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Fever Dreams And Memories
My first ghost story.
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Fever Dreams And Memories
Wimbledon, London, 1983
I couldnít sleep and when I canít sleep, I like to walk. In London it sometimes means you walk in the rain. Mind far away, one foot in front of the other, until I wandered far from home. It was my shivering that finally got my attention. Scanning the unfamiliar streets around me made even more foreign by the dark and wet, I saw a flicker of light from a window across the street. Welcoming, because it happened to be in the house of a friend. I felt a bit foolish. I wasn't seeking conversation, but shelter, when I knocked.
"Only crazy people would be out in this." she said as saw how drenched I was. "Then there's you. Come inside, and try not to bring so much of the outside inside, ok?"
I didn't want to move any further than the foyer; the look on my face was a burst of pleasure at the dryness, the heat of the room, and the warmth of her concern.
"A cup of TV and a towel, coming up." and she went off to get them.
I stood in the high-ceilinged room, and stared around me. I'd never been here before. Funny how you can know someone, but not set foot beyond the foyer of their place. We were "let's meet at the theatre" kind of friends.
Mindful not to drip on anything too expensive, I crossed to the center of the room, and did a careful slow turn.
It was a old place, you could see that, feel it in your bones, built on even older ground. The little architectural flourishes were still all around, buried under layers of paint but still there, still evident. No one had mucked it up too much in all the years people lived died made love and grew up and out of here.
I liked it.
I felt this kind of 'bump' from behind me but it soon turned into a cold tingly thing. I felt the passage of something through me. Through me, not brushing past my shoulder or against my legs, like a cat. Through.
I shook my head, and before me stood a man.
I could smell him on me. Coal smoke and other scents clung to my wet body from his passage.
His arm was cocked against the mantle, and the look of disdain on his face caught me the most. Dress from 16-something. Looked down at me from his great height, both in stature and social standing to where my feet dripped on the carpet, to my face where he leveled those gun blue eyes at me, saying with them "Look at this poor pathetic wretch I have standing here before me. In my room. How utterly sad. What has the world come to?"
Mindful of his sardonic scorn, I pulled myself together and stood my full height before him, straightened and smoothed my clothes and person unconsciously.
From the doorway she came, plate of cookies balanced with tea and a towel over her arm.
When I looked back over to where he had stood was a curl of smoke but there was no fire. He was gone, except for what he left with me, his scent in my clothes, which like him was soon gone.
I took what she offered and more, but it was a while later before I told her what happened. My hands were shaking too much to hold the tea, so I kissed her cheek, grabbed a few cookies and put myself to bed for what became a day. I had caught a fever that night and spent the next day sweating and burning and lost in my dreams.
I can smell the smell of him now, even after all these years, but now my nose can recognize that overall scent he left me with.
It was coal smoke mixed with the ashes of the charnel house, wet wool, and death.
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© 2005 Lawrence Peters
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