Chapter 4.5Z

I am here. Quickly, Annie looked up from the journal.

Decades later, as a middle-aged woman with short sensible hair settling onto a couch after lighting the first fire in her new home, she would wonder why, as a teenaged girl on that wintry night she was named the Bark Bay High School fencing captain, she now believed she saw Joshua Hutchinson, her long-dead ancestor, standing in front of her, turned in profile and looking up at the antique map above the hearth.

(She had not mentioned this moment to anyone in those decades between the time it appeared to happen and the time she lit the fire in her new home, indeed she had not even thought about it herself, or to be more exact on those few times when that memory would resurface she had shoved it back down, imposed her will upon her consciousness and refused to think about what she thought was happening to her on this wintry night.) The sensible middle-aged woman would have therefore not confronted this odd memory for years, and now having reached a comfortable position in her life she would be willing, now that the fire she had just lit reminded her of the time she thought she saw Old Poppa Hutchinson that night she read his journal — she would finally be willing to consider just what it was she thought she was seeing.

I was most likely dreaming, the comfortable, sensible middle-aged woman would think. I had stayed up late, reading his journal, and probably nodded off. But then she would remember thinking that same thought on that wintry night, remember looking for quick confirmation, remember not finding it.

She could smell the smoke from the fire. She could look into the hearth, could see the log was burning much the same as it had when she had noticed it a few moments ago, then quickly down at the journal, could see the same words she had just been reading. Her legs could feel the hard wood of the chair on which she was sitting. A hum from her right — she could hear the refrigerator compressor in the kitchen. Smell sight touch hearing — she quickly licked her lips, could taste the remnants of the ice cream she had eaten earlier that evening.

Dreams can be vivid, the sensible middle-aged woman would think in her comfotable new home as the fire in front of her grew. And memory unreliable — I think I checked all my senses that evening, but that doesn’t mean I actually did. No, it had to have been a dream, or perhaps a delusion caused from exhaustion. That might explain the memory of the senses. Has to be something like that, she would think, because even though she would not think this decades later she would believe then, much as she believed now that Joshua Hutchinson seemed to appear in front of her, that only superstitious fools and crazy people believed in ghosts. And Annie Hutchinson was neither a fool nor insane, not now, and certainly not in the future.

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