My memories pick up with me sitting on the sidewalk and red and blue lights chasing each other around the snowbanks and gravel. Rob was next to me, and an EMT was asking him questions. A cop hovered over me, and he was talking but all I could hear was Quan.
“Dude, we didn’t take nuthin at that party.”
“You wanna come down to the station and testify to that?”
“Dawg, give me a breathalyzer. Take my blood. That’s what you want anyway. Take it right here, right now. I ain’t done nuthin wrong. I’m tellin you, they was a woman here, and she didn’t have no shoes and she was holdin on to my boys and she knocked em out.”
The beam of a flashlight hit my eye, and I winced.
“That’s a good sign,” a voice behind the light said. “Your friend over there telling the truth?”
I nodded. “Yep. Can’t really describe it. Don’t ever want to experience it again.”
“You got knocked out by a shoeless lady?”
I glanced up, and the flashlight turned away. I could make out the form of the cop. “She didn’t hit us or anything. She held on to our arms, and as she did, it was like the life flowed out of me. Like I almost dissolved or something.”
“Ok, so like we told your friend, I need to know what you ate and took at the party. And I need you to stand up to do some tests.”
We went through the whole battery—counting back from one hundred by sevens, walking a line, touching my nose with both hands, following a light with my eyes left and right, and on and on. I passed all easily, and finally the cop moved over close to me.
“What did she look like?”
I tried to rewind it all in my mind and get every detail, but the words seemed vague and pointless. “Gray, battered clothes. Like a homeless person. But older clothes. Like Little House on the Prairie.”
“You know that show?” the cop said with a smile.
“Made us watch it in school sometimes when there was nothing else to do.”
“Funny. Anything else?”
I shook my head. “Nothing that sets her apart, though I would know her anywhere. Dark hair. Dark eyes . . . until they disappeared and became hollow. And she, uh, she was . . .”
“Barefoot,” said the cop.
I shuddered. “How do you know that?”
The cop patted my shoulder. “We get calls every other month or so about the gray lady walking around near the river. She’s been spotted as far south as Town Farm Road about ten miles south of here. Usually she’s in the old French neighborhood or around the cemetery here.” He looked over my head. “Joe, Benjy, if their health is okay, let’s wrap this up. We’re all set.”
He looked back at me. “She never laid hands on anyone, though. People mostly called because she was barefoot in the cold or teetering on the edge of the river or scaring people in the cemetery.”
“Feels great to be special,” I said. “I’m not even from around here. Not sure what I did to deserve all that.”
“You’re not a Colby student?”
“Not yet,” I said. “The football team is recruiting me, and I was up visiting this weekend.”
“Nice,” he said. “I went to Colby back in the day. Never left. Good luck.”
Rob’s roommate bailed and went to stay with his girlfriend, so I got his bed. It was past midnight when the last of the friends said goodnight and Rob shut off the light. My phone suddenly lit up.
Val: You still up?
Me: Yeah. Why are you? It’s late.
Val: Hook up with a bunch of girls?
Me: [eyeroll emoji]
Val: Just messing with you. Idk why I’m up. My house is kinda creepy, you know.
“That Val?” Rob said.
“She’s up late.”
“Dude, I told you, the ghosts come out late at night,” I said.
“That’s not even funny,” he said. “I woulda thought you were crazy till tonight.”
Val: Going to bed finally?
Me: Yeah. Not sure if I’ll be able to sleep.
Val: That girl planning to keep you up all night?
Me: Lol. Well, actually, a girl, yes. But not like that. We met Waterville’s Gray Lady tonight.
“I wouldn’t believe my own story if I hadn’t lived it,” I said.
“You shoulda kept that crap in Halifax,” said Rob. “I’m gonna be looking over my shoulder everywhere I go.”
Me: She’s a ghost or phantom or demon or something. But she was real. Like, she grabbed us, me and Rob, and something funky happened.
Me: She told us we had to find her children and her brother and if we didn’t, she would erase us. She knew our full names. And I suddenly felt like I was gonna die, and I swear that my hands started to disappear.
Val: Was it like the Elmwood Cemetery?
Me: Worse. I wasn’t really conscious during the worst of that. This I was awake for, and Rob and I both thought that we were punching our tickets.
Val: She did it to Rob too?
Val: It wasn’t Mercy or Abigail?
Me: Nothing like either of those.
Val: Think she’s family?
Me: No idea. Maybe all these dead people talk and now they all know we do stuff for them or something.
Val: Ha ha.
“Dude, are you even listening?” Rob said.
“Huh?” I said, looking up. “Sorry. I was just telling Val about everything.”
“Yeah, well, thank Val for bringing me into the circle of haunted people.”
“I mean, she had nothing to do with this,” I said.
“I’m only second degree from Val,” he said.
“Yeah, like six degrees from Kevin Bacon? There’s Val, the creepy haunted girl. Then there’s you, the creepy haunted boyfriend. And then there’s me.”
“Whatever, dude,” I said.
Me: We can talk more about it when I get home.
Val: [thumbs up]
Me: We’re gonna have to do something. That lady could end me. And Rob.
Val: We’ll figure it out.
Me: Yeah, like we did our last two ghosts.
Val: [eye roll] That’s not over. At least with Adam.
Me: I gotta go to bed. You do too.
Val: Sure. Catch you tomorrow. Let me know how it goes with the coaches.
Me: Yeah, right. The coaches. Thanks.
I clicked off the screen and connected to my charger.
“So what do we do?” Rob said.
I settled back onto the thin bed and pillow. “No idea. I told you what the cop said.”
“Right. The gray lady.”
“I mean, you could ask around about her. See if anyone knows who she is. There’s usually legends about local ghosts. There’s usually whole ghost tours about stuff like this.”
Rob yawned. “You’re killing me, Cuz. Now I gotta call ghost tours and crap. All I wanna do is play football, get my degree, and party now and again.”
I rolled onto my right side and faced him in the dark. “I didn’t ask for any of this.”
“I know, man. I just don’t want her showing up here some night and making me disappear.”
“I hear ya,” I said.