Fear Of Ghosts

Fear Of Ghosts is a ghost story by P.S.Clinen. Below is the story in its entirety:

Try as I might, I cannot recall the events preceding that led me to be where I was that night. With the story I have to tell, one would agree that it would be somewhat superfluous to elaborate on such anyway. To say that this event has ingrained itself to my very core would be a most criminal understatement. In spite of the vain attempt of my mind tricking me to believing it to be a dream, something seems far too tangible to dismiss it as mere reverie. Taxing as it is to vocalise; this fool is lurching for a peace of mind and closure on the event.

Envisage, if you will, a cemetery beneath a night where the cool light of the moon throws charlatan shadows, morphing the most mundane of objects into twisted minstrels of the macabre. The silence – thick, encompassing as the ocean floor, accentuating the foreboding sense of gloom strewn about the air like sticky cobwebs coating skeletal tree branches. It is here that somehow, through some manner of unknown exploit, I came to – shivered awake by what I can only hope was a whispering wind.

Tombstones of the ancient rose on all sides surrounding me in a forest of chilling stone. Each engraving of name, lost year and loving message seemed to stare right through to my very soul, through any façade of intrepid attitude. Immersed so deeply in this night, with thoughts cast not back nor forward through time, it was as if I had never known colour. For all around were shades of grey. Evanescent wisps of cloud flitted across the stony sky at speeds faster than would be expected for this otherwise still surrounding. My foreboding sense of isolation was exaggerated numerously; to egress was my only ambition. Too unsettling was this place; too mysterious was my means of arriving here in the first place. An infantile instinct could not shake the thought that I was being watched. Despite the dark shadows providing more than adequate concealment from any unseen predators lurking in the gloom, the fronds of cold air draped across my shoulders seemed to expose my being as one of heat and pulse, so blatantly opposite to what could be expected of this locale. Surely by my being the only living thing in the grounds of dead men left me passively exposed. And so, steeling myself, a clear path of logical action began to weave itself together in my mind, standing as I was in a cemetery of which I’d no knowledge of where I was and no visible way out exposed by the dull moon. Black trees stood in the hazy distance, and I was able to discern them to be trees of coniferous variety. To the south and to the east this cold forest sea lay encompassing, while steady stony hills seemed to jut from the earth in the far west. To the north (and I could only assume it to be north by the moon’s position), trees edged closer to me, and this not so distant wall of entangled branches seemed to present the possibility of escape, at least from the graveyard. Yet my heart sank to think of what lay beyond in those timeless trees, but given the present predicament in which I found myself, the idea of being away from these bones of immeasurable past seemed marginally more desirable.

Lucky left, I had decided. Recalling the old iteration I used as a child galvanised my resolve, albeit slightly. Perhaps since I was born southpaw I found it a favourable notion of choosing left instead of its opposite, and it was left I went at the first available fork in the cobblestone path at my quivering feet. The moonlight was just sharp enough to cut away shadows of loose and treacherous stones that may have tripped me up otherwise. Tentative steps soon turned to a light trot, as my vision became clearer I felt inclined to pick up my pace for a few metres before coming to a sudden stop. Gazing skyward, the starless canvas of water coloured grey seemed to suggest the currents of frigid gale silently racing across the shivering cosmos. These winds, at such high altitudes, streaked like brushstrokes down to the borders of distant pines to portray a dome in which I was indefinitely trapped; a soldier of snow held static within a glass globe. My head ached as my sight was averted from the glow of the moon. And then, as if forgetting why I had ceased to run in the first place, I jogged forward again, my pace quickening with each heavy footfall of my shoes. My heels pressed so hard into the ground in rhythm to the sickening thump of my threadbare heart; the pressure of those weighted steps seemed to push more air out of my burning lungs, stuffed as they were from irregular and fear-laden breaths.

Tunnel vision ensued and as I pressed onward the repetition of cobblestone under foot and gravestones passing lulled me into a hypnotic countenance that was broken on sudden by a most terrifying spectre. A phantom, undeniably of humanoid shape, stood in the umbra of a haggard and bare tree shadow, shielded from the light of the moon.

Perhaps my senses were sharpened by the ominous foreboding that plagued my being, for I was able to discern the being from some twenty metres distant. It seemed to face me, as I stood paralysed in the open and revealing moonlight, staring right back through eyes dripping with terror. I cannot recall how long I stood motionless there, unable to clear my fogged head or move any muscle. How I remained standing through such dread I still find unbelievable, as I distinctly remember the rush of pallor draining from my face.

Nothing would come of nothing – the words of some fictional king appeared before my mind’s eyes, for what reason none could know. I had to react to this ghostly being, be it through interaction or fleeing in unrestrained dismay. Once again a logical rendition descended upon me, and, dismissing such ghouls as absurd, chose upon calling out to the apparition, inquiring on available exits of this dreadful cemetery. Cold fear choked my words as I tried to speak; I was somehow able to croak a timorous “Hello” in the direction of the shadowy figure. I remained steadfast of stance, my eyes fixed boldly on this other being against all instinctual desire to run away in cowardice. The dark ghost seemed to consider my acknowledgement a moment, before its most eldritch response. Stirring from its standstill, the dusky humanoid turned its body and in three steps walked slowly to my right, slipping out of view behind a grey stone mausoleum, never leaving the shadow of the tree in which it stood, never arresting its gaze from my direction. It was at this moment my fear descended yet another rung closer to madness; a frightening groan that sounded utterly inhumane escaped my parched lips. I gave my surroundings a quick glance and then, feverish with panic, I crept forward slowly and as soundlessly as I could muster in the direction of the mausoleum. The sharp staccato of my breathing betrayed me; futilely trying to remain undisclosed to this otherworldly being.

The crypt loomed closer, in mere steps I would be upon it. But then what? To peer around the corner from whence the ghost disappeared – what was it I possibly hoped to see? The coward within prayed I would observe nothing, but as to whether that meant the fiend was very real and had disappeared or was a mere fragment of the overworked imagination I would never know. Childish flights of fancy swam in the sick waters of my migraine, my pulse throbbing loudly in my ears. Past the blackened doorway of the mausoleum I sidled, not daring to turn my gaze into the void within. I shivered to place my fingertips upon the rough stonewall of the house of the dead, and with one more step and all the willpower I had left I peered slowly around the corner. With a reaction that impeded my senses yet again, I stood and stared at nothing; for nothing, at least of the fantastic and supernatural countenance, was present before me. Long, dried grass overgrown around more twisted trees and a broken headstone. Another anguished cry retched from my mouth. Had I seen anything tangible? Could this apparition be nothing more but the hallucinations of a madman? Again the child within emerged dominant, stronger than before, and I desperately wanted to hide. Hide and squeeze my eyes shut tight until I awoke from this terrible dreamland. Carelessly, I turned about face and hastily stepped into the inky darkness beyond the mausoleum entrance. Then, frightening my heart to a standstill – the deafening cry of a crow I had disturbed with my entering; my eyes plunged into further blackness by the plumage of my frantic companion. With a caw almost as terrified as my own, the crow flew from the crypt and disappeared into the distant trees. Further unsettled by the avian assault, I found a dank corner within the house of death and slunk down, burying my head in my knees and hoping the darkness would conceal me. Sobbing wretchedly, my body convulsed with grief, tears smeared on my face reminded me of heat and the now seemingly impossible concepts of security and love.

Soon there was almost comfort in my fear as I presently peered about the mausoleum and found before me the stone sarcophagi of an immemorial pair, most likely some distant man and his wife – a king and queen of antiquity. How long they had lain on hard beds of slate, their bones disintegrated to dust, I would never know. So ancient were their inscriptions that they had worn away. Away from any light, undisturbed by the living for the ages, I felt most intrusive on account of my invasion into this sacred house. Surely the crow that had settled in here earlier was to be expected, as one often hears tales of the black avian denizens and their abilities to communicate with those who have passed the ghastly gate of death. But it was my person, my beating heart, my hot blood that did not belong in this crypt with the archaic skeletons surrounded with gruesome stone idols. My attention was drawn towards these ashen treasures encompassing the tombs. Stone carved to the shapes of jagged creatures of feline, equine, canine, gathered around the graves like some sick sacrificial ritual. Realising my err in being present in this dank crypt, claustrophobia settled in, darkness seemed to close around me, and the silver ribbon of moonlight cutting through the entrance like a demented sickle seemed to sink away from me into the hazy distance. I felt my vision betraying me, my head pounded as feverish panic overtook my physical being. Sweating in fear I dashed wildly to what I perceived to be the exit of this dreadful abode. Yet my orientation must have reversed on itself, for I unwillingly crashed into some stone wall dully reflecting dwindling moonlight. Reeling back and striking my shin upon the side of one of the low laying corpse coffins, I stumbled blindly into the bust of a hideous horse head. I fell to the floor, unsteadily gazing upwards to where the horse bust rocked upon its small stone lectern, before inertia overcame it and the beast tumbled down onto me. I recall shouting at this moment, for the heavy touch of this monstrous carved idol shattered all notion of composure. Hysterically and with some effort I hurled the thing across the crypt, all care and respect for those that rested here subsided behind my terror. The bust crumbled on the floor, from where at that moment a ghastly wight advanced through the wall behind and limped towards me. Fright of which I had never known before consumed my every faculty, and I must have screamed at this point. Lurching for me, the ghoul’s eyes silently bore into me with raw hatred, as I somehow mustered the ability to turn and run in the opposite direction. Praise be to whatever glorious deity it was that had me running in the direction of the mausoleum exit, as I burst back out into the cemetery. I ran, with no idea of the direction I was heading, knowing only that I must get away from that hideous being, that ghost more frightening than any Rawhead and Bloodybones. That ghost coated in rags, hunched under the weight of chains, towering at a height upward of seven feet. But the most eldritch feature of the beast – that which haunts me with greater intensity than any other – were the eyes, burning with utmost abhorrence like some horrible creation out of the mind of Poe or Lovecraft. Still today I see those hate filled oculi, bulging and white, always intruding behind the lids of my own eyes as I dream. It was here that the details of my cemetery episode fade out much the same as they came about in the beginning, for the last thing I remembered was a terrible and otherworldly moan that raced from the mausoleum entrance, out of the blackness and echoing deep into this torrid night.

A dull ache gripped my head like a vice as I came to, and I was instantly relieved to see it was morning. Never had daylight been so welcomed, the warmth of the sun on my face lifting all dread away. Though I was still in the cemetery, the horrifying night was over. With a shiver I recalled the wight from the crypt, and its dimensionless appearance through the stonewalls before me very eyes. Had such a fright been reality? The mausoleum stood at some distance from me, the sunlight unable to penetrate its black entrance. I walked pensively through the sunny graveyard, listening to the sharp cawing of unseen distant crows, until at last there appeared before me a way out. An old dirt road on the cemetery’s perimeter wound off down through the hills and undoubtedly in the direction of some town. Fresh tyre tracks confirmed its frequent use. My attention became arrested by a single crow perched upon the branch above my head. This inky bird stared down at me, its plumage glossy with morning sun and in its eyes the shimmer of acknowledgement. Perhaps it had been the same bird I had startled the night previous, or perhaps just some other that had watched my escapades. In either account, an undeniable intelligence swirled within its dark eyes, and presently it let out a throaty call and flew away in the direction of the headstones.

I write this memoir not in the hopes of being believed. It is merely an account conceived to give myself closure on horrors that I hope none other ever experience. How much of my tale is truth, how much is mere dreamy falsity, I will never know for sure. I have not enjoyed the pleasant embraces of quality sleep since that night, and still I hesitate to engage in talks of death or the afterlife with colleagues. Such things I could tell them would be too morbid to reveal.

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