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.
29 october 2004
At the diner, after everyone else went back to start their day, Jackie and I were finishing our breakfasts and she began telling me about her mentor. It seems she has a spiritual guide, who calls her into an astral form and teaches her magic. Last night, she went, and when she came back she needed help getting back into her body, and decided to hop into my dreams.
"I don't remember any of that happening," I said, cutting up the last of my my french toast.
"You wouldn't. I couldn't get anywhere near you!" She was basically just down to coffee, which the waitress showed up to refill. She thanked her and then, lowering her voice and leaning in, she continued. "John, trying to access your mind was like hitting a brick wall. I've never seen anything like it. I couldn't get within a couple feet of you."
"Huh. Spirits seem able to touch me just fine."
"They're not there by magic. I was. I was just, like, a magical version of myself."
"Ha! A magical girl. We're in an anime."
"I'm serious, John! It freaked me out, okay? I just..." She sat for a moment, staring into her mug. "I just need to know why you do it. What about magic makes you destroy it." I set my fork down and tapped her hand. She looked back up at me.
"Hey. Sorry, look, I don't have control of that, not really. I mean, I can choose to do an exorcism or to damage a magical effect that I can see, but once stuff gets too close, that's just what happens."
"Magic is important to me, and while you're here, you know, we're going to be in close proximity, and I--I dunno."
"You need to know if you can trust me." She nodded and I sighed. "I don't think there's anything I can say that would handle that, but for what it's worth, I won't do anything against you, okay? Just let me know if you need to do something and I'll give you the space to do it. I have no desire to harm you or do some...control tactic." That bit must have come out sharper than I intended, because her eyes hardened as she stared at me.
"What was that supposed to mean?"
"Sorry, probably not the best time. I just-"
"No. Tell me." I took a deep breath and sat up.
"I don't trust anyone that controls your ability to access your own body as some power trip. You do what you want, learn from who you want to, I have no place to say anything about it, I just. There's always a cost when you make deals with spirits. Be sure you know it, really know it. Be careful, please."
"What do you know about making deals with spirits?" I sat for a moment, fiddling with my fork, before I took a bite of my french toast, pulling out my necklace while I chewed. I set the small vial of sand and its chain on the table, turned so she could see the faded note that said 'Abe.'
"The first ghost I had any real conversation with was my great-grandmother. She told me where to find this. It's a reminder that nothing the spirits give is free, and they cannot be expected to play by our rules." She slowly reached over, and when I removed my hand, she picked the vial up and looked it over.
"What is this? What happened?"
"That," I said, turning back to my breakfast, "is a very long story."
The blog of John Matteson.