The Last Ghost of Charleston

I promise, this is my last post about the trip. 🙂

Aside from tours, we also spent a lot of time writing (well…it was a writing workshop.)

The following is a free writing exercise based on one of our prompts–to imagine ourselves as a ghost. Thus, the following creepy little narrative was born. Enjoy!

I think this is heaven? There are palm trees everywhere. I can smell the ocean. I’m surrounded by beautiful old buildings. I can feel the history rolling off of them.

The sun bears down brightly above, but it’s not to hot. I’m neither too hot, nor too cold. For once, humidity doesn’t seem to bother me. I seem to have left it behind in Ohio.

I don’t know how I got here. All I know is that I am surrounded by these beautiful vistas, and I don’t hurt.

Around me are a variety of people. Black, white. Asian. I hear European accents, and languages I can’t identify. So different from the little all white-farm town I grew up in, where the KKK burned a cross when I was in high school.

But there’s more, too. There are people in baseball caps and jump suits, and there are women walking along in hoop skirts and bonnets. I see panniers and powdered wigs, jeans and sequined tank tops. It is everywhen, and so immediately right now.

Music and voices fill the streets. A guitarist on the corner. A jazz band in a bar. A church choir, drifting through the open doors of a massive basilica.

And around all of it, water. Water and sand and palm trees, the things I’ve wanted my whole life, but never got.

I try to absorb the sun, but though I am not hot or cold, I can’t seem to feel the heat. The sun has no pull for me. Where once I would have soaked it up like a plant, drawing it in to gain energy and strength, now it is merely a ball of gas in the sky, like the gas lamps on the street at night.

I drift away from the sea and meander inland. Down an alley, surrounded by the smells of sulfur and black powder. The narrow street is filled with the dead and dying. Like dominoes, generations collapse onto the street, one right after another. A man in a feathered cap from the sixteen hundreds, a man in a wig from the seventeen hundreds, another in short breeches and heeled shoes, then one in a top hat. I watch as the 1830s, 40s, 50s, 60s tumble down around me, as though someone has fanned out a deck of cards and allowed them to fall to the floor. Jack of Spades, Clubs, Diamonds and Hearts, and on the next street the queens are wailing.

I draw into myself now, feeling the press of people all around. The living and the dead. All are loud. All want something. But none of them see me. I pass unnoticed, around the block, through a church yard, past shops and taverns and buildings that are no more. I see the drowning in waterlogged buildings, the collapsed structures bombarded by cannon fire. I see the bricks churned up in the street, clay and sand softened by waist deep water, then neck deep, then above my head.

I back away, unable to breath. It’s silly, as I have not breathed this entire time, but did not notice until the healing water, turned rabid, closed over my head.

I find my away back to shore, back to the narrow streets, to the safety and shade of a palm tree. I look up though the fronds at the sun I cannot feel. It still beats down on me, but brings no warmth.

I follow music to the back of a building. Women do laundry, the old fashioned way with big tubs and sheets hanging on the line, singing the whole while, songs I don’t know but that sound familiar, their accents garbling words that should be on the tip of my tongue. I follow one to the house, and stand on the porch, looking out around me at the sky and the city. Sunlight hits the washbasin, reflecting off the soapy water and onto the ceiling, a bright, clear blue.*

*For those who don’t understand the reference, “haint blue” is a color frequently used on houses and doors in Charleston, in the belief that spirits can’t cross it and in some cases, can be banished.

Like what you see? Check out OFF THE RAILS, a Civil War Era murder mystery, available now on Amazon!