Cobwebs in the dark corners. Candle wax on the old wooden floor. Torn curtains that in happier times, witnessed half a dozen birthday cakes. And the dry east wind lamenting against the windows, loose in their dilapidated window frames and roughened by the frequent sand storms.

Lizzie Baker stood for, she didn’t know how long, next to the dining room table in the old railway house, and stared at the dry desert landscape outside. In the distance she saw the little family graveyard, neglected and the fence long gone. She refused to have her daughter buried there. Not after what had happened. Not after that monster of a man killed her little Sophia.
Sophia. So little and so pretty, and despite their poverty, so full of energy and bliss.
Lizzie remembered that when she looked at her little Sophia, she would pray and ask that her daughter’s enthusiasm, spontaneity and optimism would forever remain, and that she would never have to look into her daughter’s eyes and see that brightness disappear. She saw in her own child, that which she never thought existed. An eternal childlike happiness.
But it was, all in a single night of horror, stolen from her. Little Sophia’s innocent life, snatched away, in the blink of an eye, by a jealous and drunken cousin.
Afterward, they said it was the drink that made him behave in such a way, trying to seduce Lizzie, and when he didn’t get what he wanted, fell into a rage and took it out on Sophia. Lizzie knew Danny didn’t mean to kill her child, but she also saw an evil in his eyes, the kind she had never ever seen in a human being. Ever since they were little, there were stories of evil spirits roaming the district, really because it was so dry. Often, being hydrated, the human mind can make up all sorts of ideas, often horrifically strange in nature.
That day, however, Lizzie could have sworn some or other spirit had entered her cousin. Not only because of what he had done, but because she saw it in the darkness of his eyes. The police, the family and her friends sympathised with her over the whole affair. They understood. There are few things worse than losing an only child. And she acted in self-defence when she stabbed him. Anybody would have done what she did. There was no one else to help her. And it was her explanation as well, very much guided by the policeman who took her statement. According to the world, Lizzie Baker did all she could to defend herself against a cruel and intoxicated man who had killed the five-year-old child.
And she tried to convince herself of the fact as well. If you tell a story long enough and often enough, you start to believe it. In daytime at least. Lizzie soon realised that in her dreams, that awful reality remained. She didn’t try to defend herself. The man was drunk as a lord, and couldn’t even stand up straight. With the steak knife, she went straight for his heart, and he collapsed right there on the floor. Though life departed from limb and organ, that evil never really departed from his eyes. Dark and ominous. Full of all the foul imaginations of the soul.
That then, the reason she refused to have her little Sophia buried on the property.
But a year later, her nightmares would not go away. She saw therapist after therapist. Psychiatrists recommended all sorts of medication, and even the good old Reverent from the Reformed church prayed for her. Nothing helped.
In the end she did what her friend in the flat next door suggested.
“You have to go back there. To face your demons,” Martie had repeated her familiar sentiment over a mug of tea. “Everyone knows it, Lizzy. You have to stand up and face your demons. You’re paying a tonne of money to all these people, and none of them brought you anywhere. In fact, if you ask me, all they’ve managed to do is make it worse. Those circles under your eyes aren’t going to disappear by themselves, you know!”
And so, against logic, reason and common sense, Lizzie followed her friend’s advice.
She packed a small bag and took the three-hundred-kilometre journey into the Karoo desert.
When she arrived, the old railway houses looked as deserted as ever. She was scared that the sight of the old place would trigger memories, too many and too hard to bear. But strangely, it didn’t happen. Almost, as if in a trance, without taking her bag out of the car, she walked into the house, stood by the table in the dining room and just stared out of the window. Whether she was waiting for something or not, she couldn’t tell. Whether she knew what to do, she couldn’t tell either. All she knew was, she was there, and having for some or other reason a bit of a foggy mind, few things mattered anymore.
Apart from the sound of the wind against the windows, all was quiet and the whole world disappeared.
When she heard the stairs creaking, the footsteps coming down, slowly one by one, there was no doubt in her mind that it was him. Even in death, he would never really leave the house. He had been waiting for her to come back. She could not remember her disturbing dreams very well, but now, it all came back to her, clear as daylight.
Fully aware that she’d not be able to light a candle, she tried to light it anyway. It burned for a couple of seconds but then went out again. She took her phone from her pocket and pointed the flashlight toward the stairs. Ready for anything.
She saw no one there. The sound of the steps coming down had stopped. The house did not fully protect its inhabitants against the wind, and the combination of the cold draft, the strange smell and the eeriness of it all, brought a sudden bout of depression over her mind. With eyes big, she waved the phone about the room, to see if he weren’t standing anywhere, but she suddenly stopped when the light fell on the wall. On the wall, written in blood, she saw the words: “You killed her.”
Something strong gripped her heart. A great anger and sadness welled up in her. The audacity. How could he? So she should have given in to his adulterous wishes and then he would have spared her Sophia? Did he really think blaming her would make her succumb to his will?
If she thought that it was all the ghost of Danny had to render her powerless, then what followed would bring her out of her delusionment. For immediately after, she heard little Sophia’s voice in the next room, crying.
Lizzie’s first reaction was to run toward her daughter, her only child. Having given the first two steps, she stopped. It couldn’t be. It was a trick of the mind. A ghostly trick of the mind. She had buried her daughter. And not even here on the property, but far away. If she had buried her daughter, how could she be here then?
The crying sound of the child suddenly turned into the laughter of a man. The laughter of a drunken man. Hollow sounds, hideous and without mirth.
“So you came after all,” Danny said behind her. She swung around and saw his deathly white face, half lit by moonlight, half by her phone’s flashlight. She saw the knife in his chest. Blood dripped from his shirt. And that awful, familiar grin on his face. That which gripped her heart in fear, was the sight of his eyes. Still she could see the evil. Still she could see the horrible hatred and wrath in his eyes. She tried to step back but was too late. He grabbed her neck with both hands, his skin as cold as that of a corpse.
“You thought you could get away from me, didn’t you?” He hissed and groaned. “You thought that you’d be free from me, didn’t you? You have to understand Lizzie, I never meant to hurt her. I never meant to do what I did. The only person I wanted was you!”
Lizzie tried to scream but he choked her and however hard she tried to get him to lose his grip on her, she could not get a hold on any part of him. He choked her so that she couldn’t get air, and she started to lose consciousness. Feeling more and more dizzy, she sensed that inside the room, all hell broke loose. A sudden wind blew loudly in her ears, the curtains flapping, and objects falling to the ground. Doors also constantly opened and slammed close again, and it felt as if the whole house had turned on her.
Still gripping her throat, Danny brough his face close to her ear. His breath had a strong smell of death in it.
“You know what to do,” he said, his rugged voice filled with contempt. “Take the knife. Take it! Take the knife, and cut your wrists. No more wondering. No more longing. We’ll be together, forever, and no one will be able to separate us, ever again.”
With her cheeks red, her eyes full of tears, her lungs burning, she summed as much energy as she could, and as if with her last breath, she shouted, “Never! Never will I kill myself! I choose life. Tonight, right here, I choose life!”
As soon as she said that, she felt his power over her dwindle, but he wouldn’t let her go yet.
“But you can’t, you see,” he persisted. “Because you can’t let go of your hatred for me, can you?”
“That’s where you’re wrong!” she shouted with all her might above the noise of the wind, her hair blowing all over her face. “I choose to forgive! I choose to let go! And more than that, I choose to love again! So there is nothing you can do to me! I command you to leave me, and leave this house! You are doomed forever, and where you go, I will not follow!”
It took every bit of strength she had to get those words out, and as soon as she had done, she felt her legs give in from under her, and from pure exhaustion, she fell to the floor. Unconscious and in a deep sleep. In her dream, she found herself in a beautiful rose garden, lovely in the sun with Sophia laughing and smiling by her side. And for the first time in a long time, she felt peace in her heart. The kind of peace she had forgotten even existed.
When she opened her eyes, it was with the sound of a car door slamming shut. She looked up, and saw, through the windows, that it was morning.
“Mrs? Are you alright?” The man in uniform asked with some concern in his voice. “Are you Lizzy? Lizzy Baker?”
“I am yes… How did you…?”
“We had a call from Cape Town. Martie phoned the station. Said you might be in some trouble out here. So I came to check. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Officer,” she smiled. “You might not believe what I tell you, but I am more than alright.”
“Well, you look like you had a rough night. Come on, hop into the car. You can tell me all about it over a cup of coffee.”
“I’d be glad to,” she said, surprised at how light she felt, and the weight that had come off her shoulders. Strangely, the world seemed brighter, and more beautiful, and though she could not explain it, she had the feeling that she would not ever again return to this old railway house.

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