Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Solstice on Ocracoke

This article is reprinted from my H-R article! Enjoy~

It is the night of the Solstice, the first day of summer. Magical. It is my night to host the late night ghost and history walk. I prefer this time as the village quiets down from the day. Folks have retired to front porches to sit on porch swings finding relief from the humid air that sweeps over us from the Atlantic. Bikes are parked on sandy drives, and the only folks out walking are strolling hand in hand oblivious to ghosts.

I put on the finishing touches of my costume…a blue cotton pirate dress, a string of seashells for a necklace, a red rose pinned in my hair and my spider woven black shawl. I turn on a light in the cottage as the dusk has turned the shadows to deep purple, and I know it will be inky black before I return.

There is a knock at the door.

Two boys are standing on the pizer. They are barefoot and their once-white tee-shirts are streaked with the day’s dirt. One is Emmett, the son of the Captain of the Windfall. He is 13 or 14 and can be found crewing for his dad or reading Mark Twain or J. K. Rawlings in a tree somewhere. His friend is from up the beach and they are biking around looking for an adventure on this Friday night. I ask if they want to participate in the ghost walk. They are all ears as I tell them where I will be and when. “Fig tree lane,” I say, “midnight.” I ask them to be discreet when they scare my tour group….”make it sound real,” I say. I realize we are whispering and our eyes are darting around in the early darkness. We make a pact and they disappear into the night.

I check the batteries in my flashlight and go out the back door and follow the path to where folks are gathering for this late night haunt. I chat and welcome them to the ghost and history walk, collect their fees, pass out the waivers to be signed. I laugh as I hand them out, “They are so you don’t call me in the night if you can’t sleep!” I point out the bathroom and my supply of bug spray. With all the business taken care of, my voice changes to a whisper as we meander down Howard Street. Their flashlights shine on old graves planted among the cedars and the live oak trees.

We gather under the light of the waning full moon and the stories begin. Blackbeard. Shipwrecks. Lighthouses. Hurricanes. I talk about the history and geography of this little ribbon of sand that we are living on for this moment.
They shudder and move closer to one another. The streets are empty and dark and haunted as we move around the village and through the cemeteries. I know the stories well as I spend my free time studying books, shipwreck accounts and listening to the local folks talk on the Community Store porch.

We come to the old foot path of Fig Tree Lane. I tell the story of Mad Mag who was kidnapped by a ship’s captain and forced to live here in 1900. She still roams the island wearing white and moving from cemetery to cemetery. I pause with my story every few lines waiting for the boys to rustle the bushes or send out a shivery cackle or two. I hear nothing. We follow the foot path. I am the one who is now spooked. I know those boys are hiding here. I see a flash of light, but it is lightening over the Sound. My voice quivers at the next story as I search for them. My group is not nearly as afraid as I am. I know they are hiding and watching and waiting for the right moment. We continue to the end of the tour…the boys do not appear. I tell the last story and thank them all for coming. As my group disperses I call out in the shadows, “Emmett? Where are you?” I hear rustling, but it is only the wind and the approaching storm.

It is late when I receive a call from Rob, Emmett’s Dad. The boys were hiding until midnight in the mud and the mosquitoes. We had to have passed each other in the darkness. How did we miss each other? Some stories just don’t have endings, I think, as I lock the cottage door