~ PART EIGHT ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Seven? You can catch up *here*.
I often teased George about the ghost stories. George, so practical in most ways, was surprisingly superstitious. Whereas, I wasn’t.
So when he mentioned seeing a ghost at the top of the stairs, I laughed.
George wasn’t laughing.
In the velvety gloom of the twisting stairwell and the landing of the next floor before us, I couldn’t see it at first.
I felt my heart quicken. “George.”
My husband still standing behind me, his hand and arm around my waist, to stop me from falling backwards down the stairwell, only repeated: “I know.”
The apparition before us was barely there; we could see the window at the far side of the room through the upper part of its body. It wore a long dress and a sad expression as it turned to look out of the window. She – because it had been clearly a young woman – held, what appeared to be letters, in her clasped hands.
She didn’t seem to be aware of us.
Fresh roses lingered with the background smell of the musty dust. Both trapped here by time and circumstance just as the spirit was. The room was sparsely furnished with a waist-high bookcase to the left, a writing bureau and chair at the window, and a narrow bed along the right wall. A thin, long rug ran alongside the bed, covering little of the stripped back floorboards.
“It’s so cold here,” I whispered to George. My exhaled breath, visible, plumed before me.
“She’s barely here; she needs more energy to fully emerge.” George whispered back.
Other than her transparent sighting, her signature smell of roses and the coldness she depleted from the room and us, I was overcome with her sadness. It was akin to deep grieving. It pricked my heart – my eyes – so that I felt a singular tear trickle down my face.
My leg then decided to give way. I fell back against George – who understandably, also taken by the apparition – had relinquished his grip on the bannister; we stumbled backwards down two steps, but the curvature of the stairs, with the wall at our backs, halted further falling.
We must have made a racket.
“It’s ok, it’s ok.” George said scrambling for a firm hold on the bannister.
Again, I was upright, with one of George’s arms around my waist. In my shock, my walking stick had been released from my grip; its clattering trajectory falling down all the steps to the bottom to where the door was shut. I was hoping we wouldn’t trip over it on the way down in the dark. I now firmly gripped the bannister with that hand.
I realised the stairwell was darker and colder than before. The smell of roses had intensified.
“Maggie, are you ok?” George whispered.
“Yes, I think so, George.”
“I’m sorry I fell.”
“That’s alright, George. George?”
“I think she’s spotted us.”
As my eyesight adjusted to the deepened darkness I realised her face was only inches away from mine.
The tight curls of her long loose hair tickled my face like soft feathers. I could feel her! My heart hammered away inside me. Though I felt her presence, was a harmless one.
“You can see me.” She said. Her voice was faint, it seemed to echo through time and other dimensions.
My throat was dry, but I found my voice. “Yes, we can both see you. My husband, George, and myself – I’m Maggie.”
She nodded and I noticed her eyes. They were deep-set, under dark lashes, the colour of her hair – like black soot. Certainly, they were human eyes. Haunted, deeply expressive with her untold grief.
Her face had taken on more substance, although I could still see part of the stairwell through her. Her skin was like white porcelain with the life sucked out of it.
“Hello. I’m Elizabeth May.”
I remember thinking: This can’t be. I am actually talking with a ghost.
I decided to ask her what we needed to know: “Elizabeth, we’re looking for the body of Sebastian Sedgewick. Do you know where he is?”
She held the clutched letters high and close to her chest. “Have you seen William? I’ve been waiting so long.”
“Who is William?” I asked.
“He said he would marry me.” Elizabeth said. “I haven’t seen him in days. I fear he is never coming back.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” I said to her. “We are only guests here, ourselves; I don’t see how we can help you.”
“He rides a white horse on the marshland. He always came that way to visit me.”
I didn’t know what else to say. The spirit of the dead woman was grieving for her lost love. He sounded like a rascal – making rash promises and breaking hearts to just get a leg over.
I heard George clear his throat. “Elizabeth, if we try to find your William, will you help us find Sebastian Sedgewick’s body?”
“Sebastian? He went out on the marshland and never came back.”
“We know.” George said. “But, where is his body?”
“Mary helps with all of that – though, it’s the Tall Man who really knows anything.”
I thought back to when we had arrived earlier and found our way to the elegant reception room, downstairs. I recalled the Tall Man perfectly well. He scared me; I knew I didn’t want to deal with him.
“He is truly wicked. He finds it pleasurable to inflict pain. I doubt he will help you.”
Later, back in our Fairyland room, after we left Elizabeth quietly haunting the stairwell, George said: “Perhaps this is foolishness, searching for this body.”
“But, don’t we want to know what really happened to him? See who he was? Because I certainly don’t trust the people here – even Mary is up to something.” I urged.
“Maggie, the police will be here in the morning. Mary has already told us that. Let the proper authorities deal with it.” George slumped on the bed beside me, gave me a little squeeze around the waist. “This isn’t the holiday we signed up for, is it?”
“So, shall we leave in the morning?”
George’s proposal was sensible; it was the only wise course of action to take. Hopefully, we’d have a good night’s rest – if nightmares of gargoyles, ghosts and devil dogs didn’t wake us – to be fresh and fit for the morning’s drive home.
George smiled. “What about it, then? We’ll leave in the morning?”
“No.” I said.
~ To be continued! ~
Photographs and digital manipulation by me, 3rd May 2016, Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
My day out at the Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
Writing prompt: Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Writing inspiration: A strange dream. And a little Hotel California.
What’s a Short Story Series?: A short story written over several parts, around 1,000 words for each part.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide right