Greetings and welcome to my ghost story for the letter N on this, the fourteenth day of the AtoZChallenge.
Today my ghost story is inspired by the Northern Belle pub in Margate, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman with deathly pale skin, who wears a shroud.
This story is scary at the end, even though a good 70% of it isn't, so be warned.
Mel would never say it out loud, because they made the pub a lot of money, but she hated theme nights. It wasn't even Halloween and she'd already had to deal with Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein and The Mummy, who had thought it would be hilarious to make another mummy by stealing all the toilet paper from the loos.
The local dramatics society were hosting a horror quiz evening, with a buffet and there were prizes for the best costume, so the whole lot of them were dressed up. It was not as fun for Mel as if was for them, especially as Sven (yes, her chef was really called Sven) had called in sick with food poisoning. She had not failed to see the irony, although Sven had assured her it was thanks to a salad he had grabbed from the supermarket rather than anything he had made.
It wouldn't have mattered except her sous chef was on holiday, so catering was now down to her. Hot food service was cancelled, but she couldn't just send the dramatics society members away hungry.
Luckily all the food for the buffet was already prepared and in the cold store. All Mel had to do was get it out onto the tables before halftime was called on the quiz. Which was why she was busily pulling things from the fridge and the cold cabinet, as well as putting trays of what would be hot bites into the oven and the microwave. The gentle hum of the nuking steamed dumplings was kind of soothing.
She turned and nearly had a heart attack.
"Oh my god," she said, putting her hand to her chest, "you scared me. The food won't be long."
In the doorway of the kitchen there was a woman. Mel couldn't tell if she knew her or not, what with the, admittedly, stunning makeup the woman was wearing. She knew most of the dramatics society by sight, but this woman's costume was amazing. Her skin was almost grey, but had just enough colour to make it that off-putting shade that spoke of death, and she had dark makeup around her eyes and mouth, just enough so it looked sunken, but not fake. Then there was the wig, which was long and looked to have started off light brown, but was matted with fake blood. A shroud finished off the whole outfit with morbid brilliance.
"Sorry for the delay," Mel said, busying herself with her task and checking she had all the trays on the counter, "but my chef is sick."
The woman didn't say anything. Mel looked up to check she was still there, and she was staring at her in a rather unsettling way. Not that Mel let it bother her, some of the dramatics society took their roles very seriously. She had had to ban even fake swords from the pub after they had held one of their previous quizzes. The theme had been pirates and there had been two duels and an attempt to find somewhere to make the quiz master walk the plank.
"Is there something you wanted?" she asked, trying to decide how many of the platters she could carry without dropping anything.
The woman stood there without the slightest twitch.
"You can tell Kevin it'll be about ten minutes before everything is ready in the dining room."
Not even a blink.
While Mel was sympathetic to the arty types and their one chance a month to let loose, she was a bit busy. She began loading her arm up with platters and then picked another up in her free hand. As she turned, her visitor raised an arm and pointed directly at her. It almost looked as if the woman's eyes darkened as well. The finger pointed at her had a very grubby, broken nail on it too. Mel would have been impressed if she hadn't been occupied.
"Wow, very clever," she said, "your costume is great, but, would you mind, I need to get this in the other room?"
Unfortunately, her guest did not move.
"Please?" she tried again.
If she had had a quid for every time one of the dramatics lots had one too many and took their outfit too seriously, she'd have been rich my now. The question was, how to get past this phantom of the night without being too rude. As she stepped forward the buzzer on the oven went off.
"Dammit," she said and turned.
Cold lanced up her spine, even as she realised she was going to have to put everything down again.
Turning back to her uninvited guest she noted two things at the same time. The woman had moved closer to her and the shroud covered arm was right in the path of the platter she was holding in her right hand. She braced for impact…
…and the metal tray passed right through the woman's hand.
Mel's stunned brain took a second or so to process this as her body froze.
The woman began to slowly glide towards her, arm still outstretched and broke Mel's paralysis. There was no gap between thought and action, she dropped everything she was holding, screamed and ran. Something deep in her soul knew that if the spectre touched her it could only be bad. Even in her panic she ducked under the arm that tried to follow her as she dodged past.
Nothing could have stopped her, and nothing did until she found herself standing several metres outside the back door.
The evening was cold, but not as cold as she felt inside.
Something made her turn and she stumbled another pace backwards. The woman was standing in the doorway, those sunken eyes boring into Mel's. Now that she looked, Mel realised the ghost's feet were hovering just off the ground. At least that finger was no longer pointing. She didn't know how she knew, but she was sure the woman could not step outside. It was a weird feeling.
However, as Mel stood there, breathing hard, there was a bang and a crash from inside. The kitchen window cracked as something thudded against it. The phantom glanced towards the source of the sound and slowly vanished with one last look in Mel's direction.
She could only stare dumbly at the place where the woman had been, until a man came running from inside. He was dressed as the wolfman and it made Mel want to laugh.
"Are you okay?" the man asked. "We heard a loud bang."
Mel couldn't help it, the laugh finally burst out of her, a high hysterical sound. She was pretty sure she knew what the bang was. Sven had been complaining about the microwave for the past week, it had been doing strange things and now it had exploded. What Mel didn't know was had the ghost come to warn her, or had it come to claim her soul?