January 23, 2013
The first day, the ghost appeared over Ethan and Mabel’s bed and dribbled a viscous strand of red green ichor across the sheets. Mabel’s screaming woke Ethan, who saw the stains and groggily asked if Aunt Flo came early.
The next day, Mabel walked in on the ghost in the shower. It was a girl, maybe a teenager, with cascading raven hair framing a dead expression. Recesses where eyes should have been stretched forever to darkness, gore leaking from face holes. Mabel screamed while the girl grasped a razor and shaved her legs, shearing layers of necrotic skin to expose rot and bone beneath. Where she disappeared, a stain coalesced into a portrait of Ronald Reagan eating a baby’s heart.
The day after, she sat in the yard’s swing. Her back to Ethan, when he circled around she poured a stream of cicadas from her gullet. The bugs tried to claw down his throat, but a very specific fraternity initiation had given Ethan a pronounced gag reflex.
When Mabel entered her kitchen for a midnight snack and the ghost was assembling a turkey sandwich, eye met eyehole. The specter shifted uncomfortably.
“It’s cool I used your cold cuts, right?” she asked, not waiting for an answer before exploding into a shower of dead flies and ectoplasm.
Ouija was their refuge. Mabel recovered her childhood board from the attic and told of sleepovers where her friends attempted to contact spirits of handsome serial killers.
“Was Sherry there?”
“Yes, Sherry was there. We’re friends, always just friends.”
“Friends with your pus-”
The piece moved before they could grip it, an invisible nudge towards O. Their hands met on the plastic and it drifted, to P this time. Then H, then E, then L, then I.
“Opheli? The hell’s an Opheli?” Ethan asked. A third hand gripped the piece and it moved to A.
“It’s Ophelia,” said the ghost. Ethan and Mabel reacted with matching girlish screams.
“Is there anything else, or can I get back to my limbo state between planes of reality?”
“Anything… anything else?” Ethan stammered.
“Yeah, you called the house meeting.”
“You don’t belong here!” Mabel screamed, “You belong in hell!”
“That’s hurtful. Is this about the cold cuts? They weren’t that good anyway.”
“Why are you doing this to us?”
“Doing what? I’m just trying to live. Well, not live. But you get what I mean.”
“You’re not going to kill us?”
“If I wanted to kill you, your entrails would have violently exited your orifices days ago.”
“You can do that?”
“I think. Want to see?”
The couple held each other in horror.
“Joking! Joking. I don’t even know if I can do that. Bet I could if I tried hard enough. Dad always said I could do whatever I put my mind to. At least I think he did. Everything before my grisly murder is hazy.”
“Do you, uh, need help solving it to move on?”
“Nah, it was my boyfriend. He’s going to commit suicide because of the overwhelming guilt in March. Which is a bit of a blow to my self-esteem, considering somebody can live with the guilt of murdering me for over two months.”
“If I murdered you, I’d kill myself immediately,” Ethan told his wife in an attempt at romantic talk. Mabel grimaced her grimmest grimace.
“Can you… pay rent?” she asked.
“Sure,” Ophelia said, “I’ll use my hidden cache of ghost gold.”
“You have gold?”
“No! I’m a ghost. I don’t care about earthly currencies. Can I go? I’m going to run inside the walls. There might be a weird sulfur smell, just telling you that straight ahead.”
Ethan nodded. The dead girl evaporated and disconcerting bumping noises emanated from the house’s inner cavities.
For the next few weeks, the couple was plagued by the phantom presence. Bars of soap were mired in ectoplasm, toothbrushes rotted, their bristles black. Food would disappear only to reappear covered in mold and maggots in odd corners. Furniture rearranged in the night, leading to Ethan taking a Dick Van Dykeian tumble over an ottoman and suffering a very non-Dykeian broken tibia. When Mabel found glowing muck in her box of back massagers, she’d had enough.
“Why do you have so many?” Ethan asked, “And why are they all black?”
“It doesn’t matter! We have to fix this! I’m calling Father Esposito.”
They made the arrangements, checking into a motel in the meantime. Ethan was asking if he could go in the pool when the call came.
“Are you aware that Christian doctrine states those who lead good lives will be shepherded to heaven by a litany of angels?”
There was a bang followed by a thump.
When Ethan and Mabel returned home, Ophelia waited on the couch stroking a dried cat skeleton.
“What was the priest about? I had to show him the unbearable truth behind the meagerness of human existence. Do you guys not want me here?”
“You’re… you’re not the best roommate,” Ethan said.
“You’re a miserable nightmare creature and we live in constant fear!” Mabel yelled.
“Yeah, what she said,” her husband agreed.
“Whoa, lots of honesty there. I’m not going to inflict myself on you guys. I thought we had a good thing going. But if this is how you want it, then this is how you want it.”
“This IS how we want it!” Mabel screamed.
“Fine! Goodbye forever. Just remember, nature abhors a vacuum.”
The girl melted into nothingness.
Two months later, the pair lay in bed.
“What do you think she meant, honey?” Ethan asked.
“What who meant?”
“Ophelia, with the vacuum thing.”
“Give it a rest. She was dead, the dead don’t make sense.”
There was a clang in the bathroom. Ethan looked to his wife, who gave him an expectant look back. He slowly opened the door, and before him stood a grotesque beast whose face resembled a badly cauterized gunshot wound.
“Hey, roomie. Do you know Ophelia? We used to date.”