We thought she was just another mortal, come to remind us of what we lost. She couldn’t see us, touch us, or sense us; however she could hear us. That had stopped us in our tracks. Most humans think they sense us, but it’s just their minds playing tricks on them. Tell a human that a place is haunted, they will see ghosts. They will look out of the corner of their eye and see what they think they shouldn’t see; however, this girl was one of the rare few that could actually hear us.
She didn’t flaunt this fact; she just sat at a grave and read aloud. It was a treat that all of us enjoyed. Being trapped to a singular place only allowed us to do so much; all of us were bored out of our minds. She was a gentle reprieve that we treasured.
She got many stares, when she had started. Many tried to scare her off, calling her names, and damning her to the farthest reaches of hell. She gave them no heed, just kept reading in her small voice. She read for only us who were trapped on the mortal plane because we hesitated when given the chance to move on. She never read with a strong voice that some use, but a small inside voice, like a mother reading to her child.
She had first appeared on a cold spring morning, clouds blocked out the sun, dimming the colors of the human world. Her oversized black trench coat danced around her legs as she walked a little ways into the graveyard, looking around for something. Finding a spot, she slid the dark brown backpack from its perch on her back and pulled out a blanket. Spreading it out onto the damp ground, she sat gracefully, tucking her legs underneath her. Two looming grave markers stood on either side of her, moss climbed up the sides of the markers contrasting with the dark grey stone. The carved words, declaring whom the markers were for, were worn from a combination of wind and rain, making them barely legible. She pulled the backpack towards her; riffling through her things, she quickly found what she was looking for. Pulling out a tan book, she opened it and began to read out loud quietly.
The younger Trapped had floated around her as she began to read the book. I was with some other old timers watching tiredly as another mortal made a spectacle of themselves. They jeered at her, calling her names and repeating her mockingly. After a couple minutes she sighed laboriously, closing the book. The youngsters guffawed uproariously at those who copied her sigh. They quieted down waiting for her to do something else they could mock.
Without looking up, she said in her quiet voice, “If you continue this, the others won’t be able to listen.”
The youngsters looked around, trying to find whom she was talking to. There was no one about, not close enough for them to hear what she was saying anyway. I watched curiously from a distance, wondering if she was one of the few who could interact with us. She couldn’t possibly have sensed us, and watching her I knew she hadn’t. That didn’t mean she couldn’t locate us though. Those who could see us usually couldn’t sense us, and vice versa. I wondered if she could hear the youngsters.
She was indeed a mortal to watch.
She sat there silently for a few minutes. The youngsters floated around her, catching ghostly flies with their gaping mouths. They were speechless, trying to organize their thoughts and work out what just happened. None of them had come into contact with a human that could actually hear them – it was startling. Those with me were also startled, but had seen it before. We just waited for one of the youngsters to make a move, as they could be the test to see if this girl was indeed legitimate.
Francis, the most levelheaded of the youngsters, came to his senses first. Alighting upon the soft ground, Francis glided across the grass and stood before her. He then bended at the waste so that his eyes were level with the top of her bowed head.
“Miss we apologize, we weren’t aware that you were reading to us. If you are willing, we would be glad to listen,” Francis said, always the gentleman. Because of his impeccable manners and gentle ways, Francis had most of the female Trapped lusting after him.
The girl smiled slightly at the words. “Thank you. What is your name by the way? Your voice is most calming.” She opened the book to where she left off and waited for his answer.
Francis made a grand bow towards her, even though she couldn’t see it. “My name is Francis, and what might yours be miss?”
Most of us only used our first names, those who kept a hold of their full names were holding onto a world that had left them behind. They didn’t interact with the rest of us; of course, we didn’t go out of our way to interact with them.
She had flipped back a few pages, “My name is Elsie.” That was all she gave us before returning to the book in her hand. Elsie’s voice was a bit louder, but not enough to disturb the other visitors. The youngsters gathered around, floating at various points above and around her. We may be spirits, but that didn’t mean we didn’t take up a little bit of space. My curiosity piqued, I floated over to listen.
The others who had been with me stayed where they were, wary. They remembered some of the humans who were able to pretend that they could hear us. They were usually schizophrenics.
I stood a bit apart from the youngsters, watching Elsie. She was a bit foggy due to the youngsters who were standing between her and me, but she was clear enough for me to contemplate her. A lock of silky black hair was dislodged by a gust of wind, and she pushed it back behind her ear. Huddling into herself she read to the Trapped surrounding her. A small smile remained on her lips as she read. I wondered what she was thinking, as I continued to study her.
She left after two hours of reading, the book having been completed. I hadn’t heard a word of what she read to us, and I wondered if she would return.
It had been a week before Elsie came back to the graveyard. We thought it was a one-time thing, and hadn’t noticed her enter the graveyard. I had been gazing longingly at the brick houses that guarded the perimeter, pondering how much the world had changed since I had been buried here over a hundred years ago. I was brought from my thoughts with Francis zooming passed. My startled washed out green eyes followed Francis as he flew to the gates leading into Greyfriars. There, looking around for a place to sit, stood Elsie. She was bundled up in her oversized trench coat again, making it impossible to tell what she looked like without it. Her black hair were tied back in a high ponytail; sunshine gleamed off her hair changing the color to a dark brown.
The other youngsters quickly followed suit, while the old timers looked on with guarded expressions. I just raised an eyebrow at them, and started to follow at a more comfortable pace. I certainly wanted to pick up the pace and zoom off, too, but I also wanted the time that it took to get over there to watch her interact with the others.
Before I could float a couple yards, George MacKenzie blocked my path. He was one of those who kept a hold of his full name and liked to look down his nose at the rest of us who abandoned our family name.
“Gregor, you aren’t going to join those youngsters in their appalling behavior are you?” he asked in his raspy voice.
I stared at MacKenzie for a second before answering, “Well it beats listening to you repeat your stories of torturing coventers, so I think yes. Yes I am going to be participating in that appalling behavior.”
Mackenzie’s face grew darker as I spoke. I didn’t worry too much about my safety, MacKenzie’s bark was worse than his bite. He may have been a fearsome executioner while alive, but dead he was just a small man with a loud voice. Not having the time or patience to listen to MacKenzie’s rant, I glided around him and floated towards Elsie. I ignored the obscenities he sent towards me as I made my way towards the large group huddled around her.
I noticed that Elsie had already chosen a spot to sit. The worn blanket she had last time was out again, and grave markers rose on either side of her where she sat. A small hardback book lay open in her lap, and her lips moved quietly as she read to those crowding around her. Francis floated directly over her shoulder, reading the words as she read them aloud.
I stood apart, yet again, just studying Elsie. While doing so, I wondered if she would return again to read to us—hoped that she would.
From where I stood, I could hear bits and pieces of the story as they floated through the air, “…other dolls were giggling, or that’s what her mind supplied in place of the silence. Hearing voices was better than sitting in a completely silent room waiting for one of the dolls to steal her soul. She started to whistle uneasily as she picked up…” Her voice was a tad bit haunting in my opinion, but it seemed to add to the story.
Elsie started a routine of showing up once a week; it was always seven days between each visit. Our ignorance of time passing was long forgotten, we began to count down the days until she would return. Elsie would show up with a different book every time and stayed longer and longer. With the days getting warmer she was able to stay and speak with some of the youngsters. She never looked up when they talked to her.
There was an instance when she had almost been scared away. George MacKenzie had started threatening her when we hadn’t been paying attention to him. We knew that he had a reputation with the humans for being a ‘poltergeist’, and Elsie seemed to be very aware of these rumors.
The lies had certainly gone to MacKenzie’s head. Truly, there was nothing to fear since there was no way he could actually harm a human. But the humans believed it was MacKenzie who caused them to faint, and left them with cuts and bruises on their bodies. Much like hysterical pregnancies, the bruising and fainting were caused in much the same way. The truth of the matter was this: they incurred those injuries themselves, from all the stumbling around in the dark and tripping over things as they scurried away. Humans could be so gullible.
Elsie had became frightened, and quickly started to gather up her stuff. Francis came to her aid, and so did every female trapped there. They would never allow MacKenzie of all people to shout abuse at their beloved Francis. It was completely unthinkable. MacKenzie had backed down when he saw that he was clearly outnumbered, along with seeing some of the females that had joined Francis’ side. Some of them had some weight to throw around, and their bite was much worse than their bark.
A curious thing developed with some of the female trapped when they died, some of them gained a sort of aura about them that allowed them to exert pressure upon other trapped. They usually were quite docile except when someone threatened their Francis. Once the women bared their teeth, MacKenzie quickly made a tactical retreat.
Francis had immediately gone to Elsie and explained that MacKenzie had left. Her erratic breathing had slowed, and she started putting everything back. I had glanced towards MacKenzie and saw him a ways off, glaring towards where Elsie sat. I wondered if he would make any more trouble. Taking a look at some of the female trapped I knew he wouldn’t. The females had become protective of Elsie, especially since Francis had taken a liking to her. They might not like that he was bestowing his attention upon her, but they didn’t want him to be sad by Elsie leaving. I wondered where I could get a following like that.
Every time she came, I would stay a bit off from the group and watch her, catching phrases and words as she read. I blocked out everything else in my surroundings from intruding as I watched and listened to her. There was something nagging at me about her, but I could never put my finger on it.
Then she asked something startling, something that most of us didn’t talk about. “Where are you buried Francis?”
Most of us didn’t talk about where we were buried, because some of us didn’t have grave markers. When the plague had hit years ago, many had been buried in mass graves, giving the graveyard bumps and hills. Francis had been one of them.
Francis grew pale, which was surprising since he was already whiter than death, and stumbled over his words, not sure how to answer. Taking pity on him, I stepped forward to explain. “He was buried in one of the mass graves, but no longer remembers the exact location.” Some of the females glared at me for daring to reveal such taboo information to a human.
Elsie’s head tilted towards me, “And who are you? I have never heard your voice before.”
Glancing at Francis I wondered if I should introduce myself. I had started thinking of her as Francis’ human and didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Francis nodded enthusiastically, obviously relieved that I had stepped in.
“My name is Gregor and, until now, I have only watched and listened as you read.”
She smiled her slight smile and said, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you Gregor. You have a very calming voice. Do you have a marker or were you also buried in a mass grave?”
“Indeed I do. I am buried on the northern side of the graveyard.” I said cautiously. She had never brought up this subject until now, and I wondered what she was up to.
Her head swiveled to look towards the north. “Is it clearly marked?”
Something was seriously off, and I wasn’t going to answer but Francis looked pleadingly at me. I had gone this far; I might as well supply the rest of the information. “Yes it is. They recently restored the writing on my marker, making it a bit more legible for those visiting.”
Elsie turned back to the book muttering something too inaudible to hear. It was common practice for her to mumble to herself, and I thought nothing of it. She didn’t ask any more questions, and soon packed up to leave. Unlike the other times she didn’t stop to say goodbye, but left hurriedly.
That night we were following the tour group around as always, the youngsters making fun of the excited tourists. MacKenzie glared menacingly towards the humans, cackling every once in a while when the tour guide mentioned something about him.
Without warning, I felt a cold chill run through me. This was something I had only felt once before. Being trapped, we never felt the affects of the weather, and only knew the temperature by how the mortals dressed. Stopping, I spun around in the air and headed for my grave.
I remembered hearing some of the other Trapped describing this same chill. It happens when someone is touching our bodies. Usually we only feel the chill at our funeral; though, a while back we did have some trouble with grave robbers.
All I could think about was why someone was taking my body. It had been a long time since I had been sealed in my tomb. My remains were probably just dust and bones.
Arriving at my tomb, I was greeted by the one person I wasn’t expecting, Elsie.
A crowbar lay stranded next to my grave, and Elsie stood beside my tomb reaching in. She was levering up my corpse that was surprisingly still in decent condition. It looked like the money my family paid for the sealing of my tomb had paid off. She grunted with the weight of my corpse, but was easily getting it out.
Something moved at the foot of my tomb. I saw a dark shape standing on the opposite side of my body. It stood level with Elsie’s chest, and looked completely unnatural. There was no way that thing was a human, and I wondered what exactly Elsie was, to have something like that helping her.
I then noticed smaller shapes, some were sitting while others stood, they all looked like little children waiting for their parents to finish talking. My thought process shut down as too many questions buzzed around my mind. My mind refocused onto one thing, Elsie was stealing my body.
Coming to a halt, I asked loudly, “Elsie what are you doing? Why are you taking my body?”
Elsie didn’t look up as she continued to lift the body out. “I really liked your voice Gregor.”
Words became lost at that statement. It became clear that she was completely insane. I turned to shout for help, but stopped. The other Trapped wouldn’t be able to help me, and since none of the humans had reacted to the taunts and jeers they wouldn’t be of any help either. I felt my hope shatter. This crazy girl was going to take my body and there was nothing I could do about it.
I could only watch in horror as Elsie got my body out and wordlessly directed the tall creature to replace the slab of stone. Surprisingly, it was able to slide the slab of stone back onto my tomb soundlessly and without much effort. I now understood how the visiting humans hadn’t heard a thing.
The smaller creatures lined up around my body and began to carefully wrap it up. Once they completed that task, they hauled up the bundle and began to silently leave with it. Elsie led the way, her trench coat swishing behind her.
I followed wordlessly behind her, forced to leave the place I had disdainfully called home for many years. I was finally leaving, but not in the way I thought.
We left the graveyard rather easily; no one seemed to notice a girl being followed by midgets carrying a wrapped body.
My body was easily loaded into a beat up old truck, parked just outside the front gate. After loading it, the creatures sat next to my body, waiting for Elsie to drive them away. I glanced back at the graveyard, wishing that I had the ability to touch the mortal realm. Unfortunately, I didn’t and could only watch helplessly as I was taken away. I saw the taller creature rejoin his companions, crowbar slung over its shoulder as it silently moved towards the truck.
Elsie nodded to herself as it settled into the back, and jumped into the driver’s seat easily. Starting, the vehicle roared to life answering its mistress’ wish. The vehicle clunked along the street, dragging me unwillingly along. I hadn’t been forced to go anywhere since I had been buried; it was not the best feeling in the world.
Getting tired of being pulled along, I floated to where I was level with Elsie. Peering inside the truck, I noticed that the back seat looked like someone had been living in it. I wondered if Elsie had camped inside her truck when she came to visit us. This indicated that she lived rather far from the city. Looking away from my kidnapper, I watched as the city became the country. It’d been a long while since I’d last seen the country.
After several hours, the truck pulled off onto a gravel road and trundled up to a rickety looking house. The worn house loomed in the darkness. Tree limbs grasped towards it, but were held back by a decaying fence. Empty flowerbeds were scattered throughout the yard, looking lonely without the colorful plants. Familiar creatures ran through the darkness towards the truck, all of them the same size as the ones that surrounded my body.
Elsie pulled up to the house, and turned off the truck. It died with a squeal and clunk, and I wondered if that was a good sign. I stayed silent as the things unloaded my body and walked up to the house. Elsie held the front door open as they passed over the threshold.
I entered curiously, wondering what my new home would look like. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad here. New scenery had never been a bad thing.
Elsie felt along a wall and flipped a switch. Light flooded the room and I was horrified by what I saw. Half decayed bodies lined the walls in glass cases. Rotten skin flaked off of faces, muscles were visible through holes in the skin, organs were held back with string. I hoped dearly that this wasn’t about to happen to me, but I knew it would. My hopes were dashed once again when I saw the empty glass case.
“Why me, Elsie? We only talked once. Is this why you asked Francis where he was buried?” I asked desperately, wanting to understand what was going through the girls mind.
“I liked your voice more than Francis’. You have a much more calming tone,” she replied.
I glanced around, trying to get a clue as to what was going on. My eyes fell on the mysterious creatures that had carried my body. I beheld ragdolls everywhere. Button eyes gleamed at me from every corner, stitched mouths grinned and frowned at me. Some of them whispered to each other as they gazed at me. My ghostly stomach dropped as I wondered what type of black magic was at work here.
“What are these things Elsie?” I asked, hoping that she would answer at least one of my questions with a straight answer.
“They are like you, trapped on this plane. I liked their voices too and decided to give them a warm home where they would be forever loved.”
I looked over Elsie and saw her directing some of them in unwrapping my body and placing it in the glass case. My body had mummified to an extent. Yellow skin was pulled taut against my bones. I now cursed the money my family put into sealing my tomb, wishing that I was no more than dust. That this nightmare had never started.
When it was securely sealed into the case, Elsie gestured for one of the ragdolls to bring her something. I watched as they dragged out a new ragdoll from the shadows. It was little more than a brown sack stitched around stuffing, dark green buttons sewed onto the face stared off into the distance.
I gazed at the doll uneasily, “Elsie, what are you planning to do?”
“Don’t worry Gregor, soon you will be part of the family.”
Picking up the doll, Elsie smiled at it. Taking a silver needle, black thread hanging limply from it, she began to stitch a mouth onto the doll. The needle followed the rhythm of her chant, made inaudible by her quiet voice.
A force started to tug me towards the doll. I resisted as best I could, but I wasn’t strong enough to fight whatever she was doing. My vision started to become cloudy; I fought even harder as darkness crowded in. I soon lost the battle and allowed the darkness to take me.
“…gor” Someone was calling me, I think. Not really sure, but that sounded like a name I should know.
Light seeped through as I opened my eyes. I was greeted by the sight of a black haired angel gazing down at me.
“Gregor, are you all right?” she asked.
Touching my forehead, I shook my head a little bit. I guessed that I was this Gregor, but I had no memory of the name or who she was. “I think so, but I don’t seem to remember anything. Who are you?”
Her white eyes gazed at me with concern, “It looks like that fall was a bit to much.” Picking me up, she brought me level with her face. Pointing to herself, she said, “My name is Elsie, I’m your mother.” Poking me in my cloth chest, she continued, “And you are my son Gregor. These,” she turned me around, “are your sisters and brothers.”
I noticed strange statues lining the walls in glass cases, but did not pay them much attention. All I knew was the relief rushing through me at knowing that I wasn’t alone. I may not remember them, but at least they remembered me.