This was originally published in June 2012 in Pagan Edge and the theme was, obviously enough, spirits. I use the ideas in this short story for longer short stories (“Tricks ‘O Pedia”) in Nevermore and the Ravens and also in Paranormal is Relative (“Beyond the Grave”).
“Spirit of Sorrow”
Dolores looked out the window. The sky was overcast and a light, misty rain was falling. “There will be so many today. They do seem to come when the rain is falling,” she said out loud, although there was no one to hear. “And so they come,” she said, seeing a flock of umbrellas walking up to the front. She walked out of her room and glided noiselessly down the staircase.
The tour group was just entering the building.
“Now just leave your umbrellas there,” the tour guide said with a southern drawl to her voice. “This place is historical. We don’t want to be ruining it, right y’all?”
“They’ll drip water on the carpet,” Dolores said, although no one paid her any attention. “They always do.”
“Alright, everyone follow me,” the tour guide said cheerfully. “You can use your cameras but please no flash. Let’s start our haunted tour.”
The group started to slowly wind their way through the old inn.
“This inn was built in 1875, right after the Civil War by Colonel William Hathorne,” the guide said.
“It was built in 1873, and the ‘a’ sound is long, not short,” Dolores sighed. No one minded her.
The group’s interest seemed to pique as they walked to the main dining area.
“As y’all know, the Hathorne Inn is haunted because the Colonel’s daughter hanged herself at age sixteen,” the guide said. She pointed to the second-floor gallery that overlooked the main dining area. “Hanged herself from that very balcony,” she said. “The story says it’s because her father wanted her to marry a man she didn’t love, so she took her own life instead of be wed.”
The group made some horrified gasps and took several pictures.
“Poor creature,” Dolores said. “This guide tells them such untruths, but they are none the wiser. Perhaps she does not know the truth either and only repeats what she hears, like nothing more than a mockingbird. Such delight do they take in this as well! Reveling in the misery of one long dead with no understanding of how she died nor why.”
The tour guide lead them through the rest of the first floor.
“These people who listen to the tales of the guide are but voyeurs who delight in a fantastic story they hardly believe. Yet what does it matter to these people if the story is true or false? The truth is hardly so entertaining as the fiction. If the truth truly mattered to anyone, they would learn the true story of the Hathorne family.”
The tour guide now lead the group up the grand staircase and ignored Dolores, who followed.
“But perhaps they do not deserve the truth. They show no respect for the dead. They do not understand the grief and pain, and they come back, day after day, while the owners profit from the sorrow and horror of the past. It’s truly shameful,” she said.
The tour wrapped up and the guide lead the group back outside with the promise of a gift shop.
“Never do they think if this place was haunted how it must feel to the ghost to have her terrible life and death exploited and mocked.” Dolores resumed staring out the window. “Perhaps this is my true punishment,” she said, “to endure this until I find redemption for my earthly sins.” The ghost of Dolores sighed and faded away.