By: J.B. Elliott
I would begin this short tale with the phrase once upon a time; however, this is no fairy tale, nor is it a story for entertainment. This tale is a warning; a warning for anyone who is under the misguided conception that ghosts are only present on the silver screen, and the chill on your neck is only a cool breeze from the fan.
I was crashing at my brother and his wife’s house one night while I was traveling for work; I am naturally a frugal person so a hotel was out of the question—also this is the only time I get to see my little nephew. That evening had been uneventful; I had been playing with Tucker with his fire trucks and Tonka toys after super. When it was time for everyone to turn in I assumed my position on the couch like I always do. Tucker is terribly afraid of the dark—a fear that is bordering on pathological, so the house is dim–never dark. With a night light in each room and a fish tank glowing behind my head in the den it was easy to see my surroundings; but this house was a second home to me, I know every nook and cranny with my eyes shut. This was the first evening, however, when the filter on the fish tank was turned off, ridding the den of the perpetual babbling brook that I was accustomed to rocking me to sleep.
As I lie there listening to my brother snore down the hallway a strange noise found my ear. It was not a noise as much as it was a conversation; a conversation I could hear, but not hear. It was as though they were in the room with me but their volume had been turned down. I strained to listen to their conversation but to no avail; I was staring in the direction of the voices—in the corner beside the front door. I know it sounds strange, but I was not frightened by the events taking place around me; perhaps I was not completely aware of what was taking place in the room with me—I do not know. However what I do know is what happened next during the course of this night changed me forever…
After a few minutes the voices I had been listening to silenced while my sixteen-hour workday caught up with me and sleep made me its willing companion. My dreams swam with the images of my wife, from a time before we traded rings and she changed her last name. We were in this ethereal world that was full of autumn colors and a cool nip in the air; her jacket was only half buttoned, revealing the sensual curve of her collarbone and the paleness of her skin—I was truly content. As we ran and reveled in the freedom that is youth we tumbled down, falling into each other’s arms, “I love you” I told her. She leaned in and kissed me deep—a kiss of a dream where momentarily two souls feel like one; in real life these kisses are rare; just a few times is a person granted this magnitude of passion. I pulled her close closing my eyes tightly to capture every sensation, relishing every moment, but then something was wrong—she felt different. She became cold as the grave and her skin turned damp; I pulled away opening my eyes, “Hold me, I’m so cold…” I was horrified; this was not my wife! I jerked back, her hair was wet and long, it clung to her face and her arms like sea weed stuck to a pear; her skin was ashen gray with black under tones as though her blood ran tar black through her veins. She smelt of mold and mud; she wore only a tattered nightshirt. She reached for me, “I’m so cold…” as she touched my arm I bolted awake.
Relief washed over me as I woke in my familiar surroundings; that was until I touched my shirt–my shirt was damp. Had I sweated through my shirt? I wondered; I could not have—I was not sweating. I removed my shirt and tossed it towards the laundry room and lay back down; I was too exhausted to even think in any clear manner. I closed my eyes, hoping to recapture the image of my wife again—no such luck. I was aware of the fact that I was dreaming, but the world around me felt like nothing the dream world should. I was still on the couch, but now I was sitting up and this mystery woman was seated beside me—her eyes were silent pleas of complete and utter desperation. “I’m so cold and scared—hold me…” A single tear ran down her cheek. I put my arm around her shoulder—I was not scared by her, but for her. She moved close to me and my body shivered with the cold that radiated off of her like that of a frozen pond; her dampness touching my bare side. She slowly and softly began to weep into my chest—I cannot describe how this hurt every fiber of my being; her cries were so tormented it was torture to my dreaming ears simply to hear them. The conversation in the empty corner began again, this time with just enough volume for me to make out a few words—the girl, trouble and fix it. “Leave me alone!” she screamed into the empty conversation-filled corner. Her sobs now came in deep ragged gasps; I forced myself to hold her as tightly as I could, trying to calm her, to soothe whatever it was that was tormenting her so. Her coldness had traveled to the very core of my body. I was drained of energy and was fighting the urge to lean to the side and lay down. Time had no meaning in this world of dreams and tears. I finally lay to the side, lying behind her with my arms wrapped around her, “Don’t let me go—I’m so cold…” Her weeping had slowed but not stopped. “Shut up!” she yelled at the low conversation—I bolted awake.
The part I am about to relay to you turned my skin to goose flesh and my stomach to acid—I was turned the opposite direction on the couch than I had been when I fell asleep. The sheet was beneath me rather than over me and I could still feel her lying on my right arm. Shivers traveled down my neck making my teeth chatter in my skull; I touched my arm—water—on my arm, my chest, even my pajama pants were wet; not only wet but muddy too—the conversation in the corner continued. I decided to go into work extra early that day and forgo any more sleep—I had slept with the dead once that night; I was not going to do it again.
DECEMBER 23, 1936
POLICE BELIEVE THEY HAVE IDENTIFIED THE BODY OF LAST WEEK’S MURDERED FEMALE.
It is believed by authorities that Iris Parker, age 26, a woman of unfortunate reputation, is the identity of the female that was found last Wednesday in Suttler’s Pond. It is not known if Miss Parker was the victim of a violent crime or the victim of an illegal medical procedure. As Miss Parker’s chosen profession brought her into contact with shady characters, it is not hopeful that the investigation will provide any leads. Miss Parker’s family is unknown–her body will be interred by the county within the week.
J’Rie Elliott is a mother, wife, daughter, and accomplished horseback rider from Alabama, USA. She can be reached at email@example.com