Flash fiction: Return to Canterville by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: autumn/Halloween. Write a story where a literal or metaphorical ghost plays a prominent role.

This week’s contribution comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara is currently in Berlin, Germany, doing her best to catch up with semi-abandoned writing projects. Her YA novel “Mi chiamo Elisa” (My name is Elisa) was published in Italy by “Le Mezzelane Casa Editrice” in September 2020 and recently in Turkey with the title “Benim adım Elisa”. Her children’s book “Şebnem ve Schrödinger’in Kedisi” (Chiara and Schrödinger’s cat) was published this year in Turkey by Sia Kitap and in Italy with the title: “Chiara e il Gatto di Schrödinger”.

 

Return to Canterville

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

Time, in the Other World, does not flow as it does in the world of the living, as Sir Simon De Canterville was about to discover.

It took him about three hundred years to finally manage to set foot beyond the threshold of the Hereafter, and when he finally did, he was genuinely convinced that it was exactly what he wanted: to finally walk into the light, to rest in peace, to enjoy the company of other spirits. Enough with those human antics! His last experience had been especially frustrating. He needed a vacation, no: he needed to retire. For eternity.

However, when he found himself on the Other Side, it took him no more than a couple of hours to realize that he had never been so bored.

I’m bored to death, he thought. Then he considered what he had just thought and chuckled. Ha, ha! Bored to death… I am already dead, so I can’t die again, no matter how bored I am.

That second thought made him want to cry. “I can’t even die any more”, he said out loud, “so what am I supposed to do?”

His fellow spirits were of no use at all: either lost in contemplation, or singing, or polishing their halos… “Yes, yes, all noble activities for sure”, agreed Sir Simon when one of them proudly explained the workings in the Ever After. “But don’t you also find it a bit… unfunny?”

His companion looked at him with a surprised expression on his translucent face.

“Why would anyone want to have fun? You made it to the Other Side, that’s as huge an accomplishment as anyone may wish. What else does one need?”

Not wanting to look like a newbie, Sir Simon nodded gravely.

“Sure, sure. I understand, I understand. How true, how true”, he muttered, pensively smoothing his beard.

As soon as he was alone again, he took a decision: he would go back. He just couldn’t stay there.

He stood near the threshold, and as soon as a soul appeared from the world of the living, he rushed to the other side.

He was greeted by a cacophony of noises he was not used to: the honking of cars, the roar of airplanes, the sirens of ambulances…

Oh, dear me! he said to himself, alarmed. Could it be that I went in the wrong direction? Maybe I ended up in the world below! This place seems really… infernal!

Looking around frantically for a way out, he noticed a sign: “Canterville Manor, B&B – Opening Soon.”

“What is the meaning of this?” he cried out loud.

No sooner did he think of his castle than he found himself standing in front of it – one of the perks of his ghostly status. It looked like his castle, but at the same time it did not. Puzzled, Sir Simon entered, going through the front door.

Sitting at a table in what used to be the drawing room, a dark-haired lady was shifting some papers on the table in front of her while talking aloud – clearly by herself, since there was no one else in the room.

“Yes, that could work, but we need to check all the old pipes to make sure they carry the voice”, she said. After a pause, she laughed and added: “We can keep the bats as a last resource, if all the other tricks fail.”

Sir Simon was confused and yet intrigued. At least, this wasn’t boring!

He peeked over the lady’s shoulder to look at the scattered papers on the table and recognized the layout of his castle. There were also drawings of the various rooms, vertical cutaways showing the interiors of the chimneys, the walls, and so on.

The lady laughed again, then said, “See you soon”, and placed a small, rectangular, black object on the table.

More and more mysterious, thought Sir Simon.

At that moment, someone else entered the house and joined the lady in the drawing room. It was a man with his hair cut very short and a thick dark beard.

Hm, he has a nice face, thought the ghost. I wouldn’t mind pulling some tricks on him.

For that night, he decided to keep an eye on the new tenants of his castle to try and get to know them a little so he could learn how best to scare them. Oh, how he had missed this!

He was surprised when, at dinnertime, another woman joined the company. Seated at the table, the three chatted for a long time, and the ghost began to get an idea of what was going on.

The bearded man was married to the dark-haired lady, and the newcomer was his sister. The three of them had bought his castle with the intention of making something called a “bed and breakfast” out of it. From the way they talked about it, Sir Simon got the idea that it was some kind of inn.

Those people came into his most ardent sympathies when he better understood what they were planning to do: they intended to advertise their inn as a haunted manor, where guests would pay to be spooked by fake apparitions, fake voices coming up the pipes, bats in the bedroom, and other such amenities.

I really like these guys, he said to himself. In no time at all he had made up his mind: he was going to help them! He knew from experience how hard it was to think up believable tricks, and he had a feeling that if a real ghost spooked the inn’s guests, business would be booming!

The next morning, Sir Simon prepared breakfast for the three tenants of the castle, who came down to the kitchen lured by the smell of coffee, toast, and fried bacon. In the middle of the table, he had placed a letter in which he explained, in black and white, his ideas for a truly spooky inn. Thrilled, full of anticipation… Sir Simon was beyond excited!

The three humans looked at each other suspiciously, wondering who had come up with the little prank. It did not take them long, however, to realize the truth: Sir Simon, impatient and tired of waiting for the numbed intellect of the living to put two and two together, took matters into his own ghostly hands. With solemn gestures, he opened the refrigerator (what a phenomenal invention!) and took out the fresh milk jug.

“Guys, I think the ghost of the manor is home”, said the bearded man, gazing at the milk jar floating mid-air.

“Can it really be?” asked his wife, in disbelief.

“I think this is great news”, cried the bearded man’s sister. “We all know the story: Sir Simon De Canterville is a professional! Working with him will be the most fun and we’re sure to make a lot of money!”

“Did you hear that, Ghost?” called the man. “We are so glad you want to help us!”

Sir Simon was beside himself with happiness. He darted up to the attic where he retrieved his old bagpipe, then returned to the kitchen where he started playing cheerful music – at least, he tried. The instrument was battered, but the three humans did not mind. They sprang to their feet and danced in the middle of the kitchen, thus sealing their alliance with the ghost of the manor. 

To make it short: the inn was a great success, Sir Simon finally found his calling, and he never had a boring moment as long as the three humans lived at Canterville.

What happened next, well… That’s another story.

 

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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