“John, I just met a ghost who’s dying.”
I raised one eyebrow, waiting for the punchline from my favorite time-bender.
“No, it’s not what you think. I haven’t gone off the deep end. The government made him into something they call a ghost.”
“Figure if the government’s involved, then it’s going to be screwed up… But a ghost – dying?”
“Running out of juice, actually. Kept alive on some sort of weird life support that he won’t fix to save himself.”
“No, he says there’s another in worse shape than him. A girl detective – of sorts.”
“And you got this from one meeting?”
“No, he appears once a year for about 5 minutes – so I tracked him back. And I’ve been talking to him for decades now.”
“5 minutes at a time?”
Carol nodded, and bowed her head.
I raised it with a gentle touch to her chin.
And saw a tear roll down her cheek.
“Please, John. Help me help him – and her.”
I didn’t often see Carol like this. In fact, never.
Her eyes were hollow, her skin pasty, and she looked like she had slept in those clothes more than once. Not her ordinary tidy, perky self.
Unlike some other of my guests, Carol always knocked politely. So softly, sometimes she had to knock twice to get my attention.
This time, I rose at her first knock. Because there was some insistence at it this time.
Her red-rimmed eyes met mine and I held out my arms.
She melted into them for a long hug between friends.
And I waited for her to speak.
But when she didn’t, “I’ve got some coffee I can warm up, and there’s some of Hami’s cookies left.”
Carol only looked up at me and nodded, then released me to drop onto the couch-bunk. I returned with the cookies while I’d poured this morning’s coffee into a pan on the hotplate and set the coffeemaker to run another batch. A second look at her face persuaded me that this might be a long story she wanted to tell.
But I hesitated to use my pendant to call anyone else. She didn’t look hurt just – spent.
With a nibble at the edge of the raisin-oatmeal delight, she softened up. And was able to look into my eyes. “Hami’s cooking, even cold, is just what the doctor ordered.”
I had to smile. “I can get you another delivery of hot ones…”
“Not right now. I don’t think we can wait even that long.”
I sat down with the whole plate right next to her. She was in a serious mood.
So I waited as the soft cookie softened her.
“John. I’ll tell you this much so you know I’m not just kidnapping you for my own use: I’ve met someone the government calls a ghost and he’s dying.”
“A ghost, dying?”
More like he has only a few more appearances to live.”
“His battery is running out.”
She had my complete attention now.
“But worse than that, he’s there so he can protect his sister, who can’t leave.”
It didn’t’ take long to see that she needed my help. Right now.
I patted her hand, then stood to turn everything off in the cabin. Coffee could wait. On my way back, I shut my laptop as well.
Holding out myhand, Carol grasped it and pulled herself up. She swung it over her shoulder while her other arm went around my waist.
And we phased out of my small writer’s cabin.
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