Entries Tagged as 'ghost story'

The Dry Music of Anxious Leaves

They stood by the white wall, all in a line, some leaning, some with arms folded, each peering over and around the one in front, trying to see past the gate. Ladies inspected tiny mirrors, patted curls, straightened lady straps. Men similarly combed, slicked back, or buffed whatever was handy, nervously waiting for The Show to start, and hoping that it would be worth the steep price.

Paradise by the Graveyard Lights

The Show“: That’s what they called it, but nobody rememberd exactly why. It blew in once a year, every October, and for weeks it had been the only subject to twist dry lips with anticipation. Even folks who preferred the company of the chamber mouse, and dozing away quiet evenings beneath a tented newspaper in a favorite chair, found themselves standing in line, white knuckling their ticket, and waiting for The Show to begin.

There was, of course, from time to time, a disappointed -even shocked- soul who did not get what he wanted, or even vaguely expected. It was usually a very important person who paid for his seat in advance, and insisted on speaking to the Man In Charge, but only ever saw His subordinate.

Hope stood with, and kept, the rest. And they waited.

They were a captive audience, but patient. And deathly quiet. So quiet, in fact, that you wouldn’t know they were there at all but for thin outlines they sketched in the shifting shafts of moonlight cast through the trees. Shafts that danced, flared, and winked in and out by the hand of a young, eager autumn Wind. Anxious leaves shuddered dry music.

Like a thin and tattered circus tent filled with holes, the leafy canopy flapped and became frayed along the edges. It was beginning to unravel. Faded greens were turning gold, and soon it would all come down.

Unconcerned, the trees sighed to one another. “It’s getting late,” thrummed Oak.

“And cold,” rasped Persimmon. “Better tell Rabbit, call Squirrel.”

Ancient wood yawned and stretched, moaned, popped. A scattered sprinkling of early fall leaves drifted down to the luxuriant, fecund carpet below. But before they could settle in, the Wind snatched up the driest and most golden of these volunteers, took a deep arctic breath, and blew them straight up in a blast of ice and pine needles.

His harbingers soared five thousand feet into the night sky where they hung, suspended among the diamond sparks, admiring each other’s new frosty beards. A moment later their hushed farewells echoed faintly in the thin, empty air.

Down, and down they rushed, surging and tumbling, hurtling fast as a freight train and straight down, down, down. Patchwork fields blurred into a smear of color that drew closer every second. Seven hundred feet, five hundred. One hundred. Ten! Six inches!

Whoosh! Back up they swept in a blustery fountain 40 feet high, hissing and snapping like July 4th black powder cones. They gathered above the tree line, jostling each other like a pack of excited boys on Halloween, one minute before sundown, shivering in their hobo duds, mummy wraps, and stitched-on bones. Impatient, vibrating down the last twilight seconds to – Trick or Treat!

Dash! Run! Scramble, jump, soar! And they did.

They flew high and low, frolicked over gable and under eave, greeted barn owl and bat, remembering to pass along the news.

“It’s getting late!” they whispered.

“And -and -and co-Old!” hooted barn owl.

The news was spreading, they noted with pride, and they passed over the ridge beyond their familiar wood.

They gusted down a gravel lane and whirled round and round a vast empty silo that hummed a long welcome bass note, happy for the coming harvest to fill its enormous belly. Last year’s corn dust and rust shavings shook down from the high metal dome.

Once more around, then off they raced. Down the long hill, diving, tripping, and howling hilariously all the way.

The blacktop road was a corridor of winds. They crowded and clamored, scuffled and skirred, skimming just inches above the pavement as mums trembled among mail boxes and tall tan tasseled straw grass swooned beside railroad tracks.

Up ahead was the Big Green Bridge, although it wasn’t so much big as tall, lanky. Thin iron struts reached up and held hands in a frozen game of cat’s cradle. Thick knuckles bled rust through flaking layers of paint. Old but not ancient, worn but not worn out, it was marker, gateway, and favored playground of past Winds.

Whistling around rusted rivets, the brave and wild Wind lingered just a moment, seemingly reluctant to move on, letting the raucous party howl and carousel above while the road ahead was scrutinized. For it lead to places that were no longer wild.

From tall poles hung lights that broke up the night and banished shadows to the wider ravines, the deeper pits. Here nature had been partitioned and cosmeticized. Mimeographed houses plagiarized each other up and down rigid, orderly rows of counterfeit conformity.

“Nonsense,” chuckled Wind finally, and descended on the streets in a cold gust that set the hanging lights madly spinning. The harbinger leaves swept along sidewalks, blustered down gangways, ran up downspouts, rummaged through gutters, dusted out drains, and thoroughly explored every porch, attic, cellar, and open window in town.

“It’s getting late!” they laughed dryly.

A hundred dogs gleefully replied, “And cold!” They chased a mini maelstrom from fence to fence, yard to yard. Meanwhile, cats -gross accumulations of fur and conceit- mused, scowled, and speculated from polished perches on the edges of things, half-lidded eyes glowing balefully from hideouts all over town.

Dust, a million years in the making, burst from dry, forgotten cisterns, yielded high church rafters, puffed out of mail slots. A chimney sneezed black soot.

Bewildered and sensing an unwelcome presence, a thin paper hand mantised shut a parlor window in the face of a quick pattering of leaves. There lingered the cloying smell of roses and antiseptic.

Wind and leaves ranged across weedy lots, ruffled impeccable lawns, tapped window panes, ghosted door knobs, and ran off with all the newspapers and baseball caps that had been foolishly left on front porches.

A sideways tornado swept spinning spiders along a cemetery wall, depositing one leaf, or spider, or sometimes both, upon each new grave. A mark, a remembrance. And a whisper, “It’s time. Come with us!”

A sudden roar, like all the world’s home runs and waterfalls, closed in on the little open yard and sent kitchen barometer witches flying in every direction for a hundred miles. The rusted gate exploded, blown open in a spectral flash and crack of thunder that rumbled a full minute. And it kept on rumbling and rolling over the countryside toward the horizon. An express train promising no stops before cold earth and suffocating dark and lonely night were left far behind.

Leaners jumped. Arm folders straightened. And the line by the white wall finally moved. Slowly, at first, they shuffled forward past old familiar markers; withered stone monuments to Beloved Father, Cherished Daughter, Darling Husband. In ones and twos they passed through the gate and, finally, away.

Incandescent eyes sparkled, arms raised to gesture and point at distant wonders, and the line moved faster. A plump woman wearing a pillbox hat covered her mouth with tiny white-gloved hands and rushed forward. Her arms shot out wide, as if to embrace someone, and she disappeared through the gate.

In a hundred and one homecomings, silent starry tears moistened wrinkled parchment, hands shook and saluted, arms engulfed, and backs were soundly clapped.

Suddenly the line ended where it began, but for a solitary figure, standing lovely and lonesome at the gate. She gazed back down the path, and the wind, smelling of apples and rain, tugged at her clothing, her hair. “It’s time.” But still she waited.

He had promised her, promised he would be here. Her lost love, gone for so long, and now- Forever? She prayed, hoped, wished, mourned. The restless Wind called a final “All ‘board!”

The booming, swirling, racketing storm changed pitch. And just before the gate slammed shut for another year, he stepped out of the dark and was in her arms.

Diamond tears sparkled moonlight beneath the spreading apple tree. “I was so worried,” she said soundlessly. “It was getting late.” Smiling, he touched her lips. They turned together and vanished.

Wham! The gate banged shut. Rust enveloped its hinges and froze the lock solid. The roaring whirlwind subsided and became familiar dry music once again. Nimbly weaving between branch and stem, softly skittering over rock, now softer ’round post, then quietly past creaking sign that quoted itself hoarsely long after the friendly sound was gone.

The crowded yard with its neat rows of headstones and cul-de-sac mausoleums, stark white bones in the cold, was suddenly still, dark, and very empty. A few spent leaves fluttered weakly, and meandered to the ground.

A distant church bell struck two, and the slightest breeze stirred. Faintly, but surely, a drum roll sounded. High above, in the tattered, fraying canopy, a very orange leaf twitched.

Peace and quiet and ghosts

PeaceIt’s your old pal Spook here (Yep, I’m still around). I figured we’d take a short break to give the two readers that I still have some relief from the dull ache that has become the Blue Aliens saga.

Lightning struck a utility pole last night and plunged Snug Harbor into the 1700’s. It was right before sunset and the weather was still unsettled after a nice little thunderstorm.

Fingers of purple lightning chased each other across the sky, playing hide and seek among the low scudding clouds. Dark windows all up and down the street looked startled, black but for the occasional bobbing flicker of a flashlight or candle within.

Clumps of saturated leaves, tugged by a mischievous breeze at just the right moment, dumped buckets of cold rainwater on unsuspecting passersby. Laughter echoed across the hollow as neighbors stepped out onto front porches to smell the fresh, wet, wonderful air and greet one another like relatives at a family reunion.

Hurricane lamps were brought down from attics, hastily dusted off, and fitted with beeswax candles. The sharp acrid smell of burning hair lasted for just a moment while the cobwebs burned off.

The gathering gloom of night strode confidently into the open to fill every space inky black, but it was frustrated by these small glowing pockets of orange warmth. Elated shadows danced up walls, frolicked on ceilings, and played peek-a-boo from the window curtains. Long ignored, these creatures of imagination were suddenly, gloriously, hilariously brought back to life again.

Sitting at my desk, I breathed in the clean night air through the open window. The dogs were safely tucked in and the cat sat staring at me in her magisterial fashion, perched at the very edge of the desk like cats do. I opened a spiral notebook of crisp paper, slid one of the many candles a little closer, and picked up my Ticonderoga pencil.

It was time to write a ghost story.