There was nothing quite like skating the frozen pond near Turnkey’s farm. Once winter hit, and the pond—which acted as a habitat for various creatures during the spring—froze over, it became the ideal spot for kids and adults alike to come and skate, build snowmen, or just enjoy the falling snow.
Melissa Robinson loved to ice skate on Turnkey’s Pond. Loved it since she was five. Loved it now, in her late twenties. The cold wind on her face, the slippery ice under her feet, she was able to get lost in the act of twirling and spinning and sliding across the surface of the pond. There was something mystical about ice skating, about the way one was able to perform a variety of various acrobatics on a thin sheet of frozen water while the snow fell, and children laughed and played all around her.
Every winter, Saturdays were skating days. At 4pm, people would meander from their homes around Parks, Shushtak, to the pond area just a half mile from Turnkey’s farm. Ms. Horesworth brought piping hot chocolate, Mrs. Northwood brought fresh-baked pumpkin bread, and Mr. Northwood brought his tractor and trailer, full of hay, to give the kids hayrides throughout the dense brush area surrounding the pond.
Each week, the event drew in almost the whole town of Parks. Each week, hundreds gathered around Turnkey’s pond and celebrated life, and their fellowship with one another.
The event lasted two hours. Exact. At 6pm, before the sun began its quick decline toward the horizon, everyone would gather up their belongings, kids, and pets, and leave Turnkey’s property to head back home, where safety and warmth waited for them.
Melissa hated when 6pm came around. It was usually when she was just getting into her skating routines, or engaging in enlightening conversation with a fellow townsperson. Besides that, she really had nobody to go home to. She had remained single for most of her life—aside from a brief stint with Harper, who broke her heart by cheating with not one, but two other women. Heading back to a vacant flat after having spent two hours conversing with so many people drew a burden of loneliness upon Melissa’s heart, one not easily shaken.
The alternative, however, was to be eaten by the darkness.
It was a well-known—yet never spoken of—fact that Turnkey’s farmhouse was haunted. Once darkness fell, every light on Turnkey’s property shut off—including the ones he had installed around the pond. No rhyme or reason. Yet in the morning, once the sun rose, the lights flickered back on and normalcy seemed to reside once again in the old wooden farmhouse.
Robert Turnkey died decades earlier during the summer harvest after his migrant farm worker accidentally put the tractor in reverse when Turnkey was standing behind it. It’s said the man who killed Turnkey took his life in the same field, though his body has never been found. Whereas, Turnkey’s body was buried several miles from the farmhouse, in the same makeshift private graveyard his wife was buried in decades earlier.
Melissa has no idea why the lights on Turnkey’s property go out. Nobody seems to know. The doors to Turnkey’s property are always locked, the windows sealed shut—with the drapes closed over them. Nobody can see into the farmhouse, nor access it. Officer Stanton has tried on numerous occasions to investigate the property after the 6pm mark, once the lights have gone out, but claims the darkness surrounding the property is too thick, making it hard to breathe and hard to navigate the forty-five acre lot, even with flashlights and floodlights.
Nobody can confirm if the house is abandoned or not. When the subject of breaking into the home to put an end to this mystery is offered, Officer Stanton always vehemently argues that nobody should tamper with the house or anything within it, because it would constitute as breaking the law. As long as Melissa has known Officer Stanton—which she has since their childhood—she’s known him to be a stickler for the law.
Of course, the law isn’t the only thing stopping people from digging further into the superstition. Delinquents have tried on numerous occasions to break into the house. But the darkness chases them away during the night, and a mystical force solidifies the doors and windows during the day, making them impossible to tamper with.
When she was a teenager, Melissa wondered why a whole town would celebrate winter at a frozen pond on the same property this horrific and uncanny story unfolded. Then she realized Turnkey was the most upstanding citizen in Parks, and that most of the residents in Parks believed his memory needed to be celebrated through community fellowship. Even though the lights turned off at 6pm each night, there was no evidence of ghosts or foul play or anything sinister. Just lights. On and off.
For Melissa, attending the celebration at Turnkey’s Pond was just something she did because the rest of the town did it—and she loved to ice skate. She had no desire to go near Turnkey’s house—let alone his property—but the pond called to her each and every winter, and she answered that call by ice skating and mingling.
It was the last day of winter, after the final gathering of the year at Turnkey’s Pond, when Melissa fell through the ice.
It was the last day of winter, after Melissa fell through the ice, that the front door to Turnkey’s house opened.
It was the last day of winter, when Turnkey’s door opened, that Melissa faced a darkness she had only experienced in her lonely nightmares…