Veronica stood before the ancient gate of her great-grandfather’s mansion staring at the faded white walls with grey patches and cracks that harbored dried weeds.
The thought of the story she was told about why no one lived there, lingered in mind. She was fourteen and fearless, her desire was to set her feet on the ground beyond the ancient gate.
“Please don’t go anywhere near that gate, ” her mother had warned her.
“It’s an evil house, ” she had retorted. “Your great-grandfather lived there but abandoned it when strange things began to happen. He would go to bed at night only to wake up in the middle of the night outside the house – in the compound, on bare ground.”
“The day I gave birth to you was the same day your father died.”
“What happened to him?”
“He entered the compound while I was at the hospital and was later found in the compound beside an old baby cot -/ dead.
“Yes. It was. When he told me about the properties in that house and how his father, your grandpa had always wanted to take…. some ou…” She began to sniff and Veronica snuggled close to her. I warned him not to go there. He wouldn’t listen. Losing him was the worst thing that has happened to me.”
“It’s alright mama. It’s alright.”
“I don’t want to lose you too.”
“You won’t mama. You won’t lose me. I promise never to go near that house.”
As she stood there before the gate, the same one she was warned against, she had made up her mind to break her promise to her mother. She had a strange desire to enter the house. Strange and strong desire!
As she looked at the many chains that secured the gate, a whiff of despair swept across her.
Just then, her eyes caught a young lady standing in the room upstairs, facing the gate. She stood before a glass window and her pale palms showed through the glass. Veronica flinched and backed away as she called her name.
“Veronica! Veronica! Please, help me. ” her sweet voice sounded as if she was close to her. She seemed to be trapped in her room, lonely and sad. Her antique wedding dress clasped her delicate body as if beaten by the rain.
“Why is she so sad?” Veronica whispered.
“Hello! What’s your name?”
“I can’t remember!” her voice was cold and shaky this time.
“Don’t worry! I’ll help you,”
Veronica sensed her chapped lips curve upward and her bony cheeks set.
She quickly swept the tears from her cheeks as her mother’s voice came through, warning her not to touch the gate.. She smiled at the lady.
“I’ll be back soon. I promise,” Veronica turned to go but the chains clanked behind her and the gate swung open. Her mother’s call became hysteric when she turned and took slow steps towards the open gate. She looked back and saw her running towards her.
“Veronica! No!!! Come out!” Her mother screeched.
Veronica!” The woman called.
Mother! Why are you scared? There is a woman in this house. She needs help. Let’s help her. Please, mama.”. But when she looked back, her mother was already locked out, the chains that secured the gate was in place. Her eyes went wild and she looked up at the woman questioning.
“Be fast Veronica or she will stop you from setting me free.” Veronica walked to the house and on touching the door to the entrance, it came open, she saw the wooden staircase and the cobwebs everywhere. Her mother kept calling but she was determined.
She took slow steps up, cutting through thick cobwebs with sweep of both hands.
She reached the first landing and felt a cold chill and wanted to go back but she called again.
“Over here.” Veronica saw the room with Private. Stay Away. written on it. Her heart raced as she reached for the handle. It’s locked. She pushed until she couldn’t. She turned to go but heard the door click. She reached for it again and it opened. She took a calculated step and looked inside, there was no one in it. She walked to the glass window and saw people gathered waiting to see what would become of her.
She waved at them. “I’m not dead mother.” She whispered and began to look around for woman.
Her eyes caught it. A human skeleton in tatters lay in a broken wooden couch. Veronica turned away from it in horror and stormed out the room. She ran towards the gate. The gate remained locked.
At Veronica’s command, the chains were broken and the gate was opened. People who were courageous enough went in with her to see the bones. Since no one knew who it was, the remains were taken to the cemetery and buried.
“Who could it be? Who lived in that room?”
“I don’t know. When I got married to your father, no one lived in the house.”
“I know she’s a wedded young lady.” Her mother stared at her. She had no idea who the lady could be.