Mr James. A Ghost Story.

May 2019 prompt

*Muse’s note: This week we’re featuring a returning guest writer, Seth Petherick, and his story features some salty language. You can read his other stories here.*

Ghosts are lazy. Slamming doors and filling the odd lift with blood does not build a sturdy work ethic. For us the deadline has literally passed and now we have all the time in the world, so why do today what you can do next century? You’ve asked to write my story so here it is. I died in 1513, trampled by some prick English horse at the Battle of Flodden. It is no way to go. Your body bursting apart like a snail underfoot. Smeared reds, yellows and remnants of skull mixing in with the mud. There was no burial for me, instead I was left to rot in some prick English marsh.

I was raging for the first few days of death. Burning with revenge to run my sword through the horse and rider. Thing is that you can’t hold a sword if you’re dead, can’t hold shit actually, no drink, no weapons, no women. Well there are women, but your hand passes through. But then it just starts to fade and the urges, you know, wane. Anger, thirst, desire fall off and all you have left is time. There is always a dull ache to get revenge against those that wronged you but infinite time does drag on a bit. I watched my murderer, a general, grow old and I watched his son grow old and his daughter after that. But that gets tired pretty quick. I watched the horse as well, that prancing bag of shite. Its life was better than the English scrote’s. All mares, foals and galloping across field and pasture. One day I would have my revenge, but I knew it could wait.

Mischief took up a lot of my time. Find a bothy somewhere remote, check the ghost census that no one is haunting it already and you’re away. Wait for a couple of mugs to shelter and start blowing out candles. Shits them right up. Worked with light bulbs when they got invented. Wiggle the switch, smash a wine glass and watch the wallopers run like the English screaming their heads off. Moving keys is my favourite. Wait until someone is about to leave, shift the keys out of sight, give it a few minutes then put them back in the place you found them. They’ve got round the house tearing their hair out. Emptying handbags onto the floor, blaming their other half. Yes please, it never gets old.

Every now and again I would check in on English and his horse. A bit of Protestant/Catholic back and forth kept the family rich and alive through the 17th century. Money dried up a century later, but came back the one after that. On and on they go until today.

The Great War took a lot of lives and emptied the accounts whilst disease thinned the remaining down to one. Sadly the horses were fine. They had prospered in fact. An arranged encounter with a champion racehorse by the very un-i-fucking-ronic name of Bonnie Scotland had led to three generations of race winners. The fourth, standing 16 hands tall in a chestnut brown coat and white mane was making his debut in the upcoming derby and was being ridden by the son and now only child of the prick Englishman.

I had heard ghost rumours of a man, living, that could communicate and do favours for us. He would put the physical on those that had wronged us – allowing us peace and freedom from limbo – a hitman for the supernatural. I got the ghost phonebook and made some ghost calls and soon the meeting was on.

We met in a churchyard as the clock read five past midnight. Had the man not been wearing all black he would have been easier to find and the meeting could have started on time. Have you ever seen a ghost wearing glasses? It’s because we can’t. I had no idea that I was far-sighted when I was alive, but then you only get the eyes that you die with.  The man called himself Mr James which was as daft and unthreatening as he looked. I watched all black go out with Queen Victoria. Once I had eyes on him and was sure that he wasn’t just a tragic goth I appeared beside him.

“Mr James?”

He nodded and, fair play to him, he didn’t try to shake my hand.

“I’ve heard you can help solve problems.”

“Indeed I can my good man.”

Of course the fucker had to be English.

“How may I be of service?”

I explained about the original horse and the great-great-grandprick that was going to be riding him. How it would be the perfect chance to get rid of both and how I would do it myself, but I can’t on account of being fucking dead. He told me that most of his clients were and I told him he was lucky that they were, because I wanted to give him a good slap and I’d only known him five minutes. Despite this we came to an accord and I gave him the details of the race.

With that it was race day. The soon to be dead horse and rider we race favourites so I had gone to the ghost bookies and put on a wee ghost bet on the second favourite. Don’t listen to people who say you don’t take it with you. Once the emotional numbness sets in, betting on the living is the only thrill you get and believe you me pal you’re gonna want some cash to play with.

The sky was blue as the race got underway. Can’t tell you the temperature or what the wind felt like, but it was April and the living weren’t wearing coats so make of that what you will. I hadn’t seen the want-to-hitman but he assured me that if he was doing it right then no one would know that he was ever there. It would all look accidental. The horses cleared the first fence with ease. The horses cleared the second fence with ease. The horses cleared the third fence with ease. I couldn’t see the fourth fence on account of it being on the other side of the track. Same with the fifth. But as the horses approached the sixth fence the sound of a rifle shot rang out across the racetrack and a nag fell, tripping two more that were close behind.

Screams from the spectators masked the race commentators who had stopped with their usual patter and were trying to make sense of the chaos. The remaining upright riders came around the final bend and onto the home straight and I could clearly see – in a red and white jersey – that English boaby riding that horse to victory. Of course Mr James had shot the wrong fucking horse. Of course it was the wrong fucking horse, the useless English prick. Hide in a bush and try and shoot a specific horse mid race. What sort of a dafty fucking plan is that? Overconfident and poorly executed – typical English that’s for fucking sure.

But you lads know what happened from here. Took you all of three seconds to find and arrest him. Took him all of three seconds to grass and you came looking for me. So aye, I did place the bet and hired him so you could argue that I was trying to fix the race but that wasn’t the plan. That was just a chaser. The grand finale was meant to be revenge and escape from all this. Keep the money. Putting me in ghost jail would be no different from my afterlife now. If you are reading this your ghostly honour, please have mercy. I can’t take another 400 years of this shite.      

 


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