Tales


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We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea

The Garden of Prosperine
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Clover Boonan takes the bus to work, she’s taken the same bus..the 477 for the passed ten years. Before that it was called the “S-4” but it was the same route and much like the town of Larkspear it hadn’t changed much in a very long time.

 She tries to sit somewhere in the middle and she listens to tapes she recorded herself; they don’t follow any musical style or artist. They’re just sounds and voices and phrases that the Mortician likes to fill her head with before she turns the key to the Prep Room at the Funeral Home she’s worked at for over 20 years and disappears from the world of the living into the home of the dead. 

When she was about 12 Clover wanted to be a writer, she wanted to write about demons and ghosts and cemeteries and the living dead. She wanted to dress in black and never smile and she wanted to live in one of those old Victorian style Mansions on Basam Hill. 

Then one summer, after she turned 18  her Mother’s friend offered her a job at the Leaning Birches Cemetery in Larkspear.

Had Clover thought it was cool in those days to smile she would have.

Instead she looked up from her book (must’ve been something by Anne Rice…of course) and she shrugged, “Sure.” Was all she’d said from under her heavy black shadowed eyelids. “ I think I’d fit in there.”

 That of course turned out to be so far from the truth it was a joke. 

The  Morticians Clover worked for were two brothers that inherited the Funeral Home from their Father.

Hunter and Calvin liked to sing Elvis and Frank Sinatra Songs while they worked, they attended every single Science Fiction Convention to come to town and they always dressed up as the bad guys from a show called “ Doctor Who” 

“ You know Clover, “ Hunter suggested one day “ you’re looking a little pale around the gills. Why don’t you go out and walk through the Memorial Park? All that sun, all that white marble. That’s put some color on you really fast.” 

“ No thanks” Clover said from the supply cabinet where she was taking inventory. 

“ Hey Clover” Calvin said with no room for debate “ why don’t you go out to the Memorial Park and do some maintenance? Rake up the leaves, clean up the dead flowers. That sort of thing. In fact, you should probably hop to it before you loose the Sun.”

Then Calvin opened a package on his desk and pulled out a little toy space ship that hoped you would live long and prosper when you pushed a little button on its  underside.

He held the toy up to his brother, “ Score.” He said with awe.

 Score. “ Hunter echoed back with reverence.

Clover was odd and pale and wore too much black but in the end she found out it was impossible to be around Hunter and Calvin Larkspear and not end with some color in your life.

It took a few years but Clover made it all the way through Mortuary College, she attended Comic Book Conventions and she even got it into her head that she might start writing some day.Mysteries were her thing now and the only horror books she read anymore were true crime novels.

Over the years she couldn’t read or watch a horror movie with out laughing out loud, so she have them up ages ago.

But when she put her headphones on and took that bus ride to work it was music she thought about. She loved the way the notes went together and the stories the songs told and she loved the voices, those lively colorful voices that wanted to tell you their secrets.This was the world she was in the day the lady in the gray linen shirt dress got on the bus.

The woman dropped some change into the fare box and carefully made her way down the aisle as the bus pulled away from the stop. As she walked towards Clover Boonan, something about the dress yanked out of her day dream of rock stardom and to the little black belt that circled the woman’s dress.

It looked like one that Clover use to own.

The edges of the belt were finished off with purple thread and because of that the belt had been considered flawed and she had bought it for less then dollar.And the dress…that dress looked like one of four shirt dresses her Mother had donated to the Funeral Home last winter. They had a closet full of donated clothes that they dressed  Jane and John Does in. Jane and John Doe were people the County brought to Leaning Birches, which had some years back devoted at least 20 acres of the Cemetery to the surrounding cities less then fortunate citizens to be buried.

Calvin and Hunter had started the “ Closet” because the idea of burying people in sheets and plastic bothered them. “ I’ve buried Gold Fish with more dignity then this, “ Hunter had mumbled one day as he prepared John Doe 21704 for his casket. The next day the brothers brought in some clothes and the closet grew from there.

Clover decided it was nothing, the belt and the dress weren’t unique. But the thought raced around her head all the same, “ no-  they’re not unique but those things are yours Clover. You know it…that’s your Mother’s dress.

The woman took a seat across the aisle from Clover and she smoothed her dress out before she sat down and Clover  just knew the woman was going to look over at her and smile.She moved her eyes forwards and tried to concentrate on her tape where a man was growling into her ears that he could do dirty deeds for cheap.

Now Clover could smell the faint sweet odor of Jasmine, her Mother’s perfume. The thing of it was Clover’s Mom has worn that scent for so long she can’t smell it on herself anymore and she has a tendency to wear too much of it now. So all of her Mother’s clothes, no matter how many times you wash or dry clean them the always smell like Jasmine Delights by Lucia.Lots of ladies that age wore that scent, Clover told herself,  lots of women that age wore that style of dress and lots of them had that hair style too.  Clover did hair and makeup at the Funeral Home and of all the things she had to do that was the task that worried her the most.

“ It’s cinchy Clover,” Hunter explained on the afternoon she had finally run out of excuses for not doing  hair “ it’s a pretty basic style just take the small barrel curling iron and make three curls on the top, two on each side and brush it out.”

It was  called it the Granny  Brush Out and even though it turned out it was an easy do Clover usually had to cheat and use bobby pins to hold the waves above the ears  up.

Clover’s eyes shifted to her right, and of course right  above the woman’s ear were two crossed bobby pins with a tiny bit of cream colored thread to hold them in place.

As the bus slowed down and pulled over to the next stop Clover hoped the woman would do what most of them did when someone got on the bus, the seated passengers  looked out the window. And the Grey Lady was no exception. She turned her head too as the next passenger started towards the back of the bus and when she did Clover’s eye went to the woman collar bone.

Just under her white linen collar it was there, just like clover knew it would be because she was the one who put it there.

The little line of puckered skin held together with string.

Clover had made that incision herself and she had gently reached inside of this woman and found the artery .

And then Clover embalmed her.

She was sure of it as the woman turned and looked at Clover and smiled and when she did Clover decided she knew this woman.

Clover after all had shaped the woman’s mouth into a small smile with her own hands and she had brushed her hair and put blush on her cheeks and colored her pale lips with a soft shade of red.

The Gray Lady was a dead Lady and she was riding the bus with all of the other morning commuters like she belonged there. She fussed a little more with her dress and her hair and then she reached up and pulled the yellow cord and the bus slid to a stop.

She got up and before she could pass Clover, Clover reached out and touched her hand, still bearing traces of the power she had dusted on to give the woman’s hand’s some color. “ Where are you going? “ was all Clover could think to ask.

The Gray Lady looked down at Clover and smiled and she leaned towards Clover a little and said, “ I’m just visiting dear, just like everybody else.”

“ Just Visiting. “

Yes!!  Our Gwenerrella has a spooky story to tell you!!

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Hi!  I gotsa spooky story ta tells ya!!  My friends wanna hear it too.

Theys Loodlelalla an’ Sassy. 

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Loodlelalla gotsa black eye from beatin’ up da bully dat was teasin’ Sassy.

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Sassy is one a my favouritest friends, she’s funny an’ smart, an’ she lissens ta me.

Once upon a time, there was a fam’ly that liveded by a semmaterry.  There was da Momma, Daddy, an’ three little kids.  One day, Momma askded da biggest one to go to da store an’ buy some libber for dinner.

 Da biggest one goed to da store an’ bought some candy, and toys for de kids, an’ then dinnunt have any money leftded for da libber. She was scareded to go home, but she knowed Momma was gonna be lookin’ for ‘em. 

So da kid stopded in da semmaterry and founded somebody that was dead but not inna ground .  Da kid tookded out they’s libber an’ took it home for Momma to cook for dinner. 

When dinner was already, da kid dinnunt wanna eat none, and said they tummy hurted.  Momma sended her ta bed and tol’ her ta feels better. 

Den she goed asleep and got waked up later, accause she heared somebuddy walkin’ and sayin’. “I want my libber!” 

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She getted real scareded, and hided under the blankets, and acted like she was asleep. 

But she could hear dem feets walkin’… 

Thump!  Thump!  Thump! 

An’ she could hear ‘em sayin’… 

“I want my libber!” 

It getted louder an’ closer.   

Thump!  Thump!  Thump! 

“I want my libber!” 

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Den she could hear de buddy she takeded da libber from walkin’ onna driveway. 

Crunch!  Crunch!  Crunch! 

Da girl feelded unner the piddow an’ feelded da candy unner there.  She getted even more scareded, an hollered for Momma. Momma dinnunt say nuthin’, an Daddy dinnunt, nobuddy sayed anything when da girl callded for ‘em.   

She getted up an’ peekded out da winnow and dere was da man hers takeded da libber from, comin’ up onnna porch. 

“I’s onna front porch, I wants my libber!” 

The door wented creeeeeeeeeeeeeeek an she could hear da man inna house!  She getted sooo scareded dat she started cryin’, real quiet.  

Thump!   Thump!   Thump! 

“I’s inna libbing room I wants my libber!” 

Den da girl heared da man onna first step goin’ up to da bedrooms.   

Groooooooaaaaaannnnnnnn!  Goed the loose bored.

 Gwenerella Playing Zombie

“I’s onna first step I wants my libber!” 

Thump!  Thump! 

“I’s onna second step I wants my libber!” 

Thump!  Thump! 

Da girl was snifflin’ by den, an’ the piddow was getting’ wet. 

Thump!  Thump! 

“I’s onna forth step I wants my libber!” 

Hers tried to holler but she counnent make any noise. 

Thump!  Thump! 

Thump!  Thump! 

Thump!  Thump! 

“I’s onna sebbenth step I wants my libber!” 

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Now da girl getted eben more scareded accause she knowed dere was onny ten steps to da bedrooms. 

Thump!  Thump! 

Thump!  Thump! 

“I’s onna las’ step I wants my libber!” 

Da girl was so scareded dat she wetted the bed and was cryin’ loud. 

Thump!  Thump! 

Thump!  Thump! 

Thump!  Thump! 

 “I’s at yous bedroom door I wants my libber!” 

Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!   Now da kid could smell da man, an he smelded awful. 

“I WANTS MY LIBBER!” 

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But Daddy neber tellded us what happeneded to da kid.  He neber telleded us if da man getted his libber back ever. 

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                          Hadley Happenings Pt. II

Now, lookin’ around I can see some faces that didn’t hear about the Witch and her poor dog.  I’m sure any of the others’ll be more than happy to tell you the tale later.  I’m not here to be repeating myself.

The Witch told us things were gonna get worse, we should have believed her, but we thought is was her grief talkin’.  Like they say, hindsight is always 20/20. 

Things hadn’t even quietened down from that dog, and more dogs started showin’ up dead, or not showin’ up at all.

The town went awful quiet after the dogs was silenced.  Dogs that should have been playin’ fetch, guarding their Master’s home, or catching bad guys were bein’ mourned every day.

After the dogs were mostly gone, except for some little puppies, the cats started disappearin’.  They lasted a little longer, but eventually all the cats that had sat in laps, chased a piece of yarn, and loved their person hade been buried under rosebushes, and mourned just like the dogs.

Yes, the Witch stayed, even though she knew how bad things were gonna get.  She knew she’d be needed, she was there to offer comfort, and make a pot of her tea for the ones left behind.  Yes, she was there until the bitter end.

I asked her once why she did it.  She looked at me with those sad, gentle eyes, and when she spoke her voice sounded so tired, “Because it is the right thing to do.”.  I still hear her sayin’ that in my nightmares.

After all the dogs and cats were gone people started disappearin’, or dyin’.  I remember the very first human victims of that madman.  Nothin’ but a pair of kids really, still in school.

It was horrible what happened to them, on the night of the prom too!  And here ‘Bubba’ was set on asking his sweetheart to marry him after the prom.  He’d gone so far as to buy a diamond ring, a real pretty one, too.

Bubba wasn’t the smartest kid by any road, but he worked hard n studied harder, and always had a smile for everyone.  He was joining the Marines, had it all set for after he graduated.

Bubba’s sweetheart wasn’t from around here, she came to town to live with her Aunt and Uncle after her parents were killed while they were workin’ with Doctors Without Borders.

Still raw from losing her parents, with an accent, and the faintest little scar from her hare-lip surgery that poor child had Bully-Bait written all over her in big, bloody red letters.

The sad thing was that she was always pretty-ish, and her scar made her even cuter, it pulled her mouth up in such a way that she looked like she was ready to laugh out loud.

On her first day of school here the girl, Priscilla-Anne, was so nervous she almost stuttered when she was sayin’ hello to a room fulla strangers.  There was an awful bully in her first class, Hank, and he lit into her right off, like a shark that smells blood.

Hank was well on his way to makin’ poor Priscilla-Anne cry when Bubba came back from the Nurse’s Office.

Bubba took one look at what was goin’ on ad he stood up for Priscilla.  From that day on, they were inseperable, even goin’ to church together, and their always held hands.  Nothin’ show-offy, or like they owned each other.  More like they were two parts of the same star or something.

By the time they were in HIgh School together Prissy and Bubba were destined to be Prom King and Queen, from their very first day as Freshmen.

Bubba could have been a great football player, except he were just too gentle.  He played baseball and his Home Run record still stands.  Yes!!  That Bubba!!

He played the trumpet so fine he could bring tears to your eyes when he played “The Star-Spangled Banner”, ot “Amazing Grace”.  He never could whistle worth a darn, but he made this buzzy trumpet-noise through his lips all day long.  You could always tell what he was trumpetin’.  Well, I don’t know what else to call it!!

On the night of the Prom poor Bubba was so nervous that he kept playin these odd little sounds, but when he looked at Prissy he’d start into some Classical piece.  His Math teacher asked him what it was, and this plain 18 year old kid says, “Romeo and Juliet Overture” by some fellow by the name of Tchaikovsky.

I heard that song a couple times after that, and I saw bubba and Prissy on the stage, wearin’ their King and Queen crowns of cardboard, gold filligree foil and some shiny crystals in bright colours, smilin’ under all them lights.  Seein’ that hurt so bad I had to stop listening to it.

Bubba wasn’t patient, and in a silly, love-struck gesture he got down on his knee on that stage and asked Prissy to marry him.  She shrieked like Miss America and hollered “Yes!!” before she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tight-tight.  It was a wonder that the roof of the gym didn’t fall in in, everyone cheered and clapped that long and loud for them.

Well, just like the kids in one of them scary movies, Bubba and Prissy took Bubba’s Daddy’s car and went parkin’, down by Dead Tree River.  When they didn’t show up at midnight like they had promised their parents started worryin’, but they trusted their young ones. 

It’s true that back then, things were different than they are now; little kids could play outside ‘till sundown and nobody thought a thing of it.  Somebody’s Momma was sure to chase all the kids home when they hollered up their own.

Heck, back then kids went Trick or Treatin’ on their own, and nobody worried about where they were or who gave ‘em what candy.  Most of the Momma’s knew one another from the PTA, Boy or Girl Scouts, the Library Club, and such-like.  Half of the costumes were made by their Mommas to begin with.

I remember the one year, Missus Wheeler made her eldest boy into a Mummy by ripping up old, raggedy bed sheets an wrapping around and around her boy.  She did this while she was workin’ at the nursing home.  Her man weren’t any good and up and left her for a younger gal, so she was goin’ to school to be a nurse, raisin’ her kids on her own, and working 2 and three part-time jobs to support them.

Anyway, back to Bubba and Prissy, there they were, parked in that battered old Ford his Daddy drove to work, talkin’ about their dreams an’ plans.  They didn’t notice ‘till too late that the battery were goin’ dead.  When the lights shut down and the music stopped playin’ (Prissy said it was “You Light Up My Life”), they both sat there holdin’ hands and blinkin’.

There were some awful scary noises in the woods, animals huntin’ for their dinner, and animals bein’ dinner; Bubba didn’t think nothing of it, he’d been huntin’ with his Daddy for about ten years, and he knew them woods pretty well.  He reassured Prissy that they would be fine, and told her he was goin’ to go Apple Tree road, it weren’t but a half-mile away and every so often they could see the lights from passin’ cars.

Prissy begged him to take her along, or for Bubba to stay with her till morning came around.  He patted her hand and kissed her, but he went anyway, not wantin’ to have Prissy out all night.  As he walked towards the road she could hear him making that trumpety noise, she said it were “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”.

Accourse it faded away and Prissy was there by herself, in the dark-dark of the woods, with them noises goin’ on around her and getting’ more scared by the minute.  Back then girls just didn’t go campin’ or huntin’ with their Daddies, no more than a boy would take Sewin’ or Home Ec. in school.

She started cryin’ a little bit and then she thought she heard Bubba comin back, because she heard his trumpetin’ far-off and soundin’ kind of funny.  It stopped and she was hopin’ that meant that Bubba had found someone to give the car a jump.  She snuggled under the car blanket Bubba’s Daddy kept in the back seat, and started thinkin’ about their wedding and how she wanted the whole town to be there, so they could all be as happy as she was.

She said later that she might of fell asleep, and got woke up by this funny chokin’ noise.  It seemed like the night had gotten darker, and there was something scratching away on the roof of that old Ford.  It weren’t too long and the choking noise went away and there was just that soft ‘skritch skritch’ on the roof and the softest little dripping sound.  She couldn’t see a thing through the windows, and wondered if some clouds might of moved in to cover that little scythe of a moon.

Eventually she got lulled to sleep by the skritchin’ and the sound of the wind in the trees, She told me herself, as she was packin’ to move as far away from here as her Aunt and Uncle would go.

Next thing she knew, someone was callin’ her name and knockin’ on the car.  She answered the Sheriff and told him they were okay, that Bubba had gone to get a jump ‘cause they’d run the battery in his Daddy’s car dead.

“Prissy, honey, I want you to take my hand when I open the door, follow me and whatever you do, don’t look back.”  The door creaked open and the Sheriff’s big ole calloused hand was stuck in.

Prissy done what he said, until about halfway to his police car; then she asked where Bubba was, an’ was he all right.

The Sheriff kind of choked an’ said he’d tell when they was in the car.  Prissy stopped dead in her tracks an’ told the Sheriff that she wasn’t goin’ anywhere till she knew that Bubba was okay.

The Sheriff almost fell, she were that stubborn, her feet was planted just like a mule’s and her chin stuck out, makin’ her look like one o’ them kitchen witches.

“Where… Is… Bubba?”  She snapped, soundin’ an awful lot like a Marine D. I., “I want to know if he’s all right.”

She spun around and started screamin’, by the time they got that poor child to the Doc, her voice was gone and she just sat there, starin’ at nothin’.  The Doc gave her somethin’ and she collapsed like a balloon when the air gets out.

Y’see, when poor Prissy turned ‘round, there was Bubba, hangin’, upside down from a tree branch over the car, his throat cut wide open, blood smeared all over that old Ford, and his fingernails skritchin’ just a little on the roof of the car.  The worst part was that his lips an’ tongue was gone.

To this day I wonder who was makin’ that trumpet-buzzing that night.  The Coroner said that Bubba had died almost as soon as he got outta the car, so he couldn’t of been doin’ it.

People say we’re better off not knowin’, an’ they’re right.  I saw who did that to Bubba, an’ I’ll never forget, or tell another soul; it was that bad.

Nope… Nope, I’m not sayin’ another word, it is getting on to suppertime an’ I hear some o’ your parents callin’ you in to eat.  Hurry on home, an’ don’t stop to talk to any strangers.

This tale requires a wee bit if an explanation, back in 2004, as part of a Soul Food Cafe project I was to write an article on the Red Death ( a la, E. A. Poe’s tale, “The Mask of the Red Death”.  The first article is the one I wrote in 2004, the second one is the update I wrote in 2007. 

Fatalities from the Red Death Rise Sharply
by Gwen Myers
UPI: (Budapest, Transylvania). A mysterious illness is decimating Clan Dracül. The descendants of Vlad (the Impaler), once quite numerous, are dwindling at an alarming rate. Clan Dracül once flew at over 10,000 strong.

Due to fatalities from the ‘Red Death’, as it is being called, there are barely 2,000 adult Dracül able to take wing and feed. The Eldars and flightless young are the hardest hit by the Red Death. The Eldars feed least often and suffer the worst deaths from the disease. The young slowly die of starvation when the parents die of the Red Death.

Researchers, in lightproof laboratories, race to find a vaccine or cure while the population is still large enough to prevent inbreeding. Clan Dracül has not forgotten the horrors and sports that marred earlier generations, and does not wish to return to the era of infanticide and heartbreak.

The symptoms of the Red Death include deep red colouration of the face, difficulty in feeding, loss of primary and secondary fangs with concomitant inability to feed and death by starvation.

The only correlation found thus far is a possible similarity in the habits of food. A great number of the prey of Red Death fatalities are known among the prey as “Tweakers” and it is theorised that a commonality among the “Tweaker” prey may be the root cause.

As a precaution Clan Dracül members are advised to avoid prey that smell or behave abnormally. A strong medicinal smell or extreme restlessness seem to be signs of “Tweaker” prey and as such should be avoided.

There is a growing concern in the Council of Clan Dracül will need to create “New Blood” to remain vital and viable in the Vampyrric community. The persecutions and wholesale slaughter of the first “New Blood” search are fresh in the memories of all Vampyrric Clans. There has been enough intermarriage between Vampyrric Clans that for Clan Dracül to survive, the “New Blood” search, may have to be undertaken soon.   

My friend Shiloh put this tale up on her website and I got an idea for a follow up article: 

(from the Transylvanian Journal of Vampyrric Medicine) 

CORRELATION AND CURE FOUND FOR RED DEATH

By Gwen Myers

 UPI: (Budapest, Transylvania) The Transylvanian Journal of Vampyrric Medicine  announced last Tuesday, 23, October, 2007 that the causative agent for the affliction known as “The Red Death” has been isolated, and a cure found for this scourge of the 21st Century. 

The early theory of a commonality in the habits of prey proved to correct when researchers isolated the compound “Methamphetamine” from the blood of prey.  This is a recreational substance that is both highly addictive and destructive. 

Apparently the prey exhibits many of  the same symptoms as do the Vampyres, and the compound can cause fatalities amongst the prey. 

The intensive study isolated a treatment , beginning with the rare practice of both transfusions and dialysis of anyone exposed to the tainted prey, for not less than a full lunar month, and intravenous feeding until the individual is well enough to be fitted with a crown  of primary and secondary fangs.  It is agreed that anyone who has ingested the tainted food be checked frequently for at least one calendar year to prevent  a relapse of the disorder. 

This type of treatment has even revived those Vampyres in the first stages of the Premature Hibernatory Phase Syndrome, once thought to be incurable and always fatal.  As is commonly known, vampyres that suffer from Premature Hibernatory Phase Syndrome  will fall into the Hibernation phase of Vampyrism when they do not have the reserves to support their bodily functions and when the reserves are depleted the vampyre dies of starvation. 

This is a breath of hope for Clan Dracül, along with the offer from unrelated Clans the world over  to volunteer  their younger vampyres to Clan Dracül , both to swell their ranks, and prevent inbreeding as well as the need for a “New Blood” search. 

Even with this miracle, Clan Dracül may take centuries to regain their pre-Red Death size of 10,000 on the wing.

I found, much to my surprise and great delight, a retelling of his folk legend online, an except from an anthology called, Spooky New York, by S.E. Schlosser. I’m thinking of adding it to my Amazon Wishlist…

One cold winter night, early in the New Year, a certain Dutchman left the tavern in Tarrytown and started walking to his home in the hollow nearby. His path led next to the old Sleepy Hollow cemetery where a headless Hessian soldier was buried. At midnight, the Dutchman came within sight of the graveyard. The weather had warmed up during the week, and the snow was almost gone from the road. It was a dark night with no moon, and the only light came from his lantern.The Dutchman was nervous about passing the graveyard, remembering the rumors of a galloping ghost that he had heard at the tavern. He stumbled along, humming to himself to keep up his courage. Suddenly, his eye was caught by a light rising from the ground in the cemetery. He stopped, his heart pounding in fear. Before his startled eyes, a white mist burst forth from an unmarked grave and formed into a large horse carrying a headless rider. The Dutchman let out a terrible scream as the horse leapt toward him at a full gallop. He took to his heels, running as fast as he could, making for the bridge since he knew that ghosts and evil spirits did not care to cross running water. He stumbled suddenly and fell, rolling off the road into a melting patch of snow. The headless rider thundered past him, and the man got a second look at the headless ghost. It was wearing a Hessian commander’s uniform.

The Dutchman waited a good hour after the ghost disappeared before crawling out of the bushes and making his way home. After fortifying himself with schnapps, the Dutchman told his wife about the ghost. By noon of the next day, the story was all over Tarrytown. The good Dutch folk were divided in their opinions. Some thought that the ghost must be roaming the roads at night in search of its head. Others claimed that the Hessian soldier rose from the grave to lead the Hessian soldiers in a charge up nearby Chatterton Hill, not knowing that the hill had already been taken by the British.

Whatever the reason, the Headless Horseman continues to roam the roads near Tarrytown on dark nights from that day to this.

 “‘Member, don’t step on a grave or the ghost’ll haunt you!” taunted Louise.
Lacey and Mary Jean dodged behind her in a rapid game of follow the leader
through the old cemetery. All of the children came over here to play as, one
by one, they grew restless and received permission from their parents to
leave church early and run off their excess energy. The boys had gone to the
edges of the cemetery to climb the looming live oaks and the girls were
playing follow the leader through the graves. All of them had some family
member or ancestor buried here, and it was familiar and not at all scary by
daylight.

Mary Jean tripped on a rock and fell headlong into the rough grass. When
Louise and Lacey went to help her up, she was nursing a scraped shin and,
worse yet, a grass stain on her white Sunday dress. They helped her, crying,
back over to the church where her mother came out and took her over to the
pump to help her wash up. Louise slipped back into the church to listen to
more of the sermon (the preacher was still going strong, with no signs of
slowing down anytime soon) and Lacey sat down on the church steps to cool
off. Mary Jean’s mother called to her, and she hurried over to see what was
wanted.

“Lacey, Mary Jean lost her locket over there in the cemetery. She thinks she
had it until she fell. Could you go and see if you could find it for her?”

“Yes’m. I’ll go right now,” Lacey replied and dashed off, happy for
something to do.

“Now let’s see,” she said to herself, “I think we were over by the Johnson
family’s graves, ‘cause I remember that fancy headstone that their grandpa
has…” She poked around in the long grass near the grave to no avail, and was
about to give up when a glint of gold caught her eye. There was the locket,
just between the two furthest headstones…

She stood up, and leaned over, with one hand on the headstone to catch
herself. Quickly she grabbed the locket and was just standing back up when
footsteps sounded behind her and she was hit from behind. She lost her
balance and landed flat on her front across Mr. and Mrs. Johnson’s graves as
laughter sounded behind her.

She rolled over and saw Danny and Art doubled over, laughing hysterically.

“You looked so funny… you shoulda seen how you looked!” they whooped. “Hey
Lacey, you know if you step on a grave, the ghost’ll haunt you that night. I
bet, since you fell flat on your front on two graves, the ghosts’ll both
haunt you for the rest of your life! And one of them was Mrs. Johnson’s
grave!” The two boys ran off, laughing, to join the rest of the boys in the
trees.

Lacey felt tears coming to her eyes. Her dress was spoiled, her pride was
hurt, and she was terrified of ghosts. She struggled to her feet and ran,
sobbing, back over to the church where Mary Jean’s mother helped her clean
up and tried to comfort her. “It’s all right, honey. Those boys were just
being mean. You just wait until church is over and their daddies catch up
with them. They’ll be the ones crying then. And I’ll tell your mama that
your dress isn’t your fault. Thank you for finding Mary Jean’s locket for
her.”

“But the ghosts…the ghosts. I fell all over their graves and they’ll haunt
me forever. The boys said so. I know they’re right. I’m scared!”

“Honey, that old story started so that you children wouldn’t step on the old
graves with rotten coffins and fall into them. We were told the same thing
when we were children, for the same reason. It’s okay, honey, nobody’s going
to haunt you.”

But Lacey wasn’t so sure. Jimmy’s older brother had stepped on a grave once
and the ghost had haunted him.

After Sunday dinner, Lacey went down the road to play with Ruth. Ruth hadn’t
been at church today because she had hurt her foot and couldn’t get her
Sunday shoes on. “You fell on Mrs. Johnson’s grave?” Ruth asked, her eyes
growing round. “Mrs. Johnson’s?”

“I didn’t mean to. Danny and Art pushed me and I fell on both of the
Parsons’ graves. They made me get a stain on my Sunday dress, too. They’re
mean.”

“Never mind the dress. You fell on Mrs. Johnson’s grave. Mr. Johnson’s might
not be so bad, but Mrs. Johnson’s is. She really is going to haunt you for
that.”

“It wasn’t my fault, though. Anyway, Mary Jean’s mother says that the
grown-ups only tell us that to keep us from falling through the graves with
rotten coffins.” Lacey was feeling a little bit uneasy again.

“Still, Mrs. Johnson won’t like it. You remember what happened when those
boys ate the blackberries that grew in the ditch by her house, don’t you.
Even though she was already dead, she cursed those blackberries and they had
belly-aches for two days!”

“They had belly-aches because they were greedy and ate too many, including
the ones that weren’t ripe yet. They were there all afternoon, eating. I saw
them. If you ask me, they deserved belly-aches! Anyhow, Mrs. Johnson is dead
and doesn’t like things or not like them.”

“Well, maybe, but she didn’t like anyone trespassing on her property when
she was alive and I bet that includes her grave now that she’s dead. You
better be careful tonight. I wouldn’t go outside after dark, if I were you.
Mrs. Johnson – well, I just hope she doesn’t decide to haunt you forever.”
Ruth shivered, and they went back to playing with their paper dolls.

It was almost dark when Lacey started home. Ruth’s mother had invited her to
dinner so she had stayed for that, and then she and Ruth were having so much
fun it seemed like it got late really fast.

Lacey tried to put the thoughts of Mrs. Johnson and her ghost right out of
her head, but that was easier said than done, especially when Ruth reminded
her right before she left, “Remember, look out for the ghost!”

Lacey started to be brave and walk up the road but then she changed her mind
and ran. She pelted along through the early twilight in the deep shadows
under the overhanging trees by the road. She was used to the big old oak
trees, with their twisted limbs and hanging grey moss, but tonight they
seemed sinister. Every shadow made her jump sideways and every little
rustling sound in the weeds by the road made her run faster. Even though she
was running, it seemed to take forever to get home, and the last of the
twilight vanished into night as she pounded up the back porch steps at home.

“Oh, there you are,” said Mama, as Lacey entered the warm, bright kitchen.
“I was going to send one of your brothers to walk you home after they were
done with their chores in the barn! Since you’re here, run to the barn and
let them know you got home already, and then help with the chores out there,
please.”

Lacey looked out at the dark and gulped, but she didn’t argue. That wouldn’t
do any good at all – it would just get her in trouble. She turned and went
slowly back out onto the porch. She looked around carefully before she took
off at top speed for the barn, running along the straightest and clearest
path she knew.

The barn itself was warmly lit by lanterns and was filled with the
comforting sounds of the animals and her brothers tending them. She pitched
in and helped feed and water the livestock, and all too soon the chores were
finished. Her brothers grabbed a lantern and they all walked back to the
house together. With her brothers and the lantern there, Lacey didn’t feel
nearly so frightened, even though the moon had come up and dark clouds were
floating across it. It was a little bit chilly in the early autumn night,
and a slight breeze made the moss draping the trees sway eerily. They walked
back to the house in silence.

When they reached the porch, one of her brothers turned to her and said, “So
it was Mrs. Johnson’s grave you fell on this morning, and her husband’s too!”
He grinned mischievously. “Bet they’ll haunt you forever, not just for one
night!”

The boys laughed and ran into the house, leaving her standing there on the
dark porch.

Now she was doubly worried. Even if real ghosts didn’t come to haunt her,
her brothers would be playing tricks on her. She sighed and followed them
into the warm kitchen. The boys tried to tease her about it later in the
evening, but Mama had put her foot down and Papa said he would tan the hide
of the first boy who tried to play a trick on her and scared her.

That night, after Mama had tucked her in and taken the oil lamp away with
her, Lacey lay uneasily in the dark bedroom. She was too young to be allowed
a light in her room at night – the old farmhouse was made of pine and would
go up like a bonfire if it ever caught fire. She hadn’t even bothered to
ask. Mama would tell her she was silly to be scared, anyway.

Her room, usually comfortable and familiar, seemed strange tonight. The
pictures on the walls all seemed to depict something sinister, and the
closet had strange shadows in it. A thump, thump, thump sounded on the wall
outside of the house. Was that a tree limb in the wind? Or a ghost? Lacey
squeezed her eyes shut and pulled the pillow over her head.

She must have fallen asleep, because the next thing she knew, Mama was
shaking her and saying, “Get up Lacey, it’s time to help with breakfast.”

When she opened her eyes and came out from under the covers, Mama was gone.
It was still dark out, but morning always came early, so she pulled on her
clothes and padded out of her room in her bare feet towards the stairs.

The boys weren’t stirring yet, and usually they were up first to get the
wood for the stove and water from the pump before they went out to the
barn. That was odd, but maybe Papa had been up early and done it instead. A
cool breeze brushed her face as she started down the stairs – Mama must have
left the windows open last night. She could hear noises downstairs, so she
knew Mama was already in the kitchen.

As she started down the stairs, she heard a thump behind her – the door to
her room had just swung shut. Lacey frowned, but decided that the breeze
must have done it. Feeling a little bit unsettled, she continued down the
stairs dodging the school books stacked along the sides where she and her
brothers had left them ready for the morning. Two steps from the bottom, she
tripped – one of the piles seemed to have moved right in front of her. She
grabbed the railing and caught herself, and when she looked back, the piles
were all where they were supposed to be, by the wall.

“Lacey!” came from the kitchen, and Lacey knew she better hurry. When she
passed the front door, the doorknob rattled. Her heart pounding, Lacey
dashed past it and into the front room. A warm glow came from an oil lamp on
the dining room table, but as soon as she stepped into the dining room, it
flickered and went out. She heard a tapping at the window and stopped, and
when she turned to look she saw a faintly glowing face hovering at the
window. It smiled at her, an evil, chilling smile showing pointed teeth, and
it was moving closer to the window pane. Lacey screamed and ran into the
kitchen. Mama’s back was to her and Lacey ran up to her and buried her face
in Mama’s skirt, crying.

Mama started to turn around, and then Lacey noticed that Mama’s skirt
smelled funny – not just funny, but bad, like dirt and rot. She jerked back
just as the figure turned and a chilling face looked down at her. Rotting
teeth showed behind shrunken lips and flesh pulled away from the dull eyes
showing the bony sockets around them. The lamp in the kitchen suddenly went
out.

“I don’t like trespassers. Good little girls stay off other people’s
property, now don’t they?”

The figure moved closer to Lacey and she backed up some more.

“I didn’t mean to…Danny and Art pushed me…I’m sorry…” Lacey stammered, tears
clogging her throat and her heart pounding. The clock in the front room
began striking the hour. Bong, bong, bong, bong…

“You thought I’d haunt you for the rest of your life, didn’t you? You were
right, you know, my dear. Where ever you go, I’ll be there, all the rest of
your life. Time doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.”… Bong, bong, bong,
bong…

Terrified, Lacey kept moving away from the looming figure.

“On the other hand, if you want to visit me so much that you’re crawling on
my grave, maybe you should come with me.” A horrible smile split the thing’s
face. The figure moved closer to Lacey again as she backed into the pantry.
Lacey could smell the decay coming from the figure… Bong, bong, bong, bong…
Midnight.

Sobbing, Lacey bumped into the flour barrel just as the clock stopped
chiming and the figure reached out for her. A bony hand gripped her shoulder
and she screamed.

“Lacey! Lacey!” The hand on her shoulder shook her hard. “Miss Lacey!”
Lacey opened her eyes and stared back at the worried face of the young
nurse’s aide.

“Miss Lacey, are you all right? That must have been a bad one!” the young
woman was clearly concerned.

“You’re new, aren’t you?” Lacey answered, sighing and shaking her head.
“It’s just the same nightmare I’ve had every night for the last seventy-five
years of my life, ever since I was ten years old. You’d think I’d be used to
it by now, but every night it hits me like it did the first time.”

“Seventy-five years?” The nurse was incredulous. “Surely something could be
done…”

“No, dear, Mrs. Johnson said she’d haunt me for the rest of my life and she
meant it. Mrs. Johnson never said anything she didn’t mean,” Lacey said to
the puzzled aide. The little clock Lacey kept by the bed beeped the hour and
she glanced at it. It was midnight.

Lacey looked back to the aide. Her eyes widened, and she blanched. Over
the young woman’s shoulder Lacey could see a bony figure with the rotting
teeth and shriveled flesh. It was smiling at her from behind the aide and it
reached out to her with a bony hand.

“Are you ready to come visit me now? I think it’s time.”

-She Wolf (c) 2007

                                         by Lori

This is a true story I wrote for last year’s Halloween blog. Be sure to read the new Postscript.

The church I attend meets in a wooden building that is about 60 years old. By the standards of the area, this is an ancient structure. It is a pleasant building in the day time— well-kept and conservative. When it is full of people, it is a cheerful place, as it should be.

However, at night, after the congregation has gone home and the lights are extinguished, the building sits in darkness, its bell tower and spire looming over the neighborhood. Several people have told me that they have seen the lights flipping on and off as they’ve driven by at night. Of course, this could simply be our pastor who comes and goes at all hours. Also, lots of people have keys to the place and being volunteers they work on their various projects and ministries whenever they can, including after dark. So it wouldn’t seem strange for lights to be flipping on and off at night.

Several people have told me they have heard all sorts of odd sounds in the building. Well, wooden structures creak, pop and thump with the temperature changes. Also, in the winter, when the steam is turned on, the pipes rattle and shimmy. Finally, the noises could be raccoons, possums and pigeons banging around in the walls of the church.

So you see, everything can be explained.

I’m one of those volunteers who sometimes works alone in the building, and for some reason I avoid going up to the sanctuary by myself. For reasons I can’t explain, I always have an odd feeling that I’m being watched particularly from the balcony. I keep looking over my shoulder. Perhaps I’m just remembering the story I had heard of the homeless man who broke in a few years ago and slept in the pews at night. One night, this homeless man leaped up and scared the pants off the pastor when he was discovered. Maybe that’s what I’m remembering.

Oh, did I mention that I am never, ever go up there alone at night. Ever.

One day, in late afternoon, just as darkness was falling, I was in the basement of the church, setting up for a meeting. I was alone. In the basement, I don’t get that same feeling of being watched–that feeling that someone else is there when they aren’t. So I was fine, happily setting out chairs and getting ready for the others who would be coming in another half hour.

A few minutes later, however, to my chagrin, I discovered that the laptop computer which I needed for the meeting was not downstairs. It was upstairs, in the sanctuary where I never, ever go alone at night.

I hesitated for a moment but then realized how incredibly stupid and silly I was acting. So I took a breath and charged upstairs. I hurried through the sanctuary, fumbled with my keys to open the appropriate doors as quickly as I could, grabbed the laptop and scampered back down to safety of the basement. See, silly, there’s no one up there, I told myself.

I placed the laptop on the table and continued to prepare for the meeting. I was there for just a little less than a minute when I heard a noise. I froze and caught my breath. Slowly I looked up at the ceiling. I heard the floor boards creaking above me as if someone was walking through the sanctuary. There were only a few steps, but they sounded like they were moving down the central aisle from the platform towards the narthex. Only a few steps. Then, nothing.

I felt my skin goose and the hair on my arms stand up. I had just been up there in the sanctuary. There had been no one up there! There were no other cars in the lot, and even if there were, no one would be coming in the upstairs doors-they would come in the downstairs entrance for the meeting. There should be no one up there.

Just as I was about ready to leave and wait in the parking lot, I heard a car door slam. To my relief, another committee member had arrived. When he came in I asked him if he had seen anyone leaving through the upstairs exits. He hadn’t. I was going to mention the noise but suddenly I began to feel silly and embarrassed again, and decided I wouldn’t mention it.

It’s just the physics of an old building I told myself.

But to this day, I will not go upstairs by myself. Never, ever, and certainly not at night.

Lori Gloyd (c) 2006, 2007

————————

Post Script: Our youth pastor read this to our youth group last year and I was told later that every one of the kids was spell-bound as the story unfolded. Now that was truly a compliment………

And, just two weeks ago, a bunch of us were chatting in the parking lot. One of our group pointed to a window on the top floor of the main building and noted that the light was on in storage room where the Easter and Advent decorations were kept. No one ever goes into that room except in Spring and December. This was August. I quipped that it might be the ghost. Funny, no one laughed.

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