Pauline was sitting on her couch with her legs stretched out before her. She was drinking a cosmopolitan and seemed to be enjoying it.
“It’s heavenly,” she said. “By the way, I hid the scarf in the church today.”
“Thank you, Pauline.”
“Thank your daughter, too. She gave up her scarf for you.”
“I love her more than you know.”
“Oh, I know,” she said.
“Yeah, I suppose you would know.”
In death, I had known only the apartment, known only its mirrored hallways, its many residents, its empty storerooms, and the forgotten nooks and crannies that most residents didn’t know—or cared to know—existed.
This was my home. This was my haunt in more ways than one. It was all I’d known in death. And sometimes, this was all I remembered, too.
Pauline was polite enough to let me work through my anxiety without comment. I sat on the coffee table across from her. The sitting, of course, was just an illusion. I simply made the motion of sitting. I am, after all, nothing but energy.
“You are more than energy,” she said.
“How much of me can you really see?” I asked.
“I can see enough of you. The rest I fill in with my imagination.”
She then got up from the couch and sat next to me on the coffee table. I could sense the heat coming off her body but not really feel it. She opened her hand and held it out to me.
“Take it,” she said.
I did my best to hold on to hers, and we sat there like that in silence, holding hands. Outside, a dog barked. Inside, a medium and a ghost were holding hands. She turned her face and I saw that there were tears on her cheeks. I put my arm around her and she unconsciously shivered. The dog continued barking and we continued hugging and holding hands.
It was late and she was asleep.
Her aura had shifted toward me, but this time, I kept my distance.
Let her sleep, I thought. Leave her be.
A very small part of me realized that I had been selfish by coming in here and disturbing her sleep, causing her unknown psychosomatic problems in her waking life.
She rolled over now, and her angelic face angled toward me. Her eyelids fluttered. Her aura, now a soft pink with occasional flashes of red, snapped at me like tiny, fiery bullwhips.
Do it now. Before she wakes.
As Pauline had instructed, I closed my eyes, which, somehow, I could still do. I held the image of the red scarf in my thoughts. I visualized it as clearly as I could. I saw myself touching it, holding it. I visualized it as I used to wear it: around my neck, flapping in the wind behind me as if I were a WWI fighter pilot.
Focus on the scarf.
And so I did. I saw it around my neck, could feel it in my hands, remembered the cozy warmth it had provided me in days past, days I could no longer remember.
In my mind’s eye, the scarf seemed to solidify, seemed to coalesce into something real, something more than thought, something more than memory.
When I opened my eyes again, there it was.
In my hands.
The red scarf.
In shock, I looked up and immediately felt a wave of dizziness. I was not expecting to see what I saw before me. I had been expecting to see my daughter’s room.
Instead, I found myself standing in a cavernous church cathedral.
I released my hold on the scarf, which had been tucked deep into the cushions of a church pew.
I took in my surroundings. I was in a church nave. And not just any nave. It was the church of my youth, where I had gone to school for so many years of my life, where, among other things, my fear of God had been born.
A hell of a fear.
It was the middle of the night, and the church was empty—and creepy. Even for a ghost. I drifted out to the center aisle and stopped there. The ceiling was high and arched and vast. Massive stained-glass windows circled the cavernous room, each depicting popular scenes from the Bible: David leading his flock, Jesus breaking bread, Moses and his commandments, Enoch riding a fiery dervish into the heavens.
At the back of the church, hanging high above the sanctuary, was a bloody, lifelike statue of Jesus Christ suspended from the cross. Too lifelike. The sculptor had gone a little crazy with the blood, which poured from many open wounds. Anyone looking up at the statue couldn’t help but be powerfully struck by Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
I remembered the statue. It had given me nightmares when I was a child. I looked away from it now.
I knew the building had once been an old monastery, and I knew the monastery had a rich cultural history—and a bloody one, too. There had, in fact, been many tragedies. None of which I could remember now—that is, except this latest one.
The murder of my music teacher.
Who would kill her? And why kill her here, at school, within this very cathedral? According to the newspaper article—which Pauline had located and recently read to me twice—the police had found no motive and very few clues.
I spied the piano from across the vast cathedral, gleaming dully, sitting high on the raised dais.
The very piano she had been strangled on.
I drifted toward it, down the center aisle. I recalled that the church was popular for weddings. Down this very aisle many brides had walked arm in arm with their fathers before being given away. I would never give my daughter away. Ever.
As a crushing sadness threatened to overcome me, I continued down the center aisle toward the raised stage. And as I did so, I realized I wasn’t alone.
Here be ghosts.
I was about halfway down the aisle, approaching the raised sanctuary, with its altar and lectern and pulpit, when a figure stepped out from behind a velvet curtain to my right.
Or, rather, stepped through the curtain.
It was a child, and he stood there watching me, one finger raised to his lip. He was glowing softly. If not for the fact that I could see through him or that he was pulsating with his own inner luminosity, he would have looked like any other precocious child.
Granted, one had to ignore the mortal wound in his head and the transparent blood that stained his freshly ironed dress shirt. Except, I couldn’t ignore it.
Ghosts and color don’t exactly mix, and so the bloodstain on his shirt was really just a splash of silver, which spread all the way down to his navel. Sweet Jesus…What had happened to him? I knew my own ethereal body was covered in similar splotches—thirteen gunshot wounds, to be exact.
The child watched me some more, rising and falling gently as if adrift on some unseen, unfelt current.
I moved closer to him.