Supernatural Neutral - 3rd Person
The Ghost Walks
Pearls of sweat cover my brow. My heart beats unsteady. I had a terrible dream: Sebastian, my husband, had gone out to get cigarettes, meanwhile a pandemic and a war had broken out. Nuclear blasts had us living back in the stone age, and worst of all, my mobile phone had been rendered unusable and my social life disappeared along with it. As I dreamt, I told myself to wake up, but I answered to myself that I was not asleep, but dead.
I don’t remember waking up, nor falling asleep, and I feel almost a foreigner inside my own body. Lying on the carpet, I peek at the sunny sky through a crack in the blue curtains. The window needs a good cleaning. Tom stares at me—with all the contempt and disdain only a cat can exhibit—from the comfort of my own satin pillow. His perfect chocolate fur frames the sharpest blue eyes. Lounging on the velvet bedcover and against the damascene blue wallpaper, he looks like a sultan or a maharajah. He’s gorgeous, and he hates me. He doesn’t blink, not even once. He never blinks at me. There’s no fondness or trust between us, only courteous animosity. We both adore the same man, my husband. But he’s away this weekend, at his brother’s stag party, so there’s no need to pretend.
My head feels like it went for a swim leaving my body behind. Did I drink the whole bottle of wine last night? Why don’t I remember? Maybe I have a brain tumour.
I look at Tom, “Blink once if I have a brain tumour.”
Very slowly, he blinks. Once.
“Tsk! You’re awful, you would blink even if it wasn’t true, wouldn’t you?”
Tom stretches on top of my pillow for what seems an eternity, and his claws leave tiny new holes behind. There are a million of those on my pillow already, but none on Sebastian’s. Stretching finished, he walks away.
I follow him into the kitchen and find a bottle of wine, three-quarters full, on top of the bench. The Roomba-vacuum starts its automatic cleaning cycle, beginning at the open plan kitchen. The leftovers of a mushroom risotto are still in the pan on the stove top. Did I cook that last night or the night before? The kitchen is a mess. I’ll clean up later.
The last couple of days seem hazy. I don’t know what day it is, and I can’t find my mobile. I walk to the living room and bump my little toe against the coffee-table’s sturdy leg. Like a wounded animal, I let out a wild cry, but then I have the sudden realisation that there’s no pain. With the precision of a clockmaker, I aim my little toe at the same sturdy leg and bang my foot against it. Still no pain. The cat is right, I have a brain tumour.
Or maybe, I am indeed dead, and the dream was not a dream. I run to the bathroom’s mirror. My green eyes are bloodshot and surrounded by smudged mascara. My roots need to be done pronto if I’m going to continue the ruse of being a natural blonde instead of mousy-brown; the left side of my head already looks like mice have been nesting on it. If I’m a ghost, will my hair stay like this forever?
I walk around our apartment. Everything is covered by a dense layer of dust, even the TV. A collection of spiderwebs join the bookcase to the ceiling. Frantic, I search for my mobile, and miraculously I hear the muffled ringtone coming from the kitchen. I find it inside the fridge. As I grab it, I see “Sebastian” on the screen followed by the low battery notification. And just like that, the phone is dead.
I march to the window. Five floors down, the street is congested by traffic and human-ants rushing to or from work. The Roomba runs straight into my foot, over and over, and I must move to stop the assault. Am I invisible? I hurry back to the bathroom.
The front door opens, and Sebastian’s arrival is unmistakable: the jingle of the keys, the soft thump of the leather wallet landing on the hall table. Tom meows a welcome and Sebastian’s reciprocates by picking him up. “Nettie, Hun?”
His sultry voice sends shivers down my—now invisible—spine. I stay very still, waiting in silence for his scream once he discovers my dead body. And where exactly is my body? I wonder. I quickly check the bathroom, especially the bathtub, just to confirm I’m not just lying there all scattered, legs akimbo, hair looking like a rats-lair—oh!
He calls my name a few more times and the shriek of horror still doesn’t come. Instead, he suddenly stands by the bathroom door saying, “There you are! Why aren’t you answering? You okay, Nettie? Not mad, are you?”
I blurt out, “Can you—” but my voice fails me. I swallow and try again, “Can you see me?”
“Sure!” He says enveloping me in his arms.
His breath is minty while mine stinks, further proving I’m now a cadaver. Maybe he hasn’t found my body yet because I am dead but still inside my body?
Sebastian can sense my uneasiness. “What is it, Hun?”
“I’m… I’m dead. Tom blinked at me. I’m a ghost, but I’m still inside my body.”
“What on earth are you talking about? Why aren’t you answering your phone?”
Knowing he won’t understand, I drag him to the living room, “Come, I’ll show you.”
Tom hisses at me from the dining table as I chase the Roomba around. However, it avoids me every single time, turning away from me if I go too near. I give up and jump on it. “See! I’m levitating! I am a ghost!”
“Gee, Nettie! What’s gotten into you?”
“I’m levitating. Can’t you see?”
“No, you’re riding the Roomba around the living room. Nothing special about that, the cat does it all the time.”
“Precisely. But the cat weighs what? About five kilos? I’m like ten times heavier.”
One of his eyebrows shoots up, “More like fifteen. Nettie, riding the Roomba around the living room doesn’t qualify as being dead, or a ghost.”
“Then how do you explain the dust and the house’s state of abandonment?”
I descend from the Roomba, ethereal and otherworldly. I trace a line on the TV screen, and then show him my dirty index finger and say, “this dust!”
“What about it?” his face crumpled with annoyance.
“Ghosts inhabit abandoned houses, full of dust and cobwebs, duh!” I say, pointing towards the spiderwebs hanging from the ceiling.
“Our house is not abandoned, you’re just not a great… domestic goddess.”
A fly lands on my arm. Am I decomposing already? “Tell you what, I’ll prove it. I’ll walk through the wall.”
Sebastian suddenly turns pale, and rushes to the kitchen, tailed by Tom. “Did you have risotto?” he asks while opening the cupboards.
“I did,” I say facing the wall. Should I walk through our framed wedding photo? Nah, I better keep it simple.
As he walks towards me, holding a jar in his hand, I walk to the wall. “No, Nettie, don—”
But his warning arrives too late. I don’t hear the rest of his sentence as the loud crack of my septum breaking drowns every other sound. Blood flows freely and I feel a bit of pain, but not much. My eyes water up, and everything becomes blurry.
Sebastian grabs my shoulder and turns me towards him, immediately pinching my nose. “Did you use the mushrooms in this tin for the risotto, Nettie?”
I cannot answer him. He’s still holding my nose with one hand, and an unmarked tin in the other. I’m dizzy, so I close my eyes and breathe through my mouth, thinking these things are somehow connected. How can he ask me about what I ate? What’s next? Is he going to ask how much I ate too? Heartless! I think.
An alarm goes off in my head. Maybe these mushrooms are poisonous. Is he trying to kill me? Did the cat tell him to do it? Am I a ghost thanks to a ploy cooked up by the cat, who, aware of my fondness for mushrooms had brainwashed my husband into introducing poisonous ones knowing I would consume them voraciously? Oh, the audacity of the pair!
“Nettie, did you eat the mushrooms? Open your eyes and look at the tin. Did you eat these?”
Reluctantly, I nod.
“How many did you eat?”
And there it is, his heartless second question. “I don’t know. I didn’t count them, you poisonous freak! I hope you and your bloody poisonous cat are happy now that I’m dead.”
“They’re not poisonous, Nettie, they’re… magical. They were for the stag party next weekend.”
“But didn’t you just come back from the party?”
“Gosh, you better have a lie down.”
The Ghost Walks
As the knitting needles fly through the last stitches, Nettie wonders, “when did arthritis start crooking my fingers?”, and “what on earth possessed me to attempt this pattern in black?”. She knits to relax and sleep better, and this sweater is becoming a nightmare. Her recliner by the fireplace, usually inviting and comfy, holds no pleasure for her tonight, only frustration. In this freezing weather, sitting by the roaring fire across from her husband, Tom, should be a blessing, yet it isn’t.
Tom sits on the couch entertained by his iPad. The light of the screen reflects the golden specks of his gorgeous brown eyes. The glow from the fireplace tints his salt and pepper hair with a reddish hue; the combination makes him look adorably wicked.
Reluctantly, she brings back her attention to the quarter sweater hanging from the needles. “Oh, why do I do this to myself?” she thinks. Then she starts counting the rows, again, for the third time, when Tom’s chuckle interrupts her.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Nettie screams.
“What happened?” he asks, all innocent.
She stares at him annoyed. Of course, he doesn’t know, he cannot know, he is not inside her head.
“Truly, Nettie. What is it?” his left hand shoots up and combs his hair backwards.
Right then she’s annoyed by her own hair. A run-away blonde—almost white—strand has escaped her ponytail and tickles her round cheek. For a second, she eyes the scissors in the knitting basket, but decide against such a drastic measure. She tucks the rebel lock behind her ear instead. Taking a deep breath, she says, “It’s nothing, I’m sorry. I just lost count of how many rows I’ve done. I can’t even see properly to count them. Your chuckle threw me off. I over-reacted, sorry.”
“I’m sorry, Hun, I didn’t realise. Doesn’t sound like you’re enjoying that tonight.” He says with a nod while he looks at her hands holding the needles. “If you keep squeezing at those, they’ll snap in half.”
He’s right. With a sigh, she puts the knitting in the basket and leans back, “What’s so amusing anyway?”
“Oh, just a wonderful article I found. It’s honestly priceless. I’m thinking about using it in the show for next week’s spooky special. You wouldn’t find writing like this anywhere today. Want me to read it to you?”
“Are you going to do the voice?”
“If my lady pleases.” His smoky, sultry voice is not only his best feature, but it’s also what puts food on their table and a roof over their heads. When he uses that modulated, cultivated voice she gets chills down her spine—the good kind—even after all these years together. “Come here, Hun,” he adds, tapping the couch next to him.
Nettie goes to him, sits by his side, and rests her head on his shoulder as he envelopes her in a half embrace. “Ready?” He asks.
“And I quote, (The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld; 1878-1954), 1924) ’The Morning Bulletin, 22nd July 1924. The Ghost Walks. Camille Flammarion on his book “Haunted Houses” remarks that the unknown world is vaster and more important than the known. It is well to know the psychical world, and we are far from having exhausted its study. We do not know all the human faculties. Our own powers certainly have something to do with the phenomena of haunted houses, and as a faithful servant of the experimental method, he holds that we must examine every natural hypothesis before we have recourse to others. But we cannot use too much caution in the interpretation of facts, especially when it is a question of the scientific proof of the survival of the soul.”
Tom continues, “Our normal impression is that the soul is intimately bound up with the brain, with its evolution. Do certain phenomena happen before or after the moment of death? Initially he assumed they were due to the psychic force of the living person, but he said a careful analysis might proof some actions occur after death. He personally considers that ‘numerous and incontestable observations concerning apparitions of the dead to the dying are evidence of the survival of the soul’. The real interest of his book lies in the ghost stories he has collected.”
“Not all the stories relate to haunted houses, and several deal with manifestations from the dead. Lord Broughman told that in 1799, on arriving at Gothenburg, at a comfortable inn, he asked for a hot bath, and while taking it, he experienced a strange event. He had a friend called G., and they had often conversed on the immortality of the soul. They had drawn up an agreement, written in their own blood, that the first to die should manifest himself to the other, to dispel any doubt concerning the continuation of life after death. G. had left for India, and Brougham had almost forgotten his existence. As he got out of the bath, Brougham saw G. seated on a chair, gazing at him quietly. He fainted, for, when he recovered his senses, he found himself lying on the floor. The apparition was no longer there. On returning to Edinburgh, Brougham found a letter announcing the death of his friend on the day of the visitation.” Tom says.
“The English poet Stephen Phillips, wishing to obtain the tranquillity necessary for finishing an important work, rented a country house in the neighbourhood of Egham, a quiet little village near Windsor, on the Thames. Nobody had the kindness to tell him that the house was haunted. He had hardly established himself therein with his family when incomprehensible noises began to disturb him. He heard in the night and sometimes even in the evening, raps, scratching, and the sounds of steps, both heavy and light, slow and fast. Members of the family saw, even in broad daylight the doors open, though no hand was visible. Every time Phillips sat down at his desk and started to work, he was disturbed, as if somebody were entering the room. He would turn round; he would see the door open, moved by an invisible force. And he would hear the steps coming closer and receding in turn. He was not a nervous person, but these phenomena impressed him despite himself. Phillips made inquiries in the neighbourhood and succeeded in extracting the information that an atrocious crime was said to have been committed half a century before. All the preceding tenants of the house had left it precipitately. The English Society for Psychical Research instituted an inquiry, which endorsed the authenticity of the story without clearing up the mystery. However, Flammarion states such incidents are not as exceptional as we may think. The people who deny them astonish him!’.
Tom pauses for a second and with a knowing smile he continues, (The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.: 1878 - 1954), 1989) “However, not all modern scientists agree. When consulted on the topic at hand only last month, LeFanu stated: ‘While the human mind is frequently difficult to influence by ponderable evidence on matters of fact, it is astonishing to find how it can be touched and impressed by incomprehensible fancies. Illustrations of this tendency will be found on glancing at the belief in the supernatural, which prevails so universally alike among civilized men and savages. Poetry and romance teem with pictures of imaginary creations, which possess to some extent characteristics of reality. Fairies and fiends, in attractive and repulsive forms, and possessed of more than mortal powers, have flitted about among the children of men in all times and in all countries. Modern science, more potent than the signet ring of King Solomon, has been dealing with them destructively. It has in many ways called upon them to give proofs of their existence. These not being forthcoming, and men's minds in these latter days being fully occupied with comprehensible matters, spiritual beings fail to attract attention: they disappear,’” Tom says drawing an inverted ‘u’ with an open palm in the air, like a magician. “End quote, the End. What do you think?”
“I think it will be perfect for the show.” Nettie smiles at him, her frustration dispelled.
The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld; 1878-1954), “The Ghost Walks,” 22 July 1924. [Online]. Available: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54280855.
The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.: 1878 - 1954), “Ghosts,” 19 02 1989. [Online]. Available: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52530231.