Ghostly Jams

Ghostly Jams

I’ve done serial stories on my blog before, but I always feel like I spread them out too much. I really enjoyed writing this series in quick succession so I think I’m going to do more projects like this in the future. Without further adieu, here’s the second installment of The Light in the Bathroom Doesn’t Always Blink.
. . .

Now that I know my laundry room is haunted, I’ve spent some time sprucing up the place. I put some pictures on the walls and some geeky figures on the shelves. You know the ones, with the tiny bodies and big heads that bob. Every now and then I see a few of them nodding and wonder if it was the work of my invisible companion. But mostly, I try not to think about it too hard.

My spectral friend assures me that the rest of the house is safe. Or at least, that whoever is haunting my laundry room doesn’t have free reign of the house. If there’s something else in one of the other rooms, it’s quiet and I’m content to keep it that way. One haunting is more than enough to deal with.

We haven’t gotten beyond yes or no questions yet, but I did ask about their relationship with the previous owner. Apparently it wasn’t so great. I’m not sure how one terrorizes a ghost, but apparently the guy we bought this house from managed to do it. Maybe he just boarded up the room and never let anyone come in. Or maybe he tore everything out and redid it all. I haven’t asked for details.

Mostly we keep it to trying to determine which Meat Loaf album we should listen to next. Or how many times we should let Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” play on repeat before we move on to the next track. I spread the laundry throughout the week now and I keep up a running dialogue whenever I’m in there, even if my company can only answer with the occasional flicker of the lights. I’ve even started popping in while I’m cooking. The laundry room is just across the hallway from the kitchen, after all.

If my husband thinks it’s weird that I talk to the laundry room wall, he hasn’t said anything. Granted, weird has been a part of our marriage package for a long time now. Frolicking naked in the woods out back was one of the major draws of this house. Every now and then, when he comes home in the middle of one of my rambling, one-sided conversations, he’ll pause in the doorway and look at me as though he’s trying to figure out what planet I came from. There’s always a moment of embarrassed panic, where I look at him like a deer in the headlights. But then I remember that I’ve never given a shit how weird other people think I am and a slow grin creeps over my lips. He laughs, shakes his head and walks away while I pick up right where I left off.

I haven’t asked any of the questions I really want to ask. Like how this person – whoever they are – ended up trapped in my laundry room. I haven’t asked if it’s because they somehow died in here, or if their gravestone is buried under the corner of the foundation. Part of me is curious, but the rest of me doesn’t really want to know. Plus it seems like it would be rude, you know? To start prying about the details of someone’s death. I keep trying to figure out a way to ask how old this ghost is, what year they were born in, maybe, but in some ways it’s easier to pretend the thing I talk to was never really a person. That it’s just some ball of residual energy that has somehow absorbed a consciousness over the years.

Does that make me a ghost racist?

I’m not trying to be horrible. But civilized and intellectual though we may be in our modern world, there are still parts of our brain wired to function on pure, wild instinct. And those sections of my brain can’t really handle the idea that there’s some unknown, invisible force lurking in a corner of my house. Edging to close to tackling those concepts triggers the same fight or flight response that first drove me up the stairs and nearly under my bed when I realized the flickering light wasn’t just a weird coincidence.

So here we are with a fresh load of laundry to be pulled out of the dryer, my old stereo perched on the corner of the sink, the music turned up loud enough it echoes in the small space.

I imagine my mystical companion as a woman about my age, which explains why we have similar interests. Don’t question it; sometimes it’s just easier to accept the answer which makes the most sense. I imagine her bobbing her head in time with the music, just like I do. We get a few hip sways in there. She snaps her fingers because mine are too busy wrangling the towels into submission. I look the wall while I sing my favorite portions of the song and I imagine her looking back at me, grinning while she does the same. One of my geek figures starts bobbing its head in what I like to imagine is a pleased fashion.

Whatever this is, it works for us.

Still, that doesn’t stop me from sighing as the music winds down between tracks. I gaze somewhat wistfully toward the wall, where I imagine my companion perched on the counter of the sink, hovering over the stereo to see what track will play next, and murmur, “I wish there was some way I could get to know you better.”

The opening chord of the next track plays, but after the first few seconds it twists and warps, as though the CD has become irreparably scratched. This doesn’t initially alarm me; I’ve listened to my fair share of scratched CDs. They’re a technology that seems to be on the way out. It’s the weird, twisted scratch of a voice that makes me jump, especially when I realize it’s forming words that aren’t the opening lines of this song.

“Me… too.”

I’m pretty sure my back is plastered against the wall. I’m pretty sure my eyes are wide and round as full moons. I’m pretty sure my jaw is hanging open because I can feel my tongue turning to sandpaper.

What the hell just happened?

I’m staring at a space, an empty space beside the stereo, which is now playing the proper track like nothing ever went wrong. I’m pretty sure I’m numb with shock, pretty sure I’d trip and fall on my face if I tried to run from the room. And besides, if my imaginary scenario is anywhere near correct, my ghost friend is between me and the door anyway. I don’t want to run through her. That would be weird and creepy.

It takes a couple of seconds, but I finally manage to make my jaw work. “Did you… Did you do that?” I peel one hand away from the wall and make a vague motion toward the stereo.

The middle light above the sink flickers twice rapidly, as though my ghostly friend is as freaked out by what just happened as I am. It’s strangely comforting, enough to allow me to step away from the wall and straighten my shirt so that I’ve regained some small manner of dignity.

I take a deep, shaky breath before I feel ready to try speaking again. “I just… I had no idea you could do that.”

The song, now mid-track, hisses and jumps. The singer’s voice fades then comes back amid a static buzz. “Me… either.”

I manage to catch myself on the side of the dryer this time. Not a fluke. Is nothing in this house ever a fluke?

But this time, instead of terrified, I’m inspired. My eyes light up and a grin splits my lips. Light bulb!

“Hey wait a sec, I saw this in a movie once. I mean it was a robot and not a ghost but, it should still work.” I jab the stop button and switch the stereo from CD mode to radio. It’s been years since I listened to the radio so it takes a few seconds to find a station that actually produces sound aside from crackling or a low, monotone hum.

“I don’t know how this is actually supposed to work,” I admit. “At least not outside of movie magic. I guess, in theory, you could scan the stations and get a wider pool of words to pick from?”

I look up, as if trying to give my ghost friend a nervous but expectant look, only to see my face reflected in the bathroom mirror. I must be certifiably insane at this point, but straightjackets and padded rooms are the farthest things from my mind.

If this works, we’ll have a method of communication that isn’t limited by a single blinking light and a few bobble-head dolls (which I’ve been trying to figure out how to arrange as an alphabet).

I can almost hear you screaming Ouija board at me, but those things are seriously bad news so they were never on the table to start with.

The radio announcer’s voice warps and twists, becoming incomprehensible. There’s a rapid murmur from the speakers, like the fast-forward sound they use in movies to indicate that something is skipping forward or back. Until now, I always just thought it was a made up sound that never happened in real life. Yes, I’m the kind of weirdo who thinks about that stuff at times like this.

“I suppose…” a voice murmurs before the sound plays a few seconds longer, “I can… give it a… try.”

Silent exclamation hangs in the air between us, both of us too stunned to react to this turn of fortune. My brain instantly jumps to how much money we could make if we filmed this and presented it as proof that supernatural things exist.

Don’t judge me. Your brain would go to the exact same place in my position.

Besides, the other half of my brain is quick to slap that idea down, reminding me how terrifying the prospect of true magic is to most human beings and how much time and energy they would pour into not only disproving my evidence but making my life miserable. It wouldn’t be enough to be wrong, I’d have to be some kind of con artist who was raised wrong and became hell bent on hurting the world, or something.

So this will just have to remain between us. Me and the stranger whose name I can now ask.

It doesn’t take long to get used to the weird, stilted forming of statements that flows from my old stereo’s speakers. And the more my ghost friend plays with the radio dial, the better she – yes she is a she! – gets at forming coherent speech.

But by now I’m pretty sure I have, indeed, started something.

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