Speak with the Dead
Jacqueline Rohrbach © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Prologue: Speak with the Dead
For ten million, you got a thousand square foot glass enclosure. For five million, you got seven hundred feet. Today’s advertised prices were cut to the bone, as the advert said; for a mere five-hundred thousand, you got three hundred square feet.
“Practically grave robbery!” Anthony quipped. “Just think, for that small price, we’ll install a room where you can see the dead. Hear them speak even.”
He didn’t need to make the hard sell. They salivated at the opportunity to get themselves the ultimate status symbol of the rich. Trying to play it cool, they riffled through the informational pamphlets. Anthony leaned back in his chair and put on a pleasant salesman face. It said, I care about your concerns. Please, ask your questions.
The lady wanted to know, “What if the ghost won’t appear?”
Anthony leaned forward and entwined his fingers. “Good question. Good question, Betty. May I call you Betty?”
“Ah yes. Betty Anne. The dead want nothing more than to materialize. It’s the closest thing they have to being alive.”
Excitement made her next question come out in a rush. “Can they hear us? Do they talk back?”
This is where lesser salesmen lost customers. “They can’t hear you, or see you. Occasionally, they’ll talk but not with you, like a conversation. If they’re speaking with you, well, you’ve got problems and need to call this number.” Anthony tapped his finger on the phone number on the business card.
“Problems?” Betty Anne’s eyebrows drew together.
“Very atypical,” Anthony assured her. “There is a very rare chance of a hijacker. We take every precaution to ensure our ghosts are of the harmless variety—children, nuns, grandparents. Comforting ghosts. We do offer some criminal packages for the thrill seeker. Are you a thrill seeker, Betty Anne?”
“Right. You’ll want someone innocent, perhaps a sweet child?” Anthony pulled a file from his drawer. “Take Amy here. Died from cancer at the tender age of seven, barely old enough to understand the concept of pain.”
“Goodness, poor child.”
“I know. So tragic. Imagine how impressed your friends will be and how much more they’ll think of you and your husband for giving this darling girl’s ghost a home with the two of you.”
Betty Anne studied the picture. “She is very cute. Do you think she’s cute, Mark?”
Mark, the husband, took the file with the stern face. “Philip from the country club took the criminal package. The boys will laugh at me. A child. What good is a non-scary ghost?” He pushed the file back.
“Mark,” Anthony said, addressing the husband for the first time, “we can always add a wraith down the road. Let’s not scare the ladies right off. Imagine your poor wife entertaining her fair friends only to have Jack the Ripper materialize. What will the boys say about you scaring their wives like that?”
Mark conceded the point by turning his head away, muttering something about the sensibilities of women.
Thrilled to have someone on her side, Betty Anne gave Anthony’s hand a squeeze. “Oh, I have one more question.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
Betty Anne held up a pamphlet for the room hologram options. “How do we know the ghost is real if the room décor isn’t?”
“Ah. Another good question. It’s against safety rules to enter and decorate, so my company offers you several beautiful designs for no additional cost. The ghosts are real, my dear Betty Anne. The holograms exist simply to make the room a natural part of your beautiful home.”
She scanned the pamphlet again. “And we can select any two?”
“Any two,” Anthony confirmed.
“What do you think, Mark?”
The husband fancied himself some sort of sharp bargainer. “What about three? I’d like the haunted house package for special occasions, for the kids. And I’d like a discount for the child’s ghost. We’re getting half a person. We shouldn’t pay full price.”
Anthony acted as if the requests put him out. “I don’t know. I’d have to run the numbers by my manager. Hold up here and let me check real quick. Can I get you something to drink while you wait? Perhaps a snack?”
Both of them refused refreshment.
Anthony took a piss. On his way back, he bought a Hostess cherry pie from the vending machine. He took his time eating it. Ten minutes was the golden spot. Less than that, the customers wouldn’t be sure you fought for them. More and they got impatient. His stopwatch buzzed. Anthony clicked the sides to reset it, licked his fingers, and made his way back to the Goddards.
“Good news. My manager said yes to the extra room package. He wouldn’t budge on the price of the room, Mark, but was willing to consider five percent off on a new ghost should you want one down the line. I think you’ll see if you check around that you’re getting the most for your money.”
Betty Anne could no longer contain her enthusiasm. “Let’s do it, Mark.”
Mark agreed—less enthusiastically but a yes was a yes in Anthony’s eyes.
“Great. First, I need to go over some of the technical aspects. As I stated before, we do our utmost to ensure our ghosts are harmless. There are, however, warning signs of what we call a hijacker but what I like to call an anti-casper.”
Betty Anne wasn’t even really paying attention. “Oh, that’s cute.”
“Yes, isn’t it? The hijacker comes with several warning signs. We already discussed interaction. Ghosts won’t notice you. They can’t see you or sense you. They’ll talk here and there but never join a conversation. The room simply allows your eye access to the plane on which they exist. Hijackers speak with you. If that happens, you need to call this number immediately. We even give you a special phone, one of a kind.” Anthony once again tapped on the business card.
“Are they dangerous?”
“Only if left unchecked. There are a few other indications you’re dealing with a hijacker. The room is lined with a clear glaze. If there are any prints or markings on the wall, the floor, or the ceiling or if you see any change in texture, call the number immediately. You might also smell a foul odor or feel cold. Some reported seeing moving shadows, manipulation of electronic devices. Other spirits flee from them, so it’s possible to see orbs of light. The typical stuff, Betty Anne.”
Betty Anne nodded as if she knew exactly what the typical warning signs were. No doubt she’d be an expert on hijackers once she left Anthony’s office.
Anthony continued. “The most important rule is to never go inside. There is a door so our staff can construct the room, so they can install upgrades or perform maintenance, or so they can tear it down if you sell the home and the future owner doesn’t want the service. Otherwise, it’s sealed shut and should remain that way at all times.”
“That’s an awful lot to remember.”
Anthony gave the sales folder a pat. “We give you a clear breakdown of the rules and warning signs for reference. And, again, the chances of a hijacker are very low. What do you guys think? Are you ready to talk to the dead?”
“Where do we sign?”
Anthony pushed the papers forward. He wasn’t the hero in his own story—he was as bad as his job peddling the dead suggested—and he didn’t care. He recited the rest of the legally required warnings while the Goddards found the lines for their signatures. There were no refunds. Returns were impossible. Exchanges? Well, how did one trade an entire room?
Smiling at their eager faces, Anthony recited the company’s tagline. “My good people, when you buy a room to speak to the dead, it’s yours for life.”