Title: Nightmares, Tears, and Ghosts
Prompt: The Mountain Goats
the ghosts that haunt your building
are prepared to take on substance
and the dull pain that you live with
isn't getting any duller
Summary: A bit from my Faerie-verse. Jeanne's father, Richard, has just died. She is fifteen and trying to mourn the loss of both her parents. For a fifteen-year-old I once knew, and anyone who's lost a loved one.
Jeanne didn’t cry until the night after her father’s funeral. At the ceremony and the memorial service, her eyes were perfectly dry behind the black veil she wore. No mascara ran. No eyeliner was smudged. All through the eulogy she felt that she should be crying, but the tears were not there. It was a detached feeling accompanied by a dull ache in her chest.
It was that night in her room when the thought shook her. She was alone now. Abandoned first by one parent and now by the other, she was officially an orphan, even with her uncle to look after her. The bedroom that was hers had once belonged to her long-lost mother. And now her father’s mansion was only hers.
These were selfish tears, but at least they were tears.
She had not cried herself to sleep for years, yet she did that night. Moonlight shone in through the curtains she had failed to draw, lending blues and silvers to the hue of her room. Moonbeams crept along the floorboards, chilling all they touched. Jeanne pulled her blanket closer in her sleep.
The nightmare first came around one o’clock and then again around three. She dreamt of the ghost of her mother, clothed in flowing white and shimmering in the moonlight. The woman’s hair was dark, like Jeanne’s. The girl could make out its cascades in detail, but the woman’s face escaped her and her form kept fading and reappearing as the shadows shifted. Through the house, it chased her. It was voiceless but carried with it a whisper of the wind and a creaking of wood that could almost be mistaken for a voice. It would have been less terrifying had the woman herself been speaking.
“Who are you?” Jeanne demanded of the figure. “What do you want from me?” There was never any answer that she could understand.
Finally, Jeanne retreated into her father’s bedroom, but he was not there to comfort her. His reading glasses still lay on the table next to a candle and matches, but the sheets were not turned down, and she knew that he would never sleep there again. An old seafarer’s chest still sat locked at the foot of his bed. Jeanne could not remember what was in it, but she felt, somehow, that she had once known.
The answers are within. Jeanne started from her sleep, eyes wide and with a scream on the verge of her lips. The clock by her bed read 02:43 in glowing red digits, the colon blinking every second as though to assure her that she was no longer asleep. She was certain she had heard the woman’s voice there in her father’s room. Except that she had not heard it with her ears, only in her head.
She sat up, hugging her arms around her knees and looking about for another blanket. There was a terrible chill in here now, and she concentrated on that instead of the dream. Jeanne could never remember her dreams. Once she woke, they faded instantly, and, though she found herself remembering that there had been something important she should remember, she never could hold onto them long enough to make any sense of her feelings.
But this one did not fade.
And when she finally fell back into sleep, the ghostly figure of her mother stepped forward again from the shadows. Pale fingers brushed the hair from Jeanne’s face before tucking the blankets tighter around her. For a moment, the figure paused, half-bent as though she might kiss the girl or try to wake her. Then it straightened. “You’ll remember soon enough, my darling.”
The figure faded away. The clock read 03:17, and the colon no longer blinked.