By Jackie King
I was about four when my older cousins started scaring me with ghost stories. These were told in the bright sunshine, but at night I had to creep up creaking stairs to get to my bedroom at Grandma’s house. These monsters lurked along the way to terrify me. I can still remember the dread and the sick empty feeling in my belly.
The Good Old Days
Grandchildren weren’t pampered in those days, at least not by my grandma. She married at 14 so I doubt she ever had a childhood, at least not as we think of it these days. I realize now that she wasn’t a cruel woman, just one who had endured hardships, and in her declining years had received me on her doorstep while my mother trained to be a teacher. She did the best she could.
The Million Mile Stairs
There was no electricity to illuminate the steep stairs, so I was given a lighted candle and told to blow it out after I was in bed.
But what waited at the top?
Was it the murdered man looking for his golden arm? Would he chop off my head with his ax when he learned I didn’t have it, as he had with two dozen other children?
And the candle was sputtering.
Terrified of having no light, I’d put one foot in front of the other, knowing that I had no other choice. And finally I’d reach the landing. The soft glow of the candle lighted only a small circle, and each step into the blackness seemed almost certain death.
Finally, I reached my bed, set the candle on an orange-crate used for a bedside table and climbed in. It was summertime and hot, but I still pulled the dusty smelling bedspread over me. After a quick puff to blow out the candle the room was black as a witch’s hat. The counterpane (as Grandma called it) was the only protection between me and the evil ghost. I’d lie stiff as a board until I finally fell asleep.
The next morning when my cousins came to visit, I’d beg them for another ghost story.