On Cemetery Hill

A Winter Ghost Story by LindaAnn LoSchiavo

On Cemetery Hill

by LindaAnn LoSchiavo

 

 
 
 
She has created 3 spooky video-versions of three poems in her book “A Route Obscure and Lonely.” All are short & family friendly.
 
Link: “Unquiet House” ― in Bewildering Stories, Issue # 827, October 7, 2019 http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue827/unquiet_house.html
 
You Tube Link: Unquiet House ― as a video-poem https://youtu.be/UMadnzzvS-4
 
You Tube Link: “The Son-in-law from Hell” ― as a video-poem https://youtu.be/rFTwFpBIGnE
 
Link: “Poe and His Women” ― in Bewildering Stories, Issue # 829, October 21, 2019 http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue829/poe_women.html
 
You Tube Link: Poe and His Women ― as a video-poem https://youtu.be/A9GESJlwCeQ
 

Poems are from the Elgin Award nominee “A Route Obscure and Lonely” speculative poetry by LindaAnn LoSchiavo [Wapshott Press; 62 pgs].

Buy on Amazon ― https://www.amazon.com/Route-Obscure-Lonely-Poetrylandia/dp/1942007299

 

 

The truth was I didn’t really need a book that night. My

Christmas shopping was finished. Earlier I had built a cozy fire

and I could have stayed home, trimming the tree, baking

gingerbread cookies, maybe phoning far-away friends or answering

letters.

A brittle box of holly trimmed notepaper had been

cloistered away, pitched in with some outdoor lighting. The year

Jim died, I didn’t want to decorate our front windows, then I

failed to revive our custom. Funny how one long-held tradition

or belief can evaporate altogether.

When I decided to give away the lights, old gifts I had

meant to wrap resurfaced along with the stationery. I had

enjoyed sending festive missives at the end of the year along

with photos —— but when did that urge die? When had I become a

person who no longer cherished life so much?

As if to prove something, I selected a crisp envelope and

one sheet and started off with a cheerful greeting to Miranda.

When did I see her last, my former schoolmate? Had it

really been thirty years ago? Maybe I didn’t get far and this

is where a wandering began.

Light snow was falling, filling the windowsill, decorating

certain angles of the trees while avoiding other branches, like

people who knew how to keep apart. On the mantle was a sturdy

snow globe, purchased in the Alps, a solitary snowman in the

center. When I shook it, the swirl drifted up, obscuring the

miniature scene in a glamorous blindness.

The weather urged me to stay put. Instead, for reasons I

can’t explain, I put on my insulated boots and my cashmere

muffler and headed on foot to the bookshop by Cemetery Hill.

Though the signpost sounds ominous, there is no longer a

graveyard near the hill. Older residents remember there was once

and wicked things happened during a full moon or the equinox.

But there are also numerous taverns in that part of town.

Loiterers might say anything after a few drinks, especially to

the gullible. There are teasers who like to toy with a listener,

repeating formidable yarns, crypts that opened, drawers of ash

becoming whole, circular footprints in the snow, a ghostly

touch, narratives of regret. Some thrive on goosebumps.

When Jim and I were deciding on a property, the real estate

agent seemed nervous telling us about Cemetery Hill. Jim winked.

“If it’s haunted here, Lissie, we’d better find out how it

affects the zoning ordinance.” And we laughed. Anytime I

overhear a whispered story, I think of that afternoon. Buying

our first house, we were hopeful and happy. I never had

nightmares then.

After navigating the icy steps, I searched to see what

phase the moon was in. Heavy clouds swiftly crossed the sky,

chasing the night. Luminarias dotted the way up a few driveways,

coffined electric candles blessing the way out, their yellow

glow challenging the gloom. An upward draft blew the snow’s

secrets towards the rooftops, away from the sharp defining edges

of the traffic lights.

Foolishly, I took no umbrella and the white stuff made

itself at home on me as I trudged along, trying to spot any

treacherous patches and avoid a spill. Blanched bones of

streetlight made an odd geometry across the walkways, unevenly

shoveled earlier today.

Though the bookstore was deserted at this hour, music was

playing. It sounded a little like that holiday CD Miranda had

sent me, right after the funeral. Some Christian boy choir,

with angelic voices, tried to feed emptying hearts with anemic

Gregorian chants. We had less and less in common, Miranda and I,

but her kindness was the glue that kept our friendship from

fraying.

Cold flakes dusted my shoulders and hair. When I brushed

them off, moisture hit the book jackets and I tried to dry them

with my scarf. A paste of rock salt and dead snow that had

clung to my tall boots was melting as I prowled the aisles,

leaving a trail as murky as redemption denied. Red poinsettias

along the cashier’s counter were insufficient to dispel the

despair. What was I after, I wondered? Maybe a midnight sale

table is just a distraction from the loneliness that can grip a

soul at yuletide.

I exited as empty as I entered. The door closed behind me

with effort, sighing in exasperation. Heavy clouds had

thickened into a clotted substance overhead. Perhaps the

residents had turned off the luminarias at bedtime. Or maybe

these slight votive candles were overcome by the humid haze.

Then I saw him.

At least the figure seemed to be male, confidently striding

along in a navy nylon track suit with a hood carefully tied to

obscure the face. A sexton’s cottage and generous churchyard

were on my left. I could have moved closer to the wrought iron

railing to let the stranger pass. But an impish impulse arose,

guiding me to commandeer the sidewalk and stand my ground, so

he would have to defer and pass around.

Everything happened quickly. As a car passed, the

headlights collided with his silhouette, revealing that he was

transparent. Next moment, the faceless creature merged with me.

My right leg froze, mid-gait. My muscles could no longer move.

This had been a bitter winter but my shearling coat had

shielded me from the elements. Only if I stayed out too long did

my face and fingertips feel frosty. Tonight, locked in an eerie

embrace, I felt a deep cold penetrating me. It was useless to

try to break free. Whoever this was, he had me.

A dog barked, probably resenting the iciness, and I

wondered if the individual walking the pooch was aware of me,

caught off balance on one leg, like an ungainly woman turned to

stone. But the dog owner didn’t seem to notice anything. Had I

become invisible and immobile?

Just then a few bars of church music reached me. Trying to

touch the pavement with my right foot, I attempted to anchor

myself to a section the boy choir had sung. Instead the overture

from “Die Fledermaus” materialized, the last performance I had

enjoyed with my husband. “The Blue Danube” flowed through my

system like an irresistible heart humming. Suddenly, a force

lifted me, drifting with me around an imaginary ballroom,

weaving and dipping to the strains of an unworldly orchestra. I

surrendered to it, let myself be swept along. I felt as excited

as Rosalinde, getting ready for a masked ball at Prince

Orlofsky’s.

As quickly as this possession took hold, it departed. My

boots gently made contact with the sidewalk. I turned around to

see a transparent figure strolling away, then a vanishing.

Early morning light greeted me, shaking off my

extraordinary adventure. Extremely hungry, I decided to head to

the bakery, always so crowded on Fridays, especially before a

holiday. Their cranberry muffins sold out before lunchtime. I’d

get a few dozen and treat my neighbors. But when I got there,

it was in darkness. Another peculiarity was that the colorful

evergreen wreaths were gone. Were they going out of business? I

bought muffins at the supermarket and quickly headed home.

Then I realized why it was easy to walk briskly: the snow had

been completely cleared away.

Another surprise was that my mailbox was full, jammed with

Christmas cards, bills, and circulars. The postman certainly

deserved his annual tip. There was a postcard from Miranda.

“Call me, Lissie!” she demanded with big letters in red ink.

“We’re worried about you, Lissie!”

Just then a neighbor’s child ran up my steps and rapped on

the outside door. “My mother wanted to return your cookie

trays,” she said. “I rang your bell but no one’s been home. Do

you need them?” I assured her that there was no hurry and sent

her home with two warm muffins.

As I shed my coat, I tried to make sense of my feelings.

But words do not live entirely inside language and neither does

new-found joy.

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