If you follow me on Tumblr there's a good chance you've seen my short 3-part serial on Eloise and Katherine. Heck, there's a good chance you're following me because of that little serial.
If you follow me elsewhere, or only creep on my blog, then you might not be familiar with the Eloise Saga. Which is cool.
It's about to change though.
So, a bit of background first. I saw one of those silly/stupid "thoughts from the shower" posts that asked, if a ghost can move stuff, why doesn't it just grab a pencil and paper and write out what's bothering them?
Now, obviously if you are super into ghosts and want to point out that it's less energy to throw things than to do the small, precise movements needed to write, well...a bunch of commenters beat you to it.
Doesn't stop the question from being a great story prompt.
Which is what gave birth to my Eloise story :) Due to the popularity of the story, I will be turning it into a proper novella at some point in the not-to-distant future. To that end, I’ve started fleshing my little saga out. It’ll be posted in three parts—just like it was originally on Tumblr—but each is going to be longer and more like what’s going to show up in the actual novella.
So, without further ado, here is the first part of the saga. Enjoy!
(Please note: due to formatting restrictions, text meant to have be strikethrough is marked by -- on either side; such as --this--)
Katherine was proud to be able to say she owned her own home. Not many twenty-four-year-olds did. It made her sound like she had her shit together—which is what you want when you run into those not-quite-friends from high school at the local supermarket.
Of course, they didn’t know she had only been able to afford the house because it was haunted.
Not famously haunted. Just regular haunted.
Katherine was skeptical about ghosts prior to buying the house, but within a week of moving in, she knew without a doubt that ghosts were real. Some might argue that the always open cupboards are because the house is old and not really level anymore, or that the picture frames that moved from one end of the mantle to the other were caused by a draft (or by Katherine herself). But the cupboards closed with a satisfying click, and never opened when she was in the kitchen, and she didn’t keep pictures on the mantle, they were all hung on the wall.
The previous home owners had warned that the ghost was aggressive, but open cupboards and moving picture frames wasn’t that big of a bother. Even the creaking floors in the middle of the night were easy enough to get used to. It simply became second nature for Katherine to rehang the pictures as she passed the fireplace on the way to the bathroom in the morning, and then to close all the cupboards as she puttered about in the kitchen making the breakfast of champions—coffee, reheated bacon, and a two-day-old croissant.
Katherine’s life settled into a nice rhythm. She went to work at a restaurant that was inexplicably popular given its penchant for blatantly ignoring health and safety regulations, caught the 4:15pm bus to the local campus, attended two classes, then caught the 10:30pm bus home. There wasn’t time for friends, and there certainly wasn’t time for romance. So, when things at home started to get out of control, she didn’t have anyone to turn to.
The first time she found a curtain rod on the floor, she thought she hadn’t screwed it in correctly. The second time the rod was ripped out and snapped in half.
Katherine could barely afford the day-old breads and pastries from the bakery across the street, so paying to repair all the little things the ghost would break became a perpetual source of anxiety. She took whatever extra shifts she could, sometimes working until 2am and then going back for her regular shift at 8am. Going home was no longer a respite from a long day.
Going home meant finding out what new thing needed to be fixed.
“Mom, this isn’t a good week for you to come visit,” Katherine said, gently kicking one of the crumbling brick columns in front of her work. “I know you and Dad want to see my place, but between work and school I’m never home. It’d be a waste of a trip for you guys to come out here.”
Her mother tsked and fussed, and finally said, “I wish you didn’t have to work so much. Are you sure there isn’t anything we can do to help? I could wire you some money.”
“Thanks, Mom, but I’m okay. Tell Lizzie to keep practicing—I’m going to make a trip down to see her year-end recital.”
“That’ll be nice. Lizzie really misses you.”
“I miss her too.”
With her parents put off for another while, Katherine returned to her life of work and worry. She knew she couldn’t keep them from seeing her house forever. Eventually they’d come down, no matter how busy she claimed to be. But every day the house looked more and more decrepit as the damage built up quicker than she could fix it.
Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore.
She felt foolish, but she laid down a circle of salt in the middle of the living room. The internet said it would keep her safe from ghosts, though given that this was Yahoo Answers advice from user “urm0mmasux” she didn’t know if it would do anything.
She took a deep breath and blew it out.
A breath of cold air blew down her neck and she shivered, looking around. There was nothing visibly different about the almost-bare space. There was the old, threadbare, orange couch next to an end table with one leg replaced by old textbooks. The fireplace was full of ash from burning all her assignments from last semester, and the mantle was dusty but bare. Six picture frames hung on the wall above the mantle, depicting her five siblings and parents. She hadn’t ever replaced the broken curtain rods, so the ghastly grey-and-yellow plaid curtains her grandmother had given her were held in place by a series of thumb-tacks. Everything was the way she expected it to be.
But there was a sense of something, or someone, waiting for her to make the next move.
“Look, I don’t mind living with a ghost—I thought it would be pretty cool when I first bought this place—but I can’t afford to keep fixing all this shit.”
Katherine flinched when the curtains fluttered. She took several deep breaths to calm her racing heart. Fluttering curtains was positively benign. Did that mean the spirit was open to some sort of compromise?
“Can…can you talk to me?”
The kitchen tap turned on, full force, for a couple seconds before turning off.
“I guess that means no,” Katherine said, starting to feel more comfortable. She wondered if they could come up with a way to communicate. One light flick meant no, two meant yes? Getting anywhere would be a major pain-in-the-ass though.
She grinned when an idea came to her, and left the salt circle behind to rummage in her backpack. “Here’s some paper and a couple pens,” she called to the ghost. “I’m going to leave them on the kitchen counter, and you can tell me what’s bothering you. Take all night, if you need, to think about what I could do to make your after-, er, whatever-life more pleasant.”
Katherine went to bed with high spirits and the hope that things might improve around the house.
She was like a kid on Christmas morning when she woke up. She barely had time to wrap a housecoat around herself before hurrying out to the kitchen.
Two cupboard doors were ripped off and sat in the middle of the floor like angry little gnomes, their black handles glinting cruelly in the fluorescent light. Shattered glass, from what looked like the badly painted ceramic bowls she got from the second-hand store, was strewn around the doors.
Katherine wanted to weep. The ghost had seemed amenable, what with the fluttering curtains, but this was way more damage in a single night than had been done to date. She picked up the paper and stared at the scribble across the top of the page. It was a shaky line that descended into an angry, blobby mess that tore through the page.
“This house had been on the market for two years. Two years, before I bought it,” Katherine shouted. “You’ve made it impossible for anyone to want to live here, and I can’t afford to just walk away. Just tell me what you want!”
The glasses in the cupboard rattled, but didn’t fall.
Katherine glared at the empty air. “I will get someone to banish you, don’t think I won’t.”
A banana peel floated out of her garbage can and sailed through the air to land with a little plop at her feet.
Katherine took a deep breath. Shouting and threats wasn’t getting her anywhere. “I’m going to get ready for work. I’ll leave more paper and some pencils this time. You can take all day to think of what you’d like to write. I won’t be home until midnight.”
She placed blank paper and two pencils on the counter, swept up the shards of glass, and headed for the shower. She didn’t have the energy to even make herself a cup of coffee.
The whole day she worried about what she would find. Would the ghost actually write her a message this time? Or simply destroy more things?
Katherine approached her that evening house with trepidation.
“I shouldn’t be scared to go home,” she muttered to no one. It didn’t stop her fear.
She pushed open the door, ready for the worst. But the entryway, and what she could see of the living room, looked to be the same as when she left in the morning.
“Hello? I’m home,” she called.
There was no response. She wasn’t sure what she would have done if there had been an actual response.
She moved further inside. Not a single thing was out of place. Not until she reached the kitchen.
The cupboard doors were still on the floor, though if Katherine hadn’t known that was what they were, it would have just looked like a pile of wood splinters. The cutlery drawn was pulled and spilled out, while at least half of her utensils were bent in half. The worst were the several knives embedded in the wall. None of which were knives she owned.
The paper she left was ripped into shreds and scattered across the counter.
Katherine pushed the scraps around, morose about her absolute failure to connect with the ghost. Everything was quiet now, though she wondered if it had been noisy as the ghost trashed her kitchen. And where had it even found those knives?
She frowned and stared down at the scraps. There were marks on the paper. She hunted to find torn edges that would line up. It took several minutes to get a small patch, three by four squares, but that was enough to know that it was only scribbles. Scribbles and scribbles.
The ghost had the dexterity to rip the paper into tiny squares, and enough to use the pens and pencils, so why were the pages only scribbles?
Katherine was too tired to think about it. She sighed and went to bed without cleaning anything up. She was in the middle of her morning shower when she had an idea. What if the ghost couldn’t write? It had clearly tried, before getting frustrated and ripping things up.
Katherine hurried through the rest of her morning routine, and called her boss to let her know she’d be late to work.
“What? Why?” her boss demanded.
“I need to make a last-minute library trip, sorry.”
“Fine,” her boss said. “Just don’t be too long. Carla’s called in sick, and the regulars don’t really like Jeremy.”
“Carla’s hungover, and the regulars are creepy old men who like to grab women’s asses.”
Her boss laughed. “Well, duh. Be here before 10.”
Katherine hung up and ran to catch her bus. The forty-five minutes to get to the library passed much quicker than the twenty minutes it took to get to work. She smiled and nodded to the bus driver as she disembarked down the street from the library. The sidewalks were crowded with the early-morning work crowd. She pushed her way through the business-people and tugged on the glass doors.
The doors didn’t open.
She frowned and scanned the doors, trying to find the hours.
“It doesn’t open till 9, love,” an old man said, stepping out of the flow of the crowd to stand beside her.
“Shouldn’t they have the hours listed somewhere?” she asked, annoyed.
He chuckled and rapped a knuckle against the door. A small stand a few feet back displayed the hours. Katherine sighed. She was a half hour too early.
“The librarians sometimes let us morning readers in early, you might not have to wait too long,” he offered.
Katherine gave him a polite smile and shifted her backpack on her shoulder.
“Not much of a talker, huh?”
She shook her head. “Sorry. Just preoccupied.”
He nodded. “That’s alright. I tend to ramble, anyway. Especially since my darling Beth passed. She used to nudge me and tell me not to talk so much, but now it’s a bit hard to remember.”
Katherine bobbed her head and glanced at her watch. 8:45am. Where were those librarians?
“I suppose that’s why I like books,” he continued. “They don’t mind if I ramble. And when I read, I tend to not talk much, so my grandson likes when I bring books home from the library. Of course, he couldn’t be bothered to bring me any while I was in the hospital last month.”
“That’s a shame,” Katherine mumbled.
“Suppose he didn’t care if I rambled, as he didn’t spend much time visiting. His sister’s much better about that sort of…oh, look, there’s one of the librarians!”
A middle-aged man in a sweater and jeans approached the doors and unlocked them. He poked his head out and smiled at the old men. “Morning, Hank. How are you today?”
“Very good,” Hank said with a wide smile. “Just making a new friend.”
The librarian eyed her with suspicion. “Well, if you think she’ll be well-behaved, she can come in with you.”
“Oh, of course she will. She’s a good girl. Listens to an old man ramble on,” Hank said.
Katherine dropped her gaze and felt heat creep into her cheeks. She was pretty sure the librarian knew the only reason she’d listened to the old man was because she had to wait beside him. “Thank you,” she mumbled.
The librarian grunted and stepped back so they could enter. The old man patted her arm and tottered off toward the shelves without a backward glance. Katherine hesitated and glanced at the librarian.
“What is it you’re so anxious to get, that you were waiting for us to open?” he asked, his eyes running over her, head-to-toe, and dismissing her.
Katherine glowered at him. Sure, she hadn’t bothered to straighten her hair that morning, so it was frizzed all over the place, and her threadbare sweater had more than a few holes, but the black skirt and nylons were clean and hole free, and her flats were polished so they looked new and crisp.
“I need something to help my elderly neighbour learn to read and write,” she said, her voice snapping more than she’d meant.
The librarian’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re helping your neighbour learn to read?”
“Well, a bit. I work all day, so I was hoping there might be an audiobook I could leave for them?”
The librarian warmed up to her as he led her to the adult literacy section, chatting about the different resources the library had.
Katherine left thirty minutes later with a bag full of books and CDs, and a list of things to buy. She ran to catch her bus and headed to work with high spirits. If she was right, and the ghost was illiterate, this was the first step to coming to some sort of compromise. She pushed aside the worry that the ghost wasn’t interested in co-existing. The work day and classes following passed in a blur.
She returned to a home not any different than how she’d left it. The kitchen was still trashed, and her spirits dipped a bit to think about how much work it would be to clean it all up. She placed the bag of books on the counter and withdrew one of them.
“I really hope you’re just frustrated that we can’t communicate,” Katherine said, hoping the ghost was listening. “And I thought, maybe, the problem was that you don’t know how to write me a message. No shame in that. I borrowed some books from the library on learning to read, and I’ll try to pick up a couple of workbooks in the next couple days.”
She placed the book on the counter and flipped it open to a random page. No glasses rattled, curtains blew, or taps dripped. If the ghost was listening, it was being very quiet.
“You can look through this book tonight, and then I have a couple of learning-to-read books that come with CDs so you can hear the story as you read. Don’t have a CD player though, so you won’t be able to use those just yet.”
The pages of the book fluttered and Katherine smiled.
“I’ll leave you to it.”
In the morning, there’s no new damage to the house, but several of the pages were torn from the library book. Katherine couldn’t help but groan. She’d have to pay to replace the book. Doing so would be cheaper than replacing the cupboard doors, but it was still an expense she hadn’t budgeted for.
Over the next couple of weeks, she brought home various workbooks and a new CD player. She was worried about the new electronics, especially given that the first workbook had been ripped completely in half, but the more books she brought home, the less damage she found.
Her kitchen took awhile to fully clean up, and she just left the cupboards without their doors. She swept five times, but still ended up stepping on a shard of glass. Two different times. The librarian had been surprisingly understanding about the ripped pages—though she still had to pay over $40 for the book. All-in-all, it felt like life was finally settling into a nice calm.
Katherine stumbled into her kitchen one morning and screamed. Red was smeared across her counters, glistening in the light she’d just turned on. Her heart pounded as she stepped closer. Her off-brand bottle of ketchup sat in the sink, and the red on the counter made a shaky message.
You R out of MLK.
She breathed out a trembling breath and laughed. “Thank you for the head’s up,” she called to the ghost. “Just…maybe don’t use ketchup next time.”
Two mornings after the ketchup incident, she stepped out of the shower to see a note scrawled in the steam on the mirror.
Have A gooD dy
She brought home two new books and their audiobook CDs that night.
The workbooks were starting to get expensive, as the ghost worked through the pre-K ones and all the way up to the third-grade ones. But the cute messages on the mirror and the crumbled notes left scattered around the living room were charming.
Katherine became so used to the little scraps of paper the ghost used to practice its writing that she didn’t notice the letter taped to the fridge at first. She pulled it off, read it, and smiled. The penmanship was terrible, but at last she’d connected with her ghost.
I haV haunTd this spot for ovr --three huner hundre-- 300 years. My bones R dust. I am fergotN. I haV no wants to trap me. I am heRe fereVR.
I am bord. Lonly
I am sorrY fer brekng stuff
We B frends?
--Sinc Sens-- Syncerly Eloise
Come back in a couple weeks to read the next installment of the Eloise story!