The First Night
I don’t know what woke me. It could have been the unfamiliar bed or the mangled springs in the sofa sleeper. It certainly wasn’t those ghost stories. I don’t believe in ghosts. Yet the room was cold and the air conditioner silent.
I snuggled deeper into the blankets and willed sleep to return while the darkness pressed against my eyelids. I had almost succeeded when I heard it: The creak, creak, creak of the bentwood rocker in the corner.
“The house is haunted,” my hostess had asserted over dinner. “The dog refuses to go into the kitchen unless she’s at a dead run and even then she hugs the walls to get out the back door.”
“Haunted,” I scoffed. “More likely the dog is nuts.” The black Labrador whined from under the table. “You do tend to pick the strangest animals.”
“I don’t pick them, they pick me.” She calmly spooned more broccoli onto her plate. “Animals are sensitive to the paranormal. Besides how else do you explain her standing in the doorway of the kitchen, hackles raised, fangs bared and barking for all she’s worth?”
“Someone could be in the alley.” I said, the voice of reason.
“The house is haunted. I’ve seen the ghosts.”
“So now there’s more than one?”
“I’ve seen a girl standing in the hallway and a man laying on the couch you’ll be sleeping on tonight.”
“You were dreaming.”
Dreaming, my earlier scorn mocked my racing heart. I wasn’t dreaming. I was wide awake. Sweat pricked my forehead, adrenaline galloped through my heart. There had to be a logical explanation behind the rhythmic movement. The answer came to me in a flash. My hostess, of course. She’d never forgiven my disbelief. It would be just like her to creep into the livingroom at night and sit in the chair to give me a start. I sat up, primed to catch the trickster.
“You didn’t this would actuallyB” ‘Scare me’ died unspoken in my throat. The rocking chair was empty. Empty and moving to the soft rhythm a mother uses to lull her babe to sleep.
If the girl ghost could stand in the hallway then she could also sit in the rocker and make it move. I swallowed the lump of pride in my throat. I was man enough to admit I was wrong about the ghosts, but sleeping with one in the same room was another matter. I tossed aside the covers and leapt out of bed. A heartbeat later the rocking chair rose off the ground and tipped over. Glowing eyes floated above my bed.
“Woof.” The Labrador glanced at the fallen chair then jumped onto the bed. Springs creaked. My heartbeat slowed. It had been the dog. The dog had caused the chair to move.
“You stupid mutt.” I said, slowly sitting back onto the bed.”Scaring me like that.” I wiggled into the warm spot and snuggled further under the blankets. At least my canine trickster would never tell of his success. “Go to sleep,” I yawned.
The dog sneezed then rested his head on my hip. Hackles raised, he stared at the kitchen door. I closed my eyes and chased a good night’s sleep.
I don’t believe in ghosts. The dog’s low whine rumbled across the blankets as she pressed closer to me.
Would I say the same thing at the end of my stay?