It was late afternoon when I left my sweetheart’s place for the long walk home. By the end of the second mile, I was dragging my tail, as my granny would say. Something I ate for supper disagreed with me, and my belly ached something awful. I wanted nothing more than some peppermint tea, and a long sleep in my bed at home.
I’d just reached the old the hunting trail that led to the other side of the low gap. It was a short cut that sliced nearly two miles off my trip, which sounded good to me. But I never used the trail at night, because it was reputed to be haunted. I didn’t want to be bothering with no ghosts, especially not with my belly a-rumbling and my head aching.
To heck with it, I decided. I felt so miserable, I wouldn’t care if a hant came up and said “boo” right in my face. I just wanted to get home, quick.
The sun was setting with a spectacular display of oranges and reds when I reached the low gap. It was so pretty I paused in spite of my rumbling tummy to watch for a moment.
Suddenly, there was a sound like a ton of dynamite exploding. Something flew through the air and fell down on the trail about a hundred feet behind me. Boy howdy, that was not good. I jogged through the gap mighty quick and hastened down the trail. I don’t know what made that sound or what it was that fell on the path, but it wasn’t something I was going to look into tonight. No how, no way. I’d come back tomorrow in broad daylight and see what I could see then.
About a mile below the gap, I realized something was following me. I could feel the hairs on my neck prickling as I sensed someone’s eyes watching my every move. The person behind me kept pace, even when I quickened my steps.
Alrighty then. I was no coward. If’n someone had something to say to me, they could say it to my dad-blame face. My tummy was aching, and my head was pounding, and I felt as sore as a bear with a toothache. I whipped around, ready to confront the person that was following me. To my astonishment, I saw a man wearing a blue Civil War soldier’s uniform. Oh boy. The Civil War ended almost a hundred years ago. It was a hant. Not good.
The man stopped walking as soon as I turned around. His eyes were a funny reddish-brown color. They made my skin crawl.
Not wanting to appear frightened, I said: “You are a United States man I see.”
As soon as I opened my mouth, the hant’s eyes started glowing like they were on fire. He rose several inches from the ground and came swooping towards me, his arms extended like he was going to grab me and carry me away.
I hit the ground hard, rolling off the path into the bushes, and the hant flew over my head with a cry of rage. He was flying so fast that he crossed all the way over to another ridge a hundred yards away.
I jumped to my feet, lickety split, and ran as fast as my legs would carry me toward the creek at the bottom of the hill. Hants couldn’t cross running water, so I knew I’d be safe if I could get there before that ghost got himself turned around.
I could hear that hant close behind me. His ghostly body was buzzing like a swarm of bees, and the red glow from his eyes lit up my path. I was only a yard ahead of the hant when I reached the creek. I threw myself down the bank and tumbled into the running water, my bottom landing on a sharp rock. I looked up and saw the phantom pull up sharply, repelled by the running water. With a scream that chilled my blood, it rose up and up into the sky, burning so bright I had to close my eyes against the glare. Then it vanished, and the holler went dark around me.
I fell back onto the pebbles of the creek, gasping for air as water splashed over my shaking body. My heart was a-pounding like a hammer on an anvil, and I turned over and lost my supper. I was never so grateful for water in my whole durned life.
When I was sure it was safe, I ran for home like a frightened babe looking for its mama. I built up a big fire in the hearth and sat so close to it my hair got singed. I drank several cups of peppermint tea while I dripped myself dry. Then I went to bed, cursing all ghosts and hants and tummy aches from here to Sunday and back.
I never took that short cut home again, day or night. One hant was plenty enough for me.
Copyrighted content: This is a retold folklore story by S.E. Schlosser, who owns the copyright. This version of the story may not be reproduced, reprinted or used in any other way without the permission of the author. Teachers may link to or photocopy this story as part of their classwork.