From the sky, mountain tops are being kissed by autumn. In a helicopter my husband has watched leaves turn to a shade of honey and ruby red. Waves of color cascades rolling hills as October temperatures descend until it grips the valley below.
The scent of baked apples stuffed with oatmeal wafts from an oven door and fills our little house. I drizzle some molasses across it before dusting the treat with cinnamon. Haunted hay rides have begun and there are festivals to attend almost every weekend from now until Christmas. My Audible and Kindle are full of murder mysteries to curl up with when the weather becomes too dreary for serious farm work.
Several pairs of muck boots line the wall next to our front door in preparation of a muddy season. Meanwhile, I mourn the loss of my cut flower garden as a chill takes their life. While Nikolai is gearing up to order a matching Halloween costumes with Scribbles, my husband enlisted our assistance with treats and treasures of his own. It’s amazing how events in my life line up with the perfect stories to tell during spooky season. I hope you’re ready for them.
Around this time last year Rob put in a bid on a storage unit in the middle of Atlanta. A small outdoor facility located in an unsavory part of town. Beat up cars lined both sides of the street, potholes big enough to swallow an entire person scattered across yellow lines and black tar. Sometimes the most interesting things are found in unusual places.
A man behind the desk in the front office was smacking his lips as he chewed on a piece of gum. His bald head shining underneath florescent lights. His fingers poking at the keys below his computer while simultaneously adjusting a button down shirt that appeared to be a size too small.
“You won a bid you say?” He had a surprisingly high pitched voice for someone with a gruff appearance.
“That’s right. Unit number 3082 on the auction site.” My husband informed him.
“Ah yes, here you are. Let me grab the key so I can unlock it for you. Be sure to clean it out and have it inspected before you leave.”
“I know the drill. I’ve done this many times before.” Rob smiled with bubbling excitement.
I suppose I was expecting the usual. Household goods, furniture, clothing… things we could donate to local charities. The boxes were promising because they were dusty and unorganized. Stacked with little care for the possessions they contained which meant they hadn’t been trifled through by unit staff members. A menagerie of cardboard, plastic bins, and trash bags placed into heaps. Paperwork tucked into crevasses and odd trinkets I couldn’t identify.
My greatest joy in tackling this sort of work is unraveling the personality behind the things someone choses to keep. The tape was pulled from the first box and nestled within was more makeup than I had ever owned in my lifetime. I had originally suspected the unit belonged to man (due to the lack of organization) but now I wasn’t so sure.
My mind raced from a possible drag queen to an unusual married couple. Yet the harder we dug into this individual’s past the stranger things became. Rob pulled a pair of handcuffs, some chains, and a few locks out of black mesh. Things that might make a prude blush but they didn’t appear to be used for sexual purposes. A set of camera lenses caught my attention as my husband and Niki flipped through comic books and signed memorabilia.
Pile after pile, one mysterious item after the next were carefully inspected before loading it into the back of our truck. As a lover of crime novels and puzzles, this one kept me on the edge of my seat. It was one of the most interesting units we had ever done.
“I think I know who this person is! Have you figured it out yet?” Rob grinned and taunted in a sing-song voice. Forever my competitor in sleuthing.
Rolled up in the very back of the unit was a poster for The Walking Dead TV show. An iconic scene splayed in glossy film with an easy to recognize face. The signature was exactly the same as the one we found on storage facility paperwork.
Our mysterious man was a zombie. Not just any zombie though, ours was one of the more famous African American zombies within the entire Walking Dead series. A stack of bobble heads nodded in smug approval.
Why this man let his unit go to auction, we never discovered. Sometimes people quit paying for things they don’t want to move or they forget why they’re paying to store things they rarely use. We see this happen quite often and their loss, is our family adventure.
The last week of September per autumn tradition, Rob bid and won another auction. I wasn’t nearly as thrilled this time. Having caught a virus the germ magnets at Nikolai’s school had passed around… I was feeling less than chipper.
The idea of sorting through boxes with an aching head and a slight fever made me want to stay home. Yet I didn’t want to spend the weekend without my favorite people next to me. I figured Rob could use the company but he probably should have left without me because my moodiness made me an insufferable companion.
The metal door on what should have been a small 5×15 unit shook as it rolled upwards and tucked out of the way. It was so well organized that I could hardly believe it. We rarely get lucky on something we bid under twenty dollars for. Yet every inch from floor to ceiling was stacked with beautifully labeled plastic totes.
Hardly ever does the contents of a box match what’s written on the outside. Yet the more things we opened, the easier our job seemed to be. It felt as if we might make light work of a typically long afternoon. Rob even joked about being finished before dinner.
There is a reason why doctors and police officers keep the phrase “It’s a quiet night” off their lips. Thirty Six years of life has taught me to never antagonize the universe by joking or making plans of my own. Five hours into digging through boxes and arranging donation piles, what started out as a straight forward storage unit owned by a large family became disturbing by the second. I should have known.
Tucked away inside a box of Christmas decor was a book of spells and an introduction to witchcraft. A jewelry box with a stunning 18K diamond and sapphire ring also contained multiple pill bottles. People like to hide valuables in silly places. It wouldn’t be the first time I found something lovely inside a pill bottle. A couple years ago a moving love letter fell into my open palm. My curiosity over-riding my better judgment left me opening the child lock to take a peak inside. This time… what fell out was human teeth.
A curse had been written in permanent marker on a glass mirror and in almost every box from that moment on, we found an unlimited amount of teeth. Some had fillings in them, many were molars, a few were of baby teeth, and some looked to be perfectly healthy of every shape and size imaginable. Books about evil, forcing someone to love you, and advice on the best methods to connect with the spirit world were beginning to stack up. The deeper we dove, the more sinister this unit became.
A bundle of half burned sage was tucked inside a tote with tea candles and a box of ashes. My knowledgeable friend Heather informed me that Salvia (a type of mint) is the typical variety people use to cleanse something of evil spirits. It also happens to be a mildly addictive hallucinogenic that can cause migraines and various other symptoms (such as hearing voices and seeing things). It’s been used medicinally for a number of years but it’s against recommendation to burn sage inside a building that isn’t ventilated.
A zombie and a witch walk into a storage unit feels as if there’s a joke hidden in there somewhere. Sometimes life is more bizarre than anything we could come up with. Human beings are the scariest mysteries of all.