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"Life gives meaning..."
"I wonder who lived in this house," thinking to myself. "It must have been so beautiful when it was new; with a family of course. I can almost hear their laughter as I feel through the old wood and sense them there. All the seasons that passed are now gone, only leaving memories for us to discover.
We are so much like beautiful old houses. In the beginning all new and fresh - full of life, then moving through time slowly decaying and weathering with age. Yet we always leave something of ourselves behind - a partial memory to arouse others to partically see who we might have been."

"I walked through the house and found small pieces of memories lingering everywhere. An old doll sitting in a corner waiting for that child to return and play - a dresser with gloves that warmed someone's hands. In the kitchen were several plates and serving dishes, imagining them being used at a table for family dinner. In the closet of one of the bedrooms was an old white dress trimmed with pearls. Could this have been a special gown? The dress is silent. Only my imagination found it's way to the one who proudly wore it during a special time. There was still dark charcoal lining the walls of the fireplace that once warmed the room on a chilly night. Perhaps the children laid cookies for Santa on the hearth with a gleaming Christmas tree near by - and let us not forget the old piano, cracked and worn, that once played beautiful melodies to many ears, now silent."

"All was memorable because life gave it meaning."

●The house is located in Tioga, Pennsylvania which recently burnt down.
● Photo by Tracy Parker on 500px
● Written by Abbie Stewart

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"Thunderstorm over an Abandoned Barn, Saskatchewan Prairie, Canada."
- Photo by Mark Duffy
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"The Peddler Along the Road."
Johnathan Morley slowly trudges his weathered shoes along a graveled path across the early morning Bendenshire moors. He stops momentarily to catch his breath, eyeing the misty fog spread it's wings across a world of endless, flowing pastures. Leaning on his cane, he slowly seats himself on a rock wall next to an old forgotten stone cottage.

Eighty four years he had passed through life; a life which now was fading away. He lowers his head feeling the moist tears fill his eyes. "There's nothing left," he whispers to himself; drifting off to sleep, his head leaning over his cane.

"Excuse me sir; yes I always have to excuse myself, I don't mean to be rude. You see most people think I'm rude, but I'm actually quite a nice fellow once you know me. May I sit for a minute. You don't mind, do you, sir? I do hope I'm not intruding," sitting down laying out a small box.
The old man raises his head, staring at the young man. "A peddler along the road is it?"
"Oh, quite so sir, not to be rude of course. I'm just peddling my wears along the road and just happened to see you resting. I do apologize for waking you wasn't my intent at all, truly it wasn't. I just knew you needed a special selection of wears - yes I did know this - if not to indulge, so I do apologize."
"There's nothing I want from a peddler. I'm old and dying...go away," lowering his head.
"I beg to differ sir, there is no old and dying as we sit together here on this rock wall. No, not at all, I can assure you of that sir," glancing over at the old stone cottage. "Home is quite the nice place, wouldn’t you say sir? Oh yes, home it is."
"What are you babbling about young man?"
"Oh, just a passing thought, you know, those little thoughts we have all the time. Yes, quite a nice home you built years ago."
"How'd you know I built that place? That was some fifty years ago."
"Well you see sir, we peddlers must have a rich history of all our clients. After all, my services must be prepared to offer the best wears along the road. Shall we take a short walk sir? Truly, I don't wish to intrude, but part of my peddling does require a few minutes of your time. And I can assure you sir you won't be disappointed. Would you indulge me for just a few minutes?"

"Alright," the old man leaning over his cane balancing his weight as he stood up next to the stone wall. "If anything, just to shut you up," taking a step forward. "So where to," staring at the peddler.
"Oh yes, I almost forgot," picking up the small box laying on the wall. "You'll need this of course," opening the lid lifting out a key. "Your side pocket will do sir," handing him the key. "Not to lose it now. Shall we go?"
"Where are we going?"
"Oh not to worry sir, just up the path to the front door."

The old man pulled back, standing his ground. "There's nothing there peddler. I think perhaps it's time you left. I'm not one for your silly games."
"But your wife and two children sir. What about them?"
"What do you know of that? Trying to torture me with those terrible memories of the past?"
"Quite the contrary sir. Our peddler which fixed the axle on your buggy used the wrong axle pin. We know that now. Sadly it killed your wife and two children when the buggy slipped in the mud on that hillside.
"Get out! Just get off my property," raising his cane.
"I went back and repaired it sir."
"You what?"
"I repaired it, just as I said sir."
"That was sixty years ago. Impossible!"
The peddler approached the old man looking into his eyes. "Will you trust me sir? I have no desire to hurt you."
"Why should I trust you?"
"Just put the key in the door and open it."
The old man stood frozen staring at the door, then momentarily glancing at the peddler.
"Trust me sir," the peddler nodding.
Slowly inserting the key in the lock, the old man turned the key. The door cracked open a few inches. The old man stepped back. "There's nothing there but darkness."
"Quite the contrary sir. If you will allow me to show you?"
"What's that smell?"
"It's the smoke coming out of the chimney. Look up for yourself sir."
"What's going on in there," staring at the peddler?"
"You're back home sir," slowly guiding him through the door.
"Daddy!" Eight year old Johnathan running up to him. "We've been waiting for you."
"Dinner is almost ready daddy," ten year old Allison calling over from the table. Daddy's home mommy," looking towards the kitchen.
The old man caught a glance in the hallway mirror. He had returned to the past. Quickly he turned towards the front door with tears in his eyes. The peddler looked back and smiled. "No charge sir," disappearing in a flash of light.

- Story by Abbie Stewart
- Photo: Old abandoned country cottage, the Highlands, Scotland by Brian Rueb:

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"The Deadly Confession."
"According to legend, and some remaining church records, a deadly confession was recorded at this church in the late 1920's. Having exhausted all references to this confession, I have filled in the missing parts from later manuscripts which were originally stored, and later discovered in the deep catacombs beneath the church. I have reconstructed this "confession" as follows:

A little wooden grill slides open and the friendly face of the village Priest peers into the dim light. He glances about in the dark. "Is anybody there?"
A small hand appears - then the face of a girl aged about 14, peers up at him through the grill. The Priest smiles a trifle wearily. "You know I'm always happy to see you, Jeanne, but to keep coming here
twice, three times a day..."
"I need to confess."
"But you already confessed this morning..."
"I need to confess again."
"So... alright. What terrible sin have you committed since then that can't wait till tomorrow to be forgiven?

Jeanne steps in front the prayer-stool, close enough to look the Priest in the eyes. "I saw Father Mulligan on the corner when I was walking home. He called me a name."
"What did he call you?"
"He said I was a slut."
"I'm sure you misunderstood him, Jeanne."
"No...he said slut. I could hear him say it while he was staring at me. So I decided to shut him up."
"What do you mean shut him up," the Priest moving his face closer to the screen.
"I asked him if we could talk around the side of the building in the alley."
"He followed me...then stopped at the edge of the alley and said he didn't want to waste his time talking to a whore."
"Are you sure this was Father Mulligan, Jeanne?"
"I'm not blind you know..."
"I didn't say that.."
"I thought you wanted to listen to me. I need to confess."
"I'm sorry Jeanne, I'll listen."
"Guess he got interested cuz he followed me down the alley...then I stopped and leaned against a storage door. I felt his hands on me pulling my clothes off...he was breathing hard. That's when I shoved my knife into his stomach and ripped the blade through all of that disgusting flesh...he was screaming like a're just the same, aren't you Father," moving her face against the wooden grill. "Wanting little girls. I'll never forgive you, you sick bastard."
A rattling of the Priest's door could be heard, then pounding in the dark.
"Aren't you going to bless me Father? Or maybe we should talk about Sarah. Remember Sarah Father? My little sister?"
More pounding and hard breathing could be heard. "Damn door is stuck."
"Ya, I broke the lock," pausing. "What about Sarah Father? Remember raping her? Then letting her bleed to death out in the woods?"
A chair turns over as the Priest presses his face against the grill. "I don't know what you're talking the door," smelling his sweat drip on the gril.
"Sure Father. Wanna confess your sins? I didn't think so," thrusting a thin blade through the grill deep into his eye, turning the blade around in circles. "I guess I'm forgiven now," pulling the knife out. "That's for Sarah you bastard," walking out of the old confessional booth into the dimly lit hallway of the church.

- Story by Abbie Stewart
- Abandoned Hightower Church, Buffalo, New York.
- Photo by CM Goodenbury
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"Old Abandoned Church, Saskatchewan Prairie, Canada."
It was a small German Lutheran country church, built in 1919. The town it was built by is long gone, now just a metal sign where the town was. The church did not have a regular pastor, it was served by pastors from 2 nearby communities who would take turns. In the Summer services were held every second Sunday. In the cold winter months the church was closed. The last service was held in 1950.
31 years in service, 66 years alone on the prairies.

- Photo by Ryan Wunsch
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"Abandoned St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Abandoned 1992."
The photo shows the original sanctuary built in 1891.
St. Peter and Paul Church is a former Roman Catholic church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The parish was active from 1860 to 1992.
St. Peter and Paul was established as a German and Lithuanian parish in 1857.
In 1857, the Redemptorists from St. Philomena began construction on a church on donated land. The cornerstone was laid on November 26 with the new building dedicated on November 26, 1859.

By 1887, the church building was in poor condition. The original building was soon razed and the cornerstone of a new structure was laid on August 10, 1890. The second iteration of St. Peter and Paul, designed by, Adolphus Druiding, opened on December 20, 1891.

Lightning struck the church and started a fire on August 5, 1909. The roof was burned away and the interior of the church was gutted. The twin towers, walls and altar remained intact. The church building was rebuilt and reopened in late 1910.
The church finally closed in July of 1992; and It has been abandoned ever since.

- Abbie Stewart
- Photo by CM Goodenburg Photography.
- See more photography by CM Goodenbury at:
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"The Lieutenant," Part 13. Murder on the Bristol Express."
"Didn't anyone tell you that little girls shouldn't play with guns?" The Lieutenant pulling up a chair in front of Carolyn Myers.
"What kind of stupid question is that? And I'm not a little girl, I'm who the hell are you?
"I'm the Lieutenant from Police Headquarters," opening a file. "Carolyn Myers, one arrest for shoplifting, domestic violence, suspended from school six times, low grade reports. Sounds like you're just a real princess."
"Screw you. You're just like all the rest of the, you gonna arrest me?"
"Did you shoot that woman at the bottom of the stairs?"
"Of course I didn't shoot her. She was already dead when I found her. Go ask cry baby in the other room. He'll tell ya."
"You mean your brother?"
"No Santa Claus."
"Little smart ass aren't ya?"
"Go to hell."
"Sorry kid, already been there...didn't work out. So tell me about your brother," moving out of his chair walking towards the fireplace. "Mind if I smoke?"
"I really don't care what you do Lieutenant."
"So what about your brother?" Striking a match lighting his cigarette.
"I know he found a whole bunch of money upstairs in our dad's old room."
"So where's your dad now?"
"He was killed in a train accident."
"And what did you do with the money."
"I don't remember, go fish."
"Always the wise guy aren't ya?"
"Girl, remember?"
"Whatever you say," pausing. "So you think your brother killed that woman?" Sitting back down.
"How the hell should I know. Like I said, go ask him."

The Lieutenant glances over towards the Sargeant by the door. "Bring the kid in here will ya Myers?"
"Sure thing Lieutenant," disappearing into the family room.
"So who's bedroom is that upstairs at the end of the hall Carolyn?"
"How should I know? Why ya asking?"
"The room was pretty well torn up."
"Like I told ya, that's where we found all that money."
"Here's the boy Lieutenant," interrupting.
"Have a seat by you sister kiddo," turning a page over in his file, then looking at Tommy. "You must be about twelve."
"Thirteen next week," moving around on the sofa. "Do I have to sit next to her?"
The Lieutenant looked up and just stared at him, then over at Carolyn. "What did you do after you found the woman at the bottom of the stairs?"
"I called the cops."
"And where were you during all of this?" Looking at Tommy.
"Counting the money upstairs...thought maybe we could borrow some of it..."

"I knew they were here!" A woman in her mid 30's screaming at the front door. "Let me in," struggling with officer Clinton at the front door. The Lieutenant looks over. "Let her in Sargeant, it's alright."
"I knew it!" Approaching Carolyn and Tommy. "I heard all those lies you were tellin'. How many times have I told you two little brats to stay out of my house," fuming with piercing eyes.
"Excuse me ma'am," the Lieutenant cutting in. "Are these your kids?"
"Hell no, just a couple of street kids that always break in through that back window in the kitchen."
"And you are..?"
"Margaret Dawson. I own this house. So where's my sister?" Walking towards the kitchen. "Julia? Are you in here?" Throwing open the kitchen door. "Julia!...damn that sister of mine. Where is she?"
"Bring her over here Sargeant."
"Yes sir," grabbing Mrs. Dawson."
"Get your hands off me you pig!"
"Cuff her Myers."
"No problem Lieutenant," latching handcuffs on her.
"Now sit down and shut up," the Lieutenant standing over her.
"Damn cops, you're all alike," mumbling.

The Lieutenant walks over to the fireplace mantle, reaches for a cigarette, flips his lighter, then picks up one of the framed photographs on the mantle, turning it over; "Interesting. It says Julia Dawson. Your sister?" Showing Margaret Dawson the photo.
"Off course it's my sister. I just saw her today."
"Today? Are you sure Mrs. Dawson?"
"Of course I'm sure. We had breakfast together this morning."
"Well, I think it's about time we cleared up a few things," nodding at Sargeant Myers. Entering the room from the hallway was a woman in street clothes with a badge on her coat. "I'd like you all to meet Detective Sorenson. She's been looking into a few things for me," handing him two files. "Let's see if we can clean up this mess," reading over the two files. "Apparently you own two homes; this one here in Mansion Heights, and another smaller house closer to downtown. Quite an upscale neighborhood here Mansion Heights, wouldn't you say Mrs. Dawson?"
"I inherited it from my husband after he was killed in that train accident. So what?"

Pulling up a chair in front of her he opened several documents from the file. "Says here that a Mr. Joe Brady was taken into custody two weeks ago. He confessed that you paid him 10 thousand dollars to loosen up the bolts on the Bristol Express train engine so it would collapse just at the right time - crossing over the Highland River bridge. Then, according to your husband's Will, you would stand to inherit his entire estate, including two homes, one million dollars in insurance money, and then a nice settlement from the railroad company for approximately 5 million dollars," moving out of his chair.
"But then there was the problem of your sister Julia. You couldn't just let her run around with your husband. After all, they were having an affair. Isn't that right Mrs. Dawson? So you paid her to go along with your husband on his business trip aboard the Bristol Express. It was a prefect way to get rid of both of them on the same train - which, by the way, did crash, killing both your husband and your sister. What do you say Mrs. Dawson? Sound about right?"

"It's all a big lie. You can't prove anything. Go to hell."
"Then why were you so desperate to hide in that third bedroom upstairs hours before we even arrived on the scene? Let me see if I can help you out on that one. We used one of our street informants to deliver a note written on our police letterhead to your home near the downtown area - a note we had written. The note mentioned two children that had found several million dollars in the floorboards of that third bedroom upstairs. It also said that these two kids witnessed a woman in the house going through all of the money that was found. After you received the note, you assumed the women you hired to watch the house had betrayed you. So you came over last night, dragged her in from the backyard guesthouse, shot her, then left her body at the bottom of the stairs."
"I don't know what you're talking about. I was home all last night, anyway, I don't even own a gun. And why would I put money in the floor of a room? Think I'm that stupid?"
"Frankly...yes," motioning over to Sargeant Myers to bring over an evidence bag. "You're right Mrs. Dawson. You don't own a gun...but your husband did. A 9mm," showing her the gun. "Has your fingerprints all over it and the bullets match the ones we found in the woman you shot. Nice try hiding the gun in the toilet tank. That's where we usually look first," turning toward Sargeant Meyers. "You can bring in those bags now."
"Sure thing," dragging in two large canvas bags of money.
"Look familiar Mrs. Dawson?"
"No," turning her head away from the two bags. "Never seen it before."
The Lieutenant starts to clap his hands.
"Lady, if I was real stupid, and I mean really stupid, I still wouldn't believe all those lies you've been cranking out. And by the way, your prints were all over the bag and the money."

"You're just trying to frame me cuz of those two little brats over there?" Staring at Carolyn and Tommy. "You otta lock them up...little piss ants."
"I'd slap ya Mrs. D, but I just might get carried away. So shut up about the kids," hesitating. "But, since we're on the topic, we pretty much knew you'd be here listening to everything the kids had to say. You might even call it bait; and you took it all, hook and sinker. And we both know these are not your kids. So don't even try to go there," walking back to the fireplace lighting another cigarette.
"The kids are mine Mrs. Dawson. We had a great time rehearsing their parts for today. Pretty convincing, wouldn't you say?" winking over at Carolyn and Tommy. "And you heard it all from upstairs. No wonder you used the back entrance after hearing their conversation with me. And there you were, screaming at the front door begging to come in. You probably would have killed them too," pausing, then catching Detective Sorenson's attention. "Book her on two counts of first degree murder, destruction of federal property, extortion, theft, and...well, I'll let you finish up. That otta keep her behind bars for about a century."
"Yes sir," accompanied by two officers walking out the front door.

"Nice work dad," Carolyn stepping up. "Can we do that again sometime?"
"Ya dad, that was pretty cool," Tommy joining in.
"No, I think once was enough Carolyn. You're just too good at being a smart ass," chucking.
"Well ya know dad, I learned it all from you."
"Don't tell your mom. She'll ground me for life," putting his arms around both of then. "How about some ice cream?"
"I'd rather have a train set," Tommy smiling.
"Why a train set," the Lieutenant looking puzzled.
"Probably wants to build a bridge and blow the train off the bridge like the case you just solved," Carolyn laughing.
"Okay, ice cream canceled!"
"Hey, I was just kidding dad."
"Ya, I know. So let's get out of here and get that ice cream," both Tommy and Carolyn running toward the car.

This ends the "Lieutenant" Series - Temporarily

● Story by Abbie Stewart
● Abandoned mansion, New York.
Photographer unknown.

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"Touched by an Angel. A Christmas Story."
The Family:
Mrs. Mary Davidson, the mother.
Mr. Robert Davidson, the father, deceased.
Ruth Culbert, the grandmother.
Anna, the oldest daughter 18.
Steven, the oldest brother 16.
Mary, age 14.
Julie age 12.
Billy, age 10. Partially crippled.

Anna and Steven close the front door behind them, walk into the kitchen, drop their backpacks and collapse in the chairs around the kitchen table. Their grandmother is cleaning some fresh carrots and beans from their garden.
"You both look tuckered out," glancing over.
"Ya, I had ice hockey practice...just about froze to death out there," Steven taking off his gloves. "Sure glad today was the last day of school for Christmas break."
"Can I help you with anything grandma?" Anna talking off her coat.
"Mary and Julie are over at the Cranstons, you might look in on Billy...make sure he had his bath."
"Alright," turning towards to kitchen door, then hesitating. "Where's ma?"
"Ya, where is she?" Steven cutting in.
"Well, if my memory serves me right...let me just think a minute.. "
"Oh stop teasing us grandma!" Anna smiling. "Tell us!"
"Well I think she mentioned something about shopping and buying our Christmas tree from Mr. Lawson again this year. Why don't you get Mary and Julie to help bring those decorations down from the attic after supper."
"Okay grandma; only if Steven promises to help this year."
Steven looks over at Anna with a smirk on his face.
"As I remember, a Miss Jeanne Hampton got in the way last Christmas. Oh, I never asked you Steven," stepping towards him, "Did you ever get to kiss her last year?," Smiling.
"That's it! Reaching over pulling her pigtails."
"I'll get you Steven Davidson," throwing a handful of grapes at him."
"Hey, grape fight sis. Wanna get smashed?"
"Would you two stop it," grandma turning around. "Go get your chores done!"
"Were sorry grandma," glancing over at Steven.
"Ya, sorry grandma," Stephen pushing the swinging kitchen door open.

Meeting Steven and Anna in the front room was their mom struggling with an arm fill of packages by the doorway.
"Here ma, give me some of those," Steven balancing several bags.
"Thanks, I think my feet are half frozen," looking back outside. "Mary! Julie! You two get in here right now. Gettin' dark out there."
"Ah, do we have to ma?"
"Mary Elizabeth! You get in here right now...and bring your sister."
"Ya, okay," both whipping their shoes off.
"You two get your chores done? Looking at Anna and Steven.
"Just on our way."
"Look after Billy. I don't like leaving him for long periods of time. Go on now. I wanna talk to your grandma," turning and walking towards the kitchen door.

She swings the door open and sees grandma sitting at the table preparing a vegetable dish for supper. She collapses in a chair next to her. "I'm plum worn out."
Grandma looks up. "Did you get everything done?"
"Well, if it wasn't for you mother, I'd never get anything done. I don't how you do it...but you've always been there for all of us. I just miss dad sometimes, even though I was only ten when he passed."
"He was a good man Mary; quiet, but always there for others in his own cheerfull way. He often said life was like a little cricket on the hearth chirping away...and when it stops, so do we. He was right you know. I just wanted him longer in my life."
"Well ya got a handful of grandchildren that love you very much mother...and you know I'm always here for you."
"I know that Mary. It's a real blessing to be here with all of you."
"So what's for supper mother?"
"I got sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, rolls, and one of my special veggie dishes with sauce. Be done in about an hour."
"Mary rushes into the kitchen. "Ma! Billy's screaming upstairs...splashing water everywhere. He won't listen to any of us, can you come up...please!"
"Yep, on my way," heading for staircase to the upstairs rooms.

After calming Billy down, finishing up supper, and all the chores done for the day, the family gathered in the main room close to the fireplace.
"Mr. Lawson will be here first thing in the morning," their mom putting her knitting down. "He found a nice tall and bushy tree. I want you all up early now," glancing around the room.
"I never get to do anything," Billy squirming in his chair.
"Help him up will ya Mary?"
"Sure ma," picking him up holding him in her lap.
"Got an announcement to make too," looking around the room. "Tomorrow's Christmas eve and we're having a special guest stopping by after supper."
"It's not that ol' Mrs. Taggart is it ma?" Anna asking. "She's just one big gossip, never stops talking."
"No, it's not Mrs. Taggart," looking at Anna. "And be more respectable to your elders young lady."
"Sorry ma."
"So who is it," asked Steven.
"It's doctor Marrow; said he had some good news he wanted to tell me. So why don't you all, except Mary here, fetch those Christmas decorations out of the ready for tomorrow."
"Come on Steven, we can do it," Anna moving out of her chair.
"I'll go too," Julie getting up off the floor...all three running upstairs to the attic door.
"Special guest?" Grandma looking over at Mary.
"Never you mind mother. We won't mess up your kitchen."
"It's not my kitchen I'm worried about. I just get concerned when doctors drop in."
"Well, I wouldn't worry mom...and stop mumbling," giving a wink.
"Guess I'll just get back to my pumpkin pies," moving out of her chair towards the kitchen. "I'll do my mumbling in there," grinning.

Christmas Eve Day/Evening

The front door rattled with several knocks. Their mom was giving Billy his bath while grandma was in the kitchen making preparations for Christmas dinner. Anna, Steven, Mary and Julie raced down the stairs to the front door.
"It's Mr. Lawson ma!" Yelling upstairs. "He brought our tree!"
"Alright. I'll be down in a few minutes. Tell him to put it on the right side of the fireplace...just like last year."
"Ya, I heard," Mr. Lawson looking over at Steven. "Pick up that bottom end and we'll set it on that stand over yonder."
"Got it," Steven lifting up his end. "Hey Anna, why don't ya stand back and make sure we get it up even."
Anna takes three steps backwards. "A little more to the left...that's it, now a bit forward...perfect."
"Okay you kids, you all have a Merry Christmas," Mr. Lawson closing the front door behind him.
Grandma comes out of the kitchen. "Looks just fine. Now you all go to bed," smiling.
"Ya, sure grandma," Mary laughing. No decorations and in bed at 9am in the morning, hahaha!"
"Open the decorations!" They all yelled running over to the boxes dumping everything out.

Right around 7:30pm there was a knock on the front door.
"I'll get it!" Yelled Julie, running over to the door. "Who is it?"
"It's doctor Marrow."
Julie opens the door. Doctor Marrow steps into the room and removes his hat. "Is your mom available Julie? I know it's late."
"Good evening doctor Marrow," their mom walking down the stairs. I thought I heard someone at the door," fixing her hair back walking towards him.
"I apologize for disturbing you so late Mary, being Christmas Eve and all," pausing. "Could we talk privately in the parlor?"
"Of course," leading the way into the parlor closing the two sliding doors.
"Please, sit down doctor," pulling up a chair. "What's this all about?"
"Do you remember me mentioning doctor Frazier from Charlottetown?"
"Yes, I seem to remember you mentioning his name.
"I just spoke with him late this afternoon. He has agreed to perform that operation on Billy."
"The one you mentioned about a year ago?"
"Yes, that's right. He's made some very surprising advancements in his bone repair techniques; been successful on twenty five patients. He'd would like to schedule Billy for surgery soon as it's convenient."
"Oh my Lord, tears flowing. "Billy will be able to walk?"
"With a little physical therapy...yes, he should be fine."
"Oh, you're such a blessing doctor," putting her arms around him. "I just don't know how to thank you," leaning back.
"You can thank God Mary. I'm sure he's been watching over Billy for sometime now," standing up. 'I'll let you get back to your family. Merry Christmas Mary."

Mary closes the front door behind doctor
Marrow and just stands there looking at the ground whispering a short prayer.
"Ma? Is everything alright?" Steven approaching her.
She turns, her eyes moving across the room. She sees Billy sitting on Mary's lap with his head on her shoulder asleep.
"Ma? Anna walking over. "What's wrong?"
Ignoring Anna, she slowly walks over to Mary holding Billy. She kneels down, resting her head on Mary's lap next to Billy, her eyes meeting his as he sleeps. All the rest of the children sit down on the floor surrounding their mother. It was Anna who spoke up first. "Is everything alright ma?"
Looking around at her children you could see the tears in her eyes. "He's gonna Marrow said he can have an operation now."
The children moved in close placing their arms around their mother with tears and smiles.
Billy wakes up, opening his eyes, surprised that everyone was sitting there on the floor. "What's going on?"
"Sweetheart, doctor Marrow said you're gonna walk."
"You're gonna have an operation that will fix your legs."
"Wow, really?"
"Yes sweetheart, its true," placing her arms around him.
"I guess we do have an angel looking over us."

A faint knock was heard at the front door. "Go see who it is, will ya Anna?"
"Sure ma," standing up approaching the front door. She cracks the door open a few inches. "Yes?"
"Hello Anna. I'd like to speak with your mother. I'm Monica."
"Just a minute," glancing over at her mom "There's a lady to see you mom."
"Have her come in," standing up off the floor. She approaches Monica. "I've seen you before. Your the nurse that works at the hospital. Please, come in."
"Thank you Mrs. Davidson. I don't mean to intrude so late. .."
"No, that's perfectly alrght," cutting in. "Would you like some warm tea? I think grandma made a fresh pot awhile ago."
"Thank you, but I came by to give your mother a message."
"Message? "
"Yes. May I speak with her?"
"Well of course, I'll get her. She's in the kitchen."
"I'd rather speak with her alone if you don't mind."
"No, not at all. Go right in."
"Thank you," passing through the kitchen door."

"Mrs. Culbert?"
Grandma looks up from the kitchen table. "Yes?"
"I'm Monica. We met at the hospital when Billy was born. Do you remember?"
"I'm not sure, that was about ten years ago."
"A nurse sat down next to you in the waiting room. She explained to you about Billy's medical condition just a short time after he was born."
Oh yes, I remember that now," hesitating as she eyed the moonlight through the kitchen window feeling a gentle breeze across her face, then looking back at Monica. "He was dying.. his heart wasn't strong enough...but no one else knew. I was the only one. It was his legs everyone else was worried about."
"And what did you do Ruth?"
"I...," hesitating staring at Monica, "It was you. You were the nurse that told me."
"And what did you say Ruth?"
"I asked God to take me...and save Billy," whipping her tears with a lace handkerchief. I never understood why I was the only one who knew he was going to die."
"Because God knows your heart."
But still, why are you asking me all of these things?"
"You know Ruth..."
"Who are you? "

Instantly Monica'a hair began to glow with warm golden colours, waving in a soft breeze.
Grandma stood up just staring at her. "You're an angel..."
"Yes Ruth. It was your love that saved Billy that day. And his operation will allow him to walk. I can promise you that," pausing looking into Ruth's eyes. "You must also keep your promise Ruth. There's not much time left for you...your failing heart condition is critical - all of which you keep to yourself."
"My daughter knows."
"Yes she does Ruth. She knows more than you realize. Give me your hand and I'll walk with you. I won't let you go...I'll take you all the way home," fading into the shadows above.

Grandma picked a rose from a fresh bouquet she had made laying it on the kitchen table with a note - "For you Billy. I will always love you...," then left the kitchen walking towards the front door turning the handle as the door opened.
"Hey grandma, where you going?" Anna looking up.
"Just going for a walk," her eyes looking back across the room watching her family all sitting close to Billy. "Goodbye...I love you all so much," whispering to herself, closing the door behind her.
"You want me to serve up the plum pudding now ma? Or wait till grandma gets back?"
Her mother didn't answer, still looking towards the front door.
"Ya, go ahead and serve up the pudding Anna."
"What about grandma? You want me to save her some for later?"
"No, it's okay Anna," tears filling her eyes.
"Oh I forgot to mention ma. You know that 'ol pesky cricket that's been chirping on our hearth for the past two weeks, I haven't seen or heard it all day."
"I know Anna. She's gone."

In this story where grandmother gives her own life to save Billy, is not something we usually do. Yet the meaning of giving something precious is still there. The following quote may explain this further:
"Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just passing it on to someone else."
- Quote by: Mitch Albom.

● Story by Abbie Stewart
● Photo: Abandoned Manor by Michael Miller on 500px

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"The Messenger."
John Porter weaves his 1962 Plymouth Coupe around an old fence, parking along side a large oak tree. Just ahead he eyes an older man raking leaves. He locks his car and approaches the man.
"Excuse me, I'm looking for a Dr. Robert Vanbrugh."
"Ain't nobody here by that name."
"Is that right," staring at the old man.
"Like I get the hell off my property," staring back.
Porter moves in closer. "I've come about the child," slicing his eyes across the old man's face. "You don't remember do you? All those children you've butchered...their mothers dying."
"I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about. I've been retired for years, so get off before I call the cops."
"Sure, go ahead, call the cops."
The doc reaches in his pocket.
"What are ya looking for doc?"
"My cell phone," moving back towards the fence.
"Cell phone? " Hahaha! It's 1964 old man. Go ahead, check all them pockets...dig down deep and pull out that cell phone. I wanna see it."
"It can't be 1964. I'd still be working at the hospital."
"Guess what old still are," grabbing him by the throat. "About time you saw and remembered," covering his eyes with his hand. "I'm taking you back to last week..."
The images begin to flow into the old man's eyes.

Boom! Entry doors swing open as Paramedics wheel in a female bleeder nine months pregnant.
A shock trauma team swarms over her, inserting a vacutainer into an artery to draw blood, wrapping a blood pressure cuff around her arm.
"She's not breathing!" A nurse screams.
A respiratory therapist, standing by, feeds an endotracheal tube down the woman's throat, attaching it to an ambu bag.
"Blood-pressure's forty and falling."
The woman starts spasming violently. It takes three staff members just to hold her down.
"Her water's broken!" Calling for help.
"She's going into uterine contractions..."
The woman bolts upright, screaming.
The images now move into the womb of the woman. A child alive but unborn, shifting in a sea of amniotic fluid, turns its head and opens it's eyes staring at the intruder.

Porter releases the old man watching him crumble back against the wooden fence. He is breathing hard. The sweat rolling in small beads down his face. He looks up at Porter. "Who are you?"
"I'm a messenger," pulling a pistol from his coat sinking the barrel into his forehead. "Who was the intruder?"
"In the womb, who did the child see?" Pushing his pistol harder against his forehead.
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about. And what do you care anyway?"
Porter lowers his pistol and fires two bullets, one in each kneecap. The old man screams.
"Last chance old man," standing up pointing the pistol at his face. It's time to confess. Ya got 3 seconds...1...2..."
"Alright, I'll tell ya whatever you want to know," the blood pouring out of his knees.
"That's more like it. So who was it?"
The old man stammered his speech trying to get the words out. " was me."
"That's what I figured. You're Dr. Vanbrugh aren't you?"
"Yes, I'm doctor Vanbrugh."
"And the baby?"
"I delivered it. But it was already dead."
"Liar!" Kneeling down in front of the doc. "It looked at you, and you looked back at her. Explain that one."
"It was"
"Deformed? There was nothing deformed about her. So tell me doc, why did you kill both of them; the mother and the child...just couldn't be bothered to save them?"
"I told you. They were critical beyond hope."
"How well you cover up the truth doc," standing up. "Just one lie after another."
"So what do you care about all of this anyway?"
"Because of you. It was my wife and daughter you murdered."
"That's impossible. The father committed suicide two days after they both died."
"That's right doc. Just another image you can add to the movie," dropping the pistol on the ground watching it disappear.
The Doctor looks down at his legs. There are no bullet wounds. Pushing himself up with his hands he stood facing Porter. "You're not even here are you?"
"Sure I am doc...just had some unfinished business to take care of before I came over."
"And what was that?"
"They're gonna find you in the morning hanging from the top of the Seaton Hall staircase."
"And why would I ever do that?"
"Well, I figured you'd confess, so I hung you there before I came over," smiling.
"Well I'm certainly not there, I'm standing right here in front of you. What ya take me for, an idiot?"
"Thought you knew."
"Knew what?"
"Where I come from, only dead people can talk to other dead people."
"So you're sayin' I'm dead?" Starting to laugh.
"Go figure old man. And by the way, I'd be careful with those night demons. They can get real messy dragging you down to hell. See ya around doc," disappearing into the dark.

The doc eyed the foggy mist which surrounded him. There was an empty void everywhere he looked. Instantly, something pulled him into the darkness. His echoed screams faded into silence.

The next morning two housekeepers found him hanging from the top of the staircase of Seaton Hall.
"I called the cops," Marie returning to the bottom of the staircase where Elizabeth was sitting. "Let's get out of here Liz," turning toward the side door.
"Wait a minute Marie. ..did you tell them?"
"Tell 'em what?"
"There ain't no ropes up there hanging him. He's just floating in the air with that noose around his neck."

● It's true, there was an actual hanging at Seaton Hall. I've taken that event and created my own story.
● Story by Abbie Stewart
Seaton Delaval Hall is a country house in Northumberland, England. It was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1718 for Admiral George Delaval.
Since completion of the house in 1728, it has had an unfortunate history. Neither architect nor patron lived to see its completion; it then passed through a succession of heirs, being lived in only intermittently. Most damagingly of all, in 1822 the central block was gutted by fire, and has remained an empty shell ever since.
The house is now owned by the National Trust.
● Photo via

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"Winter Sunrise over an Abandoned Barn, Saskatchewan Prairie, Canada."
- Photographer unknown.
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