Note: My attempt at a conventional ghost story
Missing. Her black and white eyes stare back at mine with an almost hollow expression. Missing: Ella Harris, 23 years old. Please call 0462216611. The missing person’s posters have been plastered on every wall, shop front window and light pole. Her parents could have chosen a better photograph. Her lips are unsmiling as though she had predicted her situation. Where is she now? People have been whispering prayers under their breaths, “God bless her soul. The poor girl must have died.”
‘They say that if you walk alone at night, you can see her ghost.’
‘Well then, you better not miss this bus, Alice.’
I drag Alice on board the 804 as the sun starts to set behind Parramatta’s tall skyscrapers. Work had gone over time. Patients arrived to appointments late again. We had a patient even arrive half-an-hour late but Johnny still treated them. He’s too nice for his own good sometimes. He’s a good doctor.
Alice slumps into her seat, letting out a long sigh of protest, ‘Come on Haley. Just because you haven’t seen a ghost doesn’t mean they don’t exist.’ I flick Alice a tired look, we’ve been discussing this topic on and off for weeks. More frequently since the media has been hyping up Ella’s disappearance. Maybe her body was butchered and the remains were scattered? Maybe she eloped? Maybe she was an undercover agent and Ella Harris never existed?
‘Ghosts don’t exist. It’s illogical and defies all laws of physics.’
‘You’re such a med student, it’s not funny.’
‘I feel sorry for the parents though. There’s speculation that Ella was abducted and killed.’
Alice crosses herself and whispers a silent prayer, ‘Only God knows what happened to her. Thousands of people go missing a year. Where do they go?’
Where do they go? Where do people go when they go missing?
‘Okay, it’s my stop. Good night. You should take a nap but don’t oversleep and miss your stop like last time. It gets dark so quickly now.’
I exchange a quick hug with my colleague and curl myself into the back seat, getting as comfortable as possible, an aging public bus could allow. The sun is completely gone now and Venus is peaking from behind the willow-wisping clouds. My eyes flicker from telephone pole to telephone pole. Ella’s eyes keeps staring back at mine from the posters, almost hypnotically.
I open my eyes to the dim lit bus. Groggily I squint out the window. It’s pitch black outside. I swing my head around, no passengers. Alone. I’m alone with the exception of the driver. I missed my stop. Crap. With my heart pounding in my wrist, I hit the stop button and jump out the bus. Outside, I’m embraced by the cold air and the green and brown of trees. In the distance ahead, I recognise the dark blue sign of the Metro petrol station. I let out a sigh of relief which puffs into the air. Bonnyrigg. I’m about twenty minutes walking distance away from home. Good. I can do this.
Turning my back to the safety of the petrol station’s lights, I begin my trek home. My legs make long strides along the footpath with my shadow my only companion. I jump at the sound of something rustling. Tree leaves? A paper bag rolling in grass? I stare ahead as I walk. It’s nothing. I’m fine. It’s nothing.
As I approach a bridge, I see a silhouette. I tighten my grip on my handbag. Is it a person? As I come closer to the figure, I mentally scold myself. Of course it is a person. A woman. What is she doing standing on a bridge at night? Her long fair hair and dress sways in the wind. She seems almost demonic in her tattered dress that is stained with something blackening, contrasting with the white fabric. Her blue-grey eyes lock onto mine. I recognise her.
‘Oh God, Ella? You’re Ella Harris, right? Are you all right? Where have you been, everyone has been searching for you.’
I pull out bandages from my handbag and reach out to her. I grab onto air. She’s intangible. What? My hands shake as I stare into her empty eyes. The same eyes from the posters. They say if you walk alone at night, you can see her ghost.
‘Say something, please. Where have you been?’
Ella stretches out her left arm, pointing to the creek that runs underneath the bridge. She finally speaks. An eerie reply, ‘I’ve been laying there waiting for someone to find me.’ I watch, stupefied as she fades away. I don’t dare lean over the stone railing. I’m afraid of what I would find. Instead, I run across the street and keep on running until I see the headlights of an approaching bus and desperately hail the bus driver. When my heart finally stops bashing against my ribcage, I dial 000.
“I found Ella Harris.”