Free Ghost Story: “A Short Way Down The Road”

The following free online ghost story appears in my novel Evermore. It is told by a professional storyteller to a crowd, playing on the fears that the nearby forest is haunted:

The Story

It happened one night at the playing of ball, when a young man caught a female admirer’s fancy. Though he’d not seen a more lovely woman, or this one before, he straightaway felt her love wash over him as if in a dream, intoxicating and berefting him of his senses. Still, as she invited him a short way down the road to view her father’s garden, he felt something indefinable crying out to him that he not go. But alas, she professed that he was the boy she loved best, and if he were only to come, she would give her love to him this very night. So it was that he followed her away from the village as she danced ahead in the twilight, first appearing and then disappearing down the road as if by magic. Like an apparition did she lead him onward to a roadside home he’d long before seen but never in such condition. While it appeared a ruin to his eyes on all days but this, walls falling, chimney crumbled, weeds reclaiming it, the abode now stood in good condition, candles glowing in the windows, the walls mended, and a garden overflowing with flowers. He stood a moment dumbfounded as she swept past the gate into the garden, and then did something odd occur.

A boy his own age, but whom he’d never before seen or even heard approach, stepped from within the woods by the road, all earnest compassion and concern on his face. With a manner of clothing some years passed and a look of innocence rent asunder, he said with utmost insistence that naught but ruin and misfortune would find him were he to enter the lady’s garden, for though her love was true, there was another whose fury was truer. But a fragrance of such promising love floated to him from beyond the walls that he heeded not the boy’s warning, and in truth the fellow had disappeared as if he’d never been. With a heart full of desire, he strode into the garden.

There amongst the blooming flowers and streaming sunrays sat the girl of his fancy, all love in her eyes, her bodice half undone. He stepped forward to enfold her in his arms when from behind a bush sprang a shimmering figure of menace and despair. Eyes of rage flashed upon him from the dark shade as the sun gleamed upon a silver blade. ‘Not with my daughter’ howled the spirit as it lunged. It was then that the most frightful thing came upon him, for as he stood impaled by horror, a presence filled his being and assumed control, urging his terror-stricken legs back and away faster than mortal legs would fly. A shriek rang out from the girl as the father howled and came onward, but the young man fled to the road, where controlled was returned to him. He turned to the gateway with a gasp. There the father lunged across the threshold toward him and simply vanished. Startled, the young man looked about and saw the boy at his shoulder, relieved and happy, for while he walked only when the silvery moons were high, this one would enjoy the days of sunlight still.

It was only then as the young man looked upon the house once more that he saw the ruin he’d always known. No flames burned in the windows, no flowers fragranced the air, and the now crumbled walls revealed a garden empty of all promise. The girl, if she had even been, was gone. He turned to thank his savior, but the boy, too, had disappeared.

The Art of World Building

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