Friday, August 27, 2010

The Way Home

Michelle sat under the crumbling gray eaves of the old house and waited. 

She supposed she was waiting for the woman to come back. But the woman, her 'mother,' had been gone a long, long while now. The house had been white when the woman last left it, and there had been doors which opened, and stairs and floors. Now, if there were doors at all, the hinges were rusted shut and they were impossible to open. The stairs had long since rotted away and the second story had collapsed and was now just piles of decayed rubble in the rooms of the first floor. None of this troubled Michelle.

The house was an empty shell without a middle. Michelle thought this was just fine, because she was an empty middle without a shell. In this way, she and the house complimented each other. She had no great love for the house, however.

She came to the house in the morning, and returned to her place down by the creek at dusk. She spent all of her moments from dawn to dusk at the old house, waiting.

She was also searching.

She sat on the sagging porch, or went inside the house and drifted like a pale shadow from room-to-room and dug a deep well in what passed for her memory, each day trying to dig a little deeper. 

Sometimes she found objects in the house that triggered memories. Like the poker by the fireplace, for instance. And the old blood stain on the kitchen floor. 

But the precise memory she was looking for had no attachment to the house, or her time spent here. She was trying to go back to the time before. Before coming to the house. Before the outbursts of an ill-tempered woman. Before the violence of fists and pokers. 

She was digging deep in the well today, tracing time backwards (there was only backwards-time now, no more going forward for her). She was in a car. Crying. Playing with a dirt-smudged dolly. It was raining. The woman was shouting at her. "SHUT UP" screamed in time with the thudding windshield wipers. A stinging slap. The first of countless other blows. 

Before that...dimly...another woman, and a man. She tried to dig deep enough to see their faces. It was all silver mists and shadows. She tried to see in her mind's eye the house...the other one...the one she'd been in before the woman had picked her up at school. 

"I'm your Aunt Sally. No, you've never met me before now. I just got into town. C'mon, I'm here to take you home," she'd said. 

Of course, they hadn't gone home. They'd come here. 


Michelle was sixteen years old when it happened. 

By that time a part of her had come to believe the woman really was her mother. But another part of her rebelled at the idea...a vision of a red-brick townhouse swirling in the mists of memory, something of pink hydrangea and a foggy image of a blond-haired man and woman. Hair as blond as hers. 

When the argument escalated (Michelle had wanted to go on her first date with Bobby Allen, but her 'mother', always overly protective, said 'no.') the mists cleared for a moment and she'd voiced her suspicion.

"You can't tell me what to do! You're not my real mother! You're not even my Aunt Sally!" She'd stomped angrily off to her room. She'd crossed the line, she knew it, and she waited fearfully for the woman's footfalls on the stairs. The reprisal. It didn't come that night. 

In the morning, she went downstairs to a quiet house and entered the kitchen in search of breakfast. 

She caught a split-second glimpse of the swinging poker in the corner of her eye, a dull CRACK! and she saw no more. 


She woke up on the creek bank. She could hear the woman somewhere nearby.  

Michelle stood up and when she turned around, saw herself lying on the ground. 

"I'm dead," was all she could think. 

The woman was digging her grave. 

She did not stay to watch her burial. Instead, she strolled along the creek bank, watched autumn leaves floating in the current and marveled at the way the sunlight made everything it touched look like liquid amber, and wondered why she never noticed these things when she'd been living. 


She returned to the house the next morning, consumed with rage. She devoted all her ghostly energy into tormenting the woman. Her favorite was walking through her, causing her sudden chills. She rapped on doors and windows and made loud noises at night, keeping the woman awake and terrified. This made Michelle very happy, to see her former tormenter propped up in bed, lights on, teeth chattering with fear, with the pouchy gray bags of sleeplessness under her eyes. Finally, the woman moved out, leaving Michelle alone. Other people lived in the house over the years, but they never stayed long. It was devoid of living dwellers for over fifty years now, left to fall into its current state of disrepair.


It's the memory of that car trip she most longs to recover from her deep well. But she'd spent most of it crying. She has snippets, though...hydrangea bushes...a turnpike...a long bridge over a wide river...but then the vision grows hazy and the mist closes in. She keeps trying, though. Every day she glides through peeling walls and digs desperately for each new vision along the road...and when she finally has it...the mists will part and there she will see it...

Like a signpost...pointing the way home. 


  1. Oh, to be a kidnapped child is quite scary. And to be a ghost alone in the corporeal world is quite sad. Very good story with two pieces of horror!

  2. Poor Child! What it must be like to never really know who you are or from where you came.:-(

    I love ghost stories! Awesome!

  3. I hope she unlocks her memories enough to find home :-(

    The first part of the story (until "They had come here") could stand very well on its own as a story too, I think

  4. Wow, talk about getting a raw deal. The only time anything went right for this poor girl was in her undeath, in haunting her tormentor.

    You had my heart bleeding ever more for this unfortunate child. You constructed the tale brilliantly. Excellent.

  5. Very chilling with a very strong last line.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  6. Marisa;

    I agree. And making the kidnapper a woman, and an abusive woman at that made it even more scary for me to write it. I'm glad you like it! :)

  7. Cindy,

    Yes, she is someone I empathized with greatly while writing this. I love ghost stories, too, but this is my first attempt in writing one for a long time.

    Glad you enjoyed it! :)

  8. Maria;

    Thanks for the comment. Glad you stopped by and let it move you. It is a sad ghost story.

  9. Jay;

    Thanks for reading and commenting on my sad ghost girl. I'm glad it touched you. She did get a very raw deal. I only hope she finds the way home, eventually. :)

  10. Adam;

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my lost girl. I'm glad you liked it. :)

  11. A double-edged sword. Excellent job of painting the picture in so short a span. Nice job, clean writing and a great couple of twists.

  12. Great ghost story!! Very well done. I enjoyed it immensely.

  13. J.;

    Thanks for the comment. I was up all night long writing and editing this and I was tired. I'm glad that it came out okay. Glad you enjoyed reading it! :D

  14. V.R.;

    Thanks! I'm happy you liked it! :D

  15. A ghost with a story, I love it. Soooo sad, though that she's still around, destined to try to remember her real parents. This really seemed like you had fun writing it!

  16. Very eerie and dripping with emotional tension. I love that she got to torment her killer. Good for her, but you also made her so sympathetic that I hope she finds a way to move on.

  17. An intriguing and chilling history you've woven here. I was completely drawn in. The voice was really great too, nothing broke the thread as the whole story unfolded. Another SUPER great piece, M.

  18. there were many images & concepts I savoured here - the contrast of shell & middle, the reprisal that didn't come that night, not hanging around to view your own funeral.

    Top stuff.

    Marc Nash

  19. Excellent. I loved the comparison of the woman (ghost) and the house in the beginning. (At that point, I'd thought it was simply metaphorical. ;) I also loved your description of her process of remembering. I enjoyed it all, though, thoroughly!

  20. Reminds me of the old Faulkner bleakness. Poor girl...

  21. Very chilling. Full of delicious descriptions, too!

  22. Shannon;
    Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I had so much fun writing this it kept me awake all night last night. The muse would not let me rest until Michelle's tale had been told.

    Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. It was a gut-wrenching story to tell.

    Thanks. I'm happy you enjoyed it!

    Thanks, lady. I'm glad you liked it. :)

    Yes. I had the shell and middle line in my head for a couple of days but I didn't know it was for a ghost story until last night when I wrote it. Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    Thanks for the wonderful comment. I'm so glad you liked the story. :D

    Wow. I can't think of a better compliment than being compared to Faulkner. Thanks!

    I'm glad you liked my ghost story. You are so gifted at the ghost tales so this compliment means a lot to me. Thanks! :D

  23. Beautiful, Maria. Absolutely beautiful.

  24. An incredible story, haunting (pun not intended) and sad. I hope she finds her way home ...

  25. Travis;

    Thanks! I'm glad you had that reaction to it. I was going for aghst-ridden ghost with a touch of creepy. :)

  26. TEC4;

    Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you liked the story! :D

  27. Fantabulous ghost story Maria! I too love the juxtaposition of her shell as compared to the house. And how marvelous that she got her revenge after all. I do hope she finds a peaceful way "home".

    One of your best, for sure!
    P.S. Perfect picture too.

  28. Deanna;

    Thanks for the beautiful comment! I'm glad you liked it!

  29. Outstanding piece of fiction here. That poor kid never had a chance. And you pulled me in right from the first. Simply excellent writing.

    Very well done.

  30. This is definitely one of your best. Excellent writing. Very poignant and moving. This girl's story is beyond compelling.

  31. Gracie;
    Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to write this!

  32. Rachel;

    Thanks for the wonderful comment. I'm glad you enjoyed Michelle's story.

  33. How tragic to search for so many years that nothing will be left of her memories anyway if she ever recalls them. This was written with a wealth of emotion!

  34. Thanks, Laura! I'm glad you liked it. ;)

  35. I like the atmosphere and the paragraph structure supports the gloom and loss. Well done. What is the picture credit? Powerful picture with a story on its own.

  36. David;

    Glad you like it! Thanks! I purchased the pic through Fotolia. They are one of my back-ups when I can't find a free public domain image to use. Very nice stuff on that site. I was going to use this one for a different post, but after seeing it again in my pictures folder, I thought it would be good for this #fridayflash. Thanks for the comment! :D

  37. Haunting & beautifully written. The third paragraph is genius - so much said in so few words.

  38. Great job, Maria, of painting a clear picture of her hopeless situation. Nice reveal about her being a 'haunt'. A sad story...I would have enjoyed if she had got revenge against her 'aunt'.

  39. Vandamir;

    Thank you, dear. I'm glad you like it. That third paragraph, the shell part, was hanging around in my brain even before I wrote the story.

    Thanks for the great feedback. I will consider the idea of revising it to let her get total revenge on "Aunt Sally."

  40. A chilling story that held my attention and left me wondering what would become of her search. That we are left to fill in the blanks is part of why this story is so satisfying.

    I liked her discovery of "liquid amber".

  41. Ribbie;

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you liked Michelle's tale.

  42. Good story! The details in your writing really bring this ghost story to life.

  43. Eric;

    Thanks! I'm glad you liked it!

  44. Another great one here Maria. The story sucked me in. And plus, I'm a sucker for ghost stories.


  45. Thanks, Jim.

    I haven't written a ghost story in awhile but this one kind of poured out of me. Was intending to finish my alchemist story for #fridayflash, but the Muse had other plans. :)