In Search of a Good Séance, by Jenny Bohatch
Being dead gets boring after awhile. Every day there are new former people to meet, but most of them really embrace that “Rest in Peace” epitaph. I’d always hoped for something more exciting in the afterlife, probably because I didn’t have many thrills while I was alive. I do, however, enjoy some of the freedom that comes with haunting. I can go anywhere without worrying about a dress code, my compatibly with the people around me, or if I need a date. But lurking around by myself isn’t so different from how I spent my life. I was a good haunt even before I was dead.
Most other ghosts are content to leave the living world behind. That’s what they say at least, until a spouse or child tries to contact them. Then they can’t flicker enough lights or blow through enough wind chimes trying to get their loved one’s attention. Sometimes I think these ghosts are hypocrites, but I usually try to be sympathetic. I’d like more contact myself, but interpersonal skills were never my strength, even when there weren’t two different planes of existence to contend with. I left a few friends behind, but they aren’t likely to contact me. They’re mostly atheists except for one, who wouldn’t dare try to talk to me for fear of landing herself in hell.
I tried haunting my old house, but terrifying people isn’t what I’m after. I’m not one of those tormented ghosts who need to pop up behind people in their bathroom mirrors just for attention. There are plenty of people who would be willing participants in a haunting, so I try to make contact with them. Over time, I’ve learned to select the séances I attend with care in order to avoid my own exploitation.
Firstly, I’m not a party trick, so most slumber parties are out. I will not levitate a goldfish or make your little brother’s bed rise off the floor. There are more serious séances, but these practitioners are usually looking for a specific spirit they knew in life. I’ve considered blowing a few papers around and creating a bit of mist just to provide some encouragement, but I don’t want to manipulate. It’s best to find people who want to have fun, but aren’t looking to involve you in their machinations.
People like the girls with the Ouija board in this house I’m floating past. It’s just the two of them, which limits nefarious plots, and they’re wearing brightly colored pajama sets, suggesting that I probably won’t be asked to contact Satan. Then again, it’s always uncomfortable to find myself in these situations when I’m unable to pass on messages from deceased pets and grandparents. And on second glance, they might be at that age where they think it would be fun to ask if I could reanimate the corpses in the nearest graveyard. A bit of eavesdropping usually lets me know what I’m in for.
The girl with green socks is not enthused about an impromptu séance, and it’s causing the girl with a purple hair tie some frustration.
“You can’t just use those Ouija boards from the toy store. You have to do it the real way,” says Green Socks.
“What’s the real way?”
“You have to get a medium who can make her eyes roll into the back of her head or get crystals and burn herbs or something. We’re not even allowed to have candles. At least get a Ouija board that wasn’t made in a factory.”
“But this is an old Ouija board. It used to be my mom’s. It’s almost, like, forty years old!”
So they’re definitely young. After a bit more arguing about the proper way to contact spirits, Purple Hair Tie is left alone in the room. As Green Socks leaves, she yells, “No self-respecting ghost is going to respond to that thing!”
Sometimes a slight deficit in self-respect can be advantageous. Too many candles and theatrics make me nervous anyway.
“I can’t do a Ouija board by myself!” Purple Hair Tie calls back, but her companion doesn’t return.
It really doesn’t matter. I could move the planchette by myself if I wanted to, but I was never a great conversationalist, so why start now when it would take twice as much effort? Purple Hair Tie lies down on the floor and pushes the Ouija box away with her foot. She’s pouting, and I can’t gauge how upset she is over the argument that just occurred. I’m having second thoughts about this haunting, and if I still had lips, I’d probably look pouty too. My plans for the evening have also been ruined.
I hang around for a while, and Purple Hair Tie finally asks, “If something’s out there, can you give us a sign?”
I doubt she actually thinks there’s a ghost spending the evening outside her window. She just doesn’t know how to conduct a solo séance. To be honest, even though I wasn’t put off by the mass-produced Ouija board, her question does feel a bit lazy. I really don’t need the candles, but I’d prefer something more thoughtful than a question asked out of pure boredom. Since it’s getting late, I decide not to be picky.
Showmanship is not among my talents, but if I think too long, the girl won’t realize I’m producing the sign she asked for. Sometimes I wish people would be more specific in their requests. At a loss, I go with a traditional three knocks on the window. She whips her head to the side, staring in my direction. I knock three more times to get my point across. She’s now standing in the middle of the room, looking from the door to the window, trying to decide if she should run or investigate. It’s my hope that I can do this without frightening people someday, but she did ask for a sign.
The girl kneels in front of the window, opens it a couple inches, and takes a tentative look outside. She doesn’t see anything, of course. No white sheets or glowing specters here. I’m not that much of a cliché. She runs out of the room, laughing nervously. When I hear both girls talking in a distant room of the house, I flicker the lights for good measure. This prompts some screaming then more laughs.
For now, they’re giddy because they know we’ve contacted each other, but in my experience, people aren’t convinced for very long. They’ll think it was their imagination or a coincidence, and the next time I knock, they’ll just ignore me. But this is a relatively amusing evening in my afterlife.
Anyway, it can be worse when the people I haunt do believe. One day I’ll show up to find them crying and pouring circles of salt around themselves to keep me away. That’s when I know it’s time to stop. Not because salt actually has any control over ghosts, but because it’s mean to haunt people into insanity.
As a superstitious child, Jenny Bohatch once asked for a sign from the spirits while using a Ouija board. Her Magic 8-Ball promptly fell off a nearby bookcase.
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Tags: Jeny Bohatch, spirits, teens