“Josie’s Mom”

*In the spirit of Halloween, this is a spooky story with mature themes/content. Reader discretion is advised.

Emily McLaughlin, Staff Writer, Co-President

The Wilmington family was once a family of three, living in a small mountain town. Richard Wilmington was the man of the house and the breadwinner by all means.  He was a smart, quick-witted man, and that shrewdness had taken him very far in life. In fact, he met his wife, Lydia, while studying at a university to become a chemical engineer. He was currently doing work at a research facility, nestled up in the mountains. Richard had his temper when it came to his family and showed little to no affection towards them, but that was just the man he was. Cold, serious, but most believed he had once been a charmer to win Lydia over.

  Oh, Lydia. Some say she was the most beautiful woman on the campus where she and Richard studied. She had long, dark locks and bright chartreuse eyes that invited every onlooker to get lost in them. It was safe to say she was the talk of many young men in her day. When she ended up with Richard, many envied him and wondered what he was doing with the cunning Lydia. 

   The two married quickly after university and welcomed their only child soon after. They named her Josephine after Lydia’s grandmother, and as she grew older she began to go by Josie. Josie seemed to be the only one who could break the ever serious Richard, as Richard quickly fell in love with his daughter. She brought a light to his life like no one had before, not even his wife.

  Josie would run and jump into his arms each night when he returned home from work, and he would parade all around their house with her. 

   From the outside looking in, they seemed like the perfect family. They were the picture of wealth and success in a small town with nothing going on. That was, until that fateful night at the bottom of the stairs.

    That fateful night where Lydia’s body ended up at the bottom of their hardwood stairs, laying lifeless and albescent. Josie found her mother’s body when she was going down to the kitchen for a glass of water. She screamed for her father, as she grabbed onto her mother’s cold hand. Richard rushed to call the police, with Josie, hysterical in his arms. Josie was just shy of nine.

    The first officers at the scene officially pronounced her dead and said she likely had an aneurysm and fell down the stairs, breaking her neck. She died instantly due to impact.

   The town in which the Wilmington’s lived grieved right along with the widower and his daughter. I mean, what a tragedy it was. For weeks after, many neighbors would come by with fresh pies and various homemade meals for the two. 

    But the one thing that the town collectively never understood was why an autopsy on Lydia’s body had never been conducted. But, this was soon forgotten, and the conversations about Lydia and her family came to an end. 

   Life dragged on for the Wilmington pair, until one day when Richard heard a voice coming from the foyer. When he walked to the front of the house, he found the voice was coming from Josie, who was sitting at the window facing the road. She seemed to be having a conversation with someone, very nonchalantly.

    Richard was confused. “Sweetheart, who are you talking to?” he asked.

    Josie turned to her father with bright eyes. “I’m talking to mommy,” she said, with a smile on her face.

   Richard was speechless. He did not know how to respond. How could his daughter believe she was talking to her dead mother? 

  “Who?” Richard asked again, yanking on his shirt nervously. 

   “Mommy came back to live with us! Isn’t that so great?” Josie said, pointing to the empty space on the window sill beside her.

“Oh, wow, that is great. How nice of mommy,” Richard said, backing out of the room. He decided to let his daughter think she was having a conversation with his deceased wife, and it was probably just a game she was playing. But that would not be the last time Richard came across his daughter talking to what she believed to be her mother. In fear of this new habit of Josie’s, he took her to a child psychologist he knew through colleagues.

 “Her tendencies of talking to her mother are nothing to worry about,” the psychologist later explained to Richard. “This isn’t uncommon to see this type of behavior in adolescents during a period of grief. It’s likely just a phase.”

  Richard stood silent and stared off into space. What she was saying made sense, but he couldn’t help but have an eerie feeling still. This feeling began to slowly eat Richard alive, as Josie continued to believe she was talking to her late mother.

  One afternoon, Richard was mopping the hallways when he heard the small voice of his daughter in conversation, coming from her bedroom. He put his ear to her door, in order to listen. “What do you mean daddy is a bad man, Mommy? Don’t you love him?” he heard Josie say. 

  Richard stumbled back, as if he could not believe what he just heard. 

“It’s just a phase…It’s just a phase,” he mumbled to himself, as he continued to mop. He could feel his heart beating faster and faster as he continued to wipe the floor methodically.

   That night at dinner, Josie and Richard sat at the table together, staring back at each other. Neither of them would break the impending silence that separated them, that was, until, Josie finally spoke up. 

  “Dad?” she said, breaking eye contact with Richard. 

   “Yes?” he inquired.

“Why isn’t there a seat for mommy?” Josie asked, looking at the empty space next to her.

Richard paused a moment and took a deep breath. “Because she isn’t here anymore, Josie,” he said sternly.

  “Yes, she is!” Josie protested. “She talks to me every day, and she tells me about-”

“Enough!” Richard exclaimed, interrupting his daughter. He got up from the table and threw his napkin down.  “I don’t want to hear about this made up nonsense anymore, Josie! You’re too old for this.” Richard was trembling with anger and had his fists clenched. He only released them when he looked into the eyes of his daughter, full of tears. 

  “She told me you pushed her,” Josie said in a quiet voice, finally looking at her father. 

   Richard’s heart sank. “What did you just say?” he asked.

“She told me that you pushed her! You pushed her down the stairs, and then she died! Is that true?” Josie yelled. She got up from the table, and approached her father.

   “Go to bed, now,” Richard said, refusing to look at Josie.

Josie looked at her father with tears still running down her face. She asked no questions and ran up to her room. 

   Richard began to pace back and forth in their living room. He could feel his heart beating profusely. He brought his hands to his neck like he was choking, as the beating traveled up to his throat. It became so overwhelming that Richard dropped to the floor. He closed his eyes to try and relax, but the sounds of Josie’s sobs coming from upstairs made him qualmish. He waited until Josie’s wailing came to an end, and assumed she fell asleep. He silently crept into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. He made his way to the bottom of the stairs but stopped suddenly there. He bent down and harshly carved writing into the wood paneling, before continuing upstairs.

   As he entered Josie’s room, he put the knife down on her dresser. Richard scooped his sleeping daughter out of her bed and carried her down the stairs in his arms. He made his way down their steep driveway, and loaded Josie into the back seat of their car. He got in the driver’s seat and headed for the road. Richard felt his heart pounding, and it practically came to life within him. With every sharp turn he took up the windy mountain roads, he felt like he was no longer the one driving. The madness that had grown inside of him had taken the wheel. Richard raised the volume of the car radio while grinding his teeth. This woke Josie up who had managed to sleep through most of her father’s erratic driving up until this point. 

  “Where are we going?” Josie asked, still lethargic.

Richard didn’t answer and remained fixated on the road. He continued racing up the mountain.

“Where are we going?” Josie asked again, jolting up in her seat. 

   Again, no answer. Josie became increasingly anxious. “Where are we-” Josie started to yell. She was interrupted by her father’s hand covering her mouth. She began to scream, but his hand muffled her cries. Richard pulled his hand away and became fixated on the road again. Josie frantically tried to open the car door, but it was locked. 

Richard finally broke his silence. “We are going to see mommy!” he said, as slammed his foot down on the gas pedal. With that force, it took the car over the side of the mountain, and it fell hundreds of feet to the bottom. Josie and Richard both died instantly. Their bodies were discovered later that night when the car burst into flames. It is said that the car fire burnt their flesh so badly, the father and daughter were almost unrecognizable. 

   The same police who were at the house the night of Lydia Wilmington’s death were sent to investigate this mysterious car crash. They searched their home, and at the bottom of the stairs, where Lydia once laid dead, they found something troubling carved into the floor. In manic writing, it read:

I got rid of Josie’s Mom. She came back.