The Shadows: A Short Story of Ghastly Gatherings
Welcome! This is a profile in the macabre. It's a short story about a family who lived in the 19th Century. They lived a rather normal lifestyle back then, aside from a few setbacks in life. They've survived but not in the way you might expect.
Introducing the Graybeers: Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan and Priscilla Graybeers, and their two children, Tony and Stephanie, ages 14 and 16, respectively, at the time of death. Tony was shot in the head while Stephanie was downed by an ax.
Back in 1862.
Mr. and Mrs. Graybeers committed suicide, each at the other's hands. In 1863, following a tumultuous year of mental anguish over the loss of their children. It seems mental illness takes its toll.
Looking back, they were a typical northeastern suburban family, college educated, upper middle class, sports-minded.
In present day, they're like most other families of similar ilk except for one thing: they can disappear. Oh, yes, one other thing: they don't really have human form; they're not ghosts, they're shadows from their former life. They even live in a mansion called The Shadows, which is near a cemetery.
Aside from select social occasions, the family rarely leaves the Shadows. The mansion has been in their family for centuries. And the location next to the cemetery has always been a family favorite, so no one has ever thought of selling the property.
Although on rare occasions, an unwitting realtor will appear at the door only to be "greeted" by Mr. Graybeers himself. But being a shadow, he really can't be seen so the realtor leaves his card and walks away, seemingly unaffected by the opening and closing of the door -- by itself.
The mansion is really quite grand on both the inside and exterior. Though it appears to be a step back in time, the mansion has been remarkably kept up nicely. It definitely has that Old World charm, complete with the musky scent and draftiness.
As ages have passed, it's even been likened to a mausoleum. Guess that's why it's usually a favorite on Halloween! No one ever comes to the door but a large bowl of candy is always left on the Dearly Departed mat.
The Graybeers are not without social etiquette. They host a bi-weekly card game in their parlor and invite the ghosts from the nearby cemetery. You've never played in a card game like this before; it's an out-of-somebody's-body experience!
In alternate weeks, the ghosts return the favor and host the game in the cemetery. Each ghost takes turn in hosting which grave site will serve as the "host grave." Many a chilling banter must take place each week during these ghastly gatherings.
As grand as the old girl is, no one has ever figured out how it is maintained without a staff. Yet, the Graybeers seem to do so quite nicely. Perhaps those weekly card games pay off!
Outside of Halloween, their favorite night of the year, they selectively haunt, depending on their mood. A carryover from their former lives, they have rather refined tastes. They're not one's typical shadows. They don't scare for the simple act of scaring. There's evidently a fine art in scaring the crap out of someone, and the Graybeers take it to a different level.
As a life member of the I.F.S.S., International Federation of Spooky Shadows, the family takes their role in death quite seriously. They realize death is serious business and being a shadow, as opposed to a ghost (Casper ruined that for everyone), has its built-in mystique that they find quite appealing.
Being a shadow has its advantages. One is not limited to the time of day when going about the neighborhood to scare up a scream or two. In fact, nighttime allows for the most flexibility since a shadow sort of blends in with the environment.
However, the Graybeers particularly enjoyed "shadowing" in the daylight hours because only their shadows could be seen - and not what they were a shadow of. They found this especially gratifying when seeing the excited, yet puzzled, yet scared expressions of the faces of the passersby.
One rather unique characteristic of the Graybeers was that, unlike your typical shadows, they could float upright rather than be stuck in the horizontal mode of sliding along the sidewalk. This became increasingly fun to do during Trick or Treat when all anyone could see was a bag of candy being held by an upright "puff of smoke"-like creature. Oh, the screams were resplendent!
On this one day, Mr. Graybeers decides, for some reason, he wanted to take a float (shadows don't walk, they float). So he sets off and heads outside of his neighborhood. He's only been outside the neighborhood once since he died. All other times he's been outside were within the confines of his quasi private enclave.
As he is progressing down the so-called main drag, he spots other people-like figures and wonders to himself if they'll notice this floating shadow. Time of day would be a factor since this was not at nighttime. Since he didn't really want to make a scene, he quietly floats along as if nothing odd were happening.
He's getting closer now to the other figures and discovers they are of the female species of humans. Without thinking, he makes a motion with his hat like any gentleman would when coming upon ladies in the walkway and simply proceeds onward. He'd taken only a few "strides" down the street when he heard a commotion; all sorts of screaming and such until he distinctly heard someone yell out, "she's fainted! Please, someone, help."
Mr. Graybeers immediately stops, rather startled, turns around to observe what had happened and overhears one of the ladies exclaim, "We were just walking along when out of nowhere, this shadowy figure gets right beside us and makes some sort of motion towards us. I swear, it was as if it was tipping its hat! That's when Gwendolyn fainted."
That's when Mr. Graybeers almost fainted, having heard all this. Now that a crowd had gathered to try and revive the woman, Graybeers thought it would be a good time to disappear. Literally!
So, poof, he did.
Having had enough excitement for a decade or two, Graybeers finds his way back to the mansion and reappears as his shadow, undetected by anyone. Once inside, he explains what happened to his better half, who wondered aloud why he would do such a thing.
"I wasn't thinking, dear. The gesture was simply natural. I used to do it all the time when I was alive," Graybeers explained.
"Well, you're not alive anymore, dear.," flatly stated his wife, Priscilla. "Yes, I know, dear. It won't happen again!" reassured Graybeers. "However," he paused; "perhaps next time I'll just wave my hand in a gesture of 'Hello'". Priscilla just rolled her eyes and floated off.
Such was the highlight of this day for the occupants of this mansion, the Shadows. Retiring for the evening in his study, Mr. Graybeers relaxed in his favorite chair, comforted by his smoking jacket and pipe and wondered to himself, "My, what an exciting evening next Tuesday will be when the ghosts from the cemetery come over for poker. Imagine their delight when I tell them of my escapades with the humans. Such fun it will be!"
Taking a few puffs on his pipe and being concerned about recent foundation problems, Graybeers began to lose himself in his new novel, "The Fall of the House of Usher," by some guy named Poe.