The Laughing Shade by Al McDermid

The tattered dress proved more resilient than flesh, shrouding her bones, lying in a ditch. In the ditch where they’d left her.

Where they’d left her? Who’d left her?

She looked at the bones, at the summer dress. The tree she stood next to was a riot of color, red and gold. She screamed and screamed, blowing the leaves from the tree. When she stopped screaming, it was winter. When she stopped, she remembered.

They had some beers they’d stolen, asked her along. Why not, she knew them from school. She knew them . . .

Moving though the moonlight, though the snow-swept stubble of last summer’s corn, she came to their farm. The animals stirred as she passed, the dogs barked, then whimpered, turning tail. The ghostly light of the television flickered in the window. She hurled herself against it, smearing her image against the frost.

One jumped, but the other just laughed. It’s the wind, you fool, just the wind.

No, it’s her. I know it’s her. Look, in the window. See? It’s her! Why’d you do it? Why?!

Shut up, shut up! It was an accident. You were there. It’s what we agreed. The windows rattled as she howled again.

No. I’m calling. Someone has to know. She’ll never rest, never leave us.

You’ll call no one.

The phone clattered to the floor. She laughed and laughed. Her laughter still echoes through the empty house, tormenting their struggling shades.


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Filed under Al McDermid

18 responses to “The Laughing Shade by Al McDermid

  1. “smearing her image against the frost” … when I first read that I saw blood.
    Now I am unsure.
    I see Douglas firs and private true confessions around a camp fire, a private ‘Twin Peaks’ (who remembers that?) and haunting music …

    • Al McDermid

      Wow, ‘Twin Peaks’. Haven’t thought of that in years. You honor me with the comparison.

      Not blood. I was thinking more of the ‘water ghost’ in ‘The Ring’.

  2. A delightfully frightening story here that I’ll think of in tonight’s wind.

  3. guy

    I like the way you work the ghost into the scenery & seasons. The haunting visuals propel the story. The romantic pastoral works well here.

    The way the landscape & nature are used brings to mind Charles Van Schaick & Wisconsin Death Trip.

  4. guy

    WDT was all the rage back in the 1970s. It’s a collage of newspaper clippings and Van Schaik’s photos.

  5. What a great ghost story! Loved it!

  6. Pingback: Week #21 – Unseen « 52|250 A Year of Flash

  7. nicolette

    Thanks for reading my short shorts and your kind words. I appreciate it…Your writing has a keen sense of rhythm, intimacy and…shadows, if that makes sense ;)

    • Thanks for the generous comments. Yes, ‘shadows’ does make sense if I’m understanding you correctly, those unwritten parts that reveal. Something you’re good at, as well.

  8. Matthew

    Good story. And thank you for reading and commenting on my stories. Much appreciated. I usually spend most of my time at Fictionaut where I comment on the 52/250 stories group page.

    Are you a member of FN?

    • Thanks. I found that ‘ghosts’ are fun.

      As for your stories, you are most welcome. Your stuff has a satisfying edge to it.

      No, I’m not at FN. I asked to join, but never heard back.

  9. shooshoobeleza

    delicately aggressive, haunting images that fill your consciousness. the third paragraph in particular won’t leave my mind. well done Al!

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