Saturday, November 5, 2011

Haunted Love

This story is my entry to the YPRL Short Story Competition 2011. 
I live in a small town. Not too many people live here, because it is said that the old Montagu house that stands on the far side of town is haunted. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was, but I don’t really believe in ghosts or spirits. I can see it from my bedroom window, and when I was little, I used to be afraid to fall asleep, because I felt like it was watching me.
Mum told me about the Montagu family. “Arthur and Esme Montagu were the kindest of folk, according to my mother,” she had said. “It was quite unfortunate, they had just bought a lovely new house, and they were especially impressed by the beautiful roses in the garden. Arthur worked as a horse-and-cart-driver. He was the equivalent of taxi driver now-days, but this was a long time ago. Anyway, one day, he was taking a mother and her son somewhere, and oh, that boy was a bit of a troublemaker. He was playing tricks on the horse, and the horse got very scared. It started running, and the cart somehow unlatched itself from the horse. Arthur fell to the ground, and well, the horse… trampled him.
“Esme was very upset over the death of her husband, and so she locked herself in the house. She had always been out in the garden, looking after her beautiful roses, but after that day, all the flowers withered, and no one saw Esme again. Some say she died in that house. Oh, the poor women…” Mum doesn’t believe that there is anything in that house.
The boys next door to me told me they were dared to stay the night there. They couldn’t stay an hour, because they were too scared. They said they heard an ear-piercing scream saying, “Get out! Get out! How dare you come into my house?” They’ve never even looked at the house since then; and they were the kind of people who boast about not being scared of anything at all.

“Justin! Eric!” I call out to the boys one morning, as I go outside to collect the newspaper. They were sitting out on the lawn; they seemed to be shaking with fear. I ran over to them. “Guys, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost!”
“We have,” they cried in unison. I didn’t know how to react to this. They had always been making up lies to get me scared about ghosts and demons.
“You’ve used that one before,” I say in a stern voice. “I’m not going to fall for your tricks again.”
“We’re being serious Laura,” Eric yells. “There was a ghost in our bedroom. It was the same one we saw at that creepy, haunted house!”
“Ghosts and spirits don’t exist!” I argue with them for the millionth time. “I’m not going to fall for your stupid lies anymore!”
“We’re not lying!” They shout at me. I can see tear stains on Justin’s cheeks, and his eyes are quite red.
“Okay, fine,” I say. “I’m not saying I believe you, but maybe, there was. What do we do about it?”
“Laura, stop it!” Justin cries. “Ghosts are real, I’ve seen them with my own eyes! If you don’t believe me then maybe you should stay a night at that creepy old house!”
“Maybe I will,” I scream, “and I’ll prove that ghosts aren’t real, but you two will have to come with me.”
“Why?” Eric yells. “Because you’re scared?”
“Of what?” I say. “I’ll need you with me so you don’t think I’m lying anymore when I say that there is no such thing as ghosts, or spirits, or whatever you want to call them!
“And if I can stay there an entire night – unlike you two did – then you two have to give up this supernatural nonsense for good!”
“Fine,” Eric yells. “But if you don’t, which you’re not, then you have to admit that there is such a thing as the supernatural, and there is a ghost living in that house!”
“You’re on,” I say, shaking hands with both of them. “We meet at the house tonight. If I don’t stay there the entire night, you win. If I do, then I win. Fair and square, right?”

I wander into the front garden that night and see the two boys already walking up to the house. They see me and stop for me to catch up to them. I fling my sleeping bag over my shoulder and we make our way to the Montagu house.

It’s scarier up close. The garden surrounding it – which sounds like it must have been magnificent in its day – was dead and black. Old tree branches were swaying in the wind, and the looked like skeleton fingers, just about to pick me up and through me away from this terrible place. I’ll admit, maybe I was a little bit scared. But I refused to admit that to Justin and Eric.                         
I raised my hand to open the door handle, but the door swung open by itself. “Uh, it was the wind,” I quickly say. Justin and Eric were already shaking. I stepped into the house, and Justin and Eric followed me very closely. We were barely in the house when the door slammed shut behind us. The house was very big and quite beautiful, but was full of dust and was not in a good state at all. There was a huge chandelier above us as we stepped into what must have been the living room area. We took a few minutes to look around before the room began to shake. It started off gently but got bigger by the second. The chandelier was shaking abruptly, and before we had time to think, it was falling. Thankfully the room was very tall and we had barely enough time to run out of the way of the chandelier before we heard it come crashing down. The whole house was still rapidly shaking, and everything was being flung everywhere.
When I first heard it, I thought it was one of the boys. But once I listened, I could hear the heartbreak in their voice. “Were you the ones who caused my husbands death?” Screamed the ear-piercing voice of Esme Montagu. The boy’s screams were so load that I lost my hearing for a few seconds. They fled out of the house, screaming louder than ever before.
“No! I didn’t do it! I swear I had nothing to do with your husbands death!” I yelled. I span around, trying to see anything at all that could have been the cause of the wicked, cold, heartbroken voice.
“You lie!” I shrieked again. The house shook more furiously, but all doors and windows seemed to have vanished. I was trapped.
“I’m innocent,” I cry. “Please, just let me go! I didn’t do anything!”
“Then why are you breaking into my home? You must pay for what you have done! You must be punished!”
“I didn’t do anything! Please! I’m just trying to prove something to my friends! But I am obviously wrong, so I will be leaving now…” I tried to find a door or something to exit this horrible place from, but I was blocked.  I began to cry. “Please, I don’t know what it is like to lose someone so close to you, but you have got to face the facts. He is gone, and so are you. You’re just a ghost who hasn’t yet entered their afterlife. The person responsible for your husband’s death is probably already long gone. You’ve got to let go of the past and go on into the future. Trust me, it’s what Arthur would’ve wanted.” The house stopped shaking; everything went quiet.
“Esme, please,” I whispered.
Before my very eyes, the house seemed to piece itself together. The broken chandelier rose into the air and resembled before right in front of me. All the broken plates and dusty books flew back to where they were originally. The house became brighter and happier, like it must have been back in its day. A figure appeared before me. A woman who looked like she must have been in her late 30’s was smiling at me. Esme Montagu was more beautiful than I imagined.
“Thank you,” she said. “I am sorry for all that I have done. You are right. Our time has passed, and I must let go and continue into the future.” A single rose appeared in the palm of her hand. She handed it to me. Another figure appeared next to Esme, and together, Arthur and Esme walked arm-in-arm into the light that lead them to their afterlife.
The house returned into its dull, old self, and everything was normal. I smelt the rose that the ghost of Emse Montagu had given me as walked into the cold night, preparing to admit that the supernatural is real, and that even after death, love lives on forever.