The ghost had been at the shop for three days now. This wasn’t all together unusual for Marianne, as the departed tended to latch onto magical energies. From a quaint little cottage at the end of the row, right by the gate that led to the whistling moors, she sold magical remedies and potions. Marianne had pots that argued with each other when she tried to sleep in the dead of night. Her customers would be entertained by singing plants and dancing candles, which she had been told on more than one occasion was quite dangerous. It was a shop full of wonder and mischief and it was her home.
So, while normally this sort of phenomena would not faze her, what she found unusual in this instance, was that this was a blob. Blobs were the name she had given to the faint, shapeless spectres that she often found meandering aimlessly around the place. In her experience, blobs never stayed in the corporeal realm for any longer than it took to brew a cup of tea. They didn’t have the power to. Their ties to this world were weak and easily broken.
Marianne sipped home-dried peppermint and lavender tea. She intended for it to soothe her mind but found herself increasingly irritated as the blob – obstinate little thing that it was – only seemed to shine brighter in the kitchen doorway. Though most of her customers were unable to see the spirits, they were subject to the unease and utter sense of wrongness that would accompany the presence of the dead, and this blob just would not leave.
Hot liquid sloshed over the sides of Marianne’s mug as she set it down next to the sink. Enough was enough, she decided.
‘Oi! You need to leave! You have outstayed your welcome.’ She heard a tiny squeak and was shocked for a moment until she realised that the sound had come from outside. She turned her head towards the window just quick enough to see a head full of curls duck away. That was enough for her to recognise her mistake. It was Jane and Marcus’ child, Violet, who had been peering in through the glass. Violet was an odd girl, and quite shy, too. She never seemed interested in playing with the other village kids in the moors. Instead, she hung around Marianne’s shop, and Marianne would pretend not to notice her.
‘Ooooo, you messed up.’
‘I know, you don’t have to tell me that.’ She went to clean up the unsightly ring of tea she had left on the counter but paused when she had a startling realisation: she and the blob were the only ones left in the shop. She spun around, but the blob was still a blob.
‘What are you looking at?’
She blinked and moved a little closer. ‘You, I think.’
‘Well, that’s a bit rude, don’t you think?’
‘I am terribly sorry to offend you, but I have never heard of a blob speaking before.’
‘Never mind that.’ A plan was already forming in her mind. ‘Your ties to the corporeal realm appear to be growing stronger the more I acknowledge you. If I simply ignore you and go to bed, I believe you might finally disappear.’
She heard it shouting insults at her as she walked towards her room at the back of the shop, but she paid it no mind. She stopped only to indulge Fergus the fern in a quick embrace when it cajoled her with its outstretched fronds. The ghost wouldn’t be her problem come tomorrow.
Oh, how she wished for the bitter, but blessed silence that came when the spirit was only an aimless little blob. The ghost must be a child, or even a demon. What else could plague her so? When the plants wished to entertain the moonlit moors with a rousing chorus of local folk songs, the ghost saw fit to join in, providing a thin, cracked tenor. When the pots got in a heated argument in the early hours of the morning, the ghost saw fit to egg them on, switching sides as easily as if it were a fun little game for everyone.
After a week of these shenanigans, it would have been difficult to say who looked more ghoulish.
Tired hands fumbled with the ingredients necessary to assemble a sleep remedy for her neighbour, a very kind person who provided her with butter and milk from their dairy cows in exchange for a spell or two. Marianne did not know how much of this she could take.
A crash resounded beside her. The waiting spell jars had been knocked to the ground by the ornery ghost. Sighing, Marianne went to fetch a broom.
‘Aren’t you a witch? Shouldn’t you just be able to poof it all back the way it was?’ The ghost asked.
‘My magic does not work like that. I am a kitchen witch. I work in my home and my garden.’ She shook her head as she entered her storage room. As if she ever had any chance of ignoring the hell-demon.
She winced as it let out a deafening wail, perhaps the ghostliest thing this spirit has done thus far.
‘You turned my bedroom into a broom closet!’ For someone who was dead, this ghost sure could sound indignant.
‘Your bedroom? You lived here?’ At least this explained why it was so tethered to this place. But now the task of getting it to leave was becoming an impossible feat.
‘Yes, I did, and I demand you turn it back, witch! Fly away on one of your brooms!’
She rolled her eyes. ‘Really, you act like such a child. How old are you anyway?’
‘I don’t know,’ it sulked. ‘Older than ten, I think. I never learnt how to count. How old are you?’
‘Young enough that I can still hear all the curses you throw my way, and old enough that it is rude for you to be asking.’
‘Well, you look ancient.’
‘Cheeky brat.’ Marianne shooed it out of the tiny room with her broom and closed the door. She set about the task of sweeping up the mess the ghost made. Her blob was turning out to be a damn poltergeist.
‘Oi, lady, your stalker’s back.’ When Marianne turned around, she saw no one there, just the imprint of a child’s face on the window and the thudding of little child footsteps running away yet again. Violet had shown up every day this week but had yet to step foot inside the store.
‘Violet isn’t a stalker. She is a lovely girl who is welcome here anytime.’ She heard another crash. Anger radiated from the spectre behind her, almost urning her back with its intensity. Without looking up, she continued sweeping, adding to the neatly gathered pile on the floor.
‘Why?’ She heard it ask.
‘Why her? Why not me?’
‘I don’t quite know what you mean?’ Marianne looked back at it. The ghost was flickering, its form unstable.
‘Don’t act like you don’t know! Why is she welcome any time?’ Venom laced its voice, twisting into a simpering mockery of Marianne. ‘“Sweet, sweet Violet. Oh, I hope she is okay. She always seems so lonely. I wish she would play with the other children. I wish her parents paid more attention to her. I wish she would come in and say hello!”’
‘That’s enough of that!’
‘Or what? What are you going to do, kick me out? You’ve already tried that!’ The ghost’s biting words devolved into sobs. All of her frustration dissipated, leaving behind an ache at the sound of a child’s cry. Marianne didn’t know what she could do, for she knew that her lack of compassion was at least partly to blame for this mess.
‘Excuse me?’ Once again, a voice that did not belong to the witch had found its way into her store. ‘May I please come in?’ It was Violet. She stood in the entryway, holding the heavy, oak door open just a crack.
‘You may,’ Marianne said, stunned. She expected Violet to come to her but, to her surprise, she went off toddling towards the blob.
‘Please don’t cry,’ she said, in that blunt way that only children can.
The ghost’s loud sobs softened to hiccoughs. ‘Y-you can he-hear me?’ Violet nodded vigorously, curls bouncing with the action. A stilted silence followed. Losing courage, Violet looked towards Marianne, seeming unsure of what to do next. Upon receiving an encouraging nod from Marianne, the girl clenched her fists and took a determined stance.
‘I can see you, too. You look about my age. My name is Violet, do you want to be my friend?’
Before Marianne’s eyes, the blob began to change form, twisting and growing until it became a clear image of a ghostly child.
‘Felix.’ The ghost said in wonder. ‘I was a boy named Felix.’
As the children grinned at each other, Marianne quietly resumed her sweeping. She had had quite enough excitement this week. After all, it’s not every day you accidentally adopt a ghost child.
Eliana is a story-teller, a theatre enthusiast and a romantic at heart located in Brisbane. Quite disillusioned with the real world, she likes to exist in a space that is both spectacular and whimsical.