Are You Haunted (part four)
Doyle hadn’t replied, and Summers, gut mounding to the height of his nose as he sprawled in the visitor’s chair, wasn’t here to harry the old man. Doyle edged round the corner of the desk. When the fan completed a full oscillation to the right, and came back centering itself, he hit the switch. The desk belonged to Mr. Drybrook. Doyle only sat nights in this shed that served as Drybook’s private office.
“I may not understand you, sir,” Doyle said, resuming his seat and wheeling round. “But if you mean being run out of my job is better than being frightened out of my wits…well, it may be so.”
“But, she isn’t so scary, is she? Drybrook told me you had seen her a few times. Your wits seem all right to me.”
“I might have mentioned to you, Mr. Summers, that I have been here more than forty years. When I began, we worked six days a week, Sundays off. And times the mill was closed…that was January to March…off altogether. Think of that, no brass in your pocket unless you’d saved it! I came to America on Mr. Drybrook’s guarantee of my employment. And you know, do you, Old Drybrook was brother to the one they tell the story about? It was in ’96 Lettie died. A terrible thing that was…and not so old and forgotten as all that seems to the young. But, there, if she’d been restless, she might have walked long since. Now…what have I seen? Mr. Summers, it would take a deal of costumery and a dark night, and me the worse for drink, if I were to be fooled so, by a prankster.
“I see a fog…I have only ever seen her in the fog. And against this mist, she seems…well, it’s more than I can explain. I feel a gripping in my head, as though something has stopped my senses, and I see the fog pull itself into a picture, grown terribly white and clear in the image of a woman. The face will not stay. I mean, as best I can describe it, sir, she has eyes and a mouth, but the features shift about so, I can’t see them proper. And then I am no longer compelled to look, and she has vanished.”
Doyle leaned to the side, and looked at Summers. Summers’s posture remained languid. “Would you be disappointed,” he said, and at last pushed himself upright, reaching from his chair to the doorknob, employing this as a fulcrum, “if we caught someone?”
“Disappointed to find there is no ghost? Well, she may be there, all the same, no minding what our young hooligans get up to. But it’s more than I understand myself, how a thing like it might be done. And what do you think, Mr. Summers?”
“Mr. Doyle, we’re at war now,” Summers told him. “I don’t think anything. They send me down to ask questions, and I go back and tell em what I’ve learned.”
Powell felt that, in some way, he had himself been fogged. He turned, and from this vantage saw what was left of the mill. The intact walls were only a few feet high; rooms once beneath the main floor, contours now exposed, bulldozed full of rubble. Leveled off for safety’s sake, he supposed. Littering every square foot was glass—myriad glints of it, twinkling under the bright sky. He hadn’t at ground level had the perspective to see the ruin’s scope. The mill must have been illuminated once by skylights, by hundreds of windowpanes high above the workfloor. And these had not been shattered, but fragmented. He’d imagined some accident long ago, in the last century.
Are You Haunted
(2016, Stephanie Foster)