Saturday, October 27, 2007

Awoken: A Ghost Story

Yesterday is simply too complicated for me to go into great detail and I don’t think any of you really want to hear what happens when a stripper manages to offend the whole of Bangor’s unwed mothers with a silly little remark about the cooking times of buns in ovens. It took me some time and a free demonstration of my skills as Wales’ top stripper to bring them back on my side and by the time 2 o’clock came around, all was well with the world. The ladies loved me again.

I got home late and in a strangely relaxed mood. I sat down for an hour and penned the following little short story which I’m considering putting up on the Telegraph blog. I’m not a man to go in for these literary competitions, though I often take great delight in completing the entries. It’s not that I hate the idea of losing, but I do worry about winning. Not, I’ve ever won a thing for anything I’ve written, but for the highly esteemed Blogpower Most Literature Wordsmith award, which has since become enshrined in the form of a tattoo. Not that I have a tattoo, you understand, but Gabby volunteered to have it for me. I don't know why I'm telling you any of this given that I'm sure you've all heard the story of how James Higham’s portrait was recorded for immortality on the left cheek of the cheekier of the Cheeky Girls.

I’m off to soak in the bath while you enjoy or endure my weak attempt at supernatural fiction for Halloween.

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Awoken

I awoke to ghoulish laughter.

My mind strained against the lock of my eyelids, my neck against the numb hold of sweat that had soaked my hair into the pillow. My spirit was listless but my body awake, angry, confused, and when my eyes opened, they did so with an almost audible gasp that equated to vision.

The boy was standing at the bottom of the bed, his face contorted by laughter until he saw me wake and then it reformed itself into a look of calm bemusement. Ten years old, perhaps a little older, the boy was pale, fraught, nightmarish. I could hardly look on his face, marked as it was by sunken eyes like twin tender beds where dead bodies lay buried.

He was dressed for theatrics, wrapped inside a black cape and chewing on a set of plastic fangs, a grim totem of childish games and the role he had chosen to play. My attention seemed to change him and the teeth trailed saliva behind them as he spat them into his hand.

‘You’re awake,’ he said.

Just like that; bold and uncomplicated, as though a strange man waking up in his bed was nothing out of the ordinary.

I tried to speak but found nothing where I had last left my voice. Panic, fear, a sense of betrayal: they were coarse fibres, tangible like a noose around my throat.

‘I’m dreaming,’ I must have finally muttered.

‘You’re not afraid?’ he asked, looking down at the grin he held in his hand. ‘I guess you’re not. It’s not as though they’re like real teeth.’

‘I’m not afraid,’ I said. ‘But you need to tell me where I am.’

‘Lost,’ he said.

Lost? The question had to have been little more than a look in my eye but he seemed to know it by that alone.

‘This isn’t your place but I didn’t mind you resting a while,’ he answered. ‘You look sick. Mother always used to say that we help people who are sick or have lost their way.’

I could not bring myself to ask the easy questions. Where. How. Why. They sounded too direct when they formed in my mind. I feared that there might be an answer to each.

‘What is this place?’ I mouthed, feeling no better about the words I’d chosen.

‘This is where the undead make their home,’ he said in an assumed voice like that of a revenant spirit. Then he laughed and held up the teeth. ‘And you don’t belong here.’ He looked towards the door. ‘They’ll be here soon, so you’ll have to go back. They can’t see you. They can never see you.’

‘Go?’ I asked, raising myself. The movement sparked sensation in my body. I recognised it. Warm, languid, perhaps a touch of the opiate. For the first time, a thing made sense. There had been a time, a short time, when my problems had taken me by unawares. I had succumbed to temptation of the easy fix, the ten minute solution of the spoon and lighter. But that had been so long ago and a habit that I had formed and then unformed, even if I couldn’t remember how.

For the first time, I looked beyond the boy and at my surroundings. The room was familiar. I remembered that it had once been my bedroom. A toy aeroplane hung from the ceiling and twisted in an endless tailspin. The wallpaper, yellowed, had bubbled in places. Cold moisture saturated the corner of the room where I recognised the window, the recess where a seat overlooked what I knew was a garden, an apple tree, a place where a stream broke in a crooked line towards the house. In the recess sat a large pumpkin with a cruel razor slash of a mouth. Each, in a way, were the form if not the detail of something I remembered as my own childhood.

I wanted to ask if he thought he belonged to my world but he anticipated my question.

‘I’ll see you again,’ he said and before I could stop him he ran out of the room.

I struggled to my feet, more rolling out of bed than standing, but I found myself balanced on legs weaker than straws. I was in no condition to go after him, no condition to go chasing a ghost around a house it had taken for its own. Yet that was what I did… in a fashion.

The bedroom door fell towards me then the world rolled around to a small landing, stuck with the pall of gloom, bad wallpaper, cheap carpet, the familiar taste of dog in the air.

The boy had paused at the stairs.

If he was a fiend, he was a minor fiend with a touch of the amateur dramatics. He held his arm across his face, speaking from behind elbow and cape.

‘You’ll never catch me,’ he said before he took flight down the steps two at a time.

An imbalance of wall, banister, vertigo followed and I was at the top of the staircase.

‘Wait,’ I whispered to the figure below me, ‘you must tell me. Do I know you?’

But he did not stop. One. Two. Three. Three steps took him across the hall and he was at the front door.

He waited as I slowly navigated my way into normality. After the semi coma of a sleep, I was beginning to find myself again. I recognised the hall, though not the modern hat stand dressed in a pair of black stilettos, a pink umbrella, and a navy blue overcoat with a folded copy of the Daily Telegraph standing proud in its pocket. I didn’t wait as I lumbered past that prop body. I wanted to reach the boy who had stepped to the threshold of the house. I don’t know how but I knew that if he escaped, I would never catch him.

‘You have to wait,’ I pleaded. ‘Your name. You have to tell me your name. Prove to me who you are. What are you doing here? What did you want?’

He shrugged. ‘I’ll see you again,’ he promised and returned the teeth to his mouth.

With a stroke of an arm, the cape caught the air and the vampire flew, the light exposing the thinness of the fabric that made up his cape and then the sun blazed as it touched him. Light evaporated his body as I too reached the door, swinging shut behind him.

I thought him gone until I then saw him running down the garden path, his cape flailing behind him as he played. But then I saw no more. The door closed despite my feeble attempts to stop it as wood and handle passed straight through my long dead immaterial hands.

4 comments:

elberry said...

Inspiring as it is to learn that you're dead, i'm a tad disappointed not to encounter some stripping action in this tale.

Sir James Curmudgeon said...

Chip - only one comment and Gabbie gets tons. What's going on, old chap?

Paul said...

I like the comment about a certain newspaper. :)

Big Chip Dale said...

Elberry, sorry to disappoint. A man must have some break from the stripping.

Sir James, yes. I noticed that too.

And Paul, dear Paul. Of all the comments on my blog, this one means the most yet I get around to commenting on it the last. I take it that you liked the story. At least somebody did. The paper had to be in there as part of the rules to a competition it now looks like I didn't win... The Telegraph people don't quite understand me, I'm afraid.