Fiction Horror Mystery

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He turned into the gated driveway of the Canfield Estate on Gurnsey Hollow Road. It felt good to be home from yet another of his treasure hunts.

The house was empty, or so it appeared. Even though every light was on and the front door stood open. It was that feeling of emptiness that always prevailed in the old three-story structure.

The faded and peeling paint on the exterior of the early nineteen-hundreds Victorian mansion was nothing compared to the interior, where much of the drafty upper floors were infested with squirrels and virtually unlivable.

There was a wintery bite in the March wind, and he pulled the collar of his coat tighter around his neck as he approached the entrance.

Just as he stepped over the threshold, every cuckoo clock in the place struck the nine o'clock hour. Each one called out, Cuckoo, cuckoo nine times and some chimed on the half hour.

The present owner of the estate, Hezekiah Canfield and the end of a long succession of heirs to inherit the property boasted the most extensive collection of cuckoo clocks in upstate New York, and possibly in the country.

The tradition was started by the Canfield ancestors more than a century ago. Now, the collection covers nearly all of the wall space in the house. Each clock was in sync with the others, and he loved the perfect harmony of the music and cuckooing in unison.

When Hezekiah dropped his keys into the dish, the dish with KEYS etched in gold-plated calligraphy in the center, he noticed the handwritten note lying next to it addressed; to ‘Kai.’

His father had named the Canfield heir in honor of his Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Hezekiah. The man felt the name was a curse and a cross he had to bear.

The shortened version of his name, ‘Kai,’ came about at the private elementary school he attended; his young classmates couldn't pronounce Hezekiah. Although, a number of the students didn't have a problem wrapping their little tongues around variations of names, like,

“Weirdo or creeper.”

At the all-boys boarding school that his uncles helped the young Master Canfield gain entrance to it was a single label bestowed on the peculiar scholar. The student body of the prestigious school was what Hezekiah characterized to his uncles as,

“Pricks and bullies from backgrounds of wealth and privilege.”

From the start, the older boys called him,


It was an abbreviation for ‘Sociopath,’ and it soon caught on with the other students. The teenage Hezekiah ignored their taunting because he’d heard it all before. 

The one thing he could count on was that his antagonists would face future retribution, and he could wait as long as was needed.

The note was from Adriana, his latest infatuation of which there were few, and it began with,


You polish those damn clocks with more passion than you make love to me. Being left alone in that house has become unbearable. I can’t stand to listen to one more clock

squawking hourly and I could have sworn I heard other noises coming from them in the night. 

P.S., I loathe the corny folk music they play.’

She signed the note with an elaborate ‘A,’ and a rough sketch of a finger stuck in a cartoonish mouth that suggested she was gagging.

“Fuck you, Adriana,”

he yelled, slamming his latest acquisition on the table next to the key dish.

Why couldn’t the woman understand the value of the assortment of German, Bavarian, and Swiss handcrafted pieces that hung in every room and took up space on various pieces of furniture throughout his home, he wondered?

Adriana Smalls wasn’t the first woman to run from the house, driven out by the clocks.

When her leaving began to sink an uncomfortable dryness started in his mouth and spread to his throat. Hezekiah swallowed hard, letting the anger wash over him.

The date on the note caught his eye—two days ago. It was two days ago when he’d awoke early and hastily made love to Adriana so that he could pack and be on his way. They’d even shared a most passionate and juicy goodbye kiss before he backed out of the driveway. Now it looked to him like the bitch left right after he did.

A history of bizarre occurrences seemed to prologue the future of the Canfield mansion’s inhabitants. Furthermore, it encompassed anyone caught up in their midst, not to exclude feckless mistresses.

So, the timing of his latest purchase setting on the table in front of him might very well turn out to be ideal. Albeit Adriana may not appreciate what it meant for her fate.

The ardent keeper of the time realized he had better check on his feathery friends to ensure they had plenty of fresh water and seed. They were alone for two days, and the house was cold.

Before checking on them, he went to the kitchen. Even with the chill that permeated the mansion, there remained the stench of rotting garbage.

Adriana had left dirty dishes stacked in the pitted rusty farmhouse-style sink. Most were there long before he’d backed out of the driveway two days ago.

The glasses that were half-filled with leftover milk were now half-filled with something that resembled cottage cheese.          

Hezekiah shook his head and whistled in a high-pitched drawn out tone as he surveyed the mess. Surprised that it was worse than before.

It was decidedly warmer in the front room where his two parakeets, Jim and Harold, were fast asleep with their beaks tucked under a wing undisturbed by the clocks striking on the hour.

A maniacal smile spread from ear to ear when it once again occurred to him how pissed his mother would be if she could see the massive aviary in her formal front room. He could hear ‘Mommy’ as she insisted he called her even when he was a grown man, screaming,

“Hezekiah, get those filthy vermin out of my house!"

The smile quickly dissolved when a clock on the far wall caught his eye, and he knew that his Mommy could see. It was rather ugly, as Bavarian musical cuckoo clocks go. Still, his father had given it to his mother as a wedding gift and it kept her in his thoughts, and because of it, he felt her presence close to him.

The colorful birds looked up simultaneously as he opened the aviary door; they were anxiously anticipating a treat. Not one to disappoint, Hezekiah tossed a few pieces of fresh broccoli in an empty dish.

Jim was all blue with an ombré melding of blue to mostly white on his head and he was named after one of Hezekiah's most favored uncles. Then there was Harold, primarily green and named for another close uncle.

The uncles were the late senior Canfield's younger brothers and they were entombed in the family mausoleum at a nearby cemetery, a landmark spot in the community. The location was what their only nephew, Hezekiah, wanted and he didn’t care that it went against their immediate families’ wishes or that it caused a rift between him and the uncle’s widows and the cousins.

There was little doubt in his mind that his uncles loved him and in turn, he missed them. Hezekiah had forgiven the two a long time ago for trying to take the family estate from him. They were always in his thoughts, and he felt their presence close to him.

One gloomy afternoon not long before this, he had visited that old cemetery at 14 Gurnsey Hollow Road for the first time in months. The Gurnsey Hollow Road Cemetery was a popular tourist attraction close to Frewsburg, a Hamlet of Carroll, New York.

The New York Tourism Registry listed the cemetery as one of the state’s most haunted places. Consequently, Hezekiah avoided visiting there during the tourist season when it was crawling with strangers. Carly was his much-loved canary, named for his late wife, Carlene. He had taken the little bird to the cemetery to be near her.

The young widower brought the tiny canary home from the pet store shortly after his wife died.

In his perverse way of thinking, the canary would keep Carlene's ghost company. Carly sang a beautiful song, especially in the morning sunlight for the last five years. Then one morning, he found her at the bottom of the aviary. Regardless of his many eccentricities, Hezekiah genuinely loved animals, particularly birds, making the loss difficult for him.

After spending time with his parakeets and tidying up their cage, he closed the aviary door and covered them for the night. The tall ordinary, looking thirty-five-year-old man with greying hair and nondescript blueish-grey eyes walked over to the hearth and yanked his Great-Great-Great Grandfather Hezekiah Canfield's portrait from over the mantle.

Pleased that he had made room for the new addition to his synchronized collection, he threw the hideous painting in the fireplace, not that it would be safe to light a fire there anytime soon.

Now there was room to hang another clock in the future to cover the spot where the paint showed less wear than over the rest of the room.

Swiss artisans had crafted the beauty by hand, and he would dedicate it to Adriana; for now, it would signify a placeholder in his heart. Whenever Hezekiah looked at the antique, he would think about their time together.

However, the clock was notably off-key, and nothing made it more evident than the noise coming from over the front room hearth that night when all the wall clocks in the mansion struck the midnight hour.

The disturbing conglomeration of sounds was easily heard above all the other flawlessly performing timepieces. There was something terribly off with Adriana’s clock.

The narcissist that he was, believed he knew best where most things were concerned. No one but he was qualified to repair this or any other timepiece and he was going to prove it.

Finally, after a thorough cleaning and oiling of his latest prize possession, the poor fellow was able to get some sleep.             

That is until there came a hammering at the mansion’s front entrance. Two of Carroll, New York’s finest, plain-closed police detectives, were about to break down the door before he could get his robe on and let them in. According to the two detectives, Adriana’s family had reported her missing.

Hezekiah grabbed the note she’d left on the entryway table and waved it under the detective’s noses.

Then, just like clockwork, as it were, all the clocks in the entire mansion struck at exactly eight o'clock, resonating beautifully from room to room. That is all except for the Swiss piece that took the place of his Great-Great-Great Grandfather’s portrait. The torturous sound coming from it was indescribable and lasted long after silence returned to the rest of the mansion.          

The younger detective with the beard and aviator sunglasses started laughing and inclined his head toward the fireplace, telling the last successor to the Canfield fortune,

“I think you’ve got a screamer there, buddy.”

Fear crept up Hezekiah spine at the thought that the sound bared any resemblance to a scream. Since his patience was growing thin he demanded of his uninvited guests,

“Tell me, who in the hell reported Ms. Smalls missing?”

The older detective in the cheap black suit and a toothpick protruding from his lips answered,

“Adriana Smalls’ Grandmother, Cora Gibbons, and an older sister, Camilla Smalls, filed the missing person's report, Sir.”

“Oh, Hezekiah replied, I wasn't aware that she had any family. All I know is Adriana walked out on me.”

The two detectives turned and walked down the steps of the front stoop, giggling like school girls. Hezekiah heard the old guy in the black suit, remark as he opened the door and got into the unmarked car,

“Jesus, those clocks, is it any wonder his girlfriend ran off?”

Hezekiah pulled the drape back from the window overlooking the driveway and mumbled to himself,

“Adriana, you whore, what have you done to me,”

as he watched the car disappear from sight.

The drape drop from his hand creating a slight waft of air as it fell back over the window. When the fear he was holding in finally erupted and he shouted angrily into the void between the clocks chiming,

“Why didn't she tell me that she had a family that would be asking questions?”

Questions that could lead to his secret being uncovered.

Despite the noise emanating from the space over the fireplace, he gloated over having outbid several other contenders for it at a bank foreclosure sale.

However, the noise wasn’t like anything he’d ever heard and the racket was beginning to grate on Hezekiah. Worse yet he thought he might be losing control of the whole situation with the clock and now the police were asking questions. Loss of control— a possibility he wasn't prepared to accept. Now, the word


gnawed at the back of his consciousness.

The back-and-forth motion of his mother’s old rocking chair settled his nerves. Mrs. Canfield’s little boy sipped a mug of hot milk and sugar with a hint of the Starbucks coffee he had ground the fresh beans for earlier that morning.

The parakeets were happily chirping and soaking up the sun. Guernsey Hollow Road was in full view from where he was seated and he gazed aimlessly in its direction awaiting the hourly bird calls and folk songs.

As he rocked, Hezekiah Canfield thought of his wife, Carlene, and how desperately she wanted children. But he never wanted the responsibility; all he required were his coveted clocks. There was so much more contained within their mostly wooden chalets style housing than a pendulum ticking away the time.

It’s not that he didn’t love his wife; he’d loved her very much. Carlene was exquisite, a beautiful pale blonde version of Adriana.

Regardless, after there were several pregnancy scares in the year following their wedding, he knew she would eventually have a child.

The only alternative he could see was to take matters into his own hands and never have intimate relations with her again

By the time his wife of seven years died, she was about to leave the marriage. Carlene’s nosey girlfriends had cornered him months before and warned him to change his selfish ways.

According to her friend’s, unsolicited report she was going mad, isolated in that dark, dismal house with nothing but the sound of those horrible ‘bird boxes’ reminding her she wasn't getting any younger.”

The plan hatched by Carlene Canfield and his uncles Jim and Harold wasn’t just for her to divorce her husband. She’d also conspired with them to take the entire Canfield estate from Hezekiah 

At twenty-one the young Canfield, the only beneficiary in the will had inherited everything from his mother when she passed on.

Not only was Carlene going to take it all, but she was also going to split what she was sure a judge would award her with his uncles, who acted as her attorneys.

To add insult to injury, she had declared in the court papers that Hezekiah was mentally unfit to manage his affairs. 

An added blow was when he discovered his beautiful fair-haired wife was having quite a torrid romance with the youngest of his uncles—Jim, a married man with two young daughters.

Carlene Camfield died In December 2017 as the result of a brain aneurysm. Carlene, too, was forever in his thoughts, and he would feel her presence close to him.

Sadly Jim and Herald died a couple of months later on a slippery winter road in a car accident near their residences outside of Albany, New York.

Many an hour was spent by Hezekiah trying to fix Adriana’s fickle chronograph     

The detective had used the word,


to describe the assault on the auditory sences of anyone within earshot of the wall on which it hung.  

Of course, Hezekiah thought he should have guessed what the problem was all along, Adriana had always made sure she was heard. However, there weren’t any of the other indications that she’d met her destiny.

The senior Camfield, Hezekiah's father, died following a raged-filled argument with his mother after he admitted to a fling with a waitress in town.

Shortly after his funeral, the toddler awoke thirsty and went to the bathroom for a drink of water.

He saw an apparition that he recognized as his recently deceased father. Clapping his hands and squealing happily he called out


because that's how he was instructed to address his father.

The ghostly figure frantically kicked and flailed his arms at the clock that held him in its grip. Then in a swoosh, he was gone.

To the three-year-old Hezekiah, it seemed similar to the funny puppet show his uncle Harold had taken him to and he soon forgot about it.

When he was older, he understood there was an unholy force that claimed the ghosts; some would say spirits of his relations, other loved ones, and all of those who had wronged him in some way.

Hezekiah knew this meant that he would never be alone and he didn't have to lift a finger to catch them in an invisible undercurrent that pulled them into his cuckoo houses.

A few weeks later, on a quiet Sunday morning, he sat back in his mother’s rocker and looked through the New York Times.

There he came across a story regarding the safety of the New York City Subway system. Concerns grew out of the growing number of people killed by the commuter trains.

The most recent victim to tragically trip and fall in front of a train was thirty-year-old Adriana Smalls, who was killed by a train pulling into the Tribeca subway station. According to the report she died on the date that Hezekiah returned home to find she’d left.

The news meant that it was just a matter of time before he would gain the upper hand and Adriana’s clock would calm down and keep time with perfect precision.

However, the most gratifying part for the eccentric clock collector was when out of the blue the timepiece began to play ‘The Happy Wanderer,’ an old German folk song that Adriana hated.

She would be forever in his thoughts, and he would feel her presence close to him.

October 27, 2023 18:09

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Isabel Jewell
00:10 Apr 09, 2024

Realistic and captivating!


Show 0 replies
Darvico Ulmeli
14:52 Apr 08, 2024

Kind of scary thoughts keep appearing in my head. Does every clock have a ghost inside? Very nice written.


Show 0 replies
Mary Bendickson
18:20 Oct 30, 2023

Your stories certainly cover a lot of happenings all at once.


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