Joe P. Squance
You are a woman of indeterminate age. Your looks fall squarely in the middle of things. You dress for comfort and smile a lot. You have a ghost of your very own. You are looking for companionship.
You live alone in a house with a great deal of history, but you’d rather not go into it. The history, that is. The house you rarely leave. It’s as big and dark and empty as the universe, and you have come to love its wide, flat walls, its gaping doorways like missing teeth. You keep the lights low. Your ghost prefers them that way.
Your ghost is not more than a wisp of blue smoke or a pocket of cold air. At times, it’s a mark upon your body. Occasionally you hear the ghost in other rooms, jingling like wind chimes. Sometimes your ghost is a dark spot in a drawer you don’t want to open or the sound of a giggle that rises up from inside you like bubbling oil and makes you retch. Other times you hold the ghost in your arms or trail behind it with your hands in your pockets as it drifts across the hardwood. When it looks back at you, you smile.
Your ghost is more than most people are prepared to accept, and you get that. The ghost can be territorial. The ghost can get weird. But you also believe that a person only needs to get used to the ghost, to spend some time with the ghost and become acclimated to its quirks and tics and to simply let the ghost happen to them, to let their world coalesce around the ghost. You believe it can be done. You have done it yourself.
It isn’t easy—that much you understand. In the beginning, you hid yourself from the ghost: in the closet, beneath the surface of your bathwater, in your sleep. Of course your ghost found you easily, everywhere. And so you raged at your ghost, you thrashed at it. You begged the ghost to leave you. You cut your palms and flung blood at the ghost until you exhausted yourself and fell asleep on piles of old clothes that you’d organized and meant to donate. You ignored the ghost but the ghost didn’t appreciate that, not one bit. And so the ghost wore you down until you simply cried when it appeared, or retched, or smiled, or sometimes all three, and the ghost became your companion and after a while you didn’t even seem to mind.
And now you think that you might be ready to share your ghost with someone else, though you’re not sure if your ghost is ready to be shared. You only need to find the right person. Someone caring and patient. Someone damaged, maybe. Someone broken. And you will only need to explain a few things to them, just as a way of making everything perfectly clear. You will need to explain that your ghost is not leaving you, not ever. And you will need to explain that you don’t want your ghost to leave. And you will need to explain that you can never love another person as much as you love your ghost because your love has been poisoned and it is killing you, and that you don’t blame anyone for this, and that the last feeling you have left that has not been splintered into a jagged barb is gratitude, because you would rather be haunted for the rest of your life than to forget your ghost completely.
Joe P. Squance is a part-time instructor in the English department at Miami University, and a stay at home parent to a three year-old daughter. He writes his stories after midnight when the house is quiet and still; some of them have appeared in Juked, Prick of the Spindle, The Round, and elsewhere. He lives with his family in Oxford, Ohio and keeps a neat house. Find him on Twitter at @JoeSquance.