Veil was angry. She hated it when Sheets let his form become “solid” so it looked like he was stuck in a chair, half of him visible, the other half presumably inside the chair. Humans may have found it amusing…Veil…did not.
“What’s wrong Veil? I am just having some fun. You know Humans stop being scared for a moment and are fascinated when they watch me trying to pull myself out of a chair or a table. The more I struggle, as if I were trapped in a piece of furniture the more their eyes bug out. When I disappear, they faint. I love that.”
Veil rubbed her forehead. A habit left over from her Human life more than a hundred and fifty years earlier. The only difference now when she rubs her forehead is that often her hand kind of passes through her skull. Very disconcerting to see…if you are Human. Endearing if you are a fellow ghost like Sheets.
“That’s just it Sheets. I was afraid of Ghosts when I was Alive. Now I am a Ghost, and here I am making living people afraid of me. There has to be a better way. Why can’t we make friends with the Living? Why to we have to scare the bejeezus out of them all the time? “
Veil started to cry…little grey blobs of cotton dripped from her eyes, all mist and mystery, those were ghost tears. They are ethereal to see fall, but believe me, the pain that causes them is as real as any reason that wet tears fall from the Living.
Sheets drifted right through the chair over to where Veil was hovering. He touched her with just enough solidity to hold her. She held him back. One hand slid down the fronds of her long hair shadows- a Human would have been aghast as the two seemed to meld into a single ectoplasmic blob. The effect on a Human would have been frightening, had another Ghost seen them hugging, well, he would have quietly disassociated so as not to intrude on such a tender moment. Ghost are very particular about invading another Ghost’s space.
Veil’s cotton clouds of tears were reabsorbed by they time they passed the hem of her howling gown. It was one of the rules of interacting with the Living, you had to wear your Howling Gown so that Humans could not quite make out your form. The blurred image it presented to Humans added just a tinge more fear in the Living. The real big fright feature was the impossibly round mouth that varied from a lemon puckered closure to a huge vacuous open cavity capable of emitting howls that would raise the hair on the back of Human’s necks, or any living thing with hair.
“Now. Now. Now…settle down Veil. You are just having a little spell.”
Using the word “spell” got the desired smile from Veil. A wisp of a smile, but enough.
Veil sniffed a few unshed cotton fluff tears back.
“I know. I know. I will be okay. I just wish, just once, we…we…we…helped instead instead of scaring the Living.”
Later, Sheets would say the idea just popped into his head when he heard Veil’s wish. Veil said it was pure genius. Even Ghosts can blush, and Sheets did.
And this is what happened…
Debbie and Brian stood in the foyer of the old turn of the century house, holding each other with what could only be called: “Glee.” The house was built in the late 1800’s, had a ginger board exterior, a turret, 13 rooms, and was way to big for just the two of them. It belonged to them now.
“Can you believe it? She sold us this beautiful old house (Debbie waved her hand to include the mahogany railings leading up to the second and third floors, the parquet woodwork on the Foyer floor, the velvet and leather wall papers, and the dark walnut wainscoting.) for just twenty five thousand dollars.”
Brian hugged her back, his voice filled with a typical blend of humor and practicality:
“I know. Just twenty five thousand dollars! Now all we have to do is spend about a million or so to bring it back to life. “
They both laughed.
They didn’t have a million dollars. They had each other, time, and a plan.
It happened the second night that Debbie and Brian stayed in the house. First they couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. Deb thought it was just her, until she mentioned it in an aside to Brian. She was surprised when Brian told her he felt the same way. They both laughed it off.
Later though, the feeling intensified. It grew so strong that neither would venture up to the second floor without the other nearby. The third floor seemed to fill them with dread. Noises came from up there. Shuffling feet, creaking doors, the tinkle of glasses being moved from a table to a cabinet. It was dark outside when Deb had finally had enough.
“Brian, grab a flashlight. We are going up to the third floor and check out those noises. I can’t stand this anymore. Someone is up there. “
Brian did as he was told. He wasn’t as brave as Deb, but doggone if he wasn’t as curious. Something…or someone…had to be up there. When they first looked at the house, the woman said that the third floor was haunted. They laughed.
“We don’t believe in ghosts.”
The Woman had turned on the staircase to look down at them both. Her eyes and demeanor were dead serious:
When she turned back around to take them to the sitting rooms and two bedrooms on the third floor- Debbie and Brian gave a knowing smile to each other, dismissing without words, the woman’s mistaken beliefs.
Now, those words came back to them as they creaked up to the third floor, careful to pause at each step, both their flashlights searching for something, anything, that would set their minds and fast beating hearts at ease. All they saw was empty darkness lit up by beams from their flashlights.
The fear grew deeper as they ascended closer to the third floor. Without conscious effort they huddled closer together, their hands locking in almost a death grip …no pun intended.
The first room was clean, antiseptic, devoid of furniture or character. Just a dark empty room. Through the doorway was a sitting room with a huge dark cherry desk against one wall. Debbie’s flashlight trembled in her hands. Brian’s hit the floor with a loud metallic clink. Lit up by Debbie’s beam were two ghosts, one of them was stuck half in, half out, of the desk. The other ghost, somehow feminine appearing, was trying to pull the stuck ghost out of the the desk.
Everyone froze. The two living beings in fright. The two ghosts in anticipation.
Neither did what the other two expected.
“Brian!! Do you see what I see?”
“If you are seeing ghosts, then yes!”
“But he’s stuck!”
“I can see that, Deb.”
“Well, we have to help him.”
Let me tell you, three sets of eyes, one human, two ghost like grew wide with surprise…stunned into staring.
Debbie was sure the poor ghost must be suffering stuck in the desk like that, with the girl ghost (Deb was sure it was a girl ghost) trying to help the guy ghost, but to no avail.
“ I don’t know, I will hold the light on them, maybe it gives them substance, you go over there and pull the poor thing out of the desk. You are strong enough, I know you are. Heck, you used to wrestle for crying out loud.”
All that was true. Brian was strong, and wrestling had made him even stronger, but that was in High School almost a decade ago. Sure he worked out regularly, but it wasn’t physical strength that worried him, it was will power. His feet moved like he was walking in waist deep mud. He managed to utter a weak…
“Okay, Deb. I’ll try.”
The two ghost didn’t move, nor did they say anything. They just watched in awe as a Living Being approached them to try and help. He was coming towards them as if he were walking through deep mud, or struggling against a strong current in the river, but he was coming towards them.
"Don’t you dare move Sheets, I want to see what happens!”
Sheets whispered back in a voice tinged with wonder:
“Veil, I wouldn’t move if my life depended on it.”
That made them both smile.
It was then that everyone stopped again…just for a moment, when Debbie’s Voice broke the thick air of tension.
“It’s okay, ghosts, Brian is coming to help unstick you. He is very strong. We aren’t going to hurt you. He will just pull you out of that desk…and you can…go…fly away…or whatever it is you need to do. Just hang in there…he won’t hurt you. I promise.
Now neither Veil or Sheets could speak. A Human was telling THEM not to be scared. They would have laughed out loud..but the kindness in the Living Beings voice held them back. She was trying to help. In over 150 years of Haunting, not once had they encountered Humans who wanted to help. All the other Living Beings just wanted them gone. So they stayed.
Brian finally got to the ghost stuck in the desk. He put his hand out to grab the ghosts arms (Sheets quickly made his ghost arms more substantial…not quite as heavy as a Living Being’s arms, but solid enough to grasp. Brian got a good grip on the now solid arms of the ghost:
“I am going to pull gently…let’s see if we can get you out of there. If I am hurting you in any way…please tell me.”
Sheets looked over at Veil, who was barely able to hold back her mirth. Her eyes twinkling behind the Howling Gown eye slits.
“Let him pull you out sheets, make it take a bit of effort.”
“I know what to do, Veil. Watch!”
Brian was caught unaware by how heavy the ghost was. It took quite a pull with his arms and he had to use his legs to brace himself, but the ghost was coming out of the desk. At the last minute there was a quick “pop” and the ghost was free from the desk. Brian stumbled back against the wall, as the apparition dusted itself off, turned towards him and said:
“Well…thanks for that. I have been stuck in that damn desk ever since it fell on me and killed me all those years ago.”
Veil doubled over in laughter - which the Humans heard as a wail filled with humor. It didn’t frighten them at all. It made them smile.
Debbie was first to speak…at least of the Living Beings in the room.
“You were killed by a falling desk?”
Her voice was incredulous.
It was Veil who spoke next.
“No. But Sheets had to make something up quick. You see he wasn’t really stuck. It is just his favorite trick to scare you Living Beings. He died of a heart attack right over there."( a ghostly see through arm pointed to the sitting room on the other side of the door)
Brian spoke up.
“How old were you?”
“Oh, I was old. I was fifty two. And back when I died, that was old. Most folks died at thirty or so. I was one tough hombre.”
Debbie spoke next.
“What do you look like, I mean is what you look like to us what ghosts really look like?”
Veil looked over at Sheets. Their look said it all: “This is one very sharp clever Living Being.” After a moment they both came to a decision.
“Just a minute young lady, and we will reveal ourselves to you. “
With that, both Veil and Sheets took off their Howling Gowns.
Brian whistled. Debbie clapped.
Sheets turned out to look like a very fit British Gentleman with a tiny mustache, strong jaw, and the bearing of a former Military Officer.
Veil turned out to be a striking lithe woman with high cheekbones and hair down to her waist she looked to be about 22 or so. (That guess was close, she was 24 when she died of Typhoid Fever in that very bedroom) Both Ghosts pirouetted in the air. Veil gave a little curtsy at the end of her turn, Sheets took of his bowler and bowed.
Debbie introduce Brian and herself…after a slight hesitation she spoke to the ghosts again:
“I don’t know if you can drink tea, but would you like to come downstairs? Brian and I always have a late night tea, with some crackers and cheese when we have friends over. “
Sheets and Veil looked over at each other.
“Friends? (they said together like a prayer) We have never had Living friends…well, since we died anyway.”
Veil and Debbie were busy in the Kitchen. Veil had taught Deb how to “Mash Tea” the British way. Sheets had taught both Debbie and Brian how to play cribbage. The girls were talking girl talk as they sliced thin pieces of cheese to put on the crackers. Deb washed a few green grapes to put out too.
They heard Brian’s voice through the doorway:
“Come on Girls. I have the cards all dealt out. You don’t have a ghost of a chance against Sheets and I. “
Everyone laughed. Debbie carried the grapes and cheese cracker into the other room, while Veil floated behind her with the tea.
“Oh, I am so scared you will win again against us poor little girls.”
Everyone laughed at the double entendre. Scared. Ha. Ha. Ha.