I do not believe in ghosts, never did. But something strange happened that night, which changed my views about them entirely.
I was 16 when, one June, my family moved to a new house, hidden behind trees, high-ceilinged and replete with corridors. This sudden gift of space was not before time. Ours, in fact, was the perfect situation for a horror story: three girls of 16, 15 and 9.
To be sure, our new house had a degree of notoriety. Local gossip held that it boasted three “presences”: a woman who stalked the ground floor, an elderly doctor forever racing up its stairs searching for a dying grandson and, in its upper reaches, the victim of an argument that had spilled over into murder. There was even what appeared to be the requisite bloodstain that could not be removed since covered with carpet.
The more credulous would not step inside it. We were not so naive. And yet, there was something unsettling about our new home, a personality, a sense that we were installing ourselves in a place already occupied. It never felt quite empty. Doors would shut of their own volition, footsteps would sound. It felt as if we were being watched, assessed.
Very soon, this phony-war period became the subject of nostalgia. For, when the house kicked off, it kicked off in epic style. Every night at 4am, someone – something – would tear up its stairs, rattling, then forced open, the doors in its wake (all of which required proper turning and thrusting), until it reached my mother’s room, entering in a furious, door-slamming blast. Once – comically, but in ghastly, unequivocal fashion – it even seemed to relieve its excess energy with a few strokes on her sewing machine.
Matters became worse. One night, the boarded-over fireplace in my room ripped open with a clamor. I wrenched my pillow over my ears, telling myself it must be a trapped bird. My mother started behaving oddly – pensive, distracted. After urging her to talk about what happened to her, she cracked. Waking in the night, she had seen a dead child. This is how she described it – not a ghost, but a dead child dressed in a simple black clothing, visible from the knees up. It had a certain logic: a child appearing to a mother. I became determined not to see any such thing. Sounds could be denied, but sights would be too appalling.
After a few days, a mirror sprang off the wall and shattered. On the back of its glass, in an old-fashioned script etched a message: “I’m going to ——- kill you all.” I know you won’t believe this – I don’t believe it. Nevertheless, it happened.
Like you, I am wary of ghost stories, their linear march and relentless building to a crescendo. This is a story with no denouement. Over time, a year or two, events gradually straightened out. Again, I am told that this is standard form: ghosts (I can barely type the word) act up with newcomers, and then they – and you – adjust.
Today, I love my parents’ house with its greenery and servants’ bells. It is our home. Yet still, it has the capacity to act up. Our neighbor’s new cleaner recently informed him that she would not be returning, having seen a woman walk through a wall (our buildings were once joined).
On another occasion, my aunt remarked that everything in her room had shaken at 4am. Was there some sort of quake?
“Yes, some sort of quake,” we all replied.
This story is purely fictional, 🙂