A response to the monkey's prompt of It was her red ribbon. Second writing prompt done today, both in the magician series ....
It was her red ribbon. This is why I make a point of not seeing ghosts. The ribbon hung from the back door of a home, the pale ghost staring at it and then me, her hair hanging unbound. She blinked her good eye and did nothing else, silent as all ghosts are. Nothing save waiting. An exorcist would banish her; a magician doesn't get that luxury.
The house is run-down, chips of paint the only proof it had ever been painted at all, thick vines and roots digging into the walls as if nature was hungry There are people who look old before their time; few people realize the same is true of buildings. .
I knock on the door, a solid rap with one hand. A TV stutters to silence. The man who answers the door is old and flabby but his eyes are flatly sharp and his hands curled into fists.
"Who are you?"
I nod to the ribbon. "Do you know that is?"
He snaps a fist toward my stomach, another to my head, fear surging speed through his body. I let the first blow hit to get a feel for him, step back from the second. I get rot and icy cold, small animals dying and the twisted anger of small men, all shrivelled needs turned into cancer inside his head, his anger tasting of burnt plastic.
"I could make you speak." I don't turn to the ghost. "I could make him see you, if you want."
The ghost drifts in front of me and shakes what remains of her head, parts fists didn't pulp.
The man begins to speak, offering money, threats, stumbling over each.
"Enough." I say, threading more power into it than I should; he staggers back. I turn to the ghost. "You brought me here. Choose."
She looks at him with an effort that hurts to see, then points to herself.
I let out a breath. "It costs, for the dead to claim the living, but sometimes that is all the dead can do."
I reach out a hand to the man's chest. He's ugly with twisted strength, the kind of sick will that keeps a body going long after it should have died, the anger at a world strong enough to keep the world at bay. I rip through all of it with a single act of will. I don't smile. I don't explain. I sure as fuck don't cry. I kill him, let his body strike the ground and watch his ghost rise out of it a moment later.
Few become ghosts. Most ghosts don't live that long. I am magician enough to make that come to pass, and take the strength of the woods pressing in on the house and give it to the girl. He never knew her. Now he'll know her far too well.
The ribbon shatters apart as I walk away.