Most are so subtle that you never know they’re around. It really depends, I believe, on just how much they know they’re around. Not unlike the living, ghosts fall on a continuum of self-awareness, and most are not self-aware enough for their presence to even be noticed. But others, well, they’re a different story altogether.
I first noticed Henry when I was home alone on a day off. It was a pleasant enough day in late October. The air had not yet turned cold, so I was sitting up in my children’s tree house enjoying a warm breeze, listening to the wind chimes that hung from a lower branch. The tree house, I was told, was built by the original owners of the house in the 1920s. Because of its height, I felt nervous about it even when my children were big enough to use proper caution. And because of that, I took pains to build some safe guards into the structure to prevent accidents. I quite enjoyed climbing up into this treehouse and looking out over my backyard and some of the surrounding yards and enjoying a warm breeze as I was doing on this particular day.
The first odd occurrence centered around the wind chimes. I would feel the breeze, and then hear the chimes. I got an odd feeling. It took me a moment to realize why I felt odd. The breeze came, but the chimes did not. Again, the breeze came, and the chimes did not. I leaned out over the safety rail that I had built, and saw the chimes hanging from the branch, completely still, while the branch swayed in the breeze.
This puzzled me greatly. I climbed down the ladder to where the old chimes had been hung many years before, and I touched them. They tingled just as I expected them to. I waited for a few seconds for another breeze. When it came, the chimes rang just as they should. I dismissed it as an anomaly that I would eventually understand as having a very simple explanation.
For the next few days, I payed closer attention to the breezes and the chimes, hoping that something obvious would eventually jump out at me. But it wouldn’t. I wouldn’t understand the mystery of the chimes until something else unusual occurred.
Just a few days from Halloween. I climbed back up to the tree house for a little escape time. I needed a break. I leaned back against the tree trunk in the middle of the tree house. I must have fallen asleep, because one moment it was broad daylight, and the next it was dusk. I opened my eyes for a moment and then let them close again. They were so heavy. A breeze blew through the tree and I heard the chimes…and something else.
The voice was light, like the breeze itself but with words. The words did not register at first, they came into focus over a few repetitions. Something about the chimes. Then I heard it directly in my right ear.
“The chimes make me feel bad.”
My body jolted awake like in a dream where you are falling. And for a few seconds I had an overpowering feeling of vertigo. In a moment of intuition I asked “Did you hear the chimes when you fell?”
At that moment the chimes stopped.
That evening, I pulled out the abstract that came with the deed, which I had only skimmed. I began scanning each page for the word ‘death’. If a death had occurred in my backyard, it might be recorded. My eyes rested on the phrase “accidental death”. Next to it was the phrase “owner (Phillip Grandville) eight-year-old son, Henry Grandville, fell from tree house in backyard, October 31st, 1928.”
Henry was aware.
I took down the chimes that night.
I still visit the tree house, but I never put the chimes back up. I know that Henry is still around because I hear his voice sometimes in the breeze. He also says the same thing.