Thursday, May 8, 2014
THE BLACK CARRIAGE
THE BLACK CARRIAGE
Chuck Vitti was a writer, a cynical one at that. He wrote about what he knew; and what he knew was lies, hatred, betrayal, deceit, and heartache. His bleak outlook gave him a dark assessment of the human condition. Cynical as he was, Chuck understood what others refused to acknowledge. He understood that people only want you as much as they need you. Once you have nothing left to offer, that’s when everyone forgets about you.
Two weeks from his deadline, Chuck had been hit with a sudden rash of writer’s block. Nothing worse than a cynical writer with nothing interesting to say, Chuck thought sullenly.
It was just after dark when he descended the steps of the Fairview Public Library, having spent the day there reading and looking for inspiration for his latest piece.
He walked two blocks east from the library and it was there he saw the woman, her face shrouded by a black veil. She was shuffling along, pushing a baby carriage in front of her, the wheels squeaking across the pavement. It was one of those vintage black models with the ruffled hood hanging over the cradle.
“Evening ma’am,” Chuck said in passing, trying to be polite.
“Sir, can you help me?” the woman asked, and Chuck turned his attention back to her. If not for the streetlamps, he wouldn’t have been able to see her due to her full black ensemble. But he turned back to her with a quizzical look on his face.
“Yes, ma’am, what is it?”
“It’s my baby. I think he’s sick.” A terrible cry emitted from the carriage.
Chuck moved around to the front of the stroller and reached his hand inside the dark cradle of the carriage, brushing the baby’s forehead.
“You should get him home,” Chuck advised. “He’s very cold.”
“That’s because he’s dead,” the woman said, her words causing a chill to rush down the back of Chuck’s neck. It was then he noticed the two streaks of blood trickling down from beneath her dark veil.
She was bleeding from her eyes.
His hands trembled as they reached forward to pull back the veil, but something, some strange invisible force, stopped him from pursuing.
A ghost, he thought. He was standing face-to-face with a ghost.
It was two blocks east from the public library where Heidi Straub had her accident. It had happened four years ago on that very night.
The front tire of her van had blown out and she lost control of the wheel, careening off the road and smashing head-on into the brick façade of a local storefront.
The jagged glass of the shattered windshield had punctured her eyes. The paramedics pronounced her dead on arrival as the shards had pushed their way through and were embedded in her brain.
The paramedics had found her baby in the backseat, still strapped into its car seat. Its fragile neck had snapped upon impact.
The baby’s cry was heard again, but it didn’t emanate from the carriage. It came from behind Chuck. So he glanced over his shoulder, finding nothing. And it was during that brief moment that Heidi had vanished, carriage and all.
Chuck mashed his knuckles into his eyes in disbelief. Cynical as he was, he did not doubt the presence he had felt. Heidi Straub and her baby were there, standing inches away. And he was their solitary witness.
This meant two things. One: Life after death was not as ambiguous as he assumed. And Two: Chuck finally had something new to write about. The Ghost of Fairview.