Story Time: Wholly Ghost

*See, I told you my story is dark, Clicky… /lights up and smokes… and fine…*

Good news, Dear Reader! The paperback version of Underdog Anthology 20: A Dark Spring is now available to purchase…

… But, as promised, my story from UAXX is produced below. It starts immediately from where the previous story, Finding Pesto, ends…

*/drags… Yeah, short for Pestilence… /plumes smokes… Haven’t you read the previous Ronageddon stories, Clicky?*

*For goodness sakes… /rolls eyes…*


Wholly Ghost

by Roo B. Doo

Aida Roundtree never expected she’d end up as a ghost, right up until the moment she became one. Not once in her 78 years of life had that possibility ever crossed her mind, but shortly after death she’d been given a choice in the matter: move on to the great beyond or stick around for a while to ‘keep an eye on the child‘.

The offer had been made by a slip of a girl, of no real age, who apparently traveled around in an invisible box. She’d arrived at the scene of Aida’s death with an entourage, a coterie that included a keep fit instructor of Amazonian proportions, a Chinese, Elvis-obsessed chef and a stunted grim reaper with a dry sense of humour. Aida hadn’t expected any of that either, but then again, who would?

Paul Darling was the child in question, the 13 month old reincarnation of Pestilence, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Aida herself had delivered Paul into the world just the year before, and she had been babysitting him when she passed away. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep on duty but the sofa was so very comfortable and Paul had curled himself into her side and was gently snoring. Perhaps Aida caught the zees from him; she wondered if sleep was contagious. Certainly Paul’s delighted burbles of recognition at the sudden appearance of his long-time comrades, War, Famine and Death suggested to Aida that there was a lot more to Paul Darling than meets the eye. He would need watching.

Death had come only for Aida that afternoon, the slip of a girl explained. Finding Pestilence was a bonus, although Aida didn’t think the girl seemed all that surprised by the unexpected reunion. Aida didn’t quite know what to make of her; she was obviously in charge of the troop of deathcrashers, but really, she was just a slip of a girl of no real age. In a way she reminded Aida of herself when she was young and starting out as a midwife; she had the same look of someone that had found their vocation. Aida liked her, plus the girl had given her a lit cigarette and told her to keep it. Smoking was the one thing Aida immediately missed upon finding herself dead; it was a habit, she knew, but it was one she wore with pride.

Aida puffed on her cigarette as she considered the girl’s proposition. She noticed that it didn’t burn away and that both it and its ghostly wisps of smoke were now somehow part of her, part of her being. She looked at her cooling corpse that was slowly slumping on the sofa, and at the happy gathering going on in front of it. Paul may or may not be Pestilence, Aida was still processing that piece of information, but he was still just a baby and, more importantly, still in her care. At least until his mother got home.

She glanced at the watch on her wrist. Like the cigarette and the clothes Aida was wearing when she died, it too had now become part of her also. The watch hands had stopped at five to three, presumably fixed at the moment she died. She had no idea what time it really was nor how long before Jocasta would arrive home. Paul’s older sister Molly would be with her and Aida felt a twinge of guilt at the distress and inconvenience she was about to cause the pair of them. And just before Christmas!

Aida made her decision: either she was still asleep and this was one of those fantastical lucid dreams she’d heard about but had never ever experienced, or she really was dead. What was the worst that could happen?

The grim reaper didn’t seem happy when the slip of a girl told him Aida was to stay on as a ghost. He warned of ‘unintended consequences’ and cautioned against ‘supernatural meddling’, but it was to no avail; the decision had already been made. Aida wondered if the little reaper felt cheated at having to leave empty-handed; although he was very polite and accepted the decision graciously, he had disappeared soon after. Perhaps in a fit of pique or maybe he was on a schedule; Aida wasn’t sure about him yet; Death had already indicated that he knew Molly. To Aida’s mind getting to the bottom of that story was as good a reason as any to take up residence as a ghost in the Darling household. She could keep and eye on both the children.

A plan was quickly concocted to lessen the burden on Jocasta and Molly in the short-term. The War woman, called Wanda, was already acquainted with the family, so volunteered to wait outside the flat and intercept their return. She would need a pretext for wanting to speak with Jocasta, but once invited inside, she could take control of the Aida situation. Aida liked Wanda: as well as having the bearing and physique of superhero, she was literally stepping in to save the day; Wanda was every inch a Wanda Woman.

It was agreed: the Wanda Woman would wait on the landing outside the flat for Jocasta’s return, and the slip of a girl would depart with Chinese Elvis the exact same way that they’d arrived, by invisible box. Before leaving, the slip of a girl – Aida never did catch her name – hugged Paul and whispered in his ear before placing him in his playpen. Chinese Elvis pointed a pistol finger at Aida as he stepped inside the invisible box and disappeared. “Thagyouverramuch.”

It was not until later, much later that night, long after Aida’s body had been ‘discovered’ with all the tears and trauma that entailed, when everybody had left, been carried out or gone to bed, that Aida stood in the darkened living room alone, smoking and thinking about the enormity of her last day of life and first day as a ghost. She realised that she hadn’t thought to ask any pertinent questions about what she could or couldn’t do in her new condition, and that information had not been provided. She wasn’t even sure when or even if she would see any of her strange visitors again. Would she have to remain as a ghost until Paul’s 18th birthday and was no longer a child?

Aida looked at her wristwatch; it still said five to three.


Christmas came and New Year went. Festivities in the Darling household were a little subdued, no doubt due to Aida’s sudden death, but on the whole she enjoyed the experience, even if the family weren’t aware of her ghostly presence. When she’d been alive and working, Aida would volunteer to work the Christmas shifts; it only seemed fair to allow her colleagues with children to take that time off when she received the gift of delivering Christmas babies. She loved all the babies she’d brought into the world, but the Christmas ones were Aida’s favourites. Except for Paul; he’d made an unexpected Halloween entrance, long into Aida’s retirement. She’d been gratified to know that she had not only retained the skills she’d acquired over her long career and could use them, but that her mental faculties had not yet departed. Aida was glad of that still.

She spent the first few weeks of ghosthood exploring the parameters of her new existence. The first thing she noticed was that she was actually levitating, even though she was standing. Considering that she could pass straight through matter, including the floor, that made sense. It also meant Aida didn’t have to use her legs to propel herself around; she could just will herself to float in any particular direction. Forward, back, left, right, up down; she had complete freedom of movement.

She could even pass through living people, although Aida tried to avoid doing that after Jocasta had walked straight through her. Aida had felt a draining sensation that wasn’t exactly pleasant but fortunately didn’t linger. Curiously, Jocasta seemed to get an electrostatic shock from the interaction. Aida thought that was very interesting and would have experimented more, but it felt wrong to purposely do so without her friend’s consent, and how could Jocasta consent when she didn’t know that Aida was there. Aida remained true to her ethics and avoided all unnecessary contact.

Paul knew she was there, of course, but he was far too young to consent to becoming Aida’s test subject. He could both see and hear her, and would laugh uproariously when she pulled faces at him. Paul’s laugh was purely joyous and highly infectious; even Molly, who was deaf, would join in at her brother’s helpless laughing fit. Unlike sleep, Aida already knew that laughter was contagious, a fact born out at Molly’s birthday party on New Year’s Day. To prevent any accidental ‘bodyshock’ interactions, Aida watched the proceedings from the safety of the living room ceiling. Paul found this to be hilarious and soon the room full of 10 year olds, dosed up on cupcakes, soda and ice cream were falling about, laughing uproariously.

The only one of Aida’s strange death visitors to show up during this time was the Wanda Woman. She popped by and asked loudly if she could use the toilet. Aida wasn’t deaf or stupid and knew when she was being signalled to. In the privacy of the bathroom, with the basin tap running to muffle the sound of her voice, the Wanda Woman asked Aida how she was doing and if she’d encountered any problems so far. Aida hadn’t but mentioned what happened when Jocasta had walked through her.

“I felt a draining sensation and Jocasta seemed to get an electrostatic shock.” Aida explained. “I guess it could have been the carpet.”

“Have you tried it anywhere else? Like in the kitchen or the bathroom?” the Wanda Woman whispered.

“No, it’s not right to experiment on someone without their consent. Far too much of that has been going on already, if you ask me,” Aida opined.

The Wanda Woman promptly thrust her fist through Aida’s chest. “I have no such qualms.”

There was no static pop but neither did Aida feel the same draining sensation as before. The Wanda Woman hit her again. “Anything?”

Aida removed the cigarette from her lips and looked down at the straight, muscular arm punched through her sternum. “No, nothing.”

The Wanda Woman concluded that she might not be such a good test subject seeing as how she was formally the psychopomp for ‘WAR’ and not entirely human. Aida still thought that the static shock was probably caused by the hallway carpet.

“Have you been outside yet?” the Wanda Woman asked.

Aida was taken aback at the suggestion. The idea of leaving the flat, of going outside, hadn’t occurred to her and she didn’t know if it was prudent to try. The Wanda Woman explained that it was possible but without the protection of her body, prolonged exposure to the outside elements would eventually cause Aida to erode.

“How long does that take?”

The Wanda Woman didn’t know but advised Aida to avoid extreme weather.

Aida wasn’t planning on going outside much anyway.

“Only it’s your funeral next week.” The Wanda Woman said, flushing the toilet. “I dunno if you want to go along. It’s forecast to be overcast but dry. Cold, but that doesn’t affect you.”

Attending her own funeral would be another first for Aida post-mortem, although the Met Office giving an accurate forecast could also be considered a first. “Can I think about it?”

“Sure. I’m here now to see Jo about the arrangements.” The Wanda Woman rolled her eyes. “You don’t have any family, Aida, and that care home you lived in has been less than helpful.”

“I know, it’s being turned into a migrant hostel.” Aida snorted. “It’s strange that I had to die to find a new home.”

“No, it wasn’t your dying; everybody dies. You were given a choice, Aida. Ghosts are rare. They’re the victims of murder or have died in war. Same thing really. I’ve never heard of soul being given the choice before.”

There was a soft rapping at the bathroom door. “Is everything okay in there, Wanda?” Jocasta asked hesitantly.

“Yeah.” The Wanda Woman flushed the toilet again. “This needs a double flush. Sorry, I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Oh, okay.” Jocasta sounded embarrassed. “Whenever you’re ready. I’ve made you a cup of tea.”

“Thanks!” The Wanda Woman waited a couple of seconds before resuming her conversation. “You remember the short-arse with the scythe?” she asked Aida.

“The little reaper?”

“Yeah, that’s Death. He’s really good at his job but murder victims are a blind spot. He won’t acknowledge it, but I’ve see it happen myself. I mean, the sheer quantity of murder and killing that goes on during war is unfathomably large.”

Aida thought the Wanda Woman seemed almost wistful. She wasn’t sure she liked her as much as before.

“Sometimes the souls of people that have been murdered can give Death the slip. If they’re determined enough.”

“Because they seek revenge?” Aida asked.

The Wanda Woman check her appearance in the bathroom mirror. “Yeah, revenge, justice. Some just want to keep fighting but all they can really do is watch. They’re just voyeurs. Well, you know.” She turned off the basin tap. “Look, I’ve got to get in there. We’ll talk again soon,” she whispered to Aida and opened the bathroom door.

“Sorry about that, Jo. Dodgy curry from last night.” The Wanda Woman’s voice trailed down the hallway. “You might want to leave it ten minutes…”

Aida stayed in the bathroom, thinking about what the Wanda Woman had just told her. She most definitely hadn’t been murdered, Aida was sure of that. Not that the government hadn’t given it the old college try in the last couple of years, what with their Rona lockdowns and their miracle ‘cure’ that was nothing of the sort. Never before had Aida heard such errant nonsense as that spewed by seemingly serious people about the wondrous Rona vaccine. Babies are born in nine months, not vaccines which require years of safety testing. Aida had refused to take the shot, or any of the subsequent doses, despite the cajoling and threats to comply. As far as she was concerned, the Rona jab was pure poison.

Molly came into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She started to unbutton her jeans, so Aida decided to leave her to her privacy and join the two women in the front room. She arrived just in time to hear Jocasta say that she was to be cremated.

“Going up in smoke. Not a bad way to go, I suppose,” Aida said loudly as she floated past them.

Taken by surprise, the Wanda Woman choked on her tea.

“Are you okay?” Jocasta asked, slapping her friend on the back.

“Wrong ‘ole,” the Wanda Woman spluttered and croaked between hacking coughs. “I’m okay.”

Aida floated up to her spot on the ceiling. Just a voyeur, my eye, she thought, sniffly.


The first of many surprises for Aida on the day of her funeral was that, for once, the Met Office had got it right; the day had dawned cold, overcast and dry, just as they forecast. Aida wondered if weathermen give each other high fives for making an accurate prediction. She was half hoping they would get it wrong as usual, and that there would be a raging tornado. She would then have the excuse not to attend her own funeral, but Aida hadn’t been a coward in life and she certainly wasn’t going to start now that she was dead.

Her second surprise was the transportation that the Wanda Woman had arranged for the family to travel to the crematorium. It was an enormous pink Cadillac, with a white, shiny roof and an abundance of chrome adorning it. The car’s white-walled tires straddled the lines designating the disabled parking bay in the forecourt of the flats. The gleaming paintwork and trim of the 1955 Cadillac positively popped against the bleak, urban backdrop of the Elysium estate. Both had been built at the same time; it was an incongruous sight.

“WOW!” Molly cried with delight and skipped toward the car.

Jocasta looked stunned. “Wow.”

The Wanda Woman didn’t say anything but her amusement at her friends’ reactions was evident on her face.

“What are you up to?” Aida was suspicious, but the Wanda Woman simply placed a finger on her smirking lips in response.

The driver was Aida’s third surprise of the day.

“Hello, hello,” Chinese Elvis greeted Jocasta and Molly and opened the back door for them. “My name is Xi Xi. Please get in.”

Chinese Elvis was more soberly dressed than the last time Aida had seen him. He was wearing a smart black suit, white shirt and black, silk tie, with not a rhinestone in sight, although he was still sporting a greasy quiff and sunglasses.

Molly scrambled into the car first, bouncing across the oversized backseat to the far side. She was followed by her mother, who ran her hand over the soft leather, cream upholstery; Jocasta had never parked her behind on anything so sumptuous before. “Just wow.”

The Wanda Woman handed Paul to Jocasta. “I’ll just be a moment,” she said, closing the back door. “Aida, you remember my friend Xi Xi,” she said in a low voice. “This is his car and he’s going to drive us today. I hope that’s okay with you.”

“Hello, Mrs Roundtree,” Chinese Elvis said amiably. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Where’s the car seat for Paul?” Aida asked brusquely.

Chinese Elvis looked non-plussed.

“She means Pesto,” the Wanda Woman told him. “Look, Aida, possibly we got off on the wrong foot last week, but there’s nothing sinister going on here. Paul, Pesto, he’s family to me and Famine. We just want to spend some time with him too.”

“War speaks truth, Mrs Roundtree,” Xi Xi said softly. “We care very much for Paul’s family. They are now our family and we will help them. Like family.”

Aida looked back and forth between War and Famine. “But what about the car seat? It’s dangerous to sit him on a lap. What if there’s an accident?”

“There won’t be.” The Wanda Woman opened the car door. “I already checked,” she said sliding inside the backseat and closing the door behind her.

Aida looked at Chinese Elvis. “What does that mean?”

“Believe me, Mrs Roundtree, this car is very expensive. I drive it most carefully,” Chinese Elvis assured Aida. “You can sit up front with me. I am very happy for you to smoke.”

Aida felt a surprising jolt of gratitude even though she knew her ghostly cigarette smoke couldn’t actually bother anybody now. “That’s something I not heard in a very long time. Thank you.”

“You know, smoking suppresses appetite.” Chinese Elvis walked round to the driver’s side. “For me, cigarettes are the greatest invention ever.”

Aida watched him get into the car. Chinese Elvis was right; fatties used to be a rarity back in the days when everyone smoked. Now hardly anyone did and cellulite had gone through the roof. Aida floated herself into the passenger seat of the pink Cadillac, deciding that she rather liked Chinese Elvis.

“Okay,” Xi Xi said, looking behind him at the full backseat. “Are we ready to rock and roll?”

Paul shrieked and reached out his chubby arms toward Xi Xi. “Fam. Fam.”

“That’s right,” the Wanda Woman said, lowering Paul’s arms. “Time to vamoose.”

Xi Xi turned the ignition key and the engine rumbled into life. As the Cadillac pulled forwards, Aida slid backwards. The Wanda Woman yelled in surprise as Aida passed straight through her and out of the back of the car.

Still floating in a sitting position, Aida watched the brake lights go on as the car stopped in front of her. “What on earth?”

Chinese Elvis got out of the car and walked round to the back. He crouched down like he was inspecting the rear tire. “Mrs Roundtree,” he hissed, “Did you forget that you are a ghost?”

Aida straighten up. “What happened?”

“The car cannot move you. Only you can move you.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that.” Aida suddenly felt foolish. “So I need to move at the same speed as the car?”

“Yes. Can you do it?”

Through the back window, Aida could see heads start to crane round to see what the hold up was. She saw the earnest look on crouching Chinese Elvis’ face. “I can try.”

“Good.” Chinese Elvis stood up, smiling. “You just need to concentrate. Hey, you know what’s good for concentration?”

Aida float toward the front passenger door. “I dunno. What?”

“Smoking.” Chinese Elvis’ smile broke wider. “Didn’t I say cigarettes are the best invention ever?”

The journey to the crematorium was something of a white knuckled one for Aida, despite the fact that she was unable to grip on to anything, tightly or otherwise. With her cigarette clamped between grim set lips and her palms flat against her thighs, Aida floated in the front passenger seat, peering intently at the road ahead. A couple of times she slipped through the back of her seat when she failed to accelerate in time with the Cadillac, much to the Wanda Woman’s annoyance. The only real mishap occurred when Chinese Elvis braked sharply for a late crosser at a zebra crossing, but Aida carried on moving.

She quickly stopped herself and reversed back to the passenger seat. “Whoops.”

“You’re doing well.”

“What was that?” Jocasta asked.

Chinese Elvis realised his error in complimenting Aida. “Oh, you all are doing really well,” he told Jocasta through the rear-view mirror. “Such a sad day.”

From the backseat, the Wanda Woman rolled her eyes. “Yes, it’s an extremely trying time.”

And then it happened, just as the high, stone wall that marked the start of the crematorium grounds appeared up ahead, the heavens opened and it began to rain.

For Aida, it was the least surprising thing to happen that day. “Bloody weathermen. Can’t they get anything right?”


The Lord’s my shepherd; I’ll not want.

He makes me down to lie

in pastures green; he leadeth me

the quiet waters by.

Aida stood at the back of the crematorium chapel, listening to the congregation sing, feeling isolated and sad. It wasn’t that the turnout for her funeral service was meagre – it wasn’t. Aida may not have had any living family but she had made many friends in her life. Apart from the Darlings and the Wanda Woman, residents and staff from Frampton Court, the care home where she’d lived filled the pews. There were former colleagues from her working days, and even one or two she’d helped birth into the world had come to pay their respects. No, Aida’s feeling of sadness stemmed from the fact that she had no way of communicating with them. She could try to join in their conversations, share reminiscences and ask how they’re doing, but what was the point? In the presence of so many alive, it finally hit home to Aida that she really was dead.

It was a mistake to come, she decided and left the chapel. The pink Cadillac was parked on the far side of the car park and it was still tipping down. She would go back to the car. Chinese Elvis was there and at least Aida could talk to him.

“Sod it!” she said and zoomed off in the direction of the car park. The rain didn’t hinder her, the parked hearse that had delivered her body to the crematorium didn’t stop her progress, nor did the extensive lawn, slippery and wet, slow her down. Aida zipped straight through the trees and shrubbery that concealed the packed car park, but what she saw next; however, brought her to a stop.

A group of four people had gathered by the Cadillac. They appeared to be admiring it as they moved around the car, pointing out interesting details to each other. Aida could see Chinese Elvis sitting in the driver’s seat, looking relaxed and seemingly oblivious of the strangers poking around outside the Cadillac. He was still wearing his sunglasses and it took Aida a second or two to realise that Chinese Elvis was fast asleep.

She didn’t recognise any of people surrounding the car but she doubted they harboured nefarious intentions for the vehicle or Chinese Elvis. For one thing, they all looked underdressed to be wandering outside on a cold, wet January lunchtime. There was an elderly black man wearing paisley pyjamas; a ruddy-faced teenager in a football strip; a purple-haired woman wearing only shorts and a tee-shirt that sported the large, black type number across her chest, and a tall, tanned and handsome man wearing nothing but a bathrobe that barely reached his muscular thighs.

“Excuse me,” Aida called to the group. “What are you doing?”

Four heads immediately snapped round in her direction. The four strangers stared at Aida and Aida stared back. They all wore a similar expression of surprise on their faces and, like Aida, none of them appeared to be wet from standing in the rain.

“Hello dear lady,” the old, black man called to Aida, stepping forward. “We are just admiring this very fine vehicle. It is not every day you get to see Elvis Presley’s pink Cadillac up close.”

“It’s not the original,” the lad in the football kit interjected. “I told you, that’s on display in Graceland in America.”

“Okay, okay,” the old man said with a chuckle. He indicated to his companions. “Do not be frightened, dear lady. This is Craig, Jaki and Simon. My name is Benjamin. What’s your name?”

“Aida. Aida Roundtree. You’re all ghosts.”

“As are you, Aida,” Benjamin replied with a smile.

“I know that.” Aida floated forward, through parked vehicles and joined the group. “That’s my funeral going on back there. What are you doing here?”

Teenage Craig answered with a shrug. “We live here.”

“What, at the crematorium? Why?”

“In case any others attend their own funerals like we did. Like you are,” purple-haired Jaki replied. “We’re building a community.”

“Excuse me, Aida,” good-looking Simon in a bathrobe interrupted. “Is that a cigarette you’re smoking?”

Oh no, Aida thought. Even after death, I’m going to be told not to smoke. I hope he doesn’t tell me it’s bad for my health.

“Yes,” she said defiantly and took deep drag. “What of it?”

“How?” Simon shook his head with befuddlement. “I know I was vaping when I died but I don’t have it with me now.” He grimaced in frustration. “I distinctly remember. I was having a relaxing vape on my bed after my workout and shower. What if I didn’t pick it up and just left it there?”

Aida weighed up whether or not to tell Simon that she’d been gifted the cigarette by the slip of a girl of no real age, but that would take too long to explain. Perhaps for another time. “I don’t think so.”

Simon looked disappointed but Aida had a sudden inkling; she remembered that on the day of her death, the slip of the girl had shared the cigarette with her whilst they chatted. Aida held it out to Simon. “Would you like a drag?”

Simon was hesitant. “Can I?”

Aida shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno. You’re the first ghosts I’ve met.”

“Okay.” Simon gingerly plucked the cigarette from Aida’s fingers. He brought it to his lips and inhaled. “Oh my god,” he exhaled rapturously. “Oh yes! That works.”

He took another drag and blew out a ghostly plume of smoke that immediately rejoined his body. “Thanks,” Simon said and started to pass the cigarette back to Aida “I needed that.”

“Keep it,” Aida replied. She held up her hand to show him the smoking cigarette she still held between her fingers.

Simon looked from his cigarette to Aida’s.“That’s fucking awesome!” he cried. “Sorry, I mean that’s awesome. Thanks!”

“Whoa. How did you do that?” Craig asked in amazement.

“Aida, dear lady,” Benjamin said solicitously. “Could I also trouble you for one of those?”

“Sure.” Aida passed him her cigarette and another immediately formed between her fingers.

“Me, too,” Jaki said. “Does it hurt to do that?”

“Not at all,” Aida said, passing her the cigarette. “And how about you?” she asked Craig. “Are you old enough to smoke?”

Craig gave Aida a look of disbelief. “I’m dead. Who cares how old I am?” He took the cigarette from Aida. “Thanks, being a ghost can be really boring. Hey, you don’t have a football as well, do you?”

Aida laughed. “No, sorry, I don’t have one of those.”

“Shame,” Craig said, smoking his first ever cigarette.

The five ghosts stood in the car park, smoking and getting acquainted, unconcerned with the teeming rain that fell right through them. They shared their death stories: like Aida, Benjamin and Simon had died in their sleep. Jaki had collapsed during a breast cancer charity run and couldn’t be revived. Craig had suffered a heart attack whilst soccer training. A second one in the ambulance on the way to the hospital had seen him off. All had died in the past two years.

“And none of you encountered the little fella?” Aida asked. Her four new friends looked back at her blankly. “You know, the little reaper. He’s about yay high, wears a black robe and carries a scythe. He’s a little grim.”

The four ghosts shook their heads. “No, nothing like that,” Benjamin said. “I came here for my funeral, hoping for closure. The only ghosts I’ve met are Simon, Jaki and Craig. And now you.”

Something wasn’t making sense to Aida. The Wanda Woman had specifically told her that ghosts are rare, although common in war, and were a result of being murdered. But none of these people died fighting in a war and they weren’t seeking revenge for their untimely demises. In fact they seemed positively sanguine about their deaths and not at all curious as to why they were ghosts at all.

She had to ask: “So, did you all have the Rona jabs?”

The ghosts looked confused by Aida’s question, except for Craig who cast his eyes toward the ground.

“Well, I had my two,” Benjamin answered. “Why?”

“Don’t mind me, I’m just old and nosy. When did you get them?”

“Let me see now.” Benjamin looked skyward as he remembered. “That would have been in January and April 2021. I got a whole month’s worth of protection out of them before I died.” He laughed jovially at the idea but Aida wasn’t laughing.

“Oh, I see where you’re going,” Jaki huffed. “You’re one of those anti-vaxxers.”

“And you have purple hair but we’re both dead,” Aida snapped back. “Did you get one or two boosters?”

Benjamin was surprised. “There were boosters shots?”

“One.” Jaki’s nostrils flared with anger. “I got one for the booster campaign November ’21, but I died the following July. They’re not related. If anything, climate change was the contributing factor in my death. I mean, it was really hot that day.”

Aida looked at Simon. He simply held up the index and middle fingers of his right hand, that held his cigarette. “Two, no boosters.”

“Craig?” Aida asked gently, turning to the teenager. Craig’s head was still bowed but Aida could see his chin wobbling. “I see.”

“One,”Craig whispered hoarsely. “At school, at the start of September term. The day before I… you know…”

“Oh, Craig, I’m so sorry.” Aida wanted to hug the poor boy. He was so young; it was so unfair.

“You wicked, old cow,” Jaki threw her cigarette to the floor and stomped on it. “Why are you causing upset? I take it you weren’t vaxxed, so why aren’t you still alive, Aida?”

“Everybody dies. That’s a fact,” Aida said kindly. She pointed to the smouldering cigarette that had reappeared again between Jaki’s fingers. “A much better question to ask is, why are you a ghost?”

The silence that followed was awkward but blessedly brief. “Because I was murdered,” Simon spoke softly.

Craig nodded his head in agreement. “Yeah, I was killed, I know it.”

“What?!” Jaki sighed dramatically. “You’re not buying this crap, are you? Is it because she gave you a fag?” She turned and threw her cigarette away, but when she turned back, it was dangling from her lips. “Ugh. What is going on?”

“I don’t know, Jaki,” Benjamin said evenly. “For all of my life, my expectation was that when I die, my ancestors, sorely missed family, the people I loved would welcome me into their warm embrace. There is a reason why I am here and not there. I don’t what it is, but I would like to find out. Maybe then I can go home.”

Jaki was still not convinced – Aida could tell as much from the look on her face and the tightly crossed arms under her chest. Jaki had a large bosom; it couldn’t have been comfortable running with those, for fun or otherwise, Aida decided. And then she noticed the three digit number across her chest.

“Do you believe in coincidence, Jaki?” Aida asked. Benjamin, Simon and Craig all looked at each other.

Jaki shrugged her hunched shoulders. “I don’t know what you mean,” she answered gruffly.

“Well, do you believe in signs?”

“Like signs from God? Don’t tell me you’ve got one of those as well?” Jaki answered sarcastically.

Aida wasn’t phased by the young woman’s dismissive demeanour. “See this watch,” she said, lifting her wrist. “It’s broken. It stopped at the moment I died. I have no idea why I’m still wearing it. I still look at it.” Aida shook her head dismissively. “Jaki, what time does it say?”

As Aida held her arm out, Benjamin, Simon and Craig all leaned in to take a look.

Jaki begrudgingly looked at the time on Aida’s wristwatch. “It says five to three. So?”

Craig saw it first. “Whoa, no way!”

Simon and Benjamin looked at each other in confusion. “I don’t get it,” Benjamin said.

“Oh,” Simon said with sudden realisation. “It’s phonetic. Awesome.”

“Ah ha, yes!” Benjamin turned to Jaki. “I see it now.”

“See what? It says five to three. That doesn’t mean anything,” Jaki shouted in frustration.

“Except it’s also your running number, Jaki. You’re wearing it,” Craig explained.

Aida thought Craig had cheered up immensely. He was a sharp lad.

“Jaki,” Benjamin said kindly. “Aida’s died at five to three. You died wearing 523. Can you hear it? It’s the same.”

Jaki was silently shaking, fists clenched at the end of ramrod arms held straight at her side. It was good-looking Simon, in a far too short a bathrobe to be really decent, Aida thought, who finally triggered her.

“Jaki, sweetheart. Just face it,” Simon purred between cigarette puffs. “Aida’s got your number.”

“ARGH!” Jaki screamed and stomped her foot. It passed silently through the tarmac surface of the car park. “Argh. I’m going. See you later.”

Jaki zoomed off in the direction of the crematorium. The remaining ghosts watched her leave.

“Will she be alright?” Aida asked.

“She’s upset. She’ll be okay once she calms down,” Benjamin said reassuringly. “She’ll be fi-”

“Oi! Aida!” Jaki called back from the far side of the car park. She pointed toward the chapel. “That’s your funeral, yeah?”

Aida nodded. “Yes.”

Jaki pulled an ugly face. It was most unbecoming. “Good, I’m going to zap your mourners.” She zoomed off.

Now Aida was confused. “What does she mean? What’s she going to do?”

“Ah, don’t worry, she can’t do anything,” Craig said. “Not really, except give electrostatic shocks. Man, that’s such a weak superpower.” He sounded disgusted.

“The bodyshocks are real? That’s very interesting.” Aida filed that bit of information away for further reflection. Goodness knows she had the time to think about how that might be useful.

“Do you think there are more ghosts at other crematoriums and churches?”

Benjamin took a puff of his cigarette and then placed it behind his ear. “Do you know, Aida, I hadn’t thought about that. There could be.”

“We could look,” Craig added. “I’d be up for some of that. One of them might have a football.”

“Are you going to stay with us?” Simon asked Aida. “Don’t mind Jaki. She has to learn to be more inclusive. If you’re right about the Rona jabs, then we can probably expect our numbers to grow. We could use your help.”

Aida was touched by the offer and a little tempted; however, she’d promised the slip of a girl that she would keep watch over Paul, and Aida had no intention of reneging on their deal. Still, it was good being around the other ghosts. They were a nice crowd, Jaki’s tantrum notwithstanding and even that was fun. They gave Aida a sense of being.

“I’ll have to take a rain-check on that, I’m afraid. But I promise you, I’ll be back.”


“Good evening, everyone!” Simon called from the the front of the chapel. “I can see we have some noobs with us tonight, so I’ll just quickly cover some basics first.”

Aida sat in the back row of the darkened chapel and looked at the pews filled in front of her. They were nearly as full as on the day of her funeral, just a few short months ago. Simon was right: there were a lot of new faces in the crowd tonight, which made Aida feel happy and yet incredibly sad. As usual, all the ghosts in attendance possessed a lit cigarette. Some smoked theirs and others didn’t, but all of the ghosts would share their cigarette with any new lost soul encountered. It was a bit like a badge of honour, Aida had decided, except entirely more useful.

She smiled and puffed on the original, the cigarette given to her by the slip of the girl, as she waited for Simon to start. He was becoming quite the motivational speaker, not to mention easy on the eye.

Simon stepped out from behind the lectern and strode up the centre aisle, stopping at the midway point. He waited until he had everyone’s attention before starting to speak.

“We’re here because we were murdered.”

Aida could see heads nodding in agreement.

“You, me, all of us,” Simon continued. “Whatever their motives, the authorities we trusted lied to and killed us. They robbed us of both our lives and our natural deaths. There’s a reason why we’re here. There’s a reason why you’re here.”

He looked around at the attentive faces. “Welcome to Fright Club. The first rule of Fright Club is: we don’t let them get away with it.”

Simon paused dramatically. “The second rule of Fright Club is…”

“WE DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT,” the audience roared back.


At the rear of the chapel, unobserved and unperceived by the ghosts attending Fright Club, God and Death stood in her invisible Situation Room and watched the proceedings unfold.

“I did warn at the time that allowing Aida Roundtree to remain as a ghost would have unintended consequences, Ma’am.” Death would never gloat, but he did feel vindicated.

Indeed, I remember.

“Do you hear them? They sound very angry.”

They were murdered.

“She’s building an army,” Death continued. “They are seeking revenge.”

Oh, Big D, an army of avenging ghosts? Surely that’s just a little too Tolkienesque, even for you.

“Unintended consequences from supernatural meddling, Ma’am. Aida Roundtree is up to something. I know it.”

She’s doing a fine job watching over Pesto, according to War and Famine. They have both sent in progress reports. Pesto adores her.

“But do they know about her ghost army?” The conversation wasn’t going at all how Death had imagined it would. In fact he was starting to think that God wasn’t quite as alarmed at the situation as he was.

I don’t think so. I will mention it to War, though. I’m sure she’ll be amused.

“Or inspired.”

More unintended consequences, Big D?

Death no longer felt any vindication. He remained silent.

The one aspect which I do find most troubling is why weren’t these souls collected when they died? Are you looking in to that?

“Unfortunately, a small number of murder victims will go unreaped, each year.” Death dropped his head in shame. “However, according to the Aether records, all of these ghosts should still be living people. An investigation is already underway.”

You will keep me updated?

“I will, Ma’am.”

God smiled down at Death.

Good. Honestly, Big D, an army of ghosts? It’s not as if ghosts can do anything…


*So what did you think of it, Clicky?*


*You’re just saying that… /stubs butt… Go and get a Song…*

That’s all for now, Dear Reader. Until next time, have a Song… ❤

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