Friday 20 December 2013

#FridayFlash - Meeting Oneself

Imgae by Alex Kalina
 It happened on a bitter morning, beset by the sort of cold that you only feel in the dark days before Christmas. I had business in town, and rose early so as to conclude my transactions by a reasonable hour. The house was mostly in darkness, with a single maid trudging between the rooms to light fires in the grates. When I bade her good morning, she looked at me as though she had seen a ghost, and dropped her kindling on the parlour floor.

"Good God, girl, whatever is the matter?" I asked. I was especially surprised as I had not known Elsie to be a fanciful or superstitious creature in the eight months she had worked for me.

"Begging yer pardon, sir, I thought you was someone else." She bent to gather her parcel of wood and paper.


Elsie looked up at me, a somewhat thoughtful expression on her face.

"I din't listen at first, sir, though all the girls was talking about it. But I seen it for myself now."

"What? What did you see?"

"Yer ghost, sir." Elsie replied with no trace of amusement. The girl was deadly serious.

"My ghost?"

"That's right, sir. The other girls thought it was you at first, but then Sally saw it in the kitchen when we knew you was in the dining room with Mr Hardcastle."

I remembered the incident - Hardcastle and I were enjoying dinner when a scream interrupted our hearty conversation. I hurried to discover the source of the cry, but found the kitchen empty. I presumed it to have not been a scream, but rather the cry of some wild animal outside, and dinner continued once more. I had thought of it no more until Elsie raised the subject.

"But I live, Elsie, as you can see for yourself. I would need to be dead to have a ghost."

"Begging yer pardon, sir, but my mother says the living have ghosts too. They pass on messages then they leave."

I shuddered, considering the possibility of a version of myself that was dead somehow invading my home. I caught the earnest expression on Elsie's face and shook the mood from myself.

"Don't be absurd, Elsie. I have no ghost - there are no spirits in this house. Now run along and finish your jobs before Mrs Peterson awakes."

Elsie bobbed in an awkward curtsey and scurried away. The thought of my abrupt housekeeper no doubt scared her more than some silly ghost story.

I left the parlour, intending to visit my library before I left for town. I stood at the head of the long, narrow corridor that led to the back of the house. Little light pervaded its pre-dawn gloom, and I shivered. I debated with myself for several moments about the importance of the papers for my business in town, before mentally shaking myself. I had allowed myself to become unnerved by an idle report, given by a maid, no less. No, it would not do. I plunged into the darkness in the direction of my library.

I opened the door and the sight almost stopped my heart.

The double of myself stood in the centre of the library, the weak dawn rays falling through the figure onto the carpet. I looked closer and saw that it was not quite the double of myself – the right side of its face was horribly burned, contorted into an expression of the purest pain. My hand flew to my own face, my fingers exploring the skin, yet finding it marred by nothing but stubble.

The figure reached out a hand and opened its mouth, its lips forming silent words. I could not make them out, but felt perhaps they were a warning of some kind. The double took two steps toward me, and vanished into the cold morning air. Before I could consider what the apparition might signify, I fell into a faint, and dropped to the floor.

I awoke some six hours later, with my brother in my room and the doctor scratching his illegible symbols into his notebook.

“Edgar! You return to us!” My brother strode to my bedside and peered into my face.

“Indeed I do. What time is it?” The memory of my intended meeting in town returned to me before that of the figure in the library.

“It is eleven in the morning.”

“I was supposed to meet with Fitzherbert three hours ago!”

“Well you shan’t be meeting with him at all now.” My brother crossed himself, and briefly bowed his head. The doctor, despite his scientific allegiances, did likewise.

“What has happened?”

“A fire claimed Fitzherbert’s house in town this morning. His business associates were able to escape but Fitzherbert did not have their good fortune. God rest his soul.”

I thought of the many other instances when I had avoided some misfortune or other by being somewhere other than where I was supposed to be at that moment, and I fell into a faint for the second time that day.


Unknown said...

Very cool, ghosts of the living with messages. And delivered well. Nice story, Icy.

Steve Green said...

A ghost that helps instead of haunts, I think a ghost like that is rather handy to have around.

Happy Christmas Icy. :-)

Anonymous said...

Very cool ghost story. Fabulous voice. Merry Christmas.
Adam B @revhappiness

John Wiswell said...

The slow unspooling of the ghost experience was unlike your normal compact flashes, Icy. This was a lovely deviation of style. Really dug it. Retweeting!

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of ghosts of the living! Creepy though!

Helen A. Howell said...

Good story! I imagined sitting around an open fire being told this, just perfect for this time of the year. Merry Christmas Icy!

liminalfiction said...

Excellent ghost story, Icy! Interesting that the ghost's face had been burned, and a fire destroyed Fitzherbert's house. Did the ghost come back to save his living self, and thereby alter the past? I love it.

Tony Noland said...

Saved by one's own ghost - that's the kind of apparition I could welcome!

Katherine Hajer said...

Loved it! It occurred to me that this could be taken to be at the intersection of horror and science fiction -- his alternative future selves somehow travelling back as sort of fetches to warn him off dangerous situations.

Claudia H. Blanton said...

Always love ghost stories, and this one has just such an interesting, different story line - great! Well done!

Anonymous said...

You had me guessing throughout Icy, fantastic story!

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