Do you touch what isn’t yours? That’s what she did.
No, no… Don’t argue. You asked me what happened and I’m gonna tell you. You just need to listen. Listen and keep still.
Couldn’t keep her hands to herself, that one. Don’t you go giving me that look, gal. Your daddy might think butter won’t melt in your mouth, but I know better. You can’t fool the joker, baby.
Look at her. Thinks she knows everything there is to know about everything. Hmmph. She sneaks in here while I’m giving a tour… of these old plantation grounds, no less. She and that boyfriend of hers—who ain’t got the sense he was born with, mind you—sneak upstairs into a cordoned-off room to explore. That what they call touchin’ other people’s belongings nowadays? Exploring?
Shouldn’ta been up there in the first place. What you think a rope ’cross a closed door means, gal? If you didn’t know, I took my sweet time and printed out a sign and fixed it to that rope, good and tight, so I know you musta seen it. And what did that sign say?
But that don’t apply to you, huh?
She and that boyfriend, they see bottles on the dresser. Real nice ones, all different shapes and sizes. Some colored glass. Others engraved or accented with graying silver. She assumes it’s perfume inside those bottles and opens one to smell.
You know better now, don’t ya? How do them ghosts smell? Like dirt and damp moss and dank places closed so tight no air ever enters. Like the end. Like everything and nothing.
Well, sistah… you in it neck deep.
If you don’t know what you’re doing when you open a jar, spirits escape.
Then they use you as they wish. When they wish. Usually, it’s your body they want. Just the chance to be alive again. Breathe. Taste. Feel the sun and the wind and the rain on their skin.
Oh, you already found that out? You already see she’s different? Then why you here, may I ask?
A cure? Oooh hoo, honey child, don’t make me laugh. A cure for ghosts?
What you think this is… a church? A cathedral?
Got news for you. This ain’t neither one of those places. So many died here, I’m surprised I don’t have some of them spirits up my nose right now. Know why I don’t? ’Cause I keep my hands and all my other parts to myself. ’Cause when somebody warns me, I listen.
Sir? Sir. I know she’s your daughter, but no, I will not accept that kinda language. You can just sit on back down, ’cause you can’t demand nobody to do nothing. Not me. At least not here.
What’s that? You’re right. She is just a child.
You’re what—fifteen? Sixteen? You’re twelve? Lord, and you wearing all that—nevermind. I’m gonna tell you something. Spirits don’t care who they ride. Children younger than you have been homes for spirits, and that ain’t gonna change any time soon. Not when you go fiddling with things that ain’t your business no way. I still see that little she-devil in there behind your eyes, but don’t worry. She’ll fade soon enough. Takes a little time. I can see her dimming as we speak.
So you’re going to sue me. For what? Child endangerment? Negligence? Fine, fine. Can’t wait to see the look on the lawyer’s face when you say, “That woman’s negligence caused my daughter to get possessed by a ghost.”
Um hm. I see you hadn’t thought of that.
Go on. Have her tested. Her blood pressure, pulse, body scans, brain scans… I’m sure those’ll all turn out fine. She’ll be in perfect health. Better than she was before, probably. Hard to prove damages when there’s no real evidence to show the child got anything wrong with her.
I’m gonna make this last suggestion before I show you out, sir.
You had a willful, wanton daughter who was doing everything she could to make you shame. From those bags under your eyes, you were at the end of your rope before, weren’t you? Now you have a daughter who is happy to be alive and happy to have a working body. She minds you. She’s well behaved. I’m willing to bet things are bit easier around the house too. Think about that.
What was the suggestion? Oh, yes. Almost forgot. Enjoy the peace of mind. Take her home. Maybe even get her an ice cream on the way. You’d like that wouldn’t you, gal? Bet it’s been a long time. Almost eighty years? My, my. Way too long.
Let me get the door for you. No, no, it’s all right, I handle heavier things every day. Uh huh. I know, you’ll never stop trying to save your little girl. Yes. If I find out anything more, I’ll call.
You’re welcome, sir.
Take care now.
About the author
Eden Royce is the recipient of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds grant and a regular contributor to Graveyard Shift Sisters. Her fiction has appeared in FIYAH Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction and on PodCastle. She is the author of the short story collection, Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror. You can find her work on www.edenroyce.com and her tweets @edenroyce.