Stormy Shelter

By R. Patrick Murtha

Chain Border

If my young friend Stormy hadn't had the nerve and intelligence to do the right thing, I'd still be nothing more than a memory trace stuck in between life and everlasting limbo. Funny how things work out sometimes. I'll tell my tale, then it is time to move on.

In July of 1999 I was forced out of my home and away from my beloved on-line friends because of economic necessity. Five years prior I had quit driving trucks to pursue an interest in parapsychology and the intellectual challenges that had alluded me earlier in life. It simply seemed like the right thing to do after a lifetime of pursuing the almighty "buck" and I was confident that I would finally succeed. I had formed a 5 year plan and promised myself that if it didn't work out by that time, I would move on to other pursuits and was saddened to admit that that time had arrived. Not that I had totally failed, no, not at all. I had managed to join and participate in several organizations of high-level membership and investigations involved in the scientific exploration of the paranormal. I'd managed also to acquaint myself with many of the professionals in the field, proudly finding that my ideas and opinions were not only accepted but sought after. For awhile, it appeared that I would indeed be able to support myself through these pursuits, but it all fell apart, bit by bit. I would have found it easier to return to driving trucks for a living if I'd found I had been a total failure, rather than seeing the "brass ring" of success within my grasp, only to have it fade away beyond my ability to control the situation like a good dream that fades from memory despite your wish to grab onto it and hold it close. So, it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to all my friends at home and on the World Wide Web, shutting down my accounts, closing my several Websites and art galleries and especially hard was saying goodbye to my friends on a newgroup I frequented for the past year, alt.folklore.ghost-stories. With a flurry of e-mailings, one of those wonderful people, Stormy, made me promise to come visit her in my Mack big rig if I were to ever get to Arkansas, and this I gladly agreed to. Little did I know at the time just how this visit would forever entwine our destinies in life, and in death.

It was raining terribly as I pulled into Stormy's city at 2 am in the morning. I was supposed to deliver a trailer full of auto parts to a major distributor the next day before noon and I wanted to get close to her area, find a place to park, get some sleep (I had been driving 15 hours to get there) and give her a call in the morning perhaps to share breakfast, coffee and a few laughs before making the delivery and then heading to Kansas City on my next leg of the trip. I was totally lost as the rain battered my 18 wheeler and several times I nearly ran off the road as I read her directions and looked on my torn map of Little Rock. Finally, I had found one of the main roads she had mentioned and relaxed a bit as I figured I'd finally made it. I passed a cemetery on my left and as I slurped down a mouthful of cold coffee my attention was drawn by a movement to the left side of my truck as I drove along the outskirts of the cemetery.

"What the hell is THAT?!" I mumbled to myself, then I realized I was looking at a woman that seemed to be lit from the INSIDE! Through the rain slicked window my headlights illuminated this woman wearing a calf-length skirt, a fur coat of all things (In THIS rain?!) and a white hat! I was so shaken by this that I didn't see the train tracks ahead and as I hit the hump, I lost control of the truck, going much too fast for the conditions. I made an out-of-control sharp left turn trying to stay on the narrow road, but I was going too fast. The last thing I remember was heading for a new concrete bridge abutment just as my headlights illuminated an older bridge in the distance, all twisted and rusting a hundred feet beyond. The truck hit the railing and I was thrown upwards, slamming my head on the ceiling as the cab of the truck smashed downwards into the creek below. Diesel fuel now splashed all over the engine and my truck was quickly engulfed in flame as I screamed a terrifying wail of pain and anger at my own stupidity. My life ended in that moment of terror.

All was darkness for what seemed like an eternity. It could have been an hour, it could just as easily have been a year. Slowly, I came to realize that I was still aware of "me"; I found myself walking across the bridge and everything was dry and warm. I was totally confused by this and wandered aimlessly in the darkness trying to remember how I'd gotten here. I noticed a set of large chunks of concrete laying just beyond a newly repaired concrete railing along the near side of the bridge and I walked over there to look at it. As I did, I saw headlights coming around a corner through a heavy overhanging of trees that seemed to form a tunnel. It was a Mustang, a radio playing loudly from within. I crossed over quickly in response and as the car came across the bridge it slowed noticeably then came to a stop not 20 feet from where I stood.

"Is this the place, Stormy?" the driver said loudly over the music.

"Yeah, I think so, let's go check it out." and the passenger's side door opened as the driver stopped the engine and turned off the lights.

"Stormy?" I thought. No, it couldn't be. Surely this is a dream. Then, as if lightening hit me in the head, all the memories flooded back and I remembered it was Stormy that I'd come to visit. Now, she had stopped by my accident scene to say her goodbyes. Her friend leaned against the car, lighting a cigarette; at least it "looked" like a cigarette. While Stormy walked around the back of the car with a flashlight in hand.

"Hey Stormy! It's ME! Patrick!!! STORMY!!" I yelled, waving my hands and walking towards her.

"Did you hear that, Heather?" Stormy stopped short and lifted the flashlight in my direction. I looked down at my chest as the light hit and damned if the light simply passed right through me without reflection.

"Well, DUH!" I chided myself, "You're DEAD, asshole, what'd ya THINK the light would do?" and I shook my head at my stupidity. Of course she couldn't see me. I was but a spirit, a ghost, an apparition. Yet, she HAD said she'd heard something. Damn it! Here I'd come all this way to visit my young friend and we'd never even had a chance to look each other in the eye and say "Howdy." This frustrated me to no end...I mean I was PISSED!! "This just isn't fair damnit!" I yelled loudly as I continued to try to get her attention.

"Hey, this is creepy Stormy, let's get outta here...I mean, the guy's DEAD..." she complained. But Stormy walked across the road, looking left and right.

"I know I heard something...something like a voice...kinda.." she said more to herself, than to her friend.

"That's right Stormy, you DID hear something my friend.." I smiled as I walked along side of her, experimenting with my hand as I tried to touch her shoulder. But it passed right through, just like in the movies. I playfully jumped up and down, going "BOO!!" and laughing as I slid in front of her. Her eyes were tearful, it appeared, as she stood there and pointed her little flashlight into the darkness of the creek where I'd crashed my truck.

"Peetry...are you out there?" she whispered. Peetry...I have no idea what that meant but she'd called me that several times in her emails to me....a term of endearment, I *assumed*...:) "Come out come out whereEVER you arrrrre..." she sang clearly into the darkness.

"Oh, come ON!" her friend protested.

"Shut up Heather, he died coming to visit ME damn it and I want to see if he's still hanging around..." and she turned back to stare plaintively into the darkness. "I'm sorry you died, Patrick....I'm really sorry..." she said sadly, her words choking in her throat. I was touched very deeply by her honest and pure words and I wished with all my might that I could answer her.

I tried to lean down and kiss her cheek, whispering in her ear, "It's ok, Stormy...It's ok...it was my fault, not yours." But she showed no response as she finally turned away, wiping a single, glistening tear from her pretty face and walked over towards her friend.

"No! Don't go Stormy!" I called out. Damnit! I was really mad. Here was my chance to let her know I was here...a place I'd probably stay forever if she didn't feel me there and understand I didn't blame her. I had to do something. They started to drive off and with power I didn't know I possessed, I decided I HAD to get her attention. Suddenly, I noticed I was floating along the roadway, perhaps two or three feet above the pavement. They drove down to the entrance to the cemetery and I followed, floating faster to keep up with their car.

Heather turned around and, as they crested the railroad tracks, I came up next to the car noticing a weird illumination around me...it was actually reflecting off the chrome bumper of the Mustang! "Whoa! That's ME!" I realized and stopped, changed direction and caught up with the car as they started to cross the bridge. I was just outside the rear of the car now and I heard Heather scream something to Stormy. Stormy quickly sat up, turned in her seat and I could now see her wide eyes reflecting back the light from my new form of existence.

"Oh MY GOD!!" I heard Stormy scream and for a second the Mustang sped up, leaving me behind. But I persisted and through force of will, I sped up too and before I knew it had not only caught up to the car, but had now penetrated it through the rear window and the weird bluish glow that was *me* now lit up the rear seat and the two terrified girls up front. "Stop the car Heather!" Stormy called out and reached over, gripping her friend's arm in a vice grip.

"WHAT?!! You're CRAZY!" Heather countered, trying to get her arm back as the car swerved from side to side, nearly going onto the narrow gravel shoulder.

"Stop the CAR you bitch! I mean it! I think...I THINK that's Patrick!" Stormy now screamed and Heather, seeing that her friend was serious, slowed the Mustang down and pulled off onto a driveway to a nearby house. I noticed now that the intensity of my light and my feeling of "solidness" was less here, like I was feeling weaker...perhaps because I was supposed to stay back where I died.

"That's like that light that chased us before! It's going to set the car on fire damnit!" Heather cringed as I bobbed slowly around the rear seat area.

"No, it's different...can't you feel that?" Stormy breathed, now more fascinated than scared. "Where's the tape recorder?" she suddenly demanded and searched down on the floor in front of her seat. Finding it, she told her friend to turn around and head back to the bridge. "NOW!" she demanded as she fumbled with the tape recorder. I was ecstatic! Stormy! My wonderful, intelligent, crazy young friend KNEW it was me! And the TAPE!! What a stroke of genius! Maybe we could talk to each other that way. I was so excited, my being, my bright ball, grew in size and intensity step by step with my increased excitement and I flew ahead of the Mustang now, bobbing up and down at the end of the bridge. The Mustang now skidded and Stormy flew out of it before it fully stopped.

She had an excited, nearly manic look to her as she placed the tape on top of the car and hit the "record" button. "LOOK at it Heather! Look where it is...look where HE is!" she giggled as she grew more confident in her manner. "It IS you, isn't it Paddy!" and she checked the volume of the recorder as I floated over to her. Suddenly, I was *me* again, standing there in my body next to her. "Oh no! Where'd he go!", she cried aloud, looking around for the glowing ball I had just been. I didn't understand how I'd gone from one form to another and was as confused as her. Nearly in a panic myself, I blurted out, "I'm still here!" and waved my hands, as if that would change things. "Do you see it, Heather?!", Stormy now ran to the front of the car, looking towards the railroad crossing, then back to the bridge.

"I don't WANT to see anything!" Heather protested, covering her eyes like a little girl. "Damnit anyway! he was HERE! I know he was!" and her voice broke in frustration and disappointment. With hands on her hips, she kicked the front tire of the Mustang and walked back to the side door. "Oh man...that's not fair." she shook her head and turned off the recorder. For my own part, I was devastated and tried to turn back into the light-ball. I closed my eyes and prayed, I huffed and I puffed, but no matter what I did I stayed my invisible self.

"NOOOO!!!" I cried out in frustration. I looked over and saw Stormy rewind the tape and as she hit play, Heather again demanded that they leave.

"Shut UP!" Stormy screamed as she listened to the tape.

"It IS you, isn't it Paddy!" the tape played her voice faithfully, then, "Oh no! Where'd he go!" and Stormy turned up the volume.

Then, as if by some miracle, I too heard my own, far-off, whisper-of-a-voice saying "I'm still here!"

"AAAHHH!!!", Stormy screamed, hitting the replay button immediately.

"Oh my GOD!" Heather yelled out to her friend. "I HEARD that! Wha....whe...that was HIM, wasn't it?" and she too got out of the car now and looking around her in fright, stumbled around to the other side of the car. I felt a huge weight leave my shoulders when I realized they both had heard me. It was faint, it was barely there...but it WAS there!

Hitting the record button again, Stormy hushed her friend up and said cautiously, "Patrick, we heard you, that is you isn't it?" and paused.

Immediately I answered, Yes! Yes it IS me Stormy! HAHAA!! It's me alright!" and I was interrupted by Stormy, who, I'd forgotten, couldn't actually hear my voice, but would have to replay the tape.

"Patrick...oh man, I KNEW if anyone could do this, YOU could. Are you Ok? What's it like…on the OTHER side?" and she blurted out question after question like a verbal machine gun before I could say a thing.

"Would you just SHUT up and listen a minute, young lady!" I finally said in frustration. Shortly thereafter, she did stop, but the two of them were so pumped, I realized there was no way to control the situation. I decided I would give her one, very important message and just not say anything else until she stopped the tape and listened to it.

"I'm ok, Stormy, please know it is NOT your fault for my being dead. Please, just wish me well, tell me you'll not blame yourself and I can go from this place." And I stopped myself, not really understanding what or why I'd said what I did but knowing that somehow, it was important.

She and her friend went on for a couple of minutes, just hugging each other and talking to *me*, sight unseen. Finally, she remembered what had to be done and she rewound the tape. Listening intently, they GASPED when I told them to shut up and they stiffened as if stabbed, their arms holding each other tightly, not sure what to expect next. Then, after listening to themselves babble on for a minute and them growling at each other as they listened, my voice again came on with the real message. Leaving it on for another minute, they looked at each other with wide eyes and suddenly Stormy broke out sobbing.

"Oh Patrick! I'm sooo happy you're here and you know who I am...this is just…just…"and she continued to cry in little sobs as she smiled and hugged her friend.

"God this is SO coool!" Heather exclaimed, looking all around to see if I'd materialize.

Stormy, sensing I didn't have time to chat, finally straightened up, walked around the back end of the car and stood at my accident scene. Crossing herself, she knelt down and said a little prayer then, raising her head, said, "Thank you Patrick for telling me this and I understand now. I am SO sorry we didn't meet, but you don't have to worry about me....I'll be ok now that I know you understand. Please God, take my friend Patrick into Your House and welcome him. Patrick...you can go now and thank you for letting me know you don't blame me. Amen."

With that she crossed herself and...and...I faded...and felt love. I felt peace. I felt the Universe embracing me in its Oneness. I whispered, "Thank you Stormy, my friend…thank you."

Thank you Stormy for being so smart. Thank you for being intelligent beyond your years. Thank you for being a friend. I shall leave now in peace. I shall leave now in a loving embrace. I shall leave now…

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