The trees looked like monsters. Looming skeletons with clothes of foliage and vines cloaking their hollow bodies. They danced and howled in the wind, moaning in deep and lashing voices of the woe of the storm that was coming, and the storms that had come before. The lamp post stuck its head out into the dark and cast feeble shadows over the little brick and tin house that sat in the corner of the yard.
I leaned into the wind and squinted. I told myself to breathe and enjoy the cool air. It came once a year, and a few ghost stories shouldn’t ruin it for me.
“They said she never spoke again.” Memory of their words sent shivers down my spine. “When she woke up everyone else was dead,” I could hear his Job’s voice in my head as I crunched over seeds and slipped in the mud. “No one cried, and no one was even surprised. The witch doctor said the family owed their lives to the spirits because all of them had defiled their family honour.”
I stubbed my toe in the dark. I winced and stopped walking. What was it that made people give up their lives?
A shadow slid through the dark across the lot. If spirits stole those away who disobeyed, how did we ever know how much we really owed?
“They say that anyone who sleeps in that house meets her ghost now. My son saw her, described her to the witch doctor before he knew the story. When we showed him a picture of her he recognized her right away.”
The story had gone on. Neither spirits nor ghosts were appeased easily. Dad had listened to the story too. He had smiled and winked at me every so often. I asked him afterwards if the stories were true. He told me that life was full of things we couldn’t see or explain, and people liked to change and grow the stories. Sometimes to explain them, sometimes to make themselves feel better. The truth, dad had said, was difficult to discern, and rarely looked how we expected it to.
I knew I believed in spirits. It made sense after all. With all the sacrifices and weeping. It seemed awful shallow to discredit everyone’s experiences. Ghosts though, I wasn’t so sure about. Dad hadn’t seemed in the least worried about them while he had told me I couldn’t play with the axe used for sacrifices.
I looked back up at the trees, just as a few droplets of rain flew in on the backs of the wind. I smiled and winked at the looming monsters, the same way dad had winked at me. Out of nowhere a sheet of rain hit me square in the chest. I burst out laughing. That must be how the tree monsters winked back.
People could tell ghost stories, but the trees and I knew that the real story was a little more fun. I hobbled my way against the wind to the little house on the corner of the lot and pushed the door open. Inside a lone fluorescent bulb lit a tiny living room and smaller kitchen and dining room. Dad sat at the little round table with mom. Between them sat a pile of steaming cookies and a scrabble board.
“Do you believe in ghosts?” I sputtered.
Dad laughed. “Did you get in a water fight with one?” He smiled again, and winked at me. Then he picked up a cookie and threw it across the room at me.
“Garry!” My mom exclaimed.
Dad just laughed. “I don’t think anyone would want to stick around here after they died, Kev,” I was’t sure if he was winking again, or if it was just the light flickering. “Better get a shower, Bud. We have an early flight tomorrow.”