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Aunt Betty's Ghost

Aunt Betty knew she saw dead people. She just never brought it up.

Betty knew it, she saw dead people. They walked around just like ordinary people. Unlike that movie cliché, they did, too, know that they were dead. Like that movie cliché, they sure liked it when somebody saw them.

Betty caught on to that early, but she stopped trying to sell it to anybody else. In Nacogdoches, they were bankers, maybe some of them, loan sharks. They came in hot and heavy after Timothy died. Hoards of them, all zombies, always looking for money-or-flesh, money-or-flesh. They stalked her with horror tales of debt and imprisonment . . . or dismemberment. “This is Texas,” they said, “just try to stop us.”

She would sell something she owned, pay them off, sell something else, pay them. They went away and came back around, month after month, drooling and demanding. They never bothered a soul except for Betty. The psychiatrist always listened, smiled, and wrote her another script. Up to how many now? Not counting, not counting. It made the monsters disappear for a few sweet hours, so Betty never counted. Maybe a new drug would fight with something she already took? Did Thorazine really go okay with codeine? She kept making mental notes to bring it up, and forgetting.

“Never mind, Betty,” she chided, “never mind.” The day she lost the house to the bank was the day she finally ran out of things to sell. Nothing to do after that but throw them the house key and run. Where? Here, the house of her niece. No zombie stalkers here. (Wait, but there was one at the train station.) Well, at least they hadn’t followed her this far. But “safe” was not what she felt in these sleeping quarters of hers. The lights — okay, they were party stringers — in the “room” — well, it was technically a converted pantry — still swung drunkenly overhead, propelled by a sudden draft from the air vent. She shut her eyes against their shadow show, counted to ten like the Dr. said. She had not seen anything, she repeated to herself. Breathe, Betty, breathe.

Light, shadow, ghost

That tall mirror on the right still had something in it

She opened her eyes. That tall mirror on the right still had something in it; something more than the filmy curtains that danced in the air conditioning draft.

“Here we go again,” she intoned with dread. Like a housewife stalking a fly, she turned ever so slowly to her right. Making the turn by fractions of a degree, she finally froze in place. Then, she completed a perfect right-face, snapping to lock eyes with the mirror before the — whatever it was — could leave.

A face stared back at her through light and shadow, barely visible in haze. She could make out the eyes this time.


Read “The Poltergeist and Aunt Betty,” along with 11 other great paranormal stories, in Beyond the Wail: 12 Grave Tales of Love and Loss, edited by J. Aurel Guay and brought to you by Xchyler Publishing.

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