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Headstone House - Gathering

By: Agatha Brennan

A grave is where you go to end a story. And the more stories that end, the more headstones you find. I suppose if you build a house atop the headstones, it becomes a place that welcomes those that are already dead. And if you listen closely to the walls, you can hear the cold pulse that still runs through them. And all the stories they carry. I lived in a house like that for 204 years. The Headstone House, I called her. And I know all her stories. This is but one.

“Just sign here, and you’ll be an official resident,” I offered.

I pushed the contract to my latest arrival, along with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

As she requested.

By all accounts, Madeline Finch was the ideal tenant. She was quiet, orderly, and based on previous reports, always paid her rent in full and ahead of time. There seemed to be nothing more to her than being a diligent resident of the properties she had stayed at in the last ten years. It could have all been so perfect. Except for the timing of her arrival.

She became a tenant of the Headstone House on Halloween of 1922.

This would have marked the beginning of our time as landlord and tenant, but she would not be admitted to the premises until the end of All Hallows Eve. Being a new resident in this place posed certain…challenges. And after cleaning up the remains of the last ones, I knew that this house and its longtime residents would take advantage of the situation. With the glow of the Harvest Moon, monsters like us received more Powers of the Grave.

Our fangs grew sharper, our eyes grew brighter, and our appetites became insatiable.

While nobody else had learned the truth in town, they had certainly taken precautions against my little monsters.

We didn’t have any visitors this time of year, anymore. The procession of distraught spouses, confused policemen, and paranormal investigators took one night of reprieve. And it would all start up again on November 1st.

It could have been so perfect.

But if there’s one thing humans love more than their little secrets, it’s when you make exceptions for them.

“I just have one question,” Madeline insisted.

“Of course,” I allowed.

“The contract states that I am to stay off of the premises during Halloween. Where does that leave us for today? I’m afraid I have nowhere else to go in the meantime. I’ve moved my entire life out here, and I’d like to have a place to hang my hat.”

“I understand your trepidation, but I assure you that the time you’ll be spending out of the house on Halloween is for your benefit.”

“Being homeless for the next 24 hours is a benefit? I brought you the money for rent, and it took everything I had to bring you every last penny.”

“All sixty dollars worth. You have my thanks. But I won’t be leaving you in a lurch. You’re clearly a very thoughtful person, and I want you to know that this gesture has not gone unnoticed. I’ve made arrangements for you to stay at the local inn, out of my pocket. It’s owned by a fri