Bewildering Stories

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Ghost Therapy

by Gerald Sheagren

I was the number one horror therapist in New York City, the whole United States for that matter, quite possibly the entire world. They all came to me with their worries and woes and hang-ups: ghosts, goblins, vampires, zombies, werewolves, poltergeists, and every other supernatural entity I could think of. Oh, yes, indeed! They had their problems just like anyone else: inferiority complexes, phobias, depression, multiple personas, anxiety, you name it. I once treated a vampire, Count Zoltan, who couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Made him deathly sick, causing him to break out with hives from head-to-foot. By the time his therapy was finished, he was sucking down ten gallons a night.

It was a beautiful day on that May the tenth, two-thousand-three: damp, dark, depressing, dingy, dismal, dreary, dull, every D you could think off. The fog was thick, with precipitation ranging from mist to darn right downpour. As I sat waiting for my two o’clock appointment, I regretted not taking the day off and taking my wife on an outing. With a record thirty days of sun, we needed a time like this to lift our spirits.

I fingered the switch to an intercom I had set up in the waiting room. “Mister... uh...” I quickly checked my appointment book. “Oh yes. Mister Graves, are you out there?”

“I am.”

“Please come in. You’re right on time, sir.”

A few seconds later, my door swung open and Graves entered, completely invisible, with only depressions in the carpet to mark his presence. There was no gust of bone-chilling cold. No stench. No nothing. This guy indeed had a very serious problem.

“For starters, Mister Graves; I would appreciate you materializing for me.”

“Uh... I’ll try.”

The air rippled for a few moments and a grayish-green cloud began to swirl, ever so slowly taking the shape of a man. And, then, in the snap of a finger, he disappeared.

“Having troubles, Mister Graves?”

“Please, call me ‘John’.”

“Very well. It appears, John, that you have some difficulties with materializing.”

“Yes. I can never seem to get the hang of it.”

“Concentrate. Focus your mind.”

“I’ll... uh... try.”

Again, the air rippled, followed by a whirling cloud of green vapor.

“Concentrate, John. Concentrate and keep focused.”

A head appeared, with frizzy brown hair, pug nose and weak chin. Let me correct that; no chin at all. Then the torso: stooped shoulders, sunken chest and gangling arms. Finally, a set of short legs, slightly bowed. The first thought that struck me was “nerd.” The second was “geek.”

“There you go. Now that wasn’t hard, was it?”

He let out a weary hiss of breath. “Takes every bit of energy I’ve got.”

“We’ll work on that. Please, make yourself comfortable over my couch.”

Graves floated across the room, a little wobbly in flight, and tried to levitate himself over the leather couch, quickly plopping down with a wail of anguish. “See. I can’t get anything right!”

“It seems to me that you have a bit of an identity crisis. Not to mention some low self-esteem. Fear not. I’ve seen this sort of thing more times than I can count.” I hastily scribbled some notes on my yellow legal pad. “Now, John, tell me a little bit about yourself. Your childhood, family history, those sorts of things.”

“Well, I’ve been behind the eight ball ever since I was born.”

“Uh-huh. What sort of a day was it when you were born? The weather, I mean.”

“The sun was out. Can you imagine? Hell, my older brother was born at the stroke of midnight. My sister was born the same day as a catastrophic hurricane. Oh no, not me; I got the frigging sun! And, believe me; my father has never let me forget it.”

“I see.” I considered his last name for a few moments. It sounded very familiar. “Your father wouldn’t, by any chance, be the infamous M.T. Graves?”

“Bingo! You hit the nail on the head.”

“Well, I can see your problem. That is one hard act to follow.”

“I mean; when he enters a room, the whole place turns into a skating rink. Fifty below zero! And his stench is perfectly revolting. Just like an outhouse simmering under a hundred-degree sun. Man, it causes the short hairs on people’s necks to stand up and salute. The guy is totally awesome. He’s haunted some of the most hellish places in America. He even played a hand in that Amityville deal.”

“What about your mother?”

“Mom is exactly what you would want in a wife. She has stringy hair, all greasy and messy and kind of tied in knots. The most beautiful wart you ever saw, right on the very tip of her nose. Her pointed teeth and red eyes are absolutely adorable. Hell, she could have been a centerfold for Ghoul Girl.”

“The act gets even harder to follow. Where did your Mom and Dad meet?”

“The Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina. Under, of course, a breath-taking sky of near-black storm clouds. It was revulsion at first sight. A ritualistic marriage soon followed, complete with the sacrifice of a thirteen-year-old virgin, and a long, romantic, voodoo honeymoon in Haiti.”

“Everything’s so utterly perfect, isn’t it?”

“Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Do you see what I have to live up to? And, so far, I’ve been an abysmal failure! Hell, my parents have all but disowned me.”

“The causes of your problems are deep-rooted, but there’s a very simple course of therapy.”

“Which is?”

“For starters, John; you have to be your own ghost. Don’t even consider following in your parent’s footsteps.”

Believe me; my Mom and Dad very rarely leave footsteps.”

“You have to get that ‘I can do’ attitude. And you can start right now. Go over to that mirror and take a good, long look at yourself. Go on. That mirror right over there.”

My good, old mirror. Had a vampire once, who, when he looked in that mirror, he could see himself. No good. Serious problem! When I was finished with him, he could have walked through a house of mirrors, at any amusement park, and never cast a reflection. Needless to say, I charged him an arm and a leg for that round of therapy. And he delivered to, the very next day, the limbs all wrapped up neatly in butchers paper. Last that I heard, he was the administrator of a blood bank in Romania.

John trudged over to the mirror and took a half-hearted glimpse of his image.

“No, no, John. Hold your head up. Puff out that... uh... that chest. Display a little self-confidence.

He tried to square his stooped shoulders.

“Now say ‘I’m a ghost’!”

“I’m... uh... I’m a ghost.”

“Louder. Sound as though you mean it. ‘I’m as good a ghost as my father’!”

“I’m as good a ghost as my father!”

“Better. Not bad. ‘I’m as good a goddamned ghost as Patrick Swayze’!”

He licked his lips and actually got a puff out of his chest.

“Go ahead, John. Let it rip. And mean it! Put some feeling into it.”

“I... I’m as good a goddamned ghost as Patrick Swayze!”

“Do you feel it, John? Do you feel the confidence surging through your body?”

“Yes, yes! I can feel it! I can definitely feel it!”

“That’s my ghost! After a few more sessions, you’re going to be a regular knockout. The old man will be proud!”

He floated out of the office that day and I could actually feel the air turning a bit chilly. And the stench wasn’t bad; something like vegetables rotting in an old root cellar. He would need a little work, but he was coming along.

It was a few minutes after John’s tenth session when I heard the wail of police cars in the distance, getting closer by the second. Soon after, a great cacophony of sounds; screams, screeching tires and sirens all melded together right below my window. Intrigued, I quickly dashed down to the street and stood there, dumbstruck, not believing what my eyes beheld. The air was absolutely frigid and there was ice everywhere; on the sidewalk, the windows, the sides of buildings, the subway entrance! A woman, her eyes wide with fright, was lying flat on her back, the whole front of her dress ripped down to bra and panties! And the stench was so terrible that even I had to take a few moments to settle my stomach.

I chuckled to myself as I took in the bedlam. Oh, yes, indeed! In the short course of a month, I had created yet another monster! Goes to show you how much a pat on the back could accomplish.

Watch out M.T. Graves; your son is going to gobble you down for supper!

Copyright © 2003 by Gerald Sheagren