You guys have been blowing me away with your awesomeness. Here is the all the #ghostlygoodreads story that’s been unlocked so far. Keep it up guys, the challenge ends Sept. 1st!
Haunted houses were supposed to be remote, old, and sinister, maybe located on the edge of a bog or a mist-enshrouded forest. But this one, homey and filled with natural light, stood in the middle of a street with excellent plantings, In Westchester of all places. It even had a living resident.
May had lived in the house since she was a new bride, and she wasn’t going to stop just because her husband had died. Especially since, as she found out a year after his death, he wasn’t planning on leaving either.
If death didn’t stop him, his ghost wouldn’t stop her. She’d always known love was forever. This just confirmed it.
Together they adjusted to his afterlife. It was no more difficult than it had been just after he’d retired. Just a change. They settled on a new routine fairly quickly. May would wake up in the morning alone, eat her breakfast tea and toast. At eight she would go into the library where she still worked in the children’s section. She came home at six every night.
By this time her dead husband, Phillip, would begin to stir. At first it would just be little things: her wine bottle would uncork itself, her freshly pan-fried steak would go suddenly ice cold, the TV channel would change. Sometimes the lights would flicker, but the wiring was old and erratic, so that may have not been the ghost. Phillip would start to manifest midway through dinner, sometimes a little earlier if there was a sitcom on TV.
They would sit in silence as he solidified on the couch or at the kitchen table, watching TV together as he became again. When his transparent body was solid enough to make a dent in the couch, May would turn off the TV and talk to him. She worried sometimes that they would run of out of things to say, since her life was small and he couldn’t or wouldn’t say anything about the afterlife, but if anything he seemed more interested in the details of her day than he ever had.
He’d ask so many questions that she started paying more attention so she could report back to him with accuracy. He wanted to know what flowers had come out, the price of milk, and if Betty Price’s boy had learned his alphabet yet. Sometimes she would touch his hand, or squeeze one of his feet on the couch next to her, and he would smile his old smile. He felt cold but never unpleasant, like a sip of cool mountain water, refreshing no matter the weather.
They went up to bed together, and he’d sing to himself in the bedroom while she brushed her teeth and hair. He was a better singer now than he had been before. His voice always echoed like he was in a shower stall. He kissed her goodnight, just once on the lips, and she fell asleep with just their toe-tips touching under the covers.
She always woke up alone.
One day in early October a nice looking man named Marvin walked into the library. He had a bright smile and freckles. Marvin liked mysteries, but he was getting tired of the British ones he’d grown up reading. He wanted something with grit. He’d never read any of the classic hard-boiled detective fiction. May found this unacceptable and steered him towards the Hammett and Chandler. He said his favorite detective story was The Murders in the Rue Morgue. She didn’t read much of Poe anymore. There was too much death, and too much that came after it. No happy ghosts for Poe.
Marvin left that day with a smile, a handshake, and a promise to report back on the Maltese Falcon. HIs hand was warm. May thought about him all day, but somehow she forgot to mention his visit to Phillip during their chat that evening. She held his hand for as long as she could, but after ten minutes the cold started to bother her and she had to let go.
The next morning she woke up alone.
Marvin came back to the library the next week. He’d finished reading The Maltese Falcon. She gave him The Big Sleep. In return, he made her promise to try Elmore Leonard. As soon as she got home she tore into Out Of Sight. She stood at the kitchen counter reading until Phillip had half-materialized and she realized she hadn’t made dinner. She put the book down next to the toaster and hurriedly put some fruit and yoghurt in a bowl.
A new medical drama was on TV that night, but May’s head was filled with bank robbers, marshals, and freckled smiles. She was so distracted by her thoughts, she missed Phillips first question completely. “What?” She said. His face broke apart temporarily, like mist on a wind. May mentally scolded herself, and resolved to pay better attention.
That night she dreamed of holding hands in the sunshine.
The next morning she read at breakfast, and all day behind her desk at work.
A few weeks before Halloween Marvin asked her if she was able to get away from work to go have a cup of coffee with him. They drank chai and pumpkin lattes. The conversation was easy, even when they moved away from books on to other topics. They even talked about Phillip, (although not his current state of in-between). Marvin was sensitive, and interested.
After an hour May had to go back to the Library. Marvin came with her, and lingered at her desk, making her laugh. He might have stayed with her when it was time for her to go home, but she said a firm good-by. He asked for coffee again. She said yes, and then regretted it every night that week. Still, she never called to cancel. Instead, she started looking through the occult and religious sections of the library. Looking up ghosts.
She couldn’t consciously admit to what she was looking for, but she found herself lingering over stories of exorcism. She read about cold iron, spirit houses, and curved walkways. She read about burning sage, and more dangerous rituals. The more she saw of Marvin, the more she found herself drawn to those dark sections of the library.
She’d been living a life of ice, and shadow, and cool mountain water. Marvin brought sunshine into her days again.His eyes were like dark cherries. His freckles were like chocolate chips. Once she thought, giddily, she wanted to put her tongue on each and every one.
On Halloween he invited her to watch a movie and to give out candy to the neighborhood children. She had to turn him down.This was the night. She was ready. She would have to be. She took the day off work to prepare the house. She’d cobbled together the technique from different religions, myths, and folklore. There was no time for scientific rigor here. She had to depend on quantity over precision.
She hung black sheets over the mirrors. She placed Iron and garlic over every door and entranceway in the house.She tucked bundles of fragrant rosemary, St. Johns Wart, and wormwood in her pockets. She strung windchimes from the ceiling. They sounded like a delicate rain. Breadcrumbs, and keys. Holly and Pine. Netting and salt and endless rows of candles, both lit and unlit. It was time.
As the sun set and the sky turned a proper Halloween orange, Philip began to materialize. Instead of forming smoothly, like condensing mist, he shuddered into the world in short, sharp, gasps. It looked like an old TV screen, or the wavering holograms from the Star Wars movies. This was good. She needed him here, but week. When he’d fully formed he still sputtered out around the edges.
May needed to start. She knew she needed to start, but she just stood with her arms limp at her sides. She thought of Phillip when he was alive. He’d been all fire, dancing and shouting and laughing until he shook their bed. She thought of their first date, and how his lips had tasted like popcorn. She remembered the way he looked in his sleep, lips pursed, as if he was puzzling out a problem and how he’d loved to dance, even though he wasn’t any good at it.
But she knew, too, that Phillip was dead. He deserved to be mourned. She couldn’t do that with this specter in the house.
Phillip’s ghost looked around the room. He saw the herbs, the wind-chimes and the darkened mirrors. He began to howl. It was a noise like May had never heard before. It was sharp like a baby’s cry, mournful as an old widow’s song. She ran through the room, setting off all the wind-chimes as loudly as she could, trying to drown out his song.