I left the Navy in 1988, disillusioned with nursing and the military. I decided I was going to do something completely different. I obtained in my Real Estate License and moved to Georgia to make my fame and fortune. Why Georgia – I don’t know. I like Georgia. I moved to a small town just outside of Macon. Deep in the middle of the Bible belt. Where people talk about black-eyed peas, butter beans, cornbread and grits with a sparkle in their eyes. Where Sunday isn’t the only day for Church, there is the Wednesday services and the Bible study groups and it goes on and on. I don’t have anything against any of that, but it is a different way of life and not one to which I had ever been exposed. It’s curious I should end up in such a place. But there it was, I had.
My friend and I rented a single family home (that’s real estate lingo) just outside the town. It was a rancher, probably mid-century. It was set amongst the pines. Nothing special, just your average house, built before the open floor plan design was a glimmer in the architects’ eye and a catch-phrase on every house hunters’ tongue. It had a living room with an entire wall of sliding glass windows which lead out onto a deck. The deck was high up off the ground as the backyard sloped down rather precipitously into a tree-lined gully. I never really felt comfortable in the house. The kitchen was dark, and reminded me of one of those 1970 family dining restaurants lined with dark wood paneling and window panes with yellow glass and circles pressed into the glass panes. I think the house may have still had shag carpeting, an avocado green, like there was a lawn inside the house, a pilly, compressed lawn. There were odd fragrances in the house. I would catch whiffs of perfume in the bathrooms, as if the scent of previous owners had buried themselves in the wallpaper.
The living room was probably my favorite room, because of the wall of sliding glass doors which opened to the deck perched high above the forest in the backyard. The ceiling of the room was high, slanted and had windows on the other wall way at the top. These let in an enormous amount of light and really highlighted the cobwebs that collected in the corners of the ceiling. I spent a great deal of time in this room, because I thrive off natural light. I spent many an hour laying on the sofa alternating between looking out onto the forest and then obsessing over the cobwebs I couldn’t reach in the corners at the top of the ceiling.
One night, my Great Dane Sheila and I were watching a movie in the living room (this was when most houses usually had only one television). The weather was dark and foreboding. A thunderstorm was making its presence known as it approached. We could hear the distant grumblings of the thunder followed by the momentary flashes of light which lit the living room up in an eerie bluish-white glow. The wind had begun to blow and the pines in the backyard were succumbing to the blasts by gracefully bending. I think I must have fallen asleep on a blanket. Sheila was at my side. She might have been big, being a Great Dane, but really she was a scaredy-cat when it came to thunderstorms. And she was also a pillow hog. She would share my pillow and in the middle of the night I would find my head off the pillow and hers would be comfortably ensconced in the middle of the pillow, dreaming away.
The rain had started, it was falling in an angled pattern as the winds were no longer blowing in bursts, but blasting continuously and furiously. A huge drumming of thunder rattled the windows followed by a brilliant, retina burning flash of lightning which woke both of us up. I opened my eyes and sat up to look out the windows overlooking the deck, and noticed Sheila was awake too. She was intently looking at the sliding glass door, her ears were down and back, and the hair on her neck stood at attention. Initially I thought it was because of the violent storm, and so in an attempt to reassure her I patted on her head. Just then, another loud applause of thunder followed quickly by a brilliant show of lightning that scattered along the ceiling and throughout the room. I followed Sheila’s gaze to the sliding glass doors and standing on the deck was a boy.
He was a thin teenager, tall, dark-skinned with short-cropped hair. The rain was beating against him from his right side. The trees that rose above the deck, bent behind him as the wind continued to blow unceasingly. The thunder growled, the lightning exploded with another brilliant flash of bluish white light. The boy stood looking directly at us. His hands were splayed against the outside of the sliding door glass. With each flash of light, the whites of his eyes disappeared into dark holes on his face, and his opened mouth became an endless abyss from which the pelting rain dripped. I could see him blinking, trying to rid the water from his eyes as it poured down his face. It was if he was pleading with us, but I could not hear what he was saying because of the orchestra of claps and drumming which played an angry song outside.
I quickly slammed my head back on the pillow, my heartbeat in my ears was competing with the thunderstorm. Sheila continued to stare towards the sliding glass doors, I was definitely the scaredy-cat, she the brave one. I didn’t look back up for quite a while, only after the thunderstorm rumbled it’s way into the distance, and the grumblings and the flashing of light became further apart. It was quite some time before I gathered up the courage to peek, and when I did, the glass doors had become dark; only the static from the finished videotape danced on the TV screen and reflected against the panes of glass.
I told my roommate about the incident the next day. He was convinced it was just a vivid dream and nothing more. Both Sheila and I knew that not to be true although we tried vehemently to believe otherwise.
I did see the boy one other time. Again the weather was inclement, we were having another dark and stormy evening. I was alone in the house with Sheila, brushing my teeth before bed. The master bathroom opened up onto the bedroom and I could see the flashing of the lightning in the mirror as I stood there scrubbing my teeth. I bent down to rinse my mouth and as I straightened to wipe my mouth, a huge crack of lightning reflected into the mirror and there was the boy looking through the master bedroom window, hands splayed against the pane, mouth wide open, staring directly into the mirror. I turned around, as did Sheila – he was gone, the windows were once again dark. I slept in the guest room that night, as did Sheila – we were both scaredy-cats. In retrospect, the thing I found most disturbing about the second sighting was the deck that overlooked the forest in the backyard, didn’t extend to the windows outside the master bedroom. Which means the boy was floating about 15 feet up, looking in through the window.
Not long after the second sighting of the boy, I was going through the closet, pulling clothes out to pack them (I may attract ghosts, but I am not stupid enough to go looking for them, or live with them). I pulled some sweaters off a shelf in the corner of the closet and a photograph fluttered down onto the floor. I picked it up, after packing the sweaters in a box. Staring intently back at me, was the boy. I knew it was the boy. I would have recognized him anywhere. But in the photo, he was vibrant and alive, smiling in a group of what I had assumed was his parents and perhaps his brother. I sat and looked at the photo, thinking about what had happened to the boy in this house.
With discovery of the photo, the packing which had seemed so important minutes before, was forgotten. I scurried over to the neighbor’s house, the ones who lived to the east of our house, with the photograph in hand. Luckily they were home, and being the gracious Southerners that they always were, invited me in, offered me iced tea and asked me to sit with them in the kitchen. I told them I was moving. They seemed shocked and asked why. I relayed the story of the sightings and how I had seen the dark-skinned teenager in the rain, pleading. The wife, who had previously been listening while stirring a large pot of soup, stopped and slowly put her spoon down. She turned to look at me, and her face was ashen, her mouth wide open. I sensed fear in her eyes and turned to look at her husband, whose eyes were wide and brimming with tears. I asked them why they looked that way. They told me a family had lived next door, about ten years prior, and they had a teenaged son. They came home one day, on a stormy night, after being at a church service to find him dead in the garage. He had hung himself. It was my turn to ask why. They replied it was mysterious, no one ever did figure out what had driven him to do such a thing. I handed the husband the photo I had found in the closet. He stared at it in disbelief. His wife came over, bent down and peered at it, her eyes big with sorrow and fright, not understanding this story of the paranormal. She straightened up and looked at me and they both nodded simultaneously when I asked them if the boy in the middle, if that was him. Because the boy in the photo was the dark-skinned boy I had seen in the rain.
This is a true story.
Thanks to CNN.com for the photo.