Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Ghost in the Gabled Window

Ghost below the Sunset?
It was becoming a recurrent dream -- what was it, five nights in a row? In it he was asleep and then awoke hearing footsteps in the bedroom upstairs. Not heavy ones, but unmistakably, someone was walking around up there. He lay in bed, listening, following the steps as they moved from the north end to the south, passing directly overhead. He couldn't remember anything else nor was he certain there was anything else to remember. But each time, it was the same. Soft, steady, footsteps, as if someone was walking on tip toe.

Gazing out the window at the fog that looked like an opaque mass of grey cotton candy stretched out over his hayfield, he poured a second cup of coffee and contemplated his dream. "Downstairs is the unconscious," he said to himself, "and upstairs refers to, I don't know, maybe depending too much on reason instead of trusting my intuition?" Yet, he couldn't think of a situation in which that might be true and so he felt baffled.

The rest of the day went by as predictably as his nightly visitation was becoming. He worked on his book, spent some time raking leaves and picking up stray apples -- Black Oxfords he'd recently discovered they were, a winter variety that should be absolutely delicious after a few more weeks in the root cellar. A late supper, reading by the fire, then bed -- with sleep a somewhat less than welcome prospect given the nature of things lately.

The dog had just begun to snore comfortably when he heard the footsteps again -- only this time he was awake and he switched on the light to confirm it. Yes, I'm definitely awake he thought, glancing round the room and placing his hand on the gently rising and falling canine rib cage next to him. And at that instant, the footsteps stopped. He took his hand away and they began again, moving characteristically across the room.

He threw back the bad clothes, slipped on his robe and taking the battery-powered torch he kept in the nightstand, proceeded to climb the stairs, hopefully as quietly as his nighttime intruder pacing the floor. It was an old house by nearly two hundred years, and despite recent remodeling, it creaked and groaned in the wind, and the floor in his study slanted at an odd angle because of shifts in the soil beneath the foundation.

Anticipating a mouse or simply the physics of aging architecture, he nevertheless felt he had to know what or who was about, if for no other reason than to resolve the mystery of his dream. Gripping the brass doorknob with a slightly trembling hand, he pushed the door open and swept the room with light.

It was enough to make Stephen King's hair stand on end and he was certain his was, too. At the gabled window to his left shimmered what he told himself later over a rather large glass of Macallan Scotch, was the faint figure of a woman in what appeared for all the world like a dressing gown and in her arms was an infant. She turned, looking at him with eyes like moonlight, and when she smiled he felt his heart was pierced.

Then she was gone.

Not absolutely sure he trusted his feet to take him downstairs, he leaned against the door jam, then startled like a frightened hare at the presence of his dog on the landing. Chest pounding, he asked "And where the heck have you been?" Smiling, tongue lolling, his tail wagged the obvious, "Sleeping, and why aren't you?"

For good reason, he thought, sipping the Scotch a few minutes later while searching the archives of local history online. Not that he expected to find anything -- she didn't eactly introduce herself. Besides, ghost stories are as plentiful in New England as liars in Congress and despite the testimony of his senses, he was still reticent to admit what he'd seen. And that's when he noticed the calender, and the date. It was the end of October.

Of course.

(Image "Ghost in the Sunset?" by Scott M Duncan via Flickr)

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