Today, both parts of a two-part story.
Last Friday, the eve of Valentine’s Day, it happened again. Normally Ferguson House is a quiet old mansion on the edge of downtown, but very occasionally the place acts up. The last time it ended with the police cutting up my best slippers to examine a bloodstain. The donor was apparently a lunatic who’d died over a century before, so there were no further complications.
This time a scream woke me up. I was out my room door in an instant, rushing to Vicky’s room. Vicky is a grad student searching for records from the mid-1700’s; her room is just down the hall from mine.
I tripped over something and face-planted on the hardwood floor. When I looked back there was nothing there, of course.
Vicky’s door pulled open and she looked out, waving a flashlight. “What was that?”
“I think the ghosts are awake. Did you hear a scream?”
“Yeah, it sounded like it came from my neighbour.”
I stood, limping a bit from my barked knee, and we checked the bedroom next to hers. I stepped in the door and shone the flashlight around. Nothing but a bed, nightstand and wardrobe.
Something tugged at the edge of my mind. Something about the light…
“Vicky, turn off your flashlight.”
“Just do it, okay. Please?”
She switched off her light and I shone mine at her. She had two shadows.
The next scream was hers, as she was pulled forcibly out of the doorway. I burst out into the hall and shone my flashlight. She fell to the floor, breathing heavily and holding her throat.
“What the hell?”
“It was a ghost.”
“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“Tell them that. Where’s your flashlight?”
“I dropped it. It should be… on… the… floor… Pat, what’s that behind you?”
I looked over my shoulder. There was a glint of metal at about shoulder height and the shadow of a woman backed against the corridor wall. I swung the flashlight around and the tableau vanished, leaving behind only an echo of whimpering.
“Paws off, creep!”
I swung the light back around and Vicky dropped to the floor again.
“Something tried to grab me!”
“Just stay in the beam; you’ll be safe.” I hope.
I dropped the flashlight and turned; the glint of light was back, only closer to the other shadow. This had gone far enough! I grabbed for the space behind the glint and got hold of a wrist. It turned toward me and I fought. An invisible hand grabbed at my throat. I grabbed its wrist and tried to force it back. The ghost was strong; I was pushed back to the wall. The glint moved slowly toward my chest.
There was a sudden “crack” and the sound of shattering glass. My attacker evaporated, causing me to lunge forward. I heard the heavy sound of running feet. I hoped that meant the evening’s festivities were over.
Small invisible hands touched my chest. After a bit of exploring a set of lips found mine. One hand held the back of my neck while the other fussed with the waistband of my pyjama bottoms.
Vicky looked at me with vague disgust. “Get a room.”
It was a while before I returned to my room.
The next day we searched the bedroom where the scream had originated and found a hidden compartment in the wardrobe. In it was the diary of one Virginia May, lady of pleasure; it was saucy reading, especially the entry for Valentine’s Day 1789.
Last eve Billy Kellen and Stefen Miller came calling with bad intent. Poor Sady was kilt. I was faved by the action of a haint who held Billy until Elsbet ftruck him with a vase. I could not fee his visag, but thanked him after the way of my trade. He was of a pleasant size and firmness, and fair gentle; not affrighting at all.
– – –
A month later
I spent yesterday repairing leaks on the roof and cursing Vicky. She said that my lighting a candle for St. Paddy and one for St. Simeon was silly superstition, but I figured I was going up on a slanted roof on a rainy Friday the Thirteenth, so I needed all the help I could get. And just to prove I was right, nothing untoward or strange happened all day.
I had a good laugh at Vicky’s expense when I got in. She’d said that two dates were enough that we should keep an eye open; after all, both previous hauntings of Ferguson House had occurred on Friday the Thirteenth and this was one as well. I told her two dates don’t make a pattern any more than two beers make you drunk.
I ate my words when I heard the thump in the hall. I picked up my flashlight and put the cardboard shield in front of it. For some reason, you couldn’t see the shadows of the haunts in a direct beam. I pushed open the door and shone my indirect flashlight down.
“Sorry, Pat.” Vicky was standing by the side table with a wee candle from a birthday cake. “I bumped the table while setting up my light source.”
“What’re you doing with that? A child could blow it out.”
“I wanted to see if candlelight worked where a flashlight doesn’t.” She dripped a bit of wax onto a coaster (at least that) and stuck the candle to it so it would stand on its own.
“There is no way that’s going to work, girl. A candle isn’t…”
A shadowy form rounded the corner into the hall. It was broad and hooded, carrying a long staff. It started moving inexorably down the hall accompanied by the sound of heavy bootsteps.
I gulped as it drew nearer. I fumbled with the cardboard over the end of the flashlight; certain things deserve to be unseen. I turned the flashlight off, but the shadow could still be seen in the flickering glow of the tiny candle. It strode past me, effortlessly pushing me out of the way.
Vicky picked up her candle and we followed the ghost down the hall into my room. It came to a stop beside the bed, which was depressed as though someone was lying in it. Someone very small and fairly light: a child.
Now I’ve put a bit of the Irish in a number of ladies, but never had a child of my own. Even so I couldn’t stand by when the Reaper took one. Some might say I’m brave, others would say stubborn, and more stupid. And that would be my excuse before St. Peter when I pushed that cloaked monster out of the way and grabbed the invisible child.
It was cold, but that could be because it was a spook. I didn’t care. I held the child close to me, deliberately shielding it from the Reaper with my body. Any moment I expected the blow of a scythe to slice my soul away. Which is why I was totally surprised by the small cough from my arms.
The arms of a child of eight to ten years wrapped around me and squeezed. The Reaper backed off and another figure came forward. This second figure was the type I was more used to, with curves in the right places. A little hand held mine as its mother took the child from me.
Vicky blew out the candle, returning the room to darkness. “I guess it was you then.”
“What was me?”
“You made another appearance in Victoria’s diary. March 14, 1801.” Vicky held the book out to me.
Young Angel was nigh taken by the fever last even. The prieft came to perform last rites, but was pushed away by a haint. I scarcely believed, but she was held up from the bed before our eyes and the fever broke. She came to me slowly and told me it was her daddy faved her. Had I not seen her floating in the air I would scarce believe it. Father says it was the work of God, but methinks it was he who blessed me with my girl in the first place.