Short Story: Ghostly by Tara Moeller


                                                                        Ghostly
                                                                        Tara Moeller
It was hot that summer.  Driving up the old dirt road to the house, I noticed the vines right off, growing up the side of Meme's two story veranda.  Pepe closed it in three summers ago, and the vines really liked the fine mesh that kept the skeeters out.
It was my first summer staying with Meme and Pepe without Mum.  She was working this summer, now that Daddy was off with his new wife and baby.  Rory was spending the summer with them; I wanted Meme and Pepe and the old plantation next to the bayou.
Maybe it was because I was a girl, but I didn't like Daddy's new wife.  Every time I spoke to Daddy on the phone, it was Sacha this and Sacha that.  He doesn't even mention the new baby half the time; I wind up asking how little Antonio is doing. 
So, when Mum asked, I said I wanted to go stay with Meme and Pepe.
And she agreed.
Rory flew out to Daddy's new house in Buena Vista; Pepe came to pick me up in his 1959 Cadillac.  I think I got the better ride.
"Look at you, child.  All grown up!"  Meme met us at the top of the steps leading to the first floor veranda, flowered cotton dress and yellow apron wafting in the breeze.  She grabbed me tight when I ran to her, squeezing the air out of my lungs - but I didn't mind.  It was one of those great hugs that you feel into your bones and can last from the end of summer all the way to Christmas.
"Can I sleep in the top room?"  The top room was at the top of the house, in the attic really, but at some point, someone had paneled the walls and ceiling and floor and turned it into one big room with niches for each window.
"Are you sure, Missy?"  Meme held me at arms' length, looking down her long powdered nose at me.  She and Pepe slept in a room with its own bath on the main floor.
"Of course, Meme."  I begged to sleep up there every summer, but Mum would never let me, making me share a room with Rory instead.  "I'm 15 now; I'm old enough to sleep up there."
"Okee.  Get your stuff up there and get back down for dinner.  I got it all ready and on the table, waiting."
I grabbed my single suitcase and hauled ass up the six front steps to the veranda, and up all fours sets of stairs in the house before Meme could change her mind.
"I made your favorite.  Don't dawdle or it'll be cold!"
Meme makes the best chicken and dumplings.  I won't eat them anywhere else - not even Mum's.  There was smoky greens and cornbread, too, with bits of corn and peppers in it.  Probably from last year's garden.  I ate two helpings of everything, washing it down with her fresh-brewed sweet raspberry tea.
At bedtime, after watching old Westerns with Pepe on Netflix, I trudged back up the four flights to my little bed under the eaves.  The paneling was painted white on the walls, and there were little throw rugs all over the honey-colored floor.  Laying in bed, I could see out the little window to themoon looming over the trees, just a hint of mist blurring its light.
The bed was soft, the breeze through the just-open window redolent of magnolia and jasmine, and I felt safe tucked into the cotton sheets.
I watched the moon rise higher, thought of Mum and Rory, and Daddy, Sacha and baby Antonio. I said a prayer for all of them, and Meme and Pepe, and shut my eyes to sleep.
"Who is you?"
I opened my eyes, sitting up in bed, cracking my head against the slant I forgot was there.
In the painted rocking chair next to the window, tucked into the only space tall enough for it to fit, sat a wispy girl.  By wispy, I mean, you could see right through her.
"Who am I?"
She nodded, what looked to be blonde ringlets - but could have been red, there wasn't much color to any of her -  dancing on her shoulders.
"I'm Missy.  Who are you?"
"Anabelle Mariana DeJesus.”
“That’s a long name.”
“He’s coming, you know.”
“He?”
She nodded, the curls merging into her shoulders and then solidifying again.  “Promise you won’t jump?”
“Jump?”  I swung my legs over the side of the bed, keeping my shoulders hunched to save my noggin.
“The last girl jumped.  But that was a long time ago.  Haven't been any girls up here since then.”
I blinked and looked around.  I couldn’t see anyone else.  The moon was higher in the sky now, looking bigger and whiter in the black.  When I turned back to the rocker, it was empty.
I thought about going back down stairs.  About going down two flights to the big room with the double canopy beds that Rory and I shared last summer.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t get the chance.
The door was at the far end of the room, where the narrow little stairs followed the exterior wall.  Something stood between me and it.  Something big and insubstantial, but creepy and blood curdling just the same.
“Hello?”  I couldn't believe the quavering whisper came out of my mouth.
It moved toward me, lurching like it was dragging something behind it.  I couldn’t help it, my heart sped up and the spit gathered in my mouth, almost choking me when I swallowed it down.
“Who’s there?”
It didn’t answer, just got closer and closer.  I pulled my feet up onto the bed and pressed back against the wall. 
It moved into the center of the attic, and I could just make out the head and broad shoulders.  It, or I guess rather he, since she'd said it was a he, was bare-chested, or at least he didn't look like he was wearing a shirt.  And he was dragging a sack behind him.  A big sack, and it looked full and heavy.
It breathed - deep heavy pants.  I wondered if he had hauled that sack a long ways, back when he was still alive.
I'd figured out what he was - and the girl.  Ghosts.
Meme always said that ghosts couldn't hurt you.  They were souls, lost in the world of the living, unable to touch anything in our world.
I reminded myself of her words as it got closer, and closer, passing to within a foot of my bed.  I watched him ignore me.  He was focused on the window, hands clasped tight around the end of the wriggling sack.
Wriggling?  Something was in that sack.  Something alive.  Or at least, something that was once alive, but was now a remnant.
"Quit your fussing."  The man stopped to speak to the sack, even giving it a good kick.  "You need to learn your lesson."
He tugged it toward the window again.
I watched the sack, my stomach in my toes, my heart in my throat stopping me from screaming.  Believe you me, if I could've screamed, I wouldn't screamed loud enough to wake Meme and Pepe.
At the window, the man grunted and hoisted the sack up against the bottom sill, then picked up the other end and tossed it out the window.
Whatever was in the sack screamed.
"That was Emma Madeline."
I jumped and squeaked and hit my head on the slant again.  The girl from the rocker squatted next to me on the bed, her feet sunk into the mattress so it looked like her legs were cut off mid-calf.
"Who?"  I managed the move my heart enough to whisper around it.
"Emma Madeline.  My older sister.  She scratched him last night and tried to tell Mama."
"That she'd scratched him?"
"No.  Why she scratched him."  The girl canted her head at me.
I stared a moment, then figured I knew what she was getting at.  "Oh."
The girl sighed and shook her head.  "Emma never did take well to him."
"Who is he?"
"My stepfather.  Mama married him a couple of years ago."
I nodded, not knowing what else to say. 
"We moved out here when Mama got melancholy."
"Melancholy?"
"She doesn't like to do much anymore."
"Oh."  Mum had got depressed when Dad first left and told her there was a baby coming.  That must be what she was talking about.
"He buried her out back.  Next to the magnolia."
I loved that magnolia.  I liked to climb up into its branches and pretend the world didn't exist.  I'd planned on spending time there, like I had last summer, only this summer I'd be pretending it was still last summer and Mum and Daddy were still together and there was no Sacha or house in Buena Vista.
The lumbering ghost pivoted from the window and trudged back across the floor, dragging his left leg along the wood.  I expected a shushing noise, but it was silent, like a video with the sound turned off.
"He's going to me now."  The girl watched him.
"But you're here."
"He doesn't know that.  And when he gets to my room, I'll-"  Her words cut off and she was gone.
The sudden quiet put pressure in my ears.  Taking a deep gasping breath - I'd been holding it in - I sprinted to the stair, taking the steps two at a time, nearly pitching off the last few.  Spinning at the newel post, making it rock in the old, stretched wood, I stopped long enough to pant and right myself so I wouldn't tumble the rest of the way down.
In the living room, I settled on the familiar sofa, pulling Meme's old purple afghan over my shoulders.  It was soft from being washed over and over, forever.  Huddled there, tears falling, I wished hard that I was on a plane to Buena Vista with Rory.

Information about her book:  http://www.amazon.com/Dhampyr-Heritage-ebook/dp/B007Y7INA6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380077186&sr=8-1&keywords=dhampyr+heritage


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Comments

  1. Love the story! Thank you so much for being on the blog for this event.

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