Monday, October 18, 2010

A 2010 Scholastic Award-winning Ghost Story

High School Senior Amanda Miles won a National Gold Medal for her science fiction and fantasy piece, Allister Reese. Below is an excerpt from her haunting ghost story.

Pasta’s a lonely meal. I make it when I’m tired or alone, and certainly not expecting company. It’s quick, easy, the best option when a meal for myself isn’t worth slaving over. It was a nice dining room. It reeked of an aged renaissance, smothered in thick, rich tones of red and accents of creamy white—a well-blended atmosphere in no urgent need of interruption.

I had never believed in ghosts or demons, any paranormal phenomenons like that. I’d been completely psyched about this Tuesday: moving day. The little, bleak blue house down on the corner of Maple and Haver seemed perfect, well-suited for me. Until I realized it was that little blue house located on the sputtering, questionable ends of Maple and Haver, which seemed to have their reputations dampened by this traumatically tainted house. They never told me who had lived here, or informed me of who had stabbed himself in the parlor, however many years back. They never told me his name or what he’d been like, or why he’d done it. Never shared with me anything of his infamous afterlife, never showed me the list of victims, or told me how many souls he’d eaten.

“Ssssskkkkeeoooohhh.”

Sand in the time sift drooled like droplets of molasses as I stood up. My wineglass in perpetual motion, falling to the parlor floor, never seemed to shatter or splatter. I couldn’t hear it. Couldn’t see it. All I heard was the voice. All I saw was the man.
He was calm and cool. Stood firm and fresh in front of me. The glass slowly lulled around the floor as I watched him. A moment of trance unable to be broken by a human persona of an awkward silence. Jeans, pale shirt, unbuttoned at the top. The chiseling began at the V, and pulsed down his torso in ravishing ripples. He looked new and clean, too pure for something damned to an eternity in this lonely house. He didn’t strike me as a suicide—didn’t look like he’d want to take away anything of the everything he’d been given. He looked confident, but curious, something rather odd for someone who had a countless amount of time to inquire. I wondered when the first question would come, I could feel them, there were plenty, dancing like little caged insects inside his empty soul, fireflies matching in luminosity inside his fluorescent figure.
He didn’t move to advance on me, yet I felt a pull to him. Like the supernatural force that claimed him reached for a hold on me, too.
“Hello, my name is Allister. Allister Reese,” he bowed. His choice of formal greeting seemed out of place for the situation. I eyed him suspiciously.
“Hello…I’m—”
“Venya, I know. Pleasure to meet you,” he nodded.
“Just Ven.” What a mysterious little creeper. He already knew my name.
He spread his arms wide, “Welcome to my home.”
Perfect; a territorial numen—just what I needed my first night in. When I didn’t answer, he proceeded, “Please, continue your meal.”
I never broke eye contact as I cautiously slid back into my chair and tackled another meatball, forgetting about the spilled wine.
“You just gonna sit there and stare at me?”
“I felt it more proper than rudely concealing myself, promoting my presence as something more of a friendly household companion than a spy.”
I absentmindedly twirled up a few bites of spaghetti on my fork as I continued to inspect him.
“How long have you been here?”
“A long time.”
“I mean today.”
“I’m always here.”
I was quiet again. Not too sure how to proceed with our introductions, not sure what to ask a ghost. He sensed my confusion and a smart little smile emerged.
“I’m sorry, you shouldn’t feel this uncomfortable in my home. Would you like me to leave?”
“Are you going to leave or just disappear?” I asked.
“Disappear.”
“You’re right. This is less creepy.”
He laughed, leaned back in his chair and settled in.

There were a few specific things that sparked my inquisitions about Allister’s being as I came to know him over the next few weeks:
Allister never left the house. I didn’t completely understand why. And when I asked, he said he simply just never felt like it. Allister never talked about his death and wasn’t confined to after-hours; he was out at all times of the day and would occasionally meet me for breakfast in the kitchen. Slowly our conversations became more fluid. He’d greet me when I came home from work, unless he was unusually bothered by something. If I didn’t bring work home from the office, we’d stay up all night at the kitchen bar. He’d ask all the questions, about my family, my childhood, my old house, and which house I liked more. Sometimes I wished he’d let me join in on the cross-examination, but then again I didn’t know what I’d ask.
The bigger the space grew between his knowledge of me and mine of him, the more I was attracted to him. He was a mystery, a puzzle that I wanted to take all the time in the world to solve, and the small sense of vulnerability intrigued me.

Allister also developed a strange fascination with my cooking. When I couldn’t see him in the kitchen, I’d feel his presence lurking over my shoulder. The next time I made pasta, he sat and watched. He didn’t talk, just sat in silence observing my work. It confused me. I figured this would be a typical action of someone who had a desire to re-create the dish later himself, but Allister was stuck here in quite a peculiar state, a twilight—able to move, unable to do, able to talk, yet unable to interact. It bothered me. I wondered how much it bothered him—if it did at all. I couldn’t find a trace of irritation, couldn’t read a thing from his transfixing transparent face.
“Yes?”
He caught me staring at him. I’d absentmindedly slowed to a stop in my stirs around the boiling fettuccini.
“Nothing, nothing.” I refocused on the stove. He continued to watch.
“I forget what it’s like.”
“What’s like?” I asked.
“To eat.”
“Oh.” I couldn’t think of anything better to say. “It takes up a lot of time.”
He threw me a funny look.
“I waste so much time preparing food, eating food, digesting food...”
“I wouldn’t mind making another meal.”
Allister had too much time. He’d forgotten to be human. He didn’t remember what it was like to be irritated, or how annoying the chores of everyday life were. It made me wonder how old he really was—how much time had lapsed since his last painfully normal day.
“What’s it like?” I asked.
He already knew what I was talking about. He thought for a moment.
“Different. Very different.”
“Does it look different?”
“It feels different…everything feels so hollow.”
I waited for more.
“It’s hard to remember life, it used to be hard to compare, but with you around I get a taste of it—a refreshment. You’re different, apart from all the inert objects that occupy my existence. I sense something else with your presence that I can’t in others.”
He sounded so alone. Suddenly I was where he was, trapped in this box, and just the moment sucked all my happiness away. On nurturing instinct, I took the steaming teakettle from the backburner and went to grab him a mug, but then caught myself. The situation nipped at me. I felt helpless. I poured myself instead.
“Does it tease you?” I asked.
“It’s better to feel something than nothing at all.”

Allister got dangerously close. He plotted further than the physical boundaries that disconnected us. It was hard to keep him out, especially when I was mad or frustrated—or found myself set off by a past lover. They were nothing alike, but the poltergeist seemed to always weave webs of relation back to himself in my head, no matter how hard I fought against it, or how black and white the differences were between him and anyone I’d ever met.
He heard it before it happened and was already there waiting.
I slammed the door shut, threw my bag down on the kitchen floor, and hurled the keys against the wall.
I screamed hysterically.
He waited.
I flew around the kitchen in a bull-run tirade, thrashing open the cabinets, roughly shoving things around in search of a clean glass. Soon, without success, I slammed that shut too.
“Godforgetit. Just forget it.” I sat down on the barstool. Took a breath.
He gave me some time. Then came over to sit beside me. Fumes slowly smoldering to death in his presence. He didn’t have to say anything. Just look.
“Bad day,” I said. I didn’t really want to talk. Sometimes I felt silly, like I was sitting in front of an overly patient psychiatrist. Allister kept looking, waiting for further explanation. I loved that about him. His euphonic aura infected me, like an incurable mutated strand of disease so advanced there was nothing I could do to stop the contamination.
“You know, I wish more people were like you.”
“Explain.”
“Just relaxed…understanding. I dunno.”
“You come to understand a lot when you’ve been here this long.”
“I know. I just…wish people could sit here like you can.”
“This is my house. I’ve been sitting here a long time.”
“I wish everyone else had the time.”
“Ven, all I have is time.”

Image: New Love Found. Kelsey Hart, Grade 12. 2010 American Visions Medal, Photography.

1 comments:

baddict17 said...

This was amazingly good!

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