BY NANCY PAZNER
Copyright is held by the author.
IT WAS 10 in the morning and the silence was oppressive. No voices, no traffic noise, no footsteps on the walkway outside her door. Liza stared out the window as the feathery white flakes fell, just as they’d done for the last twenty hours, and decided she was going to have to accept it. She was trapped. Trapped in the Stardust Motel in Gogama, Ontario, and all because of Albert.
She squirmed, trying to find a more comfortable way to fit her body around the mattress’s lumps and valleys, finally giving it up as a impossible. She flopped over onto her back and stared directly upward. Albert, her own personal haunt, hovered over her, busily excavating his left nostril with his index finger.
“Albert, get your finger out of there!”
Albert removed his finger and gazed mournfully at Liza. It didn’t seem right for a ghost to have puppy dog eyes, but Albert certainly did. Other than his big, melting-chocolate eyes, though, nothing much stood out about him. He looked to have been in his late teens or early twenties, stocky but not fat, with coarse, straight brown hair and a sprinkle of acne scars over high cheek bones. Totally ordinary looking.
He had been haunting her for the better part of two years. In spite of Liza’s best efforts, the most recent of which being this ill-fated visit to Gogoma, he steadfastly refused to Move On. And Liza desperately, urgently wanted him to Move On.
It wasn’t that he was an inconsiderate ghost. He didn’t moan, clank chains, break crockery, or create cold spots. He just showed up from time to time and hovered over her bed, and only that when she was alone. Other than his habit of picking his nose, he was hardly annoying at all. However, Liza had very strong opinions about where the no-longer-living belonged, and if Albert had failed to get the memo, it was up to Liza to lead him to where he needed to be.
When Albert had first shown up, Liza had done the obligatory Internet research, and had learned that ghosts who failed to Move On generally had unfinished business of some sort. If the person being haunted could determine what that business was, then they could help the ghost let go and get to where they belonged. Unfortunately, Albert was not what one would call communicative. It had taken Liza a good six months to pry his name out of him, and another year or so before he let it be known that he was from Gogoma.
“Well, Albert, how does it feel to be back in good old Gogoma?”
“Home . . .home . . .” This was, for Albert, downright loquacious. The fact that he followed up this outpouring by smiling and drifting over to the window verged on earthshaking.
Liza dragged herself out of bed and peered out the window, trying to figure out what Albert was looking at. Across the highway were three small houses. One of them had the lights on and a wisp of smoke coming out of the chimney.
“Is that your house, Albert?”
“Home . . .”
“Do you want to go there?”
“Home . . . ,” followed by cranking up the intensity of the puppy dog eyes.
“I don’t suppose you can get there all by yourself, can you?”
More puppy dog eyes.
Cursing under her breath, Liza began pulling on clothes, and psyching herself for the hundred-metre snow drift slog.
Out in the weather, getting through the snow was every bit as awful as she had anticipated. The only thing that kept her going was the sense of excitement pulsing off of Albert.
She climbed up the steps to the front door of the house, trying to shake off the worst of the snow. She lifted her hand to knock, but Albert beat her to it, slipping around her and fading through the door.
She held her breath and listened. A female voice shrieked, “Albert? Albert? Is that you?”
And then, “Albert, get your finger out of there!”
Secure in the knowledge that she had led him to the right place, Liza turned around, ready to get back to life.