The memory was vivid, though very monochrome. The details sharp, even if the picture in Ed’s mind was one of a landscape shrouded in mist, a ghostly image of a spectral place. The memory came up randomly, but was usually ignored, just another picture from Ed’s past.
Only it wasn’t.
Ed knew the memory wasn’t real. It was a location he had visited only in his dreams. He often wondered if the memory of the ruined castle on the hill was from some old movie, perhaps something about vampires, that he had seen in his impressionable youth. ’Often wondered’, though, was too strong of term. He thought about the memory briefly perhaps once every three or four years. Mostly it was forgotten until it popped up again, a quick, spectral vision of a place he’d never seen.
Edward A. Pulman was one of those people you know but never think about. If you do, it is usually along the lines of “Good ole Ed. Yep. Uhm. Now what were we talking about?” Perhaps the word “normal” comes to your mind, but more often people think “boring”.
Perhaps it was just lack of drama. Things happened the way they were supposed to, but there were no ups or downs. Life just continued on, as it is wont to do. No real tragedies, though the divorce threw him for a loop. No high points, though last year’s promotion was unexpected. Mostly it was the same-ole-same-ole year day after day, year after year.
Though this year was special, in its own kind of way.
Ed had a surprise 50th birthday party.
It wasn’t a secret and people talked to him about it all of the time.
It was a surprise because he never thought he would ever turn 50. “50? Me? No way!” How had he reached 50? He was still in his 20s, wasn’t he?
His son and daughter were there. At 25 and 28 they had their own lives and he saw less and less of them as they had gravitated towards their own lives. And towards their mother.
Speaking of their mother, Margret was there with her new, young girlfriend. Semi-jealous both that Margret found somebody new so quickly and that the “someone” was a beautiful, smart woman of the type Ed could only dream about dating, Ed tried not to focus on Margret or Stacy and tried to enjoy the party. But Stacy did keep coming to mind and the jealousy grew.
“On the other hand,” Ed thought to himself, “I would feel like an old pervert dating a girl that’s my daughter’s age!”
But the party was soon over, leaving Ed alone with only the surprise, that out of the blue he had unexpectedly turned 50.
As the days went by, that party stopped being a high point and just became another bump in his past. The plot line didn’t rise because of it, but neither did it fall. It just was. As life typically just was.
Three months later, though, something did occur that had all of the hallmarks of being special. It started, as things often do, with a bit of a tragedy. It began with a death.
In some ways Stanley D. Barrow lived a life even less remarkable than that of Edward A. Pulman. An only child, he married twice and was twice divorced. When he passed on at 92, he had no living relatives except for a great nephew whom he had never met, and very few, if any, friends.
In other ways he was quite remarkable. He spent the first half of his life exploring his family’s history and the second half compiling it into a great book. He had traveled the world in his research, even if it was two weeks at a time during the scant vacation time afford him by his employer, the famous banker H. Morgan Dalersine.
Elizabeth, his first wife, at first found his obsession romantic. She thought of the Bronte sisters as they tromped through the moors.
At least at first.
“If we are over in Britain, why can’t we do something special in London? I hear they have palaces and museums and such. Or how about hop over to France? That’s where they keep Paris, you know.”
But tromp through the moors is what they did.
When he met Gretchen, the alimony payments had made him too poor to travel. She loved his passion, even if much of it was devoted to books, not to her. But then she realized that he was living in the past, recreating family history in his mind.
He really didn’t notice the difference after she left, except that he always had to get up and fix his own tea.
Stanley occasionally thought about dating again, but they were just passing thoughts, often occurring about as often as Ed’s thoughts about the memory. Or was it a dream? Or an old movie?
The letter said that Stanly D. Borrow had left all of his worldly possessions, his entire estate to one Edward A. Pulman. Before he saw the note, Ed did not know that he had a great uncle, nor had he even heard of Stanley D. Barrow.
But there it was in black and white. Ed was the sole heir of his great uncle’s entire estate.
In his mind Ed equated the word “estate” with “lottery”. Perhaps he could quit his job, which, despite last year’s promotion, was quite boring. Perhaps he could move out of the run down two bedroom cottage and actually have nice things. Perhaps he could go places more exciting than the grocery store.
After all of the expenses and lawyers’ fees, the “estate” turned out to be $50 in cash and a stack of hand written notes. Actually, there were a lot of notes, perhaps 20,000 pages of notes. All handwritten with crude pencil drawings.
At first he was mildly disappointed, but it soon moved on to acceptance. Why had he even imagined that something special was about to happen? Every time he did dare to dream, the dreams where always shot to Hell by reality.
All of that changed one night. Being bored, as usual, he decided to leaf through the stack of his great uncle’s papers.
Only seeing a few words at random and not even paying to much attention to the drawings, he flipped a page and froze.
There it was.
He wasn’t mistaken.
The drawing was his spectral, ruined castle rising like a ghost out of the mist on a lonely hill.
A strange word entered his mind.
“Home,” he said out loud, without realizing he had spoken.
— — —
When I saw this photo, the first few paragraphs of this came to mind. So I sat down to write story based on those paragraphs. I wasn’t very far into it when I realized that, although in some ways it is complete, it seems more like a beginning than a whole story. Sigh. Just what I need, another serial… (If I do a serial, this would be a prologue)