“Now just picture yourself pushing out the words like a wave. Try and project a word at me.” Heather stood across the now empty living from the man. She had pushed all the furniture to one side to give them a blank space to work in.
He focused on the first word that popped into his head and held a hand out in front of him like she’d shown him. He imagined the word rushing down his arm and out into the air, growing larger as it gained speed.
“oooOOOOooooo…” He frowned as the noise filled the room and then faded away. Heather covered her mouth with one hand but he could see she was trying not to laugh and failing.
“That’s a good first try.” She said once she’d gotten control of herself, “The vowels are always easiest, especially O’s.”
He frowned and tried a different word, this time with no O’s, “Aaaaaaarrrrruuuu…”
“I wish I knew what words you were trying to say… at least that time you got an r in there. Keep practicing, I just need to get Julie’s lunch packed. Try making a hard sound like T or K, those are always tricky.”
“ohhHHhhhaaaaayyyyy…” He sat down on the floor even though he didn’t seem to feel fatigue anymore, “Ohhh-aaay” He managed a shorter noise at least as Heather left him to practice. He could hear her rummaging around in the fridge. By the time Julie made her way down the stairs he felt like he was getting the hang of it.
“Haaaaiiiiii” He waved at her a little. Julie rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen with her sister. He could hear them talking faintly in the kitchen, and then Julie was rushing out the door with her backpack.
“Making progress?” Heather asked when she returned to him a little while later.
“Sooooorrrddd Ufffff…” He frowned a little. He’d almost managed a t earlier.
“That’s at least a bit better. Not quite good enough to get your real name though, pronunciation is very important. I’ll get Julie on that after school. Maybe we can get you interacting with the real world a little bit, that will help keep you grounded until we can get you back in your body.”
“grroowwwwnnddeeehh?” He asked.
“Yeah, even if your not dead, the spirit doesn’t do well when not in your body. If we keep you grounded and in touch with the world there’s less chance of something going wrong when we put you back.”
“Nothing to worry about, we’re gonna get you sorted out long before any danger.” She smiled at him again but he was less than convinced this time. “Right, so interacting with the world works the same as talking, you’re projecting from your mind. This time though, instead of letters, you try and push out force. Like how the air moves when you wave a fan. You can even picture holding a fan if it helps.”
He focused and waved his wrist and nothing happened.
“Well… I suppose it would help if we gave you something to work on… come with me.” She led the way into the kitchen again. He stood awkwardly at one end of the solid wood table that consumed most of the room and watched as she dug through the cupboards for a stack of paper cups. She piled them up in a pyramid and gestured at them, “Try knocking these over.”
He focused again and waved his hand like a fan. A stray basil leaf on the table twitched but the cups were unmoved.
“Hey, you’re doing something. Keep at it. In the meantime I’m just going to straighten up, holler if anything happens.”
“kkkaaaayyy…” He tried again and nudged the leaf as she left the room.
The day dragged on as he practiced, and by the time Heather had finished the laundry he could move the cups slightly. She tidied up the kitchen area carefully, cleaning the counters first and then wiping down the table while he took a break. She was cooking dinner when he finally knocked part of the pyramid over, and Julie shutting the door too hard knocked the rest of it over.
“Yaaaaaayyy.” He said as Julie tossed her backpack by the staircase and sat down at the table.
“He’s making good progress, no fine tuning yet but at least we can communicate a little.”
“Yay, great. I have a lot of homework so can I eat in my room?”
“I guess, but once you’re done I need you to try and find out his name.”
“And how am I supposed to do that? I’m not a mind reader and he’s still barely talking.”
“Do whatever it is you do to find these things out.” Heather said, “If you do I’ll take us to the movies tomorrow. Saturday is no use for this stuff anyways.”
“I get ice cream too.”
“And you let me drink coffee again.”
“Hey I’m going to have to stay up for this, I’ll need the caffeine.”
“Just until we’re done helping our friend here.”
“Deal.” Julie grabbed her sister’s hand and shook it, then served herself from the pot on the stove and hurried upstairs with her bag.
Once she was finished with her homework Julie came back downstairs, dressed in a baggy sweatshirt and wearing a baseball cap. “Come on, ghost-man, we’re going on a mission.”
The man looked confused and she gestured towards the door, “I need you to help me find your name so we can start sorting out this mess. Now get on my bike so we can get this over with.” She opened the door and headed out, leaving the man to follow and climb on the back of her moped again. She revved the engine and they sped off back towards the man’s apartment building.
The building was mostly dark, and she tugged on the door to test. It pulled open easily and she frowned. “Weird, usually they lock this.”
“Shoooo beee.” The man agreed as they went inside. The stairs were well lit and she led the way up to the top floor in silence.
“Hang on.” She put a hand out to stop him and he passed partly through it before stopping and backing up. She shook her arm and glared at him a little before peering out into the hallway. A woman in a grey business suit with a serious looking bun was knocking on the door across from his grumpy neighbor and looking anxiously at a clipboard. Julie backed up further into the stairwell. “Do you stash a spare key somewhere? Cause she’s gonna notice something if I start picking the lock like I’d planned.”
The man shook his head, then held up a finger. He pretended to push a wave of force at her, then mimicked a lock turning.
“You… you think you can do that already? I suppose it’s worth a shot… I’ll hang out here and you see what you can do. Come let me know when you’re done.” Julie hunkered down in the corner to wait and the man moved past the woman in the hallway and to his apartment. He walked through his door like he had initially and looked at the door lock. He hadn’t put the chain on fortunately. He focused and tried to push the lock. It turned a little, and with a few more tries he heard the click of it unlocking. He rushed back to the stairwell and gave Julie a thumbs up. She stood up, strolled casually down the hall past the woman who was still knocking, and entered his apartment, locking the door behind her. She hesitated at the sight of the man’s body, then went for a stack of letters on his desk.
“Wait… your name is Susan Green?” She smirked at him and he shook his head, pointing at the address, “Oh… your neighbor’s mail… alright… so you’re Bill Esler?”
The man nodded and she put the letters back where they were. She unlocked the door again and opened it. The woman was writing something down on her chart furiously. She looked up at Julie and shrieked, nearly dropping her clipboard.
“Err… sorry… I… um…” The woman stammered as Julie approached and picked up the woman’s clipboard and started to hand it to her, but stopped when she saw the chart on it.
“Oh are you kidding me… you guys screwed up, didn’t you?!” She tossed the clipboard at the woman, who let out a frightened squeak and took off down the stairs, “Wait! Come back here!” Julie gave chase and Bill followed after them, phasing through doorways without even realizing. They reached the front of the building moments after her, but in the cool night air there was no trace of the woman.
“Whoooooo?” Bill asked finally.
“I’m sorry, Billy-boy… things just got a lot more complicated. Let’s head back.” Julie got back on her bike and Bill joined her after a moment.