The Hospital House


“Haunted House” by barb_ar is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The giant white house seemed to loom up over Aimee Larson’s head as Pop and Nonni helped her lug her bags out of the trunk of the car and up the brick front steps. Pop held the door open with a grin, and Nonni whispered, “Welcome home, Sweetpea.”

Home. That sounded so weird. Of course, she had been here to visit her grandparents dozens of times over the course of her fifteen years, but it was different to think of it as home for the foreseeable future. At least until Mom and Dad sorted out their drama.

To say that her parents’ very hostile divorce was having a negative affect on her would be an understatement; her normal A’s and B’s had slipped to C’s and D’s, she wasn’t participating in her extracurriculars anymore, and she had withdrawn from friends. So a family meeting had been called where everyone agreed that the best course of action was to temporarily take Aimee out of the situation and send her to stay with Nonni and Pop in their spacious antebellum house down South.

The guest room hadn’t changed much; it still had the white and gold bedspread on the big brass bed, with the armoir in the corner and the white marble vanity against the wall by the window. Nonni had obviously cleaned from plush-carpeted floor to crystal-chandeliered ceiling.

Pop placed her bags down on the bed, and he and Nonni kissed her before leaving to let her get unpacked.

The dinner table was quiet later that evening as they feasted on Nonni’s roast, until Nonni cleared her throat. “So…school tomorrow.” she said in an optimistic voice.

“Yep.” Aimee muttered, stabbing her potatoes with her fork.

“Nervous?” Pop asked.

She shrugged.

Although the bed was feather-soft, Aimee tossed and turned for hours that night, her anxiety causing her mind to race with every worst-case scenario imaginable.

She must have finally dozed off, because she was startled awake by a soft clatter by her vanity. Bleary-eyed, she sat up slightly, and her heart stuttered for a second when she noticed what looked like a figure sitting in her vanity stool with its back to her. The figure appeared to be a woman in a massive hoop skirt brushing her long hair. So softly that it was no more than a whisper, the woman seemed to be humming as she brushed.

Aimee flung herself sideways to flip on the lights, blinking in the sudden brightness from the chandelier. She looked quickly at the vanity.

Flipping the light back off, she sank back onto her pillows. “It’s official. I’m losing it. Super.” she muttered.

The alarm rang much too early for Aimee’s liking. She rolled out of bed and stumbled over to her vanity. As usual, her blonde hair stuck out in every direction with bedhead. Groaning, Aimee reached for her brush, but froze as she picked it up.

A few long jet-black hairs were tangled in the bristles.

Aimee stared at the brush for an instant before turning and calling down the hall, “…Nonni?”

Nonni entered a few moments later, already dressed for the day with her old feed sack apron tied around her waist. “Morning, Sweetpea. What d’you need?”

Aimee hesitated for a minute, glancing up at Nonni’s short curly hair, already gray streaked with white. “Um…did you happen to use my hairbrush?”

Nonni frowned slightly. “No. Why?”

Aimee quickly shook her head and hid the brush behind her back. “Oh…no reason.”

Nonni looked puzzled. “Well, alright then. Hurry up and come get breakfast. The bus will pick you up from the corner in a half hour.”

The bus ride to school and the morning classes were all a blur. The only thing that stuck out to Aimee was how often she was stared at by the faculty and students.

She was sitting alone at a corner table at lunch when two people approached her and sat on either side of her. The girl looked nice enough, with glasses and her brown hair in a messy ponytail. A fancy looking camera hung on a strap around her neck. The boy had the rugged country look typical of most of the boys at the school, with a beat up trucker’s hat perched on top of his curly chestnut hair, and he grinned at her with a toothpick sticking out of his mouth.

“Aimee Larson, right? You’re that new girl that moved into the old Kingman house with your grandparents?” the girl asked, extending her hand, which Aimee shook. “I’m Lacey, and this is Steven.”

Before Aimee could really respond besides nodding, Steven’s grin widened. “You mean you’re living in the old Hospital House? Man, you sure are brave!”

Aimee frowned, puzzled. “I’m sorry?”

“You’re the talk of the town. Everyone knows that the old Kingman house is haunted.” Steven replied.
Aimee stared at him.

He went on, “The house was built in 1827. So, they say that during the Civil War, there were battles all around this area, right? Well, they started to run out of room at the troop hospital, so the Kingman house was used as a makeshift clinic for the wounded soldiers.”

“But the real story is about that one nurse.” Lacey whispered. “Legend has it that this nurse wanted to work at the Kingman house so she could get news from the field about her lover, a Confederate soldier. One day, she went out to help the wounded as a battle passed through town. As she was conducting triage, she saw her lover dead on the lawn. But as she went to him, a stray bullet hit her and she died right there next to him.”

Aimee looked from Lacey to Steven, eyebrows raised. “No way. My grandparents never mentioned anything about that.” she scoffed.

Lacey raised her camera from around her neck, flipping through the pictures on the screen. “I didn’t believe it either, until I was doing a photography project recently where I was taking pictures of the old buildings around town.” Finally finding the photo she was looking for, Lacey turned the camera to face Aimee. “What do you think of this?”

The picture showed the front of Nonni and Pop’s house, with its ivy-covered stone walls and massive white columns. Aimee leaned close to the camera screen, where there, in the corner of the porch on the swing by the rose trellis, was the unmistakable misty mass of a shadow.

A shadow that looked strangely like a woman in a Civil War-era hoop-skirted dress.

Aimee couldn’t help but jerk away from the photo, but she shook her head and rose from the table. “Whatever. You two are cracked. I’m going back to class.”

Only in a small southern town would the social studies teacher also be the varsity baseball coach. Coach Rollins had wheeled in a cart with a TV screen, and once everyone was settled, he flipped off the lights and began playing the film.

Of course, it was a film about the Civil War; what else? Aimee tuned it out, trying hard not to think about the figure she had seen the night before, the hairs in her hairbrush, Lacey and Steven’s story.

Aimee considered herself a pretty logical person, but she didn’t believe in coincidences.

Her head snapped up suddenly as the video rolled the end credits. A chorus was singing a song with a familiar melody, a melody that made Aimee shiver.

“When Johnny comes marching home again
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home!”

Somehow, Aimee knew it was the melody the figure had been humming the night before.

She turned and glanced to her right, where she saw Lacey and Steven seated at the next table. They looked back at her, wearing slightly contrite expressions for having annoyed her earlier.

Aimee reached into her notebook, quietly tore out a sheet of paper, scribbled a message, carefully crumpled it and slid it across the aisle.

Lacey and Steven put their heads together to read the message, then they both looked up at Aimee, eyes wide, mouths agape. In Aimee’s sloppy scrawl was written,

“Oh, my God. It’s true!”