A Derivative Ghost Story

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A few weeks ago, the folks at Wisconsin Life announced a competition in ghost writing. Wait. That's not quite what I mean. The competition was not to write under a pseudonym. It was a competition to write an entirely original ghost story in fewer than 600 words.

The resultant entries chosen for broadcast appear online - though, for reasons I do not comprehend at the moment, Wisconsin Life has opted for a format not designed to be accessed on one of today's most-used Internet-access tools (which is to say, iPads, such as the one on which I'm writing this). In any case, the challenge was to write an (it was emphasized) original story. Which made me wonder what a derivative tale might resemble. So I sent to the competition the following non-contribution, which I now share with you. Happy Halloween!

This is not an entry in the Ghost Story competition for several reasons: (1) With the exception of one substituted word, it is not original. (2) I don't think I could compete in any case, because my son works for National Public Radio. (3) I'm a friend of the judge. But the challenge itself enticed me, what with its insistence that the story be wholly original. "So," I said to myself, "what would be the opposite of that? A derivative ghost story, of course!" So I played a bit with that concept, keeping within the total word limit, and thought you might find it similarly amusing. As a NON-entry, then, it is offered in the spirit of exploration - and you're certainly free to do what you like with it, since it's public domain in any case.

Here you go:

Derivative Ghost Story

I … had not been asleep long when I was awakened by the continual repetition of a monotonous sound. [“The Spectre in the Cart” 1904 by Thomas Nelson Page, 19 words]

“She is below,” I thought, “and terrified by my entrance has evaded me in the darkness of the hall.”

With the purpose of seeing her I turned to leave the room, but took a wrong direction - the right one! My foot struck her, cowering in a corner of the room. [“The Moonlit Road” 1909 by Ambrose Bierce, 51 words]

She looked straight into my eyes. “Dear, do you not understand? Have you forgotten? I died three years ago today.” [“The Bridal Pair” 1902 by Robert W. Chambers, 20 words, replacing “his” with “my”]

On her limbs was the stiffness of death, and on her face, in the fading light of the sun, the terror of something more than death. Her lips were parted in entreaty, in dismay, in agony; and on her blanched brow and cheeks there glowed the marks of ten hideous wounds from two vengeful ghostly hands. [“The Romance of Certain Old Clothes” 1885 by Henry James, 56 words]

“This is too much!” cried I passionately, and convinced that I was the victim of a trick, though how such a trick could have been effected, I did not care to consider. [“The Underground Ghost” 1866 by John Berwick Harwood, 32 words]

As soon as I had partially recovered my comprehension I rushed madly to the door, with the dim idea of beating it in. My fingers touched a cold and solid wall. There was no door! [“The Lost Room” 1858 by Fitz-James O’Brien, 35 words]

Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. [“The Yellow Wall Paper” 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 26 words]


Craig November 10, 2012 at 9:22 AM  

Great fun, Maggie! It reminds me both of Victor Borge's style of humor, and of Snoopy's magnum opus, "It was a dark and stotmy night..."


Craig November 10, 2012 at 9:24 AM  

(Sheesh! That's "stormy," of course.)

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