In honour of Hallowe’en (my favourite holiday), I thought I’d try to flex the creative muscles and write a little ghost story. ~
Some short months after the pandemic is finally over, she buys the house. The bungalow had been on the market for longer than she would have expected. When low mortgage rates and people spending their money differently, starters homes didn’t stay on the market long. Yet this one had sat empty, quiet, though the inspectors could find nothing wrong with it. With the spectre of the virus beginning to wane and a safe downpayment in her savings account, she was ready to invest in her own home. It seemed like fate.
“It’s because of the ghost,” explain her new neighbours who live to the left. The middle-aged couple had greeted her while some friends helped unpack her u-haul. They didn’t seem the type to subscribe to paranormal predilections, but to each their own, and a sweater vest or mom jeans weren’t necessarily signs against it. She accepts their concern, reassures them she’ll be fine, and carries on.
After the crucial unpacking is down, pizza consumed and her friends gone to their own homes, she crawls into her bed, familiar in this new space. She closes her eyes and a wave of loneliness, of emptiness washes over her. She feels small and insignificant among the still unpacked boxes. She lets out a breath, then another after another until she sleeps.
She’s tired when she wakes, but there are things to do. Clothes to fold and cupboards to wash. Dishes to unwrap and newspaper to throw away. She has only a few more days booked off before she reports back to work again. She’s determined to feel somewhat settled by the time she’s logging into her first Zoom meeting.
“Don’t you find it unsettling?” yet another neighbour asks, this one a grad student who rents a room across the street.
Her brow creases as she shakes her head in confusing.
“Living with a ghost,” the young woman clarifies, shifts the load of library books in her arms then pushes on. “I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But I swear, ever since the old man died in there, his family couldn’t keep a tenant and they, like, all said the same when they noped out of there.”
“That it was haunted,” the student notes, her tone earnest. “That they could feel him there, the ghost, pressing on them. And…”
It bursts out of her, the young woman’s voice taking a hushed, spooked tone. “It was making them, I don’t know, crazy. The last renter, I think his parents came and took him back home. I think they were afraid he was going to hurt himself or something.”
“That happens,” she notes. “People sometimes can’t help it if their brains aren’t quite wired the way they need to be. It doesn’t mean ghosts.”
“Except it wasn’t just the one. I’ve rented here just over three years, now, and that place was rented to at least five tenants before they put it on the market. There’s a ghost in that house, and he wants people gone. I don’t even usually believe in that hoo-hoo stuff, but I felt something the one time I went in, when the agent did an open house. Just… be careful.”
She reassures this new neighbour that she’s not unsettled, settling in quite nicely rather. Waves her off then closes the door and orders takeout.
That night, as she lays in bed, the emptiness washes over her again. Waves of despair pulling at her, like an undertow waiting to pull her under.
In the dark of her room, she turns onto her back, wets her lips, speaks into the shadows.
“I have battled my own depression and hopelessness, Ghost. Yours is incidental, and nothing I haven’t fought before and know I’ll fight again. I’ve learned to live with it, so you can learn to live with me, or you can leave. But I’m not going anywhere.”
She rolls to her side, pulling the covers up around her as she closes her eyes. In the morning, the ghost will be there or not. It doesn’t matter. She carries on.