bannerman castle, creativity, dreams, fiction, haunting, hudson river, hudson valley, mystery, the writing life, writing, writing ideas
There is a twilight girl who has been visiting me lately. She makes her appearance in those moments between waking and dreaming, or when the rhythms of life allow the mind to wander. She is but a child—eight or nine years of age—with hair of a strange white gold that is, somehow, also red. She wears an odd, old-fashioned dress of a drab and nondescript color that hangs on
her thin body. In semi-consciousness I see her walking along on a dirt path or sitting upon a broken rock wall with her chin resting on her pulled-up knees. I see her always from behind, at first. Either I am walking through the woods and come upon the path and the girl unexpectedly, or I am wandering amid a messy Victorian-ish garden and I catch sight of her through a cascade of vines. As I approach, she turns and looks at me through the corner of her green-gold eye, then she fades into nothing.
And even though I try to fight it—try to stay with the halfdream—sleep arrives…or slips away from me.
I know this girl’s name and I know her story. I know it because I am her creator. She came to life in a novel that I began months ago while taking a two-hour train ride along the Hudson River. The story began without planning, without warning, as inexorable as an avalanche. A magic combination of synapses fired in my brain, triggered by the images I saw outside the train window—a massive old house half-hidden on a rocky outcropping on the river, a strange stone fountain covered in dead vines, a ruined castle, and a wooden rowboat half buried in sand and—bam! My writer’s brain went into overdrive.
I wrote all the way into the city and all the way back home. The intricate weaving of mystery and history and horror frantically vomiting itself onto the blank pages of my notebook.
And then, once I returned to my routine, I found little time for writing. The next few days passed quickly, then the next few weeks, and then…well, here we are.
The girl and I.
She doesn’t bother me while I’m working, kind little haunting-thing that she is. She usually peeks in the window while I’m folding the laundry. Or sits in the corner chair in the kitchen while I make dinner, kicking her feet and silently waiting.
Okay, okay…I’ll make time, I promise.
But I don’t.
Last night I woke groggily after having fallen asleep on the family room couch and stumbled upstairs to bed. As I quickly drifted off, her ice-red hair flashed in the mirror hanging on the closet door. I tried to focus my eyes and mind and force her to materialize, but sleep won out.
And just before I opened my eyes this morning, I found myself on the wooded path. As I approached, I saw that she was not alone—the dead young man who also sits at the center of the novel was with her.
They both ignored me. I stood beside them and they seemed not to see me. I opened my mouth to speak and no words came out. It was a horrible feeling—as if I no longer belonged with them, no longer existed.
Then today I found myself in the middle of a rainy afternoon, all caught up on the laundry and the latest episode of my current favorite creepy drama (curse you cable TV). Cleaning out my purse, I happened to open my writer’s notebook to the page where I began the original story.
As I read the words—my words—the girl, Trill, came back to vivid life, I read and was consumed by the power of my own storytelling until…
…it cut off mid-sentence.
That’s all I’d written? I was sure I’d gotten farther. Of course, I knew what should happen, what I intended to happen, but when I let the next scenes play out in my writer’s mind I found that the plot was now altered. My girl wasn’t who I thought she’d been at all.
Her lips curled into a sly smile. She looked at me out of the corner of her gold-green eye.
Clever, clever little story ghost. Haunt me any time.