A Short Story – Eliza by K. Q. Duane


“I’ve got to get out of these clothes-fast.” The front door slammed behind her as my sister Eliza began to scream.

Suddenly, she plowed past me and up the creaking staircase. I watched as she clawed her way to the second floor of the house that we had rented just the month before.

As Eliza reached the landing, she was bathed in the afternoon light which was streaming through the landing’s large stained glass window.

I stood by helplessly as Eliza, writhing in “agony“, disappeared into the enormous kaleidoscope of radiant light being emitted from the window just above me.

How did she and I get to this point?

Yesterday, as dawn broke, I was awakened by a strong scent of cloves and a sensation of dread.

This had happened nearly every week since we’d moved into this rambling house in the restorative air of the Adirondacks. I’d kept the experiences to myself, but I was  becoming alarmed, as the events were becoming more intense and more frequent.

Early this morning, the feeling of dread awoke me from my slumber once more. As I peered about my room, I watched in horror, as the embers of the fireplace suddenly flared green and blue and the scent of cloves filled the air. We were being followed

In the dim darkness of the room, with my nerves taut and my body strained, I lay still until dawn, praying that experience was simply a dream and that things would returned to normal.

They did, but not for long.

Once the bright light of day had fully illuminated the room, I dressed quickly, and rushed down the twisting back stairs into the ancient kitchen.

Eliza was already up, as there was coffee on the stove, but she was nowhere to be found.

She had taken to wandering again. Coffee in hand, I walked to the screen porch and sat in an old rocking chair overlooking the yard, and waited.

As I rocked, I worried, “Will we leave this house alive?”

Eliza and I had rented this furnished house from an elderly widower.

Loneliness had driven Mr. James to his daughter’s home. He’d left everything behind. It was 1923 and he’d spent 32 happy years in this house.

The day we met, as tears filled his eyes, Mr. James reminisced, “Dear Helen remains, but I must go. My memories must now sustain me.” Eliza and I thought we understood.

As time ticked by and the clock chimed noon, I continued to wait for Eliza, while my sense of dread returned.

Were we fools to believe that we could escape our past and truly start anew?  I worried, “Would we be followed?”

But, as I basked in the sun that steamed into the porch while watching eagles fly effortlessly on thermals, and wildflowers swayed in the summer breeze, I began again to believe that we could.

Slowly, my sense of dread abated. By evening, the nightmare would vanish.

When Eliza returned, she was agitated, but thankfully, clean.

Her wanderings inevitably took her through the grove of hemlocks and to the cool stream within.

Inevitably, she  returned to the house, muddy and wet.

This time, although clean, she was frightful. I knew immediately that we had NOT escaped our destiny.

Eliza’s demons, had indeed, followed us to this lovely place as well.

As my sister paced and paced and wrung her hands, I prepared for her descent into hell.

In deference to Helen’s memory, I cleared the tabletops and emptied the rooms of small tables and lamps.

Then, I quickly changed my clothes, gathered blankets and waited and watched.

Eliza finally began her descent.  She stood quietly, as still as death, staring into space, speaking to people only she could see.

As her demons possessed her, she dropped to the floor, rolling over and over again.

Eliza was gone. She had entered another world, where no one could help her, or save her from herself.

The afternoon lurched forward, as Eliza thrashed on the floor. I did what I could to protect her.

Finally exhausted, she lay still.  Blanketing her while she slept, I was relieved for a moment’s peace.

I quietly crept to the front porch,  to catch my breath, in the cool night air, when suddenly Eliza arose from oblivion. With the strength of ten men, she destroyed the dining room tea-table, crashing it and the kerosene lamp to the floor.

I  rushed to the room to find a fire on the carpeted floor but before I could react, Eliza ran from the house and raced along the front porch.

In desperation, I ran to the hallway to get the fire bucket, when Eliza crashed in through the front door, screaming that her clothes were on fire, when in fact, they were not.

I watched helplessly as Eliza clambered up the front stairs and propelled herself through the glorious, glittering window on the landing.

As I wept, I knew that my tormented sister had finally escaped from her hell on earth, and instead, was now mercifully welcomed into Paradise.


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