How a Ghost is Born
A mother knows of her own finite mortality the very moment she beholds the beauty encapsulated within her baby’s eyes. Then she knows and understands that the new life she has so lovingly created will take her place in the world that her true work has just begun. With time she’ll transform her clandestine dreams, delicate wishes and heavenly love to her child and they will transform their mother’s gifts into something new. Being even better than before, as every baby has always done for aeons and aeons.
Jessica lay crumpled and broken in her bed, her final resting place. The Grim Reaper had come too soon. Inside of her was a growing suggestion to close her eyes and sleep forever more but she refused with every cell of her mortal being. Instead she chose to gaze upon her perfect baby, Ophelia, sleeping peacefully unaware how close death was that night.
Despite her final scene she smiled as she watched those soft fat little fingers and toes twitch and jiggle as her daughter moved threatening to explode for want of mother’s milk. A little sigh came from Ophelia’s perfectly puckered lips and then nothing more.
With the oncoming night she could feel herself falling and gripped the sweat soaked sheets underneath her. She tossed and turned but her body no longer obeyed. From somewhere else gates were opening but she would not even look upon them.
Her work was not finished despite what her body had done to her. There was so much to do, to say, to show. Ophelia was barely three months old, still so young and tender. Jessica’s greatest triumph. Jessica could not leave now and face not seeing her mortal angel grow into a fine young woman. She wanted to share in everything that Ophelia faced, be it good or bad.
As her last moments drew together she felt not the pain of dying but of the pain of holding on, fighting against mortality, of not being around forever not being able to take care of her little girl. For one day Jessica’s greatest fear will be realized that Ophelia would get too old and sick to do things for herself, that there would be no-one to look after her.
There was pure sunlight drifting through the curtains illuminating the dust dancing in the air. Jessica stretched out a hand before her, circling it in golden light, the marks and blemishes gone, so were the needle marks, so was the pain. She felt for her hair that had fallen out after her sickness. It too was restored thick and golden like wheat in August. Pulling back the covers she stepped out of bed, everything was how she had left it the night before, but everything was changed.
She walked over the cot fearing the worst. It lay empty and she grabbed the hands of the sides so hard that her hands clenched and crushed the white painted wood to splinters. Her little girl had gone. She had been taken. Jessica rushed to the door and caught sight of herself in the mirror and it was there that she understood.
No, it was her that was gone, she was the one that had been taken. She was dead. Stranded between two times.
The house around her stood empty, of course there were all her things, those of her husband’s and child but they were just inanimate objects. Not the most valuable currency in the land of the dead. She ran to the front door to open it and look out trying to find a way back to her daughter. Outside were the black gates she had faced last night.
“Never.” She closed the door vowing to never open it again.
“Ophelia! I’m coming for you.” Jessica sang out as she passed from room to room looking for an alternative exit to take her back. There was none.
In the house of no sound or laughter Jessica learnt to adapt. She would stay put until she found a way. Wandering from room to room, bare feet treading lightly on cold wooden floors, she’d learnt a new game. Some of her collected possessions held memories within them like little snow globes. Each day she would go round the entire house picking everything up. Examining each and every one of her possessions, carefully looking under through and inside. Memories kept her alive, food sustains the body and memories for the soul.
Each memory that held her purpose to finding Ophelia were put in a special room that never existed before. Once finished she would sit in the room and feast. Shaking each object looking for the memory like a nut in a shell. Her favourite was her little daughter’s white cotton sun hat that if you shook would show her the memory of soft red hair shining out against the sun and winning. Of milky white skin glowing bright in the sunlight as her daughter examined every nook and cranny of the garden. The little brown teddy that held her smiles when she woke in the mornings.
After a frantic day of bustling through the house the room would be complete and Jessica would not sit back and marvel but carry on working. Each memory kept her alive, strengthened the link to her daughter that she would one day come back for.
Of course every morning she woke up in the afterlife everything would be put back in its original place. The room bare once more. With conviction she would pillage from room to room like a Viking on a raid, finding all her memories.
In the front room she spotted the brown teddy on the rug and
gathered it’s now ragged form into her arms. As she cradled it
she felt a warmth which she had not yet encountered in death. She held it tight and screamed for her darling Ophelia. Then she heard it, a small ripple of laughter. It unmistakably belonged to her daughter. A little innocent squeal of joy radiating out of the doll. Jessica took it in her hands. Could it be that in the land of the living her little girl was right now holding that doll? Did she feel her mother on the other side waiting for her?
All day Jessica kept the doll against her body as did Ophelia for it stayed warm all day and into the night.
Jessica had a routine now, she always started from the bedroom and worked her way down slowly, room by room, ceiling to skirting board. Each day there were new memories to find and so she was diligent in her searching every part of the house. She looked and looked with busy hands and devouring eyes for somewhere there must be a key to get her back.
“Peekaboo? Mummy? Peekaboo?”
“Baby?” Jessica cried when she heard her baby’s first words. She ran to her child’s bedroom and to the little bed. Her baby was growing she could feel it now she slept in a bed rather than her cot. There was another trickle of laughter like a sweet cold river spring pouring forth down a mountain pass. With her hands she felt in the bed and felt the warmth and cradled herself around its sweet form.
When morning rebounded she woke alone but the sweetness of the closeness spurned her on. Mainly that day she worked in her daughter’s room prizing memories from the ether. Looking under the bed she pulled free a little tower block that her daughter had loved to clap together. She took it in her hands and breathed in the smell of her daughter; milk and honey.
“Baby I’m coming just you wait.”
Memories, she had learnt were tricky things to gather and harvest. Each morning they were gone but each morning she woke anew ready to start again, ready only to find her daughter once more. Each day the memory room become fuller, new memories were being found all the time but each day they went back to their niggling hiding places.
Jessica had her first visitor that day, soon many came, each with same message. That she must come with them now to leave the past as it should be, lest she be forever stuck in the eternal afterlife. Jessica shook her head she never listened to them. She was a mother and a mother only listens out for their children.
Her daughter’s voice came more frequently and each time she answered, guided by the voice that she prayed would one day lead her back home. Now her daughter knew she was there, watching over her. Sometimes she cried in the night and Jessica could run out of bed, to go to her, to feel the warmth and wrap herself around it. As time passed she felt the warmness hold her back, it knew and understood. Jessica was convinced that her daughter knew she was there and she marvelled at how their bond grew in strength each day, year after year. Jessica never gave up hope for a mother never gives in.
More visitors came with increased urgency but Jessica smiled and sent them on their way. She refused to listen to their threats and warnings of being eternally doomed for the worst had already happened. She had lost her child, lost the chance to watch her little angel grow and laugh but there was still a connection and that was worth more than what the world had to give.
Each passing second was dedicated to dreaming of her daughter the only light in her darkness. She grew stronger more resilient each time she heard her baby’s voice reach out to her. Now she could feel something changing for she heard her all the time. The gap was closing up between them and Jessica waited nervously. Something was happening. Daring to dream that she close to finding her way back.
In the night Jessica was woken up with howling screams that resonated with fear, joy and utmost suffering. She ran downstairs to the front room where she felt the warmth of her baby girl.
“Mother? Where are you? I need you so much. I’d do anything to have you back. Mother if you can hear me, please come back!”
Jessica knew that somehow the time was right, she needed to get through. Now she felt the warmth all around her enveloping her as if sucking her out. She closed her eyes and screamed her child’s name over and over gain in the hope of summoning her daughter.
When she opened her eyes she saw herself wedged tight in a tunnel. The house was gone and she was terribly cramped all around was darkness and she no longer heard her daughter’s voice. What had happened? Was her daughter dead? Had she finally been plunged into the void of eternity? She moved her limbs into action and pushed and pushed into the uncertainty and fear.
There was a scream as the tunnel contracted as if it was trying to push her out. Looking beyond Jessica saw a light at the end of the tunnel and she knew and understood as she pushed her way out screaming as she did so.
As she broke out all around her was bright light and she fought against it and howled. When she opened her eyes the world was new. She was new. She felt her small fragile body being picked up and cradled and as she looked up her heart broke into a million pieces and reformed into something new, something better, fuller than it had ever been.
There was her daughter all grown-up and beautiful, her sparkling beacon of light cradling her as she had once done. They looked to each other in perfect love and trust as the boundaries became weak; mother became daughter, daughter becoming mother.
Jessica laughed and suckled her thumb as she watched her child marvel at her new skin and baby blue eyes. Now she was finally able to deliver her promise, her only wish as a mother. She called out to her child trying to explain the situation.
“Baby, I’m going be around forever. I’ll take care of you each and every day until you’re very last. I’ll love you more than anything in the world and beyond.”
But the only sounds that came out was the raging mewling sounds of an infant. Ophelia smiled, she knew and understood.
Originally born in Cornwall, south west England, her childhood was surrounded by myths and legends and she has always been fascinated by anything out of the ordinary. It was in this strange and ancient land where she developed a passion for writing.
S.J.Budd loves writing short stories exploring dark fictional worlds and its mysterious inhabitants, and is currently working on her first novel. Her day job involves working as journalist for www.findahood.com and she also blogs on her site http://www.sjbudd.co.uk
Her work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Deadman’s Tome, Innersins , Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Shadows at the Door and Danse Macabre Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Morpheus Tales and Freedom Fiction.