Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I believe in ghosts.
Short answer? I don’t know.
But what I do know is that things have happened. Things that are not easily dismissed. Every family has their stories. Stories of…happenings. I invite you to share your stories in my comments section. This is one such event that happened to my brothers and me, enjoy:
THE THINGS THAT FOLLOW: PART 1
It’s a house built in the 1800’s. You know the type. It’s made of old wood and mothballs. The paint used to peel but a remodel of vinyl siding creeps up the two story structure. The peeling paint can still be seen on the rotting wood frame of the crusted windows. Either it’s nicotine build up or it’s the remnants of decades of harsh winters and too short summers. It has a dark dank basement that wafts through the brittle frame of the house with the soft scent of mildew. The thick gnarled trees that surround the home have been around even longer than the house, and they aren’t happy about their new neighbors. They lean toward the home from their perch on the hillside, grasping at it in the slow patient way of trees that have nothing but time.
For me, it was home. My brothers and I used to run around the faded, light-blue, iron, well-covering and marvel at how people used to get their water from hand pumps. The old house didn’t have city water, but the snow-melt from the town’s long winters were consistant in providing the water neeeded to last through the summer droughts.
We knew every inch of the wood around my mother’s home. We used to splash In the creeks and slide down the slate waterfall, ripping our bathing suits and shorts as if it were routine. We found little overgrown paths through tangles of underbrush and followed them to whatever end awaited.
That was how we found the cemetary.
The resting place was nestled off the main road. If you were in a car you would never have seen the narrow dirt avenue. On foot, you could only see it if you were facing just the right direction. My older brother saw it first, and he took a tentative step towards the dirt path. Deer were in these woods. We had seen the tracks.
We followed the trail, the three of us. My older and younger brothers loved exploring. The three of us rarely feared to go anywhere, so long as it was together.
The path was much shorter than the twisting and knotted lanes we had charted a thousand times. A dozen paces took the brown and beaten path through an army of elms that stood sentinel before a wire post fence. The wood was worn and cracked with rot and time, it leaned forward as if trying to hug the ground in slow motion.
There was no gate, so we walked in.
The cemetary rested on the top of a cliff that overlooked a valley carved by the creek that sliced through the hillside. A hush fell over us as we realized our find. The plot was old, and the headstones were hand chiseled. The silent stone slabs slunk with a sadness that cried tears of forgetfulness. They cried for the life that went on beyond their unmoving charges six feet below. Weather had softened the dates to the point of being illegible.
Occasionally, one survived the elements a bit better than its cousins, and a quiet voice would read out, “1771”.
A few moments later, “1712”. Respect or awe or a morbid fascination would silence us for a time.
“This one was less than a year old when it died”.
It died. There wasn’t even a name. Just a date.
We walked the edge of the cliff and looked down into the maw of the ravine below. Erosion had reached her hand upward and ripped the side of the hill, pulling a chunk of the graveyard with it. Tiny stone markers dotted the decline like a handful of speckled teeth that jutted outward in various angles. We looked down upon the slide of dirt and stone rubble and wondered if the caskets had been exposed in the collapse that shuffled so many tons of dirt and rock.
We dared each other to go out to a lone stone marker that rested at a forty-five degree angle from the cliff face. A gnarled and bulbous root craddled it with greed. It warned boys like us to not meddle in the affairs of the dead. A wind swirled around our bodies, a sudden omen.
No one went.
Dusk fell on us all at once. The late night air sent a chill up my spine. It was time to go, we all agreed.
We left that cemetery, back through the narrow trail. We slipped quietly past the great trees standing guard at the rickety wire fence. We left the dead behind, to go on living.
We left, but we didn’t know that someone, something, had come with us.
[MONDAY: The Things That Follow: Part Two]