By Kathy Wang
Before I moved, I lived in front of a cemetery for most of my childhood. In one of Girls Write Now’s Friday Night Salons, I remembered the cemetery and thought it would be fun to spin a ghost story about it. Cemeteries are always so spooky!
When I biked to school and back every day, I would always have to pass by Springfield Cemetery. For a cemetery, it was surprisingly cheery with the red and white flowers that adorned rows and rows of graves. Mr. Porter, the groundskeeper, made sure no grave looked empty. As I stopped and visited at least once a week, sometimes every afternoon, we would talk every now and then. He told me bringing flowers always made the spirits happy.
One day, I was riding home from school as usual and looked to the cemetery out of habit as I passed. Almost instantly, I noticed a grave that was just a little hidden by the overgrown vegetation of the place; it was a new one, and odd for sure, as Mr. Porter himself said that Springfield was overcrowded.
There was a man standing over the grave. He was extremely tall and thin, wispy-looking, almost as if the wind could just pick him right up and drop him off someplace miles and miles from here. It was winter around this time, but the man wore no overcoat, just a simple black turtleneck and jeans. He wore no shoes. If he was bothered at all by the cold, he didn’t show it.
Despite fear nipping at my sides, I decided to approach the man, curiosity getting the better of me. My mother would be yelling at me right now, telling me to stay away, but paranormal things weren’t exempt from my inquisitive nature. He looked strange from far away and even stranger up close. He had half a mustache and looked awfully familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I opened my mouth to speak, but the words got caught in my throat the moment I made eye contact with him. He looked right through me, gazing sadly at something in the far distance, muttering under his breath. I turned by instinct to follow his gaze, only noting the distant nothingness in the horizon.
Perplexed, I looked back to the man, only to see that he had vanished along with the grave!
Red and white, from the flowers on top of the graves, were the usual colors in my peripheral that stood out when I whizzed by Springfield Cemetery. Occasionally, some families would leave yellow or pink flowers behind for their loved ones. That day as I was biking, a bright burst of purple stopped me in my tracks. It was a dahlia in front of the same grave where I had seen the tall, wispy-looking man three weeks ago.
Dahlias were known to represent one who believed strongly in their sacred values. They were my mother’s favorite; she would insist on getting a summer bouquet every time we passed the florist shop after church on a Sunday. But no one really leaves dahlias at a grave.
Almost as if a force was pulling me, I stepped into Springfield Cemetery. The crumbly soil felt like quicksand under my feet; my legs became jelly, but I could not stop—I kept going. The dahlia was even more gorgeous up close, but the fact that it looked so new and recent left an unsettling feeling in my stomach.
Right then, the same man I had noticed a few weeks before appeared, this time dirtier than I remembered. This close, I saw that his hair was long and matted, his feet bare as before—only caked in dirt this time, and his hands were dark from digging through earth. He walked past me, and I caught a glimpse of his face, his expression as sad as a kicked puppy. He had a scar under his chin that resembled a knife wound.
I shuddered at the thought of being so close to a spirit, my mother’s clear-as-day scolding resounding in my head. Though I haven’t been back to the church in ages, I recited a chant in my head for protection against whatever evil may be lurking around. I glanced back at the grave.
It read “Jeremie, 1957.”
Kathy Wang is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Brooklyn, NY.