Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Another ghost story

She sat in the marsh at dawn, gazing at delicate tendrils of fog rising from the water or, maybe, descending from the heavens. A large raft of Wood Ducks materialized in the growing light, swimming peaceably. Suddenly the rising sun's brilliant beams caught an old, spent shotgun shell on the ground beside her. She idly picked it up, and at that moment an icy gust--the wind?--passed through her. And in that instant she felt her brother’s presence beside her. Or, rather, within her. In this marsh, one year ago today, he and his dog had disappeared on opening day of duck season, never to be found.

One of the ducks looked into her eyes with a level gaze, its red eyes glowing. She looked through the flock, realizing that every one of the birds was staring at her with that same menacing gaze. Suddenly she felt icy water and the weird, rubbery feel of fleshy yellow and black webs with irritating claws relentlessly patting on her face and body, holding her down, down as she gasped for air, swallowing water, water filling her lungs. The dog beside her struggled desperately, too. And then all was black.

As she fainted, the shotgun shell flew from her hands and dropped into the water. Her mind cleared and she shuddered. She knew. But who would ever believe her?

She stood up and started to walk away, but before she reached the rise and the pond disappeared from view, she turned for one last look at the Wood Ducks, again feeding peacefully. One looked up at her and winked.