Note: Below is a draft page from a ghost story I’m working on. I have resisted posting stories until I felt they were in final form, but I’m tired of second guessing myself on how to start this one, so I thought we’d try a little crowdsourcing. Help me out, Dear Readers. Let me know what you think. I don’t care if you take a macro or micro view of this. Let it rip. Would you read a story that started this way?
Everything was off that morning, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. It was late summer—one of those evangelical days that starts as hard and hot as it ends, and every living creature just tries to stay out of its way. The cats acted skittish and hissed as I poured them some thin milk over the last of the cornbread. When I opened the coop to gather the eggs the hens were in such a frantic, squawking hurry to get out, I suspected a black snake but didn’t find anything.
On my way back to the house for my own breakfast, I saw the mares pressed up against the fence across the road. Better to feed them early, I thought, while the morning was still bearable. I took the gator to the barn across the road and put a half bale in the back.
While loading the hay and a scoop of corn for each worthless horse, I remember shaking my head at the effort such small chores required of me. There had been a day when I could have carried a full bale bucked up on my thigh from the house to the horse pasture and thought nothing of it. Not any more. Sweat was running down my legs into my rubber boots and hauling their half bale from the gator to the feed box seemed to ask more from my muscles than they were willing to give.
I was tottering over the churned up ground around the water tank and had turned to get their grain from the gator, when that damned, rawboned Maybelline, got a shove from my paint Lola, and she backed into me faster than I was ready for. I went down hard and managed to hit the side of my head on the tank.
The next thing I knew, I was thinking that the muddy ground felt cool, nice. Maybe I’d just rest there a while. Then Lola snorted in my face and that woke me up. I sat up slowly. My brain rattled in my skull like a marble loose in a shoebox.
I wasn’t more than a 50 yards from the road, and the house wasn’t set back much on the other side. The gator still hummed a few feet away. The horses pulled at their hay and observed me, wary that I might be trying to pull some elaborate trick to catch and saddle them. My legs seemed to work, but any movement of my head made the world tilt. I sat still.
The sun rose higher, and I was baking. I turned my head slowly as far to the left as I could. Little bolts of light matched the sunlight and danced before my eyes. I turned my head to the right. That just made my neck hurt, nothing new. But from the corner of my eye I thought I saw something light colored on the front step of the house. When I turned my head enough to look straight, there was nothing. I tried the experiment again. This time the light-colored shape stood in the road.
It was my sister Lucy, wearing the pale yellow dress she had been buried in. Rather, it was the suggestion of Lucy. I couldn’t see her face. Her arms were raised as if she was waving to me. All this I knew in a split second. When I snapped my head forward she was gone. My innards went cold, as did my skin, but whether that was because of my brush with a spirit, the nature of my injuries, or just the fear that if I let myself sleep like I wanted to I never would get up–well, I couldn’t say.