I write about scary stuff. It’s what I do.
What I’ve never written about is the time I almost saw a ghost.
This ethereal manifestation happened in the basement of my parent’s home, where I was living with my middle brother. The basement was a surprisingly large space for a middle-class rambler with a detached garage. An orange metal, gas-fueled fireplace burned in one corner. A rather longish bar ran along the opposite wall. I don’t remember if my father made it or it came with the house. Didn’t matter. To teenagers nearing the legal drinking age, it was cool.
It was the late 70s, and our paternal grandfather (we called him Pipi) had passed away. His death hadn’t been entirely unexpected, but it still hurt. Illness is first a wound, and then a scab. You get accustomed to it. I think the word is habituated.
Eventually, though, death comes along like a bully and rips the scab off in great bloody hunks. The wound is once again exposed again, raw and throbbing. You wince. You cry. You shake your head in wonder. Then, gradually, you start to heal for good.
Time had passed since our grandfather’s passing. The hurt had faded. Instead of a sharp, agonizing pain, it had become a dull, warm ache. On the night of the sighting, my brother and I were in our beds. He slept across from the stairway that led to the upper level. I shared wall space with the fireplace. While I cannot remember exactly what time this happened, I believe it was still early in the night. Somewhere between eleven and midnight, perhaps? Pretty close to the witching hour, which kind of makes sense.
Sleep had yet to claim me when I heard my brother call my name.
I rolled over to face him. He appeared little more than a black lump in the dark. “What?”
“You’re not going to believe this.”
I closed my eyes. Really, you want to talk about him now? “Can’t this wait until tomorrow? I’m tired.”
“No, I mean it’s him,” he whispered. “Here’s here, sitting on the stairs.”
My brother is pretty much fearless. Nothing frightens him. Today, he’s a thirty-year police veteran who has worked as an undercover narcotics officer, did stints with S.W.A.T., and completed the FBI’s National Academy Training Program. He’s as bad as a badass can get. He’s been that way since we were young.
So when I heard the unease in his voice, I knew he had seen something. My heart started to race.
“Not funny,” I told him. Not the best comeback, but it was all I had.
“Get over here. You gotta see this.”
Nope. Not a good idea. Wasn’t going to do it. I pulled the covers over my head.
“Did you hear me?” he asked.
“Go back to sleep. You’re seeing things.”
“He’s sitting on the stairs waving at me!”
Waving? That didn’t sound scary. I lowered the sheet and looked toward the dark stairwell. From the angle of my bed, I couldn’t see up the stairs. “You’re not messing with me, are you?”
“Hurry up!” he hissed. “I think he’s starting to fade.”
I hesitated. I had loved my Pipi. He’d been such a big part of my life that his passing had left me floundering. But as I said, time had passed. The healing had started. Did I want to rip open that wound again?
Could I be that brave?
My brother’s exasperation grew. “Dammit, Brian! What are you waiting for?”
I had missed my grandfather so much. Did I want to start missing him all over again?
That’s when I found out I could be brave.
I rolled over and faced the wall.
My brother didn’t say another word. Soon the ghost faded. That there was a ghost I’ve never doubted. And I don’t begrudge my brother for having his final goodbye to our grandfather.
It just wasn’t the right thing for me.
That was the time I almost saw a ghost.
And I didn’t, because of love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian W. Matthews’s latest book is The Conveyance, a horror/science fiction novel about a child therapist who uncovers a secret long kept hidden form the world. Together with his friend, police detective Frank Swinicki, he doggedly follows a trail of murder and madness, eventually exposing a sinister conspiracy that threatens the existence of the human race. The Conveyance can be purchased directly from the publisher at www.journalstone.com or from Amazon.