The White Lady – An Eerie Winter Tale
Prepare yourself for a chill winter night and read The White Lady, a fabulous runner up in our Waterstones short story competition.
Congratulations to Danica Green, runner-up in our Waterstones competition to write an eerie winter’s tale. Snuggle up under a duvet and read her story The White Lady in full here.
THE WHITE LADY
by Danica Green
The mist around the lake was thin and didn’t obscure Anna’s vision as she made her way to the water’s edge, though it collected in the centre and made the far shore invisible to her. She lay a plastic sheet on the ground and sat staring at the opaque vapours which reflected the moonlight and made them seem like a giant egg floating above the water, waiting for its time to open onto the world. There was nothing worth breaking through that shell for, in Anna’s opinion, and as she curled up on the sheet and opened a flask of steaming coffee with mitten clad hands, she reflected on the tales of the ‘white lady,’ a spectre that supposedly haunted these shores after drowning herself hundreds of years ago.
Anna’s own life hadn’t come to much, a job selling conservatories to reluctant householders over the phone, though she could never consider drowning herself in the freezing lake. That said, the white lady had been the victim of infidelity, something that Anna considered might be a much more life-altering event; she had no frame of reference, no time to spend on relationships as busy as she was, career-driven, and still young in her early twenties. The problem was her job, which she could barely consider a career, and her long fascination with the spirit world which did not seem to lend itself to a path where she could indulge that fantasy and still make enough money to pay her rent. A hobby, her mother always said, was a hobby. Still, that hadn’t stopped Anna from making her way down here with the time verging on midnight, eyes focussed on the gossamer wisps of fog as she sipped coffee and wondered whether the white lady might choose that night to appear.
Anna was intelligent, educated, and if it weren’t for the fact that she had sworn to seeing no less than three ghosts in her life, she might have thought the whole idea ridiculous as well. Her grandmother had come to her as a child, the day after the old woman had died, and she had stood by Anna’s bed with a look of peace and waved before disappearing. Then, in her first year of university she had gone on a ghost tour with friends. The rattling tables and moaning had become boring within a few minutes when she noticed an actor dragging chains through the darkness behind them, so she had dropped out when no one was looking and left the building to explore the spacious grounds outside. There she had seen the ghost of a deer drinking from a small stream, and when she told her friends after the tour had concluded they all told her it probably had albinism and she tried not to make too much of it.
Finally, an older cousin of hers who knew about her interest in the supernatural had invited her to his new home, where he swore that pictures were moved, chairs knocked over, all the calling cards of a poltergeist. Anna had gone to look around for him and in the middle of the night as she slept on the sofa, she had heard a noise in the kitchen and walked in, bleary-eyed, to see the kitchen table move a clear foot across the floor. The cousin had soon moved away, though Anna begged him to stay a while longer so she could record footage, and after that she had got a job, a flat of her own and tried to stop thinking about the other world so she could focus on this one.
The air around her was becoming more fiercely cold and she pulled her scarf up, her hat down and adjusted her position to relieve a numb leg, the frost on the grass crackling beneath the sheet as she did. She didn’t know what she hoped to gain from tonight, perhaps nothing more than justification for hating her job, but she counted on seeing the white lady to bring back her passion, the fire that had once compelled her. The moon dipped behind a small streak of cloud and Anna felt her neck where her camera should hang and then slapped the ground around her, viciously searching. She had left it in the car, she concluded, and as she pushed herself up to go and retrieve it, the egg of mist in the middle of the lake broke apart and standing on top of the water in the centre was a young woman, faintly translucent, her skin a pale blue and her dress a brilliant white.
Anna stood transfixed, almost shocked at the appearance of the woman though it was the sole reason she had come to the lake that night. The spectre seemed to look about her and put her face into her hands as though crying. When she looked up, her ethereal eyes locked on Anna and she began to glide slowly towards her. Curiosity and fear fought for space inside Anna, but her curiosity in these matters had always won out before, as it did now.
When the ghost stood just a few metres away, Anna held out her hand, noticing as she did that particles of ice had begun to form on the sleeve of her coat. The white lady held out her hand in turn and when their fingertips were within an inch of touching, the ghost let out an unearthly wail and was sucked back under the water though the lake made no splash or ripple. The silence stretched on, and Anna berated herself for forgetting her camera, then let her arm drop back to her side and smiled. The white lady had given up her young life for the sake of something small, and Anna realised then that she could never do the same. A hobby is a hobby, as her mother said, but life is too precious to waste.
Waterstones Short Story Competition Winners
- The Erlking’s Window by Rachel Halsall (winner)
- We Are Not Supposed To Be Awake by Lucy Middlemass (runner-up)
- The White Lady by Danica Green (runner-up)
The short story entries for this competition were inspired by the cover of ‘The Mistletoe Bride’ by Kate Mosse: Available in Waterstones and other good bookshops now.