A ghost was looking down on us, tortured mouth silently crying out, empty hollow eyes. We gasped and took a good hard look at each other than looked back to the window.
“Did you see what I just saw?”
“Oh, yeah. What do you think it was?”
“It was the ghost, of course.”
Crossing the street, we entered town hall through huge wooden double door and approached what we figured was the front desk. But no one was there so after a while we started calling out a cheerful “hello” yet, to no avail. A radio could be heard playing somewhere in the building and there was a static electric hum in the air, as though frequencies were bouncing off one another and shooting around the atmosphere. “Hello,” we called out again, but still no one answered. “Hey, there’s a restroom,” I said looking down the hall. “I need to use it. Come with me.” I grabbed for Kathy’s arm. There was no way I was going anywhere in that building alone.
The restroom door creaked loudly as we pushed it open and tentatively stepped inside. It was as old and original as everything else about the courthouse building, and just as empty. The toilets were the old pull chain style and flushed as though they might just suck a person right down and spit em’ out into the sewer. The all consuming power flush startled me so that I jumped back and grabbed for the stall door, sending Kathy into laughter. The pipes groaned as I turned on the sink faucet as though it had been a hundred years since water flowed through. The large mirror on the wall over the sinks had oxidized. There was nothing to behold that an antique junkie would not love.
Out in the old scuffed up linoleum hall, Kathy and I heard voices on the radio and then music started again. We decided to follow the music. There would most likely be a person attached to it somewhere and it seemed to be coming from a floor above.
As we meandered down the hall, we took our time examining a fascinating display of old black and white photographs hung on the walls. We occasionally poked our heads into offices to see if we could find someone, hollering hello.
Eventually we came upon a steep narrow wooden staircase.
“Yes. I think we should. Maybe we’ll find whoever is listening to the radio on the next floor and these might lead to the tower. I want to check it out.”
I followed Kathy up the stairs. We were both suspicious about the authenticity of our ghost sighting and our nerves were on edge because we still hadn’t seen a single person. We entered every office with an open door, which was quite a few, yet none of them held any employees. They appeared to be normal business offices, furnished with all the usual desks and chairs, computers, phones, files and clutter- but no people, and for the life of us, no source of the music. Where was the music coming from? Every time we felt as though we’d found the source, it would seem to be coming from somewhere else, as if it were evading us. Finally, we decided to forget the music and climb to the top of the stairs and hopefully investigate the tower.
At the top of the stairs was a door. We stood facing the door and each other. “What do you think?” I asked.
“Well, let’s see if it’s unlocked.” Kathy slowly turned the door knob. It was unlocked. With a nod, Kathy gently pushed the door open. Together we poked our heads around the door and scoped out the space. It appeared to be empty. No ghost that we could see.
Pushing the door open and stepping over the threshold, we found ourselves in the small tower room. It had only one window which overlooked the town square, the one we’d seen from the street, the window where the ghostly face had appeared.
The first thing we did was go to the window and look out. We touched it, and then looked around the room for a movie projector or a laser light- anything that would explain what we’d seen. We found nothing.
There were several stacks of boxes full of old files and some wobbly wooden shelving with nothing on them. In one of the “corners” a window pane leaned against the wall, glass broken out and all over the floor. Other than a lot of dust, there wasn’t much of anything else.
Once again we approached the window, the same window where we’d witnessed the tortured face and looked out, hoping to see someone, yet still seeing nothing but empty streets. We examined everything possible but found no hidden camera projecting a ghostly image onto the glass, nothing at all that could cast doubt on the questionable reality of what we had seen. Descending the steep and creaky stairs slowly, we left the tower. Occasionally we would call out for someone but never received a reply.
Out on the street again, we looked around and realized since arriving in the town square, the old women who told us to keep looking at the window was the only other human being we’d seen.
Kathy and I got in the car and slowly drove out of town. “Hum…” I said to Kathy with a shrug. “Hum…” she replied with a like shrug. Nothing much was discussed about it. We didn’t know what to think or how to explain any of it – the ghost in the window, the empty building, the deserted town. It was the only time on the trip we were quiet.
Eventually we decided to just accept it for what it was; a ghost in a window in an abandoned town in rural Mississippi.
“You got the Atlas?” Kathy asked, signaling she was moving on.
“Yep. Onward to Memphis, Tennessee,” I said with a smile.
With that, we left Birmingham and drove up to Memphis. We spent a day and a night in Graceland, falling in love with Elvis all over again. She and I posed everywhere we could, finding willing photographers to operate our disposable cameras. Graceland was a place to reminisce about our childhoods and growing up in the era of rock an’ roll. It was fabulous.
It was soon time to consult the Atlas once again. Next destination was Little Rock, Arkansas.
I don’t remember a single thing about Little Rock. Maybe I’m just losing my memory, or maybe it was unmemorable, I’m not sure.
After that we went through Tulsa, Oklahoma, and ran for our lives. There were tornadoes wreaking havoc all over the state and we couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Neither one of us were used to Mother Nature’s heavy hand.
Then we headed up through the slow going, flat lands of Kansas. Considering the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest, the landscape in Kansas had a lot to be desired. We found ourselves looking out for Toto and Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz and the yellow brick road.
All this time, we continued to eat more chips and drink more soda than any two people should in a life time let alone in a single week. At night, we ate fast food dinners with lots of fries and drank beer as though we were competing to see who could gain the most weight in a five day stretch. I’m sure we set some kind of a record.
We were complete zombies driving through Nebraska staying the night at a place we called the Extremely Limited Ramada Motel. It had very little right to charge the forty nine dollars a night it charged.
Somewhere it snowed. I think it was in Wyoming. We drove straight through Wyoming, amazed at the abundance of broken down trailers dotting the barren landscape everywhere we looked. Apparently, there is never a need to replace the old rusted out leaky pathetic falling down trailer with a new one. They’re all the same in Wyoming.
We were only too happy to reach our destination in Boise, Idaho, a few days later. The problem we faced upon our arrival was how to pry ourselves out of the car.
All in all, we looked terrible for the wear and we’d gained more weight in five days than anyone thought physically possible, but we’d had a blast. Not a subject on this planet went un-discussed, not an idea went un-explored. Together we solved all the problems of the world and nominated each other to be the next president of the United States.
Our wind-tunnel hair took days of intense conditioning to detangle and our bodies begged for gallons of water to purge the lethal quantity of salt from our systems. We were swollen up like survivors of a killer bee attack. But the important thing is, we had so much fun we’d both do it again without a second thought. That road trip was girl fun to the max!
I think if the price of gas ever goes down enough, I’ll see if Kathy isn’t feeling the wander lust and would like to hit the road again. It doesn’t really matter where we go. It’ll be a good time regardless.