After Britt and I had been together a couple of years we took our first trip back to his home country of New Zealand to visit his family for Christmas. Along with his mom Judy, we arrived in Gisborne, a quiet seaside town, jet lagged but excited to be there. We were staying with Britt’s Aunt Robin and Uncle John in their old house in a quiet neighborhood.
After hugs and kisses, a cuppa and a couple of date scones we went to go have a nap in a spare room next to the kitchen. But sleep did not come for me. Someone was moving furniture directly above us and it kept me up. Britt will sleep through anything so he didn’t let furniture moving cut into his sleep time. After a little while I left Britt sleeping like a giant baby and wandered back out to the living room where his relatives were chatting.
Uncle John looked up, surprised. “You’re up already! How was your nap, Sunde?”
“Oh, I couldn’t sleep. I’ll just stay tired and have a good night’s sleep tonight.” I didn’t want to complain about the noises coming from upstairs but I was curious what it was.
“Would you like a cuppa dear?” Aunt Robin asked me. “Ya, that would be great thanks… so, um, who lives upstairs? They were moving chairs or furniture while we were napping.”
Robin and John exchanged a look. “No one lives upstairs dear, it’s just attic space.”
“Maybe it’s our pesky squirrels” John chimed in.
I shrugged and didn’t think about it again that day.
That night Britt and I were tucked into our bedroom that once belonged to John and Robin’s daughter. It had lace comforters with tiny flowers and spice shelves displaying a porcelain figurine collection. We were sleeping soundly when we were awoken by our separate twin beds bouncing and shaking violently. We both sat up and looked at each other, “Earthquake!” we both shout whispered. After a few seconds the shaking stopped and we laughed that we had brought an earthquake with us from California and went back to sleep.
In the morning I looked at the little porcelain figurines on the shallow spice shelves along the walls of the bedroom. Not one had fallen or moved out of place.
“Hey Britty, look.” I said. “That earthquake last night didn’t shake any of these figurines off their shelves.”
“That’s weird.” He said. “You’d think they’d have all fallen out with how bad the shaking was.”
Later that afternoon we brought it up. “Did that earthquake wake anyone up last night?” Britt asked over lunch. No one had felt it.
“You’re probably sensitive to them being from California.” Said Britt’s mom.
After dinner John went to go check the weather channel to see if an earthquake had registered. No earthquake was reported.
That night I woke up to use the bathroom. I opened the door half asleep and was surprised that Britt was standing inches from me in the doorway, his white t-shirt almost glowing in the dark.
“Hey Britty,” I mumbled and went to pat him on the chest but my hand went right through him. It was not Britt, it was not a man, it was a ghost standing an inch from me in a white t-shirt. He was taller than Britt. I was too terrified to look up into his face. I screamed and slammed the door and jumped onto Britt’s bed waking him up.
I have never been that scared. My whole body was shaking with adrenaline. I was gripping Britt, trying to tell him what was happening.
“A ghost, a ghost. He’s right outside. My hand, my hand went right through him. He’s waiting outside the door.” We turned on the frilly little bedside lamps but it did not calm me down. “I went to go to the bathroom and I thought it was you.” I told Britt. “But when I went to pat you on the chest my hand went through him!”
“Okay, okay. That explains our beds shaking and the chairs moving.” He said. Britt did a good job of staying calm but I could see dewy stress sweat forming on his forehead. “I still have to pee.” I told him. “I can’t go out there.” I was gripping his skin so tight I was bruising it.
“Okay, I’ll go out with you. We’ll be safe together.”
I don’t know how we peeled ourselves up off the bed and inched our way to the doorway. I was using Britt’s body as a shield, hiding behind him, gripping his shirt. He took a breath and opened the door wide in one quick motion. No one was there. We inched along the hallway, our bodies pressed against the wall so the ghost could not come up behind us. I was almost hysterical with fear but we made it to the bathroom and slowly back to the room safely and locked the door behind us.
We sat piled together on Britt’s twin bed with our backs leaning against the wall, our legs tucked up tightly to our chests, counting the minutes till dawn. As Britt does, he dozed off after a little while leaving me to jump and grip the blankets tighter around me at the slightest sound. Every shadow morphed into a fresh terror for me to overcome that night as Britt slept beside me peacefully. Finally the sun crept up and I closed my eyes for a couple of hours.
We woke up and packed our bags. We had survived our final night in Gisborne, but just barely.