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Cookies for Ghost

Emily McCosh resides in California with her family and two monster dogs. She is a graphic design student by day and writer of strange things at all times. She has a soft spot for cheesy action movies, and her characters quite often need to learn some manners. Her fiction is published at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Galaxy's Edge, and Daily Science Fiction, among others. Find her online at oceansinthesky.com and on FB and Twitter as @wordweaveremily.

Clara faces the attic door, armed with a picnic basket and shielded with blankets. She drags a stool into the hallway so her eight-year-old arms can ease the folding-ladder out inch by inch without squeaking. The clock on the wall says 1 am, far past her bedtime, but this is the only chance she'll get. Daytime is no use.
The attic is dank, smelling of mold and years-old dust. Her parents tried to stick a dehumidifier up here once--it didn't last long. Her father found it taken apart screw by screw and piece by piece, deposited beside the attic's trapdoor. Opening the little window in the far wall only succeeded in it slamming shut later that night. A sliver of moonlight reaches through it. There's the patter of little feet along the grimy wood. Clara hopes they're mice--rats are the worst.
Boxes line the walls, an old armoire looming like a giant opposite the door, leaving space in the center for Clara to spread a blanket and unpack her basket. Out comes the battery-driven lamp her uncle gave her for Christmas, lending a little light to the dark corners. Then the first-aid kit from the bathroom. Tapping starts at the door of the armoire, long pale fingers like candlesticks appearing around the edge. Clara glances down the hallway, where the safety of her room waits, but she can't leave. She likes this new place they've moved to. Her school is nice, and her new friends live down the street. Her room is like a little fortress when she hangs blankets and lights over her bed and chairs, and a forest runs for miles and miles behind the house, unexplored territory for her and her brother.
But no one can get rid of the girl in the attic, so Clara's parents say they're going to move.
That won't happen if Clara can help it. She turns her back on the bright hallway and sits cross-legged on the blanket.
The attic girl pulls herself free of the wardrobe bit by bit, her limbs hitting the floor with a sound like crumpled paper. She's spent nights howling at nothing and terrifying anyone who tries to come near. Clara herself has only seen her once, peeking out the attic trapdoor at her and her brother, yowling when they finally caught sight of her.
The attic ghost crawls towards her like a snake, further tearing her off-white nightdress on the splintery floor. Her dark eyes glare at Clara, fingers reaching, mouth opening with a building howl. Clara winces at the noise sending chills down her spine but plants her hands on her hips.
"Knock that off!" She assumes her best adult voice. "Don't you know yelling at people is rude?"
The screeching stops. Clara listens, but can't hear her parents coming to investigate. It's such a common occurrence no one even gets out of bed anymore.
Ghost blinks at her, ceasing her slow advance. She's drooling a little, and Clara tries not to notice. Not that it bothers her but staring seems rude. Unpacking the picnic basket, Clara pulls out a carton of milk and some glasses, and the cookies her mother made for tomorrow's school field trip. This seems like a better cause. Ghosts should like chocolate chip, and it's a good excuse for Clara to have a snack in the middle of the night.
She pours a glass of milk and drops in a cookie, setting it out where Ghost can crawl to it.
"Do you want a cookie?"
It's a while before she moves again, but Ghost pushes off her belly and onto her knees, staring sideways at Clara, head resting on her shoulder like she can't hold it up correctly. Cuts bleed from her cheeks and forehead. It renders her a truly horrible sight, but Clara wouldn't want people to fear cuts on her face, so she stays seated and nudges the cookie plate closer.
"What's your name?" she asks.
Ghost stares and makes a noise like a pipe breaking.
"Never mind, I'll bring you a piece of paper tomorrow and you can write it down."
Ghost pouts like a scolded puppy and crawls forward to pick up a cookie. Her hair hangs around her shoulders in stringy knots. She needs a bath terribly after living in the armoire so long. It's drafty up here, the snowy outside air blowing in through cracks around the window. Not enough to clear the air, but enough to make Clara's fingers numb. She peels off one of her blankets, tossing it over Ghost's shoulders. It doesn't float through but sinks in a little, staying mostly on her skin. Ghost jumps at the contact and hisses.
"Be nice." Clara says, and the insubstantial girl blinks apologetically.
She pours more milk and pops open the first-aid kit. "I'm going to put some band-aids on your face, okay?"
Ghost's skin is not as cold as Clara expects, and she holds nice and still while Clara patches up her cheeks. The bandages don't entirely disappear, but pale against her skin. Satisfied, Clara packs away her things. Ghost hunches over sadly, her lips moving to make some sort of howl.
"Come on," Clara says. "If you promise not to screech at people, you can come haunt my closet. It's got bunches of pillows and it's a lot warmer than your wardrobe."
Ghost bobs her pale head and crawls on her hands and knees down the ladder, silent as a mouse. Clara grins and leads the other girl to her room. She loves to make new friends.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Author Comments

After watching a badly made "ghost in the attic" film, I started thinking about the way the ghost would feel in such a situation, living in a dark closet with everyone frightened of them (if they weren't necessarily evil, that is). The original idea for the story was a bit dark, but once I sat down to write it became considerably fluffier and cute.

- Emily McCosh
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