Sixth Day – Goose Bumps

The sixth day my true love gives me geese laying.  Geese = goosebumps in my mind and the short days and long nights of winter are natural ground for ghost stories.  So a longer post from me today as at the end you will find my ghost story.  But my challenge for you today is to create a ghost story or poem in any format – it might be a haiku, a 500 word story or one in the 2,000 word format.  If you are posting to your own blog you can link in the comments using this text swapping your blog address, note the space after the ” is important.

This is my link <a href=””>here</a&gt;

The playlist for today is here

And the Russian roulette Question for today is:  Where would you find the Brown Lady?

If you are new to this, a brief explanation.  The #12DCP is a virtual Christmas party.  A post a day will appear on the Grethica.  You respond by way of comments.  Each comment creates an entry into my prize draw, for a money can’t buy prize (because it’s mostly stuff that’s been given away by others).  The Russian Roulette questions are quiz style questions, the comments you leave to those will be posted at the end of the 12 DCP.  However the danger with a Russian roulette quiz is that if you answer a question wrong – all of your answers become null and void.  The good news is though you have time to go back and post answers to previous days, right up to the end of the 12th day.

Enjoy – thanks to those that have taken part so far… keep up the good work

Cicero’s Hairpin

For Jamie, stepping in front of the train at Saxmundham station, on a cold October morning may have been a mistake.  It was typical that even that was a cock-up.  Cry for help, panic attack or a proper suicide attempt?  All he had to show for it was a twisted ankle, a graze above his left eyebrow and a killer headache.  Two weeks of psychiatric care, a further four months away from work and to external eyes he was mended.

The whole election period had been difficult; he was fraught with tension, a shadow minister who fully expected one of the top jobs.  For some reason that he never fully understood, he had an unstoppable, Tourette like tendency to talk himself into trouble.  He antagonised colleagues as well as opposition, making remarks that were later described as, ‘unfortunate’ by the new Prime Minister.  After his first year he discovered that the staff at his constituency offices had nicknamed him The Aldeburgh Ament.  Whereas Juliette his wife had managed to take a fragile majority, and turn it into a safe seat; he had taken a resounding majority and created the most marginal seat in the country.

This holiday was to mark a new start, Juliette’s birthday, a final rest before his return, a long weekend in Rome; just the two of them.  The journey had been unremarkable; the hotel was unspectacular, comfortable but crucially for them walking distance from the key sites.  As they arrived they threw their cases down on the floor and Juliette started unpacking.

“Prego, per Signora Jay,” a knock at the bedroom door had Jamie leaping up to answer.  There stood the receptionist, silver tray in hand, with an ice bucket, glasses and a bottle of fizz neatly jacketed by a white napkin.  Jamie took it, thanking the receptionist and sliding the envelope she handed him under the tray as he placed it carefully on the dressing table.

“You shouldn’t have,” said Juliette, “You old softy.”

Jamie poured two glasses, glancing at the bottle and realising that it was actually a fairly basic and worse, sweet Prosecco.  Why he didn’t own up straight away he couldn’t think.  Juliette believed it was from him, he chose to go along with her misconception.  They chinked glasses and he took a sip.  She knew he should not drink at all due to his medication, but one sip would be fine.

“I need a walk, just clear my head, before dinner,” Jamie glanced over at Juliette who was already settled in the chair with her glass in hand reading the novel she had started on the plane.  She had grown used to his wanderings.  Ever since the ‘incident’ he had tended to take himself out in the evenings, he might be gone twenty minutes, or several hours.  At first it had frightened her, worrying that he might do something foolish again.  But, as the months wore on and he always returned, she resigned herself to the fact that he needed the space alone with his thoughts.

“Let’s go to dinner at nine then,” she said, only half looking up as he left the room.

As soon as Jamie hit the pavement he knew he would find her.  He could smell roses, cinnamon and cardamom.  Subtle yet tangible the scent came to him and he trailed it assiduously across the streets.

It was always powerful women; the first time had come as a surprise.  Matron Emily Clarke, carbolic, wintergreen and hyacinth; she fussed around him whenever he entered the clinic at the hospital. He had tried mentioning it to Dr Frobisher, but when he saw the reaction it caused, he quietly forgot to mention her name any more.  It was only as he left the building and saw the memorial stone in the entrance hall, he realised that Matron Clarke had died some hundred years earlier.

The second; coming home to his house at Aldeburgh and finding Elizabeth Garret Anderson, orange flower, bergamot and rose, (specifically Briar Rose, by imperial Crown Perfumery, he had asked her); sitting at his study desk.  Elizabeth had not been such a shock; he had known that she lived at the house after she retired.  He had to prevent himself from reacting to her while his wife was around and he was amazed that Juliette never commented on the bouquet.  It was through Elizabeth that he learnt to talk to the women.  First taking in a deep breath to fully absorb the scent, then slowly as it filtered out through his nostrils transferring the miasma to his brain, letting the notes and chords, the composition of the oils and volatiles convert to thoughts synaesthesically.  He realised he could only talk when he was close enough to take a fully scented breath.  He also discovered that Elizabeth was often out and about in the town when he took his evening strolls.  He would detect her essence, percolate it through his system and then chat as they strolled around the town.  He often angered her when he let his underlying misogyny show in his clumsy descriptions of working with women in the Commons.  Elizabeth was remarkable though; she tried to educate him, and he liked her.  From there on he assumed all ghosts were benign and helpful.

Now in Rome he was tuning in to a new scent.  Rose, cinnamon and cardamom, it was delicate at first, just a hint.  He strolled past the opera house and down towards the chaotic roads surrounding the Coliseum, the smell intensified but not enough to really fill his lungs.  Through the ruins on the Palatine and then down towards the Circus Maximus, the scent started to build and finally he could feel the miasma beginning to form.  He took a long hard breath in and waited.  As he looked across the Circus Maximus he could see her, walking down in the central zone, where the Spina had been.  She stopped periodically and looked up as if viewing something, stroking the air at shoulder level.

Fulvia was completely absorbed.  She had wanted this place to represent the heroic acts of the charioteers and her last love, Marc Antony.  There had been improvements over the years, but she wished that in her lifetime she had been able to glorify his name.  Perhaps the addition of a new obelisk or a more ornate method of showing the laps that took place during the race.  It pained her to see it now, looking like nothing more than a barren grassy track with a mound surrounding it; trampled over by modern Romans and their dogs, only occasionally used for concerts and plays.   As she reached up a lock of her hair tumbled out of its arrangement.  She cursed the ornatrix who despite being beaten severely with a thong of bull’s hide, had used a broken pin and failed to fix the curls firmly enough.

“Language,” said Jamie, forgetting for the moment that he was probably tuned in to her already.  What came next surprised him.

“Roman of course,” said Fulvia sharply.  For a woman in her forties her voice sounded harsh and care worn, but more surprising was that he was hearing her in his own language.

“You can hear me?”

“Yes, what of it.  If you have nothing useful to say, remove yourself now.  Why have you come here?”  Fulvia had turned and was steadily walking towards Jamie at the side of the Circus.

“To rest and recover – You smell good,” he was always surprised that spirits quite liked reference to their odour, as if it reflected on their ability to truly exist.

“Ha, Cicero would have loved that, he spouted ‘The right scent for a woman is none at all.’”

“What are you doing here?”

“Mourning my dear husband Marc Antony.”

“But you’re not….”

“Cleopatra?  Why am I always forgotten by you tourists?” barked Fulvia angrily.  “She was a convenience; he was coming back to me, if only I hadn’t died.  What are you recovering from anyway?”

“I’ve had a tough time in Parliament; I need to think things through before I return to work.”

His fate, the fate which overcame Curio will be yours: for what brought death to both of them is now in your home,” she spat, “That’s what I call being given a tough time in Parliament, damn Cicero talking to my Marc like that.  I cannot be responsible for my first two husbands dying.  How much of your trouble did you bring on yourself?”

“Some,” he said, “Calling the Secretary of State for Health a fragrant whippet, was probably not my strongest point.”

There was a buzzing from his pocket.  He slipped out his iPhone and looked at the text message.  Don’t forget dinner in 20 minutes. As Juliette sent the message she felt despair, she poured a second glass from the bottle of Chianti she had bought in the mini-supermercato and ate some gorgonzola with Marmite crackers she had brought from home, to tide her over until dinner.

“What was it?” asked Fulvia

“A message from my wife, we are due to eat together later.”

“I think you should go now, she wants you.”

“She’ll wait, she always does.”

“Do you make a habit of ignoring the requests of women?  Be careful, I have a way to deal with men who are disrespectful to us – I need to go.”  With that Fulvia rushed up the hill, pushing past Jamie.  She brushed close to his arm and whilst she did not make contact he fell to the floor, banging his head as he landed.

When he came round Jamie looked at his phone, 9.20 and still a thirty minute walk back to the hotel.  He walked as quickly as he could, even breaking into a jog.  As he entered the corridor of the hotel, just outside the room, something hit him.  Scent; Dove deodorant and Mark Jacobs Daisy.  He threw the door open.

“Juliette, for Christ’s sake, what have you done?”  Her lifeless body was stretched on the bed; the last of the Chianti had spilled on the floor by her side.  He sucked in a huge breath, let out an almighty roar of a scream and then he heard her.

“What have I done?  What about you; where were you?  And, what’s that on your face, you look like a vampire.”

Jamie glanced into the mirror and could see two rivulets of blood trickling down his chin, one from each corner of his mouth.

“She came back to you then,” Juliette’s standing reflection smiled at him, whilst her material body remained motionless on the bed.

“Whoth?” Jamie lisped; he was finding it difficult to talk clearly, his tongue was swelling.  “Thsorry, I must have bithen my thsongue when I felth.”

“Fulvia, we’ve only just met, she came to see me as I passed over.  I told her about you and she told me what she did to Cicero.  Did you know she took out his tongue and stabbed it repeatedly with her hairpin when his head was displayed on the Rostra? ”

Jamie felt for the hole in his tongue and could feel a raised metal spike catching as he dragged it across his canines.  He looked down towards his feet and saw the litter bin; the empty blister pack from his Parnate and a birthday card clearly showing:

Happy Birthday to Sig.ra Jay,

The  Management.

Then as Jamie looked at the dressing table he saw the envelope that he had tucked under the tray.  He turned it over.  On the back of the envelope she had written in green ink, with the new fountain pen he had given her.  She had beautiful handwriting, he always thought so.

This was probably the smallest deceit of them all; a bottle of cheap Italian wine, but you couldn’t give the credit where it was due and accept that you hadn’t thought of it yourself.

No longer yours,

The Fragrant Whippet


Posted on December 30, 2010, in #12DCP and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. My 200 word ghost story.
    Something strange is happening in my garden. For so long I have intended digging and planting and harvesting but somehow I never seem to have the energy. Only now, there’s this funny little old man there and he’s digging and planting and harvesting, just as I want to do. He never speaks to me, just looks vaguely at me from time to time. I have tried to ask him what he’s doing there, even made suggestions as to what he might do. But he just keeps on digging and planting and harvesting. To begin with he was only there now and then, but now he’s there all the time, or so it seems. It’s beginning to really spook me. And this morning something really weird happened. I have been trying to communicate with him for days, really trying. But this morning for the first time, and with a weary note to his voice, he spoke and I don’t understand what he meant. He just said “Please leave me alone, my dear, this house and this garden are mine now, you cannot return, you must pass on” And he continues, digging and planting and harvesting and I stay and I watch.

    • I love this story – I’m not sure how you do it but it is both comforting and unsettling at the same time. Great stuff.

    • I love the way we all write in such different styles, really nice Janet. I can see you sitting (in ghostly fashion) on an upturned bucket, your chin resting on your hands, watching the gardener at work.

  2. The answer is Raynham Hall

  3. Russian Roulette today…a spooky shot in the darkness…BANG..

    The Brown Lady walks the staircase at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, one of the most famous ghost photographs ever known.

  4. here we are:

    Wake up and Smell the Coffee

    It’s a really odd feeling, being a ghost with a love of good food.

    I mean, walking through walls and making people jump is ok in its own way, but I really would like to taste coffee and chocolate again. It is unfair that your taste buds go ghostly at the same time as the rest of you.

    So I like to sit in the corner of Annie’s Coffee Corner and imagine the tastes as I remember them. Annie has a wonderful huge old espresso machine, all retro pipes, and tubes and things to pull and it makes a fantastic hissy noise. Sometimes if someone sits on top of me on my chair, I make the hissy noise in their ear. Even people who can’t hear me speak to them can feel the hiss of air in their dainty lugs. Usually they leap up as if they have been scalded and make for another table. And I get my chair back.

    But today my sit-upon-er (for want of a special word) is different. She is very light, I can hardly feel her, but she isn’t worried about the mad hissing. Can’t she hear me? Is she oblivious to ghostly hissing? I try again. She smiles. But no leaping and wildly looking about.

    “I know you” she says. “ You can’t shift me with your shifty hissing..

    Yes, and I know that you want to taste the coffee again, don’t you?”

    How could she know? Is she psychic? Has she had contact with other coffee-yearning ghosts?

    “Did you know that there is a way you can get to taste it again? I can help if you like” She is pretending to talk into her mobile phone so people won’t think she is in need of care in the community. Funny how people don’t mind people talking into thin air if they have a phone in their hands, even if without one, they would think you were completely loopy, don’t you think?

    “I’ve been watching you. I’ve seen the people who sit here, lovingly cradling their lattes and cappuccinos – and then they leap in the air as if they have been stung, leaving their coffee sitting there.” She laughed, a silver trill of giggles. Nobody in the room turned round though to see who had made the noise, maybe the sound of the espresso machine drowned it out.

    “But each time, I expected to see the steam from the coffee take a sideways detour on it’s way up..” She smiled quizzically “didn’t you even think to try it?”

    “All you have to do is breathe in…you can breathe out in a hiss, you just need to breathe IN in a hiss..” Goodness, what a good idea! Why hadn’t I thought of it?

    “Look” she said “here comes a happy chappie.. complete with a hot steamy triple shot espresso..”

    The Espresso Man came, sat down. On top of both of us. I moved round so that I could see my ghostly sit-upon-er more clearly. She smiled encouragingly.. if rather transparently.

    “One .. two.. three…”

    And we both sniffed in a hissy fashion. And we smelt the coffee.

  5. or if you like..the same plot in haiku

    The soul of Coffee
    Hissing as we breathe it in
    A ghostly savour

  6. Ghost stories aren’t really my thing. I quite liked Scooby Do but thats about it. I’m also not sure how to write haiku but here goes….

    Dark damp autumn gloom
    Wind whistles through the ghostly trees
    ‘Boo’ says the man

  7. Right and where would we find the Brown Lady?

    Why at Raynham Hall Norfolk if she decides to appear.

  8. I loved the stories – how fabulous you lovely creative types.

    Yes the Brown Lady appears (when she’s minded) at Raynham Hall

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