BY CHANEL DUBOFSKY
A man who writes stories about deserts and ranches and the people who live in them goes into a hardware store in central Vermont. He says he's going ghosthunting and asks the owner of the store what he might need. Instead of asking his name and then writing it down on a list of people who are not allowed in the store in the future, the owner suggests flashlights and a thermometer. The man buys all these things, along with four pairs of goggles, and climbs back up the hill to the college, where he puts the equipment behind useless logs in a fireplace that doesn't work.
Later that night, the man goes back for the flashlights, the goggles and the thermometer, and divides them among his friends, writers of various genres, all alcoholically lubricated, and they climb four flights of steep stairs to the top of the main building on campus. They are boisterous and clumsy and wholly ineffective at persuading the ghost to reveal herself, and after not very long, they come down from the fourth floor, and the man hides the evidence of their non adventure in the ceiling of the same room that holds the fireplace.
In an office on the fourth floor, there's a door that looks like it leads to a supply closet. On an unspecific afternoon in January, the woman who works in the office opens the door and another woman, who does not work in the office, follows her up the stairs, past words carved into the soft wood of the walls, and a giant, silver, mechanical monster that hangs from the ceiling and has something to do with weather. They climb until there is no more climbing to do, and look out at the trees, the mountains, the long roads studded with cars, the rooftops. The woman who does not work in the office (a writer who remains untethered to stability, often at her own peril) remembers a story she heard about an icicle falling from a very tall building in New York City and hitting a pedestrian below in the head, killing them instantly. In the summer, everyone was to beware of precariously installed air conditioners hurling towards them. They were advised to travel around the city with their chins pointed up to the sky, like curious birds.
The woman who works in the office points out where Anna and Mildred walked together, where Mildred pulled out a pistol and shot Anna, then herself, because of a man named Jack. Mildred survived, went to the asylum in Waterbury, where she stayed until her family took her away. Anna died, not in the tower where both the women are standing now, but in the field. The woman who does not work in the office asks the woman who does why Anna would be here. "I don't know," says the woman who works in the office. And then, "I don't think she's here." And then, "I don't know why she would be."
The woman who does not work in the office has spent a lot of time in the building where Anna is or is not. She has never heard or seen anything, but maybe that is because of wanting it too badly. If Anna is really there, the woman is more jealous than afraid. It means there is the possibility of remaining.