“Momma! Momma! Terry is scaring me!”
Emilia ran down the stairs and into the kitchen to feel the safe comfort of her mother’s arms around her.
She hugged her mother’s legs from behind, unable to reach the fully grown adult. She was a very small child.
Terrance followed her, bubbling with laughter at his sister’s expense.
His mother gave him the devious eyes and said “Terrance” in a B flat, which meant that he was in trouble.
“Aaawwhhh! Mum! You know I was just joking around with her.”
But he knew he didn’t stand a chance against his teary-eyed sister. He was going to pay for this.
Oh God! This is so unfair! She was the one who asked him to tell her about the legend. It wasn’t like he was dying to tell her. Sure, he could have made do without the paranormal sound effects, but that took all the fun out of it!
It was not really a legend, just a typical small-town horror story. Every town has one, especially the ones in the countryside. And ever since the apple picking season was closing in, the legend had become the talk of the town. At least among all young boys.
The legend spoke of an illicit relationship between a married man and a young woman. It was a cursed union from the very beginning, but love does strange things to people and they tend to lose all moral fiber for its sake. One day, the young woman approached the man with news that shocked him to the very core. She was with child, and she wanted him to leave his wife and children to support her, and her child, his true love. The man was in a dilemma. He didn’t know what to do. If he refused to marry his mistress, she may become a tattletale and ruin his family anyway. So, he did what she wanted him to do.
The fall had approached the town. He asked her to meet him under the scented apple trees, where they would elope. However, when she arrived, holding onto her then flat belly, imagining their future together, he hit her on the head with an iron rod he found at a construction site. He had had it all planned. The grave had already been dug and cunningly disguised. He dragged her unconscious body and buried her, and their child alive. After doing the deed, he briskly walked towards a poker game awaiting him at his friend’s place, his alibi. And like most small-town crimes, this crime too went unnoticed. The man was never convicted and the young woman never found.
However, it was said that she could be seen wandering around the apple trees during fall, a white ghostly presence barely sweeping the floor, looking for the child she had lost when she was buried alive.
This fall, Terrance was extremely excited. He was now old enough to be a part of the gang that had the big boys, but that wasn’t the only reason for his excitement. This year, the gang had decided to go apple picking late at night, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the legendary ghost. Nervous shivers ran down his spine, and he became giddy each time the subject of apple picking was brought up. His uncontained excitement was partly the reason why Emilia had come to know of the legend.
It was tonight. Their little adventure was tonight! He patiently waited all day until it was time for bed. Their mother switched off their bedroom lights at nine. He waited an hour, and as soon as he saw the lights to their parents’ bedroom being switched off, he jumped out of bed to get ready for his little adventure. He had to be silent, or Emma would wake up. He put on some stolid clothes and tightly laced his shoes, lest the laces come loose. He was just about to jump out of the window, torch in mouth, when Emilia squeaked, “I want to come too!”
Terry bit back his irritation. His little sister was going to ruin all his fun. He tried to manipulate her.
“It will be very dark and scary you know, and what if we see her ghost? You won’t be able to sleep for nights!”
But the little brave heart was determined to prove her brother wrong.
“No. I won’t be scared. I want to come too.”
“Emma! I am not taking you! The other boys will make fun of me!” Terry whisper shouted.
There was silence. He was about to jump out once again when Emma broke the silence, “Then don’t be surprised if Momma knows about this little adventure of yours in the morning.”
Torn between his mother finding out and the boys making fun of him, he chose the latter.
“Hurry up then!” he said with spite.
Emilia got out of bed, but when she started to change, Terry grabbed her wrist and said, “It’s too late for that now.”
And he dragged his little sister out of the window in her delicate nightgown and slippers.
When he reached the checkpoint, everyone was already there, waiting for his arrival. The boys grunted when he reached, “What took you so long, Terrance? And what is she doing here?” One of them said, pointing to his sister.
“The little snitch wouldn’t let me leave unless I brought her along.” He replied, fidgeting with his fingers.
The older boys broke into bouts of laughter, when they heard Terrance was scared of his mother, although they all too were scared of their own mothers. They just wanted to act tough.
So, the boys and Emilia, made their way to pick apples, and if possible, encounter the ghost.
It was decided that they would all climb the apple trees and wait. If anyone saw the ghost, they would signal everyone else by flickering their torch.
Terry buzzed with irritation when little Emilia was unable to climb the tall apple tree. Still angry at her for coming along, he told her, “Why don’t you just hide in the thicket? You said you wouldn’t be scared.”
And with that he left her under the tree as he climbed higher up its branches.
An hour went by, the owls hooted, the wind blew, the temperatures dropped and the boys carelessly munched on apples, spitting the cores on the grass, but nothing supernatural happened. The boys soon got bored and climbed off their watch posts to go back home.
Terrance too came down and searched the thicket for Emma. Unable to find her, he called his group of friends to help him in his search. He was sure, she was just trying to give him a fright because he had been rude to her, but after about fifteen minutes he started getting worried. Emma was very small, what if something happened to her? Laden with guilt, the small boy sprinted home, woke up his parents and told them everything.
Too rushed to scold him for going out after curfew, they called up the cops and a search party was immediately sent into the apple yards.
Emilia was never found; though, one person did see her, and he reported her to be holding hands with a ghostly presence, skipping in the twilight before she completely vanished into the darkness.