The real estate agent tells her to reconsider. She says she has some truly amazing houses to show before she makes a decision. But I’m watching Evelyn not listen to her, and I see how she looks at the place with that little half smile of hers, that twitch of the finest lines around her mouth, wrinkling and smoothing over in an instant, and I know that nothing is going to dissuade her from purchasing this shitty, dilapidated house.
Friends and family make their appeals. She tells them I know I’ve heard the rumors, that’s all they are, rumors raised from nothing, created for the sake of gossip and for scaring naive outsiders, do people talk of nothing else in this shitty little hick town.
I only want what Evelyn wants, it’s been so long since she's wanted anything. I think she'll finally be able to start over here, maybe this will make her forget and live. But people keep telling her things she doesn't want to hear and they all sounded like variations of a theme, so finally she stops answering calls altogether.
I’m worried about the amount of work needed to make this thing halfway livable and Evelyn looks so wan and lost all the time. Here she is alone with this monster derelict house and each day is spring cleaning and after that there is still more work to be done.
Evelyn works sunup until she collapses in bed at night.
I'm sick of these halfway places, she says to no one.
Evelyn, pretty Evelyn, I’ll never forget the day I ran after you in the rain, barefoot in the park, with Caleb just beginning to jut out of your stomach, and I was running after you yelling for you to stop, scared but laughing because you were laughing and you were beautiful in the rain with your hair dripping down your face, you were so goddamned beautiful, it hurt to look at you.
Now you walk around tired and quiet, with those sunken hungry eyes.
When was the last time you laughed?
Slowly the house becomes whole again. She polishes until every surface gleams, she puts in new windows, paints, organizes, reassembles. Her room upstairs overlooks the garden and pond in the back of the house.
There are things here, hidden in the silence, that I don’t like to think about. And the force that drives Evelyn to fix this place—that scares me even more.
Caleb was two years old. He was the perfect baby, quiet and uncomplaining. We worried that he was sleeping too much, too often and too deeply, and not eating enough. We were good at fretting—everything seemed like a potential disaster.
You brought us here with you, didn’t you, I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to shake her, grip her by the shoulder so hard that she could feel my nails digging in her skin. You disturbed our baby's rest, how could you do it, Caleb just two years old and a barely visible lump underneath the blankets. You dug us up, God knows how you did it, you had to work with my decomposing weight and Caleb like a limp doll tucked under your arm. (They told you to cremate and you said no). Caleb he loved the color blue, he loved entwining his tiny perfect hands in his mother’s hair and pulling, he loved to sleep. A deep sleep, almost impossible to wake up.
Sometimes at night after another exhausting day, I’ll keep watch over my wife’s sleeping form. She curls up in a fetal position with her hands protecting her stomach.
Evelyn, I heard a laugh I swear I heard it, last night it came from downstairs. I couldn’t tell where it could have come from, or if it were male or female or even human, but I know I’ve never heard it before, and you were asleep. And sometimes in that area she calls the living room, there’s voices and footfalls, the swish of clothing, things clattering to the floor.
Sometimes I hear her singing around the house. Once, I heard her laugh and that sound broke around the house, and all throughout it, and the silence was quieter afterwards.
She doesn't eat. Her sunken little face and the bruised sockets, the limp wrists, and sharp edges of her hip and ribs—I can't take it.
She is fading into the house. I'm helpless. She no longer has eyes I can recognize, those aren’t the hands I loved and held and promised to protect throughout life, death, world without end. She teeters up and down the halls, in and out of rooms. I hear her talk to things I can't see. She leaves me; she goes where I can’t follow. She’s so thin and translucent, sunlight streaming from the windows looks strong enough to hurt her, to melt her away. She floats on drafts throughout the house, and mirrors hide her passing.
The voices are so beautiful she says and I didn’t believe her but I see now. The whole house swells with their presence, with colors bursting and small ripples of light extending, and they are calling where are you and I say here I am here I am here—and they welcome me with voices raised and over the singing and the echoes of ringing colors I hear the voices of so many loved ones, I see Evelyn and she is holding in her arms our son and they are coming for me
You plead to me, you plead to me
muted tones and unheard words
intimately, profanely, silently
trumpet of declaration wails
invisible train passes through station
See him, hear him, know he’s still here
the ghost of O’Sullivan
no tales from dead men
rats gnawing on feet
fleeting apparitions lost
Leaving no shadow, snaking between worlds
watching life past from hidden shelf
soul passing through walls to other side
O’Sullivan arose and stood by my side
“I have done my time and must depart”
Piercing eyes begin to fade from view
squinting in the fog of time
empty buckets, nothing inside
for a decade, he’s been dead
still I hear his step in my heartbeat.
The Final Loop
Look with dread upon the scene.
Your earthly meanderings and bitterness did little to appease your hungry soul. It longed for warmth and human contact, but instead you fed it gold and silver.
Yes, this is the night it ended. You had just had dinner, remember?
A warm spot of soup, and a thick slice of bread. A fitting last meal for a man with no love in his heart. You even went out of your way to find something to complain about, in order to feel no remorse for not giving the poor serving girl a tip.
See? Here you are turning the corner onto your street. Too stingy to hire a houseboy or maid, so no one was around to light your porch lamp. The shadows are rather ominous, aren’t they?
There! That shadow! It is your murderer.
He watched you as you opened your purse at the inn, and saw that you carried shiny coins, the only thing you valued in the world. Witness the dawning fear in your eyes as he grabs you and pulls you deeper into shadow.
Does it hurt?
The knife that he uses is rusted and dull, and the gashes in your flesh are ragged. Time slows to a crawl as he plunges the rough ice-cold metal into your flesh, over and over again. Can you feel your lifeblood flow over your chest, and grow colder with each contraction of your miserly heart?
Little did you know that by living your life with no mercy for others, you sealed your own fate for eternity.
Hell isn’t fire and brimstone. It is repetition... and now we begin again...
Look with dread upon the scene.
(c) 2017 - dustygrein
** I sometimes wonder if the ghost isn't the true victim in the end...
Heather and I are friends. She likes to ignore me a lot, but that's okay. I play jokes on her to get her back. I don't think Heather likes my jokes very much. She always looks real worried when she finds them out.
But we play games together! Like tag or hide and go seek! Heather isn't very good at finding me, but she's a real fast runner in tag.
I try to play other games with her, like blocks or kick ball, but she never seems to like those.
Lately, Heather doesn't come upstairs very often to play with me. When she does, her parents are with her. They look in her closet and under the bed. But we're not playing hide and seek, so I don't know why they do that.
Heather goes to school everyday, and things are quite boring while she's gone.
Why don't I go to school? Well, I don't want to, so, I don't.
Anyway, while Heather is gone, I like to play with her toys. She has some really nice toys, Heather does. She has porcelain dolls and houses for them, and she has plenty of jacks- they're probably my favorite, and she has lots of pretty hats, but I don't think those are toys.
Heather's parents buy her lots of things. I think that's because they know she gets worried real easy, so they buy her toys to make her happy.
I know she gets worried real easy 'cause she always looks worried while we're playing.
Today, Heather came home and when she saw me playing, she started crying. I didn't want her to cry, so I tried to make her laugh with one of her dolls. Heather saw and started crying more.
"Get out!" she yelled. "Leave me alone!"
Get out? I wasn't going to leave, not when my friend was upset.
"Go away! Leave!"
I was not going to leave. No. No! This is my house!
Heather's parents came in because of all of the yelling, but I didn't care.
I was mad. Heather was telling me to leave my house! My home! Anyone can look at the rock next to the house; it has my name! My parents dedicated it to me when I died in 1837!
Time doesn't work the way it did when I was alive. The moment I'm not paying attention, days will slide by. Sometimes I have to find a newspaper or calendar to know how much life has passed since I left the physical world. Even then, I can't always decipher the letters and numbers. It's like trying to read something inside a dream. I get an impression of what I'm looking at, but if I try to focus too much on a word or character, it eludes me.
Time, space, observation, even memory--these are concepts for physical, temporal beings. I am losing the skill to keep track of them. Being dead is like suffering a steadily worsening case of dementia.
The living carry these ideas about ghosts, hazy shadows drifting spookily through graveyards, perhaps trying to deal with some "unfinished business". It is true I am at the cemetery often, lingering at the plot where my spoiled meat was buried, but only because, when someone comes to visit my stone, they sometimes talk to me. In those moments, I can almost feel alive again.
The voice of my wife, a soft breeze through tall grasses. She always whispers when she visits my grave. She's embarrassed because she knows she might just be talking to a stone. Will it ever be possible for me to communicate to her that I'm listening?
She bends down to set a colourful spray of flowers at the base of the headstone.
"Your birthday came and went. Nan and I wondered if we should mark it in some way. We decided it would be too irreverent to have a party of some sort. Even a solemn gathering to remember you would just be too much. Like your funeral all over again. The only day worse than that was the day I got that call from the police."
I try to see her face clearly. I know she has begun to cry. I don't see her so much as I exist in her vicinity. I can make out the vague glint of tears on her cheeks, now and then.
I never know how to feel when someone cries over me. I don't want my loved ones to keep suffering, but to know I'm missed gives my existence some meaning. It assures me I was a positive force in someone's life, and therefore the too brief time I spent in my body couldn't have been a waste.
"I don't know if it's ever going to stop hurting."
Her soft voice. A bird's wings. I loved her.
"Baby... why were you taken from me? I keep trying to find the answer to that. None of it makes sense. But I know that answers aren't going to bring you back. People tell me I need to start trying to move forward... but I'm stuck. I'm in limbo."
You and me both, my love.
We are at home again. As always, I can't know how much time has passed. In the space of a blink, things leap ahead. Or perhaps they leap backward. I can't be sure time is even linear now.
My wife stands at a closed door. I can't remember which room it is. It isn't our bedroom, and I can't see inside. A study, perhaps. The place I settled down to do my reading and writing. Yes, I remember work was often an overwhelming pressure, and I often took work home with me. I needed a quiet place to get my work done. She remembers the nights I spent doing that instead of enjoying her as I ought to have been. Seeing her standing there at that door, never opening it, I have so many regrets.
She cries again as she tries to sleep. My half of the bed is empty, without even a pillow. Everything of mine has been removed. It was too much for her to bear. She remains trapped between trying to erase me from her life and trying to hold onto me. Stuck in limbo.
I cannot tell the time, but it's no longer night. She is sitting in numb silence with a cup of tea when they come to the door.
They--who are they? Youths--thirteen, maybe fourteen years old. I try to see their faces, to look for something familiar.
After quiet conversation with my wife, they ascend the stairs in reverent single file. She stands at the bottom landing, watching them, and then turns her back. They're going to that room with the closed door, and she cannot watch. I follow them instead of her, wanting to see, wanting to remember.
I know these kids. I think they have been to my grave. Why?
The room is not a study. It's a bedroom, decorated in pink and turquoise, stuffed animals, pop stars, fairy lights that haven't been plugged in for many months.
Two of the girls are crying now, hugging each other. A third gazes at photos tacked to the wall above a small desk.
"Angie," she whimpers, pulling down one of the photos.
Angie--that was my daughter's name. I had a daughter.
I can finally see. There is my daughter's face in the photos, smiling, carefree, posing with her friends.
One of the kids sets down an open folder on the desk. On top is a newspaper article. The words are so large and bold, I can actually read them:
SMALL TOWN TRAGEDY
DRUNK DRIVER AND DAUGHTER, 13,
KILLED IN HORRIFIC CRASH
I have seen this before. Every now and then, it comes back to me.
"Baby... why were you taken from me?"
My wife's voice, delicate as milkweed.
It was never my grave.
The Hotel Chelsea
Things are changing, and Nancy is restless.
She misses the old days, and she tells me so. We pass the time reminiscing while the landlord removes art from the walls. This hotel used to be colorful and vibrant in a slow-paced, Bohemian sort of way. It was the artistic heart of the city, a place where the broken and misunderstood were given a chance at survival without question or judgement.
Nancy and I used to live down the hall from one another. I would hole up in room 113 with two other girls, turning tricks for a few bucks, earning just enough to buy heroin from my supplier. When Nancy needed a hit, she’d come and see me. We would get high together, and it was in those moments we bonded behind a hazy curtain of carefree indifference.
Nancy and I weren’t always friends. This place, and our common interests, threw us together. You know...time and circumstance. She shared glimpses of her childhood with me; not at all intimate, but rather fragmented and disturbing shards of an incomplete puzzle. Words like suicide and schizophrenia peppered her conversations. She never asked me about my childhood, which was fine; I wouldn’t have been strong enough to relive the abuse my father put me through.
Nancy didn’t have to turn tricks to make money. Her boyfriend was famous, or at least he had been. They had enough money to live on, and party on, for a while. But when things got tight, they stole everything from food to drugs. She told her story like it was no big deal. It’s just the way things were.
She says she still runs into her boyfriend now and again. Every time I question Nancy about him, she immediately gets defensive. He’s harmless, she says dismissively with a wave of her hand, as if brushing away a thought she doesn’t want to be weighed down by.
Nancy’s agitated state has become more pronounced recently. She wanders the halls aimlessly, passing the time without direction or destination. It’s as if she’s trying to find her way through a dense fog, frustrated. She’s looking for something; she knows it’s right there in front of her, and she can’t see it...
And then it dawns on me.
We stroll through the hotel lobby, and I say to her, “You know, Nancy, it wasn’t Sid.”
Her head snaps in my direction, her eyes wide and focused, like someone has just stuck smelling salts under her nose. She accidentally bumps into a chair, and the few people in the lobby are startled by the action.
“What do you mean?” she asks me.
“Sid was falsely accused. It was an accident,” I reply.
Now Nancy is studying me, like I’m speaking in some sort of alien tongue.
“You don’t remember anything, do you,” I say.
She drops her head and stays like that for a moment, staring at the linoleum floor.
“I was so messed up that night, everything is still a blur.”
“Well, I wasn’t.”
Nancy lifts her head and is staring at me again, waiting to hear what I have to say.
“I came to see you that night. I knocked on the door and no one answered. It was unlocked, so I walked in. Sid was completely passed out on the bed, drunk I figured. As I called your name, I heard a noise from the bathroom.”
Nancy’s eyes got even wider, as if this was the first time she was hearing this story, her own story.
“I had just gotten some cocaine from a friend. I had the baggie and a knife in my hand when I found you leaning over the sink, already high as a kite. You turned around and lunged at me, trying to grab the baggie. I told you to stop, but you wouldn’t listen. You practically threw yourself at me, and onto my knife.”
As Nancy listened, I could tell it was all new to her. A mixture of sadness and relief seemed to envelop her, washing away any sense of doubt. Closure was the only gift I had left to give.
Nancy looked at me, nodded her head, and smiled. Without another word, she headed over to the lobby entrance and drifted through the wall.
She was finally free.
Not what ya tink it be...
″ They say dead men tell no tales" he mutters in a deep weathered accent, as he lifts himself out of the old wooden chair. He rum walks to the window on the port stern of his tattered old ship. Pushing open the window he turns back at you, resting his back against the sil. ” Tad old sayin be fer da fools not yet met old Hob, or worst ta dark abyss dat neva let ya see light of day” his voice pained as he returns to look out over the sea. "What ya see before ya, me ship, sails, keel every ting dat let a man be free."Lowering his head, his face fades underneath
his large black leather tricorn hat with a sleek silver feather falling to the back. A red glow begins to illuminate from his face behind the hat. You close your eyes, hoping when you open them you’ll be gone. He whips your head back against the chair, your eyes bursting open to see him inches from your face, his eyes burning with blood red fire. His voice rattles you with a demonic roar, " m I borin ya der ya bilge rat? den we shall make damn sure ye eyes be opened now.” Suddenly your both on the deck, his hands on the wheel, you frozen in your place. A blinding orange light radiates from under the ship, as you feel the ship plunge into weightless free fall. You try to scream, releasing your lips but not a sound is heard. Instead you hear him hooting and hollering, like a cowboy in the west. Whipping around his head towards he’s beside you in a flash. Putting an arm around you his eyes still burning. " I know yer tots, I be tryin to tell ya dat dis ship may have all it need. Ya tink tis me dat be bound by to da ship?” He bellows the laugh of a hundred men " Dis ship be bound to me.....jus like da souls I bring aboard” His hand erupts in size and wraps around your chest ripping you from where you stood. Yanking you in the air he screeches in a deafening yell "Your life be gone and your soul be mine” Slamming your body to the deck, you awake to a thunderous boom, and a clash of lighting flashing through your bedroom window from the storm outside. Gasping for air, feeling around to be sure your home safe in your bed. Looking up at your tv it’s a static white fuzz, (Dead men tell no tales) Gasping you ponder if it was a dream; chuckling into a laugh cause you nodded off to the Pirates marathon playing on the screen.
In the Sweat of the Night
I am the ghost
The one that
Haunts you every day
And every night
That lies in the layers
Between sleep and wakefulness
Between wakefulness and reality
Ready to pounce
The moment you drift off
The moment you wake up
Torturing your dreams
And your every waking thought
'Til you wake up bathed
In the sweat of fear
Or go mad
In the light of day
I was there and saw
What you did
The drinks in the bar
One following the other
To drown the sorrows
Of your fractious marriage
One following the other
To avoid the inevitable trip
To the place you still
Had to call home
Because you did not have
To fix what was broken
Or to leave
And let the wounds heal
The girl was three
Still cherubic with baby fat
Her blond hair in soft curls
Around a heart-shaped face
Strapped in to a carseat
In the back of the van
The mother was young
With intense green eyes
The bulge in her belly
Pushing against the fabric
Of her sweatshirt
And yoga pants
Wondering what she would serve
For dinner that night
You met at the intersection
Of 4th Street and Main
There was a traffic light
Which gave her the green to go
And you the red to stop
But your head was still stuck
In the last bottle you drank
And you did not give the
To the world around you
You plowed through
At 25 miles above
The posted limit
T-boned the van
And crashed its other side
Into a telephone pole
On the corner
Your airbag deployed
And when the police arrived
They found you the sole survivor
Though you had no idea even
Of what had occurred
But in the brief moment
Where the mother cried out
And the girl screamed in fear
I was born
A single ghost
To represent all three
Of those lost that night
My purpose will be
Even when you leave prison
You will never be free
I will be with you
At your side
In your head
In your fears
Every moment of
And twice as fierce
In the shadows
Of the night
You will carry me
To the grave
And far, far beyond
#ghoststory #challenge #fear #drunkdriver
That's my body there. Right there. Submerged in the overflowing bathtub. Pills stuck in my throat. Toaster floating aimlessly into my breasts.
My parents aren't home yet, but they'll see me. Somehow in a different way than I'm seeing myself. And it's strange because I'm having a literally outer-body experience. Standing over what was me in this new me. One that I can't touch or feel.
From this perspective, I can't help but to think how pretty I am. I like the way my hair flows in the water, intertwined with dissolving bubbles. And my legs are so relaxed, no hair on them. Naked and alone.
When I said I wanted this, I really did. But now I think that I don't.
I reach out and run my fingers across my face. Even when dead, my corpse erupts in goosebumps that I can't understand. Then I force my hand through the corpse, but it just sits there, still in it's own suicide. I want to be sucked back inside of the empty shell, but I'm not.
I want to cry. I feel like crying, but there's no tears streaming down my now-face. My heartless one. It hurts because, staring at my prone and exposed shell, I realize that I just gave up so much. The world. My family. My friends. Myself. Everything that I held dear is gone and I can't go back.
"Dead men tell no tales."
What about us women?
Have you forgotten about us?
I don't think so.
It doesn't work
Like it used to
I float through
Walls, aimlessly wandering
Waiting, for someone
To acknowledge my
Pain and suffering
I had just turned 16
It was a blazingly hot summer
We were at the lake
It was a large lake, mind you,
But I don't think
That necessarily pardons
My family for not
I was grabbed
My eyes covered
My mouth gagged
"Try anything and you get thrown in the lake."
What was I supposed to do?
I thrashed madly
I attempted to scream
One of them
Where it hurts
"That's it. To the lake."
A weight was secured around
I was tossed
Into the lake
My family, they never found
So, I stay
Haunting, if you will
Dead men tell no tales,
But dead women surely do.