*A work of Fiction
It was supposed to be the perfect writing day.
I was on an isolated island in the Great Lakes.
Tourist season was over and it was mostly abandoned.
The fall weather was working its way through the region. I was immersed in the stark northern country which was the perfect backdrop to the stories I was working on.
To make it even better I had the cafe to myself.
It was supposed to be the perfect day.
Supposed to be.
But now there was a woman lying unconscious on the floor.
I should probably explain.
There are few things better than the perfect writing place. I’ve searched my whole life for it.
Back in the day, way before the publishing deal, I was just another community college student. I would spend all day writing in the crowded atrium connecting all the buildings. It was always loud. There were a million people coming and going everyday.
It was rough.
So I was always looking for a little place to hole up in and write. I found a nook in one of the buildings. It was perfect.
I’ve been chasing after the perfect place every since.
And this little cafe attached to an Inn was the best yet.
The furniture was handcrafted, everything in here was at least half a century old, handmade by the owner’s father. The fire was crackling nicely. I was awash in the place’s rustic charm.
I was busy working when a young woman came in looking for the owner. We sat and chatted until the owner came back.
However, when the owner saw the woman she fainted.
But you would faint too if you’d just seen your daughter when she drowned three years ago.
I came back downstairs after taking Mary to one of the rooms.
“Is she okay?” Beth asked.
“She’s fine,” I said, “She’s resting.”
“I didn’t mean to scare her that bad.”
“Well she’s thought you were dead.”
“I am dead.”
“You know what I meant.”
“I just thought no matter what she’d freak out, so I thought it was best to just get it over with.”
“Why did you wait so long?”
“Well it took a while to stay like this.”
“What do you mean?”
“For the whole first year I barely existed. I would just appear randomly. I couldn’t control it at all. I must haven’t scared at least a hundred people half to death.”
“I couldn’t see my mother like that. I didn’t want her thinking I was haunting her. Took forever to stay like this. Took even longer to be able to interact with the world. Now for the most part I can pass for a normal person.”
“How’d you learn?”
“Have you seen the movie Ghost?”
“No,” she laughed, “Trial and error mostly.”
“Is that how you were able to hold the coffee cup and move the chair?”
“How did you drink the coffee.”
“I didn’t. I just pretended. I can’t really eat anything. It just falls away. Which is fine I can’t taste it anyway.”
She looked at me for a second.
“You’re taking this awfully well.”
“I’m a writer. I deal in weird stuff all the time.”
“There’s a difference between writing about a ghost and seeing one.”
“Well you’re the expert.”
Her eyes narrowed, “I’m not the first one you’ve seen am I?”
“No just the prettiest.”
“Awwww, if I could blush I would. So I’m not your first?”
“No. I saw one once when I was younger.”
“Do tell,” she said leaning forward in the seat.
“I was still in high school. My brother and I were exploring an old barn near our families cabin. It was way out in the woods on this abandoned farm. I saw a woman in the barn. It was so strange. She was just staring at me.”
“She wasn’t like you.”
“Not as pretty?”
“Well no,” I said “But like she couldn’t talk. She walked a little. And she was transparent. You’d never mistake her for a real person.”
“Did you mistake me for a living person?”
“Obviously. I made coffee for a ghost. Though I did notice that the temperature dropped. I thought it was a draft.”
“No it was me. That’s something I can’t get rid of. It used to be a lot worse. I talked to one guy for an afternoon he was shivering by the end.”
“Haha, didn’t want to end the conversation did he?”
“Nope he was willing to brave hypothermia apparently.”
“I don’t blame him.”
“That was good.”
“You remarkably smooth when speaking to the paranormal.”
“Perhaps I’m just smooth in general you’d never know.”
“Wouldn’t I? Maybe I’ve been keeping tabs on you.”
“Oh you were spying on me?”
“In that case you’re welcome.”
“Oh jesus, you’re impossible,” she said laughing. It was a nice laugh but hollow sounding, the laugh of someone that couldn’t experience joy anymore and was doing her best to fake it.
“How long have you known my parents?” she asked.
“Two years. Everything was booked when I traveled here. The had the only open room on the island. And I just kind of never left. They seemed happy for the company.”
“I’m sure. They haven’t been too sad?”
“They were still pretty down when I got here, which is understandable. But they’ve been going better. They both work a lot. Too much really.”
“God they should be relaxing. I guess they don’t have a choice with how slow everything is.”
“They work to keep busy. The Inn’s doesn’t need money.”
“Oh really?” she said looking around the empty cafe.
“Can you keep a secret?”
“You mean other than being a ghost?”
“Yeah dumb question I guess.”
“Everyone’s allowed one occasionally.”
“Last year they were about to lose the place. Your parents wouldn’t take any money from me.”
“Sounds like them.”
“So they became the recipients of the Northern Michigan Small Business Hotel and Hospitality Grant.”
“Ahhh and does this association really exist?”
“It does. He’s sitting right across from you.”
“Oh now that’s clever.”
“Though I think they caught on. That’s why I get free food. We keep the charade going.”
“I’m sure they’re thankful.”
“Well I get to eat my weight in baked goods so I call it even.”
“Good. I’m glad to know they’re taken care of. It makes it easier.”
“I’m sure seeing you will help.”
“It might but I might just make things worse. I’m stuck like this. They’ll get older and move on knowing their daughter is stuck here. No family. No kids. Just a whisper in the wind.”
“Is there anything we can do?”
“From what I can tell. Spirits tend to linger if something happened to them when they died. There’s something keeping me here.”
“I’m pretty sure someone killed me.”
“That’s the thing. I remember most of my life, but the last few days are pretty blurry. Almost everything else came back, but I don’t remember anything about how it happened. I just remember the water.”
“That makes sense. They found you in Lake Michigan.”
“Did they ever say how I got there?”
“No. Your parents said there was an investigation but there was no evidence and nothing to go on so it never went anywhere. But-”
“The rumor was your boyfriend had something to do with it.”
“Oh my god Kyle.”
“Is he still here?”
“No. He left the island. He was shunned by everyone. They all assumed he had something to do with it.”
“I haven’t been able to find him.”
“You can find people?”
“I can like sense their energy. Like I was able to find my parents. But Kyle was part of the fuzzy part. I couldn’t remember his name until you said something.”
“That’s probably a sign.”
“Your parents didn’t like him.”
“I know that’s why they always kept a room open here here for me.”
Then it dawned on me, “The room I’m staying in. It was still open even in Summer.”
I got my notebook out. “So what do you remember about the day?”
“Not much,” she looked at the notebook, “You’re going to play detective now?”
“I do write mysteries for a living.”
“But have you solved one?”
“One. Remember the ghost I mentioned.”
“I did some digging later when I got older and first started writing. I put enough together that I wrote an article saying that her husband killed her. It must have helped because I’ve gone back to the barn and she’s no longer there. That article eventually became my first book.”
“Michigan Winter. It did sound awfully real when I read it. So you think you can do it again?” she said getting up.
“I can try.”
“I’m going to need more than that.”
“I’ll figure it out. I’ll do it for Lawrence and Mary.”
“But not for me?”
“I hardly you know you,” I said smiling.
“I know but I’ve very pretty it usually makes guys do things for me,” she said comically fluttering her eyelashes.
“Yes but they usually have something else in mind. I don’t think that’s an option for ghosts,” I said.
“I know,” she said “But you’d be surprised what I can still do.”
She kissed me on the cheek. It was like the winter wind brushing against my face.
“Where do we start?” she asked.
“Your boyfriend’s house. That’s where you were living right?”
We walked the half mile to her old house. The fog was coming in off the lake enveloping the small island. It added an additional spooky element to our travel. That and my ghost companion.
We made it to her old house. It was a nice sized old victorian home down the road from any of the others.
“I haven’t seen this in so long.”
“No one comes here anymore. They were never able to sell the house.”
“I know how I’m getting in but what about you?”
“Easy,” I said giving the door a hard shove with my shoulder. It was so old that the wood gave way around the lock.
“I’m not gonna lie that was kinda hot.”
“Whatever floats your boat.”
“That’s really not nice to say to someone who drowned.”
“Relax if you don’t have a sense about it you’ll go crazy.”
“How do I know you’re not already crazy.”
“You the one talking to a ghost. You could be the one going crazy.”
We walked through the old house. Everything was covered in three years’ worth of dust.
“Your parents took most of your stuff to their house,” I said.
“I’m not really looking for my stuff. I’m just trying to remember.”
She was looking at an old picture when we heard the stairs creak.
“Oh my god,” I said.
“What?” she asked.
“Beth, you’re not the only ghost on this island.”