This lady, it is said, is the perfect hostess; always smiling as she attends to guests, but vague when asked why they were invited. She pours cups of tea and listens patiently to their confidences; their burdens, their fears, their hopes and dreams. She draws them out then imprisons these guests in her cloudy house for her own evil purposes. For the same evil that befalls all mankind: power borne from loneliness. A hunger, a greed and a need for attention and company.
A widow, she purposely set out to crowd her house with lively guests. She didn't realise she had died in unusual circumstances or that her poisonous plot to avenge her husband's murder had been foiled. Some said she suffered a heart attack when her accomplice refused to follow through; others, that in undertaking the deed, she mistakenly drank the deadly brew, but the lady herself simply did not remember. She only knew that she had woken from a sweet slumber to a cold and seemingly empty house.
Dizzy and perspiring with fever she had explored the grounds, but her desperate calls had gone unanswered. Never before had her commands been ignored. Never before had she been abandoned. Even her feet resisted and would not carry her beyond the gated garden walls. Pale with exhaustion, she was subdued, but not defeated.
Each day she grew physically stronger. The dizziness stopped and the fever abated. The mountain air revived her and she found she could conjure mist: light wisps, low-hanging or high sweeping clouds, or heavy fog. She cloaked her stately house with these until it appeared to the villagers all the more eerie and sinister, but this lonely new way of life made her grieve so she perfected the art of making tea from vaporous clouds said to be God's breath. Then she waited patiently at the garden gate for passers-by.
At first her attempts to lure were feeble until one day her patience was rewarded by an old army truck that she could hear was obviously breaking down. She heard its engine spluttering as it laboured its way up the winding pass, then it's hiss and final cough before she saw the dark plumes of smoke. High-pitched tones of dismay and frustrated murmurings followed shortly after, then there was the sound of feet kicking dust and laughter. These voices, to her, seemed to be getting closer, so in her best musical note she called, a note like a cooling breeze or a chilling whisper.
Fearlessly, the group, two boisterous men with two nervy, giggling women, approached her. She offered them tea and a bed for the advancing night, which after hesitation and a little persuasion they gladly accepted. Tired and thirsty, it took just one sip of tea for them to relinquish all their desires. They drank her delicious tea until their eyes were glazed and their heads were vacant. They forgot who they were, how they came to be here, and where they were meant to be going. In this house of cloudy thinking, they told this lady everything and desired nothing.
The lady was victorious – she'd succeeded! And with this her confidence grew. She compelled more people to pull off the road, to confide and forget; at times she made the winds cry and concealed the mountain and the village with thick clouds. She believed she was omnipotent and the deserted donkeys, horses, hand-carts, cars and trucks on the winding pass fuelled these rumours. The villagers were wise to and enthralled by her ghostly presence.
No other village had a white ghost lady who could detain people from their paths and murder worldly instincts.
*A legend inspired from The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan