Short story - Humour

The ghost’s story

Dear Mr and Mrs Willis,

If you have seen me around your house, you may have recognised me from a 2014 edition of Most Haunted. I was the one they captured on camera in the village library. Yes – that blurry image was me enjoying my five minutes of fame!

In case you’re wondering, it’s hard work being a ghost. Okay, so it’s partly my own fault for choosing to be a Class I HGV but that’s the most fun. HGV? Hair-raising Ghostly Vision, and the Class I is the full skeleton and chains standard.

A full skeleton is hard to come by these days with the increasing popularity of – nay, the need for – cremation. You can’t rattle a pile of pulverised bones. And chains aren’t ten a penny anymore. I don’t know why they are considered an essential feature of the best-dressed ghost’s outfit. Very few people die in chains these days, if they ever did…

The worst part is definitely the move to zero-hours contracts. They might suit people who like to stay in bed all night but some of us like to feel useful. My friend James is the opposite of me. He doesn’t need the money and rarely gets up before sunrise. Why he bothers going out then I don’t know – nobody can see him during the day.

Being a ghost is a lifestyle – should that be deathstyle? – choice. Not everyone wants to do it, and most people choose to stay dead. But I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people so I chose this way of life – sorry, of death. I couldn’t use my own bones as my body had been cremated, so I did a deal with another ghost. He wanted to get into the disembodied voice line of work, so his bones were surplus to requirements.

I used to think I’d go out even if I wasn’t on a contract. I loved seeing those terrified faces and hearing the screams. Then along came the nonsense of Monsters Inc. That made a big difference to what people will scream at. It takes a lot of effort to raise a proper blood-curdling scream these days, but it’s very rewarding when you do get one. My favourite trick is to levitate, seeming to appear out of the ground in front of someone. It’s an easy stunt to pull off, if you can find a low stone or fallen tree trunk to hide behind. Not being constrained by skin, tendons and muscles, I can collapse in to an apparently disarticulated heap only to rise with everything in the correct order.

I say ‘everything’, but not all my bones came from the disembodied-voice guy and I don’t actually have a full skeleton. Most people don’t even notice the missing bones, which are mainly the tiny ones in wrist and ankle joints. My right leg is longer than my left because my donor was an above-the-knee amputee and the only left leg I could get was from a much shorter woman. The same accident that took away his leg also destroyed his right hand, but I make good use of that by replacing the bones with scary-looking (but blunt) knife blades. Yes, I do know about Edward Scissorhands – where do you think I got the idea from?

Anyway, I’ve got a problem and I’m hoping you can help me solve it. I’ve got to pass the Scaring Standard Test next week and my heart’s not in it. If I ever had a mojo, I think I’ve lost it. Would you be prepared to scream even if I don’t manage to scare you? You won’t see the examiner – they always discorporate before attending the test. I believe you normally go to bed quite early – could you stay up a bit later next Tuesday? Do you think you could make sure to still be awake at 22:00? That’s the appointment I’ve been given and I’m in enough trouble for cancelling the last test. After the last time, I can’t cancel again or I’ll lose my accreditation. I don’t want to wake you up and really scare you – you seem like such nice people, what with your cat and the pictures of your grandchildren on the piano. I’ve heard you play, by the way, Mr Willis, and I really like that Chopin Nocturne you play so well.

I promise not to be too disruptive and I won’t damage anything valuable. Maybe you could leave out some things you won’t mind being thrown about – soft toys, plastic tableware, paper from the recycling bin. That sort of thing looks messy but doesn’t do any damage if it hits you. I’ll try not to hit you, of course, but if the examiner looks stern I might have to chuck things around a bit harder than I’d like.

If it’s going to be impossible, perhaps you could let me know and I’ll find another venue for the test. Luckily the examiner doesn’t need to know the postcode until a few hours beforehand. I’ll say this for the Academy – they understand the problem of finding a suitable host for the test.

With warm hugs and gentle kisses – well, that’s my ideal ‘goodbye’, and I know that it actually comes across as a sharply pointed grip and a smack of bones.

Frederika Johnson, widow of Flt Lt Pete Johnson and full-time ghost

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