All the places you think are real, are real. Events and people are pure invention.
People love coincidences. They jumped on this one. They didn’t know I had a ghost on my tail now, hanging on like shit to sheep. You’re weak, he said, weak as piss and no one will ever love you.
I don’t know what happened to the other ghosts. They weren’t there last time I went back to George Harcourt Inn for a beer, a pie and a memory-wallow. They were free, I hoped.
Dylan had stopped calling after I didn’t answer for a couple of weeks. I liked him, I really liked him. But he was deeply flawed. I didn’t need the ghost to tell me that. It was obvious. He told fart jokes and didn’t like fireworks. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t like children, although he never met mine.
Even with Dylan gone, the ghost wasn’t happy. I wasn’t this, I wasn’t that, and every day I wondered — if I die will I be free? Or will he stick to me forever?
I didn’t see Margaret again, although we spoke on the phone once or twice. She worried about me. I quit my job. Had to cut all ties with her. I couldn’t let that man near Riley again, ghost or not. I would have loved to meet this boy who had survived a fire, an abusive father, time on the streets. But me not meeting Riley had to be. His father got meaner, every day I kept him away, but that was for me to deal with.
He never let up on me. He told me I had to watch my ex, that he was working hard to take my kids from me. Be strong, he said. Make your move. Burn down his house. Anyone can do it. Things burn easy, you’ll see. Just make sure he’s the only one inside. You don’t want any innocents dead.
I don’t know how I’ll ever shut him up.
And I’m scared that one day he’ll start to make sense.
Bram Stoker, twice-World Fantasy Award Nominee and Shirley Jackson Award winner Kaaron Warren has lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Fiji. She’s sold more than 200 short stories, three novels (the multi-award-winning Slights, Walking the Tree and Mistification) and six short story collections including the multi-award-winning Through Splintered Walls. Her latest short story collection is Cemetery Dance Select: Kaaron Warren. You can find her at kaaronwarren.wordpress.com and she Tweets @KaaronWarren
Part six of The Public Menace of Blight will be published on the site tomorrow.
The title comes from Pritchett, Wendell E. 2003. The “Public Menace” of Blight: Urban Renewal and the Private Uses of Eminent Domain. Yale Law & Policy Review 21, 1-52.