A Tale from the Haunted Web
The ad originally caught Kara's eye because it was a black square on a white background. The web page it sat on listed Halloween sale items from local merchants. Kara had already finished her decorations, but decided to look anyway. After all, it was her first Halloween in her new house, and it couldn't hurt to have add a few more pumpkins or hanging skeletons.
But the ad that had grabbed her attention wasn't for anything that she could hang, or carve, or even buy. It was a link to another website called hauntedhouse-dot-com. And here, the advertisement said, she could order a ghost for Halloween.
At first she ignored it, knowing that it was more than likely some cheesy way to get people to spend money. But finally, her curiosity made her click on the link button, and she waited for the new page to load.
It didn't take long. The dancing pumpkins were okay, Kara guessed, and she loved the cartoon skeleton that chased a group of trick or treaters across the top and bottom of the screen. First they would go right to left at the top, and then left to right at the bottom. After that the skeleton would appear in the middle of the left side, and the children would appear on the right. Then the chase would start all over again. Kara had to laugh.
She continued scrolling down the page. The graphics were enough to make her glad she'd found it. She clicked on other links to view graphics that included a woman begin bitten by a vampire, and a mummy rising from his coffin. All the animations looked more real than anything she had ever seen on the net, and she felt like she had to let the artist know how wonderful his or her creations were.
Before she could find the artist's name, however, she found the area of the site that said she could download a ghost. Out of curiosity, she clicked on it, surprised to find that this feature, like everything else on the site, was absolutely free.
And there was a great number of ghosts to choose from. Kara could have the ghost of Shakespeare, if she was in the mood for a literary haunt. If she was in the mood for actors or actresses, she could order Errol Flynn or Mae West. And on the list of historical entities, there was the beautiful Marie Antoinette -- minus her head, of course.
If she didn't feel like entertaining a famous ghost, the page told her, she could choose one that wasn't so famous. There was the woman from 1776 who had died under the wheels of a war wagon. Or there was a soldier, who would tramp up and down in military fashion, complete with oozing bullet wounds. If she was in the mood for something quiet, there was the little old lady who would appear by the fire and knit. She had died of a heart attack, and occasionally she would fall out of her chair in reenactiment. Or Kara could order the ghosts of two little girls who had been poisoned by their mother. They would sit quietly in a corner and play jacks.
But there was also a part where Kara could simply describe the different ways in which she wanted her house to be haunted. From there, the company who ran hauntedhouse-dot-com would match her request to their list and send her the most suitable entity.
And to receive her order, she need do nothing. The ghost would arrive at her door within five minutes of being ordered. She needn't even leave an email address.
If it was a money-making scheme, Kara couldn't figure out how. So, in the spirit of Halloween (she laughed at her own joke), she scrolled through the ghostly characteristics and made her choices.
Under noises these were the options:
Screaming. Okay, she could handle that.
Rattling chains. Fine.
Babies crying? Nahh.
China breaking into a thousand pieces. Uh, sure.
Moaning. Well, okay, it was Halloween.
For appearance it had the following list:
Male Female. Kara chose female.
Tall, short, medium. Kara, being short, chose tall.
Blond, brunette, red head, or any. Kara, being blond, decided to flip a coin between brunette or red head. It came out heads, for the brunette.
Ugly, good looking, beautiful. First she chose beautiful, then at the last moment changed it to simply good looking. How believable was a beautiful ghost, she thought.
Ordinary or sexy. Kara grinned. "Definitely sexy."
Personality. This list was very long.
Evil, good, demonic, angelic, talkative, quiet, outgoing, shy, angry, kind, sad, happy, generous, stingy, brutal, gentle, crazy, sane, jealous, mischievous, intelligent, stupid, lascivious, rude, polite, obnoxious, caring, hateful, or loving.
Kara noticed a warning at the end of the list that said "Choose carefully. This ghost will be living with you, so it would be best to choose traits you can get along with."
Yeah, thought Kara. Right. Still, she made sure to stay away from evil, demonic, brutal, stupid and obnoxious.
At the very bottom of the page, there was a box that said, "Here is a space in which you can give your ghost a name, if you wish, and tell us anything special you'd like about your ghost."
With a grin, Kara carefully typed in the phrase, "I'd like her to be a lesbian."
Then, still smiling, she pressed the order button.
What she got was another warning box, this time asking if she was sure of her choices in everything, and was she sure she wanted to live in a haunted house? Rolling her eyes, she pressed yes, and waited.
Not like she had expected anything to happen. It was a computer website, for heaven's sake, what did she expect? A truck to pull up outside with the logo Haunts-R-Us?
The ony thing that happened was that she was sent back to the web page she had been on originally, before going to hauntedhouse-dot-com. And for some reason, she couldn't find the box that would let her go back to it, nor find it by typing in the address. She had wanted to download a few of those great graphics. Disappointed, she ended her internet session, and shut down her computer.
That was when the door bell rang.
When she opened the door, there was no one there. Frowning, she stepped outside and looked around. Then she smiled. "Kids."
She was about to close the door when she heard the footsteps. They were coming from the porch, but there was no one there. Kara's skin began to crawl as the sound of the footsteps went past her and into the house. There they faded to silence.
Okay, now I'm freaked, she thought.
Closing the door, she looked around. The room was silent, and there was no visible person in the room. For a moment, Kara thought about praying, or lighting a candle or grabbing a bible. Then she laughed at herself and shook her head.
"Ghosts. Yeah, right!"
Kara headed for the kitchen to make herself some dinner. Not being in the mood to really cook, she pulled out a gourmet frozen dinner, and popped it in the microwave. Then she grabbed a fork and a can of soda, setting them on the kitchen table. When the buzzer on the microwave sounded, she pulled open the door.
And found that her dinner had gone missing.
Kara felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She looked around, noting that the carton for the dinner was still on the counter, so yes she had really opened it. She put her hand inside the microwave and felt the residual heat. Everything was as it should be. Except that there was no dinner in the oven.
Frustrated, she slammed the door shut, and looked around the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator, the freezer, a few cupboards, but there was no sign of her missing frozen-then mircrowaved-entree.
Suddenly, as she making her second circuit through the kitchen, she heard something from the living room. It sounded like someone rattling glasses, or --
Kara grabbed a broom, and cautiously peeked thru the open doorway. She could see no one. The sound of rattling grew louder, and then there were footsteps across the floor. There was no one there.
Thinking she smelled something, Kara inched her way into the living room, sniffing in the air every few steps. When she reached the area in front of the tv she looked at the coffee table and saw her dinner, steam gently rising from the plate.
"I must be going nuts."
She had just picked up the plate when there was a huge crash from the kitchen. It startled her so much that she threw her hands into the air. Her food went with them, and the container landed upside down on the sofa. Her vegetarian stir-fry was everywhere.
Kara didn't know which she was more mad at, the fact that her dinner was ruined, or that the couch would never be the same. Finally, she calmed down, and began to clean the mess, scraping pieces of food back into its cardboard plate. Then the crash came again from the kitchen, and Kara dropped the dinner, grabbing her broom again.
"Whoever the hell this is better not have broken my wine glass set." She snuck into the kitchen, eyeing the cupboard doors. Slowly she edged toward the one that held her prized set of antique glasses, and gently opened it.
The glasses were all there. None of them appeared to have moved.
Closing the cupboard, Kara eyed the kitchen. There had to be a rational explanation for what was happening, and she'd find it. She knew she would.
But just now, she had a mess to clean up.
Grabbing a few rags, a small garbage bag, and some upholstery cleaner, Kara headed back out to the living room. She set everything down by the couch, then turned to the coffee table.
Only to find that there was no mess. No food, no mess, no stains, nothing to say she had even seen her food sitting on the table in front of the tv.
Kara dropped onto the sofa and tried to think rationally. It didn't work. The only thing she could think of was the ghost she had ordered. She clearly remembered marking the boxes for footsteps, and chains, and breaking china.
That meant that . . .
Suddenly there was a screeching cry from Kara's bedroom, followed by a long drawn-out moan. Kara stayed frozen on the couch as the moan lingered, rising and falling at a continual rate until finally ending on a long held plaintive note.
Then there was silence.
Okay, the screaming and moaning bit was over, and the crashes had happened, the footsteps, and the rattling chains had been heard. Kara figured this meant one of two things. Either her house was haunted, or she was going mad.
When she thought about it, she found she had a greater problem with the second. So the first had to be the answer.
There were more footsteps from the bedroom. Another soft moan came from there as well, but it didn't hold the agonized tone that the last one had. Instead, this one sounded kind of . . .
Kara shook her head, slapping her hand against the side of it. "Think, think. Ghosts are not real. There is no such thing as a haunted house. Got it?" She nodded to herself and stood up. She was determined to show this ghost, or whatever it was, the logical reasons why it couldn't exist. Then, in the face of her logic, it would have to disappear.
With her chin up, and her shoulders back, Kara walked toward her bedroom. Taking a deep breath, she threw back the door and stepped into the room.
Only to draw her breath in deeper with a gasp. There, reclining on her bed, was a woman in a long red silk dress. Even though she was lying down, Kara could tell that the woman was much taller than she was. She could see that from the length of leg that showed through the slit in the dress. The woman had long black hair, and beautiful blue eyes. Kara found that she couldn't look away from them.
She thought she had never seen a more erotic creature in her entire life.
After a moment, Kara found her voice. "Umm, who, ahem. Who are you?"
The woman smiled. "My name is Crystal. And I'm your ghost."
Kara just stared. "My what?"
"Your ghost. You did order one, right? Let's see, tall, good looking, female, brunette. Quiet, gentle, mischeivous, intelligent, and loving. Isn't that what you marked?"
"Well, yeah, but . . ."
The woman on the bed stretched, and Kara immediately changed her mind. That, she decided, was now the most absolutely erotic thing she'd ever seen.
"You also marked sexy, right?"
There was something wrong with the furnace, Kara thought. The air in the bedroom was so hot she could barely breath. She could feel sweat beading on her upper lip.
"Um. Yes, uh. I think. I did."
The woman sat up, one leg bending slightly at the knee.
"Well, do I qualify?"
Kara pulled at the collar of her t-shirt. "You definitely qualify."
The woman, Crystal, smiled at Kara.
"But I don't believe in ghosts," Kara heard herself say.
Crytal's smile widened. "Neither do I." She tilted her head. "I hope you don't mind if I stay. The rules say I kind of have to."
Kara cleared her throat again and nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I think I could get used to you."
"But no more noises, okay?"
"You asked for them."
"I did. But once was enough."
Crystal pouted, and Kara had to admit it was a sexy pout.
"And one other thing. No more swiping my dinner."
"Well, you did want mischeivous."
"Yes, I did. But not like that."
"Okay." Crystal lowered her chin, and gazed at Kara through her lashes. "Why don't you come over here and we'll find out just how mischeivous I can be."
Happy All Hallow's Eve!
"And remember, if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, it's not the Martians. It's Halloween."
Orson Welles, the radio presentation of The War of the Worlds.