A Toronto Ghost Story // Naben Ruthnum
In the spirit of the somewhat macabre history of the 17th century Puritan settlements in North America, The Town Crier presents its first-ever fiction offering in the form of a short story rooted in the Canadian Gothic tradition. Just in time for Hallowe’en, this twilight tale from Journey Prize winner Naben Ruthum promises shivers up your back and whispers in your ear.
We ask you, then, to dim the lights and enjoy the peculiar story of “Doctor Burke and Family.”
Naben Ruthnum won the 2013 Journey Prize. He is currently living in Toronto and working on a novel.
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There was only one funeral. Dr. Burke requested that Madeline’s body be kept cold until the baby’s fate was certain—an easy enough task in December. Owen died five days after his mother, and two days after that, they were deposited in coffins of pine timber. Cut, the funeral director promised, from the same log.
“I’m surprised he didn’t toss the little one in with the mother,” said Mrs. Combs, the domestic who’d accompanied Madeline on the move from England to Toronto. Miles Tripp had sat next to Mrs. Combs at the funeral, after Burke had left the church, with the reverend still speaking and a minimal spread of cold victuals lying untouched in the next room.
“Burke is devastated, I’m sure,” Tripp said, stunned by the hatred in the old woman’s voice. “You musn’t say that.”
“Musn’t I? He killed her. Been killing her for a year. You think she wanted to leave London for this place? The ice, then that awful heat, then the ice again?” There was a Gladstone bag next to Mrs. Combs, and she sorted through it with her thick hands as she spoke, coming out with a folded sheet that she pushed into an inner pocket of her coat. Continue reading