“Pass the practical part of the interview,” Tina said, “and Ghostly Goings On will give you a trial. We’ve got a big hunt coming up at Castle Broadbent, but there’s no harm if nothing happens in some areas. We want the punters to go away barely satisfied.”
Brad figured he could do barely satisfied; his widow, Maureen, had been telling him so for years. Why else would the incident in the cellar with the lecherous medium have been his fault?
“There’s a table on the earth plane with a small glass on it,” Tina said. “Tommy and Maureen are going to touch the glass lightly and you’re going to move it around in answer to Tommy’s questions. Okay?”
“Yes,” Brad said. He had to get this gig. He’d tried every other poltergeist supply company this side of the veil. Maureen lived for ghost hunting; she was never happier than when tipping tables. Besides, he couldn’t think of another way of getting even with the bitch.
“Brad,” Tommy said, as if revering an angel, “would you like to speak to us?”
“Yes,” Brad said.
“Move the glass!” Tina said. “You have to move the glass.”
Brad had paid attention in poltergeist class and hoped his parlour tricks would hold up to the test. This should be as easy as falling off a log, which was a rather unfortunate memory, being as that’s what had killed him. Whilst stoking the fire he had tripped and hit his head on the marble hearth. He could still hear Maureen laughing whilst his crimson insides stained the world. His death had certainly solved their immediate problem, leaving her free to chase after whoever had caught her eye. Yet, she wasn’t going to get away that easily — not without a little fright.
He reached out across the ether. Tommy tapped his finger impatiently on the glass and leered at Maureen who stood across the table from him.
“Spirits of this place,” Tommy intoned. “If you wish to speak to us, please move the glass towards the lovely lady across from me.” Maureen blushed.
Brad summoned energy from wherever he could; the living, the electrical wiring, the heat in the air. He drained the very light from the room. The lamps flickered. A bulb blew. The glass moved half a centimetre in the wrong direction.
“Does it feel colder in here? Did you feel that?” Maureen shrieked. “This is the most activity I’ve felt for months!”
Typical, Brad thought, now she appreciates me.
Tommy smiled a smile which Brad knew Maureen had seen before. “Spirits! If you wish to communicate please move the glass again. Use our energies.”
Brad did just that. He summoned every ounce of hatred he had for Maureen; the way her perfume made him gag, the sagging body parts, the disappointment in twenty years wasted on a whore. The glass shot off the table and smashed against a wall, showering the humans with shards. A dozen tiny cuts brought a crimson sheen to their faces.
If Brad had been an apparition he would have been smirking; Tina did not share his glee.
“We’re not supposed to damage the customers,” she said. “You can frighten them, even throw stones at them: some really like that, but we have to draw the line at blood. They don’t tend to make further bookings.”
“Sorry,” Brad mumbled, “nerves. Can I try again?”
Tina nodded. “Try to tip the table.”
The living placed their fingertips on the heavy oak table. Tommy asked out, raising his arms above his head in supplication.
Resolutely, Brad thought about the table: the shade of the wood, the shape of the legs, the splintered corners, the rusty nails along one edge, the rough surface clearly never cared for. Like Maureen had never cared for him.
The table began to move. Slowly at first, Brad leaned on one side and then the other. The table tipped slightly from side to side. Within moments the table was spinning, the living sprinting in a drunken circle to keep up with the movement. Even Tommy looked nervous. Faces paled in the gloom. Someone switched on a torch. But there was no stopping Brad. He remembered Maureen had mentioned Tommy before; mentioned him in glowing terms — he was so sensitive. The heavy table teetered on the stone floor, scratching and scraping at the tiles.
“Brad,” Tina said, “good demonstration. You can stop now.”
Brad ignored her. The table gouged furrows in the stone floor.
“Brad!” Tina shouted. “Enough!
“Yes,” Brad said, “I have had enough!”
Suddenly, the table lurched toward Tommy. It pushed him across the floor before slamming him against the wall. Wood splintered and flew around the room. The table held Tommy tight. He screamed. His toes scrabbled for ground, barely reaching the stone floor. Blood stained his jeans and mixed with the dust on the floor.
The table pounded and banged against the wall. Brad was still chuckling when Tommy’s spirit materialised before him.
“What the — ” Tommy muttered.
“Sorry, mate,” Brad said, “must have hit an artery.” He turned to Tina. “So, do I get the job?”
“No. You just broke our second rule,” she said, “no killing the mediums.”
Ruth Imeson is an archivist who lives and writes in the English East Midlands. Her fiction has appeared at Tweet the Meat, 365Tomorrows, and in the anthology Twisted Legends. Further stories are scheduled for appearance in various anthologies from the Library of the Living Dead.