Little Jars of Ectoplasm

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

A bodice-ripping drama of mystery, ghost horses and mint imperials.

Bella was a young woman with a mission as she walked up the High Street in Ferryport-on-Firth. She was dressed in her finest clothes. Her waist was strapped in as slim as she could make it, with the result that the displaced flesh was pushed high up her chest. Her hair was pinned up under a smart hat and a small bustle completed the look.

She admired her reflection in the shop windows as she passed. She was struggling to walk, to breathe or to talk, but other than that, she felt fine. As she rounded the corner at the top of the High Street, she encountered Mrs. d’Massio.

Hello Bella’, Mrs. d’Massio greeted her. ‘Where are you going in all your finery?’

I’m just going to deliver these posters, Mrs. d’Massio’, Bella replied. ‘They’re for a seance up at the Big Hoose. That new Lady Silvestra is holding it.’

A seance, Bella?’ said Mrs. d’Massio. ‘What happens at a seance?’

Well’, replied Bella, ‘Lady Silvestra can produce ectoplasm from out of her body.’

Ectoplasm? What on earth is ectoplasm?’

It’s not from the Earth’, Bella’s eyes took on a faraway look. ‘Before there was an Earth, or the Sum, or the Moon, or the stars, there was ectoplasm. It is the original substance of the Universe.’

And she produces this from out of her body, you say? Where from Bella?’

Bella looked around cautiously. Judging that three were too many people around to speak out loud, she whispered her answer into Mrs. d’Massio’s ear.

Mrs. d’Massio’s eyes widened in astonishment.

And what does she do with this ectoplasm once she’s produced it?’

I think she sells it in little jars at the County Fair’

And what do people do with it when they’ve bought it?’ Bella looked around cautiously again and once more whispered in Mrs. d’Massio’s ear.

The answer - whatever it was - was too much for Mrs. d’Massio. She staggered backwards in consternation and began choking on the mint imperial she had been sucking when she first met Bella.

Bella patted Mrs. d’Massio on the back with all the vigour her tight costume would allow. After a few moments the mint imperial shot out of Mrs. d’Massio’s mouth and rebounded with a loud clack off the window of Mr. Wallace’s, the shoemaker’s shop, then rolled off down the pavement.

Mr. Wallace came rushing out of his shop.

What are you doing to Mrs. d’Massio, Bella? Bring her in and sit her down. I fear she may be having an attack of the vapours. Stay there whilst I fetch her some water.’

Bella did as she had been asked and Mr. Wallace soon returned with a glass of water for Mrs. d’Massio.

Now what’s all this fuss about?’, Mr. Wallace enquired.

As Mrs. d’Massio was still flustered, Bella answered. ‘I’m just delivering posters for a seance up at the Big Hoose Mr. Wallace. That new Lady Silvestra, she’s holding it.’

What nonsense!’ Mr. Wallace replied. ‘Hocus-pocus and rubbish. They’re all fraudsters and charlatans these people.’

Just then, the Reverend Frenham, having witnessed the earlier consternation, came into Mr. Wallace’s shop. There were a few awkward seconds as the Reverend Frenham scanned Bella’s hourglass figure from top to bottom and back to the top again. Then Mr. Wallace coughed and the Reverend’s eyes flickered and he looked away. His eyes sought desperately for something else to focus on and finally settled on a seagull’s dropping that marked a shop window on the other side of the street.

What do you think about seances, Reverend Frenham?’ asked Mr. Wallace. ‘Don’t you think they’re all just nonsense?’

The occult, to give it its proper name, Mr. Wallace’, said the Reverend Frenham to the dropping. ‘Hidden knowledge. Forbidden knowledge! The devil’s work! We must purge this evil from our midst!’ The Reverend Frenham said passionately to the dropping.

There was a moment of silence, then Bella piped, ‘She has a ghost horse.’

A ghost horse!’ The Reverend Frenham roared at the dropping. ‘Horses cannot be ghosts child! They have no souls. Descartes has proven it!’

Bella wisely remained silent. Just then the door of the little shop opened again. it was the Lady Silvestra herself.

Well, here’s the perpetrator now’, said Mr. Wallace. ‘Let’s ask her for an explanation.’

No-one really knew what happened next. Before anyone could speak again there was a strange rushing of air. Then, there was a ripping sound. And then little clattering noises as hundreds of tiny bone splinters fell onto the tiled floor of Mr. Wallace’s shop. The horse of a carriage passing in the street reared up in shock. A dog was sick on he pavement.

All the little bones that had made up Bellas’s corsets had somehow become dislodged and now she bent down on the floor hopelessly trying to gather them up. The others looked on - too stunned to speak. Lady Silvestra seemed to tower above them, imperious and commanding. Sunlight glinted off her horn-rimmed spectacles and struck the others in the face like a frenzied searchlight. But when at last Lady Silvestra spoke, it was in a quiet voice.

You’ll be next, Reverend Frenham’, she said. The Reverend instinctively clutched at his clothing, as if to check that his coarse woolly underwear were still intact. Then the Lady Slivestra walked out of the shop and got into a little carriage that had been waiting outside. It was drawn by an enormous white horse. As the carriage set off towards the Big Hoose, it seemed that the horse’s huge hooves made no sound as they struck the cobbled streets of Ferryport. Sitting with the Lady Silvestra in the carriage was a young woman. If anyone had been looking on, they may have observed that the young woman bore a remarkable resemblance to Bella.

Of all those who had witnessed these events, the Reverend Frenham was probably the most shaken. Mrs. d’Massio gave up her seat and allowed him to sit down in her pace whilst Mr. Wallace fetched him a glass of water. Bella had regained some composure. Her clothing hung loosely about her, ripped in several places, but her face had regained some colour. She was taking deep breaths, flooding her with much needed oxygen. No-one spoke, and no-one would speak of these events for several years to come.

Mrs. d’Massio noticed that the Lady Silvestra had left a little jar behind in the shop. It sat near the window, on a small ledge and seemed to glow with a myriad of strange colours. Quietly, as she set off for home, she slipped the little jar into her handbag.

The Lady Silvestra did not stay long at the Big Hoose in Ferryport-on-Firth. Soon, she had set off on new travels and new adventures. But her horse remained.

A century has passed since the events of our story took place and I, who relate it to you now, am the great grandson of the Mr. Wallace we encountered in our tale. Today, the contemporary residents of Ferryport may sometimes see a white horse running access fields and through woodlands. And sometimes the huge horse comes down into the streets of Ferryport itself. From the corner of your eye, or from a reflection in a car’s wing-mirror, you may see her, with main flowing and nostrils flaring. Her hooves make no sound as they race across concrete and tarmac.

Submitted: November 21, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Tom Wallace. All rights reserved.

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