It’s been more than a week since I wrote some flash, and feels even longer. But I’m back. As usual, I made an effort to kick back against the obvious and take this piece in a lighter direction. I leave it to you whether I’ve succeeded and still managed to write something intriguing.
Thank you again to Miranda for her weekly prompts. And if any of you out there think you might have a story inside you waiting to come out. Come write with us! Really we don’t bite (much).
Lighting the Way
“I see dead people.”
My husky imitation echoes slightly in the dim hallway as a wry smirk plays across my lips. Unfortunately, anyone who could hear me now probably won’t get the reference, or appreciate the humor. Still, the irony makes me chuckle.
Even though the sun hangs in a cloudless sky outside, the hallway feels dark, shadowed, oppressed. I take slow, deliberate steps, stowing the humor and breathing deeply. Settling into my purpose, I reach out with my inner sense, inviting contact. Many are still here. Too many. They know I’ve come but they don’t trust me. Yet.
My sight shifts. I see the building as it once was: Clean square halls, cool damp cinderblock, bleached linoleum, and … the clang of bars. I lived in a place very like this once. I was young but the smell of it has never left me. The midnight sobs of my neighbors, forever unseen, broke my heart as much for my own madness as for theirs. Yearning and despair ooze from the cells, twisting behind my sternum like a cramp. I follow the hall, my fingers tracing lines along the dirty walls.
As I near the center of the ward, the virgin dust on the floor is marred by the tread of other boots. I frown. The ghost hunters come only to agitate, to stir up these poor souls for the ooh’s and aah’s of the camera, when all they want is release. I feel the weight of their desire. It swells in my chest like pressure, a geyser waiting to blow. My hands fist, my heart pounds, and I want to lash out as they once did. But that is not why I’ve come.
I’m here to set them free.
When I reach the deepest heart of the building where the residue of hopelessness clings like dew to the walls, ghostly despair traps me in its web and I stop. From my pack, I retrieve my candle, a sage bundle and a lighter. I sit on the squalid floor, ignoring the dirt. The spiders and the mice that invariably haunt halls like these don’t bother me either.
I light the wick, watching the flame catch hold. Then I light the sage and smudge myself in the sweetly cloying smoke that rises in delicate curls from the charred leaves. I take my time. The familiar scent lifts my heart and tickles my nose. Closing my eyes, I draw down white light from somewhere above me and pull it around myself like a cloak, a bubble of peace and love. I breathe it in becoming the light, imagining myself glowing like a halogen bulb. And then I wait.
It doesn’t take them long to gather. I feel them pressing into the hallway, angry at first. I hear thumps and crashes in the rooms nearby. My skin prickles with their icy cold revenge. But there is no demon here. No malevolence hunts me, only the echoes of ordinary human abuse. I am not here to curse them and lecture them. I respond with quiet understanding and murmured words of love. They begin to trust. They give me their sorrows, their guilts, the things they did and the things done to them. But none of it will go with them when they move on.
“I’m here to take you home,” I say very softly when I feel they are all present. At least the ones ready to go. Their sudden eagerness is like a stiff drink of whisky; it goes straight to my head – almost overwhelming. I stand up and draw a door on the wall with the sage stick, using black ash like Harold’s purple crayon. Then I recite the words. A supplication the angels taught me when I myself was captive here. A door opens, gleaming more brightly than I do, and they begin to cross over.
Like a bird finally taking wing or a wild thing loosed from its cage, they leap, they fly, they leave. Tears of hope trace down my cheeks and I smile.
* * *
Back outside, I slurp down an ice-cold Diet Coke in my car and look back at the building. It’s lighter to my senses now, though the sinking sun throws it into shadow. I pull out my tablet and tap on the Amazon video icon. Time to find out where those Ghost Adventure jerks are going next.
Photo courtesy of Simon Woolbert via Miranda Kate.