by Dan Boyce
A girl gets a gift from an unexpected source.
|A Spirited Gift
She hated funerals.
Especially a funeral for some distant uncle she had never actually met, and being Thirteen how could they expect her to feel any attachment to the empty shell lying displayed in the wooden box like some cheap sideshow freak. Where was the dignity in that? Here was a person that had affected many lives or at least she presumed he did. Who knows how he had affected them. Who knows what had been created if it was not for this person.
She stood in the narrow pilgrim’s path lined by cheap yellow faded folding chairs. People dressed in sobering black sporadically filled them like a small case of discoloured measles. In the other room various liquids loosened the tongues of the gothic flamingoes.
A man stepped past her and walked over to the displayed goods. She had seen him before, just recently. Today. She was sure of it. It was the hooked nose he had that stood out. Where had she seen it before? He turned slowly to look around the room with a smirk.
She walked over to the hook-nosed man and it dawned on her that he looked almost exactly like her uncle on display, only much younger.
“Excuse me sir, but are you my Uncle Richard's son?” The man looked at her completely stunned and didn’t move for a second. A couple in the seat next to her looked up in annoyance, seeing that she was not talking to them they stood up and left the room.
A look of total confusion crossed the man’s face. “What?”
“I was just wondering if you were his son. You look just like him.” She pointed to her uncle’s body. He stared at her and blinked. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I didn’t know him very well and was wondering if you could tell me about him.”
The man turned, looked at the body then back at her. “Um, yeah I’m his son. What would you like to know?”
“Um, well. What was he like? What did he do?” She sat down while he remained standing.
“He? Well, he was a photographer. See those pictures on the wall? They were all taken by him.” He hesitated over that last word.
“Wow. They are really good.”
She looked up shyly. “I am kind of a photographer myself.”
“Really, what style?”
“Well, it’s not normal and I don’t know if it could be called a style…”
“Go on.” He encouraged her.
Taking a deep breath, she went on, “I take photos of ghosts. Yeah I know, now you can laugh at me.”
The man smiled reassuringly at her. “Now why would anyone laugh at you?”
“Cause ghosts aren’t meant to exist.”
The man knelt down closer and whispered. “Oh, but they do. In fact I would not be at all surprised,” He looked around, “If there was one in this very room.”
She leaned over conspiringly. “There is, but I can’t see it without my camera.”
“How does that work?” The man moved out of the way as an old man waddled by aided by his walking frame. “Hi Frank.” The hooked nosed man greeted him but apparently his hearing aid was turned down as the old man went by without a glance. Looking back at the young girl the hooked nose man said, “Funny old fart that Frank. Sorry, you were telling how you can only see ghosts with your camera?”
“Yeah, see what I do is find somewhere I think they are and take lots of photos all over and then when I upload them I go over them and see what ones have them in it.” The words rushed out of her mouth.
“Yeah, on my computer. I use a digital camera. Works really well and I can cut out bits and zoom in and all kinds of stuff. Really wish I had it with me now.” She said.
“You know what, I know where, um, dad, kept a camera for exactly the same thing. He believed too and kept his own book of them. Want to see it?”
She almost jumped out of here seat. “Yeah. That would be sweet.”
“Come on then, follow me.” He then left the room carefully stepping around everyone and walked up stairs. She followed closing behind.
Her mother cried out. “Sharon, you be careful up there and don’t go into any of the rooms now okay? You listening to me?”
“Yes mum. I hear you.” She then muttered under her breath, “Doesn’t mean I will though.” The man laughed at that.
“In the room down the hall. Right at the end, yes that’s it.” She followed his instructions. “Now open the door.” Inside it was dark. She felt around the wall to the side of the door and found a switch. Turning it on the room was filled in red. It highlighted the metal shelving and sinks covering the rear wall. Strips of exposed film curtained the left wall leaving the right wall bare.
“Wow. I have never been in a darkroom before.”
“Quite a sight isn’t it.” The man had somehow moved into the room without touching the girl in the doorway. “It’s in here.” He pointed to a box under the sink. Reaching down she yanked the box out and opened it. Revealed inside was an old album and a very strange looking camera with a dark liquid filled tube attached to the side of it and various filters on a pole running alongside the lens.
“Wow. What’s inside this?” she asked tapping the tube.
Her eyes widened until it looked like they were about to fall out. “Really? Real Ectoplasm? But I thought, how did, where did he…?”
The man giggled. “One question at a time, please.”
“Sorry.” Putting the book down, she turned the camera over in her hands and looked in the eyepiece. “How does it work?”
“Just like a normal camera except that it can solidify the ghost you are shooting for all to see for a split second. It uses normal film though. Not your fancy digital stuff here.”
“Look out, we are about to be discovered.”
Her mum had followed her upstairs. “What did I say? Get out of there now young lady.”
The man held up his hands when she tried to give the camera back. “It’s yours now. Take it. But be careful it took me a long time to find that stuff.”
“It took you a long time?”
“Guess you don’t need the camera after all.” With that he winked at her and dissolved in the air in front of her.
Wide eyed she put the camera and book in her bag and walked out to her mother. “I-I just saw,” she stammered, looking back into the darkroom. The look on her mother’s face told her that she would not accepted any nonsense right now. “Sorry mum.”
“Down stairs, now. We are leaving.”
“Yes mum.” She smiled. On the way out the girl looked towards the body and saw the man standing over the coffin winking at her. “Thanks.”