Things Are Just What They Seem To Be
By Jeffrey Bishop
Tell Time: 3 minutes 30 seconds
Scare Rating: 2/5 Ghosts
“Did you just see that?” asked Martina.
“Yeah … weird!” Stephan replied. “That woman looks like she has two heads!”
The form that he described had emerged from a shop and moved briskly down the path, away from the young couple. In the quickly dimming evening, light and shadow seemed to play tricks on the eyes.
“That’s probably just a baby on her shoulder, looking back at us,” Stephan said. The riverfront walk took them past a baby boutique — the shop that the strange-shaped woman had emerged from. His notion was confirmed.
“Y’know, though, sometimes things are just what they seem to be,” he remarked.
“What do you mean,” asked Martina.
“Well, it’s kind of like when you are in your house, and you think you hear someone walking around your house. Sometimes it’s just the building settling as the wood timbers shrink after a hot day,” he said. “And sometimes it really is someone — or something — hoofing across your upstairs!”
Stephan was clearly trying to put a mild spook into his girl, perhaps hoping she’d cuddle closer to him in the twilight evening. But his story seemed to piqué her playful side instead.
“I know what you mean!” Martina said, excitedly — allowing herself to get caught up in the spirit of the fall twilight and the conversation. “Like when I think my cat winks at me — maybe she just closed and opened one of her eyes, and maybe we shared a moment and she winked at me. I always thought that might be the case, but then I’d tell myself, ‘that can’t be!'”
“Exactly,” said Stephan. “Whenever you find yourself saying, ‘that couldn’t be,’ or ‘things just aren’t what they seem,’ or ‘I swear I just saw … ‘ chances are things are what they seem to be.”
“So when you’re walking down a lonely street, and you think you’re being followed — until you turn around to find leaves rustling in the gutters?” she asked.
“Chances are,” was Stephan’s reply.
“You hear voices in the wind but no one’s around?” Martina said, giggling nervously.
“There probably is,” he replied.
“You see a familiar face in a crowd. It’s your grandpa. Except he’s been dead for 5 years?”
“Branches blowing against the window pane. Or is it bony skeletal fingers tap, tap tapping?”
“How will you ever know?”
Caught up in the fun of the shared moment, Stephan stopped and turned to Martina; to lovingly look upon her in the pooled lamplight where she stood.
But where he thought she’d been walking beside him a moment before, instead there was a haggard, ancient woman, with a bent nose and a large, hairy mole on her chin. In a state of surprise, he visibly shuddered at the sight.
“What’s the matter love?” asked Martina — but the voice came from behind him. Stephan quickly twirled around to where Martina was now standing in the dim twilight. He looked back to the pool of lamplight, but there was no one there.
Stephan was almost at a loss for what to say.
“That’s the weirdest thing.” He looked behind him again, and back toward Martina. “I swear I just saw … ” then he stopped himself mid-sentence with a chuckle.
“There, there, Stephan; have a sip of the herbal smoothie I made for you,” said Martina. “You’ll feel much better about things if you do.”
“If I didn’t know better,” said Stephan before taking a large gulp of the foamy brew, “I’d think this was an enchanted love potion you were pushing onto me.” He took another long draught of the mixture, which had fruity tones over a warm base, which mildly resembled seaweed.
Martina stepped forward toward her beau and into the circle of light in which he stood. To Stephan, she was as radiant, young and beautiful as he’d ever seen her.
“Yes, love,” said the young-at-heart Martina. “Sometimes, things are just what they seem to be!”