When I was younger, I happened into a fair bit of money as an inheritance from my grandfather. Not wanting to just blow through it all, I followed the advice of my dear uncle (a successful entrepreneur) and invested a sizable chunk of in real estate. I didn’t keep many of the houses for very long, nor did I do terribly well with my investments, but I made a little money, and for awhile it was kind of fun fixing up houses and feeling like some kind of feudal land baron.
My favorite house was a two-story farm house on the edge of a vast expanse of forest. Accurate records had not been kept, but the house was at least a hundred years old by all accounts, maybe older. The house was charming, though it was certainly in a state of terrible disrepair when it came into my hands. I didn’t mind; working on the house was rewarding. Through my careful tending, I watched this house, which had so much charm and history, come alive again after years of neglect. One of the first things I did was to fix up the exterior siding and then paint it all blue. From then on, it became known simply as “the Blue House” to me and my friends.
Many people who spent time in the Blue House would claim that it was haunted, but I never felt like it was. The Blue House always felt like a safe place to me, and though I had a much more modern home I could live in, I found myself staying there a lot while I worked on it. The only odd thing about it was the fog.
I don’t know what it was about the little microclimate that the Blue House was in, but it seemed like once a week or sometimes more I’d wake up in the night to find that a thick, grey fog had rolled in over the landscape around the house. It didn’t frighten me terribly, but it was eerie every time I woke up to see that fog rolling by. The fog never lasted long, however. As soon as the golden rays of dawn touched it, it would quickly dissipate.
The fog itself was just a minor distraction for the first four or so months that I owned the house. In a way it even added something to the charm of the old place. It was always so serene there. Rarely did the rumble of a car disturb me day or night, and the closest neighbor was barely visible from the front lawn. The fog just seemed, in a way, to be another demonstration of the quiet wildness of the place, and I admired it for that. My generally good natured feelings towards the fog did not waver much until the first time I saw the lights.
By this time, I was staying in the Blue House much more than I was staying in my own home. Even with the plumbing problems and various electrical issues that plagued it, I loved it there. A part of me even wondered if, once it was restored enough, I should move into that house permanently and sell or rent the home I had been living in for the past four years. I had been sleeping peacefully, with no dreams I could recall, when suddenly I awoke with a start. I almost felt as though I had been awoken by a sound of some kind, though I could not recall what, and I heard no further sound upon waking up. I looked out the window next to the bed to see that the thick blanket of fog had draped itself across the grounds outside the house yet again. I stared into that fog for some time as it lapped against the windows silently.
Then, I saw something in the thick grey haze, a light of some kind. It was a small, warm yellow orb far off in the distance, only visible because it stood out so starkly against the dark, damp night around it. At first I thought it perhaps to be a neighbor, or a lost hiker, maybe even a would-be intruder. I checked the plain, 9mm handgun I kept in the nightstand was still there in case of that last option, and it was ready and loaded. The light, however, didn’t behave quite like a flashlight’s beam. It moved slowly around, tracing strange patterns that seemed to have no meaning. It really did look like an orb, too, not a beam. I was fascinated by it, but did not feel compelled to go outside and investigate. It could still be a person looking for a house to rob, after all, no matter how strange it looked, for it came through a thick wall of fog and I could not really trust what I was seeing, could I?
After about an hour, two at the most, the light disappeared. By this time I could barely keep my eyes open, and although a part of me wanted to stay up all night just in case, I merely made rounds around the house to ensure that the windows and doors were secure and then fell back into a peaceful sleep.
The next day I did a little poking around online, though my connection was dreadfully slow back then, and decided that perhaps it had been some sort of “swamp gas” phenomenon. Although the Blue House was surrounded by temperate conifer forests, there were marshlands in the area which could have been responsible, I figured. It wasn’t a great answer, but I was happy to find any semi-plausible explanation for what had happened, just so I could move on. I didn’t give that strange light any further thought for several weeks afterwards.
As the Blue House got to be nicer and nicer, it became a natural gathering point for my social circle. My hard partying days were long behind me, but having a few friends come out to the woods and stay with me for the weekend to enjoy beers and hiking was a common occurrence by fall of that year. There were three bedrooms in the house, plus a small loft and a few other spaces that could act as guest accommodations on the fly, so having company was no trouble. Plus, it was often nice to have help with the projects around the house that couldn’t easily be accomplished with one set of hands.
This was when the stories of ghosts started in the Blue House. Friends would stay over and complain of strange dreams, or that some object of theirs had been moved in the night. Personally, I put no stock into it. For me, it was one of the most comfortable places I could imagine most of the time that I was there, and none of their stories were incredibly dramatic. No one awoke in the night to see a ghostly face leering over them or anything like that. Still, some of my friends claimed the place was too creepy for them, and would refuse to stay the night after the first time or two. It found it silly, but it did put me off a little that many of my friends were apparently this scared of this house.
I had one friend though that took the opposite approach, who loved the house as much as I did. Her name was Jill. Jill and I were old friends, we’d grown up together, and circumstances had kept us living in close proximity to one another off and on again for much of our lives. She was a chain-smoking artist with a tendency to brood and withdraw from the world at the drop of a hat, so I guess in some ways it came as no surprise that she fell in love with the Blue House. The seclusion and natural beauty of the place acted as a perfect muse for her. She was living around two hours away at that time, so while she couldn’t be there a lot, she starting coming as often as she could.
Although having good friends around made the fog easier to ignore, I still noticed it a lot in the wee hours of the morning, and it hadn’t been but two months after the first time I had seen the light in the fog that I saw it again. I was startled awake out of a deep sleep one dreary fall night to see that familiar thick grey cloud hanging outside. I was alone, and seeing the fog outside instantly brought up that feeling of dread as it sometimes did. I was going to try to roll over and ignore it when something out the window caught my eye. It was a light, a warm yellow ball just like the one before. I watched it as it danced around in the fog, following no path that made sense just like before. As I continued to watch, a second light, and a third, all exactly like the first, appeared and began wavering around through the fog with it.
I was spellbound, I think that’s the only word that adequately describes how I felt. The movement of the three lights was fascinating. It was a long time before the lights went away, and I noticed that the lights seemed to come closer to the house this time, though it was hard to tell exactly how far they were coming from in the fog. When the lights went away I turned over and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep almost instantly.
The fog lights continued to appear somewhat regularly, once a month or more. I didn’t really tell anyone about them. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe I was worried they would think I was crazy. In any case, they never seemed malevolent, just weird. Something about it called to mind those deep sea documentaries where they dive down into unexplored worlds at the bottom of the ocean where strange creatures live lives we are barely capable of comprehending. Whatever was going on out on those foggy nights was just something I wasn’t capable of understanding, or at least, that’s how I felt.
It wasn’t until the sounds started that I began to feel weird about what was going on. I don’t know when exactly the first time was that I heard them, but it was late in the winter. I had often thought I heard something upon awakening to see the lights, but I had always been greeted by silence. This night was different. I was startled awake as usual to see the lights (at least eight of them this time) during their usually looping routes, but this time they were closer to the house then they had ever been before. It was very hard to judge the distance, but I thought they were coming perhaps as close as 25 feet away.
The sound was subtle, just on the edge of my hearing, and it took me awhile to be sure I was hearing anything at all. It was an odd sound that I couldn’t quite identify, it was flute-like, or perhaps a bit like panpipes, but didn’t really sound like a traditional instrument of any kind. It was. Thinking about it later, I likened it a bit to the sound of the way someone sounds when idly whistling a tune, but it didn’t sound human. It didn’t seem to follow any specific melody, but it also didn’t seem totally random. The notes were never off, or discordant, just ambling in a non-specific pattern.
The sound stopped when the lights disappeared, but I didn’t fall asleep quickly this time. Something about the sound disturbed me. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was exactly that had shaken me so deeply about it, but it was some time before I fell asleep.
From then on, every time the lights appeared in the fog, the sound came with them, always quiet and indistinct, always with that same lazy rambling sound. Eventually the sound, like the lights and even the fog itself, became something I was used to, and it scared me less and less.
Jill was the first person I told about the lights. When springtime came, she began staying at the Blue House almost every weekend. I too was staying there a lot, mostly spending one night a week at my regular home to gather mail and deal with anything that needed taking care of. Jill had been there enough to take notice of the regular bouts of thick, illustrious fog that consumed the landscape regularly in the dead of night, and had commented on it a few times when I finally broached the subject of the lights.
“Jill,” I started one sunday morning over breakfast, “Have you ever noticed anything else in the fog?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, like, anything out of the ordinary?” I asked.
“Ed, don’t play games with me,” she said, “If there’s something going on just spit it out. I know your other friends think this place is haunted, have you decided to join their little paranormal society?”
“No, not exactly,” I said, “It’s just, there’s these… lights I see sometimes, out in the fog.”
“Like, swamp gas?” she asked.
“I don’t know, maybe,” I said.
“Honestly Ed, it’s probably nothing. Or maybe you’ve finally started to lose your marbles,” she said. That was Jill, always blunt, I guess that was part of what I loved about her. I appreciated all my friends and their many points of view, but it was Jill’s no-nonsense attitude that I think made her my best friend more than anything.
“You’re probably right,” I said, shrugging, “but do me a favor and keep your eyes peeled when you notice the fog roll in at night, okay?”
“Whatever,” she said, and then changed the subject to music or art or something other than paranormal stuff, which she simply did not go in for.
However, her attitude changed once she’d actually seen them for herself.
It didn’t happen right away after our conversation, it was in fact many months later. Jill had called me distraught, she had been fired for making her blunt opinions a little too loud at work and didn’t know what to do. I told her it was no problem, that she should just come live in the Blue House until she could get on her feet. I hoped, even, that it might give her a chance to work on her artwork, something which had been neglected more often than not as she’d struggled to make ends meet in a workforce simply not designed for people like her. She happily agreed, and was soon there with me full time, helping out with the various home repairs I pretended were the reason I stayed there so much, and working with various mediums of sculpture.
It was a fun life for awhile with her there. I’ve always been a somewhat solitary person. I never really have had the desire to settle down and get married, and to be honest even dating has always felt like a chore to me, so this was as close to domestic bliss as I could have ever hoped for. She was always able to entertain herself, but she was also always there if I wanted to split a six pack and a pizza with someone. We had many good times cynically laughing about the state of things while enjoying the sunset from the back porch.
It was around three weeks after she had moved into the Blue House that I awoke to see the lights. As was now the usual there were a lot of them, maybe even a dozen or more this time, and that faint melodic sound was there. The sound was not loud by any means, but I noticed that it had been getting slightly louder. As usual, I watched the lights until they disappeared and then fell quickly into a hard sleep. In the morning, however, I noticed a strange look in Jill’s eye as we drank coffee together.
“You okay?” I asked after a long silence at the kitchen table.
“Yeah, I guess,” she said, “It’s just… I saw them Ed.”
“The lights?” I asked.
“Yeah. Shit, I’m sorry for calling you crazy before,” she said.
“It’s okay,” I said, “they kind of make me feel crazy.
“I can see why,” she said, “They were just so… surreal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Still don’t really know what it is that I saw anyway.”
“Yeah,” I said, “Did you hear the sound?”
She shook her head. I found this interesting, for I hadn’t heard the sound at first, but now I was sure I heard it every time. I mused over what qualities the sound might have that would make it somehow hard to process, like something your ear had to be trained to hear.
Over the next few months the lights came several more times. Every time we’d check in with each other in the morning, and every time we’d have both been startled awake and seen them. The most interesting part of this was that her bedroom was in a different part of the first floor, meaning she was not actually seeing the same lights that I was, but rather, was seeing a different set of lights in a different part of the yard. We both began to investigate the lights in our free time (of which we both had plenty) but found nothing more substantial than vague folktales.
It was late summer when the night came that would change everything. As I was now very used to it, I awoke suddenly in the early hours of the morning to find that fog outside, only this time I could see it more clearly than usual, because the entire house seemed to be bathed in light. Gone now were the swirling ball-lights of before. In its place, the whole house was bathed in a strange, yellow-y glow that gently illuminated everything. The light was perfectly solid and seemed to have no obvious source. The other thing that was different was the sound. That strange, flute-like sound was back and this time it was loud, much, much louder than ever before. It was clear, and distinct, and I noticed that there was a discernible melody, or at least snatches of one blending together with playful amblings.
The sound, also, had a clear source this time. The bedroom in which I slept was right next to the front parlor, and, unless I was mistaken, the sound was coming from directly outside the front door. Before I could fully process what was going on I heard footsteps rushing from the guest bedroom where Jill slept, and then I heard her voice, calling out loudly.
“I hear it!” she cried, “I hear it, Ed! I hear it!”
To my shock, I saw her rush through the parlor, past my bedroom door, open the front door, and run outside slamming the door behind her. I called out to her but it was too late, she was out the door before my mind could fully process what had happened. Almost as soon as she was outside the light disappeared, and the sound with it, as if a switch had been flipped turning off whatever it was that had produced the phenomena.
Jill did not return that night. Several times I went out into the fog with a flashlight, calling for her, but the thick grey mass revealed nothing, and my calls were answered only with silence.
The next day was horrible. I kept waiting for Jill to return, but she did not. I called the police, who politely informed me that as Jill was an adult and not disabled, there was nothing they could do until she had been missing for at least 24 hours.
The night I slept fitfully. I kept awaking from nightmares, each more terrible than the last. I wondered desperately what had happened to Jill. I wished for some sign of her. I wished, even, for the lights to return, but they did not. The fog, however, did come back, as thick as ever, and more menacing than I could ever remember it being before.
The next morning I awoke feeling dreadful and ambled into the kitchen, to discover Jill sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast. I started the sight of her and was sure for a moment I would faint, but steadied myself on the counter and stared at her, mouth agape. Jill sprang out of her chair with a light and cheerful energy.
“Good morning, Ed!” she said with exuberance, and kissed me on the cheek. Again, I found myself startled. Jill and I were close, I was, in fact, as close to her as I was to anyone in my life, but she had never, ever kissed me on the cheek.
I examined her, still unable to speak. She looked normal. She sported no bumps or bruises from whatever strange events that had claimed her for the last day. Even her clothing and hair seemed undisturbed, she did not look like someone who had spent two nights in the woods.
“Where have you been?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, “I had the most wonderful walk! I’m sorry for giving you such a fright, but the woods here are just so lovely.”
This response left me feeling unable to speak. My mind was reeling. I could not process what was going on in front of me. I wondered if perhaps this was a strange dream, my subconscious way of dealing with my missing friend, but I knew that I was not. Before I could ask any more questions of her Jill rushed off to her room, gathering up her purse and car keys before coming to the kitchen.
“I think I’ll go out and take care of a few errands, Ed. Sorry for giving you a fright, I’ll see you later!” she said, and before I could respond she was out the door.
Over the next few days I barely saw Jill. She stayed out all day doing what she would only vaguely describe as “errands.” I still have no real idea of what she was up to during those days, only that I found her absence, in some ways, less frightening, than her presence within the house. When she was home, she was always cheerful and any questions I asked received only vague answers.
Many of my other friends knew Jill, and several of them saw her around town in those days. Those who did also commented on her behavior. Jill was known for being forceful, aggressive, blunt, and even outright antagonistic, but the Jill that everyone saw after her disappearance was cheerful, courteous, and full of giddy energy.
After several days of this strange behavior, Jill left one morning to do more of her vague errands and did not come back. The night came and went without her, and I was grateful, though I still awoke at every sound, surprisingly afraid that it might mean the return of this once friend, now stranger. The morning found her still not there, and I noticed, furthermore, that she had removed most of her things from the guestroom, and neatly packed up the rest. I did not call the police this time.
It was the night after her second disappearance that I awoke in that suddenly, jerking manner which I associated with the fog lights, but that night there was no heavy fog, only a gentle mist. There were also no lights. There was, however, a sound, a sound like a flute, a sound which I knew well. I quickly sprang from my bed and dressed in the nearest clothing at hand, grabbing my gun and flashlight, ready to confront the sound head on.
I rushed out the front door light and gun in hand, but saw nothing. I listened carefully and realized the sound was coming from the back, near the start of the woods. I crept around to the side of the house, shining my light on everything I could see, trying to find the exact source of the noise. Finally I came around the rear of the house, and then stopped.
Jill was at the far edge of where the backyard turned into forest. There was a rock there, and she was perched upon it playing something that looked like panpipes. I shone my light at her.
“Jill?” I called, hesitantly.
Jill sprang off the rock, never ceasing to play that strange, ambling melody that had now become familiar to me, and skipped off into the forest, only turning back once to look at me with eyes that shone with some unnatural light. As she bounded off into the night, I could have sworn that her legs did not bend like a human’s legs, but rather, bent backwards like a goat’s. That was the last time I, or anyone that I know, ever saw her.