A mystery is a subgenre of narrative fiction; often thought of as a detective story.There are a number of sub-genres within the broad category of mystery/detective/crime fiction. They overlap and are open to subjective interpretation. I’m not a fan of mysteries with the whole cop-whodunit scene. I don’t even like the good cop bad cop scenes. So I tried something different after doing a bit of research.
We all rarely seen the old woman out in town. We rarely saw her at all. The occasional sightings are when she’s in the local hardware store or at the grocery store to buy M&Ms. We never saw her buy meat, bread, fruits, or vegetables. She kept to herself in the house by the river with woods surrounding the structure at the end of town. She had honeysuckle growing wild which brought beautiful birds and butterflies but we never witnessed her outside enjoying them. When she was outside it was to tend to her massive garden, fish in the river, or care for her mini orchard of the fruit-bearing trees.
Holidays she wouldn’t decorate and wouldn’t hand out candy. She wouldn’t go to town gatherings or parades. The elementary children thought her to be a witch and would be afraid to look her in the eyes. Some adults thought she was the reason that people went missing in the town. She was even interviewed a couple of times by law enforcement as a last resort. I thought she was happy in her solitude until I had her go through my checkout line at the hardware store. Beep-fishing line, beep-lightbulbs, beep-nails, beep-vegetable seeds. ‘Is this all for you?’ Her eyes met mine and that’s when I witnessed a teary response. Was she sad? Was she thankful someone said something to her? She didn’t reply but paid for her items with gold coins. I haven’t seen those in a long time. I know that they make newer ones but these were the old coins. I asked for her to wait a minute as I spoke to the manager. ‘She pays with those because they are easier for her to count. Take however much you need and put them under the till. I exchange them at her bank the next town over. It’s the only bank that I find will take them.’ ‘Do you know anything about her? She doesn’t speak, she’s always alone, and today I think I made her cry,’ I said sadly. ‘No one really knows anything about her, she was one of the first people to live in the town.’
I took her coins and handed her bags over, ‘Have a good day,’ I said but she didn’t even turn to acknowledge my farewell. I left work that evening and decided to walk by the river on my way home. It was shorter and quieter since people think the old woman is cursed or does the cursing. The sound of the river was soothing until a sound of a massive current of electricity echoed through the woods. As if a transformer was being turned on for the very first time. As I walked past her house I noticed that she was flipping larget switches and lights were turning on around the house, through the woods, and by the river. It wasn’t just lighting up her house. ‘Hi,’ I waved over at her. She jumped and came over to where I was standing. ‘Hello, young lady.’ Her voice was soft and comforting. ‘You really need to get home before the sun finishes setting. I can’t help when the light is fully gone.’ I looked at her puzzled. ‘The sun has already set. It’s dark and now you’re lighting everything up.’ She begged. ‘Please get home, come see me tomorrow.’ I nodded and hurried home.
I couldn’t sleep that night and was at her house at first light. I thought I would wake her up but she was already on the river bank casting her fishing pole. ‘Good morning,’ I said timidly. ‘There’s a fishing pole against the tree that I have prepared for you. Come cast a line and see what happens.’ I grabbed the pole and noticed that there was already a fish on the hook. I looked at her and she nodded for me to cast. I picked a spot and let loose the line. We both sat there is silence until my pole jerked. ‘You’re going to need to hold on, it’s going to be a big one,’ she said to me in a warning tone and about that time I was nearly pulled into the water. I look at her with a surprised-regretful look. She smiled and patted me on the shoulder. ‘It’s ok dear, at first I lost many poles after I lost my husband.’ She withdrew her rod and started walking towards her house. What did she mean about losing her husband and rods? She was married?
She opened the door for me to walk ahead of her in the house. She has a beautiful cottage style home. Her kitchen had a beautiful wood stove, wooden cabinets, and homemade bread dough rising on the back counter. ‘Sit down dear, I’ll tell you what you need to know.’ I sat down and she placed a teacup in front of me along with some homemade cookies. ‘My husband, Frank and I were the first to move to this town. He built this house with his own hands always reminding me that this is the perfect piece of land. He was excited to fish, garden, and live off the land. ‘Wow, how old are you?’ I instantly regretted the question. She smiled, ‘I’m old enough to watch this town grow from just a few settlers.’ ‘Settlers? The first settlers of the town arrived…’ I trailed off watching her sip her tea. ‘That means that you are..’ she interrupted. ‘I’m old enough to watch the town grow,’ she said slowly. I would like to show you how to survive this town and help others live there day to day lives. I’ve been protecting this town for decades. I’m getting tired and need to teach a young person. Someone who loves this town like I do and can handle being alone and misunderstood.’
I do like being left alone and I do love this small town. ‘What about my job?’ I couldn’t believe I was considering the proposal of learning whatever she was teaching. ‘This will be your job and you would never want for anything, ‘she said as she gestured at the surroundings. ‘Let me explain. When we settled here we thought we hit gold. The land was fruitful and no one around. We built our house and waited for neighbors but no one came. That’s when we learned of the secret the land held. The river is full of creatures that come on land as soon as the last glimmer of light is gone. Even though the sun is gone the last bit of light is gone 14 minutes after the set time. My husband and I learned this the 1st night we were here. We were able to set a fire which kept them at bay. We would fish for them and use them as fertilizer for our garden and trees. We thought after years of fishing they would be extinct. That night we didn’t light any fires. We sat outside enjoying tea and the stars when out of nowhere my husband was drug into the water. There was nothing I could do for Frank. I come from a long line of white witches and part of my promise was to protect this town and I cast a spell for me to live longer. Not be immortal but live long enough to fight these creatures. What I do know is that they live underwater and they breed faster than rabbits. All the missing person reports that you see are of people the creature took.’ I looked at her in disbelief. Before I could say anything she interrupted, ‘Go home and think about it.’
I was home before dark and I walked into an empty house. There was no life and no messages or voicemails, no plans, just me. I went to the internet and searched missing person reports for this town and discovered some that dated all the way back to the 1800’s. In those articles, I found a woman had been committed to a psychiatric hospital a town over for ranting about creatures from the water. I also found a picture of the town’s founders and our very own solitary woman that everyone judged was there, smiling. She was beautiful. The next morning I was over at her house. ‘I would love to protect this town but I would like to know one thing. What is your name?’ She smiled and gestured for me to enter the house, ‘my name is Elizabeth. Are you ready to make the transition?’ she asked. ‘I would be honored but I’m not a white witch and I don’t know how long I’ll live.’ I said. She sat down and clasped my hand, ‘My dear, when I said that you would inherit everything that includes my powers, the house, the money, my skills, and knowledge.’
Here I am, being judged as I’m buying fishing line 82 years later. The rumor is that the last hermit took me as her slave and now I’m looking for mine. Little do they know, my sacrifice keeps them and this town safe.