Of all the types of ghosts that exist, apparitions were the hardest
find. These were the ones that were said to be living around our
property in Marysville. So barefoot, I tread through the untamed
tangle of trees. The forest debris dug into my soles but I was looking
for the faded figure of my favourite ghost, Peter.
The swamp was only a few hundred metres away from our house,
but you had to make your way through the dense bushland to find
it. I traced my way along the cracked earth to find the thick, muddy
pool of water. I often imagined all kinds of life inhabiting the murky
liquid, like yabbies and fish, obscured from the open land above.
They must be frightened of what lies beyond the dark safety of their
As I made my way back that day, a thorn pierced my heel. I
wailed but there was no one apart from the cockatoos to hear me.
In enduring silence, I journeyed back to the house I’d grown up in,
having limped the whole way. Dad picked me up and efficiently put
me on the table, pulled out the wedged thorn, dabbed alcohol on
the wound and bandaged me up. The scent of scotch lingered in the
air as I looked down at my mummified foot. It had been a while
since I’d seen liquor go anywhere other than his mouth.
At night, he was a beastly figure, audaciously sprawled across the
couch. Mum tucked me in to bed and gently smiled at me in an
attempt to hide the resentment and sourness behind her face. She
often told me ghost stories of the apparitions that lived in the trees
around us. They were lost spirits, looking for a way out of the tangle
of bush and back into life. She told me of characters like Margaret,
the scullery maid; George; the successful property owner; and of
course, Peter, the young boy who stole his Mistress’s jewels and ran
off into the bush where they were never seen again. Mum told me
not to, but at night I’d leave my bedroom window open, in the
hopes the apparitions would come visit me as I slept. I’d wake up in
the mornings with small, round, itchy welts on my body, fairly
confident it was the apparitions who did it.
My cousins came to visit sometimes in the summer, dumped by their
mother for days at a time. As they munched and rumbled, I couldn’t
help feeling away, as if I wasn’t fully there.
“Can we go to that swamp-thing?”
“Yeah we want to go. Please.”