child voice that calls out each year.
Straightening her dress, she looks at her bare feet to see scuffed up patent leather shoes and stained ruffled socks, a blood-stained pinafore covers her baby blue dress. She remembers that outfit well. It was her favorite and one her mother dearly loved.
She is Raven, the ghost girl. And she is dead.
Once the revelation comes into focus her transformation begins. Raven’s adrenaline suddenly energizes the beast within while her remaining humanity dreads what she knows she is about to do. Lowering her head she glares at the band of teens with her yellow eyes. They scream and run frantically to the back of the church. She bares her sharp teeth as her mouth waters in anticipation. She offers them time to get out the door, making ready for the game she loves to play.
When the screams begin to soften in the distance, Raven jumps out of the hole where she stands, landing on all fours and listens.
Her keen nose takes in the delicious scent of her prey in anticipation of the chase, her favorite part.
Marcee Corn is a teacher and storyteller by profession.
Ms. Corn’s love of words originated when she was a teenager reading the poetry of Shel Silverstein and others. And her love for the spoken and written word has never left her.
When she completed her degree in Elementary Education, she was hired as a first-grade teacher in Memphis, Tennessee. Still being enamored with words, Ms. Corn began telling stories to her students her first year in the classroom. It was a special treat saved for the end of the day when her students were tired and needed a relaxing break. The students would lie on the carpet around their teacher and listen to her made-up tales. Many times the stories involved dinosaurs or dragons – a very popular subject with six-year-olds. Some years, Ms. Corn would tell ONE very long story that would continue for the entire school year ending on the last day of school. With the popularity of her storytelling, word spread about her tales, and children waited anxiously to see if they would get into Ms. Corn’s class!
One day, Ms. Corn realized that through her storytelling, she could help encourage those shy, struggling and withdrawn children in her class by making them the heroes and heroines in the tale. Thus began a tradition and passion she pursued for the next 23 years of her career. Even when she taught 6th graders in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, as her career came to a close, she continued with the storytelling. Of course, the subject matter changed from dinosaurs to current topics of interest to twelve year old preteens-each other.
While still in Vestavia Hills, she and her sister, Susan McCulloch, began writing the memoir, Unclaimed Baggage; the story of their mother’s journey through Alzheimer’s Disease.
In 2013, Ms. Corn and her husband moved to the mountains of North Carolina. With the inspiration that the mountains provided, Ms. Corn decided to try her hand at writing fiction. In her mind, telling a made-up story seemed to be very similar to writing a made-up story. She began writing fiction three years ago, writing unpublished short stories. She found she really enjoyed it.
Always Thaddeus, her latest novel, takes place on a fictional island off the coast of Maine.
Ms. Corn had spent many summers on the coast of Maine as a child. She has many fond
memories and remembers vivid details about the coastline and the uniqueness of the area. Recent visits to Maine prompted her to set her thriller, Always Thaddeus on Owl’s Nest, Maine.
When she is not writing, Marcee Corn and her sister, Susan McCulloch, and their husbands are proprietors of The Twisted Twig Antiques & Accents, an eclectic shop in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
Ms. Corn recently returned from Chelmsford, England as she completed her successful European launch of her new release, Always Thaddeus. On November 22, she will be in Birmingham Alabama for an author talk and book signing.
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