Ghost Story

Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint

 

They wanted to meet a ghost. Sam said they had to add the adjective benevolent if they didn’t want trouble. Sandy didn’t believe in unbenevolent ghosts. Sandy believed in enlightenment, the Virgin Mary, guardian spirits, witch doctors, and celestial beings with glowing bodies. Sam was raised Catholic. They agreed that Catholicism was the best kind of Christianity because it embraced the grotesque. They liked to see Jesus suffering everywhere. They loved saints and relics and miracles. They said they wanted to meet a ghost, but if they had met Gabriel with his flaming sword they would have been equally satisfied. If they had met Tara or Ganesha or seen a rainbow body. They sought out enchanted places. Secluded woods. Hidden alleyways. Empty parking structures. They filled their apartment with mirrors. They broke several of them. They walked cemeteries from midnight to dawn. Burned candles all night. They trespassed into old hospitals and dormitories. Got chased by street dogs. Dogs bark at ghosts, Sam said when they had managed their escape. Sandy was sure the dogs were wolves. They walked along the bay where the mob dumped bodies and children drowned yearly. They kept vigil beneath the suicide bridge. Railroad crossings where cars had been trapped. Once, they stuffed their pockets with raw meat and rotten eggs. The smell attracted vermin, but no ghosts. They slept in old churches and graveyards. They were robbed. The thieves took Sandy’s wallet and Sam’s gold ring. They were deep sleepers. Once, Sam felt goosebumps while passing under an archway and Sandy felt a breeze blow through a hall with no windows. That was all. They nearly despaired. They read tarot cards. Cast pennies. Will we ever meet a ghost? they asked. Sam drew the Ace of Cups, reversed. The seed of spiritual collapse, a missed opportunity for joy, contentment, fertility, or enlightenment, Sandy read. The I-Ching was no better. The things least apparent, Sandy read again, receptivity giving way to stillness and obstruction. How to unobstruct? they wondered. How to receive joy, contentment, etc.? Sam went on the internet to find an answer and Sandy went on long meditative walks. They came to the same conclusion. Most people only met the ghosts of their loved ones. Dead parents, friends, and pets. Who did we love? they asked themselves. All four of their parents were alive and in good health. Their eight grandparents were robust. All their siblings, all their friends. Spiritual collapse, Sandy said. Sam flipped through old yearbooks. It was no use. The veil will not lift for us, Sandy thought. There is no veil, Sam thought. What if we had a pet? they thought. Animals died young. But could we love our pet, Sandy asked, if we were only waiting for it to die? No, Sam agreed, we could not. Besides, they reasoned, they were not cruel. They could not wish for anyone’s death, even the death of a future pet. They sat in silence in their apartment that night and did not sleep. The blue light of Sam’s computer illuminated their living room. Who do we love? they asked themselves. When morning came, they had the same idea. They knew what they had to do. Sandy wrote their names on two pieces of paper and put them in a bowl. The two pieces looked identical. Sam reached into the bowl with eyes closed and withdrew one of the pieces. They held their breath as they unfolded the paper and read the name written there.

Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint is the author of the novel The End of Peril, the End of Enmity, the End of Strife, a Haven (Noemi Press, 2018). Her short stories have appeared in Black Warrior Review, TriQuarterly, and Kenyon Review Online, among others, and have been translated into Burmese and Lithuanian. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Denver and the Reviews, Interviews & Translations editor of the Denver Quarterly. Visit her website: thiriimyokyawmyint.com.