Charlotte's Ghost

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers
Charlotte is a ghost with a passion for resurrection, but she needs a new body. Would she stoop to committing fratricide to get it?

Submitted: February 28, 2016

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Submitted: February 28, 2016

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Charlotte’s Ghost

 

Josh Corbett held his breath as he nervously grasped the handle of his sister’s bedroom door. He turned it to its fullest extent, and then hesitated; trembling in anticipation of the dark secrets that might soon be revealed. He cautiously pushed the door wide open. Something rustled behind the door, causing him to jump back in alarm. He peered round the edge of the door and saw a coat still swaying gently on a hook fixed to the back of the door. The breath that he had been holding suddenly exploded from his lungs, startling him. Until that moment, he hadn’t realised that he had been holding his breath. Perceiving no immediate threat, Josh strode boldly into the centre of the room and looked around.

Charlotte’s bedroom had always been a source of great mystery to Josh. He had never been allowed in her room, and that made him curious. It never occurred to him that his sister simply didn’t want her twelve year-old brother messing around with her things. He suspected much darker secrets. Maybe she was a serial killer who kept a stash of murder weapons hidden under the bed. Josh wouldn’t put anything past her.

Today, Charlotte had gone off with her creepy friends and would be away all day. His widowed mother was in the garden swapping gossip with her neighbour over the back fence. They would be at it for ages. With his family thus occupied, there would never be a better time for Josh to sneak into Charlotte’s bedroom and discover its dark secrets.

Having at last entered the forbidden room, Josh was disappointed. He saw nothing at all of interest to him. Huh! Just a lot of girl stuff, he thought scornfully. He checked under the bed. No murder weapons. No corpses. Just a lot of dust bunnies and a few odd shoes. This was most disappointing. Maybe she kept a diary. That could be interesting. Now where would she keep something like that? He began to poke more deeply into her things.

Suddenly, he heard movement in the doorway behind him. He glanced up and saw Charlotte’s reflection in the dressing table mirror. Oh crikey! What’s she doing back here so soon?  He guiltily snatched his hand away from the half open drawer and swung around to face his furious sister. The look on her face would have sent a Bengal tiger scurrying off in a panic. Josh might have emulated the tiger, but there was nowhere for him to scurry off to. Charlotte was blocking the only exit.

‘What are you doing in here?’ she screamed.

‘Uh … I just … I just wanted to borrow …’ he stammered. For the life of him, Josh couldn’t think of anything in this room that he might want to borrow. He glanced down at the half open drawer for inspiration. To his embarrassment, he saw that it was full of Charlotte’s underwear. ‘Oops, wrong drawer,’ he said.

‘Get out! Get out! If I ever catch you in here again I’ll … I’ll …’

Josh got out. He didn’t wait to find out what his sister would do if she found him in her room again.

Just then, the front doorbell rang. Josh could make out the shape of police uniforms through the opaque glass panels. Oh crap! The silly bitch has called the cops. No, that didn’t make sense. He hadn’t committed any crime, and the cops couldn’t have arrived so quickly even if she had called them. He cautiously opened the front door to face a policeman and a policewoman standing solemnly on the door step. They asked to speak to his mother.

After fetching his mother from the garden, where she and her neighbour had been creatively assassinating the local vicar’s character, Josh retreated to his bedroom. There, he searched his memory for anything he had done that might attract the attention of the law. Mrs McKinney might have called the police when she found the mouse in her letterbox; but how could she have known it was him? The mouse was already dead anyway, so no harm done.

The police hadn’t called to discuss dead mice. They had come bearing tragic news. Charlotte had been killed in an accident. She had been a passenger in a stolen car that had crashed following a high speed police chase on the other side of town. After the police left, Mrs Corbett called Josh into the living room.

‘Josh,’ she said, ‘we have to talk.’

‘But it wasn’t me, Mum,’ protested Josh. ‘I wasn’t anywhere near her letterbox, and the mouse was already dead anyway.’

‘I don’t know what you are talking about,’ said Mrs Corbett. ‘Please be quiet and listen to me.’ She stifled a sob. ‘It’s your sister. The police tell me that she’s been killed in an accident and they want me to go down and identify the body.’

‘What? But that’s … when did this happen?’

‘Just an hour ago, on the other side of town. She was a passenger …’

‘No! That can’t be true,’ cried Josh.

‘I know it’s hard to accept, Josh, but we have to be …’

‘No, you don’t understand. I was talking to Charlotte just minutes ago. She’s in her bedroom.’

‘Really?’ exclaimed Mrs Corbett, snatching at a glimmer of hope. ‘Perhaps there has been a mistake.’ She hurried through to Charlotte’s bedroom. Josh followed. The door was ajar, just as he had left it when he made his escape.

‘She’s not here, Josh,’ said Mrs Corbett. ‘The room is exactly as it was when she dashed out this morning. I wanted her to tidy it up a bit first, but …’

‘She must have gone out again,’ said Josh, bewildered. But he knew that she can’t have done. The police were at the front door seconds after he left her, and she couldn’t have gone out the back way without his mother seeing her. Was he hallucinating? Could it have been his sister’s ghost?

‘Josh,’ said Mrs Corbett. ‘You know very well that Charlotte can’t have gone out without one of us seeing her. I think you saw Charlotte’s ghost. Can you believe that?’

Josh said nothing. He didn’t know what to believe; but his mother did. She had always hoped to see a ghost one day. How thrilling it would be if her first ghost turned out to be her own daughter.

‘Charlotte? Are you here?’ called Mrs Corbett. ‘Speak to me darling.’ The room stayed silent. ‘It’s OK, Charlotte. If you don’t want to talk now, we can talk later.’ Mrs Corbett was disappointed; but that did not shake her belief that Charlotte had come back from the dead. She was quite sure that Josh had just seen her ghost and that Charlotte’s spirit was still here in this room.

‘Come along Josh,’ she said, ‘let’s give your sister some privacy. I want to leave this room exactly as it is now. You must never come in here again. Is that clear?’ She ushered Josh out the door and closed it firmly.

Josh agreed that Mrs Corbett’s instruction was clear; but it was also superfluous. If the room was really occupied by Charlotte’s ghost, no power in the world could make him go back in there.

***

The room became a kind of a shrine for Charlotte. Mrs Corbett would go there occasionally and sit quietly on the bed, torturing herself with memories of her beloved daughter. Apart from that, the door remained firmly closed. Charlotte did not reappear or make her presence known in any way; but Mrs Corbett knew that her ghost was there. She had a very good reason for believing this. It’s called faith. Those who have faith don’t need proof.

Josh, on the other hand, had begun to doubt his memory. Had he really seen Charlotte or was it just his guilty conscience playing tricks on his mind? He had heard that dead people sometimes hung around for a bit because they had unfinished business in need of closure. The movie ‘Ghost’ was like that; but the circumstances of Charlotte’s death were nothing like those of the movie. For one thing, Charlotte didn’t love anyone – except perhaps her mother. What could her ghost do to make her mother happy? In Josh’s view, the best thing she could do to make her mother happy was to stay dead.

As time went by with no more ghostly manifestations, Josh convinced himself that there had been no ghost – or if there had been, the ghost would have passed on ages ago. Charlotte’s bedroom was just an empty room. It held nothing spookier than stuff left behind by a rebellious and rather untidy fourteen year old girl. Josh had faith in his belief but, unlike his mother, he was not content with faith alone. He had to get back into that room somehow and prove it. If perchance he was wrong and his sister’s ghost had, in fact, taken up residence in her old room, he would just walk away like he did last time. Charlotte wouldn’t dare try to stop him.

That decision was easy. Acting on it was not. He couldn’t go into that room while his mother was around. If she caught him doing that, his punishment would be swift and severe. Nor could he go into the room while his mother was at work. The law would not allow a child of his age to be at home alone. After school each day, he had to go to Mrs Flanagan’s place and wait there until Mrs Corbett picked him up on her way home from work.

Josh didn’t like Mrs Flanagan. She was a witch; he was sure of that. She looked like a witch, she sounded like a witch and she had the disposition of a witch, so Josh concluded that she must be a witch. Her house was not a nice place to be. Among other things, it always smelt vaguely like an un-flushed toilet. Josh was glad when he turned fourteen, at which age he could lawfully be at home alone after school. Mrs Corbett saw no point in continuing to pay for a care service that she no longer needed, so she gave Mrs Flanagan the sack. That wasn’t quite as good as burning the old witch at the stake, thought Josh, but it would do.

***

Josh was now free to explore Charlotte’s bedroom at his leisure; but he was no longer sure that he wanted to. Maybe the room really was haunted. The last time he saw – or thought he saw – Charlotte there, she looked ready to do him some serious mischief. Would she do that? Could she?

A week went by before Josh’s curiosity overcame his fear. Once more, he held his breath as he nervously grasped the handle of the bedroom door and turned it to its fullest extent. This time, he did not hesitate. He thrust the door open so hard that it banged against the wall and sent the coat hanging behind it cascading to the floor. ‘Charlotte, if you are in here, show yourself,’ he demanded.

Charlotte did not appear. Josh strode over to her dressing table and pulled open a drawer and started scrabbling among the contents. ‘Look Charlotte, I am messing about with your stuff. What are you going to do about it?’ No response. Huh! Just as I thought. There’s no ghost here. He glanced down at the drawer he had opened. Nothing of interest there. Just an assortment of oils, lotions, creams and other cosmetics, many of which were beyond his comprehension. What a load of old rubbish. It smells awful.

As Josh turned back toward the door, he became aware of a redolence that he hadn’t noticed before. It must be from the stuff in that drawer, he thought. But no, it was too strong for that, and was becoming stronger by the second. The perfume that invaded his nostrils was at once pleasing and disturbing. His head spun. He began to feel as if he belonged in this room; but that didn’t make sense.

In a trance, he moved toward Charlotte’s bed. Charlotte’s nightdress was folded on the pillow. Josh picked it up and thrust his face into the soft fabric. He felt an almost irresistible urge to put the nightdress on and snuggle up in Charlotte’s bed. What the hell?? He jumped back and threw the nightdress onto the bed. The hypnotic aroma weakened as he fought to regain his self control.

Someone or something had just been messing with his head. He hadn’t been expecting that; but he had managed to fight it off, whatever it was. He glanced at himself in the dressing table mirror. He looked awfully pale. Suddenly his mirror image began to waver and morph into an image of Charlotte’s face. Josh blinked furiously; but the face did not go away.

‘Charlotte!’ cried Josh. ‘So it really is you.’

‘Of course it’s me, stupid,’ said Charlotte’s face. ‘What took you so long?’

‘What … what do you mean?’

’You know bloody well what I mean,’ snarled Charlotte’s face, which looked a trifle ridiculous perched on Josh’s body. ‘I’ve been stuck in this room ever since Mum made it into a shrine. I needed you and you didn’t come.’

‘But the last time I was in here, you told me to get out and never come back or you’d … I don’t know what you’d do. I didn’t wait to find out.’

‘OK, so I was a bit hasty. I’d just been killed in a car chase. That would be enough to upset anyone, and when I came here and found you fondling my underwear, I just lost it.’

‘I wasn’t fondling …’

‘Oh shut up. It doesn’t matter now. I knew you would come back in here sooner or later. You always were a nosy little creep. I just didn’t think I would have to wait for two years. Actually, it works out for the best. You are fourteen now, the same age as I was when I died.’

‘So now we are both the same age. So what?’ Josh gazed at the reflection in the mirror. ‘Do you really have to stick that image of your face on my reflection? It looks weird.’

‘I’m just checking. You look a lot like me you know – at least like I was before I died. You’re much the same size as I was then, too. That’s cool.’

‘What is that supposed to mean?’ asked Josh suspiciously.

‘Don’t you get it? I wasn’t meant to die so young. I want to be myself again and do all the things I used to do. Some weirdo with horns and a tail gave me the power to resurrect myself’ but I need a functioning body for that.’ Her face had disappeared from the mirror. She was now standing in front of Josh, looking just as she had when he had last seen her two years ago.

‘The body you’ve got looks fine to me,’ said Josh. ‘Why would you need another one?’

‘My body was cremated two years ago. What you see now is just an image created from your memory of how I used to look. There’s nothing here of me except my spirit. My spirit needs a body for me to be complete again. To get straight to the point, I need your body.’

‘What? You must be mad!’ exclaimed Josh.

‘Not mad. Just determined to live again – in your body.’

‘But I don’t want to be you. I want to keep on being me!’

‘I don’t want all of you. I just want your body,’

‘So what happens to the rest of me then? Where does what’s left of me go?

Charlotte did not reply, but Josh already knew the answer. Charlotte is going to kill me and steal my body.

The hypnotic aroma, which had all but disappeared, flooded the room once more. Josh tried to walk away but his legs were disinclined to move. He struggled in vain against the hypnotic aroma. If Charlotte had this much power, she really could take his body whenever she liked. His only hope now was to appeal to her better nature. He wasn’t sure that she had a better nature; but she was his sister for goodness sake. He had to try.

‘I’m sorry you were killed, Charlotte, I really am; but that wasn’t my fault. If you hadn’t been out joyriding in a stolen car you would probably still be alive in your own body. I can’t just sit back and let you take mine. I really can’t. You do understand don’t you?’

For a moment, Charlotte looked worried. If he resisted strongly enough, taking his body wouldn’t be easy. She forced herself to give Josh a reassuring smile.

‘I’m sorry too Josh,’ she said. ‘Yes I do understand, but you can’t blame me for trying.’

‘Huh? No, of course not,’ said Josh. ‘Sorry I can’t help you.’ Well, that was easier than I expected. The aroma that had held him so firmly faded rapidly away. He was free to leave.

‘Thanks, Charlotte. You’re not such a bad sister after all. I’m going to leave you in peace now. No hard feelings, eh?’

‘Nope,’ said Charlotte. ‘None at all. I’m glad you see it that way.’ Her smile broadened.

Josh had almost reached the door when everything went blank.

***

Later that day, Mrs Corbett arrived home from work to hear the sound of Josh pottering in the kitchen. From the sound of it, he was busily preparing the evening meal. That was unusual. Josh couldn’t even make toast without burning it. She hoped that whatever meal he was preparing now would at least be edible, if not palatable.

‘I’m home, Josh,’ she called. ‘What are you doing in the kitchen? I hope you’re not making a …’ She came to an abrupt halt as she entered the kitchen. If her jaw had dropped much further, she would have been in danger of tripping on it.

‘Josh,’ she cried out, ‘you’re wearing a dress!’ She paused while she considered the possible implications of this remarkable discovery. ‘Is there something you need to tell me?’

‘Hello, Mum,’ Charlotte began. ‘Gosh it’s so nice to see …’

‘Wait! I know that dress. You young scoundrel. You’ve been in Charlotte’s bedroom. I have told you never to …’

‘It’s OK Mum. It’s me, Charlotte. I came back, just as you knew I would.’

Oh my goodness, thought Mrs Corbett. The poor boy’s gone potty. He thinks he’s Charlotte.

***

During the weeks that followed, Josh behaved more and more like Charlotte. He spent a lot of time in her bedroom. Mrs Corbett soon gave up trying to keep him out of there. He developed an enthusiastic liking for what he used to call ‘girl stuff’. More than once he got into trouble for going to school in his sister’s uniform. That led to much heated debate on the school’s dress code.

Mrs Corbett sought professional help, but to no avail. Except for his strange obsession with his dead sister’s identity, Josh was in excellent mental health. Mrs Corbett tried to steer him back on what she believed was the right track; but the effort was futile. After a while, she began thinking of him more as Charlotte than as Josh. Maybe he isn’t potty, she thought. Maybe his hormones have become confused and he really wants to be a girl – or maybe he’s just exploring his feminine side – or maybe – oh I don’t know. I need help!

She consulted the most eminent psychologists that she could afford. All of them reached the same conclusion. Josh was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Mrs Corbett agonised over this diagnosis. Why had there been no sign of it during his first fourteen years of life? Couldn’t this be just a phase that Josh was going through? The eminent psychologists did not think so. They remained firmly of the view that, psychologically, Josh was 100% female. It would be harmful to treat him otherwise. Under pressure from well meaning friends, Mrs Corbett reluctantly signed the consent form for Josh’s gender reassignment surgery. She hoped it was for the best. There would be no going back.

***

Josh was already in hospital and partially sedated when he finally came out of the fugue he had been in for the past few weeks. He could remember nothing of what had transpired during that time. He must have been seriously ill because here he was in hospital being wheeled into theatre for some kind of surgery. He wondered sleepily what part if his anatomy was about to go under the knife.

 The End


© Copyright 2017 Joe Stuart. All rights reserved.

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