Meghan’s Wintry Tale — Part 2 of 2

Of time now far past

Might some memory remain

Defying logic

“Someone inside opened the door. Or it blew open again,” Rick says.

“There’s no wind.”

“Then someone heard us drive up and opened it.”

When it comes to the unexplained, Meghan knows there’s no point arguing with Rick. Not that she believes in ghosts. But still. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio….”

“And they all have a logical explanation. Come on, let’s go in.”

As they walk toward the house, one of the students appears in the doorway. “Did you guys open the door?” he asks.

“No, didn’t you?” Meghan says with a sidelong look at Rick.

“Damn thing’s going off on its own again,” Don says as they climb the steps. “The carpenter came by earlier and said nothing’s wrong. Shows what he knows.”

“He knows more than you,” a woman’s voice calls from the living room. “The door works fine.”

Meghan sheds her coat and sees the house’s owner, Emily Rushford. Mrs. Rushford might be nearing ninety, but she’s still active, both mentally and physically. Her clear blue stare unsettles Meghan. It’s as if the woman can see through her.

“Meghan understands now, don’t you, dear.”

“Understands what?” Rick asks.

“The gray lady. She led you here through the fog.”

“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” Rick says.

“Bad weather brings her out,” Mrs. Rushford continues, as if she hadn’t heard him. “Come sit down, you two, while someone fetches some drinks.”

Meghan and Rick join the group in the living room, sitting on the floor since the other seats are taken, while Don grabs a round of beers. Mrs. Rushford sips her sherry.

“Who’s the gray lady?” Meghan asks.

“The daughter of the man who built this house back in 1802, Anne Sprigg. It was an ordinary back then, offering lodging and food to travelers. On foggy days like this, she would stay by the end of the road, waiting to guide anyone who might need a place to stay.”

“All day?” Meghan asks. “What a boring job.”

“Undoubtedly,” Mrs. Rushford says. “But one that needed doing.”

“Why stick around to keep doing that?” Rick asks. “Didn’t she have a real life after she married?”

“Oh, but she never did. As in many families back then, she was the daughter that stayed home to take care of the parents and didn’t marry. Some would, after the parents passed, but not all. Her father left her the ordinary when he died, and she ran it until she died some years later.”

“Still,” Don says, “Why spend eternity out in the cold and fog? Seems a waste of an afterlife to me.”

Mrs. Rushford looks at him over her glasses, reminding Meghan of an old school marm in a Hollywood western.

“Atonement, perhaps, for causing the death of her niece.”

The audience’s eyes go wide, except for Rick’s. “And how did that happen?” he asks.

“The girl was responsible for Anne’s old job, standing by the road in bad weather. One afternoon, a winter storm blew in, much like the one we just had, only worse. Her orders were to stay at her post until dusk. The poor girl was near frozen through when she reached the house that evening. She died a few days later, probably of exposure or pneumonia.”

Meghan reaches for a tissue, ready to blame the blazing fire if someone comments on her watery eyes. The room is silent as Mrs. Rushford takes another sip of sherry and continues the tale.

“Anne was devastated and died just two weeks later, of grief everyone said. Her nephew took over the ordinary afterward. And it wasn’t long before his servants and travelers began telling tales of a misty apparition leading them all back to the house when the weather was bad. Some said it was Anne looking for her niece. Others said she couldn’t leave her life’s work behind—no matter how boring later generations might find it.”

Meghan’s cheeks redden.

Mrs. Rushford rises from her chair. “Well, it’s late, and I should get home and leave you to your dinner. You can show me more of what you’ve found tomorrow.”

“I’ll drive you,” Don offers.

The group rises to see Mrs. Rushford to the door—which swings open as she and Don approach it. “Why, thank you, Anne,” she says as she walks through.

Rick takes hold of the door and shuts it firmly, making sure the deadbolt is secure. “You know, old houses need a lot of work,” he says to Meghan. “Let’s buy a new one.”

Meghan shivers as a cool breeze passes between them. “No arguments here.”

To this day, Rick swears the old field house wasn’t haunted and there’s no such thing as ghosts. Meghan doesn’t argue. Still, every now and again, she wishes they could stay in old B&Bs or inns when they’re traveling. But Rick says they’re too noisy and uncomfortable….

47 thoughts on “Meghan’s Wintry Tale — Part 2 of 2

  1. Oooh chilling! And I’ve just spent the evening with vampires and zombies so I’m well prepared! Such a sad story, and well told. I think you weaved Anne’s back story in very cleverly – keep going x

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    • Thanks, Gemma! Somehow, Meghan and I just can’t resist adding a historical element to her adventures. Fitting, I suppose, for a couple of archaeologists. 😉 And ghost stories abound in this part of the country, not surprising since it was one of the first to see European settlers. I think every old plantation has a tale or two!

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  2. Great story! Did you find yourself outside of your comfort zone a little bit writing it? I love the picture too with the ghostly being at the door…there is a ghostly being there right? Other peole can see that too right?!!

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    • Ghost? What ghost? You mean the fog? — Oops, that was Rick sneaking in to reply. 😉

      I was definitely outside my comfort zone. And that’s a big reason why I didn’t let on that Meghan would do this story this week. If I fell flat on my face trying to write it, then no one would’ve known!

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    • Thanks, Clowie! And I also mean that literally. 🙂 What are we supposed to make of the world when literally becomes figuratively? It reminds me of the line from U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” written back in 1982 — “And it’s true we are immune/when fact is fiction and TV reality.”

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      • I knew you’d understand! Lots of words gradually change their meaning, but that one has irritated me more than most because there is no easy substitute.

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        • Now I’m curious how many words may have changed their meanings into an exact or near opposite…. And stay that way. “Bad” pops to mind, but I don’t think the “good” meaning has staying power.

          The one that pops to mind is “awful,” which originally was “awe-full,” meaning something that truly inspired awe. And now? Well, I suppose we still have “awe-inspiring!”

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  3. Ahhhhhh….so GOOD to hear Meghan’s voice again, albeit younger. And might I add, you did an excellent job interpreting this earlier version of her through her thoughts about Rick and his attitudes.
    I hope you’ve got more Bode stories percolating in blogging year 3!!! Congrats on another anniversary and job well done!

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    • Ah, we’ll see! Meghan enjoys her time in the sun, and she might occasionally push the novels aside for another go at controlling the blog. 😉 After thinking I’d never be able to write short fiction, she seems to enjoy teasing me with them. Maybe she can suggest some other new content to mix up the blog a bit more for year three!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the tale!

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  4. Great, JM. Loved the story within the story and this supernatural element. Very nicely done. As always, dialogue flowed wonderful, pacing great and I could “see” everything. Happy Halloween.

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    • Thanks, Brigitte! This was a real change for me, so I wasn’t sure if it would work. And that’s a big reason why I didn’t let on that it was in the works. If I couldn’t pull it off, no one except me would know! Meghan’s a pleasure to work with, though. I should know by now that she won’t steer me wrong.

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  5. Loved this! Rick would be me–you could bang me over the head with the otherworldly evidence, and I’d still find a way to explain it away. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading about ghosties. 🙂

    By the way, are you writing any of your current novels in present tense or just these side stories? I know we’ve talked about it in the past, but I can’t remember. Which is nothing new for me…

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    • Thank you! I find it funny that Rick still “doesn’t believe in ghosts,” but also won’t stay in old hotels or B&B’s. 😉 Normally, my husband is the total skeptic while I’m open to the possibility that we just don’t recognize the cause of some phenomena yet. But when we stayed at an old hotel in Milwaukee once, the place really had him on edge but didn’t faze me—even when the drawers of one nightstand would open on their own….

      My first two WIPs are traditional past tense. But Meghan’s novel, when it’s time to write it, will be present tense. It just seems to fit her somehow.

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    • Thanks, Char. 🙂 Meghan’s first novel won’t have any ghosts, but I can’t rule out some “strange” happenings in later ones—like that breeze that swirled around at the end of “Buried Deeds.” We’ll see what she wants to do….

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  6. It’s dark and storming here today – perfect for reading this story!
    Love the pacing. The conversations and imagery all flows so well. The tinged pictures add to the mood and suspense.
    One of your bests – out of comfort zone or not.
    (and one of the reasons I would worry about B&B stays…houses? Had some ghostly dealings in a couple.
    Happy Holler-ring!

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    • Thanks, Mouse! Meghan has enjoyed taking over the blog again, even if only for a couple of days. Maybe she’ll share something else short for the New Year? I’ll keep an open mind about it—especially if we can work it up ahead of time instead of writing it up on the fly every week. I had fun putting this one together with the photos and creating my own “ghost.”

      I’ve had a few experiences with older houses, but nothing too scary. Maybe I’ll write about them next year…. Hope Molly and RC aren’t too upset with the night’s visitors!

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  7. That’s a great story! Is there some truth to it? It sounds like there is, but then great stories usually sound true even if they’re not. Happy Halloween!

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    • This is all Meghan’s experience, not mine. I thought about writing a post about a couple of my stranger experiences, but ideas for how to write them up just weren’t flowing. Maybe next year? But I’m sure glad Meghan stepped forward this time around. 🙂

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  8. Really enjoyed this one. That Rick! He believes and just won’t cop to it. My husband tells of a ghost that came into his bedroom in an older house he was renting near DC. He says the air changed–felt warmer–and he sensed a light touch down his back that gave him shivers.

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    • I’ve had a few experiences that leave me open to the possibility that there are some things we can’t yet explain. I’m sure they’re natural phenomena—and not “supernatural”—but current logic can’t quite explain them to my satisfaction…. And this area has a lot of “ghosts,” so I’m not surprised your husband encountered one in an older home around here. Hmm, maybe it’s time for another ghost walk….

      I think we all know a few Ricks, don’t you?

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  9. Great story, JM. I love ghost stories, and I think it’s hard to write one credibly. I think you did a wonderful job here because it isn’t overdone and you have a character who won’t believe. That helps the reader stay grounded but at the same time, shall we say, curious?

    I have had experiences with ghosts. It’s one of those moments that is hard to describe without someone immediately offering up a sensible, logical explanation.

    Hope your Halloween was not as spooky as your story! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kate! This was a stretch because I’ve never tried anything like it before. I think skeptics can come up with logical explanations, but fans of the supernatural can claim the day, too. And all will have to agree to disagree. 😉

      I’ve had a couple of experiences that keep me open-minded to things we don’t yet understand, too. But even if we someday can explain the ghosts away, I have a feeling there will always be something that can raise the hairs on the back of our necks and send shivers down our spines….

      Halloween was quiet and not at all spooky—just like I like it!

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    • Thanks, Carol! I was surprised at how quickly the haikus came back to me, especially since I’m really not a poet. Just maybe some of them will slip into Meghan’s novel when we sit down to write it….

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    • Thanks, Andrea. 🙂 I love real ghost stories—not horror and gore—but true ghosts, whatever they may be. I thought Rick’s skepticism and Meghan’s “openness to the idea” reflect the real world divide about the unexplained. So I’m glad to hear that element helped the story!

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  10. I was expecting something very different, so I like how you turned this around into a simpler country ghost story. 😀 I think everyone can relate to stories like this one, whether you’re a skeptic like Rick or more sympathetic like Meghan. Nice job, JM!

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    • Thanks, Mayumi! I couldn’t very well turn a Meghan Bode adventure into a Stephen King horror story or some such thing. 😉 Another option would’ve been that she simply scared herself into a tizzy and then had an everyday event explain things. But that would’ve been a letdown for Halloween, I think. Letting skeptics believe it’s just weather and a faulty door while ghost fans can have a paranormal explanation fits my Libra-ness. 🙂

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  11. Excellent story ending! I love the young Meghan and how she and Rick have two different interpretations (or so he claims). I agree with everyone, the dialogue and pacing were great, the visuals … Great job!

    I definitely believe and we considered staying at an old B&B in or near Salem two weeks ago, but just looking at the pics made me think they were probably haunted. I would love to hear about your experiences!

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    • Thanks, Arlene! I really didn’t know if I could pull this one off, so I’m glad readers have enjoyed it. And you know Meghan’s eating up the attention, too. 😉

      Wow, Salem, Massachusetts? Talk about a haunted place! I’d probably have a hard time sleeping in an old house there. Maybe next year I can figure out a way to make my own experiences sound interesting. I tried this year, but it just wasn’t working. So I was really happy when Meghan offered this little adventure for us. 🙂

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  12. Well, Rick simply needs to expand his consciousness. I never have believed in ghosts and spirits much until lately when my views have allowed that possibility. After all, even if they are explainable, would that make them more real?

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    • I’m not so sure that ghosts are the actual spirits of the departed. But I think places may keep some memories and energies from events that have occurred there. I’d also hate to think that I’d be tied to the place of a horrific event, reliving it over and over. It would be one thing to revisit places that held good memories because I wanted to. But nightmarish ones? No thank you!

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    • There are so many ghost stories from this part of the country, and while this isn’t based on a real one that I’ve heard, it would certainly fit right in. Luckily Meghan stepped forward to help me out for this blogiversary and Halloween. 🙂

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      • I loved the ghost stories of the DC area. When I went to school there, the Exorcist Stairs scared me. But in a good way. It’s a cool story and even better for it being purely yours. 🙂

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  13. Who doesn’t like ghost stories? However, I’m with Rick regarding B&Bs. I’ve only stayed in a couple, but the thing that makes them so charming for a lot of people is what puts me off about them–staying in a stranger’s home. I understand the appeal, but it’s not for me.

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    • My husband and I have stayed in a few, with our experiences running from wonderful to wanting to run away as soon as possible. These days, we’d be more likely to look for a nice inn or boutique hotel for something other than the ubiquitous chains. We’ve learned “historic” hotels like the ones at Glacier National Park or the Stanley in Estes Park aren’t for us. Those paper thin walls make it far too hard to sleep. For us, they’re not worth the potential story ideas a writer might find….

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