Here! Follow my voice! Over here, I say! For God’s sake, man, come over to the fire. What in heaven’s name are you doing, out in such a storm? Come and warm yourself before you freeze where you stand. There, it is only a whistling nook amidst the snow and the cruel wind, but it affords us some small respite and the luxury of civilised conversation. Here we will wait for a break in the weather. I would share with you a morsel, but I have none. Rest and talk must serve as our sustenance. I note that you are hardly dressed for being so deep in the mountains. A light jacket? Such flimsy trousers? I know I must look a fright, unkempt and unshaven, but I am something of an exception. Those who linger in these hills generally know the value of good boots and a winter coat.
But First a Word From Judge Montague’s Great-to-the-4th Granddaughter
Whenever a woman is constantly besieged by unseen faces and disembodied voices, it is for the best that she believes that the legions of non-violent hoo-doos and haints that only she experiences are real, and are not indicative of a mental illness (technical name for the affliction: scewious loosiest). Such is the case with Yours Truly. And although you may think that my thinking “it is for the best…” is misguided, I assure you that the hoo-doos and haints (whether they be actual or of my own creation) want only happiness for everyone.
I once got lost in the Badlands of North Dakota. I was working the wheat harvest as a hauler with a crew that ran fourteen combines and we were working our way up to Regina from Topeka, Kansas. One of the drivers, Mitchie Vanderbush, dared me to go camping there after he saw I slept in a tent. The rest of the crew stayed in cheap motels but I was trying to save money to buy a Linhof 4×5. He told me the place was haunted and said most people that go in don’t come out. “You stay in there three nights,” he said, “and I’ll split my bonus with you.” Most of the crew thought it was funny, but the foreman had some choice words when I informed him I was leaving early. He said I could just haul my ass up to Canada at the end of the season if I wanted my pay.
4 A.M. New Town Cemetery, Charleston, Washington
Eternal Keeper reached into the sky and plucked threads of starshine. The sheared strands merged as a multi-colored lightning bolt which struck the only oak tree inside New Town Cemetery. Thunder failed to tattle on the bolt; no one saw it strike; nor were the plentiful, watchful, sensitive, nocturnal creatures in the graveyard aware of it; nor did it in the least disturb the slumbering daybreak birds, nor squirrels, nor even the insects that inhabit the lone graveyard oak. But something did happen within a set-aside dimension where Keeper and the spirit of the tree coexist. Come sunrise, the shape of a ghost, whom Keeper had woven from the threads of plucked starshine, rose from his grave and proceeded to the power and safety of the enchanted tree.
I am a ghost. It’s best to get that out in the open, right away, for the benefit of those persons who still support the notion that the dead cannot possibly communicate with the quick. I am neither the walking nor the talking dead; but I am of the writing dead, whom living “literary types” resent for they feel that they have enough competition in their field as it is.
A few nights ago, Jim identified the great, distant sun Naazar in the autumnal sky, and then attempted to sell me tales of its splendor and glory. This had caused an old memory to trip my inner As If Alarm. Some claim my inner As If Alarm underscores the ever-suspicious side of my personality; all things considered, I find it a useful and necessary device.
The rental car’s radio faded to static right as the interview started to get interesting. Of course, Nadine thought. The way inspiration had eluded her lately, she would expect nothing less.