My mind whirled, racing at a speed I wasn’t used to. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Someone was moving into my home. Soon, there would be people sleeping in my bedroom, eating in my dining room, reading in my library. Nearly a hundred years later, and finally, Buxton Manor had been pulled from the market.
What was I to do?
I began to make my way back to the Manor, reminiscing over what it all could mean. Just when I reached the front doors, I turned around at the out-of-place sound of a neigh.
Out from the woods emerged a coach-less carriage, rocking back and forth on the untamed path, pulled by two monstrous steeds. I use the word “monstrous” for a reason. You see, this particular pair of horses was never from the living world. This was clear to me almost instantly. They were fleshless creatures without an ounce of muscle—or organs, for that matter. They were merely bones fastened together like the remains of a dinosaur displayed in a museum. However, unlike the extinct, reptilian beasts, these horses were somehow alive.
They barreled straight for me, galloping across the lane, fog gliding away due to their heavy stomps. The reigns in which the carriage was attached appeared about ready to snap from the way it was chaotically dragged, knocking into massive roots, wooden wheels falling into potholes before being hauled out. I’m not sure I had ever been so startled before. If I had any bowel movement at all, I was certain they would have released against my will.
The horses slowed, soon prancing, eventually coming to a halt. The carriage door swung open. From the front porch, I strained to see inside, but it was shrouded in a cloud of white as though a passenger had been smoking cigars throughout their entire journey. A man soon surfaced from within, a caterpillar mustache stretching along his upper lip, his round belly resting on his knees. He wore a moth-eaten coat made of wool, a matching cap upon his head, and he carried a leather briefcase. With his cane, the stranger hoisted himself out of the coach. That’s when I realized that, like myself, the man was transparent.
His beady little eyes stuck in a permanent squint settled upon me, my mouth still gaping from shook.
“Rupert, I presume?”
I hadn’t spoken to anyone before, and so I was not sure how to maneuver my lips to form a sentence. I nodded instead.
“Good gracious. You’re a difficult fellow to get a hold of, you know?”
He hobbled toward me, waiting for a response, but still I couldn’t seem to wag my tongue.
He stared into my eyes. “Are you mute?”
I gulped, my mouth seemed somehow dry. “No, sir. I can speak.”
“Good. That will make this a whole lot easier.” He gestured to the Manor’s tall, front doors. “Shall we?”
I followed him through the closed doors, drifting after him across the foyer, arriving in the sitting room. The man took hold of the cloth covering the sofa, and dramatically yanked, unveiling a daybed like a magician presenting an act. I was so confused, my head was spinning. I had never had a visitor before, and so I was not sure how to behave.
Reluctantly, I sat down beside him. “I wish I could fetch you something, but I’m afraid I haven’t anything to offer.”
“No trouble at all. I had the pleasure in smelling some marvelous croissants before I left—molded to perfection, just how I like them.” Chuckling, he patted his bouncing belly, “I couldn’t possibly have another sniff.”
He plopped his briefcase on the coffee table and clicked it open. I watched as he collected a stack of paper, some blank parchment, and a writing utensil. I was sure he was working up to an introduction, but I couldn’t wait a moment longer.
“Forgive me, I don’t mean to be rude, but who are you?”
He took a moment to respond, making himself comfortable before he spoke. “My name is Dr. Walter Wyman, licensed therapist to the dead. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“…The pleasure is mine?”
“Now, Rupert, I have a few items to go over with you: just a few simple policies and procedures. I can assure you that they’re not too difficult to grasp. Then, I would like to ask you some questions.”
I grinned. “You have questions for me? I have about a hundred for you.”
“In due time.”
He was disorganized, rummaging through his files, glancing from one page to the next until he found the one he intended to.
He leaned across the sofa, his eyes were so close that I felt like I was under a microscope, “Tell me, Rupert, what do you remember about the day you died?”
I was somewhat taken aback by the abruptness of his first question. “Nothing.”
He retreated into an upright position, jotting notes on his pad, eyeing me as he did so. “How long have you been haunting?”
“Haunting?” I chuckled, “You’re mistaken. I live here.”
He nodded in a way that was sympathetic, but also suggested he might have just learned something significant from my answer that I didn’t fathom.
“Not aware of his haunting,” he repeated to himself while scribbling my answer down on the parchment. “I wonder, are you capable of manipulating physical objects?”
“Only books,” I said, wondering what he knew that I didn’t. “But I can write as well.”
“Interesting,” he acknowledged. “I assume you must have had somewhat of an appreciation for literature in your most recent life.”
“Yes, I believe so.”
He glanced at his paperwork. “In regards to this property, Buxton Manor, I see here that there aren’t any other ghosts on record. Is that correct?”
“I am alone.”
“Must get lonely at times,” he assumed. “Would you care to talk about it?”
“No, thank you.” I became frustrated, “What exactly are you here for?”
Dr. Wyman held up his hand, sausage-shaped fingers extended upwards as a way of silencing me. With the same hand, he reached back into his briefcase and retrieved a sturdy piece of paper on which I couldn’t see what was written.
“I have here your death certificate.”
My eyes bulged. “Where did you get that?”
“It indicates you died on June 12, 1917, shortly after your seventeenth birthday. Now, that is a long time for a haunting to transpire, and typically I would have been sent to you much sooner, but I’m afraid your circumstances are rather unique; bearing in mind this residence has been isolated from the outside world since you’ve perished. Ordinarily, those new to the deceased community are given time to adjust. We try not to intervene, but hope the individual ghost can figure things out for themselves. Unfortunately, within the last hundred years, you’ve grown little. And so, I was sent to you. I will visit for a duration of an hour each week. This will be one of many sessions in which I will assist you in the process of remembrance.”
I slumped into the couch. “I don’t understand. What do I have to remember?”
“Then allow me to clarify.” Dr. Wyman began to explain in a soothing tone—one I was positive he used with his other patients, “When we die, our souls are released from our former body. Sort of like a caterpillar from a cocoon that will later transpire into a butterfly—there are stages to our existence. Now, some of us choose to step into the light and ascend into the heavens; while others, like you and I, stay put. The most common reason as to why a soul will linger on Earth is because they have unfinished business they wish to attend to. The tricky part of that is they haven’t the slightest idea to what that might be. And so they haunt, trying desperately to remember. Once they do, some will then make the ascension, but most go mad because there usually isn’t anything they can do about whatever it was that troubled them at the time of their death; considering they haven’t the means to do so.”
“Are you saying I’m stuck here because I have unfinished business?”
“Precisely, my boy. I’m here to help you until you remember why you chose to stay on Earth.” He didn’t pause to let the information sink in. “Now, there are two ways in which a haunting may occur. Either you died on the property, or your remains are buried here on the grounds.”
“My grave is in the woods,” I told him.
His eyes perked. He quickly wrote it down. “Have you any idea who the prior residents were?”
I shook my head. “I don’t.”
He glanced back to my death certificate. “It says here that your full name is Rupert Errol Victor Buxton.”
“Yes, that’s what my headstone reads.”
“When taking into account your surname, and given your age of death, I presume your parents were the previous owners of this establishment. Do you remember them at all?”
My head fell limp. “I don’t. One of my earliest memories after death was walking through this house. It was empty, but I could make out faint voices. I tried searching for the owners, but I couldn’t find who was speaking. I remember it sounded like a great deal of arguing from far away, but I could never be certain. Their words were too difficult to discern. The next thing I knew, the voices stopped, and all the furniture had been covered in cloth.”
“In the beginning (that is, for all new ghosts), there lies an adjustment period that can be incredibly strenuous for the newly deceased. Your new “body” is foreign. Some have trouble assembling their substance into a collective image, which I see you’ve managed over the years. Others have a difficult time with the senses: lacking the ability to see or touch. From the information I’ve gathered, I presume you had difficulty adjusting to your sight. You see, until we’re able to adopt our new sensations, we are unable to see through the realms. In your case, and quite ironically, the living had become ghosts to you. Which is why you were able to hear your family, but could not see them.”
Once again, Dr. Wyman didn’t wait for me to fathom his explanation. “Rupert, do you know why I came to you at this particular moment?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Recently, Buxton Manor was purchased, which means a new family will be moving in shortly. To ensure our separation from the living, every haunting must be reported. You had decades to achieve remembrance on your own; but now that you will be sharing quarters with the living, we’ll have to move you along much quicker in order to keep our kinds divided. Do you have any questions thus far?”
“Yes!” I nearly leapt off the cushions. “I’ve been stuck here in Buxton Manor ever since I died. Every time I try to leave the gates, I disappear into the fog, and reappear at my bedroom window. You’re a ghost as well, yet here you are. Why are you able to come and go, and I am not?”
“I can understand your confusion,” he sympathized. “For those of us with unfinished business, we are bound to the quarters in which we died or were buried. This phenomenon is better known as a “haunting”. With remembrance, as well as the development of senses, you can learn to expand your boundaries. Like you, when I died, I found myself a prisoner to the land in which my bones rested. For too long I roamed the cemetery, attempting to remember the life I once lived. And like yourself, I needed guidance to achieve it. I was assigned my own guide who helped me do so. Once I remembered why I chose to remain on Earth, I was offered entrance to the kingdom above. But once again, I strayed from the light, deciding to remain and to assist others who struggled the same as I had previously.”
“So, you’re going to help me?”
“That is why I’m here,” his mustache curled into a warm, comforting grin. “Rupert, we’re going to do this together. But before we dive too deep, I must heed warning. As I mentioned before, there is a new family moving in. You might have a long way to go before remembering your past, but I see you’ve developed your other senses significantly. I must stress that any connection to the outside world is absolutely forbidden. Therefore, you must be cautious to not expose yourself to the living.”
I felt a smile tugging at the corners of my lips. “Are you suggesting that the new residents might be able to see me?”
“Not exactly, no,” he countered. “Most of those alive would see right through you, not even bothering to take a second glance. It takes a keen eye to see through the veil. However, some might sense a cold presence when you are near; others might notice a shimmer of your reflection in a mirror. When you develop the capability to move objects(as you have achieved with literature), the living start to recognize that their things have mysteriously been misplaced. This may, and has before, jeopardized the harmony of our separation. Believe me: once the living learn we are indeed present, the outcome is unpleasant to say the least. Unwanted attention is attracted to our kind, becoming curious individuals from around the world. They come to be frightened, making your home some sort of ceaseless sideshow attraction. Others will come with the intent of expelling you from this plane of existence completely. Time and time again, I’ve had the misfortune of seeing these scenarios play out. You wouldn’t believe the mess I have been trying to clean up in New York at the Amityville household. It is positively dreadful.” I chuckled, “Believe me, I have no desire to contact the living. I just want to remember who I was, why I’m here, so I can finally leave this place.”
He winked at me. “Now, that’s the spirit!” Dr. Wyman began to pack up his things, stuffing his paperwork back into his briefcase. Using his cane, he managed to rise to his feet. “Well, that concludes our first session. I’ll be back the same time next week. I look forward to continuing this journey with you.”
“Thank you. I as well.”
“In the meantime, I would like to assign you a bit of homework. Just a few things you can work on until our next visit. I would like you to write specifically in regards to your life as a ghost. This will force you to look at your more recent past, which will start to stir your memory. Clearly, you have some connection to writing, and I would like to use that to our advantage. Does that sound reasonable?”
On that note, I ushered Dr. Wyman back through the foyer, out the front door, and back to the porch where his carriage awaited. I was still rather shaken by the bag of bones he had for horses. It wasn’t until that moment did I realize that each of the steeds bore pairs of red eyes, nearly hidden within their hollow sockets, glowing like heated coals.
Dr. Wyman then hopped into his carriage. “Rupert, I bid you farewell.” He offered me with a tip of his hat, “Until next time, my boy.”
I lingered there for awhile, floating a foot above the porch, watching the carriage return to the woods until it was swallowed by the mist. I couldn’t believe what had just transpired. I had two visitors that day, the first of which was a realtor, the other a therapist to the dead who happened to be a ghost, like myself. A family would be moving into my home, and I didn’t quite know what that meant for me. After all those years of being alone, I was being bombarded by visitors.
As I stood there gazing into the fog, I realized that there was one thing I was certain of—just like dear Alice, lost in Wonderland, things were becoming curious and curiouser.