I’m really excited to announce my next novel The Ghost of Buxton Manor! I just finished writing it and will be posting the first five chapters. It’s about a ghost who finds themselves trapped in his family home. He doesn’t remember how he died or when he died–all he knows is that he has an unfinished business, and he won’t be able to move on until he remembers what that is.
I hope you enjoy!
Nearly one hundred years later, and I had only just begun to accept the fact that I was dead. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to recall a single moment from my former life. In fact, if it wasn’t for my headstone, I wouldn’t even know my own name. The last thing I did remember was evacuating my body. Now, that might sound somewhat extraordinary to you, but it certainly didn’t feel that way at all. You see, I had expected to find a set of pearly, white gates opening up for me; a glorious light to shower me in its beauty, or perhaps my deceased loved ones racing toward me to welcome me home. But it was nothing of the sort. What I’m trying to say is that everything your parents taught you about life after death is wrong. Believe me, that idea is completely inaccurate—at least for me.
I gather I must have done something rather awful when I was living, or maybe I just upset the Big Man in the sky…I’m not sure. What I did know was that I was permanently fastened to this decrepit house, alone, without a single soul to interact with. I guess it could have been worse. Whoever built this house must have been exceedingly wealthy during their life. The structure itself was gargantuan: three stories including the attic which was large enough to house an entire family in itself! It resided within 20 acres of private, uninhabited land. A lackluster pool lay untended out back. The green house was strewn with plants and flowers that had long been departed from the land of the living. There was a modest timberland on the property as well that I did enjoy exploring ever so often. Don’t get me wrong—by no means was it an awful place to live, but after a few decades or so, it could get a little lonely. I tried (more times than I care to admit) to leave the gates and survey what laid beyond the Manor’s range, but there are certain rules you must abide by in death, and if you don’t, well…it doesn’t really matter because you can’t leave. Not ever!
I started writing this book to keep myself busy, but all it has seemed to accomplish was to painfully remind me how pathetic and uneventful my afterlife has been thus far.
By the way, my name’s Rupert. I was the resident ghost of Buxton Manor.
* * * *
The day began just like any other day. I would like to say that this particular morning I watched the sunrise from my bedroom window, but I hadn’t been able to see sunshine in nearly a century. I couldn’t even remember what it looked or felt like. From this dimension (whichever one I had been condemned to), there simply was no sun—only an everlasting haze. Everything within my scope of vision was clouded by this mist, and outside the gates beyond where I was allowed to venture, the mist thickened to a completely blinding fog. Even if there were a sun on this side, it’s not like I would have been capable of feeling its warm rays on my face. After all, I had no flesh. Although I might be invisible to people like you, I can assure you that I was quite real. I might have been transparent, but I did have some sort of a body. From what I’ve seen from old photographs of myself, my hair is wavy, dark brown, shorter on the sides, and too long in the front (which always seemed to cause it to swoop down across my forehead). I had honey-brown eyes, and I was stuck wearing the same attire as when I must have perished. I perpetually donned a white, long-sleeved shirt and trousers secured by a pair of suspenders. My physique appeared as though I must have been active. So who knows, maybe I was some sort of an athlete when I was alive. Not likely though, considering sports or any form of exercise doesn’t seem to interest me whatsoever. I nearly forgot to mention that I was seventeen at the time of my death, and when you die (at least for those of us who stay on Earth), your appearance remains. I guess I should be grateful I didn’t die an old man, forever frail and crippled. But then again, it’s not like I had much time to actually live.
So, there I was at my bedroom window. I can assure you that it wasn’t much of a bedroom. All furniture in Buxton Manor was draped with clean, white cloths. Whoever lived there previously preserved the house, but never bothered to return; and so it had been deemed abandoned ever since with only the rare sighting of realtors through the century(none, by the way, had ever been able to sell the property).
As I was saying, time didn’t exactly exist for me, so I was not sure as to how long I had been standing there, peering out the icy window, peeking over tall treetops, watching the blanket of fog slink along the grounds. I enjoyed this particular window. I hovered there often to daydream, hopelessly trying to remember who I was, how I died, or even what part of the world I was in. Did I leave any loved ones behind? Not like it mattered anymore. If there were people who once loved me, they had been long gone.
Eventually, I managed to drag myself from the window and venture over to the corner of the bedroom where a musty trunk sat. I’d never been sure as to why, but I had always found myself to be quite curious about this precise chest. I imagined it housed answers to my past, something that could potentially shed a bit of light on the life I once lived; but every time I tried to pry it open, my hands would slip right through.
Though, this never stopped me from trying again.
You see, the majority of physical objects (such as this trunk) are unattainable due to my gaseous form; but there were certain objects I was able to touch…books, for example. About seventy years ago, I was flitting around the library downstairs when I suddenly remembered something. It was the first thing I had ever remembered about my former life: I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The memory presented itself within my mind like a sort of vision. I saw myself lying in a grassy field, back propped up against an old, oak tree, right beside the gates of Buxton Manor. I read a delightful story about a young boy who never grew up; a boy who could fly, who battled menacing pirates—a boy who would rescue lost children and take them to Neverland. It’s called Peter Pan. Have you heard of it before?
I then quickly scoured the shelves of novels until I found the story I sought out. Believe it or not, I was able to touch it. I gather that’s how it works for us ghosts. The more you remember, the more you’re able to move through the realms, regaining some human senses: touch and feel.
Still, the chest was out of my grasp.
I exited the bedroom, floating straight through the closed door, emerging onto the upstairs hallway. I then decided to head downstairs. If I had weighed anything at all, I was sure the damp, wooden floorboards would have creaked under my footsteps, but they were silent. Even without the living occupying, the house was always vocal. It certainly required a great deal of repairs. Perhaps even a woman’s touch. The faded wallpaper was spotted with mold, and it peeled in several corners. Undoubtedly, sections of the drywall needed to be demolished and replaced, but that would surely have disturbed the family of rats who dwelled under the foundation. After all those years, I’d finally come to welcome their company. Any bit of life force (rodent or not) helped remind me that I wasn’t stranded within the seemingly empty world.
I glided down the stairway, my feet a few inches from each step. My hand swept the banister, but the blanket of dust laid undisturbed. I landed in the foyer where a Tiffany chandelier dangled above me. A round, glass table was stationed beside me with a vase that displayed a bouquet of limp lilies, dried and crispy, so ancient their color was lost long ago. I imagined my own existence to be like the lilies: once ebullient with life, and now slowly wasting away to practically nothing.
I wandered through the sitting room—at least I assumed it to be the sitting room. A white cloth covered a bulky piece of furniture that I presumed to be a sofa. I had no need for doors so I sauntered through the wall, entering the kitchen which was nearly empty. The cabinets only contained jars of preserved food that weren’t able to spoil. Do you remember the family of rats I mentioned earlier? Well, several of them were scurrying throughout the carpentry, foraging a can, relishing over what looked to be a jar of mushy pickles. My presence never disturbed them, not even for a second. They didn’t even know I was there.
I drifted through yet another wall, passing the dining room table. Located beside it was a glass cabinet heaped with hand-painted dishes that hadn’t been eaten from in decades, their drawers filled with fine silverware. For a moment, I envisioned dinner parties that must have taken place there. I could almost hear faint laughter of gentlemen playing rounds of cards as they smoked their cigars. I could almost make out giggling from women in the adjacent sitting room, basking in each others’ company, gossiping over a cup of tea.
I walked through the cabinet and popped out from the other side. The library was by far my favorite room in the entire house. It was truly glorious. Every wall was lined with robust novels, hundreds of them—I’d read each and every book more times than I could count. I had ferreted through them all. I had no need for ladders to reach the highest shelves that climbed to the top of the vaulted ceiling. I merely levitated, soaring above the room as I scanned for a new novel to read. Sooner than expected, I spotted Moby Dick and plucked it off the shelf, already scanning the first page as I lowered to the floor. I was a voracious reader, so I assume it didn’t take me very long to finish the story; but then again, time didn’t exist for me so I could never be sure as to how truly fast I was.
I sat at the desk for what might have been hours, spending my time writing in my journal. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the second and only other memory I ever remembered. About sixty-five years ago (years for me are a complete guessing game), after I finished reading every book in the library for the first time, I remembered how fond I was of writing. I gather that all of the wonderful tales I read of magical worlds triggered something inside my soul, reminding me of a story I once wrote. Soon after, I peeked under my bed and found a journal I must have kept hidden before I died. From then on, I couldn’t seem to put it down.
Halted by writers’ block, I headed outdoors, materializing in the backyard. I strolled along the edge of the pool, peering down into the filthy water that was nearly covered beneath a layer of auburn leaves. Because there hadn’t been anyone living there for quite some time, there was obviously no one there to tend to the grounds. Since I died, the woodlands on the Manor’s outskirts had practically reached the front doors. The grass was exceedingly overgrown, weeds sprouting at every turn, bushes as tall as the average tree. Vines managed to slither up the exterior of the house to the rooftop.
I wrapped around the Manor, passing the greenhouse where some sort of species of plant lived (a monstrous vegetation) which had grown ravenously, and had burst through the windows and crept across the grounds.
I walked down a cobblestone trail, setting off through a magnificent garden that overtook the front yard. The rose bushes were taller than myself, twice my size. They reminded me a great deal of the Queen of Hearts’ garden in Alice in Wonderland.
I roamed though the maze of hedges for a little while, wondering what the roses must have smelled or felt like. I gather most of you who are currently living don’t take the time to appreciate these sorts of things, but when you’re dead, you find marvel in everything you can no longer enjoy. I couldn’t tell you what I would have given to feel something again. Anything at all.
By the end of my day (however you would like to count the minutes of my existence) I sat at the old, oak tree I previously mentioned before. It was located down an untamed, carriage road, which began at the front doors of Buxton Manor and made its way to a set of iron gates (better known as the walls of my prison cell). From this tree, I gazed out between the bars even though there was nothing there to see. Like I’ve said before, beyond the Manor’s range, the mist became a fog—impenetrably thick. I sat there, writing in my journal and wondering what laid beyond the murk.
I would like to say that there was more to the story of my afterlife, but that would be unmistakably misleading. I spent my days reading and writing, roaming the Manor in hopes of discovering something from my past; but after these last hundred years or so, there were only two things I ever did recall. There was nothing incredible about my life after death. I simply existed. But then again, it’s always when you least expect it when something truly extraordinary happens. For me, it would be that very evening.
That’s when the gates of Buxton Manor opened for the first time in many years.
I remained there, under the shade of the oak, paralyzed with shock. I couldn’t believe it. I was sure my eyes were playing a trick on me, all those years of solitude were finally taking its toll. Was I losing my mind? I wasn’t sure.
The iron gates screeched, pervading ivy snapped as the gates divided. The strangest sort of automobile emerged from the haze, billowing clouds tumbling over the windshield as it drove onto the grounds. A woman sat in the driver’s seat, steering the horseless carriage with one hand as the other altered her complexion with some sort of cosmetic. She halted to a standstill right beside me. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’ve last seen a woman. When she rose out of the automobile, I took a moment to second-guess her gender. Her golden hair was cut shorter than a male and she wore a suit and tie that fit quite snugly on her—provocatively tight, you might say. I could clearly see her bosoms popping out of her low-cut top. Believe it or not, she wasn’t even wearing a corset.
“Mr. Scone, I did it.”
At first I thought she had initiated a conversation with herself, but after further examination, I confirmed she was speaking into some sort of cordless telephone.
“They said it couldn’t be done, but I did it! It’s time to uncork the good champagne. Tell the office we need to celebrate!” She ceaselessly smiled as she hauled a brick-red, rectangular board out from inside her vehicle as well as a hammer and a plastic sack of nails. “What am I talking about?!” she giggled. “I sold it! I sold the un-sellable house! Buxton Manor, the one that’s been on the market for decades now. Because of all those ridiculous ghost stories, I had to practically give it away, but I did it. It’s time we negotiate a raise.” She withdrew the phone so abruptly, I was sure whoever was on the other end of the receiver didn’t have a chance to respond.
With her sign tucked under her arm, the woman wrapped around her vehicle, struggling as her heels dug into the earth. She headed for a sign stuck in the dirt a few yards away from where I sat. All that time and I had completely forgotten about the ‘For Sale’ sign. After all, in the most recent decade, the sign had become no longer legible, beaten by foul weather.
The woman nailed something to the front of the battered sign, and before she turned away, her eyes lingered upon the Manor. For a moment, I could have sworn I saw her shiver. Seemingly a bundle of nerves, she hastily bolted back to her vehicle, locked herself inside; the car screeched as it reversed. The vehicle slipped between the gates, vanishing into the fog. And just like that she was gone.
Before I could jump to my feet, I disappeared, my body exploding into a shower of mist. Shortly after, my substance gathered, my shape reforming at the ‘For Sale’ sign. That’s when I saw it, the reason as to why the woman had come all this way.
Buxton Manor had been purchased.