I always thought when I’d die I might return to haunt one of my old haunts. You know, like the Court Street Restaurant and Bar, The Madd Hatter, or perhaps Moran’s (that Irish bar where I used to savor sips of Writer’s Tears Irish Whiskey while chatting up their cute Latina waitress who was always so nice to me). But lo and behold, here I am, haunting the Hobohemian Public Library, located right across the street from Church Square Park. I mean I did visit that facility frequently over the years to borrow books. But I rarely stayed there for more than minutes at a time.
You see when alive my philosophy was to walk into the library, hear a book callout to me, pick it up, check it out, and leave. Because of the internet, most people usually did not need to spend hour after hour scouring the stacks for tomes and related reference books to do the research they were gathering information for. And then even more time paging through those reference-related leather-bound treasure troves of info within that beloved bibliotheca since most public book lenders rarely would allow those wonderful works of wisdom to be walked out of their hallowed doors.
Since libraries didn’t serve food and alcohol (especially alcohol!), why linger longer than necessary? For me, it was always in and out, wham-bam-when-I-need-another-read-you’ll-see-me-again, and with some book to enjoy in my free time. Besides, when alive I always had places to be and the occasional person or so to see. Now that’s over. And here I am haunting the Hobohemian Public Library for what I imagined would be an eternity. Well, I guess worse things could happen – like haunting an abandoned coal mine or the NYC sewer system…
Let’s get something straight right between us. To haunt does not mean just going around shouting “Boo!” and scaring people, as much as it does being a place frequented by a specified person. Look it up in a dictionary if you don’t believe me. Thus, by definition, I guess the library was one of the places I haunted while living. Let’s get something else out of the way too (since we’re now setting the record straight). I’m sure some of you wonder what killed me, so I’ll tell you. I got old, was afflicted with COPD, and one day just stopped breathing. It’s as simple as that and sorry to say, unexciting. Oh, and since dying I never met any Gods, angels, or for that matter, other ghosts.
When alive, particularly toward the end, I always felt that proverbial sand in the hourglass slipping away too quickly. There was so much I’d still wanted to do – but not enough time to do it. Now I have all the time in the world to myself. The exact reason I ended up here in the library I imagine I’ll never know. Haunting, like choosing your own parents, appears to just be something we haven’t any control over. Anyway, the library’s not that bad and I have plenty to read. Hopefully, enough to while away time inside an endless eternity. As a writer myself, I enjoyed reading the work of others. It inspired and took me on adventures without having to leave my cramped Hobohemian cracker box apartment.
Also, when alive, I led a relatively solitary existence. Nothing against most people – I just enjoyed and found comfort in my own company, or never saw the reason to be around anyone who didn’t want me around. Exceptions to that rule were a few friends and various lovers. Other than that, I could either take or leave most people, and for the majority, I chose the latter. That being said, this meant I usually stayed well away from people within the library while it was open and usually would wander through it to find and read a book after dark when it was closed. But we’ll talk about that more, later.
On the infrequent occasion when I did move about during open hours, I would normally not interact with anyone – but sometimes watch people of interest. One such person was a guy I spotted hidden behind the bookshelves-lined aisle that took a book, looked around once, and then slipped it under his jacket. This pissed me off! I cherished the concept of the public library system where free knowledge and reading pleasure were available to kings and paupers alike. Plus, why steal something someone has allowed you to borrow at no cost? It’s sacrilegiously selfish if you ask me. Okay, I admit I was angry, so I bum-rushed the dude intending to knock the book out from under his jacket to hopefully scare him prior to picking up the fallen item. Oh boy, did I ever get a surprise!
Here, please allow me to digress and share something else I now knew about being an apparition. This is just between us (the living and a ghost); being a spirit, I’m unable to make physical contact with a heart-pounding person. But I can exhibit a slight physical influence upon inanimate objects. You know, like knock a book off a shelf (hey, why would I do that – I respect books), or go “bump in the night” if I wanted to. Alright, here’s what happened on that aforementioned occasion.
Instead of running into the thief to knock the book from its hiding place I just ran right through him – kind of like running through a fog. Yet, what happened for that scant second I passed through the man I could feel the thoughts inside his mind and see through his eyes. It wasn’t a pretty sight. He’d led a tormented and difficult life and there were many disturbing aspects to his mental state. In addition, and to my surprise, I somehow knew for that moment he'd shared my thoughts, seen from my eyes, and felt my presence. With a loud scream and a sudden start that caused the stolen book free to fall on the floor, the horrified kleptomaniac panicked. He looked so scared I was now sorry for what I’d done. The robber’s face blanched a whiter shade of pale (cue in that Procul Harum hit…), and frightened, he ran from the building without the pilfered publication.
Having overheard something unusual, Ms. Marconi, a library employee came to investigate the commotion. All she found was the hardback on the floor. As I watched in silence she said to herself with a muffled chuckle, “Oh my goodness, guess this place is haunted!” before picking up the volume and relocating it again on a shelf.
Let’s now return to discuss my nighttime reading. Obviously, the problem with reading in a darkened library was, well, it was dark. Even in life, my eyesight was poor, at best. Ergo, bad lighting was always an issue for me. So once I found something to read I’d head to a more secluded area in the building and with my ability to influence inanimate objects switch on a single light, hoping no one outside the Hobohemian Public Library would notice the glow emitted from inside. Oh gosh, we just don’t always get what we hoped for.
After several weeks, the Hobohemian Police showed up and I eavesdropped on their conversation, Wow, was it ever an ear-opener! They asked one of the staff if they knew of any reason why a light was now often on during the closed hours. The interrogated replied “No”. The cops said “Then be on the lookout for anything unusual”, and the staffer replied, “Maybe we’re haunted”, and they all laughed a little.
Believing that was the end of it I resumed my nocturnal habit of poring over literature before the place opened anew. Then, a few weeks later, Ms. Marconi came to work waving a copy of our local newspaper that bore the headline: HOBOHEMIAN PUBLIC LIBRARY HAUNTED! After that, fewer and fewer patrons would visit the facility. Eventually, even a television news crew paid a visit to find out what was really up. And what followed next should’ve never happened.
Someone on staff came up with the bright idea of bringing in psychics and ghost hunters. So they did, and let me tell you, it could be hilarious to watch. In groups they’d spend the night in the library to observe, maybe burn some sage, or bring in ridiculously useless electronic devices, and run amuck like the Three Stooges. Sometimes when I’d find them more than usually annoying I’d walk through them to see what was on their minds. Most were just charlatans and clowns with ulterior motives. Some were simple con artists looking for a quick buck. But one, the very last one who’d come, was the real deal – and she was gorgeous!
Gemma, as I later discovered was her name, was tall, attractive, and rocked the most beautiful head of fiery red hair I’d ever seen. You don’t know this about me, but while alive, I had “a thing” about redheads. Gemma was also more reserved than all the others and that night she spent in the library observing unusual activity, she did so alone. Ooh, I was so smitten! But she was alive and I was dead, and if you recall the thing I told you about a ghost being unable to physically interact with those of the flesh then you’ll understand my frustration in my inability to make contact.
Standing in the dark, this vision of feminine beauty spoke in a soft, friendly voice, “Are you there? I hope I’m not disturbing you; it’s just that you fascinate me and I wish to know more about you if you don’t mind. If you do I’ll simply leave and never bother you again. But if not could you give any kind of sign or indication if there really is someone else here? I’d appreciate it so much. Please? My name is Gemma, please are you there?”
I didn’t know what to do, and I certainly didn’t want to scare this lovely creature away. She sounded so sweetly sincere, and unlike those other nighttime intruders, so real. At first, I didn’t move and did nothing. I was paralyzed with fear.
Gemma continued speaking ever so softly to me in the dark room, cajoling, encouraging, and assuring me she not only meant no harm but would respect my wishes regarding her presence. I knew I should do something or else she’d leave me forever. But I just couldn’t move an inch. So I focused all my energy at a book on the shelf nearest her and made it fall with a padded thud upon the tiled floor. I didn’t want to spook her (okay – pun intended) but was at my otherworldly wits’ end.
Well, gob-smack me and call me Susan (of course that’s not my name!). For, as opposed to being afraid in the dimly lit library I could see a friendly smile spread across her luscious lips like the sun peeking out after the darkest storm, and said two words, “Thank you!” This was followed by her suggestion that we continue communication by making a single sound if I meant “yes”, and twice if “no”. So what else could I do, but acquiesce to this good-looking (heck no – great looking!) visitor’s request by refocusing my energy on a nearby chair, slightly tilting it back, and letting it tap the tiles a single time?
Again Gemma thanked me and continued asking questions which I did my best to respond to, inquiring if I meant anyone harm I responded by sounding out my answer with a double tap. For an hour or more, we continued the conversation in this tippy-tappy fashion, gradually getting to know one another. Now feeling more relaxed, the attractive woman drew up a chair to sit close by to where I was. She told me how happy she was to meet a new friend and only wished there was a way we could communicate with more than a “yes or no”. There was so much I wanted her to know, as well as know about her. Then I had an idea…
What I’ll tell you next may make you question my intelligence. But in a moment of what many may consider a lack of judgment, I decided to ever so briefly pass through Gemma the way I’d done with some of the others I’d “bumped into”. The difference being was this time instead of running and rushing through her I slowly wrapped my arms around her, as in a warm hug, as we passed through one another. Melding like molten metals we became one. Our thoughts, feeling, and even dreams were shared. She was kind, warm, so caring, empathetic, and genuine. With a loud gasp of her breath, Gemma fell silent. Then in that momentary instance, and thanks to a tiny sliver of light coming in through the library window courtesy of a big full moon burning brightly outside, I saw tears now trickle from her glistening green eyes and down her wonderful cheeks.
“Thank you, thank you for taking this chance with me. Oh my God, that felt so fabulous. Can we do it again?”
Once more, how could I say “No!”? Time after time, all night long, we coupled in that fashion with each other until the library reopened the next morning; discovering new details about the other as we taught ourselves to dance this spiritual, soul-mingling pas de deux. It was orgasmic! I was sad to think it would be over so soon and longed to tell her how I didn’t want this to ever end.
“Don’t worry,” Gemma whispered as we heard the key turn to open the main door at the library’s entrance the next morning, “I have an idea”. Ms. Marconi was the first of the staff to arrive that day.
“So, Gemma, do we have some kind of evil spirit haunting us here?”
“You definitely have a ghost, but he’s not evil. In fact, he’s very kind and intends no harm. He has no way of leaving and doesn’t know why he’s bound here except maybe it’s because he was a local writer during his life who borrowed books from your library and loves to read. Please, just let his spirit stay and I’m sure he’ll promise to do his best to remain out of your way when you’re around.”
While I had never said those words to her, I had thought of them while inside of Gemma when we each passed through ourselves last night to become one. She’d not only spoken on my behalf but said it better than I ever could - and damn – I was a writer. But it was more than mere words. This act of assisting me in expressing myself was akin to renewed embodiment of my thoughts once again here on this mortal coil. If I still had one life to give - I’d give it up for this stunning female.
“Alright,” Marconi murmured “as long as he behaves himself he stays. I guess like all the others you’re going to want something for this service. But as I told you when you asked if you could investigate, we have an ever shrinking budget and there’s no provision for exorcisms. The best I could probably do is treat you to coffee and doughnuts.”
“My reward was doing this – not money. But there is one thing I would like, if possible.”
“What’s that?” Ms. Marconi inquired with a hint of suspicion in her voice.
“I’d like to have a library card.”
“I plan to come back here. Again, and again, if I may”.
“Sweetheart,” the matronly librarian cooed, “it’s a public library, so card or no card, you’re always welcomed here.”
Oh my God, I think there was a ghost of a chance - we could be in love!
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Hi Stevie, I loved the direct discourse it added to the intimacy, and the reader feels captured with your character's fate, drawing us in. I'm happy he won't be alone at least for a part of eternity!
Sonia, thanks for reading, enjoying, and commenting. It is wonderful to have some who "gets you" - even if you're opposites (i.e.: living vs dead).
Poor Ghost. I wonder what he'll do when Gemma becomes a spirit and moves on?
Joanne, I believe anyone who's ever truly been in love would tell you that to love you must open yourself to the possibilities of being vulnerable, at risk, and even hurt. It's pretty much a package deal...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Back again to engage with all my fellow writers and readers. Only had a few hours to create this today, so if you spot any editing faux paus please let me know. Oh, and by the way - BOO!
Welcome back, Stevie B! :)
Thank you, Wendy.
A great take on haunting :) I'm not surprised only one out of however many ghost hunters was legitimate. The romance is sweet, if unusual. But it makes sense that a ghost would seek a deeper human connection. After all, why do spirits linger, if not because something is left unfinished, something incomplete? And then why does a flesh and blood woman concede to such an arrangement? Is she running from something in life? Is it the high of a thrilling new experience? Perhaps. But less cynically, it sounds like they shared a deep kind of min...
Thank you, Michal. Oft times humans are the least predictable living creatures. An underlying thought I hoped to convey with this otherworldly tale is that when finding love we really need to open up ourselves up entirely to one another and not only walk in the other's shoes; but metaphorically walk through one another.
Good to read another one from you, Stevie. I like the romance of it. Sweet touch.
Thank you, Graham. Love does indeed add sweetness to our lives.
I love this paranormal romance. I’m humming whiter shade of pale now… thanks! that will be stuck in my head now! I loved the pun in your last line too.
Thank you, Michelle. Love is love, for better or for worse, till breath [sic] do us part - and into the thereafter...
How much more satisfying an afterlife can a soul have than to find the company of a caring red head who wants to commune with a benevolent, love-hungry ghost? This is definitely some heartfelt storytelling, Stevie, one where you mesh fantasy and reality to create a touching effect. I hope the great beyond is as full of second chances as you depict it here.
Thank you, Mike. I often wonder when we fade away; where does it all go?
Stevie, I enjoyed the story. It had all the elements needed for a short story and held the reader's interest throughout. Gemma is a believable character. The ghost is interesting. He haunts the Library but needs light to read by. Except he reads in plain view of the light he uses at night. That's Hollywood!. Now feeling now more relaxed now, the attractive woman drew up a chair to sit - the former sentence has a lot of nows in it. LF6
Thank you, especially for catching that unintentional repitition!
Great ghost story. Loved Gemma.
Thank you, Ian, Gemma was truly a gem (ouch!).
Stevie, your works are always a hit. This one is in the class of Its own.
Thank you, Philip. While I've given up second guessing the legitimacy of these Reedsy competitions (especially after seeing their "Prompted Anthology" magazine list of judges and recognizing a few names that belong to those of whom have regularly won these Reedsy awards - hmm...) it's the wonderful opportunity it affords to interact with fellow readers and writes.
Yeah, I totally understand where you stand. You are not alone there.
Hi, Stevie, Cool story, and nicely written. Just wondering, though, if the ghost had the ability to move inanimate objects like chairs, why couldn't he pick up a pen and write Gemma a note?
Bruce, thanks for reading, enjoying, and commenting. Interesting question. Now, my question for you is if you had the choice of jotting down a little note to someone whom you felt an attraction for or being "inside" and a part of them, then which would you choose? Just asking for a friend...
Good question. I would go inside of course. But I would bring a little toy with me (as a gift).
Gifts are good.
That was beautiful. I like ghost stories, especially ones that come from the ghosts' point of view and this fit the bill wonderfully! Thank you for sharing this!
Thank you, David. Since the prompt subject was "opposites" I felt the juxtaposition of the living and dead fit the bill perfectly and help spirit the story into some unexpected directions.