*** This is the beginning of a time travel/ghost story that I hope to have time to finish someday soon***
A Gettysburg Goth in the Civil War
“Hey, look! Wednesday Addams is out the door!”
“Does that mean tomorrow is Thursday Addams?”
Xavier St. Cross shouldered her backpack and did her best to ignore the hecklers as she left Gettysburg Middle School. When will they get sick of the same tired jokes? she thought, biting back a sharp retort. She’d been dressing Goth since the fourth marking period of the previous school year; everyone should be used to her appearance by now.
Outside in the warm, late-October sunshine, she lowered the dark lenses of her flip-shades and started down Lefevre Street. At Baltimore Street, she decided it was too nice a day to head straight home, so she hung a left.
The pre-Halloween tourist crowd was thick on Baltimore Street, and Xavier kept her head down and tried to ignore the curious stares of the people she passed. One elderly woman commented to her husband, “Will you look at that, Ernie? Disgraceful!”
Xavier couldn’t help herself; she turned and removed her sunglasses to narrow her black-and-red-painted eyes at the couple, who drew back as though afraid she’d bite the head off a bat in front of them. For as many people that come here for ghost tours, she thought to herself, you’d think they wouldn’t be creeped out over someone dressed all in black.
She tossed her head to get her straight, ebony hair out of her eyes and continued past the T-shirt and souvenir shops. She briefly considered stopping by the Crystal Wand; retail therapy and a chat with Iris always lifted her spirits. With a sigh, she decided to pass.
Just past the tourist district, as Xavier called it, she turned onto Evergreen Cemetery Road. Giving a nod to the park ranger standing near the entrance, she made her way around the walkway towards the less-traveled part of the cemetery. Sometimes she liked to walk among the graves, read the names, and wonder about the lives of the people buried there.
Today, however, she didn’t want to walk. She just wanted to find a place to sit and read the book she’d just gotten out of the library. Near the center of the graveyard, she found the perfect spot beneath a maple tree with flaming yellow-orange foliage.
Tossing her backpack on the ground, she shrugged out of the heavy black leather trench coat that was much too warm for the summerlike afternoon. After spreading the trench coat on the ground, she sat down cross-legged and took a book from her backpack. She smiled as she read the title aloud. “A Beautiful, Glittering Lie.”
Xavier leaned back against the tree and sighed. Even though the book was fictional, its theme and the experiences of the characters fit right in with the Civil War unit her history class was studying. She longer to share with her teacher and her classmates all the things she’d learned from the books she’d read, but she knew she’d skip out on this oral report just as she had all the others. Stupid bullies, she thought bitterly, thinking of the years of harassment that had led to her diagnosis of anxiety and eventually to her becoming a self-proclaimed outcast.
Shaking her head to rid herself of the unpleasant thoughts, she opened her book and began reading. Soon, she became lost in the drama of the characters in the story, and she forgot about bullies, oral reports, and nosy tourists.
The afternoon was warm and unusually humid, and the steady hum of traffic going past on Baltimore Street soothed her and made her groggy. She knew she should probably be getting home soon, but a heavy lethargy had settled over her. Laying her book aside, she stared unseeingly at her ripped skull-print leggings and thick-soled Army boots until her eyelids began to droop. I’ll just close my eyes for a minute and then head home.
A loud BOOM! jarred her awake. She looked around, dazed. The sky had grown dark, and Xavier thought a thunderstorm had popped up, that is until she smelled the acrid odor of smoke. From somewhere in the distance came the unmistakable sound of a riot or some other disturbance—shouts, explosions, and…horses?
Had there been a car accident? She leapt to her feet abruptly and started toward Baltimore Street, but then immediately stopped. Her breath caught as she looked around, bewildered—there was no car wreck; in fact, there was no Baltimore Street. There was no Evergreen Cemetery, no friendly park ranger. There were far fewer buildings than there had been when she’d arrived, and there were no cars, no parking lots, no tourist shops.
There were, however, more trees than she recalled being in this part of Gettysburg. The tree under which she’d sat reading her book was there, but much smaller than it had been when she’d spread her trench coat beneath it a little while ago. Even more confusing, the leaves on the trees were no longer the fiery hues of autumn, but were now the vibrant green of midsummer.
Reaching up to grab fistfuls of hair, she screeched, “What’s going on? Where is everything? What am I—“
Her frantic questions were cut short by the sound of footsteps running up behind her. Hoping it was the park ranger, or even a tourist, who could tell her what was happening, she whirled around and stepped out from behind the tree…
“Gah! What in tarnation?” One of the Union Army re-enactors who looked to be about Xavier’s age dropped to his knees in front of her and covered his eyes. “Don’t look on me, Death Angel! It ain’t my time yet!”
Xavier’s head whipped this way and that, trying to see what had frightened the boy so badly. When she realized he was reacting to her appearance, she burst out laughing, despite her fear and confusion. “Boy, you re-enactors sure take your parts seriously, don’t you? You act like you’ve never seen a Goth before.”
The soldier lowered his hands just enough to peer fearfully at Xavier and responded, “What’s a re…enactor? And what’s a Goth? Is that kinda like a demon?”
Xavier bristled at the comment, but soon realized his question was serious. Not sure what to think of the strange situation she found herself in, she said uncertainly, “Look, I’m not a Death Angel, and I’m not a demon. I’m just wearing makeup, face paint. Watch.” To prove her point, she took the sleeve of her T-shirt and wiped off the black lipstick and as much of the eye shadow as she could. “See?”
The soldier’s eyes grew wide as saucers at her transformation. Staring in disbelief, he said, “Well, I’ll be…Ma’d tan my hide for sure if I’d ever painted my face, let alone painted myself like some kinda demon…not meanin’ to be rude.”
Xavier’s brows came together as the soldier’s words registered. She wasn’t an expert on life in the 1860s, but one thing she knew for certain was…”Wait a minute! Boys didn’t wear makeup during the Civil War. You’re not a soldier at all; you’re a girl!”
If the soldier had looked afraid when he…she had believed Xavier to be a demon, he…she now looked positively terrified, as well as indignant. “I most certainly am a soldier. I fight just as good as any of those farm boys! Just…just please don’t tell anyone I’m a girl. They’ll send me back home for sure.”
…To Be Continued
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