This One’ll Haunt Me

It must be that time of the year where all of my energy goes into being awake and anything beyond that is just too much. I haven’t been writing more than a couple of sentences here and there and it’s making this WIP REAL hard to finish.

Here’s an excerpt just to prove that I’ve done something:

The primary reason counselors didn’t “get to know” their cases personally was because spirits generally couldn’t focus enough to chat. Instead, there was a team of researchers cataloging cases, researching histories, conducting interviews with surviving family members and writing concise yet thoroughly informative case studies for operators and counselors to review beforehand so they’d be prepared for the emotions attached to issues assumed. When counselor met spirit, it was usually in a haze of disorientation and volatility. The spirit often lashed out, confusing the counselor for the person or people most closely associated with their barrier. The very first step in spirit counseling was just calming the spirit down, sometimes just enough to listen, sometimes enough to respond to questions.

 

Mrs. Atkins was different. She took longer than usual to take form, drifting together piecemeal without the customary chaos of swirling particles and light. The atmosphere shift was different as well and not nearly as uncomfortable while still being significantly electrified. Once a cohesive form had taken shape, it hardly moved. Subtle shifts in color and brightening and fading of light were the only indications that there wasn’t, in fact, a solid form present. That, and she floated.

 

“Mrs. Atkins,” Catori had said. “Barbara Atkins?”

 

“Yes,” the form had said, clear as a bell. The form appeared to be sitting, hands folded on its lap, eyes cast downward.

 

“My name is Catori and I’m here to help you.”

 

“Are you?” it had said. The flatness of her tone had seemed to Catori a mix of dejection and disinterest.

 

“Yes. And I know I’m not the first. I may not be the last. But we’re not giving up on you, ma’am. We’re going to help you move on.”

 

“Oh,” was all it said.

 

Three quarters of an hour passed and neither had spoken. They were already beyond the point where previous counselors had given up, either after talking themselves blue or waiting impatiently for a response. But Catori had taken a different approach. She watched. She waited patiently for an opening, and after 45 minutes, Barbara Atkins sighed.

 

Spirits don’t sigh. They don’t breath. It was an affectation left over from a lifetime of habit.

 

“Hmm,” Catori hummed softly in response, not questioningly, but almost like an agreement. It was just enough to coax Mrs. Atkins to look up.

 

Catori made and held eye contact, tilting her head and speaking with genuine concern. “How ARE you?” she asked.

 

“Fine,” it answered automatically, politely, and with a little nod of the head.

 

“No, you’re not. Barbara,” Catori paused, letting it sink in that this wasn’t small talk, that she was really asking. “How ARE you?”

 

“Fine?” it responded but with less conviction.

 

“No,” she repeated. “You’re not.”

 

“How am I?” it asked, ducking its head, breaking the eye contact. And here’s where Catori needed to decide who this woman was, what she really needed, and to give it to her in a way that would be helpful.

 

“You’re dead.”

 

“Oh,” Mrs. Atkins said sadly but thoroughly unsurprised.

 

“Your spirit is stuck here.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you know why?”

 

“None but ourselves can free our minds,” it said, quoting Bob Marley.

 

“That’s true. But we can help each other.”

 

“Can I help you?”

 

“Maybe. Can I help you?”

 

“No.” The spirit sighed again.

 

“Can I try?” Catori asked.

 

They looked at each other for a long time, each appraising each other. And then finally, the spirit nodded.

 

Look for it on Amazon… someday when I’ve gotten around to finishing it.

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