Date: September 24, 2018
Place: ??? – New Hampshire
I turn to my left to see a gray-haired woman stooped behind a dusty oak table. “Excuse me?” I ask. I’m sure I must have misheard, since I’ve never seen an introduction open with a declaration of being deceased.
“I’m dead.” The woman says again. She says it in a low voice, and I still can’t believe what I’m hearing. I cautiously approach her to see if I can clarify the misunderstanding.
I’m in the rural mountains of New Hampshire. I have no phone signal and I hope I’ve got enough gas in the tank to make it back to civilization. And now I’m checking out the rec room at the lodge, more for curiosity’s sake than anything else. And I’m meeting a dead woman.
“I was born on Friday the 13th,” she continues. “So I’m dead.”
I look down at the table in front of the woman. She has four stacks of playing cards with either an ace or two off the top of each stack. She peels a card off a dwindling deck at the edge of the table. It’s an ace. She places the card face up over a two of the matching suit. It’s the strangest form of solitaire I’ve ever seen.I’m not alone. Christina is next to me, and she tugs at my sleeve, warning me to move away from this strange woman, not closer. But I feel myself being drawn in, partly because I still feel that I must not be hearing correctly and there must be a simpler explanation to what I’m seeing and hearing.
“I was born on the Friday the 13th the day before a Valentine’s Day. It’s especially unlucky because of that.”
It’s at this point I start to see the others. Amidst the rec room usuals like air hockey and foosball, there are a few other denizens. One very short woman, perhaps in her fifties, and a younger lady. They seem surprised to have a guest, and even though they’re not looking at us, I can tell they’re watching us out of the corners of their eyes. And they’re slowly moving closer in our direction.
I nod to the dead woman. “Very interesting. Are you sure that’s unlucky, though? Or is it just because of the movie?”
She replies. “It’s very unlucky. Very. How old are you?”Caught off guard, I reply candidly with my age.
“And you, young lady?” The dead woman turns to Christina.
Just like me, Christina couldn’t think of anything to do other than reply truthfully. Christina looks visibly uncomfortable and has kept her position a little closer to the door. The two other residents have moved in to within about ten feet of us.
“I’m fifty nine,” says the dead woman. I’m not sure if it’s the truth or if she just added our ages together to make her own. If it’s a joke, it’s a strange one. The dead woman flips another card. Little to my surprise, it’s a joker. She adds it to one of the stacks. “And are you right handed, or left handed?” she asks.
“I’m left handed,” I say.
Christina also responds. “I’m right handed.”
The dead woman looks down. “Then neither of you are superior,” she says with surprisingly little mirth. “Neither of you have red hair. I have a left handed sister with red hair. She’s superior. I’ve never forgiven her.”
I feel my chance to get away slipping, so I make a desperate bid to escape. “I really want to check out the fitness equipment on the other side of the room.” The others have closed in, and they’re either ready to join the conversation or grab us. I dodge toward the far side of the room and Christina doesn’t need any words of encouragement to follow. We check out the exercise bikes for about twenty seconds before making a run for the door.
We push through the door leaving three disappointed women in the rec room. “Nice to meet you!” I cry on my way out. Christina murmurs a similar sentiment.
“Can’t wait to see you again,” says the dead woman.
We hustle to the car, start the engine, and roar off into the New Hampshire mountains.