A haunted soul
Copyright Meredith Miller 2016
A Compendium For The Broken Hearted
I shall begin this story thus: this is a natural story set in an unnatural situation. If you are not one for tales that end in unpredictable ways, I would suggest a much more orthodox book for you. This tale, sadly, will not end in a way that you can see coming. Even I do not know how it ends, and I assure you the thrill is enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Which makes for very uncomfortable writing, I suppose. This story starts with a girl, a heroine of sorts, although she carries no blade around her waist and slays no orcs nor dragons or other such nonsense. No, our seventeen year old hero was sitting at a table next to a window at eight in the morning. Sitting and sighing in a slightly sunlit room but otherwise dark conditions.
Tracy sighed. It was a thing that most people her age were wont to do. After all, there were things that plagued a seventeen year old’s life: some had the misfortune of being teased by others their age, some had dreams that befit people much older than they were, and some had an unrequited love, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Others of course had a problem that many seventeen year olds complain of, and not very many were able to solve.
I am, naturally, speaking of parents. Now you or I remember being seventeen with a certain sense of fondness, perhaps. We look over these years with glasses painted either brackish black or a shining shade of smiling yellow. We like to say that those who are seventeen would do well to put their silly ideas of misfortune aside and listen to their parents. They could never understand the real hardships that an adult such as us has to go through, like buying coffee or driving young children to school. And those who happen to be seventeen at the time would shoot right back in outrage, telling us that we simply do not understand what troubles they go through. After all, they are their own people and their problems are different from the ones we might be have once lived, back in the past when nothing was relevant.
Now, for sensible people, such problems are usually resolved by one party exiting the premises of the argument (this is just a fancy way of saying they leave the house) and then returning once they have cooled down enough to forget what they were arguing about in the first place. Then the two parties would talk about the truly important things, such as how much they all love each other very, very much.
And therein lay Tracy’s reason for sighing. Unlike many who elected this particular method for resolving things, the young girl was unable to leave the premises of the argument. In fact, she had been stuck in this dark, dreary house for far too long, she thought sullenly. Far longer than any seventeen year old should have to endure. Looking around her, Tracy had nothing to keep her company but the chipped and cracked paint on the walls, creaking floorboards with holes through them where they had rotted too much and simply fell to the floor below, as well as the general dust. And her mother of course, Tracey always had her mother to keep her company in this lightless, waterless house with cobwebs inhabiting almost every inch of it.
Hearing the living conditions of the place, you would be quick to gasp with horror: what kind of person would allow their child to live in a house such as this? Is this in a far off land? A war torn country? If not, then call the police, the welfare officials; the army. What if the poor thing fell right through one of the holes in the floor and managed to hurt herself terribly? What would her certainly awful mother do then?
I would then be quick to remind you that our story is set in rather unconventional circumstances. For instance, Tracey was in this situation quite perfectly safe, as far as staying unhurt went. There was no perceivable way that the girl was going to fall through the floor and hurt herself, even in this dangerous setting.
This was, of course, because Tracey was a ghost. This is why when her mother came in to her room, she floated instead of walking. I shall be using words such as floated, glided, and so forth quite extensively in this story, which is unusual for any normal story with normal people in it. But this was quite the fact of the matter, for Tracey’s mother was gliding a good two inches above the ground, and thus was in no danger whatsoever. She was also glowing a vibrant blue, which she always did early in the morning.
“Tracey,” he mother said, although the girl could perfectly see the blue glow cast upon the walls, despite the door being behind her.
“Yes, mummy?” she answered in a voice mustered quite well, causing her mother’s perpetual frown to deepen. Sometimes Tracey wondered if the paint was peeling off the walls due to age and general oldness (oldness here is an attempt to simplify language in absurd ways for comedic effect), or if it was in fact caused by her mother’s frown.
“Come down for breakfast, dear,” her mother commanded rather than asked, although her tone suggested otherwise. Tracey had well learnt the difference between a command and a plea by now, and knew that her mother never pleaded.
And so the routine began with a fake breakfast. Tracey and her mother sat over the table in the ground floor kitchen. Tracey was at the side of the table whilst her mother was at the head, both pretending to spoon imaginary corn flakes into their moths off of imaginary bowls with imaginary spoons. The head of the family was nowhere to be seen, and Tracey had learnt to not ask about the whereabouts or the existence of her father, for “mother and I, we are alone.” Full stop.
And so the whole breakfast situation was carried out with a very real sense of seriousness and a well practiced air. This was not the first time, nor the thousandth, that Tracey and her mother had pretended to have breakfast in this way. The faded stretch of rectangular table was proof of that.
When breakfast was done, Tracey took care of the imaginary dishes, after which she was sent up to learn her lessons from a book which, in fact, existed and was taken out for her by her mother. Tracey had never figured out the trick to interacting with objects with her ghostly hands, and her mother did not deign to teach her those mysterious ways. Instead she simply did things for her that could be done by her, as parents too often did for their children. It is one thing to speak of your children walking their own path in life, quite another to see them stumble onto a bed of thorns helplessly. This was one of the mother’s favourite phrases.
When her lessons were taken care of (which usually took a few hours), Tracey was allowed to watch mother knitting for exactly one hour while reciting what she had memorized that day. It was not the most exciting part of the day, but after that and lunch Tracey was left to her own devices while her mother went into her room for the third floor room to take a nap. During this time Tracey was expected to “use her time wisely in a ladylike manner”, but every day the girl took the time to play around the house and dream of the outside world. She did most of her playing downstairs, as was routine.
Now, it would be very reasonable of you to wonder why I am telling you this story here. A story needs ups and downs, a hero and a princess, a villain and many other things. What did an unchangeable routine have to do with such things? Why that particular day?
Why, on that very day, something inexplicable happened, for the front door of the house opened for the first time in Tracey’s memory and a frightened face peeked through it. A face that was not glowing blue. It was entirely new, and completely unexpected.
Tracey was in the back of the house just then, hiding under the stairway from her mother and thinking of how nice it would be to have sunshine warm up her skin. It had been many years since that had happened, and she couldn’t remember how pleasant that feeling was. In fact, there was very little that she remembered from when she was alive. Every day, she asked her mother about her living days over the imaginary supper, and how they had both died. Each day, her mother refused to answer her.
That was when she heard the click. By the time the sound of swinging door came Tracey was already in the room, although she hid herself behind an old sofa chair. Looking from behind the thing, she saw the face. It was something that she hadn’t seen in a long time, and she struggled to remember what this creature was. Then with a snap it came back, a recollection from a time she didn’t fully remember. This was a boy! Of course, the short hair and lack of make up on his face (although we know now that nowadays such things are not gender specific) were surefire signs that it was a boy that crept into the house slowly. He took the first steps into the place with his hoodie, green in the afternoon light, and strange shoes that had the sign of a star on them. He was like something from another world and he seemed to contrast entirely with everything familiar to Tracey.
In her excitement, she followed the boy almost completely perfectly, putting her feet exactly where he had left them, keeping his posture, and basically sticking to him like a shadow. Somehow, despite her ghostly glow the strangely dressed boy didn’t take notice of her, and it occurred to her after a few minutes of following him around the house what clever readers would have remembered a few lines back: he couldn’t have seen her because ghosts were invisible to normal people.
This realisation came down upon Tracey with the force of a hammer, and it was with impending dread that she thought of the possibility of being unable to communicate with this new visitor to her realm. Desperation grabbed her voice chords, long since buried in cold hard soil, and pulled. She wondered how long she would have to accept a world that put her into a cage this horrific, never to escape or even speak to anything that was not her mother. A sob escaped her, and they boy suddenly turned around and stumbled with a yelp, falling onto his back. Paying him no heed for the moment (although she was concerned about him falling and hitting his head), Tracey put her hands to her face and started crying hot honest tears, which are widely known to be the very best kind.
After trembling for a few seconds, the stranger got on all fours for a bit, peering in Tracey’s direction through his full moon glasses. He panicked, mumbled, and then said, “No, no, no! Don’t cry! I’m sorry, I really am! I didn’t mean to startle or offend you or anything, I was just surprised, is all!” after a moment and calming down for a bit, he asked, “Why are you crying anyway, you poor thing? I haven’t seen anybody cry that hard in a long time.”
“I’m crying,” Tracey explained through her sobs, “because I can’t leave this house, and anyone who comes inside can’t see me, and in here I’m stuck doing the same thing every singl-“ she stopped crying quite suddenly. It occurred to her that perhaps things were not as horrible as they seemed after all, and then Tracey inquired quite cautiously, “you… can you see me?” The boy nodded, and all expressions of sadness and misery and such depressing things were left behind and discarded faster than you could say, “I forgot why I was crying.” which is a very silly thing to say, as it would cause people to look at you strangely.
The boy began to explain his situation, and things began to become clear to Tracey as they liked to do when people began to explain things. The boy’s name was Tom Sape, and according to him he was as unremarkable as they came. She knew this because when he’d just entered the house, Tom could not see her, but suddenly did when her emotions became strong. Along their conversation she would, according to him, “just disappear” and then the ghost had to truly focus until the strange boy smiled and said, “Ah, there you are. Was afraid you were gone for good this time.”
From Tom Tracey learnt about all sorts of things, like cars and planes and Iphones and Adele and many other things that she’d never heard of before. Tom also revealed that the only reason he’d come into the house was because he was bullied into it by his classmates, who didn’t like him very much for some odd reason. He promised though that he would come many more times to meet the “Nicest only ghost he’d ever met”. Tracey thought Tom was a perfectly pleasant boy and couldn’t understand why anybody would dislike him. He calmed her when she was crying, he had nice dark hair and pleasant black eyes and skin that was somehow in the middle point between being pale and being pasty. He was about as tall and old as Tracey herself was, and he had many interesting and nice things to say, without sounding pretentious (a pretentious person here is someone who thinks that he knows many things when he really doesn’t). This was one of many reasons that Tracey invited him to come however many times he wished to, although she told him to always come in the afternoon.
And so the days and the months passed. After a while Tom began to come every day. Sometimes he brought her a flower, sometimes a book of jokes, sometimes a new story or his pet hamster, mochi (he said the name was just because he thought it sounded funny). It happened very gradually but at some point or another Tracey began to see her new friend as a very important part of her life. He became as vibrant as the colours he brought with him, as bright as the sunshine that streamed through the windows, and as warm as a summer’s afternoon. This is something that happens often with seventeen year girls but it is not a thing to be underestimated, because by the time that she realized she was in love, the little ghost was already completely taken over by the feeling. Breathing became more difficult when he wasn’t around although she had no breath to speak of, and her poor still heart felt like it beat madly whenever the boy was around. The craziest part of it was that Tracey could feel the same affection coming from her counterpart, despite their vastly different situations. And every day after the boy left, she would go and wake mama up to make tea and continue on with her day as usual. The only breath of spring air that Tracey had was in the afternoon, and she was content with that.
Day after day passed, until one day Tom committed a mistake that one should not make, for he decided to ignore the advice of someone who loved him and come into the haunted house at some time other than noon. Now, had this been any normal house, a normal girl with a normal family, a mistake like that would have been an inconvenience at most. But this was no normal house, and Tracey was not a normal girl, and she certainly had nothing resembling a normal family.
On that day, the girl was combing her hair before (imaginary) supper as usual when she heard the familiar click. At once her heart leapt and sank at the sound, for she knew that mama was not asleep. Like she did every day, her mother was busy downstairs, preparing the (imaginary) meal for her daughter and herself. As such, the first thing that came out of her mouth was an involuntary “Tom, no!” before she heard her mother’s snarl. The ghost jumped up from where she was sitting on the bed and tried to go downstairs to protect the boy who had now become as dear to her as a piece of her own heart, but a strange barrier her from going out of the doorway. This was another one of her mother’s mysterious tricks. She slammed into it over and over, yelling at the top of her lungs “No! No, mummy don’t hurt him!” It was going to happen; she just knew it deep inside her guts. Her mother was going to change like she did when Tracey asked about her father. It wasn’t the first time that this had happened. The whirlwind of violence that ripped all the objects inside a room and whipped them around was coming, and soon. But Tom was only human; he couldn’t stand that type of mindless fury. If her mother went truly berserk, trapped her in a room and destroyed everything… The image of him lying broken on the ground caused something inside the girl to snap as she slammed against the barrier.
With all of her mental power, Tracey focused herself, all her emotion, her entire existence into a blade and cut right through the force field that was so impervious just seconds earlier. She could hear her mother saying something, and then Tom shouting, “That disguise isn’t fooling me. I can tell you’re not Tracey. She’d never say that and I’m not leaving without her.” Another pause, then the boy’s voice rose again. “Hah! Who cares?”
That was followed by a loud crash.
Just then Tracey reached the ground floor stairs and saw the sight that she was most afraid of: her mother with eyes pitch black, irises so large the whites disappeared, hair flapping around as if by an invisible wind, and Tom writhing on the ground in pain. Tracey ran as fast as she could, and managed to stand between her mother and they boy. With naught but pure effort and desperation, she pushed at the air and created a field between her and her mother, the being who had caught her in a cage for far too many years.
“You dare do this to your one and only mother?” she asked in barely concealed fury, but the girl stood her ground. Standing toe to toe against her, Tracey realized that she stood no chance against a ghost this experienced. There was no way she could win with force, her mother was too powerful. So she did the only thing she could.
She let everything go and stood defenceless between the person she loved and her one and only mother. The force field was gone, and so was her will to fight. This seemed to catch her mother by surprise (for she had expected more of a struggle) and she asked “Giving up so easily?”
She sounded suspicious, and rightly so, for Tracey answered simply, “if you hurt him, then hurt me too, mother.” That was that. She was resigned.
The older ghost hesitated, for this was an unknown and completely unexpected situation. In the instant that was created, Tracey heard something behind her, and when she turned, Tom was standing there with an object held triumphantly in an official looking plastic bag over his head. A knife with dried blood speckled along its surface.
The mother gasped at that, an unearthly sound that seemed to echo over and over. “How did you find that?” she shrieked whilst pointing one long bony finger at the youth, and Tom answered, “I investigated the house. The police knows everything. It’s all over. You have no reason to stay here. You’re released. Ghosts need to pass on when the reason for their anger goes away. I heard that from a fortune teller and if you’re real, then she must be too.”
At that, something strange began to happen. The room started to brighten, the shadows retreated, and a single pillar of light entered the room through the ceiling, engulfing the mother, who sighed slow and deep. Where she had earlier stood, there was now a beautiful woman. The wrinkles and signs of hate were gone, and the woman was smiling. Then the light increased in intensity, and Tracey realized that she was also being swallowed by a similar pillar. Instead of rejoicing (although she was a smart ghost and realized she was going to a better place) Tracey instead whispered “No…” and turned to Tom. “I want to stay with you,” she sobbed, and he smiled with tears in his eyes.
He said, “I’ll find you.”
At that, the light intensified again. Things were moving too fast for her. Things were not supposed to be this way. She turned to her mother, who was now looking wonderful in a white gown and beautifully braided hair. “I’m sorry, my sweetheart. I was just afraid for you, and I guess I ended up hurting you in the process… but you need to realize that when your heart breaks, it’s me who shatters. So I thought it best that I keep you close and out of harm’s way.”
“I know, mother. I’m just sad that I got to meet someone like Tom and you just had to watch. You had no friends all this time, no one to keep you company. How lonely you must have been. Where is your happy ending?”
Her mother smiled then, in a way Tracey vaguely remembered her doing so, back when she looked human. Back when blood flowed in her veins. “I’m looking at her.” She answered, and that happiness almost took Tracey whole. But she still had one more question. She took a deep breath, and let it out with her exhale. “And dad?”
Her mother looked angry for just a second, back a gray ghost. When she recovered, she was still frowning slightly.
“Who do you think was holding the knife that killed us?”
Thank you so much for reading the second story I ever told! It’s not the best thing ever, but I couldn’t stand changing things too much. If you would like to read something recent (and of a much higher quality), you can find my work in many places. Also, you could find me on .
Tracey is haunted by many, many issues between her and her mother. This tale is all about how they resolve things and go back to having a happy relationship. Well, it also concerns a boy with stars on his shoes, but Tracey's mum wouldn't like us mentioning that.