“I know this must seem crazy,” Lucille said, the tears of desperation she was keeping off her face leaking into her voice. “I’m just at my wit’s end. The noises were okay at first, then the lights turning on and off, but now my children are seeing things. Last week the knife drawer flew out and flung everything across the room.” The aged woman held up her right arm to show the dressed wound along the bicep. “I never believed in any of this, but now I just don’t know what else to do.”
The young lady sitting across from her kept a stoic face. Lucille was clearly in distress, and had Velt been better with people she would have undoubtedly reassured her with a gentle pat or kind words. Velt did neither of these things. Nobody called her because of her penchant for sweetness or her personality. They called Velt when business needed to be handled.
“I can help,” Velt said, her voice low but solid. “Adrienne explained things to you, right?”
Lucille nodded. “She said the ghost here was an angry one, and that she couldn’t put it at ease. That’s why she recommended you.”
Adrienne was a fellow medium. She wasn’t as skilled as Velt, nor did she possess Velt’s unique talent, but she had a knack for sussing out what a ghost needed to pass on. All of the mediums who referred work to Velt were quality, she didn’t associate with charlatans.
“What you have here is not a ghost, it’s a ghast,” Velt corrected.
“A ghast. There’s a core difference. All spirits are sustained by strong emotions. Ghosts are sustained by positive ones: love, dedication, protectiveness, things likes that. Ghasts are on the other end of the spectrum. Their fuel is hatred and anger.”
“I see,” Lucille said uncertainly. Though initially she’d been the one worried about not being taken seriously, she was finding it hard to trust that the copper haired woman in front of her was being entirely forthcoming. She didn’t look like the other woman had. Adrienne had smelled like jasmine and cinnamon, wearing a long flowing dress and several crystal pendants. Velt had her tarnished red hair cut almost mannishly short. She wore blue jeans, sneakers, and a tight tank top that left little to the imagination, not that there was a tremendous amount to showcase. She was not quite pretty, her face sharp and angular, but she might be if she would actually smile. Lucille wasn’t sure what to make of this woman, but at this point she had little choice.
“So it’s a ghast, not a ghost,” Lucille said. “Why does that matter?”
“Because ghosts can be put to rest with comfort and love,” Velt explained. “Ghasts usually require a sterner hand.”
Well, you’re the expert,” Lucille said, a polite smile tugging on the laugh lines etched across her face.
“That I am,” Velt replied, standing from the couch.
“What are you doing?”
“My job,” Velt said flatly. “You said the most events occurred in the kitchen?”
“Good. Stay out of your kitchen until I come out,” Velt ordered her. “If you come in I can’t be responsible for your safety.”
Lucille swallowed hard and nodded her understanding.
Velt walked through the house and into the kitchen, her sneakers making no sounds against the soft carpet. She admired the cooking space, it was well decorated and had modern appliances. She’d been thinking about redoing her own kitchen for some time and briefly paused to wonder if Lucille had any of the design catalogs used for this place leftover.
Velt rested her hand against a granite countertop and examined her reflection. Something about spirits, they loved creeping on on people while they were looking in a reflection. Given that most people couldn’t see them, and only the sensitive ones could even feel them, Velt had never fathomed that penchant for the dramatic. Sure as honey covered salmon in a bear trap though, it brought them running. Velt let her gaze linger on her own visage for a bit longer before turning back to the room at large.
The ghast was a few feet behind her. He hadn’t been an attractive man, bald and overweight with pockmarks on his face. A faint red energy swirled about inside of him, indicating he was gathering strength to let his presence be known. If he’d been a smarter ghast he would have recognized her as a medium already, or have listened in to the living room conversation. That was fine though, Velt didn’t need him to know who she was. In fact it usually made her job easier when his kind didn’t.
The ghast’s red glow intensified. He wanted to make a strong first impression. That was the thing about spirits, the initial emotions that sustained them could only do so much. They needed to create more of those feelings in the people around them to get stronger. As they fed off a person’s emotions, that person also grew more vulnerable to the spirit. It was the reason ghasts worked incrementally, beginning with small displays and escalating as the humans grew more and more afraid. The inverse of this was that humans who weren’t scared were much harder for a ghast to physically assault.
“Boy, you were ugly in life,” Velt said offhandedly, not bothering to look at the ghast as she made the remark.
The ghast momentarily lost control, his gathered energy dispersing before he tightened his hold on it again.
“Another seer, like the bitch before,” he snarled.
“Hey now, she might be chatty but Adrienne is a sweet girl. If you’d let her she would have put your soul at rest,” Velt said.
“I’ll tell you what I told her, I’ll rest when these darkies get out of my fucking house!”
Velt tilted her head. “Really? In this day and age? You’re dead for less than a year, so don’t even try to blame the culture that raised you.”
The glow strengthened and began to spread across the ghast’s arms. He was preparing himself to attack her, and pretty poorly at that. All spirits were usually little more than sentient shaped ectoplasm. They couldn’t physically interact with the material plane unless they used their energy to force their will upon the living world.
Velt crossed the distance between them and stared into the dead man’s eyes. He was a few inches shorter than her, and she was positive that if he’d been alive her nostrils would have been assaulted by the sweating rot of his stench.
“This is the only warning I give. Leave this place, let go of whatever is keeping you here, and move on to the next world. Now.”
“Suck my cock,” the ghast spat at her.
Velt drove her knee into the ghast’s crotch lifting him up several inches as his eyes filled with shock. Before he could recover she slammed her fist into his head, then sent him sprawling with an elbow to the stomach.
“You can’t…I’m dead…,” the ghast gasped, something quite like pain shooting through him. The red energy was entirely dispersed now, his concentration annihilated. More than that, he felt weaker. Less substantial. He touched his chest where she had last struck him and noticed wisps of his form leaking out, like fog breaking in the morning sun.
“Yeah, that’s what they all say,” Velt replied as she strode across the crisp marble tile. She delivered a powerful kick upward shooting him into the air. With a mechanical reaction she snapped him into her left hand and began punching him rhythmically with her right. Each blow resulted in a billow of ectoplasm, leaving the ghast increasingly transparent.
“Some people can see spirits, some can talk to them, some of us can kick their asses,” Velt replied. She threw a deft elbow into his head, knocking out a huge chunk of ectoplasm. “I don’t question why, I just accept that there are some things in life we’ll never understand.”
The ghast was completely see-through now, he was holding on by the barest of threads. Velt paused for a moment before completing her task.
“I’d like to tell you that you’ll be thankful I did this, but I honestly have no idea if what comes next for you will be better than this. So, good luck I guess.” Velt reared back and struck his chest with a powerful blow. The ghast’s entire shape blew apart quickly dispersing into nothingness. A few wisps lingered in the air, then they were gone and Velt was alone.
She paused on the way out to muss up a few areas and knock over the toaster. People never quite believed she could do her job without leaving an aftermath, so she’d found it was easier to oblige them. She kicked the trash can onto its side then walked out the door to collect her fee.