(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)
Her long graceful fingers fell upon the box lid and stroked the velveteen covering as she slowly closed the offering. The muted “snap” of the box closing tore something out from within of Jonathan’s chest as it echoed about the cemetery. His confidence was instantly replaced with fearful distress. The temperature seemed to drop suddenly bringing shivers to his chilled body.
Willow’s light dimmed noticeably as she reached out for him. She grabbed his arm and lifted him firmly to his feet. He forced himself to meet her searching gaze, which was an act that took more fortitude than anything he had ever done. Tears welled in his eyes and streamed down his cheeks. The salty drops followed his nose and jaw-line from which they fell in a somber rhythm as Willow spoke.
“Oh, Jonathan, what would you have of me? Why would you make me a ‘wife’ when I am as I am? I am bound by conditions you either have failed to consider or couldn’t possibly understand. Not the least of these is the fact that I am not unhappy as I am. The Willow you want is beneath your feet, fully decomposed into her most basic bits. Have you considered that? I am but the spiritual shadow of what you desire.
“My dear, I am a ghost. I barely exist in your world. I see and experience things that have no language to describe them. I am here but one hour a day, and that is by choice: even the departed can be nostalgic. But do not presume I am lost or incomplete. My experience is full.”
Willow’s words stung Jonathan, who raised his defenses as best he could. Her voice revealed that her message was born of pure conviction, yet her eyes reassured that she was not making a weapon of her opinion. There was a deep love and respect behind her answer, which made the weight of it harder for him to bear. He filled his chest with air and parted his lips to speak in rebuttal, but a single slender finger raised silently deflated his lungs and froze his tongue. Willow continued.
“I ask you again, Jonathan, why would you ask me to be your wife? To complete you, you say? I assure you, I would be quite unable to consummate a marital relationship or grant you a child, let alone serve you as trusted companion. To bring you joy? Do I not bring you joy now? A wedding ring will hardly change the quality of my company, my dear.
“I am what you see before you; a woman-shaped shell of light and static. Any touch you perceived between us was truly the work of your imagination. The bond between us, however, is quite real. I adore you. I cherish your friendship, and I do love you. In many ways I am richer for knowing you, but I refuse to squander my freedom. I cannot willingly haunt a home when I have been blessed with the gift of freely experiencing the true universe and all of its endless mysteries.”
Jonathan’s eyes fell to the ground. Willow pitied his heartache and paused for a moment to let silence allow for a small measure of healing. She reached forward with her hand and led his chin up until they again saw eye to eye. She smiled at him in a way that he was helpless not to mirror with a grin of his own although in his heart he knew “goodbye” was coming. Her words quieted to a kind whisper as she finished.
“Oh Jonathan… you do not know me as well as you think. You desire me to be your wife because you need to possess something. You wish to conquer this challenge and label it with your name. I do not doubt your love or your resolve, but please consider; what does your proposal offer me? Are you rescuing me? Will this complete me, fulfill me? Will it restore me?”
Already her light was fading enough that she was transparent. He could see her stone materializing behind her, its solid cold motionless form emphasizing her points. His mind started to accept that she was indeed a ghost. Though it was not yet midnight she was fading away. Jonathan broke into convulsive sobs as he began to swallow the truth of her words.
“In life I desired a husband and dreamed that I would someday find my soul mate. I prayed to the heavens and wished to the stars. I longed to find someone whose life would compliment my own without diminishing either of our identities. Even then I had no longing to be owned.
“That Willow is dead and I remain. I will be no man’s wife as I am; something that exists impossibly, without explanation. But you, Jonathan, you are a living man. I hope you understand what I am telling you. I have no doubts that your heart is true, but I am equally sure that its quest is misguided. I hope that after tonight you grow to understand that the proposal you have offered would make a ghost of any woman.”
And with her last words she moved to Jonathan. Her puckered lips travelled to Jonathan’s bowed forehead. He realized the small sensation he felt there was not touch, not truly a kiss. He slumped to the earth, falling back on his rump, casting one last gaze up at Willow’s fading image. There he saw the reassuring smile of a mother who had just corrected a child’s behavior, and with that ceased to exist. Resting back against a headstone he continued to watch where she had faded from sight. He continued to do so until the sun rose steadily over the lake.
Jonathan Kovac never returned to the world of the living. He would wake every morning, quietly perform his duties at work, and return home again. Then every night at eleven o’clock he would walk to St. John’s Cemetery and sit atop a gravestone engraved “Willow Breeland” with a small velveteen box in his hand, then walk home again an hour later. He did this every night without fail, regardless of season, until the day he died.