Willow the Wisp – part five of ten

(This fall my first published book will be arriving from the printers. It is called The Horror of Loon Lake and it is a horror anthology comic paying tribute to the classic horror magazines and comics that many of us loved. Included also is one prose tale, which will feature several illustrations by the talented Nicole Bresner. In ten installments, www.horror-writers.net will serialize this short story, entitled Willow the Wisp. For more information about the book, follow its page at www.facebook.com/horrorofloonlake  – Carl Smith, aka Dr. Carl Cadaver)


A defensive nervousness and years of social conditioning led him to raise his arm and extend a hand in greeting. He immediately felt ridiculous for doing so, and could not bring himself to look at the beautiful form in the eyes. As Jonathan sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck with his left hand, the ghost moved forward. She floated to within inches of him, irradiating his body with a dizzying sensation. At once his brain associated the sense of comfortable warmth, the sting of tiny sparks, and the humility of standing before something threatening.

The woman regarded him seriously and withdrew an arm’s length away and grabbed his hand. She was intangible and yet she applied force to his hand adequate to mimic touch. Jonathan raised his head enough to look her full in her face. What he saw there was beauty unmatched anywhere in the universe. A small smile formed at her lips and every inadequacy he had ever felt melted away, every hope he ever had felt temporarily fulfilled, and every fire of lust he had ever felt were stoked at once. Smitten by a creature formed of the purest aesthetic perfection, our bachelor’s knees buckled.

Holding her hand while looking up at her poised beauty painted a scene in his imagination reminiscent of a chivalrous knight swearing fealty to a queen. Jonathan swore he heard a melodic giggle escape her lips. He swallowed hard and stood again to his feet. Once standing erect, he offered his other hand and there they stood, holding hands at a distance, exploring their proximity. His senses exploded with electric stimuli. Waves of joy, contentment, safety, arousal, and desire crashed against his mind. Buffeted by the beauty before him, he was lost.

Time passed and soon a small cool breeze meandered from the lake, waking Jonathan to reality. He stood, arms out, alone in the center of the little graveyard. He checked his watch and noted that t was now just past midnight; an hour had seemingly passed in a blink. The man’s senses were drunk with emotion as time removed his confidence that he experienced anything real in the hour prior. His heart raced, memory clouded, and eyes noted the complete lack of evidence that he had been anything but solitary. Yet the endorphins and adrenaline triggered by the contact still coursed through his veins.

Positive that he was not hallucinating the encounter, the bachelor returned home and slept. He set his alarm to wake early so that he could visit the cemetery in daylight. After a quick trip to Goodman’s Supermarket for a few groceries and a small bouquet of flowers he again visited the Lutheran cemetery. Pretending to be paying respects made him feel like a tourist, a voyeur. To push out the uneasy feeling he reminded himself that he was a detective, solving a mystery.

Soon he stood before the gravestone where the apparition seemed to materialize every night at eleven o’clock sharp. It was awkward to stand there in the stark light of day. The memorials looked familiar yet were completely blanched from all secrets. Jonathan knelt to lay down the cut flowers and ran his finger tips tenderly over the engravings. The stone read “Willow Breeland  Born: April 9, 1911-Died: December 3, 1933” followed by the faint carving of the phrase “Loving Daughter.” An unexplained sense of sadness gripped him as his eyes watered and his throat clenched into a stinging knot.

Standing until the feeling passed, he returned home with a hollow feeling within. He wondered “how can I feel loss for someone who died before I was aware of their existence? Is that really her stone?” The questions followed him home, making for a solemn trip despite the beautiful sunny day and vivid colors around him. He knew he needed to return again by night, and he was gripped with compulsion to make a more substantial contact this time around.