Well now, this was new.
Archcleric Pygram read and re-read the wispy writings before they faded, leaving nothing more substantial than a memory on the air. Spirits indulged in many forms of communication, but he’d not seen that one before.
The spirit lingered, of course, invisible but tangible as a chill on his nose hairs. Pygram’s nose hairs were sensitive to the especially troubled spirits. This one, he fancied, was peculiarly disturbed and unlikely to be agreeable to the prospect of being banished to the other side. As such, the only reasonable way to interpret its words were as a dare, a challenge, a spooky gauntlet-slap to the face.
It was probably more deeply rooted here than Pygram had believed. So possessive of its residence it sought to drive out the building’s earthly owner. Archcleric Pygram viewed his rites and rituals as a service as much to the spirit as to the client. Not a banishment, but rather an assistance, lending a guiding hand to a lost soul caught on the wrong bank of a river. But many were surprisingly resistant to his help. Often they would dig their talons into the riverbank, as it were, clinging on for dear life (of a sort), as though fearful of being swept away in the currents that flowed between realms.
This one, he felt sure, had dug those talons in for so long it had practically laid claim to this turf as its home.
A sad, sad state of affairs. For a soul to be so chained to worldly possessions. Not to mention someone else’s possessions. Pygram wondered if he was dealing with a departed thief. Or perhaps merely a soul with some historical connection to the building. The lighthouse had history in abundance, enough to induce many to form an attachment to this proud local landmark over the decades.
“Defy me not, spirit. It is the Will of Meloch. You must journey onward from this land. The Light shines your way. You have only to look.”
WELL GO ON THEN. SPRAY YOUR HOLY WATER. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES.
The ghost-writing coalesced slowly, dissipating with a patience that Archcleric Pygram did not detect in the tone.
Perturbed, but undeterred, Pygram picked up his Melochim Bible and turned to the relevant scripture. He knew the incantations by heart, as though they were inscribed in blood within his chest. But resting the Book in hand, pages spread like a thousand gilded butterfly wings, lent the Words a weight that even the most stubborn of spirits could not withstand.
THIS IS TAKING FOREVER
This time, the misty mots evaporated quickly as if blown away on some stray draught. The vapour reformed into a figure, no more than a fog shadow really, with the vaguest suggestions of limbs, the faintest allusion to features. The vague arms were folded and one of the even vaguer legs was crossed over the other.
The head – merely a roughly rounded cloud like a wispy cabbage – briefly broke apart to breathe more words on the air like steamy scrawls on a window pane:
GET ON WITH IT
PLEASE, IN THE NAME OF
WAIT, WHAT GOD DO YOU WORK FOR?
HIM ANYWAY. IN THE NAME OF HIM
Archcleric Pygram cleared his throat. This spirit was really putting him off. Couldn’t a ghost let him go about his work in peace?
The words vanished and gathered once more into the crude cloudy cabbage of a head. The eyes and mouth were shifting breaks in the cloud, a metamorphosis between comedy and tragedy. Over-egged smiles and sighing glumness.
Archcleric Pygram had seen similarly impatient postures in the audience at a number of his lectures and sermons. Many among those congregations would make faces like that too, gurning to exercise their facial muscles or just to pass the time. Many wore pocket watches and would discreetly check them at frequent intervals. Although never so discreetly he couldn’t spot the glimmer of gold and silver chains from high in his pulpit. He had an eerily persuasive feeling that if the ghost had owned a pocket watch it might be doing the same.
His nose hairs bristled and the cold in his nostrils started to sting ever so slightly.
He thought again of his metaphorical riverbank. And another very real riverbank, muddy and clammy, sucking at his boots as he delivered last rites over a wretched, bedraggled creature landed from a swollen river in torrential rain. She was still alive, poor girl, waxing skin and waning eyes. Paler than salmon and young blue eyes fading swiftly to ancient grey. The villagers fretted around her, all sure she had been swept from the stone bridge in the flood. But Archcleric Pygram knew otherwise. He knew from that grey gaze, staring up at him from the mud and weather-beaten reeds. A hollow plea, a soul that had done its share of haunting before death. A broken heart beating its last in her drowned chest.
Let me go, she’d wept wordlessly. Please.
Archcleric Pygram had blessed her as though her death were a tragedy and not a crime. As he’d read from the Book, it was all he could do not to cry. The rain spattered the pages unaided and he cursed the young man who had so cruelly used the poor girl – for surely it had to be the ruins of a love affair to have brought her to such despair.
He’d asked the Lord Meloch for forgiveness later that night in the chapel. It was not in his remit to hand out curses to all and sundry. Forgive me, Lord, he’d prayed, there on his knees in front of a candle he’d lit for the girl.
Archcleric Pygram peered into the smokeless hollows that were the eyes in the ghost’s slowly swirling face. All he could see was that word it had written in the air with its own otherworldly material. Gone now, yes, vanished, but still so vivid somehow.
It couldn’t be any clearer if it had hung before him like freshly laundered linens on a washing line. And it dawned on him, that declaration hadn’t been a challenge. It had been an invitation. A request.
“You – ” he said. But he had to swallow to moisten a dry throat. “You wish to be exorcised. You want me to do this.”
The spirit’s face dissipated, veils of mist breaking away to paint the air with a single word.
The ghost clasped its vague suggestions of hands together, as though in prayer.
Well, that was definitely new.
[To Be Concluded…]