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Ghosts of Hurricane Season

May 9, 2013

This is a mood piece. I hope it creeps you out. 

This is a true story. 


I.  Wednesday

In the pink house on the beach

in the front room lit up with moon

Rachel is sleeping.

When a car goes past on the nearby road

the sounds breaks through the room

like a ghostwind snuffing out a candle,

the headlights sweep shadows across the wall.


Tomorrow the man next door will board up

the windows with plywood, precautions

against the moon and the imminent storm.

“You gals gonna ride this one out?”

My mother will make small talk and lemonade

in the final wet burst of summer heat.

Rachel’s mother will read self-help books in the shade

and check the weather channel on the hour, every hour.

It is hurricane season.


Somewhere in the Atlantic warm air is rising,

warm and moist, swirling, drawn in the touch

of the other half of itself.


In the pink house half an ocean away

Rachel frowns in her sleep.

She rises from the trundle bed and shuffles

down the hall, opening and closing doors.

The front door, unbolted, lures her out

moth to flame.

Rachel, nightgowned specter, hair stuck

to her neck with sleep-sweat, blue eyes blank,

wide, lost in dreams.


The crossroads beyond the driveway: the dream

destination. Rachel stands in the middle

awash in the gust of hurricane season, the salt

crusted moon.


Two hundred miles out a system of wind spins

and grows — an eye forms at the center.

I am a pair of eyes at the window

when Rachel’s mother leads her back into the pink house

and this time bolts the door.

I am feigning sleep while Rachel is lost in it,

shaking at the bolted door, trying to get out,

to stand in the wind.


II.  Thursday


Rachel favors the kind of ghost stories

peculiar to coast towns: drowned

sailors moaning in the fog, lighthouse keepers’

beautiful daughters plunging the rocks,

echoed sobs from an empty widow’s walk

under the full moon.

“Do you want to hear a true ghost story?”

Rachel’s eyes are blue and smirking. I don’t.

I cannot say no.


There was a lady who lived alone in a stone

house by the sea. She never slept. Her eyes

never closed to blink. When night spreads

across the horizon she wanders the beaches

without remembering why. When morning

comes there is blood on her pillow

and under her fingernails. This happens every night.


I want to ask. Is that all of the story?

I want to ask, I need to know the painful and terrifying

end brimming in Rachel’s blue eyes.

I want to ask but my tongue is crusted with salt

and I am so thirsty.


The air is electric, alive. The waves crest

and swell with the riptide. The storm

will meet land before morning.


A story for a storm;

Rachel gives me secrets and nightmares,

tells me terrors and ghost stories,

all of the them true, until every creak

of the house is the footstep of a knife-wielder,

every whimper of wind the cry

of some disembodied soul.


And when the pale figure rises soundless

from the trundle bed, moon-drenched,

my eyes clench like oysters —

there the shuffle of haunted footsteps, here the slow

creak of an opened door — and then, when I dare

the sight through the window

of a ghost in the crossroads, soaked in moonlight,

in the calm that comes before.


Ride this one out. I touch a finger to my lips

and they are salty and sore. I touch a finger

to Rachel’s shoulder in the gray of the storm-ridden

morning and when she turns toward me

blood is crusted around her mouth and stained

in gory trails down her throat.


The wind shrieks outside. Waves surge at the shoreline.


Blood streaked iron across the pillow.

Rachel kneels at the boarded-up window,

her lips mouthing words, a mantra, a plea.

The wind picks up; the rain beats down.

Pretend. Pretend this doesn’t happen every night.


Comments and constructive criticism always welcome. 

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