October 3 – A Ghost Story

This year for one of my classes I wrote a story that I would consider a ghost story. It was inspired by a quote from a high school friend, Jarod Anderson who writes as The Cryptonaturalist. It is not perfect but I liked it and thought you might enjoy.

“The Mind is a Haunted House”

Every memory is a ghost and the house they haunt is you. – The Cryptonaturalist (Jarod K. Anderson)

            Delilah screamed as she shot up like a bolt from a deep sleep. She hugged her arms against her chest to slow her heart and to warm herself up. Her breath came out in gasps, visible mist in the cool air and dim light of her bedroom. Despite the chill, she was dripping sweat from the tip of her nose and small rivulets were making their way down her cheeks to puddle in the corners of her mouth leaving her tasting the salty brine of fear and, yes, tears that were steadily flowing from her eyes. She lifted her t-shirt to wipe ineffectually at her face, then swung her legs out from under the blankets. The shock of the cold hardwood under her feet forced a curse from her lips, “Fuck.” She glanced at the time on her phone which was charging silently on her bedside stand, 2:32 A.M. She ran a hand through her long dark hair and then hurriedly scurried into her ensuite bathroom.

             She debated for a moment before deciding to turn on the lights in the bathroom. She shuffled to the vanity where she washed her hands and face mechanically, an automaton running the just woke up program. She met her own eyes in the mirror and gasped audibly as she took in the entirety of herself.

On her neck, stark and purple against the paleness of her skin, were a series of bruises. They had not been there three hours ago when she had finally put the book down and gone to bed, so where had they come from. She gingerly touched her neck, examining the bruises closer and realizing that she could make out the outlines of fingers, as though someone or something had tried to strangle her. She tried to remember what had pulled her from her sleep mere moments ago, but she didn’t remember.  Her only lingering thought was that her father had been a part of her dreams. But was it a dream? Or a memory?

She knew to her bones that she was not going back to sleep, so she turned out the bathroom lights and padded back into her bedroom this time making her way to the ancient comfy blue overstuffed chair in the corner. The room smelled of sweat, wine, sandalwood, and the ghost of the cigarettes her aunt had once smoked here. There was another scent here as well, was it Drakkar? Was she imagining that smell because her father had been on her mind this week? She curled herself up in the chair finding herself absently rubbing her throat and thinking about the past couple of days.

Tuesday morning, she had woken to a text from Penny, her stepmother, that simply read – Your father went home to Jesus this morning at 5:00 a.m. Delilah had begun to shake so hard she let the phone fall to the floor before following it to sit cross legged rocking. For a few blissful hours she had felt freer than she had in her entire life, the nightmares began that night and then she woke this morning with the phantom bruises. There was no freedom, only this.

That was three weeks ago, and Delilah hadn’t had a night’s peace since. Every morning she wakes with new and worse bruises and feeling ever surer that her father’s spirit is the impetus. The abuse she suffered at the hands of her father as a child was not unknown but was rather an unspoken fact to her family, friends, and community. Everyone agreed that it was awful, but no one would step in between the preacher and his only child.

Having reached her fill of his abuse and fearing how it might escalate further on October 31st of her sixteenth year Delilah ran away taking her mother’s wedding ring, the money she had saved babysitting neighborhood children and very little else. She had found sanctuary with her maternal aunt, Juniper, a woman whom her father had forbidden her from ever contacting. Juniper promised her safety and sanctuary vowing to protect her until the day she died.

When Juniper passed on 5 years ago Delilah inherited the house and enough money to go to school debt free and get her degree in Library Sciences. Now Delilah worked at the local university as a librarian full time, maintaining the stacks and assisting graduate students. She had felt safe and secure in her life until a single text message had led the ghost of her father to her. Now the reverend was once again wielding prayers as weapons against his daughter. Filling her nights with reminders of how she is a disgusting sinner, a whore. Damned before the eyes of God.

Delilah had lost 10 pounds in the last three weeks and her already pale skin had grown wan; her eyes were surrounded by dark circles. She became herself a ghost haunting the library by day and her own home by night. Her anxiety mixed with lack of sleep had her seeing her father in the faces of everyone she saw. She needed help. Then she saw the flyer on the community bulletin board from a local paranormal group who held a ghost encounter meet up once a month at the library. Delilah remembered the kind eyes of the gentleman who ran the group and that he had left a card in the office. She located it easily within the drawer of the large, shared desk and before she could talk herself out of it dialed the number.

The phone was answered on the third ring. After the usual pleasantries Delilah explained how she had gotten the phone number and the reason for her call. She explained that she thought she was being haunted. She told him that she was losing hope. She asked him if he thought he could help. He told her he though he could. Delilah began to cry. She asked him how soon he could come. He asked if tonight would be too soon. She cried harder. She told him tonight would be perfect.

Delilah went home at the end of the day to wait for a stranger to come to her house. She felt like she had been running a marathon for weeks and maybe, just maybe, there was an end in sight. She sat waiting for the doorbell to ring, feeling hopeful but trying to be realistic. She wondered if he could help her. And, if he couldn’t how much longer she would be able to survive this. Could the ghost kill her? He was certainly able to hurt her. She didn’t know or understand the rules to all of this. It scared her. Almost as much as the doorbell when it rang startling her out of her thoughts.    

Delilah answered the door and introduced herself once again to Matt who was the kind eyed man she had met previously at the library. She ushered him inside and led him to her couch. After her assured her multiple times that he did not need anything to drink and was quite comfortable she folded herself into a chair and the two looked at each other. Embarrassed by the silence she nervously tucked her hair behind her ear and began to speak.

“Thank you so much for coming on such short notice. I feel like I owe you more of an explanation than what I gave on the phone. I told you I think I am being haunted. By my father. I told you I am waking up with bruises that seem to be handprints. The first night they were around my throat, but they have appeared all over my body since so I am not sure if his ghost is trying to kill me or just to hurt me. I hear his voice as it is happening, taunting me, calling me names, preaching at me. Honestly, he is much in death as he was in life: abusive, virulent, and judgmental. We had almost no relationship in life after I left at sixteen, and in death he seems to be punishing me to make up for the time he couldn’t. I am scared to sleep now. I am scared to be alone. I am scared that I might not wake up the next time.”

Delilah delivered this speech looking at her hands and having finished her thought she finally looked back at Matt. His eyes still looked kind and showed none of the skepticism she expected to see there. Instead, he was nodding telling her he understood, telling her that there can be these kinds of hauntings, and telling her that they have been successfully banished from homes. He asked to see the bruises that had happened the most recently. She revealed a handprint around her right wrist that looked like someone had grabbed with their right hand and squeezed tightly. He told her that being able to harm her like that was unusual but not unheard of. He told her that he would like to see her bedroom to see if he could feel or communicate with the spirit.

Delilah nodded and pulled herself to her feet gesturing to him to follow her. She led him up the stairs and into her bedroom, taking a moment to be glad she had picked up her dirty clothes and made her bed this morning after her father had woken her up again. She watched him as he walked into the room slowly and appeared to be listening closely to, or for, something she could not hear. He spoke under his breath to himself, or someone unseen, then turned to Delilah telling her that he didn’t feel any kind of presence but that doesn’t really mean anything in the long run. She nodded again, feeling her heart sink a little despite his reassurances.

Matt told her that since the attacks and sightings happen late at night, it might be of importance to the ghost or is related to an important time for the two of them. She told him that might be, but not for any reason that she can think of. She asked him if that meant he needed to be there at night when the ghost was more likely to appear. He nodded in confirmation, and she nodded back slowly. Her heart sunk once again that the relief she was hoping would come was still delayed.

They decided to come up with a plan. First, she would find a place to stay for the night and Matt would stay in the house with equipment to see if her father appeared when she wasn’t home. She stayed with a friend overnight as planned and while she still had scary dreams she did not wake up with new bruises. Matt told her it was a quiet night for him as well and they decided to move to phase two. Night two Matt would stay in the house with her and watch all night to try to engage with the ghost.

Delilah found herself seated in the living room with Matt watching some random MCU film and realized that sleep would need to happen soon. She brought Matt upstairs and showed him the guest room and the bathroom. She went to change and told Matt that she would call him when she was ready for bed if he wanted to come in and keep watch. She changed into her sleep shirt and shorts, brushed her teeth and laid down on her queen-sized bed. She called out to Matt that she was going to turn off the light and go to sleep now. After that she remembered very little until she woke scared once again

Delilah screamed as she shot up like a bolt from a deep sleep. She hugged her arms against her chest to slow her heart and to warm herself up. Her breath came out in gasps, visible mist in the cool air and dim light of her bedroom. Her eyes shot to the last place she had seen Matt and instead of finding him as expected her eyes found her father looming at the end of the bed. She wanted to scream again, she wanted to cry, to run. She did none of these. Instead, she stood up on her bed and made eye contact with her father. Looking straight into the face of her tormentor she began to speak.  

“No more, Daddy,” She whispered to the man in front of her reaching forward. “No more cowering. No more hiding. No more running away. I have been the outlet of your rage my whole life and I am done. I was never any of those things you accused me of being. I was just a little girl who desperately wanted the love of her father, and no matter how hard I tried to be good I was just never enough for you. I will never be enough for you. But, that is a problem with you, Daddy, not with me. You are…you were a horrible father and therefore a horrible man and I refuse to let you rule me anymore.” As she spoke her voice got louder and clearer. “Goodbye, Daddy. Good night, Goodbye and Good riddance.” She reached toward her father as she said that and feeling his shoulders beneath her hands she pushed hard. She watched him fall and disappear then she was alone again, and she collapsed back into sleep once more.

She awoke to a room full of light the next day and looked at her phone on her bed side table to see that it was almost nine in the morning which meant she had slept almost through the night. She threw on her robe and sought out Matt to find out what had happened the previous night. She found him in the kitchen drinking coffee he had brewed at some point and staring out the window into her backyard. He turned when he heard her come into the room and smiled at her over the coffee cup. He told her that he had dozed off but woke up to her speaking to the spirit. He told her he felt the spirit leave. He told her she was free. He told her that she may want to talk to someone about her past. She carefully avoided looking at the bruises on his shoulders which might have been handprints. She agreed that it might be nice to talk to someone. She felt free.

What do you think? I forgot to mention that the story could have a max of 2500 words.

Here is my Halloween Countdown video of the day.

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