††††††††††††††††††††††† †††† Zephrum Gates and the Mysterious Purple Haze

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† By Tricia Riel

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††† Chapter 1

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The House of Mystery

††††††††††† Towering on top of the steep and narrow heights of Nooseneck Hill Road stood the

most feared and avoided house in Haversville.The old, dilapidated Victorian mansion and its

adjacent carrige house had been left to rot on their foundations for years.Paint curled and

peeled off of the narrow boards of the giant house, and almost all of the windows were

blackened or boarded up.Dark, thick pine trees surrounded the edges of the mansion, like

guards to an evil fortress.Crows cawed and peered from the branches of the weighty trees.

As people passed by at the base of the hill down below, crows would sweep down close to

them.Most of the time, the birds would just stare with fierce and piercing eyes.No one had

dared to go anywhere near the monstrosity for years.

††††††††††† Then, one day, everything changed.

††††††††††† The old mansion was owned by a crotchety older man, named Strasidous Rowpe.He

had inherited it from his grandmother, Eunice Seelie.He really didnít care about the older

structure at all.Over the years, he had allowed some of the letters on her mailbox to fall off,

so that they only read "_____un____ . . . Seelie."

††††††††††† Strasidous never spoke much, but neighbors had witnessed him muttering misgivings

under his breath to himself from time to time.They heard him scream things like, "I hope you

rot there in your own stench for an eternity!"and, "Serves you right, you old bat!"Strasidous

had a very difficult childhood.People say that he was often babysat by his Grandmother

Seelie, who was less than sweet to him.It seemed that Strasidous was still harboring some ill

willed feelings about his upbringing.Needless to say, Strasidous was an unusually miserable

old man.The neighbors recognized him for exactly what he was, a peculiar and angry old fart.

††††††††††† One day, Strasisous' closest neighbor, Mrs. Fliffle, was craning her neck over her

overgrown fence to better hear Strasidous.He was going on and on, in a particularly long and

loud rampage.She had observed Strasidous scream and mutter ever since he was little, but

she had never seen him be very happy about anything.What she then saw surprised her more

than anything sheíd seen Strasidous do in all of the years sheíd been watching him yell at the

empty air.He slammed the door to the old carriage house behind the main house and

screamed at the top of his lungs, "Now youíll never have power over me!"Then, Strasidous

skipped down the hill to his car with more happiness than he had ever possessed in his entire

life."Strange," thought Mrs. Fliffle, as she peered through one eye at his car as he sped down

the road.

††††††††††† The next day, there was a real estate sign out in front of the house.Mrs. Fliffle theorized

that Strasidous must have come to some kind of peace.Rather than continue to let the house

completely disintegrate, it seemed that Strasidous had come to his senses and put the old

eyesore up for sale.In fact, what Mrs. Fliffle didn't know yet was that he had already

scheduled to have it shown to a young couple and their two-year-old baby girl when "it"

happened.

††††††††††† No one knows for sure what really went on the day that the couple came t o take a look

at the house, but rumors spread like wild fire themselves.Shortly after the couple arrived,

there was a gigantic explosion on the property that thundered for miles around.An

unexplainable fire erupted in the old carriage house behind the main house.This fire came

about under such unusual circumstances that people buzzed on and on about it long after it

happened.

††††††††††† By the time neighbors got to the scene, all that could be seen was a towering inferno too

massive to be tamed.Onlookers watched as enormous flames licked the air with roaring

ferocity.The crackling and snapping of wood and flames from the carriage house kept the

bystanders at a distance.Just before the first fire truck got to the scene, a couple of the

neighbors "swore" that they had seen the baby girl thrown from the fire of the building, "as

though she was being born from fire and ash," one of them said.Another neighbor said, "I

could have sworn I saw wings on the kid as she flew and landed in that there pile o' leaves."

††††††††††† No one really knew how she escaped.One thing was certain: The little girl was an

incredibly lucky soul to have survived the inferno without even a scratch.To this day, the

remains of the childís parents were never found and the real estate agent lives in a muted state

of shock.She stares blankly into space, repeating the same words over and over:"Purple

haze . . . purple haze . . . "

††††††††††† After the fire, a young reporter interning with a small area newspaper, The Diurnal

Journal, came into town.He was looking for a feature to add to his collection of small-town

point-of-interest stories.The reporter was a well-meaning and very intelligent fellow in his mid-

twenties, but he had a number of odd peculiarities.Dexter Droudy had a horse's overbite and

was as thin as a pencil.He was a bit clumsy and wore thick eyeglasses with frames that were

pieced together by tape and paper clips.He wore an inordinate amount of plaid, and he had an

interest in practically everything.His mind spun with curiosity during every hour of the day,

even while he slept.He always carried a small notebook and a pen, and he frequently wrote

down what people said during his casual conversations.Social skills and tactfulness were not

his strong points.Try as he might, he couldnít keep himself from interrupting people while

they were in the middle of telling him a story.He blamed it on his talkative nature and insatiable

curiosity, but the truth was that Dexter Droudy was also so imaginative that he could barely

wait for the thoughts of others to leave their mouths before heíd interject with an explosion of

his own ideas.Sending him from town to town was one way that Archibald Greevy, Dexter's

editor at The Diurnal Journal, kept him busy and out of his hair (so to speak).

††††††††††† Naturally, as editor of the area's most popular small newspaper, Archibald Greevy had

interest in making sure that The Diurnal Journal ran smoothly.The day that the unexplainable

fire broke out in Haversville, Archibald had been hoping to find some kind of remote

assignment for Dexter.Archibald was a very busy man.Although he appreciated Dexterís

contribution to the journal, he just could not bear to have Dexter's high energy in the office.

Archibald was a squat middle-aged man with a bald head that was so shiny it looked like it

would blind you in the reflected light of the moon.He had a chest that was as big and round

as a barrel, and he was always gnawing on an unlit cigar.He gave up smoking years earlier to

protect his health, but he felt like he needed something to do with his mouth in times of stress.

Nobody ever dared to tell him, but the soggy thing hanging from his mouth strangely

resembled a cat turd.

††††††††††† Regardless of his idiosyncracies, Archibald had a very strong and commanding

presence.Though he wasn't a very tall man, he orchestrated the publication of his weekly

journal with the confidence of a fine musical conductor.He managed all of the various people

on his staff and produced a weekly journal that was read by people for miles around.

However, Archibald needed a certain amount of peace and organization in the office to

accomplish this task.With Dexter around, peace was the last feeling he ever felt.Archibald

had a big heart and was very generous, but he was a little short on patience with regard to

Dexter.

††††††††††† On the morning that the fire erupted over at the old Seelie house, Dexter had been

fiddling and fumbling around in the newspaper office with more nervous anxiety than usual.

He just didnít know what to do with all of his undirected energy.He knocked over a number

of half-empty coffee mugs near the coffee maker and he created a terrible brown puddle of a

mess on the floor.He also knocked over a giant office plant while trying to clean up the coffee

puddle.The loose dirt from the plantís pot, combined with the puddle of old coffee, looked

like a giant elephant poop.Agnes, Archibaldís needle-necked secretarial assistant, intervened

just as Dexter was about to scoop the giant mass of brown goop into the paper recycling.

††††††††††† "Dexter," she breathlessly said as she handed him a stack of papers, "Why donít you go

make copies of these for me, and Iíll have Gladice deal with this mess."

††††††††††† "Oh, yes.Iím pleased to help," said Dexter, as he took the stack of papers and

promptly scurried over to the copy machine.Agnes was very relieved to have distracted

Dexter from putting the mess in the wrong place.

††††††††††† No more than a minute had passed and papers were jammed up in practically every

orifice of the copy machine.The flashing light beneath the glass cover sped up with increasing

voracity as Dexterís anxiety rose to a level that had him completely at a loss for what to do.

This is when Archibald Greevy entered the room and looked upon the chaotic site and saw

Dexter furiously trying to spare papers from entering the mousetrap of a machine that he really

should have never put his hands on to begin with.

††††††††††† "Dexter!"Archibaldís thunderous and gravelly voice came as a shock to the nerdy

copy machine wonder boy.Seeing Dexter jump in fear, Archibald then tried to control his

temper and slowly said, "Iíve heard that thereís been a fire over at a historical landmark in

Haversville.Why donít you go and check it out?"

††††††††††† "Oh, uh, right away, sir," said Dexter as he fumbled with a stack of papers in disarray.

"Iím right on that.Canít wait, sir.Iíve been waiting to go and explore new territory, sir, and .

. . . ."

††††††††††† Archibald pushed a map into Dexterís chest.With his face as purple and round as a

ripe summer plum, he said, "Just go, will ya'?"

††††††††††† "Yes, sir," said Dexter with nervous enthusiasm."Iím very happy to have this new

opportunity, sir, and___"

††††††††††† Archibald interrupted him, with steam practically seething from his ears as he bellowed,

"And stay out of my hair, will ya!'?"

††††††††††† Dexter very politely began to back out of the room, saying "Yes, sir, Whatís left of it,

sir."

††††††††††† At that ill-timed comment (which seemed to touch a sore spot), Archibald pointed to the

door with the force of an exploding cannon and screamed, "Now go!"

††††††††††† Dexter bit his lip to stop himself from saying another word.Then, he silently tiptoed his

way out of the office, delicately walking backward as though he were avoiding fragile eggshells

placed on the floor beneath him.

††††††††††† As Dexter entered the main strip of Haversville in his rusty, nearly broken down jalopy,

he noticed a strange tinge of purple haze hovering over the heads of everyone in the town.He

couldnít believe his eyes, so he sputtered to a stop and pulled over to the side of the street to

clean off his eyeglasses with his favorite handkerchief.After breathing some hot steamy air

onto the lenses and fastidiously cleaning them off, he placed his glasses back upon his face

and admired his hanky for a moment.Embroidered on one corner of it were the words:"To

Dexter...my favorite and only son . . . Love, Mommy-kins." Seeing this lovely sight, Dexter felt

re-assured that his vision had been restored.

††††††††††† When he looked up at the people still meandering on the main street of town, he

expected that his clear vision would set him straight in his mind again.Instead, what he saw

was not only a purple haze floating around the heads of the people, but some black energy

forms as well.They were dark and oddly shaped, kind of blob-like, floating like ethereal

specters and hovering near the shoulders of the people.Some of the towns people were only

surrounded by the purple haze.Other people seemed to be enveloped with the dark energy

forms as well.Unknowingly, it looked as though they were wearing ethereal shrouds and

translucent mink stoles of burden.

††††††††††† Dexter was now sure that he must be seeing all of this due to being car sick from the

long drive.He peeled himself out of his old junker and cautiously went into the nearest diner,

The Stew & Chew.As he walked up to the counter and sat on one of the bar stools, a red

headed waitress with a bee hive hair-do handed him a lunch menu.Chewing a big wad of gum,

she said, "What can I getcha?"

Dexter replied uncertainly, but said, "Well, um, some water would be nice."

††††††††††† "Big spender, eh?,"she said as she went to get him a glass of ice water.When she

came back and placed the tall palstic cup onto the counter, she said, "Donít worry, honey.

Iím just a kidder.Take your time.When you figure out whatcha want, just call me over.My

name is Beatrice."Dexter nodded, mouth agape as she walked away because he noticed that

Beatrice was not covered by the looming presence of the purple haze he had seen over the

people outside.

††††††††††† He glanced at the menu for just a micro-second when he knew exactly what he wanted.

"Excuse me, Beatrice...," he anxiously called her over to him.

††††††††††† Beatrice sauntered over with a sway in her hips that made him feel like she was walking

on the deck of a boat that was sailing on big ocean waves."Yeah, ...whaddya want, honey?"

she asked as she pulled out the yellow pencil that lived behind her ear.

††††††††††† "Iíd like a grilled cheese and roasted tomato sandwich, please.Itís my favorite, you

know.I used to eat them all of the time when I was little, and Iím so glad you have them on

the menu because___"

††††††††††† "O.K. honey,"she interrupted."Iíll be right back with one for ya'."Beatrice turned

around, put the order up at the kitchen window, and screamed into the kitchen, "Make me a

GC with a roasted T!And make it snappy.Iíve got a talkaí here."She turned back around

and smiled at Dexter as a big hunk of her gum jutted out of the side of her mouth.She leaned

over the counter, with her cleavage showing prominently, and said, "So, what brings you into

town?I havenít seen you around here before."

††††††††††† "Well," Dexter said importantly, "Iím a reporter for The Diurnal Journal, and Iím here

to do an investigative feature story on the fire that happened here in Haversville.Do you know

anything about it?"

††††††††††† Suddenly, Beatrice stood up very straight and got a strange and uncomfortable look on

her face.Very seriously, she said, "If I were you, Iíd keep my nose out of it.Anyone whoís

been anywhere close to that house has been acting mighty strange . . . forgetful . . . and even a

bit dazed.You best leave it alone, Mr. Reporter, Sir."

††††††††††† Excitedly, Dexter began to squirm in his seat."Oh, now this is great!I love stories that

have an edge of mystery to them."He said, "Tell me more."He began writing things down on

his note pad."Forgetful, you say . . . and strange . . . "Beatrice plumped her flat hand over

Dexterís pen and pad of paper and stared into his eyes with a gravity that gave him the chills.

††††††††††† "Donít,"she said."Donít even start.For as long as I can remember, things have been

mighty strange over at that house.If you value your life, your sanity, and your soul, stay as far

away from it as you can."

††††††††††† A yell came from the cook inside the kitchen."Order up!GC in the window!"

††††††††††† Beatrice turned around, picked up Dexterís grilled-cheese sandwich, plunked his plate

down on the counter in front of him and said, "Hereís your sandwich, honey.Remember what

I said.Iíve been here in Haversville a long, long time and I know what Iím talkiní about.If I

were you, Iíd stay away from that house and stay awake in your soul.Get too close and

youíll be sorry you ever set your feet on this earth.I got nothiní more to say.Now, I hope

you enjoy your lunch."

††††††††††† Dexter was dumbfounded.It took all of his energy to stop himself from asking her

 

more questions.He was both curious and incredibly scared, but it was all very exciting.