29 october 2004
"So, what do we know about this ghost?" I asked, putting a cigarette to my mouth and offering her one. We were on the fire escape before Jackie had to leave for work, and I knew she was planning to pick up a new pack on her way.
"Why do you ask?" I flicked at my lighter until she reached over with hers and lit my cigarette.
"Thanks. I like to look into these things, I guess."
"If you're stuck with it anyway?" I shrugged.
"Pretty much. It's that or be afraid of it all, or be crazy, you know?"
"Who says you're not crazy?" she asked with a chuckle. I smiled and nudged her with my elbow.
"Okay, maybe they're more like venn diagrams; but you're in here with me, Sabrina."
"Oh! Oh I see how it is. Okay." I laughed and leaned forward onto the railing.
"You haven't answered my question, though. What do we know about this ghost?"
"Well, 'we' know basically nothing. I know...a little bit. But not enough."
"I gather you don't want to tell me about it."
"Look, the thing is, it took a lot of effort to get what little I have. She isn't trusting. I don't want to sabotage that work by bringing in someone she hasn't invited."
"They're all like that," I muttered, before standing up fully and looking to her. "How many ghosts have you dealt with so far?"
"She'll be my second, actually. I don't generally try to mess with that...particular brand of magic. Why, how about you?"
"I don't bother counting. But they're everywhere. And there's something about being a ghost, for a long time, that changes them. They're all obsessive about something, I don't know if that's due to being a ghost or why they become ghosts or what, but it's been true of all of them."
"Even your grandmother?"
"Great-grandmother. And yeah. She was bitter, old enough that she was starting to seem less like a ghost and more like a spirit of bitterness. That seems to be what happens, they latch onto something about their deaths, or their lives leading up to it, and that becomes what they are. And when you spend decades, centuries, fully wrapped up in just one obsession, it warps you. Makes you something...else."
"What was she bitter about?"
"Who knows?" I offered, waving my hand dismissively. "Certainly not her. She only remembered parts of the story, or at least only told me a few parts, and they seemed exaggerated by her own anger and distance from them. Most of what I know for certain are from notes she scribbled in books we have at home, or records my dad managed to gather. The only thing one can really be certain a ghost will remember clearly is their death, and she never bothered telling me about that."
"She said nothing about it?"
"Nothing specific." She stared off into the alley thoughtfully for a moment, before checking her watch.
"Oh! My bus will be here soon!" And with that the cigarettes were in the alley and she was gone. On my way inside, I stopped at the door of the bathroom, glancing in. Satisfied the ghost wasn't there at the moment, I continued on to the living room.
The blog of John Matteson.