Wednesday, 30 October 2013

WEP's Blogfest for Wednesday 30 October - 'HAUNTING!'

Welcome to WEP's Blogfest OCTOBER [=Write-Edit-Publish, formerly 'Romantic Friday Writers'] Challenge for Wednesday 30 October 2013 - 'Haunting'

Here's my text:

The Haunting

Maria Blixt awoke suddenly, frightened in the middle of the night. She did not know what had woke her. Was it a loud noise? She felt for the light-switch to turn on the lamp by her bed. No, nothing was disturbed in her bedroom. Everything looked as it did when she had gone to bed several hours before.

She lay back in bed, turned off the lamp and closed her eyes. Had she locked the door? Yes, of course she had. It was almost Halloween, maybe she was being haunted. What a silly thought! She was no gullible child anymore, scared of ghost stories that her older brother told her when they were alone waiting for their parents to come home. No, Maria was a rational adult and not a frightened little girl running to her mother’s bed after dreaming nightmares. No, Maria knew that there were no such things as ghosts, or she had stopped believing in them a long time ago.

Time is such a strange thing. You live your life and time seems to go slowly when you are young. But then, somewhere in the middle, things start moving quickly and suddenly you are not so young anymore. What seems like yesterday, is actually ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago.  And as time passes, people die; people you know and love. Maria started counting all of the people she had known and loved, or at least liked, when she was a child; all these warm-hearted people who were kind to her; who cared for her; were no longer living. Ghosts. Are they ghosts now?

She thought about various aunts and uncles and her grandparents, and even her own parents, all of whom she missed and wondered where they were now. Have they just evaporated? Why so many gone? She did not live in a war-torn country; most of them died of natural causes, and did so when they were quite old. So this must be normal, Maria thought. I am the one who has grown old.

Wouldn’t it be nice if some of these lovely people could come back to visit, thought Maria, but then shunned the thought and immediately tried thinking about anything else. Imagine if they returned as ghosts just to visit me? But what would she say to her grandfather, if he returned for a visit? Or would he even recognise her? He passed away when she was still a child. Would he understand that this old woman was once the small child who looked up to him? Would he understand this and still love her? Or her father? Would he forgive her for not living exactly the life that he dreamed of for her? Can ghosts forgive? Can we, the living, forgive?

Maria did not like where her thoughts were leading her. What was it her father taught her about how to avoid sleepless nights? In his youth, when he was in the army in the War, sleeping in damp tents in foreign countries, with bombs flying overhead, he would just ignore the sounds, close his eyes, and sleep. It was as if he had pulled down a shade over a window. 'Pull the shade down!' he would say. There was nothing they could do if one of the bombs dropped on their tent. So he would try to sleep and hope for the best. And by some miracle he did survive the war.

So why am I such a coward? thought Maria, There are no bombs dropping here. But I'll try Daddy's method and just pull down the shade...

After a time, Maria stop thinking about ghosts, and was almost asleep again, when the door handle moved. Maria opened her eyes wide.

’What was that?’

As the door handle jerked and snapped, Maria jumped out of bed and walked to the door, watching closely how the door handle turned again and the door was pushed ajar.

Maria froze with fear.

But in the ray of light coming from the hallway, she could see the small four-legged figure of her own tabby tom, Sammy.

’Oh, Sammy! You nearly scared the daylights out of me!’ said Maria out loud to the seven-kilo ginger feline, who looked up at her and replied with a short yap as a greeting. 

’Do you believe in cat-ghosts? I mean, do you have nightmares about cat-ghosts?’ asked Maria scooping up Sammy and carrying him with her back to bed.

Sammy lay beside Maria and purred. Both Maria and Sammy were soon sound asleep.

Word count: 759 (NCCO)

This story is completely fictional. Any similarity to events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2013 Anna Christina Wigren Nordeman

After reading Yolanda Renee's comment, I feel the need to explain some of the background to this story. 

Yes, this story is fictional. I am not Maria Blixt, but I have lent her my own father's story. My dear sweet father, who passed away in July of 2006, had been in the U.S. army during World War II. He was drafted, but because he had a college education, he could become an officer, which probably helped him survive. He was sent to England and then Belgium and Northern France. He landed in Normandy in a troop transport boat, but thankfully was not among the first who landed. As quartermaster it was his responsibility to see that his men had the supplies that they needed. And this could be anything from soap to firewood. 

On one occasion he and his driver were sent off to purchase something from the local people. This was either in France or in French-speaking Belgium. He was chosen to do this because he was the only one who had studied French in college and was fluent enough to communicate with the locals. 

When he and his chauffeur returned, no one was there. Something had happened while they were away getting supplies. A big surge from the German army, most likely. There was just a note saying where they were to go. He never found out if everyone was killed or taken prisoner or just scattered with the wind.

My father never talked about his experiences of the war. It was toward the end of his life that I started asking him questions, but, alas, he had forgotten so much. There was not much he could tell. But he never forgot the fear of sleeping in a tent in Northern France and listening to bombs being dropped overhead. It was unnerving and different people reacted differently to this kind of pressure. My father stopped smoking. He gave it up. Which was a good thing in the long run. But the dampness and cold left him with arthritis and back problems to the end of his days.

He never complained. He said once to me that he was just so happy to be able to come home. Not everyone got to do that.

So this is one of two true stories that have inspired my short story. The other true story is about a cat named Peep, who was so tiny and hungry at birth, on April 5th 2011, that he peeped after food all the time.

One of Peep's siblings was stillborn. I did not want Peep to die too, so I kept feeding him special kitten-milk, in case his mother did not feed him enough. I fed him until he started growing normally and he became a pretty big cat. But the name Peep stuck.

Peep as an adult

I was worried that Peep may have suffered mental damage due to his early malnutrition. But it turned out that he became a very clever and inventive cat. He learned how to jump up and pull a door handle and then, with the help of his sister, Mathilda, push the door open. The cats worked together! I have seen him do it, so I know how he did it. I had to use a strap to bind the door shut when I wasn't at home, if I did not want the cats to invade my workroom and do mischief there.

The first time I discovered that Peep could open doors was very spooky. It was late at night, well after midnight. I knew that the children were not at home. He opened the door and my heart skipped a beat. I thought I was going to see a ghost! It really scared me. 

Peep is first cat on the left

Peep does not live with me anymore. He is the only one of his mother's kittens that my former husband let move to the farm, a paradise for cats. He can run free outside and climb trees and hunt mice and dream about catching birds.

For my story, I used my ginger boy cat, Lars, to be the door-opener. In reality, none of my remaining cats opens doors anymore. (To my great relief. It makes life easier if they don't.) 

For those of you who live with round door knobs, the Swedish or European door handles are what make this story possible. Any dog or larger cat can learn to jump up and hang on the handle and then push with their hind legs open the door and get into a room.

I am going to take a photo of a door handle to show this. But right now I need to take a break.

Best wishes,
Thursday 31st October 2013


Today is November first, my father's birthday. He would have been 96 years old today. (Happy Birthday, Daddy! I miss you.) This is what my father looked like when I was in my teens:

Look, I had braces!

I have received several comments about the door handle or latch. Please look at this photo and tell me what this door-opener is called. 

This is little Rosetta pretending to open the door.

Some of you, who live with round door knobs that require some effort to open with a hand with an opposing thumb, have mentioned a scene from a movie about dinosaurs coming back to life and invading a room thanks to these easy door-openers.

Come on folks, Jurassic Park is fiction! Let's get back to reality! There are times and situations when these door handles are a godsend. There is a wonderful description in Dean Koontz' novel Midnight, about one of the characters' dog who can open these specially installed latch-door handles. This man is a Vietnam-vet and he is paralyzed from the neck or chest or waist down. I think he can only use his left hand. But thanks to this amazing dog, he can live alone in his house. Dean Koontz has written in an afterword that this part of his fictional tale is true and even included an address for readers to send donations to this worthy cause of training dogs who can help people with handicaps.

I can't find my copy of Midnight, so I can't tell you exactly what page this is on. I would just like to defend door handles. They are also easier for people who don't have a helping dog, but who have, for example, arthritic hands and have difficulty grasping and turning a round knob.

Geographically, I am curious as to how widespread door knobs are, and what would you call these door handles that Nancy calls latches? What do your door openers look like where you live?

Best wishes again,
November 1, 2013


Best wishes,

First Commenter:

Yolanda Renee


Defending the Pen 


Yolanda Renée said...

Lovely tale of being frightened, boy have I done that - time and time again. I hate when hubby isn't beside me in the bed! LOL

I just want to know how Sammy opened the door, or was it a visit from beyond! :)

Trick or Treat and Happy Halloween!

Denise Covey said...

Oh, the joys of being a scared child. Good advice from dad - yes, there are others with worse things to be scared about, but I think that is cold comfort when the night fears strike. So glad the scariness was caused by an adorable cat.

Lovely story Anna. Lots of tension. Thank you so much for participating in the HAUNTING blogfest. Traveling Cats is on the list and you'll see lots of cats on that site! I've just visited.

Hopefully see you in November for SHARING!


dolorah said...

Nicely written Ana. Sometimes being afraid of nothing is more powerful that anything else. Night time is worst of all for tallying up unfamiliar sounds and sights and conjuring pre-dream phantoms.

I liked that the cat helped her get to sleep :)


Shannon Lawrence said...

I like the photo at the end; I used to have an orange tabby named Malecai.

Well done. We're waiting for what is inevitably going to happen to her, yet it turns out she's okay.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Jen said...

Isn't it funny how we can scare ourselves? Many times I wake up at night and let every single little sound frighten me. I also like the way her father told her to "pull down the shade". I'll be thinking about that the next time I wake up at 3am to a spooky noise!


Sally said...

You've written a story that rings true with everybody at some point in their lives, I've certainly had those scary thoughts in the dead of night. Well written.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Anne
I love your story. So sad when those we love are gone. I still have my mother but my father died in isolation years ago and no one knew. Very sad.

Most homes here come with the round door handles but you can replace them with the latch ones, if that is what you call them. After watching Jurassic Park I decided to never have them in my home. Just an interesting side note that you might find humorous. My husband was watching a true ghost story the whole time I was reading your post and the ghost where monkeys that had been experimented on. Ugh!

Francine Howarth said...

Hi, long time no visit to your side of the sea.

Ah yes, the joys and fears of childhood imagination and the horror of unknown sounds in the still of night! Lovely piece, Anna.


Li said...

Wow! 3 stories for the price of 1! i enjoyed them all. And I've woken many times in the middle of the night, wondering what woke me, thinking I heard breathing in the hallway, etc. Maybe I should get a cat or dog. Surely they would warn me of ghosts...

Yolanda Renée said...

Came back to read the additions. I see how they could open such a door and yes, after Jurassic Park not a good idea, no one wants a dinosaur getting in, cats okay, man eating dinosaurs not!

So nice that you based it on so much from your life, thanks for inviting me back! But any animal that can open a door is still it bit scary! LOL

Trick or Treat and Happy Halloween!

The Armchair Squid said...

Nicely done. I love how you toy with the idea that in certain cases, a visit from beyond the grave might be kind of nice - all depends on the visitor, just like with the living!

Kelly Steel said...

OMG! A cat who can actually open doors? Too scary!

Chrys Fey said...

Cats can be very sneaky and clever. In my childhood home we had the same kind of door handles and my cats would always reach up, jerk the handle, and push open the doors.

I looked it up for you and apparently they are called level door handles. :)

I loved all the questions that Maria pondered about relatives coming back as ghosts.

And this part I thought was especially powerful: "There was nothing they could do if one of the bombs dropped on their tent. So he would try to sleep and hope for the best."

P.S. Peep is adorable! <3

Chrys Fey said...

I'm not sure if my first comment went through (I wasn't signed in), so if it did please delete this one. :)

Cats can be sneaky and clever. We had the same kind of door handles in my childhood home and my cats would always reach up, jerk the handle, and push open the doors.

I looked it up for you and they are called lever door handles. :)

I loved the questions Maria pondered about relatives coming back as ghosts.

And I thought this part was especially powerful: "There was nothing they could do if one of the bombs dropped on their tent. So he would try to sleep and hope for the best."

P.S. Peep is adorable! <3

Jenny Brigalow said...

Hi Anna, this is a beautiful woven story. I love the reflection and the questions and the longing. And the fear! Three stories in one indeed. Thank you for sharing.

Vesper said...

I loved your story, Anna, and also the other stories behind it. Your Father lives on in your heart and in your stories.
We have door handles like the one you're showing in the picture. Our cat can open them... he is a lovely cat, he can't do much mischief other than waking us up... :-)
I love your blog and the wonderful things you're making.
All the best,

Denise Covey said...

Hi Anna. I came by for another read. Very enjoyable. D

Bevimus said...

What a fantastic story- so deep and contemplative. I loved the paragraph about how time passes differently as you age and her thought process of thinking about loved ones lost. And I LOVE that you managed to iclude your father's experience in here- very well told and heartfelt.

Yolanda Renée said...

Love the photograph!

I think the comments about dinosaurs are said tongue in cheek, at least that's how I meant it.

I actually like those type of door knobs and have them on our french doors, into the living room and the bedroom. Very classy! I also like the glass door knobs, the older home variety.

Thanks for the extra visit, and yes I did try to give a few clues. My husband picked up on that one too. LOL

Scheherazade said...

Very touching story about time and growing old and wishing to visit with loved ones we've lost. And if all of the sudden they were to pop in on us, yes, we'd probably jump out of our skins.

Michelle Wallace said...

Isn't it funny how at night, any little sound seems so much louder than what it actually is? And the mind can play tricks on you...
Just the other night, I could hear the wooden floors creaking and my heart gave a loud thud, even though I knew that nobody was there (well, I hope I was right...)
I like the way you wove fiction and non-fiction into this well constructed story!
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Nilanjana Bose said...

Hello Anna,

I was hoping for a cat-story here, and you did not disappoint! Very moving.

"Would he forgive her for not living exactly the life that he dreamed of for her? Can ghosts forgive? Can we, the living, forgive?" That resonated much with me.

Btw, El Alamein is a place on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt where some of the battles of the North Africa campaign in WWII were fought. The victory at Alamein turned the course of the war. THere are war memorials there now, for all the soldiers lost on both sides.

Sorry it's taken me such an age to respond, I am just having to spend too much time in the real world right now :)

Best wishes

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Anna,
It's amazing where our minds go at nights when we wake and can't go back to sleep. Had a frightening experience with a cricket two nights ago. :)

Looking at the door handle, I understand why the cat would be able to open it. I know I'd be scared if it opened and I didn't see anybody at first.

Interesting question about whether people on the other side would be able to recognize us if they visit us when we're grown.

I was glad at the end that it wasn't anything to scare Maria to death.

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