One City One Story 2017 Writing Contest
High School category
Grade 9, Anderson W. Clark Magnet High School
“The Ghost of Theodore Bushnell”
Summary: Catherine and Mandy stay at an old church rumored to be haunted.
The wind blew in a fury against the trees that danced its wild routine as Mandy and I followed the guide to the inn. Rudderford Fields had only one inn—if you could call it an inn. The hamlet didn’t have enough money to operate one so they set up an old church for housing its sparse visitors. Mandy insisted we come here; she had but a couple weeks to turn in her report about some mysterious plant that only grew in these neck of the woods. Truth be told, I was looking for an adventure. And this ghost quiet village of Rudderfield Fields seemed to be the apt place for one.
The church was a run down Gothic structure, the type you would expect from the movies. The sprawling gardens all shared a grey hue, with wild brambles that rubbed against our legs as we made our way to the entrance. Shadows welcomed us when the guide opened the rickety door.
Inside, makeshift room-dividers separated the rooms, allowing for a limited amount of privacy. That wasn’t really required, considering we were the only visitors this village had at the moment.
We dumped our luggage into the far corner of our “room” and went down our separate ways. Mandy scheduled a tour with the innkeeper while I paged through a small booklet about our vacation place. Mandy seemed excited to come here; it would help her research after all. As a staunch friend, I just had to accompany her. I knew this little village would satisfy my sudden thirst for adventure. Something was creeping in between the crippling buildings; I could smell it.
“Oh, yeah,” Mandy was saying to the guide, putting her glasses back on, “I heard he used to be the mayor? What was his name again?”
The guide was a thin little man whose skin looked like it had been stretched across his face. Everyone around here knew him as “Moony” so that was what we called him.
“That is right, Ms. Garcia. Theodore Bushnell was a loved mayor. He started the Department of Agriculture & Tourism sometime during the 20’s, but it died with him.”
“Rudderford Fields was a farm?” I asked, surprised at how such a desolate place could have once been an agricultural booming spot.
Moony looked sad, or, to be more accurate, sadder. “This place used to be a traveling hotspot. That all stopped when Mayor Bushnell passed. A couple tourists from Mexico once saw a fat burly man, pearly white-almost transparent, walking around this church. Folks say it is the ghost of Bushnell but none of us folks from Rudderford Fields has seen him. It’s always tourists.”
I felt Mandy’s shoulders tense.
And right on cue, a flash of lightning followed by the low rumble of thunder announced the beginning of rain as the familiar patter of water hitting the weak church roof rang throughout the inn. The sound of rain seemed to be the only thing familiar to us in this melancholy place. That, and Mandy’s usual glances at the altar to look out for the ghost of Theodore Bushnell.
“I hope Moony didn’t scare you, Mandy,” I ventured after Moony had left.
Mandy managed to hold a brave face, “What? No! There’s no way one little “ghost” is ruining this trip! We will both get what we want and have fun doing it. One little story won’t scare me.”
“Good,” I told her, “because, traveling always brings up weird stories which we should not let intimidate us. Embrace the oddness.”
“Yeah,” Mandy muttered, “Embrace.”
Nothing eventful happened after that and we settled into bed. The rain gradually stopped and left the earth soft and musty as the hours slowly dwindled away.
I was all snuggled up in bed when a sharp scream rang through my dreams and woke me up. Bolting up in bed, I realized the scream had not come from my dream, but from Mandy. Her eyes were focused on the decaying altar and her whole body seemed to be shaking.
“Mandy, everything okay?” I asked, hurrying to her.
“C-Catherine! There, o-on the altar. I saw him!” she stuttered.
“The ghost?” I asked instinctively.
I went up to the altar to get a closer look but there wasn’t a single living, or undead, thing to be seen there. Even the rodents of Rudderford Fields had standards.
“Mandy, there’s nobody here. It was probably your brain playing tricks on you,” I went back to her, “You should really get some sleep. That ship ride was tiring.”
We went back to bed but I could see Mandy restlessly turn around.
“Catherine, you awake?” she called out softly after a while.
“I’m booking plane tickets back to San Diego right now. I don’t want to spend another second here.”
I sat up in bed. “What, why? What about your research? That’s the whole reason you dragged me to this place. Besides, this is an interesting place don’t you think?”
“A bit too interesting, yes,” she said using that tone she uses when she has set her mind on something. I could hear her scuffling around to get her phone. Oh, well. It was interesting while it lasted.
“Hey, it was nice of Moony to get us this casserole dish for our trip back, wasn’t it?” Mandy asked me later on, the next day, while we were on the plane. “Did you tell him we were leaving?”
I looked up from my magazine and saw Mandy holding a small box wrapped in brown paper.
“No, we just left. I didn’t tell anybody. Moony didn’t give us that. I’ve never seen that box before.”
Mandy looked confused. “Well, I found it in my backpack. Nobody could have sneaked into the church,” she paused. “There’s a note.”
And I have to say, that one note changed our entire trip.
You guys were fun! Come back soon!
To view the list of the contest winners: OCOS 2017 The Traveler Contest Winners