The Wailing of Willow Way

Terrance Brown had always been in love with ghost stories. He would scour our town in search of any and all rumors regarding the supernatural.

Yet, our town was small, tiny even, and its few inhabitants shared nothing resembling even the most normal rumors or urban legends. Ghost stories or hauntings were not something the people concerned themselves with.

One day, however, as I sat with my friend Mark, eating our lunch, Terrance propped himself down next to us. His face was distorted by a never-before-seen serious expression.

“Have you guys heard about the Wailing of Willow Way?” he asked with wide eyes, and almost leaning into our faces.

“The wailing of… what?” I asked, before I took another bite of my sandwich.

“The Wailing of Willow Way!” Terrance repeated in a conspiratorial whisper.

“It says that on certain nights, just past two in the morning, you can hear strange sounds, a wailing down Willow Way. They say it’s the ghost of-“

“Who are they?” Mark cut in, laughing.

By now, the two of us were pretty annoyed by Terrance and the silly stories he tried to spread every other week.

“Old Larry told me about it. He said he saw the ghost himself a few weeks ago.”

“You know that guy’s freaking crazy, right?” Mark asked, half-amused, half-annoyed.

“Look guys, I know he’s crazy, and I know it sounds stupid, but a few nights ago, I went down there and I heard it myself. I swear it!”

“Stop making up stories, Terry,” I mumbled, getting angry.

“Well, why don’t you see for yourself? Bet you guys are too scared, anyway!”

Before we could even retort, he’d jumped off his seat and raced down to another group, most likely sharing his stupid story with them as well. I knew it didn’t matter. He always tried to make his stories stick, but usually was over them in a couple of days.

Not so the Wailing of Willow Way. For whatever reason, it took root in our small school and soon I could hear others whispering about it and the ghost responsible for it.

I even heard that another boy, Steven Miller, had been dared by Terrance, just as we had. Being the dumb but curious idiot everyone knew him to be, he actually set out one night. Believing, of course, just like us, that it was nothing but a stupid story.

He said he’d waited for almost half an hour until, by the clock, at two in the morning, he could hear strange sounds from down Willow Way. At first, he said, he thought it was just the wind, but the further he went in, the louder the wailing became. Until he saw it. Down near the end of Willow Way, a headless figure, half-hidden in the shadows and draped in what he said to be, a half-rotten sheet stood. The moment Steven got closer, the wailing started tenfold, and when the ghost finally turned in his direction, he ran.

This only helped to spread Terrance’s story, and even me and Mark became enthralled with it.

The longer the rumor persisted, the more details became known about it. The ghost was supposedly that of a young woman. She’d been murdered down Willow Way half a century ago by a deranged drifter. The man had then cut off her head before he vanished, leaving her decapitated body behind. As the story goes, the woman’s still out there, wailing and searching for her missing head. How she could wail without a head, I wasn’t sure, but I wasn’t an expert in ghost stories.

One day, driven by curiosity, I approached my mom about the rumors.

“Hey mom, have you heard about the Wailing down Willow Way?”

She turned, giving me a curious look.

“Now, what’s that about a wailing?”

“It’s this, eh, story about a ghost. They say a woman was beheaded down there and her ghost is haunting Willow Way.”

“Wait, what’s that about a beheading? Who tells you such stories?”

“Everyone’s talking about it at school, and I thought you might know something about it.”

“Listen, Christopher, there’s no such things as ghosts, all right? Who even came up with it?”

“It was Terrance,” I admitted. “He said he’d heard it from Old Larry, but Steven Miller went down there one night and-“

“Oh, for god’s sake, you kids shouldn’t believe anything Old Larry says. Everyone knows the man’s crazy!”

I tried to protest and tell her that Steven had actually seen the headless ghost, but of course, she had none of it and said it was nothing but humbug.

To be honest, I wanted to believe her. Ghosts were humbug, after all, weren’t they? Yet, at the same time, more and more stories were told about the Wailing of Willow Way. Apparently, two more kids had seen the ghost by now and their stories spread like wildfire.

Eventfully, Mark and I couldn’t take it anymore. We’d both taunted Terrance, but after all these stories, we wondered if it might be true.

We set out a few days later. By now, both of us were pros at sneaking out in the middle of the night and had done so multiple times before.

When we met up, I saw Mark had brought his trusty baseball bat. I stared at him and pointed at the bat.

“What’d you bring that for?”

“Well, everyone says the ghost’s trying to steal your head, so if that bitch gets near me, I whack her!”

“You’re so dumb. If there’s really a ghost, then there’s no way you can hit her!”

“Why not?”

“Because… that’s how ghosts are, all right?”

When we checked the time, we saw it was already close to two in the morning and so we quickly made our way through the town’s deserted streets.

After only ten minutes, we’d arrived at the small alleyway that was known as Willow Way. Before I could so much as check the time, a quiet, almost inaudible wailing reached my ears.

I slowly turned to Mark and when our eyes met, we could both see how scared the other was.

“Probably a stray,” I mumbled.

Mark nodded vehemently, but it didn’t help one but, we were both terrified.

Step by step, we made our way down the small alley. All the while, I tried my best to listen only to the echoes of our footsteps, but with each single one, the wailing grew louder.

We’d made it to the halfway-point, when I saw something. Ahead of us, where the moonlight was hidden by the shadow of an adjacent building, something was moving.

It’s just a stray, I told myself. It’s just a stray. Those words, however, sounded empty. Nothing but lies.

And then, the wailing suddenly changed into an almost-scream, and a moment later, a figure turned into our direction.

It was nothing but a dirty, half-rotten sheet, but then a pair of ghastly thin arms and hands pushed themselves from it. Then the thing wailed again, straightened its headless body before it set out in our direction.

Mark and I both screamed in terror. I tried to back away, but stumbled over my own feet and crashed to the floor. As I tried to get up, my eyes were glued to the approaching figure, the approaching ghost-woman of Willow Way.

I shuffled on the floor, trying desperately to get up, but my body didn’t seem to listen to me. My arms were dangling helplessly at my sides, my legs were too weak to function properly. No, all there seemed to be was the ghost-woman of Willow-Way. Finally, when I saw her hands open and close, my body relented, functioned again. I pushed myself up, turned, took a few first steps, but then I remembered Mark.

“Mark, let’s get the hell out of-“

But Mark was frozen in terror. Nothing but sheer and utter panic distorted his face. And the ghost-woman was coming ever closer, step by angry step. Her hands reached out again, opening and closing, her fingers clawing through the air in apprehension, ready to tear of our heads.

And then Mark screamed, a scream that might very well have been a wail, rushed at the ghastly apparition and swung his bat. Useless, I thought, it’s useless, you can’t hurt a ghost.

Yet, the loud thump that followed told me, you can indeed hurt a ghost and you can indeed knock it square to the ground.

Still screaming and out of it, Mark continued his enraged beat down.

By this point, a neighbor had noticed the commotion. It was an angry, middle-aged woman who stormed into the alleyway, screaming and demanding what we were doing out in the middle of the night.

“What do you think you kids are doing? You ought to be-“

She broke off when she noticed Mark, the baseball bat in his hands and the figure at his feet.

Another scream cut through the air, this time the middle-aged woman’s.

Before long, more and more people flooded outside, trying to find out what was going on and eventually the police were called.

By that point, I was still out of it, still not understanding what was happening. How could Mark beat up a ghost? Why was everyone angry? What was the police doing here?

That was, until I saw what was below the sheet.

After Terrance Brown’s death, things changed in our small town. We got told about the importance of not spreading silly rumors. Curfews were enacted and strictly enforced and before long, the whole truth came out.

As it turned out, Old Larry had never heard a thing about Willow Way, and didn’t know it even existed. There had, of course, been no crazy drifter, no murder and no decapitated woman. There had been no ghost at all. In his desperation to get everyone to believe in his ghost stories, to make them just a tad bit more real, Terrance Brown had played the role of the ghost-woman of Willow Way himself.

The events of that night happened over three decades ago, and most people have forgotten about them. I’m an adult now, of course, and know how silly we’d all been to fall for Terrance’s story.

Yet, I’m writing this all down, because the other day, my son hurried into the house, asking if I’d heard about the boy down Willow Way.

When I asked him what he was talking about, he told me about the boy who’d supposedly been murdered down there. As the story went, his head was bashed in so badly, he was now out there looking for a new one.

I told him it was all humbug, of course, and there was no such thing as ghosts. I even told him it was most likely someone trying to play a trick on him.

After he’d left, however, and I sat there, alone in the living room, left to reminisce about the past, I couldn’t help but smile to myself.

Maybe, just maybe, there really is a ghost down there now. Maybe it’s the ghost of a little boy who was so in love with ghost stories, he became one himself.

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