The House of Eliza Crane

by Jhonen Vasquez

In the late 1960's Brooklindale was a rural community, right on the Catawba river. The town was well known for its hospitality to oncoming strangers. It was not unusual to see strangers moving in, and leaving overnight. The town had a small population, so everyone knew each other.

But they also had their secrets and stories.

About two miles off the river and through the woods lay a rustic cabin. This cabin was less modern than the little trimmed houses at the bottom of the hill. A widow lived alone in that little cabin. Her name was Eliza Crane, and she was feared greatly. She was said to be a witch. She kept the peace with the town for many years, because no one dared to go into her woods.

But all that changed in the one night.

Three teenagers of the town took a treacherous dare and snuck to her cabin. They threw a rock through one of her black windows and ran. That was when the children of the neighborhood began vanishing. Never to be found. The townsfolk braved her cabin for questioning. She said she was innocent. But the townsfolk hated her so much that they claimed her guilty anyway and took her to the gallows to be hung at daybreak.

She silently stood on the deck. Never made a face, never said a word, and died without so much as a struggle. They thought it was over, but yet another child dissapeared. The next morning the town square was in a panic. All in horror around the gallows.

Eliza's body was not there. No one of the town ever even stepped into her woods, especially to her cabin, and peace came.

Until seven years later, when the McClure family came. The family consisted of three people. Two parents and their seven-year old daughter, Layla. Layla was young and fair and full of life. They came for an overnight stay on their way to a relatives home in Clintonville.

All the spare cabins were full, so they ignored the townspeople's pleas and moved through the woods to Eliza's cabin. The house was silent and warm, dusty furniture sat in the big square room, and above was an open loft. They settled in nicely and caught a rabbit for stew on the fireplace. "I will take a rest before dinner" the father declared and climbed the ladder. He gasped and called. "Do not panic, but there is an old coffin up here." Mother froze. A coffin? Why was there a coffin in this house the townsfolk feared so much?

She sighed. "It will have to do, as we have nowhere else to go." The young girl stared through big blue eyes at the wood above, then at her mother. Mother smiled. "Don't worry, love. There is nothing in that coffin." She knew there was someone in that coffin.

To take the girl's mind off the situation, she had her go retrieve some raspberries for desert. The girl happily set off into the twilight woods. An hour passed and she was not back yet, the sky was blue-black and a sliver of moon shone through the trees. A rustle came from above. She would send him after her once he came down.

A sick crack, like bones snapping came from above.
A single drop of blood dripped between the floorboards onto the dusty floor. The mother froze in panic. Had this been what the townsfolk warned them of? Her husband's even breathing was gone, and replaced with a revolting munching sound.

The thing already knew she was down there. "I am going to get Layla" she called to her husband so the creature would think it was him, and set out the door. As soon as she was out of sight of the house, she sped through the forest at breakneck speed. A crunching came from behind her, in the trees. The creature was chasing her.

The made a desperate cry. If only she could make it out of the forest! But her lungs began to weaken and her legs screamed in pain. "Run, run!" The thing clawed at her cloak and ripped the edge off. She shrieked and continued running, then she saw it.

The forest edge!

The thing was close enough that the saliva from it's teeth dripped onto her neck and she felt it's hot breath. With one last deperate leap, she plunged through the trees. The creature howled in anger and stopped, crawling the other way away from the open field and houses.

No one knows what happened to Layla, did she escape, or was she another victim in the witch's clutches?

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