by Edith Fraser
Nine year old Kathy was on her way home from school when a girl about her age caught up with her. She said her name was Sharon Nicolson and they discussed their day and how each had fared in school as would be normal for any schoolgirls.
Kathy reached her turn off so they waved goodbye. She wasn’t really sure if this was a shortcut or not but she enjoyed coming this way. It was where the track crossed the street between houses and it took her right to her house. It was a beautiful, lazy summer day and she stepped up onto the track and carefully balanced as she made her way home.
Suddenly, Kathy felt a body slam and she was knocked to the ground. It was her new friend, Sharon. Kathy’s feelings were more hurt than she was but at the same time she heard and saw the train as it thundered past them. The engineer blowing his whistle and shaking his head at her from his window. Kathy was still in shock but she thanked Sharon who said she had to go and quickly ran off. Kathy dusted herself off and picked up her books. A couple of them had slid under a collection of heavy railroad beams stored along the side of the track.
When she got home she told her mother who grabbed her and hugged her tightly and told her that she was not allowed to come home that way again. After supper Kathy gathered her books so she could do her homework. She hated math! Then she noticed a different book in her pack. It was old and the blue colour was faded. Opening it up, she saw that it was a library book and the name on the card inside was Sharon Nicolson. She must have lost it when she body slammed her. Kathy had said her name aloud and her mother said “It can’t be Sharon, honey” and she picked up the book to see for herself. Her face was now white and Kathy asked her why she was so upset.
Apparently, Sharon had been a student at the school about 50 years ago and she had been killed by a train on the exact same spot where the girl had pushed Kathy to safety. Her mother had learned of the story just that day while chatting with Sally who worked at the store. She decided she would have to get to the bottom of this.
Next day, her mother went to the newspaper to see if there were any stories she could find about a girl being killed on the tracks by our house. She easily found a lot of information. Sharon had been walking home with a schoolmate, Emily Sanders and they parted where the sidewalk meets the tracks. Sharon’s schoolmate lived in our house at the time and used the same shortcut that Kathy liked. Emily was balancing along the track and must have been daydreaming because she was not responding to the train whistle or the people yelling at her. Sharon desperately ran alongside the train yelling out to her friend but unfortunately, Emily couldn’t hear her screaming. Sharon threw herself against Emily pushing her out of the way of the train but Sharon didn’t make it. She was caught by the fast moving train. Sharon saved her friend but could not save herself. Her mother and Kathy both cried after reading the newspaper reports.
But… how could this be? Kathy was saved by a ghost? She had searched every face at school that day but none were familiar to her. She was not able to find the girl who had pushed her out of danger. Kathy’s mother let her tag along with her instead of going to class. She would not be able to concentrate anyway.
They had already been to the office but had not learned anything new that could lead to the heroic girl. The library was their next stop. Mrs. Anderson was always very pleasant and she would not be busy with students at this time of day. When they showed her the book she staggered backwards and gasped. “Where did you get this? Sharon was so concerned about this book. She needed to have it back the next day and wasn’t sure she would be finished with it in time. It was in her backpack but we never found it that awful day. The backpack would have slowed her down when she jumped. I have never been able to forgive myself for causing her death”.
Kathy said “You’re Emily Sanders?
She said, “Yes, that was my name before I got married.
Kathy’s mom told her “From what we are learning about Sharon, she risked her life to save yours. She would not want you to regret being alive. She saved my daughter’s life yesterday and maybe she has saved other lives there as well.”
Emily picked up the book, looking inside she noticed the date it was due. The date was today’s date but fifty years ago. She said “Sharon will be able to rest now. She has finally been able to return her book”.
Based on a True Story by Edith Fraser
James had been surprised to hear from the Glasgow lawyer who told him of his inheritance. He remembered that there was a part of the family that had never left Scotland like his grandparents had. The only one left was an uncle and now with him gone James was the only one remaining to inherit the castle. He was excited to go and see the property so he booked his passage immediately.
James couldn’t wait to explore the castle. Going from room to room almost bouncing with joy, James couldn’t believe his good luck. By the time he reached the dungeons he was completely taken with the castle. It would be a shame to have to sell it but the maintenance would be more than he could afford.
He quickly glanced around the dark, dusty room with its medieval contrivances until he caught sight of the tall device in the corner. Turning on a light, he recognized it as the torture device known as an “iron maiden” but this one was different. Painted on the outside was an amazingly beautiful life size woman. Her eyes looked like she was about to cry. He looked inside and as he expected, it was full of nails that were meant to pierce the skin of a victim placed inside. A quiet, gentle man, James was troubled by the torture devices.
He had met Helen, the housekeeper, last night for supper and she bustled about merrily preparing breakfast. James wanted to get right to work on verifying the inventory of the old castle as he wouldn’t be able to stay off his job for long. Right after breakfast he decided to start in the dungeons and settled down at the table with the paperwork. He had been working about an hour in the dusty, cob-webbed rooms when he thought he heard whimpering. Getting up, he followed the sound until he reached the iron maiden and the sound stopped. Looking at the face of the girl, he saw tears coming from her haunted eyes. Touching the tears he found they were wet. Speaking aloud he said, “What’s going on? Who’s here trying to play a joke on me?”
Her voice was melodious but tortured as she told him, “Not a joke, it really is me speaking to you. My name is Miriam and I have been trapped in this evil form for all time. The Dungeon Master was angered by my refusal of his advances so he made me into this device and even worse he made me murder people with my nails.” She sobbed out her story to James and he listened with some doubt that this was really happening.
They talked for hours that night until he finally believed her. He had never known anyone more beautiful or enchanting. By morning he knew that he was unequivocally in love. James knew he had to try and help her but how?
At breakfast, he asked Helen if she knew anything about the iron maiden and she told him the same story he had heard from Miriam. She said it was a rather fanciful tale that had been handed down through the ages. Helen shuddered when she thought of the items in the dungeons but she also recalled hearing how the evil Dungeon Master had hired an old man that had lived in the deep forest and was said to be a wizard. Long gone now, but he had been the one who made the nails used in the iron maiden. That was all that Helen knew about the story of Miriam and the wicked device.
James went for a walk around the property and noticed a deep dark forest. He wondered if this could be the same one from Helen’s story. As he stood there staring at the forest and pondering the story that had now become so important to him, an idea hit him. He ran back to the castle and asked Helen for some tools. Then he took two steps at a time down to the dungeons. In the corner, the iron maiden still stood there with the distraught Miriam. James opened the case and with pliers in hand began to pull out the nails one by one. Miriam screamed out as each nail left the device. Finally all the nails were out and the real life maiden, Miriam emerged. She was exactly as she was when the Dungeon Master put the spell on her. She could hardly believe she was free.
Rushing to James he grabbed her and held her in his arms. They were both so very happy. They were even happier when they found that the iron maiden was made primarily of gold as were the nails. Now they could afford to keep the castle and James could stay on without returning to his job.
“BAM!!” shattered the silence of the night for the fifth time in the last hour. Many times they had been asked “Why?”
Why do they slam their door? They would explain that it isn’t them; it’s the wind from the open balcony door. True; we all experienced the same thing but five times in an hour? Our hallway used to be so nice and quiet before they moved in. It seemed they brought chaos with them.
Then there’s the three cats being set free into the hallway at night. I love cats but so does my dog so every time she sniffed the cats out there she would bark and that would be three or four o’clock in the morning. Another woman told me that she has a cat and the freed cats come and scratch under her door to visit her cat.
The two men would get angry if questioned about it. They explained that they liked to let the cats sit at the door and watch the activity out in the hallway but the door would slam shut. This made me more anxious as I was afraid of the cats getting hurt. At least, this solved the mystery.
My neighbour almost directly across from me claimed they were doing much worse. They had adjoining walls and balcony. The cats would come to her balcony and the men would accuse her of stealing them. She also accused them of using drugs and blowing the smell towards her place. She got so upset over them with the slamming doors that she frequently called the superintendent, the owners and the police on them and they all thought that she was crazy. She did appear to be going off the deep end.
Finally, they got evicted and it made a lot of us happy. It was more peaceful on the eighth floor for a month and all the people that had complained before were no longer complaining.
Then we saw people coming around to see the apartment. Sure enough it was rented and we saw the people moving in. The actual tenant was an elderly woman who used a motorized wheelchair to get around. She also had a cat and we all hoped she would keep it in her apartment. She had some young people helping her and we all assumed they were her grandchildren. It wasn’t long before she moved a man into her apartment. I am very chatty so eventually found out that she and I shared the same first name; Edna, and his name is Paul.
Then it started. People coming to my door looking for Edna. Phone calls in the middle of the night looking for Edna. I was really getting upset. The only thing I could think of was that she was dealing drugs and they saw my name on the board downstairs. I could just imagine the police banging on my door and shooting the lock off to break in to catch a drug dealer. Yes, I know, I watch too many movies. My dog was going crazy barking all the time because even though they were knocking on Edna’s door, the noise came into my apartment too.
Eventually, I found out they were selling cigarettes that were from the Reserve. Well, I can’t say that I had a problem with them doing that so it just carried on. It didn’t take long before everyone found out I was not the “Edna” they were looking for so the calls and banging on my door ended.
Then Paul had something go wrong with his heart so he never left the apartment any more. He was the one who used to go and get the cigarettes so now that stopped and so did all the noises in the night. Our hallway on the eighth floor is nice and quiet again, no drugs, no cats and no cigarettes.