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The Intruder

by George Lester
George Lester

I always felt perfectly welcomed as soon as I moved into the house. Penny and I were both 71 years old when we married and it was agreed that I would sell my place and we would live in hers. I must admit that I missed my old abode where I had lived for over twenty years, the last ten of them alone. It just seemed a lot more practical to give it up and let Penny stay where she was most comfortable. I would have given up a lot more than a former residence to spend my twilight years with her.

From the very first day I wore my new surroundings like an old coat. It seemed almost like I had always been there. Maybe it was, in part, because of the fact that my new bride made it plain that she was glad I was filling an otherwise empty space in her house. I once jokingly remarked that I appreciated her allowing me to live in her beautiful home. She said she felt lucky because there were probably a lot of other ladies her age that would be glad to share their homes with me. Perhaps she was only kidding too but I like to think that she wasn't. It's an ego soothing thing I guess.

Penny's husband of 50 years had passed away three years before I arrived. They had shared this very house for over ten years. With that thought in mind it would be reasonable to think that I might somehow feel his presence as I walked the floors he had tread and slept in the room where he rested for all those years. I never experienced that sensation. Again, maybe I did, but the perhaps the warmth and love I felt from Penny overcame any lingering doubts in my mind.

Many months before, when I came to call on her for the first time, we had a lot of catching up to do . We had gone to grade school together more than sixty years before that and all that time we had not seen each other. It seemed like a good occasion to take some pictures to show friends and tell them the story of our chance meeting. We used the automatic timer so we could get pictures of us together. When they were developed we saw some strange things in the prints. There were mysterious shadows and light streaks on the walls behind us. Photography had been a life long hobby of mine and I knew the common causes of such flaws in the images. All the known explanations could not account for the phantom apparitions. We joked about our meeting being haunted but it was soon forgotten.

I have always been a chronic insomniac. Some nights I awake in the wee hours of the morning and stay up until dawn. It happened shortly after Penny and I married. When I realized I was not going to be able to go back to sleep I arose quietly and left Penny slumbering peacefully. I had planned to go to the living room and try to read myself back to sleep. As I closed the bedroom door behind me I stepped out into a dark hallway. The only illumination came from a dim night light in the kitchen.

There before me at the other end of the hallway stood a dark human silhouette.

I don't know how long I froze in my tracks and stared in disbelief. The eerie figure remained motionless as if staring back at me. I suppose the normal reaction would be to flee and look for a weapon. I have never been what you would call a fearless person but for some unknown reason I didn't want to run away. I felt an uncanny compulsion to walk toward the ghostly visitor. My pace wasn't slow and deliberate as one might reason. I almost ran in that direction. The hair was standing up on the back of my neck and I felt as if ice water was flowing through my veins. None of this makes sense but I kept walking straight at the unknown entity Wham! I bounced back knocked almost unconscious. I saw stars and I reeled back and forth while waiting for my head to clear. When my senses finally returned I saw what had happened.

I had walked straight into the hall mirror.

George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir >

November 14, 2006 column
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