I wanted to arrive at my friend Carol's cottage in the wilds of northern Michigan before dark. I'm not an outdoor or woodsy person and feared driving there, mostly because of the suicidal deer. She'd invited me several times, and I made excuses, so this time, I said yes. However, road construction detours and lane closures cost me an extra hour, and I drove the last twenty miles in the dark. In the dark in rural Michigan means total blackness, no street lights, Fast Food signs, or Gas Stations. I had a cell phone, but who would I call?
Her long driveway was difficult to find, so she put a red balloon on her mailbox. I didn't find IT very funny. Her feeble porch light wasn't much help as I picked my way through the gravel walkway.
She met me on the porch, wrapping her arms around me for a big hug. She knew the trip wasn't easy for a wimp like me. Her scent of lemons and mint enveloped me, and her sweet smile was most relaxing.
I stepped inside Caroline's little cottage on the lake and. it was enchanting!. Her bookshelves filled one corner with an antique floor lamp and cozy chair. Her dining table sat in front of a large window overlooking the water with a crescent moon reflected on the smooth water.. The scent of her homemade Beef stew simmering on the stove made my mouth water. Carolyn handed me a mug of her special blend of Chamomile, Lemon Mint, and Parsley tea that is so soothing. I felt the road nerves ebb away.
We chatted for a while, laughing and our youthful adventures and old boyfriends. Then she popped up from her chair and said, "Oh! I almost forgot. you have to see the kinky,hand-woven blanket I found at an antique shop! It's in the truck, in the garage.” She grabbed a flashlight and said, "Just be a sec.
"Nope!" I said, "I've seen too many of those horror flicks where one woman goes out in the dark and doesn't return, and the second one ends up trying to find her, trips, falls, and the forest monster eats her.
She laughed and waved a hand at me, "Don't worry, I'll be fine." and was out the door.
I called out, "Just so you know if you don't come back, I'm dialing 911 and hiding in the bathroom! I'm not going out there!"
She chuckled, and I heard her open the creaky old garage door.
Caroline returned quickly, so I didn't have to worry about forest monsters. She unfolded a startlingly unique blanket, and images of a Gypsy caravan filled my mind. Almost every color imaginable was woven into it, primarily red, orange, and yellow, with occasional aqua, purple and black. Varied sizes of yarn added to its texture.
“Wow! That is truly strange. I love it!”
Carolyn held it up, and then I saw some kind of odd symbols on it. Egyptian? Arabic? I had no idea. The designs almost moved in the firelight. I thought of those ancient cave paintings in France, where firelight made the animals appear to move.
"It was almost free!" she said, placing it over the back of the loveseat near the fire.
"Why?" I asked. I felt uneasy while stroking it, so soft yet nubby with a knot here and there. It gave me the same anxiety I felt when looking at mummies of people and animals in a museum.
"The shop owner said, "It's marked down because there are a few small holes in it."
“See?| Caroline held it before the fireplace, and little beams of light showed through them."
"Ah, but still, you said it was cheap?"
“I know! Five dollars!?” The owner texted and chewed a Twizler during the transaction, so maybe she was distracted while she made another comment, but I didn't understand her and didn't want to listen to her repeat."
"Well, I don't want to hurt your feelings, I love it, but it's creeping me out.”
"Yeah, that's why I had to have it. In all my thrifting hunts, I have never seen anything so."
She gave me a playful swat on the arm. “Unique.”
She placed it over the back of her sofa, instantly giving the room a different vibe or atmosphere.
We went to bed, and in my cozy bedroom, the mattress was comfy, and the bed linens were soft, and pristine. I quickly fell asleep.
My bladder woke me as usual, and I went into the bathroom. There was a small window over the bathtub, and as I washed my hands and started to turn off the light, I thought I saw a face looking in through the window! I gave a little chirp of fright, then looked a second time. Nothing was there. I figured my overactive imagination had kicked in again. I told myself to cool it and went back to bed.
The weather the next morning was beautiful. The sugar maples were brilliant yellow and red, giving the entire area a golden glow. A pair of swans swam toward us, and Carolyn said, "Don't move toward them or make eye contact. Tourists who stay at the B and B across the lake feed them, and they've become l pests!"
“The tourists?” I teased. Caroline rolled her eyes at me."
The swans stopped and turned and swam away from us.
"That's weird," Caroline said. "They always come right up to me, even though I don't feed them."
"Maybe calling them 'pests' and insulted them?"
We spent the day visiting a local winery and antique shops and dined at a restaurant famous for its sweet potato fries. They were very yummy.
After a long day, we went to bed early. I looked around and asked, "Where's your creepy blanket?"
'Oh, I hung it in your closet because it's lined in cedar. I don't want moths to get it.” I'll take it out until you leave if you want."
I thought I was not that much of a wimp and said, "Nah, it's fine. But I'll keep the \ door closed!"
"Okay, then, see ya' in the morning."
I woke up again in the middle of the night, relieved to see only darkness in the bathroom window. I walked back to the bedroom and had that creeped-out feeling again. I decided to get a glass of water, and as I returned to my room, I saw it or him.
There was a shadowy form near the fireplace!
I was too surprised and scared to make anything but gasp. Then I took a deep breath and managed to croak out, "Who are you, and what do you want? "
The shadow now took on more shape and depth. A man answered, "It's about your brother."
"I don't have a brother. Get out of here!" I whispered. I didn't want Caroline to be frightened or call me loony again.
He was almost transparent but became more defined. I don't believe in ghosts. Well, maybe I should say I hadn't. He wore a vintage dark suit, white shirt, and red tie. His suitcoat lapel held a red carnation, and the coat pocket sported a red handkerchief. He reminded me of Cary Grant from a 1940's film.
"I'm not here to harm you," he said with a slightly British accent." I want to get a message to Mother and can't, so I decided to try you, Sis. This is the first time anyone has been able to see me!"
"What the... " I started to say.
He raised his hand, “Please, hear me out. Our mother had me when she was only fifteen. I don't know who my father was, but I died a few days after I was born."
"Oh no, that's so sad! But why are you here? Why now? She never mentioned you?”
“Because she was ashamed. Single mothers were heavily frowned upon back then. And she continues blaming herself for my death, and I want her to know it wasn't her fault."
I just stared at him as he added. "You see, I had a fragile heart. I was never meant to live very long. Mother always thought my death was her punishment for having sex before marriage. Which isn't true.”
“So why did all that happen? And you certainly don't look like an infant!”
He shook his head and said, “I don't know the big plan. I'm appearing like this because I know my father wore a formal black suit, white shirt, and red tie with a gold heart-shaped tie pin the last time she saw him, I was given that much information. I was born and died shortly afterward, but I know she'll remember this description, so I hope she'll believe you. I had a small birthmark on my right shoulder. Tell her James Buckminster Wilson wants her to know she's blameless in my death. It was a part of both of our life paths.” Then he disappeared!
The experience was unsettling, but I didn't want to share it with anyone or wake Caroline. In my journal, I wrote as much of this 'episode' as I could remember. By the time I'd finished it, it was three o'clock in the morning.
I was surprised that Caroline didn't wake up, but I checked on her and heard her snoring. I walked into my bedroom, and a wave of fright hit me. The creepy blanket lay across the end of my bed! I replaced it in the cedar closet and put a chair against the door. I and wondered if Caroline was pulling a prank, but she is not a prankster.
I shared my experience with my Mom when I got home; she was a little frightened and upset at first. But then became calm as she remembered that outfit with the red flower and hanky, red tie, and heart-shaped tie pin. She took me to the cemetery and introduced me to James Bucky Walters.. Mom was a lot calmer and cheerier after that.
A few weeks later, as I drove home from a friend's birthday party late at night, I had to slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid hitting a white cat sitting that sat in the middle of the road!. The cat ran off into a field and was fine, but my extra large cup of coffee went flying, splashing coffee, milk, and sugar all over the inside of my car.
I had it deep cleaned. I think they call it detailed, which was expensive but had to be done. I went into the office to pay for the service and thank them for such a great job. The clerk smiled and said you're welcome and I walked out. As I opened the car door, the woman ran after me and handed me a package wrapped in plastic.
“Sorry, Ma'am, I almost forgot to give you this. It was in the trunk.”
I took it and felt faint. Yes, it was the creepy blanket. When I called Caroline to ask her if she'd put it there, she said, “What blanket?” And denied knowing ever buying it. She said she had no idea what I was talking about!