Something New

This little vignette was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.

**

The ghosts had always been there.  It just took her a few years to realize that she was the only person who could see them.  Once she had come to terms with that fact, Cally felt better about a lot of things.  The ghosts used to frighten her and, when she told her father, he’d tell her she was having a nightmare or imagining things.  Now, she knew enough not to say anything about them.  She also knew that they seldom, if ever, meant her any harm.

She lived, secure in the knowledge that no one else could see the ghosts, until she was thirteen years old.  That was when she met Johannes Engel.  He was a friendly boy.  Everyone liked him, or seemed to, anyway.  He had two really close friends: Maggie Brenner and Berling [what].  As friendly as he was with everyone, those two were the only people that he seemed really close with.

Cally hadn’t really paid much attention to him when she’d first moved to the town and began attending the school.  They were in the same grade, but he took a fair number of the advanced placement classes.  On top of that, she was still getting a feel for the school building and her classes.  She was focused on finding her way around and on figuring out who the local ghosts were.

Thankfully, St. Winnifred’s Academy only had a few resident spirits and they were the friendly sort.  There was an old janitor that had died on the job and still wandered about the corridors as he had in life.  There was a teenaged girl that had died long ago – well before there was even a school at the location – as simply enjoyed being around all the young people.  There was the spirit of a soldier that was killed on a battlefield not far from the school grounds and had somehow found his way there.  He was more lost and confused than dangerous.

Things were fairly quiet until the day that the art teacher, Miss Graham, paired her with Johannes for a project.  He sat down at the large table with her and gave her a warm, sunny smile.  “So… you’re Calliope?” he said, blinking.

“People just call me Cally,” she said, shrugging.

“Nice to meet you, Cally,” he said, nodding.  He shrugged.  “You can call me Hans… or Hansel, if you want.”

“All right,” Cally said.  As Johannes began reading out the directions for their project, Cally noticed the dark, shadowy figure looming up behind him.  She gasped and nearly fell off her chair as she pulled away.

Johannes looked up from the paper he’d been reading and frowned.  Then, he looked behind himself.  Cally expected him to turn back to her and braced for him to ask what was wrong.  What he said, caught her entirely off guard.  “Michael,” he said, “I think you scared her.”  There was something just a bit scolding in his tone.  Turning back to Cally, he gave her a weak smile.  “Most people can’t see him, but… I’m guessing you can.”

Cally took a shuddering breath and forced herself to retake her seat at the table.  “Yeah,” she said, her eyes still locked on the shadowy figure.  He wasn’t like any ghost she’d ever seen before.  He was, somehow, less clear.  She looked at Johannes and frowned.  “You… can see ghosts too?”

“Spirits, like Michael,” he said, shaking his head.  He looked thoughtful and added, “I can see ghosts, but they’re sort of hazy.  Michael’s much clearer to me.”

“It’s the other way with me,” Cally said.  She frowned at the spirit and then leaned closer to Johannes.  “What is he?”

“He’s a spirit of temperance,” Johannes said, shrugging.  “He’s decided to protect me, so he follows me everywhere, but he very seldom hurts anyone.  The only time he bothers anyone is when they’re intemperate.”

“Over-eating, you mean?”

Johannes nodded.  “Of when they smoke or take drugs or drink too much alcohol,” he said, shrugging.  “Then… he sort of bites them and sucks the poisons out of them, or wants to.”

“Well, he doesn’t have to worry about me,” Cally said, giving a weak smile.  She ruffled her hand through her bangs and said, “So, I guess that I don’t have to worry about him either.”

“I’m sorry he scared you,” Johannes said.  Then, he looked over his shoulder and said, “You can sit with us, Michael.  It’s all right now.”

Nodding his hooded head, Michael settled into the empty chair beside Johannes.  Cally watched him for a moment and then she looked at Johannes.  “We’re supposed to write a pretend newspaper, right?  With pictures and articles and all that?”

“Yeah, but we need a subject for the newspaper,” Johannes said, frowning.  Then, he grinned.  “You’ve got an idea?”

“What if we wrote about the ghosts and spirits at the school?” Cally said, grinning.  Anyone else would have thought she was crazy.  Johannes smiled and, in that moment, Cally knew she had the perfect partner for the project.

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