by Dani Atkinson
***Editor's Note: Issues of Self-Harm in the Adult Story that Follows***
It's a Ghost Night tonight. The weather reports all agreed for a change, and nobody really needed the warning. The birds aren't flying. They're perched low on fence posts and bushes, grumpy and silent, acting as if it's pouring too hard to fly even though skies are calm. Anybody who pays attention knows that means Ghost Night, long before the phone apps start beeping warnings.
The astral meteorologists' monitoring systems are at least good for narrowing down the starting time: they're pretty sure the dead will begin passing through no sooner than nine-forty-five, so they want everyone to have the doors locked and blackout shutters up at nine-fifteen to be on the safe side. Most will have their shutters up the instant the sun sets, though. Except for a bunch of idiots who'll forget, or miss all warnings, or worse: who'll hear, but won't be able to resist peeking, just once.
Then there's the handful who actually know what we're doing.
I walk down my building's hallway with the groceries and supplies that Maria told me to get. I think the Silversteins next door are wrestling their shutters into place; the walls are thin in here, and I hear banging and cursing. I hear the television from Mrs. Ando on the other side playing far too loud. Mrs. Ando keeps her shutters up full time now, since she's gotten too stiff to move them herself. I've offered to help, but she doesn't like being dependent on anyone else. Which is fair enough. I've offered to help her other ways, teach her, but she hates that idea. It is technically illegal. She didn't report me, bless her, but she does turn the TV up extra loud every Ghost Night now. To drown out what she thinks she might hear.
I didn't have the nerve to try it before, or until last week, the need. But I suppose there's a chance her precaution might be needed at last. Maybe I should tell her to turn her TV up higher.