Spooktoberfest—Jennifer and Daphne

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To mark the upcoming Halloween, Jackie Felger and Dani Bertrand are hosting another of their blogfests. Participants are posting flash fiction stories of 300 words or less, containing the words:

cobweb(s)
cauldron(s)
jack-o-lantern(s)
ghost(s)
razor(s)

Winners will be announced on Halloween (my favoritest holiday besides Yom Kippur, which I know is a seemingly strange juxtaposition) and will get huge bags of their favorite candy, plus some fun spooky items.

I had to go with Daphne Vanessa Roblensky (née Filliard), since she’s just so much fun to write. Daphne’s dream of marrying her boyfriend fresh out of high school immediately took a very unexpected, unpleasant turn, in part because she invoked the wrath of her 13-greats-grandma Jennifer. Since Berus finally found his balls and walked out on her (at least for the time being), Daphne has been all alone in an efficiency that feels as small as the stateroom in A Night at the Opera.

My piece is exactly 300 words. It’s Halloween 1998, and Daphne is 18.

***

Daphne batted a mop at a gigantic cobweb lurking in the corner of her glorified box.

“What’s wrong, little Mistress Roblensky, afraid to sully your hands?” Jennifer asked. “I was never afraid to sully my hands with cobwebs.  Our sex may have had less rights in my century, but we weren’t afraid of hard work.”

“Are you going to disappear soon?  Abby and Katie are coming over in an hour.  They’re my last hope for making friends at Rowan.  If they knew some stupid ghost is constantly lurking around me, they’d think I was a freak.”

Jennifer crossed her ankles. “I passed as a human just fine when I went to that sorority you were attempting to join.  The girl who answered the door only realized what I was as I was walking away.  And I’m not just any old ghost.  I’m your thirteen-greats-grandma, and I’m only doing this to try to teach you some important lessons.  When have I ever been a nefarious spirit?”

Daphne dropped the mop where it was, uncaring that a puddle began forming on the ugly, dirty carpet.  Once in the box-sized bathroom, she reached for her razor and the cheapest shaving cream she’d been able to find.

“Unless your costume shows your bare legs, or if you’re planning to have relations with a boy at your party, why bother to shave?  Women in my day never shaved.  My Daniel certainly never thought me less a woman because I had hair on my legs.  And you just shaved a day ago.”

“Do you really want me to lob one of my jack-o-lanterns at you?”

Jennifer eyed the candies in Daphne’s plastic cauldron. “I’m surprised you have candy. I thought you wanted to preserve your stick figure.”

“Whatever, at least I’m not a freaking ghost.”

Charlotte’s Ghost

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Today, 15 September, starts the Ghosts (and the girls who love them!) Blog-Hop and Giveaway, hosted by Jessa Russo, whose debut novel Ever is coming out via Curiosity Quills Press on the first of October. Participants are posting ghost love stories of 1,000 words or under for a chance to win some great prizes. Prizes include books, a query critique, and a first three chapters critique.

To vote, leave a comment with the word “vote.” You must have the word “VOTE” in your comment for it to be considered valid.

It was only natural to use some of the ghosts from my handwritten magnum opus Cinnimin. Though the work is intended as historical fiction (with the usual spoof and satire elements present in all my Atlantic City books), eventually stretching into the modern era and the future, there are sporadic paranormal elements in the form of ghosts. First and foremost, the ghosts of Cinni’s foremothers.

Charlotte is Cinni’s 12-greats-grandma, whom Cinni doesn’t know she’s descended from till 1985. Currently, late in Saga VI (the Nineties), Charlotte’s daughter Jennifer is playing a leading role in (non-malevolently) haunting and cursing Cinni’s insufferable granddaughter Daphne.

***

Colony of New Jersey, 1645

Here Charlotte Rebecca Lennon, March 5, 1620-September 18, 1645, lies in state for all time and eternity.  She was born with a rare gift of prophecy, able to see her family’s future for as long as there is time.  When her far-off descendants discover her in their family tree, many secrets will be revealed and the identity of the ninth reincarnation of WTCOAC Woman will come to light.  Her book of prophecies will be hidden for 345 years, and will be discovered and read only by the ninth incarnation and her descendants.  Anyone else who shall find out will get his or her tongue burnt out.

She was the loving consort of Eliezer van Meter and the mother of their only begotten child Jennifer Sophronia Lennon, whose birth cost her her life.  Only when society abandons the cruel stigma against being descended from a free woman and her out of wedlock child will the mystery of her family tree be solved. 

This private grove and mausoleum are established and maintained by Charlotte’s consort Eliezer and her cousins Anijta Greenhall, Millie Turtle, Danila Fairfax, and Elsie Maxwell.  If you are here and reading this, you are of the Lennon-van Meter line.  Congratulations on solving a centuries-old riddle, descendant from the future.

“You did a very good job with the inscription.” Charlotte ran a ghostly finger along the finely-engraved letters. “Not bad for someone who’s not a professional engraver.”

“Did I have a choice?” Eliezer asked. “You were so insistent that this spot in the cemetery remain inaccessible and top-secret, and that only immediate family and future direct descendants can pass here and live.  Who else was going to do it, your cousins?  A woman’s hands aren’t created for a task such as engraving.”

Charlotte looked down at her body, her eyes growing sad. “It’s hard to believe that only a month and a half ago, I inhabited that beautiful physical shell and was a living, breathing person.”

“You look just the same as a ghost.  If we had a mirror, you’d see you still have the same orange-blonde hair and ocean-colored eyes.  You’re not some shadowy figure without shape or form.” Eliezer picked the baby out of her perambulator and tried to hand her to Charlotte.

“Don’t torture me.  Even if I physically look the same, I don’t have a real body.  I can’t hold my sweet Jenny any more than I could still make love to you, my darling.  Even if I went through the motions with you, I wouldn’t feel anything where it really counted.  You’d be coupling with a shadow.”

Eliezer put Jennifer back and laid a hand on Charlotte’s.  He looked at her with understanding when he saw his hand going right through hers.

“Now that I’m dead, is there any hope you’ll change our baby’s name to the name I wanted?  As a final tribute to me?”

Eliezer squeezed the baby’s hand. “It’s the same name.  Jennifer is just the Cornish form of Guinevere.  Either way, it’s a very rare name she won’t have to share with anyone probably ever.”

“But I wanted Guinevere.  I love the association with the legendary literary character.” Charlotte leaned over the perambulator and brushed the baby’s forehead. “I wish I could’ve held her for a little longer, before the Angel of Death took me.  Even with my gift of prophecy, I couldn’t see the most important event, that I’d die in childbirth at twenty-five.  Did I think I could avoid the fate of other women just by virtue of shunning marriage?  Childbirth is childbirth, be you married or unwed.”

“Well, I paid a very low fee to the midwife for letting you die, and if I ever have another consort, I’m not recommending her.”

Charlotte cast a dark look at him. “Sometimes these things happen.  Even a very well-trained midwife or doctor can’t save every patient.  You’ll feel a fool if I am her only death out of perhaps several thousand women she delivers over her entire career.”

Eliezer picked the baby up when she began fussing. “I suppose you can’t feed her at all?”

“With what, phantom milk?  Thank God I died so soon after the birth, so my milk hadn’t come in yet.  A postpartum woman leaking useless milk is not a pretty sight, whether she or her baby be dead.  Besides, a ghost has no bodily functions.  I can’t even cry.”

“Fine, I’ll take her to one of your cousins.  They’re taking turns wetnursing her.”

“There are still some things I can do.” Charlotte brushed his arm and kissed him. “I still love you, even if you indirectly caused my death.  I was just one of the unlucky ones who couldn’t survive birth.”

“Will you still live with me in the house I built and watch over Jenny as she grows up?”

“You’re my husband in all but name.  Just because I lived with you outside of marriage and had non-marital relations doesn’t mean I’m some harlot who goes from man to man.  You’re stuck with me.”

Eliezer began pushing the perambulator out of the hidden grove. “I suppose it wouldn’t be very chivalrous or smart to evict a ghostly consort anyway.”

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll find it most enjoyable.  I was already following a very different path in life.  Why should I suddenly adopt a supposedly normal personality in death?  I’d rather be different from the others and true to myself than do things against my nature just to fit in and pretend to be as everyone else.” Charlotte floated ahead of them. “And by the way, we will have a descendant named Guinevere in the twenty-first century.  Her mother will be a dead ringer for me.  And she’ll meet Guinevere’s father right here in this grove.”

“Do you have to spoil everything just because you can see the future?”

“Would you rather wait centuries to discover these things?”

Eliezer shut up and continued pushing the perambulator.