Monday, 21 November 2011

Fright Night

Casper the Friendly Ghost was moping. He had excellent reason to mope, because he was depressed. And there’s nothing more depressing in the world than a depressed, moping ghost, even if it’s a friendly ghost. And he wasn’t.

He was depressed because he was sick of the little town where he’d spent what he’d increasingly become convinced had been the best years of his unlife. He was sick of the people he’d spent his time being “friendly” to, who never seemed to reciprocate his friendliness. And he was depressed, most of all, because he was alone.

He hadn’t even had a girlfriend, had Casper. He’d had hopes, certainly, and once made a move on Wendy the Witch, but she’d merely swatted him away with her broom and laughed. He was, she’d said, too bald and too fat.

That had been years ago, and Casper hadn’t seen Wendy since then.

Then he decided to abandon being friendly and start scaring people.

That didn’t go quite as planned.

“Boo!” Casper would shout, in someone’s ear.

“Buzz off,” this person would snap, and even swat at Casper. You’d think they had no respect for ghosthood at all. ”Don’t bother me.” He couldn’t even scare anybody any longer.

So Casper decided to make an end to it all. And, having made that decision, he found that he had a problem.

Just how do you kill yourself if you’re a ghost?

Casper tried. Oh, he tried. He attempted to hang himself, and oozed right through the noose and fell to the floor. Since he wasn’t anticipating falling to the floor, he gave himself a nasty bruise on the buttocks. And since he was a ghost, and didn’t have the normal bodily repair mechanisms, the bruise wouldn’t even go away. And that depressed him even more.

Then he had decided to shoot himself. Since he didn’t have a gun, he sneaked into the home of the town’s greatest gun nut and stole the man’s treasured Magnum, turning it on himself. The bullet went right through him and shot dead the gun nut, who was sitting in front of the TV watching Rambo for the thirty-seventh time. Casper didn’t wait around to see what would happen. Not that he was afraid of being brought to justice, but because he was scared of loud noises.

Then he thought of drowning himself, but he remembered that he didn’t breathe. As for stabbing, that wouldn’t work either, for the same reason the bullet wouldn’t. Besides, he was scared of pain.

Poison? That cheered him up for a minute, until he remembered that he didn’t eat.

All this disappointment made him even more depressed. He moped so much that he looked like a squeezed out rag. And that depressed him even further.

It was at this low point that he had the Idea. It was the kind of Idea one gets only once in a hundred years of non-living, and if he were in his comic strip he’d have had a light bulb glowing above his head.

“Why don’t I jump off a high building and put an end to myself?” he thought. “There’s no need for a knife or a gun. I don’t even have to breathe or eat. All I have to do is fall."

But there was a problem with that too: there was no building higher than two stories in Spooksville, where Casper lived.

“I’ll have to go to the big city,” Casper said to himself (he’d developed a nasty habit of talking to himself over the years, another reason why he didn’t have a girlfriend). “They say the buildings touch the sky there, and that kind of fall will do the trick for sure.”

So, tying up his possessions in a swag bag on a stick (hey, he’d worked to gather that stuff, all right? Why should he dump it for some undeserving idiot to walk off with?) Casper slung it over his shoulder, dressed in his favourite shroud, and trudged off into the night.

Because Casper had no idea where the big city might be, it was several days before he wandered, quite by accident, to a highway where he managed to hitch a ride on the back of a lorry that took him far enough that he saw the lights of the skyscrapers shining in the distance. Those were fairly miserable days for the poor ghost, not least when the truck driver mistook him for a used rag and wiped off some engine grease on him. He was too broken in spirit even to say Boo.

So, finally, Casper came to the Big City (named, not unnaturally, Big City), and began looking for a nice building to jump off from.

He was spoiled for choice. And there was another problem.

In Spooksville there never had been a problem with choice. You took what you got and did with it what you could. Here there were so many tall buildings that Casper wandered all night, mouth agape, looking up until he got a crick in the neck.

“Blast!” he said, rubbing vigorously.”I didn’t know that could happen!”

Just then a woman walked up to him. She was a decidedly pretty woman, Casper thought, in her high heels, fishnet stockings, hot pants, bare midriff with the pierced navel, and the halter top which was one size too tight. “Hey sonny,” she said. “You want to have a good time?”

“Thanks awfully,” Casper replied politely, though if he’d had a heart its rate would have increased sharply. “I just want to kill myself, that’s all.”

“You don’t say.” The woman peered at Casper suspiciously. “You in fancy dress or something? If I wasn’t doped to the gills, I’d swear there was something weird about you, mister.”

“No,” Casper said, still politely, though if he’d had genitals, the blood flow to them would have increased dramatically – if he’d had blood, that is. “I’m not in fancy dress. Could you please tell me a good building to jump off from, ma’am?”

The woman snorted. “I’m not selling that kind of information, honey. Why don’t you just take a dive off that one there?”

Casper glanced up at the building she’d indicated. It reared skyward, its walls huge panels of glass and metal, so that it looked like aquaria stacked on top of each other. He almost expected to see fishes goggling at him through the glass.

“Thank you, ma’am,” he said. “That will do admirably.” But she’d already stalked off, muttering under her breath – something about having kooks enough in her life without one more.

With an inner sigh of regret (not a real sigh because he couldn’t breathe) at her departure, Casper walked over to the building. What he saw in the glass brought him up short and sent him scuttling backwards.

“Cor lumme!” Casper gasped, his refinement forgotten. “A ghost!” He was terrified of ghosts as well, as long as it wasn’t himself.

“It’s your own reflection, idiot,” an ant said, but it spoke in antlish, and Casper didn’t understand it. However, he did pluck up the courage to approach another part of the wall. There was no reflection here, the street lights having been broken and not replaced, and Casper took a short-cut through the nearest sheet of glass. This served as an admirable entrance, but the stick and the swag bag got stuck on the glass and fell outside on the pavement.

“Bother!” Casper swore. “Now I’ll have to go out and bring them in.”

In irritation, because the contretemps had thrown his entire suicide schedule out of gear, he stomped off to the main door of the building, only to find it locked and bolted, and watched over by a security guard sitting on a chair tilted against the wall and leafing through a magazine. Casper lingered long enough to get a look at the magazine, which depicted women even prettier than the helpful lady who’d talked to him outside, only with fewer clothes. Some of them didn’t have any clothes at all, not even the fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes. The guard was too engrossed in looking at these beautiful women to notice Casper. Maybe he thought they’d help him. But he was sitting right in front of the door, and there wasn’t a hope in hell that Casper could open it without him noticing.

Sadly, Casper decided to abandon his swag bag (it had already been purloined by a street urchin, but Casper wasn’t aware of that) and tried to find a way up. It was more difficult than he’d thought, because off the bat there were no stairs that he could see and he wasn’t familiar with the concept of an elevator. Not that it would have done him much good if he had been, because the power to the elevators had been turned off for the night. Not that Casper knew what electricity was, either.

In the end he settled for going outside and climbing up the building, hand over hand. This worked fairly well for a little while, until he made the mistake of looking back over his shoulder, and screamed.

Casper had just discovered that he was afraid of heights, as well.

Quickly, he squeezed back through the glass, and fell through into an office. The floor was thickly carpeted, and he wasn’t hurt, though he did get dirty. The cleaning staff had been less than thorough.

He’d just picked himself up and dusted himself off when he realised he wasn’t alone...

The figure which sat behind the desk in the office crossed its red-stockinged legs on the desk and tossed its long blonde hair over its shoulder. “What took you so long, Casper?” it asked.

Casper had been struck so dumb with fear that he literally couldn’t speak. Now he swallowed drily and approached the desk cautiously. “You know me?”

“Of course I know you, Casper, you idiot.” The figure lit a cigarette, the glow of the tip illuminating the brim of the conical hat she wore. “I thought even an incompetent like you would’ve been able to figure that out by now.”

“Wendy?” Casper gasped, and began coughing as the cigarette smoke caught at his nonexistent lungs. “Is that you, Wendy?”

“Who else?” Wendy took her legs off the desk and leaned over it, exposing her cleavage. “Who did you think I was, dimbrain?”

“One of the helpful women,” Casper said. “Like the one down in the street, or those in the magazine. But you’re wearing too many clothes for that.”

Wendy snorted and blew a smoke ring. “I was watching you crawling up this building like a maggot, you maggot. And I thought, why shouldn’t I wait for him up here? What are you doing here in Big City anyway? I’d thought you’d stay buried back in Spooksville. I got out of that place as soon as I could.”

“I came here to kill myself,” Casper confessed. “Nobody takes me seriously. I’m a total failure.”

“Well, of course you’d be,” Wendy scoffed. “Who has time for a friendly ghost? Now if you want to be taken seriously, you need a makeover. You need,” she said, peering at him critically, “a makeover anyway.”

“What kind of makeover?” Casper asked. “And what do I do afterwards?”

“Let me think.” Wendy sucked on her cigarette. “What do you think of Big City?”

“Well,” Casper began uncomfortably, “I...”

“Let me guess. You find it all soulless, don’t you? This building, for instance?”

“Well, I...”

“That’s decided then.” Wendy stubbed out her cigarette on the desk, leaving a burn mark on the wood. “This place needs spirit. We’ll give it a spirit!”

“I don’t understand...” Casper began.

“You don’t need to. Leave it to Wendy. Now, what about your makeover? For one thing, that dead-kid look’s out. It’s so 1950s, you know? Time to grow up.” She extended her wand across the desk and pronounced something unpronounceable. “ Wow!”


“I surpassed myself. Here, look.” Snapping her wand, she created a mirror out of thin air.

Casper gawped. Staring back at him from the mirror was someone so awesome that he was speechless. “I look frightening,” he said when he found speech.

“Of course you do.” Wendy laughed throatily. “I can just see those stockbrokers and investment bankers coming in tomorrow, eager to suck up all the money around...and there you are. Standing in front of their computers. Grinning.” She shook her head. "Man, I should have done this a long time ago."

And, ladies and gentlemen, there you have the story behind the Great Stock Market Crash which happened the Tuesday after next, and will go down in history as the day when The Bloodsucking Leeches threw themselves out on windows as though they’d just seen a ghost.

Meanwhile, Casper and Wendy are shacked up together, and she takes him for rides on her broomstick.

Are they happy? Well...Wendy’s expecting her first litter next July.

And Casper? He’s dropped an r.

As Casper the Fiendly Ghost, he’s having the time of his unlife.

Don't look. He's right behind you.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2011

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