Of Ghosts and Old Doorbells


The old doorbell had been silent for over twenty years. After this house was abandoned, people eventually stopped coming to visit, or even to try and sell things. It had been so long, in fact, that the ghosts started to assume it was too rusty to ever make another sound.

Three generations of ghosts dwelled in the old house; they drifted lazily up and down the stairs, reenacted balls in the parlor, had the same conversations that had echoed in the halls for hundreds of years. They spoke of wars long finished and weddings whose couples had long been buried together.

In the midst of this nostalgic echo, this perpetual sigh, the doorbell rang. It was really just an old bell situated somewhere by the front door; someone outside rang, and a string caused it to rattle. It wasn’t the loudest sound, and it hadn’t been touched with the greatest strength—the noise it made was indeed feeble—but when that doorbell rang, everything stopped.

The ladies dressed in ballgowns stopped their repetitive gossip to look at the door, wide-eyed. The butler, who had long run out of things to do, stopped mid-pace with his hands clasped behind his back. The scullery maid got to her feet, bouncing; an old greyhound who rested by the chilly fireplace lifted his head, whining.

“Visitors!” cried one of the ladies, fanning herself (in vain, because she could not produce any air with a ghost fan.) “I do miss playing the piano!”

“Stop it, Dinah,” said her companion with a deep, dramatic sigh; “you know as well as I that we cannot touch anything. Not even the door.”

Dinah played with a lock of her long blonde hair; it had come out of her elaborate knot, somehow, over the course of her years being dead. “Then who’s going to answer the door, Annie?”

Her companion, clearly the wiser of the two, shrugged with a regretful smile. “None of us can. We cannot touch anything.”

“But we should be polishing the silver,” said the butler, speaking for the first time in centuries. “Lighting candles. Dusting the curtains!”

“We can do nothing of the sort, Mr Brown.”

The dog whined, putting his head back on the ground, nose twitching as if struggling to hold back real tears.

The doorbell rang again, a bit more loudly this time. The ghosts stared at the bell as it rattled into silence, some hugging themselves, some breathing heavily, all knowing perfectly well that they could do nothing about it; they had no physical hands with which to open the door for them, no real voices with which to greet them or sing happy music.

“Then what did we get from any of this?” asked the maid sadly, sitting back down on the ground and crossing her legs as they listened to gravel crunch—their visitor was walking away, having realized no one was home to answer them.

Annie paused, gazing at the bell as she forced herself to think, really think, for the first time in a while. “It woke us up, Dinah. I think that’s good enough. It woke us up.”

With that, she took a step back and crossed to the other side of the room, where she lifted her chin and stood with her shoulders back.

“And I propose,” she continued, “a change. Shall we spend the next twenty years in this corner, rather than that one?”

Dinah watched Annie with a quaint frown. At last she shrugged, seeing as there was nothing for her to lose anyway; she crossed the room as well, while the baffled Mr Brown watched, himself reluctant to do anything differently from how it had been done a century ago. “I say,” she exclaimed, “it’s sunnier in this corner.”

The dog got up and crossed the room after her, where he sat down at her feet in the exact same position to listen. Annie smiled, taking Dinah’s fan and using it herself—it was her turn, after all.

“Now, then,” she said to her friend, as the other ghosts slowly began to shift position until the next person rang the doorbell, “tell me about your wedding plans.”

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Story: The Fisherman’s Boat


boat

It was one of the last warm days before fall kicked in with all its chill. School had just ended for the day, and two children walked through the woods, a sister and her younger brother.

To the boy, this was a new route home. However, his sister had been here before; she was taking him to see an old fishing boat left by the man who had lived nearby. For some reason, it had been abandoned in the woods when the man passed away.

As they approached the fishing boat, something about the clearing felt wrong to the girl, who stopped with a small frown. The first thing she noticed was how exposed the boat was. In the past it was protected from the weather by a plastic sheet. The sheet had vanished, allowing leaves to fall inside and create a carpet of brown. Not only that, but the ground was littered with garbage and names had been scratched on the outside.

“How dare they treat it so awfully,” whispered the girl, feeling her heart break.

She gathered wrappers from inside the boat, tossing them into the bushes. The fisherman’s boat ought to be respected, not treated like a big trash bin. She wondered if his family still lived nearby; she could tell them to take better care of their heirloom.

This clearing in the woods had been her haven. Now she could not bring herself to feel the magic she once did; it was as if something had been stolen from her. Even if she came daily to clean the boat, it wouldn’t be the same.

For some reason, she thought everything would be as she remembered it—this clearing hallowed as if the fisherman’s spirit still lurked. Clearly, the dead were powerless to protect their own items once found by the living.

No good mystery could remain pure for long.

“Why are you so sad?” her brother asked, taking a step closer.

The girl couldn’t bring herself reply. Her disappointment made it worse: she had promised her brother a journey to the prettiest part of the forest, but now it felt as though she’d failed him. Instead of speaking, she picked unhappily at some grass with a cold hand.

He spoke again, voice high with childish wonder: “It’s full of leaves, like a chest of gold!”

“It shouldn’t be full of leaves,” she mumbled. “It should be covered with a sheet.”

“But then how would the fisherman’s ghost get inside?”

She frowned and stopped picking at the grass; he continued breathlessly, as if this were the most wonderful discovery in history.

“Look! There are names on the side. Can we write ours, too?”

“But that’s vandalism.”

He pouted. “Please? I want to let the fisherman know I was here!”

It was with astonishment that she took a pin from one of her braids and handed it over. She watched her brother carve his name onto the side of the boat. When he stopped, he said, “When he returns tonight, the fisherman will know he had a visitor.”

His words were so pure, so innocent and glad—and suddenly she felt excitement once more in her cold, young heart. Perhaps there was still magic, if one knew how to look…even on the surface of a moldy old boat.

“Move over,” she said, sitting next to him. “I’m going to write my name.”

A Dreary, Abandoned Place


Drip. Drip. Tea trickles over the side of an overturned saucer, but no one is around to right it or wipe the wooden floor.

The front door of this old house has been left wide open, pictures on the wall knocked over to show signs of a struggle. A stray cat wandered in not long after the residence was vacated and sits curled up by the window, enjoying warmth from the winter air.

Outside, it’s started to snow in flurries. A layer of ice dusts the entrance to the house. Aside from the cat, nothing from outside has noticed the absence of people. That tea is cold by now, but continues to drip; it make a noise that mesmerizes the feline visitor.

As you can see, this place is empty. It’s unlikely that anyone will come back, since this house was built miles from town. Somehow, it still has the feel of having been inhabited very recently.

There’s no point staying, but we can speculate: there will be unattended phone calls for weeks, perhaps months. More animals will take up residence in the tidy bedrooms as nature reclaims this corner of the woods.

For now, the saucer drips its cold contents onto the floor.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Am I Lost?


tall-tree

Am I lost? the young girl wondered, peering up a tree. She clutched at her teddy bear, frowning with confusion; what she knew in her mind contradicted how she felt in her heart. If she was lost, then she preferred it this way.

The forest felt like home.

She’d been wandering for hours among ancient trees, stopping occasionally to pick a flower from the ground. In her head, she knew she ought to be afraid, but her heart basked in the open space around her.

Mother always told her not to venture into the trees, lest she lose her way. That advice had been spoken ominously, as if something awful would happen in the midst of the green. Perhaps her mother had been wrong; it was lovely here, and she felt safer than she had by the hearth at home.

Perhaps the forest was home.

The breeze sounded familiar, like a voice she’d heard long ago. If she stopped, she could almost hear a song of welcome. Leaning against the tree, she closed her eyes and breathed in perfect rhythm with the wind.

If the forest was home, then she had been lost on those nights she sat by the hearth. Had the trees been calling her each time she dreamed of going to the woods? Was Mother trying to keep her lost by telling her not to return?

She did not want to leave this peace behind. The forest felt like home.

Smiling, she hugged the bear to her chest, watching a bird flit from branch to branch. She realized that she was not lost, for she felt no fear as she breathed in the fresh air. Rays of sun warmed her face, surrounding her with warmth.

No, she was not lost. It was quite the opposite: at last, she’d been found.

The Melody of Moving On


lighthouse

In the past, the ocean’s cry had never filled my heart with sorrow; everything had changed. My heart felt heavy as I approached the lighthouse one last time. Without her hand to hold, the place was bleak, haunted by years of shared laughter.

Our favorite spot at the cliff’s edge had seen good memories, all of which were spoiled the day she fell. This lighthouse was the place where I failed to save her. The blame was heavy on my shoulders; drinks didn’t help and time didn’t heal, so I’d come back for closure.

The air was chilly, fitting for a late September night. I ignored the cold biting my skin, breathing deeply. I heard the waves but didn’t see them, in the same way I sometimes heard her voice knowing she wasn’t with me.

My love no longer breathed, but she lurked in my heaviest memories.

I closed my eyes and let the phantom of her laughter fill my mind, not numbing it with vice or distraction. Her laughter, the singsong way she used to say I love you—and later, her scream as she fell.

It was time to stop running from these sounds.

The full force of her loss hit me in waves colder than the ocean. She was everywhere and nowhere. The sea echoed her poetic words, immortalizing songs she would sing and the way she whispered my name.

It hurt, but I didn’t run. I sat on the cold ground, heart aching as each memory pierced it like the thorns of a rose. Then, finally, numbness crept over me. It might not have been peace, but my agony drifted off in the breeze.

Standing, I walked away from this cursed place, turning my back on a red rose I had left on the ground. The rose was not closure, and wouldn’t change the past. Still, it was my last gift to her—a gift, an apology, and a good-bye.

The Enchantment of Spring


Inspired by this photo on Pinterest!


It was a pleasant, bright afternoon. Not a trace of frost remained from the colder months, and the world was coming back to life. In the village, children played, singing songs and shouting. Windows were flung open so that laughter could be heard, sounds of joy because beauty had returned.

In the village, no one thought of how the forest had reacted to the awakening of spring. Flowers sprouted and trees reassumed their vibrant green hues; animals came out of hiding, yawning and stretching underneath a cloudless turquoise sky.

Nor could the villagers see a young girl wandering alone through the bushes. She was alone, but did not feel lonely; she was not sullen, but full of joy. Laughing, she twirled in a graceful pirouette, feeling wind tousle her hair.

Another giggle escaped her as she let her arms dangle mid-twirl, feeling alive as the wind kissed her face. At last the winter frost had gone! Already, she could feel her magic waking from its slumber.

Around her trailed the springtime magic, winding around her with each pirouette, ribbons of purple smoke. Her magic had gone to sleep during the months in which snow dominated; oh, how she’d missed these outside games, the freedom of open fields.

The young girl stopped dancing, pleasantly dizzy, and flopped down onto the grass. All around her, purple flickered—different shades, bold to her eye—slowly vanishing into the air.

She closed her eyes, listening to the birdsong. Spring only lasted a few weeks, and seemed to be shorter each time it came around; she would make the best of it this year. She would leave magic wherever she went, until her time for slumber came around once more.

The Hopelessness of a Firefly


moon

Crickets sang in chorus, a merry song dancing around like freedom. Fireflies drifted from bush to bush, their light bringing sparkle to the hollow. They couldn’t outshine the moon, a familiar face in the sky; some believed it saw and knew all.

In the light of the moon, I caught a firefly in a my glass jar, closing the lid before it could get away. Sometimes I doubted folklore’s claim that the moon saw everything. If it could see everything, it was cruel—or powerless to change fate.

After all, it was silent as it watched me trap a firefly in my jar. It could not, or would not do a thing to keep me from stealing the small creature’s freedom. I knew it would not save me from the small things that bothered me throughout the day.

I made my way home in silence, my back turned to the moon. It was not all-knowing or powerful, just another light by which I could see the injustice of the world. Just to be safe, I kept a firefly with me every night.

There should always be light near.