coming in 2013 from Ecco/HarperCollins
It begins when the man promises the ghost that he will love her forever.
He doesn’t realize she’s a ghost, not at first; in the oscillating shadow and moonlight of the speeding carriage, she looks just like his beloved, freed from the castle where she was imprisoned. He vows that he belongs to her, and she vows that she belongs to him, for eternity.
And then they crash, the carriage spilling them onto the earth, and she wheels above him in the sky, her mouth, her stained dress, her white hands; her wet mouth, her slick red chest, her grasping fingers; and his consciousness slips away.
The man wakes into a haunted world.
Each midnight, the ghost appears to him, black eyes and bloody linen, repeating that she loves him, that she will never leave him, never.
When my professor assigned the text—or rather, the old novel that contained it—I was drawn to the haunted man and the passionate ghost. But it was the third figure I couldn’t forget. A stranger arrives, unbidden, to put her bleeding woman to rest: the Wandering Jew, with a walking stick and a symbol etched in his forehead, a fiery letter that the living cannot bear to look upon and the dead must obey.
I claimed the tale for my little corner of scholarship, writing about it and its ancillary literature with a single-minded intensity for years. My family was proud of my accomplishments, but they didn’t understand my work, not really. Yet it was my family that taught me why the story possessed me in the first place. There is another version, a true version: the ghost story that is the origin of our entire existence. It is not a man the ghost woman loves, but a people; and it’s not a man who has bound himself to her, but an angel.
And then there is the Wandering Jew himself—not like the legends, not like the legends at all.