A Girl at the Gate
The wind howled outside the dusty Victorian window where Bernard now sat looking out at the world beyond his home. It had been many years since Bernard had last stepped outside into the soft air and warm sunlight. He did not mind staying inside all that much; after all, his home was familiar to him. It smelled of old wood and dusty books. The leaves had started to change color, what was once green and alive now turned red and orange and brown. Fall had arrived and chilly winds had followed. Bernard sat quietly looking out the second floor window in his bedroom where he had passed many days watching the world outside. He’d sometimes watch a dog as it walked down the street looking quite pleased with its escape from its yard. Other times Bernard would see people walking together, some smiling while others were not. People would often pass his old house; now and then one would stop to look at the Victorian mansion with curious eyes. Now and again someone would point up to his window and say something to whomever they were with and then move along down the road chatting as friends do. They never noticed Bernard, at least most did not. Once every few years when Bernard was feeling especially lively one might catch a glimpse of him behind those paned glass windows. Today was different though.
On this blustery day a young girl stood at the old iron gates that warded off the curious with its ominous blackened bars. A girl of perhaps eight with blond hair and a missing front tooth stood looking between the bars of the gate staring up at Bernard. To his great surprise she waved to him. Thinking it odd that she should wave to him Bernard did not respond. No one ever waved to him; he was a ghost, an unseen thing to any of the living. Then she waved again, this time more earnestly, baring a smile both warm and earnest. Slowly Bernard raised his hand and waved back, at least he tried to wave back. It had been a very long time since he had waved to anyone and wasn’t quite sure if he remembered how to wave properly. His wave must have been well enough as the blond girl with the missing front tooth smiled even brighter up to him then turned and trotted off down the road.
It was strange to Bernard that the girl had seen him, he had been a ghost for longer than he could remember and couldn’t think of a single human in all those years who could see him. Bernard knew why many people stopped to look at his home; it was famous in its own way. Things happened here, terrible things, things that made him into a ghost. As for exactly what those terrible things were, Bernard could not remember. Perhaps that is how being a ghost is supposed to be, you remember the good things, but not the bad. Bernard recalled when he was newly a ghost, a family moved into the house, his house. He remembered their pet dog Chip. A funny name for a dog Bernard always thought, but still Chip was as good of a name as any other he supposed. Bernard had many conversations with Chip and he always seemed to understand Bernard. There was the mother and father, then two boys that lived there for a short time. Bernard had tried to play with them, but the boys never seemed to notice him. Eventually Bernard became so angry that he threw a plate off the table one night during dinner. Noodles flew through the air and landed in a mess on the wood floor near chip, who happily accepted this mishap as a treat, eating the noodles before anyone could stop him. Though he could not recall the names of anyone at the table, Bernard did recall the mother being scared, and the father yelling angrily at the boys for playing a prank at the dinner table. Bernard had tried to apologize many times to the mother but she could never hear him. Just like the boys when he tried to play with them, he simply was never seen. The only one who saw him or knew he was there was Chip. Bernard missed Chip, he was a good dog. He’d never had a dog when he was alive. At least he couldn’t remember ever having a dog. But Bernard knew he’d have loved a dog if he had one when he was alive.
The girl had left and in her absence the gate creaked in the wind as if it missed the company she provided in those few moments it had shared with her. The sun was starting to set and Bernard thought it would be best to turn in for the night. Bernard did many of the same things he did when he was alive, though he thought that perhaps brushing his teeth might be silly since he was a ghost, but he still liked the feeling of the brush on his tongue as he cleaned his teeth. It was while he was in the bathroom that a knock came from somewhere in the house. Looking about, Bernard listened quietly to the stillness, then “Knock, Knock” the sound came again. After a moment more of looking about Bernard realized it was the front door! How long had it been since someone came knocking on his front door? He could not be sure, but it was long enough he had forgotten what the sound was, then the sound rang out again. “Knock, Knock!” Bernard spit then rinsed his mouth out quickly then headed for the front door stopping just before he opened it. Thinking it might be a trick or someone breaking in he decided to peek through the glass peep hole in the door. It is what his mother often did when visitors came knocking on the big front door. Beyond the warped glass of the peephole stood the little blond girl from the gate, dressed in a coat looking impatiently at the door then she reached up with her little hand making a fist then “Knock, Knock, Knock!” Bernard wasn’t sure of what he should do. “No one visits ghosts, no one can see me” Bernard thought as he looked away from the peep hole. A fourth round of Knocks came and he looked back at the peep hole and the girl was now looking right back at him then she opened her mouth.
“Helloooooooo!” she said loud enough Bernard could hear her perfectly through the door. “I know you’re in there, I saw you in the window! Open the door please.” said the little girl through the large oak door.
Bernard was a little scared, no one could see him. At least no one had seen him since, well, since he became a ghost. Not wanting to be rude Bernard reached for the lock and pushed the bolt back just enough that the door came open. It was hard to do, but she was the first one to see him since Chip the dog and he felt a twinge of excitement rush through his ghostly body as the lock made a small “click” noise.
The door clicked then opened as the young girl pushed on the door handle. The large old heavy oak door opened slightly with a loud creaking noise. Pushing harder the young girl was able to push it far enough to squeeze through the opening then looked up to Bernard.
“Why are you floating?” she asked.
“What?” Was all Bernard could manage to say still confused as to how the blond girl could see him.
“I said, why are you floating? Are you a ghost or something?” she said as she brushed hair out of her face with a mitten covered hand.
“Wait, you can hear me? How can you hear and see me?” Bernard asked as still floating about three feet off the floor.
“You aren’t very good at answering questions. My Nana said it’s not polite to ask a question back to someone who asked you one first.” She said while looking about her entrance to the old house. “So, why are you floating?”
“I… I’m sorry… You shouldn’t be here. Um…. You should go, yes you should leave. This is no place for a girl to be.” Bernard said trying to sound like he imagined his father would.
“Why? You are just a little boy who is floating, and you are here. Why should I go?”
Bernard willed himself to the floor and thought hard about what to say. He hadn’t had any visitors since some teenagers had snuck in the house one summer night. Now he wasn’t sure what one is supposed to do when a visitor came to your door. As he stood there thinking what to do or say the girl stuck out her mitten covered hand. Stars sparkled on the outside of her pink gloves as her hand hovered in the air outstretched towards Bernard.
“I’m Kara, what’s your name?” said the little girl.
“I don’t think I can shake your hand.” Bernard said looking down at the sparkling stars that seemed to float in the air in front of him.
“Well why not? Are you sick? Nana told me to not shake someone’s hand if I have been coughing and sick. So are you?” The girl said with her hand still held out for him.
No, I’m not sick. At least I don’t think I’m sick. I don’t feel sick.” Bernard replied.
Kara smiled all the bigger and reached out further grabbing his hand and shook it hard. “That’s wonderful, what’s your name?”
“Be… Bernar…. Bernard.” He said through a stutter as she shook his hand. “How are you doing that?”
Kara looked at Bernard confused “Do you not know how to shake? It’s easy see?” she said as she shook his hand and entire arm up and down showing him how to shake hands.
“No, I know how to shake hands. How are you able to touch me?” Bernard asked.
Kara laughed at the question then looked around the room and saw a staircase. “Is your window up there?” she said as she walked towards the staircase.
“Wait you can’t come in here like this, you don’t belong here.” Bernard protested with a ghostly stomp of his foot which didn’t make even the slightest noise when it hit the floor. This didn’t stop Kara in the least bit as she walked up the stairs using the hand rail for balance.
Lifting her hand from the railing she looked at the dust now on her mitten. “This place is dirty, we should clean it up if we are going to be friends and play here. Don’t you think Bernard?” Kara said as she walked the stairs looking at the old paintings on the wooden walls that dust had covered.
“Friends”? Bernard hadn’t thought of having a friend since Chip and yet here a girl could see him just as plain as Chip could and she wanted to be friends. She had even shaken his hand! As he stood thinking, Kara had turned the corner at the top of the stairs and headed up the second flight towards the upper floor where his room was. With the panicked thought of a girl in his room Bernard floated up through the floors pushing past the old cob webs that tickled his nose and face and came up through the floor right in front of Kara.
“Wait, STOP you can’t go up there. My room is up there and… well….”Bernard said firmly.
“Well what?” She said as she stopped and crossed her arms.
“Well, you can’t come into someones home and just go looking through rooms without asking can you?” Bernard said a little angrily.
Kara stopped for a moment and thought about what Bernard had said. “Well you are a ghost and I suppose you could do some pretty bad things to a person who made you mad. So, may I look around upstairs and also see your room with the window you watch from?” Kara asked with a wide smile missing a front tooth.
“I wouldn’t do anything to you, I couldn’t do anything. I don’t think I can anyway, but you still shouldn’t be here. This is my house and it’s old and you are far too new to be here.” With that word said Bernard thought he had the answer to his problem! “You should just come back when you are a ghost too and then you can see my window.”
Kara walked past Bernard “That’s just silly, it’s just a room with a window in it.” Not stopping this time she walked the hall to each door on the floor opening and looking inside for just a brief moment before closing it until she came to door at the end of the hall. As she opened the door Bernard flew in front of her putting his arms out wide to block her from entering. Kara simply ducked under his left arm and went inside to find a room with a bed and dresser, an empty closet, and the three paned bay windows that she had seen Bernard in earlier.
Clapping her hands she ran to the window jumping up onto the old pillows that were lying on the bench under the window. Dust plumed up around her which made her cough a bit as she waved the dust from her face with her hand. Bernard laughed as the dust swirled around her. He had not known that would happen since he sat there every day without dust being kicked up.
Coughing a bit Kara said “Don’t laugh! It’s not funny!” as she herself started to laugh.
Bernard laughed, he laughed hard. It was the first time he had laughed since being a ghost. It was his first laugh, with his first friend, as a ghost. Maybe it wasn’t so bad having a friend. Maybe Kara did belong in the house he thought. That is until she turned around and walked out of the room and headed down the hall.
“Wait” Bernard said “Where are you going?”
“I have to go home now, it’s getting dark outside and Nana will be looking for me.” Kara said as she walked down the stairs.
Bernard followed behind her floating down the staircase just behind her. “You can stay, I didn’t mean it when I said you didn’t belong here.” Not wanting to see his new friend leave so soon after meeting her.
“I’ll be back, I’ll come visit you soon ok.” Kara said as she pulled on the large heavy front door which creaked again. Then out the door she went waving behind her as she ran down the sidewalk and out of sight leaving Bernard alone.
A Trip with Kara
The house felt empty without Kara in it. Bernard couldn’t understand or explain why, but he felt sad that she had gone. He had wanted her to leave didn’t he? He had said that he wanted her too leave, he thought to himself. Yes he wanted her out of his home, she didn’t belong there. This was a place for a ghost, not a living girl. With those thoughts swirling in his head he went to his room and watched the moon rise, cars drive past his yard and iron fence. It was nearly 3am when he went to the back of the house to watch the old chapel and cemetery come to life as it did most every night. The graveyard seemed like a fun place he’d like to visit one day, but never seemed to remember until they were well into their party. From a distance Bernard watched as the ghost of the graveyard danced and laughed with one another. He watched until the sun started to rise and the urge to rest came over him as it did every night. So off to his bed he went to sleep.
Bernard woke sometime later and opened his eye to a pair of living blue green eyes staring down at him only a couple inches away. “AAAHHHH” he yelled as the eyes fell back revealing the smiling face of Kara who started to laugh as he fell through his bed to the floor.
“Why are you still sleeping? Don’t you know it’s nearly dinner time?” Kara asked to the bed knowing he was either inside the bed or below it.
“I always sleep until now.”
Kara turned her head in a ponderous way thinking. “You must be the laziest ghost I know.” She said as she bounced off the bed trailing dust behind her. “Want to go outside and play in the graveyard down the block from your house?”
Bernard hadn’t been outside ever. In fact he didn’t know if he could go outside. “I don’t know if I can.”
“Why? Will your Mom be mad if you do? Where is your Mom? Wait, do ghost have Moms?” Kara asked.
Bernard thought for a moment “I’ve never tried to go outside. I don’t know if other ghosts have mothers. I’m the only ghost I know besides the ones in the graveyard that dance at night.” he said slightly excited by the thought of leaving the house for the first time.
“Well it’s settled, after dinner we will go out to the graveyard and see if we can dance and play with the other ghost. I’ve always wanted to dance with ghosts!” Kara said.
“Why not go now?” Bernard asked.
“Ghosts can’t go outside during the day, everyone knows that.” Kara responded while rolling her eyes at him as if he had just asked the silliest question a boy could ever ask.
Bernard felt a flush come over his ghostly face and was slightly embarrassed for not knowing something that he obviously should know as a ghost. Kara then walked out of Bernard’s room and headed down the old dusty wooden staircase with Bernard close behind her.
“When will you be finished with dinner?” Bernard asked remembering how sometimes his mother and father would go for dinner, how he would fall asleep waiting for them to come home. Only to find that he woke the next morning to his mother patting his shoulder smiling at him telling him to get ready for the day. Bernard never knew how long his parents dinners lasted or how he always ended up in his bed the next morning; regardless of where Bernard might have been the night before waiting up for their return. Now with Kara now leaving for dinner Bernard felt anxious, not knowing if he’d have to fall asleep and awake somewhere else for their adventure to begin.
“I won’t be gone long, just a quick trip through a rabbit hole and I’ll be back before you know it.” Kara said as she reached for the old doorknob on the front door. Bernard couldn’t stop himself from smiling as his new friend walked out the door. He smiled not because Kara was leaving, but smiling because she promised to return to him.
Bernard did not have long to wait, or at least it didn’t seem like a long wait. For a ghost, waiting is not so much a thing to do, but a state of being. Bernard had waited on a great many things. He had waited on the seasons to change so he could enjoy the leaves his favorite tree change from green to gold and then float away on the autumn breeze. He had waited for new owners of his house to arrive. He had even waited on Chip to someday return and continue their conversations they once had. He had even waited on a snail to crawl from the bottom of the staircase to the top and visit his room. Though waiting on a snail might seem quite boring to a living person, it was riveting for Bernard. “There is little excitement in being a ghost” Bernard often thought. It made perfect sense as to why some ghosts become so grumpy and cause people to jump or scream, excitement is something that ghosts don’t often get to see. Bernard sat patiently waiting on the third step of the staircase, not far from where the snail had once made its epic journey from the lower level of the house to the vast expanse of the second floor. Bernard had thought at the time that the snail must be some great adventurer from a snail village on a quest to explore unknown lands. That once the snail had recorded his trek in whatever way a snail might record such adventures, he would then return to the snail village and live a long happy life telling of his great adventure to the land far above called Bernard’s Room.
The sun set and darkness filled the house, hiding the dust and cracks that lined the walls and furniture in Bernard’s home. Still he sat on the third step of his old staircase waiting for Kara. What might have been a great long time, or perhaps a very short time he was unsure. Regardless how long the wait might have been a knock at the door finally came. Bernard leapt up and floated quickly to the door, sticking his hand back into the lock he fiddled with the levers until it “clicked” and swung slightly inwards. A small mitten covered in sparkly stars filled with a hand came around the edge of the door and Kara appeared smiling. She had come dressed for such an occasion as an adventure outdoors in the chilly night. A fluffy pink coat with stars on the cuffs was zipped up to her chin. The stars on her coat did not sparkle, but were silver none the less. She wore black boots with fur trying to escape the top of them and a hat on her head that covered more than a hat should, nearly hiding her eyes. Atop the stocking hat was a fuzzy ball of yarn, a funny sight to Bernard who hadn’t felt cold in what he thought was a very long time; though time is a bit confusing for ghost, so it might not have been that long ago he felt cold.
“Where is your coat?” Kara asked.
“I don’t think I have one. It’s ok though, I don’t get cold anymore.” Bernard said smiling at his bundled friend smothered under her coat and stocking hat with a white ball on top.
With little more than a sound Kara turned about and walked out the front door with Bernard just behind her. As they traveled down the side walk Bernard looked back, half expecting the house to pull him back inside. The house did not attempt to pull him nor push him. The house simply sat there as it always had, dark and empty of people or ghost, but full of dust and furniture. Noticing that Kara was walking while he floated, Bernard thought it best to do as she did and walk. He wasn’t sure if floating outside was a good idea or not. There wasn’t a roof to help keep him close to the ground out here, so Bernard settled into a pace beside Kara and they walked down the sidewalk, to the old Iron Gate where Kara stopped and held out her hand.
“Do we need to shake hands again?” Bernard asked
Kara rolled her eyes at him before saying “No silly, you can’t go past your property without holding my hand. If you did then you’d float away and I might not see you again for a very long time. But people in planes might!” She added with a smile.
Bernard took her hand feeling the warmth in it even through her star covered pink mittens. The pair then walked on to the graveyard. “Kara, what’s a plane?”
The trip wasn’t very long and didn’t take much time until the duo arrived at the cemetery, according to Kara it had only taken a short time to reach. Bernard being terrible with understanding what was a short time for living people accepted Kara’s determination of the allotted time for the travel as being short. The graveyard was old and smelled of wet leaves and stone. The grass did not receive care very often, but it wasn’t overgrown yet. The entrance was framed by a large sandstone pillar on each side giving way to a wide open area that had two paths worn down by cars, wagons and other things with wheels. On top of each pillar at the entrance stood an angel with outstretched wings, not real angels mind you, these were just statues. Bernard stood at the entrance for just a moment as Kara bowed her head and started to whisper something Bernard couldn’t quite hear.
“What was that?” Bernard asked.
Looking up Kara smiled saying “Just saying thank you to the Grave Keeper for letting me visit.”
Bernard looked around not knowing what a grave keeper looked like, he wasn’t sure if he would spot one even if he looked right at him. Looking about, Bernard didn’t see anyone that might or might not be a grave keeper. “You are kind of funny.” He said to Kara.
“My Nana tells me I’m funny too. She also told me that I should always thank those who are nice enough to let me visit.” Kara said.
The wind howled a lonely moan across the gravestones worn and beaten down by time and storms. From where Bernard stood just outside the gates of the graveyard it appeared dark and empty. Bernard thought that none of the ghosts he had seen from his window in the nights past were in the cemetery tonight.
“Perhaps the ghosts I’ve seen are on holiday right now. It doesn’t look like anyone is here.” Bernard said.
“Of course they are here! You just haven’t gone inside yet.” Kara said pulling him by the hand into the old dark graveyard.
As soon as Bernard crossed the threshold of the graveyard the darkness vanished, replaced by light and laughter. Looking about the graveyard, it was now lit with torches and lanterns, music danced along the wind that no longer howled but sang along with the tune of Elvis singing Jail House Rock. There were ghosts everywhere, some were young looking like Bernard and others old like his gran used to be right before she died. Kara and Bernard walked further in and the music suddenly stopped. All at once each of the ghosts in the graveyard looked at Bernard and Kara with clear shining eyes that worried Bernard. “Maybe we should just go back to the house.” He said to Kara.
Kara gave his hand a squeeze then smiled and looked at all the ghosts. “Hello! My name is Kara and this is Bernard. We wanted to know if we could join you on this fine evening?”
Out of the crowd of ghosts a tall man came forward, dressed in a tall hat and fancy jacket like someone from a very long time ago with white hair and a funny accent said. “Well, well. A fleshy has come to visit us.” As he looked around to the crowd the tall ghost turned his attention to Bernard. “She isn’t normal is she? Also why haven’t you visited us sooner lad? We have seen you most every night for nearly a hundred years looking out your window at us!” Laughter and agreement rose from the crowd of ghosts.
Not knowing what to say Bernard stood in place, wanting to say something witty or smart. But instead he said “Um, I don’t know.” Laughter came again from the crowd then Kara spoke loudly.
“You all be nice to him, he’s been alone in that house for a very long time!”
A woman dressed in a maid’s uniform said to the ghost next to her “a hundred years isn’t that long, is it?”
Kara continued “I asked the Grave Keeper if we could enter and we were granted permission. Even my Nana said I could visit you all tonight, and she told me that you all would be excited to see us. Do I need to tell my Nana that she was wrong? She doesn’t like to be wrong you know.”
The tall ghost with the funny accent looked at Kara seriously and said. “No, we don’t know. Who is this Nana you speak of? Is she a necromancer or a witch? Never much liked Necromancers, though Witches were always fine by me.”
Kara now with a very serious face replied to the tall man. “She is Nana, the first Nana, my Nana. Everyone knows Nana.” She said exasperated by trying to explain to the ghost who her Nana was.
Leaning on a cane next to a gravestone with a flying eagle atop it a woman came forward. “Kara dear, we know many Nana’s here, I was a Nana to my seventeen grand babies. Is your Nana special or different from Nana’s like me?” she asked in an old crackling voice sweet as honey.
Kara thought for a moment and didn’t know if her Nana was special or different. But she did know one thing. “My Nana came from the Willows and planted the Whispering Tree in the middle of town, the big one, a long, long time ago. She is really old, so I think that makes her extra special.”
The old woman leaning on her cane smiled and said. “Child, if you can see us and you can talk with the Grave Keeper and your Nana planted the old Whispering Tree in the middle of town then yes, your Nana is special and different and very old. But don’t tell her I said she was old.” She said with a wink. “My name is Henrietta, but you can call me Henry. Everyone else here does.”
As Kara and Henry chatted the music began to play again, ghosts began to dance with one another and laughter was heard once more. Twisting and twirling about ghost men and ghost women danced, laughed and sang along with the band. A band rumored to have once played for King Henry the IV who didn’t care for their whimsical tone and had them all beheaded.
“I suppose you are telling the truth, I have a way about smelling a lie.” Henry said as she stood up leaning heavily upon her cane.
Bernard stepped in line behind Kara as Henry walked away from the festivities saying “Keep up child; you are a ghost not a snail.” Bernard who was watching the festivities had slowed his pace and now felt slightly embarrassed.
Kara followed effortlessly behind Henry as she weaved her way through the cemetery. Bernard continued to bump into headstones eliciting grumbles and a few ghostly fist shakings up from the ground at him as he disturbed their slumber. All the same it was still very exciting for Bernard who quickly forgot that he had been quite scared only moments earlier when he and Kara stood before the gates of Blackwood Cemetery.
Henry walked and talked with the Kara and Bernard about the cemetery and the good people who lived there.
“It’s a good place to rest, I think those of us who have been here at Blackwood for a few years think it’s the best place to be. Bernard you might consider moving down here so you can be around us more.” Henry said as they passed a headstone taller than both Kara and Bernard, but not quite as tall as Henry.
“Do you think the others would mind?” Bernard asked feeling a bit of excitement welling up in his ghostly stomach while stepping over fallen sticks from the old overhanging oak tree.
Henry’s withered smile grew across her translucent face as she said “you let me worry about those old bags of bones. But you will need to see if our young friend here can ferry you from your home here. It’s not safe for you to wander unguided you know.”
Bernard didn’t know. He thought about how he had arrived in the cemetery, but found he was surprised that he couldn’t remember how he had actually arrived here. Bernard knew he had left his home with Kara, but after that he just knew he was here.
Seeing the look of confusion on his face Kara walked over and took his hand in her small hands then closed her eyes and smiled. Her smile was beautiful Bernard thought, suddenly he remembered their long walk and the statues outside the cemetery, of Kara bowing her head whispering to the Grave Keeper. Kara continued to smile with her eyes closed as the voice of Henry spoke gently behind him.
“You know nothing poor child. We can’t wander from our homes without people like her. Your friend is a special one we used to call Spirit Walkers. If you tried to journey from your home here without her you would lose your mind and become a Wraith or something worse.” Henry said as gentle as a grandmother could.
When Kara let go of Bernard’s hand the memories began to slip away from him. No matter how hard he tried to hold on to the memories of the walk from his home to the cemetery. Of how he stopped floating to walk alongside Kara, about the questions he had asked, they all slipped away. Like water running through his hands the memories fell away until they were once again gone.
“Why can’t I remember how I came here when you aren’t holding my hand?” Bernard asked Kara who suddenly looked older than she had at the gate outside his home.
“A ghost can’t be where a ghost shouldn’t be.” Kara said.
Henry patted Bernard on the shoulder with her boney ghost hand “Come along littles, we have some talking to do with the rest of the cemetery folk to grant you haven while you are here my boy.” She walked windingly through the cemetery for what seemed like hours, mostly due to her dragging foot. Henry walked along telling stories of Gambler Pete who was buried in the northwest corner of the cemetery after he was caught cheating at cards in 1894. Reginald Horsehoof who was an adopted Native American raised up north with some rich white folk who taught him the strangest dances which he often could be seen dancing after dark down with the others near the large sleeping tree. Henry pointed Kara to a tall headstone off to their left and told of Letty the last witch in these parts.
“Turns out she isn’t even buried there and actually haunts a night club down town.” Henry said.
The three walked and talked for a long while until the sounds of laughter and music could be heard and lights from the nightly ghostly gathering was a short distance from them.
“Walter, I must speak with you.” Henry said as she walked leaning on her cane. The tall man who had addressed both Kara and Bernard responded to Henry by slightly nodding his head towards her in a respectful way that reminded Bernard of how his father would tip his hat towards his mom when he would leave the house. As Henry and the tall ghost called Walter walked a little ways away the sounds of the jovial ghost laughing and telling stories along with some singing swallowed any sound that Henry and Walter made, leaving their conversation a mystery to Bernard. Kara had contented herself to sit down on a tomb that was short enough for her tiny frame to sit comfortably on and swing her legs as she watched and began to sing along with the ghost who sang in merry harmony, a song Bernard did not know but enjoyed the happy tune none the less.
The moon passed overhead until the waning hours of darkness before the festivities began to wind down. Bernard found himself ready for a rest in his own bed and yawned. Kara had fallen asleep and was already curled up on the tombstone with a knitted blanket that one of the ghosts had placed over her as she snored softly. Henry walked slowly over to Kara and squeezed her shoulder gently.
“Kara dear, you need to get Bernard home before the sun is fully up. Otherwise it might attract the Snatchers. I’d hate to deal with your Nana if the Snatchers got hold of you and Bernard.” Henry said as Kara rubbed her eyes letting the knitted blanket bunch up around her waist.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.” Kara said through a half yawn.
Kara folded the blanket carefully and handed it to Henry who took it in her ghostly hands and pulled it close to her chest. The warmth of the child still lingered for a few moments and it reminded Henry for just a moment of holding one of her littles from long ago.
Bernard was finding it hard to stay awake at this point, but thanks to his new friend Carl “The Dread Pirate of Washington River” as he referred to himself, Bernard managed to make it through the night and have a lovely time.
Noticing that Kara had woke Bernard walked over to her and offered his hand to help her down off the tombstone and with a few good byes and promises to visit again soon the pair headed off to Muckmire Manor hand in hand.
Some Bad News
As Bernard watched Kara walk down the sidewalk in the early dawn light he noticed that a sheet of paper had been stuck to his front door.
“By the edict of City Counselor Terry Hoff and Mayor Mortimer Klinger this property is set to be auctioned Saturday the 9th of October. To be sold in its entirety with all possessions of the property becoming the sole property of the highest bidder. If no bids of adequate funds are made the property is to be demolished and repurposed by the city of Mooresville.”
Bernard left the notice on the door unsure of what “auction” or “repurposed” meant.
“Perhaps Kara will know what this means.” He thought.
Stretching his arms in the open door as the first rays of the morning sun peeked over the nearby mountain he watched the sun shine through his ghostly arm and shut the door. The sun never hurt Bernard, but he often found it annoying and hard to see things with all the light. Cloudy days were his favorite to be awake for. He could happily sit in his window and watch people walk by, coming and going about their lives unaware that he had made up names and stories for each of the people he saw.
Bernard reached the top of the stairs and floated into his room without opening the door. He was simply too tired to be bothered with a door, he climbed into bed and was asleep before he could finish remembering all that had happened in the graveyard.
“Knock, “knock, knock!” rang out from the front door. It was much louder than when Kara had knocked on his front door. It was so loud that it woke him from his sleep. Bernard rubbed his hands across his face then stretched.
“KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!” the front door rang out again, louder this time.
Bernard floated through the floor quickly wondering who could be at his door that would knock so hard. Certain it could not be Kara he floated up to the peep hole to see who was outside. Through the looking glass he could see an older woman with very tall gray hair. Wrinkles covered her entire face and when she smiled Bernard could see for just a moment a little bit of a resemblance to Kara.
“Hellooooooo dearie, open up we have much to discuss if you don’t want to be homeless.” The old woman said in a crackling voice.
Memories of his life before being a ghost came to mind, an old teacher who used to call him “Dearie” and his ghostly heart warmed just a tiny bit. Bernard opened the door and before him stood a woman in a bright pink shawl over a gray dress that matched her very tall curly gray hair. Thick horn rimmed glasses with silver chain strap hung from each side of her glasses and around her neck so that they wouldn’t fall down when she took them off. She was slightly bent over and held a fine wooden cane with fairies carved all along the shaft ending in a handle of a bear head.
“Kara has told me so much about you Bernard, my name is Nana. Can I come in?” the old woman asked.
“You’re Nana? Kara’s Nana?” Bernard asked still holding the door.
“Yes, I’m her Nana and other’s Nana as well. The wind has picked up and my old bones feel the chill of winter coming dearie.” Nana said pulling her shawl tighter with one hand while leaning on the fairy cane.
Bernard concentrated and pulled the door open as far as he could. The door being from the real world and rather heavy was more of a challenge than he had thought. He had only unlocked it for Kara when she came to visit. With Nana on the other side Bernard felt it was only gentlemanly of him to open the door for her. So he did.
Nana walked into the home stopping just past the threshold, closed her eyes and took a very deep breath.
“You are alone child, how have you remained?” Nana asked as she smacked her lips together as if tasting something odd.
“It’s always been just me. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, so I just stayed.” Bernard replied watching Nana as she kept her eyes closed still smacking her lips together.
Nana opened her eyes and coughed out a puff of dust from the deep breath she had just taken. Bernard wondered if he should go to the faucet and give her a drink. But he remembered that there were no glasses in his cupboards. Nana only coughed once to his relief.
“Please come in and sit Nana, is Kara alright?” Bernard asked.
“Oh she is fine dearie, sleeping after her adventure with you last night. She had a wonderful time visiting with Henry and the others. I’m here about the notice on your door. You must have read it by now, you do read don’t you?” She asked as she walked over to a sofa with old stiff pillows that plumed dust as she sat.
“Yes ma’am, I can read. Though I don’t know what the notice means.” Bernard said a bit embarrassed at his lack of knowledge.
“It means that certain people in town want to take your house away, along with the field and the cemetery just down the block from here. These people want to build new buildings and destroy the history of this part of town. The city Mayor thinks that this neighborhood would be best turned into apartment buildings.” Nana explained.
“Bernard, do you know what will happen if they take away the cemetery and your house?” She asked gently.
Bernard’s head jittered side to side as he started to feel a fear he did not understand.
“It means that you and all the lovely souls from Blackwood Cemetery would be ‘displaced’. This would likely end in one of two ways. The first would be the best and that would be to just cross over to the other side. But in all my years I have seen the second happen far too often when tethered earth is disturbed. The spirits turn into wraiths, things without conscious thought, consumed by hatred and fear they can even become shadow people. They will hunt and hurt people who have done no harm to them. I’m sure you don’t want to become either of those things.” Nana said while holding her fairy cane in front of her with both hands resting atop the Bear head handle.
“I don’t want to go anywhere, I like my home. I don’t want to be a shadow person or a wraith!” Bernard said scared.
“In that case, you will be seeing more of me very soon Bernard.” Nana said as she tried to stand. Her first try was her rocking forward, the second attempt had her on the edge of the couch and by the third try she was standing leaning heavily on her cane.
“What should I do?” Bernard asked following behind Nana as she walked to the door.
“You just stay right here and start cleaning. You might try to open some windows and let some fresh air in here. The wood here is very tired of the same air.” Nana said as she opened the front door and closed it behind her leaving Bernard alone in a house that now seemed far too large for one tiny ghost to haunt.
The hours passed and Bernard tried very hard to open the windows of the house. His ghostly hands kept slipping through the wood frame and glass every time he tried to lift. From window to window Bernard moved and tried to open the old house up but nothing gave way to his efforts. The sun had already set and it was well into the evening when most people stopped walking down the sidewalk outside his home when a soft “knock” came from the door. A “knock” that sounded very much like the one that he had heard just yesterday.
Standing outside the door Bernard could see through the peep hole Kara in her pink star covered mittens waving up at him. He unlocked the door and she pushed it open smiling to her friend.
“Nana said she came to visit you today.” Kara said as she walked into the living room.
“Yes, she said that she would help with the auction notice and keep me from becoming a shadow person.” said Bernard.
“You, and the nice ghosts at Blackwood Cemetery!” Kara said. “She said we would have to pack up soon and that I should come help with opening the windows here. Nana said you were having a hard time opening them up like she asked.”
“How could she know that?” Bernard said embarrassed again. He had tried very hard to get them open but simply couldn’t.
“Nana knows lots of things, she is very old you know.” Kara said as she went to the dining room and pushed hard on the wooden frame of a window that faced towards the cemetery. “She came from the Willows and they know everything. But everyone knows that.”
Bernard didn’t know that, but he didn’t want to admit that in front of his friend.
“It’s ok that you didn’t know, you are a ghost and have been in this house a long time by yourself. So, I guess its ok that you didn’t know about the Willows. Do you know about the Whispering Tree Nana planted in town?” Kara asked as she stood on a cedar chest and pushed up on a second window.
Bernard had never heard of the Willows before last night, or about the Whispering Tree. In fact, before last night Bernard hadn’t known a great number of things he now knew. Feeling less embarrassed, Bernard admitted that he didn’t know about the Willows or the Whispering Tree.
“Well” Kara said. “The Willows is where really special people come from. They help things in the world, old things, like your house. Without the Willows nothing would be old, everything would be knocked down and we wouldn’t remember anything about our past.”
Kara hopped down from the cedar chest and walked into the kitchen which was darker than the rest of the house. From inside her coat Kara pulled a metal stick out of her pocket and Bernard wondered what it was.
“What is that metal stick for?” Bernard asked.
“Huh?” Kara responded looking down at her flashlight. “Oh it’s a flashlight, see?” She said as she pushed the switch forward and light as bright as the sun illuminated Bernard’s face.
Bernard fell back yelling “Ahhhhh!” and fell through the floor into the basement. Above him he could hear Kara laughing and as he poked his head through the floor cautious of being attacked by the light stick again Kara was busy laughing and even made a snorting sound as she rolled on the ground.
“Your face! Bernard, your face was so funny!” she laughed and snorted again like a pig. “You’ve never seen a flashlight before?” She asked.
“No, isn’t it dangerous to have a sun in that stick and to carry it around in your pocket?” Bernard asked still only keeping his head poking through the floor in case the flash light attacked him again.
“No silly, it’s not dangerous. It is only light so I can see in here. Everyone has one now. We don’t use lanterns anymore like you used too, unless we are camping in the Willows.” Kara said as she stood.
The pair continued through the house opening windows on the first and second floor. Bernard didn’t tell her about the third floor that still held his treasure. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t tell her, but he thought he should keep that secret for now. Kara left that night promising to return the next day after school to help clean the house and to teach him how to “Polterguyth” things.
Bernard spent the rest of the night watching the Blackwood Cemetery festivals from his window and wishing Kara could have taken him there again.
The School Cancels Halloween!
The next evening when Bernard woke he looked out his bedroom window. He expected to see folks returning from work or walking their dog before dinner. Instead what he found was a view of a tree that shouldn’t have been there. This wasn’t his favorite tree that he had watched changed colors every year. He would have recognized that tree. Bernard thought long and hard but couldn’t remember there ever being a tree there before. “Trees don’t just move on their own, do they?” he thought to himself. Downstairs he heard commotion, the sound of cabinets opening and closing, footsteps on the hard wood floors. The smell of pine and something strange is what caused Bernard to poke his head through the second floor to look in on what was going on below in the kitchen.
There in the kitchen was Kara mop in hand humming a melody. She didn’t notice him, so Bernard said “Hello”. Kara did not respond. Concerned Bernard floated closer to her and noticed that she had strange string coming out of her ears.
A worm or snake is in her ears! Thought Bernard and he rushed to aid his friend. He grabbed the strings and pulled. “Pop” came the sound from her ear as the head on what had to be the world’s thinnest snakes came out of both of her ears.
“Hey I was listening to that!” Kara said dropping her mop handle.
“I saved you!” Bernard said. “See the snakes!” He pointed to the black strings with strange heads now lying on the floor.
“Oh right… you don’t know what these are either. I have a lot to teach you, don’t I?” Kara said as she picked them off the floor and held them up for Bernard to see. “They are ear buds. You listen to music on them. See?” She said pointing to the small thin box she had stuck to her belt. “They go in your ears and you pick what song you want to listen to from the list and push play. Then music comes out of those ‘Snakes’ that were in my ear.” Kara said sarcastically.
Bernard leaned his head closer to the small head on the string, thankful he was already a ghost because ghost can’t get bit by snakes. To his great surprise, the sounds of music came out, though the sound was much different than the phonograph tubes his mother played when he was a boy.
Smiling Bernard said to Kara “Sorry, I thought they were snakes.” He looked about the kitchen which was dust free from just above the height of Kara to the floor. The room smelled of fresh pine but with a bit of astringent. It smelled clean!
“How long have you been here?” He asked.
“Since just after school. Oh, do you know what happened at school today?” Kara asked. Bernard shook his head no. “They canceled Halloween! Can you believe that? We always have a Halloween party at the school, but this year they canceled it!”
“Why did they do that? Did the adults get scared of the costumes? They do know that it’s just children under those scary masks right?” Bernard said.
“The principle said it was due to pressure from the school board. It is the same excuse he used when he took Pizza off the lunch menu!” Kara said putting one of her hands on her waist angrily.
“Well you can have Halloween here if you want!” Bernard said. “My house is big enough for a whole town I bet!”
“That is a great idea Bernard! I’ll ask Nana if we can and then tell everyone at school! This will be the best Halloween ever. Just wait until I tell them that a real ghost lives here, they will freak out!” Kara said excitedly.
Remembering the tree outside his window suddenly Bernard asked “Why is there a big tree with lots of little limbs all drooping and sad looking in the front yard?”
“Oh Nana and I planted a Whispering tree here so the city won’t tear down your house. Nana owns anything with a Whispering tree in the yard. It is part of the law from way back before I was born, maybe even before my Mom was born.” Kara said as a matter of fact.
“But this is my house, how can Nana own it if it is my home?” Bernard asked confused.
“Oh didn’t I tell you? We are moving in. Why else would I be mopping the floor and cleaning the kitchen? Nana loves a clean kitchen.” Kara replied.
Bernard watched as Kara swept and wiped and cleaned and shined and polished all evening until it was time for her to leave. Bernard waved to her as she walked down the sidewalk wondering what would happen to their other home if Kara and Nana were coming to stay here. He couldn’t stop them, he was just a ghost and he hadn’t stopped any of the other families that had lived here since becoming a ghost. At least this family can see him, like Chip, his old friend the dog.
Over the next few days Kara came and cleaned, Bernard watched and talked with her. This went on until one afternoon Bernard woke early to the sounds of shouting outside his window. Rubbing his eyes he floated to the window bench and sat down to look out into the yard. He couldn’t see much because of the tree that now was larger than it had been just a few days earlier. But the tree didn’t stop the sound of Nana shouting at someone about “respect for the deceased” and something about the “Willows Way”.
Once Bernard came downstairs he found Kara looking out into the yard at Nana who was still talking with what now appeared to be two men.
“Nana is really mad, she is going to make one of them go bald for sure! Just watch.” Kara said looking out the glass.
Bernard didn’t understand what she meant, but he watched out the window with her. Doing what he thought a friend should, just sitting quietly next to her, being there if she got scared or angry or sad or happy. Having a friend was something that Bernard had forgotten about. He had thought a lot about Chip lately. Chip had been a good friend, but he was a dog and as good of a friend as they can be he wasn’t a person that could tell him things like Kara could. After a few more minutes of Nana shaking her cane at one of them a shriek was let out by the taller of the two. Bernard could see through the window as the tall man reached up to his head where every last hair that had been on his head was now gone. Just moments earlier he had a full head of dark brown hair combed over to one side, now it was simply gone. Nana nodded sternly turned around and walked back to the front door, the cane making a clicking noise with each step as her cane struck the stone.
Nana walked into the house and without saying a word walked through the living room, through the dining room and through the kitchen. Nana walked all the way through the house right out the back door into the very large back yard that stretched for what Bernard thought was forever. Bernard watched as Nana reached into her dress pocket and pulled out something very small and dropped it in the grass. Using her cane she pushed the small thing into the ground. She raised her cane and a faint green light seemed to glow around her. Then she turned around and came back inside without ever saying a word.
A few minutes later Nana had seemed to calm down. She started putting cups away in the cabinets, forks and spoons in a drawer and even set out a white ceramic jar with the words “Nana’s Coffee” written on it.
“Kara dear, you will need to work extra hard these next two weeks. We will be having several new friends staying with us.” Nana said as she turned the switch to the lights on the wall and lights glowed brightly.
Saturday the 9th came and no one came to tear down the house. Instead Kara and Nana had brought over several new items into the house. According to Kara some strangers called “Movers” brought all of their belongings from their other house to this one. Bernard never saw these “Movers”, he never saw anyone, or heard anyone, or even smelled anyone that could have brought all of their things over. It just seemed to appear one day. Kara had a room just down the hall from Bernard’s. It had a horse with a horn coming out of its head painted on one wall. The other walls were pink with shiny stars covering them. The lights worked in every room of the house now, though not a single light bulb had been changed. The house was clean and warm and music seemed to play softly all the time. Nana and Kara talked a lot about things that didn’t interest Bernard, about her grades at school or about a boy that was mean to her. Sometimes they talked about weird things that he simply didn’t care to ever understand.
Late one night after Nana and Kara had both gone to sleep Bernard sat looking out at the back yard which now had another tree with droopy limbs. Nana had called it a Whispering Willow. It had grown like the one that had appeared in front of his window at the front of the house, but this one had stones under it. Strangely familiar stones, some were larger than others, some were square and some were round. Others had shapes coming out of the top of them. It was while Bernard was looking at the great number of stones that now were strewn all across the back yard that Henry patted him on his shoulder.
“Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!” Bernard shouted and turned around. He hadn’t expected anyone to touch him.
“Oh hush yourself child, you will wake the dead yelling like that.” She said with a laugh.
“How are you here? You touched me! How?” Bernard said surprised to see the old woman from Blackwood Cemetery in his house.
“Well, your friend is very special. The city is tearing down Blackwood you see. But Nana and Kara are something special, something old. They come from a place where things that should be, are.” Henry said.
“What do you mean ‘are’?” He asked.
“It’s hard to explain child, but I think the best way to describe it is that your friends are able to help make things right. We lost our home, Nana and Kara gave us a new one. We aren’t all here yet, but we will be soon.” Henry said smiling.
Henry had been right, each night more and more tombstones appeared in the backyard. Bernard would walk with Henry through the rows of graves that seemed to magically appear when he wasn’t looking. He would pass familiar ghostly faces and greet them with a smile. When he would come across an unfamiliar face Bernard would stop and visit. He would ask what their name was, when they became a ghost, if they liked it here. Each night the yard seemed to grow, both in number of graves and in size. Bernard wasn’t inclined to believe in witches and wizards, but there was something oddly magical about how his seemingly normal backyard had transformed into a replica of Blackwood Cemetery in a few short nights.
Bernard rarely saw Kara during this time. The few times he did see her it was when Kara was walking hand in hand with a ghost from the old cemetery. Bernard didn’t mind her being gone so much. He had many new faces and ghost to meet and talk with. So many, that he found himself quite busy too. He missed spending time with his living friend though and hoped that she felt the same. As it turns out, ghosts are great company. You never feel alone with a cemetery full of ghosts for a backyard. They told stories of their lives and of times before his own and some after. As exciting as all of the stories were Bernard still longed to know what was happening past the gate in front of his house. He still would watch the people walking by and would still make up stories in his head about where they were coming from and where they were going.
By the eve before Halloween Kara and Nana had nearly everything in place for the celebration, the cauldron was on the front lawn, the spider webs made of string covered the Whispering Tree. Nana had hung fake skeletons from the tree and ghost made of bed sheets with holes cut in them for eyes. Old lanterns that Kara found in the basement had been placed along the walkway leading to their front door so their guest could see where to walk without stepping on the decorations in the yard. Now it seemed that everything would be ready for the children from Kara’s school to have a Halloween party. The school may have canceled an event but with determination and hard work Kara and Nana had ensured that the school and the town would know that Halloween was more than just an event, it was a time to share with your friends and family. To play and pretend, to be scared and know that no matter how spooky things could be a friend would make you feel safe and happy.
In the backyard of Muckmire Manor Kara had erected a sign that read “The Ghost Tour!” She had decorated the tombstones with lanterns and small signs on wooden sticks planted in the ground. Each sign told a bit about the ghost who resided at that tomb. Kara had worked very hard and planned out what she called “A Ghost Walk.” Bernard didn’t really understand what she meant, but Kara had told him that she would be introducing her classmates to the ghost of Blackwood Cemetery as part of the Halloween festivities.
The sun was setting as a cool October wind hinted at winter in the coming months. The sky was clear and the Bernard could see the very first of the stars coming into view as he sat on his bench by his bedroom window. Downstairs he could hear Nana cooking in the kitchen, pots clanging and water running. The smell was rich and sweet, like candy and cakes. Outside his room he heard Kara skipping down the hall and into his room.
“Are you ready?” Kara asked.
“I think so, but do you really think anyone will see me when Nana finished her story?” Bernard asked.
“Of course they will see you! When Nana tells a story everyone believes her. That’s all it really takes to see a ghost anyway, if you really believe then it can come true.” Kara said in a convincing tone.
Bernard wasn’t sure her plan would work. Nana and Kara wanted to tell a ghost story and have Bernard float down through the ceiling just when Nana finished telling how a ghost still haunted Muckmire Manor. In the past Bernard had tried very hard to get people to see him. He tried for many years. He tried talking to people. He tried yelling. He even threw dishes at one family when he had lost his temper. It wasn’t until Chip the dog had seen him that he knew he wasn’t invisible to everyone. Kara had been right about many things since he met her. He decided to trust his friend and see if the spooky prank would work. Bernard still doubted if anyone who wasn’t unique, like Kara or Nana, would actually see him, but it would make Kara happy so he decided to play his part of a spooky ghost.
Kara skipped back down the hall and down the long wooden staircase, each step giving a slight squeak as she walked down holding onto the polished rail. Once she reached the landing at the bottom of the staircase Kara checked the front door to make sure that it was unlocked and easy to open and close. It had given her a bit of trouble the first time she had come in, when it had belonged to just Bernard. It had been dusty and old but Kara felt that the house was special and loved that she was now living at Muckmire Manor.
Nana placed the last apple dripping caramel onto the wax paper to cool.
“Kara, would you help your Nana and put apples into the trough and make sure they all float. You can’t have a proper Halloween Party without some fresh apples to “bob” for.” Nana said.
“Sure thing.” Kara responded.
Kara went to the pantry door twisting the handle and pulling hard. The door was one of those doors that didn’t want to open when Kara wanted it opened, but it always listened to Nana when she opened. After a brief struggle the door to the pantry opened and inside sat a brown paper bag full of fresh apples from Connie’s father’s farm. Kara had gone with Nana to get the apples the day before and had even picked a few herself. The apples had filled the pantry with a fresh smell that made her smile and decide that apples were a happy fruit.
Kara carried the bag of apples to the now empty dining room. Nana had it moved to the basement while she was at school. She never said how or who helped her move things, but it always seemed to be done when Kara wasn’t around. It was just another thing that made her Nana a special Nana.
A knock came from the front door while Kara was filling the trough with apples. Trying not to splash too much water out onto the wood floor she tried to hurry so she could greet her first guest of the night. After the last apple bounced off the rim of the trough and landed in the water with a splash Kara ran to the front door and opened it.
“What are you holding a paper bag for?” asked Jennifer, a girl from her first hour class.
Looking down at the bag still in her hand Kara smiled and held out the bag and said “Trick or treat!” opening the bag wide like she would if she were the one knocking on the door on Halloween.
Behind Jennifer parents and children in costumes of all sorts were starting to come down the sidewalk. Witches and Wizards, monsters and heroes, movie characters, comic book heroes and villains all paraded down the street. Not only were the children dressed up, but some of the parents joined in the fun and dressed up as well. Jennifer had dressed up as an angel and her dad dressed up like the devil with red horns, a cape and a red trident with foam points on the end.
Connie came with her Mom, John and Clarence were dropped off by their aunt, who also dropped off their cousin Liz dressed up as Tinkerbell. Cory came dressed as a pirate and Lara came dressed as some explorer from a video game or something Kara didn’t know much about. Kara held the door for what seemed like hours while friends and students from her school came to the party. Even Kara’s favorite teacher Mrs. Henderson came and she bobbed for apples with Cindy who wanted to go home after only just arriving, but after Mrs. Henderson arrived Cindy was just fine and ended up getting more apples than anyone else that night!
Some guest played Pin the tail on the werewolf while others tried to find the gold coin in the big bowl of bones. Bernard watched quietly from the corner of the stairwell just out of sight. He didn’t think anyone would see him, but Kara seemed to think they might, so Bernard remained as hidden as he could while trying to see who was now in his house. Sounds of children laughing and cheering echoed through the manor. Adults talked about the events around town and how this was the biggest Halloween even the town had seen in fifty years.
The appointed time came for Nana to tell the ghost story. The children gathered around her as she sat in an old rocking chair with her fine cane leaned against her leg. She began to tell a story of a boy who lived long ago and attended a school much like the one they all attended now.
“He had a good family that loved him very much and lived nine happy years before he became sick with fever. It was a long time ago you see, and the doctors were not able to help him like they can now. He died because of the sickness. He died upstairs, in this very house.” Nana said as the children all became quiet.
“The boy loved his family so much he didn’t cross over to the other side, he stayed. He didn’t want his mother to be sad or his father to cry, so he stayed here. He wandered the staircase and the halls and hugged his mother as often as he could while she slept. He has now haunted Muckmire Manor for the last one hundred and twenty three years.”
This had been the part that Bernard had been practicing the last several days. He forced himself to stop floating and thought very hard about being heavy and solid and stomped down the hallway and onto the top of the stairs. To his very great surprise some of the children and one of the adults gasped as they all excitedly said they heard the ghost boy! Bernard smiled extra wide at this. He waited while Nana continued her story.
“You see? He is still here, he knows you are here, he has seen each and every one of you!” Nana waited for the kids to look around at each other, some reached behind them and took hold of their parent’s hand. “If you believe, if you have just a bit of hope for the boy then he might just visit us tonight. Now close your eyes and tell him that you aren’t here to hurt him and not to be scared and that we want to be his friend.”
Some of the children closed their eyes. The parents of course did not, most of them didn’t believe in ghost. Nana had told Bernard that when she tapped her cane three times on the floor that he should float down from the ceiling and believe he would be seen by the guest, just like Kara could see him.
“Now when I tap my cane three times on the floor and if you are closing your eyes and sending him warm, friendly thoughts, he might appear.” Nana continued in her strong voice.
“Thwump”, came the sound of Nana’s cane hitting the floor.
“Thwump”, the second time the cane hit the floor it was louder and Bernard started to feel like static was all around him.
“Thwump”, the third time the cane struck the floor was loud enough to make John let out a yelp.
Bernard felt like something had wrapped around him and he felt tingly all over. He floated down through the ceiling like he had been instructed to do.
“Open your eyes children.” Nana said gently.
“Ahhhhh!” cried Sarah.
“Oh my god he really is here.” Connie’s Mom said looking at the ghostly figure of Bernard dressed in his best dressing suit with a black tie to match his small coat.
Bernard smiled and said “Hi”.
Every person in the room jumped at the sound, even Bernard was surprised by their sudden reaction. He started to get nervous until Nana said to the group and Bernard.
“Hello Bernard, we are all very glad you could visit us tonight. We hope you are having a wonderful Halloween with all of our friends here.”
“Yes ma’am I am, thank you for inviting me.” Bernard said as he smiled his ghostly teeth at everyone trying to be friendly.
“Bernard we won’t keep you long here, we just wanted to say you have friends here and that we are all very happy that you chose to visit us. I have one favor to ask though. Could you tell all your ghost friends in Blackwood Cemetery to expect visitors tonight?” Nana asked.
They had rehearsed their lines for this several times but Bernard found he had forgotten what he was supposed to say.
“Uh, sure. I’ll tell Henry you all are coming to visit.” He said.
Nana smiled knowing he had forgotten to sound spooky and instead sounded very excited.
“Thank you Bernard, we might see you again tonight if you want to visit again.”
Bernard smiled and waved at everyone as he floated back through the ceiling. He floated out a window and into the backyard to let everyone know that Kara’s ghost tour was about to begin. The band started playing their favorite song “Monster Mash” and Henry cleared her throat preparing to take the living through a long walk in the Blackwood Cemetery. Walter adjusted his vest and his tie, he checked the notes he had made for his welcome speech and smiled at Bernard who was off down the lantern lit path to make sure that everyone who could be awake was.
Kara was the first to step into the cemetery and said a small prayer to the Grave Keeper before walking into the cemetery. Behind her came every person who had seen Bernard.
“This way everyone, we have lots of ghost to meet and lots to see.” Kara said as she marched her friends into the cemetery where Walter waited with his big bushy mustache smiling.
“Welcome, welcome Kara!” Walter said in his booming voice with a funny accent. “I see you have guests tonight, well you are in for quite a treat. Tonight is Halloween and it is the one night a year when ghost and humans can interact. We have a great tour setup so please mind your footsteps children, stay on the lantern lit path and we will see you all back here soon.”
Walter waved for the children to move forward into the cemetery. More than one reached out to touch him and their hands passed right through him and he laughed each time saying that it tickled.
Kara and Henry walked down the path into the cemetery bending out of sight of Bernard who smiled at his friend. It had been a busy few days and so much had changed for Bernard. He no longer felt alone. He had a family that could see him and didn’t run away. He had met a lot of new people and none of them ran away either! Nana had told Bernard “If you have friends anything can happen, even the things you think are impossible.” Nana was a special Nana, and now she was his Nana too.
Bernard would learn later that the local paper had called the Ghost story at Muckmire Manor the best Halloween event the town had ever seen and that the home might just be haunted, but the town would have to wait until The Second Annual Muckmire Manor Halloween Festival to find out.