A Ghost Story

Entry by: Jim bob

27th May 2016
Vivien Wallenstein

We moved there early November 1983, as first signs of heavy frost settled hard against the fertile land. The wintry greyness merged well with our new surroundings; Rutland landscape, rugged and harsh. Unforgiving. But, the house resting high above the small village, was the dreariest. It wasn't as if we wanted the place. No. My late Uncle, Gladstone left it to us. The alternative, to remain living out of an overpriced, two bed-roomed apartment. I decided that an extra 20 mile trip to the surgery was justified if it meant being rent free thus providing comfortable security for my family.

I'd never met my Uncle, who'd lived his years out alone, after his wife had gone missing back in the late sixties. She'd been a star of the silent screen in the early twenties,drawing love and attention until she disappeared. Her features- fiery auburn hair, silken white skin, mesmerizing smile, attracted everyone, from little boys and toothless freckled girls to aging pensioners. They all adored her; a glamorous heroine, that seemingly emerged from the depressed days of the Great War.
'She had eyes, unlike your mothers, but don't tell her that.' My late father once told me giggling childishly over his brown ale. I was too young to admire what he was on about, but old pictures of her from well-loved scenes of her silent screen days did capture my attention; raising my subdued dormant pubescence into flickers of attention.

My wife Jane, heavily pregnant with our second child rested as I, with local help unpacked and straightened our new home out. We discovered, to our surprise, boxes of silver, coins and many watches stacked away in various corners of the house. It was clear, from these discoveries that Gladstone had kept his wealth, and was some kind of collector, yet at the same time this all seemed peculiar. The locals made passing comments on his quiet friendly nature, little of opinion, but generous, unassuming. Although the house was dirty, and uncles existence plagued his home with evidence of bachelorism’s, it was a speedy transition. My wife, Jane, became curious of the life of my him as gradually she discovered, old relics, that emerged like buried treasure, around the place; photographs, records, books. The photographs, usually of the couple together, were boxed away in the cellar.
' Hasnt he got long hair,' Emma, my four year old said to me after we'd discovered these monchrome shots during our second afternoon. We'd almost finished the rest of the house, and although, in Jane's opinion it wasnt ideal, it was, at least for the time being, acceptable.
'It is long, sweetheart' I replied. 'Wouldnt you like long hair as well one day.'
'Well' she said. 'Maybe, but not dirty though like that,' she finished, pointing to a recent photograph of Uncle, his hair clearly tousled. I was surprised how long it was; automatically assuming that everyone whose life had begun in the Great War would always enjoy a short crop. Then Emma giggled spontaneously, a thing she did regularly. A characteristic shared with her mother. I suppose, despite the dreary surroundings, I was lucky to have two women in my life that laughed.

Following two further nights of sleeping bags, uncomfortable waking and chill, we had a fire going by late Thursday afternoon. I'd also lit several candles; the electric supply still somewhat evasive. The property did feel damp, but, for now, I thought, this would do and ensure time to accumulate sufficient funds for a better arrangement. A large cognac for wife and me, a sleepy Emma cuddled against Jane provided a sense of relaxation. The brandies hushed away the nagging dampness. For once I didnt miss the TV; something Uncle Gladstone had never owned.
'I found two old reels of film today, love' said Jane, interrupting my thoughts, resting her drink on a makeshift table. Her eyes looked dreamy.
'Oh where was that,' I asked
'In the cellar right at the back in an old chest.
'Good grief, they must be worth a fortune,' I said.
Intrigued, I went to the cellar to collect them. They weighed a fair bit, and on my return, had to suddenly let them drop to the couch to alleviate the pain in my arms. The titles on the black metal casings read' I See Your Face' and Under The Harbour Lights' both starring Vivien Wallenstein. Emma stirred, but not for long. The last few days must have worn her completely, I thought. She replaced her thumb into her tiny mouth and was off again.
'Hey shall we keep them,' I said, secretly teasing my wife.
'George' she gasped. 'You cant be serious. We cant keep these. They belong in a museum, or archive with the film people.' Now get me another Brandy, I think the baby needs it too,'she said pointing at her belly, giggling. Louder this time. I collected our drinks, and we watched the embers burn away. We were too tired for more talk, and eventually dozed off, but not before I was acutely aware of the sound of night owls on the moors. Funny how I remember that. It was the end of laughing, thats probably why.

We awoke to a loud thumping crash. It was Two A.M
'Christ, what the hell was that.' I yelled,' rubbing my eyes, firstly noticing the film casings reflecting the candlelight. Jane was holding Amy, trying to calm her shrieks.
'What on Earth was that, George.' she cried. ' Sounded like a bomb.' Her eyes alive with awe.
Disregarding her, I raced upstairs to look. I could hear Amy screaming as I searched about, and was worried for the fright this noise must have caused her. To begin with, I couldnt find any evidence of this disturbance, but as I left the bathroom, there it was; one of the cross beams had fallen away, leaving a huge splintery end. Huge shards of plaster had caved in revealing a deep crevice that reached in to the ceiling
'Jesus,' I whispered, Immediately I raging about this dead uncle and his irresponsibilities. My fucking mistake, I thought returning back down.
'What do we do' said Jane, trying to be rational, conscious of her condition. She handed Amy over to me, tears glazing her pupils that were rubbed red, her crying though, subdued.
' I dont understand, Jane. I mean all these riches everywhere, and his house was falling down'. I stroked Amy’s hair while taking her to the kitchen. I gave her a glass of water with an aspirin.
'What are we going to do, George' she asked again.' Jesus.'
'Calm down, no good worrying love,' I replied
'I know it isnt, sorry.' She paced the room, up and down, her slippers patting gently against the stone floor.
'What was my uncle doing' I said mostly to myself while I poured a brandy, and returned.
'It's so cold, George. Its so cold, something isn't right.'she said suddenly, rubbing her hands. 'Christ, why is it so cold.'
I shuddered at her comments, as I noticed warm vapor coming from her mouth. I looked down at Amy. I could see her breath too.
'I'll start up the fire, theres still a few live embers, and get the sleeping bags. We'll all try to sleep here.'
Jane didn't reply, only stared at me. Nervously.
'This isn’t right, George,'
'I know it isnt, Jane. Of course it isnt' I said raising my voice.
' Dont get angry now. Please dont do that.' she said tears falling down her cheeks, in patient rivulets. 'I dont just mean the beam falling in, I mean everything else too George. The books,jewelry. The fucking watches everywhere. And now this coldness. And these old films for Christs sake, that shouldn't belong here.'
I knew what she said made sense
I'm sorry I said,' hugging her. 'Theres not much we can do tonight, love.'

Eventually we slept in the old sleeping bags, but, not for long. I awoke first to the sight of Emma. She was standing up. She was staring at me, her breath still visible. A rat scampered across my peripheral vision, its grey coat flickering brief darts of light reflected off the fire.
'God whats wrong?' said Jane, looking at her daughter, her hand covering her mouth, agasp.
It almost seemed like Amy was in a trance, and I went to her, shook her.
'Amy, Amy. Are you alright.'
After a moment, her cold stare abated, she coughed and I could see that any trance she may have been in had abated.
'I saw a lady in white' she said
'What was that Amy,' I asked, my hands firmly grasping her shoulders. 'What did you see.'
'A white lady, over there,' and she pointed towards the staircase. Jane had stood up, stunned, her hand still covering her mouth, tearful.
'A white lady' I blurted. 'Come on Amy, there is no white lady, you're having a bad dream thats all'
'I wasn't dreaming daddy, honestly. She was standing over there and pointing up the stairs.'
Another rat, this time clearly visible darted from the back door towards the kitchen. I grabbed the poker from the fireplace, and in a rage that had little to do with the rodent but everything else, flung it. It bounced several times, clanging and clattering against the uneven stone, finally resting somewhere out of vision. In the dark. Again, I cursed Gladstone, turning towards Emma, now being consoled by my wife.
'Its just a bad dream love,' she said, stroking her cheek. 'We all get them, even daddy and mummy get them.
'Its not a bad dream mummy' she screamed 'She was standing, by the stairs and pointing up at the ceiling. Her arm was stretched out like this,' she raised her arm towards the ceiling to demonstrate, then, from a closed hand she popped out her index finger.' Just like this.' she finished, her cheeks flushed with anger. I looked at my wife.
'We are getting out of her, George. No arguments. Today. Now even,' she burst.
Mummy I wasnt lying, I wasnt,' she said and fell into her legs wrapping her hands around them.
'I know you weren't sweetie. I know you weren’t.'
'Get the fucking Brandy, love.' she declared. 'We are witnessing something here and dont like it.'

As dawn broke, we drove away through the Rutland landscape. This elevated a sense of peace, following the ordeal. We booked in at the first hotel we came to, just outside Nottingham. Being exhausted,I didnt even know it was a Holiday Inn, until that afternoon noticing its sign when I left. Leaving mother and daughter to sleep, I went back to the village. The builders were there already; demands made on my solicitor earlier must have made an impact. They were busy pulling away at old stone, plaster around the core of the damage. Dust flew everywhere, heavy concrete powder seeped throughout the place and blew in flurries outside like a fine snow storm. As the dust settled though, they proceeded to remove a casket from within the ceiling, resting it on the floor. I peeked through the group of workmen bunched around this black, iron buckled rusted container, as they prized it open. It revealed what was later confirmed, the severely decomposed body of a human. A female.

'Put the place on the market for me, Mr Frost,' I said to my solicitor that evening on the phone.
'We wont be returning there.'
It ocurred to me later that night that the hidden body had been placed directly in line to where Amy’s white lady had been pointing. I never wanted to know the truth. Ever. But deep down I knew it was Vivien Wallenstein, star of the silent screen.