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April L. Smith

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Wildflower Redemption
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His Long Goodnight
By April L. Smith
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Recent stories by April L. Smith
· A Day at the Lake
· The Others
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           >> View all 27

Wallace Wilson gets a "scare"...

He squinted into the gloom, aiming to discern the face that was upturned to his window.

“Darn kids,” Wilson snapped, his voice crackling like dried up newspaper. “I’ll teach them a lesson.” The yellowed lace curtain fell from his fingertips as he backed away from the window. He’d lost sight of the trespasser.

Wilson hobbled as fast as his bent, arthritic legs would take him, down the stairs and into the kitchen. There was an unpleasant odor that wafted throughout the room. Spoiled milk, perhaps? The remnants of his dinner, fried eggs, clung to the frying pan on the stove, in long, brownish-yellow crusted splatters. Wilson was not a tidy man. He fumbled in a long, skinny drawer beside the sink until he found what he was looking for.

A flashlight.

He clicked it on and immediately a pale, ghostly glow emanated from it. Wilson’s thin, shriveled lips turned up into a creepy smile. I’ll teach them a lesson. He thought to himself, almost giddily, and swung open the back door. The door groaned loudly in its frame, almost if it was warning Wilson not to step out into the night. He ignored it, shuffling slowly, carefully down the old, rotting porch stairs.

He was immediately swallowed by the shadows, dark and oozing like mud. The flashlight wasn’t much of a help, illuminating only a thin, small patch of area before him. The wind had picked up earlier in the evening, it whistled through branches and whipped Wilson’s long, stringy white strands of hair around his face like tassels.

He snorted, indignantly, momentarily forgetting his mission, as he struggled to smooth down his long mane. In the process, the ancient flashlight fell from his hands and rolled away, it’s pale cone of light, going dark.

“Gosh darnit!” Wilson croaked, furiously. He was plunged into an even darker night. He took a step forward and stumbled over something. Wilson found himself face-down in the dirt as the wind screeched around him.

It sounded almost…alive.

A soft giggle sounded amid the tall bushes to his right. It tinkled like broken glass, and Wilson winced, almost expecting shards to shower down on him.

“Who’s there?!” He demanded, struggling to his feet. His back ached from the fall and he bit his lip in pain. Another giggle sounded, definitely feminine in nature.

“Little girl, you’d better show yourself or I’m calling the police!” Wilson threatened, pointing one long, knobby finger into the air like a pointer. He marched over to the line of bushes when suddenly something stopped Wallace Wilson dead in his tracks.

“Waaallllaaaccce….” The voice breathed, and it no longer sounded like a child.

The voice sounded ancient, hollow. Wilson sucked in a shallow, shaky breath. Fear hugged him like a blanket.

That voice. It had sounded eerily familiar.

“Stop that! Whoever you are!” He cried, his voice shrill and jagged at the edges.

Stop it, you old Coot! Wilson sternly ordered himself. You are not afraid!

He pushed back his shoulders in defiance and straightened his lanky, somewhat hunched form.

“Wallace, why do you hurt me?” The voice asked, this time sounding innocent, childlike. “I thought you loved me?” It was supposed to be a statement, but a hint of questioning and doubt tinged the sentence.

“Oh, God,” Wilson moaned, backing away from the brush. He held up his wrinkled hands, palms out, pleading, “Leave me alone!” He turned and ran back to the house, but his old body could do no more than shuffle along.

He entered into his kitchen and glanced over his shoulder, his breath puffing out in short, ragged bursts of air.

Approximately ten feet away, facing him, stood a young woman. Her long, golden-blond hair swirled about her pale face and she was reaching a white hand toward him. Her gown was long and white and tattered. It had an aged and yellowed look to it, with its high lace neckline and sheer billowing sleeves. The hemline reached to just below her ankles and Wilson could make out the shape of her feet, one foot still encased in a yellowed, mud-encrusted sandal, the other foot bare and as white as Wilson’s hair.

“Wallace, it’s me…” She was speaking so softly but Wilson could hear her voice resonating in his head. It bounced around and clanked like loose marbles and he reached up, clutching his head between his hands.

“Stop it!” He cried, before slamming the kitchen door shut. He sucked in great mouthfuls of air, leaned against the counter for support. He stayed motionless, until warm calm started to seep through his veins, like blood.

Minutes passed in silence.

“You’re nothing but a crazy old man, Wallace.” He said out loud, shaking his head in disgust. He proceeded to fill the teakettle and place it on the burner and he went about the kitchen gathering a mug, a tea bag, some sugar. Tea would soothe his wired nerves.

“Wallace, why do you ignore me?” The mug in Wilson’s hand fell to the linoleum with a loud CRASH and shattered into little ceramic shards around his slipper-clad feet.

She was behind him now, standing in the doorway leading from the kitchen to the living room. She was drenched from head to toe, her hair hanging limply around her shoulders. Large droplets of water pooled on the linoleum around her feet and upon closer inspection, Wilson saw something that almost caused him to faint.

He could see THROUGH her!

“Nora!” He gasped, recognition creasing his face like excess wrinkles. “It can’t be you!”

“It is me.” She replied, smiling faintly. Her lips were blue as if she was very, very cold. “I’ve come to take you home.”

“Home?” Wilson echoed fearfully. “I AM home, Nora.” His wife looked at him with sad eyes.

She’d been dead for more than thirty years, but her ghostly form conveyed the beauty of her youth.

“You know, Wallace.” She whispered softly. “You know this isn’t home.”

Still in a state of shock, he shook his head, back and forth.

“Oh, Nora,” He said, his old, cataract-filled eyes brimming over with unshed tears. “Do you know how I have wished, all these years, to see you?” Her smile to him was sweet but also filled with sadness.

“I have always been with you, my love. Come with me, now. It is time.” She stretched out her pale, wet hand towards Wilson.

A small stab of fear coursed through Wilson’s body but it was no longer fear of this ghost, this vision before him. It was fear of the Unknown.

“Trust me, Wallace.” She said to him, noting his hesitation. With tears running down his cracked cheeks, Wilson grasped her hand. He could still see through it, but he felt the firmness of her cool touch and it was oh-so-real.

He let Nora lead him back out the door, into the cool, windy night. It no longer looked evil and foreboding to him. Instead, the dark comforted him like family, cloaked him in soft shadows.

Nora did not walk, but she almost seemed to glide. And despite his horrible, painful arthritis, Wilson had no trouble keeping up with her. They went, hand-in-hand, through the woods and the brush, over two and half acres, until they reached the end of Wilson’s property.

A small pond glistened there like a giant jewel. It seemed to wink beneath the soft bath of the moon’s light, as if It knew. And yet, they did not stop, they continued on, into the water.

Wilson briefly felt the sharp stinging coldness of it and then everything was numb. Nora seemed oblivious to everything but his face.

“It will be alright now, my Love.” She murmured and gently caressed his old, withered cheek.

“We are home.”

* * * * * * * *

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Reviewed by Jean Pike 6/15/2007
Excellent story, April, and very much enjoyed. I agree completely with S Cardin. The imagery here is superb. Once again you have chosen the small everyday details of life to breathe it into your characters and setting. Love the element of surprise.
In my opinion the last three paragraphs, with the boys finding Wilson's body and the sandal, are unneccesary and almost dilute the story. I believe it is powerful enough to stand on its own, no final explanation necessary.
Just my thoughts, for what they're worth.
Reviewed by S Cardin 6/27/2004
Very descriptive. I love the images that come to mind when I read this. I could picture, the house, Wilson. I think there's something very comforting knowing we'll be with those whom we loved in this life in death.

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