THE GHOST IN THE CLOSET
by M. K. Theodoratus
Some say the ability to see ghosts is a gift, but after losing her job, Dumdie Swartz says, “Hogwash”.
Since she was a child, Dumdie has seen ghosts and has developed several quirks to cover the fact so she wouldn’t need to explain herself or be exploited. When her boss witnesses several of these occasions, he fires her, thinking that she suffers from a mental issue that could be a liability to his business.
Without a job and money, Dumdie becomes just another old, homeless woman living out of her car. As winter approaches, her luck changes, and she secures a private room in a homeless shelter, but it isn’t as private as she thinks. The ghost of the former owner of shelter haunts the room where she died, searching for the misplaced will that guarantees the shelter would continue to exist as she so desired.
Dumdie must make a decision. Does she continue to hide her gift in fear of upsetting people or appearing insane? Does she go out on a limb and try to save the shelter, the room they have given her, and herself in the process.
The closet was colder than the room, making her shiver harder. Rather than hang a sweater on the rail, she put it on. It’s nice to be in a real room again even if it’s so small.
Though the ceiling was high enough Dumdie didn’t have to stoop, the room still felt like a straight jacket with its small desk and chair and the narrow bed and three-drawer dresser. Her shoulders hunched together as she tried to avoid the pressure of their presence. Dumdie plopped down on the bed and examined the room. Stared at the closet, a gaping hole in the faded flowers of the wallpaper.
Strange. Someone put wallpaper in an attic room? Dumdie thought hard as she tried to figure out an acceptable answer to her question. Oh, it was the maid’s room.
Still, the closet bothered her, a scratching on the back of her mind. Nothing strange should lurk in there. It was a bare nook with a rod running across it for hangers. She had counted thirty of them, snuggled up together as if they liked each other. Touching. Dumdie shivered. Though she tolerated Hanna being near her, people pawing at her bothered her. The walls of the room were almost as bad. If she stretched her arms out, it’d take two side steps to reach the wall.
Maybe if the dresser were out of the room, it’d feel larger? The closet’s large enough to hold it since I don’t have many clothes.
The dresser rolled easily into the closet on its squeaky wheels. The shift opened up a long expanse of uninterrupted wall. Dumdie grabbed her two suitcases to pack the dresser when a bone-chilling fist hit her in the gut. Dumdie dropped the cases as she staggered back. The cold wrapped its fingers around her neck, and tears trickled down her cheeks. After months of controlling her fits, they had returned, as sharp as knives, to torture her.
Slumped on the narrow bed, shoulders hunched, Dumdie’s gaze stuck to the open closet door. Thin ribbons of cold snaked up her back. Tendrils of Arctic ice stabbed at her from across the room, pushing her knees hard against the mean excuse for a bed. She closed her eyes and struggled against the frigid weight. Sweat trickled down through her gray hair down to her wrinkled brow.
Memories of her last exit interview rose, her pale-faced boss hemming and hawing about her excessive daydreaming. What he really feared were my so-called TIAs, Dumdie harrumphed. Easier to think I was having small strokes rather than seeing things. Stupid man thought I’d increase the store’s health insurance premiums.
Knowing his books better than he did, she couldn’t bring herself to blame him. She took her Social Security early but couldn’t find another job. Without enough to live on, she lost her apartment when her poker winnings couldn’t make the rent even if her card counting put her ahead of the game. She didn’t dare win too much.
Dumdie shoved her anger under a mental rock. Displaying emotions got her into trouble, even as a child. She pushed the memories of screaming in frustration when nobody understood and of being locked in the broom closet, aside.
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ABOUT M. K.
Hooked by comic books at an early age, M. K. Theodoratus’ fascination with fantasy solidified when she discovered the Oz books by L. Frank Baum with his strong female characters. She has traveled through many fantasy worlds since then. When she's not reading about other writer's worlds, she's creating her own. Most of her tales are set in the Far Isles where she explores the political effects of genetic drift on a mixed elf human population. She also writes about gargoyles, magic, ghosts and other magical beings.
A sixth grade English assignment started her writing. The teacher assigned a short story. Theodoratus gave her an incomplete, 25-page Nancy Drew pastiche which turned into a full novel by the next summer. She’s been writing happily ever after ever since in two different alternative worlds – that of the Far Isles Half-Elven and in Andor where humans fight demons in many forms.
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I am now a little creeped out at the idea of hangers liking each other. *shiver*
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