Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
The Ghost of You
By Heather Wright
One cool October evening a man by the name of Nicodemus was walking down a trail that was all too familiar to him. The path was enclosed by woods, with trees that were brilliant with leaves of rustic reds and bright orange. He was strolling along, enjoying autumn’s scenic view, following the path that would ultimately lead him to his quaint little home, where he lived alone.
Nicodemus was an older man, with a face that, though now showed signs of aging, had once known great beauty. His dark hair was streaked with white, his once strong body now ached from a lifetime of labor. His thoughts were weary of a life that seemed long begotten, where memories now replaced what so long ago had been ambitions.
It was on this fall twilight that Nicodemus came upon a strange little creature, the miniature fiend appeared suddenly before him. His blue eyes were cast downward, distracted by his own solemn thoughts and just as he looked up, there it was, standing in the middle of the dirt path. The wind took on an eerie howling, the crackle of leaves softly blowing across the path preluded the appearance of the strange fiend. Its stature was not more than a foot and a half tall, an exaggerated grin was stretched across its small round face. “What might you be?” he asked aloud, taking cautious steps to approach the thing; he kneeled before the creature to get a better look at it. Its head looked like a tiny pumpkin, only its features were incredibly lifelike, its little body was almost human in form with slender arms and legs. It wore the smallest pair of red pants and the tiniest patchwork top that Nicodemus had ever seen on anything alive, least a baby.
The odd thing spoke to Nicodemus, “Me is Coo Coo.” Shocked that it could speak and perplexed by its name, Nicodemus raised an arched brow and repeated “Coo Coo?” It replied, “Yes it be sir, named after me master’s favorite clock,” the dastardly thing explained. “Because me knows how to turn back time.” Its voice was high pitched and impish. “Turn back time? And how’s that?” Nicodemus asked curious, still in shock and awed by such a strange being. “Hand me that dandy watch from out your pocket.” He told Nicodemus pointing to the chain that hung from his vest. Nicodemus did as the creature suggested and slipped his watch out and handed it to the thing. In its tiny hands it wound the watch backwards three times then handed it back to him. Nicodemus shook his head and laughed at the creature’s simplistic mind. “Oh, I see.” he felt it unnecessary to explain to it that anyone could wound a clock backwards, for the dastardly little thing seemed proud of its deed.
Nicodemus decided to walk around the thing and continue his journey back home, when from behind him the fiend called out, “Me had to take out me own eye when me made a man see his own ghost.” Turning back to look at the small thing again, Nicodemus noticed that, indeed, one of its eyes were missing, revealing a hallow orb. “Then me had to cut off me own nose, for me made a man inhale the essence of his own ghost.” And, indeed, its nose was merely two hallow slits on its ghoulish face. “What manner of rubbish do you speak of vile creature, be gone! Go back into the woods from wince you came!” Nicodemus scolded.
He turned abruptly and with haste made his way back home. Darkness was settling in fast, the wind carried on its ghostly whisper. When at last he arrived, he could have sworn that his eyes might have been playing tricks on him in the pale moonlight, for it was his house, but there, in the grass before the door, loomed that thin tree with its bony branches outreaching like skeleton limbs; the one he had chopped down when he was still a younger man. From one of its crooked branches a decorative skeleton dangled by a noose upon its neck, it swayed in the breeze like the twine on a pendulum…a Hollow’s Eve prank played upon him by a friend…some 30 years ago. Nicodemus slowly approached it, “How can it be?” he whispered aloud. A strange little voice called to him from where the front door waited, “Go ahead good Sir, look into the window, look, see,” it urged, the retched little fiend from the woods was there, its wide obnoxious smile spread across its unnatural face.
Angry at the wicked pest now, Nicodemus stomped over to where the thing stood nearby and dared to do as the creature told, he looked into the window and let out a gasp as he stumbled backwards. There, inside the home, was his young self, three decades earlier. He saw the profile of his own face, chiseled with the tautness of his youth, those handsome features that had once been his own. “Go ahead, look, see.” The thing called out again in its decrepit voice. Nicodemus gazed into the glass again, becoming mesmerized by his own forgotten beauty. How handsome I was, how smooth and full was the flesh upon my face, how lean and healthy my body was, how safe I was in my youth, how excited I was about what life would behold for me, Nicodemus thought longingly as he became evermore entranced by his own vision. Then his young self turned and his young blue eyes were peering directly into his own old blue eyes.
Nicodemus stepped back in horror; young Nicodemus ran out the front door, old Nicodemus shrank back into the shadows, the darkness swallowing him. “I know you are there, show yourself!” young Nicodemus demanded. Old Nicodemus stood silently and began to slowly back farther away. Suddenly the foul little monster appeared in a nearby tree, the full moon illuminating his tiny ghastly face, “Tell him, tell him all the wisdom you have now, make him a better you,” he urged. “Quiet you beast!” Old Nicodemus hissed. “Come out now or I shall pull you from out the shadows myself” young Nicodemus threatened. Looking at his former self, old Nicodemus could no longer resist the longing to want to see his lost youth up close, to see once again his smooth skin and flawless complexion.
He stepped forward to reveal himself. Young Nicodemus looked upon him in disbelief, he saw the familiarity, the uncanny resemblance to his own self. “Who are you?” he asked, eyes starring wide and bewildered. “I am you” old Nicodemus sobbed, it pained him so to see the handsome young man he used to be. How fast these years have passed, for beauty and health was lost in his memories–until now. “It cannot be, no, you are some lunatic” young Nicodemus insisted. Old Nicodemus reached out his hands, “I just want to touch my own smooth skin, just let me touch that face I once knew so well” old Nicodemus cried walking before his own self– reaching. Frightened by this forward stranger, young Nicodemus could not bolt for the door and shut himself away inside the sanctuary of his home for the odd man now stood before it. “Leave me be you crazed man!” young Nicodemus exclaimed, but to his horror, the wild eyed stranger continued to come towards him…reaching. He turned away and decided to run, to run as fast as he could and distance himself from this familiar stranger.
Old Nicodemus ran after him, young Nicodemus looked back and called out “Leave me be!” and ran faster. Old Nicodemus’ aching knees and hips could not keep up pace with his former self, as he fled like a frightened rabbit through the darkness. As old Nicodemus chased him, he realized that this was the year when he first moved into the house, it was not long after that he cut down the tree; his young naive self was still unfamiliar with the property. But old Nicodemus knew that just up ahead in the direction where they were running was a steep drop off. If young Nicodemus continued to run blindly through the night, he was sure to come to this cliff and fall to a certain death. “Stop!”
“Stop!” old Nicodemus pleaded, “Stop! There’s a cliff up ahead!” he called out only to be greeted by his echo. He tried in vain to keep going, but had to stop to catch his breath. The cool October air burning his nostrils as he breathed in heavily. Then suddenly a sharp stifling pain overcame him. He started to walk in the direction of the cliff, but each step became forced, every movement sent an aching agony through his bones.
A sinister cackle filled the night and echoed through the darkness, a deviant laughter that interrupted the silence. Then Old Nicodemus saw the pumpkin-headed creature with its ghastly wide grin, standing just up ahead. He continued with each painful step until he was beside him. Realizing only then that he was at the edge of the cliff. The tiny monster pulled a tiny knife from out his pocket and explained “Now me has to cut off me own tongue for me made a man talk to his own ghost” and the fiend then grabbed his own tongue and sliced it off. A cold breeze blew through Old Nicodemous’ hair as time seemed to slow to an eerie halt. He looked down and saw the still, lifeless body of his young self, lying sprawled across a great rock at the bottom of the cliff. He had fallen and died instantly.
“No, no” Nicodemus sobbed, falling to his knees. “You beast! You wretched vile goblin! What have you done!” he screamed picking up little monster and began to strangle it and as he strangled him it wailed and howled until Nicodemus turned to a pile of dust upon the ground, the creature falling limp beside him.
Nicodemus died at the age of 28 that night and was never known to have ever grown old. His dark hair was never streaked with white, his bones never knew an ache. He never had to mourn a youth long begotten-for he never left his youth behind.