Ghost At The Window
by Walt Hicks
By myself, with my thoughts, still alone.
Lightning split the night sky without a
sound, illuminating the skeletal trees outside. The old Victorian house shook to its very
foundations once the peal of thunder rumbled hatefully across the shimmering, tempestuous
lake. Illuminated also were the figures at the window staring in at me. I suppose they
were staring, it was hard to tell, since they never appear to have eyes.
From inside a blurry, detached tunnel vision,
I saw my trembling hand reach for the nearly empty decanter of scotch on the living room
table. A dribble of the amber liquid spilled onto the table, vanishing without a trace. I
could smell ozone in the room, overpowering the scent of age and mildew. The atmosphere
was definitely electrically charged, and it wasn't only a result of the storm.
One thing about it, you can't drink away
these visions. I have tried. And tried.
Awake for going on sixty hours,
hallucinations would be a given. But these apparitions are real -- too real --
individualized nightmares custom tailored just for me. I can't go to sleep because they
talk to me, inside my head mostly, whispering unimaginable things about loss, suffering
and death. And they touch me with icy, whispery fingers -- not physically exactly -- it's
much worse, from the inside out. They want me to suffer a long, slow demise. Not that they
did. Lucky? I suppose not, but anything had to be better than the languid, torturous
free-fall into a sleep-deprived madness exacerbated by a constantly gnawing, blinding
The visitations first started in a driving
rainstorm forty thousand feet above Phoenix, as I was preparing for final descent. I
turned to acknowledge my co-pilot's approach vector and autopilot setting to descend at
1500 feet per minute, when I observed a dull luminescence hovering outside the starboard
side cabin window, an impossibility at just under 550 knots. Slowly, the moon-shape became
more distinct, and yet it was hard to envision fully, as if it had been glimpsed out of
the corner of one's eye. But I knew (in my thundering, rampaging heart, perhaps?) that it
was the beatific face of a young girl, the streaming rain on the window giving her the
appearance of weeping, even though there was absolute blackness where the eyes should have
"Ross . . . ?" my co-pilot spoke
The girl's face was mouthing words, words I
could not hear, but instead feel. She was calling for her mother, in a soul-wrenching,
desperate ' voice' that was emoted to me, at once searing my soul, and sending icy shards
stabbing up my spine. Horribly, she reminded me of my own daughter, in the custody of her
mother after a long and bitter divorce.
The apparition vanished without preamble, and
hands shaking, I quickly rejoined the busy routine of preparing a Boeing 747-400 for
landing, just before final approach. I couldn't tell my co-pilot about what I had seen --
what I thought I had seen . . . I would surely be grounded.
The landing at Phoenix International went
without further incident, in spite of the unusual rain storm seemingly isolated in a small
area around the airport. Once the wheels touched the runway, the rain seemed to vanish
altogether. I initially dismissed the occurrence in the cabin as the aftermath of a bad
burrito dinner, but found I could not shake off the overpowering feeling of depression and
loss imparted to me by the little girl.
I was grounded after that, however, not due
to the incident over Phoenix, but because of the ongoing investigation into a "near
miss" event one month before.
The supernatural sightings increased in
frequency after that, as did my further decline into depression, paranoia and insomnia. It
was nearly always the same, the obscured little girl just outside a window -- any window
-- beseechingly crying for her mother's comfort, or perhaps begging to get in. Finally, I
attempted an escape to my late father's old Victorian on Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.
In time, a very short time, she began making
her appearances outside the windows at night. No matter if I shuttered them tightly, the
vague iridescent figure beckoning to gain entry appeared askance, finally turning to face
me, ripping out my heart and freezing my soul with her palpable sadness and longing. Worse
still, she was slowly being joined by others; eventually, I counted eighteen distinct
personalities, male and female, assorted ages. I could hear murmurs, whispers, grousing,
(all in my head, I think) questioning, cajoling, and condemning. A conflicting whirlwind
of strong emotions hammered my psyche, seeding the poisonous germ of guilt --about what, I
was not sure. Despite a state of paranoia-fed fear and near constant panic, I found I
could not muster the courage to leave the house.
The violent hurricane had blown in from the
Gulf of Mexico, fortunately downgrading to a tropical storm before it swept through New
Orleans. Severe thunderstorms and lashing rains pounded the old house, and it groaned
tiredly. The restless spirits paced outside the front room window (shuttered against the
storm), agitated. I downed the last of the scotch and swallowed hard against the burning
I staggered toward the window where the
little girl peeked in (on tip toe, I imagined). I whispered fearfully, "What -- what
do you want?"
"I want my Mommy. I want in." The
mouthed words were out of synch with the playback in my head, like a badly dubbed Japanese
The electricity was out because of the storm,
and although it was stiflingly hot-humid in the shuttered house, I found myself trembling
as an inexplicably icy breeze caressed the back of my neck, the kiss of a corpse's cold,
"Your Mommy's not here," I croaked
through the rising bile.
"Pleeeeeeeeeese? I'm so cold." She
began crying softly.
Over her shoulder, a gnarled old man regarded
"Okay," I whispered. "But just
"Kay." The old man vanished.
Before I could unfasten the window, the girl
was in the room, standing next to me.
"I - I don't understand what you
want," I stammered helplessly.
"My Mommy said to meet her here."
The missing eyes pleaded with me. "Do you have a teddy bear?"
Behind me, a raspy voice answered,
"Right here, Megan."
My heart turned to frozen, palpitating slush.
That was my daughter's name. Stars exploded before my eyes, and the front of my pants ran
warm and wet. I whirled to see who -- what -- was behind me.
She had been beautiful -- once. She was
wraith-thin and haggard, hair hanging lifelessly, flesh the mottled color of a decomposing
corpse. She displayed the inside of her arms and I could plainly see the horizontal razor
wounds on each wrist. And, of course, her eyes were missing.
"Captain Ross," she began, and my
knees gave way forcing me to the hardwood floor. The ambient temperature of the room
rapidly descended thirty degrees, and my breath fogged. "Yes." I mouthed. The
child ran past me squealing, hugging her mother's legs tightly. I almost fainted as I
noticed that the gaping lacerations on her wrists were pantomiming every word uttered from
her lips. The Unholy Trinity spoke.
"You really don't know what this is
about, do you?" Beyond speaking, I shook my head no. Tears began rolling from those
bottomless, empty sockets. "My daughter, Megan, was going home with her grandparents
to Ohio on a charter flight. The 747 you were flying almost collided with it. The plane
lost control and went down, killing all eighteen on board. Including my parents, and my
Megan." She was crying in earnest now, bones showing through paper thin flesh
trembling pitifully. I almost thought I could hear them clacking together.
I tried to find my voice through the
strangling fear. "Ma'am, that wasn't my fault. The other aircraft crossed into our
air space. I've been suspended from flying temporarily, but I'm sure the NTSB will clear
me in that incident."
"Incident?!?" she howled, and I
felt the hot stench of a slaughterhouse wash over me. "You killed my daughter,
because you weren't paying attention to what you were doing. Your personal life was more
important to you."
Outraged, she began screaming loudly, the
howl of hurricane force winds, and I curled into the fetal position on the hard cold
floor, covering my ears. Lightning flashed white hot and immediately thunder deafened me.
I felt the sensation of the roof ripping away, pin pricks of a driving rain, and then
everything went black.
Some time later, I awoke slowly to sunrise
and clear skies, lying in the debris of my late father's house. An ancient oak had
uprooted during the storm, destroying the front room and part of the upper story. I
checked myself for injury -- miraculously I seemed to be uninjured except for a
superficial cut on my forehead -- and slowly got up. The remainder of the house seemed to
be intact. Except every single window in the house had been broken out.
Dismissing the events the night of the storm
as a drunken hallucination or some sort of nervous breakdown, I decided to move forward,
get my life back on track. The NTSB, as I suspected, cleared me of any wrongdoing or error
in the near midair collision. The airline politely asked me to leave, but I had decided I
didn't want to fly passengers any longer anyway. I landed a job in New Orleans flying a
DC-9 freight hauler.
My co-pilot in the near-miss incident, Jack
Whitley, suffered the same indignant dismissal from the airline as I had; in fact, he had
helped me land the air cargo job. He was my right chair for my first night flight out of
"You don't look so good, Ross," he
said during preflight.
"I'm fine, Jack. Just fine," I
After leaving New Orleans International, we
climbed quickly to 15,000 feet en route to O'Hare.
The tower told us the weather is supposed to
be clear. Abruptly, lightning shatters the night and rivulets of a hard rain pepper the
"That's not supposed to happen,"
Jack says flatly.
"I know," I whisper.
Unexpectedly, tears form in Jack's eyes, and
I see the little girl outside the window over his shoulder.
"Do you see her, too?"
"Yes," I say quietly.
"Yes,: I repeat, as I nose the DC-9
National Transportation Safety Board Report
Report Date: January 24, 2000
Incident Date: October 31, 1999
Operator: Air Cargo Freightliners
Where: Slidell, Louisiana
On October 31, 1999, Air Cargo Freightliners
Flight 117, a Douglas DC-9 was a regularly scheduled cargo (non-passenger) flight from New
Orleans to Chicago (O'Hare). Flight 117's take off from NOI at 7:45 p.m. est was
uneventful, climbing to an altitude of approximately 15,000 feet.
It is believed at that time, although the
weather conditions were clear on the ground, Flight 117 encountered a high altitude
micro-burst thunderstorm event, and the subsequent wind shear, coupled with a severe down
draft and swirling headwinds, forced the DC-9 into an irretrievable nose dive.
The crash site was a sparsely inhabited area
of Lake Pontchartrain. The airplane was destroyed during impact, explosion and subsequent
fire. One home was destroyed, two crew members were killed onboard, and eighteen persons
(as yet unidentified) were killed on the ground.
There was no communication with the tower
beyond the normal take off exchange.
Oddly, the cockpit voice recorder contained
only one garbled word:
© Walt Hicks