May 17, 2014

Short story: Ghosts

As the rain started to fall, a sea of black slowly expanded beneath the droplets until the ground could no longer be seen. Beneath it, a whisper of words could be heard, and a few other hushed sounds.  Slowly the sea of black broke apart into many separate pieces as if the rain drops had shattered glass. People could be seen scattering to remain sheltered by the shards.  Most of them wore a matching black to their umbrellas.  As each umbrella dispersed from the original location, a scar in the ground came into view.  Like a cavity filling, not dirt, but wood rested above the hole.  The wood was ornately carved with flowering vines and leaves in a Victorian style.  At each corner stood a man, all four of them slowly lowering the heavy wooden filling into the tooth of the earth.  As they did so, one solitary umbrella remained, under which a business man silently watched.  As soon as the coffin hit the earthen bottom of its tomb, he turned away from the sad affair and walked slowly toward his car.

He drove through the pouring rain, first onto one of the barren city streets, then onto an even less frequented road, and finally onto a mile long driveway which led to an estate.  The wet gravel road grabbed at his tires as if the earth itself protested his approach.  Finally in the distance he saw the manor rise out of the hillside like a dark slender woman stretching her spindly arms to the sky.  She was elegantly clad in the most delicate gown, white wisps of clouds curling around her every curve.  Despite the strange beauty of it, the fog also seemed to be a veil for death itself, hiding the black, empty manor behind fragile snow-white tendrils.
 The closer he got, the more the manor loomed over him, daring him to enter.  He accepted the challenge as he stepped out of his car and into the dark manor.  The door squeaked, reminding him of the first time he had come to this place.

That day, the door had squeaked as it always did, but the manor had not been so lifeless and barren as it was now.  It had been full of life and light, as if the hulking building itself had a beating heart.
"You must be the lawyer I requested." a woman's voice had chimed as she hurried down the stairs to the door.
"Yes, Ms...?"
"Please, call me Lily.  And you are?"
"My name is George Selman," he took her hand politely and kissed it.
"Come," she had said with a full smile, "we have much to do."

He remembered the door squeaking yet again as he closed it, but he didn't mind.  The house was alive and beautiful, and the squeak almost added to its loveliness.
The second time he had visited the manor, things within it had certainly changed.  The door still squeaked, but by then it was a eerie squeak, a cry for help.  The life of the manor seemed to ebb away.  Lily had once again come to the door, this time much older and weaker.  She was wrapped in a robe and blankets, and she seemed relieved that he was there.
"I'm glad you're here, George.  I called on you because I need to make a will."
He was slightly taken aback by her sudden change of health, but he agreed to help her.

Not long after his second visit, Lily passed away leaving the once beautiful manor without owner, life, or love.  Now it seemed, that squeak as he opened the door was more of a cold, bitter scream.  He shut the door slowly, but it did nothing to quiet its cries.  He gazed around the entry hall, searching for even a small remnant of the light that had once shone throughout it.  Even with the lights on it was not quite the same as when Lily had been there.  He walked up the stairs slowly, savoring for the last time the feel of the oaken steps beneath his feet.  Even though this was just a part of his business, and he should have be here for nothing more, he realized that he would miss this client more than the others.  There had been no special bond between them, no love, not really a friendship, and yet he somehow felt attached to this place.  The joy and warmth he felt the first time he walked through the front door had left a mark on his cold, business hardened heart.  He opened the door to Lily's study, the place where he knew he would find a well organized list of assets to be distributed to the names in the will.  Of course, he would have to check, and double check to make sure she had not left anything out, but that was part of his job.

Inside the study, the furniture was all covered in large white sheets.  It was a haunting image, and it reminded him of ghosts.  He shivered slightly as a cold draft ran through his body.  He began to wonder if anyone who lived here after her would ever be able to give it the life it once possessed.  He pulled the sheet off of the desk and tossed it to the floor.  Underneath it was a large oaken writing desk, carved with Victorian images of flowers and vines.  Just like her coffin.  She had always loved that style.  Despite the fact that he had just thrown off the ghost like covering, the desk remained hallow and meaningless.  The entire estate resounded with the same emptiness.  Without her glowing presence and life to warm such meaningless things, all of it was a ghost.

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