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a loving haunting

by Arwyn Sherman 9 months ago in fiction
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a ghost story

Ghost stories are silly, at least that's what grandpa told Abigail. Ghost stories are silly and there are no monsters in the woods by their home.

Abigail begs to differ. Grandpa is old and doesn’t go outside much--doesn’t hear the rustling in the trees, the occasional flash of something dark and quick out of the corner of her eye. In fact, she doesn’t remember a time this didn’t happen. Ever since she was old enough to toddle into the woods she’d felt the presence of spirits, which supported her theory that this was a proper haunting not some fancy imagination on her part.

Grandpa is hardly the expert anyway in Abigail’s eyes. He hasn’t left the house at all,in fact, since her mother disappeared when she was a toddler. It’s been so many years Abigail can barely remember her, just the faint whiff of vanilla and grit of sugar cookies. A lingering memory of a soft hug. No one told her what happened, just quietly explained grandfather was going to take care of her now and, eventually (hopefully), her mother would make a return. At some point they stopped saying anything about her and Abigail grew into the understanding that her mother had walked out of the back kitchen door one night and never made her way back. She had always interpreted Grandpa’s refusal to leave as a vigil of sorts, the pressing fear that the minute he walked out of the house her mother would return and be greeted by emptiness. Over the years she learned to buy groceries, the best pathways to travel so she didn’t have to walk so much.

Abigail didn’t mind Grandpa, they had already been living there when her mother vanished so not much changed, besides the obvious parental absence. Her father had never made an appearance in her life ever, so saying he disappeared too wouldn’t be accurate but semantics aside it was just her and Grandpa.

The house was small and on the edge of a deep forest line, the only road there a slender dirt one that could barely fit a car. Abigail walked it every day to get to school and spent most evenings in the orchard out front.

Today was no different, she waltzed down the road, swirling so her book bag dramatically flew around. She imagines it's a full skirt, whirling in the summer air, at a ball like they used to throw when grandpa was young. She giggles as the heavy books throw her out of balance and she takes a few steps onto the lush grass. Leans down and plucks a dandelion from a clump of weeds and blows the seeds into the air, continues on her journey towards home. She knows grandpa won’t have dinner ready until sunset, preferring her to stay out of his way until then, so she takes her time. Poking around clusters of wildflowers and selecting a few vibrant ones to press. Braves the darkened woods to find the viney trellises of wild blackberries that are sweet and heavy on her tongue.

The pear tree sits off to the side of the house, out of the view of the window. She can see when Grandpa looks out past the curtains, as though surveying for his missing daughter, but he can never see her. Especially when she climbs really high, even though he’s expressly forbidden her going past the second branch.

Abigail drops her book bag at the base of the tree and grabs the farthest branch she can reach, kicks her boots to propel herself up to the edge of where she’s banished from going farther. Double checks that Grandpa hasn’t somehow magically made his way outside before stepping up to the third branch, then the fourth, until she is sitting comfortably on the fifth branch. She reaches out to pluck a fruit, ripe and ready to fall supple into her hands, and takes a bite.

The sceptre appears at the tree like Abigail knew she would, a woman that flickers between reality and not, a faded photograph rippling in the physical plane. She’s wearing the impression of a long skirt, heavy with an aching melancholy that makes Abigail’s chest squeeze from where she is tucked away in the tree.

“My bones are here,” the woman says.

“I know mama,” Abigail takes a bite of the pears.

“Secret,” her mother says.

“I know that too,” Abigail says reassuringly. Her mother has made it very clear that if Abigail tells anyone about her resting place they will dig her up and give her a proper burial, removing her from the property and making it impossible to ever see her again.

Her mother can’t speak in proper terms, their communication a conglomerate of sparse words and feelings, memories that come unbidden and too dark for Abigail’s short life. Her father, ignorant of Abigail’s conception, appearing in the night after months (years? Time, a long time is all Abigail could feel) of searching. Her mother’s stark fear of being found, a decision to leave with him than risk him discovering Abigail. An argument, sudden pain as her head collapses against a rock. Then, nothing but the tether of being unfinished. A body unfound, a ripped hole in the fabric of life.

“Tell me,” her mother says, her shadowy arm reaching towards Abigail.

So she does, recounting her day at school to her mother, the new boy that pulled her hair until she stabbed him with a pencil. The book they are reading. How her teacher told her she is one of the better readers in the class. Abigail never mentions her grandfather, the pain too sharp the times she has, her mother’s constant schism of wanting her father to rest and wanting to stay with Abigail.

Abigail talks as the sun begins to set, her mother flickering into the night as the yard is consumed by darkness. She talks until her grandfather sticks his head out of the door and yells for her to come in for dinner.

“Bye mom,” she says and slips down to the ground, “Love you.”

“Love...you…” her form slowly disappears, returns to the night.


About the author

Arwyn Sherman

swamp creature that writes stories / chao incarnate

occasionally leaves the bog to forage

IG: feral.x.creature

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