The Sound of a Ghost (Story by R.C. Peris)

What sound does the sunrise make? Dr. Clark decided it was the sound of trickling water. He had a memory, from childhood, of laying on the beige couch in the living room with a book in his hands, The Hobbit, and listening to rain tumble and drain from the roof gutters. He was sleepy and as his eyes closed and consciousness drifted, the sun shone and shot golden rays through the breaks in the ivory curtains. The sun sounds like water. Dr. Clark chuckled and then tripped. He fell forward and braced his fall on the buckled root of a mahogany tree.

“Are you okay, Dr. Clark?” Bella was woozy and yet her limbs were still stable.

“Just fine, Dr. I forget your name.” Dr. Clark brushed soil from his knees.

“I’m not a doctor yet. There’s still the dissertation.” Bella drank from her water bottle.

“Right. What’s your specialty again? Diphthongs in Amazonian languages?”

Bella inhaled. “Not quite. I’m…”

“Shhhh.” Dr. Clark was no longer smiling. He had sobered in an instant. “A ghost is following us.”

“What?”

“A ghost, woman. Can’t you hear me?”

“I heard you. I just…what do you mean by a ghost?”

“The ghost of the Amazon. The jaguar. There’s one out there. Following us.”

Dr. Clark unpacked a gun from his backpack.

“What are you doing?” Bella was panicked. Dr. Clark was clearly still high on peyote and she had no idea if there was really a jaguar behind them. There was a rustling in the trees. Bella saw a troupe of howler monkeys running along branches overhead and then there was a stillness. The quiet in the jungle was ominous. “Dr. Clark.”

Dr. Clark, whom she had known for two weeks as they conducted research on three tribes deep in the Amazon, looked frightened. His eyes were wide and bulging. He had drunk the drink of the Shaman two days ago and the drug was still snaking its way through his system. Bella had refused the drink. She was afraid of being afraid of her own mind. Clark how howled and hooted like a chimp in heat.

Dr. Clark raised his gun and pointed just past Bella’s right shoulder.

“Don’t.” Bella lunged to the left and fell upon an ant hill. Dr. Clark fired. There was a wet smack and a whelp. Bella screamed as some of the ants began to bite her.

“I’ve killed the ghost.” Dr. Clark lowered the gun and looked soberer than he had moments ago. Bella, riddled with piercing bites, limped into the trees and saw the ghost. It was an indigenous woman, pregnant, with a bullet hole in her chest.

“Oh no. Oh no.” Bella checked for a pulse but the woman was dead. “You killed her.”

Dr. Clark looked down at the woman. The gun was hanging downwards. “What sound does a ghost make?”

“Nothing, Dr. Clark. A ghost makes no sound and nor does the sunrise. You’re mad. Don’t you know that? You’re mad. It’s the peyote.”

Dr. Clark bristled. “The sun does make a sound and so does this woman. This ghost. She makes the sound of falling soil. Like the soil flung on my poor mother’s grave many years ago on that rainy Indiana morning broken by an emerging sun. All things make sound.”

“In your head,” said Bella. “Now help me bury her. If she is found they will hunt us.”

And so they buried the woman and the soil made a sound and then it began to rain though through a break in the trees they could see the orange orb of the sun. The soil and water became mud and it made the sound of ‘plonk’ to Bella but Dr. Clark still heard trickling and there was a pain in his spine from the horror of a ghost.

THE END

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