Authors: Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Short Story #1
A Short Ghost Story of approx. 6,600 words)
By Kathryn Meyer Griffith
“In life we think of ghosts as rarities. We do not
know that every rustle and squeak, every scratch of twig upon the screen or
moan of wind along the eaves, is someone passing in the journeys of the night.”
, 1986, by Jonathan Barry with Whitley Strieber
“We wonder what the origin of evil truly is, how it
can affect and shape our lives…when the answer is easy to figure out…it’s ghosts.
Evil ghosts.” Quote from someone; I don’t remember who.
Oh, I’d already figured out I was dead. There was no other
sensible conclusion to arrive at. When I awoke–if awaking was the right term
because suddenly after a time of blackness there I was–I was sitting on top of a
fresh grave in this quaint but uncared for cemetery I recognized as the one
down the road from our house. There was no headstone on it yet so I couldn’t
read the name of the current inhabitant. Perhaps it wasn’t my grave, wasn’t my
headstone to come. Or that’s what I hoped.
Sooty clouds raced above, dried leaves danced in a chill
wind around the tombstones. It was raining, a steady forlorn drizzle that had
soaked everything. Drab splotches of brown spotted the earth and bundles of
witchy dead branches bounced round me like tumbleweeds. There were no birds. No
creepy crawly insects. Not a living thing. The colors were off, too. Everything
had a veneer of gray covering it and the air around me hummed with eerie
echoes, as if a crowd of people were whispering just beyond the threshold of my
hearing. It hurt my head, made me irritable. Angry.
I looked down at myself and was surprised to see I was
dressed in my old brown suit. The one I only wore to weddings or funerals. It
was too tight and the legs too short. I’d always meant to buy a new one but
somehow had never gotten around to it. After all, I hadn’t attended a funeral
or a wedding in years.
I could see through myself. Damn, I was a pane of glass. I
wiggled my fingers in front of my face. They were transparent, too.
My head was really killing me now, making me realize I
could feel pain. Again, I thought that odd. Where was I and what the heck was I
doing here? Sheesh. Must have really laid one on last night. Maybe I should stay
off the booze for a couple of days. What a trip. I racked my brain but couldn’t
recall what had gotten me here. Hmmm.
No, I was alive, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I? This was just some
sort of drink induced hallucination. Right?
Rising to my feet, the mud on the grave remained clinging to
the ground and wet blades of grass, yet my suit was clean. Gazing around at the
gravesites, I thought I was alone but then, out of the corner of an eye, caught
another see-through person scampering away. It’d been hiding behind a tree,
spying on me. As it vanished into the rain curtain amidst the fringe of trees
surrounding the cemetery I heard it laugh. A you-poor-sucker-you-don’t-have-a-clue-yet-do-you
laugh. Let me tell you, that didn’t reassure me much. It didn’t sound human.
I blinked and everything turned black and shadowy for a moment
and slowly came back into focus. My left hand disappeared and reappeared. My
Something huge skittered around in the branches of the
trees above me and made a heart-stopping screech. Again, nothing human.
Oh, I was dead all right. Dead as a doornail. Dead as
someone without a pulse, or a heartbeat, and whose blood has stopped moving in
their veins, could be. It was the why, how and when that eluded me.
I fought to remember what had happened before I’d
found myself sprawled on the grave, but once more there was nothing. A frustrating
Was this my paradisiacal reward, some in-between limbo or was
it, heaven help me, hell? If it was heaven, it was one weird one. There were no
angels and harp music. No fluffy clouds of cotton-candy white. No departed dear
ones to welcome and comfort me.
“Well, what am I supposed to do now, for Pete’s sake?” I grilled
the silent graves around me. I had the overwhelming feeling I was supposed to
be somewhere else. That I had somewhere very important to go, something very
important to do
but couldn’t remember where or what
“Hey, anyone around
nyone here?” I yelled
into the waning afternoon. Of course, no answer. Nothing. The silence was
beginning to freak me out. My laugh startled me. Who did I expect to be in a
cemetery anyway? The dead don’t make small talk or noise. The dead are
I wove through and around the burial plots and when approaching
the street I checked for cars before I crossed. There were none. I hadn’t seen even
one, nor a truck, a motor scooter or a bicycle, since I’d woken up. No
airplanes in the ashen sky.
I had to go home. Tessa must be worried sick. Tessa. My
wife of twenty-five years. Long blond hair that softly framed her sweet
understanding face. Those large amber eyes that’d laugh at me, so full of love
and tenderness. My beautiful Tessa. The mother of my son. The love of my life. My
angel. A flood of memories washed over me and I sighed in relief. Grateful I
remembered something. I had a family, a home and a wife.
I needed to get back to them.
The insight came to me that things hadn’t been very good
between us lately; hadn’t been for a long time. In fact, I recalled Tessa had
asked for a separation or something like it. That wasn’t good. I loved her and
would never be able to live without her.
Hmmm. What else was I not remembering?
My house, our house, Tessa’s and mine, was a few streets
over and I carefully made my way there. At first I was afraid I couldn’t leave
the cemetery grounds. As I stepped into the street something pulled at me,
trying to yank me back. I tore free and kept trekking. Everything I did and
everything I saw seemed to be moving in slow motion, like a bad dream. My feet
were heavy at the ends of my legs and I was shuffling through air as thick as
If this was what being dead was like, I didn’t like it one
bit. I felt…lost. Unsettled. As if this was punishment for something.
My Grandmother Celie, my mom’s mother, a hag of a woman who
never liked me but hated my poor brother, Gerald, even more, used to describe what
she thought the afterlife would be like.
It’s nothing, sonny
An inky, bottomless, sideless, nothing where you’d
never feel anything…ever…again.
In time, it’d drive you plum insane,
she’d cackle like some old witch.
That’s what a person gets when they aren’t
Heck, she should talk. She was the most miserly woman I’d ever
known. Never helped no one. Never really cared about no one but herself. She
died alone after falling down her basement steps and breaking her neck. Her
body laid there for four days before anyone, a neighbor, upon seeing her
starving dog running around in endless circles outside in the back yard days
later, thought to check on her. When he couldn’t get an answer from ringing the
doorbell for ten minutes he called 911.
Of course, she was very dead.
Poor old lady, they said. But I never felt any pity for the
selfish woman. She should have had that First Alert thingie for around her neck
or at least carried a cell phone. Some people just aren’t real smart, I guess.
I kept walking.
My house, a two story brick on the end of the street guarded
by gnarled oak trees, was lightless. Not one window had a glow in it. I tried
to open the front, then the rear door, but they wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t get
in. I could put my fingers through the wood up to my arms but something was
keeping me from going inside. So frustrating. I peered through the windows like
some thief casing the joint but couldn’t see anything. Too dark.
Maybe I’d turned into some sort of vampire and had to be
invited in? Nah, silly.
“Open sesame! Abracadabra!” I was still on the outside.
“Damn it, let me in!” What was going on here anyway?
Where was Tessa? Her car, a ten year old Chevy Cavalier,
was in the garage. I’d peeked in the window. There it was. Dented right fender
and all. I never should have taken it out that night in the rain. The roads had
been slick and the wind almost an F 1 tornado. Tessa had been so ticked. That
was just another time my brother had swayed me, and not to the good, either. That
was Gerald, though. Always making me do things I knew I shouldn’t be doing.
Always causing me to get into trouble. Good thing I’d never told Tessa about
the dog I ran over before I hit the tree. She loved animals and, for that,
would never have forgiven me.
That was Gerald’s harebrained idea, too. “There you go…let’s
see how close you can get to that mangy mutt without flattening him.” I thought
I had it all under control and then the car had swerved on the rainy country
road and I’d felt it run over something. Thump. Thump.
“Oops. Darn. You hit ‘em anyway.” And Gerald had laughed.
He always laughed when something bad happened. He wouldn’t let me return and
help the creature, either. “It’s dead…what are you going to do–revive it?” More
That Gerald had such a cold heart.
Unable to gain access to the house, I sat on the front
porch swing, the one I’d given Tessa for her last birthday, for a long time
trying to decide what to do next. I missed Tessa so much. It seemed as if I
hadn’t seen her in a long time.
For a second or two I thought I heard her soft voice, her
sweet laughter on the wind. Oh, Tessa.
We’d loved each other since our high school days. I’d met
her when she was fifteen and I was seventeen. She a sophomore and me a senior. She
was sensitive, artistic girl who made straight A’s while I was just a loser who
could barely pass my classes. I graduated by the skin of my teeth and often
wondered what she’d ever seen in me. I’d taken one look at her, she’d smiled
shyly, and I’d been hooked for life. I asked her out that first day and soon we
were inseparable. After high school, I’d gone into the Army and she’d waited
faithfully until I got out. We became engaged and got married. Sure, I had
problems I traced back to my service days fighting in a brutal desert war that
messed me up royally. For years afterward I had horrendous nightmares, jumping
up from bed and crashing through the house in the dark as if I were still on
patrol. It went on for years.
Because during the war I’d killed. Mostly goaded on by my
brother, as usual. Gerald liked to kill. No wonder I had nightmares.
But time went by and I got better. Well, better in that the
nightmares subsided and I found a job in a stove factory putting stoves
together. It was a job I hated and eventually I answered one of those over-the-road
trucking ads that promise you top money and every weekend home driving the big
rigs. They lied. The money wasn’t much at first and I was home very few
weekends. It was hard. Hard on my body, hard on my marriage.
One day in a truck stop while waiting out a blizzard I
ended up talking to a guy who owned and operated his own eighteen-wheeler. He
swore by being his own boss and choosing his own loads, making his own schedule.
Said the money was better, too. He was getting ready to retire and offered me
his truck, a
if I wanted it, for what I thought was a steal price. What can I say, the
guy liked me. So when I got home a few days later Tessa and I discussed it and
then we bought it. Put us deep in debt but Tessa worked an extra job to pay it
off. She was like that. Paid off our house quick, too. She hated to be in debt.
It was a good truck and we made a fine living off of it as
the years went by, except those times when gas went sky high or when I didn’t
feel like working. Gerald often talked me into taking large hunks of time off
so we could have some fun. Life shouldn’t be all work, he’d say. So what if we
never had that new house out in the woods Tessa and I dreamed of or, so what,
if our bank account didn’t always cover our bills. Tessa found a way to make
ends meet by cutting back on things she’d wanted, clipping coupons, doing without
and buying used cars. Even then we still broke even. Tessa got a job as a
graphic artist at a local newspaper, making peanuts, and we limped on through our
life. Lousy job, they worked her to death but she was a good sport and never
complained. Just worked harder.
I didn’t want children but Tessa did, so by and by, we had
. He was a considerate, smart boy and never gave us
any trouble. Good thing or Gerald would have wanted me to beat him. Well, he
still wanted me to beat him, but mostly I didn’t. The boy was a quiet sort.
Kept to himself. Scary smart, too. Tessa loved and doted on him; did everything
for him. He was her world when he was growing up. But at eighteen years old,
after graduating with top honors from high school, he picked up and moved all
the way to California. Since he’d been a little kid he’d dreamed of living there,
of the sunny days and the ocean. He’d hated the Midwest’s cold winters, the
snow and ice.
moving so far away nearly killed Tessa, but in time she accepted it. Nicky was
so happy in the land of sun and surf. He did well, too, finding a cushy job as
a contracted troubleshooter for a large computer company. Soon he was making
more money than anyone we’d ever known. Got kind of snooty about, I think. But
hey, that’s kids for ya. You raise them, sacrifice and penny pinch for them,
and then they grow up, run off and forget you.
see him whenever we could. Holidays mostly. Either Tessa would go along with me
on a cross country run in the Peterbilt and we’d drop in on him or we’d travel
up in the car at Christmas and spend a few days with him and his family. Our
son, soon after he settled in his new home, fell in love, got married and had a
little girl and a boy. It was so hard for Tessa every time we had to leave. She
adored those children. She often spoke of moving there so she could spend more
time with all of them. While I didn’t want to. I liked our life the way it was,
liked it being just me and Tessa. I guess I was a little selfish with her.