Happy is he who...writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale-who writes always to the unknown friend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Friday, September 30, 2011


They found it. I thought that it had been hidden so well by the sands of time that such an event was impossible.

You would think that by now I would have learned that the impossible is not only possible, but a guaranteed eventuality.

I had been dreaming about my childhood. Of days when I played in the sun. I had been born beautiful. Or so I was told. Because everyone told me it was true I never questioned it. And because I was beautiful nothing else was required of me. When I was three, the king came for me. I was to be his wife. Not his only wife, the twenty-seventh, to be exact. But my family did not care what number I was. As for me, well, I was never asked.

The sound of their digging woke me from my sleep, thousands of miles away.
The sands of my homeland were being disturbed. The parts of me that resided there still cried out. The call cleared the cobwebs from my sleep fogged brain and demanded that I wake. And because I had nothing else of note to distract me, I went.

I flew to the other side of the globe where an excavation site had been constructed. A grid pattern had been plotted making neat squares of the dig. Laborers dressed in flowing robes dug through layers of sediment that had seen Romans and Mongols alike come and go. I watched, curious and more excited than I would have thought possible. Had they really found it? And if so, how much of it was left?

I had become adept at watching mankind. Humans, content in their place on the food chain, never look up. I discovered long ago all I had to do was move above their line of sight and I could watch. Undisturbed and unnoticed.

The sound of metal on stone sounded in the stillness. They worked at night. The desert sun baked the life out of anything that dared to brave it’s scorching rays. Dawn was still a few hours off and yet the huge flood lights illuminating the dig created a false day.

I was watching closely now. Focusing my eyes upon the shovel that found what had been lost to legend. They said it was a tower. But such descriptions conjured images of a drunken structure in Pisa. This was never a tower. It was a ziggurat, stair stepping itself towards the heavens. But not just a ziggurat, a temple.

A temple to a king that thought he needed 27 wives. A king that, like most men, wanted something bigger and better than others had.

The blood of thousands of was shed to build it. Slaves who were not given the luxury of working at night. As life left them they were thrown into a pile. If their family came for them, fine. If not, the fires would receive them.

I remember watching the construction throughout my childhood. “When it is complete we will be married,” he told me. And because it was what I was raised for, I smiled and nodded. But deep inside me, the part that hated the fat king and his greasy hands, hated that temple just as much. I prayed daily that it would never be completed. Which just goes to show you to be careful what you ask for. Or at least have a care for how you word your requests.

On the day the last brick was laid, the day the golden doors were hung in the temple that sat at the highest part, I was pulled from my bed and prepared for my wedding. I cried. Not on the outside. But that doesn’t make my tears any less real.

I prayed once more that I would not have to be married to the king. I wanted to have a life. A life like no one has ever had. An interesting life. As I ended my prayer a mighty storm arose. I can’t recall what happened. I know only that I found myself wandering in the dessert, scorched, bruised and unmarried.

I spoke to everyone I saw as the days went on. Not one of them understood me. Nor I them. Eventually, I stumbled upon a cave. In the darkness sat an old crone. She was staring at me expectantly, as if she had been waiting for me. Apparently, I was late.

She offered me a drink. I took it. Silly girl that I was. As the last drop of liquid slid down my throat she smiled. Then she stood up and walked out into the sunrise. When the first fingers of dawn touched her skin she cried out. And then, like a campfire well stoked, she ignited. I screamed and tried to put out the flames but my skin began to blister as the light hit me. In terror I ran back into the cave. I watched as she was reduced to ash. An ash so fine the dessert winds carried it away. Along with my old life.

No more would I play in the sun. I had given up light for life. A life I have lived well. About 12,000 years if my estimation is correct. The uncovering of the temple seemed like a fitting end to such a life. Today would be my last day. And so for the last time I watched as the sun rose, painting the sky crimson and then blush before blue settled in.

I stood in the shadows and stretched my fingers out expecting to feel pain. But none came. I took a cautious step forward. As the sun bathed me in golden light I waited for the flames. Nothing happened.

“Well, this is interesting.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cumberland Road Ghost

I ran out into the rain not caring that I was soaked to the bone in a matter of minutes. I was hurt that he had said such a thing to me. And angry with myself that it wasn't the first time, but determined that it would be the last.

The rain pounded on the roof of my old Ford as the windshield wipers, that I had been meaning to replace, smeared the rain around rather than clean it off. I swiped at my face hoping to clear my vision enough to see the road that wound its way out in front of me like a glistening snake.

Cumberland River Road had seen many incarnations. Each followed along the Indian trail that first breached the dense forest of Pulaski County, Kentucky. And just like the leaves on those trees ghost stories abounded. Propagated by a population that loved that sort of thing. Their whispers keeping the old stories going. The names of the people and places changed, but the stories never died. This road was no exception. I told myself I didn't believe that sort of thing. I had told myself that a lot over the years. I expected any day now I would believe it.

As the road began its descent I could see the old Cumberland highway veer off to my left. The river claimed it now, giving it back on its western shore. Why that road wasn't blocked off I would never know. But then no one came this way unless they knew where they were going. And if they happened to be lost on this road. Well, prayer was about your only option.

A chill ran up my spine as the story my mother told me decided to rear its ugly head. The year was 1940. Dan and Eloise Tate were headed out of town on their honeymoon. Just like this night the rain was pouring down. No one really knows what happened, aside from the Tate’s. And they ain't saying. Their old Ford took the river road. The original one. The one that ran along the bottom of the Cumberland river.

His body was never found. They fished her body out of that river still wearing her wedding gown. The story goes that she looks for him still and on nights, just like this, she will ask for a ride. She sits in the backseat until you crest the hill or arrive at the bottom. Then she will get out, disappear into the woods, looking for Mr. Tate.

It was just a story I told myself. So, why were the hairs on my arms standing up like that? I laughed nervously, pulling my eyes away from the black waters of the river that churned below. A flash of white caught my attention. Out of instinct I hit the brakes with both feet, not even bothering to downshift. My old truck slid, coming to a stop sideways across the road. My headlights shone out across the water, my left tire spinning in space, the road no longer lay beneath it.

The drumming of rain on sheet-metal and rubber swiping at glass in an uneven tattoo was the only sound to be heard as I slowly looked in my rear-view. I swallowed, it was as loud as buckshot in the quiet.

There she sat, in her wedding dress, pristine as the day she bought it looking at me with eyes that seemed to hold the sorrows of the world. I stared at her, terrified to look behind me. I saw her in the mirror, did I really need to confirm it by turning around? But just like all those silly girls in the horror movies, I guess I did. I looked.

She was beautiful. Pale blond hair that would have shown like spun gold in the sun was pined up under her veil. Green eyes that questioned me without words regarded me as I regarded her.

I looked away, and that was when I noticed that I stood outside my old Ford. The front end that had stretched out into space, now embraced a live Oak like an old lover. And there, laying over the steering wheel, was a women that looked a lot like me.

A scream bubbled in my throat. I turned back to the woman, but she was gone. A pale dot disappearing into the woods. I looked down as my hand brushed the beading of my dress. Not my dress, her dress.

I knew then that those old stories were true, not because they happened but because people believed them. There never was a Mrs. Tate. Just some girl who had met the same fate I had along Cumberland River Road. And just like her, I would ask for a ride until the last one came for the next girl that drove this road, on a night just like this.