Pairings/Characters (this chapter): John/Olivia, Sarah Simmons, Lilabelle Watkins
Fandom: The Waltons
Genres: Drama, Holiday, Suspense
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
General Summary: As World War II grows closer to Waltons Mountain, John is haunted by the memory of a lost loved one during the last War.
Chapter Summary: John attends the séance in Lilabelle Watkins’ cabin on Halloween.
Date Of Completion: March 7, 2017
Date Of Posting: May 7, 2017
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Lorimar Productions does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2103
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters can be found here.
Hang out at the gallows.
The leaves are gold,
The spirits old.
The veil is thin
See the Cheshire grin.
Sarah Jean Simmons
“All Hallows Eve”
The Waltons prepared to head out to the Halloween party at Godseys’ Hall, dressed in various costumes and carrying contributions to the food: chocolate cupcakes, cranberry and pumpkin breads and pumpkin pies. As their children piled into the truck, Olivia hesitated on the porch by the door.
“Are you sure that you don’t want to come?” she asked her husband.
“I’ve still got a few things to finish up at the mill, then I think I’ll listen to The Shadow and turn in early.”
“Maybe I should stay with you. I’m not so sure about this Halloween stuff.”
John smiled. His devout Baptist wife was always uneasy about this holiday. More the reason not to tell her about what he really intended to do this night.
“You’d better go. You can keep Ma company while she watches the dancing.”
“I suppose so.” Olivia sighed. “Don’t work too hard.”
“I’ll do my best.” John kissed her and Olivia joined her family.
As soon as the truck disappeared down the road, John went back inside and wrote a note about changing his mind and going night hunting for possums. He kept the note in his pocket until he was ready to go, filling his evening with a little work at the mill and then attempting to read until The Shadow came on the radio. He would have to leave around ten in case anyone came back early from the party.
Guilt warred with his desire to find out just what Lilabelle Watkins knew about the Haunting he was undergoing, because he had no doubt that it was indeed just that. Too many stories told by people who were solid citizens around these parts had convinced him that he wasn’t cracking up. Something strange was going on, and if Lilabelle could give him answers, he was going to take them.
His guilt, of course, came from keeping this all from his wife, but Olivia would never stand for anything like a séance. She had banished the children’s ouija board years ago and often said she ‘held no truck with occult doings.’ John’s mother was of the same mindset. Walton had believed that there was something to them, and while a good Baptist, he nevertheless said there were things that couldn’t be explained in rational ways.
John wished that he could go earlier to Lilabelle’s cabin, but he knew that she had requested eleven-thirty so that he could be there in plenty of time for the Witching Hour of midnight. He listened to the Shadow’s eerie laugh and wondered if Lamont Cranston ever had these problems.
Gradually the clock chimed ten-thirty. It would take him about an hour to get to the cabin in the dark, so he shrugged on a warm coat and put his note on the refrigerator and went outside, remembering to take his shotgun as cover for his hunting story. He whistled for Reckless and the dog climbed into Jim-Bob’s car. John turned on the ignition and it started up smoothly.
The shadows of the night spooked him as he drove. The moon was nearly full, shining down as John squinted to search for the road he needed to go further up the Mountain.
I must be crazy to be doing this.
He found the road and turned the car onto it, which gradually devolved to a rocky path. He had to stop the car and walk the rest of the way to Lilabelle’s cabin with Reckless at his side, as the road was little more than a bridal path now.
Lilabelle’s cabin was plain but sturdy, a butter churn set out on the porch, along with a rocking chair. John admired the craftsmanship of both churn and chair as he climbed the three steps to the porch. Delicate windchimes tinkled melodic notes as the wind blew. A Jack O’Lantern leered in the front window with a candle burning inside it.
John hesitated. He still had the chance to turn around and forget this nonsense. Instead, he walked up to the front door and knocked on the wood, taking a deep breath.
Only a minute passed before the door was opened by Sarah Simmons, dressed in a soft pumpkin-colored shirt and blue jeans. She wore a beaten-gold amulet with a sapphire set in the center.
“Come on in, Mr. Walton.”
John entered the cabin with Reckless in tow, a soft light cast by a kerosene lantern and light from the fireplace, where a cast-iron pot hung over the fire. He wondered what Lilabelle had cooking in there. The cabin was crude but clean, the wooden floor swept and a table and chairs set in one corner. A broom leaned against the wall, and John could hear the creak of a rocking chair.
Lilabelle Watkins rocked steadily, her blue gingham dress patched but clean. She wore a crocheted black shawl, old-fashioned button-up shoes, and a bright yellow head scarf. Bright, blue eyes were set in a lined face. No one knew her exact age. Some claimed that she was over a hundred, and her eyes would twinkle when some enterprising soul tried to get her to spill the number. She would merely say, “A lady never divulges her age.” Zeb had always claimed that she had been old when he was a boy, which John had chalked up to his father’s occasional exaggerations, but now he wasn’t so sure.
“Welcome, John.” Her voice was raspy but strong. She patted Reckless’ head and the dog curled up by her chair.
“Hello, Lilabelle.” John shook her bony hand. The grip was firm and warm. “What’s this about a séance?”
“Ben’s been trying to contact you.”
He felt a little chill but did not ask her how she knew. She just did.
“This is the night to call the spirits. Are you ready?”
John was not sure he was but said, “Yes.”
“Then let’s get started.”
He helped the old woman out of her chair while Sarah lit three orange candles on the table, which was covered with a yellow cloth. John saw a crystal ball set in a plastic holder in front of one chair, and Lilabelle sat down in that one. She indicated the other chairs, a few gold bangles jingling as she gestured. John and Sarah took their seats after John hung his coat on a rack by the door.
John smelled something herbal and Sarah said softly, “Patchouli.”
Lilabelle lit a small pot by her elbow and the smell intensified. She waved her hand back and forth over the crystal ball and muttered words in a language John could not understand. She suddenly stopped the handwaving as a mist began to form inside the ball.
“Join hands,” Lilabelle commanded as she closed her eyes.
John took Lilabelle’s hand and reached across the table for Sarah’s. She wore a ring that was cold against his flesh. Streaks of light appeared in the ball, but perhaps it was just reflections from the fireplace. Lilabelle began to chant in the odd language again.
John noticed a gold necklace in the folds of her bodice, a purple gem set in the center. Gold hoop earrings winked in the firelight as he turned his attention to the ball.He felt warm, his cheeks growing pink as he felt nervous, but it was too late to back out now. He gripped the women’s hands tightly.
The chanting went on for several minutes, lulling John almost to sleep, and when the ancient clock on the mantel struck the hour of midnight, Lilabelle spoke again in English. “Come, Ben Walton, and speak your piece.”
A breeze blew through the cabin even though the door and windows were closed. The flames in the hearth wavered as a chill overcame the heat, and the three candles on the table guttered, close to flickering out. Shadows moved in every corner as John was fully alert now.
“Are you here, Ben Walton?”
The shadows pulled away in the corner directly opposite John. Reckless suddenly got to his feet and growled. The smell of patchouli grew stronger.
John felt light-headed as he saw the familiar face of his long-dead brother coalesce into something shimmering. He was as young as John remembered him. He was dressed in his Army uniform as if ready to step into the trenches.
Reckless stopped growling and slowly approached the apparition, sniffing at the boots, and a ghostly hand touched the dog’s head. Reckless whimpered and curled up at the apparition’s feet.
Lilabelle’s eyes were still closed but Sarah was staring into the crystal ball. Did she see Ben’s reflection there? Did she see him at all?
“It’s good to see you.” John’s heartbeat was up as he stared at the apparition.
Ben grinned. “And you.”
“I don’t have much time. The veil between the worlds is at its thinnest tonight.”
“What do you want?”
“I…” Sadness passed over Ben’s features. He passed a hand through reddish hair. “Dark days are coming.”
John swallowed, his mouth dry. “Can you see the future?”
“I need to give you something.”
John noticed the sidestepping of his questions. Maybe Ben was not allowed to talk about the future in detail.
“What is it?”
“Lilabelle will direct you. Give it to the son who follows in my footsteps.”
The shadows darkened and John felt fear as he thought he saw the healthy look of his brother turn to a pale, bony apparition with blood running down the side of his face. His hands trembled in the grasp of Lilabelle and Sarah as he whispered, “Ben…”
Maybe it had been his imagination because in the next moment, Ben looked healthy and happy again. He smiled and touched the brim of his soldier’s cap. “Goodbye, Johnny.”
“Wait, Ben! Do my sons survive the war?”
“I’m sorry. Remember this night.” He began to fade away.
The shadows closed over the space where Ben had stood. Reckless got up and returned to his spot beside Lilabelle’s rocking chair and settled next to it. John shivered as Lilabelle opened her eyes. John met that gaze, suddenly realizing that her eyes were a pale shade of violet. He could have sworn that they were blue. He blinked, and her eyes were blue when he looked again.
“Where is it?” he asked her.
“The box on the mantel.”
John released the women’s hands and stood, slightly shaky. He retrieved the handcarved wooden box that smelled of cedar off the mantel and opened it. A shiny silver dollar rested on a bit of red silk. He took it out and examined it, noticing the year 1861 stamped on the coin.
“What is it?” Sarah asked.
“A silver dollar.” John studied the pictures, one stamped on each side. “I think it’s Union, not Confederate.”
“Keep that coin close, John,” Lilabelle said.
“I will.” John carefully put the coin in his wallet. “Thank you, Lilabelle. You, too, Professor.”
John let the cabin with Reckless and drove home almost in a daze. By the time he parked Jim-Bob’s car in its usual spot, he wondered if he had dreamed the whole evening. Reckless jumped out of the car and headed for his doghouse. John opened his wallet and saw the coin glinting in the moonlight.
“Thanks, Big Brother,” he said softly.
My father eventually told my mother of this strange night after the War ended. My brothers and I all served honorably. I was a war correspondent for Stars & Stripes in the European Theater while Ben served as a Navy Seabee in the South Pacific. We had our share of troubles as I was shot down while observing on a bombing mission and ended up in a coma for several weeks and Ben wound up in a Japanese POW camp, but we both survived our ordeals. Jim-Bob never let the States as he served as a mechanic in the Army Air Force.
Ironically, gentle Jason served in the U.S. army on the front lines from D-Day all the way to Berlin in Europe. It was he who carried the coin into battle, following in the footsteps of his uncle. The coin stopped a bullet during the Battle of the Bulge.
Somewhere, Ben Walton smiled.
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