BY DR. AGONSON
Pausing at each word, he asks, “Are. . . ghosts. . . real?”
“Are ghosts real,” the old man scoffs. “You’ve just seen ‘em.”
“But, what are they?” Michael blurts. Running his hand through his hair, he begins pacing up and down the little room in which they had locked themselves. The grizzled bearded beggar stands still, his dark eyes possessed with an unageing intensity. Try as he might, Michael couldn’t escape that penetrating gaze.
“The question is not, ‘what are they?’” the old man finally answers, “as if you could weigh and measure ‘em. What did you expect, that a spirit would fit under a microscope? Is it possible you thought the world could be dissected; that in analyzing all the little bits you would know the whole; that your expensive education did anything other than blind you?”
“But what are they?”
The locked door rattles, the brass handle twisting right and left at a dizzying speed. Unseen fists pound from the other side. Michael turns from the door and faces his companion. They had hid themselves in a little closet under the staircase, and the old beggar sat where the descending ceiling stooped, as if the very room itself were bending around this rugged character, lending credence to his next words.
“They are that which cannot be forgotten, that which remains when all else fades.”
Michael’s exasperated thumb twitches, his keychain’s light blinking a moment. In that brief shadow, in that blindness, he could no longer see as if for one moment all reality had stopped. In the interim, the rampaging gave way to a sudden silence, the darkness infesting the little closet. Depressing the pad once more, he shines his soft light upon the closed door.
It hadn’t gotten in, he thinks. Turning back toward his companion, Michael discovers himself alone in the room. The old man had disappeared into the shadows. Backing away from the hollow hovel he feels the cold knob stabbing his liver. He presses his back against the door. No more noises, no more threats, come from the other side, while the unbearable quiet builds within the empty room.
He feels his quivering thumb threatening to send him once again into the darkness, his faint beam revealing the impossible. Before his unsteady light betrays him, Michael’s searching hand feels around for the doorknob. Clasping this, he turns the knob and runs.
It was always said of Michael, upon his return to school, that his countenance was never the same. A quieter man than the pontificating boy who had left college for summer vacation, Michael’s newly acquired habit of staring fixedly nowhere was well noted. But all the force his old nature would break this newfound forbearance upon one issue. And if any man in his presence, professor or student, would happen to disparage the belief in spirits, he would hold them with wild eyes, eyes belonging to no sane man, and accost them with this tale.
Listen to my beautiful voice: