October 29, 2016

Ghost Issue Table Of Contents

It's the ghostly time of year, and I don't just mean Halloween; as the Earth goes deeper into sleep, imaginations spring forth with spooky tales. I'm thrilled with what EC is offering in this edition.

Without further ado:

The Headstone of Hezikiah Bronson, Hunter Ligore

Those Who Came Before, Gerri Leen

Death's Godson, Megan Hippler

Petunias, Alicia Cole

The Hanged Man's Touch, Adam Knight

Matches to Heaven, Shari L. Klase

Wuthering Heights Revisited, Fanni Suto

The Headstone of Hezikiah Bronson, By Hunter Ligore

I am the headstone of Hezikiah Bronson, who was a Salem man with a shady demise. From my vantage I’ve seen things that would raise questions among you humans—like how I was placed beside his grave three nights before he was actually dead.

The story begins when I still lay dormant in a quarry, a mile east of Cemetery Road. I was cut free, and brought to the workshop, where I was shaped and given life under the chiseler’s tool. Tanner Wilson worked his art, and carved Hezikiah’s name onto my surface. Next came the dates of his birth and death—July 31, 1661 – October 21, 1691. A man still very much alive when it was carved. Tanner also added a line of scripture:

Beware the false ones, who come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Under the cover of darkness, I was delivered to the cemetery, and carried to a secluded place on a hilltop overlooking the town’s tavern and gunsmith shop. After setting me in place, they covered me with a tarp, but I could still hear them talking. Jessup Brown, a wealthy farmer, said that Hezikiah was the town drunk, and would take the blame for the murder of T. D. Rice, the banker who held the deed to a particular property that he wanted to buy. “Rice won’t sell. But once he’s gone, it’ll be mine.”

Beside him Tanner shook his head in agreement, and held out his hand, as he was paid handsomely for making the stone and keeping quiet.

Three days later, my tarp was removed. I had a front row seat as the events unfolded. Under the guise of darkness and lantern light, Hezikiah had a gunshot wound to the head. His lifeless body was tossed into the shallow grave and covered. People believed he had killed himself because of the bad deed he’d supposedly done. No one attended the funeral; not even the pastor. That same day, T. D. Rice also got a headstone, one of my siblings, and was buried in the more prestigious section of the cemetery. The funeral had a huge turnout, with lots of tears.

I wish I could tell you things grew quiet and complacent—as it should be in the cemetery. But when the living have been wronged, the dead don’t rest.

From that first night, Hezikiah tossed and turned in that hole, keeping me up all night! Near the Witching Hour, he broke free—a restless demon unleashed. For a moment, he rested his head on me, asking, “Why, why did they do this to me? What did I ever do to anyone?”

I tried to console him, only the way a piece of granite can, but it did no good. Each night he roamed the streets of Salem, past the orchards, and right down into Main Street, looking for the men who wronged him.

When he wandered, he groaned something terrible. And what a terrible sight! He even made me cringe. His skin was the color of turpentine, his arms crooked and strained with rigor mortis—at least until the fourth day, when his arms started moving again, without any rhyme or reason. He looked like a windmill cruising down the slopes, leaving a smelly trail of a heavily used outhouse in his wake.

That night he landed straight into the yard of Mrs. Larmandy, a fifty-year-old churchgoer, sent to her grave early. Folks at the funeral said her heart stopped when she saw Hezikiah crawl over her fence, one eye hanging by a vein, the other a black hole. He went straight to the front door, knocking, and moaning, “Let me in! I know you’re in there.” To a human it might’ve sounded more like, “Lee-MAHn-innn! IWOE UUU WintARe!” He knocked and knocked and knocked…  She now has a headstone shaped like an angel. “Just like she was in life,” said her neighbor.

Townspeople came by droves with charms and talismans, holy water and crucifixes, and any other trinket they brought along to keep the dead from rising. Charlatans, in the guise of mediums—speakers of the dead—rolled into Salem as word spread through the newspapers. They pedaled handmade trinkets and hair-of-the-dog lotions to ward off evil. At night they held séances for big fees, each one claiming to have spoken directly to Hezikiah to find out what he wanted.

One medium said Hezikiah needed a drink to be put to rest—he was the town drunk after all. So by day, the townspeople left bottles of whiskey lined up against my waist, thinking it would help. When nightfall came, a new town drunk showed up and stole them all.

Another medium said Hezikiah needed love, but no one jumped up to marry off their single daughters to a dead man, even to rid the town of its ghosts. The last medium, Gerry Potter, a robust woman with a mole on her cheek and white hair—said to have changed overnight when she was touched by her dead grandmother across the veil—had this to say: “A murderer is among you. Find him, and you shall put the dead to rest.”

Hezikiah wasn’t the only ghoul on the loose. T. D. Rice, the banker, also got restless—well, especially with all the prancing into the cemetery by the townsfolk and visitors, the tourists, and journalists, the mediums, and the people selling hand-drawn portraits of spirits. It was as busy as Main Street during the annual country fair celebration. Pretty soon, other ghouls and ghosts started to wake and roam. Gunsmiths sold guns with special bullets to “apprehend a moving corpse and kill them dead.”

People listened and bought all manner of weapons. They went home, and sat up at night waiting for ghouls. But you humans rattle easy, and are quick on the trigger when you’re scared. Unfortunately, quite a few of you got a bullet in the head, or a knife in the skull, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like poor Martha Glover, who was returning home from delivering a load of wash. More and more of my relatives popped up all over the cemetery; it became like a family reunion.

At dusk, Tanner usually visited, when the daily fanfare and ruckus died down. With a smoke-pipe between his teeth, he’d polished my surface, and thanked Hezikiah for all the extra business. He even cleared the charms, and reopened the earthen grave, hoping he’d go scare a few more people to death.

The sheriff did make an arrest for Hezikiah’s murder. Philip Danvers was hanged for it, thanks mostly to Jessup Brown, who made a convincing case against him. Wronged in life, Philip took up wandering for revenge in death, just like the others. Salem quickly became filled up with equal parts human and ghost and ghoul.

Then something happened to change everything. It started in the Potter home—yes, Grace Potter, the medium. Those who were there for a séance said an evil presence came through, causing the walls to turn to ice. Even Grace was a bit bewildered. The next morning, her two children started having fits, their bodies contorting into shapes like the dead. They would hide under furniture and were afraid of the sun. Rumors started that the Salem ghosts possessed them.

Not long afterward, when the town seemed to be falling to pieces—people going insane or hanging themselves—a bigwig from Boston, a pastor named Cotton Mather, showed up claiming it wasn’t ghosts, but really witches that were the cause of all our problems. The dead continued to show up at the cemetery, as people hunted the supposed witches down and exacted their own kind of justice, at least until the trials started. Tanner had to hire two men to keep up the demand for headstones. People were buying them “just in case.” For no one knew if they would live until the next morning.

As for Hezikiah, he eventually got some peace. Jessup’s daughter was among those accused of witchcraft. In a quarrel with a neighbor over it, he was shot and killed. His land was divided up among his brothers, all too eager to get a piece of his wealth. His daughter soon joined him on the family plot.

Once Jessup got a headstone, Hezikiah, along with T. D. Rice and Philip Danvers, felt avenged and gave up their nightly haunts. No one seemed to notice though. Salem had a new fever and interest, and no one had time for us anymore. Our side of the cemetery grew quiet, with fewer and fewer visitors passing by. Eventually, my headstone lost its vibrancy and got overrun with vines and lichens. Looking back, those were my youthful years, and times I long for again.

These days, I got a hefty wrinkle down my face, right through Hezikiah’s name. Sometimes, around the time of year, when the leaves change color, groups of school children will come around and read all the stones; some put paper to my surface, and scribble with charcoal to make a picture of me. If I could, I’d ask them to sit for a while, and let me tell them my story.

Hunter Liguore is an American writer with degrees in history and writing. A two-time Pushcart-Prize nominee, her work has appeared in: Orion Magazine, Strange Horizons, James Gunn Ad Astra, Writer's Chronicle, The Writer Magazine, Masters Review, DESCANT, Fate Magazine, Writer's Digest Poetry Market 2017 and more. She teaches undergraduate and graduate writing in New England. 

Death's Godson, By Megan Hippler

The neighbors called him “Thirteen,”
as though his birth order should trump
the name his mother whispered 
as she kissed his scraped knees.

The schoolchildren called him “Ghost Boy”
when they heard he wore a hand-me-down white gown
and squirmed in Death’s arms
on the morning of his Christening.

Death called him “my godson, the doctor” 
to watch his face heat like flames
and crumple at the reminder 
that he saved no one
but those Death already knew would live.

Death assumed he wanted more gold
than his father’s fingers had ever known,
but Death never asked 
if it was worth never-ending saddle sores
to reach people withered and still 
or hunched and screaming
against goose-feather pillows.

Death never asked 
if their pleas echoed in his horse’s canter
or the hiss of a candle burning too low. 
Never asked
if he woke to regiments of the dead 
at his bed’s end,
all of them remembering 
how that slip of black fabric 
waited at their feet for their last breath.

The world called the most accurate oracle
they wished they could know,
a miracle born with healer’s hands, 

but when he searched his herb-stained hands,
he only ever saw Death.

Megan Hippler is a writer and poet from West Virginia who currently lives in Australia. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Seamwork magazine, The Poetry of Yoga, Vol. 2Re/Coded, and Modern Loss.

Illustration by Heinrich Lefler.

Petunias, By Alicia Cole

They clipped us off like so many petunias
in Alabama.  Always we lived in Alabama.
My mother and grandmother's hands were
white from flouring chicken.  I wondered
how they wrung the neck.  Not the gesture
of it, mind, but the feel-the feathery heft,
the quick snapping flop of the body's
weight, the singular motion of a wrung
body nestled on a strong arm.   Fathers,
I learned, were also made for wringing.
Huddled against my mother's thigh, 
her apron momentarily dry, I did not
hunger to understand any of the preceding
motions that had tied him to that tree.
I ate my first apricot that day, the Mistress
feeling sorry.  My mouth suckled the pit.
It's the roadside now where I stand, close 
to where the men in hoods have stood,
still eager to flour chickens, still raising
their wild petunia heads in Alabama.  
My grandmother sometimes stands 
with me when she's not wandering,
worrying her mouth with all the trying 
times of child rearing and Master tiring.
One day she will pass on-like my mother,
like my father-after all the worry is gone.
I will still be here wondering why some 
petunias are cut down while others 
are allowed to grow wild.  Will they ever
all feel sorry?  Where is God and His apricot 
and its perfect grow-anew pit?

Alicia Cole lives and writes in Huntsville, AL.  She's the editor of Priestess & Hierophant Press, and a visual artist.  You can find her at www.priestessandhierophant.com and www.facebook.com/AliciaColewriter.

The Hanged Man's Touch, By Adam Knight

Who was Jim Gurty?

The question began as a scholarly one. As a researcher from Cambridge, I have long studied the folkways and superstitions of the Irish people, specifically those in County Clare. As a killer, Gurty’s notoriety—just like his morality—had no boundaries. Over time, my morbid curiosity about Gurty grew into fascination. Naturally, when news came over the telegraph to my office that Gurty had been captured, and his spree of carnage brought to an end, I knew I must travel to County Clare to observe his execution. I knew this to be my one opportunity to encounter the man who was the locus of my obsession.

But Fate, being either cruel, callous, or fickle, would not let me achieve this desire. Due to some mishap involving missing documentation, I helplessly sat on the creaking deck of the ship, clutching my leather case of research materials, tapping my foot, staring through the fog at the verdant shore. When we were finally cleared to disembark, I knew Gurty had already been hanged.

I entered the town of Star-on-the-Hill shortly after nightfall, in want of a warm bed, a hot meal, and a stiff drink or four. Star-on-the-Hill was known as a welcoming, quaint, port of entry. Yet when I arrived in town, I found the dirt-packed streets empty, the taverns and inns dark, and the doors of the huts firmly locked. The superstitions of County Clare, which I had so assiduously studied for years, were to blame.

According to the locals, a newly executed man’s soul wanders from dusk until dawn. During that night, the body is not cut down from the rope. The wandering soul yearns to latch on to a hapless victim, either through physical touch or by taking a possession. If he succeeds in finding such an anchor, he lives on, roaming the streets without restraint. Thus, no mortal answers a knock on the door or call from the window, lest it be the ruse of a hanged man’s spirit. If the soul fails, it returns to the gallows at dawn, the structure is burned, and the soul is carried away over the hills in clouds of smoke.

So I doubly cursed my late arrival. Of course when I knocked on doors and called out for hospitality, I received no reply, as all the townsfolk were suspicious that I might really be Gurty’s ghost. Truth be told, I quickened my step as the evening darkened. Wandering strange streets at night is distressing enough. Sharing those streets with the ghost of a murderer can make even the most skeptical academic shudder. Undaunted, I knocked on dozens of doors and shutters, pleading my case. “I am a traveler, a teacher from Cambridge University, come to learn about your County. I mean no ill.” But my cries went unanswered.

That is, until I knocked on the door of Branderson’s Buckle Tavern. The first three times that I pounded on the door, I was met with silence. But finally, I heard the shuffling of feet and clicking of bolts being thrown open. At last!

The interior had a rustic look that all tavern keepers seem to think will impress visitors, when in fact it only felt shabby. Rough hewn wood tables, smoky interior, a straw broom propped against a wall. Long benches ran parallel to dining tables. The host and I were alone.

"Can I pour you a drink, sir?" he asked me, shuffling back to the bar.

"Why did you let me in?" I asked, grateful but wary. The fellow stopped and turned to me with a crooked stare. He was a man of average height, perhaps a bit shorter, as most Islanders never reached full stature, given the poor diet. He was a scarred, scruffy knot of a man. His eyes sparkled with malice.

"Why do you bear me such suspicion? Perhaps what they say about Englishmen is true."

I crossed my arms.

"What do they say about Englishmen?"

"You must be one if you have to ask," he said. "The English only trust us enough to get what they want from us. Land, women, livestock—"

"I don’t want any of those."

The barkeep showed me a baleful glare.

"You can pour your own drinks."

I did. I sat at the splintery bench while my host set a dusty brown bottle in front of me and slid me a dirty tumbler. From a leather case that belched loose pages at every turn, I withdrew my notes. The case contained the sum of my research, and it was dear enough to me that it never left my sight.

The host sat across from me. His scruffy, grizzled visage was an enigma of conflicting expressions.

"What do you wanna know, and why do you wanna know it?"

'Who was Jim Gurty?" I asked.

"Ask me something else."

"Why? It is an innocent question."

"No such thing, not from an Englishman—"

I downed the entire whiskey in one gulp, and punctuated it by slamming the glass on the table.

"No. I am not from County Clare. But I am no invader. I do not represent the military, the monarchy, or the Church of–"

"If you are a Englishman, you represent all of them."

"I am simply a teacher, a man of learning. My quest is scholarly. I am investigating the folklore of Ireland for a book I am writing."

"Let me see your notes."

He might well have demanded to see my mother’s undergarments, or peer into my dreams to see the dark symbols acting out my fears and desires. As he reached out, I curled my arm around my bag, like a petulant child, muttering about raw data. The host shrugged.

"And the purpose of this book?" he asked.

"The betterment of mankind.’

‘Hmph. What will mankind get?"

"Knowledge," I said expansively. I refilled my glass and drank. It was then I began to realize the folly of not having so much as a heel of bread to eat. "Insight into your little-understood culture."

"And what do the Irish get?" he asked, leaning in. Now his voice rumbled with menace. I was ready with the parry.

"Finally, you will be understood. The world will know of your beliefs and your ways."

"What if we don’t want the world to know?"

Excellent riposte. My jaw went slack.

"England hasn’t left us much of a life here, but it’s ours," he went on, "and we want it kept private. Any other questions?"

My mind ranged about, straying further from its path with each drink I poured.

"I return to my original, then. Just tell me about Jim Gurty."

The host smiled now, and folded his arms. He peered across the table at my notes, which I barricaded with my arms.

"What did you say you teach at the university?"

What did I teach? Too much whiskey, too fast, I thought. This did not deter me from having another. When I gave him only a tongue-tied stare, he went on.

"Lemme ask you: what town did you grow up in? What was your mother’s name? What is your darkest, innermost secret?"

The room began to spin. I could articulate, could think of, nothing. Who was this strange man, so prying into my knowledge, yet so stingy with his own?

"Who was Jim Gurty?" I said weakly. The host leaned back. He stared at me for some time, until all the little strands of observations and threads of evidence converged into a single cord, a whip that cracked me across the face.

He was Jim Gurty.

He had to be. Why else would he be so cagey, and why else would he be so eager to get hold of my notes? I pulled my papers in closer to me. I bolted up right, clarity slicing through my burgeoning drunkenness.

Jim Gurty was a killer and a scoundrel," my host went on, speaking as though he were recalling some long-dead acquaintance, and not a man still warm and swinging from his rope. "But above all, he was a liar. An inveterate liar, the best liar, the king of liars. Took so long to nab him for killing those two little girls because first he’d tell the investigators one story, then a different, give them one name, then another. Made up elaborate characters, wore ‘em for a while, then made up a new one. Slipperier than a greasy eel on a frozen pond. 'Time’s a-coming,' he’d always say with a laugh, like he couldn’t believe his own audacity, and knew it were only a matter of time ‘til he were caught.

"Gurty lied to his friends, to his family, to his own mother and father. Most of all, he lied to himself. Jim Gurty weren’t afraid of nothing, certainly not hanging, but he were afraid of truth, and he stole the lives of others to hide from himself, and the more he killed, the harder he hid. I do believe that if Jim Gurty ever saw truth and faced it openly, it would destroy him."

The silence that hovered between us, I cannot describe its richness and texture. The questions unasked and accusations unsaid could fill volumes. His smile was wicked, devious, withholding.

"I suppose we’re through here," I said. If he were indeed Gurty, I could not risk his presence any longer. I pounded back the final whiskey—whether it was my third or fifth or tenth, I couldn’t recall—and leapt from the bench. I threw a fistful of coins at him, not daring to let him touch me. I dashed for the door. The host did not move.

"I hope you find what you are looking for," he said, his words low, as though they were not for me.

Outside the tavern, I pulled my cloak closer around my face, and looked down the empty street. No doors would open for me. I left Branderson’s feeling drunk and dissatisfied.
How close had Gurty come? He had not touched me, and a quick survey of my person revealed nothing missing. I had given Gurty nothing, not even my name, and thus I believed myself to be free. Yet as I wandered the streets, I could not shake the sensation that Gurty was clinging to me like a late-day shadow. I had come so far in his pursuit, and just as I faced him, I had turned my heels and fled.

I stopped. My legs trembled. Perhaps there was no shame in running from a ghost. It seemed a very human reaction.

My drunkenness fostered a sense of philosophy. What was I even doing in County Clare? Why had I uprooted my life in England to come here? After awhile, the questions became literal, not rhetorical. I could not recall anything or anyone I had left behind. There seemed to be no substance behind my memories. I taught, but what did I teach? I wrote, but what did I write? I lived in England, but where? I did not know whether to blame the whiskey, Star-on-the-Hill, or some power of Gurty’s.

Gurty. Though he was already dead, I needed to learn about him before his gallows were burned. The truth could not wait for dawn.

All night long, I wended my way through the streets. Perhaps I sang out. Perhaps I was silent. I trod every road, knocked on every door, peered into every window in Star-on-the-Hill, desperate for a little knowledge about Jim Gurty.

I looked down. My bag, which I had protected so ardently, was missing. A sickening, bottom-falling-out feeling struck me. I had not dropped it, nor had I set it down. I had carried it out of the tavern.

Or had I?

Had I even had it in the first place?

My mind, now intoxicated more by the mystery than by the alcohol, staggered to even recall what the bag looked like or what it contained.

My wanderings brought me back to Branderson’s Buckle Tavern, only this time, I approached the building from behind. Fixed to the stone was a bronze plaque, with an inscription and a bas-relief face.

Here we honor Walter Branderson, Finder of Good Company.

The face was the undisputed likeness of my host.

I read the date of the plaque. Eight years past.

The host was not Jim Gurty. He was Walter Branderson, or some spectral remnant of him.

Then who was I?

Come on, you, I goaded myself. What is your name?

But it was no use. The only name in my mind was Jim Gurty. I had never met the scoundrel, yet he was taking everything from me, even my own name.

As dawn’s blush filtered into the eastern sky, I found myself at the village green. In my peripheral vision, I saw Gurty hanging from the gallows. I approached, no longer in control of my stride.
I stared at the dead man with no small degree of loathing. He, a lummox, a big, dead backwoods brute, with a long, heavy jaw and hairy knuckles. I, a sophisticated intellectual, refined by English civilization and breeding. And yet, there was some level of sameness between us. I stared and stared at the lifeless face, bruised from all the broken capillaries. I drew closer, moving in spite of my feet’s reticence. I was inches from him.

Who was Jim Gurty?

Who was I?

The two question spun around one another, whining and whirring with centripetal motion until they collided and fused. I reached out and touched my fingertips to his cheek. 

The union between us was electric, instantaneous, and perfect.

I laughed at the audacity. I had my answer. I needed to search no more.

There were no books, no notes, no Cambridge researcher. There never had been.

Who was Jim Gurty?



Sun’s up now. Couldn’t run from bein’ Gurty no more. I hear the hangman coming, only this time he has himself a torch and bundle of wood. Can’t run no more from what I done. Can’t drink no more to forget, nor use another man’s name. I guess my time’s a-coming after all.

Adam Knight says: "I am a writer and teacher in northern New Jersey. My stories have been published recently in the online magazine Body Parts and The Were-Traveler, as well as in several anthologies, including Song Stories Vol. 1, The Big BadTold You So, Extinct Doesn't Mean Forever, and Villainy. I have also ghostwritten a non-fiction book and am writing a novel based on the life of a Holocaust survivor."

Matches to Heaven, By Shari L. Klase

Her son didn't call this week. That's where her thoughts strayed as she shuffled along the cold, dark street. Tom would be angry at her being out at night but she hated sitting in the house all evening watching the TV.  Nothing but bad news on TV. People shot. Children taken by strangers. She shuddered. Then she spotted her.

A child, pale as first light, leaning against the bricks. She didn't have a hat or coat or even shoes. She just stood there holding out a bundle of matches.

“Matches, my lady?” the little girl sang out.

“What?” She stopped to study the child. She wasn't more than ten. Out at night all alone on a cold December eve. She'd have frost bite. Where were her parents?

“Matches for sale,” the little girl replied to her question.

Matches? Who sold matches? “You're selling matches?”

“Yes, my lady. Matches. Would you like one?”

She held it out so pitifully that the old lady fumbled in her purse for money. How much is a match worth? She held out a dollar to the little girl. The girl looked at it blankly.

“It's only a penny, Ma'am.”

A penny? What could the girl do with a penny? “Oh no, keep the change.” She scrunched the dollar into the child's hand. It was so cold! She took the match and placed it in her purse.

“Where are your parents?”

The child stared vacantly. “I don't know. I haven't been home in so long.”

She's probably a runaway foster child. The child turned her eyes to the old lady. “You look like my grandmother.”

In a split second the woman made a decision. After all, she couldn't stay here. “Would you like to come home with me for the night?”

There was no hesitation. There probably should have been. Instead the little girl reached out her hand and the old woman grasped it with her one free hand and holding the handle to her bag of parcels in the other, they walked home.

“Do you want anything to eat, dear?” she asked the child once inside.

“No, I'm not hungry,” the girl said. The woman was relieved that at least the girl was fed. As the woman put her groceries away, out of the corner of her eye, she could see the girl padding about looking at things in her home. She stopped at the the picture of her son.

“My son,” the old lady said without being asked.

“Yes,” the little girl said. “He doesn't come much.”

“No,” the old woman agreed, turning her head to wipe away a tear. The child picked up another picture of a young girl, pretty rings of brown curls on her head. “What's your name?” the old woman asked because she didn't want to talk about that picture.

“Sara,” the girl said softly.

The old woman gasped. “That's my granddaughter's name.”

The girl nodded. “Yes, she's gone.”

The woman frowned. “How did you know?” But the girl didn't answer. Her granddaughter was the child in the photo; a mere child then but she grew up. Though she was close to Sara once, her grand daughter drifted away somehow and one day OD'd and died. She still cried about it although it was many years ago.

The little girl stole up to her silently and wrapped her arms around her waist. “She is safe, Granny, with the angels.”

The old woman sniffled, then abruptly left the girl, stirring around here and there, nervously gathering bed linens and a pillow. She was both puzzled and worried about the little girl. There must be people concerned about her somewhere. She ventured into the cold without proper garments, but perhaps her people didn't know that, if they had many foster children. Maybe they weren't the kind to care and that worried the old woman even more. She wanted to ask Sara, if that was her name, more questions but the child was so strange.

Was Sara really her name? It was such a coincidence,  her granddaughter sharing the same name. The girl spoke as if she knew things. The old woman shuddered. It was silly. Casting the sudden fear aside, she hummed as she patted down the pillow on the sofa. Funny. She hadn't sung any kind of musical note in a long time. She was always so sad. She didn't feel needed anymore. Her son didn't need her, but this little girl needed her.

She didn't think of Sara much anymore, but now the thought of her brought a new remembrance. She hustled to her bedroom where a chest sat at the end of her bed. She opened it and sorted through the items. Slowly she pulled out an old white night gown all frilly and lacy. It looked to be the child's size. She kept a few of Sara's things from when she was young, but she was never sure why. Now she was glad she did. She didn't want the child going to sleep in those old clothes.

She took it to the girl and directed her to the bathroom to change. It struck her how much she looked like Sara when she reappeared, only the pallor of the skin was different. She tucked her into the little nest on the sofa. The child asked for a story about her Sara and she told her about a perfect day that she once had with her granddaughter. Strangely enough, it didn't make her feel sad at all. At the end of the story she kissed Sara's cheek and said goodnight.

The old woman's eyes fluttered open. She sat up quickly in her bed; her heart pounding. Before her stood Sara, staring at her.

“I made you breakfast like the perfect day.”

On a tray was toast, eggs and orange juice. She didn't even remember buying orange juice, but there it was just the same.

“How long were you here?”

“I watched you sleeping.”

The woman ate her breakfast. It seemed rude not to after the trouble Sara went through.

“Can we go to a matinee and the park like in the story?” The girl's face was lit up like Christmas.

She chuckled. “That park isn't there anymore, and the theater is long since closed.”

Sara's head immediately drooped. Seeing her disappointment, the old woman piped up, “But there's another park close by and we can take a bus to the movies. Would you like that?”

“Yes.” Her eyes were shining.

“But I need to call somebody about you. Perhaps we shouldn't.”

“There's nobody to call, Granny. They're all gone.”

“Well, maybe, later.” Somehow she didn't have the heart for it just now. Sara was so eager to spend the day with her.

Granny bundled Sara up in an over sized sweater after finding a dress from the chest. She planted a crocheted hat on Sara's head, just like her own, and they both laughed because Sara looked just like Granny now. Shoes were a little harder but she finally found some elastic slippers that would make do until she could buy Sara a pair of real shoes.

That day the sun shone brightly and Granny didn't even mind the cold as she and Sara walked through the park. Sara bounced onto a swing and see-sawed back and forth. They explored a little trestle bridge over a pond and watched some ducks that were too lazy to fly away for the winter.

Then hand in hand they walked to the bus stop where the rude bus driver frowned as he sighed, “Yeah, sure, lady, kids are free.”

“Oh,” the ticket lady said absently as she proudly told her she was taking her granddaughter to the movies. They got popcorn and soda. The afternoon was idyllic. It was truly a perfect day.

As they exited the bus and made their way home the air again had a bite to it and the evening became much like the one before when she found Sara. She was glad Sara had shoes now. They found a shop. Despite the happy day, Granny felt her good mood dissipating. She thought how lonely she would be when she returned the child, for return her she must. Sara did not belong to her. When they got home, Granny kept staring at the  phone. She thought of the little girl's words. “There's nobody to call.”

 Finally she spoke to her. “Sara, you must live with someone.”

Sara smiled. “I live with God in Heaven.”

She stared at her in dismay. “Someday you will...”

“Yes, and you will, too, Granny. That is why I'm here.”

Granny sighed. “You are forever talking nonsense, child. What do you mean?”

Sara came over to Granny and sat on her lap. “Don't you know, Granny? I've come to take you home. But I wanted you to have the  perfect day first. Was it a perfect day?”

Granny smiled as tears spilled from her eyes. “Yes, child, it was.”

“Then you are ready to go home. All you need to do is strike the match.”

What match was she speaking of? Then she remembered. Granny fumbled in her purse for the match and struck it against the table nearby. It burst into flame. In the fire, she could see a lovely room with a little girl beckoning to her.

“My Sara,” she whispered.

“Yes, you can go to her now. She is waiting for you.”

Granny smiled and watched the flame spread wider and wider ushering her into a bright new world.

Shari L Klase is a writer who began working her way into the world of publishing a few years ago when a story was accepted in a children’s magazine called, The Kids’ Ark. Since then she has been published in nearly 40 other print magazines and ezines, as well as two children’s story anthologies, and more.

Wuthering Heights Revisited, By Fanni Suto

In one night, Paradise was gained and lost.
Doubt is like the eternal rocks beneath,
out here flowers are killed by the frost,
they say a ghost is roaming in the heath!
My dear, upon the moors the night is cold,
but it’s hot by your paradise of hearth
where bedtime tales and easy dreams unfold...
it’s me, not you who suffers from the curse!
Nothing washes away the stains of fate,
I’m a witch and you left me here to burn
Somebody in my old room stays up late
With their help tonight I might return.

He bruised my wrists, but would not let me in,
I’m lost both outside and also within.

Fanni Sütő is an enthusiastic young poet/writer who enjoys experimenting with magical realism, urban fantasy and reused fairy tale materials.

Altered detail from painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.