Frost crunched underfoot as she entered the room. Every part of the chamber was covered in a thin layer of ice. Mistress Rosamund drew her wrap closer to herself and regarded Etitan. He had grown gaunt, his eyes sunken and even his clothes seemed more ragged.
“So, you finally remembered I was here,” he whispered.
“I didn’t ferget.”
“Why won’t you tell me about those fellas that busted up my joint? What’s got you so bothered?”
“Nothing? That ain’t true, if it were we would not be having this palaver.”
“I said nothingness, not nothing!” Etitan hissed.
“Not sure I get your meaning.”
The spirit sighed and the room grew colder.
“I knew another ghost, Constança Garro. She was very lovely and playful. Always playing pranks, nothing malicious, more impish than anything else. One day, she sees this man who was as dull as can be, almost invisible. So she begins to play little pranks, untying his shoes, hiding his keys, buzzing his door in the middle of the night, that sort of thing.”
“And I’m guessin’ he did not think it was funny.”
“It wasn’t that, she told me that he didn’t react. Clearly annoyed but he never lost his temper. Which of course just made her want to push further and further. Then one day, she was gone.”
“She moved on?”
“No, just she disappeared.”
“Are you sure she-“
“YES! Spirits cannot die, we can be bound, obviously, or banished from a place, but we cannot die a second time.”
They both stood there for a while.
“So what happened?”
“I don’t know and I’m not proud of this but I don’t want to know.”
“Fine, are you saying that that fella your friend was haunting was with those who smashed up my joint?”
“I never saw him. But Constança told me he wore a pin on his lapel, it looked like a flower at first glance but there was a spider in the middle. Those thugs wore the same pin.”
“Did they see you?”
“Of course not! They are connected to her disappearance, I would not cross them.”
Mistress Rosamund found her hand in the pocket of her skirt, she had them tailored for her with multiple pockets, you could never have enough, and she ran her fingers over a cold metal object.
“What else can you tell me about them?” she asked.
“If they can make a spirit vanish, imagine what can they do to you?”
“And that’s all you know?”
“I don’t need to know anymore.”
“Fine then, I’ma gonna let you out,” she said
Etitan floated up straighter at this and regained some of his former appearance.
“And I am sorry for keeping you bound like I did.”
“But I hope we put this behind us.”
“Of course, water under bridges and so on!”
“No need for bringing John Law into the picture.”
“Wouldn’t think of it.”
“Swear by Saint Januarius.”
Etitan hovered straight, his appearance now pristine and held his hand upright.
“I swear by Saint Januarius, who watches the dead, that this matter is over and no vengeance will be sought.”
The room grew warmer and the frost began to melt.
“Well then, I break the circle and unbind you.”
With that, she scuffed the salt ring. Etitan sighed and flew towards the wall when they heard a distant sound, like the ringing of a large bell. There was a pause, then Etitan howled. Mistress Rosamund fell to her knees and covered her ears and although all she wished was to flee, the shriek rendered her stunned.
Etiran began to expand, like jam smeared over bread, not evenly and not all at once. He glowed brighter as his features became more and more indistinct. Rapidly, he filled the small room and the screaming got higher and louder until Mistress Rosamund thought her head might explode. Just when she thought she could take no more, it stopped and the room went black.
She lay there, letting the silence and darkness cover her until she no longer trembled. It would be difficult to say how long it was, but eventually, she felt strong enough to get up. Striking a match, she looked around the room. All that was left was an open circle of salt and an empty wine bottle. Etitan was gone.
Taking a deep breath, she stood and went upstairs. Her clothes were covered in dust and she knew that she needed to make herself presentable for her customers. Pushing down what had just happened, she busied herself, changing clothes, washing her face, and so on.
In the looking glass, her hair, that morning a lustrous honey blonde, was now drained of color, like an achromatic fog.