spooky spectre

An Excerpt from

"Dead & Gone"

A Calafian Tale


Kevin Andrew Murphy

Copyright 1996 Kevin Andrew Murphy, All Rights Reserved

"Pretty cat, kitty cat..." Vince stirred the air, watching as the ether coalesced into bones, then shadows. Phantasmal hairs ticked his ankles as the ghost cat wound its tail around them. "Pretty kitty, kitty-ki!"
The last of the ectoplasm coalesced, and a seemingly solid grey and black tabby reached up and tried to sharpen its claws on nonexistent pantlegs.
Vince scooped up the cat. "Enough of that, Shadow. I may be dead too, but that still hurts."
"Mrrrr," Shadow purred in satisfaction. Vince shrugged. He'd decided to keep a haunt from the pound. By definition, he wasn't going to get a happy, well adjusted pet.
But it was best to keep the cat tangible and on hand. There was no telling what mischief a ghost cat might try to pull. His first date since he'd died-heck, his first date in five years-and the last thing he needed was a yowling phantasm creeping Elaine out more than she must be already.
If she showed.
Vince was pretty certain she wouldn't. After all, what sort of woman would answer a personal like he'd placed: Hi! Wanna date a lich? Dead SWM necromancer, young (relatively speaking), handsome (when I take the time), fun- loving (would love to have fun-haven't yet), would like to meet pretty, intelligent single female, living or dead. No weirdos.
Not that he was likely to get any dead girls. The dead liked necromancers even less than the living, and a dead necromancer... Well, Vince could understand why liches had a reputation for being crazy, creepy old corpses. Not much else you could do.
He gave a last glance to the chamber and gestured for the will-o'-wisps to glow brighter, throwing in a binding to keep the corpse candles safely imprisoned in the wall sconces. He and Shadow might be able to see in the dark, but a live girl would want it bright and as un-cryptlike as possible. Another gesture and the fire wraith hidden in the samovar raised the temperature to something the living might stand. Better. Not perfect, but better.
There was a soft knock and Vince went to get it, keeping Shadow tucked under one arm. He paused, making sure his own phantasm was in place, and opened the door.
"Hi," said the woman standing there, "I'm Elaine. You . . ."
"I'm Vince," Vince said and opened the door wider. Her aura was beautiful, rose and honey gold, overlaid with the pale violet of shyness.
"What are..."
Vince snapped back. "Oh, sorry. I was just looking at your aura. It's very pretty."
The violet shade deepened, and beneath it he saw a blush steal into her cheeks. "Thank you. You look, um, well, more alive than I expected."
Vince shrugged. "I'm a necromancer. It's what I do." He smiled. "Would you like to come in?"
"Uh, yeah, thanks." She paused for a moment in the doorway, looking around, then came in and sat down on the couch, her pocketbook perched in her lap with her hands on top. "Um, you're... apartment... is very nice. Cozy. Not..."
"Not what you expected for a mausoleum, right?" Vince shut the door, but didn't lock it. It wasn't as if he ever needed to worry about break-ins, not in this neighborhood. "Pharaoh modern. I could never see the point of stone crypts when I was alive, so it's pretty much the same now that I'm, well, not precisely alive."
Elaine smiled and nodded, then burst into tears. "I'm sorry. This is all wrong. You seem very nice, but-" She stood up, brushing at the tears, and made for the door.
"Wait!" Vince said, reaching out, and Shadow slipped free. The cat landed before the door, arching its back and hissing at Elaine, inflating into a Halloween cat of demonic proportions.
Elaine sat back down on the couch, clutching her purse like a shield. Her tears stopped abruptly and her eyes went wide with fright.
"Shadow!" Vince heard his own voice boom in the ghostly Voice of Command, then he grabbed the cat and bundled it back into normal feline dimensions. "No!"
Shadow squirmed and growled, but at last settled down.
Vince looked to Elaine and gave a nervous grin. "Cats. Gotta love 'em, huh?" He grimaced. Oh god, he knew something like this was going to happen.
Elaine bit her lip. "He's dead too, isn't he?"
"Uh, yeah." It was an attempt to make conversation, at least. "I got him at the pound. They'd, well, had a haunting problem. Listen, if you want to go..." He began to get the door.
"No, no, it's all right." She reached into her purse and got out a tissue. "It's just-" She dabbed at her eyes. "I'm sorry. I came here under false pretenses. I didn't really want a date."
Vince went over to the couch and sat down, holding Shadow in his lap. "I sort of figured that."
"It's not- Well, yes, it is, maybe. It's just that my brother died, and, well, I wanted to talk to him."
"Have you tried a seance?"
"First thing. I borrowed every OUIJA board on the block. Nothing." Elaine looked at the black marks of mascara on the tissue, then up at Vince. "I must look awful."
Vince smiled. "Not half as bad as I do. Trust me."
Elaine looked at her lap. "Okay. The police said Gary's death was an accident and his soul had just passed on. No murder, no suicide. But I knew something like this was going to happen. I did. I get premonitions sometimes- not like an oracle, nothing clear or anything-but sometimes I know when something bad is going to happen, or has happened. And it's like that now. My... gift... isn't anything documented, and it's easier for the police to just dismiss me as crazy than to believe in wildmagic, but I know there's something wrong. Very wrong. Gary would have come back to talk to me. He promised. We both did. Except now he's gone and the only thing left is necromancy and I never could afford to hire-" She broke off, her throat catching. "When I saw your ad, I- I'm sorry. I'm just desperate."
"That, and smart," Vince said. "You did your homework. A lich is the only sort of necromancer who can't get into trouble for disturbing the dead without a court order, right?"
Elaine blushed. "Well..."
"Trust me, I know the legalities. Only the dead can sue the dead for disturbing the dead, and the dead don't like bothering necromancers. Liches are laws unto themselves." Vince grimaced. "I must sound like I'm trying to sell myself on the idea. Listen, Elaine-You shouldn't mourn for your brother, or be freaked out by me. Being dead isn't that much different than being alive, it's just..." Vince paused, holding the squirming ghost cat. "Boring. Boring and lonely. I work for insurance companies mostly. But there are lots of living people who have it worse. And being a lich isn't that much different than being a live necromancer. Nobody really likes you once they find out what you are."
Vince looked up. Elaine was pretty, with one of the loveliest auras he'd ever seen. He'd never forgive himself if they didn't go out at least once, no matter how tainted the situation might be. "Tell you what-I'm sure your fears are unfounded, and you're not crazy either, just going through normal grief. But I can call your brother anyway, then we can all go to the park, and you can see how normal dead people are. The dead don't really mind being bothered, not if someone who really loves them is trying to contact them, and with all the psychic interference going on, OUIJA boards don't work half the time anyway. You can put your fears to rest. Then if you want to go out for a real date sometime, well..."
"Yes," Elaine said immediately. "Yes, I'd like that very much."

And as Sheherezayd said, "Yet that is not the end of my tale...."
Shimmering Door Cover Scan
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