“We’ve cleared the upstairs completely, Madam, we’ll be back tomorrow to empty the parlour and the kitchen.” The man climbed into the cab. “Oh, and by the way, can you leave the key out for the parlour? It’s locked”.
“Ah, and yes”, the man continued, “We found this in your Mother’s bedroom it was wedged between the mattress and the headboard, and we thought you might like to keep it.” The man handed a slim paperback book to Mary. She turned it over in her hands. The cover was a dark blue with gold lettering that sparkled in the sunlight, it read ‘Gratam Spiritus Mund’. Mary shrugged. She didn’t recall her Mother ever possessing a book that looked like this. Puzzled, she thanked the man and slipped it into her coat pocket. Mary watched as the grey van grunted and wheezed its way down the lane.
Locked? She thought, the parlour has never been locked, he must be mistaken.
Mary let herself in. She wanted just one last look at the house where she grew up before it was sold.
Feeling a mixture of sadness and apprehension, Mary went upstairs to her old bedroom. It was empty. On the wall she spotted the corner of her old Take That poster, stubbornly stuck to the wall by a grubby piece of Sellotape. The removal men must have carelessly torn it down leaving this tiny remnant.
She went into her mum’s bedroom. It looked abandoned. A faded picture of a strikingly pale faced woman hung on the far wall. “They must have missed that,” Mary spoke out loud, her voice echoed eerily around the barren room. She gently scratched her cheek. “Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing that picture before. Hmm, that’s weird, she must have got it after I left home. I can’t imagine Mum buying something like that”.
She looked around the bathroom door. The blue bath was tired and worn. She went downstairs.
Mary headed to the parlour. She turned the handle. It felt unnaturally warm but twisted easily. She went inside.
She was startled by a ghostly roar.
‘GET OUT. THIS IS MY ROOM!’
Then, to Mary’s amazement, a ring of fire suddenly burst out and circled around the ceiling. Mary seized solid in fear, her eyes widened, simultaneously her insides trembled. She tried desperately to remain calm.
The fire went out.
Then the room started to shake, like it was being hit by an earthquake. Mary remained still. She whispered to herself, “stay chilled, this isn’t happening.”
The room stopped shaking.
Then the floor started to ripple like waves on the sea. Mary continued to outwardly stay composed, inwardly her stomach churned.
The floor stilled.
‘ARE YOU NOT AFRAID, YOUNG LADY?’ screamed the ghostly roar.
Suppressing the tremor that was circulating around her insides, Mary continued to stand firm with her arms folded. She shook her head.
‘What do you want?’ she said sternly.
The room fell silent.
Mary heard a little sob.
The room felt sad.
The ghostly roar now spoke softly. ‘I shouldn’t be here, I got trapped. It was when I was with the spirit carrier that came for your Mother. I dropped a book; it was your Mother’s pedagogies and I can’t get out until I find it, but it’s not here and I want to be free. I want to go back to the spirit world, where all the spirits live.
Mary thought hard. “Is this the book?” She pulled out the blue and gold paperback that the removal driver had handed to her earlier. The ghostly roar sang out, “YES, that’s it”. Instantly, the book slipped from her grasp, and floated upwards like a leaf caught in the wind. Then in a blink of the eye, it dissipated.
“Can you leave now?” Mary asked.
There was a long silence. Mary could just sense a twist of movement darting vigorously around the parlour.
“No,” whimpered the ghostly roar, “I’m still stuck inside this room.”
Suddenly it came to her. When she lived here and she wanted to release a butterfly or a bee that had got in through a window, she would open the patio doors and usher them out.
Mary went over to the patio door.
‘It’s locked,’ wailed the ghostly roar. Mary felt the room gently sway in frustration.
On tiptoes, Mary felt above the pelmet. She found the spare key.
Mary unlocked the patio door and slid it open.
She felt a gentle blast of wind brush past her shoulders.
The room went silent. No fire. No shaking. No waves.
Mary poked her head through the patio door and inhaled the fresh air. She heard a faint whisper.
‘Thank you,’ said the whisper.
Published in Issue #11