Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Ghost's Story

(Author's Note: A short story in place of an article today. Happy reading!)

Let's start this story with the twist ending: I'm already dead.
I just wanted you to know right off the bat. I don't want to be accused of ripping off another hack writer.

That said, being a ghost isn't all it's cracked up to be. For one, I don't remember anything. I don't remember my family, my home town, my favorite movie. I don't even remember my name. Don't get me wrong, though. I remember movies and pop culture. I remember history, math, and how to read. I guess all the personal stuff doesn't come with you when you go. From what I can gather, I'm a male in my early twenties and I was shot somewhere in the vicinity of my left ear. The only reason I know this is because, at times when the wind is just right, I hear a whistling by there. Being that I have no reflection, I can't check it out for myself. How do I know I'm a guy in my early twenties? Just this feeling I get that I am. Now, I could be a forty year old man that was going through a mid life crisis, but I'd rather think I'm twenty.

You probably know that ghosts can't be seen by the living. I think it has to do with denial. The living simply don't wish to see the dead. They would rather try to get on with their lives. I could be wrong, though. Ghosts might not be in the right spectrum. Ghosts CAN be heard, though only under certain circumstances. In order to be heard, a ghost must be scaring the living daylights out of a person, be it with a scream, a chain rattling, a horrified shriek, any of the like. What you might not know is that ghosts have certain compulsions. In the same way you feel you need to take a shower once a day or eat lunch every day at a certain time, ghosts have a compulsion to haunt. It's not really a choice, it's a necessity. Believe me, I tried not haunting when I first became a ghost. I thought it would be bad taste. As time went on, however, I felt like I was fading out. There was an emptiness in my spirit that I felt had to be filled with rattling chains and whispered groans. The emptiness, after a while, turned into an itch I just couldn't scratch any other way. Then I finally, for no reason, yelled “Boo!” at a little boy walking down the street. He was about 6, playing on some sort of hand held device as he walked along. I couldn't resist and I jumped out in front of him, screaming. He ran away, crying and screaming for his mommy... That's when I felt it. The itch was scratched. The fear compelled me. I knew then: I had to haunt.

When I realized this, I immediately came upon the perfect house. It was two stories, looking fairly old, almost but not quite that urban Gothic type architecture. The lawn was unkempt, burned brown by the sun. There were patches of faded out paint along the front wall of the house. Curtains hung heavily from the windows, giving the impression the inside was as dank as the outside. All in all, it was a ghost's dream home. Wasting no time, I moved right in. At first, I attempted to knock on the door, but I soon realized what a futile effort that would be and just walked on through. The inside was just as dank as you could imagine. Cobwebs covered every bit of furniture, no light seemed to penetrate the dark rooms, and a thick layer of dust covered the ground and shelves. It was perfect, a ghost haunting heaven.

This being the perfect cliché haunted house, it wasn't long before children came along to visit. One would dare the other to spend an hour within my walls and the poor child would gulp and say fine. The kids all look the same to me when they come up to my door: teeth chattering behind a look of false bravery, legs shaking slightly as they pretend to trip on a pebble, eyes wide with fear and wonder. It's all I can do not to spook them before the get to the front door.
There was one boy, however, who I found quite odd. It was only about a three or four months after I had become a ghost. For some strange reason, when he came walking up to my doorstep, he was not afraid. Furthermore, there was nobody on the sidewalk waiting for him. He was coming in of his own free will. Curious, I decided not to open the door for him, as I had all my other guests in order to spook them. He came to the door and, without knocking, walked right in.

He took in the house, looking at the many cobwebs and faded footsteps in the dust. I lurked in the corner of the room, fascinated by this boy. Up close, he looked to be about 10, maybe 11. His eyes seemed searching, looking for something though not seeming to know just what. When he looked in my direction, I, for some strange reason, attempted to hold my breath. I knew he wouldn't be able to see me or hear me unless I was trying to scare him. Yet, I shut my mouth and held very still. Then, he did something I thought impossible: he looked me straight in the eye.

I probably looked like a deer in headlights. I stood stark still, watching the boy. He seemed to blink a little and backed up a step. He kept looking me right in the eye. I was confused, didn't know what to do. So, I just stood there. He then blinked again and move toward me, though only a few steps. He peered through the dark at me and his expression changed from one of fear to one of sadness. Tears dripped down his cheeks and he let out a sob. He wiped his face, mumbled something, and ran away.

That little boy has stuck in my mind for years. There's been hundreds of others, but none who looked at me and certainly none that said what he said. I know that if I slept and could dream, I'd have nightmares about him. That one sentence he said sent chills down my spine. Vague recollections danced at the back of my eyes, but no solid memories would come. Still, I'll never forget that boys sullen declaration, almost an apology. “I shouldn't have been playing with dad's gun.”

(Author's Note: This started off as a silly story. Really, it did. But as I kept writing, I knew there was a direction this story was going to go. As my favorite college professor once said, “Stories mostly seem to want to write themselves.” I grew up in a home with a cop for a father. To this day I have a fear of guns thanks to things he told me. So, forgive me if this tale seems a bit sullen. I promise my next story will be more lighthearted. Also, you'll forgive me if I believe a picture here would take away from the story, so I won't post one. Until next time, I hope you enjoyed.)

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