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This Party Tip submitted by BizGirl - Aug 25th, 2008

    • Scary as Hell Ghost Stories 5

    • Grim’s Redemption By Tobin Blake

      Go Back to Scary as Hell Ghost Stories

      Forgive this rather crude beginning, but I have never been one for smooth openers - time has not been so kind as to bless me with the sort of fluid eloquence passed down the centuries by the chain of human generations, hand to hand. And I will not dawdle with changing my ancient ways, though tired they are.
      A plain beginning then, and a simple story with the faintest of “moral” underpinnings will have to suffice me. As it is it takes a bit of courage already to set things to ink and page, much less to come right out and say what thrives at the root of my own life, driving it along like an engine - that would be far too brash and bold for the likes of my sort! Yet a certain honesty, I have found, is a fair and safe wager to put on the line, and so I have opted to disregard most of my own interpretations in favor of just saying it.
      One night, so very long ago now, I sat alone outside my cabin as the sun sank into the Arizona horizon, setting the sky afire like an upside-down cross, reaching upward and out along the end of the desert, setting ablaze the end of the world. Thunderheads mounted the horizon, massed to the east and south, and a full wind whipped up and raced across the cracked desert as smooth as bone, and into the little township of Edge, where I lived at the time, and where I rented a room now and then to passers-through. I sat that night for hours as the town secured itself - slamming shutters, securing doors, bolting and fastening, the streets draining its persons like a bottle of whiskey. I sat and watched, and I sipped a little whiskey myself, all the while wondering just how bad the storm would get. . . . And with but one prayer in mind: that my daughter, Ellie, just six years old, would survive the night, her fever having reached a peak I knew would either break or kill her.
      By the midnight hour the sky was adorned only in black, as dark as a widow’s veil with rain slicing the streets like tears. And with the wet came a chill that settled and seeped through the warped boards of my closed-in-porch, putting an ache in my bones, straight through. The wind moaned through the streets, whipping soggy tumbleweeds through the air, killing almost half of the gas-lit street lamps - leaving the town as black as the sky, cut only by the flash-snap of electric-blu lightening. I went inside and sat by my daughter’s bed, soothing her forehead with a damp rag.

      I do not know how long I had sat that way when I answered a knock at my door. I opened it only to find a man dressed in a black linen suit with matching soft-brimmed hat folded neatly across his breast. His head was perfectly bald and shaped like an upside-down pear, with a narrow jaw and pale, thin lips. He asked about a room.
      “Try the saloon,” I said, and started to slam the door, when the man held up his hand. The swaying lantern’s light caught long, bony fingers, like bare branches in winter. The man’s arms were too long as well. His hands looked as if they could reach well past his knees. I stared. “You some kind of preacher, or something’?” I asked.
      He smiled. “Please,” he said simply, gesturing to the night. “The storm. just for the night?”
      Just then, a high-stepping horse tugged a carriage down the road, clip-clopping through the mud. Gas lamps perched on iron poles, strung along the way, played dim light along the horse’s muscular body. The horse turned, looked straight at me, and whinnied and snorted, blowing plumes of hot air into the night. Its eyes flashed red, which sent a chill straight up my spine and caused the hair on my arm to stiffen. Then it disappeared into the darkness, as quickly as it had come, leaving an altogether strange sensation of a haunting or possession lingering somewhere there in the darkness of its wake. My mind could feel it.
      Just wanting to get away from the night, and back to Ellie, I relented to the man’s request and showed him to the spare room in the back, then hurried back down the short hall to Ellie’s room.
      I pushed open a door and peeked in. On a bed set in the far corner, she tossed and squirmed in the heated delirium, moaning incoherently. I crossed the room in four strides and sat on the edge of her bed, firmly exhausted. Plucking a wet rag from a bucket by the bed, I soothed her hot forehead.
      “Ellie, honey, I sure wish this fever would break,” I said to no one but the stark room, half-lit by my lantern, and bare in that light except for Ellie’s bed, a small pine dresser, a couple of chairs, and a box of rag dolls and children’s toys.
      Ellie opened her eyes. They were glazed over and distant, staring past me at nothing. “Pa?” she said, barely audible.
      “Try and sleep, sweetheart.”
      She mumbled something I couldn’t understand, so I lowered my head a little to listen, and felt her tiny breath on my cheek. The sensation brought to mind a moment, two years gone now, when my wife, only nineteen years old, had grown sick during childbirth, and passed on with just such a feeble breath. The child, who would have been Ellie’s brother, also died, and I was left with a terrible hole in my life that nobody seemed to understand - except Ellie. And just now, the terrible weight of that moment suddenly rose in me, and despite myself, I began to weep, a great pain welled up in me and spilled out from the deepest confines of my inner mind. And in the middle of it, a love so clean and perfect burned like a hot coal, radiating outward through my tears, and perhaps something less definable, out and into my daughter. And though I didn’t know what a miracle felt like, I thought that this love I felt for my daughter, shedding itself upon her of its own volition, might just be one.
      Suddenly, something else caught my attention: A faint, indiscernible murmur, like a group of excited children’s voices confiding in secret, rose and rolled through the room. I stood up fast. “Who’s there?” I called, taking a step toward the sound. “Is that you, Mister?”
      More whispers, this time short, punchy, and excited. They disappeared when I picked up my lantern. “Hello?” I called again. The blackness swallowed the sound of my voice and left an eerie quiet. “Your room’s third on the left,” I said. Nothing but nothing.
      Finally I sat back down and looked at Ellie. Her eyes were fixed and open, staring at the ceiling. “Ellie?” I said. “Ellie, honey?” I shook her gently. She felt stiff. Her jaw was locked tight and leaked foamy saliva from the corners of her cracked lips. “Ellie!” I screamed, shaking her hard now. My breath caught in my chest and my heart hammered. Ellie gasped and sucked a thick breath through her mouth.
      “Jesus,” I mumbled.
      Ellie’s eyes fluttered and relaxed, and her breathing settled and deepened. I watched, terrified, as she dropped off to sleep. Looking back, now, I believe she probably dreamt of sugar candy, scoops of vanilla ice cream in thick, sweet waffle cones, and a carnival where men sold fancy potions and herbs and big, boisterous promises, their guts hanging over their pant lines; their mustaches, trimmed and thin, seemed to just go on and on, like railroad tracks spinning across the desert to nowhere. And the sun probably beat down on her head, melting her ice cream and baking the dirt hard beneath her shoes. She looked down at her melting scoop and then up at the tall man in a black linen suit. “Ellie!” he said, and mussed her hair. “You’ve got ice cream all! over! your! face!” With each word he pressed her nose like a button, for emphasis. Then he opened his hand and held it out for her to grasp, I’m sure.

      Grim emerged from the shadows as if he had simply materialized out of plain air. He held his hat loosely with one hand, while his other hand hung near his knee.
      I stood up, startled, and said, “Help you?”
      “Perhaps,” the man said. “Then again, perhaps I can help you.” He sat down in the chair in the corner and stared strangely, silently at me, and then to Ellie before he slid his hand into his pocket, revealing a gold pocket watch. Very intently, he lifted it by its chain, took a long slow look at the time, pursed his lips, and shook his head regretfully. “Not long now,” he said.
      I felt suddenly tired and irritated with this man. I had enough to deal with, without having this old fool interrupting what I thought very well might be my last moments with my daughter. I set aside my usual fine manners, and let my tone of voice express the true sentiment behind my words: “Excuse me, sir, but this is a private room! You’ll have to go now, Mr. . .” I said, obviously leaving a space for him to fill in his name.
      “Grim,” he said, perfectly collected, “Woodrow Grim.”
      Just then, I sensed something akin to deja vu, but even eerier and my mind felt as if it had just received a blow very much like a physical punch. The light upon the walls grew hazy, causing the room and everything visible in it to appear to me as a sort of wild prop upon a stage where actors set their talents to fiction; I looked at Mr. Grim, the walls, the dresser next to my daughter’s bed, then at her toys, and finally I let my vision rest on Ellie’s small face: Everything, including her, looked as if it were made of baker’s dough, hardened in the sun, lifeless matter. . . .
      “Woodrow Grim,” I heard my voice ponder from somewhere that seemed distant, dreamlike. Then I found myself drawn to his face, which now appeared ghastly - pale and drawn, scarcely concealing the skeletal lines beneath his skin, a bony apparition that now began to chuckle. He stood up and I heard him say, “So now you see.” He held his arms out to his side as if modeling, spun an elegant circle, then moved toward me, not drifting - ghostlike - but as a series of ultra-rapid appearances like a flashing, jerky light, strobing, unreal, terrible.
      He stood before me, and I felt him touch me, not with his hand, but with his mind - immense and powerful. Somehow, his mind joined with mine, and I felt him within me., probing. If he had searched deeper, I likely would have !potty mouth! to madness, and, in fact, perhaps I did. But at once he withdrew ever so slightly, and from this new vantage point he began relating to me the story of life; not his life, but all of it. I bore witness to the rise and plunder of life in all of its wondrous forms, each with an indelible stamp of immortality upon its foundation. Time raced backward and forward, a line millions of years long, with a clear beginning, an obvious ending, all set on a track seemingly random except from the highest plateau where it coalesced into order, reason, God - the Source of it, silent, majestic perfection - a searing vision of holiness rising like a still mountain peak fixed high above the world of humankind, time, and form. . . .

      When I opened Grim’s eyes and raised his head from the floor, my old body was already without breath, stiffening, cooling. I was confused. “What-” I mumbled, before cutting myself off, startled by the sound of my new voice. I looked at my hands, closed and opened my palms, hypnotized by their graceful movements. The how and why I had suddenly transformed into this new being were all but swept from my mind as I took measure of an entirely new perspective on life, death, and what is before, what comes between. A sense of the deepest power surged through me, physically, yes, but far beyond my mere body. I leapt to my new feet, unaccustomed to my new strength, which seemed boundless. My mind felt swollen with knowledge, secrets and unchecked possibilities - fully reeling. So much to absorb!
      And then I turned, and noticed Ellie still and silent on the bed. Is she dead? I asked. Yes and no! boomed the reply, a sound that made no noise, a voice without real form but, instead, carrying itself to my mind through a certain, sacred knowledge. And then it said, Look again, and behold! And I did.
      It is true her body had died, and for just an instant I believed she was truly gone, but then my new mind cleared, and behold I did what liveth on, and what passeth by. What is forever, and what has never been, though it is cherished still. And, strange and hard as it may be for you to understand, I saw my life flash by, and I lived in a single instant a thousand, a million years . . . and beyond . . . beyond the stars, the moon, the celestial bodies spinning an endless course round my open mind, vaster than the spaces between the stars winking from the ceiling of nightfall; and further still till the tiny creep of creatures as infinitesimal as ants all but disappeared from my view, leaving in their wake a gentle hush upon a land lit by a kindly light so perfect I knew at once that this place be my home; and that this light be my redemption.

      Go Back to Scary as Hell Ghost Stories

    • Tags: halloween scary ghost stories hell heck
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