(Chapter 15 of a forthcoming book, WOMAN IN WHITE, by Gildon Beall)
The graveyard of Rev. Cricklewood’s “Angelic Brotherhood Church” was illumined only by a pale sliver of moon peeking through thin clouds. It was quiet; the sort of night that mortals find oppressive or frightening, the appropriate venue for spirits. No living mortals were present. Evanescent vapors, chill breezes, and odors of decay heralded the time for ghosts.
The first to arrive was an ethereal figure garbed in a distinctive costume. Although the spirit changed shape as it wafted through the tombstones, the figure of a tall, thin woman predominated. She wore a white-collared, short sleeved, blue-striped dress with starched cuffs echoed by an apron from neck to ankles. A white cap completed the nurse’s uniform. La Planchada, her ghostly name, floated to the marble arch that Cricklewood had installed to celebrate his church stewardship. From beneath this monument, the nurse summoned another spirit.
This new phantom in white was none other than La Llorana. As she manifested, she shook her long hair and began to wail. The outburst set a murder of crows into noisy flight. Their caws faded, and La Llorana quieted at a sign from her summoner.
“You don’t need to do that now; we’re all alone here. I called you because I need your help,” La Planchada said.
“I hope it’s important. I’m behind on my rest since I’ve been injecting my essence into mortals’ dreams.”
Planchada drifted to a marble bench. “It is important. We’ve had an increase in restless spirits with no post-death resolution of their fate, because their deaths were deviant. We need to prevent these deaths, but our ability to warn mortals is quite limited. I know you’re good at dream haunting, and that may be the best way to work.
“Thank you,” said La Llorana. “I’ve got haunting of dreams resolved, but I don’t seem to be effective with warnings. I’m stuck with my history: a wailing woman who drowned her children. I have a hard time breaking character. When I try to warn dreamers about other things, like fires, all I do is cry.” So saying, she began to sob again. “I try to communicate in dreams, but I frighten the dreamers.”
In life, Planchada might have found this amusing; as a ghost all she could do was complain in a soprano voice. “Your warning worked, didn’t it, with Greg Withers?”
“Well, I frightened him enough to get his attention, and he woke to put out the fire.”
“That’s something, anyway. For my part, all I can do is wander around dream hospitals, giving pills and keeping notes.” Planchada produced a pen and notepad from her apron pocket. ”I try to warn people about illnesses, but they don’t understand.”
Llorana wisped a phantom arm around Planchada’s vapor. “There, there, you do try. Okay, you’ve summoned me, and you want me to warn people. Who needs warning and of what danger?”
“There are a lot of fresh specters in this graveyard and at another place near here. These ghosts tell me that Cricklewood, the jefe of this church, has been torturing and murdering Mexicans. We need to warn our people about Cricklewood, particularly if they are new to the area.”
Llorana shook her head, “Good luck. I’ll never have any success warning Mexicans about anything except their children. They all think I’m trying to drown their kids. They’ll tune out anything else. Besides, why do you care if there’s an increase in ghouls?”
Planchada sighed “Many of our dead must walk the earth for a time since they are here illegally, without friends or family. They need prayers from home for extradition to native soil before they can attain final rest. As spirits, they are inexperienced and likely to neglect haunting. That makes it a concern for us. Look, Llorana, there are standards that must be maintained. You and I have been haunting for a long time, and we know our craft. We don’t need inexperienced souls infringing upon our line of work.”
Llorana’s effigy grew to the height of the monument that dominated the cemetery. Her ghost voice deepened, and the night’s temperature chilled, “No one will out-haunt me. They can just forget it.”
Planchada made a rumbling noise that might have been a chuckle “Okay. Okay. That’s impressive. What I propose are two actions: First, prevent Cricklewood from making more spirits. Second, provide some training for the newly enghouled.”
Llorana’s image shrank to mortal dimensions. “I can see doing the training, but how will we get to Cricklewood?” she said.
“You’ve got yourself a permanent place in Greg Withers dreams. He’ll recognize you. Be inventive. See how you can use your script to alert him to the Cricklewood problem. Maybe he can do something.”
Llorana twisted her lips, the best she could do to approximate a smile, “I don’t know, Planchada. I’ll have to think about how I can get a message across in a dream. Say, have you’ve been in contact with some of these recent Mexican ghosts? Can any of them help haunt? November Second is coming, and we may be able to use the Day of the Dead celebrations to help.”
La Llorana had been busy training associate ghouls. With La Planchada’s help, she recruited and rehearsed fifteen ghosts who had been wandering in the local ether, unable to achieve wraith rest. These specters were not yet the subject of myths and were too inexperienced to perform convincing haunts. La Llorana did not permit them to moan or shape shift, but formed them into a disorderly procession of spirits with appalling facial expressions, waving disfigured hands.
This was the dream presented to Greg Withers on a Wednesday night. Faces of each of the silent, ill-dressed shades expressed pain and distress as they brandished hands without thumbs. Leading them, La Llorana moaned as usual and waved her hands as if conducting a mimed chorus. The procession, organized in a fashion by La Planchada, moved toward a marble arch.
Greg awoke with a start. Jesus H. Christ, what was that? The images were disturbing but somehow Greg had not been frightened. Why did it seem like that ghost was trying to tell me something?
He sat up and walked to the bathroom to relieve himself. He had a drink of water, looked at his face in the bathroom mirror; and then he knew. The ghost had raised her arm and lowered it, pointing directly at him three times. She had repeated this motion again and again. He knew that gesture; it was one his Mother used when telling him something important or warning him. If it was something she wanted him to remember, she pointed at him three times.
What did La Llorana want to tell me? Could it have been related to the men with no thumbs? What was the arch? It looked familiar, but where have I seen it before?
Picture by Ian Burt “https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/