The Ghost Profiler
by George S. Karagiannis
Father once introduced Manny and me to what he used to call the Dead Poets Society. It was a gathering of weird and spooky people that used to visit our place on a regular basis, mostly afternoon hours. Hardly ever did they show any interest in seeing the whole house. Instead, they and my father used to keep their whereabouts strictly within the confines of the library room. My brother and I were never allowed to enter, and we were never told the reason for the existence of such paradoxical orders.
It never occurred to me that these random visits could involve something out of the ordinary or illegal. Father rushed to explain to us that he sought their assistance simply to write a book about some ideas that, at that moment, we would never have been able to understand fully. He made a promise though that eventually, when we grew up more, we would.
I remember I used to have scattered, opaque thoughts while watching by the kitchen door. The Dead Poets Society was locked behind the wooden-framed, silica-glass library door. They could stay there for hours, entirely absorbed and focused on the serpentine pathway of their utopian quest for this “complicated idea” I could not understand. The only thing I could picture from my hiding place was their blurred figures, a byproduct of their vague projections behind the glass, while they were moving, making gestures and chatting with each other.
I would never reach their level, according to father; right?
* * *
Manny used to mock me that the library was a nest for the wormolytes. When I told him this was not funny at all, Manny apologized and he told me that he was not afraid of the wormolytes as much as the putrid faces he was seeing every night in his dreams. The faces of father’s colleagues, the members of the Dead Poets Society. I still remember that night’s conversation.
“You think they are aliens?” he had asked me one night, half his head under the blanket.
“Who? The wormolytes?”
“Not them! I mean the poets from the dead...”
I smiled to him tenderly. “Hahaha, no, Manny, they are not poets from the dead! They are the Dead Poets Society, and they are more human in nature than anyone else in the Emerald fields.”
“I can’t get their faces out of my head.”
“I’ll help you get them out of your head. Let me tell you about another ghost, the one that once belonged to a small child eaten by the wormolytes!”
Back then, I never realized that Manny was paradoxically not afraid of the wormolytes; instead he was scared of father’s circus of scholarly freaks. Later I realized that this small moment dictated Manny’s fate for once and for all.
* * *
One day, father warned us that the Oracles were on their way to our house and we should not speak of or imply anything about the library room and the Dead Poets Society. He threatened he would lock us in the basement if we dared to talk about them. Father justified his attitude with a simple notion that the Oracles would have never approved the imprinting of a beautiful idea or a thought-provoking spark into something as “preposterous” as the book was at those times.
The Oracles had no real human feelings; father told us they might not even be humans. The Oracles couldn’t comprehend the nature and the satisfaction of sharing your thoughts with the rest of the world by means of writing a book. This was what best described Oracles, according to father: cold blood.
I could easily get the big picture, but I never realized what hidden meanings lay behind father’s sayings. Since I never really understood why someone would possibly desire for people to learn of his innermost beliefs by way of the written language, I had to put myself in the unpleasant position of agreeing with him obediently.
When the Oracles came to our house, I saw they were five in number and all looked alike. They were dressed in their lengthy dark cloaks from head to toe, hiding their faces with net veils resembling aged spider webs in abandoned houses. They each carried a heavy, grey, tarnished toolkit in one hand but kept the other hand hidden under their long sleeves.
The Oracles did not pay any attention to me or Manny at the beginning, as we were sitting by the couch in the living room frozen and openmouthed. They addressed only father, who gently invited them to sit by the fireplace.
Initially, the Oracles coldly refused to come deeper into the house; instead they kept talking to father in whispers. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, even from so small a distance. All I could clearly make out was a breeze of frustration spilling over in the atmosphere and a sudden but quite evident shift in father’s behavior.
I could swear father had been intimidating and authoritarian towards us some minutes before, but after the Oracles appeared at our doorstep, he seemed to be very worried, anxious and submissive to them. I could sense some sort of predetermined and mutually accepted superiority scale between them. Hardly do I recall other moments in my life I could say father behaved in so timid a way as that day.
After a while, I could snapshot father’s tragic expression as he turned his look to us and approached us both with an enforced sigmoid smile drawn in his face. The Oracles hadn’t moved an inch from their positions.
Father told us there was nothing to worry about, because all the Oracles wanted from us was simply to perform a DNA test, as they were updating their “biobanking system” and needed to know where exactly we stood.
And all I did was hesitantly lick my lips to moisten the dried mucous that sat upon them and patiently tried to take my pulse to fill the silence of the moment. All I managed to spit out, tremulously, was, “Father, what’s a DNA test?” as if this DNA thing had to do with the wormolytes.
* * *
Copyright © 2013 by George S. Karagiannis