Excerpt: The Ghost of Whispering Willow
The lights were dimmed in Stewart’s room. Andy had the logbook and his favorite pen in hand; they were ready to watch the DVDs. It was the same routine every time: DVDs first, voice recorders second, and then, last but not least, the thermal image recorders.
Stewart hit play, and no one said a word. The boys stared at the screen, blinking only when absolutely necessary.
They watched the monitor as Stewart gathered and reset the equipment. They could tell from the video that it was just as Stewart had described, eerily still. The willow branches weren’t moving in the typical sweeping to and fro manner that they usually did when there was a breeze. They watched as Stewart stopped and looked all around him. They could tell he was uploading information from the equipment, but he kept stopping and looking around his surroundings, as if something wasn’t quite right. They could see that Stewart was very uncomfortable with something, though they could tell that he didn’t know what. Stewart was rushing about and was obviously very nervous, and Andy made note of that fact several times in the log. Stewart was mopping his brow and nose as the sweat poured off of him, profusely at one point. Andy noted this in the log as bizarre and circled it, since the temperatures had been relatively mild that evening. The sweat was definitely an indication of an increased heart rate likely due to fear, which Andy also logged and circled.
“Whoa, wait a minute; stop rolling!” Zack suddenly hollered as he jumped to the edge of the bed. “Did you see that? Back it up!”
Stewart hit rewind and then hit play again as the boys watched each frame, one by one. Barely daring to blink in case they missed something, they stared at the monitor, looking for whatever it was that had grabbed Zack’s attention.
“Stop!” Zack shrieked in a voice that even he had not anticipated. “Oh, that’s wicked. Look at that, right there in the corner!” he said in disbelief. “Boys, right there; don’t you see it?” he said, pointing to the screen excitedly.
Both Andy and Stewart jumped when Zack shrieked again, but they both tried to act like they hadn’t. Stewart rewound the footage and pressed play one more time.
“Ohhh,” Stewart said, way louder than he’d intended. “Oh, I knew it!”
“Again, Stewart, back it up again,” Andy said, stunned at what he had just seen. “I’m pretty sure I know what I saw, but I would like to confirm that, if you know what I mean!”
It was one of those surreal moments, the kind where the boys knew what they had just seen but couldn’t actually believe they’d just seen it. Stewart realized what he was witnessing via a visual aid and what he must have been experiencing in the Willows earlier that day. He wasn’t quite sure if he should be freaked out or not, since he had never dealt with such a thing before and had no idea how he was supposed to react.
Perched on the edge of the bed, the three boys stared at the TV. “There,” Zack said, pointing again to the screen. “Right there. Do you see it? Do you see what I see, guys?” Not daring to take his eyes off of the screen, Zack leaned forward and touched the monitor in front of them. They all saw it, but they had no idea what to do next.
“Whoa, give me a minute,” Stewart said, as he turned white as a sheet. “I’m trying to take it all in, if you know what I mean. Play in slow motion again, please,” he said, handing Andy the remote. “Look where I’m pointing; it’s like a really dark shadow, but it’s moving toward me right there on the frame. See it?” Stewart asked. He felt shaky and hoped it wasn’t noticeable to the other boys. They hadn’t mentioned it, and Stewart wasn’t about to. He pointed out how the ghost had suddenly bolted toward him and then moved behind the large willow tree.
“OMG, I see it!” Andy screeched. “But did you see that?” he asked the boys, forcing his voice to a lower pitch. “Right there?” The room grew silent as the boys stared at the monitor, not sure if they even had the words to describe what they were looking at.
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