So here’s my ghost story.
Somehow I’d managed to avoid tornadoes until I moved to Nashville. I didn’t realize they sounded like revving diesel engines until I woke up one night thinking some asshole was was trying to flex outside my apartment. It wasn’t till I took a look out the window that I could see the neighbor’s plastic porch chairs tumbling across the parking lot.
Some December, a few days before Christmas, the weather had been unseasonably hot and humid all day. Sure, it gets hot and stays hot here in the south, and humidity is just a fact of life down here, but this was springtime weather conditions in the depth of winter. Air pressure had been threatening to bottom out all day, and a constant, steady breeze stirred quietly enough to let everyone know things were going to get loud sooner rather than later.
The weather forecast told us that things likely wouldn’t get too heavy until a little after six, and after spending my day at the kitchen table wrapping gifts I (stupidly, I know) put on my Asics and left for a run.
Something I find really unique about the Nashville area is the surprising number of random graves you find as you go about your business. I’m not talkin’ fresh graves, mind you, dug by some brazen mafioso; hundreds of old graves, dug by settlers, dot the surrounding countryside. You see them all over, but half the time you don’t even realize it; often I would be caught by surprise upon finding out that what I assumed was a nondescript rock was actually an engraved and weathered tombstone. It’s not very unusual in the more rural areas to see a neighborhood stop sign casually erected beside an antebellum grave marker.
So as I ran I noticed the wind picking up, substantially. It was well past sunset, but the sky was almost a glowing purple color. I could feel the air pressure dropping as time ticked by, and I knew I needed to head back as quickly as I could manage. I crossed the street, to a side less dense with overhanging tree branches, and made my way back up the mountain road that led to my apartment.
I was coming up on a pile of rocks, a marker I would usually rely on when coming home from work to let me know the turn to my driveway was coming up. Beside them there was a woman with a gray shawl wrapped around her. Strangely the shawl didn’t seem affected by the wind. She seemed to be looking past me down the road, and I could hear what sounded like the rumble of an engine. By that time, I knew that twisters sounded like revving engines.
I looked over my shoulder, my blood running cold as I did, but luckily it really was an engine I heard. She’d just been waiting to cross the road. The truck passed me by, and while my heart slowed back down to normal I noticed that the lady ahead of me was gone. Probably crossed already.
I slowed as I passed the rocks. Growing nearer, I could see that something was carved into it. Erosion had eaten too much away to make any sense of it, but I could definitely make out numbers. “1846-1868”
For whatever reason I felt compelled to look over my shoulder, and when I did I saw the lady with the shawl again, for just a moment. Then my attention was pulled away by another engine sound – another pickup – and when I looked back, she was gone to…wherever she was heading.
The tornado came about half an hour later, whipping sideways rain across the hillside and rocking cars on their suspension. When things began to quiet down I risked a look through the window, and for an instant I thought I saw a figure in a gray shawl, standing oddly still in the violent storm. But I must have been seeing things, because when I blinked she was gone.