The Long Way Back

I’ve been flipping back through my notebooks, looking for pieces that might be worth sharing on this blog. Here’s a little ghost story I wrote a while back at Slaithwaite Writers. Hope you enjoy it ….


I didn’t sense a change at first. There was a closing, then immediately an opening of eyes. I was in the same room, surrounded by the same people. I felt, if anything, much better: fresh, free from pain, unburdened of the toils of my body.

“I think I’m on the mend,” I told them – or tried to. Their faces made no response to my voice. Their eyes did not look at mine, but downwards. I followed their gaze to a motionless body – MY body. The eyes were still closed.

“He’s gone,” the doctor said. My mother began to weep – a tortured, despairing howl that filled the room. I tried to reassure her: “I am still with you, I have not gone.” But my voice did not disturb the air. When I tried to touch her, my fingers passed through the flesh without leaving a mark.

I tried everything I could to communicate with her. If I could move some object, even create a faint breeze in the air, perhaps she would be aware of my presence. Nothing worked. I tried to occupy my old body. It still fitted me perfectly, but I had no power to move it. It was just inanimate matter now. Then I tried to occupy hers – perhaps she would hear my voice if I was speaking – literally – inside her head. I couldn’t get any reaction. All else was overwhelmed by her anguish.

I couldn’t take it any more. Her grief was infectious. I had to leave. I passed effortlessly through the closed oak door and was gone. As I glanced at the mirror in the hall, I saw no reflection.

For some years afterwards I would wander the earth aimlessly, tied to it by some strange force. Not by gravity, for I have no weight, no substance, only form. In this state I do not tire. I feel no need for food or shelter. I lack nothing because I AM nothing.

Or so, at least, I was. Three years on, curiosity took me back to the old house. And when I passed that mirror in the hall, to my amazement I could see a faint translucent image of a human being, as if sculpted in spider-web. Somehow, in my long sojourn in this ethereal half-world, I had acquired the merest shadow of a physical form.

I ascended the staircase to my mother’s room, in expectation but also trepidation. Would she be able to see me? How would she react if she did. As I passed through the door, my spirits sank. She was there, but there was a deadness in her eyes. She had gone blind.

Hoping against hope, I wrapped my insubstantial arms around her and whispered in her ear.

“I am here, mother,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.


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