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The O’Sullivan Farm

old family photos covering a table

Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.

I, Keenan Theodore O’Sullivan V, am writing this to shed light on why I am about to do what I am about to do.  By the time you find this, it will be too late for spoken words. Unfortunately these written words will have to suffice and I need you to pass my reasons on to my parents. I wish I could say I am sorry for doing this, I know it will only cause more pain for some, but I am not. No one deserves my fate more than I do and I doubt there are many people out there who will disagree with me on that.

I have been sitting in this jail cell for three months now and in that time my head has cleared enough for me to realize just exactly what it is that I have done. I know that I am taking the easy way out and that I deserve to rot in a cell for the rest of what no doubt would be a long and miserable life, but the truth is I just can’t live with myself anymore. If I could live with what I’ve done, then I would be a true psychopath and I’m not.  I’m just not.

You could probably care less about my background, but for the purpose of prolonging the inevitable I am going to tell you. I was born and raised on a fairly successful wheat farm. And when I say successful I mean we were able to sustain a living and support ourselves entirely on the profits from the farm. We could also afford some of the finer things in life; I never really knew what it was like to be truly miserable. That is, until now.

Our farmhouse was a seven bedroom Victorian that my great-great grandfather built in 1891. I was immensely proud of that house, but at the same time I was deathly afraid of it. The portraits of our long deceased ancestors, dating all the way back to those who lived on the shores of Ireland, peppered the walls of most of the rooms in our house. As a child I always imagined that the eyes in those portraits were watching every move I made. I was always on my best behavior when walking down the hallways because I had it in my head that my great grandfathers would climb down from their nails to punish me in some terrible and ghostly way if I stepped one toe out of line. I would like to say that my anxiety over this had diminished as I grew older but I’m not entirely sure that is the truth, especially in light of recent events.

The majority of the portraits were decisively male, for I am from a long line of only sons. My grandfather was the only son of an only son, my father had no siblings and neither did I. Being as there were only my mother, father, and I in the house as I grew up, four of the seven bedrooms were completely void of life. To be specific, the only items that filled those rooms were the old black and white portraits of my ancient family members and some decorative furniture to keep up appearances. And like I said before, those pictures terrified me. No matter what I did, I could never escape their stares.  I avoided the lifeless rooms as much as possible, but to my despair, my grandfather who passed away a number of years ago was obsessed with tracing our family history back as far as he possibly could to the shores of Ireland. Needless to say, there were plenty of portraits to go around and there was no escaping every single one of them. My father didn’t have the heart to take them down after grandpa died, so on the walls they remained.

~*~

Years later my father passed the farm on to me when he and my mom decided they wanted to retire. My parents had me in their late thirties so I got the farm at fairly young age. When I was twenty-nine, I met my wife at the county fair. She was a beautiful young thing of only twenty-two at the time but despite the age difference, I fell in love with her the moment I laid eyes on her. I had always been the quite type but I surprised myself by walking right up to her and asking her to see a movie with me the following night. Within six months we were engaged, and six months later we were married on the first anniversary of the day we met.

Nine months later our baby came and she shocked us all. That’s right, I said she, a little girl we named Ashling. Ashling is an old Irish name meaning “a vision” or “a dream.” We picked that name because we never dreamed we would have a girl, she was supposed to be a boy. We had no family traditions for female names because, well, there were usually no females born into the family. All the females married into our family therefore their names were rarely, if ever, repeated.

When my father and mother moved to Florida the next year, there were again only three of us in the enormous house. Everything was wonderful the first three years of Ashling’s life; she grew up, as any normal child should. She passed all the milestones with flying colors. She was walking by nine months and speaking comprehensible phrases by a year and a half. Life was perfect and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

~*~

I stated before that our farm was a wheat farm and as I said we did well by it, having contracts with three major bread companies in the United States and some smaller local contracts. Like most large farms we used pesticides. We had to. One year we did a beta test on a section of our crop to see how much of it would survive without using pesticides. Ten percent, that is how much of the crop survived in the beta section of our field. Could you imagine what would have happened to us if we had tried that with our entire crop? We would have lost our shirts and then some.

Looking back now, I kind of wish we would have.

About a year ago a friend called me and asked me to b a guinea pig for a new strain of pesticide he and his colleagues had developed in the agricultural department at the state university. He had received his Ph.D. in agricultural sciences a couple years ago and had since dedicated his life to making more environmentally friendly pesticides. I normally didn’t accept his tests but he was particularly excited about this one, claiming that it would “revolutionize the world of crop growing.” Also, I wanted a few extra dollars to buy my wife a new SUV for Christmas. So I agreed.

When I got home from my meeting with him, I told my wife about the plan. She didn’t seem too fond of the idea but I assured her that my friend said it was perfectly safe. The chemicals had been tested and no serious side effects had been found in many test subjects. She finally agreed after I insisted that we only test it on our household crops and not on our commercial crop. Just in case some side effects did pop up, we really didn’t need a lawsuit on our hands.

We tried it for a few days and everything seemed to be normal, we used the grain in all of our household bread. We O’Sullivans had been making our own bread for decades; to be honest I never had to buy a loaf of bread in my life while at home. My wife even got into making her own yeast free bread after we were married. My wife had been allergic to yeast her entire life and we discovered early on that she had passed that trait on to Ashling. So they stayed away from the regular bread and bread making. That allergy was either their blessing or their curse. I guess I will leave that up for you to decide.

Like I said, the first few days of the pesticide testing were as normal as ever. However, after about a week or so I started to feel a little strange so I decided to go to the doctor. He said that it was just a nasty case of the stomach flu and insisted that I take some much-needed rest. I ate more bread in one week than I think I had in an entire three-month span. I was throwing up left and right and the bread soaked up the bile and helped to relieve the dry heaves. Bread was my one relief, so I kept eating.

After a few days of throwing up everything I ate and being totally worthless, I started to hear strange noises in the house during the night; a creek here, a crack there, and so on. Now, I understand that it is completely normal for a hundred plus year old house to have creeks and cracks but I swear to you these noises were always, and I do mean always, accompanied by voices.

~*~

One of the voices I recognized as my late grandfather’s, the rest were unfamiliar Irish brogues whispering away like they had some profound secret they were dying to reveal. Most of the time the voices came from the empty rooms with all the pictures and sometimes they came from the hallways, my grandfather’s voice always came from the parlor where his portrait hung above the mantel. I tried to ignore them because I didn’t want anyone to think I was going insane. And I also had myself convinced that I was just loopy from being dehydrated from all the vomiting.

After about a week, the voices grew so loud that I could no longer ignore them so I got up to see if I could find out exactly what it was that I was hearing. As soon as I opened the door to the hallway there was a collective “Shush!!” and the voices stopped. That freaked me out a bit so I went to the parlor to visit my grandfather’s portrait, doing so had always given me comfort in the past. His portrait looked the same as always; nothing had changed so I started talking to him like I always had. My grandfather and I had always been close and I often confided in his portrait after he died when I felt I had no one else to talk to. This night I asked him if I were going crazy… he said no.

He answered back! And he said no! Normally I would be extremely concerned that a picture was talking to me but for some reason, in that moment, I thought it was perfectly acceptable. From then on, I went back every night and had long conversations with my grandfather’s portrait. Eventually the pictures in the hallway stopped going quiet when I walked by in the middle of the night and would sometimes even greet me as I passed by and in time I began to talk to them as well.

It got to the point where I was only sleeping about two hours every night. I would stay in bed long enough to make sure my wife was asleep then I would leave our room to go speak with my ancestors. I would then make sure I was back to bed in time so my wife would never know that I had been gone most of the night.

One night I stopped to talk to a different portrait, my great-great grandfather Keenan O’Sullivan I; he mentioned that my family wasn’t normal and didn’t follow the bloodline of the O’Sullivan clan properly. I asked him what he meant by that and he said that the O’Sullivan’s did not have girls, we were a long line of only sons and something wasn’t right now that the line had been disrupted with a daughter.

He insisted that it was my wife’s fault. Something in her had upset the flow of our family line and she had to be done away with. He told me that it could be done in any way I saw fit but it did have to be done, and done soon. I immediately became enraged at his comments and I tried to rip his portrait from the wall and throw it into the fire but it wouldn’t budge. I ripped frantically at the wall for a few minutes but eventually had to give up and I went back to bed without speaking another word to him.

After that encounter I didn’t leave my room again at night for nearly two weeks. But the longer I stayed away the louder the voices grew and I could again no longer get the little bit of sleep I had been. Eventually I regained my old schedule and started to go out and talk to the portraits again. However, I avoided my great-great grandfather’s portrait every time. I started by talking only to my grandpa again, I told him what Keenan I had said and commented on how ridiculous it was. To my horror my grandfather agreed with him. I asked him how he could say such a thing and the only answer he would ever give was, “That is how it has to be.” He told me to just sit and wait and I would eventually see that my wife wasn’t the woman I thought she was and that I would make the right decision in time.

I couldn’t believe a word he was saying, I didn’t want to. My wife loved me. I knew she did and I knew she would never betray me. I knew this and yet my suspicions against her grew. My eyes would narrow every time I saw her talking to another man, even if it were just her brother or cousin. Every time I saw her answer a text I would make up an excuse to look at her phone so I could check to see who she was texting. Every time I saw her put on a new shade of lipstick I was convinced that she was trying a new color just to impress another man because why would she need to impress me with new makeup? I tried to ignore my lingering suspicions but they kept eating away at me and I could feel them building up inside me just waiting to burst out in one enormous flood of violence.

~*~

The last night my wife was alive I was sitting in the parlor talking to my grandfather about my mounting suspicions. He replied with his usual response and told me that I knew what I had to do. And deep down I knew that I agreed with him.

A moment later, I heard my wife’s voice behind me asking me who I was talking to. I was so startled that I jumped out the chair in a flash and picked something up in my hand and hid it behind my back. I asked her how long she had been there. She told me that she had been there long enough to know that I needed some serious help and that she wasn’t sure she wanted me around our daughter until I was evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine if my ‘mental state’ was dangerous or not.

I didn’t say a word while she was speaking. I couldn’t believe she was trying to check me into a mental hospital. And to make matters worse my grandfather’s portrait behind me was telling me that he had tried to warn me, here she was turning on me at the first chance she got just like he had said she would. He was saying that the only reason she was trying to get me out of the house was so that she could take over the farm and end the O’Sullivan line. I silently promised him that that would never happen; over my dead body, in fact, would that ever happen. So it had come to this, it was either me or her, and I would be damned if it were me.

Without saying a word I walked up to her and gave her a reassuring hug. I told her that I would go see a psychiatrist if that is what she thought was best. She smiled and told me that she loved me and just wanted me to get better for her and for our little girl.  When I felt her begin to relax in my embrace, I plunged my grandfather’s old hunting knife into her back. She crumpled to the floor in an instant like a discarded towel and I turned to my grandfather and began to laugh hysterically. I didn’t even know I could laugh like that. It was such a strange sound coming from my own body, so I kept laughing and laughing until I heard my grandfather saying something about it not being over yet. I turned around and saw that my wife was no longer lying on the floor. Just a pool of blood remained where she had been lying.

I realized that I hadn’t killed her and took of after her. Enjoying the hunt, I slowly roamed the house poking my head in every empty room and quietly calling her name. She never replied, all I could hear were the muffled whispers coming from my ancestors’ portraits.  After a while the voices of my ancestors began to grow louder and louder, nagging at me to hurry up and finish the job. As a result I started to get agitated and wanted to find her sooner rather than later to get it over with. I began to really follow the blood trail she was leaving behind and I finally found her in the kitchen trying to use the counter to prop herself up. I noticed that the kitchen phone was hanging off the hook but I ignored that and simply walked up to her and plunged the knife into her chest. She looked straight into my eyes and as the life left her body she simply said, “I love you, Keen.”

Her last words were enough to snap me out of my psychotic focus. There she was, my dead wife, lying in my arms, killed by the knife that my grandfather and I had used for hunting since I was a little. My dead wife, killed by my hand. I couldn’t take it; I held her and rocked her back and forth screaming as loud as I could to drown out the fake voices of my painted ancestors. I screamed and screamed and screamed but the voices would not stop. There was only one thing I could think of to stop them. I carried my wife outside and laid her far enough away from the house so she would not be harmed. Ashling was staying with my wife’s sister because I hadn’t been feeling well so I knew I didn’t need to worry about her. I walked out to the barn and grabbed a few cans of tractor gas and drenched the floors and walls of every room in the house leaving a line from each connecting to the front porch. When I was sure I had got every room well enough I walked to the front porch and lit a match.

I heard the sirens in the distances just as the first flame started to climb the walls of the entryway. With tears streaming down my face, I walked over to my wife’s lifeless body and held her until the police bound me with handcuffs and took me away from her forever. As I was driving away in police car I could still hear the screams of my ancestors inside the house as the flames began to silence them forever.

~*~

I went through some pretty medical and psychological tests at the request of my parents and my lawyer in the days and weeks following the death of my wife. It was eventually determined that the trial pesticides that we were using in our home crop produced a chemical reaction when mixed with yeast that lead to psychotic episodes similar to schizophrenia in some test subjects. My wife and daughter did not have these side effects because their bread did not contain yeast. These results should make me feel better, right? I mean, essentially, nothing was my fault.

It didn’t, it was all my fault. I stabbed my wife, I killed her, and I burnt down the house that had been in my family for generations. I cannot even imagine what I would have done had my daughter been in the house that night. She may have suffered the same fate as my wife and I cannot bear that thought for the rest of my life. Knowing what I did to her mother who loved her with everything she had, I cannot face my daughter ever again. I cannot face my family or my wife’s family again the guilt is too much to bare. Against the wishes of my parents and my lawyer who insisted we had a strong case based on insanity, I plead guilty to every count and refused to be bailed out to attend the funeral. Nobody needed me there, it would only cause more pain and I deserved to rot.

I deserve to rot but I can’t live with the guilt any longer. I know that my further actions are going to cause even more pain to my family but I don’t deserve to live. By the time you find this, my sheets will be my judge and jury and my wife will finally have the justice she deserves.

I am sorry, more sorry than you will ever know.

~ Keenan Theodore O’Sullivan V

P.S. Please do not let Ashling read this. Ever! Do not lie to her about who was responsible for her mother’s death and why her father is dead but she does not need to know all the horrible details. Please keep those from her.

~*~

Ashling held the letter she had found in her grandparents’ attic while cleaning out their house after their death. She had been told that her father had killed her mother in a horrific accident when she was a toddler and that he had killed himself as a result shortly after. She had lived in in her grandparent’s house all these years and could not believe that she had never found this letter before now. She now knew why her grandmother would never let her play in the attic and why she even made it seem like it was haunted, apparently to scare her enough to keep her out. Her grandparents moved back home to raise her after her parents died.

She could not believe that they had raised her in the same house that her mother had died in. They had told her that there was a fire there when she was a toddler but the emergency personal had responded in time to save the main structure of the house. The majority of the things that had been destroyed were some old family photographs. Now that she knew the story behind those photographs she couldn’t imagine having to live with them day in and day out. She was glad they had burned.

She still didn’t know what to think about her grandparents and how they had been lying to her for her entire life. They were essentially her parents and she could not believe they would do that. She now felt that she had hardly really known them at all. With tears streaming down her face she finally put the letter her father had written down and looked into the back corner of the attic. As she gazed into the shadows she could barely make out the features of and elderly man wearing a hunting jacket in an old black and white portrait with an ornate wooden frame that looked as if it had once been burned. The name at the bottom of the portrait read… Keenan Theodore O’Sullivan III.