Written for a writing contest - Had to be 600 hundred words or less,
start with the sentence "Some people swore that the house was haunted" and end with the sentence "Nothing was ever the same again after that".
I didn't win the contest but I did get rid of a ghost.
Some people swore that the house was haunted. I lived there. I knew it
was. And I knew the ghost by name. Samuel Brown.
His eyes were still open when they wheeled his body past me. His head
turned slightly to look at me and I imagined it was to acknowledge
what we just went through together. Then he was gone. I shivered and
pulled my bathrobe up to cover my neck even though I wasn’t cold.
Sweet Jesus, I thought, I’m never going to be able to sleep with the
lights off again.
I heard the stairs creak and was happy that Lulu didn’t wake up during
any of the chaos. “What are you doing out here in your pajamas Mama?”
she asked as she crawled up onto my lap. I smelled her hair and kissed
her tangled bed head and felt the instant comfort of something that
felt ordinary. I didn’t want to scare her and tell her that Samuel had
just died so I shrugged and said “Nothing Baby, it’s just a nice
morning so I thought I would have my coffee out here.”
We sat there on the top step of the porch in silence watching the fog
start to lift off the pond. It really would have been a nice morning
had it not been for the dead guy. Lulu stretched and yawned and put
her arms around my neck.
“Is today Sunday Mama?”
“Can we have chocolate chip pancakes then?”
“Yeah Sweetie, just not here. Let’s go to the diner instead.”
It all felt so wrong. Everyone at the diner was going about his or her
morning as usual. I just held a man’s hand while he died. Shouldn’t
the flags be flying at half-staff? Shouldn’t people be weeping and
telling stories about the heroic adventures of Samuel Brown? Couldn’t
people tell by my eyes that I had just witnessed a tragedy? Samuel
shouldn’t have died naked on the bathroom floor with someone he barely
knew holding his hand, whispering that everything was going to be ok
when really I knew that one of these rattling shallow breaths was
going to be his last.
For years now the space below me where he lived has been empty. The
For Rent sign is yellow and warped around the edges. The talk around
town is that no one will live there because of the way your hair feels
like it stands on end when you walk in the bathroom and that the
lights turn on and off by themselves. I know it’s all true. I see it
happening. Sometimes I think I hear him down there humming to himself
but I don’t mind anymore that his spirit isn’t ready to leave yet. I
think I would want to stick around if I had the choice too.
I thought about dying of cancer for a long time after that. I worried
that every ache or cough was going to be my death sentence. I talked
to my therapist until she somehow found a way to blame my paranoia on
my Mother and then it stopped. I wasn’t scared anymore. I could sleep
with the lights off. But I was never the same person again that I was
that Sunday morning when I sat with Samuel Brown while he died.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.