An Early Rising… by Frank Shortt

A blue painting of a demon with his arms outstretched.

      As a young teen, I was visiting with a neighbor of our family in Virginia, Mr. Sherman Whited. He was all excited about purchasing a new shotgun, an awfulmatic (automatic) and he had purchased it at the Raven free market (flea market) that weekend. He leaned back on the cane-bottom chair and rolled a cigarette out of Prince Albert and OCB papers, as was his custom after dinner!

        As things go in the Southeastern United States, the conversation suddenly turned to ghost stories. This usually happened when dusk fell and things got deathly quiet! Being very impressionable in those days, I was a glutton for punishment for asking about ghosts as I had to walk home afterwards passing several abandoned mines on the way!

           “What is the most unusual encounter you have had with ghosts, Mr. Whited?†I enquired.
        “I s’pose it’d be the time at Mountain Top Lake over in Russell County that I saw the weirdest thang ah evah seed!.†Sherman had a way of whetting your interest when there was a ghost story to be told!
        “Dad and I wuz fishin’ there one night, night fishin’ was legal in them days, when all of a sudden lights came on in a lil’ cabin acrost the lake. I cried, Dad, do you see that? Them folks air getting’ up mighty early!”
      “Musta been ‘bout one in the mawnin’.â€
        “There’s no one livin’ over thar, dad replied. All that’s there is an old dock house for changin’ clothes when a person wants ta swim.â€
        “Well, they’re thar just the same,†I replied. Sherman was always straightforward with a reply to anything. 
        “Why, looky thar, thar’s a maid servin’ some men suppah, or was it breakfast?â€
         “We could hear the dishes a’rattlin’, the spoons and forks a’clankin’, we could even hear the men talkin’ and a’laughin’.
        “After the meal was served, the men sat back and lit up seegars and the maid served them some coffee or tea as they continued to talk and laugh. I thought, these men shore have got a lot to talk aboot.â€
         “As suddenly as the lights had lit up, they suddenly turned off. We halted our fishin’ for the rest of the night and sat around discussin’ the recent happenin’. The fire felt safe and warm just about then and who needed them lil’ ol’ bluegill fish anyhow?â€
        “What do you thank ‘twas, dad?†I asked.
        “Well, more’n likely ‘twas some folks that died heah’bouts, and their souls are caught ‘tween earth and paradise. They can’t go forward and can’t come back. They’re like in limbo searchin’ for somethin’!†was dad’s solemn explanation as a minister of the gospel.
        “Anyhow, Sherman continued. At daybreak, we went around the lake to check out what had happened to see if thar wuz any human explanation. All we found was the deserted dock house, with a few mice runnin’ ‘round, with not a live human bein’ in sight. Them haints had disappeared completely without a trace. There was not even a table or dishes in the place or a light of any kind much less any silverware to be seen!â€
        I could only sit wide-eyed with wonder and amazement! In fact, cold chills ran all over my skinny frame. Our ghost-telling was cut short after that one! How could I ever top Sherman’s story? I sure longed for someone to walk home with me, but was too proud to ask!
        I believed what Sherman Whited told me as he didn’t have any reason to lie to me. After all, his dad was our pastor!