Sitting with her notebook on her lap, drawing a picture of a butterfly, was Madelyn Featherton. No one really knew much about her since she transferred to the school a few weeks back. She always liked to keep to herself.
Everyone knew her as Maddy; including Kaylee Cooper, apparently.
“Yes?” Mr. Humblewick tilted his head and rubbed his chin. “What do you mean, yes?”
Maddy lifted her pencil from her page and twirled it between her fingers. She peered out toward the class through the black strands of hair that dangled over her eyes. She paused for a second before looking back down at her drawing. “I mean, yes, because I have heard the screaming. I’ve been on that road at night. It’s not something I wanna remember, you know?”
A buzz of voices began bouncing throughout the classroom. The students and Mr. Humblewick were drawn to Maddy’s words. Her dark brown eyes gazed back up to the curious audience.
“Then, how come no one else has heard it?” Mr. Humblewick asked.
“Because you’re right, the screams aren’t from the road, or from that steep ridge. There was never a stupid old granny going for a walk late at night, looking for some cat. She never fell, she never died. There was no old woman.” The room fell silent as Maddy carefully constructed her next sentence in her head.
Since her arrival, her soft, quiet energy always filled the room with curiosity and intrigue but up until that moment she had never participated in discussions before. Mr. Humblewick continued to play with his chin as he waited for her explanation.
“You know the old house at the top of the hill?” Maddy looked out at the class.
“That house belonged to a young family,” continued Maddy. Her gaze returned to her paper. She stopped twirling her pencil and placed the led onto her notepad. “That is where the screaming comes from.”
Maddy began to draw a dark figure on her page.
“How do you know this?” Mr. Humblewick asked.
Maddy continued to shade in the figure. Her eyes focused carefully on the curves and lines of the strange shape. “I told you. I’ve been on that road. I’ve been to that house.”
Maddy’s eyes fixated on her drawing. She wanted to get the picture just right. She turned her pencil over and erased part of the figure’s body. Brushing the eraser bits onto the floor, she continued to sketch.
“Go on,” urged Mr. Humblewick.
Maddy glanced up at her teacher. “The young family was hosting a New Year’s Eve party, about a hundred years ago. Back then, there was no town of Timpleville. There were only a few families who lived here. Apparently, everyone was invited.”
Maddy continued to darken the figure on her page.
“But, just before the party was to start, a massive snowstorm hit the area. There was so much snow that no one could drive on the roads.”
Mr. Humblewick sat still in his chair. His gaze was locked on Maddy. “Class, back then, they didn’t have snow plows like they do now, so it would be very difficult to clear away three feet of snow.”
Maddy eyed Mr. Humblewick to make sure he was finished. As she leaned forward slightly in her chair, the students pulled closer. “Because no one was able to come to the New Year’s party, the family decided to celebrate by themselves. There wasn’t any electricity so they had to light candles all over the house.”
“And probably a fire, because they would be really cold, I bet,” added Henry.
“Yup, but what happened next was so horrible, so terrible.”
Mr. Humblewick let go of his chin. “What? What happened?”
Maddy looked around the room and swallowed.
“The house caught fire. One of the candles fell over and the joint just lit up like a gigantic barbecue.”
“Holy cow,” Rudy muttered. “Did they all fry?”
“Rudy!” Mr. Humblewick shook his head.
“No,” Maddy answered, taking a big breath and slowly exhaling. “The kids managed to escape, but they froze to death out in the forest. As for the parents, well … .” Maddy stopped. She finished shading her picture and put down her pencil. “I guess you can know now why that road is called ‘Screaming Ridge’”.
“Maddy, I haven’t heard this story before. I don’t recall anyone ever talking about this,” commented Mr. Humblewick. He rubbed his chin and thought for a moment.
“It was a long time ago,” Maddy answered. “This town’s history doesn’t go back that far.”
Mr. Humblewick rubbed his chin again. “How do you know all this? How do you know it’s true and not a myth?”
Maddy lifted up her picture and pointed to the dark figure in her drawing. “Because this person told me.”
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