The Mystery of the Headless Ghost
Nicolás Gawain Smith
This story is my dog Duque's fault. If Duque hadn't found those footprints...But it would be better to start at the beginning.
It was a Monday and I was on my way to school. That day was very good in school. The English teacher was absent so we had almost an hour extra for recreation break. When I got home Duque wasn't there. I looked inside and outside, on the back porch and the front patio. Then I went out on the street to look for him. Finally I found him in the abandoned house next door barking at something. I called him but he didn't come. I whistled and he didn't come. I rolled on the floor and he didn't come. How strange, I thought. Whenever I roll on the floor he comes running and jumps on top of me. I went back home and asked my dad to let me put a leash on Duque. My dad doesn't like to put a leash on him. I went back to the abandoned house where I finally got the leash on him and brought him home.
That was a very good week in school. Some teacher was always absent and we had a lot of recreation breaks.
On Saturday when I got up Duque wasn't there again. In fact he hadn't there every morning, but because I didn't have to go to school that day, I could find out what he was barking at. I went to the abandoned house next door and saw someone running towards the back of the house. It was white, like phosphorescent. It looked like a ghost or something like that. I ran behind Duque to see what it was. When we reached the back of the house there was nothing, nothing, nothing.
I returned home dragging Duque with the leash. In the patio I petted Pinky, another dog we have. Duque doesn't like me to pet Pinky, it makes him jealous. I went inside and petted Merlin, my cat. Duque is white and black, with some brown. Pinky is gray, white and black. And Merlin is all white.
That evening we had ravioli for dinner, which I don't like, so I grabbed an apple and went upstairs to my room and lay down on the bed to read. I was reading a "Goosebumps" book by R. L. Stine. It was called "Ghost Beach". In it the author wrote that dogs can smell ghosts. At that moment I heard Duque barking and remembered what happened that morning. Then I did it: I took a bunch of shirts, tied them together and threw them out the window like a rope. I didn't realize that I was making the mistake of my life.
I went down the "rope" to the patio and prayed that Pinky wouldn't see me because she might bark. Luckily she didn't see me.
When I got to the abandoned house I didn't see Duque, but I saw his tracks and making like Sherlock Holmes I followed them. I came to a muddy place and saw a wall with a hole in it, but only a dog could pass through. "That's where Duque went," I thought, "but he was following that guy. Where could they have gone?"
I looked and looked all around but didn't find anything. I was about to leave when I saw footprints, this time human ones. They were going towards...of course! They went out the window, then on to the roof, then to the wall and to the other side.
I went the same way and when I got to the other side I followed Duque's tracks. They were easier to follow now because he had walked in mud. I followed them until... do you know where? .. to the cemetery. I was afraid to go in. I had heard a lot of stories about the cemetery. But my stupid curiosity won again. I went into the cemetery and.. and there was Duque. I tried to catch him by his collar, but he ran off. Suddenly he stopped and I stood face to face with what looked like a ghost. Duque began to bark. I remembered what I had read. It was a ghost, I was sure now, because it had no head. I couldn't stand any more and I shrieked so loud they must have heard it back at my house. The ghost pressed me against a tombstone. I tried to kick it but my foot passed right through it.
"How come you can hold me if I can't kick you?" I asked.
The ghost only laughed and said, "I have my ghostly secrets."
"And how did you leave footprints if you're a ghost?"
The ghost laughed again and said, "That was easy. I took shoes, muddied them and pressed them against the wall."
"And why is your head missing?"
"That's a looong story, but if you insist I'll tell it to you as the last thing you'll hear in your life... I was a rich merchant. I was very, very rich, but greedy and evil."
This is beginning to sound like a fairy tale, I thought.
"I was so evil that one day when a servant annoyed me..."
"What did he do to you?"
"I don't remember, but I told another servant to stick a knife in him. And he did. When the police came I denied everything. But my servant confessed and they sent me to the guillotine and that's why I have no head. OK, now it's time for you to die."
But the ghost didn't realize that while he was so enthusiastically telling his story, I had freed one hand. With this hand I threw a stone which bounced against a tombstone, making a noise. The ghost turned around to see what it was and I freed the other hand. Then I broke away and ran, but something grabbed my pants leg. I stopped and turned around and tell Duque to let me go and I realized that the thing holding me wasn't exactly Duque. I saw a green hand holding my ankle. Just what I need: zombies, I thought. Luckily, zombies aren't transparent and Duque bit his hand.
I kept running and finally reached the cemetery exit. It was getting light and I remembered another book I had read where it said that ghosts can't stand the light. I saw the ghost fall to the ground.
My parents were awake when I arrived home. The asked me where I went and said that they had been very worried. I said that I had taken an early walk. Then my dad said that tomorrow we were moving. "Hurry up and pack. It's already time to go to bed. Tomorrow you have to get up early."
I finished packing and went to bed. Tomorrow will be a big day, I thought.
Today I woke up at six in the morning, I think, because I don't know if the VCR clock is correct. I put my bags in the car and got in. When Mom and Dad finished loading all the things, including the animals, we left for our new home.
When we arrived Duque, Merlin and Pinky jumped out of the car. The new house is very large and has an enormous living room.
Strange, I thought, looking out the window, there's an abandoned house next door here too.
At first it was hard to adapt, but after a few days I was already playing with the kids at school. Three weeks went by and they were good weeks, until one day I came home from school and Duque wasn't there. I looked inside and outside, on the back porch and the front patio...
© 2000 Nicolás Gawain Smith
Gawain, as everyone calls him, is ten years old and is a pupil at the Escuela El Trigal, a small Waldorf school in the Traslasierra valley, Cordoba Province, Argentina. This is his first published fiction. At least we hope it's fiction.
Translation from Spanish: FTS
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