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Ghosty Head

by John Pivovarnick

This house is haunted, of that I am sure.

One night while sitting alone, stock-still in the dining room, there were disembodied sobs. No eyes. No feminine hands with painted nails covering them. No tears. No moisture of any sort. Just cobwebs and dust bunnies and keening like a banshee. Screams shredding like clouds, then gone never to return.

I don’t think it was me. I don’t think.

I don’t.

I saw a ghost cat in the basement while removing freshly laundered spooks and potential klansmen from the mangler, fitted and flat, white and print, redolent of bleach.

Said ghost cat scurried by on smoky paws, tail high and twitchy. Soundless— like a cat, yes, but sullenly transparent like a ghost.

Soon after, I found the reeking corpse of a mouse high up on a basement shelf near the thinners and shellacs, in the domain of centipedes and cellar spiders with wispy legs like webs. How did that mouse scale the cellar’s stone wall while busy dying? Did it heroically summit the slick metal rods of his own private Everest only to die at the roof of its world while taking a selfie like some rodent millennial? Or did he der Fledermaus his way up and die of shock at his un-millennial accomplishment?

Both seem unlikely.

Alternatively, did the ghost cat stalk its prey, and, catching it, bat him around with smoky Freddy Kitty Kreuger paws, then, with mister mouse clenched in the maw of its little, mewling ghosty head, levitate him toward the floor joists like Palo Santo smoke with muffled merrows and a twitchy tail? Deposit him there among the dust and grit and debris to be found by smell by me?

Smudging the cellar with sage would remove the lingering stink of cadaverine and putrescine, but what about the spectral taint of tiny pink mousy paws twitching in their death throes? What about the psychic residue? Will a planchette race around a spirit board in the cellar, on squeaking feet, spelling nothing evermore?

And why is there a ghost cat at all?

Did someone cask of Amontillado Old Deuteronomy into the dank cellarway or the wall behind the coal bin? Was he robbed of the Heaviside layer as a foundation sacrifice to keep the house safe from mice?

The Brits used to do that in days of yore: chuck a dead moggy into the rafters for peace of mind—not that it did the moggy much good. The Romans would gut a slave, read the auspices in his entrails, then bury him in the basement so his spirit would housesit happily ever after.

There are penises scratched into Hadrian’s Wall. So, there’s that.

One night, wobbly with Merlot, I heard the darkness whisper my name as I climbed the stairs to bed. Not once, but twice. Right into my left ear. Not “John” as I insist most people call me [the living, anyway], but “Johnny.” No: Jooooohhhhnnnyyyyyy Whispered breathily as a ghost might. Would. Did.

I have only let a few beloved people get away with that, using a diminutive to name me. At least two of them are dead now. I rest my case.

I locked my bedroom door that night, for all the good it would do.

When I was thirteen, I tried to kill myself. Perhaps that’s what made me sensitive to such things. [I was probably ten, but thirteen sounds better here.] Not the tying of the bathrobe tie around the ceiling light, or tying the other end around my neck, or jumping from the squeaky metal bed, or the falling, or the surprise as the light pulled free in a spray of plaster and lath. I was not hurt, only embarrassed. But the intent was there, the intent to be dead, and intent is all—the heart of all magicks, light and dark.

[Scribe a circle and cross it thrice…]

I surely opened a door to the other side just as surely as I opened a hole in the ceiling where the fixture used to be. Right? If anything is sure.

Is anything sure?

Don’t step into the light children. It’s broken. Step around the light.

A woman tried to make a hopeful thing of surviving suicide by tattooing semicolons everywhere: on her skin, on her friends, a cheery survival cult with a little sprinkling of Jesus on the side.

She’s dead now, of course, a ghost; gone to Jesus, if you will. If you believe in such things. I don’t.

A lot of people who try suicide once, try it again. Practice makes perfect, I guess.

I count myself lucky that I am the sort who tries his hand at something and either succeeds or gives up — a cavalier attitude as a survival skill. Never say never, but I haven’t tried again. Yet.

I have a macabre bent as well.

The two houses I wanted most to buy were cemetery adjacent. One had the graveyard across the street; the other had one abutted against its rear, like a tablespoon of a lover.

I bought the latter — the spooning one where the dining room sobs and the shadows call your name.

A psychic told me there was an energy vortex in one corner, over a plugged up well in the basement, where I should keep a large crystal or stone as an acknowledgment of the presence of this elemental thing of the earth — an offering.

I keep a large piece of fossilized wood, the best of both worlds, on the spot she pointed out, behind the La-Z-boy I never get to use. I never sit there, so it doesn’t get confused about which thing is the gift.

On the opposite wall, she said, there’s an energy pipeline of some sort, were things sizzle and crackle like a mad scientist’s lab. Everything seems to come from the cemetery behind the house and flow away to the northeast in a concentrated tube, like a laser blast, or a Bond villain’s weapon. I will sit or stand in its path, but never feel charged or drained by it, so what’s the use of having it?

There is a male spirit, too, perhaps a PK manifestation or poltergeist. It rages and throws things and screams. Or body possessed by a demon, because of the stream-of-consciousness nature of its profanity. Is it conscious? Who knows? Doubtful the way its days repeat endlessly. I see it manifest itself every day in the blue chair, pointed at the television and screaming. White, translucent skin. Blank, black eyes.

I try to communicate, but he [it] never responds directly. Never one rap for yes or two for no. If it moves a glass, it throws it, never slides it from letter to letter to spell a word or phrase—not so much as a “fuck you.”

It could be residual, all anger and throwing things, but nothing moves or changes breaks. Just sound and fury symbolizing nothing.

Is he the ghost without a conscious existence because he doesn’t hear or acknowledge me? Or am I, because I am not worthy of being heard or acknowledged.

My life is routine. Repetitive. Residual. I am up at 6:00 AM. Make coffee. Feed the animals. Drink coffee. Try to watch something mindless on television before the ghost appears to disrupt everything with its screaming. Shower. Go to work. Make more coffee there. Drink that coffee at my desk, plus other duties as required. Come home. Walk the dog. Eat. Go to bed.

Lather rinse repeat.

I have measured my life with coffee spoons, poop bags, corkscrews.

Lather rinse repeat.

One of us is a ghost, but I’m not sure which.

Copyright © 2019 by John Pivovarnick and Ghost Cat Media all rights reserved

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Published inBrain Farts and othersSpookinessWriting