(This is the third and final instalment of a summer campfire ghost story. All three parts can be found at: http://www.mindentimes.ca/columns)
The open door revealed a scene like nothing Shainie had ever seen. Shafts of sunlight entering the broken windows and cracks in the walls sliced the smoky dimness of the interior, highlighting once normal cottage contents now succumbing to years of neglect and decay. She could taste on the tip of her tongue the sour-sweet smell of damp rot.
Puffs of dust rose around her feet as she moved in slow motion through the cabin. A couch along one wall looked like a cartoon sketch, springs protruding through a faded floral fabric that had been scratched, chewed and soiled by mice and other forest creatures seeking protection from winter storms. A kitchen table and chairs stood beside the side window, plates, knives and forks set out in the dust and animal droppings as if waiting for a family of ghosts to arrive for an evening meal.
As she backed away from the table, Shainie’s boot tripped against an object, sending a scrapping noise echoing through the room, and in turn setting off scurrying noises in the cabin’s dark corners. She looked down and was horrified to see the object was a doll with its face chewed off.
A shadow with glowing eyes hissed and squealed from a corner. Shainie screamed and bolted to the rear door. Sunlight blinded her as she crashed through the rotting plank door.
The rear entrance top step was missing and her boot smashed through the next one, sending her tumbling onto debris scattered below.
When her eyes opened a few seconds later, Shainie wondered where she was and why her forehead was wet and throbbing. She touched the blood seeping from a gash that extended from her right eyebrow to her right temple. The fear that had seized her inside the cabin took hold of her again as she got to her feet unsteadily. She staggered, panicky and disoriented, towards the cliffs overlooking the lake.
She stumbled along not knowing where she was going or why, confused by alternating dizziness and blackness. The lake shimmered seemingly miles below her feet, which had difficulty rooting her firmly to the ground. Suddenly they were not rooted at all, and she sensed a rushing all around her, and the sky getting farther and farther away as she fell through the air above the lake.
The wildness and wetness of a storm tore at her face. The lake tossed and roared. The wind screamed like a tormented animal. A smashed canoe and a girl calling like a loon drifted by in her unconsciousness.
Then a light, a brilliant light steady and safe drawing her closer and closer to Ghostly Point. The light softened and through it came the blurred outline of a face, her mother’s face, followed by her mother’s voice, then the pine ceiling and other familiar surroundings of her cottage bedroom.
That evening, after the gash on Shainie’s head had been cleansed and bandaged, and after her shock had been soothed by a few hours’ sleep under a down comforter, Shainie sat with her family on the deck overlooking Shkendang Lake. A thunderstorm had just swept the lake, leaving behind a gentle grey mist and a tranquility that deepened with the advancing twilight.
Shainie’s parents had told her about waking that morning to a noise at the dock. They had looked out to see their daughter lying wet and unconscious on the dock while the stern of a birch bark canoe disappeared in the distance.
They all were lost in their reflections about this strange day, staring into the greyness when a breeze parted the mist on the lake, revealing the dark outline of Ghostly Point. Then through the dimness appeared a light, faint but clearly visible to everyone sitting on the deck across the bay. Before anyone could speak, the breeze carried to them a low moan, almost a sobbing that crept across the glassy waters and along shoreline before becoming lost in the thickness of the trees.
“Moong. Wenesh aa-zhwebak? Moooohhhng. G’giigoonke na gamiigoong? Loon. What happened? Loo...oon. Are you fishing on the lake?”