We’ve had so many amazing ghost stories come to us. Here’s one of the entries that made it into the semi-finals:
“Wisconsin Winter,” by Aimee Ogden of Madison, WI.
The winters are the best part of Wisconsin, Ida thinks.
Her friends say she’s mad: winter is dangerous for people like us, they tell her time and time again. Most of them have taken up residence in warmer climes: Miami is popular, L.A. and San Francisco as well. A big city, at least, the others say: then you’re not so isolated. What if you starve to death, alone in that old cabin you call a house? What if you freeze through?
But Ida finds the isolation freeing, and the cold isn’t dangerous so long as you take the proper precautions. Here, in the winter, it’s quiet and dark and intimate – she doesn’t like the summers, with their endless days of hot, humorless sunshine. Florida sounds like a nightmare to Ida, and besides, in the warmer climates, the decay starts to set in too quickly. Maybe someday she’ll move farther north: Canada, say. That sounds nice.
This year, though, she stays in her little cottage outside of Baraboo, and lingers inside as the bluffs turn gold and red. Last year was a lean season: not enough snow, not enough cold. She eyes her unused skis with longing. When the sun finally sets on the first good snowfall of the season, she straps the skis to her feet, bundles up against the cold, and sets out into the night.
Her core temperature drops quickly. The motion of the skis and the friction of her jacket and snowpants warm her up a little, but not as much as she might have hoped for. It’s going to be a cold winter – she thinks about her neighbors, burrowed down into their homes for long stretches of the season, and she smiles.
Tonight she goes calling at John Carroll’s house. John is a widower whose children don’t call – he’s a friendly man, and a lonely one. A pretty face at his door this evening merits a quick invitation inside. If she’s moving a bit more stiffly than is quite ordinary, he politely says nothing about it – only invites her to shuck her skis and join him by the fire he has just built. There’s hot cider, he tells her, and It’s a Wonderful Life is on the television. He shuts the door against the cold, and Ida sinks her teeth deep into his neck.
As a first kill of the season, it’s not bad. John is a little old for her preferences, but Ida drains him dry. She feels the warmth of the blood suffuse her, lending strength and vitality to her near-frozen limbs. When she is finished feeding, she hefts him over one shoulder and carries him down into the cellar. Propped against the exterior wall down here, he’ll neither start to rot too soon, nor attract unwanted outside attention before Ida has rested and chosen her next point of attack.
She pours herself a cup of cider in John Carroll’s kitchen and puts on one of his comfortable sweaters. She’ll stay up to watch the sunrise, she thinks. It’ll be beautiful on the white, crisp snow.
She does so love a good Wisconsin winter.
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