Letter from Beyond the Grave by Tom Slemen

The Letter from Beyond the Grave

In December 1923, the body of 67-year-old Mrs Heath lay in an open coffin in the front parlour of her home in Nevill Street, Southport. Wreaths of evergreens gemmed with roses lay in the hall, and upstairs in the bedroom, Moira, the forty-year-old daughter of the late Mrs Heath, was being comforted by her close lifelong friend Anthony. Moira was so beside herself with sorrow, she couldn't attend the funeral, so Anthony had told the mourners he would stay behind with the grief-stricken lady. When the hearse took the coffin away, Moira and Anthony stood at the bedroom window, watching it turn the corner, past the Coliseum Cinema, and into the depths of a fog, followed by the entourage of cars.
The house was empty, now that the mourners had left, and so Anthony and Moira sat before the blazing coals of a fire in the drawing room, each sipping a sherry as they reflected on the life and personality of the deceased woman. Moira told Anthony that if it hadn't been for her mother's constant interfering, she'd still be married to Douglas, and would have had children around her now to comfort her in her hour of need. Alas, Mrs Heath had put such a strain on her daughter's relationship with Douglas, he had divorced her fifteen years ago. Now she was left on the shelf, condemned to live alone for the rest of her life.
Moira was wallowing in self-pity when Anthony suddenly said, 'Look, Moira, that's all water under the bridge now dear. You have to get on with what's left of your life and make an effort to build a future.'
'How can I with so many awful memories? Mother has ruined my life!' Moira started to sniffle.
'Look, I know this might sound a little bizarre, but, I was reading a book on psychology the other day, and the author mentioned this very interesting case -' Anthony was saying, when he was interrupted.
'Not now Anthony,' interposed Moira.
'Wait, please hear me out,' Anthony went on. 'A man blamed his mother for giving him some psychological complex which blighted his life. I think she dressed him in girl's clothes when he was a lad. Anyhow, the psychiatrist told the man to write a letter to his mother asking him why she had given him a complex with her bizarre antics - even though the man's mother was dead.'
Moira seemed puzzled.
'You see, just the act of writing the letter had some sort of therapeutic value to the man, and his complex gradually disappeared.' Anthony explained.
'So, you are suggesting that I should write a letter to my mother?' Moira asked her friend.
Anthony took some time to persuade his bereaved friend to write the letter, but in the end she succumbed, and that evening, she sat at her late mother's Davenport writing desk, pouring her heart out onto the paper. Anthony sealed the letter and 'posted' it inside the Davenport's drawer. He advised Moira to now forget about the letter and to accompany him on a winter break to Scotland. Moira took up the offer. At Guthrie Castle, a week later, Anthony produced a ring and on his bended knee, shocked Moira by proposing. He admitted he had loved her for so many years, and Moira accepted the proposal.
The newly-engaged couple arrived back at the house on Nevill Street, and sometime later, Moira noticed an envelope on the Davenport writing desk in her mother's room. Inscribed upon it in a familiar script, were the words: 'To Moira'.
Moira opened the letter, and almost fainted as she scanned the words. It was a reply to the letter she had written to her late mother. The handwriting was that of her mother's, and so was the acidic, scathing prose. The author of the letter said that Moira was a trollop, and that Anthony had taken advantage of her during a time of crisis so he could marry into her wealth. 'But not over my dead grave!' the letter ended. Then a faint chuckling sound was heard nearby.
Moira ran screaming downstairs and fled to Anthony's house. At first, Moira's fiancé thought the letter from beyond the grave was a joke, but soon saw how deadly serious his fiancée was about the matter. Whenever Anthony visited the house on Nevill Street, supernatural incidents would occur. A glass was hurled at him by something invisible, and on one occasion, when he fell asleep embracing Moira on a sofa, he was awakened by ice-cold hands throttling him. Moira also saw fleeting glimpses of a woman in a long black dress at night in her bedroom, and could even detect the distinct perfume her mother was accustomed to wear. Shattered nerves got the better of Moira and Anthony, and they ended up moving to Birkdale. When the wedding finally took place, not only did a substitute ring had to be used because the wedding band vanished from the best man's pocket, but the interfering ghost of Mrs Heath even put in an appearance. This happened as the priest intoned part of the marriage service that asks: 'If any of you can show just cause why the couple may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else forever hold your peace.'
A loud shriek that seemed to originate in the transept echoed throughout the church. Some of those gathered later said they briefly saw a woman in black, shaking her fist at the couple, seemingly in protest. Fearing repercussions from the interfering ghost, Moira and Anthony subsequently moved to Ormskirk, and were troubled no more.

©Tom Slemen 2004.