Article: 261435 of talk.bizarre
From: (Dave Brown)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Old Ghosts
Date: 1 Dec 1995 17:25:40 -0500
Organization: None.  Come on, this is the government!
Lines: 120
Message-ID: <49nvd4$>
Status: O

The Saturday afternoon sun shone brightly in through the living-room
window.  It seemed to be a peaceful day, somehow--the people walking
past in the street were taking their time, as if only now noticing the
neighbourhood that they'd lived in for so long.  Not that it was much
of a neighbourhood any more--more of a place for people to stay when
they weren't at work.  People left in the morning, and came back in
the evening, slept, and went to work the next day.  In and out and in
and out.  But today, it seemed to be quieter, somehow--people weren't
bustling around as much.

Jean Redwood, inside her house, made herself her afternoon cup
of coffee and sat down in her favorite, now somewhat battered old
armchair by the window, and relaxed in the sun's warmth.  It's so
tempting, she thought, to just fall asleep, but there's supper to
make, and I have to clean this place up.  But there was enough time
to relax with a cup of coffee and read a little.

She was reminded of the days when she was twelve, sitting in a similar
armchair in the summer, enjoying the sun coming in through the window,
reading a good book.  Or, more often, a really awful book--it didn't
matter, she still enjoyed reading them.  She ate books voraciously
at that age--it didn't much matter what they were about, but she
preferred the fantasy novels, with the kings and horses and swords
and mighty quests.  It'd been her favorite summer, though--no summer
since had seemed quite so good, so quiet, so calm.  Today, though,
reminded her of that time.

Abruptly, the memory was gone, as if it had never existed.

She thought about when she was in high school.  She'd always been a
quiet, retiring person--she never did anything particularly remarkable,
never attracted attention to herself.  She'd gotten marks that weren't
exceptionally high, although well above average.  She didn't even look
remarkable, apart from the long hair that she was so proud of, which
she still wore past her waist even though she was in her seventies, and
the hair was now silver rather than the rich brown it had once been.

There was this boy, though, that followed her around all the time.
For all she knew, he was deeply in love with her. His presence
made her feel slightly scared, though.  Or depressed.  Or something.
She couldn't figure out quite what.  It wasn't the following around--it
was just something about his personality.  She once mentioned it to
him, and he'd looked confused, and hurt, and he'd asked her if she
had any idea why she felt that way.  She'd responded--

She started in the midst of her thoughts.  She could've sworn there was
something in the room with her, although when she looked around from
the chair in the corner, she could see nothing.  It seemed like there'd
been some sort of a small animal, a rat, or a bird or something.

Her thoughts drifted, inexplicably, back to elementary school.
There were bars for children to hang from, which the other girls would
hook one knee over and spin around and around on.  She could never
get the hang of that trick, somehow.  She always thought that her
hair was too long, and got in the way.  But she could never manage
to do it--it was probably more a fear of falling on her head than
anything else, she reflected.  She had fallen, once, and had cut her
head, and had been worried that there would be stitches, not because
of the stitches themselves, but because something else would have to
have been done that she would have hated, but she didn't remember what
any more.  A teacher had carried her, crying, to the school nurse,
who said that it was nothing that she'd need stitches or anything
for, that head wounds always bled a lot.  The nurse staunched the
bleeding and that was mostly the end of that.

The memory left her.

Again, that feeling of there being an animal in the living room with
her.  She vaguely felt that she had to look around to make sure there
wasn't something in the house, but she didn't really feel that there
was an urgent need.  She couldn't hear the animal, or whatever it was,
actually doing any damage, and she was in no great fear for her life.

Robert, her husband, had been so playful in university.  When she
met him, he was doing some trick involving a bar that elementary
school children did.  She couldn't remember what it was, though--it
had slipped her mind, somehow.  Almost as if there was a hole in her
mind where it had been.  She didn't consider it the sort of thing that
a typical Laurier student did--they were normally either so much more
serious than Waterloo students, somehow, or they didn't seem to care
about school so much as about football, or just picking up girls.
Both types of guys repelled her.  But he was different, with his
quick wit and his easy smile.

They had married after dating for three years.  Just after both of
them graduated from university.  She'd gotten her computer science
degree from Waterloo, and he'd gotten his music degree from--

"What the hell school DID he go to?", she said out loud, and started
again.  She was definitely losing it, she thought--memory going,
seeing things, and now talking to herself.

The memories started coming faster.  The time on a school band trip
when she had caught somebody watching her change from her band uniform
back into street clothes for the trip back home.  The spanking she'd
gotten from her mother for hurting herself in school, trying some
silly stunt or another.  That beautiful grey cat that'd sit on her
lap and curl up and fall asleep when she was twelve.

Then she started thinking about later on in life, and the memories came
in a flood, one after another, her first job when she was fresh from
university, writing technical documentation, her divorce, her second
husband, his alcoholism and his eventual death in a car accident,
her retirement--

There was definitely something in the room with her.  She could sense
it.  But, for some reason, it no longer bothered her.  And all those
memories, all her thoughts of the previous few minutes--gone from her.

The memories rushed past, a torrent.  She could feel her mind being
picked away at, like a piece of fat hung out to give birds something to
eat during the winter, steadily diminishing.  Soon there was nothing
left, no more memories cluttering up her soul.  Her mind empty, her
body stopped working, and she died.

The returning spirits slowly started dissipating, like a theater crowd
after the show finishes.  They had collected the parts of themselves
that were part of Jean Redwood, and it was now time to move on.