“My dear girl, I do believe you’re dead.”
“Of course I’m dead,” Myrtle replied sharply, eyeing her companion with a scrunched up expression. “Don’t you think I can tell that I’m dead?”
“There’s no need to be snide, I was only trying to be helpful.”
“Helpful? Are you barking? How do you expect to be helpful? I’m already dead!”
“Comforting then,” replied the Fryer, adjusting his heavy cassock about his around see-through belly. “One does expect a bit of comfort might be called for in a situation such as this.”
Myrtle turned away from the crumpled form of her body long enough to give the Fat Fryer a scathing look. “I’m sorry; do I look like I’m in need of comfort?”
The Fryer, who by nature was a jovial fellow, couldn’t help but wince as he regarded the incorporeal form of Myrtle Dowerhaint. Death had done little (well all right, absolutely nothing) to improve her visage. The girl was still rather squat; her gummy hair was just as frazzled and greasy in its pigtails. Her glasses were too big for her face, her mouth was just as sucked in and her eyes, small and angry, were as piggy and cold as ever.
“No, you – well, you seemed composed enough. Handling it quite well, in fact,” the Fryer said, clearing his throat uncomfortably. “I uh—perhaps I should be off. Didn’t mean to intrude, of course.”
“Right, like that ship hasn’t sailed,” Myrtle replied, folding her arms across her flat chest. She registered, in a sort of foggy far off part of the mind, that wasn’t it interesting, she still had arms to fold and that she could feel them, real and fleshy?
She stared down at her body in a critical fashion, hardly noticing the way the Fat Fryer ducked out of the bathroom via the south wall, his own expression nearly horrified, perhaps not at the fact of her death, but at the fact of her ghosthood. The idea of this girl being the newest member to their ranks was alarming indeed and the Fryer forgot to say goodbye, so worried was he, busy debating about whether or not he ought to call a ghost-council to order.
Meanwhile Myrtle resumed a cocked-out stance, brow pinched in deep concentration. There were things to be considered here, and what odd things they were.
“Well,” Myrtle said to herself, nodding because it felt right, speaking out loud. “Guess that’s it then.” She kicked at her own body but her foot seemed to just pass through her already chilling flesh.
The bathroom was painfully quiet now, even the slow dripping of the facet was gone and with the sun sinking below the peak of the mountains, the room was washed in shadows, lustrous grays and warm dusky blues. Myrtle slowly extended her left arm, turning her palm this way and that, her eyes seeing through the shape of the limb even while her own pearly ash glow (apparently, Myrtle thought with some chagrin, when one became a ghost, one also glowed) reflected off her glasses.
She hadn’t been sure, before the Fryer had showed up, about whether or not she was or was not in fact very potentially a ghost, but now, having had the bloated specter babbling in her ear, Myrtle couldn’t deny the fact any longer. Yes, she had died. That was easy enough to digest. But this other thing, this ghost-ness…
She almost wished the Fat Fryer hadn’t left to quickly, she would have liked to ask him a few questions, but then again maybe not, if he was so bleeding sensitive about everything. Comfort indeed, what a ridiculous idea.
What worried her most though, more than being dead (which hardly worried her at all) or being a ghost (queer, far too queer to consider at the moment) was the fact that no one had come looking for her. No one, it seemed, was alarmed by the fact that more than three hours had passed since she’d left the study circle in the library. More than three hours since she’d stormed past that horrible Olive Hornby, more than three hours since Myrtle come in here, and had heard that noise…
Myrtle shook her head and spun away from her body crumpled on the cold floor. No, no she wouldn’t think about all that right now, wouldn’t linger over the specifics of how, and why. It was enough that she recognized that she’d died, and it was enough not to feel overly worried about the fact. Better to go back to that first feeling, that soul-deep sense of reprieve; as if she’d gotten through the hard part (living) and was onto easier things (not living).
But still, why hadn’t someone come by now? A person couldn’t just die and no one know about it, right? It wasn’t like Myrtle was expecting magical alarm-bells to go off all over the castle every time some person’s mortal coil was cut (of course recognizing that death was hardly a common occurrence at Hogwarts) and yet shouldn’t a single person sense the difference? Wasn’t there anyone out there to look up from their oh-so important lives and think, ‘A girl just died. The world is short one soul because a girl just died.’
Where were her friends (all right, classmates who hardly ever noticed Myrtle to begin with) or her teachers? Where were the masses of nameless faces to stare and point and laugh? At this point she’d take a little mockery if it meant that there was someone there to notice her being dead? It was one thing to be alone in life, a person like Myrtle expected to be alone in life. But in death? That seemed unfair, the ultimate form of unfair. Wasn’t Myrtle important at all? Didn’t she matter even enough to be noticed as not being alive anymore?
Myrtle started to cry, tears collecting fat and cold at the rim of her eyes before spilling down, curling around her chin and collecting in the seam of her nose. She pressed her hand to her nose to keep it from running (ghostly snot, how disgusting) and paced, the occasional hiccup making her chest heave. She didn’t feel particularly headachy or dizzy with her grief; the sense of her sadness seemed entirely ethereal, like she’d been clothed in an invisible fabric of hurt and loneliness.
It was a horrible feeling, a heavy immense feeling that was so much bigger than Myrtle could have ever hoped to be, in life or death. She wondered if there was any getting past it, beyond it. Maybe there wasn’t. Maybe this was all there was to death, to what was beyond death.
Maybe it was an act of conscious, or means of arming himself, but when the Fat Fryer returned, he brought with him Sir Nicolas and they both paused, silent and hovering, just inside the bathroom’s door, watching for a moment as the jerky gossamer form of Myrtle moved back and forth in front of her body. She had her arms wrapped right around herself and her eyes closed as she paced. It looked as if she had memorized the steps her feet took automatically, her movements never bringing her any further from, or any closer to the mortal remains of the fifteen year old girl. She shivered, she sniffed and occasional she moaned, but it was plainly obvious that the ghost of Myrtle Dowerhaint was thoroughly absorbed by her grief.
“What should we do?” the Fryer asked very quietly.
“We must inform the headmaster,” Sir Nick replied, a saddened expression on his face. “This is most terrible, of course. Most terrible indeed.”
“But look at her,” said the Fryer, pitching his voice even lower, terrified that the angry girl-ghost might notice them at any moment and fly into a rage. “She’s in a terrible state, she knows she’s dead but does she know she’s a ghost?”
“How can she not?” Sir Nick replied, flashing the Fryer an ironic look.
“Well I don’t know,” huffed the rotund ghost. “She seemed a bit preoccupied before, I didn’t actually ask. And she wasn’t exactly friendly; you ought to be friendly if someone offers you help.”
“Did you offer her help?” Sir Nick asked, his heavy embroidered cloak swinging around his legs as he turned to regard the Fat Fryer.
“Well no. But I did tell her that she was dead.”
“Which I’m sure she already knew.”
“And your point, Sir?” asked the Fryer, affront that one, Nick failed to sympathize with the verbal flagellation the Fryer received from the girl, and two that Nick pointed out an obvious fact: it’s probably not a good idea to tell a dead girl that she is dead.
“I think you ought to fetch the headmaster, and whoever else you think appropriate,” said Sir Nick after a moment more of watching the child ghost pace. “I will stay here; try to reason with her, watch over the body. This doesn’t feel right, something is amiss don’t you think?”
The Fryer perked up, puffing with opinion. “Quite right Nicolas, quite right. I sensed if from the first, of course. Uh…yes, something gone wrong, but what? Eh, well, I’ll be off as you say, fetch the headmaster.”
“Yes, good, you do that,” murmured Sir Nicolas, again absorbed by Myrtle’s manic pacing.
When the Fryer had gone, and the bathroom seemed less crowed, Sir Nicolas made his way over to Myrtle, his feet moving just above the floor, his passage making not a sound.
“Child,” he said in what he hoped to be a soothing tone. “Child, are you all right?”
Myrtle paused, head jerking up as she regarded this newest intruder, the spark of hope that had flared in her chest immediately dying. He was just another ghost, not a real live person. “No one’s come looking,” she said, hands falling loosely at her side.
“No one at all. I’m dead and no one’s noticed!” She sounded very petulant, she thought, but she didn’t care.
“Did anyone know that you’d come here?” Sir Nicolas asked, cocking his head, which tipped precariously to the side. He pushed it aright with his hand, an annoyed expression flashing across his face. “This is after all, a very out of the way bathroom.”
“But I’m dead, someone should have noticed!”
“Mortal senses are limited, child. They know very little.”
“I’m not a child,” Myrtle snapped, turning away from the ghost. “Stop calling me that. I’ve a name. Even ghosts have names.”
“Indeed they do,” agreed Nick. “Names and lives and thoughts and feelings…”
“Feeling, yes,” Myrtle agreed, rounding on the ghost. “What is this feeling, like I’m sinking, what is that?” Myrtle rocked back on her heels, she felt a bit better for having asked. It was brave thing, to ask and after all, the feeling wasn’t going away. This horrible sense of…something, a great indefinable horrible something only seemed to be building. The more she paced, the more she cried the bigger and bigger it got. If she were in water, it would have been like drowning, and if she were in a blizzard it would have been like freezing. The sensation was all encompassing, and so great was it, so momentous a feeling that Myrtle wondered that if she were not yet already dead, then this feeling might just have killed her. It was all she could breathe in, all she could taste or feel or hear, but why? She certainly wasn’t getting any deader, so why was she feeling more and more awful? Didn’t she get a break from all this feeling now that she was dead?
“It…” Sir Nicolas paused, trying to word things just right. “It is your mortality. Or rather, the lack of it. Alive you hardly notice it’s presence but when you’re dead, it’s all you are aware of. The fact that it’s not there. The heaviness, the grief… When you first die, it is hard to understand but give it time. Things will become clearer to you; in time you won’t always feel like this.”
“What do you mean time?” Myrtle asked sharply, tugging at a pigtail in distraction. “How much time?”
“Oh dear girl,” Nick sighed, his non-existent heart very heavy indeed. “No one can tell…”
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