My Most Embarrassing Ghost Story

Because, yes, I have more than one, but they’re not all embarrassing.  Actually, it’s a bit ironic that I have any at all because I started out not believing in ghosts.  I always liked the IDEA of ghosts, that this or that tragic spirit was still lingering in some ruined old building, but real ghosts?  No way.

I think that pisses them off.

You see, I’ve discovered that I’m some kind of ghost magnet.  I’ve even had the leader of a ghost tour turn to me and ask “What did you just see?”  I’ve had a ghost child wrap its arms around my right thigh, at least, that’s what the tour guide told me it was.  I would have assumed it was just the blast from some air vent, but I was standing outside when it started.  A cold numbness all around the center of my right thigh.  Just one leg.  Just that spot.  Coldest in the back, but extending all the way around.  I was pondering this as we went into the Petit Theater proper.   Still felt it when we were inside.  Still felt it when I sat down.  That was when the tour guide mentioned the ghost children who will grab onto some people and won’t let go until the person was a block or so from the property.  And it was true.  I felt that weird coldness the whole time I was around the building, but when we started off down Chartres Street, it suddenly stopped.  I have no other explanation for it.  One thigh, cold all the way around, even when I was sitting in a theater chair.

Neat, huh?

Anyway, that’s not the embarrassing one.  Although the embarrassing one also happened in New Orleans.  The ghosts of New Orleans can hardly wait for me to come back to town apparently.  “Look, there she is.  Do something that couldn’t possibly happen in California.”  Well, okay, it probably could happen in California.

But I doubt it.

So I was in New Orleans, staying at an interesting place called the Hotel St. Pierre.   The interesting thing about it is that it was created by taking a bunch of old Creole houses and shoving them all together.  Literally.  There are no long straight hallways with rows of generic doors leading to cookie cutter rooms.  No, just finding your room is an adventure.  “Take two rights, go up the curving stairs.  If you accidentally find yourself in the courtyard, go through the gate onto the street, come back to the lobby and start over.”  I was terrified that there would be a fire and I was going to burn up because I had no idea how to get back out.

Night one of the trip had not gone so well.  I sprained my ankle in Pirate’s Alley (there’s a long gutter that runs down the center of the alley.  Don’t turn to talk to your friend without noting the location of that gutter in relation to your feet.) but I toughed it out and finished the ghost walk anyway.  We (myself and my friends Dana and Deanna) found our way back to our room and went to bed.  My bed was on the right, they were sharing a bed on the left.  We had a fireplace and a door that was halfway up the wall.  The bathroom was small and vaguely rectangular, obviously added later.  There were two smoke detectors, one above the door to the room, the other way up near the door to nowhere.  Maybe there’s a law about having the smoke detectors near doors.

Everyone crawled into their respective beds, me a bit gimpy, my friends slightly tipsy, and got ready to go to sleep.  That was when the smoke alarm went off.  The one above the real door.  Blat, blat, blat.  I was up in an instant, looking for my shoes.  My fears come true.  I was going to burn to death in a building designed by M.C. Escher.

Dana sat up and looked at me.  “Should I call the desk?”  The phone was on her side of the room.  Deanna mumbled something incoherent, turned over and went back to sleep.  Dana picks up the receiver, laughing at me struggling into my shoes as she’s dialing.  “Our smoke alarm is going off.  Should we be concerned?  Yes, it’s still on.  Can’t you hear it?”

And then it stopped.

“Oh, it’s off now.  Okay, we’ll call if it happens again.”  But before she can hang up the phone, blat, blat, blat.  So the guy says it’s probably a bad battery.  He’ll come up and disconnect it for us.

The guy shows up, but he can’t reach the smoke detector.  He grabs some antique-looking (no, seriously, this chair looked old and expensive!) chair from the hallway and climbs up on it.  He pulls the smoke detector off the wall and stares at it for a long moment.  We are all standing around below him in our pajamas, waiting expectantly.  “Well, it’s not the battery.  This thing is hardwired to the wall.”

The only thing creepier than a real fire is a fire alarm that goes off whenever you talk about fire alarms.

Or so I thought.

The next night, I did not go to Bourbon Street because my ankle had ballooned up in a nasty painful way so I stayed in the room watching Iron Chef while my friends went out on the town.  I got tired of TV and stretched out on my bed to read a Ray Bradbury book.

And it started to get cold.  Seriously cold.  Someone just opened the refrigerator door cold.

And I was all alone.

I wrapped up in a blanket and kept reading my book, but finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  I decided the best thing to do was give up and go to bed.  So I changed into my pajamas and hobbled over to the not-quite-rectangular bathroom.  Then, a dilemma.  Should I close the bathroom door?  I’m all alone in the room, but Dana and Deanna could burst back through the front door at any moment.  I didn’t really want to be sitting there in all my glory when they arrived.  But locking the door seemed like overkill, even though the room had gotten a distinctly creepy vibe.  So I would just make sure the door was firmly latched.  That way if they did come home, I would have time to yell “Don’t come in the bathroom.”

And sure enough, the moment I sat down, I could hear heavy footsteps on the stairs coming up to our floor.  I was just congratulating myself on having the foresight to close the bathroom door when it flew open with so much force that it banged into the wall.

It was a good thing I was already sitting on the toilet.

I quickly got dressed, expecting Dana and Deanna to walk in right then.  Only they didn’t.  I peeked out the door into the hallway.  There was no one out there.

Anywhere.

Ummm…now what?

Go to bed, but leave all the lights on.

When Dana and Deanna got back, I told them my story and we immediately decided to try and debunk it.  (Looking back, I’m sure our neighbors were thrilled at us playing ghostbuster at 2 am.)  We tried everything to recreate the door slam.  We jumped on the stairs outside while someone was sitting on the toilet.  We sat down on the toilet extra hard.  We didn’t latch the door all the way and sat on the toilet really hard.  The door opened maybe an inch or two on that one, but it didn’t slam by any stretch of the imagination.

Dana and Deanna were jealous of my ghostly adventure.

I didn’t stay in that room alone for the rest of the trip.

Why I’m Not Participating In NaNoWriMo

Because I was.  Briefly.  Okay, I started yesterday, but you see, I have a broken foot.  Not that I’m not perfectly capable of functioning with a broken foot, but it is distracting to have to drag a massive air cast anchor along wherever you go.  Also, it makes my leg go to sleep if I sit at the computer too long, although maybe that’s just me being over enthusiastic with the air pump.

But I digress.

I realized yesterday that I had missed the beginning of the month by about 13 days.  Which meant that I was at least 12,000 words behind the rest of the class.  But, no worries.  I was 15,000 words into a paranormal romance I had never finished.  So, okay, cheating, but still 35,000 words short of a novel.  Plenty of NoWri to go.

After spending the entire day struggling with this thing (and occasionally letting air out of my cast), I’ve discovered that it’s really hard for me to concentrate on writing a story when I’m also concentrating on reaching a daily word count.  It’s like trying to read a book and do math at the same time.  One part of my brain is diligently creating a scene while another part is as antsy as a small child on a road trip.  Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  The process became less about writing a story and more about running a marathon.  Who cares if I really need this scene or not?  It’s 600 words!  I can’t cut it now!

My usual output is a little more unpredictable.  One day I write seven pages; the next, I go back and take out the word “the.”  Telling myself that I have to come up with 1600 words today or else leaves my brain feeling like it has been shoved into a too-tight air cast.

So for those who succeed in writing a novel this month, I salute you.  Me, I’m going back to writing vampire stories.