Well it’s almost Halloween again and I wanted to share a short story that I wrote for the occasion. Hope you enjoy spending a little time in a different realm.
“It’s indefinable at times; this anxiety that seems to permeate well just everything.” Her hands hesitated as they brushed the keyboard of her laptop. It was true; her hands seemed to tremble with it, her skin. It felt as though it wrapped around her like a large band that was tightening around her shoulders. It sounded like insanity, if she voiced it aloud. She breathed out and again let her fingers rest on the keyboard. “I feel nervous for no discernible reason except that I do.”
And then she hesitated and typed slowly, “Is this madness?”
“No,” she glanced up and frowned. That certainly didn’t come from her mind. “Ellie,” he said her name slowly.
“Go away,” she murmured out loud. Because now this conversation was no longer introspective, it had become quite tangible.
“But I can help.”
“You don’t exist.”
“Not exactly accurate,” murmured the figure that now filled the shadowed corner of the room.
“I’m trying to sort and you’re not helping.”
“I never said I would help.”
She sighed deeply staring at the very random sprinkle of words on the computer screen. This wouldn’t do, not in the least. “Why don’t you go bother someone else?”
“If only it were that simple my dear.”
And then she typed, “But nothing, nothing can ever be simple.”
And there was soft laughter, “Well that is the most honest thing you’ve said tonight.”
Perhaps it was madness, or perhaps just imagination. Perhaps both, but the question became did it matter, matter at all.
“What are you going to do with your life?”
That was someone else, not her question to herself but rather a question at her.
“I’m writing a book.”
“That’s not exactly practical, is it?” That was her mother, or maybe her sister. Hard to tell, they seemed to be merging a bit these days.
“Why don’t you go back to school? Use the money and–”
She’d probably exploded then. She so hated their interference.
“What about mine?”
“That’s different, you’re not real.”
“Certain of that are you?”
“No, not really certain of anything.”
Atmosphere, atmosphere was key. She’d rented a room, a room in an old house, historic sort of house not so very far from the ocean. It was a pretty, rambling house, with a lovely wide porch wrapping around the side.
“Is everything alright dear?” That was Mrs. Garvey, Viola Garvey, the landlady, so to speak. She lived on the first floor and there were several other tenants. A middle-aged woman, a widow, whose name eluded her, and a man she’d never seen. “He’s actually rarely here. I don’t know why he keeps the rooms.”
Well that was accurate it was rooms, not one, several rooms, and a small kitchenette built in, so she really didn’t have to socialize with anyone else, if she didn’t want to.
“Come on dear, I know that was all a nasty shock and all, but you can’t run away from life.”
“What qualified as life?” she wondered, oh yes a practical job that everyone else deemed respectable.
“I have to go now.”
“You could do something else. You don’t have to go back there.”
“I am, am doing something else,” she murmured before she hung up. It was best not to let these conversations drag on. It only infuriated her.
“They’re worried about you.”
“Understood, but they don’t really understand.”
She sighed deeply. “I don’t understand.”
It was October. And she headed outside for that long walk down to the beach. It was exactly four blocks from the old rambling Ainsworth House. She couldn’t live on the money forever. Fortuitously there had been a land sale in the family just at the right time, so she’d turned in her resignation at the high school at the end of the semester and didn’t look back, didn’t want to look back.
“It was random, random violence.”
It hadn’t felt random. It felt personal, intently personal.
“He had no real connection to the school, just targeted it. It could have been worse.”
Two faculty killed, several students injured. Yes, there had been worse shootings elsewhere but it felt worse.
There was the slightest chill in the air, but it was morning and she knew it wouldn’t last. “You could do something else.” Her mind swirled; what did that look like, something else? She’d been an English teacher at that school for six years but the thought of walking back through the doors nauseated her. She pushed it all away and stretched her legs, picking up the pace.
Finally, she cleared the final row of houses and stepped past the road onto the periphery of the beach. The edge was more like a park, cemented with benches just before you reached the sand. But she bypassed it all just to get closer to the water, to breathe it in all in deeply. The cool air hit her throat as she breathed. Ellie March, you could start a family. She was thirty-two. She supposed it was possible, but she hadn’t met anyone, no one she could imagine having a family with. And she wasn’t sure if she really wanted one. Hers, well hers had been filled with such discordance.
“And you couldn’t make things different?”
She squeezed her eyes shut. There it was again that voice that she wondered if strong anti-depressants might drive away.
“I’m not the figment of some neurosis.”
She kept her eyes shut, because she would see him sometimes. And while it felt perfectly natural to her she realized that it boded some deep psychosis on her part, hallucinations and such.
“Yes, bury your head in the sand my dear that always solves problems.”
She opened her eyes, turning to her side angrily. There he was standing there, staring out at the water. A tall, sort of thinnish man, with brown hair, longish brushing his shoulders dressed in some sort of antiquated black suit that looked like it came from another century. Of course this was all her imagination, but the problem had become that her imagination was completely eluding her control.
“You really should calm down. You will work yourself up into a hysteria.”
“I wish you would go away.”
“Yes dear, well I wish a great many things that will never come to pass.”
She stared at him frowning. If she told anyone about this–
“They would lock you up in an asylum somewhere and throw away the key.”
She crossed her arms, now staring out at the calming flow of water ahead of her. Except that it didn’t feel calming, not in the least. “You see that proves it that you are simply coming out of my mind, the way you flow right out of my thoughts.”
“Read your mind?” he chuckled. She was so pleased she was amusing this manifestation of her insanity. She did note standing nearer him or it or whatever that he was a bit pale, a bit on the unhealthy side.
“Yes, I suppose. Are you sick or something? Oh never mind you’re not real,” she sputtered a bit.
“I spend or spent a lot of time indoors, did suffer with a bout of consumption in the end.”
Her eyes widened and there was that odd headache that felt like it was drumming in her head. Maybe she had a brain tumor or aneurism brought on by that terrible shooting, but then she swept it away. The whole incident she was more than happy to sweep out of her mind. “What does that mean, the end?” She shouldn’t have asked it. It was one of those doors that one shouldn’t open, not even take a peek through. But as it was one of her failings was that she was curious, curious in a way that had led her places that perhaps she shouldn’t be.
He turned away from the turbulent ocean, because it was a windy, overcast day and the waves simply responded to that reality. He moved in a bit closer and his eyes she saw were a curious mixture of green and blue. “Do you really want to know Ellie?” he said slowly and deliberately. His speech was very clipped, formal in a way, not lazy and imprecise like so many of those in her generation.
“I asked,” she answered equally as clipped.
He smiled slowly, and then reached out and lightly touched her cheek with his fingertips. Her eyes widened. She’d felt that. How indeed could she feel something that was born out of her own delirium? “You really think you’re imaginative enough to conjure me?”
She stepped back and murmured shakily, “I have to go.”
No smile now, just staring at her intently. “I haven’t answered your question.”
She didn’t wait. She simply turned and walked quickly away or was she running. She wasn’t entirely sure.
By the time she returned to the Ainsworth house, she noticed that Mrs. Garvey and Medora Ross were seated up on the side porch at the white wrought iron table. Mrs. Garvey smiled broadly as Ellie ascended the stairs. Medora glanced up at her with dark eyes. That’s right her name was Medora. Viola had said something about her family being killed, killed in a train wreck. She said nothing just raised the delicate china cup to her lips.
“We’re just having a spot of tea my dear. Would you care to join us?” Viola had just traces of an English accent and she wore. Ellie paused for a moment staring at her nearly incomprehensibly. She wore a long dress whose hem brushed the wooden floor of the porch. Ellie breathed in deeply that sharp pain in her head pounded. Maybe they were dressing up, because it was the same with Medora, a long black dress, looked like mourning, mourning from another century.
She felt dizzy. Maybe she was sick, more sick than she thought. “No, no,” she muttered. Then suddenly she heard footsteps behind her, heavy footsteps ascending the wooden stairs.
Viola stood up, smiling widely. “Oh Mr. Dupre, we had no idea when we would see you around here.”
Ellie didn’t turn around. She wasn’t curious now. She felt the pressure of a hand on her shoulder. “Ellie and I need to speak about a few things Mrs. Garvey,” he said slowly. It was that voice, his voice. The man she’d been speaking to moments before out on the beach. She pulled away and ran into the house, ran up the creaking staircase until she reached her rooms and could slam the door behind her.
“You could do something else.”
“How could I?”
“You seem unhappy, darling.”
“I don’t know maybe, maybe I will change things.”
“You could have a family of your own.”
“Maybe,” she’d answered indefinitely, then let life swirl around her again. Day to day and making no change until–
She pulled the pillow closer to her head. Pounding, pounding in her head. All of that was before, not after as she’d thought. She didn’t change anything and then —
She heard the door in the other room swing open. She hadn’t locked it. Why hadn’t she locked it?
And then he walked into the bedroom. He’d never used doors before. Why was he bothering with them now?
He stood there in the doorway just staring at her intently. “Sorry,” he murmured.
“I’m losing my mind,” she said but he had no reaction.
“You’re adjusting, not exactly the same thing.”
She sat up in the brass daybed. She hadn’t thought about how antiquated it had seemed when she moved in. She hadn’t thought about her other apartment and what she’d done with all the furniture there and who was paying the bills. “What’s wrong with those people? Viola and that woman Medora, she doesn’t speak. And the way they’re dressed. And you?”
“They’re comfortable that way. And me well I’ve always been partial to this suit. Even when I got sick.”
She swung her feet down on the floor. She didn’t want to ask, but as was her nature she did. “Sick?”
“Consumption, I was a writer, mostly a poet; then I got sick, terribly, really a difficult, well way to go.”
Her heart was racing, but she pushed onward. “Are you trying to tell me you died?”
“Yes Ellie March. I died, Viola died, and so did Medora in that terribly train accident. This place, this lovely old house is sort of a halfway house for those who need more time to make the transition.”
“Yes, it’s difficult for some of us. The end was too difficult or there are things we feel we need to finish of a variety of other reasons. It’s a soft place to fall.”
She bowed her head. “Then why am I here?” — Another question she shouldn’t have asked. Why didn’t she just wait, slink away not knowing?
He smiled slowly, “You won’t be here too long will you Ellie March?”
“Would you like to take a turn with me on the grounds? They’re really quite lovely, flowers blooming even in October.”
“I suppose,” she murmured. She should be upset but she wasn’t. Instead she was intrigued as was her nature.
Copyright© 2015 by Evelyn Klebert