J. Lincoln Fenn, author of the terrifying DEAD SOULS and POE, very graciously took time out of her busy schedule to write this lovely little piece for us today. She’s an eloquent and inspiring author with who writes her ass off no matter what she’s writing and this article is just as entertaining–though nowhere near as horrifying–as her novels are. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did, and I hope that you click on the book covers or the links at the bottom of the page and go buy some of Fenn’s books and some of Wharton’s too! There is also a link at the end where you can read the full text of “Afterward.” After you read this, I suspect you’ll want to.
For a good decade I had recurring dreams of Edith Wharton’s house in the Berkshires, an Italianate villa she designed and called ‘The Mount’. In my dreams, I was always looking for a hidden panel that would take me to the rooftop cupola, a place I had actually been, having spent a couple of summers working as a dresser for a theater company that mounted plays, based on her work, in her drawing room. One of those stories was Afterward.
It’s strange to be haunted by a house, but even stranger to be haunted by a story written by a writer in that house.
I had just reached my twenties and loved the place. As a costume assistant, I could go anywhere I wanted on the property. There was a non-functioning elevator in a three-story wing built for servants, the paint on the patio balustrades was peeling, there was a crumbling rose garden, small gravestones for pets in the shortcut between the stable and the mansion, there was a library with brass, worn handles on the French doors leading out to the patio, a sense of gentle decay about everything.
My job was simple—keep the clothes for the characters in Afterward pressed and clean, help the actors change quickly between scenes. I caught snatches of their dialogue through the walls. Waited for the musical cue that would signal a change. There was a lot of time spent doing nothing in particular, so I brought a book, read. Once during this dead time an actor taught me to quietly waltz in the dining room—me in a sweatshirt, jeans and Keds, he in an English double-breasted wool suit, black loafers I had shined. And when the play was done, I’d hoist all the clothes over my back, slip out into the hallway with marble floors, walk down the servant staircase and carry them back to the barn where the washing machines were.
Of course ‘The Mount’ was haunted, everyone said so—voices of schoolgirls echoing over the lake, the sight of a maid walking down the corridor with a silver tray, even Edith herself, reading. I was very disappointed that I didn’t experience anything of the supernatural kind. And I didn’t even read Afterward until the recurring dreams started.
Which is when I discovered that something must have seeped through the walls because there it was—the hidden panel in Afterward the same hidden panel in my dreams, leading to the rooftop, and view of the ‘lime-avenue’.
In Afterward the main characters are looking for a house with a ghost, are disappointed when they get one that is only revealed ‘afterward’. They don’t know what that means, until it’s too late. It’s a story that unwinds slowly, that leaves you with a soft prickle when it’s done, and wouldn’t seem to be something that would linger. But it does.
I still think about it. And I think about ‘The Mount’, and my dreams, and the hidden panel leading up to the rooftop. And I can’t help but wonder if I’ve already seen the ghost, but don’t know it.
J. Lincoln Fenn
You can read the story “Afterward” here: https://goo.gl/MbPGCl
About J. Lincoln Fenn
J. Lincoln Fenn began her horror career in the 7th grade when she entertained her friends at a sleepover by telling them the mysterious clanking noise (created by the baseboard heater) was in fact the ghost of a woman who had once lived in the farmhouse, forced to cannibalize her ten children during a particularly bad winter. Strangely, it was the last slumber party she was allowed to have.
Her debut novel, POE, won the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror and went on to become an Amazon bestseller. DEAD SOULS will be published in September 2016 by Gallery Books. The author grew up in New England and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of New Hampshire. Currently she lives in Seattle with her family, and is at work on THE NIGHTMARCHERS.
You can find her on the web at: www.jlincolnfenn.com | facebook.com/@JLincolnFenn on Twitter and you can buy her books on Amazon at: https://goo.gl/eMXynS, and Barnes and Noble at: https://goo.gl/n9gShM