The house had been there since the early 1800s. Its blue paint was faded from centuries of weather and thick, gnarled vines twisted like snakes along the house. They broke through some windows, but the town didn’t want to put money into fixing the old house. The porch was splintered and the front steps creaked in the slightest wind. The door was swollen shut and hadn’t been opened in at least a century. Branches hung low over the house, casting it in an eternal shadow.
Legend has it that Amelia Betts suffocated her crying baby while singing “Hush Little Baby.” Her caretaker consulted with the doctor and it was decided that Amelia’s two other children be taken away before any harm could come to them. The town has a history of children that sporadically go missing and are never found. People say that if you hear the lullaby, then Amelia Betts will take you as her own.
Sometimes, if you stared long enough at the top left window, you could see a woman cradling a baby…
Izzie was new in town, but easily made friends with the people in her fifth grade class. They were working on a project one day after school when someone suggested they play “Truth or Dare.” Izzie played along, not wanting the other kids to think she was lame and no fun. To make herself seem even cooler, she decided to pick “Dare.” Thomas, her neighbor, dared her to stand on the porch of the Betts House for a full minute. The other children gasped and begged him to change the dare, but he refused.
Thomas’s little sister, Mary, was coloring on the sidewalk with bright chalk. She ran up to Izzie, who had already hopped off the curb, preparing to cross the street. Mary pulled on Izzie’s hand, warning her that the crazy lady would steal her if she went over there.
Izzie pulled her hand out of Mary’s and crossed the street. The air felt much colder and Izzie could hear the house groaning slightly. She shivered and carefully walked onto the porch.
“60…59…58…” she counted under her breath. The porch creaked. “57…56…55…” She felt like someone was watching her.
“54…53…52…” She turned around and waved to her friends. They looked nervous.
“40…39…38…” Something even colder than the air brushed against her arm. Izzie shut her eyes tightly and continued to count in an unsteady voice
“25…24…23…” She heard a baby wailing. Izzie kept her eyes shut and shook her head while rubbing her numb arms.
“Ten…nine…eight…” The crying stopped.
“Seven…six…five…” A woman cried out.
“F-f-four…three…t-two…” Izzie heard a soft voice humming softly. She strained her ears and her heart stopped when she heard the words: “Hush, little baby don’t say a word…”
“One…” Izzie opened her eyes and turned around, looking for her friends. But she couldn’t see them. All she could see was a woman with broken teeth, wild eyes, and a crooked smile. Her clothes were frayed and dirty. Her fingernails were coated with filth. She reached out to Izzie, still singing the lullaby. Izzie let out a cry.
“Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…”
She couldn’t breathe. It felt like she was suffocating.
“They won’t take you like they took my babies. You’re all mine.”